Anthropology big screen, little screen, ipod The Floating Kingdom West of the Pacific Ocean


It’s never easy to become old. Whether one is looking for a job at Walmart to supplement social security in the USA or attempting to define one’s self within a new social context in another society, the process of aging is one that comes with a slew of changes, discomforts, and fears. This is as true in Japan as it is in every other human nation. The process of aging and becoming old in Japan is a cultural experience that exerts pressure upon the individual social constructs which seniors have spent a lifetime building. Aging in Japan is a process in which social pressures upon the elderly manifest as a fear of becoming obsolete and being discarded. This fear and social pressure are visibly represented as the attempts to stave off boke, a condition similar to dementia, and within the trepidation the elderly in Japan feel while living “in the shadow of Obasuteyama.”
The film Narayama Bushiko is a film adaptation of a legend that has been told for many generations in Japan. In the film, a village woman ages and in the process forces family members to deal with issues of responsibility, fear, and changing social status. The protagonist, Orin, is a woman who has reached the age where villagers either die or are taken to the mountain of the Gods, Obasuteyama, where they are abandoned. The problem is that Orin is too healthy to die on her own and her son is not enthusiastic about abandoning his useful and healthy mother in the wilderness. In this situation, a healthy woman is forced into a societal role that doesn’t really fit her and in the process a caring son is forced to come to terms not only with the life of his mother, but also with his own inevitable aging.
Among the more interesting facets of this rich film are the attempts that healthy Orin makes to fit with the societal standard surrounding a woman of her age. Villagers, among them her own grandson, mock her for her healthy teeth and so she brutally knocks her teeth out so that she can fit within the societal expectation of an old person having bad teeth. One could easily point to gateball, a leisure pastime reserved for the elderly in Japan, as another societal expectation. Gateball, like bad teeth, is something that the elderly are expected to have in their lives.

…most people who participate in gateball are over the age of sixty-five.
(Traphagan. 2000 pp. 125)

In fact, like having bad teeth, those under the age of sixty-five often express embarrassment at playing a game that is for the elderly. The obverse of this is also true in that the elderly in Japan are embarrassed at not fitting within the expected societal roles that have been culturally laid down for them.
In the film Aging in Japan: When Traditional Mechanisms Fail there is an old woman that reminded me of Orin. This woman is healthy and probably performs a variety of functions for her children and their families at home, but since she has become old, she feels that she is more of a burden than an asset. As a result of this feeling of loss of social position, the woman removes herself from her home life and essentially moves into a 24-hour bath house. This action is roughly comparable to Orin forcing her son to carry her to the mountain because of her fear of being physically alive but socially dead. Orin is insistent that she be taken at the proper time because of the shame that she was forced to bear when her husband refused to take his own mother to the mountain. This fear of being elderly and obsolete in Japan seems to be pervasive within the society and thus in his book Taming Oblivion, John Traphagan refers to older people who are devalued for becoming aged as if it is the result of a personal failure. Traphagan’s work is primarily aimed at the active attempts that modern day seniors make at remaining engaged within the adult framework through using activities such as gateball to maintain social roles and thus retain the right to social and economic support from their children as a legitimate reciprocal relationship.
The process of becoming disengaged from this framework involves ‘taming oblivion’, in this case the oblivion referred to is boke. Boke is similar to other mental and/or physical dementia but is seen to be within the control of the individual suffering from it, at least to some degree. By being active, one can stave off its effects.
The moral content of boke is tied to an individual’s social responsibility to bea n active, contributing member of society by taking care of one’s physical and mental health, to avoid situations that burden others, and to return the obligations one incurs through relationships of interdependence with others. (Trapahagan 2000. pp 4)
It would seem that the mental and physical elements of boke are thus to stay busy and active both socially and physically. Traphagan says that those suffering from boke are “ a liminal being who has lost control over the values that make one a moral person.” (Traphagan 2000. pp 5)
Of course, there would seem to be some very real differences between the senior citizens that Traphagan is describing and Orin in Narayma Bushiko. Orin is anxious to be taken to the mountain so that she can leave all of her societal roles and responsiblilities behind. Orin has been through the female life changes, she has been married, had children, and become an old woman. She has experienced the kounenki, or female life changes associated with aging (Yano. Classnotes. 11/08). And now, she is trying to convince her son and her village that she has become an obsolete old person, just as she has presumably seen other old people become. This is very different from the old people whom Traphagan talks to and about who seem, for the most part, to be afraid of being taken to the mountain, i.e. they are afraid that they are becoming old and obsolete. While Traphagan’s people all seemed to have a dignity that came with their senior age, they would seem to be more in the role of a villager’s father in Narayama Bushiko than of Orin. The father has become old and bothersome to his family so he is kept locked up in a back room and then finally taken to the mountain where his son throws him off a cliff. I think that the distinction between Orin and the father is important to make. Orin approaches her destiny and insists on leaving before she can become a burden while the father insists on staying and being a burden. Thus, Narayama Bushiko functions as a morality tale in which people in Japan are encouraged to ‘go to the mountain’ willingly. Thus, they really are ‘living in the shadow’ of the mountain.
Taming Oblivion, Narayama Bushiko, and Aging in Japan: When Traditional Mechanisms Fail are all three about fear of losing one’s place and esteem within society. Older people in Japan don’t want to be abandoned and rather than placing an expectation upon those around them to take care of them, they have an understanding of the legend of Obasuteyama that when they are unable to contribute in a positive and productive way, they are no longer necessary and in fact are likely to become a burden to those they most value. They do not want this. Instead, they strive to stay active, productive, useful, and fully embodied.
To become boke is to have failed in one’s responsibility to care for oneself and thus, to remain a member of the social world. (Traphangan 2000. pp182)
In a culture which places such a heavy stress on social relationships, it must be unbearable to think of becoming a burden and a failure.
…one should always be making efforts to be a good individual and, thus, contribute to the social whole, and the fatalistic reality that decline and entrance into the oblivion of senility may rob one of the agency needed to do so. (Traphagan 2000.pp 184)
Rather than allowing such a thing to happen, seniors in Japan are more likely to make a trip to the mountain whether it is in the form of gateball, 24-hour bathhouses, or the modern day equivalent of going to the mountain, senior suicide.

big screen, little screen, ipod The Floating Kingdom West of the Pacific Ocean

Film Review: The Family Game (Kazoku Geemu)

Shattering the Rules: Deconstructing the The Family Game (Kazoku Geemu)

The Family Game (Kazoku Geemu), a film by Yoshimitsu Morita, is, on the surface, the story of a contemporary Japanese family who hires a tutor to help the youngest son raise his grades so that he can get into a better high school. Beneath the surface of the film, however, there is considerably more happening. This is not just the story of Shigeyuki, but also the story of his family, his tutor, and more importantly, it is the story of the society that he lives in and the rigid expectations that are placed upon the roles that each person inhabits. The Family Game examines the roles played by each member in a contemporary Japanese family and then proceeds to deconstruct each of these roles down to their cores; using this framework, Yoshimitsu Morita deconstructs Japanese society ,the roles individuals are expected to play, and whether such a hierarchical system is working within the Japanese family or nation.
To understand each of the roles that individuals in The Family Game inhabit, one must look beyond the structure of the Japanese family to the structure of Japanese society. Embedded within Japanese culture is the concept of wareware or we-ness that permeates all levels of society (Yano class notes 09/02/08). Japan is a country that has a very distinct interpretation of who and what it is. These theories of being Japanese or nihonjinron, are the result of Japan’s history, geography, and the unique cultural evolution which arose from these circumstances. Japanese culture is arranged in a vertical structure with a strong emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of each individual at each point on a metaphorical ladder of society. The Japanese refer to this as tate-shakai. At the same time that the individual is defined through tate-shikai, they are also expected to engage in shudan-shugi, or groupism. Shudan-shugi is not only expected among those sharing a particular ladder rung in society, but also for all of those who are in the society, regardless of the social or class position. This holds true in the relationships that are macro such as the individual to the government and in those that are micro such as parent to child relations or teacher to student relations. There is a rigid hierarchy in tate-shakai that is expected to be met in order to affirm the greater discoursive construct of wareware within Japanese society. (Yano classnotes 09/02/08.)
The fundamental unit in Japanese society is the family unit. The family unit is, to some extent a model of the nation in a smaller form. This concept is referred to as kazuka kokka (Yano classnotes 09/04/08). At its root this system is more concerned with positions and obligations rather than emotional bonds and as such it is easy to recognize the critique of the larger Japanese society that exists within the framework of Morita’s film. The Family Game looks at the roles and obligations of each member of the family and raises questions about the validity of those roles. In doing so, the film questions the basic tenets of Japanese society through couching of the specific roles into the format of a game in which each member of the family has rules to which their behavior is supposed to adhere.
The mother in the film and within Japanese society is expected to be the source of comfort and dependency. She acts as a shield from the outside world and makes sure that her family has everything they want, even if she may be aware that it is not what they need. When Shigeyuki pretends to be sick, his mother rolls out his futon and allows him to skip class, even though she knows that he is probably avoiding a test. Her role is to comfort not to confront. Even when Shigeyuki comes home early and interrupts her conversation with a neighbor, she drops what she is doing and focuses all of her energy on meeting his demands. In one scene, she laments having children because of all the things that she wanted to do with her life before she became a mother. The implication is that because of the roles she had to fill as a mother, these other options were no longer available to her.
The father on the other hand is distant. While his presence is perhaps felt more strongly felt than that of a tanshin funin, or stranger father, he is still an outsider in the lives of his children. (Yano class notes 09/04/08.) He is a workman that drinks too much and is unable to have a strong impact on his family in any way other than through being the provider. Rather than having the time to force Shigeyuki to study, stop malingering, or even defend himself from bullies, the father is relegated to the role of hiring a tutor and using his savings to bribe the tutor into raising Shigeyuki’s exam scores. Within his own home, the father is actually an outsider, thus fulfilling the role of the tanshin funin. When he wants to have a private moment or conversation with his wife or with the tutor, he invites them to sit in his car with him. One could easily reason that his home is actually within the vehicle.
Within the Japanese family there are expectations on the children as well. The older brother, Shinichi, is expected to act as a role model to Shigeyuki. From the father’s point of view, it is Shinichi that has performed his role well as an older brother by achieving high enough grades to attend a good high school. In the early parts of the film, the father uses Shinichi as an example to his brother and holds him up as a superior model that should be emulated. This is at the stage before the tutor has started to make an impact. Prior to this impact Shigeyuki is a coddled child that is indulged in his every whim by his mother. He is bullied and beat up on at school with no apparent effort to defend himself. He allows his grades to slide despite possessing an intellect that allows him to create complex roller coasters in his spare time.
The role of the tutor is a break from these traditional roles. Unlike the teacher at the school, the tutor does not limit himself to the roles that his society sets for him. On page 37 of Preschool in Three Cultures, Tanaka-Sensei says that the teacher should maintain a little more distance from students than a parent or a relative. By maintaining this distance the teacher facilitates the child considering them as someone who teaches them the lessons instead of someone to turn to with their problems. It would seem that the Japanese largely consider school and the socializing process to be a time when students learn how to solve problems themselves or with their peers. A parent relationship on the other hand would seem to be something that the child is able to fall back onto or depend upon to help them with the problems that are beyond their ability to solve. Thus the home is a place that the child is able to feel a sense of security and protection while this may be absent from the school. The tutor in The Family Game blurs these distinctions. Within the home he uses violence to ‘knock some sense’ into Shigeyuki, thus violating the safe confines of the home. In an academic sense, rather than being a distant and unattached presence, the tutor shows concern for not only Shigeyuki’s grades but also for his emotional well being. Thus, he ends up creating a new role that is lacking from the lives of the family. In the process, he creates a sense of uncertainty about the roles that the family have been fulfilling up to this point. The father, the mother, the sons, and even the teacher at the high school are uncomfortable as the tutor forces them to look at their roles and ask themselves, “What am I supposed to be?”
The mother is uncomfortable with the tutor’s use of violence within the sanctuary of the home, however because of the effectiveness in improving Shigeyuki’s grades, she is left to wonder at the effectiveness of her own methods. The father attempts to maintain the illusion that he is the lord and master of this family, but in the final scene, he is revealed to be the hot air filled simulacra of an imaginary role that he has always been. His physical absence or presence make no difference in the lives of his family. Shinichi is, in some ways, the most interesting member of the family since it is he that seems to be questioning the roles they exist in without the aid of the tutor. At home he is observing without comment and outside of the home, he is exploring the fulfillment of his own role in society as a creature with emotions, expectations, and a mind that doesn’t seem to fit into the mold that has been prepared for it. His interactions with the tutor seem to be almost that of an equal. This is confirmed in the last supper scene when the father suggests that the tutor should next work with Shinichi. The tutor responds that it would not be an appropriate situation.
The relationship between the tutor and Shigeyuki is the most complex of the film. The tutor takes on the role of father by teaching Shigeyuki to defend himself, he takes on the role of teacher through making the boy learn, he takes on the role of mother through visiting the school, and he takes on the role of friend and sibling through the sharing of typically inhibited sexuality and desire.
The Family Game provides a thoughtful and critical commentary on Japanese Society by deconstructing the roles and expectations that exist within the family by highlighting what could be some of the major shortcomings within Japanese Society. The Family Game forces viewers to confront the concepts of rigid hierarchy and the needs that such a system leave unfulfilled. Morita uses the last scene in which the tutor upsets the meal, beats up the family members, and finally spills all the contents of the meal upon the floor to show that the vertical society is not working and that the roles (family members), the cultural mores (the food and drink), and even the platform upon which the society rests (the table) need to be upset and completely destroyed. To some extent, it can be argued that Morita is the real life version of the Tutor and that it is the Japanese people who are playing The Family Game.

big screen, little screen, ipod Travel

Off the Rails

This is probably about what my future looks like.

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Pan and Nymphs


Originally uploaded by chrisdamitio



big screen, little screen, ipod

A New Christmas Classic

Anthropology big screen, little screen, ipod Games other worlds stranger than LOST

Lost in Transmediality: Architecting Contingency in TV's Lost

Lost , a show its producers once described as Survivor meets The X-Files premiered as a new series in 2004 on ABC television. In 2009, Lost will begin its fifth season. Lost will only run for six seasons. This is the amount of time the producers say they needed to tell the story. Since initially airing, Lost has become one of the most widely discussed programs ever shown on TV and a true cultural phenomenon. On the surface, Lost is the story of the survivors of Oceanic flight 77, a trans-pacific flight from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California that crashed mid-flight on a remote tropical island. Below the surface, Lost is much more.
The most ardent fans of Lost are not just fans of the show; they are fans of everything that composes Lost. The architecture of Lost is trans-medial. Lost begins with the writers in L.A., crosses the Pacific to Hawaii where it is filmed and produced, gets broadcast to the world as television entertainment, enters the liminal space of the internet where it begins to blur the boundary between the created and the real, and then, sometimes, Lost enters into the real world. Those who follow the show most closely exist within a space where the fictional has seemingly become real and as such has become something they, as real world human beings, can touch, taste, and perhaps even contribute to.
In fact, Lost is a composite of technical forms which, through purposeful architectural design, manages to create contingency within the fan community. It is through this lens of uncertainty as to the actuality of what is happening within the fantasy world of Lost that fans are forced to sift in order to discover the answers to their many questions. To add further confusion to the issue, the producers also blur the lines between the worlds of fantasy and that of reality. This inter-textual and inter-world nature of Lost is representative of a contemporary discourse in which the entire range of media and products must be considered in order to understand why fans continue to speculate, argue, and wait anxiously for the next episode of the show to appear. The architecture of uncertainty built into Lost is as complex as it is compelling and in order to have an understanding of how the show has acquired such a dedicated fandom, one must look at what came before Lost.
At its most basic level, Lost is an island survival story in the tradition of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719 and is considered by some to be the first novel written in the English language. The characters on Lost, like Crusoe before them, find themselves stranded on an island where they encounter a number of ‘others’ and are forced to come to terms with a variety of moral, religious, and economic decisions as a result of these encounters.
Lost though is more than a survival story, it is also the story of ‘the island’ and as such owes a large debt to Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island published in 1874. Like the castaways on Verne’s island, those on Lost, arrive from the sky and experience strange phenomenon. In addition, Verne’s story also has a dog, a submarine, a mysterious beacon from another castaway, and supplies which come from an unknown source. The creators of Lost have recently acknowledged The Mysterious Island as the starting point for the story of Lost.
In fact, Lost, owes a large debt to many in science fiction and fantasy. Many of the episode titles are in reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Numerous references are made to white rabbits and both a prominent location and an episode are named “The Looking Glass”. Like Alice, the castaways have gone down the rabbit hole and are now in a world which does not always make sense to them in terms of the world they have left. And, like the readers of Carroll’s works, the audience of Lost is left in a state of uncertainty as to what is going to happen next.
Lost uses multiple methods to create this uncertainty, among them, serialized formats similar to those of radio and film in the early 1900’s. While serials fell into many different genres such as science fiction, western, or detective stories; the common elements often included a recap of previous episodes and at the end of the episode a cliff-hanger ending and an ambiguous preview of the next episode. In Taking Soaps Seriously: The World of Guiding Light, Michael James Intintoli looked at soap operas from an anthropological perspective. His descriptions of soaps sound like a description of Lost:
… viewers cannot be sure of an outcome or the well being of any particular character during any particular program. (Intintoli. p.52)
One of the things that Lost fans have both complained and marveled at is that even the most popular characters can be killed off without any notice. Lost has earned a reputation for killing off characters just as they start to become interesting. Of course, sometimes they don’t stay dead, or perhaps they never died at all, or maybe the viewers were looking at the past or future of the characters, or maybe the idea of death isn’t quite the same on Lost as it is in the real life. Fans are rarely sure a character is dead or at least dead and gone. Unless the actor is dead, which hasn’t happened yet, but even that might be no guarantee.
Lost is a trigger to the imaginations of those who have become fans of the show. Unlike the confined two hours of a film narrative, Lost makes time an uncertainty as it progresses in a non-linear format which can move from past to present and from character to character while still maintaining a cohesive meta-arc due to the hyper-knowledge the fans have about the text. In the season three finale, Through the Looking Glass, the show broke with a tradition of using only flashbacks and also began to use flash forwards. This only became apparent at the end of the show. And yet some fans had already figured it out based on the appearance of a cell phone that would not have been available at the time of a flashback.
This hyper-knowledge of the minutest details serves fans as a social currency (Jenkins: 1992) which allows for participation at a higher level within the fan community. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other cult television shows which preceded it, Lost has acquired a discriminating and productive audience which ranges from fans of the actors to fans who role-play as add-on characters within the greater narrative. These relationships between the fans, stars, producers, and the media have created an intricate web of connections which not only define the reaction to the show, but, according to many fans, determine the plot as well.
Charting the ecosystem of the world the show itself has created is not a simple task. While the show has only one ‘official’ website at, fans have created millions of websites devoted to the show. A Google search of the keywords “Lost Television Show” brings up over 8-million pages. One of the most comprehensive is a community created wiki which details everything from transcripts to pop-culture references. In addition there are the very popular fan message board sites at,, and with a combined total of more than 100,000 users. I should emphasize these are only three of the most popular and there are literally millions more websites.
Many of the websites are dedicated to discovering what the fans have dubbed ‘Easter Eggs’. Lost uses these hidden clues which are scattered throughout episodes, websites, and even the real world; to create a sense amongst watchers that there is a secret story that is hidden beneath the surface waiting to be found, however, many of the Easter eggs are so ambiguous that it becomes uncertain whether they are meaningful at all. One example of this is the books shown on the bookshelf of Ben, an evil-seeming character. Are the producers telling the fans where to find further clues or simply dressing the set with Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
In some cases these clues reveal startling things about the meta-narrative and its characters motivations and in others they are simply a way of acknowledging those fans that are paying extra close attention. These nods became important to the fans after a season two episode where the logo of an in-story organization called ‘Dharma’ was seen printed on the side of shark for less than a second. Associate Producer, Noreen O’Toole told me the producers are continually amazed at the speed with which the fans unearth even the most obscure Easter Eggs.
The producers have embedded sub-audible whispers within the show, reversed speech hidden within the soundtrack, shown split second images, utilized historical meaning behind names, and even had billboards put up in real-life New York City advertising Oceanic Air which then led fans to a fake website positioned as if it were real, which in turn took them into an alternate reality game (ARG) based on the show but anchored within the real world. Navigating these multiple realities is not easy and some fans have speculated that they might be looking at alternate realities which may not even exist for the characters at all!
Trans-medial fans analyze the names of characters or in-show businesses to locate anagrams such as ‘Mittelos’ a bioscience company mentioned in the show during the third season which fans quickly descrambled into ‘Lost Time’. Fans also take part in the multiple alternate reality games which the show has created. The trans-medial fans require more than the past, present, and future presented in the course of the series narrative. Instead, they are treated to a meta-story which exists independently of the TV show itself.
The Lost Experience, an alternate reality game which took place between seasons two and three revealed the story behind the story of some of the characters on the show. The New York Times described it “a multimedia treasure hunt that makes use of e-mail messages, phone calls, commercials, billboards and fake Web sites that are made to seem real.” This was followed by alternate reality games titles “Find 815” between seasons three and four and “The DHARMA Initiative Recruiting Project” between seasons four and five which is still in development according to ABC. The Oceanic Air billboard mentioned earlier was a part of “Find 815”. The alternate reality games introduced new characters and storylines that the producers claimed would help unlock the many secrets of the island.
The producers have released at least one book which has brought about intense speculation. Lost Twin is a detective story, written by Gary Troup, a fictional passenger who died when Flight 77 crashed. Characters in the second season find, read, and then burn the manuscript which was salvaged from the flight. Later that year, in the real world, Hyperion Books, released the book complete with an account of how the author had disappeared on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Troup figured prominently in The Lost Experience, the first alternate reality game associated with the show. This is but one example of how the lines between reality and fiction have become blurred on Lost.
Lost is a unique artifact of the early twenty-first century United States of America. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “The media is the message,” and as such the totality of the ecosystem the media creates and encompasses is deserving of careful scrutiny. Lost is the nexus of a more modern sort of entertainment.
Lost fandom is a worldwide group connected by shared experience, the internet, common knowledge, and sometimes through meeting in person. They create a community, establish rules and norms within it, and at the same time are perhaps even convinced that they have the means to take a hand in shaping the source of the culture which they are participating in.
Fans of the show see Lost as the cutting edge of breaking down the wall between the production and consumption of entertainment. The producers of the show see Lost as a new way of telling stories. The truth is, Lost, is a means of interactive storytelling which spans multiple media and makes the fans think they might be contributing to the way that the story is told, but they don’t know. The writers and producers of the show create this sense of contingency within a complex global media.
Those who are most interested in the show find meaning in the tiniest details. Elaborate theories have been constructed to explain how and why the characters are on the island, heated debates rage as to the validity of these theories, and the ultimate conclusion is that even those with the best theories are forced to wait for the producers to reveal the plot or the spoilers to leak. Thus far all theories have been disproved or modified to fit new data.
Within minutes of an episode airing, fans have captured screenshots, magnified book titles from the background, played audio forward and backward, identified the most obscure use of previous plot, identified historical or literary references based on the names of characters, locations, or companies, and constructed philosophically deep theories as to the reasons these things have been included.
Lost attempts to cross the boundary from the fictional to the real. The production is architected to create contingency and thus draw the fans into speculation about what is real versus what is fantasy. While it is descended from island stories and serialized drama, Lost distorts time, death, and meaning in new ways. The show has millions of fans and the producers use Easter Eggs to reward dedicated fans with a deeper understanding of the show which can then be used as a form of social currency within the fan community. Lost architects contingency using a combination of old methods, such as literary devices and new methods such as alternate reality games and embedded audio. Through this combination of forms, Lost has become a new sort of entertainment which caters to a new form of fan. Lost is a television show, an online game, an obsession, a lifestyle, and to some extent, Lost is real.

Anthropology big screen, little screen, ipod Crime and Punishment Pirates

Kangaroos and Pirates

For today’s great movie quiz, what film is this still from? (answer is at the bottom of this post)
It turns out that we are more closely related to kangaroos than you might think.

“There are a few differences, we have a few more of this, a few less of that, but they are the same genes and a lot of them are in the same order,” centre Director Jenny Graves told reporters in Melbourne.

And the Saudi Oil Tanker that got hijacked by pirates yesterday has arrived in Somalia.

A Saudi supertanker seized by pirates with a $100 million oil cargo in the world’s biggest ship hijacking reached Somalia on Tuesday, and another ship was captured in the perilous waters off the lawless state. The capture of the Star is one of the most spectacular strikes in maritime history.The seizure of the Star, three times the size of an aircraft carrier, followed another high-profile strike earlier this year by the pirates when they captured a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks and other military equipment. They are still holding that vessel and about a dozen others, with more than 200 crew members hostage. Given that the pirates are well-armed with grenades, machineguns and rocket-launchers, foreign forces in the area are steering clear of direct attacks.

Answer: The General starring Buster Keaton. One of the greatest silent films of all time.

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Little XXX House on the Prairie

I love this, just because I grew up watching Little House. I even had chickens named after the characters.

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland has rated the DVD release of the much-loved children’s television series “Little House on the Prairie” suitable for adult viewing only.
To save money, Universal Pictures decided not to submit the series to state inspection, the company’s Finland marketing manager Meri Suomela told Reuters on Wednesday.
Finnish authorities charge 2 euros ($2.57) per minute for assessing the correct age limit on films and television series. Distributors who forego this can only sell their shows with a sticker saying “Banned for under-18s.”
“Long series can get quite expensive to check, and some use this exemption in the law to their advantage,” said Matti Paloheimo, Director at the Finnish Board of Film Classification.
“Such unchecked material should not be shown to children publicly,” he added.
Little House on the Prairie, which ran from 1974 to 1983, portrayed life in the U.S. West in the late 1800s and was based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s book of the same name.
It remains popular in Finland, and is still shown weekly on Sunday mornings on state-owned broadcaster YLE.

Anthropology big screen, little screen, ipod Crime and Punishment Existensis nader Oddities other worlds

Virtual Stocks, Virtual Murder, and Radio Raheem

For the first time since 2003 when I stopped being a stock broker, my virtual portfolio has gone into the red. Until a month ago I was continuously up more than $5000 on a virtual $20000 portfolio based on the stocks that I sold to my clients. Hopefully, someone told them to sell when the market reached a high. As of this morning, my virtual portfolio is down $84. Not bad really, I’ve been surprised it lasted this long. Maybe I should have stayed a broker…or a DJ, or a casting director, or an air traffic controller, or a bartender, or maybe I should stay a tour guide….nah…no regrets on leaving those or this job behind me and moving on…
While on the subject of the virtual, this story caught my attention this morning…

TOKYO – A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband’s digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday.
The woman, who is jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game “Maple Story” to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May, a police official in northern Sapporo said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
“I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry,” the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations.
The woman had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said.
She has not yet been formally charged, but if convicted could face a prison term of up to five years or a fine up to $5,000.
Players in “Maple Story” raise and manipulate digital images called “avatars” that represent themselves, while engaging in relationships, social activities and fighting against monsters and other obstacles.
The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married, and killed the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his beloved online avatar was dead.
The woman was arrested Wednesday and was taken across the country, traveling 620 miles from her home in southern Miyazaki to be detained in Sappporo, where the man lives, the official said.
The police official said he did not know if she was married in the real world.
In recent years, virtual lives have had consequences in the real world. In August, a woman was charged in Delaware with plotting the real-life abduction of a boyfriend she met through “Second Life,” another virtual interactive world.
In Tokyo, police arrested a 16-year-old boy on charges of swindling virtual currency worth $360,000 in an interactive role playing game by manipulating another player’s portfolio using a stolen ID and password.
Virtual games are popular in Japan, and “Second Life” has drawn a fair number of Japanese participants. They rank third by nationality among users, after Americans and Brazilians.

I think the intersection of the virtual and ‘real’ is one of the most interesting phenomenon we are likely to experience in my lifetime. It is certainly more interesting than an election where the best candidates are ignored by the media
Yesterday on the bus I heard an interesting exchange between two guys that seemed like average working guys:
Guy 1: We are about to elect the first non-white president!
Guy 2: I don’t care what his nationality is, he doesn’t have experience!
It’s nice to know that the voters are so well informed that they confuse race with nationality. As if black people aren’t citizens of the U.S. Actually, I think this is representative of a lot of McCain voters. They are racist, poorly educated, and they tend to get their information from prescription drug abusing right wing talk show hosts. What they forget is that those same sources were blasting McCain in the primaries. By the way, I love that McCain spent $150,000 to upgrade the Palin families wardrobe from the stuff they bought at Mervyns.

I was pleased to note that a poll at (the UH student paper) has McCain(12%) trailing Nader (16%) by 4%. Obama is way ahead of both, after all, this is Hawaii, where the first question people ask you is where you went to high school (and it really matters to them!), so of course a guy who went to high school here is going to win. Here’s what Larry DAvid, co-creator of Seinfeld and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm has to say about the election.

If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it’s due to racism rather than if it’s stolen. If it’s racism, I can say, “Okay, we lost, but at least it’s a democracy. Sure, it’s a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it’s a democracy.” If he loses because it’s stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I’d rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one.

While we are at it, check out how cool Scandanavia sounds just in case McCain does win.

Now, as to Radio Raheem, I was talking with my brother yesterday and he told me that big boom boxes aka Ghetto Blasters are going for inflated prices on ebay, apparently we are on the eve of a boombox revival. The timing is about right for the return of the 80’s by a generation that never was there.

ICYMI – 7 Yr. Old Break Dancer On Ellen @ Yahoo! Video
big screen, little screen, ipod nader

Two great videos….Hitler Plans Burning Man and Nader and Obama-girl II

How can you not love Ralph Nader. A Presidential Candidate with a sense of humor.

This next one is too fucking funny. (Thanks Nancy!)