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Amigurumi: the slime of empathy - click opera
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Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 10:15 am
Amigurumi: the slime of empathy

Your first thought on seeing one of the Japanese knitted dolls known as amigurumi might be "Aw, so cute! Hey, honey, look at this!" But, increasingly, experts are coming to see these knitted critters as something much more sinister. And it's precisely in their universal appeal that the danger lies.

The word ami comes from the Japanese word for stitch, amimie. Gurumi is an affectionate abbreviation of nuigurumi, a stuffed doll. Put them together and you get "amigurumi". And this year, it's the word on Japan's woolen lips.



In the last few months the amigurumi industry has grown to an astounding 57 trillion yen concern, outstripping even Japan's auto manufacturing sector. But look around the island nation's urban landscapes and you won't find a single amigurumi factory. These creatures are all handmade at home by anonymous crochet fanatics.

With that combination of economic clout and underground manufacture, it's no surprise that the notorious Japanese mafia, the yakuza, has taken an interest in the amigurumi industry. Some commentators believe it's now the sinister crime family who are pulling tight the eye-threads on these adorable teddies and tiny bunnies, using them to spread an ideology of right wing nationalism.

It's not hard to see why an amigurumi makes the perfect fascist trojan horse. Tapping into our most basic mammalian reflexes, the dolls bypass the rational thought control centers of the human brain, stunning our critical capacities and leaving us gasping "Ah ha ha, so cute!" Within seconds of exposure to an amigurumi, even the most intelligent person can become a dolt or, quite frankly, a blithering idiot.

Social psychologists call this phenomenon "the slime of empathy", and their research reveals that underworld powers are using this "slime" to break down personalities and reconstruct them to order.

Flashcard studies in the lab show that homeless people, millionaires, insurance assessors, quantity surveyors and mortuary slab attendants all have the same basic urge to adopt and protect an amigurumi. Given a chance to keep one, less than 1% of experimental subjects were able to refuse, and once they'd accepted the creatures they became extremely reluctant to separate from, discard or destroy them.

It's of little concern to a bank manager with an amigurumi strapped to his wrist that thousands of his customers are defaulting on their loans or stealing money from cash machines using doctored cards. All he cares about is his brown, fuzzy little bundle of empathy. And although he may be quite unaware that it contains a microphone passing his conversations to crime bigwigs, it's likely that he wouldn't care even if he did know. All that concerns him is whether his woolen sparrow "Tori" is hungry for crumbs, or wants a dust bath.



Even if they don't contain transmitters or other surveillance devices, the amigurumis are often coded to transmit ideology through their forms. Here, for instance, is a two-faced amigurumi which encourages duplicity. Here are two vintage models designed to evoke the days when the Emperor was a god in human form. This doll clearly portrays in a positive light the kind of sexual pervert who hangs around children's parks. This one represents resurgent nationalism by way of sinister folk costume. This one is clearly a wristband surveillance device. This one, a panda whose eyes are below its mouth, can only be the spawn of sinister genetic experiments. This one clearly mocks multiculturalism. And here's one the colour of right wing novelist Mishima's hair at the time of his attempted coup.

Whatever their theme, the brightly-colored dolls quickly become a habit. "The first amigurumi I saw was a shy negro rabbit in a bikini," confessed one addict, who wished to remain anonymous for this article, but is a homosexual. "I was so taken with it I had to track down who had made it... Now Shinobu and I live together and make the dolls in a back room," he told me, adding "Please use a false name for Shinobu in your article, or use his real name wearing a false moustache... Hmm, that's a good idea for a doll."

Further reading: The Rise of Japan's Thought Police (Washington Post)
They Know All About You (The Guardian)

61CommentReplyShare

xishimarux
xishimarux
ishimaru
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:01 am (UTC)

It's interesting how people are easily influenced by these things. I wish people could be this obsessive/possessive about reading books or making art.


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dark_vanessa
dark_vanessa
vil
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:02 am (UTC)

"the slime of empathy" like whoa!

Springing from my irrational fear of dolls, amigurumis inspiree the feeling general creepiness.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:18 am (UTC)

Scary thing is that this article is already linked from the Wikipedia.

Good lord, that is scary, considering I'm not an amigurumi authority but an octopus married to a pink seal.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand






blastoisemaster
blastoisemaster
BlastoiseMaster
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:12 am (UTC)

"Within seconds of exposure to an amigurumi, even the most intelligent person can become a dolt or, quite frankly, a blithering idiot."

Hey, that's... not.. *clicks panda*

...WAAAAAANT


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juuzai
juuzai
ピターパン。
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)

jesus, i want the panda, too.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:39 am (UTC)

There is an enormous anti-free market conspiracy making you believe that.


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33mhz
33mhz
The Queen of Overdub Kisses
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 09:44 am (UTC)

These are pretty cute. If they are at least homemade, that's something to recommend them above beanie babies. The craze for those seemed entirely fueled by speculation on their future collector value, since they were completely bland and unremarkable as far as toys go, and produced in deliberately limited editions.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 10:04 am (UTC)
Alex

It's of little concern to a bank manager with an amigurumi strapped to his wrist that thousands of his customers are defaulting on their loans or stealing money from cash machines using doctored cards.

What does that have to do with anything!? It's like saying they would care less each day they got a belly full of sashami! ok, it gives out a certain ego-comfort, but going all the way as saying "underworld powers are using this "slime" to break down personalities and reconstruct them to order" is sheer misplaced paranoia. "Cute" has been a major culture in Japan, and it sounds very unlike you Momus to not give a chance to indie-making craftmanship, and as mind-numbing as everybody knows "cute" can be, it's a rest haven for a stressed society like Japan (allbeit there is more coming out there than their own soporifics, thankfully)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 10:15 am (UTC)
Re: Alex

it sounds very unlike you Momus to not give a chance to indie-making craftmanship

I penned this missive with a heavy heart, Alex, knowing as I did that the Japan I love would be utterly changed -- forever -- by my revelations. Tomorrow the sun will rise on... mere ruins.


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Re: Alex - (Anonymous) Expand
yhancik
yhancik
yanou
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 10:41 am (UTC)

Bravo ! :D

+ 10 bonus points for the Takora icon ;)


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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)
cute fish

because I'm suddenly quite obsessed with this gainsbourg song I translated it through babel fish always makes for entertaining abusrd strange lyrics:


comment te dire adieu

Under no pretexte
I want To have reflexes
Malheureux
It is necessary that you explains me a little better
How to say you good-bye
My heart of Vite flint takes fire
Your heart of Resiste pyrex to fire
I am quite perplexed
I do not want resoudre with the adieus I
know itself well that a ex Amour do not have a chance or if little But for me an explanation would like better

Under no pretexte I want In front of you to over-expose derriere

eyes a kleenex
I would know better
How to say you good-bye

Under no pretexte I want In front of my derriere eyes
a kleenex I would know better
How to say you good-bye
How to say you good-bye



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saruryujin
saruryujin
Saru Bobo Kun
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 07:17 am (UTC)
Re: cute fish

c'est tres drôle en effets. :)


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
age of information

Just read that Guardian article. Scary. Suddenly I regret all those searches I made for "useful tips for necrophiliac terrorist paedophiles".


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
Re: age of information

Don't worry, your searches are only stored until 2038.


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auto_nalle
auto_nalle
auto_nalle
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)

this all reminds me of the south park episode about "chinpokomon".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EceYAXvtuWw


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
d68gkrq

http://data.aolsearchlogs.com/finding/by_rating.cgi

http://data.aolsearchlogs.com/search/index.cgi


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cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
Aw, so cute! Hey, honey, look at this!

oh Nick. are you pulling a Marxy? nice sneaking his album cover in there.

you are a silly man sometimes.

i want the wrist surveillance one! gimmeakiss!

actually, i think my wifi bunny, Nabaztag, is tracking me too. :( so cute though!


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Aw, so cute! Hey, honey, look at this!

DO NOT TRUST WIRED !!! they trip, nick doesn't.


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bricology
bricology
bricology
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC)

That's easily the funniest thing I've read in a long time.


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)

r u american? kids and wife alright?


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dayofthelocust
dayofthelocust
dayofthelocust
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)

There is a dark and Lynchian anime series called Paranoia Agent which, among other things, is about the explosive popularity of a cutesy little Sanrio-esque dog named Maromi. As people divert empathy away from one another and towards the cute little dog, Tokyo becomes overwhelmed by urban menace and teeters on the brink of destruction. I believe that the makers of this show share your concerns about the dark side of phenomena like amigurumi.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoia_Agent


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bopscotch
bopscotch
bopscotch
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)

They've been showing that on Cartoon Network... I've been meaning to catch it, but alas, I always seem to miss it.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
vintage amigurumi

speaking of fascist trojan horses, i would love to send you a picture of my mom's hand-knit doll from the 1940's. it was made by a woman (my mother's grandmother) who had a picture of hitler in her bible.
ps. have you read the great article on the "american girls" dolls, by sherri inness: ’Anti-Barbies’: The American Girls Collection and Political Ideologies.” in Delinquents and Debutantes: Twentieth-Century American Girls’ Cultures (also edited by inness)? it explores many of these issues (although the dolls are not "cute" in the sense of the amigurumi...


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)

damn! i knew someone would find out about it sooner or later.
now i have to invent a new toy to hide a surveillance device...

plastiquemonkey


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butterflyrobert
RND
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)

This post is HILARIOUS! Thank you!


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nicepimmelkarl
.
Mon, Aug. 28th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)

what happened to the dandy ranger?


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ishinagami
ishinagami
Isaac Fischer
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)

Cuteness has a odd effect on people, makes them vulnerable. I wonder if there will be the days of the cute killer. One who kills but is so cute no one cares.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 01:04 am (UTC)
Alternatives

Are there any good search engines that DON'T tattle-tale? Please let me know!


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)

Your parody of my style needs some work, and I would be happy to give you some pointers if you email me offline.

I fear that you still depend too much upon literary analysis. For example, instead of finding evidence of actual mafia influence in this field of cultural production and then reporting on that, you are just giving the art a somewhat forced sinister reading. Seems like you are starting from a set philosophical position and then inventing "soft," easily-debatable readings to match pre-ordainned conclusions. I suggest a more inductive approach - although you may not like what you find...

Marxy


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 02:16 am (UTC)

I would be happy to give you some pointers if you email me offline.

E mailing offline -- without the use of the internet -- is an interesting concept. Do you mean old-fashioned snail mail, or something more esoteric, like ouija boards?

I really wish the "sinister things are afoot in Japan" style I'm parodying here were confined to your writings. By some accounts, for instance, there's more "right wing militarism" in Japan (because there are a few little men in little white vans) than there is in all of America's current wars.

Have you read any Chalmers Johnson? He heads the Japan Policy Research Institute and is a hard-hitting Japanalyst. But he also writes trenchant books criticizing the rightward swing of the US, like The Sorrows of Empire. I think he's exemplary for that reason; Americans simply cannot examine the tiny right wing storm in Japan's teacup without seeing the veritable hurricane Katrina of the stuff blowing from their own country through the world.


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ex_ruhue
. . .
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)


knitta, please! we've known about this for years.
it's time to rise up...


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beketaten
beketaten
Juliet
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)

I think that's all going a bit overboard, unless you're being purposefully absurd.
Isn't Japanese culture all about the exaltation of cute to the highest levels of sophistication? Isn't that part of what you love about Japan? The cuteness? Be it the cuteness of its women, or the mechanical precision of their rituals for things like "Dolls Day"?
One could have the same reaction to a bunch of squirrels, to a sexually attractive person, or to their own thoughts. Oh well.


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beketaten
beketaten
Juliet
Tue, Aug. 29th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)

Wow man, I really must be tired. I reread it over again with my mum and found it hysterical.
I can be so humourlessly literal sometimes XD


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 21st, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
To Ishimaru or whatever...

Then why wasting your time reading subjects that doesn´t suits you. duh!!

greentings!!!


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