Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jane & Mena's big adventure: Our recent visit to Hello Kitty!

Sometimes you just gotta take a break from observing the ever-present world stage of human tragedy and go out and have fun! So last week me and my two-year-old granddaughter Mena went over to San Francisco to see Hello Kitty celebrate her 50th birthday. According to a recent 7-Live newscast, this event was to take place on Justin Herman Plaza at 1 pm, and consisted of a mobile Hello Kitty store, some free gift bags and an opportunity to get your photo taken with Hello Kitty herself!

So we popped onto the BART train and took off.

Was the event crowded? Yes it was. We got there two hours early and there were already at least 200 people standing in line. One woman said that she had left her house that morning at 6 am so that she would be sure to get a gift bag. And everyone there was a huge Hello Kitty fan!

Demographics? Most of the fans there were adults -- many of whom have loved Hello Kitty since childhood. And why not -- what's not to love? Guilty pleasure -- I love Hello Kitty too. Many Japanese-Americans and Japanese turned out for the event. And most fans were women. Me too. And so was Hello Kitty!

The prices of things for sale at the mobile store were a bit on the expensive side. A commemorative T-shirt was $35, a small plastic coin purse was $12. Small stuffed animals were $28. Plus it took forever to get waited on.

However, a good time was had by all and we made lots of instant friends while waiting in line to get our photos taken with Miss Kitty. "But what about the gift bags?" you might ask. Only 50 of them were given out, plus they gave the first 50 arrivals a number (written on their hands) so that there would be no cutting in line. Rats. But I did get a sneak peek at the gift bags even though we had arrived too late to actually score, and they contained stickers, a note pad, a pencil and a small coin purse. I want one!

The Hello Kitty "Small Gifts" 50th-birthday mobile tour was a really fun event, mostly because of all the enthusiastic fans that we met -- but also because we got to actually get our photos taken with a real, life-sized Hello Kitty. And she even patted young Mena on the head.

Moral of the story? Even a hardened reporter like myself can still succumb to "cute" -- and that advertisers and promoters still have us where they want us.

PS: Mena went as a witch for Halloween this year -- which reminds me of all the female Tea Party candidates who have been circling like sharks churning the waters during this election cycle: Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman, Christine O'Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Michelle Bachmann, etc. Remember back in the day when we women would have been honored and pleased to have so many female candidates running for federal office? I surely don't feel that way now.

PPS: Speaking of honor, Glasgow Sunday Herald war correspondent David Pratt has just written a very moving article entitled "There is never an argument to defend the use of torture". Pratt himself was tortured when he was reporting from Bosnia back in 1995.

"The gunmen who took me prisoner claimed to be Croatian militiamen, but were, in reality, little more than thugs and gangsters," wrote Pratt. "During my short captivity, along with other civilian prisoners, I was bound and beaten with rifle butts before being singled out one night to be shot. To this day, I’ve never really been able to figure out what then followed – a mock execution or simply a case of my captors, who were drunk at this point – making a cock-up of trying to kill me.

"The last I remember of that night, was kneeling with my hands tied behind my back looking down into a ditch where others lay twisted and lifeless. Then there was the sound of a pistol being cocked before being put to the back of my head. A second later, there was an empty click and some mocking laughter before a thump on the back of my neck sent me to oblivion into the ditch where I later regained consciousness lying alone among a heap of bodies."

The point that Pratt goes on to make is this:
"At the end of the day, real democracies don’t do torture. In today’s war on terror, far from being a necessary evil, torture is plain evil: a morally reprehensible act that is in itself is a form of terrorism.

"No matter how much we try to justify it as a means to an end, in fighting today’s war on terror, it simply can never be so. Those states that advocate its use are little better than those morally bankrupt thugs at whose hands I, along with countless others, suffered in Bosnia all those years ago.

"As the French Algerian author, Albert Camus, eloquently put it: 'Torture has perhaps saved some, at the expense of honor…even when accepted in the interest of realism and efficacy, such a flouting of honor serves no purpose but to degrade our country in her own eyes and abroad.'”