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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Prime Minister Abe As Mario As Coffee Foam Art

During the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics, we were treated with the sight of watching a two-dimensional Nintendo Mario hop all around Japan and leap down into a green pipe, and then stare in amazement as a 3D pipe rose up from the Rio stage, with Mario himself slowly rising from the pipe in a crouch position.

Only it wasn’t Mario. It was actually Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (surname first), who was dressed up as Mario!

Holy cats! Love him or hate’em, Abe showed a never-before-seen playful side to himself in dressing up as the beloved Italian carpenter/plumber from Donkey Kong and Mario World video games that was created by Nintendo.

While I was there at the forefront of popular arcade video game play in the 1970s, dropping quarters into such fun stand-up fare as Space Invaders, Star Castle, Missile Command and Defender (and Gorf, Scramble, 1942, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Robotron, (space pilots needed for sector wars, play) Astro Blaster - the first sit down game I can recall playing, Galaxian, Centipede—holy crap… I think I had a problem - and many, many, many, many many, many, many more, like Satan's Hollow, Star Wars!!!! - loved that one, Galaga, Millipede, Pole Position, Frogger, Dig-Dug, Joust (love the ostrich), Q-bert ($#%^!), Dragon's Lair and Space Ace (50¢ a shot??!!), Burger Time, Tron, Zaxxon (it sure looked 3D!), Tetris, Tapper, Spy Hunter (played the Peter Gunn theme in the background!) Berserk (intruder alert!, Outrun and Asteroids—I regularly searched the couch for coins in order to play Donkey Kong and its sequel Donkey Kong Jr.

It’s a good thing I became an expert at fishing credits with string, tape and a single quarter.

By the way, if you were ever in an arcade and saw ASS as the initials for the high score, that wasn’t me. Same with BUM or TIT. I was ASJ. Hey, I only learned to be crass as an adult.

I certainly made it a point to purchase and play Nintendo’s Super Mario World series of home video games.

Anyhow, this blog is actually about the fun coffee foam art in the image above, depicting Abe as Mario, poking his Curly Howard-looking visage out from the pipe—a tribute to the closing ceremony in Rio.

Now, while Abe in the foam looks like everybody's favorite Stooge (Me? I like Iggy!), he is not saying nyuck-nyuck - his trademark chuckle.

He is saying "nyoki nyoki", which means “to grow quickly”.

Seriously... I saw Curly in the coffee foam, read it as nyuck-nyuck and wondered what the heck the social commentary on the Olympics and Abe really was.

While I believe my mistranslation would have been funnier, thanks to Michael P. at work for the correct translation. I hope it's correct. 

I can’t confirm it, but I believe that the coffee foam artwork is the brainchild of Japanese artist Matsuno Kohei.

See HERE and HERE for a couple of blogs I produced on the coffee foam art by Matsuno.

Somewhere, there's and Italian-Japanese in my coffee,

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Japan’s Micro Homes

Mickey’s got a Minnie Mouse, and Japan’s got a mini house.

My pal Matthew sent me a neat piece by CNN on-line showing off some of Japan’s modern, but extremely small footprint architecture.

Well… maybe small footprint isn’t correct. While the base is small, the CNN story shows a plethora of photos describing how these artists/architects designed very livable and workable home and office spaces in Japan that don’t merely go straight up.

I love Toronto, but damn there are a lot of boring-looking houses and skyscrapers (with many exceptions, of course)… but all of the many monster homes going up nowadays—which they dare to call ‘Custom” even though they seem to come from the same cookie-cutter box of six home designs, and are being sold as ‘custom’ builds even though the buyer ain’t getting their own customization… well, Toronto is becoming or has become quite stale with design innovation.

I’m not saying Japan is the be-all, here… I’m sure there are many cities with the same problems in Toronto as there are in Japan and elsewhere in the world as far as architectural design, still, it seems like there are more and more instances where Japan’s land-owners and architects are pushing the boundaries.

Or maybe the land-owners are the ones who deserve the kudos for trying to construct something less cookie-cutter.

Check out the CNN article written by Kate Springer, and published on August 23, 2016 - HERE.

No… wait… I take that back.

The entire CNN piece appears to have been written as some sort of press release/homage to Japanese architect firm Atelier Tekuto.

Damn… that’s too bad.

While it’s NOT a case of Japanese architects getting to show off some mad design skills, we do at least get to see one.

So… let’s see… Tekuto - the obvious Japanese word, is, according to the architect company, how you say the word “architect” in Japanese: 天工人.

The Japanese terms 天工 means ‘laws of nature, and 工人 means “a person who makes things” - so “nature-skill-human”.

Now that’s how you design a word!

Anyhow, there’s a Japanese, English and Chinese-language website for Atelier Tekuto for your viewing pleasure at www.tekuto.com/en.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

U.S. Manufacturer Creating Cremation Urns For Japan

Death and taxes…

I’m only really sure that everybody dies…  maybe not as quickly in Japan as they do elsewhere in the world… still.. there’s no use in denyin’ it… someday you’re gonna buy it - to quote from a radio jingle created within the classic U.S. television show WKRP In Cincinnati.

Sometimes, things just get wedged in your head and never leave…

To continue… while I am unsure if this is putting the ‘fun’ back into ‘funeral’, but Eden Prairie, Minnesota, US-based Foreverence is bringing its custom-crafted 3D printed cremation urns to Japan, displaying its unique designs at the second-annual ENDEX end-of-Life trade show expo on August 22-24, 2016 in Tokyo.

Despite the fact that Japan’s mortality rate is slower than most other countries globally, it does have one of the world’s highest cremation rates, at nearly 100 percent, according to the Cremation Society of Great Britain.

Japanese people follow shukatsu, which is a Japanese custom of “end-of-life planning”, that makes one’s own “what the heck do we do now” scenes when someone dies, an easier burden, with final arrangements made clear for all involved BY the deceased.

I’m sure many of you have sadly experienced confusion over what to do, when someone passes. When my mother died lo these 22 years ago, we were shopping for coffins, flowers, funeral parlor locale with visitation arrangements, church service. The only good thing was that there was already a plan in place for my mother’s cremation and internment. We also had in place a family thing to “pull the plug” should any one of us become unto a vegetative brain state with no chance of recovery. We also are all organ donors - and that is something I would urge you all to do, if your religious beliefs allow it.

Anyhow… death is only a stressful time for those who aren’t dead. The dead are dead and have no stress (I hope). Okay, if you believe in ghosts, maybe there’s that whole poltergeist thing. BTW, The Conjuring… scariest damn movie I have almost finished watching…. scares the crap outta me so much I can’t continue to watch. And I’m the kindda guy who ate pea soup while watching The Exorcist.

So… where was I? Oh yes… ENDEX… an interesting trade show name if there ever was one. Still, the exhibitors and show goers don’t have a problem with it.

The ENDEX event is where Japanese consumers can learn more about products and services to help with shukatsu. The ENDEX expo drew over 35,000 people in 2015 and is expected to attract even more this year.

“We believe Foreverence is a natural extension of the shukatsu cultural movement, and we want to show the Japanese market that it’s possible to create a uniquely personalized end-of-life tribute while still remaining true to the cultural traditions and customs people hold dear,” says Foreverence chief executive officer and founder Pete Saari. Foreverence is a pretty interesting name, too.

Practicing shukatsu is not limited to elderly people, as many Japanese begin planning their final arrangements at a relatively young age, many in their 40s and 50s.

Ed. Note: I am just pretty much ‘editing’ a press release here, but I do like how it calls 40- and 50-year-old’s 'relatively young'.

The Japanese are a very traditional people, so I wondered just how the public would take to a 3D ceramic printed urn for one’s ashes… turns out that the younger Japanese visitors to the ENDEX event were very open to Foreverence’s products, liking the harmonic balance between the traditional end-of-life Japanese customs and new technologies.

Foreverence uses ceramics and metals to 3D print each customized memorial into an exceptional work of art—a memento as unique as the life it represents. The company designs and delivers custom-crafted memorials in any shape, size and color combination, so families can honor and remember loved ones with a timeless tribute to their personal passions and livelihoods.

The company has created hundreds of one-of-a-kind memorials in the U.S. market that honor each person’s unique interests and legacies, including several high profile pieces for famous artists and musicians like Bob Casale (DEVO), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) and Lemmy Kilmister (Mötorhead). Hmm... all three bands I really, really like(d). 

Foreverence has been featured on ABC News, CBS News, FOX News and the Huffington Post, (and now Japan’s—It’s A Wonderful Rife), and was also recently recognized by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal with its Eureka! Award for product development.

“In Japan, open discussion about end-of-life issues is common, and we feel Foreverence can be part of the conversation,” says Suzuki Shoji (surname first), who is leading the company’s Japanese market expansion. “One-of-a-kind memorials from Foreverence can be designed and pre-arranged as part of the shukatsu process, giving families the convenience and comfort of knowing their loved ones will be remembered in the most creative way possible.”

Foreverence has recently started raising Series A investment capital, and its expansion to the Japanese market is a key part of the company’s growth strategy. “The infrastructure is in place, the market is responsive and we feel there is tremendous opportunity,” Saari notes. “We’re ready to go faster.”

Learn more about the Foreverence Japanese market expansion at www.foreverence.com.

-30-

So… yes, this entry was inspired from a press release sent my way from Bellmont Partners on behalf of Foreverence - cool. It was an easy-to-read and un

I have to admit that the Foreverence urn pictured above is quite good looking… that it doesn’t immediately conjure up images of an urn.

I have always found those standard urns to be… I’m not sure… off-putting isn’t the word, because it’s a conversation starter… but with these modern Foreverence 3D printed urns, it doesn’t look like a vessel of ashes… and I think in one’s home… that’s a good thing.

I guess I’m at that age and health where I should start thinking about shukatsu… crap.

Anyhow, with apologies to Foreverence and ENDEX:

Live long and prosper,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, August 22, 2016

Blog Topics Everywhere And Not A Topic To Blog About

That was the worst paraphrasing of William Blake ever. And you read it here! Yay me!

In an effort to try and present what I think might be a topic of interest to my loyal two readers, I frequently look up a topic that suddenly hits me while I’m either: in the washroom; playing video games; watching television; or helping track pitches at my son’s baseball games. There are other places that inspire, but those ones listed are the main ones.

Okay... I also get lots of suggestions from you loyal readers.

From there, I take the topic that rang my bell and look things up on-line, or in an encyclopedia or three I have in the basement, knowing full well that the one from 1934 is outdated, but probably still full of even more interesting archaic facts. For example, that old encyclopedia calls Aboriginals from Australia a sub-species of homo sapiens. I was 10 when I first saw that and knew that was an ignorant fact. It's stuff like that that helps me add 'color' to articles I compile. 

Through those multiple means, I then fall through the proverbial rabbit hole. If on-line there’s a good chance I’m now on some porn web-site, because when looking up earthquakes and typing in Japanese liquefaction, I expect to find information on earthquakes.

To be honest, I just came up with that… I have no idea if it will lead me to a Japanese hentai video… I’m at work, and my own home computer is in the shop for the next few weeks.

Anyhow, I was going through a plethora of articles that I began—some I finished, even—but for whatever reason I didn’t think were up to my usual standards. (I know Vinnie is laughing Yoo-Hoo out of his nose at that last sentence.)

My list is as follows, but if there’s a topic here you think you might find interesting, perhaps I’ll revisit it.
  • Japanese fish farming;
  • Japanese travel posters;
  • Japanese airline posters - see Pan Am poster above... seriously... for any hetero male or gay woman, would that image not make you want to drop everything and fly to Japan? That was what I thought all Japanese women looked like... but no... only she looked like that, everyone else looked like themselves. I wonder if that model is still alive? She'd be like 50 to 75 years-old now - does anyone know where I can find out timeline information on such posters?;
  • Japanese train posters;
  • Japanese cruise (ship) posters;
  • Japanese general posters (like Olympics or hotels);
  • Japanese scientist creates a hologram you can touch (think Princess Leia saying “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!”). I couldn’t find a legal way to use images or a video, and without visuals… well… I scrapped it;
  • Japanese musical instruments (there were way more than I thought!) - and finding video to provide sound proved curiously difficult;
  • How to make different types of sushi. I suppose I could just write about the different types of sushi;
  • A write-up on some neat blog about Japan that I liked;
  • Facts about Japan - actually, I found some list on-line that offered interesting facts about Japan… but they were all three-line factoids… and you know me… three-lines of information merely whets the appetite for all of the information on a given topic… I have used a few bits from here, however…;
And in my blog draft folder, we have:
  • Aviation cards of Japan;
  • Remote-control WWII tanks;
  • Black-hole monitoring satellite;
  • Early Japanese Aviation;
  • First Japanese MLB star Masanori Murakami;
  • Japanese immigrants;
  • Mushrooms in Mario video games (Nintendo);
  • Allied Invasion Plans For WWII Japan;
  • Akira (the amazing anime from the 1980s) - I read the manga before I even thought about going to Japan;
  • The Sony Walkman story; 
  • The Foxes Wedding - Japanese Fairy Tale;
  • The decline of Japanese kimono in Japan;
  • Japanese pirates - not a baseball team, rather those scurvy dogs. Arrr;
  • Tokyo Olympics - I started it a couple of years ago... we still have four more years;
  • Sex classes for Japanese women - not enough information, and that was three plus years ago;
  • a bio on a Japanese author living and writing in the U.S. of 1897;
  • A historical murder case or two;
  • Something on Japanese toys;
  • Konnyaku - a weird Japanese food gaijin eat but don’t really like. I never knew what the hell it was in my Japanese stews for three years;
  • Some weird Japanese alcoholic drink; 
  • Write-ups on now little-known Japanese figures of teh past - but were HUGE back in their day;
  • 2013 Tokyo Car Show;
  • 2011 Tokyo Car Show - in both instances the images belonged to someone else;
  • Early Japanese anime;
  • Write-ups on different ukiyo-e art pieces - either boring write-ups or not enough info. Obviously I found the artwork to be quite good;
  • Buddhist temples;
  • Ohtawara-jo (Ohtawara Castle) in Tochigi-ken. I thought I had a photo of the castle’s layout… but couldn’t find it, so I scrapped the idea. The castle was burned down centuries ago, and nothing exists except for a depression and some earthen ramparts and the sign with the floor plan. There's nothing on-line about the castle… or at least there wasn’t when I thought about writing on the subject back on January 29, 2012;
  • Guinea Pig - which isn’t about those furry little critters that make excellent food for pet snakes that get loose and hide somewhere in your apartment’s pipes… no… this is about a slasher movie series. That one was from 2011.
Heck... I suppose I still could look for stuff from some old newspapers I was given... or the photo album/scrapbook I was given... or the tourist brochures I was given—from two friends. 

Topics? That wasn’t even all of them. I have well over 100 blog thingies that I started. Some are outdated. Some are just a topic or are a copy and paste newspaper article that needs fleshing out. Some seemed interesting when I started, but most failed to capture my attention the further I became involved in them…

Others like "fish farming in Japan"… what little information there is seemed contradictory or the information was presented in such a complex or strange manner that I couldn’t make fish heads or fish tails out of them to present a clearer and more concise option for myself and you.

That’s what I do, eh. I take a topic, examine it from multiple sources and try and present one that is not only the most-correct, but also answers all the questions anyone might have. I collate and amalgamate and merge.

And yes, sometimes I use big words, but I usually try and explain what said words really mean. It’s the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principal.

So yeah… it’s actually Wednesday the 17th… I’m out of the office for the next few days and thus can not create blogs, so I’m grasping at straws for a blog topic. I’m thinking this one is for Monday midnight.

I do have one written and prepped and scheduled - for next month… when it will actually be an anniversary and thus more topical - September 27.

Thanks for indulging me. If any of those topic strike your fancy - great. If not, feel free to pass suggestions along, knowing I can only write about them during a workday lunch hour. At least for the next few weeks.

I also have two book reviews due - one to Stone Bridge Press (still reading it), the other to Tuttle Publishing (not sure how to write about it even though I have copious amounts of notes). 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
Hmmm, I guess I could have called this Filler Blog #3.    

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How To Spot A Japanese Aircraft In WWII

Above is a handout used by the United States: for fliers and ground attack crew or simply public observation look-outs—to watch out for and identify the enemy aircraft used by the Japanese during WWII.

The images of each aircraft show a full frontal, bottom (I can see the landing apparatus located under the wings on the recon/observation aircraft) and side view of 30 different aircraft.

Up at the top left are the planes code-named Zeke… the Mitsubishi Zero, which was one of the most feared aircraft ever built - certainly so by the Japanese… a lightly armored fighter that was extremely quick and deadly.

Know your enemy, obviously, during WWII.

It also makes it much easier to NOT shoot one of your own side’s aircraft.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, August 20, 2016

1856 Photo Of A Samurai

When one thinks of a ‘samurai’, we usually conjure up images of stiff-talking—almost gruff—Japanese armored warriors who could easily take down a disrespectful peasant with a swift snicker-snack of their long, lean katana sword.

Sometimes, there’s a metal mask obscuring their face, sometimes we see their face. Sometimes their Kabuto (兜, 冑, helmet) has antler horns embedded at the sides, sometimes we see an obscenely long gold, crescent moon-like object stuck on the front.

There’s a look about them… leather… metal… but always ornately designed and covered with symbols and symbolism.

And then there’s the bowl on the man above.

The photo purports to be an image from 1856… a hand-colored portrait of a samurai.

Sure… he has two swords tucked away in a belt at the front. I had always pictured them as having two swords in sheathes stuck in a cross formation on the back, but I’m sure my version is merely some glorified stereotype.

No really… I don’t know enough (anything, actually) about this topic.

But… I really do question the hat/helmet of the man in this photograph.

Was he really a samurai? Could this merely be one of those times where people get to dress up in a costume for their photo?

You can't even see the person's face! That sort of coolness says samurai to me... still...

That hat...

It looks more like a traditional Japanese bamboo hat… oh wait!

Could this be the type of hat a ronin (masterless samurai - their master died while under his protection) would wear? No… that’s more conical, I think.

It looks like a large Takuhatsu-gasa 托鉢笠(大)style hat, according to what I saw on the Internet.

If anyone knows what this hat is and even what class of Japanese person might wear it, please let me know!

It just seems like that type of head gear would not be conducive to fighting… it’s tough to see your opponent, let alone avoid being tagged by him.

Then again, perhaps the hat is removed when battle commences.

As for the photo… I found it several years ago on the Internet and placed it in a folder of things I mean to write a blog on. I do not know if the image is owned by anyone or any institution.

If you own it, and will allow me to utilize it here, I will provide credit. If not, I will remove it per your discretion.

No wait... I found it:

I took the image from here: 

http://mashable.com/2016/04/07/samurai/#MIN930bHPkqw


But the photo on that website indicates that the image is by: 


Felice Beato/Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images


Kanpai,
Andrew (I had kept this information on my computer at work for three years) Joseph

Friday, August 19, 2016

Olympics Help Defy Stereotypes For Japanese

Sometimes stereotypes are correct. Other times, they are simply exaggerations that purport to put someone or something in a negative light.

For example—and this blog is guilty of it as well—the Japanese men are said to have a smaller penis than the average North American—whatever that means, as even that depends on one’s background as differing cultures have differing average penis size, according to compiled global health data.

While these average sizes still are dependent on the consistency of WHERE The measurement commences, not to mention the number of sample sizes taken for the sample size, and even WHICH men agree to be sample sized.

Heck, one country’s survey could simply be the measurement of 100 men, all of whom had an average of seven to eight inches in length. Is that a proper average to describe that country’s male penis size? Is that how you women want to plan a vacation? From half-a$$ed scientific data?

Nah…

Now… while in Japan, I did sleep with more than my share of women. I don’t know how. I just did. ‘Nuff said.

Now, I never asked a woman how I compared in size to other men, because well, despite being your average Canadian, who the fug wants to have to stack up against her having dated U.S. Men’s basketball team. Never ask a question that could provide you with an answer you don’t want to hear.

Do these pants make me look fat?

If you have to ask that question, then yes. Those pants make you look fat. Don’t ask a man that stupid question. If you THINK you have to ask a man that question, you already know the answer, even though he should smartly lie and tell you “No, those pants don’t make you look fat.” You should know that in his head he is already adding: ““No, those pants don’t make you look fat. (It’s the box of Lindt chocolates you think I don’t see you scarfing down that make you look fat.)”

Anyhow… I might have come across as sexist in that last paragraph, but hells bells, no man is ever going to ask a woman that question. Never. Just on TV. On bad comedies.

So… do the Japanese have small penises? Penisii? What is the plural? Should there be a plural. Uhhhhh.

Not everyone for goodness sake! It’s an average. Someone could have a 20-inch Anaconda, while 19 others have a three-inch King Cobra. And who cares, anyways?

The thing is, Japanese pharmacies sell condoms… a size that will fit the average Japanese man, and I am happy/sorry to say will not fit an average Canadian. I tried, in desperation to use a Japanese condom suggested to me by my friend and pharmacist Mr. Maniwa… but moments after getting it partially on, it snapped off and hit my girlfriend Ashley in the face. Serves her right. But even she laughed. It was the first and only time a woman has laughed at me with my penis at full mast—and, in this case, it was an okay experience.
Using three breaths, I bravely blew up each of the condoms—North American on the left, Japanese on the right—and had Ashley tie them up, because I lack the dexterity to tie a balloon for some reason, and placed them atop my green velour winter jacket (because THAT won't get water-damaged... riiiiiight) draped atop a dining room chair in my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken circa early 1991. The empty booze bottles at the back were there when I arrived. Honestly. I kept them to lend ambiance to the place. I don't know when, but they eventually were properly disposed of. Anyhow, re: sizing, the proof was in the pudding. By the way, there was some sort of gel-coating on the western condom, which dried out due to exposure giving it a bit of a crusty look. Still, there was also a color difference... perhaps to make it look more natural... just not for my skin tone. 
So… do all Japanese men have a small penis? Of course not.

For example… take a look at Japanese pole vaulter Ogita Hiroki (surname first) seen in the photo at the very top of this blog. Pole vaulter. Yes... I am aware of the irony. Or is it symbolism? Crap. I know how to use English, I am just unaware of the special names given to such descriptive grammatical devices. 

Now, as you can see, his Olympic short-shorts leave little to the imagination. Really. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

As he attempted to clear 5.3 meters (which isn't that high in the current annals of the sport), his leg touched the bar on the way down—but the bar stayed—but then as he traveled farther down past it, his penis hit it, knocking the bar off its perch.

Japanese pole vaulter undone by his large penis.

I can’t make this stuff up.

So… one misstep for Olympic Gold, one giant leap for Japanese mankind. And then there was that spread-eagle landing.

Yes... a space analogy.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph