Jul 31, 2012

The Dialectic of "Hero's Movies": The Failure of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises"

Spoiler warning: Plot and ending of the movies "Spider-Man," "The Amazing Spider-Man," "The Dark Knight," and "The Dark Knight Rises" follow.

I watched "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises." "The Amazing Spider-Man" wasn't amazing at all, and I was disappointed with "The Dark Knight Rises."

Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and "The Dark Knight" were the great masterpieces in "hero's movies," so I couldn't help but compare "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises" with their previous movies.

One of the biggest points about "hero's movies" is how the hero overcomes the contradiction. The contradiction is more serious, and the story is deeper.

In "Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight," the biggest contradiction is about the heroes and their real identity.

Peter Parker was just a geek. Although he was in unrequited love with Mary Jane Watson, he also knew that she would never love just a geek like Peter.

Peter became the Spider-Man. He wasn't just a geek anymore, when he was the Spider-Man. But he as Peter hid that he was Spider-Man, so nobody including Mary knew that he wasn't just a geek.

And she loved Spider-Man. Peter was happy about that, but at the same time he truly didn't want to be loved by Mary as the Spider-Man but as Peter. And yet he couldn't reveal the fact that he was Spider-Man.

This contradiction made the kissing scene between Mary and Spider-Man in a heavy rain sweet and pensive. This is one of the most impressive scenes in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.

But in "The Amazing Spider-Man," Peter easily revealed to his girl friend, Gwen Stacy, that he was the Spider-Man. Her father forbade their relationship, but Peter almost didn't care about it at all. The relationship between Peter and Gwen couldn't be romantic.

At the end of "the Dark Knight," Batman took the rap for Harvey Dent. Harvey became the icon of justice, the white knight, after his death, and this bought peace to Gotham City. On the other hand Batman was disgraced as the dark knight. Gotham City became peaceful, but this peace was based on the great lie.

If I were a scriptwriter of "The Dark Knight Rises," I would put this contradiction as the main theme of this movie.

Joker, the enemy of Batman in "The Dark Knight," made a psychological attack. If he appeared on "The Dark Knight Rises", he would make best use of this lie. But Bane, the enemy in "the Dark Knight Rises" was too physically violent to be interested in this lie. He literary knocked Batman out.

Heath Ledger, who played the role of Joker, has gone just after the completion of "The Dark Knight", so Joker didn't appear in "The Dark Knight Rises". Most audience might like physical violence more than psychological battle.

The epilogue of "The Dark Knight Rises" was worst. I hate a Hollywood-style happy ending.

RIP Heath Ledger.

Jul 26, 2012

Tradition and Progress: Contemporary Okinawan Folk Music

Last Sunday my wife and I went to the Ryukyu Festival 2012.

Ryukyu is the old name of Okinawa, which is the the southmost part of the Japanese archipelago. Before Okinawa was absorbed by the Japanese government in 1872, it was an independent country called Ryukyu kingdom, (it was occupied by the United State from 1945 to 1972.)

Okinawa has its own culture, which is different from that of mainland Japan. Their language is a dialect of Japanese, but I can't understand it at all. They call their own language "Uchinaguchi", which means our language, and the language of the mainland Japan "Yamatoguchi". "Yamato" is the old name of Japan.

Bali is famous for its performing art, such as gamelan music, and in the same way Okinawa is known for the islands of the performing art, especially music.

In the Ryukyu Festival, six groups of Okinawan musicians ranging from an Okinawan traditional folk musician to a rock band appeared. Their music has great variety.

At the end of the festival, Seijin Noborikawa came up to the stage. I wrote about him in my entry ""Umaku", a Naughty Boy, Seigua(誠小), His Songs and Life". He is the living legend of Okinawan folk music. I was as glad as when I saw a live performance of James Brown.

He is one of the greatest musicians in Okinawa, but his attitude was just natural and simple. When he appeared on the stage, he held his sanshin, an Okinawan instrument like a guitar, on his shoulder and walked lightly. He is a small old man, but he has a great presence. And he is so cute that he makes everyone that sees him happy.

He mainly plays Okinawan folk music, so called "Shimauta (島唄: island songs)". He said that Okinawan musician should play Okinawan folk music in "a proper way", yet he also said that Okinawan folk music wasn't necessarily traditional.

He's studied old Okinawan folk songs, and he plays them "in a proper way". In this sense, he is traditional. At the same time, in his long career, he created a lot of new styles of music. In this sense, he is also progressive. In his music, tradition and progress aren't conflicting, and more progress is based on tradition.

As I wrote, there was a very wide variety of Okinawan music in the Ryukyu festival, yet at the same time they also shared the Okinawan folk music tradition in the core of their music. At the end of the festival, all musicians came to the stage and, they sang and danced classical Okinawan folk songs.

It's quite important to carry on their asset of Okinawan folk music in "a proper way", but if they just performed songs the same way they have been performed in the past, Okinawan music would die. here are many examples of "traditional arts" that died because nothing new was able to be created.

In spite of that, I found that Okinawan music was still alive in the Ryukyu festival. After Seijin Noborikawa is gone, Okinawan music will surely survive.

Jul 20, 2012

The "Salaryman's" Freedom

After the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ich nuclear power plants, I've been wondering if it is possible for a democratic government to effectively regulate something as complex as a nuclear power system which is concerned not only with the generation of nuclear power but also with the production of nuclear fuel and the appropriate method of waste disposal.

So I've been reading books about political philosophy, from those written by John Locke to Antonio Negri, from Edmund Burke to Karl Marx, from Carl Schmitt to Sakae Osugi.

Just now, I finished rereading "The Communist Manifesto".

I am a conservative, but I think that this book is definitely worth reading regardless of your political leaning even though the Soviet Union was, in the end, brought down. There is no ancient polis nowadays, but it's still worth reading Plato's "Politeia".

Karl Marx was one of the biggest philosophers in the 19th century, and this book is the essence of his thought.

I'd like to quote a passage from the "The Communist Manifesto".

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local can national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

This was not written by a contemporary anti-globalization activist, but by a communist in the Victorian era. Globalization, as a phenomenon, is not recent. In fact, Marx - who was no anti-globalization activist but an international communist - accurately commented on its workings some 200 years previously, describing Capitalist society, as follows:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors," and has left remaining no longer nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment." It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless and feasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom-- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

To be honest, I like to live in this "icy water of egotistical calculation". It's tough for me, and maybe for everyone, to earn money to live in this icy water, but if I'm able to earn enough money, I could be free, then I can enjoy some freedoms.

I'm not an aristocrat from the Bourbon dynasty, a slave in Ancient Egypt, a bourgeoisie in the industrial revolution, and an executive in the modern Chinese Communist party. I haven't realized that I was a proletariat, yet. (Marx might point out that I am a proletariat.)

I don't want to be these people, because I couldn't be free. I'm just a "Salaryman", who is living in contemporary Tokyo. I have to work for a living, but I'm free outside the office.

I don't dominate anyone, and I'm not dominated by anyone. This is the "Salaryman's" Freedom.

I'd like to return to the first question, "Can a democratic government control such a huge system like a nuclear power system?"

I wrote in my entry "Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?" that Japan was formally a democratic country but it was practically an authoritarian system. The Japanese government failed to control Japanese nuclear power system because it failed to control special interest groups.

Now, the regime change from the Liberal Democratic Party to the Democratic Party of Japan has been making Japanese government more democratic, but at the same time it caused political chaos.

I will have to continue to search for an/the answer to my question.

Jul 14, 2012

The Dream of Anarchists

Recently I read Sakae Osugi's works.

He was one of the most famous anarchists in Japan before World War II. He was killed by the military police in the chaos just after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. After his death, anarchism was almost disappeared in Japan.

He explained about anarchism as follows.

"Anarchist society is a society in which free individuals form organizations of their own free will, and these autonomous organizations form a union."


I'd like to put anarchism on the political map.

Communism and anarchism both advocate revolution, but they are opposed between emphasis on the group and emphasis on the individual. Actually they conflicted sharply with each other.

Communism is based on the proletariat as a class, and anarchism is based on laborers as individuals. Communist movements have led to autocratic states, whereas anarchists have failed to take power through lack of organization

Libertarians and anarchists both advocate individualism. I, myself, am conservative, and I agree with the kind of individualism advocated by anarchists. But I thought that an anarchist society was impossible and just the dream of anarchists.

When I read "How to Become a Hacker" by Eric Raymond, I found that the dream of anarchists came true in the hacker society. He wrote as follows.

There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term 'hacker'. Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work.

Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have to behave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself.

Hackers are naturally anti-authoritarian. Anyone who can give you orders can stop you from solving whatever problem you're being fascinated by — and, given the way authoritarian minds work, will generally find some appallingly stupid reason to do so. So the authoritarian attitude has to be fought wherever you find it, lest it smother you and other hackers.

This is the dream of anarchists, is it? They made a community of their own free will, and expanded the Internet and UNIX world. I think that Sakae Osugi would be a hacker in his era, even if he didn't know a computer.

I found another dream of anarchists, here.

Jul 6, 2012

The Fact Is, I'm a Patient with Depression

Sometimes I listen to the Anderson Cooper's podcast, 360, on my way to the office. It's a little hard for me to  completely understand what he says, but I'm really interested in his program.

I heard the rumor that he was gay, so when I read the article, "The Fact Is, I'm Gay." I wasn't surprised, but I'm interested in the reason why he came out at this time.

I'd like to quote his message.

But I've wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. ... As long as a journalist shows fairness and honest in his or her work, their private life shouldn't matter. ... It's became clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something. ... The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

I've suffered from depression for five years. For now the symptoms have abated, but I guess  I'll never make a full recovery. I have to live with depression.

I know that there are many people who have suffered from depression in my company. After I suffered from depression, I was transferred to the division that I belong to now. Most people here have some sort of problem, such as depression, autonomic imbalance, experiences of harassment, and so on.

Most of them don't "come out of the closet," because the fact that they have these problems makes them face obstacles in their career. There is discrimination and contempt for depression in my company. In fact, some people doubted that I actually suffered from depression, and my evaluation was downgraded because of it.

But I "came out of the closet." I don't hide the  fact that I'm a patient with depression. I want to show and prove that even we, people with depression, can achieve something. I'm really happy to give confidence to people with certain problems.

I became a chief of this division. I know that each of us have our limits, but I'm trying to achieve something as a team. I always think about what we can do and how we should do them thoroughly.

he fact is, I'm a person with depression, have been for five years have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

Thank you, Anderson.

Jul 3, 2012

Cultural Adaptive Radiation

I'm old enough to criticize contemporary pop culture, so you can, if you want, think of this entry as just being an old man's rant.

When marsupial mammals reached the Australian continent, there was no higher mammal. Australia was plenty of empty environmental niches available for marsupial mammals, so they explosively evolved into a wide range of species, from Boongrays, which are an arboreal herbivore, to carnivorous Tasmanian Devils. This phenomenon is called Adaptive Radiation.

We can find similar phenomenon in human cultures. I call them "Cultural adaptive radiation". Rock 'n' Roll was one of the dance music styles in the black music world, which was imported into the white music world, and evolved into Rock. In the 1960s the Beatles created a wide range of rock music and showed the potential of rock music to evolve. The evolution of rock music in the 1970s was truly "cultural adaptive radiation". I love the rock music in 1970s, because I can feel the excitement of rock musicians who found new empty environmental niches to inhabit.

After adaptive radiation, environmental niches were saturated, and the explosive evolution of marsupial mammals stopped in the Australian continent. In the same way, the evolution of rock music stopped in 1980s. After the 1970s, grunge was the only new style of rock music. Hip hop, which was created in the 1980s, is the last "new" style of pop music. The pop music world is saturated now.

As I wrote in an entry, "Now it's bad times for music producers, but it's good times for listeners. We, listeners, can get everything far more easily through the internet." Now, I mainly listen to 1970s pop music, which got through the internet, because I feel that contemporary pop music isn't excited.

I think that there is no new sound but just combinations of old pop music in the contemporary pop music. When I listened to contemporary pop music I often feel that young musicians study old pop music very deeply. I guess that they can't find new empty environment niches and make an evolution.

I wrote in another entry, "I think that rock music isn't contemporary music now either. Hip hop killed Rock music in the 90s, and Nirvana was the last band that created new rock music." Now, rock music is an endangered species like Tasmanian Devils.

Jul 1, 2012

Now It's a Bad Time for Music Producers, But It's a Good Time for Listeners

Some music producer despaired about the future of pop music on his weblog. He wrote that the budget for making a CD had decreased so drastically that music producers could no longer produce a good sound.

I think that one of the main reasons why the budget has decreased is related to the widespread use of the internet.

I listened to pop music most in the 1980s. At that time, the main media for pop music were TV and radio music programs, records, and cassette tapes. I listened to my favorite music on my Walkman, which was, of course, a cassette tape player.

The time of music programs on TV and radio and the sales space in record stores was limited. TV and radio mainly played chart songs, and record stores sold records and cassettes of those songs. The following week, the TV and radio would play other chart songs, and the record stores would then sell those songs.

Of course we could buy pop "classics" such as "Abbey Road" by the Beatles in a record store, but we had to go to a lot of trouble to buy records and cassette tapes of less famous musicians. I used to go around to many used record stores to hunt for the records, which I desperately wanted.

The internet changed everything. Now, you can find almost any song on YouTube, and buy it through iTunes. I download all of the songs that I buy onto my iPod so I can listen to them anytime and anywhere I want.

Before the age of the internet, music producers competed on the chart. But now, they have to compete against all pop music: past, present and from anywhere in the world. The increased competition has resulted in a decrease in the budget for making a CD.

Now it's bad times for music producers, but it's good times for listeners. We, listeners, can get everything far more easily through the internet. I really enjoy collecting my favorite music videos on my tumblr.