Dokodemo Door!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A quick synopsis...

...of the past few months.

To make a long story short, I have been relentlessly busy doing work-related stuff. Nonetheless, my spare time has been pretty full-up as well. Tonight, I'm shut-in due to a typhoon so I've got a chance to blog about it; here's a quick sampling:

April: Sakura season!

That's right. Early April is-- was-- the time of year when the cherry blossoms appear on the trees. As a result, there were some great opportunities to go-out and take lots of photos. Yessir, three weeks of earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear emergencies go-down a lot easier under the sakura trees with copious quantities of sake on hand...

May: Universal Studios!
This is something of an annual tradition at my school for the past 5 or 6 years.

Since 2009, I've been taking my students to Universal Studios in Osaka during the spring. Ostensibly, it's for an English-language 'project' but I think it's mainly to allow the freshmen and teachers to have a chance to do something outside of class. The theme of Universal Studios Japan is American films, but it also involves a bizarre mish-mash of random characters ranging from Woody Woodpecker to Elmo from Sesame Street, for God's sake.

Ignoring the more hallucinogenic properties of the park, my once-a-year ride on Hollywood Dream, their 2-minute and 31-second roller-coaster, is something I look forward to.

June: Kyoto's Kinkakuji!

Believe it or not, despite having been to Kyoto multiple times, I was never in a position to see the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which is probably the most famous building in the country. The fact that I could finally get some pictures of my own is something of a relief to me.

The semester is finishing-up and then I'll be going on my long-awaited visit to Beijing in late August. I figure I'll be getting some decent pictures, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Xylophone in Wood"

Mari found this; won an award at Cannes, it did. It was filmed in Kyushu, required something like 450 bits of wood and that deer was actually there.

It's a commercial!

UPDATE: Tonight's 5.4 earthquake in Wakayama during dinnertime was almost enjoyable; nearly like a massage-chair.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Constructive dissent"

I doubt that the following tidbit popped-up on your radar-screen: on June 23rd, a special commendation was awarded to Joel Ehrendreich, a staff member of the U.S. State Department.
Joel Ehrendreich was given an award for "constructive dissent" for convincing higher-ups that the U.S. ambassador to Japan should accept, rather than decline, the annual invitation to attend the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, which marks the anniversary of [the] Hiroshima atomic bombing by the U.S.

Yes, believe it or not, the U.S. officially refused to attend the memorial ceremonies of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until 2010. John Roos was the first U.S. ambassador to show-up at the event last year.

This longstanding boycott was not only antiquated but, unforgivably, was also tainted with the irreparable quality of looking bad among the Japanese public. The symbolism of Roos' attendance, 65 years after the bombing, was refreshing, well-received and packed a great deal of punch last summer.

The refusal to attend the nationally-observed remembrances of the events is not terribly surprising considering the almost paranoid level of secrecy which surrounded the bombings for decades afterwards. In the late 40s, both the brass of the Air Force and the civilian scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission closed ranks to concur that the devastation and gory after-affects should be hidden from the public. (Nonetheless, I figure that General Curtis LeMay, a man who later gave Robert McNamara the heebie-jeebies, thought the display of air-delivered death was pretty decent stuff for the Russians to ponder.)

In Japan, from 1945 until 1952, there was a great deal of censorship regarding the photographic documentation of what had happened. (In fact, in one of those cunningly self-referential twists, the occupation's policy of censorship had itself been subjected to censorship, meaning that the whole episode largely vanished from the historical record.) During that period, some Japanese filmmakers had their equipment confiscated when they tried to document the devastation. Furthermore, the copious street-level atom-bomb footage of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (which was, in itself, a highly informative post-WWII project) was declared Top Secret. The result was that ground-based films and photographs of the twin atomic bombings' aftermath had been effectively suppressed for decades.

In fact, some clips of the black and white films of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki effects which are available today would be unknown were it not for the fact that a negative reel was secretly hidden away in the crawlspace of the cameraman's ceiling for some 22 years.