The Eternal Season: Mediolana’s Social Media Presence Gets Stunning 2016 Makeover!

As climate change begins to scare the bejesus out of us here in an unseasonably warm London, we at Mediolana are taking time to reflect on our new social media header. This may seem paradoxical, but it really is a thing of beauty. Behold – and tell us what you think via the usual channels. Our legal sidebar notice has also changed.

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Going It Alone: Thousands of Corporations Flee Catalonia!

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Kocho Yoshida: The Ultimate Symptom of a Global Female Characterisation Crisis?

We at Mediolana take a special interest in how entities from corporations to cities brand themselves, and are usually amongst the first to applaud any imaginative initiatives in this context. However, a tourist promotional flyer for the central Japanese city of Minokamo raises more questions than answers. The poster features one Kocho Yoshida, a character from the anime series No Rin – a comedy set in Minokamo’s entirely non-fictional agricultural high-school – but with one key alteration: extreme breast augmentation. The outcry at the degree of anatomical distortion is such that according to Asialyst, the Yoshida-fronted campaign has been suspended.

In retrospect (and this really should have been apparent before the poster’s promulgation), it is easy to see why this piece of artwork is inapposite, particularly for a general audience. But the Kocho Yoshida scandal serves to highlight what we at Mediolana believe to be a much, much bigger problem: the near-total dearth of compelling female characters in contemporary popular culture.

For much of the twentieth century, women were perceived through primarily aesthetic lenses; however, this did not always preclude strong characterisation. Indeed, the appearance of an arresting female on stage or screen could be the cue for a definitive performance: that sublime combination of physical beauty and technical skill. However, we then moved into an era where technical skill was abjured in favour of a short-term marketing hit: as Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell Nordström noted in their 1999 classic Funky Business: Talent Makes Capital Dance, one cannot explain the success of the Spice Girls phenomenon with reference to its music.

More recently, some have claimed that we have entered a post-Velina age, where women are once again being valued for something other than their material properties; however, after some contemplation we remain unconvinced of advancement, and not merely because of the profusion of Ridderstråle and Nordström’s big-breasted, anorexic electronic warriors (despite her dimensions, Ms Yoshida probably does not quite fit this description).

Our somewhat uncomfortable observation is that a largely two-dimensional template for female characters is being supplanted by a new model that – although embellished with far-fetched detail – is even more shallow than its predecessor. Commissioners and creatives alike are mistaking dysfunctionality for depth. This is no peripheral issue: by consistently introducing female characters who are complex but not ultimately likeable, they are effectively doing three things: (a) killing the longevity of their creations (cf. the ephemera of Desperate Housewives, Sex in the City et al); (b) discrediting the idea of prominent female roles; and (c) pushing the media as a whole back towards an anatomy-based model, only this time without any other redeeming features. Ms Yoshida may be the perfect symbol of this epoch.

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Au Revoir, Démocratie? French Government ‘Seeks Indefinite State of Emergency’!

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Back in the Shire: Insularity of London Literary Scene Spawns Alternative Festival!

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Resurrection, 2.0: Three Strategies to Save a Dying Church of England

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Numbers can sometimes be deceptive, but it is difficult to put a positive spin on the latest official Church of England (‘C of E’) attendance figures: the proportion of the population warming the Anglican pews on a typical Sunday morning now stands at a sobering 1.4%. Even the Church’s preferred set of attendance statistics – those counting attendance at any point during the week (not unlike a video-on-demand service) – has slipped below the one million mark in a country of over 53 million people.

More alarmingly, the trend for anyone who cares about the future of this branch of Christianity is clear: the decline of attendances in the five short years between 2009 and 2014 was no less than 7%. Make no mistake: unless something changes, the Church of England as it is currently constituted is heading for extinction.

So what can be done to arrest the complete annihilation of an organisation which – in sectors as diverse and vital as education and poverty relief – still plays such a key role in the life of the nation? After some contemplation, we at Mediolana can think of three strategies which are ripe for implementation:

  1. Rock-Star Leadership. For many decades now, the Church of England has suffered a chronic leadership deficit. This has not been remedied in more recent times. Rowan Williams (2002-2012) was and remains a gifted theologian and commentator, but his limitations as a communicator – particularly to anyone under the age of fifty – were painfully obvious. The Most Reverend Justin Carey – his indubitably talented replacement as Archbishop of Canterbury – is anonymous beyond the call of duty. The C of E desperately needs a CEO who is not merely personable and charming, but who can convey Christianity’s core spiritual message in an authentic way that can inspire people enough to actively want to connect with their local church instead of their nearest shopping centre.
  2. Women. In a society which risks being characterised by the decisive ascent of de-spiritualised zombies, women remain a constituency who are not completely satisfied with the status quo: they disproportionately populate the self-help sections in bookshops, practice meditation and value the integrity of the (permanently disintegrated?) family unit. The Church of England must undertake a serious initiative to engage with women and their concerns; they might be surprised by what they find.
  3. Multiple Religious Identities. In our increasingly globalised world, Umberto Eco has pointed to a new reality he terms the ‘colouring’ of religion; essentially, the cross-pollination of religious practices. This is particularly evident in cities across Western Europe and Asia: agnostics following the Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama and (post-)Christians seeking out halal meat are two such examples of this possibly irreversible trend. The Church of England could become a lead actor in this process by recognising multiple religious identities as a matter of policy: declaring that a person can be simultaneously C of E and, say, Taoist would not just pose a whole new set of interesting theological issues for the established order to grapple with, but it could multiply the potential subscriber base manyfold – and instantly.

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University Challenge: Rogue Server ‘Sprays Confidential Japan #Student Data Across Internet’!

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