6.26.2013

The Help

Yesterday I did a post about The Hierarchy of Personality. This is part two:

I'm talking about radio, but I'm sure the entertainment business and TV news also have talent who treat people like The Help. Some people who are on the air haven't gotten the memo about the democratization of the media. They think they are the most important figures in the culture and think people are there to serve them, whether they're producers, interns, sales people, or even station management. They are the performers, they seem to think, they're the ones disseminating information, and it doesn't seem to occur to them that they are human beings who are equal in worth to other human beings.

Talent who see others as The Help express such an attitude in various ways. When sales people go to talk to them, they see it as a waste of their time and might grant an audience for a brief moment before they say they have to leave. They think sales is not supposed to be in the vicinity of their craft. After all, they are the talent, and the sales people are "over there"; why would they want to spend time with them? They're part of the bean counter class; they don't get it. And when station management wants the talent to participate in a meeting, they don't see it as necessary because meetings are for regular workers who have to do what they're told. They think management doesn't understand how hard it is to talk into that microphone every day, to come up with something witty and compelling. They're just a bunch of suits that don't get it either. And producers: who are they? They're supposed to have everything ready and do everything, even when the talent change their minds. It's as if the talent are lying on a divan and are being fanned by large feathers which The Help hold. If the talent want the fanning to go faster, they end up complaining that it's too fast, even though they requested it. They'll keep changing their speed requests and are never satisfied and complain that The Help are inept because they're not able to deliver what they want. Or it's as if the producers are holding buckets that must catch every drop of liquid that spills over from the talent's cup, wherever the talent go and however they're holding the cup, even if it's not correct or structurally sound.

Sometimes the talent will appear really nice, but they're really being condescendingly benevolent because if they don't treat The Help graciously, they won't get what they want. But behind closed doors, when they're talking to what they perceive as their equals, they'll complain about The Help, no matter how small the perceived infraction is. They'll smile and speak in a seemingly professional way because they need a technical issue resolved, which makes The Help feel like they're interacting with talent who are really "cool". But once The Help walk away when equipment is working again, the Talent will roll their eyes to those in their inner circle and nitpick about other problems that are always, in the end, The Help's fault.

But woe to the talent who are confronted with talent who are greater than they are. All of a sudden, they are faced with someone more important, more powerful, more beloved than they are. They get upset when those bigger stars don't respond to them or treat them as The Help. They have no condescension as they do for the lesser people who usually surround them, but aspire to be like that greater talent and even envy them. They look for approval and become disgruntled if they're not considered equal to those higher beings. But it doesn't occur to them to take their negative experience and apply it to those people they treat as The Help. They just resume their attitude and continue their status quo.

But not all hope is lost, because there are talent who understand that the media is no longer the monolith it once was, that they're merely human beings in a business who are interacting with other human beings in the same business. The talent that do not treat others like The Help speak to people respectfully, without condescension. If they're rude, they apologize to those they've yelled at or whom they've been overly demanding towards. They realize that if someone were to behave towards them in such a negative way, they wouldn't like it, which is why they have the humility to recognize they were out of line. They also don't see the people around them as in a caste system, who reside in a lower tier. They see everyone as part of the team, whether it's the intern, producer, management, or janitor. But even if the media weren't in meltdown mode, no talent should treat anyone as The Help, no matter how much power they think they have.

6.25.2013

The hierarchy of personality

I posted this on Fakebook, but I think it's something that people can relate to in various businesses, based on some feedback I got from a couple of people who read the essay before it was officially posted. It didn't occur to me that a hierarchy of personality exists outside the media, but they said it does. One person even recommended the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, which seems like an extreme version of what I'm talking about. Anyway, here's what I wrote:

I've noticed that there is a hierarchy of personality in radio. There is probably a hierarchy in TV too, but since I haven't worked in it, I can only assume it's similar. In the hierarchy of personality, someone emerges at the top of the structure, in a hierarchy that, of course, exists vertically. The determination of who is at the top is made either explicitly, because people have assigned importance to the person and have given that person freedom, or it's made through an understanding within the culture of the station.

When someone is at the top of the hierarchy, they can act how they want. They don't have to worry about reigning in their personality to get along with coworkers or appease their superiors. If the person is on-air talent, then their superiors are the management of the station. If the person is someone in station management, then their superiors are the upper management of the company. Some people assume the talent are at the top, but because corporations are running many radio stations, the management may be the most important entity. It just depends where the station is, who controls it, and how the hierarchy has developed.

When a person reaches the top of the hierarchy, the rules that those who are lower down the ladder have to follow are optional. Also, the privileged person can express how they feel: if they're angry about something, even if it's as minor as a color they don't like, they can express their anger, and the people around them won't think there's anything wrong with how their behaving. In fact, there are people who excuse such anger, saying it's just how they are, though they feel it's important to prevent such an expression of wrath on them. However, if someone lower in the hierarchy expresses anger, even if it's justified, people will not accept it and may revile the person. That's because the person doesn't have the cushion of protection that the privileged person has.

People surrounding the top person will acquiesce to the point that they will suppress their own feelings and be hesitant to give their opinions. They also won't express any dissatisfaction or frustration towards the top person, but will instead yell at, berate, or belittle those who are lower than they are in the hierarchy. They will put up with anything the top person does and stay silent when that person degrades them because they understand that the person holds the power to their livelihood and even their future. They know their place, and know that there are enough people below them who will, in turn, tolerate their eruptions or snide remarks.

The top person may decide to not arrive on time, attend meetings, do paperwork, do commercials or promotions (if they're talent), listen to other people, or consider other people's feelings. Their demands must be met and usually are because they exist in a space that is free for them but not for others. If they want to worry, they can. If they want to complain, they can. If they want to be happy, they can. If they demand a certain item, office, or workspace, they'll get it. However they want to be, they can be who they want because their personality can be fully expressed, and they know that no one is going to impede that.

What people at the top of the hierarchy of personality do more than anyone else, is treat all other people like "The Help." However, a person doesn't have to be at the top of the hierarchy to treat others like The Help. That is done at different levels, and it's prevalent as well. (Read about The Help here.)

6.03.2013

How blogs used to be

I came across a blog that was linked from Twitter, and it really reminds me of what blogs were like before Fakebook became popular. It's called Random Thoughts from an Info Junkie by David Eppley, and what strikes me is how personal it seems [update: it seems to be a pop culture list now, so it's changed]. I've been reading blogs for several years (mine is going to be 10 years old next year), so I remember when blogs were the way people communicated with each other, discussed issues, shared feelings, and even became friends.

Then social media became more mainstream, and people started sharing more there. I can understand why, because you get a more immediate response, you have a closed system of friends, and essentially a captive, engaged audience. Uninformed "analysts" claim that social media has made blogs obsolete, but I disagree because information can be shared in different ways online.

But what's emerged are a lot of informational blogs, blogs built for business, marketing, and other pragmatic functions, and it seems like it's becoming harder to find the more organic, honest, and non-commercial blogs.

I sort of miss those blog-dominant days because a network grew that allowed a variety of voices and styles to be read outside the mainstream media. It came to a point where I stopped reading some established columnists because their observations seemed inane, and they seemed arrogant. I remember the "media elite" dissing blogs and other online expression, and I even wrote a post about it around seven years ago. So as they hunkered down in judgement of "us", I alternatively found lots of great writing and thoughts from people who had a passion to express themselves but hadn't had a vehicle before.

Even I started posting at Fakebook more than here (as you can see from the dwindling post numbers over the years), but it sort of backfired. I assumed Fakebook was a briefer version of blogs, thus thought there was nothing weird about posting my feelings and struggles about challenging pursuits. But when someone said I appeared unhappy and some others showed concern that I was posting such stuff online, I looked around and realized the bloggy aesthetic had morphed into a shallow, vain expression that sets out to impress rather than share. I didn't think my FB posts were a big deal and not that revealing or pitiful, either, but I wasn't successfully conforming to the environment the FB bosses had created (as described in the book I read), so I seemed "unhappy", that "something was wrong."

So yes, count me as someone who's sort of lamenting the loss of the blog world as it used to be, though I'm sure those blogs can still be found in a few corners of the Web.

5.30.2013

Translation: Kyuji Fujikawa's blog post about missing baseball

Today, the day after the Chicago Cubs announced that relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa was going to have surgery and miss a year of games, he wrote this blog post about it:

Real thoughts

Everyone, there was very bad news in the morning--excuse me. Also, thanks for the encouraging messages!
I've gotten support for this injury, but I feel disappointed because I haven't been able to live up to the Chicago Cubs' expectations.
I cannot show everyone the place where I pitch, and I can't see the scenery of the batter and game from the mound.
I definitely want to return to the mound to see the scenery again!
Now, I remember where I was on the mound three days ago, and I don't want to forget it.
Of course, I love baseball.
When I read everyone's messages, I wanted to write a bit of my true feelings.

Unfortunately, I missed a great opportunity to break some news. The day before the American media talked about the injury, he did a blog post about it. I saw it yesterday, the day the big news came out. But if I had looked the day before, well...I would've become a sports journalist, even if only briefly :p

3.25.2013

Acknowledgments with a twist


This week, John Records Landecker's memoir, Records is Truly My Middle Name, is being released, and he has written Acknowledgments that end like this:

I would like to thank everyone who listened. I would also like to thank everybody I ever worked with — but if you’re one of those people who made my life a living hell — go f--- yourself.

I don't think I've seen such sentiments in an author's preface, but I'm sure he said what lots of people want to say.

BTW--the book was produced by Rick Kaempfer, a fantastic author who I interviewed for this blog about his books $everance and The Living Wills.

3.19.2013

Translation: ☆Taku Takahashi from m-flo criticizes the Japanese music scene

Here's a translation I did of the article, "☆Taku from m-flo says, 'Japan's music is 20 years behind Korea's'" [m-floの☆Taku「日本の音楽は韓国に20年遅れている」と指摘]

☆Taku, from the famous Japanese hip hop group m-flo, talked about how “Japan’s music is 20 years behind Korea’s,” which has been making waves in Japan.

Even though the K-POP boom has spread around the world with PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” etc., people are interested in groups that are active in Japan, which has raised questions about how the Japanese environment has ignored Korean music.

Recently, ☆Taku answered questions about K-POP in a media interview. “Korea has started to expand in the world because the scene is not only domestic. Japan currently resembles Korea 20 years ago, but it should be internationally aware. Even in Japan, when you compare it to Korean music, the sound is very different,” he said about Japanese music, which does not have a total advantage.

“Korean idols are good at singing and dancing, but there are people who say critically, ‘K-POP just imitates hits on the American Billboard Charts!’ However, there are many Japanese people who don’t have the ability to imitate current Billboard songs,” he harshly exclaimed.

☆Taku also answered questions about PSY’s popularity. “I think PSY’s popularity is good luck, but luck is simply not the issue. If he hadn’t thought about how his music would sell in foreign countries, he wouldn’t have emerged,” he pointed out.

“Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Japanese singer who is becoming more popular internationally. Her music is interesting, but she’s in a totally different league than PSY,” he said about PSY’s total dominance.

“In Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s case, her producer Yasutaka Nakata likes Western music, and he blends Western dance music with Japanese melodies so that they’re hits in Japan and abroad. At first, he wasn’t thinking of doing business abroad, but people unexpectedly liked it,” which was a primary cause of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s success. “Korean idols are mainly kids from their own country, and for people who like American music to be introduced to their songs, they have to continue to be sent abroad. Not only Japan, but other Asian countries need to think of expanding as well. PSY’s success came from always thinking about the international market,” he said.

In ☆Taku’s interview, he said the insular Japanese music market needs to be thrown open. “Japanese singers only stay in Japan, but there should also be an environment of expansion in China, Korea, and Vietnam. Korea has been challenging Japan in that area. At the same time, for singers to come to Japan, the country should be musically open,” he emphasized.

Japanese people's response to ☆Taku’s interview has been intense. Many say it's correct that the music marketplace in Japan is limited, but on the other hand, VERBAL, who's one of the members of m-flo, is Korean-Japanese, so people wonder, “Was VERBAL brainwashed?” and “He's sold out his country.”

2.13.2013

Translation: Zuiikin English intro

A while ago, someone told me about some amusing videos from Japan that taught people English with the "Zuiikin Gals". The videos have ended up becoming popular because they seem so odd. Here's what the Fuji TV site says in the introduction (explanation) of that program:
Starting in the Spring of 1992, the Fuji Television network aired an epoch-making educational program called “English Conversation and Exercise” [Eikaiwa Taisou] in which people combined English conversation and exercise! It was a mysterious program that seemed very serious and required hard work, but ended up evoking laughter. As the title says, the program brought together English conversation and exercise. In the beginning, with each movement, as the muscles were trained, they also remembered English conversation! The program was based on that concept. In the beginning, there were short situational plays, and then those scenes of English conversations stopped. Suddenly, the station’s exercise program introduced three “Zuiikin Gals” in leotards on the set, who cheerfully chanted and repeated English conversation in tempo while exercising. The program naturally brought together movement and English conversation to the body. By the way, the rectus femoris muscle was trained the first time.

 

2.06.2013

Translation of Anime News: 50th Anniversary of Astro Boy


I did another translation from the "Anime!Anime!" site of the article, "Family Gekijo's special TV program 'The History of Japanese Television Anime Creation' on the 50th Anniversary of Astro Boy." Here's what it said:
In 2013, the television anime "Astro Boy" [Tetsuwan Atomu], which played an epoch-making role in Japanese anime history, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast. The 50th anniversary will be commemorated this year with the following schedule. 
First, in February, the major cable company Family Gekijo will present an Osamu Tezuka special, and in March it will feature the 50th anniversary of "Astro Boy". There will be two special programs that will focus on Tezuka's anime. 
Family Gekijo has produced its own special program, "The Manga God: the History of Japanese Television Anime Creation," a 30-minute documentary that explores the birth of anime in Japan. 
The basis of Osamu Tezuka's anime will be explored, as far back as the experiences he had in his childhood. Anime supervisor Daisaku Shirakawa, animation history researcher Nobuyuki Tsugata, and Eichi Yamakawa, the first producer at Toei Animation, will be interviewed. The program is planned for March 10. 
Also, "The Manga God: Phoenix Reincarnated" will air on February 17. These are the same original Family Gekijo programs that aired in 2012, in which Osamu Tezuka can also be spotted. 
In February, Tezuka's special collection, "Black Jack", "Phoenix Houou [Mythical] Hen", "Phoenix Yamato-Hen", "Phoenix Uchu [Space] Hen", "One Million-Year Trip: Bander Book" [Hyaku-man nen chikyu no tabi banda bukku], "Undersea Super Train: Marine Express" [Kaitei choutokkyuu Marine Express], and "Three-Eyed One" [Mitsume ga touru] will be broadcast. 
In March, the HD remastered "Astro Boy" will be shown on television for the first time. "W3", "Vampire" [Banpaiya], "Adventures of Goku" [Goku no daibouken], and "Dororo" are the television anime masterpieces that will be shown from that period. 
Starting March 2, "Osamu Tezuka Gekijo" will be a regular feature every Saturday at 8:00, a powerful push of the Tezuka and Atom 50th anniversary.

1.22.2013

Translation: explaining "giri" to French people

During the first year of this blog, I mentioned the book Cent Questions Sur le Japon, which was published around 30 years ago. It teaches Japanese people how to talk about Japan in French, and is written in French and Japanese. I still have the book and read it occasionally because it's a good way to simultaneously maintain my Japanese and French.

Recently, I decided to translate one of the topics, and had a hard time finding the book online. Then I discovered that it's been updated, republished, and renamed to now be Qu'est-ce que c'est? フランス人が日本人によく聞く100の質問 [100 questions French people often ask Japanese people]. I chose the topic of "giri" since that is unique to Japan, thus has to be explained to people in other countries. The original article is here and the translation is below. Since this is written for Japanese people, there is an introduction in Japanese, and then the questions and answers are in French and Japanese.
It is rather difficult to explain giri, a unique Japanese way of thinking. Like ninjo, wabi, and sabi, it's a word that expresses Japanese logic and a sense of beauty. It will be easier to explain if a concrete example is given for this word. 
Q: Giri is often talked about. What is it? 
It could be said that it's an intrinsic part of the moral society of Japan, the principles of behavior. If someone does a favor for you, you have an obligation to return it. This takes priority over ninjo, personal feelings and affections. Literature from the Edo period often showed the psychological conflict between giri and ninjo and the suicides that resulted. 
Q: Has giri always been part of the Japanese psyche? 
Not like in feudal times. But even today, many Japanese people respect the concept of giri. For example, someone can't break off a long-term business relationship with a client, even if there are other clients who seem more advantageous. Also, it's important to give gifts at certain times of the year, such as chugen or seibo to people who have helped us. Giri in modern Japanese society could be considered a cultural restraint rather than an expression of appreciation from the heart.

1.11.2013

Translation of Anime News: Be in a Manga

I asked an anime fan if there's anything I should translate that would help fans find out what's going on in that world. He suggested this news from the Anime!Anime! site, so I did a brief translation to give people a basic idea of what is going on. Here's the news:
Mangazenkan.com Campaign: Monthly Shonen Champion Series Will Draw Your Image 
Manga artists can make your dream come true by drawing an image of you. Winners will have their image drawn by eight manga artists from Monthly Shonen Champion (Akita Shoten). Shonen Champion Comics will choose a total of eight winners, one per comic, between January 7 (Monday) and February 5 (Tuesday). 
Participating manga artists are: Ryu Itou from "Sengoku BASARA3-Bloody Angel", Katsuki Izumi from "Oi!! Obasan", Yuu Minamoto from "Kamisama Drop", Masaru Suzuki from "Drop OG", Daishiro Suzuki from "Narikin!", Masayuki Saiwaki from "Chicken", Shingo Honda from "Hakaijuu", and Yoshiji Yamaguchi from "Examurai Sengoku G". 
To enter, purchase a manga and fill out the enclosed entry form. Winners who are chosen will be asked to send in their photo. 
This is a rare opportunity for fans! 
You can purchase the mangas and get more information about this 2013 New Year's gift at Mangazenkan.com