New York – Anime Fest ’08 Sees the Triumph of Cute Over Evil


New York Anime Fest ’08
Javits Center
September 26-28
Photos by Paul Crispin Quintoriano
Full slideshow here

“Make tea parties, not war” might have been the secret slogan of this year’s New York Anime Fest, as the colorful parade of “Lolita” fashion dolls outdid the hordes of Samurai and military team warriors roaming the Javits Center this weekend. The humor in this juxtaposition was not lost on attendees, since humor — whether light, black or satiric — has always been a big part of the manga/anime scene. Fans delight when the comedians in their midst speculate about the homicidal logic of the Faustian drama Death Note being applied to Facebook; the cuteness of Hello Kitty is funny by default; and the con screening room erupts in laughter at every sexual sight gag or verbal innuendo in the already wacky scenario posed by the high school harem spoof Negima!. But no matter how “cute” the Sailor Scouts or Pokemon monsters might appear, they really only exist to kick butt — which is why the iconic triumph of Lolita gentility over the weapon and witchcraft wielding adventurers that dominate this pop subculture seems pretty much miraculous.


Friday’s screening of the live-action movie Kamikaze Girls predicted this victory. This unorthodox teen buddy movie, about the unlikely friendship between a combative Japanese gang-girl and a solitary dreamer who dresses like an aristocratic hedonist from 18th century Versailles, introduced the world to the anachronistic philosophy of Japanese Lolita fashion, which has nearly nothing to do with Nabokov and almost everything to do with Alice in Wonderland. The lead character’s use of custom made rococo-period clothing to telegraph her alienation from a “vulgar” quotidian reality was engineered by the real life Tokyo boutique Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. The shop was founded in 1988 after Vivienne Westwood, Adam & the Ants, and Prince had already tested the contemporary power of vintage ruffles and lace.


As a featured guest of this year’s Anime Fest, the “Baby” store brought visual elegance and high-concept to various panels and a Sunday afternoon fashion show that rivaled anything in Bryant Park this fall. These women in bloomers, bonnets, petticoats, corsets and parasols embodied the independence, wit, and creativity Kamikaze Girls protagonist Momoko uses to make the female biker gang abandon their narrow-minded, brutish conformity.


So although admiring crowds fought via aggressive video games or cheered daily combat demos by light-saber crews and genuine kendo masters, even katana-shredded targets failed to eclipse the gentler pursuits promoted by the Lolita sensibility. It even seemed to suffuse Saturday night’s concert, full of female vocalists and the androgynous “visual kei” posing of boy rockers like Quaff, who blend glam-rock fashion with arena-rock showmanship. I suspect a new era in fannish taste has begun… one in which the parasol is mightier than the sword.

Published in: Village Voice, September 30, 2008

Right Livelihood: Moral Dilemma, Impossible Dream or Mindful Choice?

While I’ve only been an active dharma practitioner since 1999, everyday I’ve had countless opportunities to view my working life and its varied results through the lens of interdependence. At first, it was quite disorienting to be in the middle of a random business transaction and suddenly see my client’s point of view. This unexpected empathy made me feel more open, more vulnerable and yet empowered with new knowledge. Gradually I began to enjoy ever more subtle shifts in perspective that improved the depth and quality of my interactions with both clients and co-workers. Not that everything I experienced was always sweetness and light, but I became much more flexible and spontaneous. Continue reading “Right Livelihood: Moral Dilemma, Impossible Dream or Mindful Choice?”

Why Singapore Rocks

Introduction to “Why Singapore Rocks!”

As an acronym, the term A.S.E.A.N. has become the name of a small regional trade & tourism organization known as the “Association of South East Asian Nations.” Not all of the nations in the greater south east asian region have joined (India, for example, most conspicuously absent), but the current membership includes: Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, The Phillipeans, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. There remains, however, a larger concept of the term “Asean”, which embraces a sense of shared destiny and multicultural imperatives among these various emerging economies. Particularly when it comes to their globally-aware youth cultures. HIstorically distinct as these nations are, grouping them together for mutual benefit is no more unlikely than the mutual interests that make NATO possible. Continue reading “Why Singapore Rocks”

Check Yo’self at the Door: Cryptoheterosexuality and the Black Music Underground

I) Time Considered as a Helix of Semilegal Nightclubs

Any East Coast hip hop fan between the ages of 16 and 25 has spent most of his or her clubgoing life being subjected to almost clinical body checks. Oh, the ignominy of it all! There you are with your friends or your date, crammed into a dingy vestibule, slipping off hats and shoes, opening purses and pockets and allowing your private parts to be pawed by people you normally wouldn’t let bag your groceries. But before all this, before the drinking age was raised to 21, there had been a sort of initiatory stage for nightclub novices . . . a rite of passage, so to speak. No disco neophyte wants to be known as such, so, wanting to hang with and impress the older kids, 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds behaved better. And if someone did have a bad bit of acid or one too many sloe-gin fizzes, there were enough wise old heads around to catch on before it became a problem. Unfortunately, once the Great Booze Divide prematurely enforced the gradual inclination for older kids to party apart from their teenage counterparts, the hip hop generation lost a valuable counterbalance to youthful ignorance and hormonal high spirits. This was why clubs catering to urban teens in the ’80s began habituating their clientele to a weapons search resembling nothing so much as a pat-down before entering a maximum-security prison. Continue reading “Check Yo’self at the Door: Cryptoheterosexuality and the Black Music Underground”