Two Videos From a Busyish Day

Today was kind of busy, so here are a couple of videos I found amusing, with comments as to why they caught my attention.

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Have I mentioned that at a high school variety night I performed a freejazz/fusion version of this song? Sort of. Same bass line, and I hollered some of the words into the mic before the atonal saxophone weirdness kicked in. (I played my tenor.) I was accompanied by a keyboard bassist named Jennifer Duggleby and a drummer named Mike Murza. I doubt anyone recognized the song. Maybe one or two kids?

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Besides being totally WTF?, and besides the fact that I just ordered a copy of the complete VPN (Vermilion Pleasure Night, a notoriously bizarre Japanese late-night avant-comedy show from I think the 90s), I’ve often said that I think Japanese media sometimes seems like exactly the kind of media that aliens would make if they were trying to fake the production of human media.

Now, I’m not so sure. Freakishly dancing nurses, humans yowling in pain, and abused backsides are all pretty much universally entertaining to human beings, and when you synchronize it to wacky music, it’s unavoidably entrancing, even if it doesn’t make you laugh. You can’t help but stare in puzzlement.

It’s still a fun analogy, though, to compare Japanese TV to alien-made TV, because it has me wondering what the hell actual alien-produced TV designed for human consumption would look like. I’m guessing the plotlines would befuddle us, but there would be enough nudity, sex, violence, and cursing that nobody would much care. Sort of the equivalent of ultraviolent, talky pornography made by people on LSD or something. What language the aliens would choose is an interesting question. Spanish? English? Mandarin Chinese? A mixture? Hmmm.

Probably we’d learn something about ourselves, too, seen through their eyes? Perhaps they’d depict the free market as a religious notion? Maybe they’d make a comedy show out of the faces people make during coitus, complete with laugh track? I definitely imagine our worst traits would shine brightly — all the things we like ignore conveniently.

Or maybe it’d be incomprehensible muck!

6 thoughts on “Two Videos From a Busyish Day

  1. Gord, that second one really makes me happy I’m not being treated in Japan. I mean … using the same needle on several patients?

  2. I got the first volume of Vermillion Pleasure Night about three years ago, and yep, it was pretty weird. What is even weirder is that one of the Korean cell phone companies is using the mannaquin segment of VPN for its ads.

  3. Jack,

    Hahaha. Yeah, scarier is that I’ve been in places where hospitals do reuse needles. Never been in a hospital in such a place, but still… Brrrr. But I guess you take the bad with the good. Nurses who dance like that while injecting needles in your bum might be a passable tradeoff for some people. (Who think short term, anyway.)

    UPDATE: Oh yeah, I forgot: this is an even better video for demonstrating why you should be grateful that your operation will not be performed in Japan!


    Yeah, man! I saw some stickers once, maybe a year ago (I’m not sure but it feels like late fall or maybe early winter in my memory), in the Yongsan station — on the handrail of the escalator — bearing the likenesses of the members of that Fukkon Fuccon Family, the mannequin family. I was like, “Huh? Isn’t that from that weird late-night Japanese TV show?”

    I didn’t know it was for a cell phone ad!

    Looking forward to seeing it, anyway!

    UPDATE: Oh, a question. My impression is that the weirdest of Japanese media is WAY weirder than the weirdest of Korean media. Do you think that’s (a) correct, and if so, would you say it’s because of more deeply-rooted cultural differences, because of more recent (dictatorship-era) history, or for some other set of reasons? I’ve long wondered why Japanese media is so deeply strange while right next door, Korean media seems so tame and, well, relatively sane by comparison…

    That said, I don’t watch late-night Korean TV. Maybe there’s bizarre stuff I’m missing out on?

  4. I would go for deep-rooted cultural differences. While dictatorship did affect art, I would argue that the adverse effect was not that big. I think the control of art during Korae’s dictatorship period (though actually, Korea didn’t really have a tradition of democracy… we moved from an absolute monarchy to a client state of China, then colony of Japan then to dictatorships) mostly affected art dealing with politics and sex – not weirdness per se, and control on sex in the arts had always enjoyed wide political support. On the other hand, based on my (admittedly limited) experience with the Japanese, (based on acquaintances and three long term stays in Japan totalling seven months), the Japanese seem to be more tolerant of individual weirdness than Koreans (I remember seeing young blond Japanese in Ueno park in the mid 1980s – something that was unthinkable in Korea back then).

    Korea had laws forbidding long hair up to the 1970s, and forced students to wear school uniform by law up to 1980s. While dictatorship did have something to do with these laws, they enjoyed not only popular support, and I think these laws were the results of popular support, rather than the cause of them.

    In other words, Koreans were always nosy conformists. :)

    However, I tend to be on the right / libertarian side of the political spectrum, so you may want to take that into consideration as well.

  5. Time to be a killjoy. Yay!

    Japanese TV, (and Japanese society for that matter) is extremely mundane. The same anime, no-name-celbrities-sitting-and-watching-a-video-shows, documentaries as you get in Korea.

    Stuff like Vermilion Pleasure Night is the exception. And I think the level of weird in it is a distillation of the weird that doesn’t get shown on TV normally.

    Even the stuff with the gurave idols is surrounded in a pool of tedium.

  6. Junsok,

    Aha, thanks for your thoughts. Though now you have me wondering just what Korean pop culture would have looked like politics had spun differently even just from, say, 1960 onward.

    I’ve often thought, when hearing things that sophomores students (ie. people who escaped high school only a couple of years ago) and guys who recently finished their military service have told me about their experiences, that the dictatorship era never died, it just went underground into the public school system and of course thrived in the military.

    Weirdly, guys who have just gotten out of the army say things have changed, and for example that they can get online, have time to study, and so on, but kids who’ve just graduated describe things much the same as I was hearing almost a decade ago by recent grads.


    Well… yeah. I do remember from my time in Japan that a lot of the TV I saw was plain boring. But even some of the boring stuff was still bizarre. I remember a TV show that seemed to be basically card games between four no-name celebs and a poker master, or something like that. It was dead boring except for the fact some woman was there in a bikini holding a parasol above the oldest guy, the “expert,” and the camera spent about a third of the time in a frame where she could be seen smiling and sun-shielding the guy.

    (I do think some stuff like that might grow to seem tedious and mundane in the same way a lot of the weirdness in Korean TV does. More about that mundane-weirdness of Korean TV in another post — I had a realization while watching a soap drama with a Korean family while abroad.)

    But just to assure you I know what you mean, here are a couple of paragraphs from a story I just finished and am about to mail out:

    Mortifying escape threatened each of the woman’s breasts as she bounced up and down, her polka-dot pink bikini two sizes too small for her, her umbrella–hoisted aloft with both hands–flapped emphatically to the sound of a pop-song and the tinny, dubbed-in cheers from an imaginary audience. As the camera focused close-up on her soft, pale belly, image of her whitish skin filled the tiny bedroom with a glow.

    Anthony had heard a million times that Japanese TV was crap–with the exception of the show Vermilion Pleasure Night–but he’d never imagined that a society that had produced Akira and Cowboy Bebop and all those Beat Takeshi films could waste its evenings watching trash this brainless. Still, he was grateful Yuki had left it on when she’d gone out “to get medicine”…

    Yeah, something else I saw on Japanese TV once. But the guy’s dismissal of it as [boring] crap is pretty much what I felt about the vast majority of what I saw on Japanese TV, too.

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