Culture Envy

I almost want to skip this subject because it seems like I cannot defend American culture properly. On my latest post about Anime I seemed to have ruffled some feathers, and in particular the feathers of someone that I actually like and consider a good friend. I had to take a step back and talk to a couple of people about the subject before I could really formulate an opinion and I ended up more confused than I even started.

Asian cultures have been interesting to me since before I moved to the U.S. The Japanese tea ceremony was probably one of of the ones that shocked me the most. At school at a very young age we were taught about cultures and their differences. I was then made aware of how different we ate from other cultures. It almost felt impossible to put that much effort into serving tea just the perfect way, but that was their culture. Also how it was ok for some cultures to pick up food with their hands and not for others.

I think I am a pretty culturally diverse person, not because I like Japanese cartoons or practiced a Korean (Tae Kwon Do) and Chinese (Kung Fu). I think it has a lot more to do with my willingness to accept and learn about differences. I can tell the difference between someone from Thailand or the Philippines, as well as know that calling a Korean, Chinese or Japanese is as wrong as when someone calls me a Mexican. Don’t get me wrong, it took time and effort on my part. I used to think everyone in China and India spoke the same language.

When looking at cultures we have to be able to understand the role that ethics play. The concepts of right and wrong, good and evil make up the set of rules that a society lives by. That is probably one of the cornerstones of what makes up a culture. The way we look at sexuality its a big part of a culture. I believe it is very important to know where the set of rules is coming from.

I realized that a lot of the morality infused in American culture has a lot to do with religion. I have always felt that your morals can come partly from religion, but it should not be the sole source. What troubles me even more is that maybe ethics in the American society come only from religion. Morality being that part of ethics that refers to the concept of right and wrong. I think it is very important to know where our morals come from and not just accept what we are being told. I feel that American culture is dictated more by a preset set or rules than by discussion and people coming up with their own conclusions.

I have heard the argument again and again about sex on TV. I think that there are a lot more immoral things on TV than a pair of breasts. This almost declared marshal law after one breast was exposed in the Superbowl. Everyone`s argument was that kids were watching, and so what? Are kids going to be more emotionally affected by an exposed breast than the dry humping on soap operas or the suggestiveness in beer commercials?

I don’t believe that American is more puritanical than any other culture. It is very subjective. For example hair in private places is not something that is allowed to be shown in all cultures. Does that mean that because sexual entertainment in the US includes showing private hair it makes us more progressive?

I made the statement that Japanese culture is “richer” than US culture and I was wrong. While it is a culture with more history it does not make it “richer”. Since it is subjective, ever changing and unquantifiable the concept of culture richness is almost a mute point. I think all cultures have something to offer and unfortunately they all carry a certain stigma. I guess the secret is in not judging a book by its cover and being able to open up to new experiences. I know I am a lot happier of a person for having tried Ja Jang Myon.


Otaku is defined by the wikepedia as a Japanese term sometimes used pejoratively to refer to people with obsessive hobbies, most commonly manga or anime. If either of those last terms are not familiar to you it is time for you to learn.

Bookstores in the US now have manga available in their graphic novel’s sections. While it is not as hard as it used to be an anime and manga fan as it used to be back in the 90’s, it still carries the stigma associated with the genre. Like martial arts, often mistaken for a way to learn to beat people up, manga and anime are equated to either overly cutesy characters or animate porn.

As you might have noticed, I gave up on finishing the world is flat and have placed a manga as my current reading. The book was just way too boring and since I have not been in an airport in a while, I have not had a chance to finish that book. I completely lost interest even though it was a pretty good book. I actually purchased my first manga book and chose Genshiken as the first series I will actually own.

The series starts with the main character coming to terms with who he is, an anime geek. In Japan, an otaku is someone that is addicted to pretty much any hobbie… kind of like the word geek here can be attached to any hobbie to emphasize complete and at times sick devotion. The term otaku here in the us, is more used by anime and manga fans to express their devotion to the hobbie.

When I wrote this post I had not come to terms with my otaku nature just yet. Even though I expressed my love for anime since I was young, I was not completely out about how much I truly think it is a form of art just as relevant as movies are; and at times even more relevant.

Most people think of anime as just a series of cartoons that have a lot of sex mixed in. People do not realize that outside the U.S. sexuality is not as taboo as it is here. Sexuality does not equal perversion, and while there is a genre inside of anime called hentai that can be quite perverse, most anime that have some sexuality on it do it for humor than for stimulation.

The story telling in anime is at times far more complex than anything that hollywood has to offer. The way images are used to replace dialog is something that its hard to get used to at first, but then you start craving. A reflection of the moon on a lake, or the perfect blossom of a cherry tree carry a lot more feeling than overinflated dialog.

24 and Lost are all the rage now. Storylines that twist and turn have been an element in manga and anime for quite some time now, yet to the American audience almost seems like a new concept. The way characters in the Matrix moved and how the whole world looked was heavily influenced by anime. In Japan anime and manga are as big as Hollywood is here.

There are many reasons to love anime, but I think discovering it on your own is a lot more fun. I have had a couple of people ask me where they should start and I do have a couple of recommendations. If you like comic books, or did as a kid… I say start with manga. You can get it online, but the best way is to take a trip to your local bookstore and browse the anime section. I would recomend Rurouni Kenshin if you like history, Cowboy beebop if you like Sci-fi, or Genshiken for an introduction to humor in the manga world. If you prefer movies, I would say that you need to rent Ghost in the Shell if you like sci-fi, My Neighbor Totoro for just a simple story or Akira but be careful with this one… you might not get it the first time you watch it. I think anyone that can appreciate art and good storytelling will be able to enjoy anime. Just be open minded and when you see something that you do not understand feel lucky that you are discovering another culture.

Yes it is MONDAY!

And I hope it is going to be an excellent one. Not for any particular reason, but because I do not want to get a case of the Mondays. At many of the companies I have worked for, Mondays have been the days of sleepy people and piled up work. So, I am going to try and give you something else to look forward to and make a funny post every Monday. I tried to start a meme before, but that requires thinking… so Logtar`s Loony Lunes is back and lets see if we can get a laugh.

Funny Analog Joke

“Hi? Is this the mental hospital?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Can I speak to Mr. Scott in room ten?
“One moment and I’ll connect you …. I’m sorry, Mr. Scott in not answering.”
“Good. That means I must have really escaped.”

Funny Strip of the week.
Read more Yes it is MONDAY!