Intl. Notebook Jun 13 2017
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Last one there is a rotten ama.
 
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie. 
 
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
 
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
 
 
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
 
Zoku kindan no suna 
Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji

 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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