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Sunday, May 29, 2011


First, say good morning to my water lilies:

1.  From Wired:

    a.  The Great Tohoku Earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0.  The 1995 Kobe Earthquake, which caused damages of $100 billion, was rated at only 6.9.  Aftershocks of the recent quake I trembled through in Tokyo reached 7.1 and 7.0...and caused no damage.

    b.  A 20 inch flatscreen TV set cost $1200 in 1999.  You can purchase one today for as low as $84.  Not as spectacular, but still amazing, in 2000, a 25 inch TV set cost $4,000.  The price is now below $500.  A 55 inch TV in 2005 cost $4500.  Today?  $700.

2.  When I was in high school (in 1958), a can of 3 tennis balls cost $3.    If this price had risen as the Consumer Price Index, the can should cost $18 today, and using the relative share of our Gross Domestic Product, $94.  But an incredible thing happened:  tennis balls still cost $3 for a can of three balls, and $2 when on sale. Interestingly enough, tennis balls do cost $20 in Europe, if you believe that link, but the reality is that 4 balls cost around $10, still a lot more than in the USA.  I remember buying a Jack Kramer tennis racket for $25 in those early days.  The top seven brands today range from $170 to $200.  In other words, while tennis rackets increased in price even more than the CPI, the price of the balls did not change, and, in fact, slightly dropped.  The reason why?  I don't know.  Does anyone out there have a clue?  I wonder if the cheapness of balls today has anything to do with the fact that we have no great tennis players anymore.  The highest rated American is someone called Mardy Fish, and he is at #10.  Anyone heard of Mardy Fish?  That's him above to the right.

Lunch consisted of shoestring onion rings doused in canola oil and a Heineken draft at Counters Kahala.  I then went to see two films:

1.  13 Assassins:  the most action-packed, gory, new Japanese samurai film I've seen in decades, and not only because it is the only one I've viewed in this period, for it was way over the top of all such films I've ever seen.  Based on a true incident from 1835, the killing of sadistic 24 year old Lord Naritsugu, who could well have become the next Shogun, insured for continued peace in Japan.  A third of a century later came the end of the "samurai" with the Meiji Restoration.  Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% liked the show.

One of the value specials is a kid's drink/popcorn/candy for $6, which I had between the showings.

2.  Of Gods and Men:  for a total change of pace, one of the most boring 122 minutes I've spent, featuring Trappist monks in Algeria (1995--a true story) mostly doing Gregorian chants, which was the best part, as it took me back to my Stanford days when our eating club, wearing hair shirts, competed and won first place in an annual campus singing festival.  79% of viewers liked it, according to Rotten Tomatoes.  As long as this film has been playing, the theater was more than half full.  It won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.    Thoughtful is an apt characterization, and there was a lot of meaning to mostly nothing, symptomatic of religion and some French cinema.

Once Super Typhoon Songda cooled off into a depression and will totally miss Fukushima.  Three were killed in the Philippines and Okinawa reports a few casualties, but I think they were injuries, not deaths nor McDonald's signs.


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