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Friday, June 23, 2017

Chiba Lotte Marines Terrible Mascot Idea


I’ve long called the whole human-sized mascot thing American kabuki - I know I didn’t come up with the term, but did see it in an American parody magazine around 25 years ago when I was in Japan.

Mascots… I have no real idea what their purpose is… to entertain, I suppose… but if that’s the case, few actually succeed.

The original San Diego Chicken, the Phoenix Gorilla, the Toronto Raptors Dino and the Philly Phanatic are a few that have excelled at the art of being entertaining.

Japan… in an effort to try and make as many people outside of its country vomit with an over abundance of cuteness, has taken to using mascots like a cat to a sandbox… yeah, think about that the next time you let your kid play in the local park litterbox.

Anyhow… what we have here, is the mascot(s) for Japanese baseball team the Chiba Lotte Marines.

I have nothing against the team… I’ve bought their Chiba Lotte chewing gum while I was in Japan - it was not an unenjoyable experience… it was gum, you know.

But for some reason… and this is from a YouTube post on June 13, 2017, the team decided to introduce a new mascot.

I think.

Taking its cue from Pokemon, when low-level pocket monsters can evolve into stronger versions of their bloodline, at least twice, the Chiba Lotte Marines decided to show its baseball fanbase the origins of the mascot.

Beginning with a colorful angler fish that featured a cursive capital M on its bulbish esca or illicium (the so-called lure atop its head)… we see the fish take an elevator to appear on the home baseball field as a cross between the same angler fish and a human… with arms and legs…

Okay… while the legs are human-like…. the arms are actually still fins… so scratch that whole arm thing… until later. 

So… while the Chiba Lotte Marines mascot is running around the field, it suddenly stops and barfs up its third form… what looks like the skeleton of a fish, if a fish had arms and legs.

After a little while, the skeleton goes back into the fish’s body by crawling back in through the mouth… runs around some more as the second form of the fish… and barfs up the skeleton again… and repeat, before finally realizing it has scarred enough small children to last well… let’s just say I am never ordering a Filet-O-Fish ever again.

While I won’t apologize for the music which is written in the scale of Sea (that’s two jokes in three words), you can turn down the volume because it is truly unnecessary.

Watch the video and join me and wonder aloud just how anyone thought this was a good marketing ploy for anything.

Man… it just makes the team look so… bush league.



Man... at least add a question mark...


Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks, Vinnie for the heads up!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

WWII Japanese Insult

Because my baseball team won its first game of the season, here's a little something my buddy Vinnie sent me...

It's a baseball card of Babe Ruth that I had never seen before. It's an early one, depicting him as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox... back before one of the greatest home run swatters was still only one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game.

Rather than me blather on too much about it, if you have US$60,000, this rare card - perhaps only 10 known to exist, can be yours.

Did you know that during WWII, the Japanese in an effort to demoralize Americans would shout out the taunt: "To hell with Babe Ruth!"... considered by them to be the greatest insult possible to the American soldiers...

... perhaps another reason why Japan lost WWII.

Should you wish to purchase this card, click HERE to visit the auction site. 

And... just because... below is a photo of myself and my son Hudson taken a couple of weeks ago by my younger brother Ben.
Yes... they make middle-age men dress up in the same uniforms as the 11-13-year-old players. I am, in this photo, wearing uniform No. 47.... a jersey I have since relinquished after signing up a kid who is actually taller and as wide as me.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Take The Last Train From Kyu-Shirataki

When it comes Japan’s rail system, there are many a thing which makes the non-Japanese marvel, usually in awe.

There’s the wonderful shinkansen bullet trains and other now beautiful high-speed trains.

There’s the white-gloved  line operators who help cram passengers into rush hour subway cars - and no one complains.

There’s the fact that Japan’s rail service is run on time with few delays.

There’s the fact that when a suicide does the act in front of a train, relatives of the deceased must pay the cost for the ‘clean-up’ and delay.

And then there’s the fact that one train line operator decided to keep a train station open just because one single person required the use of it for their daily trek to and from school.

I have always said that I would continue to write this blog as long as there was a single person who wanted to read it (I know I have that)… but it’s not like it costs me money… just an hour or two every day to write. And it’s my pleasure.

But… in the case of Japan Rail - (actually the Hokkaido Railway Company known as JR Hokkaido) to those who live in Japan, it had actually kept a train station open on the Sekihoku Main Line in Engaru, Hokkaido, and made its twice-a-day stop at the station just to cater to a single passenger.

It didn't do it because of nepotism or payment of a blood debt, but rather because JR Hokkaido felt that it was the right thing to do.

The station was opened on February 11, 1947 under the Hokkaido Railway Company, but after the privatization of Japanese National Railways (JNR) on April 1, 1987, the station came under the control of JR Hokkaido.

At Kyu-Shirataki eki (Kyu-Shirataki train station, 旧白滝駅) (see image above taken in 2009 - from Wikipedia) in Japan’s big northern island of Hokkaido, the train actually stops a few times a day: once to pick up a female high school student to take her to school, once to drop off the girl at the end of the school day, and a few other times after that.

Wait... what's with the few other times it stopped... could it be there were actually other riders? Yup... a total of 10, it seems.

Dammit, why did I go and look that up? I destroyed the romantic notion of the story.

Oh well... let's pretend it's just the lone female student.

The station's name translates to Old Shirataki... it was an unmanned station, but had a closed room building to wait in...   

A small, rural part of Hokkaido, a few years ago JR Hokkaido thought about closing the station because there simply wasn’t any ridership except for a few students who needed it to get to and fro school.... but each year more and more students graduated high school and no new younger students arose to take their place.

At the beginning of the school year in April of 2015, there was only the single rider… closing in March 2017 when the student graduated... and no new student riders arose to take her place.

While it is true that there were more than the lone female student who used the train, she was the only student.

So, when she graduated, JR Hokkaido closed the station because well... despite the needs of the other nine people, it did value the education opportunity of the lone student at a higher premium.  That's what's cool.

While I am unsure if any can blame the lack of young students requiring a train on the fact that Japan’s birth rate is dropping to negative numbers—you can’t… rural areas in damn near every country are suffering as more and more young people who grow up in rural areas, leave and head for the local city.

The people who remain grow old, and towns and villages and hamlets grow smaller… and smaller… and smaller.

Anyhow, what we are left with after JR Hokkaido finally closes service to the Kyu-Shirataki eki, is a wonderful taste in our mouth… how JR said screw the almighty yen, and let’s just do what is right for people in this area, and especially for the last female student to use it to get an education.

Man… I sure hope that student is off to university and does something special.

Eww… I hope she can afford to go, if she’s coming from a shrinking rural hometown.

As for those other people who used the train station... let's hope they found their way.

Kyu-Shirataki eki closed following the last day of services on March 25, 2016, and was demolished in October of the same year.

By the way, along with that station, JR Hokkaido also closed Shimo-Shirataki Station, Kami-Shirataki Station, and Kanehana Station due to low ridership.   

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Thanks, Matthew!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aladdin Makes Me Sad

This past weekend, the 1992 animated Disney flick Aladdin was on television.

I recall it was pretty funny, what with Robin Williams as the frenetic genie, and Gilbert Gottfried as Iago the parrot… but I couldn’t recall a whole lot else about it.

I had always thought that Aladdin was too similar to sound like el a-din… which sounds more Arabic.

The original folk story of Aladdin was part of the classic The Book of One Thousand and One Nights which you know better as The Arabian Nights.

Although not part of the original English-language edition from 1706, the story of Aladdin was added to this  collected works at some point before 1788 (the story was performed as a play in 1788 in England)…. so it would have had to have been added earlier.

The Arabian Nights collection includes such wonderful tales as: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor… but guess, what… these are ALSO later additions to the collected works.

Anyhow… Aladdin the 1992 animated flick.

How could I have forgotten. It was the very first movie Noboko and I went to see it in the theaters of Utsunomiya (capital city of Tochigi-ken) in 1993… it takes almost a year for western movies to appear in Japan owing to the translation of subtitles that need to be done, or conversely, the voice translations that need to be redone into Japanese, and the addition of English subtitles.

In this case, the Aladdin Noboko and I saw was one with Japanese subtitles.

We enjoyed the movie immensely… Noboko fancied herself the beautiful princess, and me the roguish diamond in the rough Aladdin.

She actually called me a diamond in the rough in this example.

Does that mean she though I was somewhat rough around the edges, but had enough fine qualities to be a diamond. 

Rough around the edges?  Me?

Was that an insult or a compliment?

Was it a mistranslated thought from within her pretty little Japanese head into ugly harsh English?

I’m a diamond in the rough.

That means someone who is full of potential but has a coarse exterior.

What the fug does that mean?

Was she calling me unpolished?

I think she was?

Did she want someone who was more polished… less rough… I thought she liked it rough. Sometimes.

Or, did she merely mean that amongst all of the roughness in this harsh world, I am a diamond?

Cold, emotionless…

Or smooth and full of facets?

Hmmm… as I write all of this… it just hit me… I did ask Noboko what the heck she meant…

She really did say I was a bit rough around the edges…

I thought about it for a minute and stopped choking her… she was correct.

But was that because she was comparing me to other men, or to Japanese men?

It wasn’t because of my style of dress… I dressed like a successful Colombian drug lord… diamond earring, long hair, deadly wicked beard… a knowledge of many things in the bedroom that she never had complaints about.

I showered often, cooked her food, took her out, paid her way, treated her like a princess, probably jumped her a little too much as I really enjoyed having sex with her… maybe that’s what she meant… but I never hear any complaints…

The Aladdin movie brings back conflicting emotions for me.

Diamond in the rough being one… but just knowing I was holding her hand or stroking her leg or smelling the apple blossom scent in her hair… we now stand for our national anthem…

And it also reminds me about everything wrong with Japan… and everything wrong with me… and everything wrong with me and Japan.

And I know I don’t want to watch this movie ever again.

You can see what I mean about things below:



Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Death In The Family And A Look At Cyborgs

Okay... nothing major to be written by myself today.

My mother-in-law passed away on Saturday night of cancer after a fairly short battle, at the age of 88.

She was a dear woman who accepted me as part of the family immediately.

She will be missed.

For your entertainment, I'm directing you to an article I found on www.nippon.com that takes a look at the classic manga, anime and live-action movie: The Ghost In The Shell, that explains things in such a way that I know I can't.

If you are a fan of the cyborg concept I urge you to have a look-see: 

http://www.nippon.com/en/views/b06805/ 

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: That's was the home stuff I was talking about two blogs ago. Baseball is still ticking me off... but strangely, it's NOT the kids. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tough Week For US Navy In Japan

The U.S. Navy is having a tough week over in the Sea of Japan.

On June 8, 2017, a crew member of the USS Shiloh went missing and was presumed overboard, with searchers from both the U.S. Navy and the Japan Coast Guard spending countless hours searching the waters.

The search for him was actually called off on June 11, but the crew of the USS Shiloh continued with their search onboard the vessel.

Turns out that gas turbine systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Peter Mims (see photo above) was actually hiding in one of the engine rooms of his ship, the USS Shiloh the whole time. I can only assume there was some mental health issue at stake here, and after a medical, Mims will undergo a psychological exam.

The Japanese Coast Guard estimates it searched over 5,500 square miles of water for Mims.

Mims joined the Navy in February of 2014, serving aboard the USS Shiloh since August of that year. He has been decorated with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

Ugh... I imagine the Navy had contacted his family about Mims being missing and presumed dead. That sucks... still, here's hoping Mims gets the help he needs. 

Then on June 17, at 2:30AM Saturday, the USS Fitzgerald, a 154-metre (505ft) guided missile destroyer ship collided with a merchant ship some 104 kilometers (64.6 miles) off the south-west coast of Yokosuka, Japan.

Seven U.S. Navy crew members are missing after the ACX Crystal, a 223-metre (733 feet) Filipino-flagged container ship.

Intake of water aboard the USS Fitzgerald has been halted - so no danger of it sinking.
After leaving port in Nagoya, apparently the ACX Crystal made a u-turn about 25 minutes before it collided with the USS Fitzgerald, traveling at a rate of 14.6 knots (27 kilometers per hours, 16.8 miles per hour).

Why it made the course change is not know, but 25 minutes… that’s a lot of time to get out of the way, isn’t it? It’s not… these are really big ships… but still…

Japan’s coastguard is again coordinating a search with the U.S. Navy for the missing seven Navy crewmen.

Along with the missing crew, three Navy crew were flown by helicopter to US Naval Hospital Yokosuka, including the USS Fitzgerald’s commander Bryce Benson. Benson is in stable condition, while the other two are suffering from “lacerations and bruises”, according to a Twitter tweet from the U.S. 7th Fleet.

There were no injuries to any of the 20 crew members aboard the ACX Crystal, which only suffered light damage to the left side of its bow, and is now docked in Tokyo.
ACX Crystal only suffered minor damage to its bow.
No need to point fingers now, but the night sky was clear, and the USS Fitzgerald is one of the world’s most sophisticated warships. An investigation will undoubtedly take place.

The Japanese port city of Yokosuka is home to the U.S. 7th Fleet and is the home port for 80 ships and submarines, including the USS Fitzgerald.

It is considered a very busy port area, with Japan having in the past called for specific east and west lanes for watercraft.

Meanwhile, the search for the missing crew continues.

Amended: As of Midnight on June 18, the bodies of the missing eight sailors were found in flooded compartments aboard the USS Fitzgerald.

That sucks.

Andrew Joseph
Photos courtesy of the US Navy.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Musing About Musings - or - Much Ado About Nothing II

I took Friday off from work for what I like to call a mental health day. I don't have any mental health issues that I or anyone else seems to be aware off, but dammit I was feeling a tad burned out.

Work. Home. Baseball.

Looking for a blog to write about - something that won't tax my brain too much - I thought about just what was it I did in Japan when I had a day off.

Firstly... I do have have several topics to write about thanks to Matthew and Vincent always providing me with topics... but I fear their topics would tax my fragile eggshell mind.

Today I did three loads of laundry, two loads of dishes, and vacuumed the house.

In Japan, I would do that stuff every other day.

Of course the three bedroom apartment in Japan was smaller, and the dishes and laundry never got a chance to pile up, but yeah... I did it.

The thing that is different in 2017 in Toronto from 1990-1993 in Ohtawara-shi, Japan however are great.

There was no internet at that time in Japan... therefore I didn't spend an hour writing to various people about how difficult it has been to coach baseball this year.

I'm just a dad. I never played except a couple of years immediate before going to Japan, and wallball or 500-up or just tossing a tennis ball against a ball or porch stoop every other day for 30 minutes.

Thanks to the internet (and tablets and home video games), kids these days have never played a game of pick-up baseball or wallball or even know what the hell 500-up is. I know this because I had to teach my team what 500-up is during a practice.

Kids today only seem to play organized sports - well, for the most part. I still see kids shoot a basketball at someone's driveway hoop. But dammit, there's no one at the park playing a game of football or baseball and sure as hell there's no one playing road hockey on some side street.

Kids do ride the bicycle around a bit... and then they get tired and come home and play video games... usually one person on a tablet and the other on the PS4... playing together but not playing together.

Being a loner - and I am - I get off on doing things by myself, but I am just as happy to have someone to share my time with. I can do both equally well, but truthfully I also enjoy being by myself.

In Japan after doing my chores, I would read a book, watch some inane Japanese television but not understand what the heck was going on, cook dinner (I did that for the first time today in years), and yes, play video games... I had a Nintendo Super Famicon, which we in the West know better as a Nintendo SNES.

I still have that SNES system that I bought in Japan... then again, I still have every system I ever bought going back to the mid-1970s.

I'm not quite a hoarder, because everything is placed neatly away, but then again...

If I had a day off in Japan, it was usually spent riding my bicycle around town trying not to get lost (a game I played and always lost).

I wish I could say I tried a lot of new restaurants, but dammit, I was too afraid to do so by myself.

Thank god for Matthew and his fearless persona dragging my sorry butt out to try new things.

For me, even after three years in Japan it was always the language barrier.

Imagine being illiterate... it was like that. People talking to me, but me not knowing how to respond, and hoping they didn't think I was being rude and only stupid.

Japan is a humbling. Especially when you don't work at correcting your inability to communicate. I surrounded myself with people who could communicate (in Japanese).

Pretty bizarre, I think, for a guy who made his living and makes his living with his ability to communicate.

If you met me in real life, we'd have no problem in finding something to talk about, as I am always interested in everything.

Even in Canada, I would say that my hobby is hobbies...

In Japan, on a day off, I might go and buy a 5,000 piece puzzle, and build it in a frame I would purchase at the same time and spend 30 minutes a night constructing it...

Then again, because I am an introvert pretending to be an extrovert I would go out to the local bar - sometimes with friends like Matthew or sometimes girlfriend Ashley, but more often I would go by myself.

The longest I ever went without female company in Japan was two weeks.

I bet that is something that you can't do in Japan in 2017. Go to a bar and get picked up by a different woman every time. Sad that stuff like that doesn't happen in Japan much anymore.

Then again... with my inability to communicate with words, physicality worked wonders. That and I probably looked exotic.

Someone at work said I was the whitest brown guy ever. Ha. I get it. I'm not very ethnic. Blame Canada. Or blame my parents. Or blame me. I only ever wanted to fit in.

I never could fit in in Japan... at least not the way I wanted to.

Communication is how we might do that in almost everyplace not in Asia.

Japan, however, is different.

Friendships are made and kept from school days, and grown in circles via work for the Japanese.

In my opinion, as a foreigner - even one who is fluent in Japanese - it can still be difficult to have real Japanese friendships - mostly because we lack that commonality of having been born Japanese.

Now that doesn't mean you can't have Japanese friends.

You can, of course... but it appears that there is still a divide.

But maybe I'm just full of it.

We Westerners think that the Japanese are closed off and insular... that they will never tell you what they are really thinking.

I know that's bullcrap. I could get them to tell me damn near anything.

But it was me who was closed off and insular... It took 20 years after leaving Japan for me to open up about myself and my time in that country.

No one knew how angry I was or how insecure I was because I wouldn't let my true feelings be know.

I'm glad this blog allows me a chance to right that wrong even if it's 20+ years after the fact.

Obviously I still don't reveal how I'm really doing at this very moment.

Although, for a couple of years, I did do that in another blog I wrote - even if I did use another name and persona.

John Lennon knew it: Everybody's got something to hide, except for me and my monkey.

Okay... back to a real blog tomorrow. Thanks for allowing me to muse without having to be amusing.

That was always difficult, by the way... always having a smile on your face... always having to be "on".

I told someone about that once... she asked me why I had to be on all the time... I didn't have a good enough answer for her then.

I think it was something along the lines of: you wouldn't like me when I'm angry, ala David Banner (the name used on the television show for Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk).

But really, now that I'm forced to think about it, I believe "pretending" to be happy all the time stopped me from sinking into a deep funk of non-clinical depression.

However, knowing that that's what I was doing also was kind of depressing.

It was a double-edged sword...

I think what keeps me sane and what kept me reasonably sane in Japan was the fact that I constantly psycho analyzed myself. I don't know if sane people do that, but it sort of has always kept me in tune with myself and the world around me.

Somewhere exhaling,
Andrew Joseph
PS: My baseball team isn't very good and I blame myself, because the captain always goes down with his ship. My mother-in-law has cancer and has, I suspect, days left. Along with the financial help she has provided (and now what do we do?), there's that whole mortality thing. Am I really surprised when I actually wake-up each morning and have to go to work? Why am I surprised?
It's raining now... and my knees hurt... it sucks getting old, but as my mother-in-law is showing me, there is a worse alternative.
Okay... I feel better. Thanks, people. I needed to decompress.
Believe it or not, writing about personal stuff like this is far easier than writing other types of blogs.