Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Express Checkout & Future Gambling"

As I entered the station to get on the Yamanote Line this evening, there were announcements about there having been a "jinshin-jiko" (passenger action, which generally means suicide by jumping in front of a train), so the Shinjuku - Ikebukuro bound trains were stopped. After a bit of back-tracking and some trouble, I managed to get on a Saikyo Line train in Osaki. It was pretty intensely crowded though, so I got off in Ebisu and hung out there for a bit, before taking the Hibiya (subway) Line to Hibiya Station (near Yurakucho, etc.), finally getting home close to 10:00 p.m.

(2009/01/22) - Then I sat down in front of the computer and barely managed to wrote the above... before falling asleep in my chair in front of the keyboard. Now it's morning and it's time to begin another day. I really hate the way yesterday consumed itself without my having managed to write anything. Either there are too few hours in the day or I'm spending too many of them on the trains and etc.

Okay - all in a rush here, but here's a quote from the the old Japanese book about Japan (NIPPON - A Charted Survey of Japan - 1936) that I picked up recently. Considering the direction the country went in, it seems interesting...:

"It is unfortunate, however, that there has of late years emerged in our midst a number of those who, though extremely small in number, hold views different from what is common to most of our people. The more radical of this group scheme to supplant the existing polity of the country by a system of Communism. The radical movement of Communism, in fact, has been declining since some years ago. In its place there has now sprung forth a group of reactionary minds which propose to enforce under the slogan of nationalist conservatism ideas as radically right as those of the others are left. Nothing surprising to be sure, if a fraction of the 70 million population have turned heretics; but they must be well taken into the hands of the authority because of the possibility of misleading minds which can know no better."

It's so easy for a country or group of people to fall into one extreme or another - and so hard to get things right. Same as for individuals. The thing that makes me stop and think about this, is how one person, or a small group of people, when moving in a constructive direction, is an inspiring thing... but how the same process also works in a negative way. Best for more people to think deeply about the world they live in, and not leave it to chance for a leader to appear in their midst. Such a method is a gamble that leads to great heights at times, and horrible depths at other times....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Here and There in December 2008 Tokyo"

The clock has not been cooperating over the past week! I try to get things done and the clock speeds ahead before I can complete things. This has led to many nights falling asleep on the floor in front of the computer, where I end up sleeping the night half-frozen and wake up more tired than when I went to bed. Next night, repeat.

In spite of this bad situation, I managed to post a couple of new things. First a reposting of the 1991 crush-rush train video, which I posted a second time to YouTube due to there being something wrong with the original file. It would play on some computers, but not others. It seems not to work with the newest (version-10?) Flash player. The new link for this is here:

"Actually Full Train in 1991 - Why Flex-time is Needed - Reload"

Then I posted a few photos taken in December 2008, here:

"Here & There in Tokyo - December 2008" - Shinbashi, Yurakucho, Setagaya, & Shinjuku

Finally, a short video of driving in Tokyo - showing how many of the streets aren't really intended to handle more than pedestrian and bicycle traffic:

"Driving in Tokyo - October 26th, 1991"

Now to get to work on more things - and get proper sleep at night!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"A Week to Cross the Pacific in 1936"

I picked up a 73-year-old book today entitled "Nippon - A Charted Survey of Japan - 1936" ("charted" apparently meaning that there are charts in the book; the 1936 English translation from the source Japanese-language book isn't perfect), which I'm hoping/expecting to be historically interesting to go through. The thing about history books written by current generation authors, is that they say basically "The old ones did this, and this, and that, and when they did this thing, they were hoping to... but actually...." etc. Which is fine... I guess... maybe.... But there's something immediate and compelling about seeing what the old ones did and thought when they were young - written in their words at the time, before they became dusty old ones.

Take this off-hand remark in the forward to the book:

"Tourists and those who visit Japan for professional and other purposes will find the present book an unfailingly informative companion as they tour the country. Those who are visiting Japan for the first time will do scarcely better than go through the book while their ships are still sailing in to sight of the shores they are to visit."

Trans-Pacific passenger air travel wasn't part of the picture yet, and it was just a normal given that anyone visiting Japan would be spending a week or more on a ship plowing across the ocean. And... the scenario of tourists willingly lugging around a book about industrial production, etc., paints a picture rather different from 2009.

The book also talks about Japanese people as though they are either trying to get a handle on a national identity, or trying to explain themselves to the English-text reader (or both). The book bills itself as an English translation of a Japanese book (which was used as a textbook in schools), but some parts leave me wondering whether the translator did a straightforward translation of the original, or whether he got creative with text he knew was for readers of radically different cultures.

And something else that has recently come to mind. I sailed to Japan on a raft of books saying how amazing it was that Japan rose from the ruins of World War-II in such a short time. This is certainly true, but it's begun to occur to me that the terminology is unfortunate, as it doesn't quite paint the full picture. By 1936, Japan had been industrializing for well over half a century already, so at the close of WW-II, the ruined cities and masses of dead notwithstanding, the country still had a lot of engineers and industrialists. Keeping this in mind and conjuring up the drive that led the original technological modernization, is it in fact so surprising that the country got the industrial machinery going again?

Too much interest in 1936? The accidental discovery of that book is the only reason I'm looking at that specific year, but I have been thinking a lot about the 1928-1946 time frame... hoping that this time around, history will not repeat itself - that we will stop it from doing so. Knowing what happened and getting a grasp of the mindset of specific times can be instructive in how not to make the same mistakes?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Photographing at Flank Speed & Sailing With an Anchor Out"

I went out with some friends over the holiday - taking my camera along - and was again reminded that street photography is something best done alone. If you're with someone, you end up walking at flank speed in an attempt to catch up with them between taking pictures, and they (if they're concerned about actually staying within a kilometer radius of you), have to stop from time-to-time to wait for you. So while you're thinking "Why do they have to steam ahead at flank speed?", they're thinking, "Why does he have to keep holding us back, like an anchor left overboard, slowing down the ship?"

All-in-all, it's a frustrating experience for all concerned, and the photographer doesn't get many decent pictures while hurriedly taking them anyway, so I tell myself it would be best to just leave the camera in the bag. But... when you go to some new place, how can you not take some pictures? It just seems wrong not to. And so, once again, the photographer realizes that friends and good photos generally do not mix - not at the same time in any case!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon