3 07 2015

Showa on show

3 07 2015

My current book, Showa, is a part-history, part-memoir graphic novel from Shigeru Mizuki, sometimes credited as the inventor of the “gekiga” or “serious comic”, a genre with which I have become increasingly obsessed this year.

Apparently, he is a household name in Japan, best known for his tales of yokai, the various and sometimes bizarre creatures that people Japan’s supernatural world, and which also make a few fleeting and interesting appearances in this book.

Showa though, as its name implies, is more focused on history – the Showa era where Japan, under Emperor Hirihito (renamed Showa after his death) lead Japan into the disastrous World War. It is an interesting document – honest about Japan’s wars, intrigues and atrocities in China, illuminating about the turbulence of its domestic politics ( I had no idea, for example, that there was a virtual civil war in Tokyo in 1937 after numerous attempted coup d’etat) and also possessed of a warm human touch as it tells the tale of the author’s own life, growing up in small town Japan.

Occasionally it also veers off to decribe sensation events of popular crazes of the day ( the excitement of donuts hitting Japan for the first time, the sensational murder case on which film “In the Realm of the Senses” was based and the fascinating true stories of Yoshiko Okada, a Japanese film star who made a misguided and idealistic defection to the Soviet Union and was promptly imprisoned, and Yoshiko Kawashima, a Qing princess who worked as a cross-dressing spy for the Japanese in Shanghai in the 1930s.)

All of this makes it an engrossing read and I am now looking forward to Volume 2 – covering the war years – which I had at first avoided due to its no-doubt-dark nature.

Summer time…

3 07 2015

After two wearing days of management meetings, school finally ground to a halt for the year and I awoke to the boats in Aberdeen harbour all aflutter with red flags to mark the July 1st holiday, celebrating (?) Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Far from the demonstrations and rallies that traditionally mark the day in Causeway Bay, It was to be a hot, lazy day of white wine with friends on a seaside balcony in Stanley, followed by a dip in the sea at Repulse Bay.

We lay on floating sunbathing pontoons looking up at the green forested peaks, and out at the tankers passing far out to sea, and swam back to the yellow sand where birds were flitting in the casuarinas.

A Hong Kong island beach day. Why don’t I do this more often?

With that in mind, I went back to Deepwater Bay the next day, and was astonished to find it walking distance from my house in Wong Chuk Hang! There was a little Thai cafe overlooking the cove serving healthy meals, and I sat and read and swam contentedly some more. Summer plans sorted: the beach!


3 07 2015

AB Soto

Fashion icons

3 07 2015

Women of a certain age: Sheika Mozah, Qatari royal, 57 years old (left, in both pictures) ;

Sunmanee Gunkasem, Thai socialite, age seventy ?;

American media star, Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner, American media star, 65.

29 06 2015

The Day That Love Won

29 06 2015

The decision by the US Supreme Court this week to legalize gay marriage took me by surprise. Like many non-Americans I hadn’t been following the twists and turns of the legal campaign, and the news came to me out of nowhere, a sudden and unexpected proclamation. I woke up one morning to a Facebook streaming with rainbows, many of them from straight friends, and the news that America had legalised across-the-board gay marriage.

As a non-American, and a formerly gay-married person, it would have been easy to be cynical or dismissive. But I was surprised to find that I wasn’t. Instead,  was deeply touched.  A few days later the joy is still being felt and the implications are still sinking in – the long-fought-for goal, seemingly so distant, now realised. The “culture wars” have been, decisively, won. It was like a moon landing. Nothing would be the same again.

The next generation will grow up in an America where gay marriage has been the norm, and the whole public debate is now re-framed. On the one hand I have wondered in the past why gay people feel the need to be part of such an institution, and whether we can’t be creative and honest and brave enough to make our own model, something better. But, reading the heartfelt articles from gay marriage advocates online today, it is hard to argue: this WILL mean so much to gay teenagers all over the world.

They are now being shown that their lives can be “normal” too, that they can have long-lasting love and that their love will be called by the same name and held in the same regard as that of their straight peers. Of course its all just symbolic, but thats what marriage is. A symbol.

So where to from here for the gay rights movement? It will be interesting to see, and I predict tough times ahead as the lack of a clearcut goal unties the bonds that have bought the community together.

And where to for America? A country long distained and discredited, but renewed this week out of nowhere as the symbol it has always promised to be – of freedom.

One only had to compare the victory in Washington with the gay pride parades being held around the world this weekend in a cosmic masterstroke of timing. In Istanbul, revellers were blasted with water cannons and in Seoul they partied defiant against Christian intolerance.  And in America, just in time for the US Stonewall weekend, and the start of Summer, love briefly reigned. Its an exciting time to to be alive.


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