Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blog updates and fixes

So for some reason, my header stopped working, and so I went in and did a couple of changes. In the meantime, I guess I'll be changing the blog design to improve some things. So hang in there with me please!

TV Review- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

So if you missed Twitter blowing up about this show, its a new TV show from Tina Fey about a woman, Kimmy Schmidt, who's been in a doomsday cult since the 90s. She's just been rescued and decides to stay in New York City where she tries to rebuild her life.

The show is comedy and satire and if you're not super comfortable with a lot of things, then you probably won't find the humor enjoyable.

Which brings me to my main point. I enjoyed the show and watch the first season or what they have up so far. And although I enjoyed it, there were some things that bugged me about it.

One of the shows more debatable part of the show is its use of characters and stereotypes. Its protagonist Kimmy is white and her roommate is a black gay man. Other characters include, Dong, whose nae might get a lot of snickers from some people and some offensive scoffs from others. Kimmy and Dong bond over their names, which according to the show, both refer to male genitalia in their respective languages (Dong is supposed to be from Vietnam).

Critics have ratted on him because of his portrayal of a stereotypical Asian male that's often seen on TV and in white media. He has broken English, is good at math, and thinks that Americans are really weird. Some critics wish to see a better portrayal of Asians- especially Asian men. One where they're not seen as unattractive and "not as smart as we are expect in math".

Another character that faces problems is Kimmy's boss, Jacqueline, who we first meet as a rich Manhattan wife, and then we later find out that she's actually Native American who pushed back her culture heritage to go become "modern" and marry rich, 

"Meanwhile, Jacqueline’s subplot of reconnecting with her Native American roots is just a bit odd. She dyed her hair, plugged in some eye contacts and left her parents and backyard buffalo in order to follow the American Dream of marrying rich. It’s pretty random when introduced in Episode Three, feeling less like a curveball for her character arc and more like a sloppy hot dog chucked into the plot."- Gabe Bergado, The Daily Beast
 I kinda agree with this criticism about her character arc. While I do enjoy seeing representation of Native Americans in the show (let's face it, when do we ever see anything representing Native Americans except when arguing over sport team mascots and maybe Native American casinos?), I agree that it just seems kinda pushed in there and thrown in. But hopefully the show will further use it to grow her character even more, besides as coming to terms with her heritage.

One thing to remember though is that the show is satire, which means that it uses comedy as a mean to criticize today's society and tropes. Also is that its Tina Fey who is producing the show and is known to not shy away from humor that others might find a little bit too frank.

That being said, I thought there were some parts where the show took things a little bit too far and were a bit uncomfortable. They were those borderline areas of, "do I laugh or is this inappropriate to laugh at?".

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the whole, "rescued from a doomsday cult", plot line. While it presents a vehicle for the producers to critique the 21st century and compare it to the 90s, which some references its younger viewers might not get, I feel that it is a touchy subject and it really isn't one that should be light of too much.

Doomsday cults have a history of death and disasters following them and I think that its a topic that's not talked about as much as it should be. Which is one reason why I think its an interesting choice, but I think viewers should be sensitive to the fact that for the people drawn into these cults, they're not likely to believe their leader is wrong so quick and that for those drawn into them, getting out can be tricky.

Besides that, the show is pretty entertaining, and I did enjoy it. There's really no overarching sense of a plot line that I can feel besides Kimmy adapting to the 21st century. In other shows, you have a sense of what the characters are working for, but here its just episode to episode mostly somewhat new things.

I found myself continuing to watch the season despite m misgivings and enjoyed discussing the issues and satire that it presented with my roommates. I hope to see the show evolve and continue to be something that stands out from other shows and displays its relentless, unapologetic critique of society and our issues.


IMDB- Kimmy Schmidt
Wikipedia- Kimmy Schmidt
"The Dong Problem": How Kimmi Schmidt Deals with Race- The Daily Beast

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Historical Facts: Mochizuki Chiyome and the Kunoichi

Ever since the West has been in contact with the Japanese, the ever powerful, mysterious, and seemingly magical ninjas have captured Western imagination. Ninjas were a secret group of special forces, high trained, spies in Medieval Japan. Although popularized today, traditionally ninjas commonly did not wear the all black costume that we imagine them in, instead they were usually found to be dressed like everyone else or as religious lay folk.
Pinterest Link

In the 16th century, there was a Japanese noblewoman by the name of Mochizuki Chiyome who was rumored to be from the Koga clan (a Japanese clan that focused on the art of ninjustsu) and was married to a samurai warlord, Mochizuki Nobumsasa. While he was off in battle, Chiyome was left in the care of a daimyo (a warlord) Takeda Shingen, who was her husband's uncle.

(Edit: There is little known about Chiyome, only that she appears briefly in records, and then is never heard about again after Shingen's death. If you've heard about her before, its either because you really like history, or you might have played or seen her in a video game.)

After her husband died in 1575 at the battle of Nagashino, Shingen tasked Chiyome with creating an network of female ninjas who could gather information and deliver coded messages without being suspected. Chiyome began her base of operations in the village Nazu, in the Shinshu region, and began recruiting. She focused on young women who were recently orphaned, lost, abandoned, prostitutes, or victims of the civil wars. 

It was believed that she was helping these girls, giving them a new chance at life, but really, she was training them to become highly efficient information gatherers and verifies, seductresses, messengers, and assassins. They were all taught the skills of female shamans or shrine maidens (called a miko) so that they could travel basically anywhere without suspicion. They also learned how to disguise themselves as actresses, prostitutes, or geisha. But mostly they went to work as servants or ladies-in-waiting where they could gather gossip and build connections. 

Overtime, Chiyome developed a network of over 200-300 female agents who worked for the Takeda Clan. Shingen became very well informed but eventually died mysteriously in 1573. 

Pinterest Link
A scene from the Yoshiwara, the "red light" district of Edo Japan.
Pinterest Link
Mochizuki Chiyome  (This was my favorite and most entertaining resource)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Resources- the 1920s

Up next in my resource series (last time I did it on Japan), is the 1920s. This wonderful era is known for flappers and loose morals, and also sits in between WWI and WWII. My book, Those Crazy Years, is an alternative history of the 1920s, set in a version of New York City and Chicago.

This is not a nearly complete list of resources I'd like to give you, but for the moment, this is what I've been able to come up with. If you have any other resources (no matter how obscure), please comment below with what they are (they don't have to have links online, as long as you give us enough information to be able to reasonably find them ourselves, that's fine). Also, sadly, some of my favorite resources are no longer existing or for some reason I can't access them.

In any case, I'd continue to update this as I go. But remember that many more resources are simply found through Google and its many sub-resources (like Google Books and Google Scholar). Remember that if you're writing anything other than fiction, it's always a good idea to back up anything in particular you find with at least two other sources unless its something that's common knowledge. Also, its always a good idea to let other people know where you get your information from (citations, people!).

1920s Films
Get Your Man- Clara Bow Silent Film
"IT" 1/7
"Troll of the Sea" 1/5

Other Films about the 1920s
The Ingenues- Band Beautiful
The Roaring Twenties Part I
The Roaring twenties Part II
Bits of Life in Japan 1920s
Japanese life in the 1920s
Japan: Kyoto: After the Great Kanto Earthquake
The Great Kanto Earthquake
Driving a Model T
1924 Model T Ford

Magazine Articles 
Social Jottings from Newport
Women in Prison
Charles Lindbergh- International Hero
My Friend- Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth- Trivia List
Mabel Walker Williebrandt- Enforcer of Prohibition
Undercover Prohibition Enforcer- Izzy Einstein
Shell Shocked New Yorkers
A Census of Skyscrapers
I'd like to Show You Harlem
Theda Bara

Flapper Articles Search (Old
A Flapper's Appeal to Parents
The Flappers Flapped
Flapper's Rebellion
In Praise of Flappers
A Flapper's Quest for Comfortable Fashion
A Case against the Youth Generation
The Flapper as a Religious Force

Other Articles
What was New York like in the 1920s?
The Parisian Life in the 1920s
Midnight in Paris: A Historical View
The Future According to the 1920s
Bestselling Books in the 1920s
History of American Journalism: 1920s
Guide on the Etiquette in the 1920s
1920s American Culture: City Life and Values
Harlem in the 1920s

Websites the 1920s
The Roaring Twenties Sounds

Buzzfeed- 1920s Slang
Dieselpunks- Flapper's dictionary
Slang of the Twenties
Flapper's Dictionary
Gatsby's Slang
Jazz Age Slang
A Flapper's Dictionary
How to Sound like the Bee's Knees
Flapper Slang Talk
Slang of the 1920s
Gangster Talk

The Great Harry Houdini
Houdini's Magic Tricks
Exposing Houdini's Tricks of Magic
Dance Styles of the 1920s
Inventions of the 1920s
Food Decades- 1920s
Food Prices in the 1920s
1920s Homes
Psychiatric Hospital Treatment 1920s

Alcolhol Prohibition and the Criminal Underworld it Spawned
Inside 1920s Speakeasies

1920s Hairstyles
20s Clothing
Flapper Fashion 1920s
Clothing of the 1920s
1920s Flapper Dresses
1920s Fashion Men
How to Gatsby
Gallery 1920s
Fashion in the 1920s
1920s in Western Fashion

1920s Crime and Law
The Untouchables
Encyclopedia- Chicago History- The Untouchables
Historical Reality of The Untouchables
Wikipedia- the Untouchables Elliot Ness
Elliot Ness- The Real Story
Elliot Ness- Actually Untouchable except When It came to Women
My Al Capone Museum- Elliot Ness

The Forty Thieves 
How the Forty Elephants girl gang terrorized 19th century London
The Tale of the Forty Thieves: Alice Diamond and the All Girl Gang that terrorized London
Girl gang's grip on London underworld revealed
Wikipedia- Forty Elephants
Wikipedia- Maggie Hill
The Badass girl gang that ruled London's underworld
Hoodlums in Bloomers
Diamond Alice's Forty Thieves

Other Crime and Law
Al Capone Al Capone
Stephanie St. Clair
Sex, Murder, and Fame in Jazz Age Chicago
Muderesses Row: guns, gams, and glamour in 1920s Chicago

Flappers Flapper References- Flappers
London's Roaring Twenties

Other Resources
Clever Girl Helps- Tagged 1920s

Fiction Books
The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libby Bray
Bright Young Things (Bright Young Things #1) by Anna Godbersen
Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) by Teri Brown
Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The 1920s

Skyline; a reporter's reminiscence of the 1920s. Fowler, Gene,

Babbitts and bohemians; the American 1920s. Stevenson, Elizabeth,

Jive at five : the style-makers of jazz, 1920s-1940s 

Middlebrow moderns : popular American women writers of the 1920s 

Rethinking the Great Depression / Gene Smiley.

Women of the Klan : racism and gender in the 1920s / Kathleen M. Blee.

The dame in the kimono : Hollywood, censorship, and the production code from the 1920s to the 1960s Leff, Leonard J.

The jazz age : the 20s / by the editors of Time-Life Books.

Six tales of the jazz age, and other stories. Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott)

Harlem speaks : a living history of the Harlem Renaissance / edited by Cary D. Wintz.

The rest is noise : listening to the twentieth century / Alex Ross.

Twentieth-century American fashion / edited by Linda Welters and Patricia A. Cunningham

Only yesterday; an informal history of the nineteen-twenties. Allen, Frederick Lewis

The twenties in America / editor, Carl Rollyson.

Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties / Ronald Berman.


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