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JG Ballard

JG Ballard

Last week I added a wonderful movie to my iTunes library - Empire of the Sun. The film was based on a book byJ.G. Ballard who sadly passed away last Sunday (April 19, 2009) at the age of 78. Ballard based the “Empire of the Sun” on his boyhood experiences (< Ballard’s real story) in a World War II internment camp outside of Shanghai. Many photos and a video of  J(ames) G(raham) Ballard’s original home - 31A Amherst Ave Shanghai, China. Shanghaiist has a write up > HERE

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This 1987 film was directed by Steve Spielberg and starred John Malkovich. It was also the very first role for Christian Bale who delivered an amazing performance. Bale plays young James Graham, who is separated from his parents during the 1941 Japanese invasion of Shanghai. The 12-year-old Graham goes from living a life of privilege to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp in Lunghua, China. The film has many poignant moments and I highly recommend it. See > video trailer.

23fgb24p40The Empire of the Sun has some personal meaning for me. My uncle, Lud Lozier, flew B-24D Liberator missions from India to China. In May 1942, the Japanese captured the Burma Road, the only ground route available to supply Chinese forces. As a result, B-24 transport units had to fly over the Himalayas from airfields in India to China. My uncle flew many of these “over the hump” (Himalayas) missions and recounted how bitterly cold it was flying at 30,000 ft. His flight jacket and hat were all he had to keep warm. No heated/pressurized cabins like we enjoy in today’s aircraft. When the B-24s dropped down into China, they were vulnerable to Japanese fighter attack. Hence they were often joined by AAF P-40s Warhawk fighters who would escort them safely into China. Many of these P-40 fighter pilots were part of the original American Volunteer Group (AVG) … also known as the “Flying Tigers.”

118th TRS P-51s on the flightline at Laohwangping, China, June 1945

The Flying Tigers were originally a non-military, non-government flying unit contracted to assist the Nationalist Chinese in their fight against the Japanese invasion of China. Most of the Flying Tigers’ fighter pilots were Americans. In 1940 the US was officially neutral to the Sino-Japanese war, but President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) wanted to help the Chinese and FDR transferred a number of P-40 Warhawk fighters to India. And so the Flying Tigers unit was born.Later on in WWII, a number of the Flying Tigers pilots were assimilated into official US squadrons.

The 118th Tactical Reconnaissance “Black Lightening” Squadron, which flew fast and nimble P-51C Mustangs, were involved in a number of missions against Japanese positions and airfields in China.

empire-of-the-sun1empire-of-the-sun2In the Empire of the Sun there is a powerful scene where members of the Black Lightening Squadron attack the Japanese airfield at Lunghua, China. The airbase is adjacent to the Japanese internment camp where the young Jim Graham and fellow expats are being held prisoner. Jim has a passion for military aircraft, and ignoring all danger, he races to the top of a building to watch the American fighter pilots strafe the airfield. Jim is overwhelmed when an American fighter pilot zooms by in his P-51 and screams at the top of his lungs P-51 Mustangs …the Cadillac of the sky!”

bloodchitnew1There is one other personal moment I’d like to share about the Flying Tigers. About the same time that Empire of the Sun was released to theatres (1987), I happened to be running in a race in Reno, Nevada. Picture 1In those days I was fleet of foot and very skinny (ah memories). I also was the proud owner of numerous Flying Tigers memorabilia. My friend Randy happened to be a pilot for Flying Tigers Freight Line and he had given me many of his t-shits with the Flying Tigers logo and depictions of P-40 fighters. Well the morning after the Reno 5K race, I went to breakfast at an all you-can-eat casino buffet with a group of my running buddies. I was wearing a colorful Flying Tigers t-shirt. As I was standing in the buffet line, I happened to notice an Asian family sitting at a nearby table. They seemed to be staring intently in my direction. As I made my way down the buffet I looked back once or twice more and it was apparent that the family was indeed paying close attention to me. Yet I had no idea why? I noticed that the parents, appearing to be in their 70s, seemed to be quite emotional. A few moments later the Asian son got up from the table and approached me. He was polite and almost apologetic as he spoke; “Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt your breakfast, but I was wondering about your shirt? … Did your father fly for the Flying Tigers?”

picture-43I explained that he did not, but my uncle flew in WWII and knew a number of the original American Volunteer Group pilots. The Asian son did not want to interrupt me any further so he thanked me and turned to leave. I stopped him before he could walk away; “Wait … I’m curious, why did you come over to ask me about the Flying Tigers?”He responded; “Well, my parents saw your shirt and they remember the American pilots very well. You see, they were held captive in China by the Japanese. They are very grateful to the Americans and the Flying Tigers. Your shirt brought back many memories for them. It is very emotional for them.”

That brief encounter had a big impact on me. I will never forget that family. It brought home in a personal way how much the Flying Tigers meant to the lives of so many who struggled to survive under the most austere circumstances. Something to think about when we bemoan our present day lives. ??

Empire of the Sun (1987) pilots:
Hoof Proudfoot…. aerial unit mustang pilot
Mark Hanna …. aerial unit mustang pilot
Picture 2Ray Hanna …. aerial unit chief mustang pilot (P51 pilot of “Tugboat” who waives at Jim – Christian Bale)
Tom Danaher …. aerial unit chief zero pilot

Ray Hanna

Ray Hanna – 1928-2005

Thank you Steve for your courage, conviction, vision, brilliance and perseverance. You impacted the lives of untold millions and your legacy will echo in eternity.

 

Update: February 2011. It has been 2+ years since the “perfect storm” impacted and quickly enveloped the planet. Thanks to massive corporate bailouts gratis of taxpayers, and central-banks’ fiscal stimulus programs (e.g. quantitative easing – QE1 & QE2, etc), world economies have stabilized, stock markets have recovered nicely and corporate balance-sheets have improved. But the news is not all good. Many housing markets remain weak and the wounds inflicted upon homeowners and taxpayers are deep. Many citizens will be permanently impaired by the loss of employment and/or destruction of equity.

In the wake of this apocalypse, the Obama administration tasked the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission with the job of analyzing and reporting on the underpinnings of the melt-down. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report was released in January 2011. The full report can be found > at fcic.gov

One overriding theme of the report is that this crisis was man-made, not a naturally occurring “perfect storm,” and was preventable. Moreover, despite clear, convincing and early evidence of rampant toxicity (loans doomed to fail) pouring into structured securities… banks, the mortgage industry and Wall Street firms understood the risk/reward calculus and opted to continue (take the $ and run) down the path of destruction. Yes, greed was at the core of this crisis and subsequent melt-down. Perhaps most galling is that many who were most responsible for creating this crisis, have not been held to account and instead have walked away with seven figure bonuses. I strongly encourage readers to click over and listen to FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides > here

For inquiring minds, here are a few additional resources:

 

The 2008 Financial Crisis – How did this happen?

by Dan Butterfield

December 4, 2008

“I never thought I’d see the day when someone defaults on their condo in Ft. Lauderdale, and Iceland melts.” So said Princeton’s Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in November 2008. Professor Krugman was offering a bit of gallows humor, yet his quote is a fitting way to highlight the global nature of the current financial crisis. What began as a housing bubble in the United States soon grew into an international credit crisis that roiled financial markets and destabilized world economies. The 24/7 news media love a good crisis and it’s no surprise that economic doomsayers have been featured guests on financial shows. Fear can be its own self-fulfilling prophecy and all of the dramatic headlines have had an effect on consumer and corporate behavior. Businesses have curbed spending, instituted hiring freezes and begun layoffs. Consumers are tightening their belts, and most are making due with last year’s model. It’s not all bad news for business. More-for-less foods such as Spam, pasta and oatmeal are flying off the grocery shelves. Discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, and value menu restaurants such as McDonalds, are doing surprisingly strong business. Yet this may be more a sign of the times than reason for solace.

There are a few sliver-linings… Continue Reading »

Dear all …

I will be taking a break from posting on iPhonAsia. I am working on a series of projects for a firm that precludes staff from posting any “non-approved” material in any public forum. Posting on blogs and/or message boards comes under industry “communications with the public” guidelines and any such posts must be “pre-approved” by their compliance group. Consequently, I will be on an indefinite hiatus.

Thanks very much to everyone for your readership!

~ Dan

Apple’s official carrier in South Korea, KT, revealed yesterday that iPhone has now surpassed the half-million (500,000) sales mark. This makes South Korea, a nation with 47 million total mobile subscribers, number 8 globally in first year iPhone sales. KT is understandably delighted. According to Pyo Hyun-myung, president of the mobile business group at KT;

There are only seven out of 88 countries, including the United States, where the figure of iPhone users has gone over 500,000 within one year. It even took seven months for Japan, a country with some 3 million using the device, to reach over 500,000 users.”

The ascention of iPhone in Korea has been surprising to many veteran telecom watchers. Until the summer of 2009, Korean government regulators kept a walled garden (special protocols & regs) that effectively shut out smartphone competition. These rules had allowed home players such as Samsung and LG to grab a dominant share of the mobile handset market. Apple has now trimmed the walled garden’s hedge.

There have been several chauvinistic campaigns in Korea that attempted to undermine iPhone’s success. Yet, ironically, these well-funded initiatives may have backfired … Read > News from the battlefront: Buying an iPhone is patriotic act

iPhone launched in South Korea on November 28, 2009 … to hit the 500,000 mark by March 30 means that KT has been selling 4,000 iPhones per day. Not too shabby.

March 19, 2010: Thanks to dirt cheap prepaid (no contract) calling plans, and low average revenue per user (ARPU), India’s carriers have virtually no appetite (no margin room) to subsidize handsets. Now add in the fact that India’s networks had overwhelmingly relied on 2G, and have been far behind schedule in deploying 3G. This equation has added up to less than stellar iPhone sales in India. But that may be about to change. India’s Bharti Airtel is in the process of expanding their 3G network and today (March 19, 2010) Bharti Airtel announced an accord with Apple Inc to sell its iPhone 3GS in India in the “next few months.”

Bharti Airtel is the country’s largest mobile phone operator by users and had previously launched the iPhone 3G > read prior PR

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May 14th, 2008: Venkatesh Ganesh writes in Rayaz.net

Full article > HERE

EXCERPT: The rollout of Apple, Inc’s iPhones in India is set to be the largest, anywhere in the world. It is understood from industry sources that Apple’s iPhones will be sold through about 2.5 lakh Vodafone and Airtel retail outlets including franchisee owned shops. This rollout would be mammoth when compared to iPhones being available only in about 7000 AT&T outlets in the US apart from the Apple Stores.

“Most phone makers want their products in as many stores as possible and Apple is changing its strategy from exclusivity to wider availability,” said an analyst from a brokerage house who did not wish to be named. Airtel announced yesterday that they would be selling iPhones in India. Earlier Vodafone inked a deal last week to rollout iPhones in 10 countries including India.

Read more > HERE

iPhonAsia comment:

It is apparent that iPhone will be available by multiple carriers in all major markets and at least two carriers will offer iPhone in India (Bharti AirTel and Vodafone).  Our understanding is that 1 lakh translates to 100,000 … The Ryaz.net article states that iphone will be available through 2.5 lakh (which translates to 250,000) distribution points. Perhaps something was lost in our translation as this number (250,000) is not realistic even in a nation as populace as India. We suspect something like 25,000 is possible albeit this is also a mammoth number of distribution points. Update: Sources have confirmed the 250,000 points of distribution in India.

India is a highly competitive cellular market with many low cost plans. For a more detailed analysis of the Indian wireless markets, visit iPhonAsia post featuring video and audio interviews with Duncan Clark, Chairman BDA. The NPR interview at the bottom of this post contains discussion of the India wireless market.

NPR Interview with Duncan Clark, Chairman of BDA Connect

BDA Telecom Market Review > HERE

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