Matrix Ping Pong

When March 31, 2003
Where: Kinchan and Katori Shingo’s National Costume Competition
Summary: Team captiain: Hideki Kajiwara (梶原比出樹)”

Matrix Ping Pong is a famous video clip that makes the rounds as an Internet meme on the web. It is a recording from the popular annual Japanese show Kinchan and Katori Shingo’s National Costume Competition (欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の新!仮装大賞). The video shows a group of people attempting to mix moves in the style of The Matrix movie while parodying another, Japanese movie named Ping Pong, using kurokos (stagehands dressed all in black that are used in Japanese theatre) to hold the actors and the props up. This performance won the competition on March 31, 2003.

Video Breakdown

The video opens with what appears to be two competitors about to start a ping pong match. On closer inspection, you can see the kurokos in the background that move the various parts of the stage. Each “competitor” is made up of two people one controls the visible top half and the other the legs, the visible lower half. All told there are 7 people involved in the skit:

4 people to control the Red and Orange players
1 person to control the ping pong ball
2 people to move the actual ping pong table

On the screen appear the Skit Title and 29. The title is in Katakana letters that translate into PingPong and the contestants are number 29.


In each episode, there are 30 or so skits that individuals or groups of people act out. There is a panel of 10 judges, each with two buttons to vote with. At the end of each skit, they vote on how much they liked it, with 15 being a passing score and 20 being the max score. So if they didn’t like the skit then they give no points, kind of liked it then they get 1 point, really like it 2 points. If a skit gets below 15 then don’t move onto the next round but if they get above 15, they get a medal and get a chance to win money. This is why and the end of the skit you see them cheering and hugging each other because they got above 15 points.

Kasou Taishou

Kasou Taishou or the (欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の新!仮装大賞; Kinchan and Katori Shingo’s National Costume Competition) is a semi-annual show on NTV in which various amateur groups (or solo artists) perform short skits, which are rated by a panel of judges. It originally was just a show to showcase costumes but as people started performing to showcase their costume the show, especially in recent years, has evolved into skits that revolve around clever methods of “faking” cinematic special effects on a live stage, like “Matrix Ping Pong”. You can view the winners of each episode on the official website press the sixth link down on the left menu bar.

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Afro Ninja

Behind the camera: Casting agency staff for LeBron James Commerical
Photo Summary: Mark Allen Hicks
Picture Taken:

While trying out for a Nike TV commercial starring LeBron James a stunt man/martial artist Mark Allen Hicks attempted to do a black flip for the camera. It didn’t work and unluckily for him, his failed backflip was captured on camera and uploaded to the internet where it spread like wildfire. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 80 million times. Hicks himself didn’t know of his fame until a friend called and said, “that was so funny! I just saw you on the Jay Leno show!” Hicks was puzzled because he had never been on the Leno show. He quickly checked online and to his horror had discovered that the casting agency had leaked his audition video. While at first he was angry he was able to parlay his new found fame into creating a full length movie called, Afro Ninja: Destiny

The Commericial

The commercial was for Nike’s Lebron James in the Chamber of Fear Series. Mike was reported to have stumbled out of the audition with a bloody nose and no role in the commercial. After mark’s “failed” audition the casting guys proclaimed “no more flips” to the next few stunt men waiting to audition. However, later Mike was able to come back to another audition and was booked for the commercial.

Fight Science

National Geographic did a show called Fight Science that explored how the designs and techniques of weaponry can exponentially increase an already fearsome fighter’s impact, control, and range. Mike Hicks was one of the fighting “experts” that showcased their skills in the show.

While people were trying to track down Afro Ninja in a case of misidentification one Shawn Tanner was fingered as the AfroNinja in the video. Shawn was quick to point that he had nothing to do with the video and that his flash site had existed years before the video went viral.

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Behind the camera: Kollaboration
Where: Kollaboration which was held at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles
Photo Summary: David ‘Elsewhere’ Bernal is the third dancer to appear
Picture Taken: Saturday October 6, 2001

David “Elsewhere” Bernal (born August 2, 1979) is a popping dancer from Santa Ana, California. He became well known through this video clip recorded at the Korean-American talent show, Kollaboration, in 2001. The clip showcased Bernal’s characteristic take on contemporary dances popping and liquid dancing. Performances of these dances were rare at the time, and the clip became a very popular viral video. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 200 million times.


Kollaboration is a Korean American/ Korean Canadian Talent Show. “Kollaboration seeks to elevate Korean American/ Korean Canadian talent into the limelight of the music and entertainment industries, showcasing their talents and the community’s potential to the world.” It has been running since 2000 and serves to break down any stereotypes that exist in regards to Korean talent. David Elsewhere’s video clip was filmed at Kollaboration 2001 which was held on Saturday, October 6, 2001, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles.

David “Elsewhere” Bernal

David started dancing around when he was 17. At his high school he and a number of students would play music, dance and break and a place called, “The Quad”:

The first time I really performed in front of a big crowd was probably a year after I started dancing. It was in front of my school at The Quad, which I described to you earlier. My friends basically pushed me into the circle. I actually took out this house dancer, this guy who would go in circles and try to show off. I basically shut him up because he didn’t know how to break…all he did was his house dancing. I got a pretty big ovation from the people and that day really stuck with me. It was a huge, huge confidence booster.

In 2002 he graduated from California State University Long Beach, California with a degree in Art and Illustration. On his homepage he sites besides B-Boy dancing his major dance artist influences were:

  • Squid – His longtime friend who got him started with dancing.
  • Salty – A mystery man that David saw on a video. He became obsessed with his style and dancing without ever knowing who he was.
  • Skywalker – Skywalker’s influence resulted in his style becoming much more fluid and exaggerated.
  • Since the video Bernal has done a number of advertisements for Heineken, iPod, 7-Eleven Slurpee and Pepsi. He also did a cameo appearance in the movie You Got Served and TV performances including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In a Volkswagen Golf GTI commercial him and some other dancers like Crumbs and another popper named Jay Walker did a spoof of 1952 movie Singin’ in the Rain where they recreated Gene Kelly’s Dance.

    Double Jointed?

    Most people when viewing the video think that David has to be double-jointed to do his moves but when asked in an interview he stated:

    I’m not double-jointed at all. The only place where I am double-jointed is my thumbs, which doesn’t even matter. I would say I’m probably a little more flexible than most people in certain areas, mainly my shoulders and my ankles, but I wasn’t born that way. Those areas became flexible because of years of practicing.

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    Trojan Games

    Behind the camera: Filmed by Ed Robinson of, Viral Factory
    Where: Romanian Stadium
    Photo Summary: Romanian actors playing two Ukranian athletes, Mosienko (Guy) and Bubka (Girl)
    Picture Taken: Campaign started on March 2003 to April 2004

    The video was created by The Viral Factory and commissioned by Trojan Condoms to create a buzz around their UK launch. The video and website spoof for a fictional event called the Trojan Games was created with fake sports of an adult nature. Each viral clip was embedded in the Trojan Games website, creating a huge effect by driving viewers to the site. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 300 million times.

    Video Breakdown

    The video opens with what appears to be two athletes walking through a crowd. The voice-over tells us, in an Olympic Commentator style, that the two, Mosienko and Bubka, are from Ukraine and hope to win the event. As they walk up to the stage you notice that they don’t appear to be wearing pants. The girl, Bubka, “mounts” her partner Mosienko and then she lets go appearing to be held in place by Mosienko’s … “member”. They hold the pose for 3 sec to victory and the crowd goes wild waving Ukrainian flags as Mosienko and Bubka take gold for the sport of “Pelvic Power Lifting”.


    The Viral Factory filmed in a real athletics arena in Romania and used genuine Romanian athletes, shooting for two days. They were promised by the local casting director that there would be no problem with the actors getting naked which turned out to be true except for one incident with the Weightlifter:

    Only one of them was shy, poor bugger … He suddenly had a panic attack at the last moment … But really, all of them were perfectly happy, quite extraordinarily laid-back about it. Being English we were terribly sensitive and had people with towels ready as soon as we cut, we had little skin-coloured pouches made for long shots. One girl was parading around half nude for about 20 minutes after the shoot. We said go and put some clothes on and have some lunch, she said, ‘no, I’m hungry’!’ After that we all relaxed.–Film makers

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    John West Salmon Bear Fight

    Behind the camera: Cameraman, Stephen Blackman
    Where: Invercauld Estate, near Balmoral, on Deeside
    Photo Summary: The actor playing John West and an actor in a bear suit who was duplicated three more times to create the other bears. Neil Morrissey (the voice of Postman Pat) does the voice over
    Picture Taken: Released on November 20, 2000

    On November 20, 2000, John West canned salmon a Heinz product (H.J. Heinz acquired John West from Unilever in 1997) that caters to the British market released a funny little commercial. It was created by the Leo Burnett agency in London, directed by Danny Kleinman of Spectre. The ad was written and created by one Paul Silburn who had actually left Leo Burnett but came back epically to do this commercial. Since the commercial Paul has become the executive creative director at Fallon Worldwide in Minneapolis. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 300 million times. There was also an alternate ending shot for the video.

    Video Break Down

    Voice Over: At the river mouth the bears catch only the tastiest most tender salmon, which is exactly what we at John West want.
    Camera zooms into one of the bears that has just caught a fish. Out of the corner of the screen a fisherman with orange pants runs up to the bear and engages in kung fu fighting. The bear delivers a kick or two then the man calls out, “Oh look – an eagle!” With a kick to the bear’s groin. The bear falls and the man takes off with the fish.
    Voice Over:John West endure the worst to bring you the best.

    Man in a Suit

    Paul Silburn did an interview where he talked about filming the spot:

    The spot was facilitated by the existence of an animatronic bear suit from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. A stunt man from Henson’s, who incidentally specializes in playing animals, wore the seven-foot-tall suit and operated the animatronic head. Choreography between the bear and the fisherman was perfected in London to minimize the time spent inside the extremely heavy and hot costume.

    Compositing was involved to achieve the final look of the commercial, though no real bears were used. In addition to playing the role of the lead bear, “Dave bear” (the fisherman was also named Dave) stood in for the other feeding grizzlies. “It’s all Dave in the bear suit,” remarks Silburn.

    The commercial was shot on the Invercauld Estate, near Balmoral, on the river Dee in the Scottish Highlands.

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    Numa Numa

    Behind the camera: Gary Brolsma’s Webcam
    Where: Gary Brolsma’s house in New Jersey
    Photo Summary: Gary Brolsma
    Picture Taken: November 2004

    Sometime in 2004 Gary Brolsma saw a Japanese Internet video clip that featured animated ASCII cats displaying amusing lyrics to the song, “Ma Ya Hi (Dragostea Din Tei)” by Romanian pop band O-Zone. After filming his own version with him dancing in front of his computer he uploaded it onto the net and it became one of the most downloaded videos on the internet. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 700 million times.


    The Numa Numa (or “Numa Numa Dance”) gets its name from the chorus of the Dragostea din tei track, “nu mă, nu mă iei,” meaning, roughly, “(you) won’t take, won’t take me.” The video caught the ear of one Japanese Internet User, Ikari, who created his own video for the song. Using an animation that looks like a popular Japanese ASCII cat named Monā Ikari created a video that used English and Japanese Mondegreens or words that sound the closest to the original Romanian lyrics. It was this video and its concept that captured Gary’s imagination.

    Gary Brolsma

    Gary Brolsma (born January 14, 1986) is a resident of the state of New Jersey, USA. One of his teachers, Susan Sommer, described him as quiet but was good with technology, “Whenever there were computer problems, Gary … would fix them for the school,”
    Around Nov 2004, Gary was facing some depression after the death of his father, and he used his Webcam to film himself lip-syncing in an effort to lift his spirits. The video was meant to amuse himself and a few friends. But within weeks Internet users charmed by the innocence and ebullience of Brolsma’s performance spread the video around the world. Brolsma became an unintentional icon of the viral video phenomenon after uploading his “Numa Numa Dance” on the Newgrounds site on December 6, 2004, where it has since been seen over 13 million times. Since it was uploaded the video has been reproduced on hundreds of other websites and blogs.
    When asked about making the video Gary had this to say:

    It only took one take and about 15 minutes to put all together. A lot of people ask me if I planned the video out or took multiple tries with it. The real answer is… no. A week or so after I finished the video, I decided to throw it up on just for the heck of it, thinking it would get blammed (automatically deleted for a low scoring video). Little did I know it would explode in the views and would touch so many people.

    Not happy with just one version Gary also created some tweaked variants of the video since it became popular. One version also contains some puns, among them pictures of “feta cheese” during the lyric “fericirea” (“happiness”) and a LEGO representation of Bob Ross during the singer’s words: “sunt eu, Picasso” (“it’s me, Picasso”). Other third-party versions include a “Showdown,” between him and a German Kid getting angry at his computer. The video also had a brief cameo by the Star Wars Kid.

    As his video spread throughout the world the fame hit hard. He made appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s The Tonight Show and VH1’s Best Week Ever, but then became uncomfortable with the amount of attention. According to The New York Times, he was an “unwilling and embarrassed Web celebrity.” He stopped taking phone calls from the media; he cancelled an appearance on NBC’s Today Show on February 17, 2005; and he did not cooperate with The New York Times for their February 26, 2005 article about him.

    Since then Gary has come to terms with his celebrity even releasing a New Numa video which was released on September 8, 2006, on Newgrounds, and promoted on a dedicated website, This was an unexpected move, though one which he had been urged to make by fans of his original video. The video was produced by Experience Studios (Seattle, WA). It features Brolsma and his garage band, The Nowadays, lip-syncing and dancing to New Numa. The song is a repeated Russian children’s rhyme and performed in heavily accented and barely understandable Russian by Chad Russell, a singer/songwriter from Fridley, MN, for producer and DJ, Variety Beats, on the BeLive label.

    Dragostea din tei

    Dragostea din tei (pronounced /ˈdra.gos.te̯a din tej/) was the most successful single by O-Zone a band originally from Moldova, but which launched in Romania. The original version was sung by Dan Bălan, Arsenie Todiraş and Radu Sârbu. The single was first released in 2003 in Romania, where the group lived and produced at that time, and in the spring of 2004 in most other European countries. As of 2006, the song is still in the lower reaches of some Eastern European singles charts. It was written and produced by Dan Bălan (who wrote most of the group’s songs) and was one of 2004’s most successful summer hits, as well as one of the best selling singles of the year across Europe. Tragedy struck when in 2005 the group split up. All of the members went their separate ways and started their own solo careers.

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    Star Wars Kid

    Behind the camera: Ghyslain Raza
    Where: Le Seminaire St-Joseph de in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada
    Photo Summary: Ghyslain Raza fighting like a Sith Warrior
    Picture Taken: November 8, 2002

    In November of 2002, Ghyslain Raza a student that went to le Seminaire St-Joseph de Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada decided to take advantage of his school’s recording studio. Imitating the Darth Maul character from Star Wars he jumped, danced and twirled around the studio using a tennis ball retriever in place of Darth Maul’s double-edged lightsaber. Chubby Ghyslain and his less than graceful moves were recorded and apparently forgotten for months. Then in April 2003, students at Ghyslain’s school (Michaël Caron, Jérôme Laflamme and Jean-Michel Rheault) found the recording and quickly began sharing it with their friends with the file name, ‘Jackass_starwars_funny.wmv’. It ended up on the p2p program Kazaa and weblogs started to host the video. Not long after, millions around the world were downloading and watching the video online. In Nov 2006 the Viral marketing company, The Viral Factory, collated page impression figures from websites such as YouTube and Google Videos. They determined that this video as of Nov 2006 had been viewed 900 million times the highest total at that time.

    Students put the video online

    In the Court transcripts from a lawsuit the Raza family filed, it revealed Jérôme Laflamme had discovered the tape when we took the equipment to film a varsity football game. Laflamme showed the tape to Jean-Michel Rheault who then copied it. “All I did was take the cassette, digitize it on the studio computer to pull a joke on Ghyslain. After that, I had nothing to do with it,” Rheault would later say. The third defendant who claims not to know the other two somehow came across a copy of the video and created a website to post the video online. All three in the run-up to the lawsuit denied that they were responsible with Rheault claiming, “It’s no fun what happened here, but that’s the problem with the Internet. Things travel fast.”

    The video first appeared on the Internet on the evening of April 14, 2003, but quickly spread the globe. The video was so popular and so widely circulated that sites hosting the video where recording millions of downloads. One website solely dedicated to the Star Wars Kid video recorded 76 million hits by October 2004. The video itself might have died away but soon people were adding effects and editing the video to make new versions. Some special effects people like Bryan Dube, an employee from Raven Software added Star War’s effects, music and opening sequences. Several versions were made with various themes but the most well-liked involved Star War effects, although a matrix version was heavily downloaded. The Star Wars Kid fame soon split over into merchandising and T-shirts, mugs and other paraphernalia that are still are available online.
    While the video travelled through the Internet with people laughing at Raza, many others identified with him as they remembered their own awkward high school years. As the clip’s popularity increased, web bloggers, and, were able to track down Ghyslain. Jish Mukerji from was able to get this short interview in 2003 (translated from French):


    What I saw was mean. It was violent. People were telling me to commit suicide

    -Ghyslain Raza in a 2013 Macleans interview

    Jish: Ghyslain?
    My name’s Jish and I am calling you from San Francisco, California and I’d like to interview you. Do you speak English too?
    Only a little bit.
    Well, I’ll try to speak in French, but I’ll apologize in advance since my French isn’t perfect.
    Oh, that’s ok.
    The interview is concerning your martial arts video.
    Mm hmm.
    Did you know that over 500,000 people have viewed your video?
    Yes, I know.
    When you made the video, did you think this many people would be viewing it?
    No, I really never anticipated that.
    How did the video end up on the web?
    Actually, it was a mistake. The cassette was left in the studio and someone put it on the Internet.
    Then, I guess it wasn’t a friend who did this, more of an enemy?
    More or less. It was someone I knew.
    I only have a few more questions… There was something yellow on the floor in your video, what was that?
    It was probably something left behind in the studio from a previous session. I really don’t remember what it was.
    Some people have taken your video and have added some Star Wars special effects, have you seen these?
    Yes, I have seen some.
    What’s your opinion of these videos?
    From what I saw, they look very well-made. It’s surprising to see what people have done with a video that wasn’t meant to be seen. It’s interesting.
    Do you have a website?
    Personally, no.
    What are your favorite sites?
    I’m really into computers/computing, so my favourite sites are the ones from the different companies involved… Nothing that I visit regularly.
    Do you also read weblogs?
    We know that you have a laptop, cell phone, Palm and other gadgets like that. Do you have any other favorite gadgets that you would like to buy, perhaps something like an iPod?
    For the moment, I don’t have plans to buy any gadgets, but sometime soon I’d like to get an iPod.
    Do you use a Mac or a PC?
    At home, I use a PC, but I really like the world of Macintosh. It’s what I use at school.
    If you bought an iPod, would you get the PC or Mac version?
    Probably, I’d get the PC version.
    Well, thank you very much and good night.
    Good night.

    They also started an online campaign to raise money to get him an iPod. Thousands donated money and eventually, a 30GB iPod was in the mail to the Raza household along with $3600 in gift certificates for the Canadian electronic superstore, Future Shop. While Ghyslain said it was nice that something did come out of his experience he would have preferred that millions had not seen the video, which he had meant to be private. “People were laughing at me, … it was not funny at all.”

    Psyc Hospital stay

    In fact, Ghyslain was tormented at school and became so despondent over the whole episode that he dropped out and got a private tutor even spending some time at the Pavillon Arc-en-ciel child psychiatry ward at the Trois-Rivières Regional Hospital Centre. He would later recall how other students would jump onto tables and make fun of him. “There was about 100 people in those halls. It was total chaos . . . Any opportunity was good enough to shout ‘Star Wars!’ ”


    We are deeply saddened by the current situation …

    The Raza family filed a lawsuit against four students who had encoded and spread the video (Charges were dropped against François Labarre because of lack of evidence). The lawsuit was finally scheduled to go to courts in April 2006 with the Raza family seeking $351,000 in damages. In 2006, days before the case was due to go in front of the judge, an out of court settlement was reached for an undisclosed amount, although some online sites quote the $US 250,000 figure.

    Star Wars Part

    The negative effects of the video’s popularity is cited as one of the reasons George Lucas, the Star Wars creator resisted a huge online petition to give Raza a bit part in the third and final installment of Star Wars. An online petition to do just that collected almost 150,000 signatures, which attracted the attention of mainstream media. In a BBC interview, Lucasfilm was quoted as saying “Obviously there has been a tremendous show of support for Ghyslain with tens of thousands of fans rallying around him … However, we are deeply saddened by the current situation and any difficulties this unwanted publicity might be causing him and his family.” Needless to say, he didn’t get the part.

    Latter life

    Ghyslain later went to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and in 2010 became the president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières, a society devoted to the conservation of the cultural heritage of his hometown of Trois-Rivières. In 2013 he released an interview with a Canadian magazine talking about his ordeal. Inspired to break his silence after a spate of online bullying Ghyslain says, “You’ll survive. You’ll get through it,” he said. “And you’re not alone. You are surrounded by people who love you.”

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    By the Sword

    Behind the camera: Yasushi Nagao
    Where: Stage of Hibiya Hall, Tokyo, Japan
    Photo Summary: Otoya Yamaguchi thrusting his sword into Socialist party leader, Inejiro Asanuma
    Picture Taken: October 12, 1960

    1960 saw great political turmoil in Japan as the ruling party, the LDP, tried to pass the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The Japan Socialist Party tried in vain to stop the bill’s passage in the Diet even physically preventing LDP members from entering the parliament chamber before being removed by police. Failing to stop the bill the Socialists and their supporters took to the streets in sometimes violent protests that even forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel a planned trip to the country. Hoping to capitalize on the anger that the bill was passed on June 19 Socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma planned an American style televised rally for the upcoming Lower-house election. It was at this rally that an ultra-nationalist member Otoya Yamaguchi rushed the stage and twice plunged a samurai blade into Asanuma’s stomach. The picture captured by Mainichi photographer Yasushi Nagao was published around the world and eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography the first time someone from Japan had won the award. With the award, Nagao was able to travel freely around the world, something that was difficult for Japanese citizens at the time. He died of natural causes on May 2, 2009.

    Taking the photo

    Yasushi Nagao was one of thirty-six photographers that worked for the daily Japanese newspaper, Mainichi. On that day he was assigned to cover the election debate at Hibiya Hall. Before he entered the Hall he slipped a twelve-exposure film pack into his 4×5 Speed Graphic camera. As Asanuma started his speech right-wing hecklers started throwing objects at the stage while shouting, “Shut up, Communist” and “Banzai the U.S.A.”
    As police moved in to remove the hecklers most of the press covering the event followed them in hopes of getting some good crowd shots. Nagao chose to stay at the stage. The young Yamaguchi dressed in his high school uniform slipped past the police and ran onto the stage. Out of the corner of his eye saw Yamaguchi jump on stage and Nagao by instinct changed the focus from 10 to 15 feet. He initially thought that the boy “was carrying a brown stick to strike Asanuma.” Running full speed across the stage the young assassin slammed the blade deep in the belly of Asanuma, the impact forced the two to spin apart. Nagao had waited until this point as the impact had pushed Yamaguchi and Asanuma out from behind the podium. Nagao snapped the moment as Yamaguchi prepared to thrust his blade a second time into Asanuma’s belly. The photo was his last unexposed negative.
    Realizing that he had a great image Nagao rushed his roll of film to the Mainichi building. By agreement, UPI had exclusive rights to all Mainichi news pictures and they radio-photoed Nagao’s image back to the States where it was published in numerous newspapers and magazines including the October 24, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine. The image won every photo award in America including the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1961.

    The assassin

    Colourized by Ömercolorize

    17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi was a member of an ultra-right-wing nationalist group. His father, Shimpei Yamaguchi, was a colonel in the Japanese Self-Defense force. Even though Shimpei Yamaguchi was forced to resign his commission he defended his boy saying: “A rightist is better than a leftist.”. When Otoya was arrested police records record that he expressed regret that he was only able to kill Asanuma. He had planned to kill three people: Communist member Sanzo Nosaka, Japan Teachers’ Union Chairman Takeshi Kobayashi as well as Asanuma. The sword he used is called a wakizashi which is a small blade that the samurai used to wear. It was found by Otoya in the bottom of his father’s closet a week before the assassination.

    On November 2nd, while in a juvenile detention center, Otoya used toothpaste to write a message on his wall: “Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”. He then tore his bedsheet into strips which he used to make a rope to hang himself in a Japanese ritual called owabi. Owabi is a samurai tradition in which one commits suicide to apologize to those inconvenienced by Asanuma killing.

    Inejiro Asanuma

    The 225 lbs (102 kg) politician was the left-wing leader of the Japanese Socialist Party. He often enraged the Japanese conservatives by publicly supporting communist China. In 1959 he visited Red China and even went so far to say, “the United States is the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese peoples.” To prevent the passage of the Japanese American mutual defense pact Asanuma organized large snake-dancing demonstrations that eventually prevented President Eisenhower from visiting the country. After his assassination, the Socialist party paraded his widow in hopes of generating sympathy votes from the Japanese public. Even with the support after Asanuma’s murder during the November 20, 1960 election the LDJ won with 296 seats compared to 145 seats of Socialist party down from 166 seats they held during the 1958 election.

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    Reagan Assassination Attempt

    Behind the camera: Assembled media members and ABC cameraman Hank Brown
    Where: In front of Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel located at 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, near the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues, a few blocks north of Dupont Circle
    Photo Summary: The aftermath of John Hinckley’s assassination attempt
    Picture Taken: March 30, 1981, 69 days into the United States Presidency of Ronald Reagan

    Jerry get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs
    -Regan to his secret service agent

    Reagan’s shooter was a mentally ill John Hinckley Jr who had an obsession with actress Jodie Foster after seeing the film, Taxi Driver. He stalked her for a number of years before he decided that he needed to do something grand to get her attention. Hinckley decided to try and kill the president imitating Travis Bickle the lead character (played by Robert De Niro) of the movie Taxi Driver who also tried to kill a famous politician. On March 30, 1981, Hinkley ambushed the President who was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after delivering a luncheon address to AFL-CIO representatives. The attempt on Reagan’s life was caught on camera and is often used as one of the most famous pieces of footage of that era.

    Video Breakdown

    The footage starts with Aides to the President and then the President himself walking down to the Executive Limo parked outside the hotel. It seems like any other day and in the background, you can hear reporters about to ask questions. As the limo comes into the frame you can see a bald James Brady the President’s Press Secretary walk towards the cameraman. Just as Reagan reaches the Limo you hear loud pops, screams and then a commotion as Secret Service and Police wrestle Hinkley to the ground.
    As the first shots ring out you can see secret service agent Tim McCarthy wearing a light blue suit go into an almost football stance as he tries to block the bullets from Hinkley’s gun. He succeeded in taking one of the bullets in his abdomen. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital successfully removed the round from his stomach, and he fully recovered. He received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982 in recognition of his bravery.
    As the street clears you can see wounded lying on the street. James Brady, who took the first bullet, is the closest lying face down and not moving. Shot in the forehead he would suffer brain damage and became permanently disabled. Farthest away from the camera is secret service agent Tim McCarthy and right next to the wounded Brady is District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delehanty who was shot in the back by the third of John Hinckley, Jr.’s six bullets. He would later recover from his wounds.
    As the camera pans down to Brady you can see Hinkley’s gun a Rohm RG-14 .22 cal. revolver on the ground and later you hear police asking for a tissue to take the gun into evidence. Agents are screaming for a police car to take Hinkley away. Eventually, the car comes but the rear door of the squad car jams so then they have to take him to another police car further down the street. As they hustle Hinkley into the patrol car the ambulance pulls up to treat the wounded.

    Mr. President, today we are all Republicans
    -Head surgeon and liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano

    Reagan Remembers

    My speech at the Hilton Hotel was not riotously received – I think most of the audience were Democrats – but at least they gave me polite applause. After the speech, I left the hotel through a side entrance and passed a line of press photographers and TV cameras.
    I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left – just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, “What the hell’s that?” Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. “Jerry,” I said, “get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs.”
    “The White House,” Jerry told the driver, then scrambled off me and got on the jump seat and the car took off. I tried to sit up on the edge of the seat and was almost paralyzed by pain. As I was straightening up, I had to cough hard and saw that the palm of my hand was brimming with extremely red frothy blood. “You not only broke a rib, I think the rib punctured my lung,” I said.
    Jerry looked at the bubbles in the frothy blood and told the driver to head for George Washington University Hospital instead of the White House. By then my handkerchief was sopped with blood and he handed me his. Suddenly, I realized I could barely breathe. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough air. I was frightened and started to panic a little. I just was not able to inhale enough air. We pulled up in front of the hospital emergency entrance and I was first out of the limo and into the emergency room. A nurse was coming to meet me and I told her I was having trouble breathing. Then all of a sudden my knees turned rubbery. The next thing I knew I was lying face up on a gurney and my brand-new pinstriped suit was being cut off me, never to be worn again.
    The pain near my ribs was still excruciating, but what worried me most was that I still could not get enough air, even after the doctors placed a breathing tube in my throat. Every time I tried to inhale, I seemed to get less air. I remember looking up from the gurney, trying to focus my eyes on the square ceiling tiles, and praying. Then I guess I passed out for a few minutes. I was lying on the gurney only half-conscious when I realized that someone was holding my hand. It was a soft, feminine hand. I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it. It gave me a wonderful feeling. Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt. It must have been the hand of a nurse kneeling very close to the gurney, but I couldn’t see her. I started asking, “Who’s holding my hand? Who’s holding my hand?” When I didn’t hear any response, I said, “Does Nancy know about us?” — Reagan autobiography

    Regan again lost conscious and when he again woke up he saw his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan. Still keeping his wits he jokingly explained, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (borrowing Jack Dempsey’s line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship).
    Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet, which barely missed his heart, Reagan remarked to the surgical team, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” The head surgeon, liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano, replied, “Mr. President, today we are all Republicans.”
    Reagan had been scheduled to visit Philadelphia on the day of the shooting. He told a nurse, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” a reference to the W.C. Fields’s tagline (which was itself a reference to an old vaudeville joke among comedians: “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia”).

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    Tiananmen Square – Man vs Tank

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    Behind the camera: Many photographers took the same shot from different angles. The most reproduced pictures is the one shown here by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press. Other photographers who captured the scene are Charlie Cole, Stuart Franklin, and a number of TV crews
    Where: The street name is Cháng Ān Dà Jiē (长安大街), or ‘Great Avenue of Chang’an’ just a minute away from Tiananmen, which leads into the Forbidden City, Beijing
    Photo Summary: An unknown man blocks an advancing column of Chinese Type 59 tanks
    Picture Taken: June 5, 1989

    Popularly known as the Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, this anonymous man became famous when he pictures of him standing down a column of tanks with just his shopping bag. In April 1998, the United States magazine TIME included the “Unknown Rebel” in its 100 most influential people of the 20th century. It is easily one of the most famous pictures in the world.

    Video Breakdown

    As shots can be heard in the background, the clip opens with a column of Chinese Type 59 tank rolling down Cháng Ān Dà Jiē (长安大街), or “Great Avenue of Chang’an” Blvd. A man, the Tank Man, wearing what appears to be a long-sleeved white dress shirt and dark pants is standing in the middle of the road. While holding his jacket in one hand and shopping bags in another, he blocks the path of the tanks. The lead tank tries to drive around him but the Tank Man blocks the tank’s path. Eventually, he jumps up on the tank and at first tries to talk with the driver and then tries to talk through the main hatch on top of the turret. He then jumps off the tank and is bundled away by people standing on the street.


    PSB agents crashed through our hotel room door – Charlie Cole

    Tiananmen square Jeff Widener

    In 2012 did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures, this is Jeff Widener with his famous image

    The protests were sparked by the death of former Secretary-General Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, a figure that many thought as unjustly persecuted by the Chinese government. The protests grew as different groups with a wide range of issues, some opposing views, came to Tiananmen Square. The protests were extensively covered by Western journalists who were allowed into Beijing to cover the Mikhail Gorbachev visit in May. The Chinese government was split on how to deal with the protesters but eventually, the hardliners seized control of the situation and on May 20, the government declared martial law and, on the night of June 3 and the early morning of June 4, army tanks and infantry from the 27th and 28th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army were sent to take control of the city. Local army units, the 38th Army, weren’t used as the military feared they were too sympathetic to the protesters. In fact, the commander of the 38th Army Xu Qinxian refused to carry out the martial law order and was relieved of his command.

    In addition to the almost 300,000 military personnel (Twice as large as the American force that overthrew the Saddam regime in Iraq) that were deployed were also members of the Public Security Bureau (PSB). The PSB is China’s branch of government that handles policing, security and social order. By early morning on June 4, the protesters had been cleared from Tiananmen Square and over the next few days, the army and the PSB brutally suppressed the students and any media caught covering the crackdown.

    One of the photographers, Charlie Cole, had spent the night running from police and the military. During the crackdown, he had witnessed an armored personal carrier (APC) that had run over some protesters. The outraged protesters then attacked the vehicle pulling out its drivers, killing them, and burnt the APC. While he was trying to get back to his hotel, he was attacked by PSB men, “One of the PSB ran up to me with an electric cattle prod and hit me in the side with it. Others punched and kicked at me. They ripped my photo vest off me and took all the film I had shot that evening.” He was eventually let go and more importantly they let him keep his cameras. While in his hotel he started shooting from the balcony of a photographer friend’s room, Stuart Franklin. Stuart had a room with a balcony on the 8th floor and while Charlie was shooting on the afternoon of June 5th he saw the Tank Man stand down the column of tanks. In a BBC interview he remembers:

    It was an incredible thing to do, especially in light of what had just happened with the APC machine-gunners. I couldn’t really believe it, I kept shooting in anticipation of what I felt was his certain doom.
    To my amazement, the lead tank stopped, then tried to move around him but the young man cut it off again. Finally the PSB grabbed him and ran away with him. Stuart and I looked at each other in somewhat disbelief at what we had just seen and photographed.
    Later, Stuart left to go to Beijing University and I stayed behind to see what else might happen. Shortly after he left, PSB agents crashed through our hotel room door. Four agents swept in and assaulted me while a few others grabbed my cameras.

    Terril Jones' street view of the Tank Man, taken by Terril Jones

    They ripped the film from my cameras and confiscated my passport. They then forced me to write a statement that I was photographing during martial law, which unbeknown to me carried a hefty prison sentence. They then put a guard at the door.
    I had hidden the roll with the tank pictures in its plastic film can in the holding tank of the toilet. [Cole had hidden the rolls because he saw that PSB officials on the rooftops had noticed them taking pictures of the incident] When they left, I retrieved it and later made my way to AP to develop and transmit it to Newsweek in New York.
    Numerous inquiries have been made by various agencies and magazines trying to uncover the young man’s identity and find out what happened to him. I’ve seen a number of accounts that name him as Wang Wei Lin, but that isn’t a certainty.
    Personally I think the government most likely executed him. It would have been in the government’s interest to produce him to silence the outcry from most of the world. But, they never could. People were executed at that time for far less than what he did.
    I think his action captured people’s hearts everywhere, and when the moment came his character defined the moment rather than the moment defining him. He made the image, I just took the picture. I felt honored to be there.

    Charlie Cole would later die of sepsis on September 5, 2019, aged 64. He had been living in Bali, Indonesia.

    In 2013 Stuart Franklin did an interview with VICE where he talked about taking his famous image:

    It was all very uncertain [Stuart would get the photos out of China]. The police and security people were going from room to room in my hotel, searching for journalists and confiscating films. That atmosphere was very worrying. I remember packing my film into a box of tea that was supplied in the hotel room and asking someone who was going back to Paris to take it for me. I was left in China without my film. I wasn’t worried about it once the film was out, and I didn’t mind if I lost a couple of cameras. It wasn’t easy—we were shot at, at times—but I was lucky.

    When I got back from China, I went into Michael Rand’s office at the Sunday Times Magazine. He was laying out one of my photos on the cover of the magazine, but it was another of the photos from my trip —a topless guy with his arms raised. That became equally well known for a while. The “Tank Man” picture grew in importance over time, but it didn’t actually stand out far from the body of work immediately after the event.

    Who is the Tank Man?

    Little is publicly known of the man’s identity and or his fate. It would have been in China’s best interest that he be brought forward as proof that he wasn’t executed but the Chinese have not been able to. This could mean any number of things including, that in the confusion following the crackdown he was either killed on the streets or arrested and executed, or perhaps the PSB never identified who he was. So basically you have two schools of thought. One that he was arrested and the other that he managed to slip away.


    But I think never never killed
    -Chinese General Secretary Jiang Zemin

    Tiananmen Square full picture Stuart Franklin

    Tank Man wasn't just standing up to a few tanks, he was staring down dozens of tanks. Photo by Stuart Franklin

    The arrested side believes that the people who hustled the Tankman away were PBS agents and even if they weren’t they don’t believe that the Tankman could have slipped past security.

  • Reporter Charles Cole thought quite strongly that he was executed. While shooting the pictures from the hotel he noticed many Chinese agents on the rooftops who appeared to be coordinating snatch teams on the ground. Plus he witnessed a lot of public executions put on Chinese TV for people that had done far fewer offenses.
  • Three weeks after the protest Alfred Lee of the British tabloid, Sunday Express, broke a story where he named the Tank Man, Wang Weilin (王维林), a 19-year-old student and son of a Beijing factory worker. In Alfred’s report, he wrote that Wang Weilin’s friends had seen him on with a shaved head and paraded on state television. Recalling his story, Alfred Lee remembers getting the new from his sources in China, “These contacts were very close to what was happening at Tiananmen Square at the time. I knew that once his name had come into the public domain, the Chinese authorities wouldn’t be able to do anything to him. They couldn’t execute him. It would have brought outrage from the world.” Five days after Alfred’s story the, London Evening Standard, reported their Beijing correspondent John Passmore had come across intelligence reports that Weilin had been executed. Alfred Lee’s story has never been fully excepted by journalists or government agencies. Reporters note that Alfred wasn’t working in China at the time and that other journalists who had excellent contacts, fully fluent in Chinese were never able to confirm the story. Even John Passmore denies that he reported Wang Weilin’s execution saying that it was a mistake by the Standard that his name was used.
  • Slipped Away

    The slipped away side, view the people that ran out to get him as being just ordinary people who then slipped away into the crowds.

  • Jan Wong journalist for the Canadian paper the Globe and Mail pointed to the footage of the Tank Man being pulled away from the tanks as proof the men weren’t security agents, “If you’ve ever seen security people manhandle a Chinese citizen, they’re really brutal. They twist your arm. They make you bend over. They punch you a few times. They kick you. So to me, I think he was helped to the side of the road. He wasn’t being arrested.” Jan Wong claims that the man is alive and well hiding in communist China.
  • One account has him making it to Taiwan, where he worked for the National Palace Museum but other media have never been able to track him down and the Museum denies that he works there.
  • China follows a policy of total silence when talking about the Tiananmen Square protest and the Tank Man’s fate. Officials have only spoken about it once, in a 1990 interview with Barbara Walters. Then-CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin was asked what became of the man:

    BARBARA WALTERS, ABC News: What happened to the young man?
    JIANG ZEMIN: I think this young man maybe not killed by the tank.
    BARBARA WALTERS: No, but did you arrest him? We heard he was arrested and executed.
    JIANG ZEMIN: [through interpreter] Well, I can’t confirm whether this young man you mentioned was arrested or not.
    BARBARA WALTERS: You do not know what happened to him?
    JIANG ZEMIN: But I think never never killed.
    BARBARA WALTERS: You think he was never killed.
    JIANG ZEMIN: I think never killed.
    BARBARA WALTERS: Never killed.


    No one knows for certain how many people died during the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Chinese Red Cross at first reported 2,600 killed but then under intense government pressure retracted the total. The official government body count is 241 dead, including 23 officers and soldiers, and 7,000 wounded. After the crackdown, China moved on with its economic reforms and since the protest is taboo to discuss, most young Chinese don’t even know it happened.

    Copyright info

    Copyright to this photo is managed by Magnum Tiananmen Square – Man vs Tank by W. Eugene Smith

    Tank Man by Jeff Widener was another photo managed by AP Images

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