Friday 9 December 2011


One of the unexpected benefits of living in Japan is the lack of annoying ambient noise. That might sound slightly strange if you’ve been here a while. Certain towns do love their pointless communal loudspeakers, and noise pollution is pretty endemic.

It’s more personal than that though, because my Japanese is still at a level where I have to concentrate to make it work. I have to consciously ‘turn it on’, and if I don’t then it’s possible to float around in an innocent, prelapsarian state of incomprehension. There is a lot of noise, but it’s devoid of all meaning. Given that I’ve now reached an age where shouting at the TV news is a legitimate hobby, sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

I remember going back to the UK and getting picked up at the airport. Having listened to the ads on the car radio for all of three minutes, if you’d offered to cut off my bollocks so I could use them as earplugs I’d have given your proposition serious consideration.

It’s the same with the TV. Obviously Sturgeon’s Law is universally applicable, and I certainly wouldn’t offer any defence of Japanese TV on grounds of quality. It is, however, fertile ground for serious ethnographic study, and I can still use it as a language learning tool. Shamefully I find myself laughing at the crappiest jokes because I’m simply pleased I understood. There’s no such consolation back home. If something’s crap then it’s just crap. The unexpected consequence of this is that I watch more TV in Japan than I ever did in the UK. There’s always that language buffer to insulate me from the otherwise all-pervasive irritation.

Clearly there’s also always the option to turn the TV off, which I often employ, but then what do you do with your time? I guess there’s always parenthood, study, reading improving books, and the like, but every once in a while (every day) it’s nice to switch off and not concentrate on something too hard. Where can the hypocritical bourgeois cultural snob such as I go for his fix of vacuous pop-culture?

Of course you can’t let the walls down completely. Reality TV is obviously beyond the pale, and anything to do with the ‘Karaoke Sauron’ should be dragged from its bed in the middle of the night and shot through the back of the head. But still, it’s hard to avoid people whose only talent seems to be for self-promotion, such as Jordan, that Kardashishananan woman, or that odd little homunculus with the interestingly orange skin.

What do you get from a glut of TV?

The more successful these people become, the more bile they attract. While some of that abuse is truly dreadful, the less hateful, more proportionate stuff can at least act as a counterbalance to the fact that they have Attention Whore as the job description in their passport. Everything they do revolves around getting people to pay attention to them, for seemingly no other reason than they consider themselves to be worth it. They’ve consciously chosen to blur the lines between their ‘work’ and their private lives and this means it’s hard to have sympathy with any ‘invasion of privacy’ complaints they may choose to make.

So yeah, take the rough with the smooth on that one. I can go with that. The trouble is that some people seem to extend that attitude to anyone and everyone in the public eye, whether they've invited it or not. The grotesque, redcutio ad absurdum end point of that mindset is the hacking of murdered children’s phones.

There’s little value in rehashing everything that’s been said so far on that topic. I’ll just observe that the people the tabloid media rolled out to ‘defend’ their actions seemed profoundly, thunderingly, terrifyingly unable to comprehend why people found them abhorrent, or to show any inclination to change their behaviour. I guess that’s understandable in one way, after all, the more salacious a story, the more papers it shifts. The public gets want the public wants. If it bleeds it leads etc etc.

Still, you’d imagine that someone cynical enough to hack the phones of grieving relatives wouldn’t be surprised by the hypocrisy of the general public. Some of the arguments they used to justify themselves were ridiculous; you just wanted to wave a massive sign in their faces reading ‘STOP DIGGING’.

The argument that it’s part of the bargain is particularly pernicious. I can understand the logic which suggests that choosing to turn your life into a soap-opera means forfeiting your privacy in ways you might not have anticipated. But what about people who are just doing their jobs, even if those jobs are acting or singing, even if they are well paid? People who don’t invite magazines to ‘look around their beautiful home’ or grasp at insane amounts of cash for pictures of their ‘fairytale wedding’ (the fairytale in question being The Emperor’s New Clothes, I imagine). I can’t see how they’ve signed up to this Faustian pact.

They may well answer personal questions in promotional interviews, but some hack had to ask the question in the first place. And I’m not sure that having people sort through your rubbish is a commensurate price to pay for wanting people to pay attention to what you do, otherwise the fine gentlemen of the fourth estate would be picking Saatchi and Saatchi’s bins clean every night.

What happens if you don’t play? What happens if you eschew the never-ending publicity circus? Well, then of course you get just as rough a ride. Take Kristen Stewart.

No, go on, take her. ROFL LOL

I've neither seen the Twilight movies nor read the books, and I have no interest in doing so. I’m aware they've attracted criticism and hysterical adulation in equal measure (and yes, if you reversed the gender roles and had hordes of screaming middle-aged men lusting after teenage girls it would be very creepy indeed). I really have no opinion on the thing apart from ‘probably not for me’. But then I somehow doubt I'm the target market.

So I don’t know if Kristen is a decent actress or not. She appears to be pretty successful however you slice it, but she constantly gets criticized for, well, what exactly?

Whereas that shirt's a treasure

This clip spells it all out, and you really should watch it before going any further. I guess I should warn you that it's NSFW. There's no swearing or violence or nudity, but exposing yourself to this much self-serving, small-minded, vacuous sputum might cause lasting damage to your immortal soul. And no-one wants to deal with that at work.

So she doesn’t smile enough, apparently, and when she does it looks wrong. Think those two factors might be linked, Sparky? Even more damningly, “She’s rarely gracious in interviews, people don’t like that.” I suspect Ms Pearson’s confusing ‘people’ with ‘journalists’ here, and getting miffed because Kristen isn’t offering her a line of coke during their intimate little tete-a-tetes. Diddums indeed.

Because Kristen has a dark side all right, as evidenced by smoking and drinking soda. Drinking soda! Doesn’t she know she’s meant to be a role model for impressionable young minds? Poisoning the next generation with her evil evil fizzy-pop pushing ways. It’s a gateway beverage you know; one day it’s the Panda Cola and before you know it you’re sucking off a lonely middle-manager in some flea-pit hotel room to fund your next hit of Ovaltine. Won’t somebody think of the children?!

Maybe she should, on occasion, think a little bit harder about the similes she chooses, but it’s hard to argue with the substance of the complaints. I’ve never held with the ‘I pay your wages’ nonsense. If you buy a movie ticket you’re entitled to see a movie. You don’t have free rein to hassle its stars in the street.

In criticizing her for whining about the media, the collection of talking heads in that clip seem blissfully unaware of just how petty, jealous, and ‘ungracious’ they sound themselves. Sterling advice includes “suck it up” and “quit acting, and don’t be in the biggest movie franchise of the moment.” Brilliant! Chuck away the only job you've ever done because you don’t like the peripheral annoyances, and next time around make damn sure you’re not successful at whatever you choose to do. And we’re meant to have a better grasp of irony than the Americans.

Where's my fucking knife?

It culminates with a complaint the she’s reluctant to “do anything but breath and act.” The very same focus which is applauded in someone like Daniel Day-Lewis, but in his case it’s a steely concentration on his art. I have to confess a slight admiration for Kristen's obvious disdain for all the bullshit which surrounds her. That face thing is a little bit funny though.

So, in a nutshell, if you want to avoid unwanted intrusion in to your personal life then sharing personal details is to be avoided at all times except always and you should be happy about it. And fucking in public is fine, in fact it's necessary for people to "forgive" you. I’m no fan of organized religion, but you have to wonder if we didn't lose something when Hail Marys were phased out as the preferred form of penitence and replaced by dogging.


  1. This is a "Pillar" post.
    I gotta say you are one of the best writters out there in the blogosphere of Japan.


    My Thesis was wrapped around this because it's everywhere and ignored almost always and when someone says "hey...wait...that ain't right" they get shouted down or ignored or become known and claimed by some sub group that never had a voice even though what they say has always been true.

    Ignorance is not bliss...I gotta tell myself that because the reality and peoples way of blocking it out en masse' and at will is un fucking believable.

  2. Thanks man. I know you don't suffer fools gladly, so coming from you that means a lot.

    This started out as a bit about the public/private divide out here and how just being a foreigner seems to make you public property. But then I found that talking-head clip.

    I really, genuinely have no opinion on Kristen Stewart beyond the fact she's passably attractive, and even then watching that clip made me die a little inside. And that's before the whole compare and contrast with the phone-hacking.

    I know multi-millionaire Hollywood stars are hard to feel much sympathy for, but if something's wrong then it's wrong, y'know?