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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beyoncé Bio

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles (IPA pronunciation: ) (born September 4, 1981) is an American R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, music video director, actress, dancer, and fashion designer. Knowles rose to fame as the creative force and lead singer of the R&B girl group Destiny's Child, the world's best-selling female group of all time.

In 2001, Knowles won the "Songwriter of the Year" award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Pop Music Awards, becoming the first African-American female and second overall female songwriter of all time to accomplish this.

Knowles' second studio album, B'Day, was released worldwide on September 4, 2006 and on September 5, 2006 in the U.S. to coincide with the celebration of Knowles' twenty-fifth birthday. In its first week, the album sold more than 541,000 copies in the U.S., immediately coming in at number one, making it her highest first-week sales as a solo artist. This is also the highest first-week sales of any solo female artist in 2006, a record which used to be held by pop singer Christina Aguilera whose album Back to Basics sold 346,000 copies in its first week. In the UK, it debuted at number three with sales of 45,000 copies, and, with combined sales with the deluxe edition, has sold 497,000 copies and has been certified double platinum. "Déjà Vu",the album's first single, features Jay-Z and co-production by Rodney Jerkins. Other co-producers on B'Day included Rich Harrison, The Neptunes, and Swizz Beatz. Currently,the album has been certified triple platinum in the U.S. for shipments of over three million copies. The album has had worldwide success selling over seven million copies worldwide.

The album's lead single "Déjà Vu" became a top five hit in the United States and a number-one hit on the U.S. R&B chart and the UK chart, making it Knowles' second UK number-one single, when it climbed twenty spots to take the top spot over Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean's "Hips Don't Lie" in the week of August 27, 2006.Audio samples:

Outside North America, "Irreplaceable" was released as the album's second international single in October 2006. The single debuted at number eighty-seven on the Hot 100—where it would later spend ten consecutive weeks at number one—and number forty-two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was the longest-running number-one single of the year as a result of its ten-week stay atop the Billboard Hot 100. The song peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the Australian Singles Chart. It also took over on the Irish Singles Chart, peaking at number one in its second week. "Irreplaceable" is her fourth number one and her eighth top ten hit as a solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as her fourth number-one hit on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. In December 2006, a Spanish-language version of "Irreplaceable", called "Imprescindible", wasreleased.

In the week of April 22, the deluxe edition of B'Day and the B'Day Anthology Video Album that include the song "Still in Love (Kissing You)" were pulled from distribution due to a lawsuit filed by English singer Des'ree. The lawsuit is over Knowles' cover of Des'ree's 1998 "I'm Kissing You" which was granted permission—within certain limits. For one thing, they would allow use of the song, but not in video form. They would also allow use of the song only if the title was not changed. Despite follow-ups, they didn't hear back from Knowles' camp. On March 27, according to the complaint, they discovered that Knowles and her record label planned to proceed with their plans to include the song on the re-release anyway which they changed the title to the song and made a video from which they didn't follow copyrighted laws. In a letter they wrote to Knowles' lawyer and her distribution group Sony, the Royalty Network called the move "completely unacceptable. Des'ree is apparently seeking $150,000 in damages".

More singles have been released from the deluxe edition of B'Day. "Amor Gitano" was released as a CD single in South America and other countries such as Mexico; "Get Me Bodied" has been released in North America; and the Freemasons remix of "Green Light" has been released as the fifth UK single.

Knowles' new deluxe live DVD, The Beyoncé Experience Live!, which was recorded on September 2, 2007 at Los Angeles' Staples Center, is slated for a November 20, 2007 release.

In an interview, Knowles stated that she is going into studio in December to begin official work on her third studio album although she is in the studio all the time. As reported by Scratch magazine, producer Timbaland was recently signed on to produce the majority ofthe album. In the interview, Timbaland stated that the outcome of the album will be "huger than life".

In 2001, Knowles turned to acting, starring alongside actor Mekhi Phifer in the MTV made-for-television film Carmen: A Hip Hopera.

Knowles and Kelly Rowland, along with Mathew Knowles, Tina Knowles, and sister Solange Knowles announced the formation of the Survivor Foundation, a charitable entity set up for the purpose of providing transitional housing for 2005 Hurricane Katrina victims and storm evacuees in the Houston, Texas area. The Survivor Foundation extends the philanthropic mission of the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth, a multi-purpose community outreach facility in downtown Houston.


Olivia Munn Bio

Olivia Munn (born July 2, 1982) is an American actress, model and television personality. She began her career being credited as Lisa Munn, however, since 2006, she has been using the name Olivia Munn professionally. Since 2006, Munn has been one of the faces of the cable network G4, hosting a number of shows for the network, however, the most prominent being Attack of the Show!, with co-host Kevin Pereira.

Lisa Olivia Munn was born in Oklahoma on July 2, 1982 to mother Kim Munn and father Sam Munn; she is of Chinese descent on her mother's side and of Caucasian descent on her father's. At the age of two, Munn's mother re-married to a man in the Air Force, and shortly after, they relocated. Although the family had relocated many times, Munn was predominantly raised in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan, where the military assigned her stepfather. During this time, she had appeared in a number of local theater productions, and later became a model within the Japanese fashion industry.

Munn moved back to the United States, settling in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. In 2004, she interned at Fox Sports Net and worked as a sideline reporter for college football and womens’ basketball. She has gone onto say that she disliked the experience, explaining "I was trying to be something I wasn’t, and that made me really uncomfortable on live TV." Munn had also gained a small role in the straight to video horror film Scarecrow Gone Wild.

In the fall of 2005, Munn began her portrayal of Milly Acuna, a teen surfer, over two seasons of the TV drama Beyond the Break on The N network. She enjoys surfing and continues to practice the sport. She originally auditioned for the part of Kai, but the producers wanted a "local girl". She also appeared in the film The Road to Canyon Lake.

In 2006, Munn moved on to the G4 network, where she began co-hosting Attack of the Show with co-host Kevin Pereira on April 10, 2006. She was replacement for host Sarah Lane, who left the show along with Brendan Moran to get married. The network, devoted to the world of video games and the video game lifestyle, was at first hesitant to hire Munn because knowledge of the subject was her "weak point". However, she was eventually hired because she was more familiar with electronics. Alongside working on Attack of the Show, Munn hosts Formula D, a now defunct program about American drift racing. Munn also hosts a podcast on G4 called Around the Net; formerly known as The Daily Nut.

Munn will make her debut in a large Hollywood film in the upcoming Rob Schneider movie Big Stan. She will play Schneider's character's receptionist Maria. Munn will also have a role in the 2008 horror film Insanitarium.

Munn is a succssful model and has booked campaigns for Nike, Pepsi and Neutrogena. She appeared on Fall 2006 cover of Foam magazine in September, and Men's Edge magazine in August, and was featured in a pictorial in Complex magazine in November 2006. In February 2007, she appeared as "Babe of the Month" in a non-nude pictorial in Playboy magazine. Munn also appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Men's Health magazine. In September 2007, she was featured in the magazine, Italian Vanity Fair for their "Hot Young Hollywood" Issue.


Mila Kunis Bio

A petite actress with olive skin and pixie features, Russian-born Mila Kunis became a breakout teen star on the FOX sitcom That '70s Show, playing spoiled daddy's girl Jackie Burkhardt. The rare 15-year-old actress to be cast as a 15-year-old character, Kunis also demonstrated her maturity by mastering accent-free English only a few years after immigrating. Her command of slang and teen vocal mannerisms won her work even when her appearance was not being utilized, as she voiced another all-American teen on FOX's animated envelope-pusher, Family Guy.

Milena Markovna Kunis was born on August 14, 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine, then moved with her parents to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. Kunis credits listening to the simple vocabulary of Bob Barker on The Price Is Right with helping her develop a speedy fluency in English. She enrolled in acting classes at the Beverly Hills Studio, where she was discovered performing in a showcase. She quickly began appearing in commercials. Kunis filled out her early resumé with such pit stops as Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997), Krippendorf's Tribe (1998), and the infamous WB ratings cellar-dweller Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher (1996). She also played a younger version of Angelina Jolie in the HBO movie Gia (1998). But it was her casting in Mark Brazill's That '70s Show that earned Kunis notice, as her petulant teen queen soon became a standout, able to range from endearing to grating. Her aggravated whining rung true enough to earn her a voice-over role on Family Guy, taking over for Lacey Chabert as Megan Griffin during the 2000 season.

Kunis played a supporting role in the teen comedy Get Over It (2001) and a lead role as a deranged killer in the unlikely sequel American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002) while continuing as a TV regular. She also followed in Alicia Silverstone's footsteps by appearing in the Aerosmith video for "Jaded."

Derek Armstrong

All Movie Guide


X Rocker Wireless Pedestal Chair

Get a front seat to the action of your video games, DVDs or music, without getting wrapped up with an annoying cord. The X Rocker Wireless Pedestal Chair provides up close and personal sound thanks to two headrest speakers and a built-in subwoofer adding rumbling realism to your entertainment. The X Rocker chair isn't only loud, but provides comfortable rocking motion for comfort. Connect up to 8 X Rocker chairs to your entertainment system or game console and as a finishing touch to your perfect home theater.


Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, 6 Volumes

Hugh Hefner is a hero and a role model who built a massive empire on his own wit and passion for life... not to mention passion for gorgeous girls. But anyone who actually does read Playboy for the articles knows that there's so much more to it than that. Hef really created something unique, sophisticated and inspiring with Playboy magazine. Take a look back at how it all started in Hugh Hefner's Playboy, 6 Volumes, which highlights the first 25 years of the original men's magazine as told by the man who started it all.

This 6 volume anthology includes 25 years of centerfolds and covers, not to mention amazing articles written by Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac as well as important interviews with John Lennon, Martin Luther King and Roman Polanski. The books also contains original artwork, unseen photos and 700 pages of autobiographical text about Hef's younger days, military service, early career as a cartoonist and details about his many many girlfriends. The collection is limited to 1500 sets, each numbered and signed by the man himself.


The Intimate Scent of a Beautiful Woman - Vulva

In what is sure to become the biggest WTF product moment since the Fleshlight (and the most creative use of a domain name yet), there is now Vulva. (This page has been rated NSFW2 – Not Safe For Work & Not Safe For Wife – consider yourself warned.) Somewhere, someone (odds are it was a guy) decided that sandalwood and strawberry just weren’t cutting it in the scents department, so they took it upon themselves to add vagina to the list. Apparently this “vaginal scent” (Calling it a perfume is strictly forbidden.) stimulates and compliments erotic fantasies.

Presumably, if you wanted to incorporate the scent of a foreign vagina into relations with your wife/girlfriend/girl you’re “dating” you would do it with another vagina and not glass vial incense, so this has to be for that special solo time. That said, Vulva costs $36 (without shipping) which makes it fiscally irresponsible to not just stick with Jergens; it’s also probably ten times harder to get through customs than Canadian Viagra prescriptions. Furthermore, if you wanted the smell of vagina all over your hand (without any of the associated body parts) why would you want sweaty vagina?

So what Vulva essentially did is create a website to sell their erotic fantasy enhancing product…without selling any product. That’s as effective a marketing campaign as GM using Transformers to sell cars. Who knows, maybe the forthcoming EIGHTEEN and EXOTIC scents will save Vulva like Megan Fox saved Transformers. Until that happens, have fun with the picture gallery on the site.


Sayonara to the Rabbit Hutch: Living With Roommates in Japan

Olivia Burrell, a 32-year-old Canadian gospel singer, was fed up with living in Lilliputian studio apartments in Tokyo where she could see (and smell) her kitchen from her bed.

Three months ago, she took the plunge and moved in with five Japanese women living in a spacious 6-bedroom apartment in Harajuku, a buzzy neighborhood in the city center.

Tokyo Girls Real Estate is turning huge vacant apartments into shared living spaces for as many as 10 renters. The only problem is the sharing part. WSJ's Mariko Sanchanta reports.

But, so far, her roommate experience hasn't quite been the Japanese version of "Friends" she had envisioned. Ms. Burrell walked into the kitchen one evening to find no fewer than eight separate bottles of dishwashing liquid on the kitchen counter, all neatly lined up and labeled with their owners' names.

"My roommates are neat and very courteous," says Ms. Burrell, who has lived in Japan for seven years and who had lived with roommates in Canada. "But this whole concept is new here, and people don't naturally want to share things as much."

Japan has no real tradition of roommates: People have preferred to live in their own tiny places. Now, fed up with a dearth of reasonably priced apartments in desirable Tokyo neighborhoods, a growing number of relatively affluent women in their 20s and 30s have started to create demand for a radical new segment of the Japanese real-estate market: apartments to share.

The timing of the trend coincides with a glut of upscale apartments in Tokyo, which have flooded the market since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year. Foreign bankers decamped, leaving behind many three- and four-bedroom apartments, popular with expatriates, which have been vacant for months.

Kumi Tahara, 27, and Kana Arai, 32, stepped into the void, founding a real-estate agency named "Tokyo Girls' Real Estate." They persuaded some landlords to let them slice up four-bedroom apartments into as many as 10 smaller rooms, which they then started renting out to young Japanese women. "After the Lehman shock, a lot of gaijin [foreigners] left, and there are some places that have been vacant for more than half a year," says Ms. Arai, who wears a pink sequined bow on her head and favors miniskirts and knee-high boots. "The landlords pay the redesign fees and we're able to increase the rent."

One apartment in Roppongi, the expat mecca in Tokyo, commanded 450,000 yen a month (about $5,000) before its previous tenants left. Ms. Tahara and Ms. Arai redesigned the place, chopping it up into eight small rooms that are about 100 square feet each, which they rented for 80,000 yen apiece. The net result: They increased rental income by 190,000 yen a month, of which they receive a 10% cut.

"The market is improving a little bit, but it's nowhere near as robust as it was before" Lehman's woes says Keiko Matsumoto, a manager at Ken Real Estate Investment Advisors Ltd., an agent that caters to expats and high net-worth Japanese. "I think the idea of facilitating shared housing is very smart in this environment."

In Tokyo, one of the world's most densely populated cities, the concept of having roommates or sharing quarters has never been popular. The majority of young Tokyoites choose to live in cramped, cluttered, soulless studios known as usagi goya in Japanese, or "rabbit hutches."

It has been thought preferable to live in a shoebox than to share a space with strangers. The lack of roommate-friendly apartments was also driven by developers who built up apartment complexes over the decades that were often chopped up into tiny, single rooms to maximize rental income.

Ms. Tahara, a former Japan Airlines check-in attendant, and Ms. Arai met at a real-estate agency and took note of the numerous requests for roommates they received from young, female clients. They sensed there was a business idea in all of the requests and started their company two years ago. Since the inception of Tokyo Girls' Real Estate, they have placed more than 100 women in 12 properties.

Ms. Tahara says the company is profitable. Theirs is the only agency in Tokyo that caters exclusively to working women in their 30s. Other "shared housing" businesses exist, but most handle old buildings in less desirable locations that cater to backpackers, foreigners on a short stay or old people.

Central to the success of Ms. Arai and Ms. Tahara's business is that they redecorate and redesign interiors themselves, adding touches such as claw-footed bathtubs, gold wallpaper, pink rhinestones and disco balls. The uninspiring apartments end up as fantasy playlands. "I used to live in a shared home in Tokyo, but it was so old and falling apart -- freezing in the winter, and sweltering in the summer," says Ms. Arai. "These represent the dreams of these women, transformed into reality. We put lights on mirrors, so when they put on makeup they feel like actresses."

But the newness of this roommate culture in Japan means that many young women aren't prepared for what it's like to share housing. Ms. Arai and Ms. Tahara, who mediate disputes, say one of the biggest issues is hair clogging up the shower drain.

And men aren't ever allowed inside the women's shared homes. Ms. Tahara and Ms. Arai believe that the apartments should be a refuge for women. "If there was some sort of problem, then we couldn't be responsible for it," says Ms. Tahara. "And if a guy ended up staying over a lot and used water and electricity, it would create an unfair burden on the others."

Ms. Arai and Ms. Tahara interview all of the potential tenants before they sign a lease.

Demographic shifts in Japan have created a breed of single women who work late, are often out on the weekends and just want a convenient place to crash. "The average age for marriage in Japan is steadily increasing, and fewer females want to live at home with their parents," says Takanori Nakamura, a senior research and development director at Hakuhodo Inc, a Japanese advertising agency. "Meanwhile, salaries are decreasing and women want to maintain their lifestyles. Rent is the first thing they cut."

Each apartment that Ms. Arai and Ms. Tahara redecorate is done with a concept in mind. The theme of the Harajuku apartment, where Ms. Burrell lives, is "Saturday Night Fever."

"The design here is very cute," says Sachiko Saito, a 28-year-old systems engineer who moved into the apartment last week. "Japanese people aren't used to the idea of sharing an apartment, but I don't think it's very difficult. I specifically looked for places on the Internet that I could share with others."

Ms. Burrell, who speaks Japanese, says she was bummed out at first about the "no men" rule. "I was a little disappointed because I have a lot of male friends, but, ultimately, it makes sense. There are a lot of good things about sharing. After living alone for so long here, I needed to be more conscious of people. I'll learn a lot."


Carpe Diem? Maybe Tomorrow

                                                                                                   Viktor Koen

For once, social scientists have discovered a flaw in the human psyche that will not be tedious to correct. You may not even need a support group. You could try on your own by starting with this simple New Year’s resolution: Have fun ... now!

Then you just need the strength to cash in your gift certificates, drink that special bottle of wine, redeem your frequent flier miles and take that vacation you always promised yourself. If your resolve weakens, do not succumb to guilt or shame. Acknowledge what you are: a recovering procrastinator of pleasure.

It sounds odd, but this is actually a widespread form of procrastination — just ask the airlines and other marketers who save billions of dollars annually from gift certificates that expire unredeemed. Or the poets who have kept turning out exhortations to seize the day and gather rosebuds.

But it has taken awhile for psychologists and behavioral economists to analyze this condition. Now they have begun to explore the strange impulse to put off until tomorrow what could be enjoyed today.

Why, for instance, is it so hard to find time to visit landmarks in your own backyard? People who have moved to Chicago, Dallas and London get to fewer local landmarks during their entire first year than the typical tourist visits during a two-week stay, according to a study conducted by Suzanne B. Shu and Ayelet Gneezy, who are professors of marketing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, San Diego, respectively. The Chicagoans in the study had visited more landmarks in other cities than in their own, and even their relatively small amount of local sightseeing was done mainly in the course of entertaining out-of-towners. Otherwise, the only time Chicagoans rushed to see the local landmarks was just before they were about to move to another city, when that deadline inspired sudden passions for taking architectural tours and going to the zoo.

When there is no immediate deadline, we’re liable to put off going to the zoo this weekend because we assume that we will be less busy next weekend — or the weekend after that, or next summer. This is the same sort of thinking that causes us to put the gift certificate in the drawer because we expect to have more time for shopping in the future.

We’re trying to do a cost-benefit analysis of the time lost versus the pleasure or money to be gained, but we’re not accurate in our estimates of “resource slack,” as it is termed by Gal Zauberman and John G. Lynch. These behavioral economists found that when people were asked to anticipate how much extra money and time they would have in the future, they realistically assumed that money would be tight, but they expected free time to magically materialize.

Hence you’re more likely to agree to a commitment next year, like giving a speech, that you would turn down if asked to find time for it in the next month. This produces what researchers call the “Yes ... Damn!” effect: when the speech comes due next year, you bitterly discover you’re still as busy as ever.

Dr. Shu and Dr. Gneezy demonstrated another effect of this fallacy by giving people gift certificates good for movie tickets and French pastries. Some got certificates that expired within two to three weeks; others got certificates good for six to eight weeks.

The people who received the long-term certificates were more confident than the others that they would redeem the gifts — a logical enough assumption, given all the extra time they had. But they just kept putting it off, and ultimately they were more likely to let the gift go unredeemed than the people who had received the short-term certificates.

Once you start procrastinating pleasure, it can become a self-perpetuating process if you fixate on some imagined nirvana. The longer you wait to open that prize bottle of wine, the more special the occasion has to be.

If you’re determined to get the absolute maximum out of those frequent flier miles, you can end up wasting them, as Dr. Shu found in an experiment offering people a chance to use discount coupons in the course of buying a series of plane tickets. Once the subjects were told that they might have a chance at a free flight worth $1,000, they scorned lesser awards and hung on to their coupons so long that in the end they had to use them for much cheaper flights.

“People can become overly focused on an ideal,” Dr. Shu said. “Even if they know it’s unlikely, they get so focused on the perfect scenario that they block everything else. Or they anticipate that they’ll kick themselves later if they take second-best option and then see the best one is still available. But they don’t realize that regret can go the other way. They’ll end up with something worse and regret not taking the second-best one.”

But even if you know about all this research, how can you apply these lessons? How can you avoid the temptation to postpone pleasure? (You can offer suggestions at One immediate strategy, Dr. Shu said, is to cash in quickly any gift certificate you received this holiday season. “The biggest danger is that it will be forgotten and expire,” she said. “One of the best presents you can give back to the giver is to use it quickly and then tell them how much you enjoyed it. The regret from not using it will be bigger than the regret from using it on a nonperfect occasion, for you and especially for the person who gave it.”

Another tactic is to give yourself deadlines. Cash in the miles by summer, even if you can’t get a round-the-world trip out of them. Instead of waiting for a special occasion to indulge yourself, create one. Dr. Shu approvingly cites the pioneering therapeutic work of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who for the past decade used their Wall Street Journal column on wine to proclaim the last Saturday of February to be “Open That Bottle Night.”

But you don’t even have to wait until Feb. 27. Remember the advice offered in the movie “Sideways” to Miles, who has been holding on to a ’61 Cheval Blanc so long that it is in danger of going bad. When Miles says he is waiting for a special occasion, his friend Maya puts matters in perspective:

“The day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion.”


John Tierney


Jobs of the Future

If you're gearing up for a job search now as an undergraduate or returning student, there are several bright spots where new jobs and promising career paths are expected to emerge in the next few years.

Technology, health care and education will continue to be hot job sectors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' outlook for job growth between 2008 and 2018. But those and other fields will yield new opportunities, and even some tried-and-true fields will bring some new jobs that will combine a variety of skill sets.

The degrees employers say they'll most look for include finance, engineering and computer science, says Andrea Koncz, employment-information manager at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But to land the jobs that will see some of the most growth, job seekers will need to branch out and pick up secondary skills or combine hard science study with softer skills, career experts say, which many students already are doing. "Students are positioned well for future employment, particularly in specialized fields," Ms. Koncz says.

Career experts say the key to securing jobs in growing fields will be coupling an in-demand degree with expertise in emerging trends. For example, communications pros will have to master social media and the analytics that come with it; nursing students will have to learn about risk management and electronic records; and techies will need to keep up with the latest in Web marketing, user-experience design and other

Technology Twists.

More than two million new technology-related jobs are expected to be created by 2018, according to the BLS. Jobs that are expected to grow faster than average include computer-network administrators, data-communications analysts and Web developers. Recruiters anticipate that data-loss prevention, information technology, online security and risk management will also show strong growth.
More on Jobs of the Future

The Next Finance Hiring Hot Spots

A computer-science degree and a working knowledge of data security are critical to landing these jobs. Common areas of undergraduate study for these fields include some of the usual suspects, such as computer science, information science and management-information systems.

But those might not be enough. That's because not all of those jobs will be purely techie in nature. David Foote, chief executive officer of IT research firm Foote Partners, advises current computer-science students to couple their degrees with studies in marketing, accounting or finance. "Before, people widely believed that all you needed to have were deep, nerdy skills," Mr. Foote says. "But companies are looking for people with multiple skill sets who can move fluidly with marketing or operations."

Social media has opened the door to the growth of new kinds of jobs. As companies turn to sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote their brands, capture new customers and even post job openings, they will need to hire people skilled in harnessing these tools, Mr. Foote says. In most cases, these duties will be folded into a marketing position, although large companies such as Coca-Cola Co. are creating entire teams devoted exclusively to social media.

Similarly, employment for public-relations positions should increase 24% by 2018. Job titles—like interactive creative director—will reflect the duality of the required skill sets.

Back to School

Students will have to study strategy to maximize relationships between third-party content providers and their company's Web team. Other key skills will be search-engine optimization to maximize Web traffic and marketing analytics to decipher the company's target demographic, says Donna Farrugia, executive director of Creative Group, a marketing and advertising staffing agency in Menlo Park, Calif.

Many universities and community colleges are offering certification programs focused on burgeoning sectors. For example, the University of California at Los Angeles's extension program offers a certificate in information design.

That, program, like similar certificate studies at other schools, aims to give students an edge in Web site search optimization—a major attraction for Web-based companies who want to boost user traffic, says Cathy Sandeen, dean of UCLA's extension program.

User-experience design—a sort of architecture for information that Web viewers see—is another emerging field. Jobs there include experience specialists and product designers at firms ranging from computer-game companies to e-commerce Web sites.

Ms. Sandeen says the school will offer a certificate program for user-experience design as well, at a cost of about $3,000 to $5,000. The program will run one to two years, depending on a student's schedule, and will couple product design with consumer psychology and behavior.

"Our students [will] learn to think like anthropologists, evaluating how easy it is to utilize the products," she says.

Not surprisingly, green technology, including solar and wind energy and green construction, are also booming areas. Engineers who can mastermind high-voltage electric grids, for example, will have a great advantage over other job applicants, says Greg Netland, who oversees recruiting for the U.S., Latin America and Canada for Sapphire Technologies, an IT staffing firm in Woburn, Mass. that is a division of Randstad.

"Global sustainability will become more important to employers," Mr. Netland says. "It cuts costs, making experts in the field highly attractive to employers."

Jobs in alternative-energy systems, including wind and solar energy, will require a variety of skills: engineers to design systems, consultants who will audit companies' existing energy needs, and those who will install and maintain the systems.

Financial Opportunities

Despite the slashing of positions seen in the financial sector during the economic crisis, recruiters also expect thousands of new jobs to be created in the compliance field, says Dawn Fay, district New York/New Jersey president of Robert Half International.

Ms. Fay counsels job seekers to look at the misdeeds of the past year or two to identify where new jobs will bloom in the financial sector. "It was a year of Ponzi schemes and banking meltdowns," she says. "Be strategic and position yourself as someone who can mitigate those risks."

That makes risk management an emerging specialty with strong growth in jobs expected. Those on track to be financial analysts can get additional certification in risk management through organizations like the Risk Management Association or the Risk and Insurance Management Society.

"Risk management was a mainstay in financial companies, but I believe it will be present in every Fortune 500 company," says Jeff Joerres, chairman and chief executive officer at staffing firm Manpower Inc.

Hospital Upgrades

Health care is expected to continue to see a surge in hiring, with more than four million new openings estimated by 2018, according to the BLS. Hiring for physical and occupational therapists will likely be strongest. But new specialties are popping up, particularly in case management, says Brad Ellis, a partner with Kaye Bassman International, an executive-search firm based in Plano, Texas.

Case managers do everything from managing the flow of information between practitioner and insurance company to mitigating risk to the hospital.

"If you're a licensed nurse, for example, getting a certificate in risk management from the state board of health would make you extremely competitive," Mr. Ellis says.

Harris Miller, president of the Career College Association in Washington, D.C., says IT will be increasingly important in the quest to drive down health-care costs, too. Students specializing in nursing informatics, which combines general nursing with computer and information sciences, at the master's degree level will swap a clipboard for a smart phone to manage patient data. Schools like Vanderbilt University are offering nursing informatics degrees via distance learning, and certification is offered through American Nurses Credentialing Center, based in Silver Springs, Md.

The strong push toward making medical records and information more accessible through computerized record-keeping means opportunity, Mr. Miller says. "This is going to require people who are skilled in the hardware and software of nursing informatics."


“The Big Lebowski" - Dissertations on His Dudeness

Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1998 movie, “The Big Lebowski,” which stars Jeff Bridges as a beatific, pot-smoking, bowling-obsessed slacker known as the Dude, snuck up on the English-speaking world during the ’00s: it became, stealthily, the decade’s most venerated cult film. It’s got that elusive and addictive quality that a great midnight movie has to have: it blissfully widens and expands in your mind upon repeat viewings.

Jeff Bridges as the Dude in the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski,” which has crept into cult popularity over the last decade.

“The Big Lebowski” has spawned its own shaggy, fervid world: drinking games, Halloween costumes, bumper stickers (“This aggression will not stand, man”) and a drunken annual festival that took root in Louisville, Ky., and has spread to other cities. The movie is also the subject of an expanding shelf of books, including “The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers” and the forthcoming “The Tao of the Dude.”

Where cult films go, academics will follow. New in bookstores, and already in its second printing, is “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies,” an essay collection edited by Edward P. Comentale and Aaron Jaffe (Indiana University Press, $24.95). The book is, like the Dude himself, a little rough around the edges. But it’s worth an end-of-the-year holiday pop-in. Ideally you’d read it with a White Russian — the Dude’s cocktail of choice — in hand.

More than a few of this book’s essay titles will make you groan and laugh out loud at the same time (“ ‘The Big Lebowski’ and Paul de Man: Historicizing Irony and Ironizing Historicism”). But just as often, the writing here is a bit like the film: amiable, laid-back and possessed of a wobbly Zen-acuity.

In one essay Fred Ashe — he is an associate professor of English at Birmingham-Southern College — profitably compares the Dude to Rip van Winkle, for both his “friendly charisma” and what Washington Irving described as Rip’s “insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor.” Both men, Mr. Ashe notes, expose “the sickness of a straight society premised on the Puritan work ethic.”

In another, “On the White Russian,” Craig N. Owens — he teaches literature and writing at Drake University in Des Moines — divides the world into two factions: those who float the cream on their White Russians (“the floaters”) and those who mix it in (“the homogenizers”). He praises the Dude’s “middle way,” avoiding the hassle of “shaking and straining.”

At times Mr. Owens sounds as if he’s been hitting the minibar himself. He writes about how Leon Trotsky is “doubly implicated” in the White Russian, first because he helped defeat the anti-Communist White Russian army during the Russian civil war, and second because he later fled to Mexico, “Kahlúa’s country of origin.” Mr. Owens suggests that the Dude has a kind of “Trotskian positionality.”

Most of the essays in “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies” began as papers presented at the 2006 Lebowski Fest in Louisville. Working at an unhurried, Dude-like crawl, it took the editors three years to wrap these papers up and usher them into print.

“When we first put out a call for papers, we received about 200 proposals,” said Mr. Comentale, an associate professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington, whose previous books include “Modernism, Cultural Production and the British Avant-Garde” and “T. E. Hulme and the Question of Modernism.”

When putting the book together, Mr. Comentale said, he and his co-editor “immediately cut out all the papers celebrating the Dude as a hippie hero in a postmodern landscape.” That’s a sober choice. Admirers of the Dude are already dangerously close to becoming Internet-age versions of Parrotheads, the weekend-warrior Jimmy Buffett fans who tip back margaritas — and embarrass their children — while wearing flip-flops, board shorts, Hawaiian shirts and coconut bras.

“Trying to impress your academic colleagues and also make a dent in the popular market, that’s a fine line to walk,” Mr. Comentale added. “We wanted these essays to press the connection between the goofy and the profound.”

Reading “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies,” it’s hard not to recall some of the profound and not-so-goofy things the novelist Umberto Eco had to say about cult movies in his 1984 essay “ ‘Casablanca’: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage.”

“What are the requirements for transforming a book or movie into a cult object?” Mr. Eco asked. “The work must be loved, obviously, but this is not enough. It must provide a completely furnished world so that its fans can quote characters and episodes as if they were aspects of the fan’s private sectarian world, a world about which one can make up quizzes and play trivia games so that the adepts of the sect recognize through each other a shared expertise.”

Fans dressed as the character Walter Sobchak, the Dude's best friend, pictured in the essay collection “The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies.”

"It's fine to have classes and books about The Dude since, arguably, there are some things about human life that it treats that Shakespeare doesn't."

Mr. Eco certainly seemed to presage the existence of “The Big Lebowski” when he wrote in his essay about “Casablanca” that a cult movie must be “ramshackle, rickety, unhinged in itself.” He explained: “Only an unhinged movie survives as a disconnected series of images, of peaks, of visual icebergs. It should display not one central idea but many. It should not reveal a coherent philosophy of composition. It must live on, and because of, its glorious ricketiness.”

The glue that holds “The Big Lebowski” together, as gloriously rickety as it is, is Mr. Bridges’s performance. Pauline Kael once observed that Mr. Bridges, who is gathering Oscar buzz this month for his performance as a down-on-his-luck country singer in “Crazy Heart,” “may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived.”

In an essay in “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies,” Thomas B. Byers — he is a professor of English at the University of Louisville — points out that more mainstream actors like Harrison Ford or Kevin Costner or Tom Hanks could not have pulled off the role of the Dude. “What makes Bridges less of a star is precisely what makes him perfect for ‘Lebowski,’ whose particular niche of success depends on its outsider, cult status,” Mr. Byers writes.

As a new generation of “Lebowski” fans emerges, Dude Studies may linger for a while. In another of this book’s essays, “Professor Dude: An Inquiry Into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students,” a bearded, longhaired and rather Dude-like associate professor of English at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., named Richard Gaughran asks this question about his students: “What is it that they see in the Dude that they find so desirable?”

One of Mr. Gaughran’s students came up with this summary, and it’s somehow appropriate for an end-of-the-year reckoning: “He doesn’t stand for what everybody thinks he should stand for, but he has his values. He just does it. He lives in a very disjointed society, but he’s gonna take things as they come, he’s gonna care about his friends, he’s gonna go to somebody’s recital, and that’s it. That’s how you respond.”

Happy New Year, Dude.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Belief in God on the Decline

This is the season for traditions: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, carolers on the doorstep, and the endless argument about the secularization of Christmas. This isn’t the usual complaining about the toy and greeting card companies commercializing the holidays, but a much broader trend involving the secularization of religion around the country.

We are still a nation whose coins say “In God We Trust,” where most witnesses in U.S. courts swear “so help me God,” and where our school kids pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God, indivisible.”

But God, as we have traditionally known Him, is evolving for more and more worshippers. Belief in the God revered by most mainstream religions — a highly specific, paternalistic deity with an agreed-upon history and behaviors — is on the decline.

According to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, only 76% of Americans identify as Christians, down from 86% in 1990. But interestingly, while non-Christians are not choosing Islam or Judaism, neither are they choosing atheism. A poll done by Gallup in 2008 found that 15% of Americans – up from 8% in 1999– say they don’t believe in God, but they do believe in a “Higher Power” or “Universal Spirit.” More and more, Americans believe that the world was created by a spiritual being, but they reject the Torah, the Koran and the New Testament as the explanation for it.

These universal-spirit worshippers, or what we call Religious Independents, are defining a secular Third Way in religion. They are like political independents who vote but refuse to affiliate with a party. Consequently, attendance at Christmas mass may be declining, but celebration of Christmas andthe holidays remains as high as ever. Paradoxically, overall belief in a God is rising, while participation in organized religion is declining.

Demographically speaking, the Religious Independents, like their political counterparts, are more affluent and well-educated than traditional God-believers. We did our own poll to get at the differences between the traditionalists and the ReligiousIndependents, and the results were striking. Americans with just a high school diploma are Religious Independents at a rate of just 10% – but attend even some college, and it shoots up to 30%. As more and more students attend college here and elsewhere, we can expect this trend to mushroom, since higher education strongly correlates with a rejection of organized religion in favor of a more amorphous notion of a Supreme Being.

The data suggest, though, that modern secularization will not lead us back to Sodom and Gomorrah, where lack of religion caused unrestrained amoral and reckless behavior. ReligiousIndependents have a high belief in values like doing good, giving back to the community, and taking responsibility for our planet. They accept most of the Ten Commandments on moral, if not religious, grounds.

Our poll also revealed that whereas almost 70% of traditionalists say that after death, “there is either heaven or hell,” 54% of the ReligiousIndependents say that “there is only what people remember of you.” A remarkable 75% of traditionalists say that they believe in angels, compared with only 45% of theIndependents . And while 53% of traditionalists say they’ve had a “spiritual or mystical life experience that defies simple scientific explanation,” only 1 in 3 ReligiousIndependents says that–and a majority (53%) reject that statement strongly.

According to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, only 76% of Americans identify as Christians, down from 86% in 1990. But interestingly, while non-Christians are not choosing Islam or Judaism, neither are they choosing atheism. A poll done by Gallup in 2008 found that 15% of Americans – up from 8% in 1999– say they don’t believe in God, but they do believe in a “Higher Power” or “Universal Spirit.” More and more, Americans believe that the world was created by a spiritual being, but they reject the Torah, the Koran and the New Testament as the explanation for it.

These universal-spirit worshippers, or what we call Religious Independents, are defining a secular Third Way in religion. They are like political independents who vote but refuse to affiliate with a party. Consequently, attendance at Christmas mass may be declining, but celebration of Christmas andthe holidays remains as high as ever. Paradoxically, overall belief in a God is rising, while participation in organized religion is declining.

Demographically speaking, the Religious Independents, like their political counterparts, are more affluent and well-educated than traditional God-believers. We did our own poll to get at the differences between the traditionalists and the ReligiousIndependents, and the results were striking. Americans with just a high school diploma are Religious Independents at a rate of just 10% – but attend even some college, and it shoots up to 30%. As more and more students attend college here and elsewhere, we can expect this trend to mushroom, since higher education strongly correlates with a rejection of organized religion in favor of a more amorphous notion of a Supreme Being.

The data suggest, though, that modern secularization will not lead us back to Sodom and Gomorrah, where lack of religion caused unrestrained amoral and reckless behavior. ReligiousIndependents have a high belief in values like doing good, giving back to the community, and taking responsibility for our planet. They accept most of the Ten Commandments on moral, if not religious, grounds.

Our poll also revealed that whereas almost 70% of traditionalists say that after death, “there is either heaven or hell,” 54% of the ReligiousIndependents say that “there is only what people remember of you.” A remarkable 75% of traditionalists say that they believe in angels, compared with only 45% of theIndependents . And while 53% of traditionalists say they’ve had a “spiritual or mystical life experience that defies simple scientific explanation,” only 1 in 3 ReligiousIndependents says that–and a majority (53%) reject that statement strongly.

Perhaps most importantly, 83% of Religious Independents say it is more important to be ethical than to be devout, compared to only 64% of traditionalists. Seventy-two percent of ReligiousIndependents say that living a good spiritual life depends on how you act, not what you believe — compared with only 59% of traditional followers. In other words, ReligiousIndependents have just as strong a desire for repairing the world, even as they reject the habits and practices of religion.

All this has substantial implications for American culture. Religious Independents don’t want to get involved in cultural wars or fights over Christmas crèches. They are focused on self-improvement, not evangelism. Without high priests of any sort, they’re more apt to resolve political and ethical questions on issues like abortion on a case-by-case basis, rather than with dicta handed down from on high. And if they want transcendence, they will turn to yoga (said to be the fastest-growing sport in America), meditation, kabbalah or Buddhism– but not priests and churches. Indeed, as religious communities are tearing their hair out wondering why so many Americans have left God, it is worth noting that many ReligiousIndependents feel that they were rejected first: while 63% of traditionalists say “Christianity stands for inclusion,” a plurality of Universal Believers, at 46%, says “Christianity stands for exclusion.”

Just as we have reached a record number of political independents in this country, so have we reached a record number of Religious Independents. Established institutions – whether secular or religious – are undergoing severe questioning. Unless traditional religions undertake more reform, we can expect to see this trend accelerate with the growth of universal access to higher education, and the unlocking of more and more mysteries of life through science in ways that were never expected in biblical times.

And yet, just as the two-party system has survived even though most voters are not part of a party, so organized religion has survived even the Dark Ages. At its core are a set of rituals and customs that bind communities of believers; these shared experiences build strong ties between friends and family and, more importantly, generations. Can a Universal Spirit with no anthropomorphic form—no stories, no earthly emissaries– be passed down through the ages? And can a carrot work without a stick? While God’s love is no doubt a source of comfort for many, fear of eternal damnation makes a pretty compelling argument, too.


Wall Street Journal

Top 10 Forecasts for 2010 and Beyond From The Futurist Magazine

Each year since 1985, the editors of The Futurist have selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine to go into the annual Outlook report. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, and the end of the Cold War. Here are the top ten forecasts for 2010 and beyond.

1. Your phone will tell you when you’re in love. Mobile devices are enabling new spontaneous connections in real-world settings, including love connections. One day soon, your phone will play matchmaker, recommending that you introduce yourself to someone nearby whose online profile displays tastes or passions similar to yours. Impossible? An iPhone application called Serendipity is currently being commercialized by MIT researchers. —Erica Orange, “Mining Information from the Data Clouds,” July-Aug 2009, p. 17

2. In the design economy of the future, people will download and print their own products, including auto parts, jewelry, and even the kitchen sink. Rapid prototyping, or 3-D printing, and devices like the RepRap self-reproducing printer are allowing people to design, customize, and print objects from their home computers. In the future, cheaper versions of these devices could disrupt manufacturing business models, resulting in far cheaper products individually tailored to every customer’s desire. —Thomas A. Easton, “The Design Economy,” Jan-Feb 2009, p. 43

3. The era of brain-to-brain telepathy dawns. Neuroscientist David Poeppel says that telepathic communication between brains is possible, so long as “communication” is understood to be electromagnetic signals and not words. Technologies like magnetoencephalography, which pick up the various signals the brain sends out, could be used to pick up specific signals and convey them. If you could train your brain to signal in Morse code, sensors in a helmet could pick up the message and send it to another helmet. —Patrick Tucker, “Reinventing Morality,” Jan-Feb 2009, p. 23

4. Tomorrow’s inventors will spend their days writing descriptions of the problems they want to solve, and then letting computers find the solutions. Invention programs like Gregory Hornby’s “evolutionary algorithm” have been used to invent real-world objects, such as a special space antenna, based entirely on engineering specifications. Continued advances will increasingly rely on cross-fertilization between the fields of biology and computer science. As a result, we will develop not only software that can produce better inventions but also inventions that are able to adapt to their environments. —Robert Plotkin, “The Automation of Invention,” July-Aug 2009, p. 24

5. Micronations built on artificial islands will dramatically shift the face of global politics. New forms of government and unusual political models will begin to emerge, including corporate nation-states, religious states, tax-free zones, single-function countries, cause-related countries, and even rental nation-states, where organizations can “rent a country” for a year or two to test a specific project. —Thomas Frey, “Own Your Own Island Nation,” May-June 2009, p. 30

6. Young people will read more, and the old will play more video games. According to the 2007 American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed some surprising findings. In 2007, adults aged 75 and older spent nearly twice as much time playing video games (about 20 minutes) as they did in 2006. Teens aged 15–19 spent twice as much time reading as they did before (about 14 minutes) and less time using a computer for games or casual surfing. —World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2008, p. 14

7. Ammonia may become the fuel of choice for cars by 2020. As a candidate source for hydrogen used in fuel cells, ammonia (comprising one nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms) is plentiful, easier to liquefy than methane, and emits nitrogen rather than carbon, thus having fewer negative impacts on the climate. —J. Storrs Hall, “Ammonia, the Fuel of the Future,” Sep-Oct 2009, p. 10

8. Algae may become the new oil. According to researchers at a Department of Energy plant in New Mexico, single-celled microalgae, grown in pond water, produce a biofuel that is lead-free and biodegradable, emits two-thirds less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than gasoline, and can run any modern diesel engine. Even better, algae require only a fraction of the land area of biofuel-producing crops. —Robert McIntyre, “Algae’s Powerful Future,” Mar-Apr 2009, p. 25

9. Radical methods of altering the planet may be the only way to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Geoengineering may be inevitable because, even if humans could instantly end all greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures would continue to increase for the next 20–30 years, triggering feedback loops and more warming. Potential megascale geoengineering projects include sending space mirrors into orbit, sequestering carbon in the ground in biomass charcoal, and increasing the amount of carbon that the ocean can absorb by forcing plankton blooms in the seas. —Jamais Cascio, author of Hacking the Earth, reviewed by Bob Olson, July-Aug 2009, p. 51

10. The existence of extraterrestrial life will be confirmed or conclusively denied within a generation. New space missions and advanced computer technology could confirm the existence of extraterrestrials soon. Scientists using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have found that at least 20%—and perhaps as many as 60%—of Sun-like stars could have rocky planets. Next generation, AI-driven space probes may allow us to plot the location of every planetary body in the known universe. Among the more than 300 extra-solar worlds already discovered, probably one has some form of life, according to Dimitar Sasselov, an astronomer and director of Harvard University’s Origins of Life Initiative. —Gregory Georgiou, “The Real Life Search for E.T. Heats Up,” Nov-Dec 2008, p. 20

All of these forecasts plus dozens more are included in the annual report that scans the best writing and research from THE FUTURIST magazine over the course of the previous year. The Society hopes this report, covering developments in business and economics, demography, energy, the environment, health and medicine, resources, society and values, and technology, will assist its readers in preparing for the challenges and opportunities in 2010 and beyond.


The Rise of Japan’s "Girlie Man" Generation

Yasuo Takeuchi makes an improbable radical. Skinny, wearing jeans, a striped sports shirt and a baby blue cardigan, he is fidgety and talks in a near whisper. He is 33, works for a major publisher in Tokyo and inspired a label now applied to a new generation of Japanese men. He is the archetypal soshokukei danshi, “herbivorous male” or Ojo-man “girlie man”.

Herbivores are shy and quiet. They seek the friendship of women and spurn aggressive dating. They are thrifty and abhor consumerism. They like quiet evenings in with friends rather than drinking till they vomit in the izakaya bars of Tokyo. They are the antithesis of the macho Japanese salarymen, on whose long-suffering shoulders modern Japan was built.

Early, non-Japanese descriptions of the herbivore put them in the category of freaky Japanese cultural sideshows. From the folks who brought you robot dogs and huge-bosomed manga heroines came a large group of men in their mid-twenties to early thirties who rejected the “carnivorous” ways of older Japanese men. Bravo Japan. Challenged by a low birth rate, rising suicide numbers and an economy shrinking at the fastest rate in 60 years it had produced a generation of neutered geeks.

But go deeper and you find that these “girlie men” represent something different: a quiet, social revolution for which many in Japan have been clamouring for years.

Change in Japan is glacial. But the recent general election swept away the dominant Liberal Democratic Party, which had ruled Japan almost without interruption since the Second World War, and put in power the more liberal Democratic Party of Japan. The conservatism of the country, both political and social, is under threat. And the herbivores, reckoned to make up 30 to 40 per cent of men aged between 21 and 34, are staging a social revolt in which the sexes become more equal, the workplace less spiritually crushing and broken family ties are remade.

Two years ago, Megumi Ushikubo, the head of a market research firm in Tokyo, began receiving calls from panic-strickenclients in the beer and car industries. They were struggling to sell cars and beers to men in their twenties and thirties. It had once been so easy. Pitch them as a means to social status and the bars and showrooms were overrun. Not any more.

“In the 1980s, boys had to buy a car, otherwise girls would not look up to them,” says Ushikubo. “We were leaders in consumption. Suddenly companies were asking why are guys no longer interested in cars? And why are girls telling us they aren’t interested in boys who waste their money on cars?” The trauma of Japan’s bursting economic bubble, Ushikubo found, had created a generation suspicious of the cavalier spending habits of those a few years older. They were also less willing to endure the humiliations an older generation had tolerated both at work and in relationships.

“In my generation, we had a show called 101st Proposal, in which a man proposed to 100 women and was eventually accepted the 101st time,” says Ushikubo, who was born in 1962. “The important thing was that you tried and tried and showed endurance. Guys these days don’t want to go through that rejection. Instead they want to be acknowledged as people by girls. Being popular is a much lower priority.”

Yasuo Takeuchi epitomised the phenomenon. He grew up in Chiba, a dormitory town just outside Tokyo. All the fathers in town were salarymen, who took the train into Tokyo early in the morning and came home late. But his father never pressured his son to do as he did. “All the fathers in town were quite radical like this. They let the children do what they wanted with their lives. In fact, they encouraged it.” Takeuchi went to Tokyo University to study physics, where he found friends who, like him, did not accept that their fate was to suffer silently in Japan’s vast corporations and bureaucracies. They envisioned work occupying a discreet rather than overwhelming place in their lives. And they believed that family friends mattered far more than shopping or travel.

It was a change from the generations that preceded them. The Japanese who survived the Second World War were stoic in turning their bombed-out country into the second greatest economic power in the world. Next were the baby boomers and then the “bubble generation”, who came of age in the 1980s, when it seemed the Japanese were poised to take over the world. It was a time when the Japanese thronged Bond Street and bought the Rockefeller Centre and Van Gogh’s Irises for mind-blowing sums. There followed the lost decade when Japan entered a long slump and global attention shifted to growth economies such as China and India.

Takeuchi would hear constantly from older people how great Japan had been and how deprived he was to grow up in such austere times. The factors once seen as crucial to Japan’s success were now seen as failures: a rigid educational system that had produced generations of highly intelligent employees was now thwarting the individuality and creativity needed to rebuild the country; big corporations that had propelled Japanese industry to the top of the world were now ugly bureaucracies that suffocated their employees and stifled entrepreneurship; an ethnically homogenous people who had worked with a common purpose and set of values to build modern Japan were now insular and xenophobic.

“But I never bought that,” Takeuchi says. “I never felt deprived.” Nor did he feel any obligation to be a corporate samurai, battling for Japan’s economic supremacy. At work he refused to dress or behave like older employees. He was considered sloppy, and his bosses thought he did not care for work. “I just believed that at work and in life, doing OK is OK. There’s no need to show everyone how much effort you’re making.” He had no veneration for conventional models of success. “All we want to feel is that our work has a sense of purpose.”

To hear Takeuchi talk is to hear echoes of what Westerners call Generation Y, a generation in their twenties and thirties who mystify older managers. They do not believe companies will look after them. They do not respect job titles or hierarchies, only those who control resources and produce obvious outputs. They abhor office politics and do not respond to traditional motivational tools such as promotion, pay rises and the promise of job security.

The herbivores’ revolution may be one of shrugs and quiet refusals, but to take on Japan’s managerial hierarchy takes chutzpah. “People often tell me, ‘oh, you must be really confident to behave this way’,” Takeuchi says. “But I never think of myself that way. Making a big effort to be something I’m not just isn’t me. I want to be natural, just to be myself.”
This desire to be individual may seem unremarkable in San Francisco or London but was novel enough in Japan to catch the eye of Maki Fukasawa, a marketing writer who shared an office with Takeuchi. When she talked about him with friends and older managers, she found that they were horrified, that here was the future of Japan.

The herbivores, managers complained, did not regard work as the centre of their lives. When it came to the drinking sessions essential to Japanese corporate culture, the herbivores passed. They refused to debase themselves to please a boss.

“Once I recognised the phenomenon, I noticed it everywhere,” says Fukasawa. “Looking at the IT CEOS in Japan, I realised that they didn’t seem competitive in the same way as an older generation of Japanese CEOs. They didn’t need some trophy wife standing beside them or the expensive car or watch. They weren’t desperate to spend time in New York, London or Paris. Instead they wanted to be at home. They had lived their entire lives in an era when Japan was an established economic power, despite its troubles. They felt completely confident being Japanese.”

Fukasawa dubbed this new generation “herbivores”, a term she says has been poorly understood in the West. “I keep being asked if they are like the the nerdy computer game fans, or the men who buy girls’ high school costumes. They’re not. We are Buddhists and the idea of being ‘grass eating’ is that you’re more spiritual. It’s not just the opposite of carnivorous. It means they aren’t so interested in physical things or physical relationships.”

“The more you study them, the more you think that they’re actually the ones who are consistent with traditional, pre-war Japan,” says Fukasawa. “It was the generation of the rising economy who were ultra-competitive who were maybe the strange ones.”
In every Japanese convenience store are special sections devoted to men’s cosmetics, eyebrow shapers, packets of disposable wipes for dealing with sweat and body odor, skin whitener. The herbivores may not buy beer and cars but they spend on keeping themselves odourless, hairless and pale. Their clothes come from cheap, fashionable chains such as Uniqlo. This week, Shinya Yamaguchi, 23, a fashion designer, launches his latest collection of skirts and lacy tops — all aimed at men. Many of Japan’s younger male celebrities, bands such as Arashi and actors like Eita, Teppei Koike and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, project an effeminate, herbivorous look.

“It’s non-man, non-woman at the same time,” says Fukasawa. “Sexually neutral.” This neutrality, both Fukasawa and Ushikubo believe, is a response to the changing nature of Japanese marriage. During the 30 years up to 2005, the percentage of unmarried men between 30 and 34 rose from 14 per cent to 47 per cent and the number of unmarried women from 8 to 32 per cent.

Financial insecurity among men and the social expectations imposed on married women, to have children and forego work, have made marriage less attractive. Traditional matchmaking by families and employers has also dwindled. The hunt for partners became less aggressive on both sides, to the point where businesses saw an opportunity in organising “konkatsu” or marriage activity, social activities designed to bring singles together.
When herbivores do marry, it is with little hoopla and low expectations. Yasuo Takeuchi recently married in a small, private ceremony, and he is saving for a honeymoon in the future.

The herbivores’ views, style and choices can be seen as a very positive story, about a generation of young Japanese discovering their individuality. But they also say a lot about the tensions within Japan.

“After the Second World War, we were all told that Western education was best and that Asian culture and philosophy was bad,” says Fukasawa. “The herbivores are finding their own solution to the problem of resolving Western and Confucian values. They are a function of their time. They are dealing with the change in the economy and I think they are closer to the original Japanese character of being non-competitive, of not trying to win other people over. And as a silent majority, they have the power to change the culture.”


Megan Fox Bio

A slender, olive-skinned actress whose elegant beauty is somewhat offset by a collection of vivid tattoos (including a portrait of Marilyn Monroe on her right forearm and the +King Lear quote "We all laugh at gilded butterflies" on her right shoulder blade), Megan Fox knew she wanted to be an actress from age three, and never once considered another line of work. A native of Memphis, TN, Fox began taking dance lessons when she was five years old and continued perfecting her graceful movements even after her family relocated to Florida five years later. At 13, the aspiring starlet enrolled in modeling and acting classes. It didn't take long for all of Fox's hard work to pay off, with a role in the 2001 Olsen twins comedy Holiday in the Sun marking the ambitious actress' official screen debut.

Over the course of the next few years, Fox became a frequent fixture on television thanks to roles on What I Like About You, Two and a Half Men, and Hope && Faith. In 2004, Fox would torment a fledgling Lindsay Lohan in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, though it was Fox's performance as a human caught in the middle of an epic robot battle that would truly prove her calling card to Hollywood. Cast as the love interest of Shia LaBeouf in Michael Bay's 2007 blockbuster Transformers, Fox turned more than a few heads while fighting for the future of the human race. In 2008, Fox could be spotted opposite Kirsten Dunst, Simon Pegg, Jeff Bridges, and Gillian Anderson in the Robert B. Weide-directed comedy How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Jason Buchanan

All Movie Guide


Big Cities Are Still Waiting for Economic Recovery

The recovery made only slow advances in October and was still skirting most major population areas in the U.S., according to new readings of the Adversity Index from Moody's and
Nearly one in three metro areas have started to recover, but virtually none of the nation's biggest cities. (The full list is below.)
One likely reason is that the nascent economic recovery started in the nation's midsection, from south to north, a part of the country that has relatively few big cities. The oil and gas industry has helped states from Texas up through the Great Plains. Heavily urbanized states such as New York and California were among the hardest hit in the recession and are proving slower to recover. Areas with the largest runup in home prices have been the slowest to recover, economists say, particularly Nevada and Florida.

Out of 384 metro areas in the nation, 118 were in recovery, or 31 percent, according to the October Adversity Index. That's up from 100 metro areas in September and 79 in August, the first month when any areas showed a rebound beginning.
A much larger group, 264 areas, had a "moderating recession" in October, meaning their economies were still shrinking but not so severely as earlier this year. 
That leaves two metro areas still spiraling downward in a full recession, both of them in Nevada: Las Vegas-Paradise and Carson City.
Each month, the Adversity Index uses government data on employment, industrial production, housing starts and home prices to label each state and metro area as expanding, at risk of recession, in recession or recovering. The index was developed by and Moody's, which sells in-depth economic forecasts on metro areas
In most states the recovery has so far not taken hold in the largest metro areas. In New York, for example, the three areas in the recovery category are Buffalo-Niagara Falls, Ithaca and Utica-Rome. In Tennessee, the only two are Clarksville and Cleveland. Five metro areas are in recovery in North Carolina, but not Charlotte.
There were 20 areas that moved into the recovery category in October: Albany, Ga.; Amarillo, Texas; Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.; Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Charleston-Summerville , S.C.; Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky.; Dover, Del.; Dubuque, Iowa; Eau Claire, Wis.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Gainesville, Ga.; Laredo, Texas; Morgantown, W.Va.; Mount Vernon-Anacortes, Wash.; Norwich-New London, Conn.; Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, Fla.; Salisbury, Md.; Sheboygan, Wis.; Waco, Texas; and Wausau, Wis.
Two areas shifted from the recovery category into the recession category: Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas and Kalamazoo-Portage, Mich. 
"Recovery" doesn't mean that an area's economy is above where it was at the beginning of the recession, just that the area has begun to dig its way out of the hole.
No metro area yet is shown in "expansion," the most positive category; that label is triggered when a metro area's economy grows past its previous peak. Most of the recovering areas are far from that level.
First signs of manufacturing gains
October was the first month since November 2008 when any metro area showed an increase in manufacturing output. Nine of 384 areas posted gains: Wichita, Kan.; Sebastian-Vero Beach, Fla.; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.; Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; Tucson, Ariz.; Merced, Calif.; Lake Charles, La.; and Carson City, Nev.

Only 10 of 384 areas gained jobs: Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash.; Sandusky, Ohio; Hot Springs, Ark.; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; Iowa City, Iowa; St. Joseph, Mo.-Kan.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Ocean City, N.J.; Lynchburg, Va.; and Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.
By contrast, 115 areas showed increases in housing starts.
‘Play’ the index
Here are several ways to explore this month's Adversity Index:

  • An interactive map above this story shows the economic health of every state and metro area. You can "play" the map to watch the economy's ups and downs over 15 years, or select any state to see data for each metro area for each month. You can also see the map on its own page .  

  • A month-by-month chart shows when the current recession enveloped each metro area.
  • The updated index will be published every month at . There is a lag of about six weeks, so November data will be out in January.
  • An explainer tells how the Adversity Index assesses the economy.
  • This list shows which counties are within each metro area.
Regional outlook from Moody's
In its monthly regional forecast, Moody's found that the economy is recovering first in the central plains, where unemployment has stabilized, and that the recovery is only starting to spread outward.

"Many Plains and nearby Mountain state economies are now recovering," wrote Steve Cochrane, managing director at Moody's Economy. "The next region likely to turn the corner will be the Southeast, except Florida and perhaps Georgia, where housing markets remain so uncertain." High numbers of bank failures in the Southeast are also a concern, he wrote.
State by state
Looking at the state-level data, there was only one state that moved into the recovery category in October: Alabama. It joined Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington, D.C. Within those states some metro areas are still in recession.

Nevada was the only state left classified as being in a full recession in October, according to the Adversity Index. All other states were in a moderating recession. 
Metro areas in recovery
Here are the 118 metro areas where the Adversity Index shows a recovery under way in October. Several of the metro areas cross state lines and are listed more than once.

  • Alabama (4 out of 12 metro areas in recovery): Birmingham-Hoover, Columbus (Georgia-Alabama), Huntsville, Mobile.
  • Alaska (1 out of 2): Anchorage.
  • Arizona (1 out of 6): Yuma.
  • Arkansas (3 out of 8): Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers (Arkansas-Missouri), Hot Springs, Little Rock-Conway.
  • California (0 out of 28).
  • Colorado (1 out of 7): Colorado Springs.
  • Connecticut (1 out of 4): Norwich-New London.
  • Delaware (1 out of 2): Dover.
  • Washington, D.C. (0 out of 1): The broad metro area, which includes parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, is still in recession, though the narrower District of Columbia itself is listed in recovery.
  • Florida (1 out of 22): Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent.
  • Georgia (7 out of 15): Albany, Augusta-Richmond County (Georgia-South Carolina), Brunswick, Columbus (Georgia-Alabama), Gainesville, Savannah, Warner Robins.
  • Hawaii (0 out of 1).
  • Idaho (4 out of 6): Idaho Falls, Lewiston (Idaho-Washington), Logan (Utah-Idaho), Pocatello.
  • Illinois (6 out of 13): Bloomington-Normal, Danville, Davenport-Moline-Rock Island (Iowa-Illinois), Kankakee-Bradley, Springfield, St. Louis (Missouri-Illinois).
  • Indiana (10 out of 17): Anderson, Bloomington, Elkhart-Goshen, Evansville (Indiana-Kentucky), Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis-Carmel, Kokomo, Lafayette, Terre Haute.
  • Iowa (8 out of 9): Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport-Moline-Rock Island (Iowa-Illinois), Des Moines-West Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Omaha-Council Bluffs (Nebraska-Iowa), Sioux City (Iowa-Nebraska-South Dakota).
  • Kansas (2 out of 6): Kansas City (Missouri-Kansas), St. Joseph (Missouri-Kansas).
  • Kentucky (5 out of 9): Clarksville (Tennessee-Kentucky), Elizabethtown, Evansville (Indiana-Kentucky), Lexington-Fayette, Owensboro.
  • Louisiana (3 out of 8): Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner.
  • Maine (0 out of 3).
  • Maryland (1 out of 7): Salisbury.
  • Massachusetts (2 out of 8): Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Worcester.
  • Michigan (0 out of 16).
  • Minnesota (3 out of 8): Fargo (North Dakota-Minnesota), Grand Forks (North Dakota-Minnesota), Rochester.
  • Mississippi (3 out of 5): Gulfport-Biloxi, Jackson, Pascagoula.
  • Missouri: (6 out of 9) Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers (Arkansas-Missouri), Joplin, Kansas City (Missouri-Kansas), Springfield, St. Joseph (Missouri-Kansas), St. Louis (Missouri-Illinois).
  • Montana (2 out of 3): Billings, Missoula.
  • Nebraska (3 out of 3): Lincoln, Omaha-Council Bluffs (Nebraska-Iowa), Sioux City (Iowa-Nebraska-South Dakota).
  • Nevada (0 out of 3).
  • New Hampshire (1 out of 2): Manchester-Nashua.
  • New Jersey (2 out of 10): Edison-New Brunswick, Newark-Union (New Jersey-Pennsylvania).
  • New Mexico (0 out of 4).
  • New York (3 out of 13): Buffalo-Niagara Falls, Ithaca, Utica-Rome.
  • North Carolina (4 out of 15): Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greenville, Winston-Salem.
  • North Dakota (3 out of 3): Bismarck, Fargo (North Dakota-Minnesota), Grand Forks (North Dakota-Minnesota).
  • Ohio (4 out of 16): Columbus, Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna (West Virginia-Ohio), Sandusky, Weirton-Steubenville (West Virginia-Ohio).
  • Oklahoma (0 out of 4).
  • Oregon (0 out of 6).
  • Pennsylvania (3 out of 16): Johnstown, Newark-Union (New Jersey-Pennsylvania), State College.
  • Rhode Island (0 out of 1).
  • South Carolina (5 out of 10): Augusta-Richmond County (Georgia-South Carolina), Charleston-Summerville, Columbia, Myrtle Beach-Conway, Spartanburg.
  • South Dakota (3 out of 3): Rapid City, Sioux City (Iowa-Nebraska-South Dakota), Sioux Falls.
  • Tennessee (2 out of 10): Clarksville (Tennessee-Kentucky), Cleveland.
  • Texas (11 out of 26): Amarillo, Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Brownsville-Harlingen, El Paso, Fort Worth-Arlington, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, San Antonio-New Braunfels, Waco, Wichita Falls.
  • Utah (2 out of 5): Logan (Utah-Idaho), Provo-Orem.
  • Vermont (0 out of 1).
  • Virginia (3 out of 11): Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg.
  • Washington (3 out of 13): Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Lewiston (Idaho-Washington), Mount Vernon-Anacortes.
  • West Virginia (3 out of 9): Morgantown, Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna (West Virginia-Ohio), Weirton-Steubenville (West Virginia-Ohio).
  • Wisconsin (7 out of 16): Appleton, Eau Claire, Janesville, Madison, Oshkosh-Neenah, Sheboygan, Wausau.
  • Wyoming (0 out of 2).  
The view from Elkhart
Among the 118 recovering areas is Elkhart, Ind., where has been reporting on the nation's struggles through the lens of the Indiana city.

Elkhart's economy started to improve in August, based on comparisons with figures posted six months earlier.
But if you compare Elkhart's numbers with a year earlier, or go even further back, it's clear that it may take a long time to return to the highs of the past. According to the index, Elkhart was one of the first areas outside of Michigan to slip into recession when its downturn began in December 2006. 
Here are Elkhart's Adversity Index numbers for the three-month period ending in October, compared with a year earlier, along with the biggest losers and winners among all metro areas:
  • Employment in the Elkhart-Goshen metro area fell 7.94 percent from a year earlier, compared with 8.47 percent the previous month. That ranked near the bottom of metro areas, 379th out of 384. The worst declines were in Warren-Farmington Hills-Troy, Mich., down 9.19 percent, and Flint, Mich., down 8.18 percent. The greatest increase in jobs was in Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Wash., up 3.79 percent, followed by Sandusky, Ohio, up 2.25 percent.
  • Industrial production in the Elkhart area fell 8.75 percent year over year, compared with a 13.55 percent decline a month earlier. Once at the very bottom, Elkhart has moved closer to the middle in manufacturing output, ranking 217th out of 384. The worst decline was Gary, Ind., down 17.47 percent, followed by Erie, Pa., down 17.04 percent. The largest increase was in Wichita, Kan., up 4.51 percent, followed by Sebastian, Fla., up 2.62 percent.
  • Single-family housing starts fell by 55.64 percent in Elkhart from a year earlier, ranking near the bottom, 374th out of 384. The worst decline was in Decatur, Ill., down 80.29 percent, followed by Battle Creek, Mich., 73.79 percent. The greatest increase was in Beaumont, Texas, where housing starts rose 111.79 percent from a year earlier, then Vallejo, Calif., up 108.22 percent.
  • Home prices, the fourth component of the Adversity Index, will be updated when quarterly figures are released.