Rising Sun: The Image of the Desired Japanese Part One

(I was finally prodded into writing about this movie, something I had wanted to do for a while, after reading Nathan Rabin’s piece, “The once-controversial Rising Sun”, part of his Forgotbusters series, devoted to colossi of the past whose footprints have washed from the mass unconscious. This column also dealt with another Michael Crichton adaptation, “If nothing else, the cyber-thriller relic Disclosure is better than its source”, which is also given some space below. Rabin is a hilarious and perceptive writer, and his work is superior to what follows. It should go without saying, but: SPOILERS, for both Rising Sun and Disclosure. Though its plot is summarized, that the reader has seen Rising Sun already is assumed.)





A movie that fascinated me because of the tension between the director, Philip Kaufman, and the writer, Michael Crichton, on whose novel it was based. Some of these tensions were obvious and out in the open at the time of its release, though the most striking change in the material, what I perceive as Kaufman’s contemptuous laughter at Crichton, seems to have gone entirely unnoticed. So, I write about the movie to discuss this major, though perhaps unnoticed change, but also because the movie gives me avenues to discuss so many other things. The movie also provides a curious lesson, where an incredibly talented director adapts material whose message he is in opposition to, and in altering it for the most enlightened reasons, ends up making it less compelling, because the very heart of Rising Sun, its core, is a kind of racial paranoia that animates something like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and without it, the story ceases to have its power. In order to discern why the book works in ways that the movie does not requires us to discern that the book’s approach is that of a paranoid conspiracist – there is perhaps denial that this might be the novel’s approach because it was a mainstream novel by an extraordinarily successful writer. The book supposedly had a racist edge (and only an edge), but it had to be a work of rational analysis gone awry, its appeal due to national concern over the rise of the Japanese behemoth, rather than the attraction of a lunatic vision. Yet I think this is very much what it is, and when it loses this madness, however contemptible, it loses its very essence.

The plot of Rising Sun is a very simple one, with two detectives trying to solve who was behind the murder of a woman at a corporate party, discovering that the woman was there as part of a scheme to blackmail a senator into approving a Japanese takeover, the woman’s murder a counterattack by a rival corporate group. This plot is almost entirely preserved for the movie, with minor changes such as an American now as the actual killer, a black man as one of the police officers, a more virile Eddie Sakamura, etc. None of these, nor the major change that seemingly goes undetected and which I’ll get too later, are responsible for the extraordinary difference between book and movie. The film Rising Sun, with its focus on these plot elements, is a corporate thriller. This plot, however, is only a small facet of the book, which feels like part of a different genre entirely. Those who are familiar with science fiction will recognise Rising Sun right away as having all the traits of that species, and they will soon note all the tropes marking what sci-fi genus it is: the story of an alien invasion. It is the story of an alien invasion, but one with a small twist, and one that gives the novel a haunting quality: the invasion has been nearly invisible, the invasion is nearly over, and as the novel comes to a close, the only victory the hero is given is a clear vision of this shadow invasion, the only relief because the invasion appears nearly over and the invaders have won.

The book is racist, but not in the way the reader who has only heard the indictment might expect. There are no caricatures, no constant ls instead of rs, no dickless men, no purring concubines, no buck teeth. There are only two major characters that are Japanese, Eddie Sakamura, on whom the murder is originally blamed, and Masao Ishiguro, a Nakamoto executive, who is the actual guilty one. The Japanese, as characters, as concrete people, barely show up in the book. Therein lies the strange quality of Rising Sun, which makes it both like an alien invasion story and the Protocols: the Japanese are entirely a shadow army, almost invisible yet at the same time all powerful. They are able to control the press – the Los Angeles Times and various TV stations – forcing them to drop any in-depth look at the murder1. They control the LAPD, gaining access to evidence, able to dissuade the police into dropping their investigation, attempting to bribe the cop heroes2. They control the American government3. They can tap any phone with ease4. The cops meet a witness at an airport bar and one of them checks the underside of the bar for bugs. This same witness must pass a message to them in secret, on a cocktail napkin, as if they are under constant surveillance5. When a renegade university professor begins an examination of the video of the murder, his department is shut down as if by the gestapo – the exact word is used in the text6. In perhaps the most striking parallel to Protocols, we are told of a secret council of Japanese which meets in order to guide the American economy; the only reason the council has ceased to meet is because the Americans are too hopeless to be guided7. We only see the outward effects of Japanese power, without seeing them ever employ it first-hand, always learning about it secondhand from the explanations of John Connor to his partner, Peter Smith – a man who is everyman, just like his namesake who learns all the features of his dystopian society, Winston.

It is these explanations that, I think, can be properly called racist, a term I often avoid using because it is so broad that it is often useless as an indictment next to a specific citation and analysis of the precise act. The Japanese, in Connor’s explanations, are a single entity, motivated by a single ideal, an army of swarming ants, rather than a people composed of individuals. Just as the dramatic effects of an alien invasion story are effected by the aliens as a homogeneous military force, so the effects of an alien invasion story like Rising Sun require the Japanese to be an unseen, homogeneous army, a phantom power that is almost always spoken of in the abstract. One can imagine a better book with actual Japanese characters, yet it would cease to be this book – just as the effects of War of the Worlds require its aliens to be an indistinct force (as opposed to distinct characters), a single entity of conquest. This invisibility, this abstraction, is intertwined with the book’s racism, but it is also very effective at setting this thriller in an unsettling, fascinating landscape. A good contrast here between book and movie is the capture and killing of Eddie Sakamura: in the movie, we see the yakuza who try to take over the apartment up close, and are given an action scene where Sakamura dies. The book gives us something far more eerie. Sakamura is found in his pool, the marks of his murder barely visible8. After, when the yakuza show up, they are seen only at a distance, and then the neighborhood is ablaze with gunfire as if in the middle of a war, and then they are gone, as if never there9. The press misreports the event, because, as Connor makes clear, they are entirely in the grip of the shadow power10.

This book shares another trope with alien invasion stories: the invading aliens are clearly superior to the inhabitants of the soon to be conquered land. The technology of the Japanese is faster and more efficient than that of the Americans, allowing them to see things that their conquests cannot. They are able to edit and change the video documents of life, thus distorting history itself, with only the alien enemy knowing the true vision of events. They work with a patience and diligence that the Americans entirely lack. They are at all times quicker, smarter, and more efficient than the Americans. Their near invisibility combined with their all-powerfulness makes them into an alien race gifted with cosmic powers – I cannot help but think of the episode of the original “Star Trek”, where the ship is taken over by aliens who move too quickly to ever be seen11. Japan, as depicted in the book, is a vampire planet, buying up the resources of the United States and gaining a permanent, though invisible, foothold in the country, in exchange for their beautiful advanced technology – technologies that are already hilarious antiques on the vampire planet12. The only reason why the vampire planet is briefly stymied in the plot of Rising Sun, and why they are briefly, truly revealed, is like a prelude to Blade: the efforts of two half vampires, John Connor and Theresa Asakuma.

Both characters testify to the completeness of Crichton’s vision in his book. Though he may be lacking in skill or uninterested in some areas, such as character or language, this should not be misunderstood as sloppiness in all places. The conspiratorial world of Rising Sun never slips, with every character and moment serving a purpose. This diligence is what gives the book its sustained, often eerie atmosphere, never broken. That it is there in almost every choice of character and action, the choices serving the book’s ideological vision, only makes these choices more vile. There is Theresa Asakuma, who is part African American and part Japanese, a gorgeous woman with a congenital deformity – her left hand is a stump13. I think there is a symbolism here, and the symbolism is obvious: the American and Japanese cultures cannot be mixed. They produce something deceptively beautiful but lacking a vital element. Smith likes the fact that she uses her english name rather than her japanese one: however much we deny it, we wish people to choose our cultural side rather than the enemy’s14. It is there in the American women of the book, who are various stages of a self-indulgent type, the embodiment of a country’s decline. There is Smith’s young daughter, who falls into a crying fit when she can’t see her cartoons15. The older daughter of an associate who shrieks about the clothes she wants16. There is Cheryl Austin, the murder victim, a lost girl, a prostitute, and a sexual deviant. There is Peter Smith’s wife, a career obsessive who is a lousy, neglectful mother17. I do not think any of these choices were made arbitrarily, but are all well thought out details of the book’s vision. This is especially so with the book’s cultural guide and lode star, John Connor.

The beginning and end of most discussion of this character is that it is a take on a well-known Scottish movie star – a Scottish movie star whom Crichton had written about already with fondness and admiration18. The movie does the most obvious thing and casts this very actor in the part, one of two times the film makes this brazen move – the other is having Cheryl Austin, described as a “Tatjana [Patitz] lookalike”, played by the lookedalike herself19. The casting is both a smart move – I don’t think any movie has suffered from having Sean Connery in it – while missing a crucial aspect. The Connor of the book can only be an American, speaking for the country and its interests. The book portrays a conflict with Japan in binary terms, and in the terms of the paranoid conspiracist – America is a conquered world and there is nothing outside the world. Each time any trade conflict is cited, whether it be the Toshiba sale of propeller silencing technology to the former Soviet Union, or the aborted sale of Fairchild Electronics to Fujitsu, all foreign parties are carefully cleaved out, so that it is a fight between just the U.S. and Japan20. Introducing a larger context to any conspiracist portrait ultimately destroys it – for anyone with an okay knowledge of history, whatever their ideology, Glenn Beck’s screeds hold no allure. Similarly, a Scottish policeman, a hint of a world outside America, immediately demolishes the paranoid vision of Rising Sun, just as a sympathetic alien character from a Jovian moon showing up in the story of War of the Worlds would destroy its dynamic, which must remain binary and simple: the mysterious, cruel alien invaders versus us. Just as importantly, any discussion which focuses only on the connections between Connery and Connor misses a crucial point: Connor may have many of the magnetic qualities of his near namesake, but Connor is far more another man, and that is Michael Crichton.

It is not so simple as Connor often serving as a mouthpiece for Crichton’s opinions on trade between Japan and the United States, though there is that. Despite the often banal characterization in Crichton’s books, where people exist for the purposes of plot or the book’s explicit message, Connor is a fascinating man both in the novel and the movie thanks to a strange twist that is due very much to Crichton’s own perspective. He is a man well versed in Japanese culture, fluent in Japanese (I have read that Connor’s Japanese in the movie, however, is terrible), knowledgeable in obscure L.A. sushi stands, who knows that Kôichi Nishi is a character in The Bad Sleep Well – all this and he still considers the Japanese an enemy21. In the context of the metaphor of an alien invasion, Connor is a half-vampire fighting a vampire planet, yet also, and here is the twist, a half vampire who wishes America to be more like this very vampire planet he is fighting. When Nathan Rabin gave a dismissive re-look of this movie, “The once-controversial Rising Sun”, there was this nasty kiss-off to the writer’s work: “At its reactionary worst, Crichton’s output is singularly loathsome, a toxic, Ayn Randian combination of bad ideas tethered to worse storytelling”. Rabin, a keen eyed and witty writer, is likely correct in every part of his dismissal except one – Crichton’s ideal here is not Ayn Randian. Crichton does not wish America to return to some free market paradise to counter the collaboration of Japanese corporations and government; he wishes it to be more like its enemy. Throughout the novel we are shown a system in decay, with broken roads, hospitals filled with the victims of gang violence, police departments clogged with lunatics who’ve been tossed out on the street22. These are not a result of the fettering of the private sector, but the result of a loss of a common stake in a shared space, the kind of thing that would be considered unacceptable and shameful in Japan. The house party which takes place in a gated community guarded by its own private security is not a happy victory for capitalism, as it would be for an Ayn Randian, but a marker of American collapse23. Connor notes with regret all the constraints the police now have in questioning a suspect – no Ayn Rand anti-statist would take this attitude24. Senator Morton speaks passionately of the sclerosis in middle class incomes as a major issue, an issue for which the Ayn Randians are notorious for their callous indifference25. In an interview promoting the book, Crichton argued for the need for gun control and public health care; these sentiments are consistent with Rising Sun and John Connor, as well as being obviously anti-Ayn Randian and anti-libertarian26. So, when Crichton says that he admires and respects the Japanese he is not being disingenuous, though he leaves out an obvious element very much in the book: he believes trade is war, and America is at war with Japan27.

The image that most came to my mind of what John Connor wants, what Michael Crichton wants, is for America to be a modern day Sparta, its energy devoted to economic, rather than military, war. This, it might be argued, is what modern day Japan represents to Connor and Crichton as well, an entire society mobilized towards a single goal. The irony, for me, is that while Connor has no difficulty portraying the Japanese in the worst possible way, the Japan Connor wishes America to be more like is an ideal Japan rather than the actual Japan itself. This is not a case of my own opinion versus that of Crichton’s, it is a case of one of the books that he cites in Rising Sun‘s bibliography: The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel Van Wolferen. The novel presents the Japanese as a single massed entity, a perfectly disciplined stealth power that works in concert for the benefit of the greater Japanese family. Van Wolferen’s book gives us an entirely different vision, of a dysfunctional System (the capitalization is Van Wolferen’s) of no central power where the government has been captured by a few corporations28. Where in the United States there are oversize state investments in defense, you have the equivalent in Japan with the construction industry. The massive projects in both industries serve not their ostensible purpose, but exist solely to pass money from the state to the business. What is eerie when reading Van Wolferen’s rather old book (it came out a few years before Rising Sun), is that the System Van Wolferen describes, where the state is subservient to a few corporate interests, where the press is often a sea of banalities, where there are shifts in political parties yet any regulation or reform is stymied out of sight by these same corporate interests – is that one is reading not about Japan, but the United States29. This is not to say that many of the things Crichton envies are false – the low crime rate, the low murder rate, the superior public infrastructure, the far better health system – it is that they co-exist with a dysfunctionality that is at the heart of the country’s problems with deflation and its lost years, mirroring the dysfunction that has resulted in the same lost years in the United States.

A trade conflict that is presented as an alien invasion is one side of this book’s strange power; the other are the visions by which the detectives are able to solve the murders. This is the digital video from corporate surveillance cameras giving Connor and Smith secret images of sex and death. The book’s descriptions of this footage – of the camera automatically tracking points of movement, of the images flickering through with rapid speed during periods of inactivity, of a mysterious figure moving through the shadows and his face only caught in a reflection – are easily the best writing of the novel, and the movie does not come close to conveying their strange beauty30. The closed camera footage of the movie feels dated, while those of the book don’t feel dated at all.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun - the reflection comes into focus - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/ConventionalNewCommongonolek

That they are unrooted to the time and technology of the book’s writing is because they approach the quality of a mystic vision, which is intertwined with their eerie attraction. That they have this quality is not, I think, accidental; given Crichton’s public image, a reader might think the place given to the video technology comes out of Crichton’s early and lifelong enthusiasm for computers. I see these images through a different lens, coming from an entirely different set of experiences of Crichton’s, which are often downplayed and which I had no knowledge of until recently. They form a large part of Crichton’s only collection of non-fiction, Travels. Though these essays deal with many of the wanderings of Crichton that are geographic, a good half or more of the episodes deal with excursions into what might be called the spiritual or occult. These involve hallucinations, telepathy, telekinesis (spoon bending), and soothsaying. The book ends not with Crichton denying these experiences, but presenting a hypothetical speech where he advocates for research into this field. I describe these experiences as mystic, though Crichton views them as experiences that grow out of a structure that might be modeled, a structure still hidden due to lack of investigation but with as much of a formal order as any physics.

The visions which Crichton relates in this book are its best parts, and they carry the same eerie beauty as the visions of Rising Sun. He goes to see an old fortune teller who suddenly exclaims “What on earth do you do for work?“, when she is seized by a strange image of Crichton in a room filled with wheels that roll with dark snakes – it’s Crichton at work editing a movie31. He puzzles over what visions are true and what are false, and which might be a simple con, however real they might seem, manufactured by the soothsayer. This is the very investigation that Connor and Smith must make, as they are given a series of images all seemingly real, through which only the smallest of details reveal the false ones.

We have then a book that is presented as ostensibly one thing, a corporate thriller involving advanced technology and trade policy, which suggests a rational and grounded novel, when it is nothing of the kind. It is a book about an alien invasion, where the detectives learn of the killer through something akin to mystic visions, a novel that might be likened to a paranoid conspiracy tract where the path to truth is guided by episodes of the occult. That the movie has less presence than the book, is far more generic, is because it loses the book’s madness, a madness that is both toxic and fascinating. There are critiques of Japanese trade policy, but there is no longer an alien invasion. There are surveillance tapes, but this is simple video footage, no magical seering. Crichton may be writing popular fiction, but the madness of his fiction is his own, not an attempt to sate anyone else’s appetites, and he takes his fiction world seriously. Kaufman doesn’t take Crichton’s fiction seriously at all, and throws various wrenches and eye rolls at the works, the movie’s end a nasty sneer at the book, at Crichton, and at the movie it’s supposed to be.

Where the book is told entirely from the perspective of Smith, giving us the perfect setting for the political paranoid, a viewpoint that never moves outside a single mind, the movie shatters this immediately. The opening is Eddie together with Cheryl, alive. The first frames place us both in Japan and America at once, as we move through a movie that Sakamura has shot with himself as hero, a re-creation of both Yojimbo and its re-make A Fistful of Dollars, the movie’s thesis that a heterogeneity of culture and a heterogeneous world is ideal, not one of the future, but one already in existence. This continues on as Rising Sun ends up both an American and Japanese movie at once. We have the screen wipes of Kurosawa, that everyone now associates with the American Star Wars films, which also took some ideas from Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, and whose director, George Lucas, would produce Kurosawa’s Kagemusha. The score is by Tôru Takemitsu, the Japanese composer best known for his work with Kurosawa. Smith is now an expert in karate. Where detective Graham, the man clearly opposed to all this cross pollination, was a good cop in the book whose racism was rooted in the Japanese torture of his father during the war32, he is now clearly one of the villains, helping the yakuza kill Eddie Sakamura.

Rising Sun - movie references - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/SophisticatedTallAssassinbug

A compilation of movie references in the first two minutes: the insects of The Wild Bunch, the dog with the hand from Yojimbo, the cheroot smoking hero from Fistful of Dollars, the femme fatale in the black dress in Gilda.

The race of Peter (now Webster) Smith has been changed, but he’s also been made from a blindly obedient supplicant to a constantly questioning Watson. The change in race also makes at least some of the reactionary speeches impossible. In the novel, Theresa tells Smith that Americans have no idea what it feels like to be excluded from the larger group, while Connor complains that the Japanese are the most racist people on earth, that when in Japan he felt like a nigger33. It’s impossible to conceive of these speeches being said to a black American without it ending up not only ridiculous, but deeply offensive; impossible not to imagine a reply which questions the certainty of Connor and Theresa in all things American and Japanese. Eddie Sakamura has been made more mysterious, a wealthy playboy who should belong everywhere but perhaps feels like an alien in both worlds of the United States and Japan. We never figure out this character, why he pimps out his girlfriend but also is willing to die in order to save the lives of Connor and Smith. In the novel, the answer is simple: he’s a drug addicted louse. For the film, the problem is not that he is a man of contradictions, but that these contradictions exist in a blank.

That Sakamura cannot be made into an actual character perhaps demonstrates the limits of what can be re-made from Crichton’s original conceptions, where the people are simply devices and nothing else. Kaufman can play with these characters by putting them in different contexts, changing traits and names which gives entirely different nuances to the movie, but still do not give any depths to them. Smith now knows karate and Sakamura gives his life to save the detectives, but they remain hints of more fascinating characters. Smith, especially, hints at this – he resents Connor’s patronizing, he feels more alienated from American society than this white foreigner, but he also looks on the Japanese with contempt, and feels a fraternity with Graham not just because they’ve been partners, but because he shares his views. At his best, Kaufman adds a few extra notes which give a complexity to the scene, though not the characters. Sakamura treats Cheryl like an object, the movie’s opening is shaped to bait us to hate Sakamura for this crime, but the bait is poisoned: Cheryl lounges nude, and we the viewers look on her as an object as well. Sakamura freely sleeps with white women, transgressing a color line that is there for Smith as well, and this is played with effectively. Cheryl’s roommate looks seductively on Smith, and we’re uncertain if the attraction is genuine or string-pulling by those behind the murder. In the car, Connor chides Smith for being seduced, Smith denies that he felt anything, and perhaps he hates the fact that this moment meant anything to him.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Later, Smith is shot, the impact blocked by his bulletproof vest, but still strong enough to knock him down, and he falls unconscious; we have his perspective as he floats towards Cheryl calling his name, and it is a moment where he has passed into a spirit netherworld, but it also a sexual fantasy, and a moment where all racial lines have disappeared.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

In the book, some of the most inflammatory material is given to the half-Japanese half-African American Theresa Asakuma – this device of giving the most offensive material over to a minority female is done in Disclosure as well, that time with a part Cuban female attorney34. It’s a fairly transparent strategy, and as a side note, is often employed by the contemporary GOP, with toxic arrows slung by Michelle Bachmann or Allan West, as if their gender or skin grants them some immunity. Kaufman chucks most of her material, and perhaps as a riposte to Crichton, the name of this character who spoke all this jingoistic material is now Jingo Asakuma. Where in the novel Asakuma’s defect is a symbol of the impossibility of these two cultures intermixing, in the movie it is simply there, of no weight or consequence. Asakuma is a flawed beauty, yet nothing in her pose or manner reflects this flaw – she has all the invulnerable confidence of a gorgeous woman. Her major importance is in the movie’s ending, entirely different from the book, and which, as said, entirely changes the story.

The book has Ishiguro commit suicide after he is fingered for the murder, his body eventually retrieved from some wet concrete. Again, this scene is more effective in the novel, with Smith and Connor waiting outside and looking through the glass at the meeting room as slowly, very slowly, various people excuse themselves, until Ishiguro is left entirely alone, and aware that he is caught35. The movie, of course, has Smith and Connor in the same room as the office mates of Ishihara (another renaming) move away, far more rapidly, and the effect is ridiculous, a kind of “National Geographic: Japanese Salaryman” edition. The killer turns out not to be Ishihara, but the trade rep, Bob Richmond, who is killed by yakuza friends of Sakamura, his body disappearing in the concrete before it can be removed. The book ends soon afterwards, with Connor leaving Smith at his house, a despondent but wiser man, now at least with the outline of the enemy he must fight, though the enemy is nearly victorious36.

The movie ends in a way that is entirely different, a joke on the early line about Americans and their short attention span “fragmented MTV, rap-video culture culture”. There is a moment between Connor and Smith where the senior detective says “The key…”, and Smith starts to give a possible answer as if it were a mystic riddle, but no, Connor is just asking for the car keys. It is all deliberately like an old cop show where the murder has a simple solution, there is a simple answer to be extracted, and there is a kidding joke about the qualities of the main characters, the wise sensei and his quizzical deputy. We realize how what we’ve seen so closely resembles such old TV shows, and what follows is a send-up of their easy answers and the short attention span expected of their viewers. Connor drives off with the head of the Nakamoto corporation, Yoshida-san, a man for whom he has done favors in the past, and together they’ll be playing their regular game of golf. Connor says he’ll be helping out his old friend again, to attempt to find some way for Nakamoto to extricate itself from the MicroCon deal. Smith drives with Asakuma, and they have a strange dialogue which appears nowhere in the novel:

Well, thanks to your help, we were able to find out who did it.

Did you?

Did we what?

Find out?

Find out? You mean who did it? Come on!

You know in Japan, the one who confesses to the murder…doesn’t have to be the one that did it. It’s an old tradition that, out of loyalty…an innocent man will take the rap for his boss. It’s his duty.

That’s not what happened here. That Richmond guy would have done anything to make that deal go through. He was working with Ishihara. A yuppie facilitator, a hustling business samurai. Wave of the future.

If you say so.

If I say so? Look, I’m a cop. It’s my business to know these things. Besides…what about Connor?

What about him?

The guy’s always right.

If you say so.

Did I say something to anger you?

No, nothing you said.

Then, what is it?


Golf? I don’t get it.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Now, as always when confronted with the cryptic like this, I ask: what the hell is Jingo Asakuma talking about? The person who gave the orders to have Cheryl killed, she implies, has gotten away, letting Ishihara and Richmond to take the fall – the latter more literally than the other. Then we have the bizarre exchange: “Then, what is it?” “Golf.” “Golf? I don’t get it.” The killer who got away has something to do with a golf game, and, of course, the only major characters who we see play this are Connor and Yoshida-san.

I now remind the reader of an obvious plot point in both book and movie, that the man who Cheryl is having an affair with is revealed through his reflection, first the false image of Sakamura, and then the actual image of Senator Morton. That the secret to the movie is a reflection seen is emphasized by the revelation of Cheryl’s death seen as a reflection in Asakuma’s glasses. The first time we see Connor and Yoshida-san together is at their golf game, a cut from one close-up to another, as if one face reflects the other.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun - Cheryl's death reflected in glasses of Jingo Asakuma's glasses - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/ScrawnyDeadCuscus

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun - the killer's reflection - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/FirmVigorousBat

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun - Connor and Yoshida reflect each other on the golf course - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/CostlyLastAstarte

The next time we see them together is at a teahouse, a scene which has a very, very strange quality without context: the two men move exactly in tandem, as if mirror images of each other.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun - Connor is Yoshida's right hand man - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/SourInsecureAdder

Note that Connor sits on Yoshida-san’s right: he is perhaps his right-hand man. We might go back to another detail, very much changed from the book. There, the shadow force of the Japanese offers bribes to both detectives, a house on sale for Smith and a golf membership for Connor. Both men eventually refuse the gifts because they know it is in exchange for ending their investigation37. The movie changes this, with only Connor given this gift, which, according to him, is not a bribe, but an essential part of his relations with the Japanese. Smith replies, “Well, I guess that makes everything all white now, doesn’t it?”38

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Since the viewers and the characters have short attention spans, the moment is forgotten entirely when the mystery is resolved. Unlike in the novel, Jingo Asakuma is clearly Connor’s girlfriend; in another change from the book, she is in his apartment at the beginning of the film. The original scheme involved Eddie Sakamura handing off his girlfriend, Cheryl, to Senator Morton, for the purposes of blackmail. This movie’s end parallels this beginning, with Connor handing off his girlfriend to Smith, for what purpose? As a bribe, as a distraction, part of a larger plan?

I give the last exchange between Smith and Asakuma from the movie:

Wait a minute. There’s some things here I don’t understand.

Yes. Goodbye, kohai.

No, no! Now, look. I mean, the guy, he’s playing golf now. You and me, we’re alone. And…(sighs) I know. They say loyalty is important. It all comes down to who you trust. Wait a minute. When he said that line about uh…”Always leave the cage door open so the bird can return”…what the hell does that mean anyway?

Who knows? When you figure it out, Web,…let me know.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

We, the audience might interpret the line about leaving the cage door open to have something to do with Asakuma now leaving the door open to the building; but I don’t think that’s exactly it. I think it’s very much a case of how the viewer is given a way to see this story and the characters, the simplest one that accords with the conventions of the TV detective show – the mystery has been solved, the murderer has in turn been killed, and now we have a bunch of enigmatic dialogue to add proper flavor to a story with a Japanese American setting. This is the cage, from which we might escape, but which we, the attention span challenged viewer, will be allowed to return to if we find the alternative too discomfiting. Because the alternative is very disturbing, with Asakuma and the movie giving us all the clues. The person behind the entire plot was Yoshida-san, and John Connor, his right hand man, has helped him cover it up. Note that Connor thinks it an excellent idea to send proof of Morton’s affair to the senator, thus triggering his suicide. This is very different from the novel, where Morton commits suicide for honorable reasons, because he does not wish to be blackmailed into changing his position on the Nakamoto-MicroCon merger, and this suicide is something that neither Connor nor Smith want39. The explanation given for their action is “We beat the grass to startle the snakes”, but what the hell does that mean in this context? What does their investigation gain by doing this? It gains them nothing, but it perhaps gives something to Connor and Yoshida-san: they get rid of a witness who might say how he met Cheryl, thus connecting Yoshida-san to the plot. Note also that when they chase Richmond and they are delayed by the yakuza, Connor lets Smith keep fighting long after he himself has stopped and figured out that it’s a feint, resulting in Richmond’s death, another connecting witness gone.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

We might take this thinking to the furthest possible extent. The night Eddie is killed, we see him surrounded by yakuza but he is able to hold his own, and when we last see him alive, he has the upper hand. Smith and Connor have split up, and Smith arrives to help out Eddie, only to find him dead, his throat neatly cut, as if at close range. Smith rises to shoot at the departing yakuza, when he is hit by bullets from behind. Who could this be? The yakuza are all already in the car. Immediately after Smith falls, Connor shows up, from behind Smith. Shouldn’t we hear Connor try to stop Smith’s shooter, maybe shoot at him, if they’re passing each other through the same space and so close to each other? Connor fires once at the fleeing car, and the most terrible possibility I lay out is this: Connor helped kill Sakamura, then moved back into the shadows to make sure the yakuza got away without being questioned, and when Smith got ready to shoot at the yakuza, knocked his own partner down to make sure they got away, finally giving a show of firing at the car but aiming nowhere near it, or firing his gun after the car had driven away. I add that there is no evidence of that possibility, except for the absurdity of the situation as it’s presented to us.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Rising Sun: near death experiences.

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Notice that Smith, in the movie as opposed to the book, is left with nothing by the story’s end: he remains suspended from the force and he’s lost visiting privileges with his kid. That he is happy at the end, despite this, is because the movie follows the contours of an old TV detective show, where all the major characters must end in a state of happiness, whatever the actual events they’ve experienced.

The cage itself is a delusion, one which Smith is given the possibility to enter again, to enjoy the comfortable delusion of an affair with this woman, handed off as a distraction just as Sakamura employed his girlfriend for his own purposes. The movie ends with an open door, and a choice in how to see what has just taken place. “Besides,… what about Connor?” asks Smith, “What about him?” replies Asakuma, and then the exchange goes: “The guy’s always right”, to which Asakuma gives the sarcastic reply: “If you say so.” The position he is supposed to have in the book and the movie, the truth telling hero, is not how she sees him at all. It is, I think, Kaufman’s own sneering take on this kind of movie and Crichton himself. This story itself is a distraction, a part of short attention span culture, positing an enemy outside as a distraction from the man who held the strings. Connor, the voice of Crichton, the ostensible guide, is a false one, just another power behind the throne pointing to the rogue on-stage, the enemy without, to keep us from looking at him as he truly is, the enemy within.


The only Michael Crichton movie that might be easily grouped with Rising Sun is Disclosure. Both are set in a world that requires no new scientific discoveries, no science that is fantastic – the virtual record room of Disclosure and the video editing of Rising Sun, are both now plausible, their implementations in these movies now archaic. They might be considered to be part of an unacknowledged genre, stealth cyberpunk, mainstream drama whose plots hinge crucially around heretofore unknown computer technology. Though the necessary role new technology plays in these movies is obvious, they are tellingly not classed with cyberpunk because this same technology has become so common as to be mundane. Both movies were far more successful than explicitly cyberpunk movies like Johnny Mnemonic, The Net, or Hackers, which treated this same technology as if it were some exotic aspect of life, rather than an aspect so innate as to be almost congenital. That they were so successful is arguably because a more casual approach to this technology ultimately felt the truer one, treating it not as an exotic circus, not a portent of a future world to come, but a mundane instrument that overlaps all activities, as it does now.

Both books on which they’re based on are polemical works. In the case of their movie adaptations, I imagine Crichton as a kind of Jigsaw, who’s trapped a talented director in a filthy bathroom, handcuffed to his work, forced to choose how much of the novel and how much of himself he’ll chainsaw off in order to produce something that isn’t toxic garbage. Kaufman gets out of the bind by making a movie which makes fun of the movie itself and the book it’s based on, turning its lecturing hero into one of the villain conspirators. One can at least perceive an actual relevant issue underlying Rising Sun, the U.S.-Japan trade deficit, while no such issue exists in the other novel.

One root of the book might be the essay “They” from Travels, written in the 1980s during yet another tumult over gender roles which posits the following thesis: “The best way to think about men and women is to assume there are no differences between them.”40 The theory is stated without qualifier, and no woman is allowed into the essay to offer dissent. That women can talk as explicitly about sex as men, that they have fuck buddies just as men do is the ample proof offered in support of the idea. Without getting into the contentious matter of whether men and women approach sex in the same way, it’s a strange approach to the issue – as if the only thing to talk about women in relationship to society is sexual activity, and nothing else. It is one of those ideas that Crichton seems to have been magnetised by, without giving it any skeptical examination whatsoever. Another notion he presents in Travels is the following: “We cause our diseases. We are directly responsible for any illness that happens to us.”41 This strikes me, and might most people, as utterly ridiculous. We no doubt put ourselves at risk of cancer if we smoke, at risk of diabetes and heart attacks if we eat nothing but junk food, but any illness? The cancers caused by toxins in water that we didn’t know were there, the congenital diseases of small children, the virii transmitted through every day casual encounters?

That men and women are entirely equal is one possibility to explain a sexual discrimination story where the genders are reversed, and a gorgeous woman harasses a man. That the situation becomes ridiculous, that despite Crichton’s insistence you cannot treat the genders as entirely the same, has been noted by many – most hilariously by the late comedian Robert Schimmel42. That the harassment issue is simply a ploy in a larger corporate plot is, I think, irrelevant – the book treats the idea of such harassment very seriously, and very much a legitimate issue, arguing that with the rise of women in the workplace you’ll see a corresponding rise in such harassment of men by women. This is intertwined with the second basis for the book’s focus, though I have no doubt Crichton would have denied it: the writer has a hang-up about what might be called sexually aggressive or sexually forward women.

Cheryl Austin of Rising Sun is such a woman, and she is described as a demon and insane. She likes being hurt and choked to the point of near death43. A trait indicating that Jennifer Malone is Airframe‘s villain is that she likes casual sex. At the end of the book, she is rocked about in an airplane craft to the point of vomiting44. Meredith Johnson, of Disclosure, is nicknamed the “manmuncher” in the book, a woman with many bedpartners, who speaks clinically of a past lover’s penis while in bed with another man45. She is a manipulative, self-pitying bitch who, when the corporate ploy fails, compares it to being raped46. In both Airframe and Disclosure, the single, sexually voracious women are defeated by mothers with children. In Rising Sun, Peter Smith’s wife is one of his opponents, and it’s made clear that she’s a disgrace as a mother47. This, I should emphasize, has nothing to do with Crichton’s own overall attitude about sex or promiscuous sex; again from Travels, we have “Psychiatry”, where he writes of a period of singlehood in Los Angeles: “Later I began to get interested in my secretary, a cute blonde with large breasts. I’d never been involved with a large-breasted girl before.”48 One instance of the sexual woman as the enemy is a plot point; twice is a lack of imagination; three or more, and I think it’s a pathology. And I believe in this case, Crichton is correct when he writes of pathologies and personal responsibility.

Kaufman perhaps makes fun of this fear in a moment from Rising Sun, when the police raid Eddie Sakamura’s house and run into two of his girls. In the book, the nude women are still there, the heavy firepower and the drawn guns are not:

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Barry Levinson and Paul Attanasio, the director and writer of Disclosure, attempt to transform Crichton’s screed into a more ambiguous piece on cutthroat corporate in-fighting. In the novel, we are given, without irony, the story of Tom Sanders persecuted after he accuses a beautiful woman of sexual harassment. When Tom Sanders speaks in the movie of his persecution because he’s a member of the white patriarchy, his wife looks at him like he’s out of his mind. His wife does not wish him to press his legal case, arguing that there are certain things that you just have to abide – the implication being that there are far more things that women have to abide than men, whatever Crichton thinks of the lack of differences in gender. Where Crichton always has plenty of wrath for those who focus on images and the tabloidization of culture, the movie re-makes Tom Sanders’ idealistic attorney into a camera hungry one, her constant TV appearances a running joke. She is simply a very expensive, very good lawyer, something different from whether her point of view is morally just or not. Though they introduce ambiguity, Levinson and Attanasio do not divorce themselves from the material entirely – they hold onto the central scene in the office which lets us see what actually happened, rather than keeping us off kilter over who is right and who is wrong.

These are some ways the material is transformed, and another is by casting Demi Moore as Meredith Johnson. To the extent that anyone can be conveyed in a celebrity profile, it might be learned that she is someone who arose from very difficult circumstances to extraordinary wealth49. That she must have had a fierce will to do so goes without question, and that she may have had to be incredibly tough to pull it off goes without question as well. Yet if one looks at the best known movies from her career peak – A Few Good Men, Ghost, Indecent Proposal, Striptease – she does not play parts with these qualities at all, but rather, victim women, weak women. There are only two roles where she gets to display the same qualities she has in life, with one of them Disclosure, and here she’s the villain. The movie ends up more of a paradox then it sets out to be, because Meredith Johnson, as played by Moore, might be the enemy but she more fully embodies the corporate ideal than anyone else there. You can’t conceive of why such a driven woman would ever have hooked up with a dope like Sanders in the first place. She is stronger, more steely, more canny than anyone else, and that the win has to go to Tom Sanders feels like a fixed zebra: of course, Sanders has to win, though we know well that in real life he’d lose. “She could kick both our asses,” says Sanders to a friend, and we don’t doubt it. She has all the qualities that society wants in a corporate executive, all the qualities that might attract a man, yet we cannot admit to the attraction of these qualities, and so she must be the enemy. We want these things, yet we cannot be seen wanting these things, and this is the very thing that takes place in the movie, with Tom Sanders starting to have sex with her before he catches sight of his reflection, and stops.

That Johnson has such presence, that Moore is so convincing in this role, is perhaps because many of Johnson’s qualities are her own. The character gives a speech during a mediation hearing which is most definitely not in the book, and which the other characters cannot entirely absorb, as if they’re caught off guard by a villain who might be manipulating them, but whose manipulations cut so close to the truth. The speech is too complex for the movie to absorb either, and it is something like Shylock’s speeches, which ultimately break the conceit, forcing us to re-see the villain, and the very conceit that they’re the villain. Because it is larger and more complicated than the movie which contains it, the speech feels like it belongs not just to the character, but to Moore as well. The speech is as follows:

You wanna put me on trial here? Let’s at least be honest about what it’s for! I am a sexually aggressive woman. I like it. Tom knew it, and you can’t handle it. It is the same damn thing since the beginning of time. Veil it, hide it, lock it up and throw away the key. We expect a woman to do a man’s job, make a man’s money, and then walk around with a parasol and lie down for a man to fuck her like it was still a hundred years ago? Well, no thank you.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Johnson is defined by her body, and Moore’s career has been defined by her body as well. Indecent Proposal had it sold as property, Striptease had it bared, it was one kind of weapon in Disclosure, and another kind in G.I. Jane. Her first burst of superstardom might be linked to Ghost, but it might also be to her nude appearance on Vanity Fair, first pregnant, then a year later in astonishing post-pregnant form, clothed only in body paint. Moore is physically exposed utterly in both covers, while revealing nothing. I only learned of the difficulties of her early life while researching this post, and was completely gobsmacked on discovering them: she has the confident pose, in her movies and in these famous photos, of someone born to privilege. When thinking about how only a physical truth is conveyed about the subject – Moore looks great pregnant, Moore looks great in body paint – I was reminded that I’d once read “What Celebrity Looks Like: The Annie Leibovitz Aesthetic” by Gina Bellafante, and in the context of these pictures and my limited memory of Leibovitz’s work, I thought its thesis very sound. Her photos, though memorable and technically superb, reveal nothing of the subjects, but only give us a tautology of fame and power. Moore is powerful, and that is why this photo is taken, this photo which makes obvious her body perfection even at seven months pregnancy, and this perfection makes clear her power, which is why this photo was taken. We might also take some very false lessons from such pictures as well: Moore reveals nothing, even when all that she has on is body paint, because she has no vulnerabilities, and therefore is invulnerable.

Moore is often an erotic figure, this eroticism a central point and a selling point of many of the mentioned movies, yet it’s not a casual eroticism. The famously husky voice is accompanied not just by a beautiful body, but one which appears sculpted into a hard, unbreakable machine – her very will in every taut inch of it. You could liken it to those of past female beauties, but it was far more akin to those of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the body as irrefutable evidence of the star’s drive and power. Yet given this ever present eroticism, there is something striking about the movies Demi Moore made at this time: she is erotic, yet it is eroticism alone. In Ghost, her husband is dead. A Few Good Men has her devoted entirely to her work as a military lawyer. Indecent Proposal has her with a weak husband and a man who wants to buy her favors. In Disclosure, she’s trying to force a man to have sex with her (I have a low quota of exclamation marks, and this is the space where I would use them all) as part of a larger corporate game, while Striptease has her as a single mom surrounded by buffoons. It is a less complicated sexuality, one unentangled with the desire of someone her character might be equally in thrall with. Her erotic appeal is solely for the man off-screen looking on, rather than any enraptured and enrapturing co-star by her side.

I emphasize that it is a man looking on, because Moore never seemed to attract a sizable female audience. Her story of rising from difficult circumstances to wealth and fame should have made her a female heroic ideal, just as Stallone and Schwarzenegger were heroic ideals for men (Moore’s beginnings, in my opinion, were more trying than theirs), yet this was not the case. The casual geniality, openness, and I-couldn’t-give-a-shit that some stars can affect so well, whether it be Schwarzenegger or Jennifer Lawrence, she could not. She played single moms and women vulnerable to the vicissitudes of a world of men, and you can imagine her seeing herself as these characters – I wasn’t born on a fucking throne, okay? I could have been these people, I am these people. But women didn’t believe her50. That she had women who disliked her was an excuse to give way to an uglier feeling – just as it has recently with Anne Hathaway. She would be listed among the conspirators in “The Great Bimbo Conspiracy” (NSFW) by Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, though you had to be more than a little sharp and more than a little tough to get to the multimillion peak in Hollywood. This same feature opened with nude photos out of an old photoshoot from early in her career, as if these were part of the indictment – though Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery also did nude work early on. You could take issue with the projects she chose, but she could say in return, I wanted big money roles and what were my other choices? “Women are our own worst enemy most of the time,” Janeane Garofolo would be quoted as saying, “Of course men like looking at Jamie Lee Curtis in her underwear. But until we say, “I’m not going to dance in my underwear,” nothing’s going to change.” Garofolo would later take a part in the reactionary pro-torture 24, and she could ask the same question: what were my other choices?

So much of what I’ve tried to write about here culminates in the last of the movies of this part of her career, G.I. Jane. It was the last film she did before a hiatus, a movie that marks the end of one phase of her career which also feels like a portent of the future. It was made after Striptease, a small comedy about Florida corruption burdened by the fact that Moore actually took off her clothes during the dance scenes. This was an event treated with the publicity equivalent to the unveiling of a public monument – which perhaps it was. Where Striptease was light, G.I. Jane is heavy. Where the Vanity Fair covers are a tautology of power – the person on the cover is powerful because they are on the cover, Jane is a kind of tautology of importance – it’s important because every moment is designed to demonstrate its importance. The film’s opening is framed with elements that suggest something of pressing significance, overhead shots of the Capitol and a beating, ominous score, perhaps leading up to a piece of daring espionage or high level chicanery – but no, it’s just one of the least exciting spectacles on the planet, a Senate Committee hearing. As a side note, the music continues on like this, never building, always short bursts made up of elements of the “War is Serious Shit, Yo” toolkit – a noble horn, warrior chants, ominous drums. You’re certain that CNN or FOX have borrowed this movie’s music for their own world crisis programming, and it could no doubt serve as a good background track for a self-important youtube confessional, or its parody: “My Girlfriend: Relationship on the Brink”.

The story, about an attempt to integrate the military by having a woman join the Navy SEALs, lacks any actual excitement or tension because it is entirely unrooted from the real. There are scenes involving an obstacle course and a training mission which feature stunning production that doubtless required incredible effort, but are reduced to a clutter of incoherent images. The movie seems designed for an audience that it believes no longer wants stories, just pavlovian cues. The unwatchable scene in Rising Sun where Connor and Smith get rid of a tail by driving through a ghetto makes you briefly doubt the abilities of Philip Kaufman; the entire movie of G.I. Jane makes you doubt Ridley Scott’s as well, for a lot longer51. The only thing to emerge from the movie is Moore herself, and the only sense you can make out of the mess of images is a metaphor for Moore in Hollywood.

The extraordinary will that was implied by her body in other roles is explicit here, a creature whose ambition cannot be broken, will not be broken; she will make herself into a piece of iron to get what she wants. The writers do not give sufficient grounding for this character’s own drive, why being a Navy SEAL is so important to her, so the fierce drive becomes entirely Moore’s. The movie becomes about a determined woman thrown in a world of men, Demi Moore in Hollywood, negotiating with a mass of male anger and hunger to get what she herself wants. She has a boyfriend in this film, but their relationship is barely felt – other than a scene where they’re together in a bathtub, there’s nothing to suggest that he’s anything other than a distant associate. She has a far stronger connection with the Master Chief, a sadistic disciplinarian whose sadism always has the excuse of instructive purpose. By the film’s end, he has given her his most precious memento, a war ribbon, and she has such a strong connection with him that she can intuit what path he’ll travel to escape from an enemy. The crescendo of their relationship is a war game simulation where he beats her without mercy, hitting her in the face, throwing her against a wall, sinking her head in water till she chokes, until she finally fights back, breaking his nose and kicking him in the balls. Given that the movie feels like a series of disconnected attempts at reaction, I see the scene as an attempt to give the audience what they want, the narrative justifications an afterthought. It is something like the same dynamic of Disclosure: Demi Moore is a woman with all the qualities of beauty, confidence, ambition, and strength that we want, but we also hate her for it as well. Disclosure deals with this by making her into the villain; G.I. Jane deals with it by kicking the shit out of her.

Though I think it’s a fool’s game to find the pulse of a country from the novels and movies of a particular time, I play that game now. In the novel Rising Sun, it is implied several times that if Japan does not soon reform its trade policy, and if the U.S. leadership does not obey the popular will, the country might soon be driven to mad action. Senator Morton jokes about dropping another nuclear bomb, and Connor explains that such feeling arises out of the desire to do something when nothing is done52. Graham is full of anger at his country being taken over and wants payback53. Keep pulling our chain, you fuckers, the novel implies; just you wait. Though I think Crichton is sincere that the problem is first with America’s own policies, at no point is any of the local policy responsible for such things as crime, smog, or crumbling infrastructure ever raised. All these problems are connected with the external enemy, to be solved by seeing clearly that Japan is at war with the U.S., and that the U.S. must fight back. The tone of Jane is entirely martial, from the humorless portentous score that accompanies the ridiculous title to the unambiguous view that every cruelty the hero suffers is a necessary education, to the idea that her transformation into an anonymous weapon is an undoubtable achievement. The movie ends with the SEAL unit stumbling on a military mission, maybe Iran, maybe Iraq, but no – it’s off the coast of Libya. The purpose of the mission is never clear, but several people die, the Master Chief is wounded, then saved by the hero, for which she gets her medal.

All these things and others I’ve mentioned – the desire for a Sparta like America in Rising Sun, the focus on an outside enemy whatever the local problem in the same novel, photos of the powerful which reveal only power, Demi Moore’s body which has forceful discipline of a military machine and which finally plays exactly that, worship of that same body without the complications of sex or relationships, a movie that ends looking for a battle, any battle, that might complete the characters – all these things feel like a hunger for a war, a desire for a war that will annihilate this old order and its clutter of problems, giving birth to a new and better world. The body of G.I. Jane is made into gorgeous condition not for the petit mort of sex, but this great death, utter annihilation, pining for this simple great annihilation that will re-make all things, a great death that in 1997 was only six years away. Just you wait.

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

Philip Kaufman's Rising Sun Michael Crichton's Rising Sun

(Images from Rising Sun copyright Twentieth Century Fox. Images from G.I. Jane copyright Hollywood Pictures. Images from Disclosure copyright Warner Bros.)

(On October 4th, an edit was made fixing many things for aesthetic purposes and clarity. On April 12, 2015, this post underwent a session of copy editing. On May 21, 2015, the various gifs were added as supplements to ideas in the text. On May 29, 2015, the gif compiling the various film references was added.)





1 From Rising Sun, on the influence of the Japanese on the Los Angeles Times:

“I tell you, I can’t find out. But you know, the Japanese have a powerful influence at the paper. It’s more than just the ads they take. It’s more than their relentless PR machine drumming out of Washington, or the local lobbying and the campaign contributions to political figures and organizations. It’s the sum of all those things and more. And it’s starting to be insidious. I mean, you can be sitting around in a staff meeting discussing some article that we might run, and you suddenly realize, nobody wants to offend them. It isn’t a question of whether a story is right or wrong, news or not news. And it isn’t a one-to-one equation, like ‘We can’t say that or they’ll pull their ads.’ It’s more subtle than that. Sometimes I look at my editors, and I can tell they won’t go with certain stories because they are afraid. They don’t even know what they are afraid of. They’re just afraid.”

“So much for a free press.”

“Hey,” Ken said. “This is not the time for sophomore bullshit. You know how it works. The American press reports the prevailing opinion. The prevailing opinion is the opinion of the group in power. The Japanese are now in power. The press reports the prevailing opinion as usual. No surprises. Just take care.”

A conversation between Smith and Connor early on, about the influence the Japanese have over local TV stations:

“I want to look at some tape that was shot tonight.”

“Just look? Not subpoena?”

“Right. Just look.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” I said. I was thinking I could call Jennifer Lewis at KNBC, or Bob Arthur at KCBS. Probably Bob.

Connor said, “It has to be somebody you can approach personally. Otherwise the stations won’t help us. You noticed there were no TV crews at the crime scene tonight. At most crime scenes, you have to fight your way past the cameras just to get to the tape. But tonight, no TV crews, no reporters. Nothing.”

I shrugged. “We were on land lines. The press couldn’t monitor radio transmissions.”

“They were already there,” Connor said, “covering the party with Tom Cruise and Madonna. And then a girl gets murdered on the floor above. So where were the TV crews?”

I said, “Captain, I don’t buy it.”

One of the things I learned as a press officer is that there aren’t any conspiracies. The press is too diverse, and in a sense too disorganized. In fact, on the rare occasions when we needed an embargo-like a kidnapping with ransom negotiations in progress-we had a hell of a time getting cooperation. “The paper closes early. The TV crews have to make the eleven o’clock news. They probably went back to edit their stories.”

“I disagree. I think the Japanese expressed concern about their kigyo – image, their company image, and the press cooperated with no coverage. Trust me, ko-hai: the pressure is being applied.”

2 From Rising Sun, Graham on the influence the Japanese have with the LAPD:

“And Christ they have juice now,” Graham said. “The heat on my ass is terrific. I got the chief calling me, wanting this thing wrapped up. I got some reporter at the Times investigating me, hauling out some old shit about a questionable use of force on a Hispanic back in 1978. Nothing to it. But this reporter, he’s trying to show I’ve always been a racist. And what is the background of his story? That last night was a ‘racist’ incident. So I am now an example of racism rearing its ugly head again. I tell you. The Japanese are masters of the smear job. It’s fucking scary.”

3 From Rising Sun, Graham on Japanese influence over the government:

“I don’t know,” Graham said, shifting his bulk. “Personally, I think it’s not worth it. They’re turning this country into another Japan. You’ve already got people afraid to speak. Afraid to say anything against them. People just won’t talk about what’s happening.”

“It would help if the government passed a few laws.”

Graham laughed. “The government. They own the government. You know what they spend in Washington every year? Four hundred million fucking dollars a year. That’s enough to pay the campaign costs of everybody in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. That is a lot of fucking money. Now you tell me. Would they spend all that money, year after year, if it wasn’t paying off for them? Of course they wouldn’t. Shit. The end of America, buddy. Hey. Looks like your boss wants you.”

4 From Rising Sun, a group of yakuza call Peter Smith after he gets off the phone with Connor about the tape:

Then it was quiet.

The phone rang again.

“Lieutenant,” the heavily accented voice said, “there is no need for backups.”

Christ, they were listening to the car phone.

“We want no harm, Lieutenant. We want only one thing. Will you be so kind, to bring the tape out to us?”

“I have the tape,” I said.

5 From Rising Sun:

Cole said, “What was that all about?”

“I just asked him what company he worked for,” Connor said. “But he didn’t want to talk. I guess he wanted to get back to his friends.” Connor ran his hands under the bar, feeling. “Feels clean.”

“Well,” Connor said. “You’ve been very helpful, Mr. Cole. We may want to question you again-”

“I’ll write down my phone number for you,” Cole said, scribbling on a bar napkin.

Outside, beneath the crackling neon sign, Connor said, “Come on, time is wasting.”

We got in the car. He handed me the bar napkin. On it was scrawled in block letters:


6 From Rising Sun:

“Sure. Listen, at the University of California at Irvine, there’s two floors of a research building that you can’t get into unless you have a Japanese passport. They’re doing research for Hitachi there. An American university closed to Americans.” Sanders swung around, waving his arms. “And around here, if something happens that they don’t like, it’s just a phone call from somebody to the president of the university, and what can he do? He can’t afford to piss the Japanese off. So whatever they want, they get. And if they want the lab closed, it’s closed.”

I said, “What about the tapes?”

“Everything is locked in there. They made us leave everything.”


“They were in a hell of a rush. It was gestapo stuff. Pushing and prodding us to get out. You can’t imagine the panic at an American university if it thinks it may lose some funding.” He sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe Theresa managed to take some tapes with her. You could ask her.”

7 From Rising Sun:

I remembered the Saturday meetings. On the video we had seen at the newsroom, Sakamura had grabbed Cheryl Austin and said: You don’t understand, this is all about the Saturday meetings.

“And did they tell you?”

Connor nodded. “Apparently they began a long time ago,” he said. “Nineteen eighty or so. First they were held in the Century Plaza, and later in the Sheraton, and finally in the Biltmore.”

“For several years, the meetings were a regular event. Prominent Japanese industrialists who happened to be in town would attend an ongoing discussion of what should be done about America. Of how the American economy should be managed.”



“That’s outrageous!”

“Why?” Connor said.

Why? Because this is our country. You can’t have a bunch of foreigners sitting around in secret meetings and deciding how to manage it!”

“They decided to lend the money back to us. Our government was running a budget deficit, year after year. We weren’t paying for our own programs. So the Japanese financed our budget deficit. They invested in us. And they lent their money, based on certain assurances from our government. Washington assured the Japanese that we would set our house in order. We would cut our deficit. We would improve education, rebuild our infrastructure, even raise taxes if necessary. In short, we would clean up our act. Because only then does an investment in America make sense.”

8 From Rising Sun:

The pool lights were on outside. They cast a green rippling pattern on the ceiling. Connor went outside.

The body lay face down in the water, naked, floating in the center of the pool, a dark silhouette in the glowing green rectangle. Connor got a skimmer pole and pushed Eddie toward the far edge. We hauled him up onto the concrete lip.

The body was blue and cold, beginning to stiffen. He appeared unmarked.

“They would be careful about that,” Connor said.

“About what?”

“About not letting anything show. But I’m sure we can find the proofs …” He got out his penlight and peered inside Eddie’s mouth. He inspected the nipples, and the genitals. “Yes. There. See the rows of red dots? On the scrotum. And there on the side of the thigh…”

9 From Rising Sun:

The air was cold on my sweating face and neck.

I took two steps forward.

Now I could see the men. They stood about ten meters away, beside their cars. I counted four men. One of them waved to me, beckoning me over. I hesitated.

Where were the others?

I couldn’t see anybody except the men by the cars. They waved again, beckoning me. I started toward them when suddenly a heavy thumping blow from behind knocked me flat onto my face on the wet grass.

It was a moment before I realized what had happened.

I had been shot in the back.

And then the gunfire erupted all around me. Automatic weapons. The street was lit up like lightning from the gunfire. The sound echoed off the apartment buildings on both sides of the street. Glass was shattering. I heard people shouting all around me. More gunfire. I heard the sound of ignitions, cars roaring down the street past me. Almost immediately there was the sound of police sirens and tires squealing, and the glare of searchlights. I stayed where I was, face down on the grass. I felt like I was there for about an hour. Then I realized that the shouts now were all in English.

10 From Rising Sun:

“I tell you, I can’t find out. But you know, the Japanese have a powerful influence at the paper. It’s more than just the ads they take. It’s more than their relentless PR machine drumming out of Washington, or the local lobbying and the campaign contributions to political figures and organizations. It’s the sum of all those things and more. And it’s starting to be insidious. I mean, you can be sitting around in a staff meeting discussing some article that we might run, and you suddenly realize, nobody wants to offend them. It isn’t a question of whether a story is right or wrong, news or not news. And it isn’t a one-to-one equation, like ‘We can’t say that or they’ll pull their ads.’ It’s more subtle than that. Sometimes I look at my editors, and I can tell they won’t go with certain stories because they are afraid. They don’t even know what they are afraid of. They’re just afraid.”

“So much for a free press.”

“Hey,” Ken said. “This is not the time for sophomore bullshit. You know how it works. The American press reports the prevailing opinion. The prevailing opinion is the opinion of the group in power. The Japanese are now in power. The press reports the prevailing opinion as usual. No surprises. Just take care.”

11 “Wink of an Eye”:

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the planet Scalos, but when Kirk and a landing party beam down to the planet they find no living beings. It turns out that the Scalosians live at a much higher rate of acceleration, rendering them invisible to the human eye. One of the Scalosians, the beautiful and seductive Deela, accelerates Kirk so they can interact, where she tells him he cannot return to his normal life. For the crew, Kirk has virtually disappeared before their eyes. The Scalosians want to turn the Enterprise into a cryogenic storage facility for the crew. Kirk learns that at his current state of acceleration, they are subject to cellular degeneration and rapid aging should they suffer the slightest cut. He leaves a message for the crew but it is left to Mr. Spock to find a way to decipher it.

12 Two excerpts from Rising Sun on the way the United States is looked on as just another undeveloped country and only useful for its raw materials:

“That’s the word. It won’t be easy, because all the emotional indicators are down. The balance of payments with Japan is dropping. Of course it only looks better because they don’t export so many cars to us now. They make them here. And they’ve farmed out production to the little dragons, so the deficits appear in their columns, not Japan’s. They’ve stepped up purchases of oranges and timber, to make things look better. Basically, they treat us as an underdeveloped country. They import our raw materials. But they don’t buy our finished goods. They say we don’t make anything they want.”

“See here,” one of them said, “this is what I was talking about. This is the shot we end with. This one closes.”

I glanced over, saw a view of wildflowers and snow-capped mountains. The first man tapped the photos.

“I mean, that’s the Rockies, my friend. It’s real Americana. Trust me, that’s what sells them. And it’s a hell of a parcel.”

“How big did you say it is?”

“It’s a hundred and thirty thousand acres. The biggest remaining piece of Montana that’s still available. Twenty by ten kilometers of prime ranch acreage fronting on the Rockies. It’s the size of a national park. It’s got grandeur. It’s got dimension, scope. It’s very high quality. Perfect for a Japanese consortium.”

“And they talked price?”

“Not yet. But the ranchers, you know, they’re in a tough situation. It’s legal now for foreigners to export beef to Tokyo, and beef in Japan is something like twenty, twenty-two dollars a kilo. But nobody in Japan will buy American beef. If Americans send beef, it will rot on the docks. But if they sell their ranch to the Japanese, then the beef can be exported. Because the Japanese will buy from a Japanese-owned ranch. The Japanese will do business with other Japanese. And ranches all around Montana and Wyoming have been sold. The remaining ranchers see Japanese cowboys riding on the range. They see the other ranches putting in improvements, rebuilding barns, adding modern equipment, all that. Because the other ranches can get high prices in Japan. So the American owners, they’re not stupid. They see the writing on the wall. They know they can’t compete. So they sell.”

“But then what do the Americans do?”

“Stay and work for the Japanese. It’s not a problem. The Japanese need someone to teach them how to ranch. And everybody on the ranch gets a raise. The Japanese are sensitive to American feelings. They’re sensitive people.”

The second man said, “I know, but I don’t like it. I don’t like the whole thing.”

An excerpt Rising Sun on the technology gap:

We saw scenes from the party on the forty-fifth floor: the swing band, people dancing beneath the hanging decorations. We strained for a glimpse of the girl in the crowd. Jenny said, “In Japan, we wouldn’t have to do this by eye. The Japanese have pretty sophisticated video-recognition software now. They have a program where you identify an image, say a face, and it’ll automatically search tape for you, and find every instance of that face. Find it in a crowd, or wherever it appears. Has the ability to see a single view of a three-dimensional object, and then to recognize the same object in other views. It’s supposed to be pretty nifty. But slow.” “I’m surprised the station hasn’t got it.”

“Oh, it’s not for sale here. The most advanced Japanese video equipment isn’t available in this country. They keep us three to five years behind. Which is their privilege. It’s their technology, they can do what they want. But it’d sure be useful in a case like this.”

Another excerpt:

“Probably digital to analog converter,” Sanders said. “Very neat. So small.” He turned to me, holding up the box. “You know how the Japanese can make things this way and we can’t? They kaizen ’em. A process of deliberate, patient, continual refinements. Each year the products get a little better, a little smaller, a little cheaper. Americans don’t think that way. Americans are always looking for the quantum leap, the big advance forward. Americans try to hit a home run-to knock it out of the park-and then sit back. The Japanese just hit singles all day long, and they never sit back. So with something like this, you’re looking at an expression of philosophy as much as anything.”

“Frankly I’m not surprised they gave you copies,” Sanders said. “The Japanese are extremely cautious. They’re not very trusting of outsiders. And Japanese corporations in America feel the way we would feel doing business in Nigeria: they think they’re surrounded by savages.”

“Hey,” Theresa said.

“Sorry,” Sanders said, “but you know what I mean. The Japanese feel they have to put up with us. With our ineptitude, our slowness, our stupidity, our incompetence. That makes them self-protective. So if these tapes have any legal significance, the last thing they’d do is turn the originals over to a barbarian policeman like you. No, no, they’d give you a copy and keep the original in case they need it for their defense. Fully confident that with your inferior American video technology, you’d never be able to detect that it was a copy, anyway.”

13 From Rising Sun:

“Sure, I guess,” the woman said. She started to shut down units on the desk. Her back was turned to me, and then finally I could see her. She was dark, exotic-looking, almost Eurasian. In fact she was beautiful, drop-dead beautiful. She looked like one of those high cheek-boned models in magazines. And for a moment I was confused, because this woman was too beautiful to be working in some basement electronics laboratory. It didn’t make sense.

“Say hello to Theresa Asakuma,” he said. “The only Japanese graduate student working here.”

Sanders held one out to her. She took it in her left hand and held it to the light. Her right hand remained bent at the elbow, pressed to her waist. Then I saw that her right arm was withered, ending in a fleshy stump protruding beyond the sleeve of her jeans jacket. It looked like the arm of a thalidomide baby.

14 From Rising Sun:

“Hi, it’s Theresa,” she said. I liked the way she used her first name. “Listen, I’ve been looking at the last part of the tape. The very end. And I think there may be a problem.”

15 From Rising Sun:

I looked around the apartment. Everything still looked the same. Morning sunlight was still streaming into the room. Michelle was sitting in her favorite chair, watching cartoons and sucking her thumb. But somehow everything felt different. It was creepy. It was like the world had tilted.

But I had things to do. It was also getting late; I had to get her dressed before Elaine came to take her to day care. I told her that. She started to cry. So I turned off the television set, and she threw herself on the floor and began to kick and scream. “No, Daddy! Cartoons, Daddy!”

I picked her up and slung her underarm to the bedroom to get her changed. She was screaming at the top of her lungs.

16 From Rising Sun:

“Ken. Pete Smith.”

“Oh, hi,” he said. “Glad you got my message.”

In the background, I heard what sounded like a teenage girl: “Oh, come on, Dad. Why can’t I go?”

Ken said, “Jennifer, let me talk here for a minute.”

In the background, the girl said, “Dad, come on, I have to decide what to wear.”

“Jennifer, damn it,” he said. “Chill out.” To me he said, “You have a daughter, don’t you?”

17 From Rising Sun:

But Lauren didn’t want the responsibility and kept saying, “I can’t handle it, Peter. I just can’t handle it.” So I took custody. What else could I do?

No, I thought, the court didn’t make a mistake. Lauren couldn’t handle it, and had never been able to handle it. Half the time, she skipped on her weekends. She was too busy to see her own daughter. Once after a weekend she returned Michelle to me. Michelle was crying. Lauren said, “I just don’t know what to do with her.” I checked. Her diapers were wet and she had a painful rash. Michelle always gets a rash when her diapers aren’t changed promptly.

18 From “Ireland”, an essay in Travels, about shooting his movie The Great Train Robbery, which starred Sean Connery as well:

Connery throws himself into his work with abandon. He is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, lighthearted and serious at the same moment. I have learned a great deal from being around him. He is at ease with himself, and is direct and frank. “I like to eat with my fingers,” he says, eating with his fingers in a fancy restaurant, not giving a damn. You cannot embarrass him with trivialities. Eating is what’s important. People come over for an autograph and he glowers at them. “I’m eating,” he says sternly. “Come back later.” They come back later, and he politely signs their menus. He doesn’t hold grudges unless he intends to. “I spent a lot of my life being miserable,” he says. “Then one day I thought, I’m here for the day, I can enjoy the day or not. I decided I might as well enjoy it.” There is that quality about him, that sense of choice and control over himself and his moods. It makes him integrated, self-assured. The most common remark about him is “That’s a real man.”

19 From Rising Sun, someone at the TV station tries to identify Cheryl and say who she looks like:

“Let me think,” Jenny said, frowning. “I’ve seen her at parties with the Washington types for about nine months now. She’s this year’s Kelly Emberg. The athletic modelly kind. But sophisticated, sort of a Tatiana look-alike. Her name is … Austin. Cindy Austin, Carrie Austin … Cheryl Austin. That’s it.”

20 The Toshiba propeller silencing technology is described in Rising Sun as follows:

The guard hadn’t returned, so we stepped a few feet into the room. As I approached Senator Morton, I heard him say, “Yes, I can tell you exactly why I’m disturbed about the extent of Japanese ownership of American industry. If we lose the ability to make our own products, we lose control over our destiny. It’s that simple. For example, back in 1987 we learned that Toshiba sold the Russians critical technology that allowed the Soviets to silence their submarine propellers. Russian nuclear subs now sit right off the coast and we can’t track them, because they got technology from Japan. Congress was furious, and the American people were up in arms. And rightly so, it was outrageous. Congress planned economic retaliation against Toshiba. But the lobbyists for American companies pleaded their case for them, because American companies like Hewlett-Packard and Compaq were dependent on Toshiba for computer parts. They couldn’t stand a boycott because they had no other source of supply. The fact was, we couldn’t afford to retaliate. They could sell vital technology to our enemy, and there wasn’t a damned thing we could do about it. That’s the problem. We’re now dependent on Japan-and I believe America shouldn’t be dependent on any nation.”

Absent from this discussion is the involvement of Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk, Norway’s state owned military contractor. Also absent is the fact that the Soviet Union probably already had produced quiet propellers thanks to machinery provided by a french company. What Toshiba, in conjunction with the Norwegian company provided was an automated process to produce such propeller silencing technology. Both companies are mentioned in “U.S. Changes Its Stance On Damage by Toshiba” by David Sanger, an article that features much critical opinion of the Toshiba sale, yet one which also gives us a larger picture:

A proposal by the House of Representatives would give President Reagan discretion over whether to invoke sanctions against Toshiba Machine, which – along with Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk, Norway’s state-owned military contractor, also implicated in the transaction – is already barred from receiving Defense Department contracts. The Senate version, though, would require the President to ban all imports from the Toshiba Corporation, except for parts and components essential to American companies.

[Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage]’s letter, sent to Representative Les Aspin, the Wisconsin Democrat who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, contended that Japan had ”succeeding in punishing the guilty, establishing stronger controls, and funding antisubmarine warfare programs which will help both the U.S. and Japanese Navies.” Any further action against Toshiba, he said, ”would be interpreted in Japan as motivated by trade imbalances, rather than by national security concerns.”

Where Mr. Armitage departed from the Administration’s earlier view, however, was in his assessment that the Soviet Union ”had quiet propellers three years before the first diversion” in 1983. That would seem to suggest – as a group of Soviet scientists said last month at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – that the Soviet effort was not really aided by the Japanese equipment.

Mr. Armitage’s view ran counter to the conclusions of a report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency that stated that the Soviet Union gained the knowledge to design the quiet propellers between 1979 and 1982. But they only had the equipment to ”build a small number of experimental, prototype seven-bladed, skewed propellers,” the report said.

In fact, the Soviet Union was probably producing a small number of quiet propellers for its submarine fleet using less-capable milling machines obtained from Forest Line, the Paris-based machinery company, in a transaction that became known after the Toshiba disclosures. But not until the first of four Toshiba MBP-110 milling machines was installed at the Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad could the Soviet Navy ”begin to automate the process,” [head of the Pentagon export control office Stephen D. Bryen] said in an interview last week. ”At that point, they stepped up their production from a handful to regular, full-scale production.’

Then there is how the Fairchild sale is dealt with in Rising Sun; here is former trade negotiator Bob Richmond giving his perspective:

“Sure. It’s exactly like the Fairchild case. Remember that one? Fujitsu tries to buy Fairchild Semiconductor in eighty-six, but Congress blocks the sale, saying it’s against national security. Congress doesn’t want Fairchild sold to a foreign company. Couple of years later Fairchild is going to be sold to a French company, and this time there’s not a peep from Congress. Apparently, it’s okay to sell to a foreign company-just not a Japanese company. I’d say that’s racist policy, pure and simple.” We came to the elevator. “Anyway, call me. I’ll make myself available.”

“Thank you,” Connor said.

We got on the elevator. The doors closed.

“Asshole,” Connor said.

This is Connor giving his perspective on the Fairchild deal:

“Have you ever heard of Seymour Cray? For years, he was the best designer of supercomputers in the world. Cray Research made the fastest computers in the world. The Japanese were trying to catch up with him, but they just couldn’t do it. He was too brilliant. But by the mid-eighties, Japanese chip dumping had put most of Cray’s domestic suppliers out of business. So Cray had to order his custom-designed chips from Japanese manufacturers. There was nobody in America to make them. And his Japanese suppliers experienced mysterious delays. At one point, it took them a year to deliver certain chips he had ordered-and during that time, his Japanese competitors made great strides forward. There was also a question of whether they had stolen his new technology. Cray was furious. He knew they were fucking with him. He decided that he had to form a liaison with an American manufacturer, and so he chose Fairchild Semiconductor, even though the company was financially weak, far from the best. But Cray couldn’t trust the Japanese anymore. He had to make do with Fairchild. So now Fairchild was making his next generation of custom chips for him-and then he learned that Fairchild was going to be sold to Fujitsu. His big competitor. It was concern about situations like that, and the national security implications, that led Congress to block the sale to Fujitsu.”

The blocked sale is dealt with extensively at the time of the sale by the piece, “The Fairchild Deal : Trade War: When Chips Were Down” by William C. Rempel and Donna K.H. Walters. Crichton appears to have made a mistake about who Fairchild was sold to after the deal was blocked, with Bob Richmond speaking of it being sold to a french company. This is completely wrong, and here is the key point that Crichton leaves out: Schlumberger, a French-controlled oil services firm, had already bought it in 1979, before the Fujitsu deal. I have no idea right now what Seymour Cray’s feelings were towards Japanese chip manufacturers, but his alliance with Fairchild was not something that suddenly happened in the eighties; their partnership in the building of supercomputers went back two decades. After the blocked sale to Fujitsu, the company was sold at half of that sale price to National Semiconductor, a U.S. company. However, Cray was already using Fujitsu chips in its computers at the time of the proposed sale.

From “The Fairchild Deal”:

Fairchild had been the world’s top computer chip maker in 1966. But it was a legend in trouble in 1983 when Donald W. Brooks of Texas Instruments was called to the rescue. Schlumberger, the French-controlled oil field services firm that bought Fairchild in 1979 and tried to run it like a heavy equipment company, had finally recognized it needed veteran semiconductor management to reverse its decline.

An uneasy truce in the trade war prevailed in the summer of 1986. U.S. resentment still lingered toward companies like Fujitsu, earlier found guilty of dumping chips at 60% below fair market value.

But to Brooks at Fairchild, Fujitsu was no enemy–Fujitsu was the “white Samurai.”

Schlumberger, beset by troubles in the oil industry, was becoming more impatient with its loss-ridden high-tech subsidiary. Concerned that Schlumberger might dismember or completely shut down Fairchild, Brooks initiated talks with Fujitsu.

This time it was Brooks looking for a rescue. After weeks of secret negotiations, Fujitsu offered a $200-million lifeline. It would buy Fairchild.

Cray Research Corp. of Minneapolis, the world’s leading manufacturer of supercomputers, relied on Fujitsu and Fairchild for its essential emitter-coupled logic (ECL) chips. The merger would have made the Japanese firm the world’s top supplier of ECL chips and eliminated a competing source for Cray.

The Pentagon’s super-secret National Security Agency, which relied on Cray supercomputers, worried that because Fujitsu also made its own supercomputers it might withhold the vital ECL chips and keep future advances to themselves.

“The NSA was very disturbed,” [head of Pentagon export office Stephen D. Bryen] said. So was Bryen.

Other members of CFIUS, however, came to be disturbed about what they regarded as Bryen’s strident advocacy of the national security threat. One Administration official referred pointedly to Bryen when he complained about the “disgusting level of debate that sometimes lacked an intellectual base.”

It also was apparent early that any antitrust concerns would be insufficient to stop the deal. A Fairchild-Fujitsu combination would not have controlled enough of any segment of the chip market to warrant legal action.

Nor could serious objections be raised over its defense contract work. Although 35%-45% of Fairchild’s sales were to defense contractors, the company was not the sole technology supplier to any of them. Also, it was not directly involved in any classified projects. And defense concerns over foreign ownership already had been resolved in 1979 when French-controlled Schlumberger bought Fairchild and established a New York-based subsidiary to operate it.

Bryen did not speak for the entire Pentagon. Richard L. Armitage, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, represented a sizable faction that supported the Fujitsu-Fairchild merger.

Armitage, involved in negotiations to get Japanese technological support for the Strategic Defense Initiative, had argued before [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] that Fujitsu could contribute new technologies to Fairchild that would, in turn, be available to the U.S. military.

The argument underscored one of the ironies of the Fairchild controversy: that its purchase by French-controlled Schlumberger in 1979 had not been opposed.

21 Connor takes Smith to a little known but excellent sushi place:

I had lunch with Connor at a sushi bar in Culver City. As we were pulling up, someone was placing a CLOSED sign in the window. He saw Connor, and flipped it to say OPEN.

“They know me here,” Connor said.

“You mean they like you?”

“It’s hard to know about that.”

“They want your business?”

“No,” Connor said. “Probably Hiroshi would prefer to close. It won’t be profitable for him to keep his people on, just for two gaijin customers. But I come here often. He is honoring the relationship. It doesn’t really have to do with business or liking.”

“Quail egg and salmon roe,” he said. “Good protein. Energy. You need it.”

I said, “Do I have to?”

Imae said, “Make you strong for girlfriend.” And he laughed. He said something quickly in Japanese to Connor.

Connor replied, and the two had a good laugh.

“What’s funny?” I said. But I wanted to change the subject, so I ate the first of the sushi. If you got past the slimy texture, it was actually very good.

Imae said, “Good?”

“Very good,” I said. I ate the second one, and turned to Connor. “You know what we found on those tapes? It’s unbelievable.”

Connor held up his hand. “Please. You must learn the Japanese way to have relaxation. Everything in its place. Oaiso- onegai shimasu.”

The reference to The Bad Sleep Well:

I said, “So Eddie was Koichi Nishi?”

Connor nodded. “His little joke. Koichi Nishi is the name of a character in a famous Japanese movie about corporate corruption.”

That Connor’s Japanese in the movie is very poor was made in an interview at the time with activist Guy Aoki, “Rising Sun: Interview with activist Guy Aoki” by Robert M. Payne:

Others have seen the Sean Connery character as a positive blend of Western and Japanese cultures.

How is he a blend of Western and Japanese cultures? He speaks Japanese terribly.

22 Various excerpts from Rising Sun:

“Maybe. But you know the Japanese think American police are incompetent. This sloppiness is a sign of their disdain.”

“Well, we’re not incompetent.”

Connor shook his head. “Compared to the Japanese, we are incompetent. In Japan, every criminal gets caught. For major crimes, convictions run ninety-nine percent. So any criminal in Japan knows from the outset he is going to get caught. But here, the conviction rate is more like seventeen percent. Not even one in five. So a criminal in the States knows he probably isn’t going to get caught-and if he’s caught, he won’t be convicted, thanks to all his legal safeguards. And you know every study of police effectiveness shows that American detectives either solve the case in the first six hours, or they never solve it at all.”

We were back outside. Weak sunlight filtered through the smoggy haze. Cars roared by, bouncing in the potholes. The houses along the street looked cheap to me, in disrepair.

“It’s hard for an American to see him clearly,” Connor said. “Because in America, you think a certain amount of error is normal. You expect the plane to be late. You expect the mail to be undelivered. You expect the washing machine to break down. You expect things to go wrong all the time.

“But Japan is different. Everything works in Japan. In a Tokyo train station, you can stand at a marked spot on the platform and when the train stops, the doors will open right in front of you. Trains are on time. Bags are not lost. Connections are not missed. Deadlines are met. Things happen as planned. The Japanese are educated, prepared, and motivated. They get things done. There’s no screwing around.”

The fastest way to the morgue was through the emergency room at County General Hospital. As we went through, a black man covered in blood was sitting up on his gurney, screaming “Kill the pope! Kill the pope! Fuck him!” in a drug-crazed frenzy. A half-dozen attendants were trying to push him down. He had gunshot wounds in his shoulder and hand. The floors and walls of the emergency room were spattered with blood. An orderly went down the hall, cleaning it up with a mop. The hallways were lined with black and Hispanic people. Some of them held children in their laps. Everyone looked away from the bloody mop. From somewhere down the corridor, we heard more screams.

We got onto the elevator. It was quiet.

Connor said, “A homicide every twenty minutes. A rape every seven minutes. A child murdered every four hours. No other country tolerates these levels of violence.”

As usual, the fifth-floor anteroom of the downtown detective division was busy, even at two o’clock in the morning. Detectives moved among the beat-up prostitutes and twitching druggies brought in for questioning; in the corner a man in a checked sport coat was shouting, “I said, shut the fuck up!” over and over to a female officer with a clipboard.

In all the swirl and noise, Masao Ishiguro looked distinctly out of place. Wearing his blue pinstripe suit, he sat in the corner with his head bowed and his knees pressed together. He had a cardboard box balanced on his knees.

According to the story, the Bitch Killers was thought to be the same gang that had walked up to a black two-year-old boy, Rodney Howard, and shot the child in the head while he was playing on his tricycle in the front yard of his Inglewood home a week earlier. That incident was rumored to be an initiation into the gang, and the viciousness of it had touched off a furor about whether the L.A.P.D. was able to handle gang violence in southern California.

23 From Rising Sun:

The guard climbed out of his car, hefted a big gut, and started up the stairs. Connor looked back at the high walls. “You know we have more private security than police, now? Everyone’s building walls and hiring guards. But in Japan, you can walk into a park at midnight and sit on a bench and nothing will happen to you. You’re completely safe, day or night. You can go anywhere. You won’t be robbed or beaten or killed. You’re not always looking behind you, not always worrying. You don’t need walls or bodyguards. Your safety is the safety of the whole society. You’re free. It’s a wonderful feeling. Here, everybody has to lock themselves up. Lock the door. Lock the car. People who spend their whole lives locked up are in prison. It’s crazy. It kills the spirit. But it’s been so long now that Americans have forgotten what it’s like to really feel safe. Anyway. Here’s our car. Let’s get down to the division.”

24 From Rising Sun:

I said, “Why are we here?”

“We’re complying with the Supreme Court, ko-hai.”

At the loading dock, a woman in a business suit came out, looked around, and waved. Connor waved back. She disappeared again. Connor got out his billfold and took out a couple of twenties.

“One of the first things I learned as a detective,” Connor said, “is that hotel staff can be extremely helpful. Particularly since the police have so many restrictions these days. We can’t go into a hotel room without a warrant. If we did, whatever we found in a search would be inadmissible, right?”


“But the maids can go in. Valet and housekeeping and room service can go in.”

25 From Rising Sun:

Somebody asked a question, and Morton nodded. “Yes, it’s true that our industry is not doing well. Real wages in this country are now at 1962 levels. The purchasing power of American workers is back where it was thirty-odd years ago. And that matters, even to the well-to-do folks that I see in this room, because it means American consumers don’t have the money to see movies, or buy cars, or clothing, or whatever you people have to sell. The truth is, our nation is sliding badly.”

A woman asked another question I couldn’t hear, and Morton said, “Yes, I said 1962 levels. I know it’s hard to believe, but think back to the fifties, when American workers could own a house, raise a family, and send the kids to college, all on a single paycheck. Now both parents work and most people still can’t afford a house. The dollar buys less, everything is more expensive. People struggle just to hold on to what they have. They can’t get ahead.”

26 These comments can be found in an interview with Don Swaim while promoting the book, “Audio Interviews with Michael Crichton”. The link for the specific audio file for the interview promoting Rising Sun is “Listen to the Michael Crichton Interview with Don Swaim, February 6, 1992”:

From that interview (6:18 to 11:05 in the audio file):

Somewhere in the book, you write, “The Japanese consider us barbarians. And look at our crime rate. No civilized country on earth has anything like the crime rate the American people have.” You said something to that effect, I can’t remember where that is, but it really stuck out. Because there are a lot of things wrong with our society, and I think you perhaps pinpointed it very well in Rising Sun, maybe you can elaborate on that.

Well, I think there’s absolutely no question that we have made decisions in our society, that no other industrial society has made. We have for some reason elected to tolerate the highest crime rate in the world. You know, last year we had twenty five thousand murders in this country. The rate is twenty times higher than in England. Hundred times higher than Japan. The difference is so striking that when you’re in a Japanese city, it takes a little while to realize that you don’t always have to be looking over your shoulder at night. You can go anywhere you want to go. That you can be alone, or in a group, and you’re safe in any case. We are so accustomed to maintaining a constant level of tension and alertness and fear, we’re going to be assaulted, we’re going to be shot, mugged, raped, and that’s starting to become part of the fabric of our society. It’s crazy. And, you know, when you start to talk what about America is different, the thing that immediately leaps out is gun control. Ours is the only nation, that I’m aware of, that has elected to say there are no limitations on ownership of guns. Every other nation makes another decision, and in return gets safe citizenry, gets safe streets. We are the only nation left now that has no health care policy.

We are the only industrial nation without an industrial policy. Look at Japan, look at Germany, those countries have decided on the proper way for industry and government to work together. As the United States once did, had a clear idea on how government and the defense industry would work together for the defense of America. And there is no foolishness about that in the United States, people wanted a strong defense, they’re willing to pay for it, they didn’t care what administration was in power, the belief in a strong American defense cut across party lines, cut across presidential positions, that’s what we wanted, that’s what we continuously had, and that sort of across the board national policy is how the Japanese feel about their own industry, and their own exports. So, it isn’t really surprising that you see a country where the people, the industries, the government are in agreement about what oughta happen. When a nation like that is in economic competition with a nation like the United States, which is in disarray, which has no agreement on how to proceed, which has totally open markets, which has no assistance from government to business, often interference…the organized country just wipes us out. And that’s what’s happened.

Back to the crime problem in this country…are you saying that gun control is the key to it?

I don’t know what the key to it is…Don, when you compare any two countries…you know, whether you’re talking about crime, whether you’re talking about education, whether you’re talking about drugs, you can see differences between how one country does it and how another country does it, and you can ask whether the differences are related to that. There’s certainly a strong element that says gun control and crime are not related. But, as far as I know, we’re the only country without gun control, strict gun control. And we have the highest murder rate. So, if they’re not related, it seems the burden of proof to demonstrate the lack of relation is on the people who feel it necessary…that everyone should have a gun.

27 An exchange between Smith and Connor in Rising Sun:

“Graham thinks it’s a war.”

Connor said, “Well, that’s true. We are definitely at war with Japan. But let’s see what surprises Mr. Ishiguro has for us in the latest skirmish.”

28 Van Wolferen’s thesis is extensive and in-depth; I only provide the opening paragraph to his discussion of what he terms the System:

One could label the entire body politic, meaning all and everyone participating in some way in the power process, ‘the state’. But this confuses, for the state would become something very nebulous indeed, and we would still have to postulate accountability, which in turn presupposes a centre. How, then, is one to label an entity which is not a state, but which does encompass the political life of a country? To me, the word ‘system’ seems to invite the least confusion. It denotes little more than the existence of a set of relationships, with reasonably predictable effects, between those engaged in socio-political pursuits. The term ‘system’ is also frequently used to suggest an arrangement of inescapable forces against which the individual is helpless without resort to violence. It hints at something beyond the range of the potentially corrective powers of democratic politics; it is something that cannot be reasoned with – although it may occasionally be duped. As it happens, the Japanese are rarely allowed to forget the existence of socio-political arrangements that are infinitely stronger than any kind of might the individual could ever bring to bear on them and have, at best, only a dim notion that ideally one should have recourse to democratic processes as a means of changing them. The term ‘system’ is thus very useful in speaking of political Japan, and I will give it the capital ‘S’ it deserves for denoting something, neither ‘state’ nor ‘society’, that nevertheless determines how Japanese life is lived and who obeys whom.

29 An example of the casual way in which corporate interests override public interest and public will would be “House Bid to Undo Dialysis Cuts Shows Lobbyists’ Muscle” by Eric Lipton; another would be “Swiped: Banks, Merchants And Why Washington Doesn’t Work For You”; an example of the expectation of banality we have of our thought leaders would be “Who wrote a worse column today, Maureen Dowd or Thomas Friedman? “ by Alex Pareene.

30 Examples from Rising Sun:

The first of the tapes that showed the forty-sixth floor was a view from the atrium camera, high up, looking down. The tape showed people working on the floor, in what looked like an ordinary office day. We fast-forwarded through that. Shadows of sunlight coming through the windows swung in hot arcs across the floor, and then disappeared. Gradually, the light on the floor softened and dimmed, as daylight came to an end. One by one, desk lights came on. The workers moved more slowly now. Eventually they began to depart, leaving their desks one by one. As the population thinned, we noticed something else. Now the camera moved occasionally, panning one or another of the workers as they passed beneath. Yet at other times, the camera would not pan. Eventually we realized the camera must be equipped for automatic focusing and tracking. If there was a lot of movement in the frame-several people going in different directions-then the camera did not move. But if the frame was mostly empty, the camera would fix on a single person walking through, and track him.

As we watched, the night lights came on. The desks were all empty. Now the tape began to flicker rapidly, almost like a strobe.

“Something wrong with this tape?” Graham said, suspiciously. “They fucked around with it?”

“I don’t know. No, wait. It’s not that. Look at the clock.”

On the far wall, we could see the office clock. The minute hands were sweeping smoothly from seven-thirty toward eight o’clock.

“It’s time lapse,” I said.

“What is it, taking snapshots?”

I nodded. “Probably, when the system doesn’t detect anybody for a while, it begins to take single frames every ten or twenty seconds, until-”

“Hey. What’s that?”

The flickering had stopped. The camera had begun to pan to the right, across the deserted floor. But there was nobody in the frame. Just empty desks, and occasional night lights, which flared in the video.

“Maybe they have a wide sensor,” I said. “That looks beyond the borders of the image itself. Either that, or it’s being moved manually. By a guard, somewhere. Maybe down in the security room.”

The panning image came to rest on the elevator doors. The doors were at the far right, in deep shadow, beneath a kind of ceiling overhang that blocked our view.

“Jeez, dark under there. Is someone there?”

“I can’t see anything,” I said.

The image began to swim in and out of focus.

“What’s happening now?” Graham said.

“Looks like the automatic focus is having trouble. Maybe it can’t decide what to focus on. Maybe the overhang is bothering the logic circuits. My video camera at home does the same thing. The focus gets screwed up when it can’t tell what I am shooting.”

“The detail is there,” she said. “It is like dark exposure on film. The detail has been recorded, but we cannot see it yet. So … Now I have enhancement. And now I will get the shadow detail … Now!”

And in a sudden, shocking moment, the dark silhouette blossomed, the wall behind flaring white, making a kind of halo around the head. The dark face became lighter, and we could see the face for the first time, distinctly and clearly.

“Huh, white man.” She sounded disappointed.

“My God,” I said.

“You know who he is?”

“Yes,” I said.

The features were twisted with tension, the lip turned up in a kind of snarl. But the identity was unmistakable.

I was looking at the face of Senator John Morton.

31 From “London Psychsics”, out of Travels:

She talked about this and that, making a few psychological comments, but nothing particularly specific. After about half an hour of rambling, she suddenly said, “What on earth do you do for work?,” with a sort of alarm in her voice.

Immediately she said, “Don’t tell me, don’t tell me. It’s just that I can’t put it together. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Then she told me what she was seeing.

She saw me working in a room like a laundry, with huge white baskets, and there were black snakes coiling in the baskets, except that they weren’t snakes. And she heard this terrible sound, repeated over and over again, a kind of Whaaaa-whoooo, whoooo-whaaaa, and she saw pictures going forward and backward, forward and backward. And something about hats, or high hats, or old-style fashion.

This was what she couldn’t put together. And she found it unpleasant, these sounds and snakes and things. She said, “You are the most peculiar person.”

I, of course, knew exactly what she was seeing. She was seeing the place I had been virtually living in for the last two weeks, the editing room where we ran the film back and forth to the accompaniment of those hideous sounds. The film was The Great Train Robbery and the actors all wore high hats.

32 From Rising Sun:

“Graham’s uncle,” Connor said. “He was a prisoner of war during World War II. He was taken to Tokyo, where he disappeared. Graham’s father went over after the war to find out what happened to him. There were unpleasant questions about what happened. You probably know that some American servicemen were killed in terminal medical experiments in Japan. There were stories about the Japanese feeding their livers to subordinates as a joke, things like that.”

“No, I didn’t know,” I said.

“I think everybody would prefer to forget that time,” Connor said, “and move on. And probably correctly. It’s a different country now. What was Graham going on about?”

33 Theresa’s speech from Rising Sun:

“So I am glad to be here. You Americans do not know in what grace your land exists. What freedom you enjoy in your hearts. You cannot imagine the harshness of life in Japan, if you are excluded from the group. But I know it very well. And I do not mind if the Japanese suffer a little now, from my efforts with my one good hand.”

Connor’s speech from the novel:

He shook his head. “Most people who’ve lived in Japan come away with mixed feelings. In many ways, the Japanese are wonderful people. They’re hardworking, intelligent, and humorous. They have real integrity. They are also the most racist people on the planet. That’s why they’re always accusing everybody else of racism. They’re so prejudiced, they assume everybody else must be, too. And living in Japan … I just got tired, after a while, of the way things worked. I got tired of seeing women move to the other side of the street when they saw me walking toward them at night. I got tired of noticing that the last two seats to be occupied on the subway were the ones on either side of me. I got tired of the airline stewardesses asking Japanese passengers if they minded sitting next to a gaijin, assuming that I couldn’t understand what they were saying because they were speaking Japanese. I got tired of the exclusion, the subtle patronizing, the jokes behind my back. I got tired of being a nigger. I just … got tired. I gave up.”

34 One of the better examples of Asakuma’s attitude is in the footnote above.

35 From the end of Rising Sun:

Iwabuchi nodded to the young aide, and got up from the table. The aide pulled his chair out for him. Iwabuchi moved down the line of Japanese negotiators. As he passed one man, he brushed him lightly on the shoulder. Iwabuchi continued to the end of the table, then opened the glass doors and walked outside, onto a terrace beyond the conference room.

A moment later, the second man stood to leave.

“Moriyama,” Connor said. “Head of the Los Angeles office.”

Moriyama also went outside onto the terrace. The two men stood in the sun and smoked cigarettes. The aide joined them, speaking quickly, his head bobbing. The senior men listened intently, then turned away. The aide remained standing there.

After a moment, Moriyama turned back to the aide and said something. The aide bowed quickly and returned to the conference room. He moved to the seat of another man, darkhaired with a mustache, and whispered in his ear.

“Shirai,” Connor said. “Head of finance.”

Shirai stood up, but did not go onto the terrace. Instead, he opened the inner door, crossed the atrium, and disappeared into an office on the far side of the floor.

In the conference room, the aide went to still a fourth man, whom I recognized as Yoshida, the head of Akai Ceramics. Yoshida also slipped out of the room, going into the atrium.

“What’s going on?” I said.

“They’re distancing themselves,” Connor said. “They don’t want to be there when it happens.”

I looked back at the terrace, and saw the two Japanese men outside moving casually along the length of the terrace, toward a door at the far end.

36 The ending to the novel Rising Sun:

I was tired. I climbed the stairs to my apartment and went inside. It was quiet, with my daughter gone. I got a can of Coke from the refrigerator and walked into the living room, but my back hurt when I sat in the chair. I got up again, and turned on the television. I couldn’t watch it. I thought of how Connor said everybody in America focused on the unimportant things. It was like the situation with Japan: if you sell the country to Japan, then they will own it, whether you like it or not. And people who own things do what they want with them. That’s how it works.

I walked into my bedroom and changed my clothes. On the bedside table, I saw the pictures from my daughter’s birthday that I had been sorting when all this started. The pictures that didn’t look like her, that didn’t fit the reality anymore. I listened to the tinny laughter from the television in the other room. I used to think things were basically all right. But they’re not all right.

37 From Rising Sun:

“The application,” Orr said. “You need to fill it out, Captain. Of course it’s just routine. I can assure you, there won’t be any problem with it, considering who your sponsors are.”

“My sponsors,” Connor said.

“Yes, sir,” Orr said. “And congratulations. As you know, it’s almost impossible to obtain a membership at Sunset these days. But Mr. Hanada’s company had already bought a corporate membership some time ago, and they have decided to put it in your name. I must say, it’s a very nice gesture from your friends.”

“Yes, it is,” Connor said, frowning.

I was looking at him.

“They know how fond you are of playing golf here,” Orr said. “You know the terms, of course. Hanada will purchase the membership over five years, but after that time, it’ll be transferred to your name. So when you retire from club membership, you’re free to sell it. Now: will you be picking up the paperwork here, or should I send it to your home?”

Connor said, “Mr. Orr, please convey my heartfelt appreciation to Mr. Hanada for his very great generosity. I hardly know what to say. But I will have to call you back about this.”

“What the hell is going on?” I said. Because there wasn’t any way to get around it. Between us, we had just been offered a lot of money. A lot of money.

Connor shook his head. “I don’t know.”

38 The quote appears during an argument where Smith reveals he once took money not to arrest a drug dealer, an incident which the Nakamoto corporation is trying to use to take him off the case:

Wanna know why I told you?


I figure you’re on the take, too.

What are you talking about?

That fuckin’ fat envelope in your pocket. The one the guy gave you back at the golf club.

This is a golf membership.

Oh! So how much is a membership worth these days?

A hundred thousand.

A hundred thousand. Boy, they sure make it easy to take a few bucks, don’t they?

Golf is how they do business. This is very important for what I do.

Well, I guess that makes everything all white now, doesn’t it?

39 From Rising Sun:

Then I heard Connor say, “Ah, shit!” and he broke into a run, sprinting across the studio toward the stairs. I stood up, surprised, dropped the phone, and followed him. As Connor passed Woodson, he said “You son of a bitch,” and then he was taking the stairs two at a time, racing upward. I was right behind him. I heard Woodson say something like, “I had to.”

When we got to the second floor hallway Connor shouted “Senator!” That was when we heard the single, cracking report. It wasn’t loud: it sounded like a chair falling over.

But I knew that it was a gunshot.

40 From “They” out of Travels:

I still thought there were differences between men and women. It was true I didn’t conceive those differences in the simplistic way I had so many years earlier. But I still thought there were differences. I wanted to know what those differences were.

Then, slowly, I began to ask a different question. Not what the differences were. Instead: What is the best way to think about men and women?

And I came to a surprising conclusion.

My old girlfriend was right.

The best way to think about men and women is to assume there are no differences between them.

41 From “Heart Attack!” out of Travels:

Many years passed, and I had long since left medicine, before I arrived at a view of disease that seemed to make sense to me. The view is this:

We cause our diseases. We are directly responsible for any illness that happens to us.

In some cases, we understand this perfectly well. We knew we should have not gotten run-down and caught a cold. In the case of more catastrophic illnesses, the mechanism is not so clear to us. But whether we can see a mechanism or not-whether there is a mechanism or not-it is healthier to assume responsibility for our lives, and for everything that happens to us.

Of course it isn’t helpful to blame ourselves for an illness. That much is clear. (It’s rarely helpful to blame anybody for anything.) But that doesn’t mean we should abdicate all responsibility as well. To give up responsibility for our lives is not healthy.

42 From “Sea World/Santa at the Mall/Demi Moore”, off of If you buy this cd, I can get this car:

So, I’m in the hotel, and I’m watching HBO and Disclosure is on, this movie with Demi Moore and Michael Douglas, where she’s like his boss or something? And in the first five minutes of the movie, she’s in his office trying to pull down his pants, she’s going “Let me blow you or you’re fired.” Yeah. It’s right around then the UFOs should start landing. Let me blow you or you’re fired? You know, I had a boss like that once, but it was a guy. And I blew him, and I got fired. So, I don’t know if I give bad head, or…he’s phasing me out, or what. “Let me blow you”, does any woman have to say that? “Let me”? “Pretty please let me suck your dick”? “I’ve been a good girl.” “Please let me suck it.” Like the guy’s gonna go, “Naaaaaaah.” “It’s a hassle.” “Great, she wants to suck it. That means I gotta take it out…I gotta wait till she’s done…put it back.” She’s always in those movies, too. Demi Moore’s always in those. That one with Robert Redford in Las Vegas. “I’ll give you a million dollars for a night with your wife.” And they go, “We have to talk about it.” Yeah, I would have said, I’ll blow you for twenty thousand. You don’t want her, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.

43 From Rising Sun, Senator Morton describing Cheryl:

“I don’t know what it was about her,” Morton said. “She was beautiful, of course, but it wasn’t … it wasn’t that. I only met her a short time ago. Four, five months ago. I thought she was a nice girl. Texas girl, sweet. But it was … one of those things. It just happened. She had this way of getting under your skin. It was crazy. Unexpected. I started to think about her all the time. I couldn’t … she would call me, when I was on a trip. She would find out when I was on a trip, somehow. And pretty soon, I couldn’t tell her to stay away. I couldn’t. She always seemed to have money, always had a plane ticket. She was crazy. Sometimes, she would make me so mad. It was like my … I don’t know. Demon.”

Eddie Sakamura describing Cheryl:

He sucked on his cigarette. “Hey, no,” he said. “I’m talking something else. I’m talking, how she gets off. When you hurt her real bad she comes. She’s always asking, more, more. Do it more. Squeeze harder.”

Connor said, “Her neck?”

“Yeah. Her neck. Right. Squeeze her neck. Yeah. You heard? And sometimes a plastic bag. You know, drycleaning bag? Put it over her head and clamp it, hold it around her neck while you fuck her and she sucks the plastic against her mouth and turns blue in the face. Claws at your back. Gasp and wheeze. Christ Almighty. Don’t care for that, myself. But I’m telling you, this girl has a pussy. I mean she gets off, it’s wild ride. You remember afterwards. I’m telling you. But for me, too much. Always on the edge, you know? Always a risk. Always pushing the edge. Maybe this time. Maybe this is the last time. You know what I’m saying?” He flicked his cigarette away. It sputtered among the cactus thorns. “Sometimes it’s exciting. Like Russian roulette. Then I couldn’t take it, Captain. Seriously. I couldn’t. And you know me, I like a wild time.”

A family friend describing Cheryl:

“Of course, she was pretty,” she said, “and the boys surely did like her. Always a bunch of them hanging around, you couldn’t shake them off with a stick.” She paused. “Of course, I never thought she was entirely right in the head. But she wanted to keep those boys around. And she liked them to fight over her, too. I remember she was seven or eight, she’d get those kids brawling in the dust, and she’d clap her hands and watch them go at it. By the time she was teenage, she was real good at it. Knew just what to do. It wasn’t real nice to see. No, something was wrong in the head. She could be mean. And that song, she always played it, day and night. About lose my mind, I’d think.”

Theresa and Smith observe her death:

Standing in the darkened laboratory, with the hiss of skaters on the ice above, we watched the final violent act, again and again. It played on five monitors, different angles, as her pale legs went up, onto his shoulders, and he crouched over her, hands fumbling at his trousers. With repetition, I noticed small things not seen before. The way she slid down the table to meet him, wiggling her hips. The way his back arched at the moment of penetration. The change in her smile, catlike, knowing. Calculating. How she urged him on, saying something. Her hands around his back, caressing. The sudden change in mood, the flash of anger in her eyes, the abrupt slap. The way she fought him, first to arouse him, and then later, struggling in a different way, because then something was wrong. The way her eyes bulged, and she had a look of real desperation. Her hands pushing his arms, shoving his coat sleeves up, revealing the tiny metallic sparkle of cuff links. The glint of her watch. Her arm falling back, palm open. Five fingers pale against the black of the table. Then a tremor, the fingers twitching, and stillness.

Theresa said, “This girl is sick.”

“It looks that way.”

“She is not a victim. Not this one.”

“Maybe not.”

44 From Airframe:

Jennifer Malone awoke to the soft, insistent buzz of the bedside alarm. She turned it off, and looked over at the tanned shoulder of the man next to her, and felt a burst of annoyance. He was a stuntman on a TV series, she’d met him a few months back. He had a craggy face and a nice muscular body and he knew how to perform … but Jeez, she hated it when guys stayed over. She had hinted politely, after the second time. But he’d just rolled over and gone to sleep. And now here he was, snoring away.

Jennifer hated to wake up with some guy in the room. She hated everything about it, the sounds they made breathing, the smell coming off their skin, their greasy hair on the pillow. Even the catches, the celebrities who made her heart skip over candlelight, looked like soggy beached whales the next day.

It was like the guys didn’t know their place. They came over; they got what they wanted; she got what she wanted; everyone was happy. So why didn’t they go the fuck home?

From the end of Airframe:

It was as if they were going straight down.

Outside the scream of the engines became a shriek. Casey’s body was pressing hard against the harness straps. Sitting beside her, Jennifer Malone began to scream, her mouth open, a single unvarying scream that merged with the scream of the engines.

Casey felt dizzy. She tried to count how long it was lasting. Five … six … seven … eight seconds … How long had the initial descent been?

Bit by bit, the plane began to level, to come out of the dive. The scream of the engines faded, changed to a lower register. Casey felt her body grow heavy, then heavier still, then amazingly heavy, her cheeks sagging, her arms pressed down to the armrests. The G-forces. They were at more than two Gs. Casey now weighed two hundred and fifty pounds. She sank lower in the seat, pressed down by a giant hand.

Beside her, Jennifer had stopped screaming, and now was making a continuous low groan.

The sensation of weight decreased as the plane started to climb again. At first the climb was reasonable, then uncomfortable-then it seemed to be straight up. The engines were screaming. Jennifer was screaming. Casey tried to count the seconds but couldn’t. She didn’t have the energy to focus.

And suddenly she felt the pit of her stomach begin to rise, followed by nausea, and she saw the monitor lift off the floor for a moment, held in place by the straps. They were weightless at the peak of the climb. Jennifer threw her hand over her mouth.

Then they were climbing again, steeper than before, the shriek of the engines loud in her ears, and she felt Jennifer reach for her, Jennifer grabbing her arm. Casey turned to look at her, and Jennifer, pale and wild-eyed, was shouting:

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”

The plane was coming to the top of the rise. Her stomach lifting, a sickening sensation. Jennifer’s stricken look, hand clapped to her mouth. Vomit spurting through her fingers.

The plane going over.

Another dive.

The reason why Casey Singleton, the hero, is unaffected by the plane’s motion is because she’s secretly taped patches for motion sickness to her body:

Casey was tired. Then she remembered the scope. She rolled up her sleeve, and pulled off the four circular bandages arranged in a row on the skin of her arm. Scopolamine patches, for motion sickness. That was why she had not vomited on the plane. She had known what she was in for. Malone had not.

Casey had no sympathy for her. She just wanted to be finished. This would be the last step. This would end it.

45 From Disclosure:

Lewyn shook his head in disgust. “This innocent act is a lot of crap. Don’t you take any responsibility for anything?”


“Look, Tom, everybody in the company knows that Meredith is a shark. Meredith Manmuncher, they call her. The Great White. Everybody knows she’s protected by Garvin, that she can do what she wants. And what she wants is to play grabass with cute guys who show up in her office at the end of the day. She has a couple of glasses of wine, she gets a little flushed, and she wants service. A delivery boy, a trainee, a young account guy. Whatever. And nobody can say a word because Garvin thinks she walks on water. So, how come everybody else in the company knows it but you?”

From Disclosure:

Jackson laughed. “You mean, did Meredith Man-muncher come on to me?” he said. “Hey, is the Pope Catholic? Is Bill Gates rich? Of course she came on to me.”

“Did that have anything to do with your leaving?”

“No, no,” Jackson said. “Meredith came on to everybody. She’s sort of an equal opportunity employer, in that respect. She chased everybody. When I first started in Cupertino, she had this little gay guy she used to chase around the table. Terrorized the poor bastard. Little skinny nervous guy. Christ, she used to make him tremble.”

From Disclosure:

Sanders said, “I don’t know. Meredith’s a talker. She always talked about other people. Old boyfriends, that stuff. She’s not what you’d call a romantic.”

He remembered one time when they were lying on the bed in the apartment in Sunnyvale, feeling a sort of relaxed glow. A Sunday afternoon. Listening to kids laughing in the street outside. His hand resting on her thigh, feeling the sweat. And in this thoughtful way she said, “You know, I once went out with this Norwegian guy, and he had a curved dick. Curved like a sword, sort of bent over to the side, and he-”

“Jesus, Meredith.”

“What’s the matter? It’s true. He really did.”

“Not now.”

Whenever this sort of thing happened, she’d sigh, as if she was obliged to put up with his excessive sensitivity. “Why is it that guys always want to think they’re the only ones?”

46 From Disclosure:

Mary Anne Hunter was assigned to drive Meredith Johnson to the airport, to take a plane back to Cupertino. The two women sat in silence for fifteen minutes, Meredith Johnson hunched down in her trench coat, staring out the window.

Tom didn’t do anything wrong, really,” Johnson said. “He just didn’t know how to handle a passing remark.”

“Uh-huh,” Hunter said.

“Women in business have to be perfect all the time, or they just get murdered. One little slip and they’re dead.”


“You know what I’m talking about.”

“Yes,” Hunter said. “I know.”

There was another long silence. Johnson shifted in her seat.

She stared out the window.

“The system,” Johnson said. “That’s the problem. I was raped by the fucking system.”

47 From Rising Sun:

But Lauren didn’t want the responsibility and kept saying, “I can’t handle it, Peter. I just can’t handle it.” So I took custody. What else could I do?

No, I thought, the court didn’t make a mistake. Lauren couldn’t handle it, and had never been able to handle it. Half the time, she skipped on her weekends. She was too busy to see her own daughter. Once after a weekend she returned Michelle to me. Michelle was crying. Lauren said, “I just don’t know what to do with her.” I checked. Her diapers were wet and she had a painful rash. Michelle always gets a rash when her diapers aren’t changed promptly.

48 From “Psychiatry”:

At one point I was going out with a girl who worked in a literary agent’s office. Pretty soon I decided I liked another girl in the same office. I wanted to go out with this second girl, but I didn’t want the first one to find out.

“Do you think I can keep it secret?” I asked Dr. Norton.

“No,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I think two girls in the same office will talk, and they’ll discover they’re both going out with you.”

“Even so,” I said, “is that so bad?”

“Well, I think they may both decide not to see you.”

That seemed an unpleasant outcome. I didn’t like the idea of going from two girls to none. “Oh, I don’t think that would happen,” I said.

Dr. Norton shrugged. “Time will tell.”

Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The girls found out, and they were both indignant that I would try such a low trick.

Later I began to get interested in my secretary, a cute blonde with large breasts. I’d never been involved with a large-breasted girl before.

“I think I’m falling for my secretary,” I told Dr. Norton.

“Don’t,” he said.

“Why not?” I said. I couldn’t see why it would be a problem.

“It tends to complicate not only your work but your private relationships as well. That seems to be what usually happens. At least, it happens often enough to lead to the rule that it’s unwise to get romantically involved with your secretary.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe that’s the rule for most people. But I think I can handle it.”

49 Various articles on Moore include “Taking Chances”, “Eye of the Tiger – Personal Success, Striptease, Coping and Overcoming Illness”, “Dreams Die Hard – Divorced, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore”, “Sabattical Done, Demi Moore Returns”, and “Demi Moore’s hospitalization puts spotlight on alleged past demons”. Perhaps the key piece for writing this section was “Demi-Feminism” by Barbara Lippert.

50 This possibility comes from “Eye of the Tiger – Personal Success, Striptease, Coping and Overcoming Illness” by Gregory Cerio:

Certainly it may be hard for Moore to engender much empathy among women when almost every signal moment in her career has involved a display of flesh. Beginning with her first major picture, 1984’s Blame It on Rio, and now with Striptease, Moore has appeared topless six times on the screen. There were her notorious nude Vanity Fair covers in 1991 and ’92, and at this moment a photo in Arena magazine of Moore-made up as a man and baring her breasts-is causing a stir in Britain. Just one indicator that there’s no love lost on Moore comes in a story called “Public Enemies” in the current issue of Allure magazine. The article derides Moore’s “preternaturally perky breasts,” and dismisses her as a “famously buff mother of three [who] is despised by unbuff mothers of three everywhere.”

51 Incidentally, an amalgam of Ridley Scott and Fatal Attraction director Adrian Lyne show up in the novel Rising Sun, as director of a commercial for Senator Morton; Scott is the one who directed the famous Apple ad, while the name is a nod to Lyne’s:

“Okay, Senator, now look this way, please … a little more … that’s it, that’s very strong, very masculine, I like it a lot. Yes, bloody good. Now I will need three minutes, please.” The director, a tense man wearing a bomber jacket and a baseball cap, climbed down off the camera and barked orders in a British accent. “Jerry, get a scrim there, the sun is too bright. And can we do something about his eyes? I need a little fill in the eyes, please. Ellen? You see the shine on his right shoulder. Flag it, love. Pull the collar smooth. The microphone is visible on his tie. And I can’t see the gray in his hair. Bring it up. And straighten out the carpeting on the ground so he doesn’t trip when he walks, people. Please. Come on now. We’re losing our lovely light.”

Connor and I were standing to one side, with a cute production assistant named Debbie who held a clipboard across her breasts and said meaningfully, “The director is Edgar Lynn.”

“Should we recognize that name?” Connor said.

“He’s the most expensive and most sought-after commercial director in the world. He is a great artist. Edgar did the fantastic Apple 1984 commercial, and … oh, lots of others. And he has directed famous movies, too. Edgar is just the best.” She paused. “And not too crazy. Really.”

52 A meeting between Connor, Smith, and Senator Morton from Rising Sun:

“Gentlemen, thank you for coming,” he said. He shook both of our hands, and started away. Then he came back. “I appreciate your treating this matter as confidential. Because, you know, we have to be careful. We are at war with Japan.” He smiled wryly. “Loose lips sink ships.”

“Yes,” Connor said. “And remember Pearl Harbor.”

“Christ, that too.” He shook his head. He dropped his voice, becoming one of the boys. “You know, I have colleagues who say sooner or later we’re going to have to drop another bomb. They think it’ll come to that.” He smiled. “But I don’t feel that way. Usually.”

A conversation between Connor and Smith about why Cheryl was killed:

“No, I don’t think it was calculated at all. Ishiguro was highstrung, under great pressure. He felt he had to prove himself to his superiors. He had much at stake-so much, that he behaved differently from an ordinary Japanese under these circumstances. And in a moment of extreme pressure, he killed the girl, yes. As he said, she was a woman of no importance.”


“But I think there’s more to it than that. Morton was very ambivalent about the Japanese. I had the sense there was a lot of resentment-those jokes about dropping the bomb, all that. And having sex on the boardroom table. It’s … disrespectful, wouldn’t you say? It must have infuriated Ishiguro.”

53 A speech by Graham, from Rising Sun:

“So don’t you talk to me about hating, man. This country is in a war and some people understand it, and some other people are siding with the enemy. Just like in World War II, some people were paid by Germany to promote Nazi propaganda. New York newspapers published editorials right out of the mouth of Adolf Hitler. Sometimes the people didn’t even know it. But they did it. That’s how it is in a war, man. And you are a fucking collaborator.”

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