Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Printing: Japanese Magnificent Works of Art

Woodblock printing is one of the oldest publishing techniques. It came to Japan in the 8th century, used primarily in producing existing Buddhist texts and books of Chinese origins. But it’s not until the Late Edo period (17th to 19th century) that woodblock printing achieved the height of its potential as an art technique through the original works of Japanese artists called ukiyo-e.

UKIYO-E PRODUCTION

It used to be that ukiyo-e is produced through a complex collaboration between the publisher, artist, engraver and printer. So it’s the norm for artists to work in a studio during those days. But as time progressed, there are those who chose to create their work from start to finish. This video is an interview with Takuji Hamanaka, showing the traditional technique for woodblock printing:

 

UKIYO-E: THEMES AND CHARACTERISTICS

Ukiyo-e literally means ‘pictures of the floating world’. Originally, ukiyo was a Buddhist term to express the impermanence of human life. However during the Edo period, it became synonymous to hedonistic pleasures of people who embraced them all the more for their ever changing nature. Also, people at this time enjoyed peace. People were able to read and enjoy leisure time. Ukiyo-e became the most sought-after art form among the commoners and became the most affordable, fastest medium of spreading fashion trends and information.

Ukiyo-e focused on the ordinary things in life. Images usually depict colored narratives and include animals, birds, landscapes and people from lower classes, like courtesans, sumo wrestlers or Kabuki actors. Generally, the artists use exaggerated foreshortening, asymmetry of design, imaginative cropping of figures and areas of flat (unshaded) color. 

What follows are some works found at Ukiyo-e.org .It’s a database of over 200,000 prints, grouped according to artists and the time period they were made. It compiled works from the Early Mid-1700’s to the present time.

UKIYO-E ARTISTS

KITAGAWA UTAMARO (1753- 1806)

He is best known for his idealized portrayal of women in his works. It’s said that no one before him has ever captured a woman’s beauty as deeply as he did. According to Dieter Wanczura, he had experimented with some new techniques to display the flesh tones of his woman portraits in a different and softer manner.

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Hitomoto of the Monji-ro, 1799
Vertical ôban; 38.4 x 25.1 cm (15 1/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
Travellers on the Road at Miho no Matsubara, 1787-88
Vertical ôban diptych; 38 x 51 cm (14 15/16 x 20 1/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Woodblock Printing and Ukiyo-e themindcatalog.com
The Full Moon at the Time of the Imo Harvest, 8th month of 1789
9 1/4 x 14 3/4 in. (23.5 x 37.5 cm)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

KITAO MASAYOSHI (1764 – 1824)

Ukiyo-e and Woodblock Pringing themindcatalog.com
The Sixth Month (Rokugatsu), from the series Women’s Customs: Flower Viewing Parties, 1790
Vertical chûban; 25.7 x 19 cm (10 1/8 x 7 1/2 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

No.4, Pulling Rice Seedlings from the Seedling Bed from the Series Women Farming
Vertical chûban; 22.4 x 16 cm (8 13/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

UTAGAWA HIROSHIGE (1797 – 1858)

He’s dubbed as “the artist of rain, snow and mist”. His most popular series is the Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido, which catapulted him to contemporary success.

Birds and Irises in Rain
Originally in Edo period. This one was recarved edition made in c.1930s.
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino Japanese Prints

 

Nihonbashi: Daimyo Procession Setting Out, Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, also known as the First Tokaido or Great Tokaido, 1833 – 34
Horizontal ôban; 22.9 x 35.3 cm (9 x 13 7/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Boshu Yasuda no Kaigan/ Fuji Sanjurokkei, 1858
Rural landscape. Fuji from Yasuda Beach in Awa province
Woodblock print; Nishiki-e on paper
Source: British Museum

 

Hakone; Kosui ca 1833 -34
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Japanese website
KEISAI EISEN (1790 – 1848)

He’s notable for his works that feature bijin (beautiful women).

Woman Opening an Umbrella, Edo Period
Vertical ôban, upright diptych; 71.4 x 23.8 cm (28 1/8 x 9 3/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Autumn Moon At Mount Atago, from the series of Eight Views of Edo, 1843 – 47
Horizontal ôban; 24 x 35.9 cm (9 7/16 x 14 1/8 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Toda River Crossing, 1835 – 1838
Horizontal ôban; 23.6 x 36.3 cm (9 5/16 x 14 5/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760 – 1849)

He’s the greatest master of Japanese landscape woodblock prints. His best work is the series, 36 Views of Mount Fuji.

Self Portrait as a Fisherman, 1835
21.3 x 18.43 cm
Color woodblock print with metallic pigments
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

Among his works, this my favorite. There is that serene contentment on the face of the subject though we know there is much to be desired from being a lowly fisherman. And this mood seemed to be reinforced by the gentle flow of the water in the background.

Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido, 1830 – 1832
25 x 37.1 cm (image); 26.3 x 38 cm (sheet)
Color Woodcut Reproduction
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

 

Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 25.2 x 37.7 cm (9 15/16 x 14 13/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Kajikazawa in Kai Province (Kôshû Kajikazawa), 1830 – 31
Horizontal ôban; 26 x 38.5 cm (10 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston

And of course, his work that made him immortal:

Under the Wave Off Kanagawa, 1830 – 32
Color woodblock print; oban
25.4 x 37.6 cm (10 x 14 3/4 in.)
Source: Art Institute of Chicago

WORKS OF CONTEMPORARY UKIYO-E ARTISTS

Here we can see how the technology has progressed and how Western artistic styles influenced the modern woodblock prints.

Yoshimoto Masao
Fuji From Lake Ashi, c 1952
Woodblock
Source: Japanese Artist Open Database
Morozumi Osamu b. 1948
Rice Field in Hakuba Village – Japan, 1995
Source: Ukiyo-e.org and Artelino

 

Paul Binnie
A Great Mirror of the Actors of the Heisei Period: Bando Tamasaburo as the Heron Maiden
oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 12 1/4 in., 43 by 31 cm
Source: Scholten

 

Two Cats
Inagaki Tomoo (1902 – 1980)
6” x 4”, Woodblock
Source: Japan Art Online Database

 

Crouching Woman, 20th Century
44.5 x 35.7 cm, Color Woodcut
Source: Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

I hope you find this collection interesting. Complement this article with Japanese byobu art we featured previously. May this deepen your appreciation of Asian art.

As always, thanks so much for dropping by!


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All the Bright Places: Thoughts and Reviews

All the Bright Places

It’s been awhile since I picked up a young adult work of fiction. I was expecting Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places to move along the same cheesy story lines. The ones that follows the plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, but boy still wins girl at the end.

But no.

It seems nobody wins at the end of this story. And sadly, it may be happening to someone you know right now.

I never expected the book to be about suicide – a topic that has become so prevalent this past years.

Growing up, I know the issue is real. As real as bullying or domestic violence or cancer. I think every one of us has some level of experience with the topics I mentioned. It may only be the names, places or situations that may be different.

The book is a bit too cruel. Imagine having to deal with deaths that took place within roughly a year of each other? How can you even begin to find the sense in learning to lean onto someone and then having that someone taken away forever?

But as painful as the story is, it also teaches you to hope, to reach out and to move on.

All the Bright Places to Hope For

Going someplace new and different doesn’t just change what’s outside. More importantly, it moves something within us. It allows our minds to open up to new perspectives, to increase our appreciation of what we have and long for the possibilities in the future. It develops our depth as a person and the relationship we have with the person whom we experience them with.

Just like how Violet’s and Finch’s project of wandering over Indiana allowed them to explore themselves, too.

All the Bright Places to Reach Out To

As with Dr. Seuss’ poems, we can’t always expect to win every time. There would be moments when we’ll fall and fail. When this happens, it’s so easy to fall in the trap of negative thinking, to feel like you’re lost and worthless. What the book never failed to show is that there are always, always people and groups who are ready to help you out. It may not be something you will immediately like. But know and remember that you’re not alone.

Sometimes, it can be disappointing that the people you expect help from are the same people turning you away. They may be in denial (like Finch’s family) or they may just be ignorant (like Roamer and his friends). But knowing this doesn’t make the pain any less or the confusion any clearer. I think the key is to never stop trying to reach out to anyone who you think may help you. There would always be other friends, other responsible adults, experts and organizations who’d be willing to hear you out.

There are several organizations that Niven listed in her book. Locally, here are some useful links and hotlines you may check out: Manila Lifeline Center  and  HOPELINE.

All the Bright Places to Move On To

Niven’s characters are about to graduate high school. Most of them have already submitted applications to different Universities in and out of Indiana. I like how Violet decided to finish the project she started with Finch. She may just be hoping for closure but I knew she was able to find more than that – peace and strength to move on. After all, she still has her own mountain to climb.

What I most like about the book is how Violet’s family is always ready to listen and at the end, all the tragedies have made them better and stronger.

Dealing with Death

Of course you never just get over with a loved one’s death. You just get used to it. And in between life and remembrance, we may find solace on the thoughts and memories they have shared with us. All those times we may never take back but may just give us the push to move on-wards with life.

You can get your own copy of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places at National Bookstore or through Amazon.com.

Add to that Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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BATANGAS: YOUR GO-TO PLACE FOR QUICK GETAWAYS

WHY BATANGAS?

Batangas is our family’s go-to place for a quick weekend getaway ever since I can remember. My childhood memories are filled with blue skies and wide horizons, fresh, gusty wind and country rides. Batangas would always be a special place to me because of this and more.

There are a number of attractions on this place, most are family friendly but some can be exciting enough for a weekend getaway with friends or co-workers.

I like Batangas because it’s just two hours away from Manila. You can either take  Star Tollway or the Tagaytay route, either of which will give you a pleasant country ride. And there are so many types of public transportation and routes you can choose from so you’ll definitely find one that suits you best.

Also, Batangas is not so rural anymore so everything else is fairly convenient. Lodging and accommodations are decent enough. Not to mention the restaurants you can stop over along the way. They make the best lomi in this part of the country, by the way.

Here are the places that we’ve visited the past years. Hope you can also drop by these amazing places with your family:

LA VIRGINIA RESORT

La Virginia is an 8-ha property full of  pools and various structured attractions, all overlooking Taal Volcano. It’s a little bit difficult to get to, considering how many transfers you need to take when you’re commuting. Renting a vehicle would be a very good idea when going to this place. Its popular among the locals so asking for directions should be no problem.

The resort has several sections, each with a unique theme. The one where we stayed in is called Casas de las Flores which features flowers. We stayed at the Orchid, which can house up to 15 to 20 pax. It is also airconditioned and got at least 3 comfort rooms. There are TV, ref and griller. There’s also the Karaoke machine which you can use for an additional fee of P1,000.00.

La Virginia, Bronze Buddha Statue
The serenity of this giant bronze Buddha statue is further emphasize by the lush, green scenery from behind.
La Virginia, Pools and Cottages
The pool over at Casas delas Flores. This place must be so magical for children.
La Virginia, Concrete Hanging Bridge
Though most structures are made of concrete, the resort more than makes it up for the details and paints they put on each of the installation, like this hanging bridge right here.

One other section features a huge Buddha statue, with the green, lush woods as its background.  Then there’s a castle and Marvel superheroes. If you’re for something homegrown, there are accommodations designed after Ifugao houses.

La Virginia also has a hotel, an infinity pool and this concrete hanging bridge (if it’s your thing).

It’s a nice place to explore with the family, but be prepared with the steep slopes. They might really get your joints aching after a while.

But with a view this breathtaking, your trip would definitely be worth it.

View from La Virginia Resort, Batangas
Heart-stopping view of Taal. Isn’t it so perfect?

TALI BEACH

How about a staycation on one of ‘em huge townhouses? If you’re prepared to go the miles and hike up those steep slopes and trek down the beach front, then maybe a trip to Tali Beach may be good for you.

The townhouse we rented costs around P40,000.00 but we’re like 50pax. It comes with everything – rooms, kitchen, spacious lawn, and a pool. So you can host a mini party with the family and arrange an island hopping tour the next morning.

 

Tali Beach Subdivision Townhouse
Well, we got to own the place for a day. That’s my sister at the steps. I can’t remember whose house this is, though. But thanks for the experience.
Tali Beach Subdivision
The place is really well-kept and strolling along this type of street can really be a joy.
Tali beachfront.
Tali beachfront.
Tali Beach Resort
Most men from the family tried to jump from this place. But the waters full of tagulabay.

MUNTING BUHANGIN

So we we’re on the lookout for a white sand beach nearby and this is the place we found. And since it’s also in that part of Batangas where roads just have to be so steep and winding, it would really take a skilled driver to get to and from the place. But of course, it’s Batangas – it can never disappoint. Just make sure that you’re up for a bit of a hike.

Accommodation is really good at this place and there are lots of activities you can engage in. The beach looks so nice and peaceful, too. Great place for little children to wade in.

 

Munting Buhangin Beach Camp, Island Hopping
My sisters having their “One Piece” moment at one of the islands we went to during our visit at Munting Buhangin.
Batangas waters, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
This is what I love about Batangas waters in fair weather – smooth, calm and crystal.
Island Tour, Munting Buhangin Beach Camp
It’s a family day!

MATABUNGKAY

This place is where everything started. It’s like our very own family pilgrimage – driving back to Matabungkay every two years, spending time, sharing moments and reminiscing with the homies. I can’t remember any other place the whole, as in the whole, family go to whenever we want to hold an impromptu reunion.

My childhood vacations were spent on a balsa in the middle of the sea, eating salted eggs with tomatoes, playing with cousins or just staring out at the blue clear waters. I’m lucky if a little crab would pass by.

Matabungkay Beach
Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach
Sunset, Matabungkay Beach

We just used to go for a day tour but when the family got bigger, everyone just wanted to stay a little longer, as if more time spent on this place would bring back some of those moments from long ago.  

I like the coast here and the mornings especially. You can see something like an atoll when the tide is low. My cousins and I would go the farthest point we can. Sometimes we come home with loads of pebbles and shells. Most little ones would bring with them fish and other slimy things they found on the shore.

So not only the places but the memories that were created on those places made Batangas one fine place for me. It would always be my go-to place for a quick weekend getaway!

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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The Magic and Nostalgia that Are the Vinyl Records

I’ve never listened to a vinyl before. It’s only in old movies or retro-themed films that I get to listen to one. And even then, the audio would sound so smooth and flawless. I never knew how different the music sounds like coming from these records.

I discovered vinyl records aren’t perfect. Often there’d be that static noise in the background. You can even hear them crackle sometimes. They’re the audio equivalent of those silver screen movies – filled with vertical lines at one time or bursting with bright lights the next. They can be distracting but I guess, it’s part of their appeal.

It’s a totally new experience, something that definitely increased my appreciation for this particular medium. It’s not just the kind of music that’s on record, but the quality on which they were produced. Of course, they’re nothing like the audio we have now.

But at some point, the records made me long for a time I never knew. It’s poignant and mysterious and “old”. Old in a very, very good way – just like how memories of summer afternoons in childhood bring nostalgia or how Sunday morning rain can sometimes bring comfort and melancholy.

The Great 78 Project

A simple search on YouTube can give you a taste of vinyl experience. But the effort of Internet Archive with their Great 78 Project would surely cater to your curiosity. They’ve uploaded over 25,000 78s of wide genre. Most date back to 1939. It’s the aim of the project to preserve the cultural value of these records. They were digitized mainly for preservation, research and discovery.

I specially liked the following from the collections:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

La Vie En Rose:

Spellbound:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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The 6 Benefits of Building a Team

If you’re familiar with John Maxwell’s The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, then you must know about the first law: The Law of Significance. It states that one is too small a number to achieve greatness, thus the importance of forming a team. And how effective this team on achieving the goal depends on the quality of their teamwork and manifesting the other 16 laws.

But what is a team?

In simple words, a team is consists of people who work together to achieve a specific goal. And relationships between people are strengthened and made even more special when they start to work as a team.

Isn’t it better to work alone?

Photo by Elisabetta Foco

Whenever we hear stories of individuals who’ve achieved so much, we’re always fascinated on how they seemingly overcame all the challenges by themselves. But Maxwell proved that notion is wrong. There’s no such thing as self-made man. The Lone Ranger is a myth. And as a  Chinese proverb states, “Behind an able man there are always other able men.”

Maxwell also cited some of the reasons some people prefer to work on their goals alone. Factors such as ego, insecurity, naiveté and temperament hinder us from working well with others. But if we’re willing to give ourselves and others the chance, we’ll soon find out that we’re only capable of achieving something of any significance when we start to reach out and ask for help.

The 6 Benefits of Building a Team


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The following are the six (6) ways on which we can always benefit from creating a team. These are based from C. Gene Wilkes’ work, Jesus on Leadership:

  1. Teams involve more people, thus affording more resources, ideas and energy than would an individual.

  2. Teams maximize a leader’s potential and minimize their weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses are more exposed in individuals.

  3. Teams provide multiple perspective on how to meet a need or reach a goal, thus devising several alternatives for each situation. Individual insight is seldom as broad and deep as a group’s when it takes on a problem.

  4. Teams share the credit for victories and the blame for losses. This fosters genuine humility and authentic community. Individuals take credit and blame alone. This fosters pride and sometimes a sense of failure.

  5. Teams keep leaders accountable for the goal. Individuals connected to no one can change the goal without accountability.

  6. Teams can simply do more than an individual.  

Understanding the significance of working with others is fundamental on achieving success. The rest of the Indisputable Laws of Teamwork would help a leader make the team more efficient and effective in achieving the goal. You may check out the book at Amazon.com.

You may also share this article as an infographic:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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5 Amazing Ted Talks That You Absolutely Can’t Miss

You can always find interesting, funny and amazing talks at Ted.com. What follows is a list of my all-time favorites. They span a wide range of disciplines and ideas but you’re sure to benefit from them. If you have time to spare, watch and read on.

The Happy Secret to Better Work

This talk re-frames our perspective on how to achieve happiness. We’re raised to believe that the harder we work, the more successful we get, the happier we become. But Shawn Achor would like to reverse that formula. He says that being happy starts with training the brain to become more positive.

According to his study, “… our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”

How then can we achieve this happiness advantage? He gives us the following recommendations:

  1. List three new things you’re grateful for 21 days in a row. This way the brain would learn to scan the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.
  2. Journal about your positive experiences so that the brain re-lives the way it feels.
  3. Meditation and exercise.
  4. Random acts of kindness.

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

“When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.” – Simon Sinek

To make your people feel safe and taken care of are signs of good leadership. I couldn’t agree more when he said that when leaders decide to put people first, when they show willingness to sacrifice comforts and tangible results so that people remain and feel safe and feel that they belong, remarkable things happen.

He’s cited two companies who’re so good at this principle and they’re thriving businesses right now. Just imagine working for that particular company that’s willing to keep you for a lifetime.

Also he’s given a damn good definition of leadership. Leadership is never about the rank. Like him, I’ve encountered so many people who occupy higher rungs in a company. They’re people of authority for sure, but definitely not leaders. Leadership is a choice – to go first, to make sacrifices so your people may gain and succeed. And what do leaders gain from all this? It’s the absolute willingness of their people to do the same for them.

Your Elusive Creative Genius

From the author of Eat, Pray, Love, this talk tackles the daunting issue that every artist face after creating their best, most acclaimed work by far: Will they ever surpass their most recent achievement?

This thought is certainly scary and puts a lot of pressure on the artist while getting the “next big work” out there.

According to her, life need not to be full of anguish if you never happen to believe that the most extraordinary aspect of your being comes from you. In some ancient cultures, they have the idea of a disembodied creative creature called genius. While in some places, artists  can have that single, transcendent moment when they seem to become a vessel so spectators can have a glimpse of God. And so in recognizing this distance between the artist and the work, artists may be able to retain that sanity, that courage to get on with the work and just stubbornly show up until it is done.

Beautiful Minds Are Free From Fear

Sometimes, fear can be so strong and paralyzing. When it hits, Robert Grant gives the following recommendations on how to overcome fear:

  1. Practice gratitude. It’s impossible to be fearful and grateful at the same time.
  2. Intentional Decision. Anything that can happen to you in your life can either the best or the worst thing. You decide which is which. Every day you wake up, you get to decide whether it’s going to be a good day or a bad day. It’s all up to you.

How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over 

Whenever you feel stuck or dissatisfied with your life, Mel Robbins says that you gotta force yourself out of the following:

  1. Out of your head. Most especially when you’re just wallowing on your negative thoughts.
  2. Past your feelings. Because you’re never gonna feel like getting what you want when you’re so focused on your emotions.
  3. Out of your comfort zone. Because that’s where everything starts to happen.

And she says it’s very important to act on our impulse. Because if we don’t marry the impulse with a physical action, we’re going to trigger our emergency break and we’ll never get to do what we want to do in the first place.

You  may have your own set of Ted Talks favorites. Put them on the comment section or send them my way so I can add them here.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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4 Brand Campaigns That Try to Break Social Norms

Break the Norm

Norms.

It’s one of the most influential factors that shape who we are, the society and the times we live in. We grow up and we just accept that there’s always a certain way of doing things. Or we hold on to beliefs, no matter how limiting they are, because so many people are holding on to the same truths.

So we go on passively accepting that such is life. We tell ourselves: life isn’t always fair, there are more questions than answers, time’s ticking away and we got to get on with it.

But the beauty of time is that it brings change. Change that can take the form of a revolution – one that can either be subtle or really violent. And often times, the most disruptive changes are brought about not by arms or force, but by thoughts and emotions.

What follows are four brand campaigns trying to break social norms. Each brand tries to put an idea out there. All aiming to encourage audiences to take a stand, to do something whether it’s for or against the beliefs that we find to be true, meaningful and important in our lives.

Brand Campaign 1: Dove’s Real Beauty 

Arguably, one of the most controversial ideas ever to puzzle mankind is the definition of beauty. The royals, the artists, even the lay people on streets have their own take on what makes someone or something beautiful. For the most part, it is a subjective evaluation, but society also pushes the “ideal” standards of beauty that everyone feels pressured to strive for.

Dove’s campaign for real beauty is not only groundbreaking. It’s also brave. Definitely edgy. And most of all dynamic. It all started with this time lapse video of a model. And from then on, the brand never stopped it’s advocacy on telling women all over the world that beauty cannot be put in a box, or measured, or even labeled. The brand’s message is to forever appreciate yourself and be proud of who you are.

Here are a couple of newer ads from Dove:

Brand Campaign 2: SK-II’s Change Destiny

I’d like to believe that the tradition of marrying off daughters springs from a very positive, loving place. But we all know history. Women were often given away for dowries, for political gains, or simply to lessen the burden from their own families.

Asian societies, no matter how open and advanced they’ve become, still stick to the notion that women are homemakers. And they must be married off at a certain age. Otherwise, they’re not fulfilling their duty to the society because they did not do what they’re expected to do.

In this very moving brand campaign, “leftover women” tries to reach their parents hearts – trying to make them see the reason behind their choices and assuring them that it’s still okay. They’re still going to be productive, meaningful individuals even without husbands or families. Being single past the marrying age doesn’t reduce who they are and doesn’t make them lesser members of the society.

Brand Campaign 3: P&G’s My Black is Beautiful

Launched at the height nationalistic sentiment, biases and prejudice, this campaign aims to encourage everyone to speak up and find ways on how to get along amidst all the differences. It makes the audiences uncomfortable because it highlights a social issue that was once considered taboo. As the ad says, “It’s time for everyone to talk about bias.”

Brand Campaign 4: Always’ Like A Girl

You’ve heard it before. When you’re acting so soft, so sentimental or weak, you’re more likely to be called a “girl”. Here’s a brave re-frame of the that notorious term by Always. It gives emphasis on a girl’s strength and amazing potential.

Most of  these ads may have been all about women and their rights, but don’t think that I’m discriminating other genders or belittling other social issues. If you’ve come across a campaign that truly inspired you, let us know about them. You can either put them in the comments or send me a personal message so I can add them on the list.

As always, thanks for dropping by!


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I, Daniel Blake – A Social Movie with a Kafkaesque Take on State Welfare System

With his fist raised in the air, Daniel Blake stood before the graffiti he made on the walls of State Welfare. This protest will be his first offense after being a citizen of good standing for 50 years. And some weeks later, he dies.

A sympathizer raises Daniel Blake's hand as he protest in front of State Welfare.
A sympathizer raises Daniel Blake’s hand as he protests in front of State Welfare. Photo downloaded from I, Daniel Blake official Facebook page. No Copyright infringement intended.

OF STATE WELFARE AND SOCIAL CONTRACTS

In a democratic form of government, there exist the theory of social contract, with which comes reciprocated duties. This means that the sovereign is committed to the good of the individuals who constitute it, and each individual is likewise committed to the good of the whole[1]. Having said these, the individuals gather as one to decide which laws to enact, laws which will then give each person equal rights and privileges. In turn, individuals must perform their duty to the sovereign – obeying laws, paying taxes, etc. This seems to be a very noble ideal. And though Rousseau’s idea can optimally work in a particularly small community, the tenets, if coordinated well, may be applied to an entire state or country.

However, it seems that the system, claimed to have been collectively created and agreed upon, squeezes the breath out of the body it desperately wants to keep alive. The processes imposed are often unnecessary, winding and neglect the urgency of need. This becomes especially frustrating in State/Social Welfare.    

Daniel Blake’s story is one that you hear any day of the year. Why, people always get into welfare for some reason or another. But the tedious process of finally benefiting from your right and privilege can sometimes be ridiculous and often, delayed. You can’t help but think that maybe the processes they put in place in Welfare came straight out of a Franz Kafka’s book.

But unlike W.H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, who chose to just go down and live the life of a conformist, Ken Loach and Paul Laverty’s Daniel Blake refused to surrender his self-respect.

MEET DANIEL BLAKE

Daniel tried to bear with the system but was always told that what he’s done isn’t enough. He was even threatened with sanctions. We’re made to believe that the people at State Welfare work for the poor. But it’s looks like they’re just slaves of the system. Funny when we tell politicians what they’re doing isn’t enough, all we ever receive is a shrug. They even have the nerve to plunder. Those representatives know the steps very well, but they cannot identify with the people they’re supposed to serve. Yes, there are people who lie about their conditions, but not everyone should be punished just because few people are crooked. Also they imposed requirements that not everyone is capable of doing so. Or they include steps that require assistance that they actually failed to put in place.

WHY IT’S WORTHY:

The plot of the film is simple, even predictable to some. But the glaring truth in all those scenes is just so hard to ignore. You can see people in need driven further to destitution because the state which promised to take care of them has now become reluctant, even doubtful. How can people live with dignity in a society that tolerates such system? And yet, we see them in every part of the world. Do we just exist to put each other in miseries?

I’ll go as far to say that I, Daniel Blake, is a powerful film on a pressing social issue that most people just shrug off every day. It shows that we must clamor for improvement so that nobody has to sacrifice unnecessarily. So that we know it’s only right to demand for the sovereign’s part of reciprocated duties. And finally, so that we all can live and die with dignity.

Check the full cast and crew of the film here.

BONUS:

Here’s a video from Ted-Ed on what it really means to be Kafkaesque:

As always, thanks for dropping by!

Reference:

[1]Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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America First and the Global Race to be in Second

AMERICA FIRST, WHO WANTS TO BE SECOND?

The race to come in second after America is turning into a most interesting battle of wits and satire. After Holland’s Introductory Video became viral, several other TV shows from different countries followed suit. The competition has since become very steep.

Each video highlights the uniqueness of each country – nature, technology, culture and people. Each shows what they can offer, how they’re very compatible with America and how some of their leaders (past and present) are so similar to Donald Trump.

I especially love the segments where they highlight “alternative facts” and even alienated some of their own customs and history.

While some grovelled to be in second place, a few just wished to be at least in the top 10.

While some just want to be ahead of others:

Israel just has a cheeky reminder though:

FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT

Through these videos, you’ll learn about the quirks and weird traditions that each country has. The ironic turns of their history  which are sometimes funny and sometimes painful. And of course, how countries are very similar to people when it comes to biases and beliefs.

Of course, none of these are official political videos. They’re just meant to be amusing. And if you can see anything more than that, well, you’re so entitled to it. It’s your opinion anyway.  

Watch more introductory videos on EverySecondCounts.Org.

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Silence – Of Persecuted Christians and their Silent God

Silence - Padre Rodrigues and Mokichi

Silence is about the dangers and sufferings of early Christians in Japan. It also shows how the local government reacted to this Western religion and the lengths they’d gone in order to break Christian priests. At length, it narrates how these Christian priests have fallen for and from their faith, either through death or great torture. It features their moments of doubt both in themselves and in their God. 

The film have stunning landscapes and great photography. Every detail is made to be pleasing to the eyes. Even character deaths are made poignant to a fault. I won’t go on about how visually appealing the film was. Let the technical critics deal with that. I want to talk about how Silence presented Japan and Christianity.

JAPAN AND CHRISTIANITY

Though not mentioned in the film, there could be so many reasons that the Japanese government had to be vigilant of this religion.

The 1600’s is the height of the Age of Exploration. European countries are going out to the New World, to discover new frontiers and of course, establish their claim to these lands. More often disguised as missionary voyages, these trips are actually economic exercises, designed to increase the wealth of their country of origin. At this time, Japan has one of the most advanced societies in the East. They may have seen through the movements of European countries and recognized Christianity as a ploy to invade their land.

Also, Christianity may cause structural strain because of the doctrines it preaches. For the Japanese peasants during the 1600s, Christianity is a most agreeable prospect. In the strict caste system of their society, they’re people who were born to do hard labor. It’s their duty to pay taxes and endure worst living conditions. They were serfs, subject of daimyos who claim to give them protection. Apparently, they didn’t feel secure at all, as they seek solace in the idea of a God who’ll reward them a place in Paradise after they die. While the daimyo’s demands are too high, God only requires faith. While they were raised to believe that not all men were created equal, here’s an idea that all men were created in the likeness of God. It’s a clear choice for this people.

In a worst case scenario, this might even lead to rebellion. Christianity worships Jesus, son of God, whose reign is prophesied to be supreme among all peoples of all nations.

WHAT SILENCE TELLS ME:

Silence shows what these early missionaries lack – a deep understanding of the current culture and customs of the people they wished to convert to Christianity. They failed to understand the workings of Japanese society. They failed to anticipate the interpretation of these doctrines in the Japanese point of view. It seems that the promise of Paradise have become more important than any other Christian teachings.

Japan and Christianity is like oil and water. In fact, even today, only 1% of Japan’s population are Christians. This is a strong proof that even after centuries of crusading for this faith, oriental beliefs and religions still dominate this eastern country. I’m afraid it is what as the film says, Japan is like a swamp. Nothing can grow there (in terms of propagating Christian beliefs). At least, that 1% now enjoys the freedom of religion. This film was made to commemorate and honor the brave men and women of faith who faced persecution.

MOST MEMORABLE PART:

“Before it’s all right to be a Christian. It’s so unfair that I only get to live now [when Christians are being persecuted].”

This is Kijichiro’s lament. I’m not sure how to interpret his presence in Padre Rodrigues’s life. Sometimes, I look at him as temptation personified, and sometimes, I see him as the personification of Hosea’s* wife. He commits sins again and again. Then he repents again and again. And the Lord (thru Padre Rodrigues) pardons his sins again and again. He’s an authentic human being – always prone to committing mistakes, contradicting himself, feeling guilty and wanting to repent.

*If you’re familiar with the Christian Bible, Hosea is a prophet with an unfaithful wife. She commits adultery again and again. But Hosea takes her back every time. Their relationship symbolizes the love that God has with His chosen people (Israel). No matter how many times they’ve sinned, God’s always willing to take them back.

MOST HEARTBREAKING PART:

“It took four days for Mokichi to die.”

In a manner that’s very reminiscent of Jesus’ last moments, Mokichi’s persecution included being tied to a cross until he dies. This cross stood on a rocky coast, facing the ocean.  It left him, and two others, exposed to the strong waves and the hot sun. And when his fellow believers died, he begged God to welcome their souls and to get a place ready for them in Paraiso.

Check out the complete cast and characters here.

Credit goes to Teaser-Trailer.com for the featured image on this post.

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