Authentic Air Safety Kabuki Theatre

Okay, a little break from my weighty opining on the value and philosophy of art.

I caught this on the Forbes site recently. All Nippon Airways (ANA) has employed kabuki actors to appear in their safety videos. The video showcases a lot of the characteristic elements of kabuki performance, including, as Forbes notes, male performers in female roles.

I always think it is great when countries showcase their traditional arts for a broader audience. (Which by no means diminishes New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings themed air safety announcements). The internationally familiar context of an air safety announcement assists in the sharing of this cultural practice. You need not speak Japanese or English to understand what is occurring.

Andrew Bender does a good job in the Forbes piece pointing out some of the common devices from kabuki performance, including the places where they diverge from tradition. Read the article if you are curious to learn more about what you are watching.  There are a ton of other symbols present like color and gestures, the meanings of which I once knew more about but which are pretty vague in my memory now.

If nothing else, perhaps people will stop randomly labeling activities as kabuki theatre after seeing a sample of what a performance actually entails. (Okay, so yeah, probably not.)

Bender mentions there is a behind the scenes video which is shown upon deplaning. I tried to find it on the ANA YouTube site in order to learn a little bit more to no avail.




If You Like Classical Music And Are In A Movie, You Just Might Be The Depraved Villain

This past weekend, had a number of articles on the benefits of the arts.

One in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked if Mozart could make you a better runner. The basis of the author’s argument was more about beats per minute helping to set your pace than attributing any special benefit of classical music. You could do worse than downloading the suggested classical music playlist to accompany your exercise routine.

Another piece in the Pacific Standard discussed a recent study in Florida finding the benefits of integrating arts into classwork. I write a lot about the problems associated with valuing the arts for their instrumental value. I won’t reiterate it here. Apparently pairing having students sing, etc lesson content helped students who struggle retain content for a longer period.

“Overall, the researchers found no significant differences in the amount of content the kids retained, regardless of which version of the lessons they received. But the arts-infused approach had a positive effect on “struggling readers.” Ten weeks later, those kids “remembered significantly more science content learned through the arts” than those who were taught using conventional methods.”

The article I wanted to draw attention to today was the observation that movie characters who listen to classical music are often the central villain. This has been pointed out before, but in The American Scholar, Theodore Gioia, has an interesting theory about why that is.

Evil is a byproduct of brainpower. The implication is that aesthetic sophistication and psychopathic violence spring from the same mentality, a decadent hyperintelligence that becomes so cultivated that it savors homicide as a refined pleasure like Baroque cello. Slaughtering civilians and appreciating Vivaldi are depicted as two forms of the same psychosis, a connection hammered into the popular imagination in film after film, scene after scene, for the past quarter century.

[…long snip…]

Why do our films depict sociopaths murdering to Mozart and not Metallica? Why must master criminals always time their nuclear strikes at curtain time? The answer runs deeper than box-office populism and derivative filmmaking. How a society pictures its villains is a revelation of its own anxieties. Opera-house assassinations, while a familiar trope, still strike a chord of Everyman angst deep in the American subconsciousness: a vein of populist paranoia that suspects the shiny trappings of high society—galas, gowns, orchestras—exist to disguise the brutal source of its wealth. Decorum is an accomplice to depravity. That we imagine secret cabals planning world domination at Tosca rather than Davos exposes something about our unspoken apprehensions, tells us that the public does not fear perversity or power so much as deception. These scenes materialize the phantom suspicion that the real threat to the Common Man is not the raving lunatic in the streets but the polite psychopath in the opera box. We mistake malevolence as sophistication because it’s wearing a suit and a tie.

Gioia goes on to relate a “we need younger audiences” conversation he had with a front office employee of the San Francisco Symphony. Gioia says they covered the usual culprits of cost, lack of diversity, strange rituals, no arts in schools, etc,. In retrospect, he wondered if a shift from classical music accompanying Looney Tunes cartoons to decades of accompanying depictions of maniacal criminality might be fueling a subconscious distrust of the music.

Public Restrooms As A Metaphor For Accessible Cultural Experiences

Four years ago, I wrote about how the government of India, in an attempt to end public defecation by 2019, was building over 1 million toilet facilities in households around the country. However, due to a general belief that it was healthier to defecate outdoors, most people receiving government constructed toilets were using them for storage or living spaces instead. India started sending out inspectors to ensure the toilets were being used for their intended purpose and encouraged people to report on their neighbors.

I used this situation as a metaphor for expecting people to participate in arts events just because they were being held or a facility existed. The benefits of the arts may seem just as self-evident to arts people as the benefits of a robust sanitation infrastructure, but social inertia can be difficult to overcome, even with mandatory education campaigns (i.e. arts in schools).

This idea has made “toilets in India” a short hand metaphor friend of the blog, Carter Gillies and I use when we discuss the ways in which the value of the arts are perceived and measured.

Because that article from 2015 is never far from my mind, I was interested to read about a private effort in Pune, India to transform old buses into public restrooms for women. In addition to public restrooms often being poorly maintained and/or unavailable, women in India are averse to using public restrooms due to the possibility of being assaulted when using them after dark and stigmas associated with menstruation and pregnancy.

The people behind the project confirm that it took months to reverse the common perception and convince people that public restrooms could be safe and sanitary. The mobile restrooms are definitely on the higher end of any portable toilet set up you would find in the US. They have video screens with personal health information, a cafe outside and an alarm button to alert a full-time attendant if you feel unsafe.

The project creators discovered there was a much larger unmet need than they expected.

“Our aim initially was to build toilets for mostly lower or middle-income groups, but the gap between the demand and the supply must be so huge that women from all classes are using them,” Sadalkar noted.

I still believe, as I did in 2015, that it isn’t enough to provide opportunities and space for arts and culture, assuming the benefits will be self-evident and people will change their behavior in accordance with that realization.

Now that I have become more involved with Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection effort to build public will for arts and culture, I can appreciate the need for a consistent, long term approach to shifting perceptions and attitudes such as the efforts of those behind the portable restrooms. Those involved with the portable restrooms couldn’t just talk about the benefits of a clean, well stocked place, they had to understand and address the perceptual and physical barriers that their demographics faced.

Your Site Has 4 3 Seconds To Load Or I Am Leaving

Big hat tip to Thomas Cott for linking to an article about how quickly people will abandon a webpage if it is loading slowly.  The title tells pretty much everything you need to know about the problem – Slow pages hurt conversions, but marketers aren’t in a hurry to fix them.  (my emphasis below)

[Unbounce] then conducted two parallel surveys of consumers and marketers to understand their respective attitudes toward page speed. Nearly 75 percent of consumers surveyed said they’d wait four or more seconds for a mobile site to load. However, Google data show that most people abandon sites after three seconds if content hasn’t loaded.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that slow-loading sites would negatively affect their willingness to buy and even return to the particular site. Surprisingly, women were more impatient than men in this regard.

Interestingly a majority of consumers said they wanted faster-loading sites even it meant giving up animations, video and images. The good news for brands and publishers is that most consumers were more inclined to blame their ISP (50.5 percent) than the site itself (34.2 percent).

Even though people were willing to blame their ISP over the site, that is no reason to think you can get by. Over 1/3 of respondents blamed the site itself. People are experienced enough to have a good sense where the blame lay.

Among the top suggestions for solving this issue are optimizing image and video size; improving caching and hosting and running speed tests.

If you are at a loss for where to even start to learn how to do these things–ArtsHacker has a whole series devoted to this. The impetus for this was anticipated slow downs due to net neutrality rulings by the FCC so there are a number of strategies in that series that you can use. You will definitely find pieces on image compression, speed tests, database optimization and minimizing the impact of page requests.

Granted, some of these procedures should not be undertaken if you are inexperienced working under the hood of your website. By the same token, if you don’t know much about how website traffic works, the articles can give you new information and a better sense of what things contribute to slow downs on your website.


Something I am curious about that is tangentially related is how quickly people will abandon a video if an ad they can’t quickly skip starts playing. This doesn’t usually impact videos embedded as performance samples in website that I have seen, but there have been a number of times I decided I wasn’t interested enough in a news piece to wait for an ad to finish.  I suspect I am more patient with those ads than most so it makes me wonder about the long term viability of those ads. Especially as YouTube seems to be getting increasingly insistent in their offers to sign up for their paid service.

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