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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Worms innnnnn Spacccccceeeee

I recall reading an old Bugs Bunny comic when I was kid - one from the 1970s, where aliens came to Earth.

The alien said that since the people on Mars were Martians, the people on Venus were Venusians, the people from Earth must be Earthworms.

It makes sense… we gave our planet a fancy word for dirt, where worms live… despite the fact that this great blue marble has far more water on it than dirt.

Okay… I'm writing this at lunch time on Friday… so after work I'm going to go home and search for that comic book and that actual joke contained within it…

Anyhow… worms…

In an effort to study the effects of microgravity (the so-called weak gravity within something like a spacecraft) on the human body, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is performing two tests (experiments, really) while observing Caenorhabditis Elegans - aka a tiny roundworm. (See image above, courtesy of NASA.)

The plan is to try and figure what causes bone and muscle loss in humans after prolonged space travel - even after a few days up there.

For example, after spending a month on the ISS (International Space Station), astronauts will suffer anywhere from one to two percent loss of bone mass… and it continues for each additional month spent in space. After 50 months, you'd just be a big space suit of goo. Kidding. I think.

It's why astronauts have to perform daily exercises while in space… it's not just because they are health freaks - though I bet they are - but because it is needed to try and counter the effects of the bone mass loss.

Here's the thing… even with the exercise, that one to two percent bone mass loss is STILL what the astronauts suffer.

Apparently research is being carried out at many scientific facilities, such as King's College London who have developed skinsuits to simulate Earth gravity… it beats me how they are going to make the worms put them on considering the lack of hands, but it sounds promising. :)

The Caenorhabditis Elegans colorless and translucent worm is less than 1-mm long, and generally lives to a ripe old age of up to three weeks (in lab conditions) - both factors in why it was chosen, as they don't take up a lot of space and astronauts can grow multiple worm generations while on a mission. Plus, while there are specific male and females, they are hermaphrodites - possessing both male and female sexual organs. Any port in a storm, I guess.

Anatomical drawing of a male Caenorhabditis elegans nematode with emphasis on the reproductive system. Betcha didn't think worms were all that complex looking. Might make you think twice the next time you want to use one for bait... those these guys are pretty damn small...
As well, Caenorhabditis Elegans was the first multi-cellular organism to have its whole genome sequenced, and as of 2012, the only organism to have its connectome (neuronal "wiring diagram") completed.

Basically, scientists feel that this worm from Earth (though not an earth worm) can simulate human bone and muscle mass - just on a smaller scale.

Is it just me, but are you surprised to think that worms have bones… how come we've never seen worm skeletons in the ground - outside of a cartoon, that is.

The scientists at JAXA want to see if cellular degeneration occurs on succeeding generations of worms in an effort to see how and why such things occur and also to test if such 'adaptions' to space travel are transmitted over the generations without altering the basic DNA of an organism.

Why? Well, if we are to ever have families in space, they want to see if any kids born in space come out with reduced bone and/or muscle density, or if the new organism adapts successfully to its environment.

As well, they want to see if it's possible to develop a 'cure' for such muscle and bone mass loss  through medicine or alternative physical therapies.

I would like to see just how much bone or muscle loss can occur over a lengthy period of time... and does the body adapt to the environment. I understand that for these short trips astronauts take up into space, the bone and muscle loss is concerning - especially since it will affect them back on Earth... but does it have a negative affect on the human body (or Earth worms) after prolonged exposure up in space... or will the bones and muscles find that happy medium ground... I doubt we've  tested that...   
ISS (International Space Station) on May 23, 2010.
The second experiment involves a resupply mission to the ISS by a SpaceXDragon team that will look at degradation of muscle loss and how it affects the cytoskeleton of the worm.
SpaceXDragon - May 2012 - used to deliver people and supplies to the ISS. Privately-owned by a California company, it is a partially reusable, two-stage launch-to-orbit spacecraft.
In this experiment, a group of worms will be grown in a low-Earth orbit microgravity environ, with a second group grown in a 1G centrifuge to simulate an Earth gravity aboard the ISS space station…

In both cases, the worms will be returned to Earth and compared with a non-traveling set of worms grown in a lab in Japan.

While you might wonder at why so much money is being poured into such research for possible decades away long-term space travel, scientists point out that it also has practical applications here on Earth: like what happens to people who are forced into prolonged bed rest (muscle and bone loss occurs - probably due to blood settling) and and typical aging. Grandma used to be taller, right?

I would guess that up in space, with a lesser gravity, blood flow does not travel as well in the human body, and so does not have the same affect it would for the Earth-bound like you and I. The same would hold true for those forced to endure long periods of bed rest… improper blood flow…

Because bones are a living tissue, with the human body constantly breaking down and replacing it with new bone, I would imagine the growth is being stymied somehow...

Consider, also, that the human body weighs less in a micogravity environment... this means less stress is placed on the bones and body... so... the body begins to adapt to its lighter space environment...

Which... is you think about it, is actually pretty damn wonderful. Our bodies change to work best in a new environment.

But when does the density loss stop, this "disuse osteoporosis"? Cosmonauts on the USSR/Russian space station Mir (in operation between 1986-2001) spent long missions there, with Valeri Polyakov having the space record still, spending 437 days and 18 hours.

Polyakov's mission was to test the effects of microgravity on a human body. Although I can't find exact data regarding bone and muscle density loss (damn commies), we do know that mentally - while a bit down and feeling overworked, he was fine... so space shouldn't screw up your brain.   

Except that other tests have shown scientists that one year in space will compromise the immune system - not to mention the increased exposure to cosmic radiation - which may not turn you into the Fantastic Four, but it will hurt you.

On Earth, the European Space Agency and the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems performed a 520-day simulated space mission that showed that crew members showed signs of depression and boredom... and if you've watched enough modern space movies, you know that if left untreated, someone's going to get angry... and then violent.

The ISS insists its crew members perform two hours of exercise every day to combat excessive bone and muscle loss: one hour of cardiovascular training, and one hour of weightlifting. (Hunh... I was doing astronaut training plus when I was a workoutaholic.) 

Despite these exercises, most astronauts after spending six months in orbit are unable to walk after returning to Earth.

As the worm turns, so too does the world around us, and perhaps one day the quality of life in space and on Earth can be improved upon.

And it starts with Japan and its tests involving those magnificent Earth creatures - the worm.

If you are having tequila this weekend - don't eat the worm...

Andrew Joseph

PS: If you are wondering about the headline, well... perhaps you have heard of the Muppet Show and their multiple skits (32 episodes in four seasons) of Pigs In Space... said in the same fashion I presented at the top.  See below for picture of the crew of the Swine Trek.

Friday, July 3, 2015

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 17

Published in September of 1944, we receive this little gem dandy of American comic book propaganda used to fuel the hatred of the dread enemy, Japan.

The first thing that strikes me about the cover to USA Comics #14, published by Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics), is just how crappy the art work is.

This shows Captain America being shot at by a Japanese soldier in a bunker as he leaps over the buzzing blades that seek to decapitate his partner Bucky Barnes, just so he can kick an alien in the right shoulder. 

Kick a what-now?

Okay... the 2015 me is kind of interested now... I had only previously seen Bucky stuck in some elaborate trap with a maniacal Japanese officer at the controls... and since I never understood the need for a Bucky Barnes character except as a desperate plea to try and match the awesomeness of Robin (of Batman fame), I am really pulling for Japan in this one.

But... a fricking alien? You'll notice he's grey with big eyes.... the classical standard... only I had always thought that until the Roswell Incident of 1947 (of course), the standard alien was a little green man! This is 1944.

So... the Japanese are apparently working with REAL gaijin with REAL round-eyes.

Is it just me, but don't you want to read the damn book to find out WHY there are aliens working alongside the Japanese trying to thwart the U.S.?

(Hunh!) You don't think that the real reason Japan attacked the U.S. was because the aliens made them do it?

Japan: "If there was anything bad done by the Japanese in WWII, aliens made us do it."

Captain America and Bucky star in "The Riddle of the Stolen Buddha"; the Whizzer stars in "The Death Singer"; Jap Buster Johnson stars in "Invitation to Death"; the Destroyer stars in "The Jap Serpent Strikes"; Sergeant Dix stars in "The Ghost Zero."

While we can all laugh at the unfortunate name given to the speedster—Whizzer—WTF is up with Jap Buster Johnson? Invitation to Death ?? Uh... I'm busy that night. What a nasty-sounding, and thus impressive superhero.

The fact that I've not heard of him since then implies that when comic book superheroes petered out in from 1946 through 1954, a kindlier, gentler world deemed Jap Buster Johnson unnecessary.

Because I can't make it any funnier, check out this cool blog for good fun at Jap Buster Johnson's expense - HERE.

Apparently an artist named Alex Schomburg did the cover to this comic book... and for the life of me, I have no idea why the comic book world considers his work to be 'classic'... I mean it is good, but classic? It doesn't JUST mean old.

We can all say that for the era, his stuff was great, but no... no it wasn't. Hal Foster could fart rainbows that had more life to them than the stiff 2-dimensional poses of Schomburg 's art.

And even if Schomburg was one of the better artists during that period (it's true that a lot of the artists during the early days of the Golden era lacked polish), that doesn't mean he needs to be honored for his greatness, if it still pales compared to 'good' artwork.

Matt Baker, Wally Wood - both gentlemen who excelled in the 1950s; Will Eisner's Spirit and Phantom Lady, for example.

Here's a standard 1940s Wonder Woman cover (below)... everyone knows Wonder Woman. I got through puberty get all star spangled thinking about Lynda Carter as played the great heroine on TV back in the 1970s.
Wonder Woman #28 - April 1948.

And here's a cover of Phantom Lady... done at the same time. April 1948.

Phantom Lady #17 - April 1948.
Are you kidding me? If I'm a kid in 1948, I know which one of the two I want to read under the bed covers!

And yet Wonder Woman survived in the subconscious of America? The stories weren't all that great, but Wonder Woman did have the cool back story, neat bullet-deflecting bracelets and she liked to tie up men daring them to lie to her. William Moulton Marston who created WW is also the guy who created the Lie-Detector - seen here in all its golden lasso glory.

And Phantom Lady... known best by young comic book collectors who can't afford the books for its bondage and 'headlight' covers - yes... her boobs. Although created by Eisner, the best of the best artwork was done by Matt Baker... a terrifically talented young man who just so happened to be Black. A real rarity in the world of comic books, working on a book featuring a scantily clad White woman... if the haters only knew...    

Jap Buster Johnson - I can only hope his name was Buster. Art? Enh...

Anyhow... USA Comics #14... another reason to hate the Japanese kiddies... they are working with ugly aliens who want to destroy your truth, justice and American way of hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet-way of life. Where's Jap Buster Johnson when you need him? He better be busting Japs.

Comic books too violent for kids? Probably. It's a good thing that nowadays comic books are made for adults... specifically the 18-35-year-old, white male who lives in his parent's basement.

In my defense, I'm not white and I lived on the main floor and upper floor for a few years apiece, and only spent 10 years in the basement. I no longer actively collect comic books, but I do pull out large swathes of the 35,000 O own to read every once in a while.

I do not own any copies of any of the Timely Comics titles, but wish I did only so I could retire now.

Really... space aliens working with the Japanese? Propaganda, baby!

You? You're just a Captain!

Take me to your leader!
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, July 2, 2015

UPDATED: Solar-powered Aircraft Says 3x Is The Charm

Originally published on July 1, 2015.

Okay - it's not really a Japanese story, but I do like my science and I do like my aviation stories… but the solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, has resumed its journey on its round-the-world flight taking of from Nagoya, Japan on June 28, 2015, heading to Hawaii.

Piloted by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Solar Impulse 2 has been stuck in Nagoya since June 1, after bad weather forced it down for an unscheduled stop.

Solar power… I'm guessing it needs sunlight to help power the craft… I would imagine that if you can get above the clouds, however, there's a lot of sun…

Anyhow… the weather really sucked for the crew of the Solar Impulse 2, as even a restart of the leg to Hawaii on June 23 had to be canceled owing to bad weather.

Thanks to the upcoming raining season, the project coordinators needed to move sooner rather than later if they were going to complete this journey or be forced to scrap it for another year…

So… moving the Solar Impulse 2 from its hangar in Nagoya, on June 28, 2015, with a break in the weather, the crew lifted off and resumed its journey.

The epic flight around the world began in March 9 of this year.

Here's the flight plan (I apologize in advance for not knowing how to do charts on BLOGGER):

Departure     Origin             Destination     Flight Time    Distance
March 9/15    Abu Dhabi       Muscat,                13h: 1m     441km (274 miles)
3:12AM         UAE                Oman

March 10        Muscat            Ahmeddabad,      15h: 20m   1,485km (923 miles)   
2:35AM                                  India

March 18       Ahmeddabad   Varanasi,              13h: 15m    1,215km (755 miles)
1:48AM                                India

March 18    Varanasi             Mandalay,             13h: 29m    1,398km (867 miles)
11:52PM                               Mynanmar

March 29    Mandalay           Chonquing,             20h: 29m    1,459km (907 miles)
9:06PM                                 China

April 20    Chonquing             Nanjing,                17h: 22m    1,344km (835 miles)
10:06PM                               China

May 30    Nanjing                  Nagoya,                44h: 10m    2,852km (1,772 miles)
6:39PM                                 Japan

June 28    Nagoya                   Hawaii                  120hrs        7,900km (4,909 miles)
6:03PM                                   USA                   (planned)      (planned)

9              Hawaii                   Phoenix                  100hrs       4,707 km (2,925 miles)
                                              USA                     (planned)      (planned)

10            Phoenix                  TBD                        30hrs       2,030km (1,261 miles)
                                             mid-USA               (planned)    (planned)

11            TBD                     New York                 20hrs       1,436km (892 miles)
                                              USA                     (planned)    (planned)      

12           New York             TBD                         120 hrs     5,739km (3,566 miles)
                                            S. Europe or           (planned)    (planned)

13          TBD                      Abu Dhabi                  120 hrs    5,845km (3,632 miles)
                                            UAE                       (planned)    (planned)       

As you can see, the Japan to Hawaii leg is the longest part of the trip - so far - but the plan, hopefully, is to complete the entire round trip back to Abu Dhabi, UAE by sometime in August of 2015.

Originally, Japan wasn't even part of the journey! This was supposed to have 12 legs - not (unlucky) 13!
The flight plan originally called for a trip from Nanjing, China direct to Hawaii: 144 hrs and 9,132km ()… but the prospect of the weather turning foul was too great a risk for the aircraft - hence Nagoya.
Traveling from Nagoya to Hawaii, the trip is expected to take five days - hardly the speed of light (or sound, even), but note that it is also traveling at night for five evenings.

That's awesome! This is 120 hours just on solar power… and solar power only.

The Solar Impulse 2 dimensions:
  • Speed: 50 to 100 km/h (31 to 62 mph) - I would imagine that depends on wind… but too much could be troublesome;
  • Pilots: 1… the pilots switch off at each destination… but do NOT fly together aboard the plane;
  • Length: 22.4 meters (73.5 feet);
  • Height: 6.37 meters (20.9 feet);
  • Wingspan: 72-meters (236-feet) - wider than a Boeing 747-8I;
  • Weight: 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds);
  • Loaded Weight: 2,300 kilograms (5,100 pounds);
  • Propeller Diameter: 4 meters (13.1 feet);
  • Take-off Speed: 36 kph ();
  • Maximum Speed: 140 kph (87 mph);
  • Cruise Speed: 90 kph; but 60 kph at night to save power;
  • Ceiling: 8,500 meters (27,900 feet) - maximum allowed of 12,000 meters (39,000 feet);
  • Motors: Electric, 17,248 solar cells + four 41 kWh lithium-ion batteries powering fur electric motors with 17.4 HP each;
  • Battery Weight:  633 kilograms (1,395 pounds).
The plane is constructed with carbon fiber - tough but lightweight - a single-ply technology that somehow makes it three times lighter than paper.

The solar cells cover the top of the wings, fuselage and tail. Each cell is 135 microns thin and built into the wing (so it shouldn't peel away) and protected by an overcoat of fluorine copolymer plastic film.

When the plane is in the sky flying, the planes batteries get charged up enough to keep it flying during the night. 

Unlike our unlucky rower HERE who was forced to give up her quest quite early in, here's hoping the Solar Impulse 2 completes its journey around the world without further mishap or inclement weather.

To see a  live feed of the Solar Impulse 2 in flight, see their YouTube Channel below:

UPDATED - July 2: Already more than 75% of the way to the next port in Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 has three world records under its belt:

  1. longest distance traveled for solar aviation; 
  2. longest duration in teh sky for solar aviation; 
  3. longest solo flight ever (solar or otherwise)
Andrew Joseph

Usagi Yojimbo

In my opinion, one of the best Japanese comic books ever made isn't done in Japan, rather in the good old US of A, the middle part of North America.

With some 35,000 comic books capably protected in cocoons of acid-free cardboard and mylar, I've got a wide swath of comic book material, everything from: war (Sgts. Rock and Fury); dinosaurs and space monsters; talking cars and dogs; richy-rich brats; teenagers chasing blondes and brunettes, but maybe should pick good-girl Cheryl Blossom or one of Josie and her Pussycats; DC and Marvel spandex super-heroes and westerns; barbarians both funny and serious (both favorites); the horror of secret, mysterious, eerie and creepy houses; talking ducks and other critters...

In fact, along with a certain caped crusader and power-ring wielding space ranger, my favorites are the anthropomorphic animals... the funny animal characters who talk and act like humans.

Characters like Pogo Possum, Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck and their Uncle Scrooge McDuck, an aardvark named Cerebus (who also happened to be a con-man/kid, barbarian, Prime Minister and Pope at various times in his very much-missed adventures)... even Mickey Mouse - though I only prefer the adventures and not the comedy - no one knows how to make Mickey funny anymore... he's like Clark Kent only more boring - though I bet I could make him far more interesting and viable a comic book character, if any one is listening.

Now funny isn't what I appreciate when it comes to the comic fact, aside from some William Van Horn, Don Rosa or Carl Barks humor in the Duck comics - the latter two who added it in expertly within the serious adventures they created, what I enjoy more than anything is the serious adventure.

In Japan - especially nowadays when its manga seems overwrought with kids with strange powers or creatures to help them do battle - there is a distinct lack of realism involved.

The duck comic adventures, for example, had them adults and ducklings search for wonderous treasures like a golden Viking helmet that might provide ownership of North America. Or maybe travel on a rocket to strange planet with starving creatures...those old Barks Duck tales made me want to be a writer - and here I am years later...

Rambling... okay... the two best comic books I have ever read are Lone Wolf & Cub, and Usagi Yojimbo.

The former is a realistic human father and baby team of masterless samurai known as ronin - perhaps one of the most beloved manga ever produced in Japan, and the the later is a samurai rabbit - both set in Japan's feudal era, aka the Edo era of the 1600s to 1850 approximately.

Usagi Yojimbo is the brainchild of creator Stan Sakai, whose surname is very obviously Japanese.

Originally a letterer (and still is, I believe) for the comedic misadventures of the barbarian Groo the Wanderer (that funny barbarian-thing I mentioned earlier by Sergio Aragones - artists of those MAD Magazine marginals et al and scripter Mark Evanier), Stan Sakai (坂井 雅彦 Sakai Masahiko) was born May 25, 1953 in Kyoto, Japan) - now residing in Pasadena, California.

Usagi Yojimbo - the title translates directly to "Rabbit Bodyguard", which is exactly what the hero of the book is... he's a rabbit samurai warrior - a bodyguard, featuring the main character: Miyamoto Usagi, who wanders the Japanese landscape on what is described as a musha shugyo (warrior's pilgrimage), and whenever required selling his swords as a bodyguard.

Sakai says he based the Usagi character after famed Japanese ronin Miyamoto Musashi (surname first 宮本 武蔵, c. 1584 – June 13, 1645), known for through stories for many duels he participated in.
Page 19, Issue #2 of Usagi Yojimbo - 1987.

What I particularly enjoy about this comic book series that first began in 1984 and continues to this day, is the realism involved... the attention to detail... explaining segments of Japanese life that existed in the Edo period... the real Japanese history... the known Japanese folklore... the mythical spirits and creatures that most Japanese know of... plus Sakai's attention to drawing things correctly: architecture, clothing, weaponry, tea cups, bowls, kites... even the trees and bushes that are uniquely Japanese...

Every comic book adventure of the plucky rabbit is a step back into Japanese history.

While there are a few laughs spread around the epic series - most of these stories are self-contained, with portions of it extended to give it that epic feel - the series is a serious one... akin to any samurai drama.

Perhaps that's not so surprising, considering Sakai seems to have also been heavily influenced by none other than master film-maker Kurasawa Akira (surname first).

Usagi Yojimbo may be one of the best comic book heroes you've never heard of, but I heartily recommend that the next time you are in a book shop, go to their graphic novel section and purchase one of the collections... you need not start at beginning... heck... I didn't... my first comic of Usagi Yojimbo begins at #2... which might actually be his 10th or 11th adventure.

What's sad, for me, is that I did not discover this wonderful book earlier in my comic book fandom career. I was certainly purchasing a lot of independent comic books back in the 1980s... and you would think that I might have purchased a lot of this title prior to leaving for Japan, but even then I was convinced there was no way I was going to go... I really didn't want to go to Japan... but JET apparently knew better about not necessarily what I wanted, but what I needed.

I only discovered it a couple of years ago, and have been meaning to write about since then. I actually knew of the book, but for whatever reason - it never made the list of 50 books I was purchasing monthly. That was dumb.

I do NOT collect comic books for their monetary value... I collect them to enjoy... to escape... and the 40 or so copies I have now - a small amount by comparison - has recently been a part of that. Ugh... why didn't I read them earlier?

Buy Usagi Yojimbo... it's a wonderful, wonderful read, that few comic books can come close to matching... certainly not for a maintained level of awesomeness... from one creator... and 30+ years.

If you are interested in rabbits, comic books, Japanese history and samurai... damn... how could you go wrong?

Usagi Yojimbo... try it... you'll like it... no, you'll enjoy it immensely. Good bookstores, your library, and good comic book shops should have copies. A good comic book store will even order it in for you for a small deposit - unless they know you, in which case they'll just order in some collected works. even has a good selection.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Every Silver Lining Has A Clown, er Cloud

Proving you can't please everyone…

In my last blog, I gently urged people who are feeling suicidal to seek out a friend, family member and/or a professional mental health worker to provide them with the support they need.

This was after I received a message from someone I don't know, who had stumbled across this blog, telling me that they wanted to kill themselves.

I don't know if it's someone kidding around, or someone shouting for help, and I don't care... I assume it's the latter - I'd rather do something than nothing.

So I wrote what I wrote in this blog… and then received an e-mail from someone criticizing me for capitalizing on that person's cry for help to create a blog for myself.

Yeah… guilty, I suppose… I did write a blog somewhat inspired by someone's desperate call for help… but capitalize? Hardly.

What would you have me do? Ignore that person? Or should I have just personally dealt with THAT person and ignore any others who might be out there?

Capitalize? Yes - I am getting filthy rich from doing this blog… as if.

People, I don't make anything from creating this blog. I do not have any advertising streams on this site - by choice, even though I could surely use the money. Making money makes this a job.

I do this blog because I love to write. I wrote that blog because I love people.

I am writing this blog because I now love only most people.

Andrew Joseph

Feeling Sad - Talk To Someone

I do not and will not pretend to understand depression.

I have certainly felt sad for myself and wondered why the hell I couldn't succeed. For me it was simply because I didn't focus on what needed to be done.

I did, and turned things around for myself. I should add that I do not suffer from any chemical imbalance or metal health issue. Sometimes, things pile up, and we get flustered.

As a typical teenager, I had dark thoughts rumble through my brain, but never acted on them - perhaps because I was always able to see the big picture, even if it took awhile...

As for those with chemical imbalances leading to depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia or other more complex diseases I can't even begin to fathom... I just want to say please talk to someone... a family member, a friend or a professional care worker. They can help.

I did not mention co-worker, because why muddy up things at work. Unless the friend you trust is someone you work with...

I'm writing this because recently an anonymous reader wrote to me telling me of their desire to kill them self.

I find it both disheartening and euphoric that someone opened up - even a little - to me about their problem.

I would call it a cry for help... as above, perhaps reaching out to some dumb ass blogger was a start in admitting there is a crisis... and just need affirmation that there is help available... I tried to do that in my response... and I'm attempting to do that again here.

I drank myself into a tizzy while in Japan that second year of three I lived there. My cat died, a friend died, my grandfather died all within a few weeks of each other.Not to mention the on-again off-again relationship I had with a woman, everything just felt like it was out of my control.

The thing I have come to realize, is that you can NEVER control life... all you can do is prepare yourself to the best of your ability to roll with whatever it throws at you.

Discounting the fact that my roof leaks in multiple spots and that it rained this past weekend for 36 hours straight, let's look at a small part of the past two weeks. My wife was expecting to be paid for a part-time job she did, but for whatever reason she was (and still) not... I had expected the payday, and so knowing I didn't have to save as much money as usual went and got my cracked car windshield fixed. I figured it would be a $100 insurance deductible, but that was under my dad's insurance... under my wife's and mine, it's $300... that's not $200 less left than I expected. (Again this is just one incident - and not all of the things that did not go according to Hoyle.)

As bad as I was, a friend told me he had over extended himself too... and had no money for five days until his pay day. And no food.

We do what we do... and so we help when we can. A can of soup here, some oatmeal there, nuts, a couple of bucks... 'nuff said... we're the working poor. But we do what we need to do.

It meant working with what I had to survive until payday (today)... yesterday, (or Monday as I write this), the engine light on my car began flashing... it's why I didn't go to the garage now needs to fix the misfiring cylinder... always something, right. I mean - no big deal... it's not like the country is going bankrupt like Greece or people are dying in a hail of gunfire (pick a city)...

I should be down... depressed about life... and while I'm not ecstatic about how life is treating me, I'm aware it could be worse.

For those of you who believe that life is worse - talk to others. You can talk to me, if you must, but talk to someone close to you who can help.

Damn near every country on this planet must have a suicide prevention hotline... and if not, why?

Want to know a secret? I think I actually know more people who suffer from some form of mental illness, including social anxiety disorder, than I do without.

What is normal anymore?

Stop reading this blog and instead search out some help.

Tomorrow never knows...

Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 29, 2015

Japanese Actor: Hasegawa Kazuo

Thanks to a neat 1950s souvenir album find given to me by my friend Vince, let's take a short look at a Japanese actor Hasegawa Kazuo (長谷川 一夫 Hasegawa Kazuo).

That's him in the photo above - I know... he looks pretty damn convincing as a female!

Hasegawa was born on February 27, 1908 in Kyoto, specifically the Nagoya sake brewery in a place called Fushimi.

When he was just five-years-old, his father pushed him into acting to act in a kabuki play called Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, in the role of Kan Shusai.

I suppose he was good because he was eventually invited to join the Japanese movie company Shochiku Company Limited (松竹株式会社 Shōchiku Kabushiki gaisha) that also put on kabuki performances. It is still going on (not so strongly) doing films in Kyoto.

His first film was widely promoted - the 1927 movie Chigo no Kenpo, and well-received - and was actually billed as Chojiro Hayashi.

How well-received... the studio pumped out THREE more films with Hasegawa (still billed as Chojiro Hayashi) as the lead (Ojo Sankichi, Rangun and Oni Azami), and including the first film, all were released within a 40-day period.

Over 11 years Hasegawa appeared in around 120 films... still with Shochiku Company, and still under the nom de plume of Chojiro Hayashi.

One of his last films for Shochiku was the 1935 film Yukinojo Henge, that helped the company earn its highest box office revenues ever at that time.

But all that changed.
Hasegawa Kazuo in 1937 - from Wikipedia.
Leaving Shochiku for Toho Company Ltd. - a move that cost Shochiku plenty of revenue, it is alleged that someone within the company hired a man to attack the actor with a knife - slashing him in the face.

Surviving, the actor renounced his name of Chojiro Hayashi, and reverted to Hasegawa Kazuo.
Kazuo Hasegawa autograph.
He continued to act in films until around 1963 - finishing with 290 movies, but did continue to work on the stage.

Some of those films include:
In 1957, Hasegawa was awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize (菊池寛賞 Kikuchi Kan Shō), which honors achievement in all aspects of Japanese literary culture.
Kazuo Hasegawa autograph.
According to the souvenir album I was gifted, a Mr. Hugh Healy, a visitor from the U.S. - seconded to Japan with his wife and son for a two-year-period  - had tea with Hasegawa-san and received three hand-signed autographed photos of the famous actor - all of which are presented within this blog.

Hasegawa dies on April 6, 1984, and is interned at the Yanaka Cemetery in Tokyo.

Andrew Joseph