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Posts Tagged ‘Yakuza’

DonkeyKanye West is a ‘jackass’.  And not because of his 2007 video for “Stronger” which used a genuine Japanese motorcycle gang in the video.

Here’s the 411 — President Obama ‘off-the-record’ called Kanye West a ‘jackass’ for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won.  You can listen to the audio HERE

Yes, Kanye did hand the microphone back to her, but like the 19 year old she is, she was overwhelmed and couldn’t speak.  Thus cementing her status as a singing teenage naif.   The ABC reporter, Terry Moran, who overheard the casual between-us-folks chatter — which is often a part of the technical set-up before an interview officially begins — tweeted yesterday that President Obama was “off the record” in an interview with CNBC which a few hundred thousand people @RT the Kanye ‘ass’ outing.

I have a new level of respect for Obama.  Calling out Kanye was the right thing to do.  Yet, the jackass quote was soon retracted!   ABC issued an apology to both CNBC and the White House (and removed the Tweet, but not before folks screen-grab images of it).  It’s difficult to know, but what if a Caucasian had stormed the stage and used such language to an African-American entertainer?  Yeah, I’m on thin ice with an inference to the “R” word, but it does create a moment of pause.  For those who think the entire event was scripted or “staged” then you’ll appreciate this site.

The losers in all of this is the American public.  Real stories can’t get traction.  Health care is too complex and we’ve got ADHD.  We’ve become a nation of public spectacles, gossip, and misinformation.  Sure frivolity has a place, but what we revere in popular culture has almost nothing of value.  Furthermore, who didn’t know the “K-man” had been acting like a jackass previously?  It’s like his jackassed-ness was his career.  Finally now he truly is a superstar!   Stay classy Kanye! 

You might think I’m over doing it here, but… People spend money dressing and living like rappers, going to the Palms in Vegas to splash in the pool while consuming overpriced liquor and flash hand signs.  In a “me” society, who can expect anybody to behave properly, with humility.  Twenty four hour news from one celebrity mishap to another not twenty four hours on explaining bills in Congress, or Supreme Court decisions.  We indeed need a readjustment.  But they need the ratings!

Kanye is, ratings.  For anybody who’s got a trinket to sell.  And we’re buying it! 

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Ever since watching the 1989 Ridley Scott directed movie Black Rain with Michael Douglas, I’ve been intrigued by the Japanese Yakuza. And after watching the recently released hi-def version of The Yakuza, a 1975 movie starring Robert Mitchum who takes on gangsters during Japan’s post-war occupation…I became intrigued how Japan biker gangs seem to imitate the U.S. clubs.

The Japanese word bōsōzoku is typically applied to biker gangs who share interest in modifications (often illegal) for motorcycles, such as removing the mufflers and engaging in dangerous street racing or reckless driving, such as weaving in traffic, running red lights or not wearing motorcycle helmets. There are bōsōzoku clubs throughout Japan, including female bike gangs (レディース, “ladies”), identified more by fashion statements and customized motorcycles. The club members take part in mass rallies and have run ins with the police. Having just returned from Sturgis this sounds very familiar.

Descended from medieval gamblers and outlaws, yakuza have been portrayed as latter-day samurai, bound by traditions of honor and duty and living extravagant lives. The Japanese Police estimate that full-fledged membership in yakuza groups fell to 41,500 last year, down from 43,000 in 2005, a decline they attribute to tighter laws against organized crime. However, the number of yakuza hangers-on, including thugs and members of motorcycle gangs, who are willing to do their dirty work, rose to 43,200.

The author of Yakuza Moon,” a best-selling memoir just out in English, written by the 39-year-old, Shoko Tendo writes about her father who was the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, the largest yakuza group, and how he led a “classic” life with Italian suits, imported cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Shoko was raised with strict ideas of honor, and was both spoiled and scolded by the tattooed men who frequented her home.

I plan to get/read the book and learn if this is a reflection of or an imitation of the U.S.

The Shoko Tendo photo above is from REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

UPDATE: Read the book and while interesting background on Tendo it doesn’t really explore the Japan motorcycle/gang element as much as you would have thought possible. Mostly about Shoko Tendo overcoming adversity in her life. It was a tough life and she has done well just to be alive! An easy read.

UPDATE: February 10, 2009 – the Mainichi Daily News reports Japan biker gangs (bosozoku) decline.

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