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Current Events

Paul Krugman on Japan

Poking around to look for the latest Krugman column in which he illustrates the arrogance of President Bush’s one page request for an additional $25 billion for adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, I see that he’s also brought together the best of his writings on Japan into one place.

The state of Japan is a scandal, an outrage, a reproach. It is not, at least so far, a human disaster like Indonesia or Brazil. But Japan’s economic malaise is uniquely gratuitous. Sixty years after Keynes, a great nation – a country with a stable and effective government, a massive net creditor, subject to none of the constraints that lesser economies face – is operating far below its productive capacity, simply because its consumers and investors do not spend enough. That should not happen; in allowing it to happen, and to continue year after year, Japan’s economic officials have subtracted value from their nation and the world as a whole on a truly heroic scale.

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Current Events

The Extraordinary Private Cellar of Doris Duke

Bottles of the first ever Vintage (1921) of Dom Pérignon, 1929 Château d’Yquem, 1934 Romanée Conti (pictured), all these and more from the cellers of Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress that made her home several miles up the road in Somerville on a 2,700 acre estate. The bottles will be auctioned off at Christies in NYC to benefit the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation on June 2nd.

The private cellar of Doris Duke is without question one of the most superlative collections of Fine and Rare Wines to come to market in the nearly forty years of dedicated Fine Wine auctions at Christie’s. This sale ranks as the most unique offering of pre-war vintages ever sold in North America; both in its impeccable provenance and its depth of some of the best wines of the twentieth century.

The cellar highlights a period of wine-making and vintages whose like will never be repeated and is a true “time capsule” of bottlings spanning 1904 to 1934 and encompassing the great châteaux and domaines of France from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne as well as ports and madeiras.

The quantities here speak to an era of grand entertaining long-since passed, the vintages to yields and wine-making techniques changed by technological advancement and in one case to a vineyard now included in another by the appelation controlée laws.

Not only are the wines themselves remarkable, but the quality of the archival material associated with them is equally astonishing. No collection of this era can have been so meticulously catalogued by its owners, so that today’s collector can be assured of the provenance. Researching this collection has brought this cellar to life; tracing the wine’s journey from initial invoices (in old French francs) and shipping dockets, through cellar inventories, entertaining records and through to NY Wines Christie’s recent cataloguing and inspection.

Christie’s Lot Description

Oh yeah, they’re also hawking a 20-carat Tiffany diamond ring too.

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Current Events

ebay wedding dress

Just when I thought I was going to close out my posts for the day, a colleague sent me a link to an eBay auction for his ex-wife’s wedding dress. “One Slightly Used Size 12 Wedding Gown. Only worn twice: Once at the wedding and once for these pictures.” is closing it’s bid in 3 hours but I’m told the listing will remain for the next 30 days.

The commentary alone is priceless and after 4.5 million hits, he’s formed a little community around the fate of this dress. Chalk this up to another demonstration of the spontaneous networking power of the internet!

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Current Events

E-book revival

Sony has just released it’s LIBRE e-book based on the Boston-based company, E-Ink technology which they have licensed. This is a recycling of an old concept that Sony has tried before (remember their custom-sized CDROM Databook?) and hope to make a successful go of it this time.

At 40,000 yen a pop with 300 yen to rent an e-book for 60 days, it’s questionable this can beat the incumbent technology. It’s hard to improve on a technology that allows for rapid access, can accept scribbles in the margin, can be loaned to friends, can be used to swat flies and protect you from the rain, supports full color, and runs on no batteries. I’m talking about the plain old paperback.

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Current Events

Ford Sportka

I can see why these Evil Twin Ford Sportka advertisements got them into hot water.

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Current Events

Rummy Blustered

Rummy Blustered on Face the Nation

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re the–you and a few other critics are the only people I’ve heard use the phrase “immediate threat.” I didn’t. The president didn’t. And it’s become kind of folklore that that’s–that’s what’s happened. The president went…

SCHIEFFER: You’re saying that nobody in the administration said that.

Sec. RUMSFELD: I–I can’t speak for nobody–everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.

SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn’t say that? The…

Sec. RUMSFELD: Not–if–if you have any citations, I’d like to see ’em.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: We have one here. It says “some have argued that the nu”–this is you speaking–“that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain.”

Sec. RUMSFELD: And–and…

Mr. FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.

Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I’ve–I’ve tried to be precise, and I’ve tried to be accurate. I’m s–

Mr. FRIEDMAN: “No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.”

Sec. RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. It–my view of–of the situation was that he–he had–we–we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that–that we believed and we still do not know–we will know.

Thanks to Stephen Berlin Johnson and the Center for American Progress

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Sushi Bar Cam

Our old neighborhood sushi shop in Tokyo now has a webcam! Gosh, this makes me miss Japan. . .

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Train Station Melodies

Update (Aug. 2012): replaced link.

A charming site that plays back a collection of Japanese Station Melodies.

In Japan, special melodies play when trains pull into or pull out of train stations. These melodies are unique, depending on the station. This website is devoted to these sounds, giving samples of them. Please look through this website for more detailed explanations.

Click the link below for a sample. Brings back memories!

Osaki Station Melody

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Current Events

Blackout

They’re calling it the largest blackout the Northeast has ever seen. The Blackout captures the event from the perspective of moblogs all across NYC where thousands were stranded without a way to get home.

Safe in the Factiva offices, all we noticed was a brief flickering of the lights and a sev alert email calmly notifying us that because the entire eastern seaboard was kicked off the grid we were now running on back up generators.

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Current Events

Gross National Cool

Do you think Japan is Cool?

“Japan is reinventing superpower—again. Instead of collapsing beneath its widely reported political and economic misfortunes, Japan’s global cultural influence has quietly grown. From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one. But can Japan build on its mastery of medium to project an equally powerful national message? ”
– from Japan’s Gross National Cool