Now that I've taken The Quingenti Oath I can no longer find a justifiable excuse to put off cranking out my first 500+ words. So here's Day 1:
I didn't know there was a Japanese version of a likeable Iago until I got to watch Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro in school, courtesy of the Japanese Association in Northern Luzon. The movie stars Toshiro Mifune as a cool, calculating, counter-plotting samurai who playfully names himself Sanjuro Tsubaki (lit., "thirty-year old camellia"; he happened to be facing a camellia tree when asked about his identity). Unlike Shakespeare’s villain, Kurosawa's schemer employs his creative powers and the deadly swish of his bokken and katana to protect the weak, mow down the bad, dethrone illegitimate lords, and restore the good to power.
I am tempted to talk about Kurosawa's visual strategy, use of wry humor, and others but that requires greater effort, so I might just as well discuss two quotes from the movie .
In the movie, the wife of the lord chamberlain Mutsuta describes Sanjuro as an "unsheathed sword," a man whose existence spells bloodshed. She adds, "Really good swords are better kept in their scabbards," an idea to which the hero concurs after his quick, stunning and final swordfight (actually there was no clash of metal, only the crunching swipe of Sanjuro's blade through his last foe's neck). But as the "masterless samurai" or ronin trudges off to nowhere at the end of the movie, one realizes the ambivalence in or the tentativity of the "truism." For in the midst of violence when we desire peace through pens and speeches but know that trouble will end only by crushing force with superior force, we cannot keep really good swords sheathed. Thus, Mutsuta's wife and daughter -- and practically the whole community -- were saved only because Sanjuro unsheathed his sword and used it to bring down the usurpers. Come to think of it, swords are not really made only for cutting mutton ; they are made to slash fellow humans when needed. Even an exalted religious system that says, "Put back thy sword into thy scabbard, for he that liveth by the sword shall die by the sword," survived not only through homilies and manuscripts but also, if not largely, through the use of tempered steel against tempered steel (okay, to sound modern, say "bullet to bullet, tank to tank, ship to ship, jet to jet"). In fact, the police and military systems that we so think are vital to the enforcement and maintenance of security, peace and justice do everything to ensure that handguns do not rust in holsters, and ammunitions and bombs do not become duds. That is why Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other supposedly independent states continue to be the war laboratories of and for self-styled protectors of democracy and world peace; war gadgets and machines need continuous upgrading and most of the people's taxes need to be spent for weapons development. Well, Sun Tzu did say, "In peace, prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected." And that is why China is putting so much huff and puff on the smooth sailing of its first aircraft carrier Shi Lang. Too late though, because the U.S. and its kabraso at kasangga are now preparing for a Mach-15, post-aircraft carrier war.