(Every Saturday — well, one tries — a smorgasbord of discoveries made both offline and online will be featured here, to celebrate how the Internet is full of oddities and ideas from the real world.)
1. Kaijū genre
The word kaijū derives from the Japanese 怪獣, meaning ‘strange beast or creature,’ although its English translation is usually given as simply ‘monster.’ Today, the term is also a genre for the kind of film wherein a sizeable monster wreaks havoc in a large city for one reason or another. Of course, the definitive king of all kaijū would be Godzilla, first introduced in 1954 and remade over thirty times since — although as expected, the big monster trope eventually crossed over to mainstream Hollywood, for instance in the imaginatively named kaiju in the 2013 American blockbuster Pacific Rim.
As this dated article points out, however, it is laughable that Hollywood should attempt to capitalize on the kaijū genre at all, since these Japanese behemoths have always been both a metaphor and a critique of American nuclear weaponry in the first place. Nevertheless, as long as Japanese films continue to be made, the essence of the big monster will not be lost; some comfort may be taken in that thought.
2. This Arctic Monkeys cover
Along with Carly Rae Jepsen and Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus is one of the artists of this decade who are best defined by their one-off catchy-controversial songs and/or onstage peculiarities, but who at the same time possess genuine musical chops. Her cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 single “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” retains the song’s original funk, personalized with her signature twang and eccentric, couldn’t-care-less choreography. It sends the message that even though by 2014 Miley was in the rebellious stage typical of most former child stars, there is no denying talent when it is present.
3. Fidget Cube
A crowdfunded project recently made it to online news portals for raising US$ 4 million in less than a week, millions of dollars more than it was looking to raise on the Kickstarter platform. From Matthew and Mark McLachlan, the Fidget Cube is a vinyl desk toy which means to surreptitiously provide an alternative outlet for unseemly mannerisms like nail-biting, leg jiggling, and pen clicking. Each side of the Cube is a mechanism/gimmick/thingy for idle hands, behind which is the premise that fidgeting need not be cured, merely redirected.
Even before its official release, the Fidget Cube already looks to be a success. Right now, the only major problem that could really arise is with how much the product resembles the detonator of an explosive device.
4. John Holcroft
Few illustrators ever reach the same level of fame as authors, but British artist John Holcroft has been collaborating with several major media outlets for over 15 years. It would seem, though, that his work only collectively came to light with a set of drawings that made visual commentary on modern issues of social media, consumerism, interpersonal relationships, and the like. Overall, his style is grainy and retro, and the content often merits a second look or a second thought. Regardless of each work’s satirical intentions, Holcroft manages to strike a balance between the intricacy of detail and the message of the bigger picture.
5. Superficial Gazette
If the infamous Mocha Uson Blog was parodied in the Mochang Tanga Blog, some netizens took a step further and aimed their critique higher towards the Philippine president’s actual communications arm, which for its part has not been free from biased objectivity and ethical questionability. On the birth anniversary of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Official Gazette of the Philippines warmly commemorated his having been “the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years,” and delicately stated that “Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘People Power.'” Filipinos on social media were quick to criticize the blatant state-sanctioned historical revisionism, with a few bold users even going so far as to create a mock-up of the Official Gazette, in the form of the aptly titled Superficial Gazette.
Within days, its Twitter handle @SuperficialGZT was suspended, although it was reactivated today. The Facebook page of the same is active, and as of this writing has not yet known any threats to its freedom of expression. It may be said that until the government learns to serve not just a handful of Filipino families but the whole Filipino nation, its horrific proliferation of historical revisionism will continue to be countered by vigilant netizens — one way or another.
After all, people fight back — in different ways, and for different reasons. Some do it for the sake of being contrarian; others because they simply believe they are in the right. (From there, things become more complicated when everyone starts to believe only he/she is in the right.) Some do it through their craft: whether through visual arts, music, or writing; others are more subtle while others are far more demonstrative. Sometimes, fighting back even has unintended repercussions: for instance, in the process of calling out the gaps in state-sanctioned narratives, the Superficial Gazette also challenges the ordinary Filipino to be more critical of historical narratives in general.
Whatever the means and meaning of one’s defiance, however, unfortunately in any fight there will be winners and losers. In the aftermath, the winners are accorded the privilege of dictating a new social order if they so desire, but this meta level constitutes a whole other narrative altogether.