Wim Wenders Speaks about Japanese Film Director Ozu

What an incredible tribute to Japanese film director Yasujiro Ozu by one of the great German directors in film history, Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, Tokyo-Ga). Watch this video as Wenders reminds us that great storytelling through film can come from others places than America’s Hollywood. American films dominate the global market in quantity and reach, but they do not dominate in quality. I just watched Tokyo Story (東京物語 Tōkyō Monogatari) and was mesmerized by its simplicity, sentimentality and universal messages: life is beautiful, life is too busy, life is disappointing, and life is far too short.

American Politics is a Billionaire Business

American Politics is a Billionaire Business

In the 1970s we had The Six Million Dollar Man television series starring Lee Majors.  As of April 2012, President Barack Obama can claim the title of “The One Billion Dollar Man.”  My, the cost of inflation these days.  In eight short years of his political career, Obama has amassed over $1 billion in political campaign donations, a sure sign to some of his harshest critics that he is the political antichrist.

As reported by The Daily Caller, a conservative online news site, Obama’s big campaign donors are from those who share his background and vision.  “His top sources of funding are the sectors and companies that employ people like him — people with post-graduate degrees form elite universities.  The top sources are the University of California, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft Corp., Harvard University and Google, each of which provided him with $1 million or more. The University of California topped the list at $1.98 million.”

Obama’s presidency is proving that whether it’s a Democrat or Republican temporary occupant, White House fundraising is a bipartisan money machine.  Ask many Americans and they will tell you that we aren’t getting the best politics money can buy.


Japan is Critical to U.S. National Security

A new article by Leslie Gelb in The Daily Beast states the following:

Europe Plus, i.e., Europe along with Japan, Australia, Canada, and Israel, should—on the merits—remain the rock of U.S. national-security strategy. To me, it is plain common sense to see that Europe Plus (the bulk of G8 and NATO members) is the group of nations that most closely share U.S. values and interests.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that these values and interests are not widely shared elsewhere—or at least that other nations are not nearly as ready as the Europe Plus group to act on those interests and values.  If the United States were to be in trouble or require help, it is unimaginable that India, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey, or whatever country would actively back Washington with money and arms.  The U.S. can count on only the Europe Plus group.  When America needs military help abroad, it comes essentially from European NATO countries, Canada, and Australia.  When it comes to providing economic aid to poor and needy nations, Europeans and Japan almost always are our principal partners.

Never to be forgotten: the great bulk of U.S. trade and investments comes to and from Europe and Canada, to say nothing of Japan.  For all the economic difficulties of Europe and Japan, America’s economic fate over the next decade and beyond is still tied more with these nations than to China or the other emerging powers like India, Brazil, and Turkey.

Gelb is past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official, and author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (HarperCollins, 2009).

Do you agree with Leslie Gelb that Europe Plus, i.e., Europe along with Japan, Australia, Canada, and Israel, should remain the rock of U.S. national-security strategy?  What economic and political leadership role do you see Japan taking in the future?  Could Japan take leadership on global anti-poverty or environmental measures?


G8 leaders, from front to back: European Council President Herman van Rompuy, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiro Noda, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso arrive to pose for a photo during the G8 summit at Camp David. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP-Getty Images)

Cool Japan is Green Japan

We all are quite familiar with the Cool Japan campaign to promote global interest in Japan’s music, fashion, anime, manga and traditional culture (tea ceremony, kimono).  But the coolest part of post-3/11 Japan is an opportunity through recovery to create a future-oriented sustainable society that establishes a balance between humanity and nature.  Humankind’s respect for nature–its glory and its fury–is a longstanding tradition in this earthquake-prone archipelago.  Why not make Japan a model of growth through sustainability for the Asian region as well as the world?  Today’s Japan Times‘ editorial makes exactly that point in its call for the Noda government to “push environment-friendly policies in earnest.”

The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has made it clear that Japan has no alternative but to push energy savings and green energy to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

The new plan calls for the realization of a sustainable society through efforts to build a low-carbon and recycling society, and to promote harmony between people and nature on the foundation of ensuring safety. Harmonization between people and nature is included from the viewpoint of protecting biodiversity. When looked at closely, though, the plan contains various problems… The plan calls for strengthening measures to recycle and utilize useful resources such as rare metals in electronic appliances. But attention should be paid to the basic issue — drastically changing our current mass-production, mass-waste society.

Brand Japan, Cool Japan, whatever we want to call it, must include a model for sustainability and respect for the natural environment.  We are more than consumers.  We are stewards of this planet.  What suggestions do you have for promoting a “cool, green Japan”?

Living Alone Isn’t So Lonely (Everybody’s Doing It)

Living Alone is a New Normal in America

Living alone in America is becoming the norm.  There are now 32.7 million “solo dwellers,” according to sociologists.  Women make up the larger group (17.2 million) to men (13.9 million).  NYU Sociologist Eric Klinenberg says, “Women do a much better job when they’re living alone.  They tend to make and maintain relationships much better than men throughout the life course, whereas for men it’s much more likely that they will wind up feeling lonely or unhappy or isolated.”

In Manhattan, nearly half of the urban dwellers live alone.  What perhaps used to be something people didn’t openly discuss is now generally socially accepted.  A now 39-year-old Manhattan solo dweller wrote a hugely popular piece about her alone bliss for the The Atlantic magazine that led to a book contract and TV series option.  (That’s what we call “making it” in America.)

And to think that I was just listening to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” today on my iPod, but even Beyoncé doesn’t live alone anymore.

So what are the virtues and challenges of living alone?  Do you think that women fare better than men?  Does living alone mean lonely?

Facebook Goes Public (We’re Rich, You’re Not!)

On Friday, May 18, 2012, the most famous social networking company in the world went public on Nasdaq.  CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his executive staff (other billionaires and millionaires) were cheering the launch of the company that traded flat on its first day.  Many of us Facebook users were gleeful that FB’s public launch fell short of its vaunted expectations.  Do I like using Facebook?  Yes.  It’s a nice sideline to doing my real work and it’s a useful personal publicity platform but I also like to use it to connect people I like with other people I like.  Example: “Sam, meet Hazel.  You two have a lot in common.  Why don’t you connect?”  This introduction takes seconds in comparison to say, telephone tag.  But here’s my worry.  I know what Facebook is really about because I study it for a living.  Facebook is propaganda.  It is seeking to be the largest advertising vehicle in the world.  It is a pitch-seeking missile.  Everything you click on or like will go through algorithms to determine your consumption impulses and habits.  Facebook is using our innocuous “likes” to turn us into hucksters for X and Y product.  Don’t be fooled.  Just check out how Facebook presents itself on Google Finance:

Facebook, Inc. (Facebook) is engaged in building products to create utility for users, developers, and advertisers. People use Facebook to stay connected with their friends and family, to discover what is going on in the world around them, and to share and express what matters to them to the people they care about. Developers can use the Facebook Platform to build applications and Websites that integrate with Facebook to reach its global network of users and to build personalized and social products. Advertisers can engage with more than 900 million monthly active users (MAUs) on Facebook or subsets of its users based on information they have chosen to share with the Company, such as their age, location, gender, or interests. It offers advertisers a combination of reach, relevance, social context and engagement.

Is Facebook, just like most everything else on the World Wide Web, designed to bring your eyeballs to advertisers?  If so, is it just a slight cost to pay for using Facebook for fun?  Or I am just mad that I don’t own any Facebook shares?


The “Majority Minority” emerges in U.S. births

Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.

US Census Bureau Press Release

The New York Times reports: A more diverse young population forms the basis of a generational divide with the country’s elderly, a group that is largely white and grew up in a world that was too. The contrast raises important policy questions. The United States has a spotty record educating minority youth; will older Americans balk at paying to educate a younger generation that looks less like themselves? And while the increasingly diverse young population is a potential engine of growth, will it become a burden if it is not properly educated?

What is emerging is a country where swaths of multicultural, diverse populations dominate.  In the state of Texas, 7 out of 10 of the children under the age of 1 are members of minority groups.  In contrast, babies born in the state of Utah are only 28% non-white.  Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, and four states are majority minority.  They are California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.

The Wall Street Journal reports: William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, says African-Americans are the largest minority among adults over 50. But for anyone younger—including the newborns forming America’s first ‘majority minority’ generation—Hispanics are the second-largest population group after whites of European descent.  “It’s a major turning point for American society,” he said. “We’re moving from a largely white and black population to one which is much more diverse and is a big contrast from what most baby boomers grew up with.”

What do you think the impact of this new Majority Minority will have on America’s view of itself?  We pride ourselves on diversity, but do you see any challenges or problems in the future? I’d like to know what you think.