Saturday, June 12, 2021

The ageing of the Japanese mind.



Tokyo Aircheck #3


The other day, Japan's prime minister Yoshihide Suga made some remarks on Tokyo Olympics in the Question Time at parliament. That is quite usual, but what was unusual was that Mr. Suga made some personal observations on the games, citing his memories of the 1964 Tokyo games which he experienced as a boy. The fact that the recollections, delivered in warm tone, failed to fascinate the public imagination seems to tell more about the status quo of Japan than Mr. Suga himself.


I sometimes wonder if the Japanese mindset, at least in the way it is depicted in the (social) media, has not aged compared to the heydays of rapid economic growth. The Olympic movement has not become old. Only the minds of some people have lost vigour, while the games of life goes on.


#tokyoaircheck


related video



Why P.M. Suga's recount of the Olympics became a bad PR.




Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Catch 22 for Dr. Shigeru Omi. #tokyoaircheck



Tokyo Aircheck #2



Dr. Shigeru Omi is a respected medic with a track record of earnest work and personal integrity, but he probably has lost the trust of Prime Minister Suga and key people in government. In Japan, the unwritten code of action is harmony. You need to keep accord with those you work with at any costs, and if you break that rule, then whatever you do, you would be judged to be unsound. 

I am not making any judgments on Dr. Omi or Mr. Suga or those government officials. I am just making an observation. I can tell now that Dr. Omi is rapidly losing influence and respectability within the Tokyo government, especially as regards his alarmist attitude to the Tokyo Olympics.

If Dr. Omi makes the extraordinary move of appealing to the IOC directly, he would lose his standing within Tokyo further. It is a catch 22 situation for the respected medic.


#tokyoaircheck

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Tokyo Olympics more likely to go ahead now. #tokyoaircheck



Tokyo Aircheck #1



In Tokyo, there is a growing feeling that the Olympics and Paralympics would go forward, mainly influenced by the activities and achievements of athletes. On Sunday, Ryota Yamagata set a new Japanese national record for the 100m heat of 9.95. Yamagata would have to compete in the coming Japan Championship at the end of this month to qualify for the Olympics. Then, the legendary gymnast Kohei Uchimyra qualified for the Olympics in men's horizontal bar event. Uchimura has been men's artistic individual all-around Olympic champion in the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and considering his age (32), made a decision to focus on the parallel bar to go to the Olympics.

Given the heat coming from the enthusiasm and efforts by these athletes, it is felt that the rest of us should perhaps make corresponding efforts to make the games a reality, despite the difficulties all of us are facing at this time.


Related video


Heat is up for Tokyo Olympics.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPIFdzwUc48

Saturday, March 13, 2021

A critique of Ramseyer paper.



A paper by Harvard law Professor Mark Ramseyer has recently been drawing controversy.


Ramseyer, J. M. (2021). Contracting for sex in the Pacific War. International Review of Law and Economics, 65, 105971.



Personally, I always felt that these historical issues should be taken in the light of human rights and universal values standards of today. Otherwise we would not do justice to the human beings that we currently are.


Reports in the New York Times and New Yorker seem to have been mainly concerned with historic facts and interpretations of them. While these are certainly important issues, reading the paper, I was more concerned by the weakness and irrelevance of the game theoretic approach that Prof. Ramseyer applied to this issue in the paper. 


Although economic analysis based on game theory has been a powerful tool, when you think of the comfort woman controversy, money is not necessarily the first thing that would come into your mind. Compared to issues of human dignity, freedom, and social and psychological coercion, not to mention the military culture at that time,  economic factors seem to be a subsidiary issue at best. 


In the above paper, Prof. Ramseyer gives some casual descriptions of credible commitments, reward and income structures, compensation for much higher risks involved, indenture contracts with a large advance with one or two year terms, etc. but fails go extend the theoretically analysis fully, so that non-trivial results are obtained which are not obvious from the assumptions themselves. This insufficient treatment, coupled with the general neglect of social, cultural, and psychological elements described, for example, in Min Jee Lee's novel Pachinko (2018), makes the Ramseyer paper largely irrelevant to the comfort woman controversy.


This is very unfortunate, especially considering the fact that Prof. Ramseyer is an excellent scholar, versed in the interplay between law and economics. It is a pity that Prof. Ramseyer failed to see much beyond that. 


Related video


A critique of Ramseyer paper




Sunday, February 21, 2021

The White Tiger is not so beautiful.




I watched the acclaimed Netflix original White Tiger. I should say I did not resonate with the film so much. The White Tiger is not so beautiful.


It tells a story of class division and political dirt in India. The protagonist aspires to climb the social ladder, identifying himself with the white tiger he sees in a zoo. The beauty of the beast inspires him to break free from the slave mentality.


Although the satire is good and the actings superb, the script and editing lacked a crucial finishing touch, depicting only the crime and not the punishment. It may be OK to be bullish in the climb uphill, but if a self-reflection is lacking there it would fall short of a literally masterpiece, let alone a cinematic one.


To be fair, I haven't read the original novel yet. I might have different impressions from the presumably more nuanced text. 


If the film had some self-reflecting element at the end, I might have been more favourably inclined. The fact that it was received favourably by Western critics appears to suggest some element of political correctness applied to the rise of India and China by the West, repentant of its colonial past, which is good in itself but does not testify for the quality of the work. In all, I see it as a great missed opportunity.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

An online conversation with Prof. Adrian Cheok and Senator Fraser Anning

 


I had the pleasure to have an online conversation with Prof. Adrian Cheok and Senator Fraser Anning.


I have been friends with Adrian for many years. Adrian suggested that I have a conversation with Senator Anning, and I gladly accepted. It is always interesting to get to know people and exchange ideas.


Although I don't necessarily agree with the views expressed by Senator Anning and Adrian, it is very important to compare notes and say what comes up to your mind honestly when you hear somebody say something contrary to your opinion. I also felt that I really needed to have an insight into Senator Anning's personality, the deeply seated motivations and values, before becoming too judgemental as the Zeitgeist of the social media era would tend to promote.


Here's the link to the youtube video that Adrian put up.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLHnxUERilI





I thank Adrain and Senator Anning for the interesting conversation. I hope people can live in a spirit of diversity and inclusion everywhere. Please leave comments on this blog or the youtube video if you feel something needs to be said.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Why Dorothea's disappointment has universal repercussions.



I was walking in the backstreets of Tokyo after nightfall. It was a chilly January day, and I was listening to an audiobook of Middlemarch by George Eliot. This elaborate novel has established itself in the history of world literature despite its somewhat cumbersome structure. I imagined how Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under male pseudonym due to the unsavoury prejudice towards women at that time, must have felt when she wrote it. The intricate circumstances of gender-sensitive authorship of the novel is quite poignant. The young and talented Dorothea marries Mr. Casaubon, who appears to be culturally superior with significant ambitions. The disappointment of Dorothea in finding the dry and aged nature of Mr. Casaubon is a wonderful study of human psychology, if somewhat sarcastic.

Suddenly, while listening to the recording of Middlemarch on my iPhone in the chilly Tokyo night, I realized how any hopes of eternal fame is only an ultimately sad illusion generated by our reaction to our mortality. It is like the marriage of Dorothea to Mr. Casaubon. We stake our hopes on it, but it ultimately turns out to be without substance and empty. That is probably why Dorothea's disappointment has universal repercussions. I listen to George Eliot in Tokyo in the 21st century and am thankful for it. However, as far as the essence of existence is concerned, the life of Mary Anne Evans was there and then, and no more. The same is true for all of us. 


The Office American version quite moving from time to time.

 



So I have been watching The Office American version at last, as it is being streamed on Netflix in Japan.


I am a great fan of Ricky Gervais, and I enjoyed The Office U.K. version thoroughly. As many people would agree, The Office is arguably one of the best comedy shows ever made, in its creative juxtaposition of the comic and tragic, somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare. 


I have naturally watched some episodes of The Office American version now and then, mostly on international flights, but have not viewed the series systematically until now.


I had my own trepidations, but the American version has actually turned out to have some fine points. 


Particularly interesting is the fact that perhaps in the U.S., there is not such a layer structure between the comedians and the "ordinary" people. The comedian (in this case the boss in the office) is also a member of the mediocre society. In the U.K., on the other hand, the comedian is probably superior in intelligence and dramatic grasp of life, a tradition carried by Ricky Gervais himself, although in an implicit style compared to, for example, Stephen Fry.


The fact that everybody is on the same board with equal humbleness makes The Office American version quite moving from time to time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A comparison of the Chinese Dream with the American Dream

 


I have recently repeatedly heard news coverage of the Chinese Dream pushed by President Xi Jinping. In the Japanese media, the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Civilization is a phrase heard often, in relation to the Chinese Dream.


It would be great if the peoples of China would be able to enjoy the growth of the society in terms of economy or otherwise. On the other hand, it is hoped that diversity and individual freedom would be able to enhanced in China in the years to come.


In today's youtube posting I make a comparison between the Chinese dream and the American dream, with the latter more focused on the diversity of opinions and the individual freedom to pursue happiness.


Differences between the American and Chinese dreams.




Sunday, January 10, 2021

When people split into twitter and parler



In today's youtube posting I discussed the permanent ban of Mr. Trump from twitter and its implications.


I fear that there is a danger that the platforms would split into physically defined echo chambers. Up to now, echo chambers did exist, but they were subsets on a single platform, such as twitter.


When people split into twitter and parler, for example, there would be an increased danger of more absolute segregation of people and opinions.


Youtube: Twitter vs Parler: Danger of platform-defined echo chambers