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January 29th, 2006
Sun, Jan. 29th, 2006 01:40 pm

Here's a photo I took yesterday on an Osaka underground train:



It shows two advertisements, one for a women's magazine called Miss, the other for a scandal magazine called Shukan Bunshun.

What initially caught my eye was that the model in the Miss ad is Hinano Yoshikawa. In the 90s, Hinano was Japan's It Girl, appearing in fashion magazines like Cutie (where she was photographed by Tajimax, who shot many Kahimi Karie photos and videos and came to Paris to make the "I Am A Kitten" video), then later advertising everything from Canon copiers to wedding dresses. She even wore a real one when she married cross-dressing singer Izam from Visual-kei band Shazna (he wore one too). She starred in a French film called "Tokyo Eyes" in 1999. And then, like that other over-exposed 90s mega-star Tomoe Shinohara, like Hiromix, and, to some extent, like Kahimi herself, Hinano disappeared off the face of the planet. Plouf! One minute everywhere in "the narrative", the next minute gone, written out of the plot.

I was surprised to see Hinano back on a poster. I was even more surprised when Hisae told me that the poster next to the Miss poster also mentions her. "The day [LiveDoor president] Horie-mon was arrested," the scandal mag says, "Horie's website was planning to announce that his new girlfriend is Hinano".

That in itself would be a fairly average story, the kind of thing you might read on Neomarxisme. Marxy likes the shukanshi press because they write more freely and critically about events in Japan than the kisha club papers do. Marxy might also like the conspiracy theory angle that, although Miss and Shukan Bunshun are owned by different companies, the fact that suddenly they're both bringing Hinano back, just at a time when Hinano is also suddenly dating the country's most notorious (and now disgraced) New Economy businessman all smacks of... well, if not of conspiracy, at least of some kind of suspicious synergy going on, some tight little narrative controlled by a small group of people. Even if that small group of people is at odds with another small group of people, they're all on the same page. And we're supposed to be right there with them.

Where Marxy would probably depart would be from my suspicion that this kind of narrative is operating in all cultures, and that it wastes our time getting tangled up in it. I spent a lot of the 80s being a satirist; setting out to refute the ideology of the day in songs. I'm now much more wary of being that kind of artist, or even that kind of blogger, because it just seems to me that it tangles us up in the puppet strings of narratives which are there to trip us up and waste our time. These narratives have, over the last twenty years, got both more slick and more shrill. And it doesn't really matter whether we're pro or anti the actors involved; the important thing is that we tune in, we follow them, we frame the world with the kind of understandings these stories bring with them.

The internet has added all sorts of conspiracy theories (here, for instance, is Michel Chossudovsky telling us that Al Qaeda was fabricated by the US intelligence services and that Angrael plans to use nuclear weapons against Iran in March 2006), but it's no longer a question of these being wrong and the mainstream narrative being right, or these being extreme and the mainstream narrative being moderate. We live in a time when the mainstream narrative is quite nakedly and openly fabricated by people whose idea of a good read is Tom Clancy; the people who so famously said: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out."

They overestimate their control, of course. Sharon's stroke may have nixed the Israeli strike on Iran Chossudovsky predicted. The fact that these narratives are fallible (idiotic, aggressive and nakedly fabricated) doesn't stop us having to deal with them. But personally, my instinct is to ignore these rumblings just as I ignore the fact that Horie is dating Hinano. (And, of course, to vote against their authors at every opportunity.)

"They" don't really care what I think about Hinano or Horie, they just want me to accept the basic framing of the story as important. "They" don't care what my position on Iran is, they just want me to keep "watching this space" and thinking of the developing story in the terms they dictate. If I spent my life reacting to these stories, even as an angry critic or activist, I'd already have lost an important battle, the battle to determine how and what to see. The ability to frame what's important in life, and concentrate on that. Without that, I'd already be dancing their dance. In fact, even this entry sees me shuffling reluctantly through a few undignified steps of it.



But what else is there? That's a question everyone has to answer personally. For me, there's a politics of texture, a politics of new and fresh views, a narrative that I hear coming mostly from artists and from the zone of culture. Yes, it's still politics. Yes, it's still a narrative. It's just not Tom Clancy. It's a bit more subtle and humane. Yesterday, the most inspiring thing I saw was a little picture of some old ladies in Kyoto selling vegetables off a cart. I immediately noticed a resemblance to the sleeve of Sawako's album "Hum". They shared a respectful framing of everyday reality as something worth paying attention to (appropriate, since Sawako's music frames ambient sound in the same way). Sure, two old ladies selling vegetables may sound undramatic compared to the Livedoor affair or World War III (if you want to make it more epic, imagine they're two Brechtian "Mother Courages", or say this is the start of an important "vegetable school" of music). But maybe it's precisely by encouraging us to define those old ladies as "small" and "unimportant" that the people who cook up the big, flashy, trashy, violent and vulgar narrative win.

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