July 25, 2015

The Japan Times Review

Dear Wafers:

Well, the Japan Times finally weighed in on my Japan book:


Not a bad review, but overly focused on one theme, at the expense of several others that are equally important (Hiroshima, Kyoto School philosophy, popular culture, etc.). Still, given the space limitations assigned by the JT, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Whether this will help or hinder my (feeble) efforts to secure a Japanese translation, I have no idea. Anyway, see what you think.

Arigato gozaimas,



Anonymous Dan said...

Dovidel,(from the previous post)
You are exactly right. I taught ESL in Japan for nearly 10 years so I can attest to what you say. The problem, of course, is that the Japanese and Koreans are more concerned with accuracy than fluency. As a result, they'd rather stay quiet than make a mistake. Both their educational systems demand accuracy (or memorization to be more exact) so it was hard and probably still is for them to take chances with a foreign language. I also had the repeated experience of teaching ESL to a group of office ladies who among themselves could speak quite well. But as soon as a Japanese male entered the women acted as if they had just received a frontal lobotomy.They did not want to appear smarter than the man in other words. Most probably hoped to get married and they are fully aware that Japanese men like women who are basically child-like.
That Counterpunch piece about the US as a failed state reminded me of something that happened last year in my elementary school. I was playing alphabet bing with a group of kindergarten kids. Most of the children were Hispanic, but there was one black boy. He won the game. You would think the boy had just won the million dollar lottery. He was so happy and excited. But I couldn't help but look at him and think, "Enjoy this moment, kid. More than likely as you grow up you'll be little more than target practice in this psychotic country."
Finally, I need someone to help me with a music project that requires some knowledge of a typical 1970's variety TV show; more specifically, the Dean Martin Show. So a young (23) lady answered my ad and we met. Of course, she had no idea who Dean Martin was, nor Sammy Davis. Now this young lady graduated with a degree in musical composition. Wouldn't she at least be introduced to 1970's popular music? The point of my project is to show the corrosive effects of show business. For instance, I was telling her that at one point Sammy Davis was a young serious artist who marched with King but that by the 70's he had become some kind of freak show with his sunglasses,chains and bell-bottom pants. You could have heard crickets. Now I'm starting to think that history for these young people begins the day that they are born and all that preceded them is a willful blur.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Couple of yrs ago, I was talking to a prof at a college in VT (cd have been UVT, for all I remember), and he told me: "Freshman who arrive here know absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing; I don't mean something." "What do they talk abt?", I asked him. "Video games," he replied.

I recall an on-street interview on YouTube where people were asked: "When was the War Between the States?" One person said, "Which states?" Another said: "Oh, you mean in the sixties?"

Then there's this:



9:09 AM  
Anonymous SW said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I was reading an article on England this morning and thought some of the points could apply to Japan as well.

“All great civilisations are built on parochialism,” wrote the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh in 1952. “Parochialism is universal; it deals with the fundamentals.” Parochialism is universal: it sounds like a contradiction, but only if you don’t fully grasp its meaning. “Parochial” literally means “of the parish”. It denotes the small and the particular and the specific. It means knowing where you are. It can also mean insular and narrow-minded, but it doesn’t have to, any more than “cosmopolitan” has to mean snobbish and rootless.

This negative meaning has attached itself to the word because contemporary globalised culture is resolutely anti-parochial. It sets out to destroy local particularity and our attachment to it, because if we remain attached to it we may not buy into the placeless nowhere civilisation that is being built around the globe in the name of money. At its best, a radical parochialism may be the most effective means of resisting this global machine. As Kavanagh implied, without a parochial culture, there can be no culture at all.

A nation is a process not a fixed thing, but it has continuities nonetheless. It may be a story, but it is not fiction.

When I think about these questions, I always find myself coming back to the place itself: the woods, the fields, the streets, the towns, the beaches. We live in an age of climate change and mass extinction, burgeoning cities, deepening immersion in technologies of distraction, the spreading ideology of mass consumption. The antidote to this global distancing of humanity from the rest of nature is the slow, messy business of getting to know a landscape. If a nation is a relationship between people and place, then a cultural identity that comes from a careful relationship with that place might be a new story worth telling."

If I understood correctly, in Neurotic Beauty you made the point that basically the Japanese were ordered to forget the past, dissolve ties with national identity and fashion themselves to succeed in western culture no matter what the psychic cost.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Berbie said...

Re: Prins + Sanders

Wait, why do you think she's more optimistic for him? I mean, I don't know if she is now, but she was a member of Sanders's Federal Reserve Reform Council Advisory Board, and she occasionally tweets supportive stuff about him, always following with #Sanders #bernie2016 @SenSanders ...

"Nomi Prins tweeted
Senator Sanders voted against Glass-Steagall repeal in 1999. He knew bigger banks meant bigger crises. #bernie2016 @SenSanders"

"Nomi Prins retweeted
Bernie Sanders ‏@BernieSanders Jul 17
If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist."

"Great piece by @dylanbyers: Will Bernie Sanders get a fair shake? http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/will-bernie-sanders-get-a-fair-shake-207700.html#.VWTpjrfssk0.twitter … @POLITICO"

"Check out @harveyjkaye's conversation on @HuffPostLive -
His answer to: Is Bernie Sanders Too Liberal To Win In 2016? http://huff.lv/1HHVBbJ"

I think she's on the Sanders train , MB ....

10:36 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"Freshmen who arrive here know absolutely nothing."

I read this comment while watching a story reported on the HBO program "Real Sports." The story focussed on the pathology--not too strong a term, I don't think--reflected in the practice of awarding ALL participants on America's playing fields trophies for their mere participation, without regard for their actual level of accomplishment or skill.

Tracing this to the self-esteem movement that arose in the seventies, the report cited the New York Times essay by Ashley Merryman, available here:


And also cites the psychological study done by Ellen Greenberg et al. in 2007 entitled : "Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors," found here:


The Greenberg study introduction opens as follows: "Anecdotal evidence suggests a substantial rise over recent decades in the number of students who beleaguer their professors for higher grades, forecast dire personal outcomes if they do not get the grades they feel they deserve (or want), and expect professors and teaching assistants to go to exceptional lengths to accommodate their needs and preferences."

From our arenas and playing fields to our auditoriums and classrooms, everyone is exceptional.

So what's to worry?

12:08 PM  
Anonymous SrVidaBuena said...

So far I haven't had anything to say on the subject of shootings, professor. Here's something that caught my eye this morning, right here in the city you left behind so many years ago if I remember correctly:


'The death of an innocent bystander in a hail of gunfire is deeply unsettling. But in this city, at the rate people are shooting off guns this summer, what happened in the Chinatown International District was not out of the blue. It was inevitable.

“Someone finally got hit,” was how one police officer put it.

There have been 227 shootings so far this year in the city, through Monday, July 20. That’s more than one per day.

It’s up 24 percent over last year and 40 percent over 2013. It’s also up 20 percent from the horrific 2012, when the city was gripped by fear from a mass shooting at Café Racer and the random killings of two bystanders — a father out driving with his family in Madrona and a young woman new to town walking in Pioneer Square.

Yet this year there’s been scant public attention to all the gunfire.'

I live just outside Seattle and dread going downtown. People still ask if I wasn't afraid living in Mazatlan... No. I wasn't.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

MB -

I teach in a community college, and that's been my experience as well. I've lost count of the times I've asked "Who is the current vice president?" and gotten back "I don't know."

It's truly, undeniably hopeless.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


She knows where Bernie will be when the chips are down, don' worry. For that matter, so does anyone with half a brain.


Yes. Not that they had a lotta choice, at that pt, but it made the nation pretty crazy. Like Mexico, Japan needs to dump the US, because American values are pretty sick. But it's easier said than done.


6:06 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


An effective review of yr Japan book, to a degree. I think yr right to point out that NB needs much more of an analysis from the variety of themes that are found w/in it. This would help generate a larger understanding/dialogue of what you are arguing about/for in the book. While the reviewer does a good job of placing NB in a larger context about Japan specifically, and the formation of future postcapitalist possibilities in general, I think he places too narrow of an emphasis on Shinzo Abe's rejection of such a thing. A key pt in NB, perhaps *the* key pt, is that Japan's current system, in terms of values and economics, is an *American* system. Sure, Abe might be a gatekeeper right now in delaying Japan from transitioning into something else, but the issues you raise in NB about Japan's past and possible future are way beyond the concerns and restrictions of Prime Minister Abe. In other words, the transition to postcapitalism, I think, is way beyond Abe' s reliance on American-inspired neoliberalism as an economic model. Quite frankly, the points you raise in the final chapter of NB are beyond politics, so to speak. Does this make any sense? Anyway, it's great to see a professional review of NB!


If yr still looking for a good source about Dean Martin and the music/entertainment biz, check out "Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams" by Nick Tosches.


6:36 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

"I always find myself coming back to the place itself: the woods, the fields, the streets, the towns, the beaches." The French, SW, have a word related to this: le terroir. One thing I like about visiting France is the regional diversity. Every part of the country has its specialties.

When French people ask me what local foods or wines [!!] we have in Saskatchewan, I'm rather stuck for words. Saskatoon pie? Toasted tomato sandwiches?

It used to bug me that students couldn't follow my insightful old pop culture references. I'd mention such hot new acts as Joe Jackson and The Boomtown Rats and receive blank looks in return. One group even gave me a plaque in honour of my use of "outdated musical references." Luckily Youtube was invented so I could show them, for example, the artistry of Spike Jones and the City Slickers when discussing such authors as Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce.

I've grown a little more philosophical about the whole thing over the years. After all, Dean Martin to the kids today (I love watching PBS clips of the old roasts...I can never get enough of seeing Ruth Buzzi whacking Dino and Sinatra with her purse) is like Ted Lewis or Fred Waring to me.

Just yesterday, though, a CBC radio announcer found it necessary to explain who Lena Horne was, which I thought outrageous. Una Mae Carlisle or Helen Kane, maybe, but a big star like Lean Horne?


7:02 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I've been busy the last few weeks and no on-line much, so pardon if this point has already been made, but, in reference to the last post on "The Alexandria Quartet", note that Darley and Clea only become 'whole' in some sense through the very physical experience at the end of the (brilliant) cycle of books.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


What you say about “Parochialism” reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s description of his family and home city of Indianapolis in his somewhat autobiographical novel, “Slapstick.” He describes a family which was “cultivated and gentle and prosperous, and spoke German and English gracefully.”

He goes on to say, “But the delight the family took in itself was permanently crippled, I think, by the sudden American hatred for all things German which unsheathed itself when this country entered the first world war…”

“Children in our family were no longer taught German. Neither were they encouraged to admire German music or literature or art or science.” … “We were deprived of Europe, expect for what we might learn in school. We lost thousands of years in a very short time… And our family became a lot less interesting to itself. We didn’t belong anywhere in particular anymore. We were interchangeable parts in the American machine.”

“Yes, and Indianapolis, which once had a way of speaking English all its own, and jokes and legends and poets and villains and heroes all its own, and galleries for its own artists, had itself become an interchangeable part in the American machine.”

I guess this is the story of the US in the 20th Century, and what’s left now is pretty pathetic. I can’t think of any redeeming qualities that remain. US sponsored globalization is spreading to other parts of the world, but resistance to it seems to be growing, and I’m hoping that this resentment and resistance will intensify as the world watches the US go stark raving mad while it crumbles.

David Rosen

10:45 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

After a week full of bureaucratic nonsense, a hopeless IT department and a weekend full of terrible and irritable drivers; coming back to the blog is a nice change of pace.

I am a huge fan of ukiyo-e and this is a good article to spend your Monday morning with:


Vida: I'm very disheartened to hear about Seattle. The Northwest was going to be my first step for getting out of the US. Seattle/Portland -> Canada -> anywhere else. Minneapolis/St. Paul isn't some idyllic haven, but yikes!

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Pastrami and Coleslaw said...

Good one over at Kunstler today-


10:27 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks. Turns out, there's an inside story here, which is unfortunately not that atypical. The reporter was quite taken with the bk, and had apparently written a very positive review (I didn't see that version). For whatever reason, his editor wanted it to be more negative, so changed the writer's text significantly. So it shows up as rather reluctant praise, more-or-less positive, so to speak. Still, if there is any way I can parlay this into a Japanese translation, I shall have little reason to object (beyond the fact that 90% of the bk's content got bypassed). This remains, however, a bit of a long shot. Well, c'est la vie.


11:39 AM  
Anonymous Frankistan said...

Dr B, thanks for this link: http://www.rt.com/op-edge/310665-us-shooting-gunman-louisiana/

Some quotes:
"every day the president is killing people with drone strikes, and innocent people are being killed. The US is also the primary exporter of arms around the world. When you have a society that is so violet, in so many ways, so many people in prison, and so much everywhere, things like this tend to take place"

"People have no bond to one another, people have no concern for each other, and everyday we’re seeing war, and the government is pushing for war, further attacks around the world exporting arms and weapons, the police are everywhere searching people, frisking them, we see the violence committed by police officers against civilians so frequently. We live in a society that is extremely unhealthy and extremely conducive to violence and insanity"

Chicken has come home to roost. Anybody who does not believe in Karma or God is a fool.
At least, look at it this way: you become what you think and do; what you love to do to others is what you will eventually do to yourself because you cannot separate who you are from what you think and do to others. Exploit other people; kill other people, abuse other people - well, you will eventually do these things to yourself. America is a force for evil around the world. The same evil practices are now here inside you.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Mary Douglas, "Purity and Danger," and Norman Cohn, "Pursuit of the Millennium." Both show that if you organize yrself around the motif of Internal Innocence and External Evil, sooner or later you project the Evil inside, and start looking for a Fifth Column--Jews esp., historically speaking, but cd be anyone, really. We are now blindly going thru this process, and things are going to get a whole lot worse b4 they become better (if they ever do, in the US). Karma exists, but imo it's not god; it's just history.


12:12 PM  
Anonymous Dawgzy said...

Frank- I don't believe in God or karma. I do believe in chickens. .... Mmm, chicken!. I'm no fool.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Pastrami and Coleslaw said...

Deli meats! Had a Beef on Weck sandwich today with a Dr. Browns Cream Soda. Yum ... and the world's going to hell.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Edward said...

@Dawgzy - be sure to google the word 'karma'.

Saying that you do not believe in karma is like saying you do not believe in Newton's gravitational force. You do not have to proclaim your allegiance to the law, but you have no choice when it comes to the effects of the law on your existence. When you jump up, the force will pull you down, stopping you from flying off like a feather. The effect of the law of karma is the same - it operates on you whether or not you believe it.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB, Frank, Wafers-

One of my favorite quotes in "Immoderate Greatness; Why Civilizations Fail" by William Ophuls is, "For the pursuit of greatness is always a manifestation of hubris, and hubris is always punished by nemesis." The US has, by its very rise to dominance, prepared the way for its eventual downfall. Hegel's dialectic at work, yes? Edward Gibbon once said of Rome that we should be surprised that it subsisted so long. The same can be said of the US; more so, IMO.

I agree w/MB that the process of our terminal descent will encourage widespread scapegoating. Jesus, we are seeing this play out right now: Trump's characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists, thieves; the threats coming from antisemitic right-wing domestic terrorists in the US; the person who murdered those two women in Louisiana was an open admirer of Hitler and an anti-abortion fanatic:


Dylann, down in SC, can also be put into this category, it seems to me. I'm afraid that there are thousand (millions?) of people like this in the US...


ps: About an hour ago, I parked next to a huge SUV w/a woman and kids, boy & girl, inside. Car was parked w/engine running, windows up, A/C blasting. A Hillary sticker prominently displayed on rear windshield. Woman was yakking up a storm on a cell fone, both kids had iPads. I was in the grocery store for approx. 45-mins. Walked back to my car...and they were still there. Now THAT"s why this place has no chance in hell!

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Thanks for the info about the Dean Martin book. I just ordered it.
The Lena Horne story reminded me of when Gore Vidal was scheduled to be on the David Letterman show. Dave was concerned whether the audience would know who he was so he asked Gore to introduce himself to the audience before the show. Gore refused and left. Is there another country where one of it's finest writers and thinkers has to introduce him or herself to that country's audience? Hell, the Japan puts its most famous writers on its money.
I disagree.There is one redeeming quality about life in the USA-the bottomless cup; that is, you can get a refill of coffee or soft drink at most restaurants for no extra charge.
Finally, the man who ran the lunchroom at the elementary school where I worked stabbed his wife and infant daughter (he was caught). Imagine that-hiring a man whose job is to dispense meals to children and who has easy access to utensils. Good screening process.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Wafers need to fan out across the country with stickers saying DBIA--Douche Bag In Action--and paste them on people, cars, whatever, in those types of situations. Gd conversation starters, at the very least.


12:24 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

Alec Baldwin agrees w/Wafers:


BTW, has anyone watched Tina Fey's new sitcom, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"? It's steaming on Netflix right now. The reviews are mixed, as it's not 30 Rock, but I cracked up throughout.


ps: Tina makes an appearance toward the end of season 1. Jus' thought MB would like to know...

5:02 PM  
Anonymous DeadThoreau said...

I for one am not surprised in the least, here's a story of an American hunter killing a beloved lion.


"Americans are among the most bloodthirsty among citizens of the world when it comes to trophy hunting, in particular lions and elephants," said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "It’s a small group of privileged Americans. Eighty percent or more of Americans want to see endangered species protected."

3:02 AM  
Blogger Eric Green said...

Scenes from America:


Maybe someone should build a photographic library of American douchebags like Dorothea Lange's pictures of the Depression.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous SeekingSanity said...

Concerning the lion shot by the big, bad hunter, comments about the story at Zero Hedge are typical for the average American Douchebag:


Most of the commenters on the site are Grade A American Excrement through and through. However, they really show themselves for what they are on this story.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

Perhaps stated before:

Capitalism is a crime against humanity. The mere idea of profit through exploitation should sicken any intelligent and sentient being. The concept of 'profit' is corrupt from its basis.

I'm reminded of some of the last words of the great humanitarian, Pearl Bailey, when asked about her 'fame, fortune and legacy' and impending death ( I'm paraphrasing here, from memory ), " You know, I lived a long time...and I've seen many good friends depart. And I attend their funerals. But on the ride to the cemetery, I never see any Brink's trucks following us. "

And she was a REPUBLICAN !

We live in this world. We get to enjoy its beauty. We are RENTERS, not OWNERS.
The aborigine ANYWHERE understand this, and why they know the Western mind is rotten.

Thank you, WAFer's and Omnipotent Creation of the Universe ( DR.B ) for this opportunity.

1:08 AM  
Anonymous SW said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Dovidel - We've all been successfully put in the blender and come out remarkably similar. I'm second generation Polish/Russian on my Dad's side and me and all my cousins are a nondescript bunch and the children even more so. What has struck me recently are how many people I've talked to who have no sense of belonging anywhere really. And this includes people who've lived in the same area for 25-30 yrs. I've lived in Texas 40 yrs now (primarily north TX) but feel no affection or ties to it. It seems to be a rare thing to find a sense of "place" anywhere.

On a different subject, I'd like to recommend a movie on netflix.

The Conscientious Objector

In this feature-length documentary, filmmaker Terry Benedict relates the true story of Desmond Doss, a World War II soldier who refused to take up arms against others yet found himself wearing the Congressional Medal of Honor. Viewing his beliefs as those of a "conscientious cooperator" -- and not an "objector" -- the combat medic bravely rescued 75 wounded men from the front lines without any weapons to defend himself.

Biographical Documentaries, Historical Documentaries, Documentary

It's an odd movie and not too professionally produced but I found the story of his life to be strangely moving in almost a Buddha-like fashion though he was a Penecostal Christian.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Re: sense of place check out film called "McFarland, USA."


11:00 AM  
Anonymous Le Professionnel du Golf said...

Odd thing for me on my two visits to the USA was that fairly regularly when talking to someone, and they realised that I wasn't American, they would tell me, with a noticeable sense of relief, what their "real" nationality was. A fellow running a cigar emporium told me he was Spanish, a barman told me he was really Irish, one of the employees at the Washington Metro told me he was Italian. Also I noticed in Union Station in Washington lots of T-shirts and cups being sold with surnames on the top and their national origins underneath e.g. "Murphy - Ireland", "Brown - Germany", "Jones - Wales" etc.

Very strange, I thought. I also noted that some of these T-shirts were wrong.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and respected members of the Wafer cognoscente,

Here's something dept.:



In case you missed it dept.:


*A fascinating conversation. Jesus, how many guys like Bertell Ollman are still left in the US?

Wafers of the World, Unite!


1:03 PM  
Anonymous Frankistan said...

@Miles Deli, President Carter is 100% correct about the influence of money on politicians.
Read the following:

Hillary Helps a Bank—and Then It Funnels Millions to the Clintons
The Wall Street Journal’s eyebrow-raising story of how the presidential candidate and her husband accepted cash from UBS without any regard for the appearance of impropriety that it created.



8:03 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

Someone just turned into a Wafer:


9:12 AM  
Anonymous B. Lord said...


"Pull the Sandersmobile into the garage for inspection, pop the hood and you’ll soon discover the vacuous truth: no engine, just an exhaust pipe, pumping out rhetoric. So much talk, so little action. The deeper you look at Sanders, the less substance you see.
Even Bernie, the putative socialist, speaks fondly of the booming Clinton economy. How can this party be saved? Why should it? Give Bernie credit for honesty–at least. He has finally admitted what he is: a Democrat with all the baggage that comes along with that membership card and a pledge to support (and never attack) the inevitable nominee: HRC, the preeminent neoliberal politician in the world today."

I don't agree w/ the author's interpretation of Carter, or revolution, but still interesting.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Juliet Cash said...


I have not met one single American citizen - in the 2 decades I have lived in the USA- that wasn't ready to pack and leave the place they have been living in regardless of the years or amount of family they have so long they can get a higher paycheck in a new "promised land." . Could it be that the only sense of place Americans do have is at work? Isn't at their jobs where most Americans feel most at home, with a real sense of shared purpose?
( the USA is not a nation- with a unifying cultural tradition) the USA is just a juxtaposition of many cultures whose members were lured in- at one time or another- by a better paycheck, who are trying their darnedest to tolerate each other's differences. I don't think an individual can feel rooted in a particular place in the absence of a unifying cultural identity. Americans are always ready to chase their American dream wherever it might be.

Wafers and MB

This is a good read on the backlash a young Seattle entrepreneur is facing for raising his employees minimum wage to 70,000 per year. Even his brother is suing him. I can't tell you how many people I have met in the USA who are willing or have sued their own family members. Anyway, this guy was raised by a Protestant family with a work ethic where being rich is a sign of morality - virtue. So that he raised his employees wages so high is quite amazing. But the backlash is also quite interesting. Some of his top employees left because they didn't feel the lower employees deserved to get paid more. And some clients are boycotting him because they think he is a socialist.



Dr. Berman your new book is on my reading list. I am sorry I can't give you adequate feedback on the review. Hope you are as excited as I am about Trump soaring ahead of the GOP clown car. I can't wait for the debate! Who needs Comedy Central?

10:14 PM  

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