The incredible USS Trout story …lives on through Tim McCoy

Over the last 20 years, I have had the chance to meet a number of members of the CHARLES TIM MCCOY USNGreatest Generation. It’s been a mission (if not an obsession) of mine. My purpose for the large part has been to find and meet people who knew or were somewhere near my grandfather, Lt Cdr Minter Dial, after whom I was named. So, it was only natural that, since I was headed to Austin Texas for SXSW 2014, I connected with a USN veteran of World War II. His name is Charles “Tim” McCoy, who served in the US Navy, aboard a number of submarines, before becoming a prisoner after the USS Grenadier was sunk (April 1943).

I came across Tim thanks for an article published in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, written by Ray Westbrook.

Charles Tim McCoy

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim and Jean McCoy (via Lubbock Journal)

Tim McCoy, who is 90 years old (born in 1924), showed that he is in great mental and physical health. For two hours, I listened to him talk about his experience in the Pacific, including his captivity as a prisoner of Japanese for over two years. Anybody who has come across the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrad (soon to be a film, directed by Angelina Jolie), or any other book about the Japanese POW treatment will know just how horrible that experience was. During our chat, I was lucky enough to hear directly from Tim, about his participation in a truly epic and well-documented mission aboard the USS Trout.  Continue reading

Interview with Jan Thompson, filmmaker: “Never the Same, The Prisoner-of-War Experience”

Jan Thompson, Never the Same, Bataan Japan POW WWIIJan Thompson, Professor of Radio-Television at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the producer of a new feature-length documentary, “Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,” which is going to premiere this Saturday (April 6) in Chicago, at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  The timing of the premiere is great, as April 9 is the anniversary of the Bataan Death March and National POW Recognition Day.  I am very excited about this film, as I have been long been personally involved in this part of the WWII Asia-Pacific history.

“Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience,”

From the Chicago Tribune article

Jan’s documentary features narration by Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Swit (“Hot Lips” of MASH fame), and the voices of an all-star cast of actors including Alec Baldwin, Ed Asner, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston.  The film celebrates and commemorates “courageous men who used ingenuity, creativity and humor to survive one of the most notorious times in history,” said Thompson, whose late father was a POW after his capture on Corregidor (like my grandfather — see my Facebook page in his memory) in the spring of 1942.

You can sign up to the Minter Dialogue podcast here via iTunes.

 

To KNOW MORE ABOUT “NEVER THE SAME”:

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST

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Further resources for the Minter Dialogue Radio Show:

iTunes RSS Minter Dialogue Podcast - Branding Gets Personal

Meanwhile, you can find my other English-speaking interviews on the Minter Dialogue Radio Show on Buzzsprout or via iTunes. Please don’t be shying about rating this podcast on iTunes! And for the francophones reading this, if you want to get more podcasts, you can also find my radio show en français over at : MinterDial.fr, on Buzzsprout or in iTunes.

BBC News – Japan population to shrink by one-third by 2060

Media_httpnewsbbcimgc_aqago

As if the current economic environment were not difficult enough, Japan, like Germany, is slated to see a very dramatic reduction in population size by the middle of the century. As it is, pretty much all countries in the developed world are expected to see an aging of the population. This is not new news. But, brands are going to have to prepare for these inevitabilities.

When will businesses start to adapt their strategies, particularly in regard to the fight for talent? Brands are going to have to get used to “talking” with the older generations — all the while having “young” employees (who use a different vocabulary, different communication tools… and, overall, have different preoccupations).

Even China will be faced with a very dramatic change in demographics…

I think that countries such as France will need to lift their retirement age well beyond the current level… Presumably, the same will be happening in Japan, Germany and elsewhere… Let’s get ready for the LONG HAUL!

What are you going to do to get ready? My first thought is keep fit and sleep longer hours! You?

The Greying of the World – Enough to make you go grey!

Not that it is supposed to be ironic, but below is a grey newspaper clipping with dark grey text, shaded columns and a light grey contour on a white background… Lots of nuances in those greys! Take a look at the graphic below, which is taken from the Herald Tribune of October 16, 2010 (source is the UN Population Division, assuming medium fertility in each of the countries).  It is perhaps a concept with which we are all familiar; but, a picture can tell a thousand words, literally. Continue reading

Chimpanzee AI – Memory Experiment to Blow Your Mind

Here is a 10-minute video that had me giggling, at first, then laughing blissfully out loud. This video is from the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University in Japan, where scientists have managed to train a chimpanzee named AI (Artificial Intelligence?) to count and, well, show off his memory skills. [In fact there are 6 chimpanzees that have all been trained to the same levels]. What particularly amused me was the nonchalant, almost ADD-like, attitude, complete with non-stop snacking that accompanied these experiments. The chimp’s behaviour would seem to indicate that the exercise was “child’s play.” The same could not be said for the stalwart human beings attempting to ape the chimpanzee.

I have a few questions/comments to make about this video:
1/ Can the chimpanzee be made to understand the value of the numbers?
2/ What does the baby chimp pick up in the exercise?
3/ Clearly, our own minds have not reached their maximum capacity.

Take a view and drop me your thoughts!


Chimpanzee AI from Javed on Vimeo.

You can also play the game yourself here, to see how good your own memory is. Since the site is in Japanese, here are the instructions before you go to the site: 1. Touch ‘start’ 2. The numbers 3-2-1 will pop up on the screen. Immediately following the number 1, several numbers will flash on the screen for barely one second. 3. Memorize the numbers’ position on the screen then click the circles from the smallest to the biggest number. 4. At the end of game, the computer will cheekily tell you in years, how old your brain is. http://flashfabrica.com/f_learning/brain/brain.html

You have to admire the researchers who have patiently enabled this experiment. For further reading: a Dec 2007 article in The Guardian and the Kyoto Research Institute website. Also, a quick “news” report on ABC.

Credits to Brain, Mind, Consciousness & Learning blog from Professor Javed Alam for allowing me to discover AI.

Human Beatbox – Japanese 18 Year Old Stud

So, even if I think I have a wide range of musical tastes, I am clearly not fully up to date.  I have come finally “got” the phenomenon of Human Beatboxing.  And there I was, thinking that this was some violent sport.  If you have not seen human beatboxing before, you will presumably be as amazed — and transfixed — as I was. 

DAICHI JAPANESE HOME VIDEO BEATBOX (posted April 19 2009) – 690,000 views as of today.

And, this 18 year old Japanese boy has made it in to the mainstream media in Japan:  JAPANESE TV HUMAN BEATBOX.  As with so many ‘previously unknown’ topics and activities, once you ‘discover’ the area, you can get awfully surprised at how many people are involved…  As it happens, human beatboxing grew out of Hip Hop back in the 1980s…. And there is a worldwide network of human beatboxers.

When you see such talent, that obviously took hard work, fast-moving brand marketers should be snapping him up.  I can think of many reasonable applications for him for whom to “mouth off”: mouthwash, acne, hairstyling…

Matsuyama ex-Love Hotel Spurned by Yahoo Buyers

Matsuyama Love Hotel in Japan

My sharp-witted friend, David (arigato gozaimasu), sent me this stunning news: you can buy this 30-room castle, plus several other buildings and 15,000 square meters of surrounding land for just over 1.1 million euros.

Here is the story.

Map of Japan - Matsuyama

The château in question is the ex-Love Hotel, constructed in the outskirts of Matsuyama (515,246 inhabitants), in the prefecture of Ehime, Japan. Here is the coverage of the proposed sale from Luxury Property Blog.

The castle was seized by local authorities of the Ehime Prefecture part way through a renovation around five years ago for non-payment of taxes. The castle was then put up on auction on Japan’s Yahoo Auction site on February 13th (2009). However, by March 10th, the deadline for the auction, no bids had been made above the stated minimum of 145,000,000 yen, or 1,114,997 euros (at March 20th exchange rate). Apparently there were plenty of visitors who came to do the pre-sale tour, but no takers.

Matsuyama Love Hotel, JapanThe castle is clearly not perfect. Granted there are some [serious] renovations needed. Further, it was built in 1980 and served as a luxury Love Hotel until 2003 — so you are not getting authentic history in the package. Perhaps, the small print is fatal, or the site lies atop a fault line. Whatever the reason, at 1.1 million euros or 1.5 million US dollars, this ex-Lover is not getting its expected palimony.

Convergence – In search of the Uber Consolidation

Convergence logoAre you like me, Seeking the Consolidation & Convergence of all Applications, Tools and Electrical Wires?

I enjoyed this article from Engadget “What Apple could learn from Palm Web OS” and it spurred me to consider my state of un-convergence, with the multiplicity of electronics that I lug around, different coloured USB keys to swap files, portable disk drives for backups, Apples and Dells, iPod and Blackberry, camera and video, work and home, Freebox and AppleTV, avi and wmv… The list of interdependent yet not connected items continues to gall me. When can we have the uber-converged mother-of-all tool?

Specifically, I dream of consolidating all my address book information whereby all my snail mail and email addresses and telephone numbers are simultaneously updated and accessible across every platform — think Plaxo on drugs. I think of centralizing all my digital communications so that, instead of jumping from Facebook to LinkedIn to twine to twitter to Hotmail and gmail, etc., I just have one email site to open and one preferred functionality to use — think universal netvibes. I wonder if it is time for me to abandon a fixed line at home (like 1 in 5 US households apparently) to concentrate on one mobile phone (nix one for work and one for personal use) so that I have just one telephone number to give out and have one less bill to pay (albeit the fixed home telephone is embedded in an internet and television subscription here in France). I am confounded by the number of different electric chargers that I must carry with me to support my blackberry, my iPod, laptop and earphone, etc. — much less when I travel abroad with all the different plug adaptors. I puzzle at the stash of USB connector chords that I have by my computer to connect the various apparatus with non-standard fixtures to my main computer (thank goodness for the USB hubs). And, if all that were not enough, I just want my laptop, desktop, television, iPod and mobile phone all to be the same. On this latter point, aside from the large keyboard, one can sniff that an economically viable answer is around the corner.

Convergence Mobility Telephone & Computers

Somehow, despite my fast typing and reading skills, I still feel like I am near to being submerged by the burgeoning number of sites and applications to which I have signed up. Is my webiquity catching up with me? On the application front, among the solutions that are out there and that are truly helping, there is hellotxt that creates“what am I doing” microblog messages for a wide variety of twittery applications — and can be updated now via the mobile. There is the aforementioned netvibes (est 8 million users) or pageflakes for storing a good portion of different applications such as Facebook, gmail and/or hotmail (albeit you still need to switch to the individual applications to read and write). Still, there is no full coverage system. Proprietary applications and stonewalling is clearly stopping the creation of the mega-consolidator. One thing is for sure; I am not alone in my desire, even in France. There was a study done by Accenture in France about the desire for telephonic convergence in France (no longer available on line).

Palm Pre TelephoneI gather that Palm has come up with a new palm PRE (coming soon, pictured right) all-in-one product. See here at Engadget and here on Mobiledia for more details. A friend at Nokia has reliably told me that the Nokia E71 “connected freedom” is a good alternative with the bonus of being available already. And, there’s the Touch screen qwerty Nokia N97 coming soon. Could it be that a hardware company can come up with the wherewithal to centralize all the different applications?

But, as urgent and (de-)pressing as the need for convergence is, the world of the web is expanding like the universe…to appear and operate on many different media…well beyond phones… on buses, tables, buildings, all electronic appliances… And newer still appliances and applications are sprouting up like mushroom so that, just when you think you have it all together and think you can converge onto one new glorious, unifying ubermetaplatform, you are going to be faced with the mobile book reader (Sony’s PRS-700BC or Amazon’s Kindle); the to do list consolidator that wirelessly feeds the “shopping list” on the kitchen fridge into your uber-PDA todo list; or a digital pen that magically transforms letters on a page into a typed document.

Just think about it. There are a billion people connected to the net now via their computers. The next billion internet connections will come on mobile platforms… Ready for mobile phone banking and mobi-creditcards (try wizzit which won the top prize at the NetExplorateur 2009)? On-demand shopping assistance, advice and ratings on your uber personal mobile device (try Big In Japan – Biggu – T-Mobile G1 on YouTube coming soon to Europe)? The third billion one has to imagine will have internet literally at, if not, in our fingertips. Everything will be wired.

Of course, there’s another topic brewing here regarding the convergence of branding, entertainment, advertising and consumption and how best to tackle the convergence from a marketing standpoint. But, better save that for another post.

What are your thoughts about convergence? What are your favourite tools? Or do you feel that it is just an interminable rat race and a way to get us to spend more money (think Vinyl-DAT-CD-mp3-mp4…)?

Corregidor – A Rocky, Whirlwind Visit on New Year’s Day 2009

Corregidor Island Map - PhilippinesThe least I can say for our New Year’s, is that it started off with a bang for us. A thriller in Manila, to coin a phrase a little literally (and litorally). For the first two days of 2009, I took my family to the island of Corregidor in the mouth of the Bay of Manila. On this my 3rd visit to Corregidor, “the Rock” in the unarguable form of a tadpole, I can begin to say that I now know the lay of the land. The island of Corregidor — the site of devastating bombing* in WWII and the capture of 11,000 US and Filipino military personnel, including my grandfather on May 6, 1942 — is a fascinating historical place [see here to read about the Battle of Corregidor]. This 3rd visit to Corregidor, armed with my wife and children, turned out to be most particular, if not spectacular. It all started out rather well. Arriving via ‘banca’ (pictured below right) from Cabcaben on the southeast of Bataan, we landed in a port of shamefully polluted waters (washed in from Manila). Once ashore, we then enjoyed a lazy afternoon at the Corregidor Inn, in which we were stay the night.

Banca Philippines - Pollution BayActivities included attempting to swim in the cold pool, having the run of an empty playground and then swimming in the warmer sea at the nearby beach. Fortunately, the water where we swam on bottomside was distanced from the banca landing spot (other side of the island). As we swam, we noticed the ever increasing wind, but cast caution aside in pursuit of gaiety and exercise. Apparently, we were feeling the perimeter effects of the typhoon off Palawan, many hundreds of miles southwest of us (364 miles to be more exact).

A little nervously, I also watched as the Sun Cruises ferry boat departed mid afternoon, returning to Manila loaded with all the other tourists on the island. We were the only remaining tourists on the island. That evening, in by now blustering winds, we met up with newly installed residents of Corregidor, Steve and Marcia Kwiecinski. Steve and Marcia decided to retire to Corregidor to pursue the footsteps, to a certain degree, WWII Battery Way, Corregidor Philippinesof Steve’s father (Staff Sgt Walter Kwiecinski) who was commander of the last functioning major gun (at Battery Way) on the island. Like my grandfather, Steve’s father (who was an uncommonly tall 6’6 and height was looked down upon by the Japanese captors), was then captured on Corregidor and imprisoned in a series of Japanese POW camps. Fortunately, Sergeant Kwiecinski survived the war and was able to share, later on in his life, some of his travails with Steve (link no longer functioning). Over drinks and dinner, Steve and I shared our stories and mutual interest in Corregidor. Certainly, one of the most interesting stories about Sgt Kwiecinski is that he was imprisoned in POW camps 12&17 in Kokura and saw Bockscar, the B-29 bomber loaded with an atomic bomb, circle overhead and then unload on Nagasaki. Had it not been for smoke coverage, the city of Kokura was to have been the initial target. For those who might wish to contact Steve in a quest to know more about the US history on Corregidor, you can use steveontherock AT gmail DOT com.

After dinner, we retired to our rooms to find our shutters fluttering on their hinges. Repairs were hastily done, but as we were to find out, to no avail. The wind was now blowing full force. The windows and shutters shook and banged and clanged all night long. Sleep was virtually hopeless. If the prior night’s new year’s experience (night of December 31) with the firecrackers going off outside our windows all night long were not enough of an experience in itself (the celebratory handheld firecrackers are a Filipino tradition), perhaps it was just practice for this next night of banging shutters.  (Photo of palm in the wind courtesy of Steve).

Palm Trees in the Wind in Hurricaine on Corregidor

The following morning, to help roust us out of any overnight fatigue, we were informed that, based on the Manila Bay Coast Guard’s decision, the ferry (capable of carrying 150 pax) would not be coming from Manila (48 kilometres away) to pick us up. This was an issue.

To start with, our plane back to Paris (non-refundable, non-changeable tickets) left that evening. To continue, the next available plane out was 10 days later…and one way tickets for the family would have to be repurchased. Moreover, because of the galeforce winds, the ferry would be cancelled for up to three days, meaning that we would have become more than familiar with island life, its 9 km2 (1,735 acres) terrain, solitary hotel, 130 island lodgers and the “karaoke café” on bottomside. On top of that, we would have had a surprise extra week to visit Manila, replete with extra hotel and board expenses. Once we absorbed those issues, there were still the intervening questions of the beginning of school, work, numerous medical rendez-vous and a non-refundable trip to London.

In sum, not good.

Many calls later, and helped by our travel agent Teresa and the Corregidor Inn staff, we were able to scramble a helicopter, with a pilot committed enough to fly through the typhoon winds to our island to evacuate us. Having already paid for the chopper, we were then informed that they could only take 3 pax. Sophie’s Choice is a grippingly tragic WWII film, but wrong war… and they were mistaken in thinking that my Hollywood-style looks and link to the Pacific War through my grandfather, would cause me to enjoy a replay. We were going to all go together or not at all. Of course, I dramatize a bit. All we had to do was pay for two helicopter rides. Despite my protestations that we had clearly and knowingly checked in as a family of four, our backs were somewhat up against the wall. Force majeure they kept telling me.

The solution, throwing total caution and dollars to the wind: not one, but two whopper chopper bills.

The organizing (and monopolistic) tour operator (Sun Cruises) participated in the [financial] damage fortunately. Despite some harrowing gusts, we were safely whisked away in two separate loads. And, we made our plane not without a little emotion.

WWII Battery Hearn, Corregidor Island, Philippines

Post Scriptum: In the morning, despite the commotion, we made a private visit of the island with Bryan, our kindly tour guide, accompanied by Steve and Marcia. The island is well arranged for a visit if you want to know more about the second most bombed ever piece of land in history (behind Malta). The 30-minute Light & Sound show in the famed Malinta Tunnel is not high quality, but is quite vivid and worth it as long as you don’t have to pay outright the full fare (2500 pesos or $54). The Corregidor guns are certainly impressive and story surrounding them highly engaging. For more on the battle of Corregidor, read here at HyperWar Foundation as well as the personal account of a soldier, Roy Edgar Hays, who was taken prisoner at Corregidor. Malinta Tunnel Entrance, Corregidor Philippines As for historical sites, there is a Foundation that is looking to save Corregidor’s crumbling ruins: Save Corregidor Foundation.

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* From Nationmaster: “Japanese bombing and shelling [of Corregidor] continued with unrelenting ferocity [after the fall of Bataan]. Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions dropping 1,701 bombs totaling some three hundred sixty-five tons of explosive. Joining the aerial bombardment were nine 240 mm howitzers, thirty-four 149 mm howitzers, and thirty-two other artillery pieces, which pounded Corregidor day and night. It was estimated that on May 4 alone, more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.”

Obamania Worldwide – The Dreams & The Reality

OBAMANIA & OTHER REFLECTIONS ON A SUNDAY MORNING

Barack & Michelle ObamaThe effect of the Obama victory overseas has been impressive. Much like the initial outpouring after September 11th, 2001, since November 5th, 2008, I have come across a newfound sense of support for the US from many different corners of the world, and the support is quite similar in intensity. For most foreigners with whom I speak, the sentiment goes along the lines: You, Americans (at least on the coasts), faced with the biggest worldwide economic crisis in a century, 2 long unfinished wars, an Osama Bin Laden still on the lam, the prospect of ecological disasters and the risk of more voter scandals (untested new urns), overcame the urge for a recidivist reactionary vote, to adopt and hail its base values by electing Obama.

What is driving this support around the world for Obama? In part, I detect an enormous feeling of hope, like the release of a good dream.Dream He represents hope that change is truly going to come. What is said can be done. That diversity is not just a buzz word. I also detect that many are putting their hopes on the shoulders of Americans to rebolster the world, a world that is increasingly rocky. Beyond the economic crisis and environmental concerns, the Western world is worried by the deeper, structural issues including the rise of China, the Russian renaissance, the continuing splintering of nationalities and ethnicities as well as the omen of global terrorism. I don’t mean to have visions of grandeur for the Americans, but we all need to dream and many people seem to have tied up their dreams with Obamania. Aside from the 66.7 million American voters, Muslim communities around the world, the African community (well beyond Kenya), even a town in Japan have identified or associated themselves with Obama. And in the “If the World Could Vote” site, 87.3% of the nearly 900,000 people (up from the 49,000 I wrote about in my September post) casting their online selection for Obama.

Few would doubt that Obama’s plate is eminently full. As a black Parisian radiologist, Maxim, said to me, “it is a poisoned gift.”

For Obama and the Americans, all the real work is now ahead and it will be important to observe (a) the level and effectiveness in the bipartisanship — I have been positively impressed by the effect of President Sarkozy had in bringing in several valuable Socialists into his government; and (b) how Obama manages against the oh-so-high expectations. If the Democratic party were to get a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate (3 seats still undecided) and with the strong House representation (between 255-259 seats), there is a chance that Obama will be able to put through a good portion of his vision. But, what happens systematically — it seems no matter the president, the party or the country — is that there is a boomerang effect some 12-18 months after induction into office. The dissatisfied electorate then “punishes” the standing leader, curbs his or her power and the result is a near lame-duck experience for the remaining years. I have started to think that this is just a natural cycle in democracy. More likely than not, an external and/or unexpected event will likely occur that will unbalance the apple cart and, whether or not his policies have had time to work, will have a material impact on his presidency. It does seem ironic that an unexpected event will be likely. But, this, too, seems to be a part of the natural cycle.

Four More Reflections

As I ponder this Sunday morning, there are four more things I would like to say about the past couple of weeks.

China Flag1/ Don’t you find it symbolic that the Chinese bailout plan at $586B is just below the US one in size ($700B)? Although, compared to its GDP (China’s is estimated at US$3-4 trillion versus $14 trillion for the US), the Chinese effort is far more seismic. You get the feeling that the turning point is around the corner. The burgeoning question for me is how will we, Americans, manage to alter our mania for consumption, so much a fibre of today’s US society?


Speed Limit = 50 mph 2/ Forty’s are in. Obama, at 47 years old, joins a healthy stable of “forty-something” leaders. Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is the youngest I could find at 41 years old. Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev and Sweden’s PM Fredrik Reinfeldt are 43. Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, Ireland’s Brian Cohen and Spain’s Jose Luis Zapatero are 48. Canada’s Stephen Harper is 49. I am sure that I have missed out a few others — but these are all (with the exception of Harper) leaders born in the 1960s. [Note, among other notables, that Sarkozy (53), Merkel (54), and Putin (56) are, with the majority of other leaders, in their 50s.]

3/ Seeing that Obama is a Web 2.0 President-elect (he has his own Twitter, MyBarackObama blog, YouTube, etc), how far can he be a Sustainable Development-President as well? See here for a prior post on the relatedness of web 2.0 and sustainable development. Certainly, this article by Thomas Claburn at InformationWeek
would seem to back up the possible correlation. ADDED 22 NOVEMBER: I was turned on to this NY Times article, “Generation O get its hopes up” (Nov 7) after publishing this post. Obama communicated in a way that “spoke” to people. As the article writes, “Government under Mr. Obama, they believe, would value personal disclosure and transparency in the mode of social-networking sites. Teamwork would be in fashion, along with a strict meritocracy.”

4/ Did you realize that within two days of each other, Obama won the US Presidency, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the Paris Masters 2008 and was crowned #1 for France, while Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever Formula 1 Champion? As both Hamilton and Tsonga are 23 1/2 years old, Obama at 47 is exactly double their age. And all three of them are métise (specifically a black father and a white mother). Rather remarkable, no?

Your thoughts?