Monday, December 24, 2012

Japanese Holdouts

Here are the results of a little research project on Japanese soldiers who hid on islands and in jungles after the end of World War II, not realizing or believing that the conflict was over. I collated information from a variety of of sources on the Web. Undoubtedly I could do better if I had access to Japanese sources and could read Japanese!

Confirmed Holdouts

1949                Two holdouts, Matsudo Linsoki and Yamakage Kufuku, discovered on Iwo Jima in January.

1950                Eight holdouts who survived for almost five years in the Papua-New Guinea jungle, with the help of a local village chief, returned to Japan in February 1950.

1950                In March 1950, Yuichi Akatsu surrenders on Lubang Island in the Philippines. He was part of the Hiroo Onoda holdout group (see below).

1951                A colony of holdouts existed on Anatahan Island in the Marianas north of Saipan from 1945 to 1951. There was only one woman among an initial group of more than 20 men, creating great sexual friction, and there were a number of violent deaths during the six-year period. The woman, Kazuko Higa, spotted an American ship offshore in July 1950 and took that opportunity to leave. The remaining men did not surrender and leave until one year later.

1953                Murata Susumu captured on Tinian.

1954                Shoichi Shimada killed by Philippine soldiers on Lubang in May 1954. Also part of the Onoda group.

1954                Four holdouts were discovered and brought out of the jungle on the Indonesian side of New Guinea. A fifth member of the group had died of malaria in 1947. 

1960                Tadashi Ito and Bunzo Minagawa were holdouts on Guam. Minagawa was captured in May 1960, and Ito surrendered that same month.

1972                Shoichi Yokoi captured on Guam in January 1972. He became a celebrity in Japan and died in 1997.

1972                Kinshichi Kozuka killed in shoot-out with Philippine police in October 1972. Part of the Onoda group.

1974                Kozuka’s fellow-hold-out Hiroo Onoda was relieved of his duty by his former commanding officer, who visited Lubang for that purpose in March 1974. Onoda returned to Japan but soon emigrated to Brazil to become a cattle rancher. He is still alive, and now splits his time between Brazil and Japan. It is known that he killed several people on Lubang during his time as a holdout.

1974                Teruo Nakamura (aka Attun Palalin) arrested on Morotai Island in Indonesia in December 1974. Although a private in the Japanese Army, he was a Taiwanese aboriginal, probably of the Amis tribe, and did not speak either Japanese or Chinese at the time of his capture. He chose to be repatriated directly to Taiwan and died there in 1979.

Phantom Holdouts, Not Really Holdouts, and Rumors

1965                Supposedly a holdout was located on the island of Vella Lavella in the Solomons, and he was persuaded to give up by the Japanese ambassador to the islands. Lack of a name and corroborating details make me suspicious of this one.

1970                There is an uncorroborated reference to the effect that a holdout was captured on Okinawa in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

1975                There was rumor of a holdout near the town of Rabaul on the island of New Britain off the east coast of Papua-New Guinea. A search was made but nothing was found.

1978                The Moon Travel South Pacific Handbook reports that a holdout was found on Vella Lavella in 1978 – this probably refers to the 1965 rumor and compounds it with a date error.

1980                It was reported that a hut possibly occupied by Fumio Nakahara had been discovered on Mount Halcon on Mindoro in the Philippines, by a search team that included his former comrade-in-arms Isao Mayazawa. The presence of a holdout had been confirmed by members of the local Mangyan tribe. Notes were left for him, but Nakahara never materialized.

1989                There were rumors of remaining holdouts on Vella Lavella. Possibly these were just publicity-seeking, since it was well-known by this point that there was an abiding fascination with holdouts among the Japanese.

1989                Kiyoaki Tanaka and Shigeyuki Hashimoto were discovered fighting with a Malaysian Communist Party unit. They were not hold-outs; they knew World War II had ended; they just never went home, and sought other adventures. There are undoubtedly a number of such cases.

1992                There were rumors of remaining holdouts on Kolombangara Island in the Solomons.

1997                A report that a holdout had been discovered on Mindoro among the Mangyan tribe proved to be false. It makes you wonder about the 1980 Fumio Nakahara possibility, since that was also related to the Mangyan tribe.

2001                As late as this date, there were rumors of holdouts on Mt. Makarakomburu on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomons.

2005                It was reported that Yoshio Yamakawa and Tsuzuki Nakauchi had been discovered on Mindanao in the Philippines. However, the “mediator” who was supposed to set up a meeting between them and Japanese officials went missing, leading most to suspect a hoax.

2006                Ishinosuke Uwano, thought dead after remaining on Russia’s Sakhalin Island after the war (where he was last seen in 1958), turned up married in the Ukraine, then returned to Japan for a visit. Not a holdout, but an interesting case.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Money, Money, Money...Money

How is it that money is never a constraint for when we went to war or when the banks needed bailout, BUT money is the BIG concern when we talk about unemployment, social security, healthcare etc, the thing that 99% of us need the most.


Interesting to compare this to another Internet comment from "blowback":  

Zizek wonders why is it that in the realm of technology all is possible but in all else nothing is possible---higher education cannot be changed, capitalism cannot be changed, politics cannot be changed---- and so nothing changes.

One can easily multiply examples of what these two writers are getting at. For example, in schools, when we talk about sports, money is almost never a constraint, but when we talk about academics, money is almost always a constraint. It makes you wonder whether the human species really deserves anything better than it gets.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

David Hume

Yesterday, one of my just-finished philosophy students asked me who my favorite philosopher is, and I said although that's a hard question, I would have to say David Hume. He was such a provocative philosopher and such a good-hearted person; he had fun with ideas (and put forward some that are still difficult or impossible to answer). He is a very important figure in my course; the lecture on him comes at the dead center - everything before that flows into him, and everything after that flows out of him. (Kant's philosophical efforts, for example, largely begin as a response to Hume.) When I get to Rousseau a couple of classes later (the class on the Enlightenment in general comes in-between), I have great fun with the story of the friendship-turned-sour between Rousseau and Hume, which has been the subject of a whole book, The Philosophers' Quarrel:

 Here are the two short videos about Hume that I use in class; the first one is pretty funny.

That first Hume video is a good example of the way I try to enliven the material with humor, anecdotes, and so on. My best group this semester, Bilingual Group 6, loved that approach and made that clear at the end of the course; they actually gave me a round of applause with shouts of "We love you, teacher," and a number of them wrote thank-you notes on their final exams as well. The other two philosophy groups this semester, not so much love. It's always hard to figure why one class "clicks" and another doesn't, when you're delivering the material pretty much the same way in each.

It's funny, I like teaching high school as long as I can teach it like college, which is ironic since these days, college classes are largely taught like high school! It is an unstated but universally held opinion at my campus that our prepa is FAR more rigorous than our university division. Night and day.

The creator of the second video, Massimo Pigliucci, is the chair of the philosophy department at the City University of New York; Hume is also his favorite philosopher. He recently published this interesting article about the philosophy of science, in which Hume again figures: 

Hume remains a key figure throughout the rest of my course; I refer to him a lot. One bit I particularly like is Maurice Merleau-Ponty's brilliant refutation of Hume's Bundle Theory (although he does not refer to Hume by name) in a 1948 radio lecture:

It's dazzling. Here is the pertinent section of my teaching notes:

3. VIDEO: Maurice Merleau-Ponty – Sensible Objects
a. This is part of a series of radio lectures that Merleau-Ponty gave in 1948
b. In it, he is replying to David Hume’s bundle theory (although he doesn’t mention Hume by name) - Hume’s idea that an object is nothing but its features, that there really is no underlying object
c. Merleau-Ponty disagrees, and points out that the objects he discusses here, lemons and honey, have a unity of being for us, in terms of both emotions and bodily reactions
i. It is clever to respond to Hume in this way, since he was one of the first philosophers to stress the importance of emotions over reason
ii. Merleau-Ponty uses the idea of synesthesia – perceiving or describing one type of idea or sense-data in terms of another type of idea or sense-data
1. For a synesthetic, a particular musical key might be co-perceived as a particular color (G major = blue, for example)
2. So Merleau-Ponty points out that honey is both sweetly sticky and stickily sweet – this brings together the senses of taste and touch – the sweetness and stickiness are not separate qualities, as Hume would have it, but interdependent ones
a. Each individual feature suggests and affirms the whole being of the object
b. He quotes his friend Jean-Paul Sartre: “It is the sourness of the lemon that is yellow; it is the yellow of the lemon that is sour.” (Notice how poetic this is – the French existentialist philosophers were great literary writers.) 3. The senses work together “in concert” – not separately, as Hume would have it
4. An object therefore is more than the sum (addition) of its properties
iii. The character of a man can be revealed in his attitudes towards objects, places, colors – as many have said, we are what we prefer (just as Fichte said that the type of philosophy you do depends on the type of person you are)
1. Merleau-Ponty: “Our relation with things is not a distant relation; each of them speaks to our body and our life…Man is invested in things, and things are invested in him.”
2. For example, objects can “hold” our memories for us a. In the great seven-volume French novel Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust (1871-1922), the narrator starts to remember his entire youth because of the taste, smell, and texture (mouth-feel) of a madeleine cookie dipped in tea
iv. Notice how in this lecture Merleau-Ponty mentions psychology and psychoanalysis several times
1. Psychoanalysis is the process pioneered by Freud of analyzing the contents of the mind in a phenomenological way, to shed light on human behavior
2. This includes analysis of the contents of the subconscious mind, which have to be “brought up to the surface”

Toby Jones, and Thoughts on Presidential Films

We've had some discussion of the actor Toby Jones at my private web-group. I had written:

So in 2006, Toby Jones plays Truman Capote in Infamous, to considerable acclaim, but, of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman had recently claimed that role and won an Oscar for it. Bad timing.

So now in 2012, Toby Jones is playing Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl, a film about the making of The Birds and Marnie - and wouldn't you know, goddamn Anthony Hopkins is playing the title role in Hitchcock, about the making of Psycho!

If Toby Jones walks past you and seems to be muttering darkly under his breath, don't take it at all amiss. It is understandable.

He came up again yesterday, and I wrote:

As it happens, I've recently seen Jones in two films about U.S. Presidents, but in both his role is rather small. In Frost/Nixon, he briefly appears as Nixon's agent Swifty Lazar. In Oliver Stone's W., he checks in as Karl Rove, but the part is not as developed as you might expect. He has one or two good scenes. and provokes Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell to some barbs: "What is this guy doing in the room while we're discussing national security issues?"

W. is a rather strange film that mainly left me feeling, Why? What was the point of making it? Not enough time had passed (like, none) for anyone to have much perspective on the Bush years. Stone can't seem to decide whether he is being serious or satiric, which exposes a number of his performers, including Josh Brolin as Bush and Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, to real difficulties in figuring out what their acting tone is supposed to be - you can practically see them puzzling over it.

Surprisingly, therefore, some of the actors come through strongly. James Cromwell does nicely by Bush Senior (although I feel that Ellen Burstyn is miscast as Barbara Bush, not the right type at all). Colin Hanks - you know, I really like Colin Hanks - makes a strong impression in just a few minutes as a staff speechwriter. Best of all are three wily, seasoned actors as Bush's main advisers - Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell, and Scott Glenn as the supremely spacey Donald Rumsfeld. It's worth watching just for them. Dreyfuss and Wright get to square off powerfully against each other, and when these two formidable characters/actors go at it, George W. Bush is reduced to a bit of insignificant chaff in the corner of the room.

Frost/Nixon, though, is an altogether superior picture. Crackling good fun that reminds me of a phrase that Louis Menand used in an essay about Pauline Kael, when he spoke about movies as "entertainment for smart people." Of course they can be more than that, too, but that is nothing to sneeze at. Ron Howard does not get enough credit for being a modern director in the dependable Howard Hawks mold - and as it happens, his next movie, Rush, is an auto racing drama, which is totally Hawksian. (One of Hawks's last movies is the personal and fascinating auto drama Red Line 7000, a real feast for auteurists.)

Howard is awfully good with actors. He had the good sense to keep Frank Langella and Michael Sheen as holdover leads from the stage version of Frost/Nixon, which they had played in London and New York, and they are predictably excellent. But he also surrounded them with a wonderful ensemble of Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Bacon, and Rebecca Hall, who made me laugh out loud by saying in the making-of featurette that she tried to play her role "like a Bond girl for political geeks." (What a terrific young actress she is, the daughter of theatrical royalty in the persons of director Peter Hall and opera singer Maria Ewing. I like her in everything she does.)

There is a scene late in the film when Sheen's David Frost has sent Sam Rockwell's James Reston, Jr., on a research mission before the final Nixon taping. Rockwell arrives at Sheen's hotel suite and enters to Sheen's question "And...?" Just as the door is shutting between us and them we see Rockwell flash a small, split-second smile. It is an exquisitely timed moment (I can only guess how many takes it took to get right) and already one of my favorite visuals in any movie of the Oughties. The auteurist theory insisted that we look for those moments in the outputs of easily dismissed commercial directors, and we now apply that insight regularly to the past, but tend NOT to do so in the present. But in the best work of commercial directors like Howard, Spielberg, Peter Weir, and Ridley Scott - Gary Ross and Ben Affleck are good younger examples - the moments are there to be found.