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Silent Sunday

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The Black River

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Mask Kobayashi paints a bleak picture of Tokyo during the 1950s in The Black River. Set in a neighborhood beside a U.S. Army base, Kobayashi shows how Japan’s become corrupt. When Nishida, an upright student/bookseller, moves into a decrepit apartment building that’s more of a shanty than a building, we meet a motley crew consisting of parasites, prostitutes and a couple good guys who don’t stand a chance of fighting city hall given that most of their neighbors would sell out their own mother given the chance.

Soon both Nishida and Killer Joe, a Japanese low level gangster, fall for Shizuko, a lovely, innocent young woman. Joe shows his colors early on by ordering his hoodlum pals to attack Shizuko. It seems they’re going to rape her, but Joe happens by and fights them off. He professes his love and while Shizuko is briefly wooed, Joe then forces himself on her and she’s reviled. The next day Shizuko visits Joe to tell him she was going to report him to the police, but decided she’d be willing to marry him to salvage her reputation. What a sacrifice! It’s hard to believe that a woman would even have to consider such an option, but in some times and places that’s how people thought.

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Meanwhile Joe’s plotting with the greedy landlady to evict the residents of the shanty. Both will make out like bandits if they can get the not-so-beautiful losers out of the place.

The film then criticizes the greed, pettiness and lack of morality in society without blaming the problems on the American Army.The Black River shows how the characters contribute to their own troubles. Certainly, Shizuko was a victim in many ways, but she winds up but her choices also lead to an end where I saw no happily ever after for her.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Wednesday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

A Picnic in Japan

I’m traveling to Indonesia now and just watched this good Simon and Martina video. It’s 3:40 am in Jakarta on Tuesday. I left home at 10:30 am on Sunday and have one more flight to go so I’m too exhausted to write much, but once I’m caught up on sleep, expect some movie and a hotel reviews.

For now, learn about some interesting foods available in Japan and perhaps get some marriage tips.

Silent Sunday

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Intercontinental Hotel: Lijiang

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Adjacent to Lijiang’s Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Intercontinental hotel offers style, comfort and outstanding service. All the villas are modern and comfortable with rooms and architecture based on local ethnic crafts and culture making the Intercontinental an ideal place to stay, especially if you can pay with points. I really hated to leave this sanctuary. It would be an ideal place to come to finish editing a writing project.

The service was friendly and efficient. The staff all seemed genuinely eager to help. There were always enough staff with fluent English on hand to help.

The food in the executive lounge was beautiful and ample. I was upgraded to an executive room so I could have afternoon tea, cocktails and appetizers and breakfast in the lounge. They always offered a choice of Chinese and Western fare.

The Bad Sleep Well

Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well blew me away. It’s not one of his most famous films, but it’s packed with power. I learned of The Bad Sleep Well via Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Picture channel where Zhou analyzes Kurosawa’s effective placement of actors.

The film opens with reporters and detectives invading the wedding between the handsome apparently straight as an arrow Nishi to Yoshiko, the pretty and disabled daughter of CEO Iwabuchi, whose corrupt deals caused Nishi’s father’s suicide. Nishi has positioned himself in Iwabuchi’s corporation as his assistant and married into the clan to exact revenge for his father’s death.

Disrupted by the appearance of a wedding cake that looks like the building Nishi’s father killed himself and by the arrest of a loyal, timid employee indicate the disaster of the marriage. Nishi has spent five years trying to get into Iwabuchi’s inner circle to expose the kickbacks and violence that fueled the success of Public Corporation. Iwabuchi and his colleagues are cold blooded, willing to goad their employees to suicide if it helps them keep their dirty cash flowing in.

While the film differs from hamlet, there are many intended parallels. Nishi’s obsessed with his father’s death. Yoshiko is very much like Ophelia and she meets no better end. While Nishi’s mother never married, Kurosawa uses gray flannel ghosts to freak out his characters.

The evils of corporate greed have bene a common theme in modern film Somehow Kurosawa, while showing blatant, unrepentant evil, doesn’t seem to have exaggerated. The executives and their conniving seem all too real.

Every scene had me riveted and the ending was a complete surprise, though it was perfect. It’s a film the I won’t soon forget.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Collage

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A gallery is a collage in a way

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Wednesday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Saint & Sinners Tour

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If you’re in Chicago this summer on a Friday and if you like history, take the Driehaus Museum’s Saints and Sinners walking tour. I took it on Friday and learned so much about the reformers behind the Temperance Movement and the people it affected and the hoodlums who came to power with Prohibition.

We started at the Driehaus Museum and learned the foundations of the Temperance Movement, the people behind it and the era of saloons and the power saloons owners in the city.

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We then went to the Tree Studios. In the late 19th Century Lambert Tree built tree buildings for artists to work and live rent-free. The first floor was for shops to take in rent to off-set the costs of the building. How smart. Artists lived there from 1894 till 2000. Now the Tree Studios have been restored and are office space and reception rooms which can be rented out.

At the Tree Studios we got our first drink. We could choose from beer, wine or water. Then we repaired to a courtyard where we learned about saloons and how they were organized. At first a saloon had to purchase beer from one brewery. However, saloon owners would switch breweries to get a better deal and bigger profits.

Brewers then borrowed the ideas of the “Tied-House” from England. The Brewers bought saloons and only let their brand be sold there. Saloon owners now became managers. While they lost power at work, they continued to have political power because many barkeeps were precinct captains and ward bosses.

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After the Tree Studios we went to St. James’ Cathedral, Fourth Presbyterian Church, the Drake Hotel, and Holy Name Cathedral. I learned a lot about female reformers, preachers, the social services that saloons provided. and prohibition and the unintended consequences, i.e. organized crime, that came from that. Along the way we had a couple more drinks. You could choose from a cocktail, beer, wine or soft drinks. The tour finished at the Kerryman Pub and lasted 3 hours.

The tour had 2 knowledgeable guides and we had 12 participants. You had to be 21 years old to take this tour. Price: $45 includes three drinks.

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