:: 3:AM Asia archive

Scrying in Shin Urayasu published 08/09/2010

jesseglassEdward Kelley would gaze into a black, table-tennis paddle-shaped piece of obsidian, or into a smoky crystal ball and relate the visions he saw to John Dee, who would write them down. Among proto-surrealistic landscapes and symbolic acts of poppets and monsters, a genuine language called Enochian was dictated to Dee via Kelley…I used a small crystal skull (large enough to lay within my left eye socket), and a crystal ball, and attempted to replicate the conditions of the scrying session and thereby touch the Enochian well-springs, as it were, of the text.

David F. Hoenigman interviews Jesse Glass.

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Japanamerica: Porn & Piracy, the Summer of Manga published 11/08/2010

jeye2In the annals of manga, the print-based comics medium that is now roughly 60 years old and a primary driver of Japan’s pop culture juggernaut, the summer of 2010 has been revolutionary. The sentencing in February of American manga collector Christopher Handley to six months in prison for possession of obscene materials sent ripples of anxiety through fans of Japanese pop culture worldwide.

By Roland Kelts.

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From San Francisco to Oakland: North Korea’s Cultural Future published 02/08/2010

chriskrausBiography can be such a tease. I just inhaled the Roberto Bolaño books that came out in the last couple of years, and he does this so well. The flashes of who he is behind the story are what keep you reading, for sure. With every writer I like, there’s a transparency, even if it’s not literal. Even – or maybe especially – when the subject isn’t domestic or personal. I think what makes you feel so connected with certain writers isn’t a matter of autobiographical detail, but that the emotions are real. The way some writers are able to channel themselves through the form.

A conversation between Chris Kraus & Maxi Kim.

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A Japan of the Mind published

bomb-baby-frontcoverTom Bradley’s novels are not portents of things to come, but are hypnotic forays into the things that cannot be changed — just as one of the cheap arguments by the US for the justification of nuclear build-up was that atomic weapons could not be disinvented, so may as well manufacture more. The events cannot be erased any more than we can pretend nuclear bombs are simply fiction. Tom is not a preacher of that gospel of hope and change, for the inherent cynicism of his novels betrays an absurdist streak that always brings us back to the beginning of the circle: it’s too late. Not that Tom walks around with a sandwich board bellowing that the end is nigh — no, the end was nigh long ago, and the horrific events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only serve to carve the last piece of punctuation on history’s epitaph.

Kane X Faucher spends an evening with “7’2″ ginger-furred yeti” Tom Bradley whose new book is out in early August.

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Tokyo Vice published 29/07/2010

The yakuza always have had a few politicians in their pocket. For a time, the Zengeiren, the national association of promoters of foreign entertainers, functioned as a human trafficking lobby, as did Kokusai Kogyo 21, an NPO, pressuring the LDP not to criminalize human trafficking. The Zengeiren used to hold meetings at LDP headquarters, up until 2006 or so. However, international pressure made Japan clean up its act, the LDP cut ties, and the number of foreigners trafficking into Japan as sex slaves has really dropped. However, there still remains in place a very dubious intern system which seems to allow for unchecked exploitation and virtual enslavement of foreign workers. Obviously, there are a few politicians getting kickbacks from it, and labor exploitation is a yakuza field of expertise.

Andrew Stevens talks to Tokyo Vice author Jake Adelstein about police, porn and politicians.

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Japanamerica: Create & Play, Anime Avatars in the USA published 10/07/2010

jeye2Imagine Second Life with avatars that look like anime characters, giving American and other English-speaking fans a chance to cosplay, to create their own anime-inspired avatars anytime they want, rather than waiting for the next area anime convention. Amid the dissonance of declining anime DVD and manga book sales abroad and at home and the escalating numbers of overseas fans attending conventions and expos, entrepreneurs are beginning to see an opportunity: reach the fans via new networks of accessibility, and you might just survive.

By Roland Kelts.

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Japanamerica: Stray Ambassadors published 15/06/2010

jeye2Two years ago, I watched from the front row as a Japanese ambassador strolled on-stage during the opening ceremonies of a massive anime festival. He held one hand behind his back, and as he greeted the tens of thousands from the podium, he revealed and quickly donned a Doraemon mask. Doraemon, while enormously popular and immediately recognizable in Japan and many Asian nations, is a virtual unknown to most Americans, where the anime has never received a proper airing. Here he was, the magic blue cat, selected by the Japanese government as its “anime ambassador” to the world, greeting many who had probably never seen his show.

By Roland Kelts.

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Japanamerica: Why ‘Cool Japan’ is over published 17/05/2010

jeye2I’ve taken to calling this Japan’s pop culture branding gap. While cool Japan has amassed a vast audience overseas in the past decade, very few of its fans know anything about the brands behind it. Industry stalwarts such as Studio Pierrot, Madhouse, Production IG, Shogakukan and Shueisha barely register at U.S. anime conventions, where fans passionately recite and reenact their creations. You might hear the words Ghibli (usually mispronounced), Toei and Bandai batted about in conversation among older generations of American fans, but with scant enthusiasm.

By Roland Kelts.

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Japanamerica: Size Matters published 21/04/2010

jeye2The migration of manga and its cinematic cousin, anime, to the small, handheld screen is not new. Two years ago, Masakazu Kubo told me he was bullish on the medium’s future in the form of cell phone downloads, even if technology had not yet caught up. The fantasy that a new technology can save the precarious fate of publishers, let alone artists and writers, is being met with a wall of “dream on” caveats. As many media critics have noted, most of the successful recent IT-related content platforms incorporate sharing and interactivity – social networking sites, file-sharing software, et cetera. Unless publishers and creators find a way to connect their audiences with themselves and one another, as anime conventions do in the bricks-and-mortar world, the new formats will merely be new facades.

Roland Kelts on manga & anime on the iPad.

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Japanamerica: Is American prudery affecting Japanese law? published 25/03/2010

jeye2Japanese popular culture is attractive in part because it feels freer, less fettered by focus groups and financial reports. Taboos about violence, sexuality or racial imagery can be directly confronted in forms that have for decades flown under the proverbial radar. Japanese pop culture is cheap to make and distribute, and is marginal in character and by nature – more like anarchic punk music than corporate products such as Disney films. Hence the inevitable paradox: What happens when Japanese popular culture becomes truly popular beyond the borders of a tiny archipelago in the North Pacific? Can the rest of the world embrace a creative product defined in part by its provincial nature, and usually intended for local audiences only?

By Roland Kelts.

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