First Galliano, now Japanese boy band causes a Führer

You would think by now everyone would have figure out the rule that No Nazis is Good Nazis. While this is universally true it seems the business world in particular has a problem remembering it.

Although former Dior designer John Galliano’s besotted ode to Herr Schicklgruber has captured the most headlines, he isn’t the only public figure with a swastika issue. In Japan (no slouch itself when it comes to fascist World War II atrocities):

Sony Music Artists Inc. apologized Wednesday on behalf of its popular boy-band Kishidan, after the group performed on MTV Japan in outfits that Jewish groups said looked like Nazi uniforms.

That description makes the whole thing sound like an acute case of oversensitivity, but if you watch the group’s video for its song Kira Kira! you see that Kishidan is astoundingly clueless in its use of imagery.

No Nazis is Good Nazis

First we have the band – with haircuts that would make Flock of Seagulls blush and outfits that are definitely inspired by The You Know Who – being faux gunned down by someone wearing Soviet-like army garb. (As you will recall, Commies were one of the other groups the National Socialists were going to save Germany from. How’d that work out, anyway?) This is followed by the band members being beaten up by

  1. Someone in metallic Japanese feudal armor
  2. A dominatrix who has definitely seen The Night Porter too many times
  3. The Russian, again; and
  4. A zombie. Don’t ask me why. (It’s time to let the whole zombie thing go. Either that or someone needs to tell a story from the Zombie’s point of view. Sparkly Zombies!)

Finally a virtuous and seemingly virginal Japanese school girl held captive by a sadistic robo-teacher takes a bullet for the band. This is easily the most incomprehensible Japanese film I’ve seen since Gegege no Kitaro and not 1/100th as entertaining.

Best quote in the story is from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who “said he thinks the incidents reflect a hole in Japan’s education of World War II. “

“Generally my experience has been in speaking with young people they don’t necessarily know very much other than that Hitler was a strong leader or that aesthetically this is very striking and interesting. For a lot of young Japanese they don’t even understand. When these controversies come up their initial reaction is ‘what’s the controversy? What did we do wrong here? What did Nazi Germany do?’”

The war is a bit of a touchy subject in Japan. Almost as touchy as it is for the Chinese, Koreans, Philippinos, Allied vets and others the Japanese visited themselves upon.

I don’t think this band is pro-Nazi as much as they are idiots. Reminds me of Walter Sobchak’s line from The Big Lebowski: “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

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New reg lets banks ignore actual value of “underperforming” loans

It is only fitting that on Halloween the Federal government is increasing the number of zombies among us.

Federal bank regulators issued guidelines allowing banks to keep loans on their books as "performing" even if the value of the underlying properties have fallen below the loan amount.

Blog_Zombie_BankThe rationale?

While CRE (commercial real estate) borrowers may experience deterioration in their financial condition, many continue to be creditworthy customers who have the willingness and capacity to repay their debts. In such cases, financial institutions and borrowers may find it mutually beneficial to work constructively together.

Nothing inspires confience in me like the phrase “financial institutions and borrowers may find it mutually beneficial.” Especially since banks are not required to only apply this rule to “creditworthy customers who have the willingness and capacity to repay their debts.”

I really can’t top what Doug McIntyre wrote at DailyFinance.com:

The FDIC appears simply to be taking losses that would be incurred in the normal course of business and pushing the true accounting for them into the future. It is to the political benefit of Washington to make it appear that the banking sector is getting better. It also probably helps the FDIC, which is essentially insolvent, from having to come up with billions of dollars to insure deposits at failing banks.

Some can argue that this regulation just does for commercial real estate what had already been done for home mortgages. In April, the Financial Accounting Standards Board approved a new set of rules allowing financial firms to fiddle with how big their real-estate losses are. (New accounting rules let bankers set the value of their own toxic assets)

When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Real crocs thriving as Crocs™ go extinct

gator-zombie The colorful landfill-filling life-threatening shoes are headed to that great fire sale in the sky. Despite selling 100 million pairs in seven years, the company lost $185 million last year, dumped a third of its workers and have to find someone willing to adopt all their surplus shoes. Why not try the time-tested method of flushing them down the toilet in NYC?

"The company’s toast," said Damon Vickers, who manages an investment fund at Nine Points Capital Partners in Seattle. "They’re zombie-ish. They’re dead and they don’t know it."

Zombie-ish? Love it, but can you be slightly zombie? Isn’t being zombie like being pregnant? It’s either yes or no. 

On the brighter side – for those of us who don’t live in Florida – real crocs are doing great. There population has rebounded from just 200 in 1975 to more than 2,000 and they were removed from the endangered species list two years ago.

BusinessPundit has a good roundup of 20 other brands/products that have died this year.

Top 10 Marketing Blunders of 2008

Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.

(PS: If you liked this would you mind going here and voting for it on Digg?)

GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT

(tie)

The John McCain Presidential Campaign

  • “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
  • Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
  • Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
  • Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
  • “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
  • “Lipstick on a pig”
  • Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).

GM

Runners Up

  1. Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
  2. Framingham State College  uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
  3. Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
  4. Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
  5. JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
  6. Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
  7. Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
  8. Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
  9. Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
  10. Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar

Special Jury Awards

Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been

The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching

Product Failure

The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards

Previous years’ lists

Penguin seal

2006: My favorite books

Here’s a list of books I encountered this year and really liked.

Non-fiction

Fiction

  • Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett: The funniest writer going. If it’s not quite up there with The Wee Free Men, Jingo, Mort, Pyramids, or The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, that’s because those set the bar so high.
  • The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud: Part one of a trilogy (shudder … WHY???) telling a story of magic and politics from the POV of an enslaved djinni. I read a lot of YA fiction. Fortunately there’s a lot out there that’s really, really good and this is one.
  • The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau: This story about escaping from a dying, post-apocalyptic city can be read as allegory or just as a really good story.
  • The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, Chris Wooding: How dark can YA fantasy get? Pretty damn dark. A great book and one that hasn’t been spoiled by a sequel.
  • Abarat, Clive Barker: A strange and totally unexpected fantasy world with strange and totally unexpected paintings by the author. Sadly, it is part of a trilogy. What are you going to do?
  • The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov: OK, so it was a re-read. Sue me. Of all the eastern European fabulists whom I love — I.B. Singer, Gogol, Kafka, Lem — he is my favorite. M&M is the story of the devil coming to the USSR in the 1920s interwoven with a retelling of the crucifiction. It reminds me of Miyazake’s Swept Away. Like that wonderful movie it bends reality superbly and after my first go around with it I didn’t really have a clue what it was about. But it has amply rewarded each return visit.
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks: If you read only one post-apocalyptic fictitious history of a world wide war with zombies this year, this is the one. Some reviewers found it humorous (perhaps because Mr. Brook’s father is Mel Brooks?), I didn’t. Funny & Zombie? That’s Shaun of the Dead. This is a horrifying look at what it would be like if the entire world were engulfed in modern war made more marketable because the bad guys are zombies.