"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What part of 'crazy' didn't they understand the first time?

Andre Thomas is clearly not quite right in the head. How else would you explain the horrific crime that landed him on death row in the first place? As if tearing the hearts out of his estranged wife, and young son and daughter wasn't enough to get him an appointment with a shrink. while in jail awaiting trial he tore out one of his own eyes and started spouting Bible verses.

But since this all happened in Texas, and folks there wouldn't want a little thing like being crazy as a shithouse rat to get in the way of a good execution, Thomas was sent to death row rather than a mental hospital. In fact, he's apparently received little or no psychiatric care whatsoever during the last four years he's been on death row. Until last month that is, when he plucked out and ate his remaining eye. 

So just how nuts do you have to be to kill and not be executed in Texas? Sometimes it's accident, sometimes it's not. But people end up just as dead. And what does it take to get to see the prison shrink? It seems in Texas, they've decided its cheaper to kill than to treat.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

First I bring you radio, now TV

Life imitates Seinfeld, not that there is anything wrong with that. I wouldn't normally post an entire article like this, but the archives are not always open, and I would want to lose this gem. You think you know the people you work with. You think you know the kind of organization you work for. Surprise!


Men's bra stimulates otome (girlish) side in men

Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Asuka Masamune is a high school kendo champion. Everyone acknowledges he is a cool, good-looking guy and a truly manly man. But he has another self, a side that cannot help being attracted to cute and otome-like, or girlish, things.

This is the protagonist of Otomen (Hakusensha Co.), a girls' manga by Aya Kanno. The manga is brilliant in depicting the otome, or girlie, side in a man. But the reality may go further than the fiction.

In November, Web site WishRoom became a top story on Internet news sites and in weekly magazines when the online lingerie company sold 700 bras designed specifically for men--the first product of its kind in the nation--just in the first month after the launch of the lingerie.

WishRoom said it was not certain whether the bra would sell well when it put it out in response to customer requests. But orders for the bra, purposely designed in a very plain style, surpassed its production capacity.

Freelance writer Mari Aoyama, who published a book titled Buraja o Suru Otoko-tachi to Shinai Onna (Men who wear bras and women who do not, Shinsuisha Co.) in 2005, said men started wearing bras as a secret source of enjoyment in the 1960s, when the widespread use of bras among women took hold in the nation. But those who have bought the WishRoom product are believed to be different from the existing core of male bra users. The new product seems to have stimulated demand among men who wanted to wear bras but had not been able to buy them.

E-mail feedback from WishRoom bra users has included comments that wearing the bra puts them at ease, helps them understand the feelings of women, or makes them more gentle to the people around them. Bras may be an annoying item for women,
bringing a sense of confinement, but it must be a rather fetishistic item for the men as it ignites a girl's mind inside them.

Terms often heard nowadays include soshoku-kei danshi ("herbivorous" boys) or ojoman (girlie men). According to Soshoku-kei Danshi "Ojoman" ga Nippon o Kaeru, (Herbivorous-boy"girlie men" change Japan, Kodansha Ltd.), written by Megumi Ushikubo, who specializes in marketing-related themes, the term "ojoman" refers to a category of men aged 20 to 34 who became adults after the end of the bubble economy. They have little interest in sex, like to do cooking and sewing, and prefer pretty (kawaii) things to cool (kakkoi) ones.

Ushikubo said they are a demographic group that cannot be neglected in understanding consumption trends among young people.

Philosopher and Osaka Prefecture University Prof. Masahiro Morioka also explains in his Soshoku-kei Danshi no Renaigaku (Love study of herbivorous boys, Media Factory Inc.) what kind of views the new generation of gentle-mannered men with feminine sensitivities have toward love. He says they are unlike nikushoku (carnivorous) men who chase after women. Rikei-kun, meaning men who study or work in the math and science fields, another term enjoying a popularity in recent days, can also be viewed as a type of soshoku-kei men.

As I have written in this column before, I believe there is a change in sensitivities at the root of the otaku culture in Japan, one that can be described as a fluctuation in masculinity or the so-called otome-nization of boys. The otaku term "moe" (pronounced "mo-eh")--which literally means "budding" and describes the sensation of being blissfully overwhelmed by cuteness or attractiveness, is already a very otome-like idea.

Therefore, it has symbolic meaning that the men's bra was launched right here in Japan. The country of otaku also is the country of otomen. Don't ever call it gross. I even hope men's bras will continue to spread if all it takes is one garment for men
to become gentle to others.
(Jan. 9, 2009)

The funny part about this story is that it appeared in the Japanese media's bastion of conservatism, The Yomiuri Shimbun. I imagine the equivalent would be George Will or Robert Novak enthusing about their favorite pair of stilleto pumps or lace panties and how wearing them made them feel "pretty." Again, not that there's anything wrong with that-- consenting adults, whatever floats your boat and so on. You have to admit, it would certainly raise a few eyebrows to see a columnist at the New York Times or Chicago Tribune, to say nothing of a staid conservative publication such as the National Review, Washington Times or Wall Street Journal not merely publically embracing transvestitism, but giving it a hearty reccommendation.

Killer cops strike again

Police respond to a report of a brawl on a train platform in Oakland on New Years Eve. In the process of rousting a group of young men, the cops take one man, who is telling is friends to settle down, lay him down on his belly, and somewhere along the line shoot him dead.

What is really chilling in this video - and there are several others out there on the internet - is the total lack of reaction by the cops to the gun shot. For the most part, they don't even bat an eye. If the shot was accidental, what was the cop doing with his gun out in the first place? The man who was killed, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, was clearly not resisting. Even if, as some have suggested, the officer, Johannes Mehserle, a two-year veteran of the Bay Area transit police, was reaching for his taser not his gun, what the hell was he doing reaching for a weapon at all?

How long will police officers continue to be given the benefit of the doubt when they assault or even murder people -in front of dozens of witnesses in this case- simply because someone challenges their authority or otherwise annoys them?

Mario Pangelina, Mesa's brother who was riding on the same train, two cars behind Grant on Thursday morning, said Sunday he saw Grant beg police not to Taser him because of his child.
"He kept saying, 'Please, please don't Tase me,"' Pangelina said. "He was not acting hostile."
Other witnesses said Grant was lying on his stomach on the station's platform when he was shot.

Update: This case isn't going to go away. Over 100 arrests were made at this protest-turned-riot Wednesday night in Oakland. Reading the newspaper accounts, it sounds like coverage of the Watts riots.