CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Influence, Names and Pronunciations


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on May 4, 2011.)


I don’t imagine many of you will be disappointed if CR2S doesn’t join the verbal battle of commentary, re: Osama bin Laden; Will & Kate. I was watching the Met/Phils baseball game when word swirled through the stadium of bin Laden’s elimination (Coincidence: ninth inning of a one- to-one game: 9/11). I immediately switched over to CNN, sticking it out while Wolf Blitzer bravely filled several hours until President Obama made it official. As far as the wedding of the century was concerned, I was duly impressed by the pomp and ceremony, but had some difficulty understanding how it could be so riveting for a couple of billion people worldwide. No, I didn’t watch it live.  If Americans are so engrossed and impressed by royal monarchy, why did we give them a Paul Revere ride and dump them? Another thought: Think maybe the CIA took the wedding date into consideration when planning the Sunday incursion?

There’s gotta be something (else) worth our attention and commentary.  Since CR2S has been boycotting the Lakers for nigh onto six years, diehards can enjoy the playoffs (ha-ha!) without benefit of snide Kobe remarks. Except to question the effectiveness of crisis control spinners who apologize on behalf of athletes when they screw up. Saying “I’m sorry” erases any social faux pas? As far as the Dodgers are concerned, they need a complete infield (1-2 basemen, SS, catcher), lf, a starting pitcher and a closer. And, oh, an owner. Other than that there is always the beach, Hollywood Bowl and mountains during a long summer.

For the benefit of CR2S readers I carefully checked the entire list of The World’s Most Influential People of 2010, as determined by Time Magazine. As mentioned several years ago when the publication first inaugurated the polished roster of 100, I check it out to see how many of the elite I have spoken to (none). Before it became “most influential,” it was the usual collection of celebrity/politico/sports/savant, a burnished People Magazine population  compilation. It’s now impressive if still not perfect.

This year’s centurions had the unsurprising mix of Justin, Oprah, Barack and Michelle with Colin, Hillary, Arianna, Will & Kate. Forever the jingoist, I perused each entry and came up with Katsunobu Sakurai and Takeshi Kanno this year, both as a result of the March 11 earthquake.  Sakurai was cited as the small-town mayor who shed the restrained demeanor of Japanese politicians in a YouTube outburst excoriating the powers-that-be for their lack of leadership. In Kanno’s case, he is lauded as a doctor who risked his life for others in Japan’s tragic hour.

In both cases, the write-up was handled by Time magazine staffers; a shift from the usual celebrity-on-celebrity pairings a la Rush Limbaugh on Michele Bachmann and Justin Bieber’s penned by Usher. Biggest complaint is type size. You can’t read without a magnifying glass.

Most noticeable, at least for moi, was a sign of the times by Time.  According to my count  there were five Chinese stalwarts honored this year (six if you add American Amy Chua, the celebrated “Tiger Mother”). I guess when a foreign country technically has control of your government purse strings, you kinda hafta to acknowledge their impact and influence.

Among those recognized were Ai Weiwei, artist; Liang Guanglie, defense minister; Hung Huang, fashion mogul; Hu Shuli, journalist; and Xi Jinping, probable next president. I wasn’t interested enough to enlarge my name investigation to include the number of India natives named this year. But the trend was so apparent this year I had to take notice. I don’t know how to double check on the number of Chinese from past years so you’ll just have to take my word for what it’s worth: Two chow mein and one char shu.

I’ve mentioned a pet peeve in regard the media’s inability to agree upon the proper spelling of Gaddafi/Khadafi/Kaddafi  so I think it’s only fair to applaud the current  journalists who handle the likes of Wael Ghonim, Aung Sa Suu Kyi, Ayman Mohyeldin and Bineta Diop with aplomb and without hesitation. I remember Hal Fishman, a noted local anchor of the past, who would have trouble with Koch (“Cook” if you’re Charles or David), let alone Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Tsurutani.

CR2S, a dedicated lover of the English language, has always had a thing with correct pronunciation, definitions and spelling. Even if it takes extra research or a language lesson. But forgive me Danny Webster, Sammy Hayakawa and Peter Mark Roget, I am completely at a loss when it comes to Chinese names, places and stupid jokes. I had an acupuncturist named Xu, whom I called “Hi.” I was in awe of all the sportscasters who did so well pronouncing names during the Beijing Olympic Games as well as the print reporters who got the spelling right.

One of my few regrets in life is not having an opportunity to go to Japanese school. I got as far as “Susume, susume, hae-tae susume.” Recently I read about a special class in Boyle Heights where a handful of Latino youngsters are learning Chinese. What a combination for future success: Espanol, Ingles and Chine!  Wow!


W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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