Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Blonds Fall 2013 Collection

Extremely popular with mega-celeb pop singers like Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry, the bizarre fashion duo of David and Phillipe Blond - known collectively as "The Blonds" - have been an absolutely fabulous team for over a decade, and you can read a bit about their work, relationship and ideas here

Pretty much everything they design is interesting, completely over-the-top and screaming of Warholian pop culture references, and the awesome slasher flick-inspired collection they debuted last month at New York's Fashion Week is no exception. Psycho, The Birds, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange are among the sources of inspiration.

These are my personal favourites:

Aren't the ropes and belts amazing? And the piles of blonde curls that top everything off are so early 60's; seeing them makes me want to watch some classic Hollywood kitsch and put more effort into my hairstyle tomorrow. Hitchcock would've been very amused.

Check out The Blondes' other collections!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sock It To Me

I can't say I'm too surprised that my last-minute hand-drawn (as opposed to digital) entries to this annual sock designing contest didn't make it to the website's Facebook page to be voted on, but I think they're still pretty good. After all these years it's probably time to cave and learn Photoshop. 

The colouring on the belt and steampunk ones is admittedly awful, but hey, those were the only markers and crayons I could find in the classrooms. Le sigh. Two whole afternoons of inbetween teaching time and dreams of $1000 and my very own socks for sale out the window.

There's always next year.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Steubenville, Rape and Football Culture in America

Source: Jezebel
Source: The Atlantic Wire
By now just about everyone (it's a big story in the UK, too) is familiar with the "Rape Crew" of Steubenville, Ohio, the small steel mill town where the Big Red football team is everything and some of its players were involved in a drunken assault last summer.

A mostly-unconscious 16 year-old girl from neighbouring West Virginia was carried around to three different parties by a group of Steubenville high school football players while they and others who saw Tweeted about what was going on, calling the girl a "whore" and mentioning rape, anal rape, the girl being "dead" and also that the boys had urinated on her, and that she deserved it.

This past weekend, two of the accused were convicted, both of penetrating the girl with their fingers (penetration with anything constitutes rape in the state of Ohio), and one of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, because he had taken pictures and videos. The first will spend at least one year in juvenile detention and the second should get about two years, but it's also possible that they'll both be held until they're 21 (they're 16 and 17 now).

Luckily, one concerned blogger and former Steubenville resident was taking screencaps of all the Tweets and other evidence she could find as it was happening and for weeks after, thereby building a significant portion of the case against the "Rape Crew".

One does not simply delete something posted publicly online, and the same goes for texts (unless they're sent and received from iPhones, apparently). In addition to all the callous, immature, disgusting and prolific Tweets you can find online, this local news article gives a great summary of the damning texts that were exchanged that night and in the following days. Worse still is the lengthy video leaked by Anonymous in which the boys involved joke and brag about what they did. 

You'd think the fact that there was such a wealth of evidence would have made this a fairly open-and-shut case, but part of the reason it's gotten national attention and started up the debate about rape and the way women are treated in America (once again, unfortunately) is that there has been too much focus on protecting or excusing the boys involved, because they're "star athletes". Oh, heaven forbid that acceptance letter from Notre Dame remains tragically unopened on the kitchen table.

Far too many people have also taken, yet again, to blaming the victim. Is it irresponsible to drink yourself into an hours-long blackout? Of course. There are also rumours and claims that the girl was drugged, but that has not been proven. My problem with the arguments that blame the girl for drinking with guys in the first place, though, say within the same breath that the boys' drunkenness is sort of an excuse for their behaviour.

Where is it written that only men are allowed to drink and not be held exclusively accountable for their actions thereafter? If that were really the case, maybe there would be signs posted outside bars warning women that the establishment wouldn't take any responsibility for anything that happened to them once they started drinking, as the full extent of the law no longer applied once they're no longer sober. Ah, there we go. Now it makes sense.

The message that even American society in this post-feminist age (forget India or South Africa) sends to women who are attacked because they were walking home alone at night, drinking, wearing a short skirt or even all three at the same time (!) is that they were "asking for it".

Why do women not have the inherent right to pass through the streets in safety? The whole "Well, she did go to the parking lot alone when her shift at the hospital ended at 1 A.M."-type response to sexual assaults is infuriating. We must of course accept that awful things happen and that people should try to be careful and take precautions, but the idea that women simply aren't safe no matter where they are is not one that anyone should tolerate. Instead of "Watch out or you're going to get raped", maybe we should tell people, "You'd better not attack and rape someone, or you're going to spend a good chunk of your life in prison where the same thing'll happen to you every other week". 

While the drunken teenager in question was not attacked, beaten, mutilated, tortured or killed like so many other victims (including little boys and babies) all over the world who are treated worse than animals lined up for slaughter, the fact that the football players were not immediately punished, that at least half of Steubenville still sides with them and that CNN's coverage of the verdict exuded sympathy for them has effectively directed the spotlight onto the principle of the thing: rape is not taken seriously enough even in the United States.

With all the outrageous comments on the topic by conservative politicians like the now-infamous Todd Akin over the past year or so and attempts at legislation that limit womens' reproductive rights cropping up with alarming frequency, the discussion hasn't really had a chance to die down for a while now. It's nothing new, and heartbreaking personal accounts like this one highlight much more eloquently than I ever could the importance of protecting women and implementing punishments more befitting to these types of crimes.

Source: Imgur
In addition to all these more obvious social issues, this case has led me to ponder the patriarchal structure of the ubiquitous "Good Ol' Boys' Club" in America. This club exists not only among the superwealthy corporate hierarchies of legend, but also in just about every smaller company. Of course it exists in the military and among politicians; it also exists in schools, especially universities. It exists in country clubs, car dealerships, retail store and... football organisations.

I've got to saw, for a society that collectively has so much trouble understanding the "in-group/out-group" social structure of various Asian societies, America has an incredibly thorough and nuanced one of its own.

The "old boy network" of the U.K. and other countries is a little different, technically referring to male students who are alumni of the same private school or high school. In the U.S., "a good old boy" is a white Southerner who is old-fashioned and well-mannered, which can be both good and bad, though this generally has a positive connotation.

As Wiki tells us, though, the club to which I'm referring is yet another organisation: "It can be used as a pejorative term, referring to someone who engages in cronyism among men who have known each other for a long period of time. Collectively these people are referred to using the slang term, 'Good ol' boy network'. This network is usually all men, excluding women and minorities".

University football enterprises have become notorious for and particularly adept at covering up rapes. Players enjoy all sorts of privileges and amenities regular students don't, ranging from scholarships and free tutoring tailor to fit their schedules to the benefit of the doubt and a lifetime supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards. There's just too much publicity, notoriety and money on the line to allow a team to be shamed by a scandal.

Interestingly, Penn State's reputation was badly tarnished and its network of Old Boy football team conspirators destroyed when Jerry Sandusky's charity front for raping young at-risk boys came to light, but does anyone talk about the Notre Dame rape controversy anymore? Hmm.

Let's not forget that a freshman killed herself (after having a panic attack during a sexual assault orientation seminar) back in 2010 after claiming to have been assaulted by one of Notre Dame's players, and that the school didn't get around to investigating it until five days later because, as they told her mother, they were very busy during football season, and there was a lot of underage drinking going on.

School officials also constructed a series of accusations and claims that the girl was both unstable and brought the whole thing on herself. Others have been threatened with floods of text messages from players and their friends warning them not to tell anyone after other alleged assaults. If the accused in this cases are not guilty, why would the entire institution go on the defensive, so far as to defame the character of a dead teenage girl (and even joke about her), instead of being sympathetic and promising to investigate the situation as thoroughly as possible? If nothing else, this attitude is chauvinistic and demonstrates a serious lapse in professional conduct.

The Notre Dame allegations came to light again when they were due to play Alabama in January and lots of people knew about it, but no one was talking about the ignored accusations anymore. Maybe that's because those teams are worth over $1 billion combined. Notre Dame is responsible for keeping its surrounding residents and businesses employed and afloat, sort of like the dying town of Steubenville's beloved team, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The other explanation as to why there is not more public outcry about these scandals "is that raping women has become 'normalized' in our culture, while raping little boys has not". Not accepted, but admittedly standard.

How does one go about changing an entire culture's view of these serious crimes, violations of dignity, destroyers of lives? Even if half the world's leaders, wealthiest and most influential people were women, I think the patriarchal bias would still exist. The need to feel powerful and control others will always be present among us, as will testosterone, as will women, children and men who are sexually victimised.

Even in a nation as comparatively socially progressive as the U.S., around half will still say, "She was asking for it". Certainly there are women who have made false accusations, some repeatedly, and a man or teenage boy's reputation and/or life should never be wantonly crushed, but if someone is obviously guilty, let's not take to blaming the victim out of contempt for destroying what could have been a stellar college football career. This corporate culture where profit and national standing are worth more than human compassion, be it in the form of the safety of women, the prosperity of workers or the health of the environment benefits only the choicest few and is not sustainable.

As the scandal drags on, I can only hope that no further immunity deals are struck and that additional charges against some of the others involved are brought. More than that, though, I hope other students stop threatening and shunning this girl, especially after Fox News broadcast her first name uncensored. It'll be hard enough for her to disassociate herself with the case as it is.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for Yellow Tail

First there were Chiho Aoshima Absolut vodka pitchers (which I deeply regret being too poor to buy at the time), and now there's Pamyu-approved supermarket wine! Yay!

You can watch the advertisement here.

For those of you who aren't sure who the stupidly cute and colourful Kyaru Pamyu Pamyu is, please refer to the following article and her completely ridiculous debut video: 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cute Shit: Myeongdong Cat Café

Back in January I decided to stop by a cat cafe with one of my coworkers after shopping on Myeongdong's famous Fashion Street for a little while. Apparently the first ever cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998. 
It became incredibly popular with Japanese tourists, and the first one to grace Japan with its odd fuzzy goodness opened in Osaka in 2004.

I'm pretty sure owning cats and especially dogs as pets has become much more popular in Korea over the last few years, maybe as a status symbol for the middle class.

In cities like Tokyo and Seoul, though, most people live in cramped apartments, so owning a pet bigger than a hedgehog or even a prairie dog (yes, that's a thing) might be impossible. 

With cat, dog, rabbit and even lamb cafes, people can enjoy a coffee, iced tea, soda, etc. and the company of animals at the same time. Everyone knows it's relaxing and therapeutic to pet and be around them, so I'm not sure why they aren't popular in trendy, progressive(r) places in the U.S. A novel, quirky concept that combines saving shelter animals with the enormous popularity of iced coffee sounds like a pretty good business model to me.

The mascots for these cafes are pretty easy to spot; we were wandering around looking for a lamb cafe or something really out there when we found this somewhat despondent dancing cat.

Upon entering, a board covered in pictures of all the resident felines greets you. As you can see, this characteristic "Full Derp Mode" response is immediately initiated in many humans who have never before been exposed to such an environment, and especially those who have never had pets because of allergies. This reaction is normal, but cafe employees recommend you try not to exceed moderate levels of derp through the duration of your experience.

By the way, my coworker took about half of these photos, so thanks for letting me use them without asking! :D 

The best cat was obviously the bald one in the little old man sweater. A nice English-speaking couple handed us a newly-opened packet of cat treats as we were on our way in and they were leaving, so we didn't have to buy our own. Even if we had, it would have been about 2,000 won. I think the cover and a drink of your choice runs about 8,000.

I still can't decide if the way this Korean girl was humiliating it is adorable or pitiful, but I'm pretty sure it's both.

And at long last, I've starting uploading videos to YouTube!

I've been wondering why these don't exist in the West, but look! There's one opening in London! I really doubt any of the animals in Korea and Japan come from shelters, but it'd be nice if they did; at least the ones in the UK will. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Restaurant Review: Garobee

Not long after arriving here I heard about a tasty vegetarian buffet just off the main street of Gangnam, but the acquaintance who told me about it couldn't remember exactly where it was or what it was called, so I sort of forgot about it. Luckily, Mipa (or Alien) wrote about it some time ago, and gave very clear directions as well. 

If you're at all familiar with walking around Gangnam, you know what I'm talking about when I say there's a diagonal uphill street near a very busy crosswalk with a Curry Pot and Coco Ichibanya at the top. There are tons of restaurants and bars along this busy side road, and all you have to do to find Garobee is turn left at the Curry Pot right when you get to the top of the little hill, and it'll be on your right on the second floor of a building almost immediately. 

The price for lunch on weekdays is 15,000 won. At all other times, it's 17,000 a head. Maybe a little steep, but totally worth it when you don't feel like cooking but do feel like variety and going back for as much as your stomach can hold.

The salad bar here is (predictably) one of the best I've seen, offering things like chestnuts, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, raisins and a potato and fruit salad, among other things. This salad's dressing was, I believe, mayonnaise-based, and possibly the only item I saw that wasn't vegan, but there were a number of others for your greens as well, including Italian and pineapple.

The hearty bean bulgogi stew was quite good, as was the Gangwon-do style baked tofu in light spicy broth, but the sweet and sour fried mushrooms were pretty unfortunate. They were either porcini or something like them, very thick, and not cooked at all. I've noticed that Koreans have a habit of serving vegetables raw when you expect and would like them to be cooked. 

One does not simply plunge a thick-ass raw mushroom into oil for a moment and then attempt to eat it. They were chewy, rubbery and unpleasant. The sauce and batter (which was wheat, of course, so I shouldn't have been eating it anyway), however, were fine.

Also, I believe the bean bulgogi contains wheat protein, though I've had it a couple of times now and it hasn't given me a stomachache like other wheat-based substitutes will immediately, so it must be a tiny amount.

The steamed broccoli and cabbage were perfect for adding to the Gangwon-do tofu, and there were also little sides of sea vegetables. The little brown dealies are inarizushi, or as they called them at Garobee, tofu kimbap. For those who are unfamiliar, inarizushi is a thin pocket of slightly sweet, lightly fried tofu filled with rice.

Thick fried wheat noodles with mushrooms and soft broiled tofu, which is not for those who don't enjoy gelatinous, jiggly entrees, were also on offer. I didn't try either. 

For the less adventurous or enthusiastic, there were also individual nests of plain wheat pasta, mixed potato wedges and tater tots with ketchup (common everywhere) and steamed orange squash to aid in sating your hunger with starchy goodness.

The jjamppong (usually a spicy seafood noodle soup) was too full of onions (which I'm allergic to) to navigate and the seaweed soup didn't look especially appetising, but they were available, and in any other dining situation you'd better believe I'd have had a bowl of each.

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At the end of the buffet was the almost ubiquitous make-your-own-bibimbap section, but there was steamed brown rice instead of white, which was quite refreshing. There was also a somewhat sweet mixed veggie rice that was delicious and flavourful but, as you can see, almost gone by the time I got to it. Once it had been eaten the kitchen served up vegetarious tteokbokki, which was wonderful, but admittedly much too spicy for me.

One of my favourite things had to be the sweet plum iced tea. And speaking of sweets, don't forget about dessert! Er, well, maybe you should, actually. It's not exactly Garobee's specialty: all they had were sliced red bean cakes and white bread with "vegetable whipped cream". But that's OK. You can grab a doughnut, a few different types of ice cream and frozen yogurt, a smoothie or even a milkshake from the Johnny Rocket's down the street if you feel like immediately cancelling out the benefits of your super healthy low-cal meal in this kitschy neighbourhood. 

I've noticed that vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Seoul all put portraits of veg celebrities on the wall, too, and when we sat in front of the ones here, I was like, "Hey, wait a second..."

And then I was like, "Ok, they done fucked up."

Overall I really liked this place, and I can't wait to see what they'll serve next time!