Jun 30, 2013

A Great Story, Good Actors and Actresses, but a Cheap Direction: My Impression of the Movie, “The Great Gatsby”

I saw the movie “the Great Gatsby” yesterday.

I love the novel “the Great Gatsby,” so I was looking forward to this movie, and at the same time I felt anxious about it.

Of course, the plot is great, not due to any staff of this movie but to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Gatsby devoted whole his life to Daisy, who wasn’t what she really was but what he believed that she should be. He did anything that he believed that she would love, but actually it wasn’t sure that she would love it. In the end, he was betrayed by the real Daisy, because she wasn’t what he thought that her was.

In this sense, “the Great Gatsby” is tragedy and comedy like “Don Quixote.” Gatsby and Don Quixote lived in their own imagination. All of us also live more or less in our imagination, but we can’t forget the real world at all. Therefore, we look down on them and adore them at the same time like Nick Carter.

Would you like to live your own life at any cost and go to ruin like Jay Gatsby, or to watch someone else’s life from a safety zone like Nick Carter?

Tobey Maguire was adequate as Nick Carter. Although sometimes Leonardo DiCaprio overacted, I can’t imagine that another actor palys Gatsby. Carey Mulligan was cute enough for Daisy who Gatsby loved.

But I was really disappointed that the direction was so cheap.

In my entry “Punk Rock and the Digital Camera: the Impression of the Documentary Movie “Side by Side,” I wrote, “I want to watch a movie made by punk rockers more than by Thomas Edison.” I don’t deny developing of the digital technology, but I just hope that directors would use them effectively.

In this movie, everything in the images was unnatural. If it was a music video, I could say that their images were fashionable, but in this movie they broke my concentration on the story.

Did they use such artificial images in order to express the cheapness of the Roaring Twenties? If they wanted it, it would be successful. In fact, I seemed this movie to be cheap.

I’ll try Robert Redford’s “the Great Gatsby.”

Jun 28, 2013

Being Just Ordinary: My Impression of the Movie “Fight Club”

Ben Folds, one of my favorite rock singers, sang in his song “Rockin’ the Suburbs” as follows:
Let me tell y'all what it's likeBeing male, middle-class and whiteIt's a bitch, if you don't believeListen up to my new CD

I perfectly understand what he meant.

I grew up in an ordinary uptown in Tokyo in an ordinary middle-class family. I was almost happy, because my family wasn’t poor and I wasn’t discriminated. But nothing special ever happened in my childhood. I was a male, middle-class and Japanese child in Tokyo.

And now, I become a male, middle-class and Japanese "salaryman” in Tokyo. I don’t have any special complaints about my life, but sometimes I feel, “it’s a bitch, if you don’t believe.”

Last weekend, I watched the movie “Fight Club.”

The main character, who was played by Edward Norton, is young, single, male, middle-class, and white-color, enjoying his urban life. His life seems to be perfect, but he suffers from insomnia. He begins to dream another life.

This movie reminded me of the movie “American Beauty,” which I really love.

It is about a typical “happy” American family somewhere in an urban area. People in the family begin to do what they want in their heart, and the family is getting broken down.

I think that nobody can be just ordinary. At this time, I don’t get violent like “Fight Club” and quit my job like “American Beauty,” but I can’t be just an ordinary Japanese “salaryman.” When I “look closer” at my heart, I also would find something in it.

I write my weblog in English very eagerly. In order to be an ordinary Japanese “salaryman,” it is completely useless to do it, but I can’t stop it. My colleagues can’t understand why I keep doing such a thing. I don’t want to fight someone with bare knuckles in the Fight Club, but I also want to do something unordinary.

I might be lucky for me that what I want to do incidentally isn’t antisocial. It might be possible for me to fall down (rise up?) from my ordinary “salaryman’s” life to “the Fight Club,” someday.

Jun 15, 2013

The Ethics of Protestantism and The Spirits of Chocolate

I’m reading the book “the Emperors of Chocolate.”

As I mentioned in the previous entry “"Gibu Mi Chokoreito": Ration D Bars and Japanese Children,” this book is about the U.S. chocolate industry, focusing especially on the competition between Hershey and Mars.

The chocolate industry is one of the typical industries in the U.S. When you read the history of the chocolate industry, you can understand the characteristics of the U.S. industries.

For example, Forrest Mars, who made Mars Corporation the biggest chocolate company in the U.S., was the typical capitalist, who Max Weber described in the book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

I’d like to summarize what Weber meant in it briefly. Of course this summary is my own interpretation, so if you want to know exactly what he meant, you should read his original book.

He pointed out that the modern capitalists behaved in rational ways with irrational motives.

In every region, in every age, there were people who wanted to be rich. They wanted to be rich, because they wanted to spend money for their own desire. So when they really became rich, they began to live extravagant lives. In short, they were utilitarian.

The first modern capitalists were Protestant. They worked quite hard for success, because they believed that their success proved that they were selected by God. In fact, many of them got successful, because they worked quite hard. After they became rich, they didn’t spend money for their desire but they invested their money to their business. So they got much more successful and earned much more money. They were not utilitarian but ascetic.

Forrest Mars was an ascetic hard worker. His father and Forrest had a conversation as follows:
“My father says, ‘we’re making enough money. We have an airplane, we’ve got the fishing place, we got horses. Why do we need any more?’” recalled Forrest.
It’s a question he himself would never ask.
“Why do I want to go on?” Forrest mused. “I want to go on because it’s fun. I like building businesses… I like the tension. I like the gamble… The word challenge isn’t too good a word for it. I think it’s better to say the truth: I like the tension.”
He was greed for business but not for money. He had “the ethics of Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism.”

Jun 9, 2013

It Is Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Last Friday I got a holiday.

My wife and I went to Omiya Kokusai Country Club to play golf, and then we ate sushi with beer and white wine. In June, it is a rainy season in Japan, but this year, it has rained little until now. It was a really nice day for golf.

My last visit to Omiya Kokusai Country Club was on March eleventh, 2011. At that time I played golf with my parents and wife. Just after we finished the eighteenth hole, while we were walking to the clubhouse, the great earthquake happened.

I couldn’t keep standing and sat on the road. I saw the surface of the ground waving and the cars in the parking lot jumping up for several minutes.

I couldn’t remember well how I played that day, but I found that it was my best score in my lifetime by reading the scorecard.

After that I began completely to change my swing, because I thought that I couldn’t play better with my swing of that day. My score was getting worse and worse. Even I couldn’t hit a ball well.

I believed that someday I would be able to play much better, but at the same time I felt like being in the darkest dungeon. 

Tiger Woods had been in slump for two years after his scandal and injury, but he has changed his swing and been back in great form this year. I didn’t know if I could do as well as Tiger Woods, but at least it might be possible for me to get out of the dungeon.

Last Friday, my score was as good as on March 11. Finally I found the light of the exit of the dungeon. I was convinced that I would improve my score much better.

My golf coach said, "you won't lose easily what you learn with a great effort."

It's always darkest before the dawn.

Jun 6, 2013

"Gibu Mi Chokoreito": Ration D Bars and Japanese Children

There was a cliche, "Gibu mi chokoreito", which was used during the U.S. occupation of Japan just after the Pacific War. Of course, "Gibu mi chokoreito" means, "Give me chocolate."

I just started to read the book "the emperors of Chocolate," which is about the U.S. chocolate industry, focusing especially on the competition between Hershey and Mars.

The first chapter of this book, "Bar Wars," is written about the relationship between the U.S. Army and chocolate companies. The author wrote:

In 1942, when the United States entered the war against Germany and Japan, the military ordered Hershey to commence full-scale production of the new ration bar, and for the next four years the Hershey plant operated around the clock, seven days a week, churning out half a million Ration D bars per shift.

I didn't know about "Ration D Bars" before reading this.

I heard that the  U. S. Army soldiers gave chocolate to Japanese children during American occupation of Japan. At that time, even dairy foods were running short, so obviously sweets were quite valuable goods. Japanese children followed American Army's jeeps and shouted, "Gibu mi chokoreito!"

I'd like to know what kind of chocolate was given by the U.S. soldiers, so I googled it and found an image of the Ration D Bars. It was much rougher and bigger than I imagined. I think that the Japanese children who got Ration D Bars were probably very surprised by the size of the chocolate.

I began to want to eat a simple “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.”

Jun 2, 2013

I Bought a Sony Product After Such a Long Time

Recently, the performances of Japanese consumer electronics companies, such as Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, are quite weak. Sony invented “Walkman,” but now Apple dominates the portable audio device market. Samsung is the world’s leading TV manufacturer, though Japanese electronics companies used to dominate its market.

In fact, there is no product that made by Japanese electronics companies, which I want to buy. Most Japanese products are high functional, but I don’t need these functions. Japanese companies don’t understand what consumers want and miss the point.

I’m using iPhone now, and it’s enough for me. I haven’t bought Sony and Panasonic products in these years.

I always listen to music by iPhone on my way to the office. On the weekend, I go swimming. I wanted to listen to my favorite music, but of course I couldn’t use iPhone in water. So I wanted to buy a Waterproof Walkman, when I heard it could be used in water. This product just hit my point.

In the end, I bought a Waterproof Walkman last weekend. I can’t remember when I bought a Sony product last.

I read the comments on the Waterproof Walkman on Amazon.com. Some said that it was perfect for swimming, but others said that water got into ears and they couldn’t listen to music well.

Last Friday, I tried it in water, and it was perfect for me to listen to music during swimming. I'm very satisfied.

Before I bought it, I used iPhone and an earphone, but the cable bothered me. Now I use it on my way to office, because it doesn’t have a cable. 

Waterproof Walkman isn’t high functional. Its memory is only 4GB, and it doesn’t have a liquid crystal screen. It is just compact and waterproofed, but it perfectly meets my demand. The point isn’t how the product is high functional but how it meets the consumer’s demand.

The original Walkman is the same as it. It was just compact. It didn’t even have a mike or a speaker, although there was no audio player without a speaker at that time.

I am wondering if Sony is really back.

Jun 1, 2013

The Meaning of Being Outdated: The Impression of Kazuo Ishiguro's Novel “An Artist of the Floating World”

I've just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's novel “An Artist of the Floating World.”

I love his novels, but I'm used to reading them in Japanese translations. I heard that his English was beautiful, so I wanted to read his novel in the original English version. This time, I tried to read “An Artist of the Floating World” in English.

When I read the conversations in it, I felt kind of strange. In this novel, all characters are Japanese, and obviously they speak in Japanese. But Kazuo Ishiguro wrote their conversation in English, because the entire of this novel was written in English.

The first half of the novel is about an arranged marriage of the daughter of the main character, Masuji Ono. I felt like I was reading the English translation of a Japanese novel like Junichiro Tanizaki's "the Makioka Sisters."

His daughter talked to him like this.

"Forgive me, but I wonder if it may not be wise if Father were to visit Mr Kuroda soon."

She denigrated herself to her father very much. I'm guessing that native English speakers don’t talk with their fathers in such a way. This conversation sounds like a direct translation from Japanese to English. I don’t know if Kazuo Ishiguro can speak Japanese, so I wonder whether he wrote this conversation in Japanese first and translated into English, or if he wrote in English as if he were writing a translation.

There appeared many outdated people in this novel.

Masuji Ono was a retired painter. During World War II, he worked for the military, and he drew many paintings endorsing the Japanese invasion of Asian countries. At that time he believed that he was doing the right thing for the Japanese people, but after Japan surrendered, he was blamed for his responsibility in the war, and no one was interested in his paintings.

Ono’s master drew only beautiful women in the red-light district. Although his paintings used to be quite popular, just before World War II people became to think of his paintings as not patriotic.

Ono criticized and broke away from his master, and then he himself also was criticized by younger generation. In the end, everyone became outdated.

Ono’s master told Ono the following:

“When I am an old man, when I look back over my life and see I have devoted it to the task of capturing the unique beauty of that world, I believe I will be well satisfied. And no man will make me believe I’ve wasted my time.”

Kazuo Ishiguro didn’t make clear if Ono and his master was actually satisfied with their lives.

Everyone must be outdated, when they are old. I wonder if I will be well satisfied.