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)


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

Long-term vision with bold actions – is it your mantra?

Bringing sense to business

At the Freedom & Solidarity Forum, taking inspiration from Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings, Brian Gallagher, President and CEO at United Way, said:

“We need a long-term vision with bold actions. Our endeavors must be values (or purpose-) based”

This phrase resonates with me, even more so as an entrepreneur. However, I think it’s an issue for most people in many companies, where the purpose is either non-existant or it may be published but not lived. Companies suffer from an oversized need to cater to short-term pressures. Finally, without the entrepreneur/founder at the helm, too often businesses lack boldness. And, I might add that actions speak louder than words…

In search of purpose

Mr Gallagher said that Operation Overlord was a success in large part because it embodied that phrase. As an NGO, United Way is inhabited by purpose. It is normal. In business, however, purpose is too often reduced to creating shareholder value. Interestingly, Mr Georges Plassat, CEO and Chairman of Carrefour, the second biggest retailer in the world, said the same thing about bringing “meaning” to his business and resisting the short-term ratrace (my term, not his). I wonder to what extent his comments resonated with the Carrefour employees? Mr Philippe Wahl, CEO of LaPoste France, echoed Mr Plassat, talking about the need to create products (and service) that are “useful” for society. Mr Wahl talked about the need to have “meaning” in business, which he translated as the need to contribute to society in each country in which one is operating, invoking the need to pay taxes in each country (a lightly veiled attack on Google and Amazon, etc.).

The big question I have is: how much does “purpose” fulfill shareholder value over time?

What do you think?

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

Happy spring and happy birthday grandpa! RIP NMD1

Today would have marked my grandfather’s 103rd birthday. Three years ago, we celebrated what would have been his 100th birthday with a magical 24-hour global social experiment!  Here was the result by the way…

Nothing quite as grand today. However, in a case of multiple things to celebrate, it’s also time to celebrate Spring and Twitter’s 8th birthday. Looking back at my very first tweet in April 2007, I was quite surprised to find:

Minter Dial @mdial first tweet NMD1

Glad to know that my first tweet was meaningful (at least to me!). It starts with purpose, I should say. In the realm of lessons learned along the way, I was missing a hashtag (e.g. #WWII) and a link! I can now add the right link! Here’s my grandfather’s story in case you haven’t read about it — in the Smithsonian magazine.

As a sign of appreciation, please do go like my grandfather’s page in honor of the greatest generation!

P.S. if you want to discover your first tweet, go here.

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.





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.

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers: Timeless as Life itself

This week in 1938 (August 22), Hollywood’s most famous dancing duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, were featured on the cover of Life magazine.  With the US still in the grips of the Great Depression and with war heating up in Europe, Astaire and Rogers were grace and elegance personified.  Pictured below, Astaire and Rogers are dancing the Yam, a dance (and song) written by Irving Berlin and which was featured in a 1938 film called “Carefree.”

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire LIFE Magazine, Minter Dialogue Myndset Digital Marketing

Thanks to Blog Critics Redux for some background information on Carefree and the Yam.  It was in this film that Fred Astaire famously planted an unprecedented kiss on Ginger Rogers’ lips.

Here is a clip from YouTube of Astaire and Rogers doing the famed Yam.

Astaire was also featured on the cover of LIFE in August 1941 with his son.

Astaire and son LIFE, The Myndset Digital Marketing

And, finally, Ginger Rogers for her part, was also featured on several other covers (1940, 1942 and 1951), including this one below in 1942, where she was photographed fly fishing on her ranch in the Rogue River Valley, Oregon.  A rather beguiling photo.

life cover Ginger Rogers, The Myndset Digital Marketing

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


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 Cdr 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

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.

Guam – A family visit and things to do on Guam island

Pacific War Museum in GuamWe visited Guam to celebrate this past Christmas with my sister and her family, along with my mother who flew in all the way from Florida. Notwithstanding the jetlag and length of the journey (it felt like half way around the world, Guam to Paris is 13,316 kilometres or 8,274 miles)*, we had a lovely visit to Guam, albeit I would say that it is difficult to justify as regular tourists since we enjoy neither hiking nor scuba diving. The other alternative is to go there on your honeymoon as witnessed by the large number of romantic Japanese couples.

On the tourism front, we hit the newly minted Pacific War Museum (near the US Navy Hospital), complete with artefacts from the Japanese soldiers who had lived in isolation in the forests continuing to believe that the war had not ended; a most resourceful survivor, Major Shoichi Yokoi, only surrendered in 1972, while a couple of stragglers held out until 1962. And if the subject of Japanese holdouts interests you, I found this chronology of other situations rather fascinating (if certainly not complete and unsure of all the facts). More here about the longest holdout, Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974 in the Philippines. We did some snorkelling in shallow waters off the Guam Hilton Hotel — which is a very good Guamanian address — and saw scores of tropical fish. There was enough to explore to get our backs scorched by the sun in short order. The ordering out of food at the local “gourmet” Indian restaurant gave us a good insight into Guamanian service and sense of ‘island’ time. After placing an order by phone, we arrived ‘as requested’ 30 minutes later, at which point, we were informed that our order would only be ready in another 15 minutes. We waited at the bar. It was 10 minutes before we realized that the ordered drinks would not be coming. Going to pay, we waited a further ten minutes before seeing that a box to the side was sitting placidly, cooling off. We finally reappeared at home with the family, aside from being well past hungry, wondering what happened to us. Dinner at Firefly, 138 Martyr Street in Agana (+1 671-688-4145), hosted by the welcoming Randy Reyes, was a good address. However, don’t forget to come with extra jumpers for greater comfort (massive air conditioning).

Got in some cracking tennis with some members of the Guam national team (thanks to Lisa Miller for setting that up) including the #1 ranked Justin Dugan, Bill and Wendell.

Nuclear Submarine Docked in GuamOur highlight “tourist” activity was getting a first class visit of the USS Frank Cable, a submarine tender, courtesy of LCDR Dr. Rod Hagerman, the senior medical officer on the ship. Parked off its stern were two submarines (photo), while a third sub was across the inlet. The tour from the Docs (not at the docks) was very memorable for all the family. And, while we were some seven decks up, we witnessed some tuna fishing, whereby for some 3-4 minutes, a tuna hunted a smaller (2 foot) fish, zipping in and out of the water, at the ship’s water line. Better than any waterpark attraction.

* The earth’s circumference is 40,075.02 KM or 24,901.5 miles at the Equator, so to be fair, we travelled just 1/3 of the world’s circumference.