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Friday, May 31, 2013

My LEGO Hayabusa Spacecraft Model



This is what I got in the mail a few days ago! It's the CUUSOO club LEGO Hayabusa kit!

I had only previously heard of it being on sale in Japan only... or exaggeratedly priced on E-Bay, and thus out of my somewhat meager price range... but then I decided to poke around the LEGO website - and lo and behold! They were offering the kit as an exclusive model for a mere $59.99 Cdn. I also got a small Iron Man Minifig with some dumb alien drone for free...

So I built it.

At a total of 369 pieces, I figured I'd be done in 20 minutes because despite being the type of person who likes to go long and slow, I like to challenge myself with how fast I can build an actual kit... mostly to assure myself that my seven-year-old son doesn't surpass me. I'm not ready for that yet.

(I should mention that my son played his first organized soccer game earlier this evening... and while I feared he would stink, he was the best player on our team and made me feel proud... and yes "our team"... I'm the ass coach... I mean assistant coach. That first coaching comment - that's something completely different and has no place in this space, though we did get our butt kicked 3-0).

So... I took my time... it took about three hours or more... while I hated the fact that the kit came with the bricks in something like five bags, the step-by-step instructions had me searching from one bag to the next for the required bricks. So I said screw it and dumped it onto the table I use to build my LEGO, so that I can watch TV and come up with yet another great story about Japan.

Yes... how is this about Japan? Well, the Hayabusa is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spacecraft whose goal was to take soil samples from asteroids.

Asteroids, if you will recall, are plentiful in the orbit around our sun (Sol) between the planets Mars and Jupiter. basically, these chunks of rock might have formed into another planet, but its proximity to Jupiter's gravitational pull made it impossible for the rocks to accrete into a planet.

Why the asteroid soil sample? Well, it is hoped that the samples could tell us (people) more about the origins of the solar system, as its untouched surface would contain a far better record of the planet-forming time of our solar system than other planets which are bombarded by meteor(ites), or are covered in dust or gases.

The Hayabusa went up into space on May 9, 2003 launching from the Kagoshima Space Center (now called the Uchinoura Space Center). It's four ion engines (the main power) are weak, but have great fuel efficiency, and after two long years it rendezvoused with the asteroid in September of 2005.

It surveyed the asteroid dubbed 25143 Itokawa, after famed pioneering Japanese rocket scientist Dr. Itokawa Hideo (surname first) from a distance of about 20 kilometers before it moved in for a closer look, with an attempted landing taking place on November 20, 2005.

Although a sensor noted an obstacle during the Hayabusa's autonomous landing that destabilized its attitude, the space craft bounced a few times on the surface before achieving a safe landing.. though it sat leaning at an angle for about 30 minutes.

It lifted off and then on November 26, 2005 it landed a second time.

The way this spacecraft was designed to collect soil sample, was that it was supposed to fire pellets into the surface of the asteroid just before it landed so that the 'dust' could land on its sampling horn. 

The problem was that no pellets were fired on this second landing. Still there was hope that the two landing impacts would have kicked up enough dust.

The irregular-shaped Itokawa (the asteroid) is small, measuring only 535 m x 294m x 209m. It's smooth in some areas, and rocky in others.

Anyhow... mission accomplished, right? Wrong.

It now had to come back home with the samples. Unfortunately the spacecraft lost contact with the Space Center for about six weeks.

That problem, and other minor glitches actually added an extra three years to the return flight... as all but one of the ion engines failed. Luckily working from the Space Center, the space team managed to combine parts of two of the failed ion engines into one additional ion engine.

On June 13, 2010, Hayabusa made it home.

The analysis of the soil samples taken by Hayabusa (the largest was only 0.3mm in size), show that it contained bits of olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase and iron sulfide.

Scientists figure this stuff has been there for millions of years, and that the asteroid itself is actually part of the interior of a larger asteroid that broke apart - hence the smooth and rocky appearances.

Anyhow... that should be enough on the real space craft. Back to mine.

I was having fun building this model... and everything was running smoothly until I had a problem of my own... I couldn't get one of the LEGO Black Technic Axle and Pin Connector (angled) to allow a pin to be inserted through its hole.

I tried and tried for a long time - maybe 10 seconds - before I peered more closely at it. Realizing I needed my glasses for that closer look, I put them on. Hmm... this piece did not have a circular opening for a round pin... it had an opening that would fit a cross-shaped pin.

Oh no! Those bastards gave me one wrong piece out of the four I needed.
The left piece has an interior cross, the right a circular opening. I needed one more circular piece.

Really. I had three that worked, and one that didn't. It was sort of like the opposite of what happened to the Hayabusa ion engines! Sort of. Work with me on this one.

So... I suppose I could call and bitch to LEGO customer service the next day and then wait two weeks for the stinking part to arrive... I couldn't build without it... it held the wing to the Hayabusa! Just adding one wing would through it off balance and cause it to crash.

This is all true stuff, by the way.

So... I figured I would try and search for a replacement piece by going through my bags and bags of LEGO. Going through shopping bag number three containing just black LEGO weird peieces - I found a replacement.

Snapped it on and powered back on my LEGO build.

I'm not bothering LEGO for a replacement part... they've been too good to me already and I don't want to look like a weenie whining about one missing brick. It's not worth my time, or theirs, or the cost for them to mail me the correct piece. But... if you, dear LEGO, need to know... I did purchase it from your website... if that helps you with quality assurance.

It's done. By the way... you may have noticed a bespectacled male Minifig standing underneath my model. That is a representation of Haybusa project manager Kawaguchi Junichiro (surname first).

You know you have made it as a complete nerd when you have your own LEGO Minifig.

I also love the fact that the kit came with a beautiful, color done square-bound 92-page instruction manual that contained lots of facts about the Hayabusa mission that I have re-written in this blog - to
hopefully make it clearer to you (and to me!).

And here is the final product! Tres cool! I added the blue plates behind it so you didn't have to see me watching some Joss Whedon show and get all jealous.


And even though this opens up so many jokes, I'm going to say it anyway. I had always wanted to go up into space... to be a Captain Kirk-like figure and boldly go where no man had gone before... with some green woman who looks liked Batgirl. Or maybe that's a more recent dream.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Japanese Subway Train Station Safety

After mentioning that I had done a few stupid things in Japan - I thought I would also share about the time in Toronto I ran between subway stations... one kilometer in distance... late one Saturday night when I was 18-years-old.

What a stupid and asinine thing to do. While I knew that there was about a 10-minute lag between trains - and that there is enough room on the side to flatten myself against if a train should go by (I have seen workers do that)... but I could have tripped and fallen, sprained an ankle, twisted a knee, knocked myself out  - whatever.

This is the benefit of age. If the young are lucky enough to survive into true adulthood (I think that happens the first time you actually grunt and then sigh when you move to sit on a couch), you gain wisdom and can at the very least offer guidance to those who think they are impervious to harm like Superman.

Well... just recall that Superman can get messed up by magic and various colors of kryptonite, not to mention the on-again off-again charges of romance with Lois Lane.

So... with that all in mind, I would like to share with you a video I watched today, created by Tokyo Tom Baker, who looks and sounds to me like he has also achieved couch grunting with a sigh. No offense, kid, if you aren't.

Anyhow, Tom takes a look at how Japan has begun to use a safety feature at some of its train stations to better protect the transit rider. The video is good even if the audio isn't, still Tom did add a few subtitles, and to be honest, you will see what it is that Japan is doing.

I also like how Tom confronts possible opposition to the Japanese proposal...

Check out Tom's blog HERE.  

Unh, yeahhhh... that's some good blogging, Tommy old boy.

And... for the record... having traveled around this world a bit, I do recall that many a country's trains stations have driverless trains that stop in the same spot at every station, making proper door access possible, and making safety wall features a reality.

Where? Crap. Now that I'm on the spot, exact locations escape me...  Las Vegas, USA monorail, I think. Singapore, I think. Kobe Japan, I think (maybe). Whatever... I am sure they exist. A little help, people?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph    

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Toronto Blue Jays Kawasaki Gives Baseball Interview For The Ages - updated

I love Munenori Kawasaki. I love his energy, his enthusiasm, his athletic ability, his smile.

This guy is Toronto's shortstop... playing there because star player Joe Reyes has been injured since the first week. The idea was that Kawasaki come in and play defense because his bat simply isn't all that great. It's not because he's Japanese, or anything like that, merely because he's a shortstop. Middle infielders are supposed to be lithe athletes lacking pop in their bat. I'm cool with that, but I also know that guys like Cal Ripken or Roberto Alomar Jr. could hit and hit for average.

Still... Kawasaki was just supposed to be a stopgap until Reyes return... someone to play defense behind the pitcher and not let guys score. I wanted to write about him for weeks now. I really like this guy. His big goofy smile... but I kept expecting him to fail.

The trouble is - he hasn't.

On Sunday, May 25 in a game I could not watch because it was on a pay per view type station, the Toronto Blue Jays were losing 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

Suffice to say that they won 6-5 with Kawasaki delivering the game winning double to bring home two runs.

But that wasn't the best part.

Later when I watched the news, I saw Mark DeRosa - another so-called spare-part player give the post-game interview when he called over the true hero of the game, Kawasaki.

Now, why no Kawasaki interview from the Toronto media - Sportsnet, owned by my former boss Rogers Communications, who also own the Blue Jays - ?

Because he doesn't speak much English and I'm afraid we don't have a Japanese translator on the team. We should get one, but I get the feeling Kawasaki understands a lot more English than he can speak... much like how I could understand a lot more Japanese than I could speak (not really).

Anyhow... what happened next was pure gold:Except Major League Baseball deleted it because the video poster probably did not receive the expressed written consent of MLB.


 However... here's the gist of it:

Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani initially spoke to Mark DeRosa, who scored the winning run. But DeRosa deferred to the ebullient Kawasaki, who was asked by Madani: "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Kawasaki answered: 
"Thank you very much! My name is Munenori Kawasaki! I am from Japan. I'm Japanese!" 

The infielder then referred to a phrase book and added, "My teammates gave me an opportunity so I wanted to do something about it." - which was greeted with a pie in the face from Emilio Bonifacio and a Gatorade dousing by Jose Bautista and another teammate.

No one on the team understands Kawasaki when he speaks Japanese, but they sure as Hell understand the fun and skill he brings to the ballpark each and every single day.

Consider me a fan!

Cheers
Andrew "A Jay" Joseph
PS: And yes, Kawasaki is his family name. It's pronounced like the motorcycle company.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Radiation Leak - Someplace Else - Still Japan

I'm not sure if it's just the media playing with the fact that Japan has had some bad luck with radiation - think WWII and Fukushima - but they were back in the news again this past weekend when it was discovered that four researchers at a nuclear physic laboratory were exposed to radiation in an accident.

Though only revealed on the weekend, the actual accident occurred on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at a lab in Tokaimura, Ibrakai-ken, according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

According to the JAEA, the researchers were performing an experiment whereby they fires proton beam at gold to generate particles. That''s when something went wrong , and the four were exposed up to 1.6 millisieverts of radiation.

Now... the good news is that no one needed medical attention (yet?) even though a safe limit of one millisievert per year is an accepted maximum, according to the International Commission of Radiological Protection.

That same Institute, however also says that exposure to less than 100 millisieverts per year presents no statistically significant increase in cancer risk.

For reference, just one CT (Computed Tomography or CAT - Computer Axial Tomography) scan at a hospital will give the patient about 10 millisieverts.


Despite the JAEA saying there was no widespread radiation concern, it notes that there were 51 other researchers and workers at the facility and may also have been exposed to the radiation.

Radiation leaked from the facility to the outer atmosphere after workers used fans to lower the radiation levels in the laboratory. That's called 'venting', by the way.

I suppose in this case, 'no widespread radiation' implies it did not leave the facility (it did!) and affect anyone nearby outside the whole area. The JAEA says that the fans should not have been used, just in case it posed a problem to the outside world.

Jeez... doesn't anyone know how to behave when there's a radiation problem?

Regulations stipulate that all incidents be reported to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and the prefectural government within 24 hours.

It should be noted, however, that despite the accident occurring on Thursday, it was not reported until very late on Friday - well past the 24 hour mark.

An investigation by the NRA is pending into the cause and handling of the accident.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 27, 2013

US Military Man Falls To Death

According to news media in Japan, an American serviceman has fallen to his death in Yokosuka-shi (Yokosuka City), Kanagawa-ken (Prefecture of Kanegawa), Japan on the early morning of May 26, 2013. The unnamed man was a 24-year-old U.S. naval Petty Officer, 2nd Class. 

The serviceman, who lived on the seventh floor of an apartment building, apparently fell to his death while on the sixth floor balcony at around 2:30AM.

In his seventh floor room, several empty whiskey and beer bottles were found, and while no one is saying there is a connection, police still made that fact public.

Apparently a resident of a sixth-floor apartment was awoken by the sound breaking glass and called police to report an intruder on his balcony. Arriving on the scene, police found the U.S. Petty Officer dead at the scene, some 18 meters below after having fallen six flights.

I recall a time 27 years ago when I was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA on Spring Break, when one of my friends arrived back at out hotel stupidly drunk.

He banged on the second floor door demanding to be let in, but no one would let him in. I heard the commotion and went down to the second floor and found him, where the drunk friend turned to me and asked me why no one would let him in to the room. I carried him up the stairs to our third floor hotel room and put him to bed.

It is possible that this Petty Officer may also have been confused and mistaken the sixth floor room for his own on the seventh floor... though why he fell... no idea.

I did note in a blog two days ago that I often climbed onto the balcony ledge of the seventh floor outdoor walkway so that I could jump up and grab a handhold onto the roof of my apartment building so I could haul myself up so that I could grab that perfect photo with my camera.

It's true that at any point in time I could have slipped and fallen seven stories down to my death, but I was always sober. Now... while I doubt that my scenario was what happened to this military man, but I just wanted to point out that people do stupid things sober or drunk.
 
So lets not judge him too harshly for what I hope was a stupid, avoidable mistake.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Andrew Joseph     

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Puzzling Day

Hello. So today I spent a few hours giving the house a good vacuuming. In the process I sucked up maybe five spiders - I hate spiders!) and about six cats worth of dust and hair, and maybe 50 small web nests where the spiders sleep (I really do hate spiders).

I even discovered that something somewhere is leaking... slowly... and has caused to wet spots in the roof of my basement. Nothing huge. But it's there. Somewhere. I hate not knowing stuff about as much as I hate spiders.

Not knowing stuff gets me wound up. I fill up with angst. It pisses me off, though you'd never know it to see me or talk to me. I tend to internalize things.

Nowadays while I tend to veg out by playing video games, building LEGO, watching television or writing, back when I lived in Japan I used different tools, though TV and eventually video games did enter the picture after I purchased a Japanese version Nintendo Super Famicon video game system.

But before that? During my first year in Japan? I constructed jigsaw puzzles.

I never really did that before when I was a kid. I had one - a map of Canada that was maybe 1000 pieces that I enjoyed piecing together every few months or so... but really, after I lost a piece that contained a part of the Fraser River, I didn't build one again for 15 years until Japan.

During the winter of 1990 I had an on-again/off-again relationship with Ashley, my girlfriend and fellow JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme representative. I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, and she in the town just northwest of me called Nishinasuno.

She was heading off to Thailand with a few of the other female JETs from Tochigi, while I stayed home in Ohtawara... as did Matthew... we were probably the only two JETs in Tochigi - if not the whole programme that stayed in Japan during that Christmas holiday, as people gladly used Japan as a jumping off point to see other parts of Asia or Oceania.

I did not travel with Ashley because just before plans were made, she decided to break up with me. Apparently some Japanese fortune teller told her "Do not be afraid to tell him you don't love him." Those were the exact words she told me back in 1990. Funny how I can remember that, but not recall what I had for dinner today.

Wow... pretty freaking heavy, eh? Now have someone tell you that, and explain that's why you are breaking up.

I hate the fact that people have always had so much control over me and my emotions. They decide when to talk when to write when to do and when not to do.

I suppose it's why I am actually an introvert. I pretend to be the extrovert... and I pretend just fine... but even now people are incredulous when I tell them I do not possess a cell phone... no one effing calls, I tell them, and truth be told, I have nothing to say to anyone.

I think I have a work persona... and I have my writing persona... I have the dad persona... and I have my own persona that I only have around myself.

When I am by myself, I like to do nothing - and I'm quite good at it.

Hell... I just finished watching Con Air on TV for the third time ever. It's not that good a movie, but maybe that's why I watch it. I ate a bag of buttered popcorn - by the way... everyone else here was asleep by 8:22PM. I'll be up for another seven hours or so.

After this blog... I'll play a video game and watch a Charlie Chaplin movie.

Back in 1990... no girlfriend... Matthew was doing his own thing (though he did include me on activities!) and knew I needed brooding space... so I went out to a toyshop I discovered along the main street of Ohtawara and bought myself a puzzle - and a small frame for it. It was a 250-piece puzzle of a scene from Alice in Wonderland involving the White Knight. I read Cervantes and Carroll, so it was perfect. For ever tilting at windmills.

So... I built the puzzle in the special puzzle frame in 20 minutes and then went back out and bought another puzzle and a special frame to build it in. The puzzle was a huge black one with white dots on it... a map of the universe - all 5,000 pieces of it. In 2013, I still haven't found that puzzle, but I think it's no more.

In the new year - 1991 - I went out and bought another puzzle and another. One was a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of The Tower Of Babel - a painting by Pieter Breugel. You can read a bit about that HERE.

But... and here's the point... I found the puzzle today in 2013! Intact!

And here's the follow up puzzle... a smaller 3,000 piece puzzle... of something... It looks like some sort of Japanese sci-fi fantasy manga scene... I'm not sure WHY I bought it except that the palette of colors it possesses probably looked like it might be a challenge for me. Or maybe I liked the whimsical look of the one creature looking off to the left (close-up at the very top) with a golden sun behind him as he sees a dragon flying away... or maybe it was the female sitting at his side? Along with being born in the Year of The Dragon, the kanji I chose for my name Andrew (An-Do-Ryu) translates to Peaceful-Leader-Dragon. Winged creatures fascinate me. Idealistic to be sure. You can see that puzzle below.

I believe the mock glass plastic sheet is still over the Japanese manga puzzle, while I know I had just removed the cover from the front of the Babel scene. It seemed apropos that someone who speaks only English and is now living in a country where few understand him and he understands them even less should construct his own Tower of Babel. That Puzzle is below:

And no... I wasn't talking about the Japanese... I was talking about women.

No... nothing is going on with life in 2013 (maybe that's the problem)...I'm sure a few of you who read this blog will be wondering why it is that I only JUST found the puzzles today, or why I am unsure where in the vastness of this house I may have misplaced other huge puzzles. The truth is that the house isn't huge, but I do have 35,000 comic books - and maybe 10,000 more that belong to a friend who asked if I could store them for him... it's crowded in the basement...

No... no need to read between the lines. I found a puzzle today.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 25, 2013

JETs Going To Japan? - Read This First

So… congratulations! You have been chosen by the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme to go to Japan and become either an AET (assistant English teacher) or CIR (Coordinator of International Relations).

That takes some doing, and obviously people out there think you do yourself, your country and Japan proud.

Don't be fooled. Once you are in Japan, you are indeed a representative of your country (and of JET, of course). Your course of action will impact greatly on them and you.

I think the best way to look at this whole experience is to consider yourself an ambassador of whatever country you are from. Yeah, go out and have fun, but be respectful of where you are.

I didn't always do that - thank you alcohol - but no one ever complained. That I know of. And trust me… someone would have let you know if you screwed up.

The ambassador thing… I am from Toronto, Canada, and even though I first arrived in Japan back in 1990—and things have changed—the stuff I am about to impart on you is still applicable.

In my new hometown of Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Province of Tochigi), Japan… a smallish city then of a bout 50,000 people… there was a small dark place called the London Club.

It was about a three-minute drunken stagger from my apartment - a massive three bedroom LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen) with two balconies that few of you will ever have the luck to reside in—the London Club sat sunken into the ground… four short steps down to a blue-painted wall with a door that blended in to almost make it look like it had a hidden entrance. I think there was even a sliding panel that could be opened up from the inside to check out the would-be visitor, or to get a password (Walt Sent Me). It was a windowless place that held… I had no freaking idea!

I never bothered to ask anyone, but I was curious… after all, I was born in London, England, and wondered if this place was some secret homage to Queen and country.

(Background) Okay... I left England when I was three. Despite my parental units' India-background, I am more Canadian than most. Whatever that means. I named my son Hudson (after the trading company that founded the country, for cripes sake!).

So… I'm in the Ohtawara Junior High School (affectionately known as Dai Chu - aka Big Middle), giving a self introduction to a group of third-year, 15-year-olds (I did 77 self-introductions to classes over three years)… when I mentioned that I was born in London.

Immediately, a young man throws arm his arm up to apparently ask a question. I stopped talking, and said: "Hai, dozo (Yes, please…)". No one ever asks questions DURING a self-introduction. I always got plenty afterwards, though... usually complex enough that the teacher would have to translate from Japanese to English for me.

It freaked me out with his question - done in English! He asked: "An-do-ryu sensei… do you know London Club?" Actually he said Rondon Crub, but I know the Japanese have difficulty saying the 'L", as it simply does not exist in their language - no matter how they name their brand of cars. You'll see.

Well… since I had seen the London Club when walking to the 4C drinking establishment I frequented, I answered: "Yes, I do."

Cries of "Eeeeeeeeeeee! (pronounced Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)" erupted from the whole class.

I may have only been in Japan for five weeks (at that time), but I knew that sound. It was the sound of shock. Now what did I do?

 I looked toward Inou-sensei, my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English), and asked him: "?" without actually saying a word.

Inoue-sensei was a cool guy… maybe 50-years-old, but possessing the swagger of someone who was in the original Rat Pack… kind of like a Japanese Sinatra, but minus the Yakuza. He smoked (you could do that in the teacher's lounge) and drank (after work - he was a Scotch man), and loved women….

He said, smiling while really squinting up his eyes: "... I have heard…"

Hah! I knew that line!

"… that the London Club is a place you don't want to know about."

Hell… now I do want to know about it!

"?" I looked at him again.

He continued, albeit reluctantly: "It's a sukebe club."

I'm just going to Copy & Paste this here: Cries of "Eeeeeeeeeeee! (pronounced Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)" erupted from the whole class.

Now, although I had already heard myself called that some 30 or 40 times in the past five months, I was never around anyone who spoke English enough to tell me what that word means… and trust me… if you are a guy, you will probably hear this word in reference to yourself, while you women, you will hear this in reference to, well… you'll see in a line or two.

"A sukebe… it means… pervert."

(It can also mean 'dirty old man')

"Oh," I said.

Hey! I screamed in my head! Geez… just because back in Toronto I was dating three women at the same time: Neapolitan dating: A Blonde, Brunette and a Redhead. Don't worry. I wasn't getting any. Ever. The Japanese didn't know that, of course… and me bringing in photos of my so-called girlfriends… well… I was an instant superstar to the males and apparently a sukebe to the females… which was both good and bad.

"So… it's an adult club? Alcohol. Women?"

"Yes."

"Naked women?"

"I think so," he lied.

Damn. Now I definitely wanted to check the place out.

After school was over for the day, I rode my over-sized (for Japan) 18-speed bicycle home, pedaling through the narrow alleys where even in the bright light of the afternoon September sun the London Club still looked dark and horny… er, I mean ominous.

As I stopped to look at it, some of my students shouted out: "Konichi-wa An-do-ryu-sensei (Hello Andrew teacher)!" while bowing low.

I Konichiwa-ed back at them and bowed, too.

Now pretending to tie my shoes (I had slip-on loafers), an older couple walked by and said: "Konichi-wa gaijin no sensei (Hello, Mister foreign teacher)." (It's a strange country sometimes, but they sure are polite!)"

I have no idea who they are, but I Konichiwa-ed them too and bowed extra deep to show my respect for those older and thus more wise than me. I don't know if you are supped to do that, but anytime you can bow - bow. When in the downward position, look at their shoes. If their shoes are better than yours, hold the bow longer. It's just that simple.It also works is they have more grey hair or wrinkles than you. The older generation gets off more on the show of respect that you might believe. They will also tell everyone that you know how to 'Japanese bow.'

Having finally managed to do up my loafers, I got back up on my bicycle and rode home, changed and rode back out to the supermarket, where not less than 12 people - strangers all, I think - greeted me - one even said in English: "Welcome to Japan. I hope you will enjoy yourself." They all bowed and acted as though they knew me.

That was really the first time that it dawned on me… I'm not anonymous. People seem to know me here.

At that moment of self-realization, every desire to visit the nudie bar or sex bar, or opium den (for all you Teddy & The Pirates fans out there) went right out the windowless window.

(I later found out that newspaper articles and radio broadcasts were put out on me - complete with background history - as they sure were proud to have a new foreign teacher. A young Indian chick from England - London, in fact! - was the first AET, though she only stayed a year.) I suppose there might be Internet news and Pod Casts nowadays. You can let me know if that's true.

Anyhow... what would happen if word got out that the city's brand new gaijin (foreigner) was spotted pulling up his fly, smoothing his disheveled mullet (I had a mullet??!!) while stumbling out of the London Club?

I'll tell you what - nothing good.

And that's what you should always ask yourself when in Japan. Will nothing good come of my action here? If yes, simply don't do it.

I know it sounds ridiculous to even have to consider hearing all this crap, but trust me… this is Japan. Honor and respect is earned by age and heritage in Japan… two things you don't have as a gaijin. It's worse when you are a gaijin, because they know you don't have the same morals as the honorable Japanese (I'm being sarcastic here. You may have good morals, but they don't all believe that).

You only have what you have, and once you lose their respect, you aren't much use to people there.

I can't confirm this, but I have heard that some JETs have been kicked out of Japan by the JET Programme for conduct unbecoming a JET.

In fact… it really boils down to whether or not your BOE (Board of Education) feels you are living up to whatever societal ideals they have. You fail, you may not be asked to sign on for another year. You screw-up, and they could fire you, which means you are sent home. Immediately.

Look. There's nothing wrong with being a drunken, lecherous pervert. Been there, done that. May even do that again. But… pick and choose when. If some adult is flirting with you from the school or office, sure… go ahead. Especially if it's at a bar and everyone is drunk. You'll notice, of course, that everyone is acting like a sukebe (but usually after the Superintendent or Principal leaves the party).

But getting drunk and breaking into a place like some military personnel have done in Okinawa - that's stupid.

Breaking bonsai tees - really - the damn things are 100 years old. The same with stealing them? Why? You will kill it anyway…

I did a few crazy things while in Japan… I got drunk and broke into a taxidermy forest scene at a hotel during a JET conference… waking up under the solemn stare of a deer - I quietly broke out again (the glass exhibit was mysteriously unlocked). I also illegally entered a pottery museum with some Japanese friends, because the place was closing… no excuse… that was stupid… I perched myself on my balcony edge and read for hours in the sun… not stupid, but I could have slipped off if I wasn't careful. See that photo above? I took that flag from a festival celebration in town. But, I told my BOE about it, and no one cared.

Also, I would haul my butt up onto the roof of my seven-story building by standing on my tip toes on the hand railing of the seventh floor and jumped up to pull myself up… all so I could get a better photograph from the tallest building in my city. Not illegal, but stupidly dangerous, now that I think of it.

And that's what I remember off the top of my head. There's more, but maybe some of those will come out in other blogs.

It's why I'm telling you this now. Being young and in the JET Programme can create an indestructible ego for you. Be careful. Enjoy the scenery. Be respectful of people, ideals and the country. You are a guest. You are an ambassador. Act better than I did, if you can. Stay safe. Have fun.

Sounds like it's impossible to do all of that, but yes you can.

I used to recall an old US Marine pledge: Death before dishonor.

Even being Canadian, I can see the value in that advice. I did try to follow it.

And hey... while looking up the origin of that pledge... I found out that it actually originated with the ancient samurai. A Bushido code - the way of the warrior. That makes it even more fortuitous, doesn't it?

At the very top... that image of the samurai... that is: General Akashi Gidayu writing his death poem before committing Seppuku (ritualistic suicide). There is no need for you to follow suit. Ever.

It's an 1890 ukiyo-e wood block print drawn by artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. It is from his series Tsuki hyaku sugata 月百姿 (One Hundred Aspects of the Moon).

If you have something you would like to know - please ask.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Up next, Another long-winded anecdote. And, to quote Bill Cosby when he introduced the Fat Albert cartoon: "If you aren't careful, you might learn something."

Friday, May 24, 2013

This Gaijin Was Stress-free At Work

Vinnie or Vinny… or Vince… Vincent? Vin… whomever he is, recently as loudly as one can get in an e-mail without using CAPITALS, wondered what things were like for me versus now regarding work exhaustion.

It's true… while I do suffer from work burnout now - perhaps brought about by being older, writing a bunch of blogs on top of this one… being a father and husband… writing all day at work… getting five hours sleep because of all the writing… I do sometimes get a bit burned out.

I deal with people who are unreasonable, always wanting things now, and have little to no knowledge of due process...

But… back in Japan… it was a completely different level of burnout.

First off... I was never really ever homesick. I wish I saw the Blue Jays win their first World Series, or the Leafs play some decent hockey... but no... I had no added pressure regarding Toronto.

Back between 1990-1993, I 'worked' at one of seven junior high schools in the city of Ohtawara in Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I placed the word 'work' in quotes, because really… it wasn't a difficult job to perform. All I would do was go in and perform for the troops.

Whether it was being a human tape recorder: Repeat after me - or if it was telling amusing stories about myself, Canada or the English language - or performing a plethora of zoological sound effects to show the way we Westerners make animal noises versus the Japanese way… the only difficulty was to ensure my demeanor was 'up'… even if I wasn't, or if I was tired after a night of drinking or catting around like the whore I was.

I was so confident in my ability to mimic animal calls that I asked my students to shout out - in English - the name of any animal, and I would mimic its call.

When one brilliant young man asked me to do a goldfish - and I did by changing my elastic face into a elongated maw sucked O2 through the water, while my hands were splayed out like fins beside my cheeks… come hell or high water… I knew everyone in the city would hear about this and beg me to perform for them on cue.

And I did. If you open a can of worms in Japan, you better be prepared to see it through, less the worms go bad. No one wants spoiled worms.

So… barking like a dog… acting like a tape recorder - and ancient device similar to whatever it is on your computer that makes copies of music and videos for everyone to download illegally.

I got free school lunches.

I had a maximum of four classes of 60 minutes each day to bark, self-introduce, or read a book and have kids repeat after me.

I had a minimum of one class of 60 minutes each day to bark, self-introduce, or read a book and have kids repeat after me.

As a result, I brought the Daily Yomiuri newspaper into school and read it in the teacher's lounge. I had female teachers - my betters, in my opinion, but less important than my equals according to the male-dominated Japanese society - bring me cup after cup of weak green tea, and senbei (rice crackers)… I could do the crossword puzzle. I could read sports… I could study Japanese (I wasn't as interested in that after the fourth month there). I could get free massages from students wandering in, who would come upon a teacher and gaijin from behind and start pounding them lightly along the muscles of the shoulder.

I would wander around the schools - watch students take physical education… or music… I would sit in… sometimes I would join in. I can play the clarinet and tenor sax… and am decent enough at soccer, baseball and softball to not embarrass myself…

I would eat that free school lunch with my students… try to help during the school clean-up, but always told to not do that (student's job!)… then would play with whichever group of kids would ask me first… tag… soccer, baseball, archery, tennis - and all while wearing my good clothes. I didn't always get asked, but I didn't take offense at that!

After school… I could talk with the teachers and so-called janitors - any and all of them… discussing life, the universe and everything. We would talk about sumo, baseball, soccer, women, alcohol, fishing, food, women, students, life in Canada versus life in Japan, women in Canada versus women in Japan… it was, for me, the best time, as I gained so much knowledge knowledge. Nothing beats learning something new, eh?

After that, I might get dressed and participate in a school club activity like judo. I know some judo. Enough to survive. I certainly know how to be thrown. I also did kendo. I love being beat on the head with a bamboo stick.

I would dress and go home… sometimes my girlfriend would be waiting for me… it meant I might get sex later that night. Or an argument. I live for both. Not.

I might have a kyudo (Japanese archery) class. I might eat out at Mosburger. Matthew might come over. I might have to teach a night school English class (that was something I got paid on the side for). I might go and rent a few movies and watch them. I might stare at my goldfish. I might write my It's A Wonderful Rife stories… monthly (monthly!!!) columns for various JET newsletters or English-language newspapers (I even got paid!) (I don't get paid now) (I'm a lousy boss).

I might go out shopping for food. My fridge was tiny, so I would go out every couple of days. I might cook, but more than likely I would get a ready-to-eat meal at a shop…

I might go out and take photographs on the weekend...  or go exploring on my bicycle... or travel by train to visit a friend... or take a week off and travel the country - always with a girlfriend or girl friend, as I was their protection from nosy male Japanese, and they were smart enough to know how to travel without getting lost. 

In my third year, I would go out jogging every single night until I hit 10 kilometers a night.

I might have a string of relationships with women. I might spend my evenings consoling various JETs who were glum, or just called me to talk dirty (thanks Kristine), or who just wanted to share their day with me, or wanted me to tell them about something amusing (everyday!).

I stayed up until 1AM every single night. I was up at 6:30Am every day except the weekends. Almost like nowadays...

Hell… I didn't even mention that I only went to teach four days a week, with a fifth day spent at the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE)… where I would write letters, study Japanese, write short stories, get taken out sight-seeing by the bosses, laugh, chat and have a good time with my office.

Yeah, Vinnie, Vinny, Vin, Vince or Vincent… I was so stressed out from work. No. I was only ever down when it came to my personal relationships. I suppose I wanted things to be as perfect as I imagined they should be.

But work - there was no stress. I was not a teacher before arriving in Japan. I was a newspaper journalist for the Toronto Star. I actually quit that job to go to Japan. I actually left journalism school a month early to take the Toronto Star job. How could they fail me? I had proven that I was a good journalism student by getting that job.

But arriving in Japan... well... aside from arriving without a shred of knowledge of the country (really, all I knew of Japan were from some stereotypical cartoons, a couple of episodes of Gilligan's Island and one of WKRP in Cincinnati,  it was probably better that way.


I had never eaten Japanese found before until a week before I left Toronto. Japan was never a life-goal of mine…

Honestly… I had no preconceived expectations of Japan built up inside of me… anything that happened would be all gravy. Or soy sauce. Whatever. No expectations… no work stress. All I had to do was have fun and learn as much about my new home as humanly possible. I had to make sure my students had fun while learning a language most probably didn't give a crap about.

All I had to do was look like I was having fun (and I was), and everyone around me started having fun, too.

Being friends with a guy like Matthew was a blessing in disguise. If I was down, he cheered me up. But - and I assume this - neither he nor I suffered from work stress.

Yeah, we sometimes had to go and judge an English speech contest, participate in JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme activities, or do something for our BOE that we didn't want to do (maybe), but we were looked after quite well by JET and our Board of Educations (BOEs).

I've heard that some AETs (assistant English teachers) did have tougher or lousy BOEs - Get a haircut, ya hippie! - as a BOE once told an Aussie buddy of mine (I'm paraphrasing). But I think that was the exception and not the rule.

Speaking for myself (which is a good thing to do in your own blog), I heard from JET reps and from my BOE that I was well-known and respected by those in Japan's education ministry. I wasn't a great or even a good teacher. I was just someone who made things fun for everyone.

I hope that doesn't sound too egotistical, because I'm not trying to be (this time).

Japan was fun.

Work today in 2013… yeah… I have absurd deadlines sometimes, and have to make sushi from wheat germ to create a readable story… but I get to write everyday. How cool is that? It's sorta cool, which is why I write what I want to write when I get home.

Work doesn't really stress me out. Sorry Vinnie, Vinny, Vin, Vince or Vincent. I have other stuff that eats me up, but generally, I'm pretty loosey-goosey. Hell, some of the stuff I've already dealt with today would make your head spin, but I hope you'd never know it from my writing in this blog.

Anyhow… work stress is what you make of it. I don't let work bog me down too much. Other stuff - well, even Superman metaphorically sneezed around kryptonite.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Historic Nicegame

We've all heard that the Japanese are as crazy about English as westerners (or gaijin - foreigner) are about the far east. By that latter part I mean people who get tattoos written in Japanese or Chinese and only have the word of someone that it means what they say it means.

For the most part... the Japanese don't always have someone to help them, despite taking English for a few years in school.

Hell... I took French for six years (grades 1, 2, 5-8), but dammit, I don't know squat about French except how to get my face slapped nine times out of 10. That tenth time, however, could be magic.

Anyhow... for some reason, the Japanese love all things America... they really do, despite political views. The young people still wear clothing with English writing on it, hoping it will make them cool.

Heck, we westerners do the same. I once had a shirt that said: Smile If You Are Horny - but truthfully, I was too shy to wear it more than once.

Yes... I was shy. I was shy until about two years before I left for Japan at the age of 25. Now... I'm still shy, but I can fake not being shy with the best of them.

Anyhow... check out the photo I took at Osaka-jo (Osaka castle)... the entrance way... I don't know what is more amusing: the person wearing the Japlish jacket, or the surprised look of the toddler who has spied her first gaijin.

For the record... the jacket reads:
RELATIONS
East MATCH West
HISTORIC
NICEGAME

Any clue what that means? Does anyone else find it strange that East is written on the left, and West on the right?
Historic Nicegame? That should be three words... His Toric Nicegame. Or maybe it's Historic Nice Game?

Again... perhaps the message on the jacket isn't as important as the message conveyed by simply wearing a jacket with cool English on it.

I did date a sexy teacher ( a few of them actually) - one who wore a shirt with an English message on it... she asked me to translate it for her. After carefully helping her out of the shirt (ever the gentlemen), I read it and informed her that it was actually Italian.

It either meant: I love Pasta Fazool (pasta and beans) or that she needed help taking off her skirt. I'm not an expert in Italian, but I'm pretty sure it was the latter.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Clothes Make The Man

When I was back there in seminary school… sorry… I had a Doors song going through my head for a moment.

When I was back in Japan, the biggest problem people like myself and Matthew had was finding clothing that could fit us and not make us look like a sumo wrestler.

Now… Matthew and I were not what you would call overly large people. Matthew was taller than myself, and I may have been broader… but no one in the U.S. or Canada (our respective home countries) would ever have called us a mutant.

While I admit to no longer being my svelte self from 20 years ago, back in 1990 I was 5' - 11-1/2" tall and 177 lbs.  Strangely enough, two things I no longer am. I also wore a US 10-1/2 shoe…

I had a 15-inch neck for my dress shirts, Was a M for my t-shirts, and wore a 32-inch waist for my jeans.

All pretty normal stuff. So… it should have been pretty easy for me to purchase clothes in Japan - right?

Wrong!

Forget about the fact that I had no idea how to purchase clothing for myself back then, it was painfully obvious after talking to other like-sized JETs (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participants that the odds of finding clothing that would fit us were between slim and none.

I was actually warned by the JET Programme before leaving Toronto that I would be considered huge by Japanese standards…  so I bought clothing and shoes that would fit and last.

Fashionable it was not. Those shoes…

During my self-introduction at my seven junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, I would ask my students to guess what I had that was 30 centimeters (12-inches) long. San-ju sen-chi.

Snickers amongst the teenager girls ensued, jaws dropping amongst the boys, and snickers of embarrassment from the teachers - both male and female.

People… get your mind out of the gutter… I was, of course, talking about my shoes.

Despite the muscular thigh, I am pointing to my shoe!
Yes… in Japan shoe sizes are measured in centimeters… there is no mysterious size 10-1/2… like WTF does 10-1/2 equate too?! It's like women's clothing size.

Look at me - I'm huge… I'm a 12. Riiii-iiight. No one knows what 12 means… And you still look pretty good. I suppose no one knowing what size you really are is a good thing for someone.

Anyhow… at that time, you could NOT buy shoes over 27cm in Japan. How strange, I thought… because despite many Japanese being shorter than myself, there were a lot of Japanese high school boys as tall as me - if not bigger!

What the hell were they doing?

Oh… maybe they were purchasing school uniforms and clothing from a particular company that actually offered all manner of clothing and shoe sizes…

Hmm… all I know is that I was SOL (Sh!t Outta Luck).

My mom did send me a pair of shoes after my first year, but really, it wasn't until I traveled out to Thailand - home of many a FFM for me - that I had a clothes maker make a suit for me: two silk shirts, a jacket and a pair of raw sill pants.

I designed them - I paid for it ($110 total), and they made it for me and delivered it to my hotel in a mere eight hours over night.

Personally, I thought I looked great in these clothes… but I realized I should never have made a jacket that was red, as I looked like a waiter or valet.

Also… in Japan where it is very humid, I sweat a lot… turning that purple-blue silk shirt into a sodden, soggy, dark, dark, blue-black mess. Gaijin… avoid wearing silk if you know you are going to sweat… which is anytime and damn near everywhere in Japan.

I think what made me more of a sweaty mess was the fact that I began growing my hair. Yeah… guess what else I have that is 30-centimeters long. Yes, unfortunately I'm talking about my pony-tail.
Bonus Pic! Matthew on the right always a good sport! Perhaps too good a sport! Why am I holding his leg?

Just recently I attempt to replicate that past success with the hair, but I cut it. Maybe I'll just get in shape again. Thanks to working out, I'll never be the same size I was before, but at least I can try and get the same shape…
 
If you are going to Japan for an extended period of time, bring your own clothing and shoes. Extras of it.

Not only will you be unlikely to purchase clothing that will fit you, you may actually look at standard Japanese fashion and thank whatever god(s) you pray to for being bigger than the average Nihonjin.

Really. I watched super sexy women rendered almost average by the choice of clothing they were forced to endure.

Be forewarned and forearmed.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Hockey King Of Japan

So... I went out on Friday evening and traded in some of my PS3 (Sony Play Station 3) games at EB Games. I took in five old games I had beaten, and traded it in for $55 in credit!

So... my son wanted the 2013 NHL hockey game, and I bought Naruto 2.

I have never played Naruto before, but I had read a few of the early adventure manga comic books. Lots of fun. because of that bit of knowledge, it made the game exciting... but more on that one later.

Instead, let's look at the 2013 NHL hockey game.

After a couple of games, I was soon better than my son at it, who had played 15 games... that's the penalty for only being seven-years-old, I assume. in a couple of years I will probably be hard put to beat him in anything.

So.... he wanted to play me, but insisted I take the worst hockey team I could find.

Luckily, this game allows you to play NHL professional players against All-Star Teams, junior hockey teams of teenagers and even tams from other countries or national teams.

Hudson chose our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, I I chose Team Japan.

After Hudson scored some 11 seconds into the game, I figured "Oh crap... this is going to be a 60-0 game."

But a funny thing happened... Team Japan started playing well... or rather the goalie - Fukufuji Yutaka (surname first) - whom I don't really control started playing well... I started to stone him in net... and even managed to score a couple of goals...

I was fine until about three minutes left in the third and final period when Hudson managed to put another by Fukufuji.

I had to kill a penalty, made it to a five minute overtime, killed another penalty... and then we went to a shoot out where we both sucked... going 15 rounds before Hudson finally put one past Fukufuji to get the win.

But... lo and behold... Fukufuji was the first star of the game. Impressive with his 30 saves and 14 saves in the shoot out. Hey... let's face it... I love Japan, but as a hockey nation, they ain't so hot, currently ranked 21st in the world, while Canada is ranked 5th (after a recent disastrous showing).

For the record, Fukufuji is a real person, and is currently playing goalie for the Nikko Ice Bucks (in Tochigi-ken! - my home province!) of the Asia League Ice Hockey. He is the first Japan-born player to play in a National Hockey League game, and teh first Japanese to be drafted as a goaltender, though the second Japanese national to be drafted.

Fukufuji was born on September 17, 1982 in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. Fukufuji was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL in 2004 in the 8th round - 238th overall. After playing a couple of years in the minors and doing quite well, Fukufuji was called up on December 15, 2006, to act as a back-up goalie on an emergency basis - he dressed, but did not play.

But, on January 13, 2007, Fukufuji made his first NHL appearance, the first by a Japanese player, when he started the 3rd period of a game against the St. Louis Blues with his team (the Kings) trailing 5-4. While the Kings scored, Fukufuji also let in a goal, and the Kings ended up losing 6-5.

What sucks is that because Fukufuji essentially gave up the game-winning goal, he was credited with the loss.

Fukufuji did start a game on January 16, 2007 against the Atlanta Thrashers... and ended his NHL career with: 4 GP (games played), 96 minutes, 7 Goals Against, 4.37 goals against average, 36 total saves and a 0W-3L-T record.

Fun stuff... You just never know where your are going to find a Japanese connection for a blog, eh? I thought it would just be in the Naruto game!

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Godzilla Toys Coming


I hope the folks at SCOOP will forgive me - especially JC Vaughn - but, he did such a great job on the write-up, I'm just leaving it as is...

Toho Company, Ltd. the producer of twenty-eight Godzilla motion pictures, and Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of comics, graphic novels and pop-culture merchandise, have reached an agreement that will bring the best Godzilla merchandise from Japan and beyond to the United States and Canada.

Diamond will choose, market, and distribute the highly desired and sought after Godzilla toys, comics, collectibles, and lifestyle products, many of which have previously been available only in Japan.

Says Diamond’s vice-president of new business development John Parker: "Godzilla has been a pop culture icon since he was unleashed on the world in 1954.

"Now that Diamond can provide a complete offering of awesome Godzilla merchandise from Toho, the long lost and unavailable figures and collectibles will be easily accessible to the fans of the nuclear beast. With a new film in production and scheduled for release in May, 2014 the monster merchandise will be here just in time to make its way onto the shelves of North American retailers."

Adds Fujiwara Masaki (surname first), General Manager at the Los Angeles office of Toho Co., Ltd., "We are very excited to be teaming with Diamond Comic Distributors in this opportunity to share a wider and more complete line of Godzilla merchandise.

"I hope the Godzilla fans in North America are as thrilled as we are."

I can't speak for all Godzilla fans - or maybe I can, but yes Fujiwara-san, we are excited.

Here's a sampling of the Re-released Godzilla toys!: 

GODZILLA 1964 S.H.MONSTER ARTS AF 
Item Code: MAY132041
Price: $64.99
From Tamashii Nations! Yuji Sakai's master crafted S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla series continues with the highly-anticipated Godzilla (1964) as the iconic monster appeared in the feature film Mothra Vs Godzilla. Only available as a Tamashii Web Shop exclusive in Asia, S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla (1964) will be made available to American fans through Bluefin. This entirely new sculpt accurately captures the characteristic eye area of this version of Godzilla. A perfect blend of faithful sculpt proportion, meticulous attention to detail, and advanced articulation has been achieved in this masterpiece. Figure stands 5-3/4" tall. Window box packaging.
TOHO 12IN SERIES MECHAGOZILLA VINYL FIG 1974 VER  Item Code: MAY132058
Price: $160.00

From PLEX 2013/X-Plus! Godzilla's most mechanical foe crushes all in his path with this 12" tall vinyl figure of Mechagodzilla's 1974 incarnation!

PARA VINYL GODZILLA 1964 SOFT VINYL FIG
Item Code: MAY132065      
Price: $59.99
From Marmit! Painted green and made of soft vinyl in Japan, this 9-1/2" tall figure is based on the 1964 Godzilla. The figure boasts moveable arms, legs, and tail.

MONSTER HEAVEN GODZILLA 1989 SOFT VINYL FIG
Item Code: MAY132066
Price: $59.99
From Marmit! Painted brown and made of soft vinyl in Japan, this 9" tall figure is based on the 1989 Godzilla. The figure features a moveable neck, arms, legs, and tail.

FIRE RODAN S.H.MONSTER ARTS AF (O/A)
Item Code: MAY132067
Price: $42.99
From Tamashii Nations! The pterosaur defeated by Godzilla that returned as the fire charged Fire Rodan joins the rapidly expanding S.H.MonsterArts series with a variety of compatible option parts that you will not want to miss! The figure set not only includes effect parts and two display stands for the flight pose and for Fire Rodan's breath weapon, but it also includes a special heat breath weapon effect parts for the S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla and a special battle-damaged (shattered right eye) MechaGodzilla head. Fire Rodan stands 5-1/8" tall with an 8-1/4" wingspan. Window box packaging.

TOHO 12IN SERIES GODZILLA VINYL FIG 1954 VER
Item Code: MAY132075
Price: $160.00
From PLEX 2013/X-Plus! The greatest of cinema's thunder lizards will batter his way into your collection with this 12" tall vinyl figure of Godzilla's 1954 incarnation!

And there's more!

An initial round of merchandise is featured in Diamond’s May Previews catalog, and is expected in retail stores starting in July. To pre-order Godzilla merchandise, find a comic shop near you at www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-COMICBOOK.

Original source material is HERE.
The Diamond Comics website is a mess... good luck trying to find it there. Just be advised that along with the toys I have shown here (and the sticker shock that comes with it), you can actually contact a comics shop and ask them to order in the toys (and comics) you want. They will.

Stores like The Beguiling, The Silver Snail and 1,000,000 Comix in Toronto will go out of their way to help you. Others stores across North America will do the same!


Cheers!
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Newly Discovered Meat-Eating Plant In Japan


Fear not... the newly discovered meat-eating plant - not a man-eating plant - was not discovered in the Fukushima-ken area, home to the recent nuclear fallout from the Dai-ichi nuclear power reactor, rather it was discovered in Aichi-ken - which is southwest of Tokyo.

So far, this carnivorous plant recently discovered in Aichi-ken is, according to Watanabe Mikio (surname first), a researcher with the Aichi University of Education, a variety of the pitcher plant with purple-red flowers. This is an off-shoot of the white-flowered Drosera indica, which is designated as an endangered species by Japan's Environment Ministry.

However, according to THIS website - www.Popsci.com - they have it all wrong... the newly discovered plant species is actually a species related to (and mistaken for) Drosera indica, and is, in fact, actually a sundew.

The Popsci website says:
"Sundews and pitcher plants are both carnivorous, and largely insectivorous, but they're very different otherwise. Pitcher plants have a large, cup-shaped flower with a slippery rim that unsuspecting prey falls into, where it is digested. Sundews, on the other hand, have tentacles, looking like very small spines topped with a clear drop of dew, hence the name. It isn't dew, of course; it's a sort of sticky mucous that traps insects, where they die of exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, or suffocation, to be digested by the enzymes within the mucous."

Regardless... this is a new species of carnivorous plant, and one that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs...

Still, according to Watabnabe, the Drosera indica grows naturally from India to Japan, where it can be found in regions ranging from Kanto to Kyushu.

"I'm planning to study how the plant came (to Japan) and how it has diversified into several different species," Watanabe says.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Osaka Mayor Is A Douche

What the fug is wrong with people in the world today?

Are some people so effing thick that they purposely open their mouth to piss others off, or are they just that ignorant that they think their opinion is really the best?

To be or not to be a douche... that is the question.

When will we as a global society ever leave the sewers, get up onto our two feet, grow a pair and start getting rid of those who don't know the simple act of right and wrong?

I'm not talking about those mentally incapable of knowing right and wrong thanks to chemical imbalances in the brain, I'm talking about people so out of touch with moral decency that it's an embarrassment to be near them.

I'm talking about Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) co-leader Hashimoto Toru (surname first) who this week has come out his own torture chamber cell to tell the world that he thinks that Japan's need for comfort women during World War II was necessary. He also mentioned something about having legalized brothels for US military personnel on Okinawa.

Legalized prostitution for a military charged with protecting Japan - on one hand - versus forced sex slaves for a military that was aggressively trying to make itself the absolute ruler of Asia, on the other hand.

Maybe the most important thing to ask here is why Japan continues to elect dumbass mothereffers to its political offices?

I know not all Japanese politicians are asses - I know a few who seem like decent human beings.

Now... in Japan, to their credit, many politicians in the ruling and opposition parties think Hashimoto is a dick and are attempting to distance themselves from him, as there is great concern that his comments will cause a backlash for the Nippon Ishin party that will take down them down during the upcoming Upper House elections.

You'll notice that the concern for those comments, is still self-serving.

Speaking of self-serving... despite Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) believing in Japanese nationalism, he says that his ruling party - the Liberal Democratic Party - has a different view on sex slaves than the Osaka mayor, who says that the comfort women issue was settled in a 1965 treaty with South Korea.

Hashimoto - more than once this past week - has said that while the forced sex slaves (comfort women) underwent much pain and suffering, and that Japan needed to reflect on what it did - but adds that the comfort women system was necessary needs to be understood within the context of the times.

"I did not say that the comfort women system was necessary today. If the Second World War were to occur now, (a similar system) probably wouldn’t be enacted, and nobody would approve of the kind of comfort women system Japan had back then," he says.

Wow.

He is correct in saying that no one in Japan would approve of such a thing, but I wonder if the average person in Japan knew about the comfort woman set-up during WWII would have approved of it - on the grounds of common decency?

We have to respect the context of WWII and accept that the behavior of Japan was appropriate during WWII?

No we don't!

Japan like Nazi Germany performed many barbarous acts. Since when is rape and acceptable act?

Look... Genghis Khan raped and pillaged his way across Asia. He was a great warrior - true... but does that man that the slaughter of innocents was a correct act? No.

Just because Japan needed to perform upkeep on the morale of its military during WWII, and did so by allowing its soldiers to screw sex slaves, does that make it right during a war? No fricking way!

It's called a war crime... and every single person who aided and abetted and took part in the humiliation of comfort women should have been suitably punished a long time ago.

Anyone believing that just because Japan apologized via a treaty 50 years ago, that it is okay to say that the times or era justified the actions is so out of touch with reality, it's not even funny.

It's like saying I had a loaded gun in my person when I robbed a bank, so I had the right to shoot people.
Now... Hashimoto does provide a caveat...

"During the Korean and Vietnam wars, local women were recruited by the U.S. as prostitutes for the military, although official U.S. policy was that the women and men were acting on their own," Hashimoto explains.

Official US policy says the men were acting on their own. Uh-huh.

Look... it has come out that the US while in Vietnam, had pockets of military personnel go above and beyond standard war efforts and performed some horrific war crimes of their own against the local population.

And... just because they did - regardless of context, or that era in time - it doesn't mean they were right. They were wrong.

Japan was wrong.

Maybe something was lost in the translation, but: earlier this month, Hashimoto told American reps in Okinawa that perhaps that U.S. military personnel there should make more use of sex establishments as a way of controlling their sexual urges.

Now, Hashimoto says that he did not TELL the U.S. that it should use such facilities, or to build such facilities, but he did say it was a SUGGESTION.

Oh, Hashimoto-san... semantics. Your suggestion implies that it is a good idea. I realize that by suggesting something you aren't saying it should be done, only that you would not be offended if the US took your advice.

Sexual urges. People have sexual urges everyday, and I believe that the vast majority of us do not act on them for fear of what society would think of us. Hell... you don't even want to know how many times I saw a woman and said - hey, I'd like to have sex with her... but you know what? I don't act on those urges. I don't have to go out and rape anyone. I don't need to visit my local brothel where there are forcibly confined women just to get my rocks off (thank you internet porn). And, I don't even need a brothel where the women are NOT forced into prostitution.
During interviews for a sexretary, I would grab onto her tits and force her back against the wall... 

I've been to Holland. I've been to Reno, Nevada in the US. And you know what... just because something is legalized (prostitution), I still don't have to make use of it.

Hashimoto-san... I believe you have the right - as does any person in the world - to offer an opinion, to say what is on their mind... and while it is YOUR opinion, and thus always correct, you can still be wrong.

You, sir, are wrong.

I have dated women in the sex-trade industry here in Canada. And when I say dated, I mean I have gone out to dinner, slept with them and NOT had to pay them money. I'm no prude.Do I think that their chosen profession was a safe one? No. But all of these women chose that profession. They weren't forced into it.

Some believe they are - I'm broke. If that was their reason - shut the eff up and go work at McDonalds.

The women I knew - they had a plan, and executed it to near perfection. It's just sex.

But forced prostitution... that's sex for the guy doing the raping... but not for the women having it forced upon her. I'm pretty sure that having someone draft a treaty relating to your forced role as a sex slave for hundreds of Japanese soldiers isn't really going to do much for one's health and welfare - physically, emotionally or mentally. I'm going to opine that it was scarring.

And to have some douche say that the comfort women were necessary isn't quite in touch with reality.

And what the fug is he doing opining about this topic anyway? Maybe the US needs to get a tighter lid on its personnel in Japan - true. Before Christmas, I was in rapid conversation with a US military officer in the Middle East. We both shook our collective head at the misdeeds of soldiers... and even though one incident is one too many, it's not the whole freaking military that is getting drunk and causing mayhem. It was a few people.

By that same token - not every Japanese soldier partook of the comfort women services offered. Many did. Many more did not.

By that same token - not every Japanese politician thinks the way Hashimoto does... Many do, I am sure, but most do not.

Seriously... what if some other Asian country - oh. let's say China invades Japan and conquers it. Would Hashimoto be okay with China forcible using Japanese women - says his family members as forced sex slaves for its soldiers?

No? Because it's 2013?It's all about perspective, of which Hashimoto clearly does not have the right one.

Whatever. Japan... I'm thinking you guys need to do a better job of electing people who actually are politically savvy. No more idiots, please.

Man... this guy's comments really piss me off.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Death In The Family

Well... he finally went and did it. Died that is.

My dog, Buster, died this afternoon, while I was away at a local trade show.

Every night for the past several months, when I got up to go to bed at 1AM, I would go over to where he lay on the couch and would give his head a rub, just in case he wouldn't be alive in the morning.

But, every morning, he kept getting up and acting like the good dog that he is - often like an old dog, but not like one who was going to die that day.

I kind of always expected he would go quietly in his sleep.

But no...

It wasn't such a bad thing... this afternoon after my wife frantically tried to get a hold of me at the convention because she needed the kiddie car seat to take our son to a dentist appointment later, she got ready to leave the house... saw Buster wagging his tail at the front door and said, 'Okay, come on - let's go see Andrew."

And they did. I met them outside the convention center, they drove me to my car, I gave them the car seat, they drove me back to the front of the center (it was all about a kilometer away!), I said good-bye to my wife and then gave Buster a good head rub and a cheek scratch - and he drooled on my shirt as he rubbed his head on my sleeve.

Colette said something, I leaned in to answer - something about bringing Buster into the convention hall with me, and me answering that it might be fun to watch him run amok inside. I stood up, gave him another good head rub and neck scratch, said 'See-ya, Buster' and turned and went back to work.

On the way home he barfed and voided his bowels all over the back of the car. Colette put him in the backyard while she cleaned the car... and then walked over to the school to pick up our son... when she arrived back...Buster was dead in the tall grass in the backyard, under, appropriately enough, a dogwood tree.

My son has no concept of death and wasn't shook up about Buster's passing, and my wife is self-admittedly too clinical for emotion... me... I'm emotional. I ooze emotion and sometimes it seeps from my eyes.

By the time I got home, my wife had called a veterinary clinic -and all told it would have been close to $500 to dispose of Buster's body. The cost would have been the final indignity to me... he only cost $800 when I got him as a puppy! And, it would have broken the bank.

But... here in Toronto, if you bring in the body of your pet or wild critter to the city's Animal Services, they will dispose of the body for you for $39.55. That includes tax.

We put Buster in a tarp, lifted him up onto a kid's wagon and moved him to the back of the just cleaned car and then drove Buster to the back of Animal Services where a City worker and I lifted him up onto a gurney, and we walked away.

I'm pretty sure I was stunned. I was stunned by how simple, efficient and cost-conscious the City was in helping us with Buster. We don't need his ashes. I don't need him stuffed. I don't want a gravestone. I was so bloody impressed with this City department that I forgot to say something to Buster... which made me shed a tear or two behind the sunglasses I wear.

But... at least he and I shared a goodbye earlier today. I told you he was a good dog. It was like he knew, and he wanted one more car ride to see me one last time.

Sorta cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Japanese Ninjago LEGO Robots

I'm still at a trade show for work, and I'm tired from all of the running around and glad-handing I have been doing. As such, my brain has been on the mute switch since getting home. Or perhaps it's still the numbness felt after watching my hockey team die an agonizing death.

Or maybe I'm just feeling a bit lazy...

Regardless... I have more LEGO models to show you - models that you can still purchase and build yourself. From the Ninjago line, come a pair of exo-skeleton robots with a distinctly Japanese feel to them. Perhaps because it's a 'ninja-go' build.

Those of you who read regularly know that I have previously written a nice history of Japanese robots, and if you care to be impressed, read HERE, HERE and HERE. Hell, there are more that I have written on robots, and if you want, you can search them out on this blog by typing in the word 'robot' in the search box located under the main blog title (the image of the boy peeing).

What I like about these LEGO robots are the fact that it has a driver, a ninja who sits at the controls so that it can fight the bad guys.

In the photo above, the exo-skeleton robot has a left hand and a right hand with four rocket missile launchers. But really, the most cool thing about it are the two golden katana swords at the top of the frame.

In the photo below, it's a much larger robotic exo-skeleton, and also has a pair of gold katana swords at the shoulders, but key for this golden robot, is its HUGE golden sword with the red grip. I also think the mock white Japanese-style hat - which I have flipped slightly upward - is a nice touch.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LEGO Goes Japanese?

 
Because I am still beat up emotionally by the Leafs loss and a long day of hitting on women at a trade show, I thought I would show you some of the Japanese characters I have built with LEGO.

Yes, the ninja are pretty much all from kits of the Ninjago sets or the much older LEGO System sets from the early 1990s, but I did once purchase torso, legs, heads and even hats and swords that I could use to build different looking people to populate some as yet un-built world - though I have used all these figures in the dioramas I have built and shown you all in the past (click HERE).

Aside from purchasing clothing ranging from warrior to peasant to merchant to nobleman, I also tried to make women (use a triangular base to create a dress), and kids, who have shorter than usual legs. But the true key to making Japanese figures, are the faces on the heads.

This may seem like a whacked-out proposition, but the wrong facial expression completely destroys a LEGO minifig (Mini-figure) look. For example, LEGO made a few China-based sets, as well as samurai and ninja sets... it would surprise you, but there is indeed a facial difference between the two. A big difference.

But... even if you do have what appears to be a more Chinese-looking face, I've found the inclusion of a hat can alter that equation... you don't have to have every minifig facing the same direction when building a diorama.

Whatever...

I'm just saying that you can actually make LEGO minifigs with a decidedly Japanese look. Look at the topmost photo... the minifig in the middle (blue) - he looks Japanese. The face of the blacksmith beside him, not so much... is it the eyebrows?

Look at the clothing in the top photo BELOW: high school girl in sailor suit clothing and beside her - a CHINESE coat in green, but the eyebrows...

A key dress feature is also the wrap around obi belts - complete with a dagger tucked in the waist...  

Anyhow...Here are some of the minifigures - obviously I have a created sets based on FEUDAL Japan:



Cheers
Andrew Joseph