Stray Dog

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If you can’t afford a trip to Japan, perhaps you can manage a trip via film. This just entailed a drive to my library.

The first noir crime film in Japan, in Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949) rookie detective, Murakami, gets his pistol stolen while he’s riding a crowded bus. Humiliated, Murakami (Mifune) takes responsibility for his carelessness and begs his boss to fire him. The pragmatic boss brushes his request away and pairs the rookie with a veteran detective (Shimura) named Sato. The two set out to track down the pistol.

Plagued by guilt, Mifune is obsessed with finding his pistol and disguises himself to search the black markets of aprés-guerre Tokyo. We see the squalor and darkness of these markets (which aren’t quite as bad as the poverty in Dos’ka den). These scenes are beautifully and masterfully shot to show this underworld full of hustlers, prostitutes, bums and drunks.

Aprés-guerre is a term Murakami and Sato discuss at length as Sato notices the difference between the pre-WWII generation and the aprés-guerre generation. A WWII veteran, Murakami expresses his sympathy and understanding for the culprit whom he imagines is a product of a rough society. Yusa, the thief, also is a veteran so Murakami identifies with him and knows how the war damaged the soldiers.

However, Sato tells him that thinking is generational and won’t help a cop do his work. If a cop’s philosophy views a criminal as being without choice or responsibility, the officer just won’t be able to work as he should, Sato asserts. Sato reminds Murakami that he’s chosen law and order, while Yusa’s chosen exploitation and crime. There is a difference, a big one.

As time passes, the missing gun is used in robberies and a murder. Murakami knows the pistol had all seven bullets and the plot becomes a race to get to the gun. In this race, the heroes’ search takes us through Japanese society from local watering holes, to a packed baseball field, to a burlesque hall, to a filthy shanty and to Sato’s simple, loving home. Along the way we’re treated to Sato’s wise practice.  It’s fascinating to see him deal with each subject, be it a showgirl or a pickpocket, with just the right approach. His understanding of people makes chasing and shootouts unnecessary.

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I learned about Stray Dog from the commentary feature with the Drunken Angel DVD. Mifune and Shimura starred in Drunken Angel. Here they both play completely different characters. Mifune moves from angry gangster to exemplary rookie cop and Shimura shifts from righteous drunk doctor to wise, veteran cop. Another pivotal performance was given by Keiko Awaji, who plays a showgirl, an uncooperative witness. In the extra features, Awaji explains how she didn’t want to be in this or any film. She wanted a career in operettas, but she got talked into this role. She was terribly pouty and unpleasant about the filming process and this difficult attitude made her performance work. Go figure.

I never intended to get into Japanese films as much as I have. I now have been so impressed with the stellar performances that it’s clear that it’s high time I learn the names of these actors.

Here’s a compilation of Mifune’s performances:

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What is this?

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I don’t remember the country of origin of this headdress or its era. Anyone know?

It looks Southeast Asian to me, but I sure could be wrong.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

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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 announce
ments, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Just a few wonderful posts:

 

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Candlelight Christmas Tour

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I was lucky to go to the Glessner House’s Candlelight Christmas Tour on Saturday. Located on the famed Prairie Avenue, where Chicago’s elite lived 100 years ago or so, the Glessner House is a museum housed in a 18th century home that looks like a fortress. Mr. Glessner made his fortune as an executive for International Harvester.

This holiday season, the museum is decked out for Christmas. They have charming Christmas trees, vintage cards and books as well as holly, garlands and ribbons.

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Gifts wrapped in wallpaper

For the evening tour, there were docents in each room who explained about the home’s history and how the Victorians celebrated Christmas. A few nuggets I picked up are:

  • Victorians used to put a small bough of holly over ancestors’ portraits to remember them.
  • Holiday wrapping paper wasn’t invented and used till 1910. Before that people wrapped gifts with wallpaper.
  • As you may know, people lit their Christmas trees with candles. What I learned was that the Glessners (and probably other families) only lit their Christmas tree candles for 10 minutes. According to Mrs. Glessner’s diary, the family gathered at 10  am to see the tree lit. They’d have a bucket of sand and water on hand in case of fire and they only had the candles lit for 10 minutes because of the fire danger.

The tour was informative and so well organized. The docents were approachable and knowledgeable. At the end of the tour, which cost $15, we were offered hot apple cider, water and cookies from Trader Joe’s in the coach house.

The house will be decorated till December 31st and it’s free on Wednesdays.

The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan wrote about this gem, Glessner House.

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No Fixed Plans

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Children’s art, Jinan, China

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Chinatown, Melbourne, Australia

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Queen Victoria’s dog in Sydney

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 announce
ments, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Just a few wonderful posts:

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What Not to Do in Russia

My nephew is going to Russia for a semester starting in February. I’ve never been there, but here are some tips for him.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

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Some modern experimental art

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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.

Just a few wonderful posts:

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Travel Tips for China

Traveling in Asia is a lot different than in North America or Europe. You need to prepare yourself for different bathrooms, traffic, negotiations and foods. There’s a lot to delight in, but you’ll enjoy yourself more if you are prepared.

I always do the following:

  • Print out the addresses of your hostels or hotels in Chinese as well as English. This will make using taxis or getting help when you’re lost so much easier. Also, enlarge the print so drivers with poor eye sight can read the address.
  • Bring a small towel that I got in Japan. A bandana would work too. There’s loads of dirty surfaces. You may want to wipe off a chair or clean your hands. Hand wipes are also helpful.
  • Leave fancy clothes at home. In China you won’t need them. Chinese people tend not to dress up even for weddings. Pack some pants or a skirt so you don’t only have jeans, but you don’t need a suit or fancy dress.
  • Bring sensible shoes. The walkways are usually uneven or broken. It’s so easy to trip.
  • Know that McDonald’s and Starbucks usually have clean restrooms. Usually.
  • Don’t go to have tea with a friendly person. It’s a scam. You’ll wind up with a huge, fraudulent bill.
  • Negotiate hard at the “designer” goods markets.
  • Don’t drink tap water and only eat cooked veggies.
  • Bring your passport with you wherever you go. You need it to get into museums. You probably don’t need it for security purposes, but occasionally there are checks. You can talk your way into a museum without one sometimes, but it can be a hassle.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Rounded

 
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.

Just a Few Wonderful Posts

Posted in Accommodations, Asia, Australia, Blogging Challenge, Food, North America, photography, photos, postaweek, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting Hakone

Let’s take a little arm chair trip to Japan. Hakone is a good day trip from Tokyo.

I’ve just discovered these Life Where I’m From videos and love them. Check them out and subscribe on YouTube.

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