Mar 31, 2013

Buddhism and Tsundere: My Impression of the movie “Silver Linings Playbook”

Recently, I read several books about Buddhism and wrote the entry “Exoteric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism: Buddha, Wittgenstein, and Me.” In this entry, I summarized Buddha's teachings as follows.

Early Buddhism was exoteric. Buddha's original teaching was very simple. Our lives are full of pain and nobody can run away from it. There is nothing eternal and everything is changing in this world. He said that we should just accept this.
In other words, it is the truth that there was no way to escape our painful lives, but we just had to accept such a cruel truth. It is too hard for ordinary people to accept it. 

I watched the film “Silver Linings Playbook” and found the way how main characters in this film overcame their problems was quite Buddhistic.

The main character, Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, obsessed his wife, who betrayed him. He believed that his wife still loved him, but people around him knew that she didn't love him any more. He suffered from bipolar disorder, and his obsession about his wife made him lose control.

The opposite character, Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, obsessed his husband, who was killed by a traffic accident. She couldn't accept the fact that her husband was dead. She also lost control by her obsession about him.

Buddha might say that both of them should accept the fact, even if it was cruel, and it was the only way to overcome their pain.

In this film, they started training dance in preparation for a competition. At first, Pat couldn't understand why he should dance, but he became deeply involved in dance and gradually got freed from his obsession. While he was dancing, he didn't think about anything. Dance itself wasn't important, but devotion to dance was important.

Buddha just meditated and realized the truth, and Pat just danced and was freed from his obsession.

I'll change the subject.

The character of Tiffany was typically “tsundere(ツンデレ).”

“Tsundere” is a type of heroines in Japanese anime. “Tsun tsun” means being sullen or arrogant, and “dere dere” means being sweet or charming. At first a "tsundere" heroin behaves toward the main character coldly, and sometimes they fight each other. He doesn’t understand why she is so cold to him at all. After they find that they love each other, she dramatically turns to be sweet to him.

Tiffany in “Silver Linings Playbook” showed up on Pat as an eccentric and rude woman. In other words, she was completely “tsun tsun.” In the last part of this film, she turned to be “dere dere.”

Jennifer Lawrence perfectly played the role of "tsundere" heroin and was so cute. Her performance was worth the Oscar award.

Mar 30, 2013

Can the Japanese Government Promote “Cool Japan” policy and Japanese “soft power?”

Joseph Nye, a political scientist and a former chairman of the National Intelligence Council of the U.S., pointed out the importance of “soft power” in international politics.

Nye defined “power” as the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want. He wrote that there were two types of power, “hard power” and “soft power.” Diplomats mainly have been paying attention on “hard power”, which is the use of coercion and payment, but Nye insisted that “soft power,” which the use of attraction, was more important than “hard power.”

I translated Haruki Murakami’s speech at the Catalonia international prize into English in the entry “Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia International Prize: As an Unrealistic Dreamer.” Kevin, who is managing the website “Senrinomich,” started the project of translating this speech, and now it was translated into thirteen languages.

After the earthquake and the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, we, Japanese people, have been thinking about nuclear power deeply, but I think that people abroad have not heard much about what we have been thinking.

Although I knew that Haruki Murakami was popular in the world, I was really surprised that people from so many countries wanted to read his speech. When he made a speech about what Japanese people think, people in the world were willing to hear it.

The existence of Haruki Murakami is just Japanese “soft power.”

Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan is promoting “Cool Japan” Policy. They are trying to make Japanese culture more popular in the world and promote Japanese “soft power.”

But I strongly doubt that the government can promote them.

Haruki Murakami has “soft power,” just because he wrote novels that people in the world love. Japanese government has nothing to do with his works. Hayao Miyazaki, Akira Toriyama, Shigeru Miyamoto were not supported by the government, either.

I don’t believe that the government can find such people at all. Nobody thought that they would be success in the world, before they actually became popular across the world. The next person who wields this “soft power” will appear out of the wood works, a place which can't be predicted. How will the government support them?

Mar 24, 2013

The Accident of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plants and the Essence of Failure

Although it is two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the accident of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants has not yet finished.

Many reports and books about this accident have been published in these two years and recently I read several of them. I basically agree with the report of the NAIIC (The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission), and if you want to know more about this accident, you should read the executive summary of this report.

This report pointed out about the root causes of this accident as follows.

The operator (TEPCO), the regulatory bodies (NISA and NSC) and the government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements—such as assessing the probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a serious radiation release.

From TEPCO’s perspective, new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits. That was enough motivation for TEPCO to aggressively oppose new safety regulations and draw out negotiations with regulators via the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC). The regulators should have taken a strong position on behalf of the public, but failed to do so. As they had firmly committed themselves to the idea that nuclear power plants were safe, they were reluctant to actively create new regulations.

I completely agree with this remark.

Apparently TEPCO and the regulatory bodies knew the vulnerability of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants to tsunami before the earthquake, but they did nothing about it. The safety regulation of nuclear plants were based on the premise that the leakage of radiation from the site of nuclear plants could be prevented, so they didn’t prepare for such a severe accident.

I wrote about “the nuclear village” in the entry “Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?” 

The sub-government, which consists of some politicians, bureaucrats, electrical power companies, nuclear industries and specialists in nuclear power, has been controlling the nuclear policy in Japan, and Japanese people have almost no influence over it. A "Sub-government" is a group, usually consisting of politicians, bureaucrats and special interests, which controls public policy in a particular area in order to pursue their own interests. The "Military-industry complex" in the USA is a typical sub-government. The sub-government of the nuclear industry in Japan is called "the nuclear village."

I’ve read the book “the Essence of Failure: the Study of the Japanese Army in the Light of Organizational Theory,” which is about the cause of failure of the Japanese army in the Pacific War. I was surprised that the problems of the Japanese army, which were pointed out in this book, were so common with the problems of “the nuclear village” in this accident.

The officers in the Japanese army placed more value on their personal relationships than their organization goals, so they often couldn’t make a rational decision, which would be disadvantageous to some of them. They had been covering up for each other, and in the end they lost the Pacific war.

In “the nuclear village,” they couldn’t make a new safety regulation in order to prepare a sever accident, because the “new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits,” and in the end they caused this accident.

The Fukushima fifty and Masao Yoshida, the general manager of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants, were quite brave. Even though they made mistakes, I think that it couldn’t be helped, because the site was really confused. The point was lack of preparation.

In the book “the Essence of Failure,” the words of Georgi Zhukov, who was a commander of the Soviet army, were quoted.
In the Japanese army, sergeants are tough and brave, and junior officers make a fanatically tough fight, but senior officers are ineffective.

Nothing has changed.

This time we, the Japanese people, should learn a lesson from this accident and MUST NOT do the same thing again.

Mar 19, 2013

The Anthem of Tokyo:“Gathering Winds” by Happy End

Before an MLB game, the national anthem is performed. After a game at Yankee Stadium, Frank Sinatra’s song “New York, New York” was played. 

When I went to Yankee Stadium to see a Yankee’s game, I was heard “New York, New York” while leaving the stadium. For Yankee’s fans, “New York, New York” is the anthem of New York.

But “New York, New York” seemed to be out of date. I heard Spike Lee say that “Empire State of Mind” was the anthem of New York, and I realized that this song was the anthem of New York after September 11.

I’m wondering if we have the anthem of Tokyo.

Although I don’t know if people living in Tokyo would agree with me, for me, Happy End’s“Gathering Winds” (「風をあつめて」はっぴいえんど) is the anthem of Tokyo.

I translated the lyrics of “Gathering Winds” into English in this entry.

Mar 17, 2013

Both Sides of the Same Coin: Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” and Hideo Levy’s “A Room Where The Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard”

In 1949 Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto. His father was a high school teacher and moved to a high school in Kobe, so Haruki Murakami was brought up in Kobe. In 1968 he entered Waseda University and moved to Tokyo. Although his novel “Norwegian Wood” isn’t an autobiography, in it he described the student lives in Tokyo at that time.

In 1950 Hideo Levy was born in Berkeley, California. His father was a diplomat, and he was brought up in Denver, Taichung, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., and Yokohama. In 1967 he began to study Japanese at Waseda University, and then he ran away from his home in Yokohama, and moved into his friend’s room and worked at a coffee shop in Shinjuku. He described Waseda University and Shinjuku from the standpoint of a foreigner in his first novel “A Room Where The Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard.”

In the late 1960s student movements escalated throughout the world, May Event in France, anti-Vietnam movement in the U.S., the Cultural Revolution in China, and Zenkyoto movement in Japan. Waseda University and Shinjuku were in the midst of Zenkyoto movement, and Haruki Murakami and Hideo Levy were deeply influenced by it but both of them couldn’t fully get into it.

Haruki Murakami felt something different from Japanese society. In fact he wanted to run away from his parents, so he chose Waseda University in order to move to Tokyo and to live alone. But in Tokyo he still felt something different from students especially who took part in Zenkyoto movement. All of the characters in the novel “Norwegian Wood” more or less couldn’t fit in Japanese society.

Hideo Levy also felt something different from his father and wanted to run away from him and get into Japanese society, but he, as a foreigner, was rejected by Japanese society and people. Of course he couldn’t get into Zenkyoto movement, because he couldn’t speak Japanese and he was a “Gaijin”, which means “foreigner” in Japanese.

“Norwegian Wood” and “A Room Where The Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard” are both sides of the same coin. After that, Haruki Murakami became a world-famous novelist and he got out of Japanese literary society into the world. Hideo Levy began to write novels in Japanese, and got into Japanese literary society, if not fully.

If you like the novel or movie “Norwegian Wood,” I strongly recommend that you read Hideo Levy’s “A Room Where The Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard.” If you have learned Japanese, I suggest you try the original Japanese version of this novel, but you can read it in English translation as well.

Mar 14, 2013

Exoteric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism: Buddha, Wittgenstein, and Me

There are two major divisions within Buddhism, exoteric Buddhism(顕教) and esoteric Buddhism(密教). 

Early Buddhism was exoteric. Buddha's original teaching was very simple. Our lives are full of pain and nobody can run away from it. There is nothing eternal and everything is changing in this world. He said that we should just accept this.

In other words, it is the truth that there was no way to escape our painful lives, but we just had to accept such a cruel truth. It is too hard for ordinary people to accept it. 

Then esoteric Buddhism appeared. Esoteric Buddhism insisted that there was the truth that was hidden and only higher ascetic disciples could reveal it. I think that Buddha clearly denied such a thought, but ordinary people might want to think that there was a secret help in this world.

In esoteric Buddhism, many disciples tried radical training to realize the secret truth, but Buddha told that radical training would never give the truth to any disciplinant, and he realized the truth just in peace meditation.

As I wrote in the entry "Wittgenstein, Barbara Minto, and Me,"  I am now reading Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus." I think that he was similar to Buddha.

Ludwig Wittgenstein was of Jewish origin, but his mother was converted to Catholicism and he, himself, was baptized. In World War I, when he was a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army, he read Leo Tolstoy's "The Gospel in Brief," and got a deep faith in Catholicism.

In "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus," he tried to show the limit of what could be expressed in language. The last sentence of this book is "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." He thought that God was what on could not be spoken, so he didn't find any value to hear preach and go to church.

Buddha told that everyone had to realize the truth only by themselves. Wittgenstein might believe that there was no secret truth that only priests knew and the truth was open to everyone equally.

I like Buddha's own original teaching. I believe that I should accept what this world is and what I really am, and stay here and struggle against my own life in this world. There is no utopia out of this world and my life.

Mar 11, 2013

On That Day, At That Moment, I Was...

On that day, I was playing golf with my parents and my wife. At that moment, we had just finished the 18th hole and were walking to the club house.

And then I saw the road paved with asphalt literally waving. I will write again, THE ROAD WITH ASPHALT WAS LITERALLY WAVING.

Everybody around me can tell what they was doing and what happened around them, on that day, at that moment.

I will never forget it.

Mar 10, 2013

Wittgenstein, Barbara Minto, and Me

I am now reading Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus." Of course it is hard to understand it and I have to read the same sentence again and again to understand what Wittgenstein meant, but I am really enjoying reading it.

In the preface of this book, Wittgenstein wrote, "Perhaps this book be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it ― or at least  similar thoughts." I have been thinking about the same problem, about which Wittgenstein wrote in "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus," even though my thoughts are so shallow.

My problem is how to write and how to make a presentation in business. I use Barbara Minto's "The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, and Problem Solving" as a reference. One of good points of this book is that it deals with not just how to write but also how to think at the same time. I think that writing and thinking are indivisible, because if one thinks illogically, they cannot write logically. If people want to write or to make a presentation logically, they must think logically.

In "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus," Wittgenstein wrote about thinking logically and expressing it in a language. He thought about this problem radically and in principle, and Barbara Minto thought about it quite practically, but both of them dealt with the same problem in similar way.

I think that Barbara Minto was apparently influenced by "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus," because her "pyramid principle" was along the same line as writings in "Tractatus Logio-Philosophicus," which has the strict structure. In fact it is difficult to understand "Tractus Logio-Philosophicus," because Wittgenstein's thoughs are so deep, but the way of writing, itself, is quite simple to understand. In this sense, "Tractus Logio-Philosophicus" is a good example for us on how to think and to write logically.

I am frequently told that I am argumentative and sophistic, and I answer back that I am just logical. Sometimes I make people angry because I make a quite logical assertion persistently. But Wittgenstein was far more logical and persistent than I. Wittgenstein's biography encourages me, and I have confidence that I should be more logical and persistent, whatever people tell me.

Wittgenstein's life seems to have been eccentric and unhappy for people around him, but I guess that he might have been satisfied with his life, even if it could not be said that it was happy, because he lived his life in the way he believed. I also want to live my life in the way I believe.

Mar 8, 2013

Don't Nobody Get Nothing for Free: My Impression of George Alec Effinger's "When Gravity Fails"

I finished George Alec Effinger's novel "When Gravity Fails." This is one of my favorite entertainment novels, and I've read it in Japanese translation so many times, but it was first time reading it in English.

When I was a university student, I was fascinated with William Gibson's novel "Neuromancer", and I was absorbed in the Sprawl trilogy.

Looking back, it is hard to explain why I was fascinated with "Neuromancer" at that time, because the future, which is described in this novel, has already become a reality. "Neuromancer" was published in 1984. Do you remember how the world was at that time? Let's read the entry "I could survive in the Stone Age." There were no Internet and no cell phones! Please imagine how you will feel, when you read a science fiction novel about computer hackers in the cyberspace in the "Stone Age".

Later on, I got crazy about "Cyberpunk novels."

One of the good points of "Cyberpunk novels" is their vision of the future. But as I wrote, the future in "Cyberpunk novels" has become a reality, so if their vision of the future is their only good point, they have already lost their appeal. In fact, most "Cyberpunk novels" have lost their appeal, but I think that it is worth reading William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy and Alec Effinger's Budayeen trilogy nowadays, because they have the other good points.

In the "Stone Age," I enjoyed reading not only science fiction novels but also hard-boiled novels, from Dashiell Hammett to Elmore Leonard. In hard-boiled novels, the central characters are usually "picaresques." I love "Picaresque novels," because everybody in the real world is more or less imperfect and "Picaresque novels" express the imperfection of human beings. One of the significant features of "Cyberpunk novels" is that they are also "Picaresque novels."

In "When Gravity Fails," the central character, Marid Audran, wasn't a superman but just a thug living in Budayeen, which was a squalid city somewhere in Middle East. He was a Muslim, who wasn't so religious. Exoticism is one of the appeals of this novel.

Like most hard-boiled novels, Marid got in trouble and got hurt physically and mentally, because he was an imperfect human being. At the end of this novel, one of his close friends, Chiri, says to him, "Don't nobody get nothing for free." That was the main theme of this novel.

The author of this novel, George Alec Effinger, wrote two more novels about Marid and Budayeen, "A Fire in the Sun" and "The Exile Kiss," and he died in 2002 when he completed only the first two chapters of a fourth Budayeen novel, "Word of Night."

He had been suffering from a variety of health problems. He was really good at describing pain. "Don't nobody get nothing for free." R.I.P. Alec.

Mar 3, 2013

Let's Spend A Little More Time Leaving Everybody Alone: Clint Eastwood and Me

Although I have only a vague memory of it, it might be first time to see Clint Eastwood in the movie "For A Few Dollars More," when I was a small child. At that time cheap Spaghetti Western movies were broadcasted on TV in Japan again and again, and I was crazy about Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef.

And then I've watched "Dirty Harry" so many times on TV. The first his movie I watched in a theater was "Escape from Alcatraz", when I went to Junior high school.

I have been a big fan of Clint Eastwood almost for forty years. After "Dirty Harry", constantly he made good movies, for example "The Gauntlet," "Pale Rider," and "Bird", though, he was considered as a second grade action star.

After he won the Academy Award for "Unforgiven," suddenly he became considered as one of masters. Of course I was glad, but at the same time I thought that he hadn't changed at all. I love his Western movie "Pale Rider" much more than the Academy Award winning "Unforgiven." Before "Unforgiven", he made many good movies, and after it, he continued to make good movies.

His latest movie "J. Edgar" wasn't successful, but I think that it is much better than most critics said it was.

I read an interview about "J. Edgar" on the GQmagazine, and he talked about business and movies as follows.

GQ: Speaking of business, the movie kind: One thing you've both seen grow is a public obsession with box office. By Sunday afternoon, everybody knows how everything did. These days, when you have a flop, does it hurt more to have it—

Clint Eastwood: —broadcast all over the place? You know, it's really crappy. If it doesn't do well that first weekend, screw it. But you make a film to make a really good film, and if people don't embrace it, there's nothing you can do. You've always gotta remember that a lot of great movies didn't do anything. Everybody would like to have the business that some of these turkeys do, but would you be proud to have your name on them? Not particularly. Would you love to have the bank account? Sure. I made a good living. But that was just lucky. If I'd made a mediocre living, I would have felt the same way.

As Clint Eastwood said, I guess that he "loves to have the bank account" but he purely "makes a film to make a really good film." I believe that "J. Edgar" will receive a higher reputation than it receives now.

Edgar Hoover was a gay, so Clint Eastwood talked about gay marriage in this interview. I completely agreed with what he said.

GQ: You've described yourself as a social libertarian. What does that mean to you?

Clint Eastwood: I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War. And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, Let's spend a little more time leaving everybody alone. These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don't give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We're making a big deal out of things we shouldn't be making a deal out of.

Yes! Anybody should get married to anybody who they want to get married to. That's it!

I, myself, am a libertarian. I learned everything from his movies.

Mar 2, 2013

"Progress" Shikao Suga: "Take just a single step forward."

I wrote about two musicians, Kurt Cobain and Ben Folds, who were born in the same year.

Shikao Suga is one of my favorite Japanese musicians and he is also the same age as me. I love his lyrics, because I can project my own life onto them.

I'd like to talk about one of his hit songs, "Progress."

We got set to start the race.
I was pleased quietly
to see him stumble.
Even now, I can't do the right thing;
I can't forgive, and I can't protect the one I love.
I'm as useless as I was that day.

The ideal self I've been seeking
is far cooler than what I am.
The days and the steps I've been taking
might really be called "self."

I'll give these words to a flood of sigh around the world
and to our sweet and sour despair.
"Take just a single step forward."

The sky is always filling with shinning stars like our hope.
I held out my hand, though I knew I couldn't reach.
I saw sadness displayed in a glass case,
and I murmured, "poor thing."
I hate myself so much that I want to kick myself.

The dream we've been dreaming
isn't the same color of someone else's future.
The courage we seek, known to no-one
might really be called the "future."

I offer give these words to a flood of sighs around the world
and to our sweet and sour despair.
"Take just a single step forward."

The ideal self I've been seeking
is far cooler than what I am.
The days and the steps I've been taking
might really be called "self."

The dream we've been dreaming
isn't the same color of someone else's future.
The courage we seek, known to no-one
might really be called the "future."

I offer give these words to a flood of sighs around the world
and to our sweet and sour despair.
"Take just a single step forward."