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.  

The Death of American Journalism Is Greatly Exaggerated

Good American journalism still exists.  You just have to work a little harder at finding the best examples.  I tend to view public broadcasting as superior to commercial broadcasting, which is why I’m sharing this example of good journalism from National Public Radio.  NPR has come under attack in the last decade or so.  Many conservative Republicans do not value having government-subsidized radio and television, but most Americans still value non-commercial broadcasting that relies on both foundation and individual contributions as well as some government funds.  The same critics of public broadcasting often think nothing of spending millions on propaganda broadcasting efforts like Al Hurra or Radio Sawa that have been used as information warfare tools in the War on Terror.

Have a listen to this NPR broadcast that features a radio interview with a German-born Associated Press war photographer, Horst Faas, whose pictures from the Vietnam War made him a household name.  Horst, 79, died on 10 May 2012.  Take a look at his photographs.  The Vietnam War is often referred to as America’s “living room war,” when many journalists covering the conflict sent home images broadcast on the evening news.  In the 1960s and 70s, the US did not yet have cable television so we relied on the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) for our news and entertainment.  Further, still photos in popular magazines like Life and Look dominated the public’s perception of the war in Vietnam.  These photos were quite graphic in comparison to the sanitizing effect that post-Vietnam media coverage has taken.

What do you think of the images that Faas took of the young men fighting in Vietnam?

Can you imagine how such images would shift public opinion on the war?  Even President Lyndon B. Johnson was so moved by how American journalists were covering Vietnam that he chose not to run for reelection in 1968.  He felt strongly that the media had swung public opinion away from the war, particularly a special report about Vietnam made by Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS News.

Battle of the Magazine Covers (Time vs. Newsweek)

In this corner, we have 26-year-old hot blonde stay-at-home mom Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles in a staged breastfeeding of her relatively mature-looking three-year-old son on the 21 May 2012 issue of Time magazine.  The mother-son photo is for a feature on “attachment parenting.” Grumet claims that she was breast-fed until age 6 and that she is regularly harassed for breastfeeding her toddler by strangers who threaten “to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation.” The general habit in America for about three-quarters of U.S. mothers is to breast-feed during the baby’s first six months up to a year.  Do you find this photo offensive, or do you just accept that magazines need to use provocative photos to sell copies?  Does it make any difference how the photo is set up with the son eyeballing the camera and not his mother?  Do her model good looks sexualize the breastfeeding experience for the viewer?

And in the other corner we have the 21 May 2012 issue of Newsweek, not to be outdone by Time.  Newsweek’s editor Tina Brown tweeted the following: “Obama’s earned every stripe in this haloed rainbow.”   First gay president?  Once again, is this just not the battle of the provocative magazine covers?  President Bill Clinton was once referred to by some as the “first black president” for his generous support of and by African-Americans.  What do you think of these covers?  In the Obama photo, is he truly deserving of a halo?  If you read the news coverage this past week (May 7-12), the U.S. population is quite split in public opinion about support for gays and lesbians to marry.  Faith-based religious organizations are also divided and black church leaders are conflicted about Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage.  This American values issue of what supporters call marriage equality may become a defining and dividing issue in the fall election but it’s too soon to tell.  One major foreign policy crisis will change everything and most polls suggest that Americans are still most concerned with economics over lifestyle values.

President Obama & Same-Sex Marriage in America

Obama supports same-sex marriage

This week was historic for LGBT rights.  President Obama became the first U.S. president to support same-sex marriage.  President Obama: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbours, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

It was reported that Obama had to come out in support of gay marriage after Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

Why are the Democratic incumbents in the executive branch of the US Government in support of a polarizing issue like gay marriage?  Could it have something to do with the enormous financial support Obama/Biden receive from wealthy gay and lesbian contributors?  Do you think their position is sincere or self-serving?  Let me know.

Read also: US churches split over same-sex marriage issue

Tomodachi: US-Japan Partnership


In the aftermath of 3/11, the United States and Japan have a renewed commitment to their longstanding friendship in the form of the new Tomodachi initiative.  You may have read recently about Lady Gaga’s auctioning of the teacup from which she drank during her visit just ten weeks after the Great East Japan Earthquake.  The final bid raised 6 million yen ($75,000) to support Japan’s recovery in educational and cultural programs, especially for young people from the Honshu region.  The tea cup includes LG’s autograph and, of course, a lipstick kiss.  Last month, The Japan Times (April 20, 2012) reported the following:

Five Japanese firms have contributed about ¥320 million to set up a fund for students hit by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March 2011 and promote Japan-U.S. cultural exchanges, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.  The Tomodachi Fund for Exchanges, a U.S.-led initiative to provide aid to quake-hit high school students seeking to study in the United States, is launched at a ceremony Wednesday in Tokyo. The Tomodachi Fund for Exchanges, launched as part of a U.S.-led public-private initiative called Tomodachi (Friends), will provide aid to quake-hit high school students seeking to study in the United States and to support bilateral exchanges through music and sports.  Toyota Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. contributed to the fund.

Pessimistic Optimism in Japan’s Public Diplomacy

Are the Japanese resilient?

Did Japanese culture really make a difference in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake?

I think so, but that is not the main reason. Love and respect for nature is an important motif and long-lasting tradition in Japanese culture. However, as graceful as nature is, it sometimes brings about merciless disasters such as last year’s earthquake and tsunami. The Japanese culture embraces a sort of paradoxical emotion: pessimistic optimism.

Hojoki, the 13th-century essay written by Japanese poet Kamo no Choumei, documented chaotic situations in Kyoto following earthquakes, fires or famine. Numerous earthquakes and tsunamis have hit Japan since Choumei wrote Hojoki in 1212, exactly 800 years ago. In fact, twice or three times every decade, somewhere in Japan is beset by a serious natural disaster such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption or tsunami. We cannot escape from disasters as long as we live in an archipelago on the Pacific Ring of Fire. So in a sense, the Japanese are pessimistic about destiny.

However, without exception, our ancestors never ran away or called it quits, and they managed to recover and reconstruct their damaged communities. We believe that the wisdom of human beings as well as technology can reduce vulnerability to disasters. So in another sense, the Japanese are optimistic about human capabilities. This “pessimistic optimism” is a cultural characteristic of Japanese society.

Tadashi Ogawa, Director General of the Japan Foundation in Jakarta, Indonesia

Black Women and the Fat Culture in America

Why Black Women are Fat

Four out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.

Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal black woman.

What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be.

Alice Randall, New York Times, May 6, 2012