Japan has a whole lexicon of earthquake and tsunami-related phrases, many of which are collected in the Japan Times by cultural commentator Kaori Shoji. There is bōsai zukin (防災頭巾), meaning the protective safety hood that Tokyo children carry with them to school. There are hinanjo (避難所), evacuation facilities that are housing tens of thousands of people made homeless. And most poignantly, there is buji (無事), meaning safe. That word is made up of the kanji characters mu (無, nothing) and koto (事, incident). As Shoji puts it, “without incident” is “a state we’re all praying for.”
The severity of the quake, and now the radiation threat, are challenging just about every facet of life in the affected areas. Here’s one challenge: how do you explain the situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station to children?
Video artist Kazuko Hachiya has made an anime about this. His solution is to use the universal kid language of…bodily emissions. So in his anime, Nuclear Reactor Boy is unwell and flatulent. But he’s not — like his colleague in Chernobyl — actually pooping. Doctors/nuclear scientists give him medicine (boron and seawater) to cool him down and keep him from pooping. But in case he does poop, we can rest assured: he’s wearing a diaper. See the video here. Or a nice Scottish English version of it here.
This reminds me of one of my daughter’s favorite books, also out of Japan: Everyone Poops . It’s written by one of the country’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators, Taro Gomi. There’s no plot, just a broad range of pooping practises. Endlessly entertaining.
In France, the government is battling newspapers and online outlets over probes into the practices of some politicians. OK, so that happens everywhere to a certain degree. But France, unlike many other Western democracies doesn’t have much of a tradition of investigative or muckracking journalism. The news media is, in the words of one journalist, too deferential to French politicians. But now, there are new online investigative players, led by Rue89, which has in turn enboldened some of the older news organizations. Investigative probes have uncovered corruption and embarrassed the Sarkozy government
The politicians are pushing back. The government was recently charged with using the French Secret Service against the venerable daily, Le Monde. And Rue89 is currently the target of five separate lawsuits.
Last thing in the pod: American brewers are reviving a centuries-old type of beer, Russian Imperial Stout. Despite the name, this was originally an 18th century British-brewed beer, which was then exported to Russia. American brewers are borrowing some of the the notorious figures from Russian history to name their new brews: The Portsmouth Brewery in Portsmouth, NH once a year offers Kate the Great. The North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, Calif. has been brewing Old Rasputin stout for 15 years. See a video and a slide show here.
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