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But this single thread explaining the origin of yaoi and boys' love is far too simple a story; M/M had pre-yaoi manifestations. Just as it has innumerable exponents today, it had other originators, both identifiable and unidentifiable--a paradigm case of Barthes' "the death of the author" (Barthes, 1977). Before M/M acquired the name yaoi, boys' love had made appearances in commercial manga. One of the most important appearances was the 1976 publication of Keiko Takemiya's sensational manga to (A Poem of Wind and Trees), the story of the beautiful young French boarding school student Gilbert Cocteau who is continually falling into bed with other boys. Takemiya (personal communication, 14 August, 2000) explained how she struggled to convince her editor at Syogakukan, one of Japan's big-three manga publishers, to print her story in the weekly girls' manga . Much to the publisher's surprise, the story was an instant success, it was serialized for many years, and introduced boys' love into the popular visual culture of adolescent girls. --which appeared in 1978 at roughly the same time that Sakata and her group coined the term yaoi--was the first commercial manga devoted entirely to M/M relationships. The erotic magazine for young women, which combines manga and short stories, within a few months evolved into the still popular (Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, 2002).1 A third type of M/M narrative termed "slash" which refers to love stories based on live media characters such as, say Kirk and Spock, about which there is a considerable body of literature (Bacon-Smith, 1992; Creed, 1990; Jardine, 1985; Jenkins, 1992; Kotani, 1994; Lamb & Veith, McLelland, 2000; 1986; Penley, 1991; Russ, 1985). Slash exists primarily as a literary form since, if the live actors are drawn in cartoon form, they become like manga or cartoon characters, that is to say, they become dojinshi yaoi.

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Most popular visual culture is "cooked-up" by profit-seeking adults and fed to hungry youth, but this is not always so in Japan. The semiannual COMICMARKET (also known as Comiket and Comike), which began in 1975, is a visual cultural phenomenon shaped almost entirely by youth; its meaning and its consequences are of global importance. Art educators need to understand what's happening in Asia, how it's spreading to the West, and its implications for art and visual cultural pedagogy.

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COMICMARKET is now held in Tokyo Harbor at the Tokyo International Trade Center also known as Tokyo Big Sight. The center houses six enormous halls, 80,000 square meters of space devoted to the exhibition and sale of comic books (dojinshi) created by amateurs. During the comic market's three days, 35,000 groups, consisting of perhaps as many as 100,000 young creators of dojinshi manga, sell their magazines to approximately 420,000 otaku (fans). (The term dojinshi was originally applied to manga-like fanzines, the hobby magazines and comic books produced by amateurs. means folks who share the same taste and means magazine. The term dojinshi has come to refer to both a club or circle of high school or college students who create their own comic books, and to the comic books themselves. The term otaku which is applied to the purchasers of dojinshi and manga implies a passionate or even fanatic desire to collect artifacts and information related to manga, anime, video games, and, of course, dojinshi.) COMICMARKET and the 2,000 or so other dojinshi comic markets held in Japan each year are, we think, the most easily identified phenomena in a vast visual subculture created mostly by teenagers and young adults mainly for themselves. How did the phenomenon begin?

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In yaoi narratives there is a seldom varying rule specifying two clearly defined "male" roles. One protagonist is and one is . Seme is a man whose attitudes and actions are "on top," aggressive, and affirmative, in other words it's the stereotypical role attributed to males. The aggressive role is contrasted with the "on the bottom," passive, and submissive uke stereotypical role attributed to females. Yaoi narratives feature endless variations of the rape of a uke type by a seme type who, despite his aggression, truly loves his passive uke partner (Nakajima, 1998, pp. 76-77). In boys' love dojinshi, relationships are gentler than those found in the more violent yaoi narratives. But gentle and smooth or violent and rough, these relationships, created by young females, take place between males. What do they mean?

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The traditional binary forces of positive or negative, black or white, above or below, hard or soft may point to a deeper cultural phenomenon, Taoism and yin and yang. However, the coexisting spectrum of shades of gray, the-somewhere-between-positive-and-negative, and the either and neither-above-or-below point to instability, transition, reformulation, and change. Yaoi may signify a dissatisfaction, an uneasiness, with traditional female identities and the desire to experiment with new identities and new power relationships. Nevertheless, the precise character of the new conceptions of male and female, such as the "dual" feminine and masculine "personalities" posited by Takemiya (personal communication, January 22, 2003 are difficult if not impossible to fix. The perspectives, positions, tastes, and orientations seem to exist in a frightening rhizomatic flux. Yaoi appears to reinforce conservative gender roles while simultaneously providing models for liberating roles. The choices are there and the readers and writers may, consciously or unconsciously, choose this, or that, or the other model--or their combinations.

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Sagawa, (personal communication, June 6, 2002) offers an even more extreme interpretation applied to the readers of the magazine he edits. " is a place of therapeutic rehabilitation for those women who have experienced mental and physical abuse." Sagawa said that he couldn't ignore the fact that some readers "have never been loved by other people--parents, friends, the opposite sex." He thinks that M/M stories help "heal the wounds and struggles of woman who are not equal to men in this [Japanese] society." If what Sagawa claims is true for the women's magazine , then perhaps there is also a faction within the dojinshi yaoi subculture to whom his interpretation also applies.