Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hiroshima: Khamosh Chaltay Jao

I'm off to Hiroshima tomorrow for the weekend. I'm reminded of this poem by Junichi Mizuno, translated into Urdu by Yutaka Asada.

I will try and pay heed.

Hiroshima after the bombing. Source: Wikipedia

Also while doing some research for the trip I came across a crazy (in a completely heart-wrenching way) story about a man named Tsutomu Yamaguchi:
In August 1945, Yamaguchi was sent to Hiroshima on a business trip. With the job done, his co-workers left, but Yamaguchi realized that he had forgotten his personal seal for signing official documents, so he headed back into town to pick it up. That's when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Badly burned, deaf, and partially blind, he spent a night in the ruins of the city, and then found a railway station on the western edge of the city that was back in operation. He managed to catch a train home to Nagasaki, where — as Yamaguchi explained to his disbelieving boss what had happened in Hiroshima — the second atomic bomb was dropped.

In 2009, the Japanese government certified the still-living Tsutomu Yamaguchi as the first known person to have been at ground zero of both atomic blasts. A year later, Yamaguchi passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 93.
Just to get some perspective on what it means to have a bad travel story. Next time your plane's delayed or you lose your luggage or something, try and remember the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Book Excerpt: The Tipping Point

I have been on a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell kick lately. This passage in The Tipping Point about the origins of Sesame Street characters I found interesting:
Sesame Street's creators were the power of television commercials. The sixties were the golden age of Madison Avenue, and at the time it seemed to make perfect sense that if a 60 second television spot could sell breakfast cereal to a four year old, then it could also sell that child the alphabet. Part of the appeal of Jim Henson and the Muppets to the show's creators, in fact, was that in the 1960s Henson had been running a highly successful advertising shop. Many of the most famous Muppets were created for ad campaigns: Big Bird is really a variation of a seven foot dragon created by Henson for La Choy commercials; Cookie Monster was a pitchman for Frito Lay; Grover was used in promotional films for IBM.

Naturally right after reading this I YouTubed 'Jim Henson Muppets commercials'. Here's the precursor to Big Bird, the La Choy dragon, who actually doesn't look or sound anything like Big Bird.

This next one is a funny little spot called Cookie Monster-IBM Training Video.

And this is what sounds exactly like Kermit the Frog plugging Wilkins Coffee.

There's a lot more of them, some that never made it on air, but all fascinating to watch. These commercials definitely show the muppets in a darker light than the versions finally seen on Sesame Street, which makes sense since the target audience was obviously different. But pretty interesting that educating children through the medium of television was thought of as analogous to advertising or selling products to people.

Gladwell's a great writer. I'm at the point where it's hard to remember whether I read something in Blink or in The Tipping Point or in one of his New Yorker articles. Everything's kind of muddled together, which I suppose is natural given the overlap in ideas and the fact that I'm reading things back-to-back. But so far really enjoying everything I've read.