Monday, January 21, 2008

The Shogun of Swat,The Dypsomaniacal Daimyo of the Diamond

No culture has assigned a higher value to aesthetics than that fashioned by the Japanese. Even when committing ritual suicide {Seppuku ,Hara Kiri} you ran the risk of adding "Philistine" to whatever original infraction got you into your present pickle if your performance did not include preparations guaranteeing that your soon to be disemboweled and beheaded remains fell into a balanced, tasteful and interesting assemblage. An extraordinary sensuous refinement is evident in all the Japanese arts. I particularly favor the Ukiyoe prints which are studies in feeling and parsimonious expression. The Culture that produced a people capable of such delicately nuanced sensibilities went into decline in the late 1860s when power was "restored" to a central government under the Mejii emperor{See Tom Cruise-Last Samurai} and a "Life for Art's Sake" philosophy was supplanted by industrialization and militarism. However, artistic temperament was a deeply ingrained national characteristic and much of the old sensibility still remained when the brawling, stogie chomping, beerified Babe arrived in Yokohama Harbor aboard The Empress of Japan. A major theme explored in my work is just such clashes of culture. St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys to which truancy and petty crime had earned Ruth a berth for most of his youth had not provided him with many opportunities to explore his sensitive side. In many ways Ruth was the quintessential "Ugly American" and one would expect that The Babe's bawdy, hyper- extroverted style would have horrified a people as standoffish and reserved as the Japanese. It was Nov. 2, 1934; Ruth had just ended his relationship with The NY Yankees and had joined an All American-AllStar team touring the Orient along with Lou Gehrig ,Jimmy Foxx , Lefty Gomez and others. Tens of thousands of Japanese brought traffic to a standstill attempting to see the Babe as he road down the Ginza in an open touring car waving Old Glory in one hand and the Rising Sun in the other. The frenzied crush was such that 600 people needed to be hospitalized .Record crowds packed the two stadiums where the American team played college and Japanese pro teams. Ruth was a big hit in Japan and before departing amended the Confucian moral code when he told Japanese reporters "There are no bad people among lovers of baseball."

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