1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Wednesday when the next photo theme will be announced.
2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
The first noir crime film in Japan, in Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949) rookie detective, Murakami, gets his pistol stolen while he’s riding a crowded bus. Humiliated, Murakami (Mifune) takes responsibility for his carelessness and begs his boss to fire him. The pragmatic boss brushes his request away and pairs the rookie with a veteran detective (Shimura) named Sato. The two set out to track down the pistol.
Plagued by guilt, Mifune is obsessed with finding his pistol and disguises himself to search the black markets of aprés-guerre Tokyo. We see the squalor and darkness of these markets (which aren’t quite as bad as the poverty in Dos’ka den). These scenes are beautifully and masterfully shot to show this underworld full of hustlers, prostitutes, bums and drunks.
Aprés-guerre is a term Murakami and Sato discuss at length as Sato notices the difference between the pre-WWII generation and the aprés-guerre generation. A WWII veteran, Murakami expresses his sympathy and understanding for the culprit whom he imagines is a product of a rough society. Yusa, the thief, also is a veteran so Murakami identifies with him and knows how the war damaged the soldiers.
However, Sato tells him that thinking is generational and won’t help a cop do his work. If a cop’s philosophy views a criminal as being without choice or responsibility, the officer just won’t be able to work as he should, Sato asserts. Sato reminds Murakami that he’s chosen law and order, while Yusa’s chosen exploitation and crime. There is a difference, a big one.
As time passes, the missing gun is used in robberies and a murder. Murakami knows the pistol had all seven bullets and the plot becomes a race to get to the gun. In this race, the heroes’ search takes us through Japanese society from local watering holes, to a packed baseball field, to a burlesque hall, to a filthy shanty and to Sato’s simple, loving home. Along the way we’re treated to Sato’s wise practice. It’s fascinating to see him deal with each subject, be it a showgirl or a pickpocket, with just the right approach. His understanding of people makes chasing and shootouts unnecessary.
I learned about Stray Dog from the commentary feature with the Drunken AngelDVD. Mifune and Shimura starred in Drunken Angel. Here they both play completely different characters. Mifune moves from angry gangster to exemplary rookie cop and Shimura shifts from righteous drunk doctor to wise, veteran cop. Another pivotal performance was given by Keiko Awaji, who plays a showgirl, an uncooperative witness. In the extra features, Awaji explains how she didn’t want to be in this or any film. She wanted a career in operettas, but she got talked into this role. She was terribly pouty and unpleasant about the filming process and this difficult attitude made her performance work.
I never intended to get into Japanese films as much as I have. I now have been so impressed with the performances that it’s clear that it’s high time I learn the names of these actors.
Mask Kobayashi paints a bleak picture of Tokyo during the 1950s in The Black River. Set in a neighborhood beside a U.S. Army base, Kobayashi shows how Japan’s become corrupt. When Nishida, an upright student/bookseller, moves into a decrepit apartment building that’s more of a shanty than a building, we meet a motley crew consisting of parasites, prostitutes and a couple good guys who don’t stand a chance of fighting city hall given that most of their neighbors would sell out their own mother given the chance.
Soon both Nishida and Killer Joe, a Japanese low level gangster, fall for Shizuko, a lovely, innocent young woman. Joe shows his colors early on by ordering his hoodlum pals to attack Shizuko. It seems they’re going to rape her, but Joe happens by and fights them off. He professes his love and while Shizuko is briefly wooed, Joe then forces himself on her and she’s reviled. The next day Shizuko visits Joe to tell him she was going to report him to the police, but decided she’d be willing to marry him to salvage her reputation. What a sacrifice! It’s hard to believe that a woman would even have to consider such an option, but in some times and places that’s how people thought.
Meanwhile Joe’s plotting with the greedy landlady to evict the residents of the shanty. Both will make out like bandits if they can get the not-so-beautiful losers out of the place.
The film then criticizes the greed, pettiness and lack of morality in society without blaming the problems on the American Army.The Black River shows how the characters contribute to their own troubles. Certainly, Shizuko was a victim in many ways, but she winds up but her choices also lead to an end where I saw no happily ever after for her.
Adjacent to Lijiang’s Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Intercontinental hotel offers style, comfort and outstanding service. All the villas are modern and comfortable with rooms and architecture based on local ethnic crafts and culture making the Intercontinental an ideal place to stay, especially if you can pay with points. I really hated to leave this sanctuary. It would be an ideal place to come to finish editing a writing project.
The service was friendly and efficient. The staff all seemed genuinely eager to help. There were always enough staff with fluent English on hand to help.
The food in the executive lounge was beautiful and ample. I was upgraded to an executive room so I could have afternoon tea, cocktails and appetizers and breakfast in the lounge. They always offered a choice of Chinese and Western fare.
Certainly, the activity I dread most when I return to the US is dealing with customer service. I expect piled up junk mail and sometimes that requires a customer service call. This time though my calls have all been tied to technology problems.
I forgot my newish desktop computer’s password and the number of my failed attempts to log in locked up my account and required a call to Apple. I figured it would take 15 minutes tops to resolve the issue. Boy, was I off. It took almost 2 hours. I wasn’t on hold for long as I used the service where you give them your phone number and someone calls you right back.
All the time was spent answering questions, many that had nothing to do with my problem. Before I knew it, for some reason the clerk was warning me that I’d have to delete my hard drive. Because I forgot my password? I resisted that and eventually got a senior representative who helped without doing anything to my hard drive.
Then we’ve got a problem with our printer, which is less than 3 years old. I tried several solutions posted online and on YouTube. I was pretty proud that I learned how to remove, flush and replace the printer head. I really thought that process, which took hours, would fix it, but alas, no. I called Canon and the operator guided me through a couple other fixes, which didn’t work. She then said Canon would give us a 15% loyalty discount on another printer, but I’m loathe to buy another Canon since this one didn’t last very long. I don’t like planned obsolesce and believe a printer should last 5 years. I realize now I’m a dreamer.
I hate spending so many hours on customer service problems. In Asia, service has been always so punctual and effective. I wish I could say the same about the US.
Can anyone recommend an inkjet printer which they consider reliable?