About Us

Contact Us



Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2


Things I Think I Think
JT Brown

Alvin and the Chipmonks were at it this year from November 27th, with their ode to Christmas cheer. American Armed Forces Radio (which I listen to a lot of here in Japan) started interspersing seasonal music into its playlist from that day. Myself, I always promise to not put up the Christmas tree or otherwise engage in holiday-like behavior until the calandar at least says that it’s December. But now, it is December.

Mt Fuji in Winter

And being that it is indeed the month in which we close out the year, in one of the grand traditions of the year-end holidays, I shall now indulge in some bloviation about both this year gone by, and the new year about to commence. Here is a little potpourri of ‘Things I Think I Think’, both on my usual beat, Japan, and on other things which I have even less credibility blathering. And be forewarned, I conclude with a prediction for next year that may make you drop your glass of eggnog.

The Year 2003….
1: ….in Japan will probably be most remembered for……..(drum roll, please) ….absolutely NOTHING. To America, her allies, and Iraq, the this will be the year that the former two went into the latter and ousted Saddam Hussein’s regime. However that story may play out, people will look to 2003 as the year that it started. Former Soviet state Georgia just had its own ‘Velvet Revolution’; countries from Liberia to Malaysia to Argentina all had major changes at the top. But in Japan, I’m telling ya, nobody is going to remember this year for anything. I seriously believe that the most talked about story this year in the Japanese media was loss of Japan’s preeminent baseball star, Hideki Matsui, to the New York Yankees.

They say that sometimes ‘no news is good news’. I suppose.
2: ….was the year Madonna tried to convince us that she is now an author -of books for children, no less. I just can’t seem to get out of my head A) her last attempt at authoring back in 1992 (a nice little tome for your coffee table entitled "Sex"), and B) American social commentator Stanley Crouch’s remark about Madonna being "celebrated for her willingness to swim through the cultural sewer with her mouth wide open". (Boy, I wish I had said that.)
3: ….saw weird weather everywhere. Here in Japan, the summer was very cool and saw much more rainfall than normal. Conversely, searing heat in Europe, especially France, flambéed Frenchmen by the thousands. (Then the rain drowned the south of France early this December.) And, of course, power was knocked out across much of North America for a brief spell last August.
4:…..also saw the Euro rise to its highest level ever versus the U.S dollar. But no sooner did that happen, then the Germans and the French (mostly, those insufferable French) undercut the integrity of the Euro by declaring that they wouldn’t honor commitments to keep deficit spending under control, even while everybody else was. (I say we could use a few more heatwaves in Gay Paree.)
5:….was when I coined a new term for myself. You may hereby refer to me as a member of the ‘digital ignorati’. To tell the truth, I think that I fall in somewhere towards the middle of the spectrum spanning technological Cro-Magnons at the one end and nanosystem computation engineers that are twelve year-old at the other. But it was in pleading by email with Yahoo! Customer Care for an actual human response (they had previously tried dispatching me and my question into a labyrinth of automated responses and FAQ-filled URL links), that I used the above self-deprecating language to describe myself in an attempt to coax some ‘body’ at Yahoo! Customer Care to actually ‘care’ about me -or at least take pity on me- and field my question. (I eventually got replies that were signed off with the name ‘Chris’. But I cannot vouch as to whether or not this ‘Chris’ was an actual ‘being’ capable of fogging a glass. The content of the emails never really changed and my problem was never really solved.)
However, I did end up sort of liking the ring to ‘digital ignorati’. If the self-proclaimed literati, and now ‘digerati’, can have their own monikers, why not people like me? To call me a ‘technophobe’ wouldn’t be apt, because I’m not exactly fearful of technology. In fact, the fleeting techno-whiz in me once figured out a way to upload Japanese text onto a Geocities’s American (English language only)-built site, by way of this sophisticated (read ‘cumbersome’) six-step process I invented. The techno-buffoon in me, however, still doesn’t know how to email photos without having them open in the other party’s email software at approximately the same size as a football pitch. So, I am of the digital ignorati. Are you?

The Year 2004….
Toyota on top but Mazda sells the world's most desirable car in the RX8
….will briefly show a modicum of improvement for the Japanese economy. Nothing homegrown, as consumer spending, which accounts for 60% of the economy here, has not, and will not pick up. Wholesale prices also recently registered their 38th consecutive month of decline, and that will continue too. But the U.S. and China are sizzling as of late. So as always, Japan will rev up its export engine and milk that for what its worth. Already, Japanese high-end steel manufacturers of flat-rolled steel can’t keep up with the demand from Chinese orders. (Please look for an upcoming piece by me on Japan’s deepening relationship with China, as I continue next year my series of essays humbly entitled ‘JT’s Unified Theory of Japan’s Place in the Cosmos’). This boost in exports is not a long term fix to Japan’s woes, but 2004 will probably see two percent GNP growth; enough to pull Japan back from the precipice for now.

1:….will quietly go down as the ‘Year of the Toyota’. One ongoing, unmitigated success story from Japan continues to be that of Toyota Motors. Say what you will about the Japanese, they do continue to make excellent automobiles. The best, in fact. Forced to compete unprotected out in the rest of the world, Toyota is now set pass Ford Motor sometime late in 2004 as the world’s number two automaker leaving only General Motors in its sites on its march to number one. This is when counting total units sold worldwide. If we were to count either profits or market capitalization, Toyota already would be king. In fact, at $108 billion, Toyota has a greater market value than the $87 billion of General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler COMBINED (ref. Yahoo! finance).
2:….shall see actor Tom Cruise’s latest, ‘The Last Samurai’, faring better in Japan, of course, than it does anywhere else. Being headlined by Cruise, it could do well enough in the States, too. But I just don’t see people still talking about this flick come next year’s year-end review time. Western interest in stories about Japan probably peaked around the same time the ‘Karate Kid’ movies were kicking up a storm. Sorry Tom. He made the effort in 2003 to come to Japan not once, but twice, to promote his movie. On both occasions, Cruise gave his audience, the Japanese media and public, what they wanted to hear. Platitudes about the ‘honorable’ Japanese warrior character. At one press conference he said, "When I read (the script of) ‘The Last Samurai’ and looked into ‘bushido’ (the code of the Japanese warrior), there are things in bushido that I believe as a man about compassion, loyalty, and duty." Blah, blah, blah. Anybody who knows anything about Japan’s samurai history, knows that it is mostly a history of treachery, power plays, constant side-switching and the selling out of allies and even family. Decadence led to this warrior classes’ overthrow in the middle of the nineteenth century. But I do look forward to seeing this movie when it comes out on video, Tom.
3: ….is going to have U.S. President George Bush defeating a Howard Dean/Dick Gephardt ticket in a narrow victory come November. And then ... ( just as you had sprinkled some nutmeg atop your eggnog, my most jaw-dropping prediction…) once freed from the burden of having to worry about re-election politics, President Bush is going to show the world the real reason he overthrew Saddam Hussein. In an about face of over thirty years of American diplomacy that will leave their yarmulkas spinning in Jerusalem, President Bush is going to lower the boom on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israel!
Using American leverage against Israel like no other president has dared do so before, the President will make a no-holds-barred attempt to force Israel to come to terms with the Palestinians once and for all, to create a viable, independent Palestinian state. I don’t know if he will succeed, but this is what President Bush will be up to once he has been re-elected, just about this time next year.

And if you want to to just how I got this wacky idea into my head -and what Saddam Hussein had to do with it- please see my piece on just this topic (‘Why Saddam’s Ticket Was Punched’).
Happy Holidays!
© JT Brown - December 8th 2003
{All of JT’s previous articles are indexed at


© Hackwriters 2000-2003 all rights reserved