March 16, 2011
I've been watching NHK's live, wall-to-wall coverage since the earthquake. The images are truly overwhelming, with magnitude five and six aftershocks occurring across central Japan almost every hour. It's like a large china cabinet being slowly being dragged across a rutted road.
Human beings are ultimately powerless before the forces of nature, but human ingenuity can help to mitigate their effects and recover from them. Keeping your wits about you in the meantime certainly helps.
NHK's coverage is calm, cool and collected. The reporters, you know, report. In one of those "what the foreign press are saying" segments, they broadcast a lead-in clip from ABC News with Diane Sawyer. It sounded in comparison like a movie trailer for a Michael Bay blockbuster.
NPR's Morning Edition (my clock radio alarm) has managed to keep things fairly sober and balanced. My only complaint is the way they time shift makes references to "today" (meaning: yesterday in Japan) very confusing, when I'd watched what was happening "today" last night.
Amidst all the destruction, one amazing realization that comes from watching "Showa nostalgia" movies like Always: Sunset on Third Street is how quickly Japan recovered, not from the obliteration of one mid-sized city, but of every major population center in the country (except Kyoto).
The Marshall Plan in this case may be the $800 billion in U.S. Treasury securities that Japan currently holds. Despite running up huge structural deficits, they've wisely kept some money in the bank.
Nassim Taleb correctly argues that the best strategy for survival is to create systems robust enough to withstand the inevitability of the best predictions and forecasts, the most exacting theories and models, and the smartest experts being proved completely wrong.
Sendai earthquake (1)
Sendai earthquake (3)