- - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Full of Japanese

“The landscape of parts of Japan looks like the aftermath of World War Two; no industrialized country since then has suffered such a death toll. … Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.

“This is quite unusual among human cultures, and it’s unlikely it would be the case in Britain. During the 2007 floods in the West Country abandoned cars were broken into and free packs of bottled water were stolen. There was looting in Chile after the earthquake last year — so much so that troops were sent in; in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina saw looting on a shocking scale. Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others — especially the Japanese — display altruism even in adversity?”

Ed West, writing on “Why is there no looting in Japan?” on March 14 at his London Daily Telegraph blog

Little guy

“On Tuesday, March 8, I traveled to Chicago’s prestigious Harris Theater and spent $83.16 to see a film its own creator has dismissed as nothing more than a fun little horror movie. But I wasn’t paying nearly $100 for a movie so much as I was paying to see the latest and most dramatic development in the ongoing Kevin Smith Vs. The World Show.

“Beginning with the infamous Sundance screening this January, where Smith ended a mock ‘auction’ for his new film Red State by paying $20 to distribute it himself — beginning with a cross-country excursion he’s dubbed the ‘Red State U.S.A. Tour’ — the View Askew capo has succeeded in transforming what could have been dismissed as a failed low-budget attempt to branch out into a major spectacle. …

Smith is playing the press like a virtuoso. By his own admission, he has no budget to promote the film, but it’s getting plenty of free publicity from bloggers and critics who exploded with rage when Smith turned the Sundance screening of Red State into a silly publicity stunt. I am not one of those people. If anything, Smith probably elevated the level of discourse at Sundance by turning a ho-hum screening into a silly publicity stunt. It was the apogee of Smith’s everyman persona and populist appeal.”

Nathan Rabin, writing on “Is Kevin Smith right?” on March 14 at the AV Club

Avant-garde

“As for the most recent controversy [at Northwestern University about a live sex show], Professor Bailey’s first defense was to go on the offensive. ‘I think that these after-class events are quite valuable. Why? One reason is that I think it helps us understand sexual diversity.’ (Ah, diversity, the leading buzzword of the contemporary university.) ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones,” he said, “but watching naked people on stage doing pleasurable things will never hurt you.’ …

“Bailey’s remarks are the social-scientific equivalent of the old avant-garde blackmail. Bailey would have us know that he is doing edgy science; and the implicit blackmail here is that if we are not with him out there on the edge then we are intellectual philistines, no better than those people who, more than a century ago, attempted to scratch the paint off French Impressionist paintings or broke chairs in anger at the first performance of ‘Le Sacre du printemps.’ Disagree with Professor Bailey’s views, in other words, and you are rearguard, a back number, one of those ‘fools in old style hats and coats, / Who half the time were soppy stern / And half at one another’s throats.’ What is of interest here is the professor’s apparently genuine puzzlement that anything untoward was going on.

Joseph Epstein, writing on “Lower Education” in the March 16 issue of the Weekly Standard

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