Musashi Mix Inq

Palliativity 131: Onnagata, the Woman’s Role

Posted on July 14, 2011

The nature of kabuki itself is generally misunderstood by foreign viewers. Kabuki is not "high art". These night-life, 3 hour extravaganzas had more in common with Power Rangers than the stoic Noh dramas of the ruling class. Special effects, audience call-backs, epic battles, raunchy humor and explicit sex-acts were the language of kabuki. Pass the popcorn and hang on to your seat.

Kabuki theaters emerged in the Tokugawa era when the Shogun instituted the law that all provincial lords must make routine trips back to Edo where their families were held captive. The hope was that lords would have less ability to revolt when their loved ones were ransomed and much of their time was lost commuting with their entourage. This nation-wide increased need for mobility built up the roads and many reputable businesses. Others flourished from the wealthy travelers' need to be entertained: gambling, drink, prostitution and theater.

Early kabuki shows had various types of casting: onna-kabuki (all female), wakashū-kabuki (adolescent males) and yarō-kabuki (all male). In 1629, all women were banned from acting because many onna-kabuki "theaters" had devolved to hosting live sex-shows for "directors" to advertise their "actresses" who were then used as prostitutes. That being said, wakashū adolescent boys were allowed to continue to act although the practice of forced prostitution continued as well.

The term oyama (女方) refers to male actors who play female characters. Although the practice of gender liquidity had been a kabuki trope adopted since it's inception, the significance changed when it became the only way to see female characters on the stage. In this way, not only the theater, but the nation experienced a massive cultural change in that women could no longer represent themselves on stage and therefore in the popular culture.

To a liberal Western audience, one might make claims that the Japanese have had a surprisingly progressive perception of gender for quite a while; any romance on a kabuki stage is between two men, separated by a thin layer of make-up and silk. To this, the average Japanese would probably blush and tell you that it's "just a play…"

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Palliativity 130: The Blade Itself

Posted on July 7, 2011

I remember being given my first knife at the age of three. My parents, grandparents and I were on our annual apple picking trip to the north, over the Wisconsin border.

When my father handed me the neon-green plastic object, it took me a moment to realize what I was holding in my cupped hands. I thumbed the cool blade and marveled at the curved glimmer, recognizing the silver flash from the samurai films I watched with dad narrating the subtitles to me:

"Is that guy gonna be okay?", "Yeah, his arm will grow back…"

• • •

I'm fifteen years old and with my highschool friends wandering downtown Chicago past curfew on a Friday night. Generally I was the only non-white-guy in my crew so I always fell back and walked slow. When we'd hit a bad street, I'd scan the shadows and thumb the knife in my pocket, channeling Mifune and Eastwood: flexing my fingers and ready to draw…

In my mind, I hoped that the would-be bad men of the night would see me stalking after my friends and figure that I had this heist covered— Find your own mark.

This lot's been claimed.

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Filed under: Blog, Pain No Comments

Palliativity 129: Gas Mask Panic

Posted on June 29, 2011

To me, gas-masks are a sign that everything else has failed— That despite our efforts, the environment is so toxic that we must separate ourselves from it or succumb to the nature of our biology. Gas-masks are a red-flag marking that we have accepted the fractured world we've inherited. There is no cure, only treatment…

A century ago as depicted above, the mask was a necessary tool for surviving the cruel inventions of man.
Greece, Egypt and Syria demonstrate that its ontological nature has evolved:

Protest

We are Faceless, Fearless and on a Vendetta.

Oppression and Suppression in an eternal tango to the beat of combat boots and broken-bottle shards breathing flame.

Take a mask and run with it, because in this game there are no bystanders— only collateral damage.

Play safe.

They're expecting you.

(N/A)

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Palliativity 128: Security

Posted on June 23, 2011

Achievement: Unlocked

The ultimate Agora. The Elysium fields of knowledge. The dream of Safe-haven.

Breaking News: The bottom drops out of our lives—

The more we share, the less we have to hide behind. The curtain is drawn and we are ultimately the refraction of this cyber life.

Our photos and their comment threads. What we buy and where we travel. Our blogs and tweets are cogs in the overtly connected consciousness of human-kind. Who are you listening to?

As an artist, the consequences of my public actions have very different outcomes than for most.

Politicians are destroyed by their own texting. Countries fall and companies get hacked. Anonymous is running I.T. for 4th world revolutions while the CIA gets jail-broken for the LuLz.

Welcome to Web 3.0

Adolescence and Anarchy, with Angry Birds for all…

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Palliativity 127: Whale and Moonshine

Posted on June 2, 2011

drink up

A few years ago I interviewed a woman who was an adolescent in Japan during WWII. Hana's laughter and kind eyes belied her traumatic stories of a child's perspective in hell:

I learned from Hana that the Japanese obsession with eating whale is wrapped-up in her generation's nostalgia for the war years. As the war dragged on, the Japanese government realized that they did not have enough food to feed its people for the long haul.

The arrived upon solution was to use naval vessels to hunt whales en-mass and to ignite a propaganda campaign hailing whale meat as the healthiest food for the children of Japan. Almost everyday at lunch, whale was served in school cafeterias across the country. So began a deep longing for the last days of Japanese dignity.

During the war, sake was also in low supply. It was not uncommon for Japanese to drink grain alcohol or fuel and engine cleaner mixed with left-over rice-water. Even today you can still find mason-jar sake for sale all across Japan.

Hana recalled her school-days in Kyoto, early 1945. Up until this point, the children at her school were told that the war was going well and that Japan continued to gloriously prevail over the West. Suddenly, reports of failure and the imminent eradication of Japan drowned all hopes.

One day, all of her classmates were told to report to the schoolyard.

They were each handed a sharpened bamboo pole.

Classroom time was over.

Now they only drilled on how to kill Americans.

• • •

"Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them is surely damnation."

- Lois McMaster Bujold -

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Palliativity 126: Etiquette and Protocol

Posted on May 26, 2011

{x} Away, You may be disturbing

A difficult question of communication etiquette came up in conversation with friends a couple years ago. We had read on Facebook that our friend's grandparent had just passed away. My friends and I wanted to send condolences but were not sure just by what conveyance to send such a message.

Should we call? No, that's too invasive.

Text? Too casual.

Chat when we see them online? No, they probably just want some space to browse without interruption.

Facebook wall post? Far too public.

Facebook message? Possibly…

Nobody wants to video-chat when they're mourning.

Maybe just email them… hmmmmmm—

I used to laugh about the preposterously complicated Victorian fan and flower language or the far too cerebral courting poems of ancient Japan. The truth is that human communication has changed very little over time.

Referencing classic texts and spinning out variations of traditional idioms loaded with silliness and social-commentary has been replaced with wiki-consciousness and memetic humor.

People are people.

Communication is a battlefield.

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