Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How many racist voters are there still left in America?

If there aren't as many racists as people think, this Barack Obama chap is a very fresh and exciting Presidential candidate.

He seems to be off the narrow, self defeating script that centrist politicians have written for themselves. He is not just charismatic, he seems to have a sharp brain and integrity. When much of the rest of America and Britain, including all the main Democrat Presidential candidates, were moving towards war in Iraq in 2002, Obama made this observation:
...even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
Does building a broad, non-partisan centrist bid for the US presidency have to just mean schmoozing Rupert Murdoch? Or can it mean doing something more exciting? This election in 2008 is very important and I would hate to see the Democrats getting carried away with some pet project, only to find America is not like what they want it to be, but, looking at Obama, I get a growing feeling that Hillary Clinton and Senator John Edwards, a Clintonesque politician and my previous favourite, are blasts from the past. Barack Obama has a couple of rather insignificant skeletons which he seems to be happy to take out of the closet and be honest about (experimenting with drugs and a small property deal with a shady developer).

America has a way of surprising the world, not only with its occasional stupidity and bigotry but also with extraordinary innovativeness, reinvention and audacity. If he does run for President, Barack will tell us something that I want to know about what America is.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Winter cleaning

It is the done thing in Japan to get your house spic and span before New Year. Yesterday, A. bought a magazine entirely devoted to this thing called cleaning. It will most likely be disposed of on top of the toilet cistern or under the sofa.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

German Philosophers vs. the Ancient Greeks

The final.

Beyonce Knowles

Apparently, not just a pretty booty:


But there is another interesting female singer around at the moment.

The Megumigaoka Illuminations

There is a new housing estate behind us called Megumigaoka. It is an interesting place in itself. None of the houses are remotely Japanese or even functionally modern. It is a kind of theme park of Japanese fantasies of foreignness: a hodgepodge of American West timber ranch houses, Mediterranean villas and Alpine ski lodges. These kinds of estates are everywhere in Japan nowadays. They seem to be built for young professional families. Why people want to live in these theme parks is an interesting question. Maybe they are just fun.

Anyway, what certainly is fun is the Christmas decoration that seems to go with these houses. Megumigaoka is a mass of neon at the moment. Every other house seems to be decked out in the most amazing displays. Three houses in a row, in the middle of the estate, have gone particularly bonkers. Terrible pictures taken with my mobile but:

I think this is new. Ten years ago, when I was last here, Christmas was celebrated a bit. It was a kind of imported consumer festival, similar in feeling to the Americanised Halloween that has become popular in the UK: meaningless really, but a bit of fun. At the moment in Japan, Christmas seems to be getting bigger. It is still essentially meaningless, still consumerist, but bigger and a lot brasher. I'm not sure I'm talking about all that goes with Christmas in the West. The food, the presents, in fact much of what you would expect to happen on the day itself, are all pretty low key, if they happen at all. Perhaps it is just the decorations that are becoming a thing among a certain group of people.

When I think about it, this weirdly displaced Japanese version of Christmas may say something about the Christmas I know. It seems very familiar. Of course, there is a family get-together aspect to Christmas in the UK that is really meaningful. This has its equivalent in the Japanese New Year celebrations. But what of the public festival? This Oriental Christmas ain't so different from our own religion-shorn Christmas, festooned with imported traditions like Christmas trees and turkeys and Coca-Cola red Santas and such like. Perhaps the only difference is that Japan's version does not claim to be "authentic". Or is that just how it seems to me? Maybe it does or will?