“It’s a pen I want, not Le pen” #JesuisCharlie

#jesuisCharlie

My artistic contribution following the Charlie Hebdo massacre. #JeSuisCharlie
BTW The image of the boy on the right was derived from Calvin & Hobbes. See the Gawker story of its origin. The fountain pen is a gorgeous Classic Pens LB2 Kimono Daichi (from Collectors Weekly). These Maki-e pens are hand-painted in Japan with a gold and lacquer process.

black_ribbon #jesuisCharlie

 

Here is a second cartoon: “Rather Draw than Withdraw

Unbroken film review – Angelina Jolie’s tribute to a great spirit

The film, Unbroken, the epic story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, was released this Christmas Day. Based on Unbroken Film Trailerthe eponymous and gripping book by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s inaugural film as a director is a worthy film to see. As stated at the beginning of the film, this is a true story … that is very hard to believe, it is so gruelling and impressive. This 136-minute film was clearly shot with the Oscars in mind, in that there are a number of “big moments” that are portrayed with intentional big screen drama. On the positive side, though, for a wartime film, Jolie did not overplay the violence. It’s a war film, written by a woman, directed by a woman, that shows a man’s war with pathos and intensity. As such, my wife and daughter, as well as my son and myself, enjoyed the film. Neither my wife nor daughter had read the book, so they had no attachment to the book version. And that’s okay, as far as I am concerned, because the purpose of the film is both entertainment and educational. The film does a good job of portraying the emotional journey of Zamperini, played by the English actor, Jack O’Connell. Zamperini’s stout resistance in the face of sadistic treatment is credible and inspiring.

“If you can take it, you can make it”

The POW experience in Japanese prison camps

Unbroken film review defianceFor someone who has read some 300 books on this part of WWII and has interviewed over 100 ex-POWs, the film, Unbroken, does a standup job of portraying just enough of the inhumane treatment. It glosses over some of the daily miseries, such as the ever-present insects, the menace of tropical disease and the paucity of food and clean water. However, between the missing finger nails, the wretched forced labor, the harrowing punishments imposed on Zamperini and the scene of the hundred punches, the execrable POW treatment is evident. The 30% to 40% death rate in certain Japanese prison camps is understated, since none of the prisoners around Zamperini ever die during their internment.

Telling history

The film, Unbroken, does not portray the Japanese captors in a favorable light. As mentioned above, there is enough grim treatment in the film to capture the essence of the cruelty. That said, there is no gratuitous violence portrayed, whereas it is well known that there were miscellaneous bayonettings, beheadings and beatings bestowed by the Japanese captors, whose Bushido code designated prisoners as less than worthy. Unfortunately, the Japanese have never truly recognized their responsibility nor officially apologized. There is a current movement in Japan to re-write history and whitewash this chapter of the war. In point of fact, there is a movement underway to ban the film in Japan. Read this article in The Telegraph (UK). This is deeply unsatisfying. According to historian Rudolph J Rummel, in his research, “Statistics of democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900 Transaction,” about 10,700 US POWs were killed by the Japanese in captivity, including my grandfather (see the Smithsonian article by Gilbert King). An appalling total of 570,000 POWs were killed in Japanese captivity — Chinese 400,000, French Indochina 30,000, Philippines 27,300, Netherlands 25,000, France 14,000, UK 13,000, UK colonies 11,000 & Australia 8,000. (Source: Wikipedia).

If you so agree, please do sign this petition to encourage the film Unbroken not to be banned in Japan. (Via Change.org)

SIGN THE PETITION: STOP THE BAN

And read the book

Unbroken Film reviewIf you have not read the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I most strongly recommend it. The hardcover version has been 180 consecutive weeks on the NYT best-seller list. The paperback version is now available for $9.60. It has been translated into 29 languages.

What did you think of this Unbroken film review? What did you think of the film? Please do let us know your thoughts!

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

Arlington Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknowns Jeopardy Question with some Surprising Answers (UPDATED Aug 10, 2015)

Arlington Cemetery Jeopardy Question:

There has been an email circulating for well over 13 years (I found a 2001 reference to this email in a brief Google search).  The email starts:

“On Jeopardy the other night (MD: !), the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed it! This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Arlington CemeteryThe email (read a full version here in PDF) goes on to give a prolonged and largely true answer. However, thanks to the good work at Snopes, I wanted to put out a cleaner and more accurate version out there.

Working through the Jeopardy archives, the only specific question and date I could find was in episode #4751 on April 11, 2005, which makes the initial email confusing since it would seem to ante-date the Jeopardy question:

“ARLINGTON’S TOMB OF UNKNOWNS: Sentinels at the tomb walk exactly this many steps at a time before they stop & turn”

In terms of my own discoveries, I wasn’t sure if the right name is Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Tomb of the Unknowns. It turns out that it is commonly known by both, but there is no official name.

Continue reading

Please Help Celebrate Minter’s 100th Anniversary on March 21st, 2011

PERSONAL LETTER TO READERS OF MINTER DIALOGUE

Dear readers,

I am asking you to join in a 5-minute social experiment. It is for a good cause, I believe you will agree.

Minter Dial and Lisa Porter Dial

Minter and his wife, Lisa, in New York (c 1938)

In just over a week, on March 21st 2011, it will be the 100th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather, Minter Dial, after whom I was named.   Lt Minter Dial was 33 when he was killed in 1944 in the Philippines, after having been awarded the Navy Cross and having been a POW of the Japanese for 2 1/2 year. In honor of his life, I would like to invite you to join me in a rather novel communal action.

The objective is to see if we can, together, rally more people to join in and sign up for his fan page. Ultimately, I hope that we can use this page to launch the film and find the lost Annapolis ring!

Here’s the idea (It will take no more than 5 minutes of your time, I guarantee).

You have just 3 quick things to do:

  1. Join my grandfather’s fan page here: Lt Cdr Minter Dial 1911-1944.  You can just click LIKE here.
  2. Send me an email (send Minter an email) to sign up for a time slot, before March 21st, 2011.
  3. Then copy & paste a sentence onto the fan page on March 21st, 2011.

Here’s how you participate in this social experiment:

Some time this week, you sign up for a specific time slot on March 21st (the anniversary day).  To do so, you just need to click on this link to send Minter an email (dialfamily AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll send you a link via Doodle so that you can book your slot.

You will then just need to fill in your name and choose a specific 15-minute time slot between midnight of the 20th to midnight of the 21st March.  Please note that the timing is based on Paris Time, GMT +1.  For New York, for example, you need to subtract 5 hours (DST has just happened in the US), meanwhile for the Philippines, you must add 7 hours, etc.

Minter’s Last Letter written Dec 12, 1944

At the chosen time, you will be asked to copy & post on the fan page wall a sentence from the LAST LETTER (see on the FB page for a readable version) that my grandfather wrote on the eve of his death from Old Bilibid Prison (Manila), December 12, 1944. It is a moving letter and contains the reference to a poem (that will also be part of this communal activity). The idea is that the “LAST LETTER” letter is “published” in morcels by each of us IN ORDER all along the day.

To make it super simple, I will custom send to you, privately and in advance via Facebook, the sentence for you to copy and post, and if possible, with an Outlook meeting request to serve as a reminder!

I hope that you will consider signing up and, if you can think of anyone who would be motivated to particpate, please consider sharing and/or passing along this post to them.

I trust you will find this an enjoyable and memorable little social experiment. Thanks for having read this far in my post and, for those of you who do sign up, thank you and see you soon.

Warmest regards, Minter

RCA – the earliest precursor of Worldwide Wireless Web?

RCA logo

This morning, I was piling through some old notes from a lecture I attended with Professor Miklos Sarvary at INSEAD, and this led me to plunge into the story of RCA whose 70-year tale is very rich.  There is a great timeline available on NationMaster.  RCA is a company that is inextricably linked with the history of the radio, television and 20th century music.  On top of that, for a while (1960s), RCA was on the computer bandwagon as well… but that adventure did not work out.  That said, RCA was clearly a pioneer, whose R&D and products pushed us along to the wireless world in which we live today.

Internet ethnologists are probably not inclined to go back so far in time, but RCA clearly had the knack of developing and taking over the different media with an early-stated goal of providing worldwide wireless communication.  I was particularly struck by the advertisement that RCA ran back in its earliest days.  From 1920-1927, the Radio Corporation of America used the communication below, potentially a slight case of hubris:

RCA Radio Corporation of America Advertisement

What ought to strike you is the logo in the middle which has an uncanny message: Worldwide Wireless.

Worldwide Wireless WWW

For such a visionary company, started and ended by General Electric, RCA must have been an exciting place at which to work through till the 1960s.  When they branched out into irrelevant areas with the acquisition of Hertz (car rental), Coronet carpets and Banquet (foods), you knew that they had lost the [internet] plot.  A case of extensions that — at least viewed now — have little good justification.  Buying Random House was a more interesting fit, that said, given the media connection.  Anyway, I must thank Professor Sarvary for getting me interested in the RCA story, so clearly a necessary precursor to the worldwide web on which we all surf.

Salute – A Testament to the Human Race

Salute Film - Mexican Olympics 1968On January 20th, 2009, while flying back from Las Vegas after having watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I watched the film “Salute,” a documentary of the Australian, Peter Norman (1942-2006).  Norma was the “other” man on the podium, a white man who split Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 200m final at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  Smith and Carlos received their medals and raised their hands with the famous black gloves, the Black Power salute.  What is less known is that Norman wore a badge on the podium (above his heart) to show his tacit support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR).  While both Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games, Norman was “severely reprimanded,” explaining himself, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.”

One of the most striking things I learned was that the Aussie athletics team had been given three rules for competing in those controversial and violence-plagued Olympic games:

1. Repeat the form you had achieved to get to the Games. (not too much to ask).
2. Never to finish last no matter the race.
3. Never to finish behind a Pom (aka English).

Among the other anecdotes, for the black salute, Smith held up a gloved right hand (
with, momentarily, a white track shoe in the other hand) and Carlos a gloved left hand because they had to share the only pair of black gloves they had on them (the other pair had been left in the lockers).  The black athletes were shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to represent black poverty.

As a track athlete, it is great to see the film because you see the classic elements of athletic endeavour.  The psychology of the pre-race preparations.  Carlos looking over his left shoulder that cost him the silver medal (reminiscent of the Roger Bannister 4 minute mile in which he overtook the Australian, John Landy, who was caught looking over his left shoulder in the final stretch).  

Having seen the film, Salute, I have new found appreciation for the boldness of those two Americans and, clearly, a surprising new found respect for the evident implication of Peter Norman. 

I had no idea that the man singing the Star Spangled Banner while the men were on the podium stopped singing 4 bars into it. 

And here we are, forty years later after the Mexico City Olympics — basically as predicted by Robert Kennedy, saying that an African-American could be President of the USA in 30 to 40 years — which he said in 1961.  (MLK said in a 1964 interview that it could happen within 25 years). 

Although “…Peter Norman did not race a fist, he did lend a hand.”  And, unbelievably, Norman’s time that day of 20.06 seconds flat still stands as Australia’s 200m record, and would have won the 200m at Sydney Games, 38 years later. 

Not for the first time, Australians and Americans shared a common battle.  I read these holidays “The Ghost Mountain Boys,” by James D. Hornfischer, a gripping [and true] tale about the war (WWII) in Papua New Guinea where Americans fought with Australians to keep their hold on that island.  And a second fascinating story is
Ship of Ghosts,” by James Campbell, about the fate and survivors of the USS Houston and the Australian HMAS Perth, sunk in the early morning hours of Feb 27, 1942, and their 3+ years of imprisonment thereafter (some might say the real story behind the Bridge over the River Kwai).  It is an odd coincidence that I read both these books over the holidays and that both shared the
word Ghost… not to be mixed up with Ghost Soldiers, the story by Hampton Sides, also about the allied POWs of the Japanese.


Peter means rock.  Peter Norman was a silent rock in the protest and the courage that was encapsulated in those black fists. 

Smith says in the film, “I would die for [Peter]”…an “interesting old guy.”  That is a testament to the human race.  Read Norman’s obituary in the GuardianWikipedia’s version of the Black Power Salute here.

You Started It! — Fawlty Towers and Wars Declared by US Presidents

You started it!

Series 1 Episode 6 – The Germans, Fawlty Towers
—————————————-
When Sybil is out of action in hospital, Basil is left to cope with his shabby hotel (in Torquay) in her absence. What could go wrong when there’s a fire drill scheduled, a moose’s head to hang and a party of German tourists due? Quite a lot really, but it will all be fine as long as… you don’t mention the war.

Many people quote “The Germans” as their favourite episode of Fawlty Towers and, while I would pick another (The Rat), those sequences between Mr Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and the German tourists are certainly among the most memorable of the series.

Direct quotes from this episode:

Basil [who keeps making Freudian slips about the war]: Is something wrong?
German Guest: Will you stop talking about the war?
Basil: Me? You started it! [referring to WWII]
German Guest: We did not start it. [referring to the conversation about the war]
Basil: Yes you did, you invaded Poland.

Speaking of starting it, I was challenged in a conversation a little while back as to which political party in the US was more responsible for starting wars. The supposition was that the Republican hawks were more prone to engage in war than the Democrats. When I mentioned a few top of mind wars (WWI, WWII, Korea…) as having a Democratic president at the outset of the war, it led me to investigate further. In the last 38 years, each significant engagement/war has indeed been started by Republican presidents (you also have to bear in mind that a Republican president has been in office 28 of those 38 years).

There should be at least four qualifiers before attempting to come to a conclusion. (1) What would be more interesting perhaps is to look at which party was dominating Congress at the times when the meaty decisions/approvals were made… (2) A second consideration is whether the war can be judged to have been a “good” or “necessary” war. (3) What was the outcome? And (4), who was responsible for carrying out and/or ending the war?

Anyway, I have put together a list of most the more significant wars since the 19th century (and I have chosen to include all the recent wars). A more rigourous and comprehensive study would have to go into all the wars (definition of “war” needing to be clarified). I have not touched the wars with the Indians for example. The list of all military wars/engagements involving the USA has been made over on Wikipedia here. In any event, if you look at the associated presidents below, it is not exactly conclusive as to which party is more likely to declare war.

War of 1812
Begun and ended 1814 by James Madison (Democratic Republican, precursor of Democratic Party ironically)

Mexican-American War 1846-1848
Started and ended by James Polk (D)

Spanish-American 1898

Started and ended by McKinley (R)

Philippine-American War 1899
Started and ended by McKinley (R)

WWI 1914-1918
Started and ended by Woodrow Wilson (D) who declared war on Germany in April 1917

WWII 1939-1945
Started under Roosevelt (D) 1941
Ended under Truman (D) 1945

Korea 1950-53
Started and ended by Truman (D)

Vietnam
Started officially in 1959 under Eisenhower (R)
Escalation under JF Kennedy (D)
War ended by Nixon (R)

Invasion of Grenada 1993 under Reagan (R)

Persian Gulf War 1990-1991
Started and ended by Bush Sr (R)
(note bombing of Iraq in 1993 by Clinton)

Afghanistan Invasion 2001-
By Bush Jr (R)

Iraq or Second Gulf War 2003…
Started by Bush Jr (R)

The only conclusion I feel like making is that, despite all the civilizing that we human beings have been doing, the net net is that military conflicts, whether borne of need for power, zeal or fear, are an ugly and consistent part of our existence. And, for sure, there are necessary wars. If the world were run by women, would it be entirely different? Female Presidents, Prime Ministers, Queens and Empresses throughout the ages have been known or associated with wars (see here for a list frm womenhistory.com). Solutions to avoid an escalation in wars would include heightened education, international integration and, most importantly, increased prosperity. However, given the current and foreseeable economic crises and the hardships and pressures that will inevitably arise, it would seem more likely that we are in store for more conflicts than less in the near future. And, that’s when I take refuge in Fawlty Towers, and return to viewing Manuel being clobbered on the head about his Siberian Hamster [aka rat].

Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Beijing Olympics 2008 Medals Recap with Per Population Analysis

Beijing 2008 OlympicsThe Beijing 2008 Olympics have come to an end today Sunday, August 24th. It is hard to imagine that 303 events are crammed into the past 15 days. The kick-off and finale were works of art (if well ‘orchestrated’ in the most generous of terms). And, true to form, China hauled in the largest number of gold medals (51), followed by the USA (36), unaccustomed to playing second fiddle. Aside from chronicling the winning countries in this post, I have chosen to analyse the results according to population. There are many striking facts to these results — the best of which I will attempt to highlight.

Herewith the Top 20 winners, ranked by number of golds. The standout performance after the Chinese clearly belongs to Great Britain with 19 golds.

Olympics 2008 Beijing Medals Table
I choose a second table below to demonstrate the number of medals won per population member (a medal per pop measurement). In the below chart, I have taken the Top 30 (this time), ranked by the most medals from the smallest pool of people. The chart shows the total number of medals won (2nd column), the ranking according to the total number of medals G/S/B (3rd col), followed by the percentage of golds won out of the country’s total medals. Finally, I cite the country’s 2008 population (according to the US Census Bureau). In the last column, you have the population divided by the number of medals, showing — by some way of voodoo statistics — the pool of people that ‘created’ the winners. The Bahamas (2 medals) take the honours here with 1 medal per 153,000 citizens, followed by the miraculous Usain Bolt’s Jamaica (11 medals) and then Iceland (1 medal) taking the bronze place (considering its tiny population). Slovenia, Australia (6th place overall in the total medals haul as well) and New Zealand round out the top 6. Of the top medal scorers in the table above, GB scrapes in at 26th with 1 medal per 1.3 million citizens.

2008 Olympics Medals per Pop
For the record, under this calculation, China landed 68th (13.3mm/pop), the US came in 45th (2.8mm/pop), Russia was 37th (2.0mm/pop). India was plum last of the medal winners with 383 million per pop.

And, for another viewpoint, the non-medalling countries with the largest population (a sort of hall of shame, if it weren’t for the political and social strife):

Pakistan 172 million (6th largest)
Bangladesh 153 million (7th)
Philippines 96 million (12th)
Congo Kinshasa 66 million (18th)
Burma 48 million (26th)

And among the major upsets that I observed from a US standpoint anyway, the US getting only a bronze in baseball and having both the US men and women failing to qualify for the 4x100m. There were many others certainly. However, aside from having a war begin and end within the timeframe of the Olympics (with Russia’s invading Georgia’s [30 medals] South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and China’s internal silencing and manipulated PR campaign, the largest other surprise that I can come up with is the low level of doping scandals. Lo siento Rafa, but Nadal escaped again… along with surely many hundred’s of others.

All in all, a fairly vivid affair. And, for the foreign companies that invested in advertising to the Chinese, presumably a winning gamble. Your thoughts?

Atonement – Film Review

Atonement Film ReviewAtonement (released in the UK in Sept 2007 and in USA in Dec 2007), starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and Vanessa Redgrave.

Directed by Joe Wright, the film Atonement is a tremendous interpretation of the book by Ian McEwan. Loyal to the book, the film pits honesty and reality against dreams and fantasy. The film delightfully intermingles the opposing visions of the same event.

The film poses the difficult question: at what age is too young to understand the difference between good and evil?

The film’s backbone is held by the evil little sister, Briony Tallis, at three distinct phases in her life: the “innocent” playwriting 13-year old (Saoirse Ronan) in England 1935; the 30-year old wartime nurse (Romola Garai); and the contrite later-in-life Briony, played by Vanessa Redgrave, at the close of the century. In her final stage, Briony reflects on her childish actions and, while dying of vascular dementia, lies once more in an effort to have two wrongs make a right. An intriguing ending to a powerful film.

The imperfect love affair between Cecilia (Knightley) and the family lackey’s son, Robbie (McAvoy), is as visceral as it is untraditional. The script and acting magnificently dance along a line of confusion and passion.

The movie won an Oscar for the best Best Original Score at the 80th Academy Awards, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and Best Supporting Actress. At the 61st British Academy Film Awards, it won the Best Film of the Year, and the Production Design award.

The Extended Teaser courtesy of YouTube…

Others blogging on the film: John’s Movie Blog; Ian McEwan Blogspot.

Anyone else see it and feel differently about Atonement?