Hannibal Missouri – A Ghost Town?

It’s not a ghost town yet but it’s getting there. I spent a day in Hannibal, Missouri. I’m a high school English teacher and just couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the home of the American author, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Mid-July I expected the streets of Hannibal to be teeming with sightseers anxious to catch a glimpse of the spot on the Mississippi River where Twain’s hero Huck Finn set sail on his raft . I thought folks would be lined up in droves to tour the Clemens homestead and visit the caves where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had so many adventures. But on a steamy summer afternoon I browsed in solitary pleasure through shops replete with Twain novels, biographies and souvenirs. A Japanese tourist and a father and son from England were the only other people visiting Becky Thatcher’s cottage with me. A boy and girl dressed up like Tom Sawyer and his girlfriend Becky looked bored as they waited for tourists to show up and pay $7 to have their picture taken with the famous literary couple. Horse drawn carriages toured the city carting only a few passengers each. I attended an excellent one-man show put on by actor Richard Garey. Standing on a stage crammed with Twain memorabilia, Garey did a lively and educational re-creation of one of Twain’s lectures and story telling presentations. Mark Twain traveled across the United States entertaining crowds of people in the late 1800’s Unfortunately only eight of us were in attendance at the show Garey staged in Hannibal on a July night.

Don’t get me wrong. Hannibal, Missouri is charming. It’s just that the whole place appears to be a little ‘down on its luck.’ We stopped at two bed and breakfast establishments that looked lovely and appealing in the brochures we’d picked up. The doors were locked, the paint peeling and the yards overgrown. The high school English teacher who supplemented his income by running the book store at the Mark Twain museum had plenty of time to ‘talk shop’ with me since I was his only customer. We wanted to try a local Hannibal restaurant for supper, but by seven o’clock many were closed, and others I have to admit looked just a little on the seedy side. We finally settled on Lula Belles, a former bordello turned now into a respectable eatery. It was founded by an enterprising madam from Chicago at the turn of the century. The food was hardly gourmet, but the portions were plentiful and the service friendly. You couldn’t help remembering however that it used to be a centre for gambling and prostitution and was frequently raided by the police. Did the ‘ladies of the evening’ who made their living there a hundred years ago still haunt the place one wondered?

Literary tourism appears to be flourishing. People are flocking to the sites mentioned in the popular book the Da Vinci Code. The Prince Edward Island tourist industry thrives on the Anne of Green Gables books authored by Lucy Maud Montgomery. So what’s the problem in Hannibal, Missouri, the setting for Twain’s novels? I checked some traveler review web sites which mentioned several reasons for Hannibal’s decline including lack of advertising, limited hours of operation and an almost cynical attitude amongst residents about their famous home town author.

I enjoyed Hannibal, Missouri and was glad I had visited. Hopefully the town will be able to make the necessary changes to attract more tourists. Otherwise it might become a place inhabited only by the ghosts of Mark Twain and the interesting cast of characters he created in his memorable novels.

Bishojo and Moe Characters – The Ideal Female in Japanese Anime and Videogames

“Bishojo” is a Japanese term literally meaning “beautiful girl,” and usually refers to genres of anime and video games that are centered on them. What is considered to be bishojo is subjective to its artists and audiences; such characters can have but are not limited to:

  • Large, endearing eyes to convey her emotions — a characteristic of the anime-art style
  • An ideal female body shape — the hourglass figure
  • An emphasis of the breasts by making them large, giving her sex appeal
  • A wide array of hairstyles, even those that seem impossible in real life
  • Have a wardrobe that includes skirts, blouses, and dresses
  • Moe characteristics

“Moe,” pronounced “mo-eh,” literally referring to a budding plant, is an informal Japanese term meaning a type of feeling towards anime female characters. The moe character exudes an aura of innocence, through her appearance and quirky personality; we might be attracted to her so much that we desire to be with her — to protect her, to be her boyfriend, to be her father, because in our minds she represents the ideal female.

Take the anime series, “K-On!” for example — it can be considered bishojo and moe anime. Mio Akiyama, among fans of the series, is a popular character because she displays moe characteristics. Though she is shown to be serious, we also see her embarrassed and frightened; she generates her audience’s desire to console her as well as protect her from her friend Ritsu Tainaka, who happens to tease her frequently. Mio can also be bishojo due to her hime (hii-may) cut hairstyle; though, all of the female characters of K-On! can be bishojo because the school uniforms they wear make them look cuter (subjective).

Visual novels (VNs) are a popular genre of game in Japan, and are another major source of bishojo and moe characters aside from anime series. The majority of VNs involve romance between a male protagonist and several female romantic prospects. Usually the male protagonist is depicted as a young Japanese or Asian, as it’s assumed that whoever plays such VNs is a male of Asian descent, giving him someone to identify with. A player sees the world in his view, and eyes a girl whom he deems bishojo and moe. He desires to be with her maybe because of her beautiful long black hair and clumsy personality, or he identifies her with a girl he has known in real life — he thus plays the game to vicariously have a relationship with her. In the end, he can have sex with her (in adult-oriented VNs), and/or marry and have children with her.

One might argue that bishojo and moe characters are objectifying the female sex mostly because of the nature of the anime art style. However, others argue it’s not — she offers herself for him to protect, offers herself for him to be with her, and most importantly offers her eternal love and support, not as an object but as if she were a real human female. She can represent a girl a guy has loved, and offer him a second chance with her, giving him a fantasy he cannot otherwise achieve in real life.

The world is an imperfect place and is filled with many broken hearts and loneliness. Bishojo and moe characters offer a perfect fantasy for male, as well as female, audiences to escape the harshness of the real world. It’s a potent concoction that can elicit feelings of longing and nostalgia.

Fashion Adventures In A Girl’s Life With Anna Sui

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to reach the Top of the fashion business, and Anna Sui has certainly succeeded. Time Magazine included her in the list of five most important fashion gurus of this decade. She was born in Detroit in 1955 and moved to New York City after High School. She enrolled at the prestigious Parsons School of Design and went on to work as a stylist for the fashion photographer, Steven Meisel.

After designing clothes as a young woman, inspired by the models in magazines, Anna Sui found her own style. She developed her designing business throughout the 1980s and was ready to put on her first runway show in 1991. The models included Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. Anna launched her own clothing line the following year and opened the first of her boutiques in New York City. Eventually she would have boutiques in Tokyo, Osaka, Hollywood and Los Angeles. She has continued to be particularly popular in Japan, and has designed the costumes for an anime (Japanese style animation), Television series.

The collection is sold in over thirty countries, and commands premium price tags as befits a top designer Label. The range of dresses, tops and skirts etc. has a modern feel about it, and Anna Sui says she was inspired by the rock chic look. There are also accessories for sale such as bags and belts. Her status Is sealed by the endorsement of an impressive list of Celebrities including Madonna, Christina Ricci, Cher, Courtney Love and Patricia Arquette. James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins is also a fan.

In 1997, the footwear collection was launched. Shoes, boots and sandals are available as casual day wear and for formal, evening occasions. There are several different materials used, including silk, shearling, suede, patent leather, velvet, and snake and lizard skin. The Anna Sui Fragrance, aftershave and cosmetics line came out two Years later. The fragrance bottles are particularly Creative, and include a butterfly shape and a model Head design. Toiletries include Eau De Toilette Spray, Body Cream, and Bath and Shower Gel.

All of the collection is available to order online, and there are sales items posted on the web site. Anna Sui continues to bring out her collections, drawing from different inspirational ideas each time, and the shows are always well received. She is always open about the source of her ideas, and still keeps an eye on what’s in the magazines, mixing that with some typical looks from the past.