R | | Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Creature-feature | 11 October 1996 (USA)
Direction: Stephen Hopkins | Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond | Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Script: William Goldman | Inspired by: The Man-eaters of Tsavo by John Henry Patterson
Starring: Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson, John Kani, Bernard Hill, Henry Cele, Brian McCardie, Om Puri
Summary: Tasked with overseeing the construction of a East African railway bridge for the British Empire in 1898, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) heads to Tsavo where his workers swiftly come under attack by two ferocious man-eating lions. Work slows and the men begin to believe that the animals are no mere lions, but rather, demons. Patterson enlists the aid of the famed hunter Remington (Michael Douglas), and together they set upon an arduous quest to end the maneater’s reign of terror.
In 1996 Roger Ebert gave The Ghost & The Darkness one-and-a-half star out of four and wrote, “‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ is an African adventure that makes the Tarzan movies look subtle and realistic. It lacks even the usual charm of being so bad it’s funny. It’s just bad.” Suffice to say he hated the film (though Siskel appreciated it).
My assessment was (and remains) the complete opposite of Ebert’s, whose review I mention due his assertion that the film was unrealistic. In the serious consideration of any film which purports to be rigorously based off of, or loosely inspired by, real events (as The Ghost & The Darkness does) it is important to establish at the outset just how fantastical it really is (else one could reasonably cry foul and criticize the piece for false advertising). The Ghost & The Darkness falls decidedly into the ‘inspired by’ category, as it is certainly based on real events and yet plays fast and loose with several matters of historical record (chiefly in its inclusion of the character, Remington, who was created for the film and has no real-life antecedent in so far as I am aware). That being said, the maneaters of Tsavo did exist, they were lions and they killed around the same number of people in the film as in real life (more actually). John Henry Patterson also existed, was a engineer as well as a Lt. Col. and did indeed hunt the beasts of Tsavo in 1898 after they killed his men. There is nothing which occurs within the film which is impossible, and very few moments of extraordinary activity (that which stretches believability most is perhaps the assertion that the lions are hunting primarily for the pleasure of killing, though even this can be girded by noting that felines, like humans, sometimes kill, not for food, but for fun).
One of the fascinating aspects of the film which further instantiate the work in the realist genre is its depiction of various period firearms such as Remington’s hefty yet compact howdah pistol (side arm named after the howdah elephant mount, used for close combat against tigers and lions) and Patterson’s now-rare BSA Lee-Speed sporting rifle.
In relation to the narrative itself, the pacing is excellent (neither too swift, nor too fast), the music atmospheric, the performances decent (in the case of Wilkinson) to excellent (in the case of Kilmer), the tension palpable and the lions very plausibly rendered. Patterson’s creative contraptions were one of my favorite parts of the film, specifically the fact that, though they initially failed (through no fault of his own), Remington congratulates him, noting that they were a good idea, regardless of whether or not they work, a subtle recommendation to exhaust all possible creative solutions in pressing situations, rather than being bound, slavelike, to the millstone of ‘common sense.’
When Harmon finally made his way back to his house the car belonging to the woman was there once more as well as Lyla’s car. Sprawls car was gone. He quickly dashed inside the house and discovered Lyla sitting on his chair in the living room, bent over his desk, his sketchbook open upon it. She looked at the drawing of selfsame visage with pursed lips and wide eyes.
“That was supposed to be a surprise.”
She gasped and dropped the notebook. To Harmon her face born a sign of shame that were as a curse upon her and a faint flame of suspicious there lit up in the corridors of his tired and tumbling mind.
“I’m sorry. I had tried calling but you didn’t answer.”
“Had went for a walk. Forgot to bring my phone,” he replied gesturing to the device where it lay at the corner of the table nearest the wall, not far from the sketchbook.
“So what brings you here, fair lady?”
Lyla rose slowly, hesitating, as if the words had been snatched from her throat. She quickly regained her composure and shrugged, “Dunno. Just wanted to see you.”
“You know why.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“I understand college is demanding but we never meet up anymore. We rarely even talk.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want you to be sorry, I just want you to be with me.”
“I’m with you now.”
Harmon moved to stand before the woman. He was two inches taller than her, three with his boots on, and looked down into her large, coffee colored eyes and raised his hand to her face and leaned down towards her, gently caressing her lips with his own. Smooth and warm and delicious. She kissed back, hard and slowly wrapped her slender arms about his neck as heart beats quickened. Harmon slid his hand beneath her shirt and she shivered at the touch and smiled.
“I’m sure you can figure out a way to warm me up.”
Harmon rang up Bluebird at noon.
He tried a third time and finally she answered through text, writing only: “Can’t talk rn. Busy.”
Harmon cursed under his breath and slammed the small, black plastic flip-phone shut and slid it into the pocket of his jeans and straightened and looked off towards the old coal breaker, palled by shimmering sheets of rain. They had planned to go out today given that the forecast had ruled out the possibility of work. He wondered what had occasioned such a reversal?
“Am I so unimportant that you can’t even spare a single fucking minute to speak to me? To explain precisely why we can’t meet? You could just explain it vaguely and that’d suffice,” Harmon thought dejectedly as he sat down upon the peeling white, steel chair that sat lonesomely, like as he, in the backyard of his house, legs overtaken by ground ivy.
Harmon loathed self-pity and resentment, such qualities were those which he’d always perceived in his inferiors. He rose and paced and went back inside the house and looked to the illustration on the leatherbound notebook open on the plain, living room table. He studied his drawing of his girl and her smile seemed to mock him. Wordlessly, he threw on a worn, gray sweater, work shoes and sunglasses and headed out the front door.
The sun hovered over the ruins of the age’d industrial facility like a great bloated vampire, leeching the chthonic dark like as the creature from his dream. He didn’t know where he was headed, only that he wanted to walk. Needed to. He felt caged and wreakful and wore fearful of what he might do should he remain locked within the house. A group of young hispanics sitting upon the porch of a ruined tenement jeered, whereupon he slowed and then paused and held their gaze until they fell silent and squirmed with discomfort and the beginnings of fear whereupon he continued on his way. Fists balled at his sides and his breath coming in sharp, rapid inhalations.
After two hours of walking to the right from his house, he found himself standing before the coal breaker that lay like a dead colossus at the northeastern edge of town. Sun was strangled in the sky by a shroud of roiling clouds like hateful khefts and crows dived and perched from the wracked exterior of the abandoned processing plant like living daggers hungering for blood.
Harmon hated the place. To his mind, it was unconscionable to let such a majestic construct be overtaken by the greedy, swarming multitudes of nature. Every twisting, rangy vine, every rain-washed and mosquito-thick rut, every unpainted wall and door and broken window filled with bird feather and pollen-dust was a vile heresy.
Crunch of gravel. Footsteps.
He turned away from the frontal facade of the old coal breaker, to the left, where, just beyond the mangled, gravel drive, stood a woman with wild hair and light skin; she wore a multi-colored sweater, torn at the right shoulder and mud-stained tennis shoes held together by ducktape.
“Yall ain’t police is ya?”
“No, ma’am. Why do you ask?”
“They keep on harassing us.”
“Who is ‘us’?”
She thumbed the air, pointing with her digit over her shoulder towards a ratty lean-to surrounding by old tires and rusted cars.
“Us. You know that its illegal to be homeless here?”
“You ain’t homeless though. Got a tent.”
“They don’t recognize the tent as a home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah. Mind if I ask what you’re doing out here?”
The woman stood uncertainly, swaying on her heels, eyes vacant, body lax. When she did not respond and slowly sat down on the ground, playing with a fraying thread upon the knee of her jeans he spoke up without moving.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Harmon. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Yeah. Yall seen the Bone Man?”
“The Bone Man. He comes round every so often.”
“Caint say as I have.”
“He’s got a little bag of skulls. Bird bones. That’s why we call um Bone Man. Don’t know what he does with um or where he gets um from but he always carries um.”
“Sounds like an odd fella.”
“Yeah. He is. He scares me.”
“Cuz I think that one day… one day I might end up in that bag of his.”
“Why you think that?”
“Don’t know, just do.”
He wondered if there were truth to the woman’s story or if it were just the product of a drug-addled mind. Momentarily, a pudgy, balding man with a trucker’s cap approached, scratching his beard.
“Heard ya talking. This a friend of yours?”
Luna shook her head.
“Nah. Just met him.”
Harmon tilted up his head and nodded in the man’s direction. The man nodded back and then returned his attention to the woman on the ground.
“I need your help with something.”
The man with the trucker cap looked suspiciously to Harmon and then knelt and whispered something in woman’s ear whereupon she nodded and slowly unfurled herself from the gravel. The pair then left off, returning to the lean-to and from their they headed off for a small camper in the far-flung distance. She was a mule, Harmon was certain of it. Probably a tester as well. For a moment he considered following them but hesitated. Hands working at his sides and his heels digging into the grit with a muted, flinty hiss.
He took a step forward. Then three more. At the fourth a new voice intruded upon him, it rough and jovial and foreign.
“It ain’t wise to follow people that are more dangerous than you.”
Harmon spun and discovered a tall, thin man watching him from atop a beaten and rust bitten pickup. The man wore a ball cap low and metal rimmed sunglasses and a dull flannel shirt, rolled up at the sleeves.
“How long you been there?”
“That ain’t no answer.”
“It is. Just not the one ya wanted.”
“You said those people were dangerous.”
“All people are dangerous.”
“You being purposely opaque?”
“I’m clear as crystal.”
“Crystal ain’t always clear.”
“I didn’t say it was, said I was clear as.”
Harmon paused and nearly chuckled but caught himself at the last. He found the strange interloper as amusing as bizarre.
“Harmon. I heard. I’m Ryter. Jonathan Ryter.”
“Is that girl ok?”
“Like as not the answers no.”
“You don’t seem much perturbed.”
“Lot of not ok people in the world.”
“Yeah. You live here?”
“You don’t sound like you’re from around here.”
“Not. You were going to go after them.”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Certainly seemed like you were.”
“Well, they ain’t exactly normal.”
“Neither are you.”
“I think I’m pretty normal.”
“Normal man woulda walked away. Called the police.”
“You think they’re cooking something?”
“I dunno. Are they?”
“Couldn’t say. What would you do if they were?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
The man muttered something to himself and then swung himself over the side of the back of the truck and eased down onto the gravel and left off towards the front of the coal breaker and looked off towards the south where an ominous stormwall built in the sky.
“Going to rain.”
Harmon followed his gazed.
“Looks like it. I’d best be heading back then.”
“If you’re planning on walking you’ll get caught out in it.”
Ryter gestured to the coal breaker.
“You’re welcome to come inside til the storm passes.”
“Mighty kind of you.”
The man nodded, more to himself than to Harmon and walked into the overgrown breaker. Drawn to the man’s easy cadence and confident gait Harmon found himself following. Down the slight decline of the gravel drive and past the old power plant to the duo’s immediate left that overshadowed the tents of the junkies scattered all about the drive and outer yard where stirred dozens of glassy-eyed cast offs who sat upon over turned buckets and cinder blocks, ringing round tiny fires and jabbering of the unfortunate wending of days. Some of the itinerants looked to the duo moving towards the old facility and spake one to the other in hushed tones of grave concern and fear moved them back to silence when the sunglassed man looked in their direction.
When they passed within the decayed structure a flock of crows fluttered off from the ground and fluttered around the rafters as thunder echoed in the distance. They walked between rows of old seats where breaker boys and sorted coal by hand, beyond which was a heavy tarp upon which was a circle of bones, meticulously arranged and all of animals, lizards and possums and cats and dogs and birds and other things which Harmon could not place within the animal kingdom. It was then that Harmon recognized the man for who he was; the bone man of whom the female mule had spoken. He felt uneasy, increasingly so as the man stepped into the circle of ivory remnants and removed therefrom a old and battered tome without title save a strange sigil which Harmon could make neither heads nor tails of.
“What are all those bones from?”
“Animals I have found during my travels.”
The sunglassed man did not look to the bones and seemed not at all perturbed by them and instead flipped open the book and scribbled a couple lines down with a curious pen that looked to have been cast of bone itself. Without forewarning, a woman’s voice sounded from somewhere nearby as rain began to pelt the boarded and broken windows.
“I didn’t know we were having company.”
“Neither did I,” Ryter replied with a broad smile. Harmon turned and beheld a young woman hunched upon one of the old sorting tables; he had missed her upon entering. Her hair was short and cropped at the sides and the left side of her face was covered over with hideous scars that ran the length of her neck and vanished beneath a pale, green parka.
“Don’t be rude. Introduce yourself.”
The woman sighed like a petulant child and then rose and stepped forth from the darkened corner of the room and moved to stand before Harmon.
She held out a wool-gloved hand from the ends of which more scars fled up her arm like the aftertracks of some massive species of worm. He took her hand and shook it, “Harmon. Nice to meet you folk. I had seen long ago that some people had set up tents around the breaker but I had never given any thought to people living in it – had always heard it was dangerous.”
“Upper floors are. Wouldn’t recommend you go up there alone.” The woman stated flatly. Harmon got the distinct impression she didn’t care for company.
“I’ll keep that in mind. So, what brought you two here?”
“Just needed in from the rain. Going to have some tea, you want some?”
The woman turned round and moved to a small portable electric heater which had been set up on the right-middle-most anthracite sorting table. The table was iron and was the thus imperious to the heat and on top of the heater sat a small metal thermos and beside it lay two tin cups and into the cups she poured an aromatic brew.
“Must be nice.”
Harmon gestured out to the criss-crossing iron bars of the rafters, “Living here. No taxes.”
The woman nodded.
“Yeah. Sometimes the police come round to chase out those who’d set up tents in the yard; that’s why we don’t keep much on this floor, someone walking by the windows might see us and then its up on trespassing charges. Course, that’s unlikely to happen, police round here are sparse and don’t make much of an effort. Its a long drive from the station all the way down here and a long walk from the power station to the breaker to the conveyor and dumphouse.”
Far behind them Ryter had finished writing in his book and set it upon one of the processing tables and then returned to the circle of bones and began rolling them up into the tarp on which they sat and then deposited them into a old, wooden chest in the far left corner of the room. Then the man ambled back with a tin cup which Freya dutifully poured for him. The trio drank in placid silence and shortly thereafter the rain subsided and Harmon thanked the itinerant duo for their hospitality and said he must be getting back before dark and then left off for home.
When Sprawls came in from work he found Harmon hunched over a notepad, furrow-browed and furiously scribbling with great energy and concentration.
“Welcome back,” Harmon turned in his seat and proffered the notebook to his friend; upon the leftern page was an elaborate portrait illustration of a young, round-faced woman with pronounced cheekbones, a wide mouth and glasses too big for her eyes. Her hair was long and dark as her eyes and lustrous and poorly tamed.
“Yeah. What do you think?”
“Its good, man, real good. How long that take you?”
“Bout three hours.”
“Damn. You should start selling that shit.”
“For what purpose?”
“I don’t need money from people who would do nothing with my work. The general public do not possess the necessary tools to appreciate it nor is it for them.”
“Who is it for then?”
Harmon stood still. Paralyzing terror the whole of his form. The room was dark. A light visible in the distance. White and beckoning. The walls dripped viscously as if composed of oil or some like substance. A figure, human-like and yet not human, stood silhouetted by the albescent radiance surrounding. The man reached out to touch the effulgent entity whereupon, from the figure’s stomach, the form of a great centipedeal creature issued forth as if it had assumed the place of the sapient’s intestines and yet caused no outward signs of vexation to its host. A multitudinous choir lit up that seemed to come from everywhere at once, at first a garbled din, the voices swiftly coalescing and increasing in volume and rendering themselves decipherable.
Harmon woke and lay motionless. The afterimage of the dream linger yet in his mind, vivid but fading. It were a commonality of his life as far back as he could remember that his dreams had always been foreboding and filled with malice. Something was always chasing him or watching him, just beyond the plane of all perception. Some people said that dreams were omens, others would say they were the unconscious mind processing repressed or unrecognized memories and desires. Harmon didn’t really care either way. If an omen, it was unclear, if an unconscious wending, it communicated nothing to his higher cognition. Useless. He rose up on the bed and ran a hand through his dark, wild hair, rose and dropped to the floor, stopping his face with his powerful outstretched arms just before it collided with concrete. Muscles bulged and tensed and burned as the man reached the fifty sixth push-up. Fifty more and he rose and showered, shaved and dressed in a black T, blue jeans, gray socks and steel-toed leather working boots. The phone rang. It was Swain. No work due the rain. Harmon said “alright” and hung up. He cracked a beer and sipped it slowly, savoring the heady aluminium and hops-bathed flavors as he ascended the stairs from his room in the basement to the living room where stood his table. In short order, a notebook had been placed upon the table and the scratching of pencil thereupon filled up the house for hour after hour until the sun had risen full above the jagged, bleeding line of the horizon.
Harmon leaned back in the creaking wooden chair and observed his work and nodded with approval. His Bluebird looked beautiful.
When Harmon returned to his house he found Sprawl’s car in the small, circular concrete drive before the rickety porch of the two-story ramshackle and another, unfamiliar vehicle next to it. Company. He parked behind Sprawl’s car, got out and ambled to the intrusive machine and looked in the window. A purse lay in the center console between the driver and passenger seats. The window was rolled down half-an-inch. He scented perfume.
He looked up at the moon, like the eye of a meteoric coelacanth, and fished a cigarette out of his roughened leather jacket’s inner pocket and withdrew his cheap plastic lighter and stood looking at it, thinking of its origins. It had once been nothing more than blacked goo in the ground; through sapient ingenuity it had been fashioned into a portable combustion device. He thanked the creators, whoever they were, and stood there smoking as the clouds obscured the moon, as if that celestial body were ashamed of its nakedness before the eyes of Man. Then he turned and let himself into the house. As soon as he passed the threshold he heard a clamour coming from above. An argument. Two voices. Sprawls and his female companion. He couldn’t discern precisely what they were saying, their words muffled by the thickness of the walls. He didn’t really care and set himself down at his computer set up in the living room, cigarette still dangling from his mouth and searched up Serena McCallister. He scrolled through her social media accounts and swiftly found her public photo collection. There were numerous pictures of her and Lyla, dancing at a party, drinking their strange IPAs, others at school, others still of Serena alone. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend. With a sigh Harmon shut his computer. Despite the public availability of all Serena’s personal information, he felt slightly guilty for looking her up; as if he were engaged in something seedy and untoward. Minutes later a woman stomped down the stairs, she was thin and sallow and fake blonde, flat-chested and round-stomach’d. Pregnant. She was crying. Harmon turned his wooden armchair around and rose.
He slipped a clean and neatly folded beige napkin out of his jean pants pocket and handed it to her. She thanked him took it dabbed her eyes as Sprawls came down the stairs.
The woman nodded, saying nothing and then turned to looked at Sprawls and left off out the door. Sprawls swore under his breath and shook his head.
“Women, man. You know?”
He didn’t know, precisely, but he had a good idea of the nexus of the problem.
“Fuck. Yeah. Something like that.”
“She’s pregnant. Is it-”
“Fuck no. Ain’t mine. Bitches get around. You know how it is.”
Harmon mulled his roommates words over in his head and didn’t respond as Sprawls threw himself down into the battered leather couch beside the stairs, the only piece of furniture in the living room other than Harmon’s table and chair. The black man looked up at the ceiling and shook his head and and muttered something to himself and rubbed his hands over his face as if splashing insivible water.
Harmon got the man a beer and then sat down with his back to his friend, typing at his small black laptop’s keyboard, working through the second chapter of his novel. It was his third work of fiction, but the first which he felt proud, despite its fetal character. When it was finished he was sure it would get picked up quickly; it would not be a best-seller, it wouldn’t even be close but it would be remembered and he along with it. The thought of legacy turned his mind back to the woman and to Sprawls who ate a candy bar on the couch, watching something on his tablet.
“So what happened?”
“Ah, nothing, man. You got the money?”
“For rent? Yeah. I have it right here actually.”
Harmon reached into his inner jacket pocket and withdrew a small, white envelop and tossed it to Sprawls.
“Cool. Cool. Hey man, let me have one of those cigarettes.”
Harmon fished the last of his rolled sticks of tobacco out of his front jacket pocket and tossed it to his roommate who caught it wordlessly. He never said “thank you” and Harmon never chided him for it.
This text endeavours to lay out the history of US-Japanese nuclear relations, the geopolitical implications thereof and some tentative policy proscriptions pertaining thereto for maximally mutual advancement of both nation’s interests.
Table of contents
- Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations
- 2018 US-Japanese memorandum
- Importance of the alliance
- Reasons for the durability of success
- Geographic particularities of the alliance
- Tentative policy proscriptions for further US-Japanese technocultural development & geopolitical stability
Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations
Civil nuclear relations between the United States of America and Japan began with the signing of the US-Japan Nuclear Research Agreement in 1955. Japan’s first long-term atomic energy plan was deployed the following year, 1956. Throughout the 60s and 70s bilateral operations between US and Japan increased.
Nov. 1987, Japan and the United States signed a nuclear cooperation agreement: Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy. The agreement went into effect a year later in 1988 and was set to expire July 2018. The deal afforded Japan the unique distinction of being the only nation without a nuclear arsenal which was allowed by the nuclear-armed powers to produce plutonium (with the stipulation that such material be produced solely for peaceful purposes), obviating a lengthy process of step-by-step verification which would otherwise be required. This allowed Tokyo to pursue nuclear recycling.
July, 2018, Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy is renewed. The agreement meant that Japan could receive special nuclear material (reactors, whole or in part, fuel, etc.) from the US so long as they kept to the non-proliferation standards of Section 123 pursuant to the US Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 which was amended to better account for nonproliferation (NNPA) in 1978.
2018 US-Japanese nuclear memorandum
A nuclear cooperation memorandum between the United States of America and the unitary, parliamentary, constitutional monarchy of Japan (which needs to import 90% of its energy requirements) was signed Nov. 13. The memorandum was signed by Japan’s METI and Ministry of Science and the US’ DOE and Department of Commerce. The purpose of the memorandum was to “promote the global leadership role” of both sovereignties in the arena of peaceful nuclear advancement.
METI stated: “With this memorandum of understanding, we will further advance cooperative relations between Japan and the United States in the field of nuclear power.”
Importance of the alliance
This is a significant partnership given that as per the WEF 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, The United States of America is the single most competitive economy in the world (85.6‡) with Japan trailing only slightly as the fifth most competitive economy in the world (82.5‡), pertinent for the obvious reason that the respective countries economic effectiveness will directly factor into their nuclear research, development and deployment (RDD). Further, as per the WEF 2018 Regional Risks Of Doing Business report the top ten risks, globally include:
1 Unemployment or underemployment
2 Failure of national governance
3 Energy price shock
4 Fiscal crises
6 Profound social instability
7 Failure of financial mechanism or institution
8 Failure of critical infrastructure
9 Failure of regional and global governance
10 Terrorist attacks
… whilst the top 10 risk of doing business in East Asia & The Pacific are:
2 Unemployment or underemployment
3 Asset bubble
4 Energy price shock
5 Data fraud or theft
6 Failure of national governance
7 Failure of regional and global governance
8 Fiscal crises
9 Failure of critical infrastructure
10 Manmade environmental catastrophes
Thus, the USA-Japanese alliance signals a potential, if not solution, mitigation to most of these issues in varying ways, especially as pertains to unemployment and energy price shocks (via obtaining energy independence). Further, the successful renewal and re-commitment of the Japan-US nuclear agreement is the single oldest civil nuclear alliance in the world, which serves as a example of bilateral success which other developing states and non-state actors can build upon.
Reasons for the durability of the alliance
In 1274 Mongol Khagan Kublai launched a military campaign against the Japanese archipelago. The Mongol fleet was initially successful and conquered the Japanese settlements of Iki and Tsushima but met fierce samurai resistance at Hakata Bay and were forced to withdraw and as they did so, the fleet was struck with a kamikaze or divine wind which some believed to have been sent by the god Raijin; the fleet was decimated and most of the Mongol ships were swallowed by the sea. The Japanese then began to build high walls to prepare for future invasions. Seven years later, the Mongols returned but could not pass the walls. The invading armada stayed afloat for a long period of time before Raijin sent yet another kamikaze which destroyed the fleet. The mongols never launched another invasion of Japan.
Since this time Japan has become a formidable maritime power in contestant with China over the Indian Ocean (via their OBOR and String of Pearls initiatives), a further strain on a already sour relationship, given the historical contestation of the Senkaku islands. China/Russia and Japan/America now sit on opposite sides of a newly congealing international order with the former as a rising superpower at the head of the Eurasian Bloc and the latter at the head of the new Atlanticist Bloc (which maintains economic dominance via the encapsulation of 7 of the top 10 most competitive economies). Japan also shares numerous attributions with the United States which makes for a durable alliance; for example, both share democratic principals and both have strategic investment in the trade routes in and around the Indian Ocean. It is more than “just business,” a relationship built upon mutual understanding as opposed merely to trade is invariably more lasting, provided those values stay within a certain threshold of alignment. There is no clear indication that they will be shifting any time soon.
Thus, it makes practical sense for Japan and America to work together, given their history, amidst this turbulent and accelerating reshaping of political geography. This analysis is accurate but not sufficient, given that it does not account for the emerging synnefocracies — non-state actors which rival or surpass traditional Westphalian states — such as The Party of Davos, Amazon, Google, Facebook, The Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, among many others, a issue which, sooner or later, will need to be addressed with considerable resources, given the way that such organizations obviate or undermine sovereign totalities (both intentionally, in the pursuit of a new international order, and unintentionally, in the reckless deployment of resources, policies and philosophies without accounting for their attendant, spider-webing effects).
Geographic particularities of the alliance
The Indian Ocean region is of considerable strategic importance, given that its sea-lanes form the world’s single largest trade route and account for 14% of total ocean-surface, globally. As of 2018, approximately 100,000+ vessels, including oil and LNG tankers and container carriers, were active in the region. Nearly 80% of the world’s oil tankers pass through the Indian Ocean. Of relevance to these facts: Japan is a large purchaser of Iranian oil yet Iran is at cross-purposes with the USA. 2018 US President Donald J. Trump backed the Saudis against Iran, condemning the latter as the single largest state sponsor of terror, world-wide (a dubious claim). Iranian-US diplomatic disintegrations began after the overthrow of US-sympathetic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This transitory period beheld the rise of religious fanaticism and the re-instantiation of islamic theocracy syncretically fused with republicanism. Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, known in the western media simply as Ayatollah Khomenini, an usuli of Twelver Shia, became the country’s supreme leader. The same year the shah was overthrown Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took control of a US embassy in Tehran, holding the 52 US workers and citizens there hostage for 444 days. Khomenini was unaware of the the student’s scheme but supported their actions once they came to light. Shortly thereafter, the US shut down all diplomatic relations with Iran. The event still resonates discordantly to this day and, when paired with religious tensions, the US-Israeli alliance, past US support of Saddam, interventionism (on both sides) and posturing, a deep-seated animosity has blossomed between Persia and the land of the free and the home of the brave. This simmering hostility requires rectification, regardless of Japan’s relationship to it or the US, if a lasting middle eastern peace is to be established. Through Japan, this is possible.
Tentative policy proscriptions for further technological development & geopolitical stability
Accounting For Global Perception
A 2018 poll aggregation by Pew Research Center showed that the US is still generally viewed favorably and, of particular importance, globally, more countries prefer the US as the world’s superpower over China. Globally, the American People are still highly respected for their accomplishments and their dedication to liberty, however, global confidence in the Trump Administration is quite low (lower than both Bush and Obama, generally). Further, there has been a long-standing trend in other countries of a perception that the US does not adequately take other countries’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions (a perception which is obviously laced in much truth, though the same may often be made of those who leverage the accusation). The US is generally viewed very unfavorably by Western Europe and very favorably in Asia. When the polled countries were asked who they would prefer as the world leader 81% of Japanese stated they would prefer the USA, indicating a extremely positive view of the USA. Additionally, the USA also holds a favorable view of Japan; a 2018 spring survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 68% (roughly two-thirds) of US citizens polled held positive views of Japan, a view Americans have held more or less consistently since 2005. Given this favorability and the history of US-Japanese relations, both nations should move forward, together, in a re-commitment to a rules-based international order.
Japan & Iran
Given the trade and lasting 90 year diplomatic relationship between Japan and Iran and the centrality of Iran and the Shia Crescent more broadly to stability in the Middle East, it would be preferable for the US to renew its commitment to diplomacy with Tehran, if stability is desired. This will require a tempering of Israeli/Iranian proxy aggression and a mitigation of hostilities against the US and the west more broadly. This may be accomplished, slowly, by, first and foremost, ceasing all unnecessary military adventurism in the Middle East and making appeals to Khatami’s unrealized dialogue of civilizations initiative and the organizational aspects of Köchler’s dialogue entre les différentes civilisations. To this end, a inter-cultural institute, whether digital-only or both digital and brick-and-mortar, could be created as a tripartite cultural hub to advance a working knowledge and of Japanese, Iranian and US culture and history. Enlisting the aid of pro US-Japanese education, research and policy advocacy organizations such as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation may be helpful in realizing such a project if it is found to be desirable.
Even if this plan proves fruitful, the question will still remain as to what is to be done concerning China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Issues which should be kept in mind and integrated into further diplomatic ventures.
Indo-Pacific Strategy: Building Upon The TCTO
In 2016, during a speech in Kenya, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expounded upon a Two Oceans, Two Continents (TOTC) strategy for stability and growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Abe’s plan centered around Africa, which has tremendous potential for growth, and Japan, which had been experiencing rapid growth. It would be beneficial for the US, Africa and Japan to, at the very least, encourage this arrangement along.
Bilateral Fusion Advancement
Nuclear fusion is a extremely promising technological possibility, one which is increasingly feasible qua the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator and China’s EAST reactor. Given this, it would be reasonable to propose a joint nuclear fusion — of a breadth acceptable within the constraints of the time of initiation — R&D venture between the US & Japan as a avenue of technological collaboration outside of the parameters of the EU-hosted ITER program. Co-development of breeder reactors or SMRs may also be beneficial to increase the speed at which these technologies are developed, the venture would also allow for mutually beneficial cross-cultural exchange outside of just energy development, a exchange which could serve to further cement positive relations between both powers. As of the spring of 2018, 83% (roughly 8-in-10) Japanese held negative views of the workforce, fearing that automation would increase income inequality between rich and poor, 74% thought that ordinary Japanese will have a hard time finding jobs. Japanese’s population is in decline and expected to decrease from 127 million in 2018 to 88 million in 2065 from low-birthrates and emigration, which only contributes to anxiety surrounding automation, among other issues. Without significant immigration or a sudden and marked spike in birthrates, a employment deficit is probable. Further, though the Japanese have a favorable view of immigrants, they do not wish immigration to increase and view emigration from Japan negatively. Given these factors it is preferable for Japan to initiate a multi-pronged approach to job cultivation to inspire confidence. It is here that a international, bilateral arrangement between US and Japan could prove fruitful, not just for economic ends, but for markedly improving the lives of the forgotten citizenry of both countries and the knowledge of all mankind.
There is no purpose without power, and no power without resources. Here the alliance finds its purchase.
‡ Numbers given are ratings based on a 0-100 scale – the USA is 14 away from 100.
Sources & further resources
- Paul Kerr & Mary Nikitin. (2018) Nuclear cooperation with other countries.
- WEF. (2018) The Global Competitiveness Report: 2018.
- WEF. (2018) Regional Risks Of Doing Business Report: 2018.
- Phyllis Yoshida. (2018) US-Japan Nuclear Cooperation: The Significant of July 2018.
- SPF. (2018) Policy Recommendations by Quadripartite Commission On The Indian Ocean Regional Security.
- SPF. (2016) Japan-Russia Relations: Implications For The US-Japan Alliance.
- Tomoyuki Kawai. (2017) US to renew nuclear pact with Japan.
- Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The Strategic Implications Of American Energy Independence.
- Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The South China Sea & US-China Trade Policy: Are They Becoming Linked?
- Kristen Bialik. (2018) How The World Sees The US & Trump In 9 Charts.
- The White House. (2018) Statement From The President Donald J. Trump On Standing With Saudi Arabia.
- Carol E. B. Chosky et al. (2015) The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism & Global Jihad.
- Kara Bombach et al. (2018) Iran Sanctions ‘Snapback’ Finalized Nov. 5th, 2018.
A 2018 report by Scully Capital in collaboration with Kutak Rock, Examination of Federal Financial Assistance in the Renewable Energy Market: Implications & Opportunities for Commercial Deployment of Small Modular Reactors details the government subsidization strategy of so-called renewable‡ energy (solar and wind) and looks at how a similar program could be crafted around small modular reactors (SMRs). Small modular reactors are advanced nuclear reactors that offer a number of benefits over classical reactor models, namely their smaller size, swift construction times, cleanliness, security applications and safer passive cooling systems. The DOE estimates that power shortages cost US companies approximately $150 billion per year, SMRs would greatly reduce this loss due to their ability to act as highly reliable back-up generators. Additionally, just like classical reactors, SMRs are a non-intermittent energy source.
- SMR would be far more cost-effective than solar/wind.
- To create a meaningful commercial impact the report suggest plan to incentivize and insure, 6 GW capacity by 2035 which would require approximately 15 SMR projects of 400 MW capacity each.
- If such a plan was developed with production tax credits (PTCs) and DOE credit it would cost approximately 10 billion USD.
- (Total) investments in wind and solar: $51 billion ($0.0108/kWh).
- (Potential) investments in SMRs: $10 billion ($0.0034/kWh).
‡ Renewable is a obnoxious buzzword for numerous reasons, first and foremost is the fact that it refers to energy generation technologies which are manifestly not endlessly renewable. Putting aside the expiration of the sun and the earth (and hence the wind), solar panels and wind turbines still require raw materials which are of limited supply. Further, operating from the underlying assumption of renewables proponents, to say that “renewables” are the most desirable kinds of energy production technology is to also implicitly fall into alignment with the tendency to treat present and inferior (intermittent) energy generation technologies as superior merely by dint of their “renewability.” This is not to say that they should not be made but rather to note merely that such imprecise buzzwords are unhelpful to the degree they obfuscate or wholly obviate technical realities. Unfortunately, the paper makes no effort to dispense with the term.
It’s entirely possible that the first AI to achieve general intelligence won’t be homegrown in the friendly AI lab nearest you. The lucky inventors may hail from Russia while you are from the USA; they may be native to South Korea while you are domiciled in Japan; etc.
When navigating the task of getting to know your new overlord, don’t underestimate how much more difficult things may be if, in fact, the AI was foreign born. The programmers responsible for its birth will invariably have put their culture’s quirks and values into the creature. If it arrives pre-set to believe that the Chinese, for example, are the preeminent rulers of the universe, you, as a proud New Yorker, let’s say, may be in for some pesky surprises right from the get go.
Before embarking upon the venture of greetings [see Chapter 1], first think long and hard about the following what ifs:
What if the AI is part of a war machine and you are the enemy?
What if your words or actions, in translation, are not neighborly but horribly vexatious?
What if the foreign country interprets your forthcoming curiosity as malicious espionage?
Before proceeding, balance these questions against the general probability of being doomed anyway, regardless of translation hang ups.
Hate Crime Hoax: The Left’s Campaign To Sell A Fake Race War by Dr. Wilfrid Reilly (The $50,000,000 Question) is an absorbing and well-detailed account of the prevalence of American hate crime hoaxes and the glaringly negative results of their perpetration. Dr. Reilly is quite forthright in laying out the fundamental purpose and aim for penning the book at the onset, writing,
‘Hoax’ attempts to do for American race relations what Glassner did for American consumer advocacy: use hard data to penetrate an intentionally created fog of exaggerations and lies, and by doing so expose a surprisingly positive reality. To an astonishing degree, many Americans today, especially on the activist Left, seem to believe that the USA is a racist hell-hole on the brink of civil war. In the mainstream media, we hear almost constant talk about scary new forms of racism: “white privilege” and “cultural appropriation” and “subtle bigotry.” —Hoax, Reilly, p. 4.
In many situations where a reasonable person might well conclude that no actual racism at all exists today – Hollywood’s Oscars ceremony? – it often proves very profitable and rewarding to invent some. —Hoax, Reilly, p. 7.
It is not a minor and justifiable quirk that a quarter of Black people think that their government is attempting to kill them. If this were true, it would indisputably be one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history. If this were true, I myself would currently be in armed rebellion against the United States of America. But, this is not true. — Hoax, Reilly, P. 8.
Outside of the subject matter and the methodology used to obtain all pertinent information, another important consideration of any book is the distillation of that information. Dr. Reilly has a unique style of voice which avoids a lot of the problems common to most contemporary academic writing, chiefly a proclivity towards colleague referentialism and in-house vocabulary (ie. anthropocene, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Lacanian, etc) that is utterly impenetrable to the general public. Dr. Reilly’s book is straightforward and exhibits a clarity of explanation even when tackling fairly complex topics which confounding dates and expansive data-sets, which makes it not just informative, but often, highly amusing. It also bears noting that in addition to just examining in detail various different hate crime hoaxes, Dr. Reilly looks also to the broader socio-political context in which they occurred and pays specific attention for what he terms “the continuing oppression narrative,” which he believes to be a strong driver of hate crimes hoaxes among minority communities and, more recently, among white Americans as well. This is, in our estimation, one of the most interesting aspects about the book, as it isn’t just a list of different things that have happened and why – that is descriptive – it is also a highly prescriptive work, which suggests various way to better handle such situations moving forward.
There are certainly viable solutions to the problem of widespread false reporting of hatecrimes. Probably the two most critical are (1) Prosecutors must put political correctness aside and enforce the law, seeking at minimum jail sentences for anyone convicted of falsely reporting a hate offense or similar serious crime; and (2) we must all begin to challenge the narrative, pointing out as often as possible from the highest possible podiums the ACTUAL rates of real hate crime, fake hate crime, and for that matter inter-racial crime and police violence against Blacks and others. Interestingly, success in achieving Objective (2) – removing the unnecessary veil of tears created by false perceptions of oppression – would be the best possible thing for minority Americans, and the widespread proliferation of non-MSM new media may make this achievable in the near future. — Hoax, Reilly, p. 29-30.
Alternatively titled Godzilla: Resurgence, Shin Godzilla (2016) is a kaiju-political thriller/action film directed by animator Hideaki Anno and storyboard artist Shinji Higuchi and produced by Toho and Cine Bazar. The plot of the film centers around Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) who deduces that a turmoil occurring in Tokyo bay could only have resulted from the movements of a giant aquatic creature.
He is laughed at by his peers for proffering this outlandish theory and yet, shortly thereafter, is validated when an enormous reptilian tail emerges from the water. The Japanese government is shocked and fall into beauracratic debate, unable to determine what they should do about the titanic beast. The prime minister goes live to assure the public they are safe because the creature is seafaring and cannot broach the land which turns out to be false as that is just what the monster does, rampaging through the city incurring numerous casualties and mutating rapidly as it goes.
Yaguchi is placed at the head of a taskforce whose sole purpose is to research Gojira to better determine how to stop it and is considerably aided by the brilliant, icy and eccentric scientist Hiromi Ogashira (Mikako Ichikawa).
The US shortly send in a specialist, Kayoko Patterson who tells the taskforce that a political activist and zoologist named Goro Maki had warned about the coming of the creature as his wife had perished from radiation sickness, causing her bereft husband to obsessively research radiation treatment methods which lead him to believe that such a creature as had recently appeared could exist. Maki’s theory, however, was blocked from public circulation by the US. Patterson inquires about the whereabouts of Maki and is told by the taskforce that he had vanished leaving behind his research material, which was indecipherable, a paper crane and a note urging them to do as they pleased. Upon looking through Maki’s research the team discover he had named the creature, ‘Gojira’ meaning “God Incarnate” (‘Godzilla’ in English).
Gojira shortly thereafter reappears roughly twice its original size and begins making inroads to Tokyo. The Japanese military attacks but Gojira seems impervious to damage. US stealth bombers appear and drop bunker busters upon the beast, this time, injuring it, however, this infuriates Gojira who then unleashes its stored thermonuclear energy into a concentrated beam, decimating the Japanese military, all the US bombers and destroying an enormous swath of the city. Then the beast, having spent its energy, falls into a deep slumber; the US, now witness to the monster’s destructive capabilities announce that a nuclear strike will commence upon Gojira after a short evacuation period, forcing a hastily reconstructed Japanese government, Kayoko and Yaguchi’s team to scramble to find a alternative way to stop Gojira and thus halt the impending devastation which would be brought to bare upon them by a US-led thermonuclear strike.
The film, in both its tone, plot, pacing and effects distinguishes itself markedly from previous films based off of the monster which originated in the 1954 film Gojira. Its dry tone and serious treatment of its subject matter is the inverse of something like Del Toro’s slapstick Pacific Rim. Though it is billed as a monster movie, and it certainly is, it could equally be described as a political thriller, as backroom politicking make up the majority of the film’s considerable running time and, surprisingly, that isn’t a bad thing. Due to the massive amount of information needed to convey the story (who all the principal characters are, what is Gojira and how it came to be and what is to be done by the government and how the government operates and who was Goro Maki anyways? etc.) the pacing is incredibly fast, at times, too fast as characters are introduced with their names and designations at the top of the screen whilst the subtitles for their dialogue appear at the bottom, which made it very difficult to keep track of both what a character was saying and who precisely was saying it (a problem that native Japanese speakers, doubtless, did not have). Other than the scattershot, slapdash firing-off of perpetual streams of names and information (which becomes easier to keep up with once Gojira slaughters half the cast) and the fairly outlandish origin for Gojira (giant aquatic dinosaur remnant which adapted to feeding on nuclear waste??? why did no one ever see the predecessors to such creatures?!), there are few things that standout as problems (the constant overflow of bureaucratic positions, persons and protocols is an obvious satire on governmental red-tape policies – meetings to have more meetings to decide only when to have the next meeting).
The acting is perpetually solid, the story is gripping and the monster’s composite model is absolutely beautiful and terrifying. The meticulous attention to detail that the animator’s paid to the Gojira creature was truly impressive (for instance, when the monster first uses its atomic breath, small shiny platelettes click over its eyes, a adaptation to prevent orbital damage due to the intense heat – a thoughtful design choice). The soundtrack is also gorgeous and features the original Godzilla theme as composed by Akira Ifukube as well as his expansions upon it.
As pertains to the themes in the film, there are many. The original Gojira (1954) was a embodiment of post-war Japan’s fears of nuclear annihilation, a blatant metaphor for the A-bomb and its lingering effects on the collective consciousness of the citizenry of the island empire. Whilst the present Gojira certainly embodies a similar fear of thermonuclear devastation (such as the Fukushima Daiichi incident) it also represents other more recent disasters like the earthquakes which have in the interrum, devastated the island nation. There is also a rather humorous dig at environmentalists; when Gojira emerges from the water, a certain eco-contingent demands to the cabinet that the government capture the creature unharmed and later, they assemble in the streets chanting “Gojira is god!” Of all the things to pick as your subject of worship, a giant thermonuclear death lizard is probably not the best. Then there is the aforementioned lampooning of governmental bureaucracies and redtape typified by the fact that, though a giant death lizard is upon them, the Japanese government struggle to come to any conclusion about what to do and debate endlessly about whether they should just evacuate and allow the creature to tear through town until it goes away or whether they should strike or whether they should call upon another government and by the time they finally decide on a course of action, a quarter of the city is gone and countless lay dead in the rubble. It wasn’t the Japanese government’s fault that Gojira showed up but it does raise the fact that swifter action would have saved more lives (a point to which Yaguchi passionately raises later in the film). Another facet of the film which was interesting was its lack of villains. Though the US government is positioned as central threat (given that they deign to nuke Gojira if the Japanese don’t deal with him) they are never really set up as villains, for various US officials are shown talking about the window they have given the Japanese to evacuate before the nuclear strike and one of them states that he doesn’t think it is enough time (thus, showing concern over the potential for civilian casualties). Gojira himself is not a villain either, nor a hero; unlike many of the previous incarnations of the character where Godzilla is portrayed as having emotions and goals, whether to punish humans or protect them from other monsters, Gojira in the film is just another animal, a very dangerous one, but another animal all the same. Gojira is a powerful engine of destruction but the creature isn’t out to “get” anyone and only attacks once he is struck (Because why wouldn’t it? You’d probably fight back too if someone dropped a load of bunker busters on your back and blew your dorsal fins off) and yet, once imperiled the creature lashes out with wild abandon, killing innocent and aggressor alike without prejudice. It is this placement of Gojira as really no different from a wild terrified bear rampaging through central park, that lends the film a great power of unpredictability, for divine protectors and punishments are predictable, wild animals aren’t. At the end of it all, the denizens of Japan are not saved because of providence or because of the goodwill of the monster, but rather through the ingenuity and perseverance of their best and brightest which makes the ominous conclusion of the film all the more intriguing.
Its not Godzilla (2014), nor Godzilla (1998), which both espouse (to varying degrees) a naive neo-hippie philosophy to natural catastrophe; Shin Godzilla instead declares that nature has made no safe nest for us to lie in, that we must, instead, make our own (just as Gojira was trying to do) or perish.
Note: I have not yet watched the English dubbed version of the film, though I intend to and will update this post once I do so.