A hypothesis regarding Japanese universities

The Japanese university model of education is in reality more like a European model in which most of the work is focused on seminars and final projects, and where most lectures and other courses are borderline optional. However, due to post-WW2 reforms the Japanese university system is institutionally based on the American model, and therefore has a superficial structure of grades, credits, homework, etc. that is often but weakly related to the more important areas. This disconnect makes Japanese universities (which do have serious problems) look even worse than they really are, and in fact contributes to their degradation.

As a hypothesis I haven’t thought about this too hard or looked for any evidence but would like to see some discussion. Thoughts?

Linky Desktop

As I am about to permanently disassemble this computer and bring only the hard drives with me to Japan, where I will then assemble a new system after finding a place to live, I figure it would be a good time to post the various things that had been sitting around my desktop in case I ever found the time and motivation to write something about them.

  • Genetic tests have shown that the Taiwanese aborigines are likely to be the ancestors of the entire Polynesian and Micronesian population, which also includes the Malay group, comprising the majority population of the three large countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and The Philippines. While study of archeology and linguistic variation, as well as phenotype analysis of modern populations, had led some researchers to suspect that the ancestors of most Pacific islanders were descended from the ancestors of the pre-Chinese Taiwanese aboriginal population (who themselves migrated across the Taiwan Strait thousands of years ago, when the Han Chinese probably still lived far to the north) but this genetic study provides the strongest evidence yet for the theory.
  • Although Japan may be the only country in which a unique word exists for “chikan”, the phenomenon is hardly unique. I once linked to a New York Times article on the prolificicity of flashers or “bumpers” in the NYC subway, which likely occurs with frequency in any city with a crowded public transit system. Another place famous for it- Mexico City. Apparently the problem is bad enough so they have introduced women only buses, perhaps inspired by Japan’s women-only commuter train cars.
  • U.S. anti-terrorism special operations forces assisting the Philippines military have contracted a Manila-based marketing firm to create comic books with an anti-terrorism message. American style superhero comics are extremely popular in the Philippines, but I am very skeptical that a marketing firm would be able to create a comic with a genuinely compelling story, regardless of how slickly produced the graphics and printing may be. I would love to actually see the comics though, which sound like a prime example of the force that American cultural products still carry in the country, over 60 years after colonialism officially ended there.
  • Korean’s Chosun newspaper has a truly hysterical article entitled Manhattanites Served Korean Food as Japanese. Just read and laugh.
  • Samurai-Sword Maker’s Reactor Monopoly May Cool Nuclear Revival”. An amazing headline and a pretty amazing article. Apparently, Hokkaido’s Japan Steel Works Ltd. is the world’s largest-and virtually only-supplier of steel-cast nuclear reactor containment chambers, which naturally must be built to VERY exacting standards. Despite an apparently massive surge in demand for these massive products, the company is skeptical how many plants will actually be built in the end, and are therefore reluctant to make the capital investments required to raise their output above the current level of 4 pieces per year. Yes, FOUR. The fact that this single plant is a bottleneck for the global nuclear power industry seems to be the result of some past failure in strategic planning, but the solution is unclear. And yes, they really were a maker of samurai swords- and apparently still are!
    They’re made in a traditional Japanese wooden hut, up a steep hill from the rest of the Muroran factory. It’s decorated with white zigzag papers called “shide” used in Shinto shrines, creating a sense of sanctity in the workshop.Inside, as the factory clangs and hisses below, Tanetada Horii hand-forges broad swords from 1 kilogram (2.2 pound) lumps of Tamahagane steel.”
  • Suriname, the tiny South American nation which was formerly a Dutch colony has been searching for an appropriate national language. Currently this is Dutch-which is also used in government and law- but English has surpassed it for international business, and Sranan-a local language derived from an English creole-has surpassed it as the language of the street. The language situation gets even more complex:
    Slip into one of the Indonesian eateries known as warungs to hear Javanese, spoken by about 15 percent of the population. Choose a roti shop, with its traditional Indian bread, to listen to Surinamese Hindi, spoken by the descendants of 19th-century Indian immigrants, who make up more than a third of the population. And merchants throughout Paramaribo speak Chinese, even though the numbers of Chinese immigrants are small.Venture into the jungly interior, where indigenous languages like Arawak and Carib are still heard with languages like Saramaccan, a Portuguese and English-inspired Creole spoken by descendants of runaway slaves who worked on plantations once owned by Sephardic Jews.”
    What is an appropriate common tongue in a country like this? When deciding on a common language, what weight is given to the linguistic history of the state itself, the background of the people, ability to communicate with (much larger) neighboring countries or international business?

Remembering the Railway of Death

About a week ago the New York Times had an article entitled “Seeking Recognition for a War’s Lost Laborers” on the lack of recognition for the Asian victims of Japanese forced labor in the construction of the famous “Railway of Death.” According to the article, the history of the 200,000-300,000 Asians who were employed, and often killed, in the construction of the railway, which was being constructed to link Bangkok and the Burmese (Myanmarese) capital of Rangoon (Yangon) to provide logistical support for Japan’s invasion of Southeast Asia, has been almost completely overshadowed by stories of the smaller number of Western POWs.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Asian laborers — no one knows the exact number — were press-ganged by the Japanese and their surrogates to work on the rail line: Tamils, Chinese and Malays from colonial Malaya; Burmans and other ethnic groups from what is now Myanmar; and Javanese from what is now Indonesia.

“It is almost forgotten history,” said Sasidaran Sellappah, a retired plantation manager in Malaysia whose father was among 120 Tamil workers from a rubber estate forced to work on the railway. Only 47 survived.


By contrast, the travails of the 61,806 British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of war who worked on the railway, about 20 percent of whom died from starvation, disease and execution, have been recorded in at least a dozen memoirs, documented in the official histories of the governments involved and romanticized in the fictionalized “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 Hollywood classic inspired by a similarly named best-selling novel by Pierre Boulle.

One reason given for this inequality of historical memory are that virtually none of the Asian victims were from Thailand, giving the local government little incentive to commemorate them. Another is that, unlike the American and British POWs who wrote memoirs and gave countless interviews to journalists and historians, virtually none of the Asian laborers were literate, and they lacked ready access to mass media.

At this point, I would like to present some photos I took at a very peculiar museum that Adam, his (now) wife Shoko, and I visited when we were in Kanchanaburi, the location of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Jeath War Museum (JEATH is an acronym for Japan, English, American and THai) is a rather eccentric museum based on the collection of a wealthy Japanese history buff, who apparently purchased a building a number of years ago, stocked it haphazardly with local WW2 memorabilia of both great and small interest, and has not had arranged to have it cleaned since.

First, some photos from outside the museum itself.

This is a picture of the famous Bridge which I quite like.

Here are Adam and Shoko posing with the bridge behind them. I do not know the sleeping man, but I have to assume that he is a war criminal of some kind.

This is a silly little train which lets  tourists ride across the bridge and 1 or 2km into the jungle on the other side, and then ride backwards to the other side.

I blurrily snapped this memorial obelisk in the jungle across the river, from aforementioned silly train. It says something along the lines of “the remains of the Chinese army ascend into heaven.”

This plaque is location near the bridge. I did not, however, see one for the British POWs, although I certainly could have just missed it.

And now we reach the museum portion of our tour. I do not seem to have any photographs of the entrance area, but the first thing you see upon approaching the entrance to the museum proper are these statues of historical figures, with biography written on the wall behind them. I will transcribe the highly amusing text another time.

Here is Tojo.

Adam and Shoko again, with their good friends Josef Stalin and General Douglas MacArthur.

The lovable Albert Einstein gets a wall as well.

Inside the museum we are confronted with more dramatic statues, such as this tableau of POWs constructing the railway.

Here is one in a cage. Note the real straw.

Eerie closeup of another caged POW statue’s face.

Adam and his new friend, the WW2-era Japanese soldier driving an old car.

The driver.

Another old car. I do not recognize the make, but it is covered in dust that may weigh as much as the steel.

US Army signal core teletypewriter

Recreation of Japanese army tent

Read the text carefully. Do you know when the CD was invented?

A message from Japan to the Thai people. It’s a bit hard to read, so if anyone wants I can transcribe it.

A British anti-Japan political cartoon

Overall, the museum is a complete shambles. While it has a huge array of cool stuff, it is strewn about almost at random, covered in dust, and sometimes behind other stuff. Not to mention placed in crowded and un-lit cases with poor labeling. Despite the numerous flaws, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area, but I can’t say that it will do much to provide any sort of historical narrative, and certainly does not even try to meet the standard hoped for by the Times article I began this post with.

Green solidarity? Emphasize the white

One of my best friends in college was a Taiwanese guy firmly in the “green” (pro-independence) camp. We had many conversations about the symbolism of green in the independence movements of both Ireland and Taiwan. We were also both into vexillology, the study of flags, and we often compared the evolution of Irish flags to the evolution of flags in Taiwan.

Fast forward a few years. Today was the St Patrick’s Day parade down Omotesando in Tokyo. Much to my curiosity, there were a couple of elderly Taiwan independence protesters out with their green Taiwan independence flags, which made for an interesting comparison with the Irish tricolors hung from flagpoles farther down the avenue. It was also an interesting contrast with the typical crowd of subculture groupies and bemused foreigners that hang out by the entrance to Yoyogi Park.

Green nationalist solidarity

Despite being color-coordinated for the occasion, they seemed rather lonely at their posts. Apparently getting Taiwan admitted to the UN is not high on the political priority list of most Tokyo residents.

Taiwan independence movement

For whatever reason, green is an underused national flag color once you go east of the Indian subcontinent and the extensive Islamic influence in that half of Asia. Macau has a nice green flag (as does Tokyo), but the nations of East and Southeast Asia have generally adopted red, white and blue in varying proportions, with yellow stars sprinkled here and there.

The consensus among books I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to is that green became associated with Ireland (and its native Catholics) simply because Ireland is a very green country–they don’t call it the “Emerald Isle” for nothing. (Although green is prominent in the flags of other Catholic countries–Italy, Portugal, Mexico and Brazil for instance–it doesn’t have religious significance in the stories behind any of these flags.)

Wikipedia’s explanation for the Taiwanese independence movement’s use of green is that the Democratic Progressive Party adopted green because environmentalism was a major part of its agenda, and the color eventually became associated with everything else the DPP advocated.

In both cases, it seems that green took on another meaning: it drew a sharp contrast to powerful adversaries who flew red and blue flags, namely the British in Ireland and the communists and Kuomintang in China and Taiwan. Then you have the United States, where the Green Party is the most popular (if you can call it that) alternative to the “red” and “blue” parties.

I’m not sure if there is really a point to these parallels, besides that people will find ways to divide themselves by color even when they’re all the same color to begin with. The Irish flag acknowledges this in its own way–it stands for peace (the white mid-section) between two opposing sides (the green Catholics and orange Protestants). Ireland eventually got this peace after a few decades of faking it. Who knows where Taiwan is headed–all I know is that I will support a green flag in Asia, because this part of the world is crying out for vexillological diversity.

More on plastic bags

Following up on my post about three weeks ago on the movement to curb plastic bag use, the NYT has an article focusing on the success of the Irish campaign.

In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.

Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.

I think that imposing such fees, essentially a pollution tax being paid in direct response to the pollution itself, may be effective as a means to use market forces for environmental protection. While some libertarian hardliners claim that the only market which matters is the so-called “free market,” operating with no governmental interference whatsoever, in a completely unregulated market the costs of pollution and environmental damage are simply externalized, and born far away from either the producer or consumer of the offending product. By raising the cost of a polluting product, such as a plastic bag, consumers are not just made intellectually aware of the abstract cost which consumption of such a product imposes on the system as a whole, but are forced to make a choice whether or not they, as the responsible party, actually wish to pay the real cost.

Could this be a model for the larger market? It is essentially the same philosophy behind the proposed carbon emissions tax, in which industrial emitters of carbon dioxide are charged fees to encourage thrift and conservation, to reduce the production of greenhouse gases.

On a side note, the article said two more things of which I was not aware. First:

Whole Foods Market announced in January that its stores would no longer offer disposable plastic bags, using recycled paper or cloth instead, and many chains are starting to charge customers for plastic bags.

A positive development from  a major US supermarket, and one whose up-scale yuppie customer base will doubtless embrace. Unfortunately, there is still no sign of a nationwide -or even statewide effort, but perhaps competitor supermarkets will be spurred by Whole Foods.

And on a related, yet surprising note:

While paper bags, which degrade, are in some ways better for the environment, studies suggest that more greenhouse gases are released in their manufacture and transportation than in the production of plastic bags.

Rather unfortunate news, I would say. I hope that recycled paper bags, such as the ones which Whole Foods uses, are in fact less polluting. Still, even if paper bags may pollute the air slightly more than plastic, they certainly don’t have as much impact on the sea.

Plastic bags of doom

It looks like fresh attention is being paid to the fact that plastic bags are among the most troublesome and pernicious forms of waste. How bad? Well, “continents of floating garbage” for a start. Think that’s an exaggeration? Well, “One plastic patch is estimated to weigh over 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas.” And how much ecological damage does it do?

The United Nations Environment Program says plastic is accountable for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year.

That almost certainly dwarfs any damage to cetacean populations that could be caused by, to take a far more famous issue, Japan’s “scientific” whaling program. Not to mention the yet-unknown effects that all of this plastic is likely having on fish, algae, plankton, etc. Could the collapsing fishing stocks be attributable not just to the direct action of over-fishing, but also to poisoning and choking by gargantuan amounts of plastic?

Since the plastic tends to gather in isolated and rarely trafficked patches of sea, so deep into international waters that no country even crosses path with it, much less has responsibility for it. As yet, there is no world body with either the political motivation, technology, or infrastructure necessary for embarking on what would easily be the largest cleanup project in history, and it is difficult to imagine any realistic way that such a huge mass could be removed.

Still, as hopeless as the cleanup is, at least the world is beginning to work to phase out the manufacture and use of such plastic bag, which will at least slow down the rate at which the problem worsens. An announcement earlier today that China-the world’s largest and most polluting nation-will be drastically cutting plastic bag usage is an important step.

As in most countries that have attempted to tackle the problems causes by plastic bag waste, China will primarily be relying not on a total ban on their use, but a requirement that stores no longer give them out free with purchases, but charge extra for them. It is hoped that imposing a surcharge on the bags will encourage customers to bring their own environmentally friendly reusable bags when they go shopping, as has been the case in other countries.

While, as far as I know, Bangladesh is the only country which has as yet completely banned the distribution of plastic bags, a number of countries have imposed bag surcharges similar to the one proposed for China. Taiwan introduced a charge equivalent to something like 5-7 US cents per bag, Singapore has a similar system, and Ireland-an island about twice the size of Taiwan, and formerly a consumer of over 1.2 BILLION plastic bags per year-has imposed a 15 cents/bag fee that is credited with reducing their use by 90%. Other countries in Europe, most likely starting with Ireland’s next-door neighbor of Britain, will likely follow.

Some other countries, such as Japan, have been relying on voluntary conservation to combat plastic bag proliferation. Although some Japanese supermarkets have taken the bold step of simply not having bags at all, they are still given away for free in most businesses. However, convenience stores recently began offering a discount of several yen to customers who refuse a plastic bag. Although the clerk is officially supposed to ask customers if they need a bag, in my experience they almost never do, and simply give them out habitually.

Although I have yet to hear a serious proposal to either ban or charge for plastic bags in the heavy consuming United States, I have recently noticed two well-meant but minor initiatives. The first was at the New York University campus bookstore and computer stores, where if you refuse a plastic bag they give you a token you throw into one of four or five bins near the exit, each one representing a charity. Each token pledges a 5 cents donation to that charity. The other was a sign at my local A&P Supermarket, promising a discount of a few cents for customers who bring their own bags. Unfortunately, this will certainly prove as ineffectual as the convenience store initiative in Japan, particularly since I only saw the sign by the exit, in an area not even visible from the cash register/bagging area.

Will these various measures have a major effect on the plastic bag problem? The answer to that thankfully seems to be a yes-but a qualified yes. It is still to early to know how much ecological damage the vast amounts of plastic already in the ocean have caused, or will cause in the future. And despite movement towards curbing the future growth of the “continents of floating garbage,” we may never be able to get rid of them.

For more information on the oceanic plastics quandary, have a look at this short documentary, filmed on location in the Pacific Ocean.

Gaijin in the spotlight

I could have sworn that the “Westerner’s Fear of Neonsigns” blog was written by Marxy on a gaijin-baiting stint, but apparently that’s not the case. Whoever writes it, however, is amazing and I especially love his post “How’s your Japan blog?

1. Japan is unintentionally hilarious – in particular, misuse of English – or Engrish – is so funny that I devote considerable time to documenting and disseminating it. To avoid a similar fate, I will not be blogging in Japanese.
2. Japan is barbaric – it fails to treat sacred Western food with due decorum (bread in a can) and celebrates Christian festivals all wrong (Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve). Check my blog for further examples.
3. Japan is sexually deviant – society operates in the tacit knowledge that Japanese men are paedophiles by default. Look at all the photographic evidence I have amassed to prove it. They just don’t know how to treat a woman properly. That I do is the underlying message I want you to receive from my blog.
4. Japan is a visual paradise (1) – all Japanese have a heightened visual sensibility; they spend their coffee breaks contemplating tiny design modifications to plastic cups and bathe in the juice of fonts come evening. Not actually living in Japan, I can safely say that they never drive ugly white minivans or fill their tatami rooms with tat.
5. Japan is a visual paradise (2) – the thing I love about Japan is how it allows me to me indulge in the objectification of women without guilt or reproach. The pornography here is just fantastic. Oh, of course, this will be known as The Great Unmentioned in my blog.
6. Japan is spineless and work-addicted – people will do any job rather than lose esteem by not working. Look at this old man waving past cars with a pair of red wands – you wouldn’t catch me stooping to do such a demeaning and unnecessary job. Oh, excuse me, I’m late for my English conversation school class.
7. Japan is childish – public announcements are only heeded when they are delivered by curtseying cartoon characters. To prove it, I will photograph them all. Even though the large incidence of such messages is obvious, I will continue to treat each one as a fantastic novelty.
8. I am childish – only in Japan can I indulge my secret love of toys and games while presenting it as sociological research. I never miss an opportunity to make the sweeping observation that Japan is populated by inadequate geeks. I visit Akihabara every weekend in search of corroborating evidence, but it’s purely research you understand.
9. Japan loves me – it’s always saying how tall I am, how handsome I am, how intelligent I am (admit it, I am pretty hot at producing those L/R sounds), how good I am at sports, how amazing it is that I am a man and yet I cook for myself. Nobody said anything in my home country except: “So, are you finally going to get laid in Japan?” Deeper awareness of Japanese social etiquette would have saved me the trouble of believing any of this.
10. Japan is mine – I am the Alpha Gaijin. If Japan can be said to exist at all, it is only because I have brought it to life with my intellectual efforts. Other foreigners intruding on my turf better be able to withstand the fire of my comments. Japan will thank me for everything I have accomplished once it knows who I am. Until then, I have an immersion experience more impressive than yours to attend to.

I feel like I was the opposite of other Japan bloggers, at least by this person’s definition – I was more into blogging about Japan when I wasn’t here. Now that I live here it is all so uninspiring.

This analysis of Japan blogs is as spot-on as it has been curiously absent in unfiltered form. Still, in defense of Japan blogs I will say that it is often a lot of fun to post and discuss the interesting and weird stuff in a foreign land, whether that’s Japan or elsewhere. It is definitely shrill-sounding when people make their experiences out to be more than they are (god, there are thousands of expats just in Asia, you’re not that special), but really the antidote to Japan blog fatigue is to just tune them out.

The truth is I am sad we weren’t even mentioned (though in a separate post he calls translation one of the “brilliant arts” so maybe I don’t get called on my own cultural imperialism. Or maybe I just didn’t get noticed by not posting when the blog launched…)

Speaking of cautionary tales and immersion experiences, I took no less than 4 friends on a wild goose chase the other day to see what was supposedly an exhibit of Nazified kimonos celebrating the tripartite alliance in the WW2 era. This is all we found next to a display of books on wartime Japan:


Meanwhile, today’s Asahi (I read the print edition now, screw the crap online version!) ran a feature on a sweet sounding historical fiction “Tokyo Year Zero” about a double murder in early postwar Japan. The author, David Peace, grew interested in postwar Japan after teaching English here in the early 90s and reading Seidenstecker’s Tokyo Rising. He later returned to his native England and became an award-winning mystery writer on non-Japan related subject matter. His new book is enjoying a simultaneous bilingual release and a major PR push from the Japanese publisher Bungei Shunju.

Just goes to show, if you’re willing to shed a little baggage and be friendly to the like-minded (most of the research for his new book was apparently provided by the in-house Bungei Shunju translator after the two hit it off during negotiations for translation rights to an earlier Peace book), you too can have success and avoid the stench of “slow-burning underachievement” that apparently afflicts the expat population in Japan.

Wartime propaganda in pop culture

Asahi has a neat article with an unfortunately small, if tantalizing, photograph of an exhibit currently being held at the Marunouchi branch of Maruzen (I’m still bitter over you guys closing the Kyoto store!) in Tokyo until Monday, on the way that kimono designs of the pre-WW2 and wartime period reflected the political consciousness of the time. For example, in this photograph you can see a design reflected the tripartite alliance between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near Tokyo so I’ve asked Adam if he could drop by and get some photos, or perhaps pick up whatever pamphlet or art book they have available because I would love to see more of these, and in some detail.

War-theme designs often mirrored current events. Inui found a kimono that depicted Adm. Heihachiro Togo, who was credited with Japan’s 1905 victory over the Russian fleet in the Sea of Japan.

She also found a design that spelled out the name of Yosuke Matsuoka–in romaji alphabet–then ambassador, when he pulled the Japanese delegation out of the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933.

Heartwarming stories and tear-jerkers also made it into kimono.

The story of the heroic Nikudan Sanyushi (Three human bullets), or Bakudan Sanyushi (Three human bombs)–three engineering corps soldiers who reportedly perished in a suicide bombing during the Shanghai incident in 1932–were given sweeping coverage by the media. Headlines and parts of the articles from The Asahi Shimbun and The Mainichi Shimbun became part of kimono designs.

This article  immediately made me think of one I had seen on BBC news a couple of weeks ago, on a similarly unexpected yet unsurprising penetration of wartime propaganda into popular culture: British boardgames of the World War II era.

Take the early wartime game Battle of the River Plate, for example. Based on the first major confrontation between German and British naval forces, it is one of the earliest known games to reflect the international conflict. Players tried to score points by firing wooden sticks at the ship with a spring action. A direct hit caused the gun turrets on the ship to “explode”.

Another, Bomber Command, depicts bombing squadrons and invites players to bomb Berlin, at the centre of the playing board. Players take turns to throw dice to move toward the target. When materials were in short supply, the dice were replaced by a numbered spinning card.

“It was a game you can easily imagine people playing sitting in the air raid shelter while being bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz,” says historian and author, Robert Opie.

The article then goes on to mention the way in which WW2 comic books incorporated anti-Nazi and anti-Japan motifs, a number of examples of which I posted some time ago. And of course, one can’t forget what you must agree is the best comic book cover of the war, if not all time. That is, unless you like Hitler-and you don’t like Hitler, do you?

What would be some good examples of popular culture reflecting enemies and conflicts in the world around us today? Off the top of my head, there’s naturally “24,” which I’ve never seen but I understand is about how Arab terrorists want to kill us. And then of course there’s the video game Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, in which a disaffected North Korean general stages a military coup on the eve of reunification with the South in some near future year, or on a similar but slightly more afield topic, take the third season episode of the fairly recent Justice League Unlimited cartoon show, in which a number of DC superheroes travel to a fictitious militaristic Northeast Asian nation, clearly modeled after North Korea, to stop a rampaging nuclear powered robotic monster which they claim they had built “to protect us from the foreigners,” clearly modeled after North Korea’s metaphorically rampaging nuclear (non-robotic) monster.

All of these are in fact less examples of government sponsored propaganda than grass roots, genuinely popular culture expressing such things as a society’s popularly held fears and hatreds regarding their enemies at that time. I recall during the first Gulf War, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I saw someone at a flea-market selling “Desert Shield” branded condoms, which exclaimed on the package something along the lines of “Don’t you wish Saddam Hussein’s father had worn one of these?” Perhaps it is due to the fact that I was out of the country during the early stages of the recent Iraq invasion, but I can think of no examples of similarly popular expressions of support for the current war. Is it wrong of me to think that the initial support for the invasion was, however high the level, generally a grudging and ambivalent sort of support, lacking the level of enthusiasm needed to generate items along the lines of the pro-Axis kimono, the Hitler-face dartboard, or the “Desert Shield” condom?

British coconuts

In this BBC article on cultural assimilation of Asians into British society, I encountered the term “coconut,” which apparently means someone who is “brown on the outside but white on the inside.” While I am familiar with similar slang terms used in such as “banana” or “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) and “oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside) this one is new to me. Does “coconut” have any currency in other Anglophone countries besides the UK? Are my American examples also used in the UK or other countries? Do any readers know of other similar terms in use in American, British, or some other form of English? Best of all would be equivalent terms in other languages-properly translated of course.