Kenjiro Kitade “DROPS”: Hiroshima-Nagasaki 65 yrs

Remember, if you really want to reduce your carbon footprint/negative impact on the environment, say “no” to nukes.

Kenjiro Kitade Exhibiton
65 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Ivy Brown Gallery is pleased to present “DROPS” (Aug 6- Nov 1) an exhibition
of sculpture by Kenjiro Kitade. The exhibition takes its title from the dropping of
the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Kitade seeks to drop a powerful
mode of questioning into the midst of our complacency in the face of the
nuclear threat.
Many of the sculptures in the exhibit are curious figures with human bodies and
the heads of sheep. Traditionally sheep have been a symbol of obedience and
cowardice, and in the face of nuclear annihilation the metaphor is all the more
The sculptures are grouped in scenes that fall into three categories of past,
present, future. Towards the start of the exhibit we are met by two figures from
the past named Agyho and Ungyo, the traditional guardians of temples in
Japan. Here it is hoped that the sacrifices of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will guard
against future nuclear proliferation. Later, in the present, we encounter eight
sheep-headed figures representing the nuclear and non-nuclear nations, each
holding apples of temptation. In another scene we are presented with a nuclear
game of chicken. Figures representing nuclear nations sit above an image of an
atomic blast. The viewer can press a “hot button” that makes the atomic image
flash, illustrating the choice that people have to engage in nuclear destruction
or not. Also in the show will be a small tree grown from seeds from a tree that
survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima, offering hope for the future. Kitade will
make the pot for the tree out of the same clay that he fashions his sculptures.

About the artist: Kenjiro Kitade was born in Tokyo, Japan in February 1977.
In 1995 he enrolled at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education,
majoring in Fine Art and also completed a masters program there, concentrating
in ceramic sculpture. Career highlights include the bronze at the World Ceramic
Exposition in South Korea in 2005, and later showing at the highly selective
SOFA show (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) in Chicago, Miami and New
York. Living and working in New York City, he participates in numerous art fairs
and exhibitions, working with several galleries nationally and internationally.

DROPS will open on Friday. Aug 6, and runs through Monday, Nov 1.
Gallery hours: Monday-Saturday, 12pm-6pm.
Opening reception – Friday, August 6th
from 6pm to 9pm.

Ivy Brown Gallery is located in the heart of the Meatpacking district at 675
Hudson Street, 4th floor (between W13th St and W14th St).
Phone: 212 -925 -1111

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Take a stand: Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070

Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 is in the throes of Congress – is it constitutional or is it unconstitutional? – but that doesn’t mean you have to be undecided about it.

The Asian American Writers Workshop has launched an initiative called WordStrike, and is inviting writers to join the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri, Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Ha Jin and others in boycotting the state of Arizona – and signing the WordStrike letter opposing SB1070.

If you’re a writer – or if you write – and you oppose the bill, please be kind and sign.  If you are neither, carry on and move along.

Full press release below.  Read the letter/Sign the petition at WordStrike.

The Asian American
Writers’ Workshop
Est. 1991


Contact: Ken Chen
Phone: (212) 494-0061
July 29, 2010

Wordstrike: Writers Join Boycott of Arizona— Literary heavy-weights Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Noam Chomsky take stand against Arizona’s racially-charged legislation —

NEW YORK, July 29, 2010 — Today The Asian American Writers’ Workshop announced Wordstrike, an initiative to unite writers to boycott the state of Arizona until anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070 is repealed. More than 100 writers have signed the Wordstrike letter, including Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Díaz, Ha Jin, Jessica Hagedorn, Luis Rodriguez, Noam Chomsky, Maxine Hong Kingston, Adrienne Rich, Salman Rushdie, and Sandra Cisneros. The letter can be found at

Arizona statute SB 1070 requires law enforcement officers to detain anyone they think is an illegal immigrant, which will no doubt lead to widespread unreasonable detention and racial profiling. Though a federal judge has put a hold on some parts of the law, this hold is only temporary; in fact, lawyers for the State of Arizona are convinced SB1070 will be found constitutional. As the Wordstrike letter states: “We believe Arizona represents the epicenter in a major civil rights battle of our time. . . And we call upon all writers—no matter their citizenship, no matter their ethnicity—to join us in repudiating this virulent, repugnant law.”

As Andrew Hsiao, a member of the AAWW Board of Directors, states: “As writers from immigrant communities, we are saddened, frightened and angered by Arizona’s new laws. All of us at The Asian American Writers’ Workshop felt we had to join the national movement against this flowering of hatred, and we’re immensely gratified by the response by the literary community.”

Wordstrike signatory and Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang states: “Arizona’s SB 1070 literally legislates prejudice; its provisions can only encourage law enforcement to pre-judge individuals based on their ethnic appearance. As writers and artists, we will do all we can to prevent this insidious and unfair law from taking effect.”

Ken Chen, Executive Director of AAWW, states: “As writers, we must work to ensure that no one’s voice is silenced because of the way he speaks or the color of his skin.”

Junot Díaz, David Henry Hwang, and Jessica Hagedorn are available for limited press inquiries. For information please contact Ken Chen at (212) 494-0061.

About The Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Founded in 1991, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop ( is the most prominent organization in the country dedicated to exceptional literature by writers of Asian descent. A community of sophisticated readers and writers, the Workshop serves as an advocate and support service for Asian American writers and an intellectual and cultural center for Asian American ideas. We believe Asian American Asian American literature is for everyone and a vital chapter of the story of what it means for all of us to be American.

### Writers’ Letter Opposing SB1070

We call on our fellow writers to join the growing movement to boycott the State of Arizona until it revokes anti-immigrant law SB 1070. Scheduled to take effect July 29, the statute requires law enforcement officers to detain anyone they think is an illegal immigrant. The law will lead to the profiling and detention of anyone who does not look like they belong—not just undocumented immigrants, but U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The law also criminalizes anyone who shelters or transports an undocumented immigrant and allows anyone to sue any Arizona county, city, or town, if they think the law is not being enforced zealously enough. What Arizona has legislated, in other words, is nothing less than a police state.

As writers, we are conscious of the power of the written word. The statutory language of SB 1070 wields the power of the state to decree that the narratives of certain people simply do not count. The law serves as one plank of a larger regulatory framework that not only defines who we are, but dictates whose voices are allowed to speak. Another Arizona law (HB 2281) prohibits schools at any grade level from offering courses that explore the literature and history of any particular race. The Arizona Department of Education has ordered the firing of any teacher who speaks English with a foreign accent. As writers, scholars and educators who are committed to deepening rather than censoring intellectual inquiry, we believe that no one’s voice should be silenced.

We believe Arizona represents the epicenter in a major civil rights battle of our time. We oppose SB 1070, a law that has already been opposed even by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and several Republican leaders, and which has inspired a boycott movement by the country’s leading civil rights organizations and union federations, as well as more than twenty-two cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. We oppose the national xenophobic fringe movement that last year alone helped pass more than 250 anti-immigrant laws and resolutions in forty-eight states. We call on the administration to vigorously pursue its lawsuit against Arizona and to use all its powers to block SB 1070. And we call upon all writers—no matter their citizenship, no matter their ethnicity—to join us in repudiating this virulent, repugnant law.

Andrew Hsiao, Ken Chen, Jennifer Hayashida
On Behalf of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Tariq Ali, Russell Banks, Amiri Baraka, Breyten Breytenbach, Noam Chomsky, Sandra Cisneros, Ry Cooder, Thulani Davis, Junot Díaz, Martin Espada, Eduardo Galeano, Jessica Hagedorn, Tom Hayden, David Henry Hwang, Ha Jin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Klein, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-rae Lee, Ruben Martinez, Michael Ondaatje, Ed Park, Francine Prose, Ishmael Reed, Adrienne Rich, Luis Rodriguez, Salman Rushdie, Wallace Shawn, Andre Schiffrin, Anne Waldman, John Waters.


Chris Abani
Francisco X. Alarcón
Anthony Arnove
Naomi Ayala
Amiri Baraka
Lincoln Bergman
Norma Cantu
Lorna Dee Cervantes
Jeff Chang
Colin Channer
Alex Chee
Lisa Chen
Faith Childs
Marilyn Chin
Joshua Cody
Mike Davis
Jennifer Egan
Deborah Eisenberg
Robert S. Eshelman
John J. Fitzgerald
Carolyn Forché
Ruth Forman
Rivka Galchen
Matthew Gallaway
Odilia Galvan Rodriguez
Sarah Gambito
V.V. Ganeshananthan
Cristina Garcia
Diana Garcia
Lauren Groff
Mohsin Hamid
Juan Felipe Herrera
Bob Holman
Hua Hsu
Tania James
Esther Kaplan
David Kipen
Amitava Kumar
Laila Lalami
Joseph Legaspi
Ed Lin
Tan Lin
Devorah Major
Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Demetria Martínez
Nina Marie Martínez
Victor Martinez
Celeste Guzman Mendoza
Jill Nelson
John Nichols
Deborah Paredez
Willie Perdomo
Loida Maritza Perez
Robert Polito
Paisley Reckdal
Bessy Reyna
Patrick Rosal
Chuck Rosenthal
Benjamin Saenz
Oscar Sarmiento
Chase Twichell
Victor Valle
Laura van den Berg
Lauro Vazquez
Helena Maria Viramontes
Vivien Weisman
Evelyn C. White
Gail Wronsky
Paul Yoon
Marilyn B. Young
Alexi Zentner

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Happy Birthday, Fanfare/Ponent Mon!

Party it up!  This July 4th marks Span-glish born manga publisher, Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s 13th birthday!

Just in time for summer!  So while you’re watching fireworks, and eating barbecue, remember that tumultuous adolescent age when independence really was something to be celebrated (as opposed to being a precursor to responsibilities and mortgage payments).

Summer + 13yrsold = Huffy bikes and skinned knees, fireflies and stolen kisses, dusky evenings and staying out in the park ’til 10 – with only your friends!  and no parental intervention via cellphone!

This is a big year for Fanfare – see below for a suggestion of who might take home an Eisner! – and I’m eating extra hamburgers to celebrate the publisher that brought us nouvelle manga, Kazuichi Hanawa, and Kiriko Nananan.

Happy Birthday Fanfare/Ponent Mon, Stephen+Ami!

I can’t wait for you guys to take take that Eisner and for more manga!

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New York Asian Film Festival: No really, All Your Cultural Institutions Are Belong to Us

I have an affinity with the New York Asian Film Festival.  It’s got the same summer birthday as the little man in my life, so what’s not to like?

This year my son turns 10, and this month, the New York Asian Film Festival celebrates its 10th Anniversary – a decade of bringing over celluloid pyrotechnic penis guns from Japan, vengeance from Korea, and romance/ennui from the three Chinas (or maybe just the two, Mainland C and HK).

The Festival launches later this month and runs from June 25-July 8th at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center with screenings at the Japan Society July 1-4, and midnight screenings at the IFC Center downtown on June 25+26 as well as July 3,4,5.  Guests include the pillars of Hong Kong movie-making, actors Sammo Hung and Simon Yam.

But I wanted to talk to heavy-weight Grady (I-left-my-heart-in-Hong-Kong) Hendrix, who, along with the Subway Cinema team, put together this festival year after year and keep it going.  I’ve interviewed Grady in the past and he’s got the the love and affection for the movies coming out of East and South East Asia, an in depth knowledge of the various industries by country, and the business sense to bring it all together and weed out the best selection to bring over for New Yorkers.  (This year, team Subway Cinema chose 45 of 421 movies for the Fest.)  I managed to steal him away before a meeting to ask him what he’s excited for in this year’s line-up, the uptown/downtown venues, John Woo v. Jackie Chan, and why, after all these years, his heart is in Hong Kong.

Me: The New York Asian Film Festival has taken place at the Anthology Film Archives down on Second St., and its also screened at the IFC Center off West 4th st.  The Japan Society was added three years ago, and now the venue is Lincoln Center.

Grady Hendrix: It was largely accidental.  The Anthology became too small for us, they remodeled with larger seats and then had to cut back on the number of seats due to fire code.  But they were great to us when we were ugly and no one liked us.  We moved to the IFC and we love the location.  The Japan Society we’d been negotiating over the years.  But we came here [to Lincoln Center] because Gavin Smith (editor-in-chief of Film Comment) invited us.

We’ll see if our audience will come.  The IFC has been great for us, but this is the Upper West Side.  It remains to be seen whether this will be a love match.

Me: Is this a sign that movies coming out of East Asia are rising in status in the U.S.?

Grady Hendrix: It’s fallen.  When we started in 2000, no one cared.  Then in 2003 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out and everybody cared.  Then there was the Korean boom, and now, no one cares again.  It’s interesting, from 2003-2006 or 2007, the big companies were picking up these movies: The Weinstein Company, Sony, Lions Gate.  Now the companies picking these up are Taiseng – good companies, but small.

Me: Every year you host directors and actors at the festival, but this year you’ve got some serious heavy weights from Hong Kong – Sammo Hung and Simon Yam are both going to be here to introduce their movies.  These guys are huge stars and real cornerstones to the industry in Hong Kong.

Grady Hendrix: Which is great. It’s due to three things: Ip Man changed a lot of things. It came out in 2008 and it was a big hit. It’s not competing with Hollywood or CGI.  It launched a Hong Kong film making that’s returning to its classic values.   Also, the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office – we’ve been wooing them, and they’ve become our sugar daddy.  We wanted this and they made it come true.

Third, and I’m a sap, but for us it’s really poignant, in this year’s line up, Sammo Hung is almost 60, and he’s giving the performance of his career in IPMAN 2. Simon Yam – when I was growing up, he was the pretty boy, the leading man.  Now he’s playing this middle aged dad in Echos of the Rainbow.  Jackie Chan is 56 years old, there’s the Shaw Brothers movie and for us it’s like all these old lions have come roaring back and are doing some of the most amazing stuff ever done.  Across Asia it’s been huge – people are raving about Gallants; IPMAN 2 is the most successful movie. Even critics who only watch obscure arthouse movies from Asia like it.  It’s a tribute to them growing up.

Me: You’ve got two war movies in this festival that I want to ask you about.  For the first, you’re showing the 5 hour version of John Woo’s Red Cliff.  Second, you’ve got Jackie Chan’s new movie, Little Big Soldier.  They’re both war movies, but they take very different tacks from one another.

Grady Hendrix: Little Big Soldier is profoud and moving.  I find it so interesting.  Some people are taking about this movie in the context of the one China idea, but if you’re paying attention, the heros of movie are the losers.

In the movie, Hero, the message is that sacrifices had to be made for unity.  But in Little Big Soldier, the sympathies lie with the damaged.  For them, unification is a failure.  Jackie Chan is devoted to Hong Kong.  He’s more political than he’s given credit for.  There’s a little bit of Hong Kong in Little Big Soldier. All the politics, unification, these big ideas – Jackie Chan’s attitude is “I just want to make a living and not get killed.”  His concerns are more intellectual than John Woo.

John Woo’s movies are about irreconcilable friendships between two men.  Jackie Chan is about the working man in the world today.  But Jackie’s movies aren’t emotionally deep the way John Woo’s movies are.

What blew me away about Red Cliff is how good John Woo still is.  He’s got a 20 minute set piece about the weather that is riveting.  The Red Cliff battle is one of the biggest scenes in Chinese literature.  John Woo’s movie was such a hit and such a return to China for him.

Me: What are you excited about in this year’s line-up?

Grady Hendrix: I’m besotted with the nostalgia coming from Hong Kong.  Echos of the Rainbow is a sappy movie, but it earns sentiment.  There’s a nostalgia in Hong Kong for the way things were.  If you go there, people will point out the changes in landscape and business and say “this used to be ____”  “that used to be ____”.  “Used to be” is the operative in Hong Kong for what it was.  In the 80’s movies were made for the working class and the new middle class.  In the 90’s that went away, the 2000’s that went away –  it was all about cop movies, fantasy movies. Now we’re return to a nostalgia for the people that built HK, the clock punchers.

Beyond the Hong Kong stuff –  my heart is there but beyond that, we’ve got Cow and Crazy Racer which are both from a new phase of mainland Chinese film making that are not epic dramas and not art films about state oppression.  These movies are funny, and modern, and fast.  That’s huge.  Crazy Racer is a movie I’ve been excited about since last year.

Korea has a good line up, but Japan – I love Golden Slumber, not love as much as Fish Story, but Simbol and Confession – these are both huge. Confession is from the same director that did Kamikaze Girls, and it’s a big slab of something else, a true masterpiece.  It resembles Park Chan Wook’s revenge movies, but it makes him look like teenager who reads too many comics.  Confession is about a school teacher whose daughter drowns, and realizes that two of her students did it.  This movie has no value lesson, no pitch line, you come out staggered after watching it.  Some people will not like it, but it’s something major.  I can’t describe it.

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Scanlation Smackdown

It’s finally happening.  Manga publishers are mad as hell and they’re not taking it anymore.  Banding together in both Japan and the U.S., publishers have formed an alliance against pirated online manga (scanlations) and scanlation aggregators.

From the press-release:

Today a coalition of Japanese and U.S. publishers announced a coordinated effort to combat a rampant and growing problem of internet piracy plaguing the manga industry. “Scanlation,” as this form of piracy has come to be known, refers to the unauthorized digital scanning and translation of manga material that is subsequently posted to the internet without the consent of copyright holders or their licensees. According to the coalition, the problem has reached a point where “scanlation aggregator” sites now host thousands of pirated titles, earning ad revenue and/or membership dues at creators’ expense while simultaneously undermining foreign licensing opportunities and unlawfully cannibalizing legitimate sales. Worse still, this pirated material is already making its way to smartphones and other wireless devices, like the iPhone and iPad, through apps that exist solely to link to and republish the content of scanlation sites.

My editor Calvin Reid breaks the story at Publishers Weekly and gives some background on scanlation in the U.S.

Anime News Network picks up the story for a raucus gunfight in their comments section and discussion forum.

Over at Japanator, some interesting comments are coming in on this story, too.  My favorite so far is:

Next they’re going to start putting locked glass doors in front of the manga sections and forbidding librarys from buying their manga.

The above quote taken from the press-release issued earlier today from Viz Media is pretty wrenching in how widespread and out of control scanlation has grown.  Scanlation used to be something like a mixed tape – pass it around, share it.  Friend to friend, fan to fan.  And then the little guy was absorbed by the big guy.  And now aggregator sites make money off of pirated manga.  And apps have been built to better access those aggregator sites.  And publishers issuing cease and desist letters to scanlators are getting a strange response (in at least one case that I know of) where the scanlator has already pulled the scans of the license property years ago, but the scans have become viral – and collected by a big aggregator.  Cease and desist?

Better yet, fans who simply scan and upload the licensed, translated, and published manga that’s released in the U.S. by domestic publishers.  As Kurt Hassler tells it:

“These sites are run as businesses and include direct scans of licensed English-language manga editions. Some even include our copyright notices.”

I find this funny, but in the same way I find my son shooting chocolate milk out of his nostrils funny: hilarious, but also disgusting.

This is also the way I feel after reading some of the comments on the discussion thread at Anime News Network and Japanator.  One thing that technology has done – aside from tearing down borders, bringing everything foreign much closer to home, and democratizing information, is that it’s built this “free” experience that’s really only free for some.  It’s free for you if you’re consuming it, but it’s not free if you’re the person making it.  So essentially, the democratization of information is about privileging one side of the equation – the consumer side.  So instead of a global economy, what we’re really left with is a sense of global entitlement.

One card that fans have been playing in the scanlation hand is this sense of “scanlations are my only choice, otherwise I can’t read this manga” because it’s not available to American or English reading audiences, or because the American release is too slow.  I find this argument befuddling.  Just because you want it doesn’t mean you can have it.  A lot of times, what you want isn’t even up to you.  Take me for example.  I want peace in the Middle East and look what’s happening.

To further illustrate my point, I was in the spoon+fork office and founder and CEO Bryan Ong was kind enough to bring in some peanut brittle his mother had given him from her latest trip to the Philipines.  Anyone who knows me knows that I live on a strict diet of sugar and fat, so I was in love with the stuff.  It was buttery – the kind of buttery that you can smell when you take off the lid to the jar – and it was sweet, but not cloyingly so.  It was crisp without being so crunchy that my teeth hurt.  Basically, it tasted good and it was good to eat.  Unfortunately, we only had two jars and even after careful rationing, we went through the first jar in a few days.

Here’s the deal.  As it turns out, this peanut brittle can’t be found anywhere south of Canal Street or east of Grand in NYC.  Nor can it be found anywhere in Jersey.  In fact, it’s hard to find in the Philippines.  I couldn’t believe it.  Didn’t this vendor have distribution to major retail outlets in Manila?  No.  The peanut brittle had distribution on a roadside stall on a small, hard to get to island in the archipelago.  Once we were done with the second jar, there was no more peanut brittle.

So.  The moral of the story is: If I can’t have my peanut brittle, you can’t have your manga.

The other moral of the story is one that questions this rationale of “without scans I won’t have access to the manga I want” which I read as a bullshit excuse for not supporting the creators in Japan.  Manga isn’t a one way street that’s purely about fan pleasure.  It’s a club that fans are allowed access to by way of an entry fee – i.e. buying the book, not simply reading it, but buying it as well.  Somehow, fan culture here is about reading or consuming these properties, involving themselves in these narratives without supporting its creator or the infrastructure that allows for this material to be made.

Scanlation wasn’t always piracy.  In early stages, it was Robin Hood.  But now, instead of stealing and giving, it’s stealing and selling.  And that’s what makes it criminal.  Someone else who didn’t even make the scans, someone who doesn’t even care about manga but cares a whole lot about making a buck, is making money off of something that you, a fan, love.

If you’re reading pirated manga online at one of the aggregator scan sites, I invite you to buy the Japanese edition as well.  I’ve read scanlations of a bunch of series that probably won’t be licensed in the U.S., but I also buy the Japanese edition from Kinokuniya (they have an online store, by the way, so shipping is much less than ordering from Japan), or the Taiwan or Hong Kong licensed editions from one of the bookstores downtown.  This doesn’t excuse that I’m supporting piracy, but at the very least I can do a small part in supporting the creators and editors who are working their asses off to bring their stories to the public.

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New York Asian Film Festival: All your cultural institutions are belong to us

I hate this frickin’ recession, but I love me some Chinese movies.

Grady Hendrix and his gang of movie connoisseurs sent out word of their selections for this year’s New York Asian Film Fest (June 19-July 5), and like every year, it’s a  goldmine.

Schedules are up at the Subway Cinema website (which have been broken down by country/region ala World Cup – ie Korea/Japan/China-Hong Kong/South East Asia).  Full schedule on the festival blog.

Sign-up for the email newsletter and keep up with the festival as it tears through the IFC, the Japan Society, and Lincoln Center.

Grady and his gang also have a trailer up for the festival, edited by Yasu Inoue, whose tagline is “All your cultural institutions are belong to us.”

Such broken English is wet with offense and awesomeness.  Gotta love the NYAFF way ^_^

(As always, there’s more to come so stay tuned!)

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The World Cup is coming, and for whatever reason, I couldn’t be more excited. Possibly because my son is now at an age where we can really watch and play the game together, and because he’s fallen in love with the sport. (It’s coming in at a close second to baseballbasketballtennis.)  Quite possibly because I’m finding it ever so invigorating to personally chase around – and *kick* the shit out of – a round object resembling a human head.

Go to the FIFA website for deets and scheds.index.html

Click here for fun, spanky-pants way to watch the tourney at PlayBeautiful (if you’re in NYC)

And keep an eye out for North Korea – that’s the country I’ll be watching for cultural hybrid soccer star Jong Tae-se, Japan born and bred by North and South Korean parents.  Will they go head-to-head with Japan?  This is gonna be good.

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My Manga Highlights: Hiroki Otsuka and Manga at BEA

I blogged a few weeks ago about interviewing Hiroki Otsuka who has a residency at Japan Society in New York City.  It’s a long interview (feel free to read the entirety of it here, on the Publishers Weekly website) and I have a few favorite parts.  The entire interview had a sense of commerce underlying it, and the necessity to embrace the business of creativity – or at the very least, recognize and respect it.

The gallery people are looking at my work as money. You need to separate yourself from the value of your work. Some artists take six months to do a painting; I understand that. But I’m a cartoonist, I’m an entertainer.

The other thing that Otsuka said that I found hilarious and honest, is the manga business as a popularity contest.

It’s a business, honey. Popularity is important. I look at Kuniyoshi, he didn’t become a popular artist until his 30’s. How did he survive until then?

Speaking of survival, manga still continues to permeate the U.S. market, further proven by the wheeling and dealing at BEA last week.  With the cutbacks at VIZ Media and the closing down of CMX, there seemed to be this sentiment that manga is dying in the U.S.  Manga publishing is not dying.  It’s thriving.  Unfortunately, it’s thriving in a bullshit “content should be free” environment.  If this stuff should be free, then should aggregators  – and not creators – make money off of it?

P.S. That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, and the answer is “no.”

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Sadness, CMX, giving DC the finger

Last week we were shaken by the news of layoffs at Viz Media and the quiet shuttering of Go! Comi.

And this week, we’re bitter.

Here’s reaction from news to DC’s shut-down of their manga imprint, CMX: the take-away is a general and overall mood of “FUCK YOU, DC!”

Brigid Alverson gives DC the finger over at Mangablog.

David Welsh throws his hands up in dismay – and turns his nose up to DC.

Kate Dacey has the metrics on Manga Critic.

Julie sheds a tear at Manga Maniac Cafe.

Simon Jones has a complete round-up of reactions at Icarus Publishing, and thoughts on the business model itself, as well as quite possibly the biggest “fuck you” of all:

The biggest absurdity of all is that amid all the troubles for the industry, there are more manga readers than ever.

That insult/fact isn’t directed at DC, however, but at the industry as a whole it seems.  And it sounds a lot like it’s coming from fans.

Brigid points out Rich Johnson’s entry “Does Manga Not Make Money Anymore?“, noting the absurdity of it using Naruto as an example.

I agree with Brigid but I’m going to push the Rich Johnson question a bit, because if manga is no longer lucrative in the U.S., eventually the quality will sink (which we’ve seen) and the only pipeline that will exist will be cheap scans and dog-eared library copies of Oh! My Goddess.   And there will be no market for this material, so instead of creating a new manga for America, we’ll have a new generation of lawyers and doctors and bankers.  Because making manga will become another passing dream and not a viable career option.

We’re already there.  It’s not just the publisher’s, guys.  Don’t get me wrong – fuck DC for not giving CMX its due, but fuck you fans for letting Tenjo Tenge continue as a barrier to all the greatness that CMX did license and put on the market.

Manga’s got the strongest kick in the comics universe, but it’s strongest when publishers and fans work together.  We’ve made it this far, haven’t we?

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It’s Sunday, it’s beautiful out, we’ve got deadlines.

Let’s procrastinate.

An interesting thought came up last week in the wake of the Viz Media lay-offs – that naturally led to thoughts on pirated/online content – which I had been confused about, and that is the idea that technology (hardware and software) is one and the same.

Heidi McDonald brought this to mind when she described Japan as “a society that has consistently pioneered the gadget-filled lifestylebut approaches digitizing content with such trepidation.

I tend to confuse gadgets with technology.  But there’s a mistake here in confusing the two.  Last year I read an article (can’t remember where and don’t have the link) that reported on Japan’s tendencies to focus on hardware at the expense of software.  Differentiating the two was a bit of a leap for my mind since, in America, there is a direct correlation between hardware and software, the hardware, essentially, being an outgrowth of the software.

At least, that’s the way Apple tends to do it, and it’s been a symbiotic, if not successful, relationship. The iPod to funnel content from the iTunes store, the iTunes store now open to apps that are to be funneled to the iPhone and iPod Touch.

I’m not sure that’s the way that it is in Japan.  When the iPod came out back in the 2000’s,  there were a ton of mp3 players on the market – many of them much better than what Apple had to offer.  But none of them had the software, the platform that Apple had, of iTunes. So the iPod was junk, it looked funny/ugly, and lasted about 18 months before it died and you had to go out and buy another one.  So why do so many people buy iPods if they die so easily?  If you’ve got a library of music in iTunes, and it doesn’t have to be 10k songs, it can be a measly 80-100, do you really want to go through the hassle of building that library again?

If you’re looking for a Japanese iTunes, it’s pretty much iTunes Japan.  I’m sure there’s a Japanese equivalent, but iTunes is really taking the world over.  I’m not sure that Japan is less interested in software, but more a point that Japan is heavily invested in hardware, the handheld stuff.  Gameboys?  PSP’s?  DS-lite’s?

Roland Kelts was kind enough to point out to me that craft, and handmade, is an enduring tradition.  So is process.  Japan is a process oriented country. There is a process to everything: it takes three years to properly learn how to cut and make sushi; three hours to properly dress in a kimono.  That attention to craft and attention to detail, meticulous and studied, carries over to gadgetry and physical, handheld devices like books.

Ever seen the Japanese edition of Mari Okazaki’s career-woman/romance, Suppli?  I wish I had a copy to show you.  Larger trim-size, beautiful book cover design including a mylar jacket.  It looks like a book that a woman would buy, not a teen-ager, and speaks volumes about how much value the publisher places on the content.  They put a certain amount of attention into the presentation and packaging, so that consumers will pay attention to it themselves.

So here’s the conundrum.  Japan is a country of people who read.  They read and they read and they read books.  Lots of them.  John Fuller, manager of Kinokuniya in New York City, once told me that if I wanted to read books from every corner of the world, I should learn Japanese, because so much of it is translated and available in Japan.

The problem for Japan – and for all publishing – is that e-books and reading devices like the Kindle completely flatten the content, essentially devaluing it.  Right now, the debate continues for how much content is worth.  Can you put a dollar amount against a story?  How much does the story cost the writer?  The publisher?  The distributor?  At what price can it be sold?

It’s hard to value when it’s boiled down to black typeface on a grey background.

When my friend, Ed Lin, had his third book, Snakes Can’t Run, published by St. Martin’s Press, I was so excited for the story, but saddened by the physical book itself.  Ed’s second book, This is a Bust, was published by Sunyoung’s outfit, Kaya Production, and designed by spoon+fork.  I’ve done work for Kaya in the past and am currently doing work for spoon+fork, so this may just be bragging, but This is a Bust won the American Graphics Award for Excellence in Book Design.  St. Martin’s isn’t going to win shit for book design for Snakes.

I loved reading This is a Bust – Sunyoung pays real close attention to typesetting and creates this reading experience by way of wide margins and narrow boxes of text.  A lot like manga, it focuses and directs the eye.  St. Martin’s Press…not so much.  I look at this thing, Snakes Can’t Run, and it’s like the print version is an afterthought.  I may as well be reading this on some e-reader because no thought has been put into the physical book itself.

Bryan Ong told me that he loves books – and this is why spoon+fork does book design – because it’s the last thing that people actually read, that people care enough to read.  So why not care about the packaging of the book and delivering a reading experience?

Japanese anxiety towards digital is an anxiety because digital questions and forces traditions and culture to change.  My pushback is that it change can also mean alter.  Alter, as in, alternate, not dominant.  Maybe digital will be dominant, but it doesn’t have to be.

For the future of publishing, I’m going to look to Japan for cues.  Digitizing the bellyband, the book jacket, trimsize (somehow).  And a continuation of the buyer incentive.  The beautiful book, the mylar covers, the paper stock, the french-flaps.  We like to pretend that we don’t live here, but we do.  We still live in a physical world.  We love the convenience of things, but we also still love the thing itself.

We still love the thing itself.

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