Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Neighbors the Yamadas

My Neighbors the Yamadas is a an extremely funny feature-length animated film directed by Isao Takahata released by Studio Ghibli July 17, 1999. This is the first Studio Ghibli film that was digitally produced without using cells. The movie captures Japanese daily life in a painted watercolor style accomplished by drawing three times the normal number of frames. The film plays like a series of comedy or sitcom episodes, many ending with a haiku poem. Released in the United States by Disney, I recommend watching the subtitled version, which captures the true spirit of the dialog in Japanese much better than the English dubbing and Hollywood character acting. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Planet Money #420: The Legal Marijuana Business

Last month, two states voted to legalize recreational marijuana. A bunch of others states have already legalized medical marijuana. Not surprisingly, there are legitimate, legal (at least under state law) marijuana entrepreneurs trying to start businesses around the country. On today's show, we discover the one big thing that's standing in their way: getting a bank account. And we learn how hard it is to run a business on cash alone.

NPR Morning Edition
It's Legal To Sell Marijuana in Washington. But try Telling That To A Bank.
November 16, 2012

John Davis, who runs a legal medical marijuana business in Washington state. He described one of the big hurdles of starting a legal marijuana business: It's really hard to get a bank account. His story reveals not only the gray area the marijuana business still inhabits (it's still illegal under federal law), but also just how hard it is to run a small business without a bank.

Here are four key steps Davis recommends, based on his own experience:

1. Buy three safes. One for "bulk product," one for "inventoried, ready-for-sale product," and one for cash. "If you put your cash in with the cannabis, it will end up smelling like cannabis, and when you go down to the bank, I guarantee you're going to have a talk with the manager of that bank."

2. Get an ATM — and be prepared to stock it with cash yourself. Credit card companies may not want to do business with you. Same goes for the companies that run ATMs in small businesses. "The companies that traditionally maintain ATMs will not stock your cash," Davis says. "Why? Because it's possible that the federal government will come, break down the door and take that cash."

3. Find angel investors. No bank is going to give you a loan to start a weed shop, even if it's legal.

4. Create a shell company. Banks don't want to do business with weed shops. But they don't mind opening accounts for legal corporations whose business dealings are vague. "I had to be colorful with the way that I opened my account," Davis said. "I don't feel great about having to toy with the truth, but it's essential for me to have banking. I'm a business."

Peter Tosh - Legalize It

Legalize It is an album and song by Peter Tosh. Legalize It was Tosh's debut album as a solo artist after leaving the Wailers. It was recorded at Treasure Isle and Randy's Kingston, Jamaica in 1975 and released in 1976.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

TIny Structure Gives Big Boost to Solar Power

Princeton School of Applied and Applied Science

John Sullivan, December 5, 2012

"Princeton researchers have found a simple and economical way to nearly triple the efficiency of organic solar cells, the cheap and flexible plastic devices that many scientists believe could be the future of solar power.

The researchers, led by electrical engineer Stephen Chou, were able to increase the efficiency of the solar cells 175 percent by using a nano-structured "sandwich" of metal and plastic that collects and traps light. Chou said the technology also should increase the efficiency of conventional inorganic solar collectors, such as standard silicon solar panels, although he cautioned that his team has not yet completed research with inorganic devices."

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Inventing Wine

Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures
By Paul Lukacs

"Wine is our original alcoholic beverage. It dates back 8,000 years and, as Paul Lukacs writes in his new book, Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures, was originally valued more because it was believed to be of divine origin than for its taste. And that's a good thing, Lukacs tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, because early wine was not particularly good."

Monday, December 03, 2012

American Experience: The Rockefellers

American Experience: The Rockefellers
PBS Broadcast

For decades, the Rockefeller name was despised in America–associated with John D. Rockefeller Sr.'s feared monopoly, Standard Oil. By the end of his life, Rockefeller had given away half his fortune–but even his vast philanthropy could not erase the memory of his predatory business practices. His only son, John D. Rockefeller Jr., would dedicate his life to recasting the family image. In the quest for redemption and respectability, Junior would give away hundreds of millions of dollars, and would insist that his six children behave impeccably. Their contributions transformed America.

Rockefeller became the world's richest man and the first American worth more than a billion dollars. Adjusting for inflation, he is often regarded as the richest person in history. By the time of his death in 1937, estimates place his net worth in the range of US $392 billion to US $663.4 billion in adjusted dollars for the late 2000s, and it is estimated that his personal fortune was equal to 1.53% of the total U.S. annual GDP in his day.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

This American Life 479: Little War on the Prairie

This American Life: Little War on the Prairie
November 23, 2012

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.


Ira talks to John Biewen about how remarkable it is that he could grow up in a town and never learn about the most significant event in its history. This show about Native Americans and settlers was first broadcast on Thanksgiving weekend, on the 150th anniversary of the war. (4 minutes)

Act One

John meets up with Gwen Westerman, a Dakota woman who moved to Mankato twenty years ago, also having no idea about its history. Together they travel to historic sites across Minnesota, reconstructing the story of what led to the war between the Dakota and the settlers. (25 minutes)

Act Two

John continues the story of the Dakota War of 1862, and how it resulted in the expulsion of the Dakota people from the state of Minnesota. Then John goes back to his hometown to see how this history is being taught today. He speaks with historian Mary Wingerd, author of North Country: The Making of Minnesota, about why so many people — including both of them — grew up in Minnesota and heard so little about the war. And he witnesses Dakota people, on the 150th anniversary of the war, crossing the state line and returning to Minnesota. (26 minutes)