When Japan went crazy

Ego is not a dirty word … Mazda’s Eunos 800-M from the days of excess.A few weeks ago we looked at the Yamaha supercar, a grand folly of bubble-economy Japan.
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It prompted us to think about those crazy years and other machines that came out of them.

The so-called bubble lasted from 1986 until 1991, though production lead times being what they are, some of its fruit dropped from the tree slightly later (if not drowned at birth, to mix a metaphor). Corporate Japan was flush with money, some of it real, much of it a mad fiction on the back of a rigged consumer market and soaring land revaluations.

Property ”experts” calculated Japanese land was so desirable, the gardens within the walls of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, if subdivided, would be worth as much as the entire state of California.

Tourists were gobsmacked by $10 orange juices, $300 steaks and $1000-a-song karaoke bars. And by the explosion of new car models.

Japan Inc kept most imports off its home market. It also forced locals to pay way over the odds when buying, and to replace cars frequently for ”safety reasons”.

A Toyota or Nissan cost as much (or more) there as here, despite shipping and the 35 per cent tariff we then had. This gave a kazillion yen boon to local makers, which produced a string of ridiculously extravagant jalopies, propelled as much by ego as business sense.

Lexus and Infiniti were launched, the latter helping push Nissan towards eventual bankruptcy. Mazda – already building such ludicrous domestic-only models as the triple-rotor Cosmo coupe – planned to take on the German luxury makers with the V12-equipped Amati brand. It also had the domestic Autozam, Eunos and Efini brands, and set up the M2 division to develop cool cars for cool young people.

The Autozam AZ-1 was a gullwing microcar. The Toyota Sera had butterfly doors. The Mitsubishi Emeraude a 1.6-litre V6. Bizarre retro cars such as Nissan’s Be-1 appeared with their own shops selling merchandise. Subaru built the SVX, a large and luxurious coupe that bore no relationship to any other model in its range. Mitsubishi had the 3000GT.

There were supercars, too: that Yamaha, and Dome’s equally ridiculous Jiotto Caspita.

The mad spending did have pay-offs. The Honda NS-X was at least a critical success, though not a commercial one. In any other era, the MX-5 probably would have been a simple re-bodied hatch with front-wheel-drive.

Japanese manufacturers also spent vast sums reducing the world’s tightest panel gaps by further microns, and establishing other quality benchmarks perhaps not quite as important as they seemed at the time.

We now know that Japan Inc was, in effect, propping up at least seven or eight of the nine main car companies in their inefficient, near-suicidal attempt to dominate every conceivable market sector. Plus some that were inconceivable.

Nine major makers! The Americans found it hard enough keeping three afloat.

Ironically, the bubble provoked European companies to launch ambitious model programs and quality upgrades for fear of being left behind forever by the unstoppable juggernaut that was Japan. Then, at the zenith of this frantic activity, the unstoppable juggernaut stopped. The Nikkei fell by $2 trillion and there were fire sales around the world as the Japanese tried to ditch the hotels and golf courses they’d paid way too much for.

Their car makers spent the rest of the decade furiously trimming model lines, slashing costs, merging or being bought – and at the very time the European response was starting to kick in. D’oh!

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Apple and oranges: which of the new smartphones reigns supreme?

Shoot-out … from left: Google’s Nexus 4, Apple’s iPhone 5, and Nokia’s Lumia 920.The smartphone war is hotting up as the big names put forward new champions in a superphone battle royale.
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Apple’s wunderphone continues to go from strength to strength but Android is up to the challenge and has perhaps even pulled ahead, depending on which sales figures you believe. Meanwhile, Microsoft is back in the game with Windows Phone 8, even though Windows Phone 7 failed to gain much ground on its rivals. Windows Phone 8 is perhaps more likely to win over new smartphone users rather than convert people from Apple or Android.

So we have three flagship handsets – Apple’s iPhone 5, Google’s Nexus 4 and Nokia’s Lumia 920 – battling it out for your love and affection like attention-seeking children. Each has its strengths and an Achilles’ heel. It’s easy to simply rattle off a list of specs, but a good smartphone is more than the sum of its parts. To be honest, most people’s choice of smartphone is dictated by their preferred operating system more than the hardware. Nothing you read here is likely to encourage a fanboy to defect to a rival ecosystem, but swinging voters may still be swayed by a side-by-side comparison to see how they measure up.

Apple iPhone 5 – iOS 6$799 (16GB)

The smartphone champion, at least in the eyes of some, Apple’s new iPhone 5 responds to the Android threat with extra screen real estate. It’s thinner, lighter and narrower than the others. On paper it falls a fraction short of the Lumia’s pixel density, determining the screen sharpness, but side-by-side images look a little crisper on the iPhone. This iPhone is also the brightest of the bunch, helping it cope best with outdoor glare. Unfortunately the new four-inch display is underwhelming because it’s no wider than the old iPhone 4/S. This means text doesn’t appear any larger, you can just see a little more at the bottom. The screen is more impressive in landscape mode, where widescreen movies now fill the entire screen. As for capturing photos and video, it takes the sharpest snaps of the bunch and copes the best with bright backlights, although the Lumia outshines it in low light conditions. As for apps the iPhone is still king, with many new apps and services still coming to iOS before Android, but the gap is closing. Ditching the 30-pin connector in favour of Lightning will frustrate those who have invested in a range of 30-pin iGadget accessories. Losing Google Maps in favour of Apple Maps is also a major step backwards, conceding points to the Nexus and Lumia. Apple puts Bendigo and Mildura in national parks, for example, but when it comes to issuing instructions it’s very good – reading out street names, offering plenty of detail at close turns, displaying intersections clearly and coping well if you make a mistake. Apart from iOS’ inflexibility compared to Android, the iPhone 5’s biggest shortcoming is the lack of NFC for short-range wireless interactions – although Passbook is a step in the right direction.

Google Nexus 4 – Android 4.2$399 (16 GB)

The serious contender, Google’s new Nexus 4 is one for Android lovers chasing plenty of screen real estate without breaking the bank. The Nexus 4 delivers a 4.7-inch display to rival the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G and HTC One XL, although the Nexus isn’t quite as slender. Its crisp 1280 x 768 resolution puts it slightly ahead of its Android rivals, plus it still packs a quad-core powerplant. The screen does a reasonable job of dealing with outdoor glare but unfortunately the whites aren’t as white as the iPhone or the Lumia, nor are the skin tones as vivid. You’d struggle to pick that it’s an IPS screen just like the others. Google has opted for a vanilla Android 4.2 implementation which has fewer annoying bells and whistles than Samsung’s TouchWiz. You miss out on the Quickflix and Navigon apps, but still enjoy access to Google’s turn-by-turn navigation along with the Google Play store for apps, books, magazines, movies and music. Unfortunately the Nexus is seriously outclassed when it comes to photo and video capture, outdoor shots aren’t bad but it really struggles with difficult lighting conditions. When it comes to maps Google’s offerings seem more accurate than Apple at the city level, but once you’re on the road Google Maps Navigation is not as helpful as Apple Maps. It displays your ETA but doesn’t read out street names and its diagrams of roundabouts are misleading if not plain dangerous. It also stops issuing instructions and just beeps at you if you take a wrong turn. Unlike the others, it’s also crippled if you’re offline unless you cache slabs of the map in advance. The Nexus 4’s biggest shortcoming is that it lacks LTE, which is disappointing but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker when it supports HSDPA up to 42 Mbps.

Nokia Lumia 920 — Windows Phone 8$829 (32 GB)

The dark horse, Nokia’s Lumia 920 is a promising sign of things to come. The handset feels rather bulky compared to the others but the 4.5-inch screen can hold its own. The exquisite IPS display rivals the picture quality of the iPhone 5, although the Lumia is not as bright so it doesn’t handle outdoor glare quite as well. It actually sneaks in with the sharpest screen of the bunch on paper, but when you lay them side-by-side the iPhone still looks slightly better. As for Windows Phone 8, the new mobile OS is slick, responsive and mostly intuitive. You’re still at a disadvantage when it comes to third-party apps and many services are likely to treat WP8 as an afterthought for some time. As for content you’ve got Nokia Music and Xbox Music Pass but you’re still missing movies and books (although you’ll find the Kindle app in the store). The Lumia shines through with Nokia’s strong camera and mapping heritage. The camera does the best job of the bunch in low light conditions, although the iPhone copes slightly better with bright backlights. Nokia’s maps seem as accurate as Google’s and Nokia Drive features many of the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a paid app such as TomTom. The City Lens augmented reality features also show promise. When you’re driving Nokia Drive offers an ETA and the speed limit. The trade-off is that the screen becomes cluttered with landmarks and other unnecessary information. Unfortunately it doesn’t read out street names and it’s the slowest of the three when it comes to issuing instructions and recalculating if you take a wrong turn. The Windows Phone 8 Wallet looks like an interesting sleeper technology, as it ties in with NFC and you can add details of your own cards. Apart from its bulk, the Lumia 920’s biggest shortcoming is the head start Microsoft has given the other ecosystems in terms of apps and content.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Foster’s owner sparkles in flat conditions

SABMiller, the world’s second-biggest brewer and the owner of Foster’s, met expectations with a 12 per cent rise in first-half profit, and said strong growth in Africa and Latin America should continue during its second half.
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Robust demand in emerging markets, which account for around two thirds of group sales, has helped offset the impact of tough economic conditions in Europe and the United States, executive chairman Graham Mackay also said on Thursday.

“A lot of eastern Europe is struggling, especially the Czech Republic and Poland, while consumer sentiment is not really positive in Australia either,” he said.

The maker of Grolsch, Miller Lite and Peroni said adjusted pretax profit rose to $US2.76 billion ($A2.66 billion) in the six months to September on sales up 11 per cent to $17.5 billion, helped by its acquisition of Foster’s.

SABMiller, which last year spent $US11.8 billion on the Australian beer icon, said it had contributed significantly to the rise in sales.

“On balance the main emerging markets in which SAB operates remain strong,” said Jefferies analyst Dirk Van Vlaanderen who expects the company to maintain its growth in 2013.

Shares in SABMiller, which has expanded rapidly over the past two decades from its South African roots, rose 6.38 per cent to 2801 pence.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, and Dutch group Heineken last month also reported strong emerging market sales and said volumes in Europe were falling, hit by a challenging economic environment.

SABMiller, which also makes Aguila, Castle, Pilsner Urquell and Snow beers, said the positive impact from acquisitions and business combinations seen in the first half could reduce next year.

The company, which raised its interim dividend 12 per cent to 24 cents, said total volumes were up 9 per cent during the period with beer volumes, excluding acquisitions and disposals, up 4 percent. Soft drinks volumes rose 6 per cent.


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The numbers game

What’s in a number? CityKat Katherine Feeney mashead pointer
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Inevitably, you have that conversation.

“So, how many people have you slept with?”


“No! Tell me.”


“Why not? Are you embarrassed?”

“No. Just guess.”


You’re both in dangerous waters now. Whether you play that game of seduction deduction, or come clean and claim it, there’s a bit riding on the answer. Will it be higher or lower than expected? Will it be more or less than your own tally? Will the sum total irrevocably alter the way you feel about your new flame?

These are important questions, sure, insofar as everyone wonders about them. But not everyone cares to the same degree about the outcome. Some people care not a jot how many sexual partners have come before.

Hence, the focus should not be on the number but the outcome.

Because, let’s face it, there’s only really a ‘problem’ if there’s a large (or larger) number proffered by one party. Large meaning…?

According to the benchmark Australian Study of Health and Relationships (which, at nine years old, is now getting a little out of date), heterosexual blokes reported more partners over their lifetime than did heterosexual women, homosexual or bisexual reported more partners than straighties, and gay men, bi-men and bi-women had had more partners than lesbians had overall. How many, I hear you ask.

Sadly the précis is short on black and white batting averages. This high-profile book published in 2008 said the average Australian woman had 13 sexual partners in their lifetime (the findings were drawn from an online study). But condom manufacturers Durex suggest Australian women will have 11 sexual partners on average over their lifetime, with men ringing in at 24. Not quite the lore of the academy, but there you go. Interestingly, the latest official figures from the United Kingdom are quite a bit lower – 9 partners on average for men, 4 on average for women…

Of course, these numbers refer to the sum total of sexual partners over a lifetime, not the number of people you’ve slept with so far. Thus, presuming you’re a single in the 20-to-30-something age bracket, that number may not have been reached yet. You might want to factor the median age of first-marriage in Australia (30 years) into your calculations…

Meaning “large” might well equal around 30 people for fellows, and 20 for ladies. Whether this is a ‘problem’ or not depends on a few things, namely safety and security. To wit, if unsafe sex has been practiced, you have a problem. And if insecurity has played a part, you also have a problem.

But as mentioned, the focus shouldn’t be so squarely on the number and the problem shouldn’t be so wrapped up in comparison. Safety and security aside, who really cares if someone has slept around…

…so long as they know what they’re doing, that is.

If they don’t, call Houston. You do have a problem. That problem being this: how can someone have sex with so many people and still be so bad? How can they not learn? Best-practice sex is supposed to be about learning and discovery and profound connection – either they’ve a record built on rubbish or they are… Well.

Happily, I have no complaints. I’ve been beyond fortunate. I’ve loved my lovers. One stands out especially. But quite a few of my friends – male and female – have not been so well endowed. And with every year that goes by, they worry. Learning is for life, but some things become harder with age (oh irony!).

So what’s to be done?

Not having the conversation in the first place would be a good place to start… Indeed, the only real important conversation you need to have regarding history relates to disease. Instead, focus your efforts on the present moment. Who cares about the sex that came before? It’s the sex you’re having now that matters. How is it? Could it be better? How could you improve? What could be done?

Hence, the question should be:

“So, how do you like it?”


Do you want to know how many people your partner has slept with? Why? Why is it important? Are you happy with your record, and are you happy to share? Or is it all water under the bridge – is it better for the past to remain well and truly passed.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Priests, sex and celibacy

Afew years ago I began researching a book into how priests dealt with the requirement that they be celibate. I placed an advertisement in The Swag – the journal of the National Council of Priests – seeking priests who would be willing to talk to me about their relationship with celibacy, whether they found it easy or difficult to maintain. About eight priests responded. I interviewed them by phone, taped the conversations and returned the edited version to each priest for review. This is an edited extract of my conversations with four of them.MARTIN*
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”We talked a lot about celibacy in the seminary. For me it means regular self-appraisal, and a bit of doubt as well. It was easier for me as I had 15 years teaching in the secondary system. As a single fellow, when you are teaching secondary students, you are teaching girls as well who are in many ways at their physical peak.

And I had to think to myself: ‘Well, how do I relate to these girls?’ I had to acknowledge to myself that they were attractive to me; I’d be a fool if I didn’t think that.

But that doesn’t mean taking the further step of trying to get a physical relationship.”

How did you suppress your sexual feelings?

”I think they are natural. If I tried to suppress them I’d be storing up trouble for myself in the future. So I acknowledge to myself: ‘Yes, that is a beautiful girl’. The thing that stood by me was: ‘God created it, but you are not allowed to play with it!’

It’s a gift from God – this beautiful person – and I find that gift precious.

We discussed celibacy a lot in the seminary. We looked at it not as a giving up, but a giving for. Being celibate means you are always able to be open to one more relationship. If you are in a relationship with another person, to a degree that has to be exclusive; other people have to be kept out.

Being celibate means there is always another friend you can make. When I entered the seminary there wasn’t a lot explained about celibacy, and I wasn’t sure whether to raise the question. But in the first year we looked at the whole issue of sexuality. What is sexuality? What is your sexuality? What is healthy sexuality? Is it something to be suppressed?”

Have you had relationships with women?

”Yes, but they didn’t become physical relationships. I felt that if I got married it would be a matter of respect to that person I married, that we explored sexuality together.

I’m 45 and I do have sexual longings. What do I do about it? I acknowledge them first of all. I don’t pretend they’re not there. I don’t try and drive them away. I ask what my body is trying to tell me – my body is telling me I’m still a normal male. But there’s a message from God as well. As a priest and a celibate some opportunities are cut off; but every path in life opens some road and closes others.

I don’t have feelings of guilt about my sexual feelings. Sexuality is a gift from God; if we deny it we are denying something that God has given us. But to deny having them is to fool oneself, and that can be dangerous.

To be aware of these feelings doesn’t mean to act on them. I would like celibacy to be an option. To be celibate is to be potentially available to all. It is a sign that we do not have to be obsessed with sex or sexual activity.

But to expect it of everybody – especially those who do not have the gift – is quite unfair.”


How much self-doubt have you had – or still have – regarding celibacy?

”Leading up to ordination I had no self-doubt. I undertook wanting to be a priest and being a member of a religious order; I accepted the fact that celibacy was a part and parcel of that. I did that – not without question – but with full acceptance. I was 26.

Two or three years after ordination I started to seriously question whether this would really be possible as a lifetime commitment.”

Was this because of your sexual urges?

”Yes. I tried to get advice from fellow priests as to what I should do about it. The people I went to took me seriously; it was never played down. I spoke to three priests over a period of five or six years and I don’t think any of them gave me great advice on how I might live with celibacy; more encouragement to accept the situation ‘as it is’.

I was told: ‘If you find yourself being caught in inappropriate behaviour, just accept that as being part of life … and re-dedicate yourself’.”

Did you find yourself in inappropriate situations?

”Yes, I did. I was going to a sauna – a place where it was easy to have casual sex. I never got in a situation where I was actually in a relationship with anybody. But I did find myself having casual sex. It went on pretty strongly for 20 years.”

How did you get away from it in the end?

”I developed a couple of very good relationships – friendship relationships – so that when I found myself looking for intimacy, I could have that intimacy with a couple of really good friends.

Prior to that, my needs for intimacy were addressed as being purely physical. I didn’t know what else to do, so I would go off and have sex. I got hooked on sex, and wanted more and more, even though I felt more and more guilty.

I am now 56 and celibacy is not a problem. I can live with it. I have a couple of friends – one male and one female – and I can discuss it with them.”

Have you been chased by women because you were considered to be ‘safe’?

”I have experienced that. I was working in a seminary, and not infrequently I came across women who got very attached to religious men of all ages. They were often women who had been hurt by men; they saw safety in male company that was not dangerous.

I would like to see celibacy relaxed; it should be optional. Celibacy for religious men and women is totally normal – if that’s what they wish to do. But to make it obligatory is ridiculous.”

JOHN (a Brother)

”Like priests we are bound by the rules of celibacy. I am 68 and there is always self-appraisal regarding celibacy. When I was 16 I went into a seminary where there was silence and prayers and I was told I had to be celibate. I was told very little about it, except it was a gift from God, and you were given the gift to use – to give your whole self to God.

There were no instructions about repressing feelings of sexuality. Even our parents told us nothing. Even as a kid in boarding school I had a wet dream. I tried to explain it to a priest and he said: ‘Oh, it just happens’. But I felt guilty about my wet dreams. As though I’d done something wrong.

Being celibate made me feel a bit awkward with women. Because of our strict training I didn’t see a woman for three years. I didn’t need to see a doctor or a dentist and didn’t leave the monastery. So I had no contact with women.

Nobody was doing anything for me in that regard at an important stage in my life. But when I was about 40 I met a woman and fell in love. We never had sex, we never went to bed. But she explained so much to me about the sex act – how women are attracted to men. She was a married woman in the middle of a divorce – she was lonely and I helped take her loneliness away.”

Did you have guilty feelings about being sexually aroused when you were younger?

”Oh yes! But I didn’t do much about it – I prayed a lot and went to confession. The priest just said it was part of growing up. I masturbated a lot and I confessed to that. I used to ring up a sex-line every three weeks and it cost me about $35. I ejaculated after just a minute listening. I have never seen a woman naked; I have only seen bare breasts at the Missions.

I often wonder if I could perform the act of sex. Would I be able to have sexual intercourse? Would I come too quickly, because I get aroused quickly?

I have never had any feelings of attraction to fellow priests. I am not homosexual. I believe celibacy for priests should be optional – remain celibate unless you can’t do without a woman.

We are kidding ourselves if we think priests don’t have their mistresses – and that gay priests don’t have gay boyfriends. I’m sure it happens. Priests go to brothels, but I have never been with a prostitute.”


Should celibacy should be retained for priests or relaxed?

”It should be an option for those priests living outside a community of priests. If you were a married priest living with three or four other priests it would be difficult.

I have been a priest for 18 years and – for me – celibacy is good.

It gives me plenty of time to deal with people who come to me for help; more time for my work. It also allows me an intimacy with Jesus in the sense that He is the only one I come to as my ultimate, intimate companion; rather than any non-divine person.

It isn’t a big step psychologically. Since my childhood, Jesus has been a person to dialogue with, someone who is actually standing there. He is present with me in any place, at any time I go to Him.”

How does celibacy compete with your sexual urges?

”Sometimes I have them, yes, but not very frequently; I have a low libido which is fortunate. I take this as a grace from God that He has given me this along with the call to priesthood. Some priests express a struggle with it. But they also talk about a positive side which they find worthwhile. The struggle (with celibacy) never goes away; you get more experienced handling it.”

*The names of the clergy have been changed at their request

Desmond Zwar is a journalist and author of 16 non-fiction books, including The Loneliest Man in the World – the Story of Rudolf Hess’s Imprisonment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.