人気ブログランキング |

カテゴリ:in English( 9 )


Kite Runner

“Kite Runner”, written by Khaled Hosseini, was published a few years ago and has been a New York Times best-seller. Not surprisingly it was made into a movie, which is showing at theaters. (it was released on Feb. 9 in Japan)

When I asked my friend to buy this book as a souvenir from the US, I didn’t know much about this book except a good reputation. But on receiving this book, I was absorbed in reading it.

The story is in Afghanistan in the late 70s.
Amir and Hassan are same age and grow up together like brothers but their positions are quite different.

Amir is Pashtun, the majority, and his father is a brave and wealthy businessman respected by his friends and neighbors, while Hassan is Hazara, the minority and discriminated, and his father is a servant to Amir’s father.

Their relationship ends on the day of a kite tournament.
Hassan is beaten bitterly and raped by Pashtun bullies when chasing the falling kite for Amir and running into a desolate area.

Amir, following Hassan, witnesses the incident but fails to prevent it in fear (plus, he doesn't regards Hassan a friend after all.)
Driven by guilt, Amir grows apart from Hassan and finally he and his father moves to the USA due to the Soviet invasion.

Almost 20 years have past. Amir receives a call, which brings him back to the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and takes an opportunity to atone for his sin.

I should stop here for not spoiling in case you are interested in watching the movie or reading the book. But briefly Amir eventually adopts Hassan’s son and flies a kite together in California.

This movie gets into the news not only because its base is a million-seller book.
I happened to watch the director's interview on the ABC news, saying he pursued the authenticity in producing the movie so that casts were chosen from the Afghan, though it was shot in China.

Because of this authenticity, four of its young Afghan stars received death threats due to the rape scene and the studio had to delay the opening of the film and asked some expert to analyze the impact of this film on the region and on the casts. After all the boys’ families flee the country and live in the United Arab Emirates. It also seems to stir the sensitive race issues in Afghanistan which was rather winding down recently.

This is a novel, not fallen in a non-fiction category.
But I was able to get some ideas what the life in Afghanistan was like, and how Afghan people see the Soviet-invasion or Taliban-control from the point of an Afghan author's view.

For example, flying kites is quite popular among Afghan people, you cannot even ask out before engagement, women are not treated equally to men and wives would be blamed if their husbands have affairs, initially the Afghan people welcome the Pashtun-centered Taliban who had eventually threw Soviet soldiers away, but gradually they became afraid of Taliban.

Time to time, we have heard the news of Afghanistan and Taliban since 9.11. Especially since last fall when Japan’s Democrat Party Leader Ozawa insisted that Japan’s Self Defense Forces should be sent to the Afghan ground instead of being sent to the Indian Ocean, Afghanistan has become an issue.

In fact, in spite of international efforts, the Afghan situation is not getting better and a couple days ago, Germany decided to send troops there to comply with US and other NATO members’ request. Japan may be under the same pressure.

Though I have heard news on this country, I haven’t read a book focused on it. As the author’s father was a diplomat and moved to the USA when he was young, his ideas and values may not reflect the average Afghan people. Still this book makes me feel real what I have heard on the news.

By the way, its Japanese title is “thousands time for you”, which Hassan always says to Amir. Which title is more appealed to you?

by yokopw | 2008-02-14 00:26 | in English  

2 Day off a week is NOT enough??!




by yokopw | 2006-05-15 23:50 | in English  

Koizumi marks 5 year, taking a dark turn

Koizumi marks 5 year anniversary as Prime Minister on April 26.
Though announcing that he will step down in September, he still enjoys a public support rating of more than 40 percent.
He is far different from the previous
Japanese premiers. He is very good at
handling media, picking issues timely
and appealing to the public with terse
radical slogans with such as “smash
Liberal Democratic Party (his own party)” and “change Japan!”
The climax of his talented skill was shown in an overwhelming victory in a
general election last September. Over objection from LDP cadres and contrary to expectations of most commentators, he dissolved
the Diet on the day the postal reform bill was rejected and made
a clear speech to explain why he dissolved the Diet and how
important to reform the
postal service on that night, which was very impressive.

While Koizumi is good at making political issues however, he has left
the reform unfinished as well as the critical issues untouched.
He also too simplifies the issues. For example, while he has
tightened Tokyo's relationship with the United States, he has
led a sharp deterioration in relations with China and South Korea.

The result of the April 23’s Lower House by-election would be a
corner point of the Koizumi’s political fortunes till September when
he is saying to step down. The candidate of the beleaguered
opposition Democratic party finally won the election by a slim margin. Besides the fierce battle between the two parties, there was a real contrast between the two candidates; Ken Saito, LDP’s candidate, a Harvard graduate, has sufficient background including director of METI, secretary to Minister and vice-governor while Kazumi Ota, 26 years old, high-school educated, female, ran a campaign with “society with no loser” slogan after reported that she used to work at a sex-related business.
Newspaper reports that some LDP supporters voted for Democratic
Party, though not mentioned if they wanted to vote for the party or
the candidate.

Till this local election, the greatest concern was who would be a
successor of Koizumi in LDP. Now it comes to be more complicated
and I am expecting how Democratic Party will hold out against
Koizumi building on this momentum.

by yokopw | 2006-04-27 23:48 | in English  

Train Man / Densha Otoko

Finally watched a movie “Train Man,” adapted from the best selling
book and became a huge hit in 2004-5 in Japan.

This is the true life story of a geeky young man who
happens to meet a girl on the train and post
messages on a huge internet discussion board for
some help. A million internet users follows the
Train Man's romance, giving him advices on how to
impress the girl and take her out on dates, which leads to a happy end.

Train Man belongs in the so-called "Akiba-kei" category: a term that
describes nerdy looking men who hang out at Akihabara (the famous
electronics area in Tokyo) all day, obsessed with video games and

He happened to be on his way home when he saw a girl harassed
by a drunken passenger. Though far from a “hero” type,
he stood up to protect her. She thanked him and asked
his address “to return a favor”.
A few days later, Train Man receives a “Hermes tea cup”.
Now he turns to the internet forum, using the alias
Train Man for advice on how he should contact with
Hermes and the romance between Train Man and
Hermes is moving ahead on the internet
as well as in the real life.

What I found interesting in this story is the combination
between the real life and the virtual community.
Though Train Man may not be able to change himself and
grab a chance without virtual community’s push and support,
the basic storyline is amazingly very classic;
defending a girl and falling in love.
He starts from memorizing and drilling the lines in dating
like learning convresation in other languages.
Indeed, he is stepping out of the e-communicty where he finds it
easier and more comfortable to communicate
by getting advice from this community
and learning skills and manners how to talk with a girl,
how to understand her and how to believe himself.

We are getting broader range of channels and tools to contact
others, but the basic elements how to communicate others
may not be changed; having interests in others, trying to
understand others and building up self-confidence.

Or like the world of tomorrow illustrated in “Demolition man”
(where people make love through virtual device, since touching
others is “nasty”) the way how people love would be changed

by yokopw | 2006-04-02 23:08 | in English  

Magician is a great storyteller

Went to a “magic bar” where you can have dinner
while watching simple magic
just in front of you and
found that a magician is
an accomplished story teller!!

He performed a basic magic with simple props such as
playing cards and coins. As you can imagine, he picks
a playing card I drew, takes out a card from a place
I didn’t expect and puts a coin in my pocket with nobody noticing.

Of course I stared at his hands to see through tricks,
ended up being taken in. And found that I was baffled by his talks
as well as his tricks!
He leads my focus to where he wants to have by his skillful talks.
Or takes my mind off by letting me shuffle the cards or
other interactive communication. He carefully checked
where we were watching.

This reminds me of a comment about the presentation skill
of standup comedians, saying “great standup comedians
are accomplished story tellers.”

Comedians stand up before an audience with nothing between
you and the crowds who expect you will make them laugh.
Magicians handle props with fast hands but you cannot be
surprised or enjoyed just by watching their hands. (Oh, some
magicians may do magic like a mime but I think they are telling
a story with non-verbal anyway)
The skill of his story telling makes his artful tricks work as a magic.

by yokopw | 2006-03-20 21:12 | in English  

e-mail? cell?? or fax???

The article “Why the Web is Hitting a Wall” describes about the stalling US
internet growth.

In Japan online takeup rates, such as tax declaration or
registration, remain very low, though the government spent
huge amount of money for making online available.
It shows people don’t necessarily take
online transaction more convenient than that through the previous channels.

Recently Japanese Fair Trade Commission introduced a leniency
program, giving 100% immunity to the first informant on the
anti-trust violation and 50% and 30% reduction to the second
and the third respectively. The amendment has come into effect
since Jan. 2006. How place in the order? To avoid a dead heat,
only one facsimile line is designated and order is placed based
on the reception time.

Almost one month have passed since I finally started up my blog
site but what I have learnt is that you need to spend considerable
time and energy to utilize it.
Like the co-existence of radio and TV, internet is just adding to our options, instead of replacing the previous channels.

by yokopw | 2006-03-20 06:06 | in English  

The Role of Moderator at Emergency Press Conference

Participated in a mock emergency press conference
organized by a PR firm.

Crisis scenario; Fire accident at an auto parts factory,
killing 2 employees, injuring dozens who are now in hospital.
Little damage to the neighbors.
Assuming 2 hours have past since the accident happened and
now the first emergency press conference is to be held.
The presenters are CEO, Director for Technology,
Factory Manager and PR Director who is going to be a moderator.

In making a deep bow with saying “we are sorry “in front of
the reporters under a rain of boos and catcalls like
“Murderer!!” and dizzy flashlights, you get nervous and
realize the difficulty to present yourself
even you know it is mock.

One of the things I learnt from this experience is
the importance of the role of a moderator.
You get all kinds of questions, some unexpected, some tricky,
some just whipping you up.
A skillful moderator can control traffic by saying
“let us answer for ○×Journal first”
while you are getting tons of tough questions
from overheated reporters.
Or he can dodge questions which you cannot answer right
away (such as accident record) by commenting
“we will prepare the materials ASAP”

The purpose of the emergency conference immediately
after the accident is to make an apology for letting the
fatal accident happen, fact situation, and further responses.

Since you are holding an interview with limited knowledge
toward the accident and the actions you are going to take,
you need to be careful to choose your words.
Especially CEO needs to show her sincerity rather than
her dodging skill with artful words.

Under such a situation, it is very helpful for presenters that a
moderator, rather in a neutral position under less pressure,
can handle questions properly.
In fact, I played a role of CEO, but thanks to the
excellent mediator, I was able to have time
to think toward questions, calm myself down and eventually
pull myself together.

Fortunately I haven’t made diredt use of this experience so far
but since then, I have come to pay more attention how
a moderator functions at press conferences or panel discussions,
especially with multi-speakers.
Unspectacular but key role a moderator has.

by yokopw | 2006-03-17 00:37 | in English  

Memoirs of a Geisha


It may be good as long as
you see it as a love story of 50 years ago in some Asian country.
The scene is visually beautiful and Ziyi Zhang’s performance is excellent.

But that’s all. I mean, I didn’t feel any sympathy with the movie
though it might have tried to unveil some Japanese
traditional, clandestine society.
It was not impressive to me either.
Actually I had forgotten about it
till my friend told me that it was awesome. Was it??

A lot of critics point out the lack of authenticity
due to the heavy Chinese cast.
Maybe not unrelated. Their behavior or movement
in kimono is sometimes awkward;
their Japanese is not natural, the Ziyi Zhang’s outstanding
dance is rather Chinese….a pile of minor details.

The crucial flaw, however, would be that it fails to show
the difference between prostitutes and Geisha.
Geisha is not just beauty and dance performance;
it should be more deeply rooted in the “culture,”
which might be the reason that Geisha established
a certain status with some awe.

By the way, it won the Academy awards for costume
and art direction. Fair, I think.

⇒ Happened to hear the CNN's report on the current Geisha world.
According to it, an appointment with a single maiko,
apprentice geisha, can cost as much as $1000,
a bargain considering that it costs a tea-house roughtly
$500,000 to train, clothe and house a maiko.

by yokopw | 2006-03-13 21:11 | in English  

Internet Word of Mouth in Faceless Society

The article of Washington Post on March, 3 describes
how companies are tracking buzz to get customer opinions
and feedback to their products.

On the other hand, the article of Nikkei on March 7 focues on
increasing anonymous attacks in cyberspace
under the title of faceless society.

For example, a senior official of Ministry of Economics,
Trade and Industry started her own blog site to explain
new consumer policy
but ended up shutting down 3 weeks later
by getting too many nasty comments in terms of
amending the regulation of used electrical appliance.
She said that once groundless comments were written on the web,
they were taken as "facts."

Another example shows that anonymous messages
even give rise to criminal cases.
A man had been slandered on the web
by anonymous messages more than a year.
The detractor, the police finally arrested, was his coworker
sitting next to him.

Indeed, the individual opinions blasted out in cyberspace are
becoming an increaslyingly powerful force.
But is it in good way or in bad way?
Does it depend on individual's moral sense?
The article of WP reports some companies develop software
to assess the opinions on the web.
But how can we tell which opinions we should pick?

by yokopw | 2006-03-09 23:21 | in English