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  • mono 2:20 pm on September 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Character, comic book, dancing, , ,   

    Ken Tanaka’s “Jacob the Happy Rabbit” #3 

    Ken Tanaka has once again pulled out his paint brushes and created
    the third installment to his “Jacob the Happy Rabbit” comic book series.

  • mono 8:39 pm on April 13, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Character, Dexter, Dexter Morgan, Masking, Michael C Hall, Season One, , Showtime, , , ,   

    Dexter: The Humble Monster 

    The Showtime series “Dexter” paints a morbidly human and twisted portrait of a forensics sociopath, Dexter Morgan as he struggles to maintain the facade of social life while waxing his own kind of “private justice” through the elimination of those in need of a little “treatment”. This “private justice” also helps him quench his monstrous tendencies while giving him the satisfaction of his private cravings. That is to say, in this series, the character with whom we spend the most amount of time is a monster, a heartless precise killer caught in a balancing act between desire and restraint.

    I recently wrote about Carl R. Rogers, opened up his idea of “false faces” and the need for one to come to terms with one’s many “faces” in the process of becoming a person. Later that day I was floored by “Dexter” as this show in particular focuses on the social mask as the viewer experiences the interior/exterior life of a humble monster.

    I see three narratives running through this series. The first is the basic story: a blood pattern analyst, Dexter Morgan working and interacting while secretly completing his little nighttime “projects.” Also, sub-plots which involve the tracking of “The Ice Truck Killer,” his sister, girlfriend and co-workers and so on. The narrative running beneath this is the monologues we receive, the messages from his interior landscape, the reflections on not being able to feel, the awareness of alienation which serve as a blunt study on extreme social masking. Third, there is the interconnecting narrative, the connection point between the prior two, which is the distance between the monster and the social human. It is within this distance that sits between the first two narratives where the viewer spends a lot of time. We are fully aware of the pretending of which Dexter actively engages in, the role playing and repeated attempts to blend in. This distance is vital to his character and is hit upon in every episode I have seen thus far. He is, as he refers to himself, “A master of disguise.”

    Moreover, there is the character of “Harry,” Dexter’s father who taught him how to disguise himself and mentored him in the art of blending in. In one episode, Dexter refers to Harry as always being with him. The father-son bond between Harry and Dexter seem to be one of Dexter’s only feelings of true love. His relationship with his girlfriend at times comes to light for him as they partake in the games of everyday life, but still he wrestles with the gap between who he really is and who he knows he must be. Harry is the only person who truly knew Dexter and his cravings and Harry is, in my eyes, the only one that Dexter could truly love.

    While watching this show, the mind may become disoriented. The character Dexter that we follow and listen to takes us into the dark spots of the mind, the sterility of his surgical chambers reflect his true inner life. His emotionless involvement are all the more unsettling as are the few things that seem to give him real joy, especially his fascination and love for blood. To emphasize with this kind of character puts the viewer in a vulnerable position as it moves from Dexter as pretending to be warm and friendly to Dexter as coolly vicious and alien. The viewer waits as the episode begins to find out who Dexter’s next evil victim will be. All along, we may forget the perverse interiority of Dexter. At times, he is like the Gnostic alien, the confused being confronted with the strangeness of the alien landscape, on the periphery yet immersed in the waters of sociality.

    Dexter Season One is available for purchase through the US iTunes music store.

    • Mark 4:59 am on December 16, 2008 Permalink

      I think Harry’s Code has evolved into Dexters Code. Check out my blog! I’m a big Dexter fan!

    • moosh 7:01 pm on December 24, 2008 Permalink

      Is there a bigger resolution for that picture?

  • mono 3:55 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Character, , , , , , Japanese Comedy, , , , Vlog, Vlogger,   

    The Japanicity of Ken Tanaka and the Social Media Community of Youtube 

    Ken Tanaka

    As stated on his Youtube “helpmefindparents” profile, “Ken Tanaka lives in a reality that is likely very different from your own. In this reality, rather unreal things can and do happen.” I have been fascinated by Ken Tanaka ever since seeing his first Youtube video last year. At the time of writing this, having achieved over 87,000 channel views, it is evident that even after his emergence, the quality of Ken Tanaka’s humor, presentation and creativity is here to stay, hopefully for a long time to come. If you have not seen Ken Tanaka’s videos and are interested in Japanese culture, Japanese language and Japanese comedy, then I recommend you visit his page and give him a try. Moreover, I think that he presents a relevant study of the depiction of the Japanese culture through the filter of an American gaze. As stated on his Youtube profile, “My name is Ken Tanaka and I am from Shimane Prefecture Japan. I was adopted and I am in The United States to find my real parents. Please send a message if you know Jonathan and Linda Smith.

    Ken Tanaka’s Reality and Communication

    The reality that Ken Tanaka lives in is a bright one, although perhaps perpetually overshadowed by the fact that he never achieves the satisfaction of finding his birth parents. His reality is perpetually side-tracked by the minute, by friendship or by wanting to purely entertain us. At times, Tanaka plays the role of educator and has produced two videos showing how one can communicate in Japanese without having to actually speak a word of Japanese. This is particularly interesting to those of us who have been immersed in Japan and how interact through these ways of communicating in our daily life: the perpetual nodding of the head, the shifting eyes not penetrating, but hesitant, the “heeeee” and “unnn” of affirmation or the “tshhhhhh” and tilt of the head while disagreeing. This playful look at the Japanese way of gesturing is humorously yet skillfully pulled off by Tanaka and friends.

    The Warmth of Ken Tanaka

    It is perhaps not so unusual to envision a Japanese child being raised in America, speaking both English and Japanese, but I think that one point of interest with Ken Tanaka is the reversal this image. That is, Ken Tanaka, being visually Caucasian, but carrying the tropes of a Japanese identity, make for an authentic comedic experience of interest to both Japanese and non-Japanese. Moreover, the way that Ken Tanaka interacts with the other Americans in Los Angeles makes for a warm blend of humor and social commentary. That is, Ken is not trying to take advantage of his Californians, but rather, under the umbrella of a man searching for his birth parents, really asks nothing of them, doesn’t try to expose their flaws or trick them into humiliation (as seen in the Borat character). Moreover, my Japanese friends immediately took an interest in Ken Tanaka and could instantly relate to the humor that he was creating. When visiting Japan, Ken confuses the Japanese people that he interacts with, playfully fooling them or playing into their conversational tropes.

    Youtube and Social Media Community

    What Youtube has been providing for some time now is the experience of character creation through the social media platform by providing a free opportunity to upload original content (within limits of both time and content). It seems that a character such as Ken Tanaka, while perhaps being too risky a venture in the eyes of television, given the context of a user-generated viewer base such as Youtube, can flourish without corporate backing and perhaps serve as a relevant resume builder future potential movie or TV proposals based on interest generated through the social media platform. With the advent of Lonelygirl, the Youtube experience was transformed as a space for bottom-up likability and popularity, not to mention, the interactive element of the site, provided viewers the chance to help fuel a given channel’s ideas for future relevant videos.

    But, that was then and now we are fully immersed in such networks of media accessibility and open upload-ability. I have lost track of sites similar to Youtube and have given up trying to follow Youtube built characters and such social commentary. What happens at this point and perhaps I am not the only one, is the searching out or stumbling upon a certain “channel” that sparks our interest, knowing full well that there is no possible way to keep track of the perpetually uploaded barrage of new content. As Nick Cave may suggest, “No news from nowhere.” We search the forums, follow links, track blogs to no end until at some point an authentic slice of video pie lands in our lap…the labyrinth is deep, the hole leads to God knows where. We spread, mash, mass email, post, link, cut-up and comment on these sporadic visions of the yet-unknown others.


    If one spends enough time on Youtube, one finds the continued use of the word “community,” but I want someone to explain to me the purposes and aims of this community. What is a “community” in the minds of a dedicated Youtube vlogger? How does a centralized site such as Youtube foster the sense of community? How has the idea of community shifted with the advent of such video uploading sites? Moreover, to what end are these communities advancing?

    In closing and to briefly return to Ken Tanaka, I would like to add one comment. Does not Ken Tanaka’s search for his parents play out like a Japanicized “Waiting for Godot?” That is, up until now the searching for his parents has been the pool in which he swims, in what guides him and, many of his videos act as daily life adventures with the implicit undertone of this searching. These videos are him searching and what he does when he is not searching (but, it seems we are led to believe that in his reality, he is always searching, hence his coming to LA).

    Thank you for reading and I hope you can enjoy some videos of Ken Tanaka.

    Ken Tanaka’s “Help Me Find Parents”
    TokyoMango on Ken Tanaka
    Ken Tanaka on Myspace

    • not kentanaka 7:51 pm on May 5, 2008 Permalink

      Ken Tanaka is really an American actor who spent some time in Japan. Its a great act but I thought the secret was out already.

    • jgrefe 8:44 pm on May 5, 2008 Permalink

      @”not kentanaka”: Yes, I believe that most everyone who watches the videos are aware of the fact that it is a performance (the Groundlings improv Japanese sensei piece also displays his Japanese talent quite well). One purpose of this post was to open up the idea of the character Ken Tanaka and express the Japanicity of the “reality” that he creates.

    • interval 12:41 am on April 4, 2009 Permalink

      Ken Tanaka is actually David Ury, comedian from California, I believe he was a member of the Groundlings (if that’s wrong David I apologize.) He’s done a brilliant job of playing an American adoptee of a Japanese family on youtube. His Japanese is very nearly flawless but you can see a crack of truth in one video where he is talking to a Japanese native and is surprised when the native remarks that he detects a very slight accent in David’s speach.

    • jgrefe 11:27 pm on May 27, 2009 Permalink

      Thank you for your insight. Acting…acting…acting.

    • acheter tweet 8:37 am on March 10, 2013 Permalink

      Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues.
      It was really informative. Your website is very useful.
      Thank you for sharing!

    • jgrefe 10:30 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you for stopping by. I’ll be updating a lot more now.

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