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Image post up at If it Has a Name, from the Nagasaki Lantern Festival.

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nagasaki manga-ka portrait sketch

There I was, peacefully pondering the remarkable level of Oedipal tension subcontext in Back to the Future 2, when we found a manga-ka doing portraits for a measly grand. Mine, as I mention on If it Has a Name, is similar to a picture of me done by some Chinese students of mine a few years ago: it seems to deeply begrudge the beard attached as an afterthought to an otherwise blank expanse of emasculate bishi features.

manga mangaka sketch bishi bishonen

manga mangaka sketch bishi bishonen

manga mangaka sketch bishi bishonen

Cho-chan (male, 22) posing for a sketch.

I’d love to write about the cultural significance of Japan’s love affair with the bishonen, the gender-ambiguous razor-jawed boy-woman. Bishi protagonists are generally the sign of weak or indulgent plotting, while as a sidekick/secondary character they generally serve to highlight the relative normalcy of the protagonist with extreme martial ability, sports, queerness or flamboyant humour, similar to the figure of the “perverted best friend”.

"What childish, infantile, immature and entirely uncreative mind could have come up with Buttlord GT is entirely out of my comprehension"

"What childish, infantile, immature and entirely uncreative mind could have come up with Buttlord GT is entirely out of my comprehension"

Compare the non-protagonist at the centre of The 10k Commotion, whose mystic bishi-abilities (especially at Dance Dance Revolution) drive the story while never allowing him much of a personality.

dynamite 10k tenkay commotion

Also compare the absent Mary-Sue poetess protagonist at the centre of Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s generation 14. The actual protagonist is both a clone and a reincarnation of her ‘Original’, whose work was so revolutionary that it threatened her post-dystopian world, causing her to be killed midsentence.

generation 14 priya sarukkai chabria

Can’t find a single better cover image, and it’s nowhere on Amazon. Best get it from Penguin India here. Extracts here.

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The clone narrator has a mutation which enables her to remember her Original and her other past lives, and her cognitive development is a combination of fan-fiction and a Bloom-style Oedipal urge towards her ineffable, genetically perfect poète fatale ancestral donor. She is urged to to become her, to recall her work perfectly, but she also wishes to slay her with her own Work, establish her own identity. It has its problems but it’s excellent psy-fi. Recommended.

manga mangaka sketch bishi bishonen

Nat with her alternate-universe femme fatale persona.

Finally, the best thing about Generation 14 so far, appropriately enough, is the epigraph. Like The God of Small Things, which Emiko kindly lent me, it’s obsessed with the multiplicity of life and hence of Work: Roy’s epigraph is John Berger, “Never again will a single story be told/ as though it’s the only one”. Chabria’s, which I will re-rob without shame for Iland, is a Leonard Cohen extract which I somehow hadn’t come across before.

Ring all the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There’s a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

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Is plagiarism a problem on the internet? Well, yes. The waka I wrote at If it Has a Name is, I said, a simple sentiment in a consciously finite format, and so I find it hard to believe it has not been written before, even if it is formally incorrect: I line-break a subject particle, for instance. I don’t have the heart to google it.

Is plagiarism inevitable on the internet? Well, logically it is becoming exponentially more difficult to identify except in oneself, and so it may be approaching a stage where it exists suspended between being inevitable and being indeterminable.

As a concept, is plagiarism being subjectivised out of existence? Well, that depends on what you believe about reading the internet. Whether you believe that online people are automatically exposed to a proportionally, ideologically and stylistically broader field of reading material. Or whether you believe that online reading allows people to constrict their reading, to micro-manage their language and its signifiers. Which is the old argument about the Daily Me all over again.

Extract from a covering letter, sent with CV to a very interesting company who wanted to know applicants’ opinion about the success of one internet institution. I haven’t heard back. Oh well.

Feel free to skip.

I took every opportunity for personal research during my course to study online communications, including a course essay on the language of bias in supposedly non-ideological “News Watchdog” sites, and my thesis, entitled “The Information Sphere: Ideology and Langauge in News on the Internet”.

Inevitably, some of the ideas I formed in this thesis have been modified by the online news revolution in the late stages of the American election, and the current status of The Huffington Post is an interesting study.

In the thesis I argued that the internet does not have an inherently ‘radicalising’ influence on newsreading, as in Sunstein’s ‘Daily Me’ argument, nor does the proliferation of ‘citizen journalism’ necessarily herald the deprofessionalisation of journalism as many have argued, notably CNN’s Christiane Amanour.

This said, I did argue that because of the experience of choice in newsreading, and the increasing experience of participation, users would tend to develop ‘personal news cycles’: first referring to a small group of professional newsroom services, which are increasingly pressured to present “unbiased” newswire copy, the users then research and participate in news communities grouped by affiliation.

At the time of writing I cited Drudge, but his power as a maven ended with the election and his embarrassing himself (in my opinion) in the final weeks. The current era belongs to the more openly slanted magazine/conversation-styled Huff, and its web and talk-radio counterparts on the right wing, of which a web leader has yet to emerge.

I think Huff’s popularity is partly a result of its nurturing a returned sense of community in politics, which Drudge’s ‘insider’ aggregation approach rejects, and partly a result of its responding to a demand for personality in news content.

For the future: successful attempts to create a single ‘news homepage’ have rarely worked and will probably get rarer, and so I think Huff’s investment in for example sports and even entertainment reporting is probably wide of their core business, when specialised alternatives like Gawker are proliferating.

teenaged in the pace age

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Update: Instead of “are proliferating” I should have said “are proliferate”, though CVs in general make poor canvases for experimental adjectivism. I need to find myself a word that’s between proliferate and profligate, to describe the status of sites with a high, cultivated visibility but an uncertain readership, like Gawker or American Apparel ads.

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Endorsionists

Photo post finally up at If it has a name know it.

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I would have loved to build up a portfolio of examples of Indian advertising, which is simultaneously more primitive and more advanced than anywhere else. The wit, the sex, the ubiquitous dead-eyed celebrity endorsionists, the absolute clarity of impulse; it all walks the line between maternally iron-clad prelapsarian filial values and sexual endorsement.

It may be the most advanced in the world, in terms of biological imperative

so to speak.

Incidentally, two superb books I read while I was there were Amruta Patil’s Kari and Ambarish Satwik’s Perineum: Nether Parts of Empire, neither of which can be too highly recommended. I’d hesitate to describe Kari as my discovery of indigenous Indian comic writing, as I think its near-unique use of image and word isn’t representative of a particularly Indian style but of an eclectic talent. It’s claustrophobic, densely sexual bed-time reading for copywriters, right at the edge of Indian modernit: Kari herself is like an angry, newly- sexually- disenfrachised superhero.

satwik1849_full_kari

Perineum could only have been written by a surgeon, and a Delhi one at that: it’s got a livid, twitching yet placid intelligence that’s only Indian. It’s essentially a collection of fictitious documents rather than a short-story collection, which is what drew me to it in the first place: a series of exercises in imitated style: formal and phatic, clinical and cruel, from every angle of the colonial equation and from every stage of conquest, and every morsel has an erogenous relish for the anatomical and a polyglotted ear for endlessly reinventive English, the kind you sometimes catch at the edge of Rushdie.

I was reading Fury on my flight back and enjoying it before I left it on the plane; and restraining myself from thinking terms like over-literate. I.e. I was stopping myself both from criticising the Rushdie of Fury’s vocal tic of constant referencing, and from trying to Uncle-Tom him with a puritannical preference for the alien, invented Indian English of Perineum.

Authenticity and its pursuit was already a perceptible undertow in this holiday: bought authenticity, pained-for authenticity, briefly-but-memorably interrogative authenticity. Doing hotels and travelling with ‘locals’, it was a great comfort to the ego of a former backpacker scum to observe Indian people with no particularly reverent sense of their country’s paradoxes, its disparities or its uncommodifiable Realness. An Indian can travel 200 miles within the country and be a foreigner in terms of language and tradition; he can hop over a wall and be in a different world in terms of economy and mores.

cat and girl bought authenticity

gaijin is still better than gweilo

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