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Courtney Love in Festival Hall, Melbourne – As Raw as it Gets

Courtney Love in Festival Hall, Melbourne – As Raw as it Gets

courtney love

I don’t think anyone can say they have seen ‘raw’ performances until they have seen that of Courtney Love.

Let’s spare you, kind reader, of how old I was when I started listening to Hole, but I can tell you that Live Through This have been quite a big part of my teenage years, first finding its way to my hands from quite an idiosyncratic friend of mine.

As with many songs and albums, my appreciation of Hole’s and Courtney Love’s have changed over the years. As far as my memory allows me, I am conscious that I now react differently both to their music and lyrics. I am pretty confident that ‘Northern Star’ moves me in a way I don’t think it could have back then, and while I still love ‘Jennifer’s Body’, I have a newfound appreciation for ‘Gutless”s riffs.

It probably has to do with the fact that I am now about as old as Love when she wrote those songs.

As amazing as it would have been had I watched Hole back in the 1990s, it was not to be. But I managed to catch Courtney Love when she came to Melbourne recently.

What was it that I mentioned about rawness? Right. Imagine this amazing presence appearing in front of you and then proceeded to captivate you both through her striking physique (she is larger than life literally as well) and just her… wholeness.

Watching Love perform, I do not just see self-confidence (which, of course, oozes out of her like juice from an over-ripe watermelon), I see sadness, goofiness, anger, sexiness, strength, and just this amazing femininity…it is almost like this woman does not want to, and does not know how to, keep her cool, and, as so many people have said before, it is possible indeed to love her or hate her to pieces.

courtney love

I loved it.

On to the technicalities, the sound was a bit stumbling at first, but improved quickly. As I did not read any detailed concert reviews before going, I found myself pleasantly surprised, especially with ‘Gold Dust Woman’. ‘Gutless’ was played, so was ‘Rockstar’ (Ha, yeah, I agree with Ms. Love. That is quite a funny choice), some new ones of course, such as ‘You Know My Name’.

One thing that can be improved is my position. I wish I had gotten there earlier, so as to get my ass front and centre of the stage and requested ‘Never Gonna Be the Same’ and maybe exchange a word or two with that gorgeous woman.

Great show, even if the venue was a bit impractical.

The Amazing Usagi-chan!

As my previous post suggests, I am quite fond of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon series. A lot of people have written about how awesome this series is, and how it is so ahead of its time, so likeable and empowering, especially for girls.

So now I want to write about the main character, Usagi Tsukino herself, whose other identity is, of course, Sailor Moon. But I will in fact distance her from her Sailor Moon or Princess Serenity character and argue against a zero-to-hero depiction of Usagi-chan, because I think she is already amazing without having to be Sailor Moon. 

This piece has also been published in ShojoPower, which is quite an interesting website as well. The website master also helped choose and place the pictures used here. Thank you, Anne Lee!

How many of us has heard this description of the Sailor Moon storyline? “Usagi Tsukino, a junior high school crybaby, met a black cat named Luna and then…”

That is probably the easiest way to begin the story, but I find it over-simplifies the character of Usagi. This is evident in the wikia page as well, which says she is ‘Somewhat immature and a crybaby upon introduction, she slowly matures over the course of the series and learns how to make decisions for herself as well.’ 

There is no denying that Usagi is a crybaby. Her crying is actually part of her power (remember the supersonic waves and the crystal forming from her teardrop?). Even when she ceases to be a crybaby as she matures, she is still very much a sentimental person. I find there is so much more to Usagi as simply herself–before she discovers her identity as Princess Serenity or even Sailor Moon.

Standing beside the genius Ami, the domestic goddess Makoto, the boisterous Minako and the psychic, mature Rei, Usagi’s character can be overshadowed. It can be tempting to apply that simple ‘zero to hero’ formula to her. Her destiny is already so huge, what with saving the planet and all!

But destiny aside, the crybaby actually has commendable traits of her own,  apart from her identity as a sailor guardian and princess. In fact, these traits are quite enviable:

  1. Not one for prejudice.

Usagi simply likes to be with people. She is curious about them, likes to get to know more about them, and, if they are not a pain in the ass or are trying to kill her and everyone she loves, well, she likes them fine. The biggest evidence for this is the fact that Usagi plays the biggest role in bringing the sailor guardians together–and keeps them together. While the other students are scared of Ami’s brains and Makoto’s strength, she approached them, thinking, ‘They can’t be that bad, can they?’

A screenshot from Sailor Moon Crystal with Usagi hugging Ami and saying "Mizuno-san, you are awesome!"

Instead of being jealous of Rei’s looks, she follows her around because she is so interested! How many people can do that? Of course we also see that Rei doeshave a lot of female fans, so it is probably a cultural thing as well. 

It’s not that the other guardians are unfriendly. Minako can be a bit too friendly but there is a certain open-mindedness that Usagi has, that is either naïve, wise, or both. 

She is not competitive, and can easily accept that people can be prettier, stronger, and smarter than her, as long as they can get along with her, and perhaps rub their good traits on her. 

It could be that she simply doesn’t bother thinking too much and does not over-analyze things. I find it hard, especially as I grow older, to maintain that open-mindedness. I tend to judge, label, and not bother with certain people, and stick to those I feel I would get along better with. I wish I was more like Usagi.

2. Accepting

As I mentioned before, Usagi is not really a competitive person. This is probably a part of her whole attitude of taking it easy. For most of the story, we tend to see this trait as something that makes her simply easygoing and likeable, even a bit careless since it can lead to bad marks and being late for school.

But the final battle portrays her ability to accept things as they are to be of immense power. In my opinion, this attitude reflects a deep spiritual outlook of the world. The bad comes with the good, and you will always have to deal with them, no matter how hard they are, and at one point you might lose everything, only to make way for the future. And, as Mamoru says, Usagi is the type of person who can accept that.

3. Giving a hand

Clumsy as she is, Usagi is ready and willing to help others in need, be them her best friend, Naru, the other sailor guardians or Mamoru. A black cat wants the band-aids removed from her forehead? Usagi to the rescue! (OK, she ended up being late to school, but…poor kitty! Right?)

At times, she jumps in without much preparation and ends up regretting her decision, but that spontaneous impulse to help is most admirable. Now, won’t the world be a better place if we help each other? 

The Final Battle

All these traits are portrayed much more profoundly in the final scenes in Sailor Moon, where Usagi faces the bitter Galaxia and Chaos, her wings destroyed, and many of her loved ones have seemingly perished. 

Finally, when all is almost lost, she realizes the nature of the situation and her enemies and why is it that there seems to be a constant war surrounding her. They did, after all, come from the same source and beneath their animosity, they actually want to be united with her. Usagi then decides to embrace her enemies, embrace destiny, and jumps into the cauldron, where stars are born, to save her friends, not heeding her own fate and safety.

Aside from Mamoru, it is her ultimate enemy, Sailor Galaxia, who realizes this amazing ability to accept the losses along with the gains, and the good along with the bad, yes, even the really, really bad. 

Manga panel from Missdream.org. Sailor Galaxia wonders if Sailor Moon is the soldier who embraces all.

A crybaby she is, but Usagi is no zero waiting to be a hero.  

Rara Djonggrang Interpretation

Roro Djonggrang

Made as part of the website design for Tiger Stone, a novel by Deryn Mansell. 
A short description of the book taken from the website:
“It’s a mystery adventure set in 14th century Java. The story follows the exploits of Kancil, a girl who takes refuge in a remote inland village after she and her mother are hounded from their coastal home by an angry mob. The villagers, however, have their own prejudices and Kancil must pretend to be mute to hide her coastal origins. “

Roro Djonggrang, or Rara Jonggrang, is a character in a Javanese folk tale. 

The tale, as told in Wikipedia: 

“The legend tells the story about two ancient and neighbouring kingdoms in Java, Pengging and Boko.

Pengging was prosperous, and wisely ruled by its king Prabu Damar Moyo who had a son named Bandung Bondowoso. By contrast, Boko was ruled by a cruel man-eating giant named Prabu Boko, supported by another giant Patih Gupolo. Despite his unpleasant nature, Prabu Boko had a beautiful daughter named Rara Jonggrang.

The story relates that Prabu Boko desired to expand his kingdom, and so began training an army and raising taxes for an invasion of Pengging. His forces launch a surprise attack on Pengging, and the ensuring war causes devastation and famine on both sides. In order to defeat the invader, Prabu Damar Moyo sends his son Bandung Bondowoso to fight Prabu Boko. After a furious battle, Prabu Boko is killed by the prince’s supernatural powers. His assistant, the giant Patih Gupolo, leads his armies away from the battlefield in defeat.

Returning to Boko Palace, Patih Gupolo tells princess Rara Jonggrang of the death of her father. The princess is heartbroken, but before she can recover from her grief the Pengging army besieges and captures the palace. Prince Bandung Bondowoso is mesmerized by the beauty of the mourning princess and propose marriage, but his offer is swiftly rejected. Bandung Bondowoso insists on the union, and finally Rara Jonggrang agrees on two impossible conditions: first the prince must build a well named Jalatunda, and second, he must construct a thousand temples in only one night.

The lovestruck prince agrees, and immediately starts work on the well. Using his supernatural powers once again, the prince swiftly finishes construction and proudly displays his work for the princess. As a trick, she urges him to enter the well and when he does so, Patih Gupolo piles stones into it and buries him alive. With great effort Bandung Bondowoso escapes, but his love for the princess is so strong that he forgives her the attempt on his life.

To fulfill the second condition, the prince enters into meditation and conjures up a multitude of demon spirits from the earth. With their help he builds the first 999 temples and starts work on the final one. To thwart his efforts the princess and her maids light a fire in the east and begin pounding rice, a traditional dawn activity. Fooled into thinking the sun is about to rise, the spirits flee back into the earth leaving the last temple unfinished.

The prince is furious when he learns of this deception, and places a curse on Rara Jonggrang which turns her into a stone statue. In this way she herself becomes a feature of the final temple, completing its construction and fulfilling the conditions for their marriage.”

Now, Rara Jonggrang is supposed to play a part in Tiger Stone as well, although I am not quite sure in what form or how…

Rialto Melbourne (Almost) pre-coloring

Rialto Melbourne (Almost) pre-coloring

I was reminded to upload this sketch before I colored it. Ah well.

Somewhere/a new future/one of darkness and light will be born / There will be darkness and light/battle and hope / life and death / happiness and sadness / everything will happen again
I understand now why you seek my powers / It’s because you feel for it / The same way I feel about my friends and the people I love / We are all from lonely stars / and we seek to gather together as one
I will seek you out / I will embrace you all

(translation from http://missdream.org)

That’s not an extract from a Sufi or Buddhism book, but a quote from the final chapter of the Sailor Moon manga by Naoko Takeuchi.

Yes, yes, Sailor Moon’s tremendous popularity has probably led to many only knowing about miniskirts, fetishes and ridiculously long transformation of the sailors, but all that aside, it (especially the manga version) is still pretty awesome. Partly because of quotes like above.
I recently read that Takeuchi-sensei worked as a mika (priestess) in a temple when she attended university, where, if I remember correctly, she studied chemistry.

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I first came across her work in the translated form of ‘The Cherry Project’, and I fell in love with her drawing and narration style. The delicate lines, the painstaking details, the subtle words. There were also elements that I was instantly drawn to: the city skylines, the fashion, the pretty boys.

In Takeuchi-sensei’s manga, the world is romantic, glamorous and sexy. As a matter of fact, her works can be quite sexual, and even the appeal of Sailor Moon to children could not stop that. It can be controversial at times – remember the lesbian characters in Sailor Moon? –  but also somewhat naive, and, again, romantic. I get the feeling that she just loves the female body and loves to celebrate it, either by dressing them in nice clothes or just having them naked.

In the last authors’ note she said ‘when you are all grown up, read this again. You will get a different impression.’

Damn right. As with the manga I discussed before, ‘Haikara-san ga Tooru’, there are so many things in the story that you took for granted when you were a kid or a teenager. Although my opinion remains unchanged, sometimes the Sailor Moon storyline just repeats itself with different enemies (How many times have Tuxedo Kamen been kidnapped and brainwashed?).

Takeuchi-sensei is married now, and hopefully happy and healthy. But I read that some of her recent works (Love Witch and PQ Angels) didn’t quite work out for her :( Maybe it’s hard after you did something as successful as Sailor Moon? But she really shouldn’t worry about that! She is too awesome to worry!

Anyway, it’s her birthday today. Tanjoubi Omedetto, Takeuchi-sensei! Take care! Hope to see you someday!

Haikara-san ga Tooru, or, Happy Birthday Waki Yamato-sensei

When I was a snotty teen, I read the manga ‘Haikara-san ga Tooru’ (There Goes  Miss High Collar) by Waki Yamato-sensei. It tells  of the ‘high collar’, feminist, rambunctious female character Benio, whose adventures include being a journalist reporting to a misogynist boss, doing time behind bars, chasing after bandits, and, of course, falling in love, in the Taisho era that spans from 1912 to the 1920s.

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‘Haikara’ is still one of my favourite manga, particularly because of its bizarre humour. It often refers to the pop culture at that time (1970s)-thus it is only after watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show last year (it wasn’t that popular where I am from) that I get why that man in stockings keep appearing out of nowhere –  and some of the jokes are probably Japanese puns that until now I still don’t get anyway.

I  recently discovered that ‘Haikara’ won the 1st Kodansha Manga Award for Shoujo in 1977. like, THE first. Woah.

I also recently found out that Yamato-sensei’s influences also included Monty Phyton. A-ha!

All in all, ‘Haikara’ is hilarious. Partly because it just is, and partly because of the kooky Indonesian translation, which, in its own ways, also made lots of references to pop culture that are popular in Indonesia at that time. Interesting chemistry indeed. The Indonesian company that publishes ‘Haikara’ in the recent years have re-published the series, correcting the jumbled page mishap of the first effort. To my slight disappointment, however, the translation got a bit tamer this time.

Waki Yamato writes other great manga that are perhaps not as weird as ‘Haikara’ but still very enjoyable, such as Yokohama Monogatari (Yokohama Tale),  the touching Nemuranai Machi Kara (From the City that Never Sleeps), and, of course, one of her most famous works, Asakiyumemishi, the adaptation of the classic Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji).

Yamato-sensei’s works are often considered as ‘classic’ manga. Particularly in the artistic sense, perhaps. Those big, doe eyes with huge lashes, the facial characters that are more Western than Japanese, the long, long legs, and so on. In many of her works, the characters, particularly the female ones, are  open-minded, adventurous, willing to travel and accepting towards newcomers (Western people, oftentimes) but still very Japanese.

And, you know what, it’s her birthday today, so omedettou to her (anyone know where to write her fanmail? Do let me know!)

Now, if Benio was a journo in 2014, maybe this would be the style she sports (gee, it’s been a long time since I draw manga, and, if anything, my skills have not improved in it :D)
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And yep, I am serious about the fan mail. I have no idea whether she uses the internet at all actually, but I would like to wish her a happy birthday anyway and I hope she is happy and healthy. I can’t even write in Japanese to her because after all these years of on and off learning my Japanese is still not that good yet.  I would like to meet her one day ( I hope she’s nice) :)

Red Head Walking

Red Head Walking

You know, that Beat Happening song.

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