Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War: A Review

 “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"-- Vizzini, The Princess Bride

            From 1954-1975, the United States of America was involved in a land war in Asia: the struggle for the future of Vietnam.  Vizzini’s remark gets passed around frequently, often with regard to the Vietnam War, sometimes Afghanistan and other places, because it seems to ring true.  The US lost the Vietnam War, and the locals won it.  Right?  Ken Burns and Lynn Novick remind the viewer that Vietnamese lost the war too.  It was a civil war, between two different ideologies with their own foreign allies.  Although The Vietnam War is very America-centric, the documentary strives to show us both sides of the Vietnamese perspective as well through interviews with the people who were there, and in so doing strives to be a definitive history of what the Vietnamese themselves call “the American War.” 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good Turns At Pearl Harbor

It isn’t all bad news.  Last May, Barack Obama became the first American President to visit Hiroshima.  On December 27, 2016, Abe Shinzo became the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor.  There is a fine symmetry to these visits that illustrates the power of good, genuine gestures in the careful dance of diplomacy.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why Do They Look White?

People often ask: why do characters in anime look white?  The answer is because you come from a majority white country, and due to the tropes of animation.  Most of the time, anime characters are not drawn to look white; they are cartoons and cartoons are meant to be cyphers.   Understanding the implied ethnicity of a cartoon character comes down to a conversation between the audience and the creator, just like all art.  Cartoons, be they western or Japanese employ a visual language known to the creator.  Visual languages are constructed through context, and the audience may miss an awful lot of the language if they do not share the creator’s context, leading to misunderstandings.  This happens to all art.  The audience brings their own context to the piece.  If you have the same context as the creator, you are likely to understand them more easily.  But we Westerners bring our own context when we watch foreign media, and vice versa.   Animation is a global medium now, and animators influence each other from opposite ends of the globe.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Clinton Rules Remain In Effect

            This is absurd.  All evidence would seem to indicate that Hilary Clinton did not do anything wrong.  On July 6, FBI Director James Comey said there was no reason to prosecute, and went on for fifteen minutes about how Hilary is awful because Clinton.  On July 8, Comey contradicted himself in his testimony before Congress, when he admitted that none of the thousands of e-mail exchanges Hilary Clinton turned over to the FBI were actually marked classified.  Oops, my mistake.  Two were marked classified by mistake, as in they did not need to be marked at all.  So much for extremely careless. 

            But the story will not die though.  Bad stories never do, especially stories about the Clintons.  The Clintons are the most scrutinized political couple in history, ahead of only Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.  The source of this scrutiny is always the same: Republicans carry it out with the help of a willing news media.  It does sell clicks.  We call it the Clinton Rules: the normal rules of evidence do not apply, any innuendo, rumor, or drug-fueled imagining is worthy of investigation, assume guilty until proven innocent, make damn well sure to bite and hold.  Don’t believe me?  I do not need to prove it, because the press does a fine job for me.  Jonathan Allen admitted it on Vox last year!  How many scandals have the Clintons been involved in over the last two decades?  What were the consequences?  So far, the only prosecution in all that time was Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying about an affair.  Maybe, just maybe the Clintons keep their perch and come out of the meatgrinder unscathed repeatedly because they have never done anything else wrong.  I know what most people are thinking, because they have written it.  A lot, they have written.  The rules do not apply to the powerful!  Rich man’s Justice!  JUSTICE! JUSTICEJUSTICE!  Is it so utterly unbelievable that someone powerful is actually innocent?  I thought after someone cries wolf too much, we were supposed to start ignoring the boy. 



Monday, July 4, 2016


20121214日には、気の狂ったナイフを振り回す男は河南省、中国でChenpeng村の小学校の外に立っていた、と警察は彼を圧倒する前に、24人を刺しました。被害者のすべてが、23人の子供と(攻撃者がもともとナイフを盗んだ人から)1高齢者の女性は最終的に回復しました。その音のいずれかがおなじみていますか?サンディフック悲劇は、時間後に同じ日に発生しました。 (コネチカットで20対河南省では0)の死者数の格差はすでに過去4年間で上に述べてきました。これは、ポリシーが暴力的な爆発の影響を軽減できることを示しています。中国はナイフ銃乱射を持っている唯一のアジアの状態ではありません。日本、韓国、台湾およびその他の国は、あまりにもそれらを体験します。 Chenpengでの攻撃者は、銃器へのアクセス権を持っていなかったので、彼はナイフを使用していました。これら銃乱射を防止する難不可能であるが、異なるポリシーの選択と、それらを軽減することができます。

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Obama In Asia

The President spent the week of May 27 in Asia, and got quite a bit done.  He first went to Southeast Asia to promote trade with the US, and in the process announced that he would lift the arms embargo against Vietnam.  By Thursday he had gone to Japan for the G-7 summit in Ise, Mie Prefecture and on Friday made a side-trip to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, becoming the first American President to visit Hiroshima.  Lifting the arms embargo is a big, but the visit to Hiroshima is easily the bigger story.  Or the more dramatic one, at least.  There is a lot to say about both legs of the trip, but they connect through the President’s policies.  Obama has always accepted the wisdom that the 21st century will be “the Asian Century;” due to the continuing improvements in the standards of living around East and Southern Asia, and the increasing economic importance of the continent to the rest of us.  This trip, which I believe will be his last to Asia as POTUS, makes for the perfect finale.