Saturday, March 01, 2008

Japan's L'Arc-en-Ciel Devotes First "Kiss" to Shanghai

Japanese rock band L'Arc-en-Ciel performs at Shanghai Grand Stage in September, 2005. The band is staging a comeback show in Shanghai to kick off its first world tour. [File Photo: yule.sohu.com]

Popular Japanese rock band L'Arc-en-Ciel, who played a sold-out show in Shanghai in 2005, is staging a comeback show in the eastern Chinese city to kick off its first world tour.

The four-member band will begin its "Kiss" tour with a concert at Shanghai's Yuanshen Stadium on April 19, the local Oriental Morning Post reported on Thursday.

L'Arc-en-Ciel, founded in 1991, is characterized by high-energy live shows. Their Chinese mainland debut at the Shanghai Grand Stage in 2005 drew a packed house, though tickets sold for as much as 5,000 yuan (US$698).

A representative of the Shanghai International Culture and Art Exchange Company, the organizer of the upcoming show, told the Oriental Morning Post that L'Arc-en-Ciel chose to begin their world tour in Shanghai because the group was very impressed during their last visit.

"However, despite the success of the 2005 show, the band thinks the indoor Shanghai Grand Stage is not the best venue for their style of rock," the representative said. The band picked Yuanshen Stadium after a long search, so fans can expect an even more explosive show this time around, he added.

Around 16,000 tickets will go on sale on Friday, with prices ranging from 150 to 3,000 yuan (US$21 - 419).

The organizer is already swamped with ticket inquiries, including many from Japan, the report says.

Following the Shanghai show, L'Arc-en-Ciel is set to play in Paris, Seoul and Hong Kong. They will return to Japan in late May for shows in Tokyo and Osaka.


Dude, where's my G-spot?

Recent media hyperbole has Violet Blue wondering where the G-spot wandered off to, again

Thursday, February 28, 2008

OK, so I was at NOPA last night drinking a delicious absinthe cocktail, and my male companion said something rude, so I left. I was angry: I packed up my pussy and went home, and yes, I know should not have been driving after a cocktail. But when I woke up the next morning, I could find only my keys.

I spent the afternoon wandering around the Castro trying to find where I parked my G-spot. Only to discover that when I got home, some Italian researchers had told the press that I might not have even had one in the first place. How the hell did I get home?

Full disclosure: I just wrote a book called The Smart Girl's Guide to the G-Spot (see also tinynibbles.com/gspot), with fresh facts — and it's a take-no-prisoners, hold the granola guide to the fact that every single biological female has a G-spot (and how to have fun with it).

So why the new controversy about the G-spot?

Perhaps because in Italy last week, someone did some G-spot spelunking using the "two hands and a flashlight" method. The BBC reported:

"The latest research, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, was carried out (by) the Dr. Emmanuele Jannini at the University of L'Aquila, and involved just 20 women.

Ultrasound was used to measure the size and shape of the tissue beyond the 'front' wall of the vagina, often suggested as the location of the G-spot. In the nine women who reported being able to achieve vaginal orgasm, the tissues between the vagina and the urethra — which carries urine out of the body — were on average thicker than in the 11 women who could not reach orgasm this way."

Reading this reminded me of the good old days of Plato's wandering uterus. Remember those? Good times. Mine always wanders back, like a raccoon in the Haight that remembers where you used to set out the cat food. I love rehashed myths — especially about the existence of the G-spot — but the piece about Jannini's study in New Scientist distorts the accuracy of anatomical fact even further:

"For the first time it is possible to determine by a simple, rapid and inexpensive method if a woman has a G-spot or not," says Emmanuele Jannini ... Those women who suspect they may not have a G-spot need not despair. "They can still have a normal orgasm through stimulation of the clitoris," Jannini says."

Once again, the G-spot has become "elusive." There's something that may or may not be missing in your sexual bits that'll make you deficient as a woman, and the whole thing reeks of ... oh, wait. Read the fine print and you'll see that Pfizer sponsored the study. Maybe Big Pharma and not City Tow has my damn G-spot, after all.

Don't believe the newest round of G-hype. The G-spot is not a riddle wrapped inside a mystery surrounded by an enigma, and there is no doubt that every woman has one. It's not buried deep in our "mystery caves," nor do we need help finding it, nor are our lovers going to end up on the FAIL blog if they can't "hit it."

News flash to news outlets: The vagina ceased to be a mystery at least 40 years ago. The G-spot is a real, tangible thing, and you can even see it if you have a bio-vagina, or know someone who will let you take a G-peep. It is a real place inside the body, and you don't need ultrasound to find it. And again, I'll contradict the reporting and say that yes, some women find it to be incredible for orgasms, while others don't like the sensation so much. It isn't a "magic button" for all girls: But that in no way means a woman cannot have, enjoy, or break windows all the way down to Twin Peaks and back screaming in joy from vaginal orgasms.

Myths about the G-spot you're seeing in these mainstream news sources:

  • Not every woman has one.
  • Every woman likes G-spot stimulation.
  • There's a test to find it, and only one "right" way to touch it.
  • Touching it will make you incontinent, and female ejaculation is urine. (It is not.)
  • Any other orgasms are inferior to a G-spot orgasm.

If you're squeamish about female anatomy, skip the next two paragraphs, but if you want to know what the hell a G-spot is or why anyone wants to find one, read on because I'm about to describe the Batcave, and why Batgirl rode a motorcycle.

Yes, the clitoris is our smug little princess of pleasure on the outside, but just inside the entrance to the vagina — forward on the body, toward the bellybutton (or City Hall, from my house, wave "Hi" to Gavin!). This is where urine exits the female body, and you can see it. It is called the urethra. She, to the best of my knowledge, is not in (or yet sainted by) the local chapter of our Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, but she damn well should be.

The urethra is your marker for this buried treasure, or pirate booty, depending on your approach. Surrounding the urethra, varying in size, and beneath the urethra and surrounding vaginal wall is an area of spongy erectile tissue, similar to that of the penis. This tissue is interconnected with the complex clitoral system and laced with little glands. Generally speaking, it's about 1-2 inches inside the vagina. Sometimes it can feel really good when a girl is turned on and firm massage or vibration is applied; sometimes it just makes you feel like you have to pee — not a very sexy feeling for a number of people.

It's a complex bundle of joy, but it's not an either/or equation, nor do you need Google Maps to find it. Maybe Google Street View. But research has supported our Gs for decades (see my book and Rebecca Chalker's "The Clitoral Truth," "Our Bodies, Ourselves" and Whipple and Perry's ancient tome based on all their research papers "The G-Spot"). So the news just isn't news at all.

I mean hell — they don't even tell you why it's called a "G." It's so girls can kick your ass at Scrabble, of course.

Boy cafes and sexy comics feed Japan's girl geek boom

By Sophie HardachThu Feb 28, 9:16 PM ET

At Edelstein boarding school, the schoolboys wear lip-gloss, the headmistress has a weakness for homoerotic comic books, and there is only one subject: how to serve female visitors.

Welcome to Tokyo's first schoolboy cafe, the latest in a flurry of eateries in Japan where customers and waiters role play themes from manga comics.

In keeping with the schoolboy theme, waiters with manicured hands and soft voices pretend to be teenage students, chatting and flirting with well-dressed Japanese women playing the roles of benefactresses visiting the school.

On a Saturday in January, the cafe, which opened late last year, was packed with giggling customers.

"Most of our customers are office ladies in their twenties and thirties, women who are fashionable but normal," said Emiko Sakamaki, Edelstein's 27-year-old manager, herself dressed in a loose mini-dress over skinny jeans and knee-high boots.

Edelstein is based on one of Sakamaki's favourite comic books, a 1970s cult classic about romance at a German school.

Its visitors are united by a passion for such "boy-love manga", or comics about boy-boy romance for female readers -- a genre that is currently undergoing a huge revival in Japan.

Most boy-love manga feature dreamy, feminine-looking male characters. The same beauty ideal guides Sakamaki when she selects the waiters who talk about their pretend homework and studies at Edelstein.

"I'm in the flower arrangement club," whispers one girlish, long-haired waiter at the cafe, looking up from the book of German poetry he is reading.

RACY BOY-LOVE

Role-play cafes for men have long been popular in Tokyo. Most revolve around waitresses dressed as French maids and target "otaku" -- geeky fans of comics and animation movies.

One of the reasons that role-play and dressing up are so popular in Japan is that they allow people to briefly escape the extreme social control and rigid norms of everyday life, anthropologists say.

The otaku market, from animation movies to computer games and accessories, totalled 187 billion yen (870,000 pounds) in 2007, according to entertainment research firm Media Create.

But recently, businesses have discovered another type of free-spending Japanese consumer: the female otaku, who tends to be better-looking, trendier, and more sociable than her male counterpart.

One of the defining feature of the female otaku is their love for manga comic books, especially boy-love manga.

"There are two reasons why this place is so popular. Firstly, this kind of cafe environment for women doesn't exist much in Tokyo," says Sakamaki, who also invented Tokyo's first "butler cafe" for females.

"And secondly," she adds, "there are now a lot of girls who like animation movies and comics."

Around 150 boy-love manga and magazines are published every month in Japan, according to Eureka, a literary magazine.

In the women's section of the Aoyama book shop, around the corner from Edelstein, the latest boy-love titles are stacked between books with saccharine pink covers promising sweet tales of pop stars and athletes.

The easily shocked should avoid taking a closer look.

The new generation of boy-love manga such as "All about J" and "Don't Say Anymore, Darling" features carefully drawn, often violent sex scenes, ranging from anal and oral sex to bondage and male gang rape.

Sakamaki sees the genre as a form of escapism.

"These types of people don't exist in reality, they only exist in comics," she says, referring both to the manga and to the kind of atmosphere she is trying to create at Edelstein.

"In boy-love comics, beautiful, fragile boys are often placed close to death. That gives them a shadow and makes them even more beautiful."

In a recent column in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Kanta Ishida, a journalist specializing in manga, said the genre also offers an alternative to traditional gender roles in Japan.

The comics reflect "a yearning for relationships with interchangeable roles that are free from fixed ideas about gender," he wrote.

"ROTTEN GIRLS"

Over beer and fried pork at a bar in Tokyo's noisy and neon-lit Shibuya district, three Japanese aged around 30 talk about male and female otaku, or "fujoshi" as these women are also called -- "rotten girls".

All three describe themselves as otaku, yet none of them fits the geeky cliche. Two are male magazine editors. One is a female assistant at a gallery owned by a fashion label.

Kana Satomi, the 28-year-old gallery assistant, recalls a recent visit to the Edelstein cafe.

"I went there with a group of friends, and we were talking to the waiters and to each other, saying -- did you see that, that was cute -- that kind of thing," she says.

Male otaku, on the other hand, tend to avoid communication as best as they can.

Sampling the fried pork, 30-year-old Takashi Kudo shares his own theory about the sudden excitement over female otaku.

"Male otaku became a huge business, and then that kind of marketing reached a limit. So the marketing companies wondered what they could do next," he said. "And then they discovered that fujoshi can also be big business."

Sakamaki, the schoolboy cafe manager who has tapped that market so successfully, is already onto her next idea: a cafe modelled along 1920s Japan. That would match another big trend among Japanese youth -- nostalgia for pre-war Japan.

(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota; editing by Megan Goldin)

"Meteor Garden" Set for Korean Remake

A promotional photo of the Taiwan group F4 (from L to R): Vanness Wu, Vic Zhou, Jerry Yan and Ken Chu. The four actors rose to fame for their roles in the TV drama Meteor Garden, since then they have been referred to as F4, which the four characters in the serial named themselves. [Photo: sohu.com]

Taiwan's smash hit television drama "Meteor Garden" will soon be made into a Korean version, South Korean media reported.

The remake is scheduled to be screened in late 2008, with twenty-four 70-minute episodes. The cast has not been announced yet, the report said.

The high school-based romance serials, adapted from a Japanese manga, have won extreme popularity in the Chinese-speaking world and catapulted the five leads, Barbie Hsu, Vanness Wu, Vic Zhou, Jerry Yan and Ken Chu, to immediate stardom when it first aired in 2001.

A Japanese version, "Hana Yori Dango," aired in Japan in 2005, also to great success.

Italian court bans crotch-grabbing

The Italian supreme court has outlawed men from touching their genitals in public.

Crotch-grabbing is an ancient superstitious habit in Italy that is believed to ward off the evil eye.

It's traditional for men to do it if passed by a hearse or when discussing serious illness or disasters.

However, the supreme court ruled that a 42-year-old man from Como had broken the law by "ostentatiously touching his genitals through his clothing".

His lawyers said he had a "compulsive, involuntary movement" because of uncomfortable overalls.

But the court ruled his behaviour was an "act contrary to public decency" and said the law "required everyone to abstain from conduct that is potentially offensive to collectively held feelings of decorum".

The man was fined £1520 and ordered to pay £760 in costs, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Judges pointed out that if men needed to grab their crotches, they should wait until they were in the privacy of their own home.

Backstreet castrators

An unsettling glimpse into the world of men who have their testicles removed without medical assistance

I've been reporting on the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting for five years now, and it never fails to give a vivid insight into some bizarre cultural practices - usually ones that end up with people getting mutilated or killed.

This year's prize for the most eye-watering talk goes to Karen Berka Bruewer of KMB Forensic Consulting for "The ball's in your court: castration as a form of extreme body modification". According to Berka Bruewer, there are at least 100 "cutters" in the US willing to lop off a man's family jewels. Their fee is less than the $2,000 or so typically charged by medical professionals who perform the procedure, and of course with none of the rigorous screening and psychiatric support that would usually precede it.

In her talk (she says she will put the slides on her website at some point) she reviewed the handful of cases of illegal castration that have come to the authorities' notice in the past decade.

"Every forensic scientists should have at least one out of the ordinary memorable case," wrote Berka Bruewer in her abstract. For her it was Edward Bodkin, a cutter who had performed numerous castrations on willing men in his kitchen. His flatmate eventually turned him in to the police (if you share a flat with someone who is even slightly annoying you at the moment, just be grateful they're not a backstreet castrator).

When police searched Bodkin's home they found nine jars containing human testicles as well as video tapes of the castrations taking place, which he was selling through a publication called Ball Club Quarterly. He was convicted of practising medicine without a licence.

Videoing the act and keeping "souvenirs" is apparently very common. The cutters often have a farm background which got them interested in castrating animals.

In the human realm there is a whole language to describe the options. "Nullos" are people who have had their genitals removed and "smoothies" have been relieved of their genitals and nipples.

For those of you thinking "only in America", think again. Howard Shelley, a 42-year-old from Bletchley in the UK, performed the operation on himself in August last year using a kitchen knife. It took him just 6 minutes.

Apparently his now ex-wife had no idea he wanted to emasculate himself.

Incidentally, the tool of choice is not a sharp knife but the Elastrator, a device used by vets to castrate animals. The disturbing contraption fits a super-tight elastic band which constricts the blood supply to the scrotum. It takes around 6 hours for the testicles to shrivel and die. Needless to say the procedure causes considerable discomfort and is irreversible.

Cannibalism May Have Wiped Out Neanderthals

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Feb. 27, 2008 -- A Neanderthal-eat-Neanderthal world may have spread a mad cow-like disease that weakened and reduced populations of the large Eurasian human, thereby contributing to its extinction, according to a new theory based on cannibalism that took place in more recent history.

Aside from illustrating that consumption of one's own species isn't exactly a healthy way to eat, the new theoretical model could resolve the longstanding mystery as to what caused Neanderthals, which emerged around 250,000 years ago, to disappear off the face of the Earth about 30,000 years ago.

"The story of Neanderthal extinction is one of the most intriguing in all of human evolution," author Simon Underdown told Discovery News. "Why did a large-brained, intelligent hominid that shared so many traits with us disappear?"

To resolve that question, Underdown, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, studied a well-documented tribal group, the Fore of Papua New Guinea, who practiced ritualistic cannibalism.

Gory evidence uncovered in a French cave in 1999 revealed Neanderthals likely practiced cannibalism. The 100,000-120,000 year-old bones discovered at the cave site of Moula-Guercy near the west bank of the Rhone river suggested a group of Neanderthals defleshed the bones of at least six other individuals and then broke the bones apart with a hammerstone and anvil to remove the marrow and brains.

Although it's not clear why Neanderthals may have eaten each other, research on the Fore determined that maternal kin of certain deceased Fore individuals used to dismember corpses and regarded some human flesh as a valuable food source.

Beginning in the early 1900's, anthropologists additionally began to take note of an affliction named Kuru among the Fore. By the 1960's, Kuru reached epidemic levels and killed over 1,100 people.

Subsequent investigations determined that Kuru was related to the Fore's cannibalistic activities and was a form of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, or TSE. This is a class of disease that includes mad cow disease. Underdown said TSE's have been in existence for possibly millions of years.

According to his new paper, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, TSE's "cause brain tissue to take on an almost sponge-like appearance, caused by the formation of small holes during the development of the disease."

The disease's latter stages often result in severe mental impairment, loss of speech and an inability to move.

He created a model, based on the Kuru findings, to figure out how the spread of such a disease via cannibalism could reduce a population's size. For example, he calculated that within a hypothetical group of 15,000 individuals, such a disease could reduce the population to non-viable levels within 250 years.

When added to other pressures, this type of disease could therefore have wiped out the Neanderthals, Underdown believes.

"TSE's could have thinned the population, reducing numbers and contributing to their extinction in combination with other factors (such as climate change and the emergence of modern humans)," he said.

Such diseases have very long incubation periods, he further explained, so affected individuals may not show symptoms for a very long time. Similarly, people who consume TSE victims may not exhibit signs of illness immediately after eating.

"Neanderthals would have been unlikely to spot any causal relationship between cannibalism and TSE symptoms," Underdown said.

Since modern clinical tests show that medical instruments can carry infectious prions, which spread TSE's, even after such tools have been sterilized, it's also possible that sharing of stone tools could have additionally spread the disease among Neanderthals, even those that did not practice cannibalism.

Nick Barton, Director of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, told Discovery News that he thinks the new paper presents "an extremely novel and very interesting theory."

"Most scholars now believe that the demise of the Neanderthals was not down to a single causal factor," Barton said. "However, if genetic studies eventually show that Neanderthals were susceptible to TSE, or other empirical evidence emerges for persistent cannibalism and consumption of brain tissues in late Neanderthal populations, then we may have to rethink our ideas on extinction."

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