Three Samurai Outlaw (1964) is a film by under rated chambara director Hideo Gosha. After directing a TV series based on this concept, Gosha got his first chance to direct this film. Gosha would go onto direct several classics in the genre. This film is somewhat critical of the shogunate system, but is essentially an action film. There are some great fight scenes and some inspired cinematography, but there isn't much subtext in the film as three ronin band together to support peasants that are being exploited by local government. It come sin at around 90 minutes, which seems short for the period (think three hours for Seven Samurai). It was an entertaining first foray into film.
Pick Up (1955) by Charles Willeford is another intriguing noir-ish thriller about people living on the edge. Harry Jordan is barely getting by as a fry cook with a taste for booze when he meets Helen a fellow boozer. It calls to mind the film Barfly as they spell trouble for each other in the way that they enable each other in their downward spiral. In a sense the story is a mediation on art and success and the will to live. Helen and Harry are depressive and seem to egg each other on when they are feeling low. Helen never got a chance to live thanks to a suffocating mother and Harry feels like a failure in art (he is a failed painter) and life in general. However, they feel a deep connection between each other and this drives them to desperate choices and the novel ends with a twist, but also on a low note.
Some Girls by Cyrus R. K. Patell is another welcome edition to the excellent Continuum 33 1/3 series about one of the Rolling Stones latest great albums. I think one interesting aspect of this book is that Patell discusses the album in terms of it being a New York album and a reflection of the cultural historical markers of the day. Thus the decline of the city along with the violence, energy, and decadence that was seen in the crime, the disco scene as represented by Studio 54 and the emerging punk scene at CBGB. But I also like how Patell starts and ends the book with his own personal connection, emotions, and history with the album. The discussion of the sessions and the personal history of the what the band members were going through gives insight into the album as well, Jagger was on his way to leaving Bianca for Jerry Hall, while Kieth Richards faced drug charges in Toronto that had very potential serious repercussions. Patell's song by song analyses are informative and fairly comprehensive. It is another great addition to a great series.
Black Mischief (1932) is another classic Evelyn Waugh satire of colonialism of the British Empire in a fictional Eastern African country. It is my understanding that the novel was out of print for some time due to racist language and stereotypes. The story mostly concerns Seth, an oxford-educated emperor of the fictional Azania, and his adventure seeking fellow classmate Basil Seal. It seems the Europeans get most of the brunt of Waugh's satire, but he doesn't leave anyone untouched. As usual there are some great comic sequences and bon mots throughout the novel.
United Red Army (2007) is a fascinating look at the radical politics of Japan's fringe left groups in the 60s and 70s represented by the United Red Army. In Oliver Assayas' excellent Carlos, some of the Japanese URA members make an appearance. I was somewhat unaware of the radical violence by the Japanese radicals. It seems that some of the escapees began making news as they were captured or returned to Japan in the 2000s. Several of the students were from universities I work or have worked at (Meiji University, Chuo University, etc.) and not to mention, areas I know well, like Ochanomizu and Shinjuku. It is a harrowing look at radicals eating their own--how many countless deaths in the name of self-criticism--it's hard to believe that so many went along with the petty brutalities, but that is often the case with true believers. The length and amount of time spent on the self-criticism overload in the mountains is almost fatiguing. However, a fascinating look at the radical politics of the turbulent late 60s and early 70s.
Kate Elwood discusses the differences in apologizing between Americans and Japanese in her latest Cultural Conundrums column for the Daily Yomiuri:
Carey had received an e-mail from a Japanese coworker, whom I'll call Mr. Setoguchi, asking for some information. Carey realized that another colleague had already sent what had been requested to both her and Mr. Setoguchi some months earlier. She did a quick search of her in-box and forwarded the pertinent e-mail to Mr. Setoguchi, with a quick note along the lines of, "Here is the information you requested." Happy to have been able to be so promptly helpful, Carey did not give the matter another thought. Until a few hours later, anyway. That's when Carey received a reply from Mr. Setoguchi and reconsidered her actions.
The e-mail's subject heading was owabi (apology). In the message Mr. Setoguchi apologized to Carey for asking for information that had already been sent, and further promised to be more careful in the future so the same thing would not happen again. The e-mail ended with another quick apology. Mr. Setoguchi seemed sincerely mortified, which made Carey feel bad. She hadn't meant to accentuate his lack of attention, simply to respond to him swiftly. She had expected a less profuse response from Mr. Setoguchi, something more along the lines of, "Thanks for forwarding the e-mail which I had overlooked." Carey felt like writing back to apologize for embarrassing him. But apologizing for making someone apologize seemed likely to only prolong the uncomfortable situation, so she let it go.
Applied linguist Naomi Sugimoto asked 200 American and 181 Japanese students to fill in questionnaires related to 12 scenarios in which someone had caused harm or inconvenience to another person. One of the questions asked about each situation was whether the offender should do or say something. Results indicated that the Japanese respondents favored actions or words more frequently than their American counterparts. In three of the situations, the percentage of Japanese responding affirmatively was at least 10 percentage points higher than the corresponding figure among American respondents. Across all situations the Japanese respondents indicated something needed to be said or done about 5 percent more often. In one scenario where inconvenience was caused by a meeting cancellation, 82 percent of the Japanese students said something should be said or done, but only 63 percent of the Americans did.
Moreover, the phrasing of apologies also varied. Sixty-three percent of apologies formulated by the Americans were "unelaborated"--such as "Sorry about that"--but only 39 percent of the Japanese apologies used minimal forms. The Japanese respondents also made "requests of forgiveness" for 21 percent of all situations compared to 7 percent for American students. In a scenario about breaking a friend's portable music player, 32 percent of the Japanese students asked for forgiveness but only 3 percent of the Americans did.
Public policy researcher Yoshiko Takahashi has investigated the importance of apologies in restorative justice. She asked 117 American and 198 Japanese students to imagine that a 17-year-old recidivist had stolen 500 dollars from their home. How important would an apology from the perpetrator be for them? Sixty-nine percent of the Americans agreed or strongly agreed that an apology would be important. On the other hand, 95 percent of the Japanese respondents felt this way.
Moreover, 49 percent of the Japanese students considered an apology a "very important" part of the resolution process compared to 18 percent of the Americans. Other response options bore out the notion that apologies were much more vital for the Japanese respondents. Fifty-six percent of the American students said an apology would be "nice, but would not change their feelings," compared to 37 percent of the Japanese. Sixteen percent of the American students said an apology was "not necessary" as opposed to 3 percent of their Japanese counterparts.
Raylan: A Novel (2012) is another installment of Kentuckian Marshall Raylan Givens (see Leonard books-Fire In The Hole, Pronto, and Riding The Rap) by Elmore Leonard. It has been said he was asked to create more story lines of the character for the TV series, Justified, inspired by Leonard's stories. Season three has just finished so I could see where they got some of the story ideas, some were also used in season two. I think watching the TV series enhances the reading, but it is not necessary to enjoy Leonard's style, which is heavy on witty dialogue. Essentially there are three story lines, the first about an organ thief was used in season three, the second concerns an energy company buying out a mountain to strip mine for coal that was the basis of the season two's season long major plot. The third story involves strippers that rob banks and a college poker champion from Butler, the stripper sub plot found its way into season three. I am wondering if any of this material will find its way into the next season. Overall, it was an entertaining read.