On facts and history

These days I am frustrated quite often with distortion of facts and history. It seems that these days it does not matter what is true or not, what is a fact or not, but what is the popular believe or the one being promoted in Social Networks.

A few weeks ago I started to watch a documentary about Cleopatra in Netflix, I stopped watching after less than 5 minutes as one of the main and first story teller said what her grandmother told her “does not matter what they taught you in school, cleopatra was black”. History research, history books, archeology, peer review is not important anymore, for some strange and unknown reason some people decided Cleopatra was black (well… Egypt is in Africa) and this is how Netflix portrayed it.

The implications of such distortions are alarming. The intertwining of history with politics and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agendas poses a threat to the accurate representation of historical events.

This issue is not confined to Netflix alone but extends to platforms like X (Twitter). The ease with which anyone can create and disseminate information fosters a climate where unfounded facts gain traction. Those aligned with particular political agendas enthusiastically endorse and propagate these inaccuracies, further blurring the lines between truth and fiction.

In response to this disconcerting trend, it becomes imperative for individuals to cultivate a healthy skepticism. We must question everything we are told and lean on the pillars of facts, research, science, and archeology. Relying solely on popular beliefs or succumbing to the TikTok culture risks perpetuating misinformation.

Taking a proactive stance, I’ve removed TikTok from my smartphone and blocked sources on X that I deemed unreliable. While these measures provide a sense of protection, I grapple with the uncertainty of whether shielding myself from potential lies and manipulations is the right course of action. Striking a balance between safeguarding against misinformation and remaining open to discerning the truth is an ongoing challenge in the current media landscape.

On Context

This is not a blog post about the Japanese language, nor the complexities of Kanji. It is a blog post about the importance of giving context, in life and in business.

While shopping, I was asked at the cash register:
“Yotsuba no muen de yoroshii desuka”

As I wasn’t certain I heard correctly, asked to repeat the question and while it was repeated, I connected the dots and realized I was asked about the butter I am purchasing.
When writing it in Kanji, it may become clearer to some people, but it is still not clear out of context.
”四葉の無塩でよろしいですか” – Did you select the unsalted butter manufactured by Yotsuba?

「四葉」 is the name of the butter manufacturer. Literally meaning “four leaves” .

「無塩」meaning unsalted, but from listening, one cannot know which 「むえん」 it is. As it can be 「無煙」smokeless … does not make sense .
「無縁」- unrelated … also does not make a lot of sense.

Now, if I was given the context: “About the butter…”, it would have been clearer. Saved us a lot of time and also this blog post.

As I wrote in the beginning, this is not a post about the Japanese language.

I often encounter similar miscommunication and the need to repeat explanations in business meetings. While the person talking knows the context, it is not necessarily conveyed in words. Leaves a lot to mis-interpretations and misunderstandings.

Giving context and leading the listener is an art. Believing that the listener has your knowledge and understanding is common.

Netflix The bodyguard

The Bodyguard is quite good, but!
I feel it represents a trend on streaming TV to capture attention, but the end fizzles.

Conspiracies, government agencies involved in politics with a bit of a hurried and strange conclusion. Will not spoil it for you, but it really left me unsatisfied. Is it that the writers did not have the courage to “go all the way”, or was the conspiracies were just meant to grab our attention.

I have seen it happen in several TV shows and it made me wonder why. And it also really annoys me. What can I do to avoid such mistakes? Reviews are good, Spoiler cannot be read. Will just need to trust my instincts and take another risks (of wasting my time).

And a request from writers: If you start with a conspiracy, go all the way. Make it bigger and scarier than reality!

Japanese breakfast or being conscious of search words

I love Japanese Breakfast (band) and follow Michelle on Instagram.
When she announced that one of her videos won prizes, I immediately wanted to watch it and remember it.

But when I started to search for it on google, I felt very conscious of the search words and almost stopped.

Search sentence:
“Posing in Bondage – Japanese Breakfast”

Almost stopped in “posing in bondage Japanese”

I just searched for the partial sentence, which google returned the right results (of Japanese breakfast), but I wonder if it is the same for all people and regions.

Netflix “we could not become adults”

Short summary: Highly recommended. Really enjoyed the story telling and the atmosphere of the movie.

Long version:

“We could not become adults” (Japanese: ボクたちはみんな大人になれなかった) is based on a series of stories/episodes published online and now available as a book.

I do not know Ozawa Kenji and many cultural references did not trigger nostalgic emotions, but the story telling, the atmosphere of Tokyo, locations and the Covid-19 days (or rather nights) are strong.

The writer in his late 40s, single, drinking a lot and keeps on saying he does not want to be “normal/regular” and as you can guess it takes a while for the story to peel off the layers and our understanding where it came from.

Story of a “big love” which followed by non committed encounters, almost getting married and avoiding it not to be “regular”.

Movie starts with two drunks talking in the empty streets of Shinjuku during the Covid days. It is not clear the relationship between the two, but what captured me is the location. In front of Segafredo, a place I used to visit often when my office was in Shinjuku and the contrast of the empty street to the busy streets I remembered.

Then we go back in time to different memories, women in his life, work and flashbacks to his real love, the girl he wanted to live with, who parted with him on January 1st 2000 saying “I will give you back the CD next time we meet” which never happened.

Great actors, great story telling and a wonderful movie.

M1 MacOS

Finally, all applications I use for work are working on M1.

Latest one is Google Drive, which took a while to get an update.

I can still see some application marked as “Intel” in the Activity Monitor, meaning they are running on emulation, but these are rather few and do not require high performance.
Most surprising is Evernote, which I expected to be more aggressive in their M1 support. But maybe also Evernote think that they prefer to deliver features rather than support the M1.

Not very surprising is the THR Remote, my Yamaha Amplifier remote application controller.

Sensitive questions

Highly recommend Freakonomics podcast on sensitive questions . As a podcast, it is not that great as it mostly repeats, explains (in a great way) a research done by one team and also available on HBR.

But I feel it is important because it tells us that:

  1. We overestimate the offence taken by the person asked
  2. Are missing out by not asking sensitive, extremely personal questions

One of the researchers, Einav Hart, is an Israeli, and when asked about the differences between the Israeli and American cultures, she could not point to significant differences.

My experience in Japan was definitely different, but I now have doubts about my takes and my behavior.

In Israel, i had many experiences in which a waitress at the Cafe started chatting with me, which usually resulted in personal questions. Where do you live, what do you do and sometimes more than that.

In my experiences in Japan, I was unsure what I can and cannot ask, i had cases I received frowned faces or questions being ignored when I asked questions which were “a bit” personal… so I stopped. Meeting and chatting with people I do not know has resulted in me waiting for them to take the lead. If they ask personal questions, I will respond and open up. And if not, nothing will happen.

Maybe it is a good way not to hurt, but it is definitely missing out on interactions and communications. How may friends or life lessons did I miss out because I did not ask more, interact more, engage more ?

I now just have to wait for Covid-19 to go away before testing it. Definitely now is not a good time to talk with strangers.

“The Culture map” and my experience

Finished reading “The Culture Map” by Erin Mayer.
I was familiar with some of the concepts and information in the book, but I felt it arranged it nicely and put it in perspective with good example.

As an Israeli living in Japan, you can guess how challenging and interesting it was to experience the cultural and communication differences. I managed to adjust and learn what is allowed, accepted by Japanese and how to “Read the Air”.

An excerpt that I deeply agreed with was about trying to adapt or rather adopt a behavior. When someone from a different culture is trying to imitate and blend in, which usually does not work.
For me, that was not an option. I realized very quickly that I cannot imitate the Japanese work behavior and communication. My culture was so different that any attempt to be Japanese will not pass. Cannot do it full heartedly and will always be perceived as strange.
I do speak softer, I do use say things like “it is difficult”, instead of saying “no way”.
Had a chance to ask colleagues and customers about my communication style, and most of the feedback I got was positive, that the customers appreciate the way I discuss and talk and do not expect me to be “Japanese” .

On the other hand, I have seen people trying to blend with Israelis, joke like Israelis, discuss like Israelis and in all cases, it felt strange. The Israeli group could not accept the foreigner as “one of the guys”.

After (almost) 12 years in Japan, I do not feel like I am doing an effort or adjusting. I have my original culture (which I sometimes struggle with), I have the Japanese culture and I usually fit in both