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Marxy on New Weezer Video


I have an essay on the new Weezer video up at the Anthem Magazine website.

W. David MARX
May 28, 2008

Shimazaki in Shanghai

Joel Martinsen’s “Willow fluff and trashy romance novels” is a great read on the topic of Zhang Ziping, an early 20th-C. Chinese novelist who borrowed freely from Japanese sources. (Anyone know what “归儿日” might be?)

May 27, 2008

The Normalization of Hostessing

Hostessing an honorable profession, young women say

I had never seen any polls backing up the thesis outlined in the article title, but the larger youth culture definitely pointed signs towards a general acceptance of hosts and hostessing. I mean, the hottest subcultural styles in recent years have been O-nii-kei for boys and Koakuma Gyaru for girls — admittedly “yankee” delinquent fashion looks, but both based on idolizing people in the mizu shoubai nightlife. Now thanks to marketer-extraordinaire Miura Atsushi, we see that about a quarter to a third of young women are pretty comfortable with “lighting pathetic smelly old misogynist patriarchs’ cigarettes” as a career aspiration.

You don’t have to be a moral crusader to be upset about this development. Wanting to become a hostess either requires an incredible lack of imagination or just chronic disillusion at work opportunities for women. Being a hostess is not a “long-term career,” but when your options as a woman are being a “secretary” or a “serious employee who has to drop out of the management track once pregnant,” hostessing looks like an equally winning destination. And when you work as an “office lady,” you have to flatter the exact same suits every day for much less money than a hostess. You can at least change out your assigned salarymen every 30 minutes as a hostess.

The main problem with the ensuing Sankei Shimbun moral outrage, however, is that this is clearly a product of social stratification. Dead is the idea that anybody can work hard enough to become a successful white collar employee. If you have no college degree and live in some godforsaken Iwate Prefecture village, what other options do you have upon arriving in Tokyo, with no money and no social capital, than to become a hostess. Imagine more and more people every year falling out of the middle class, and now hostessing makes more and more sense as an occupation.

By some estimates, 30% of professional models moonlight as cabaret hostesses.

This is only half the story. The real scoop here is that professional modeling agencies own and operate hostess clubs at which they employ their less popular models. Yes, if you want to be a model in Japan, your agency will basically half-pimp you out to Roppongi and Ginza to serve on entertainment executives while you are “in training.” If one of the corporate media bosses likes you, he will go to your agency head and say, “Hey, I like that girl Miho,” and they’ll say, “Which one is Miho? Oh you mean Kaho. Same bitch, thousand names, right? Ha ha. Okay, maybe we can let her be a model now instead of treating her like an indentured semi-sexual servant.” And the media guy will say, “Let us treat her like an indentured semi-sexual servant.” Then they’ll both laugh and money will change hands. Seriously, can you think of a better fly trap for hostesses than opening a “model agency”?

Screed aside, I blame the male customers for all this. There are a million hostessing jobs because there are ten million guys who are so inept with talking to normal women that they happily pay ¥6000 for an hour of “banter” and Suntory Old on the rocks. Prostitution is a universal; “kyabakura” is an aggregate of guys who need a pep talk and to learn to think about their own wives as human beings.

W. David MARX
May 23, 2008

Run to Your Grave


No surprise that Japanese companies are some of the world’s most active YouTube clip executioners. I am sure they are only taking video off YouTube so that they can go and monetize their own archives themselves… Who am I kidding? There won’t be a move towards making past material available to viewers until Japanese TV stations are no longer run by 200 year-old zombies afraid of electricity who spend half their day filing receipts for hostess clubs.

I am exaggerating though. They aren’t actual zombies.

W. David MARX
May 22, 2008

sticky, messy, and sweet


hpgrp gallery New York presents “Sticky, Messy, and Sweet”
May 23rd, 2008 – June 21st, 2008

It seems these days that Japanese art is hot or new or one of the next great things. Murakami’s enormous retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is an obvious milestone but the range of group shows and smaller exhibitions in galleries through out the city in the past year or two featuring art by Japanese artists have grown exponentially. Curator and Little Cakes gallerist Hanna Fushihara Aron presents her perspective on an under recognized faction of Japanese artists.

“Sticky, Messy, and Sweet” focuses on a particularity found not only in contemporary Japanese art but also in its culture where at first glance things may look candy colored sweet but there are other layers and depths which are opposite to the stereotypically orderly and clean image that outsiders have of Japan. The country being both historically xenophobic and self-conscious has the tendency to hide the unkempt, obsessive, or perverted underbelly. As one example, many have not heard about the growing number of young homeless in Japan. As seen in a recent NHK (Japan’s PBS) documentary, teenage runaways use “Manga Kissa” or “Manga Cafes” as cheap places to sleep overnight. The tiny rooms normally used to surf the net or sit and read comics offer only a lounge chair to sleep sitting upright in. During the day these kids might wear Hello Kitty bottled perfume to hide their unwashed body odor and sport their one and only in style outfit but at night they go back into the world of shadows. Another example can be seen in Mike Mills’ documentary “Does your soul have a cold?” which follows five people living with depression in Japan, a nation where the word for depression has only started to be known widely for less than ten years. Anyone “sick” should not be seen. Anyone with a hint of the sniffles should wear a face mask to protect others from getting sick.

This is not to say that this show is about depressing subject matter. On the contrary, the show is brightly colored and swirls with emotions and spontaneity. The references made were to give an idea of “What is shown widely” and “What is not shown as widely” especially when it comes to what is representative of Japan. “Sticky, Messy, and Sweet” shows other existences and experiences contrary to the slick and commodified or cutesy beyond belief. Although some the participants have graduated from prestigious art schools both in Japan and the United States, the others are more self-taught and could be referred to as being somewhat “Otaku”, fixated on anime or manga or on any other hobby, which in and of itself labels them to be outside the masses.

Some of the artwork in this show physically represents all three adjectives in the title; some a combination of two. Ai Tsuchikawa’s obsessive drawings filled with miniature fishy shmoo characters, rainbow flares and wirls are drawn on taped together pieces of paper, her installations of found objects covered in plastic “slime” epitomizes the idea of “Sticky, Messy, and Sweet”. Yui Kugimiya’s thick and goopy oil paintings cut and sectioned by colorful strands of yarn are gross and cute at the same time. Mumbleboy (pictured above) and Reiko Tada use craft to get sticky and messy. Gunji Yusuke uses scotch tape to put together little plastic bubbles holding drawings as if they were idea bubbles. Chie Fukao uses what is immediately around her like her own bed sheets to make an imaginary rabbit character’s resting area. Akinori Shimodaira uses simple, translucent brush strokes to create his dreamy, blurry, paintings.

With this show, the curator hopes to give a glimpse of another side of the Japanese psyche; one that goes beyond the polite exterior. She hopes to delve deeper and explore the more untamed.

hpgrp gallery New York
32-36 Little West 12th Street, 2nd Floor
(Between 9th Avenue & Washington Street)
New York, NY 10014


Gallery Hours – Tue-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-6pm

May 21, 2008

Wordshape fonts on myfonts


MyFonts is now an official distributor of my type foundry, Wordshape’s typefaces. Stroll on by to pick up the now heavily discounted Cooper Black Swash Italic and/or Rubber Vloeren.

Cooper Black Swash Italic is a true digitization of Cooper Black’s swash characters which never made the jump from phototype to digital form. Most designers have settled for using the (IMHO) far inferior Goudy Heavyface swash characters in lieu of the more friendly Cooper O.G. action.

Rubber Vloeren is a digital adaption of Piet Zwart‘s lettering for old pre-linoleum rubber flooring advertisements. The same Rubber Vloeren alphabet was used by Zwart on several other occasions. There’s a showing in Dutch Type by Jan Middendorp of the most spectacular version: a gold-on-blue version on ceramic tiles made for the First Church of Christ Scientist in The Hague when working for the architect Berlage.

May 20, 2008

The Japanese Office

As some may have noticed, I have an “in” at the American version of The Office, so I tend to think about the show a lot. For the last few years, I would often meditate on why the formula would not work in Japan and came to the conclusion that the premise too strongly attacks the sanctity of corporate life.

Sure, there are plenty of office comedies in Japan, and many poke fun at ridiculous bureaucratic conventions. But the UK/US Office centers around the following ideas:

1. Work is an ultimately meaningless set of tasks
2. Your immediate boss is an idiot
3. Your corporate overlords are evil

These concepts are very familiar to anyone who has worked at an office in the United States. “Real life” and individual identity are intentionally kept distant from what happens at work. In the show, the secretary Pam secretly wants to be a graphic designer. Dwight likes his job but wears multiple hats in his afterhours as a beet farmer and a volunteer deputy sheriff. Michael seems to be the only one to unequivocally love his job, and he is basically a walking billboard for the human travesty of “Work.” While not “hippie” or Bohemian in appearance, The Office depends upon a post-’60s, anti-The Organization Man outlook on corporate ennui. Jobs are square, bosses are The Man — no matter how hard they try to be “with it.” Without this anti-corporate framework, The Office cannot create humor.

My guess is that these underlying digs at work life are still too pointed for mainstream Japanese TV. (Imagine Sazae-san incriminating the Japanese government and its corporate allies for presidential assassinations like in The Simpsons.) Just as the SNL parody shows the workers all bowing profusely to the Boss when the Japanese Jim and Dwight argue over the stapler-in-jello, putting the American Office‘s attitudes towards working life on Fuji TV or something would force Japanese TV executives to kowtow towards their advertisers. What is good for giant Japanese corporations is still good for Japan. TV stations, ad agencies, third-rate paper companies — these all contribute to the dignity and vitality of the nation. Being a good citizen means being a good worker.

The Office‘s horribly-boring, sterile “workplace” set is meant to visually represent the environmental blandness of low-level companies. In Japan, all companies essentially use the exact same desk layout, whether cool TV network or leading ad agency or fashion magazine, and this means an attack on a the physical space of selling paper in Scranton, PA is basically an attack on all Japanese companies.

Yes, the SNL parody is “racist” in the sense that they’d never dare dress up their white cast as The Office (Nairobi edition) and that they simplify Japanese customs to easily recognizable punchlines. But this is the closest we will see the Office in Japan. This country is just not burdened with internal contradictions of corporate life like in the West. Yanks and Brits want to bash their day jobs while still showing up every day or justify their own poor performance by placing “reality” outside of the office walls. The Japanese spend 12 hours a day at work and correctly assess that those tasks and affiliations create their “identity.” Debasing the office is not just heresy, it’s an insult to all those good citizen-workers.

W. David MARX
May 20, 2008


New sketchbook

I am amped to announce a number of new eco-friendly paper goods I designed for the Tenth & Grant line of paper goods. A few new greeting cards are out, as well as a Moleskine-esque gridded sketchbook with a pattern inspired by Japanese Modern 50s graphics.

Details on the sketchbook:
A handsome dark green on light green web pattern spans the entire front and back cover of this chipboard notebook. Perfect bound with a handy hinge-score, and 144 interior white pages. 100% recycled paper! Printed with soy inks! Perfect bound with a handy hinge-score, and 144 interior white pages. Forest and Avocado – 5″x6.75″ – gridded interior.

See it here.

May 19, 2008

Most Belabored Brand Name Award


A new ladies line from United Arrows.

How did they come up with such a catchy and succinct name? They took everyone’s favorite Jesus-friendly aromatic resin frankincense, replaced the “kin” part with “queen,” and then changed the “cense” to “sense” to indicate “having good sense.”

Now, I don’t mean to be sacrilegious or anything, but I don’t think the “kin” in frankincense is supposed to be “king” without the final g. The word is clearly a combination of “Frank” and “incense.” At this rate, the sister brand to Franqueensense is going to be Mxxrrh. Or maybe Fucqueen.

W. David MARX
May 16, 2008

Eau d'autobus scolaire

On rainy days, the Inokashira train line smells exactly like a 1970s era school bus.

W. David MARX
May 14, 2008

New video for Qoob/Alfa Romeo

QOOB+Alfa Romeo

The fine folks at QOOB have commissioned myself and 9 others to create original new short films promoting Alfa Romeo’s new car, the Mi.To. These films are the kickoff to a large film-making contest and a larger ad campaign.

Audio Dregs head honcho and all-time homie numero uno E*Rock kicked down a smoking original track for the video.

Thanks, QOOB!

May 11, 2008

Neojaponisme in Theme

Theme Magazine Néojaponisme gets a nice write-up in the new issue of Asian culture magazine Theme (Issue 14).

W. David MARX
May 9, 2008

Marxy - Forty Years From Now


My new album Forty Years from Now is finally out! The first quote-unquote single “Cat vs. Mouse” is available for free download and features vocals from UT of the band Kiiiiiii and production from Pandatone. The twelve-song album was recorded, mixed, and mastered in various recording studios and bedrooms across Tokyo and New York City.

For those interested in purchasing a physical copy, either order from my label Music Related or retailers like Other Music, Darla, DotShop (Sweden), Parasol, Warszawa (Japan), and HMV Japan. (Those U.S.-residents ordering from Music Related get a free orange-vinyl 7″ from Japanese picopop bands MacDonald Duck Eclair and Micro Mach Machine.) Digital downloads are available from Other Music, Amazon, Boomkat (UK), Rhapsody, and iTunes. (Those links go directly to my album page where you can hear samples of the tracks.)

Thanks to Néojaponisme Art Director Ian Lynam for the cover design.

W. David MARX
May 7, 2008

Panda diplomacy with Japanese characteristics

I guess many MのT readers are also subscribed to Itai News, but this pile-on is too beautiful to go unnoticed. Let me break it down:

  1. Ueno Zoo’s last panda, Ling Ling, dies.
  2. Beloved Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintarō says “It’s not like it’s a sacred artifact or anything, does it really matter whether we have a panda or not?” (御神体じゃないんだから、いてもいなくてもいいんじゃないの) and “Look, living things die. That has to include pandas, right? The world’s getting smaller, so if you want to see one go to where they are and take a look.” (生きてるものは死ぬんだから。パンダだって死ぬだろうし。世界は狭くなったんだから、見たけりゃいるとこ行って見てきたらいい)
  3. Panda merchandisers outraged: “Why would [he] say such a thing when everyone loved that panda so much?” asks a woman working at Sakuragi-tei, which sells “panda-yaki”. (Her words are described as a “KY [kūki yome] outburst”. Work it, Yomiuri!) Kono Shinji, “panda sable” vendor, warns that the governor is ignoring the “national sentiment” (国民感情).
  4. 2ch posters outraged at the outrage: “Why should we have to keep a panda just so these stores can stay in business?” “Who are you to decide what the national sentiment is?” I knew those 2channelers were contrary, but damn. They don’t even like adorable, cuddly pandas!
  5. Replenishing the zoo’s panda supply would mean renting one from China, a prospect at which, according to the Yomiuri, the phones at Ueno Zoo are ringing off the hook: “Panda rental is too expensive” (Kobe Zoo is apparently paying ¥100,000,000 per year for their pandas, and not earning it back), “I don’t want to rent a panda from China [because they are oppressing Tibet]“, etc. I note in passing that no proof, names, or hard figures on call volume are offered for this part of the story.

Ueno Zoo must know that they ain’t ever gonna recapture the magic of the 1986 birth of Tong Tong. The Bubble is over, the kids are mopey and don’t go on healthy, sweater-wearing dates to the zoo any more… but pandas are Ueno Zoo’s thing. What else are they gonna do?

May 5, 2008



Tonight in Los Angeles: A celebration of ten years of LOST, L.A.’s primero graffiti magazine, celebrating the anniversary and the release of the new LOST book.

The book contains highlights of the past decade editor/designer EyeOne has spent documenting LA writing. Includes imagery by Atlas (if you haven’t caught the documentary on his work, watch it now!), Pale, Cab, Haeler, and more. Screenprinted board covers, numbered limited edition of 2000.

Even if you are not a graffiti fan per se, the LOST book is a must-have for folks interested in Angeleno culture. More about LOST here.

LOST is a picture-perfect example of designer as author. I’m proud to have written the foreword for it.

May 3, 2008