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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Pros And Cons Of Ramen Noodles

As we could probably guess, there are many things that occur in prison that no one really wants the outside world to know about.

For example… if you’re a man who gets off on anal sex, odds are 1 in No. 2 that you will experience it when in prison. I doubt if it’s going to be as pleasurable an experience as you had hoped, but then again, it is prison.

In the U.S. prison system—according to an August 22, 2016 online article from UK’s The Guardian, thanks to cost cutbacks, prisoners don’t get served as much food as they used to, and are bartering packages of ramen noodles as prison currency rather than cigarettes or anal lube.

I’m kidding about the lube—I doubt any is used or required in prison.

But ramen noodles! Yeah! Ramen noodles—aka Japanese wheat noodles in a pack with soup mix are heated with added hot water for a delicious hot meal.

Anyone else curious about how they get hot water for this in prison? I don't see anyone having a kettle available for scalding that roomie with sleep apnea. Or are they simply using cold water? From their toilet? Man - I have no idea.

I eat mine hot, adding an egg or two to the mix as the hot water cooks the ramen et al. I might add bits of some left over dinner meat to make it even more tasty. I have options.

According to University of Arizona sociology doctoral candidate Michael Gibson-Light who interviewed nearly 60 inmates over a one-year period at one State prison—assume Arizona—he says that ramen noodle packs have surpassed tobacco as prison currency.

I don’t know if they were just screwing around with him or not, but Gibson-Light says that the prisoners spend their day-time working and exercising and thus burn a lot of calories, and the ramen noodles can provide them with the caloric kick they need.

(I have always wondered why prisons provide prisoners with free weights... that help them get bigger and more muscular... and stronger. I've used weights, and I always felt that being angry when lifting made things easier... I would think that prison's might want to find ways to not make the prisoners larger and angrier. But that's just me thinking out loud in an effort to be witty.) 

In fact, there’s a book released in 2015 called: Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories From Behind Bars, authored by former inmate Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez, who was imprisoned for 10+ years on weapons charges.

Apparently Goose was inspired to write the book after a race riot between Blacks and Latinos in the prison was ended after they all decided cook a feast together—mostly with ramen noodles. Where did the meat come from? Ramone and Curtiss?  

Anyhow, at that prison where Gibson-Light interviewed, he found that after the prison had switched its food preparations from one company to another, there was less food to go around, citing the previous menu of three hot meals a day, to the current two hot meals and a cold meal during weekdays, and only two meals per day on the weekend.

That sucks. I know it’s prison and all that, but that’s not cool.

As you may know, many prisons have been phasing out smoking privileges for inmates, and as such other means of prison currency began to be considered, such as stamps and envelopes. I’m guessing that the U.S. Mail must have it’s most steadying purchase of such materials from the prison system since the advent of e-mail.

Anyhow, food has, in many instances supplanted those other currencies, though I would suggest that adding some vegetables to the ramen noodle contents might be the best of both worlds, but I would assume one would have to be a very rich inmate.

What will a pack of ramen noodles get you—I’m assuming those smaller packs?

Well, how about one week of bunk cleaning?

Getting someone to do your laundry?

Gambling? I’ll raise that onion with a pack of beef ramen.

The prison commissary, where one can purchase certain items from one's prison paycheck—can you receive actual money from relatives? Oh... that would be a bad thing if that information got around—one can purchase a pack of ramen noodles for US $0.59. (about ¥61, as of August 30, 2016).

That seems reasonable.

However, a sweater might cost US $10.81 (¥1,114.15). Did you know you could get that same sweater via trade for two packs of ramen?That apparently was the going rate for a sweater in the Arizona prison. Really. Do you need a sweater in an Arizona prison?

How screwed up is that? If you had the money to purchase a sweater, you could have instead purchased 18.3 packs of ramen noodles from the commissary.

I’m guessing that not everyone in prison is a rocket scientist, if they are passing up that type of opportunity to get rich.

You buy up 18 packs of ramen, sell or trade them for neat things like toothpaste or toilet brush shivs, trading up constantly for a few packs of ramen plus a miniature cannon, trading the ramen and other stuff like prison blueprints for keys to the prison laundry truck and presto, not purchasing a sweater will, after a few days, provide you with a prison break!

Unless you freeze to death in your solitary confinement cell for operating your illegal black market commissary.

Better you should buy the 18 packs of ramen and trade them for boxing lessons. Or a dress. Your choice.
  
Of course, just like the real world, there’s also a prison black market, where inmates can purchase ramen noodle packs on credit… and failure to pay back the loan can result in a beating or worse.

Yup… people have been killed over ramen noodles. I mean it’s tasty and all that, but c’mon.

Boxing lessons. Or eat the ramen and really focus on building up your muscles. Legs for running, arms for fighting, and your gluteus maximus in case everyone who ‘likes’ you is stronger and faster than you.

Anyhow, I have a relative who’s an ex-con. A few years out of prison, the guy now legally makes more money than I do by half…. and me with my seven year's post-secondary education. I really screwed up.

Banzai,
Andrew "Brown Market" Joseph
PS: Should I have called this blog: “Ramen Is The New Black”?
I enjoyed that real show for a couple of years.
PPS: The image at the top is apparently the best of both worlds for someone in prison, as the bather gets ready for a hot time in the old cell tonight.  Man... he better be careful... he could clog up he prison's only hot tub.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

WWE Star & Manager Mr. Fuji Dead

For fans of the WWE and it's previous better moniker of the WWF, sad news: Mr. Fuji was passed away at the age of 82.

Born in Hawaii as a Japanese American as Harry Fujiwara on May 4, 1934 in Honolulu, solidly-built wrestler was more famous for being the evil Mr. Fuji who would throw salt (like a sumo wrestler) into the eyes of his opponent, blinding them so they could be easily pinned.

Uh, you do know this is sports entertainment, right?

Debuting in 1965 as a wrestler under the name Mr. Fujiwara, winning many championships.

When he debuted with the WWF in 1972, he became a heel (bad guy) wrestler, teaming up with Professor Toru Tanaka (you might known him as the ice-staking, razor hockey stick swinging ‘stalker’ in the Arnold Swartzenegger movie “The Running Man”) and managed by the Grand Wizard - one of my all-time favorite managers! Both gentlemen preceded Fujiwara.

After throwing salt into opponent eyes, Mr. Fuji’s famous finishing moves include the:
  • Kamikaze Clothesline (it’s a lariat, which is similar to a clothesline, except the attacking wrestler runs at the opponent and wraps the arm around upper chest and neck to force them to the ground, and
  • The Cobra Clutch - I always loved that one! You can look up wrestling maneuvers HERE.
Along with The Grand Wizard, Mr. Fuji was managed by Classy Freddie Blassie and Lou Albano (the fat dude with rubber bands in his hair from the Cyndi Lauper videos). Blassie did voice-over work on the classic Dr. Demento song by Johnny Legend called “Pencil Neck Geek” - a song I still know by heart though I haven’t heard it in decades. HERE.

When Mr. Fuji retired in 1985 - pretty much just before wrestling became a big bucks enterprise - he became a heel manager, continuing to blind opponent wrestlers with salt in the eyes, or maybe whacking them with his walking cane.

From that time on, he wore the black tuxedo and bowler hat, and it you weren’t that familiar with who he was, you’d swear he was Oddjob from the 1970s James Bond flicks.

Wrestlers managed by Mr. Fuji are:
  • George The Animal Steel -Andrew… like… George…(nod-nod);
  • Don The Magnificent Muraco;
  • Cowboy Bob Orton - quack, quack… someone will get that joke;
  • The Moondogs;
  • Killer Khan;
  • Jim The Anvil Neidhart (best beard ever);
  • Sika (one half of the Wild Samoans);
  • Kamala the Ugandan Headhunter;
  • Demolition, featuring Ax, Smash and Crush;
  • The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord) - I admit to not knowing who they are as a tag team. I do individually;
  • The Berzerker;
  • The Orient Express, featuring Pat Tanaka, Akio Sato and Kato;
  • Crush (as a single);
  • Yokozuna - big guy died young. I have no idea how the ring was able to sustain his weight;
  • Owen Hart - I was watching the pay-per-view when he fell to his death during some stupid entrance;
  • Davey Boy Smith, one half of the British Bulldogs. Died young;
  • Jeff Jarrett - hated that guy, which means he was great at his job of being a heel.

Mr. Fuji was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.

No official cause of death was given, but let's hope it was old age - having the old ticker explode while on a bender at a cat house in Reno.

Probably not. He was always so quiet, and sneaky quiet... he'd never go out like that.

Anyhow… Mr. Fuji… thanks for the entertainment. Back in the days before the WWE/WWF became the behemoth it is, professional wrestling-entertainment was a lot of fun, and Mr. Fuji was a huge part of that. Domo arigato.

From parts unknown,
Andrew “Gorgeous George” Joseph
PS: I no longer watch the weekly programs as I used to, but I have flipped the channel to let my son see what's going on. Just last light he tapped his bent right elbow with the palm of his left and attempted to drop it on his mother who was lying on the couch. Apparently that was my fault for letting him see that stuff in the first place. I'm snickering as I write this. I had to teach him that it's actually fake - which elicited a huge "Awwwwww", and showed him how they really do the elbow drop and punches.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Irish Girl A Kick-Butt Samurai

Meet nine-year-old Jesse Jane McParland, a diminutive little girl from Ireland who may now be looking to kill me for calling her a "little girl" like it was a negative thing.

Her nickname is the "Golden Dragon" and she is a double WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations) champion (Euros, too), six-time WKO (World Karate & Kickboxing Commission) champion, and three-time WOMMA (World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes)... obviously for her age-group.

Although as a younger youngster she took up ballet and Irish dancing—because that's what parents think all girls want to do, she saw a martial arts demonstration and immediately moved into that figuring it was more her style.

Going out on a limb, here, but I think she was right.

Check out her bad @$$ routine here - volume is not required but is a heck of a lot of fun:

So... using her sword, I believe she is performing kenjutsu ((剣術), which covers all of the schools of Japanese swordsmanship.

Kenjutsu originated within the samurai warrior class during the feudal era of Japan, and literally is defined as being "the method, or technique, of the sword" - in contrast to kendo (which I did and enjoyed, which means "the way of the sword."

Since I wasn't that great at kendo, I have no idea what that all really means, as my instruction was in Japanese, and I didn't understand a damn thing unless it was visually shown to me. I'm a visual guy. You show me yous, I'll show you mine. See?

Anyhow, away from my dumb ego and back to the Golden Dragon...

I believe she also appeared on Britain's Got Talent, doing reasonably well her her sword routine. 

I’m guessing she is using the smaller wakizishi (脇差) style of Nihonto (Japanese sword), and not the longer katana—the kid is nine, after all… anyhow, the wakizashi blade is usually 30- to 60-centimeters (12- to 24-inches) in length.

I'm also guessing that the blade isn't sharp, but what the heck do I know?

The point isn’t whether or not the kid is a superstar martial artist with a technique that could take out an army of rebel scum Japanese troublemakers, rather it’s about how much she scares the crap out of me.

Seriously… you just armed your kid, and then gave her training to kill you in a more effective manner. The only other equivalent I can come close to is buying a set of drums for your kid when you weren’t a drummer for Spinal Tap.

For me, McParland's routine is a complete winner if only for her final scream lamenting the deaths of her many enemies, and maybe for the way she bows, and walks backwards from the judges so as to not show any disrespect to them.

I'm sure there's something equally wicked from a Japanese girl, but was shown this video first by my friend Barb who insisted I watch Game Of Thrones because it was awesome. She was right.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Freedom Of Speech And An AJET Publication

One of my favorite letters sent to myself while editor of Tochigi-ken’s infamous Tatami Times newsletter for those on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme) was one sent to me for the June 1991 issue.

It was typed and even signed… and if one actually had the knowledge and experience, he would note that the signature was a pretty good likeness to whom it was purporting to be.

Because of the typed document, and the fact that someone knew enough to use the name - it had to be from a guy. The content even reads like a guy’s. I’m pretty sure I know who it is from. Except… now that I think of it, there was only ever ONE person who ever called me “An-do-roo”.

Maybe he’ll respond to this serious accusation. But it doesn’t sound like something he would have written.

Anyhow… here’s that Letter To The Editor:

Dear An-do-roo,
As a JET from another prefecture who is lucky enough to see the Tochigi Tatami Times fairly regularly I want to say how great the T.T. has been the last 3-4 months, especially considering how few AETs take the time to contribute.
The quality of articles and professionalism exhibited in the article that have been sent in are really something all JETs can be proud of. I really like the articles devoted to sexual matters and so-called “bathroom humor.”
The best example was the recent poopie article which was truly spellbinding, but we all know that something like that could only come from one of our chugakko ichi-nen-sei. Maybe you could have given credit to the 12-year-old mind that wrote it and to the guy who was lucky enough to get to translate it into English.
You also have a wide variety of subjects discussed, unlike Jay “I-cab-only-think-of-jokes-about-Northwest-Airlines-and Dan Quayle-but-that-seems-to-be-enough” Leno. Of course, if you’e long on space you could always run a few dozen more bicycle accident stories, I never get tired of those. Then too, there are always more condom pictures to consider. Those are always appropriate, well-appreciated and in good taste.
Also, a good magazine like the T.T. never smacks of hypocrisy. That’s why I’m always glad to see the “Lush of the Month” page glorifying drunkenness. I assume none of the JETs in Tochigi ever drinks too much, at least not the ones that criticize the Japanese for drinking excessively.
Well, that’s about it for now. I have to get back to editing my own magazine. I’m currently overseeing exciting research to find out if there is any correlation between nose picking, frequency of use of vulgarity and low IQ. Should be great reading.

Sincerely,
(signed first name only)
Larry Flint

P.S. If you don’t start getting more submissions for the next T.T. how about running a list of prostitute prices in Utsonomiya for your next edition? My list is out of date.

(Ed. note: For the uninformed, Larry is the publisher of Hustler magazine. It’s an adult-nudie book. Larry has long been a supporter of freedom of speech and of the press. He was shot and paralyzed by an Agnus Dei who objected to those rights.) (Or it’s a pseudonym.)

-30-


Okay, that's the end of that... 

So… if you were me, receiving submissions for a newsletter that you had to sometimes type up, but usually just had to photo copy (from and back) and staple, address, pay for mailing to send out to the provincial AJET community, what would you do if you received such a letter of comment?

It wasn’t signed - at least not really.

Then again, was it a scathing critique of the work you put into the magazine these past few months?

Or was it applauding some of the things you did, and critiquing some of the stuff that done.

I did add that wasn’t signed.

The infamous “poopie” article was something submitted by person's unknown. It was funny, and described different types of craps one makes. Was it appropriate for the newsletter? No. That’s me in 2016 saying that. At the time, who the hell was I to say what humor was tasteful and what wasn’t.

I was going to publish and let the audience decide. So I did. And some did. I applaud Larry Flynt.

But was it really a scathing critique? The writer obviously knew who Larry Flynt was, and correctly (or unluckily) surmised that I would too. After Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, Larry Flynt was the next well-known publisher of an adult magazine or three.

That editor’s note below the LOC… that was me making a point… that the real Larry Flynt believed in freedoms of speech and expression, and that he was shot (and paralyzed) by a ultra-extremist religious “Lamb of God” for sticking up for his right to do so. However... turns out that MY information was incorrect (though I did read what I wrote from a copy of Hustler!) In reality, Flynt was shot by an ultra white-supremacist who objected to an interracial photo in Hustler

Anyhow, the writer mentions the condom photo (guilty, mea culpa), the Lush of The Month, photo(s) submitted by JETs of their fellow JET(s) behaving drunk. Not my idea, but it was a popular feature from before I took over, and I kept the tradition up until no one sent in photos anymore. Imagine what it would be like nowadays with everyone (almost) having cellphones.  

So… it’s funny… the letter writer rips the person who submitted the Poopie story (for having written it or having stolen it from a Grade 1, 2 or 3 student), might be sarcastically helpful regarding the sexual matters and bathroom humor, criticizes an over-abundance of bicycle accident stories, implies that people who swear are nose-pickers and have a low IQ…

But again, chooses Larry Flynt as the persona to deliver his message.

I couldn’t tell if I was being peed upon or congratulated… which is the height of proper insulting. So kudos, there.

My response, however, trumped the letter… by knowing who and pointing out just what Larry Flynt was all about, I made my point without having to swear or pick my nose.

For me, this was like having a battle of wits against and unarmed opponent.

As a final aside… the letter writer miss-spelled Larry’s name.

It’s Flynt, not Flint.

You'll notice I spell it so throughout this blog, except for the letter itself, appearing as it was written and published.

At the time, I was pretty sure it was spelled incorrectly in the Letter, but I wasn’t sure. No internet back then.

That was why, in the Ed. note, I merely called him Larry. I recall reading in a copy of Hustler (he also put out Chic) that Larry had been shot and paralyzed. 

Somewhere with a magazine,
Andrew “I’m a magazine writer” Joseph
PS: I always signed my own stories. All writers are ego-maniacs.
PPS: The image above is of a guy that is ripped. I couldn't find an image of a magazine being ripped (double entendre).  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Looking for interesting things to write about, I’ve plumbed the depths to find stories and articles submitted to the local JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme newsletter, the Tatami Times for Tochigi-ken.

I naturally kept all the issues I was editor in chief of… and I am quite proud to state that even if the issues weren’t always the most chock-full of useful information, I did turn it into something as witty as such a brilliant magazine akin to National Lampoon (the Gold Standard of comedic magazines in the '80s and early '90s - that's when I read'em) I know, I certainly am not suffering from a lack of ego.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share a piece sent in and published by one Dan Brudos, who was leaving the JET Programme at the end of his contract in the summer of 1991.

Dan was always a funny guy, and I wish I knew him better.

It’s a helpful guide to the JTE’s (Japanese teacher’s of English) and how they can best handle their brand new gaijin, er AET (assistant English teacher) from a foreign land.

He paraphrased his opening title from the Douglas Adams book:

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish
or
How To Ensure The Local AET Will Remember Your School For A Long Time
  1. Make sure their desk chair is the broken one that no one else wants to sit in;
  2. Tell the students ahead of time that the AET’s English will be hard to understand. They should say ‘Wakarenai’ as often as possible;
  3. Change the AET’s schedule just as the bells chime;
  4. Change your lesson plan just after the bells chime;
  5. Tell the AET about both changes as you walk thru the door into class;
  6. At lunch time force students to sit next to him;
  7. Ask them again if they can use chopsticks;
  8. Dish your AET’s lunch early so that it can be served to them really cold;
  9. During cleaning time, have a group of students chant “Gaijin-da” in the hallways;
  10. Be surprised when your Australian AET doesn’t seem to know much about America.
If you want to be mentioned in the next letter your AET sends home, do all of these things on their first day and never let up.
-30-   

‘Wakarenai means “ I don’t know.” 

Dan’s Australian, so I knew there was a real good reason I liked him. Plus - Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy reference? C’mon! Yeah!

To be sure, I was never sure if Dan was being purposely witty in this helpful handout that should go to all the JTE’s or not.

Did he really get the crappy chair? Did they really have to force students to sit beside him at lunch? Really? He’s so cool! He’s Australian!

The chopsticks thing is actually kind of funny. They ask you that question as you are using it. My sad story is that I actually called a kid “bakayaro (stupid)” in a funny way as I pointed to my chopsticks moving a piece of konyakku into my mouth. Then I dropped it on my shirt. Apparently I can’t use chopsticks. Karma is a bee-yatch.

As for warning the students that the AET’s English will be difficult to understand - well… Dan is Australian. I mean everything sounds like “Geeyr", "G’day" and "Toss another shrimp on the barby, mate.” And I swear every other sentence has the word ‘beah’ in it, which I think means ‘beer’.

No… Aussie's can be difficult  to understand… unlike their southern cousins in Kiwiland…. but especially so after a few beah’s. Holy crap… the Scots too… especially when you get them talking about Football. It’s like, I know you speak English, but…. WTF!?

I’m kidding. Dan’s English was very easy to understand. I’m not kidding about the rest of Oz (or Scotland - I had a Glaswegian and a guy from Aberdeen sit beside me at work… two wild and wooly accents, and while I could pick up the odd word (usually ‘haggis’), it was difficult to understand any of their casual chats. 

Okay - Dan’s list: As a Canadian, I did resent the implication that just because I spoke English, that I must be from ‘Merica.

However, as a non-White Canadian, I was actually impressed that they didn’t immediately think I was from India. Yes, my parents are Indian, but I’ve never been there, don’t speak the language and don’t really care for the food more than once every few months.

Now, some idiot will read this and claim I can never be a Canadian because I’m not White. It’s fine. I’ll track you back easily enough. I’m preparing a list.

The student’s really chanted ‘gaijin-da’? Holy crap. Dan must have been posted to a single school out in the rural-est rural part of the country. That would suck if it happened once, let alone all the time.

If that happened to me, the teachers, principal, my board of education office would be having a discussion. That student(s) would be in soooo much trouble. My bosses and colleague’s would never have put up with crap like that. Never.

Again… I can only hope Dan was exaggerating.

I also want to point out that this adventure was from 1991, and while kids can be cruel and stupid in any era or country, seeing foreigners in torn and in school is no longer a big thing for most Japanese.

Anyhow… Dan Brudos… thank-you, wherever you are!

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Stars' Fault: Book Review And Free Offer - Updated

ED. Note - new launch date - one day later.

This blog affords me the opportunity to ‘chat’ with some very interesting people from time to time—readers, as well as those who I have known for years, allowing me the opportunity to reconnect.

Believe it or not, I relish each and every conversational fragment I have with you all.

One such person is John Box, a pseudonym, though I do know his real name. John is a writer.

He’s a fascinating individual who, as an American, lived in Japan and was essentially a sex boy at one of those nasty little clubs we’ve heard of, wished we had the courage to check out, but in the long run are kind of glad that we didn’t, because who needs the hassle.

Well… John Box is all about the hassle and the hustle, and he wrote one of the most fascinating books about the underbelly of Japan that I have ever read, entitled: American MaleWhore in Tokyo, under the pen name of Rowen Boozewell.

The guy has a lot of aliases. Aliasi? Whatever.

I’ve had plenty of time to get to know John, as well as someone can get to know someone when discussing books and conquests in Japan, so he surprised the heck out of me earlier this month when he asked if I would review his latest book called: The Stars’ Fault.

I knew what to expect, and when I read it I was blown away.

It wasn’t about Japan and sex and debauchery and booze and stuff like that, it was about a group of kids struggling with cancer.

I know…. holy crap, right?

Now, John’s story doesn’t delve deep into the ugliness of the disease or treatments, rather it’s about a group of kids in a cancer ward in a hospital hating the fact that they have cancer, but sharing themselves through a sci-fi book one of them has.

The Stars’ Fault is simply-written—that’s not a fault, by the way—and is a mere 66-page novella. 

It’s not going to win a Pulitzer Prize, then again, neither did any of Shakespeare’s works.

It’s kind of a funny story about kids with cancer, if that’s possible to say seeing as how I don’t have cancer (that was a close one, what with that nodule in my neck)… but as John notes, The Stars’ Fault is one part parody, two parts mindscrew, and three parts the best words.

Wait. I don’t understand that third part. Mindscrew. See?

The story alternates between the kids’ world and the sci-f world of the book, featuring a 10-year-old boy named Fen who is kind of a prick (yes, kid’s with cancer can still be jerks), and the captain of a space pioneer squadron who is fighting for the survival of HIS species.

It is actually a unique perspective on cancer and I applaud John Box for having the testicular fortitude to write the story.

Keep in mind the term “mindscrew”. I’m sure he would have preferred the term “mindfXXk” but this is a relatively clean blog.

The Stars’ Fault is being launched on Amazon, August 27, 2016, and it is FREE for readers of this blog for FIVE DAYS ONLY until August 31, 2016.

After that, it’s US$0.99, $CDN $1.29…

To quote John: “As long as Amazon doesn't pull a fast one on me, here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/guxb9kl."

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I enjoyed the story!

Kanpai!
Andrew Joseph

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Seedbombing - Japan's Ancient Farming Technique

Thailand, one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, is using an ancient Japanese farming technique to help it plant tree seeds over a wide swath of its deforested lands.

The technique is called ‘seedbombing’ , and owes its origins to the ancient Japanese practice known as tsuchi dango.

When? I don’t know… everyone just says “ancient” Japan, like we’re supposed to know what the fug that means. Like when? When ninja were kidnapping geisha and selling them to evil samurai while trying to avoid the mischievous nonsense of the kappa and oni?

Kappa are water spirits, but in reality are probably just river salamander, while oni if the Japanese term for ‘devils’.

Anyhow, when in Japan: in ancient times, Japanese farmers would create seed balls known as nendo dango (aka earth dumplings, 粘土 団子), that were a clump of different seeds encased in a ball of clay—volcanic red clay, if ya got it—that could have animal waste or plant detritus added to the balls, which where then taken by the farmer and dropped in an area where growth was required.

Each seed bomb would have everything a seed would need to grow, except water, though I suppose some liquid nutrient could be taken from the clay and waste added… but the point is, the farmer could drop his seedbomb, walk away and wait for the eventual rain to fall to grow the plants.

Anyhow, in the 1970s Fukuoka Masanobu (福岡 正信) authored multiple books on natural farming techniques, as he preferred no tilling, no herbicide/pesticide cultivation, creating the catch-phrase “Do-nothing farming” which is something I have done often enough in my backyard, always getting a decent crop of tomatoes, green and red peppers, chili peppers, corn, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, rhubarb and mint. I won’t even mention the peaches, pears, plums and (p)apples.

Fukuoka liked natural farming, and reintroduced Japanese farmers and more internationally, with the seedball technique.

It hasn't really caught on in a large-scale—I think it was used only a handful of times—but there have been a few instances where seedbombing has been utilized, examples... but mostly it is used by the urban gardener... or even the guerrilla gardener who sometimes builds and release their own seedbombs on local areas they feel are lacking in green.

I have nothing to say about that, except make sure, if you choose to do this, that it's legal.

Here's what you need to make your own seedbomb, a recipe I found over at http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Seed-Bomb/

Recipe:
  • Clay from your area if available or if clay unavailable in your area you can use crayola air dry clay and is found in Walmart for about $5.00 (used to protect the seeds from insects, birds, etc. that might eat them);
  • Water (For forming clay, do not water seed bomb when finished);
  • Seeds native to your area (Check with your local Nature Conservancy or your state's department of natural resources for which seeds/plants are native to your area)( buy seed mixtures of native flowers and plants. Not only will they grow well, they will not crowd out other plants, disrupt bird and insect populations, or do other environmental damage);
  • Compost or worm castings;
  • Yogurt container top or any large flat surface
For the dried red clay mix 5 parts clay with 1 part compost and 1 part flower seeds, put some careful drops of water into the mixture(make sure not to make it into a goopy sloppy mess!), Knead with hands into a ball, flatten it out and cut to desired size. Now just make into a small ball and let it dry in the sun. Now you have a red clay seed bomb.

Even with the seedbomb, there is still only a 70% success rate... though I suspect that's actually quite good.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I don't know where the image at the very top is originally from. I saw it on multiple websites.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Star Wars Rogue One: Japanese Movie Trailer

I’m a Star Trek and Star Wars fan - I mean, I just love a good sci-fi story.

Sadly, in my opinion, the third take on the revived Star Trek movies was very good for a television episode, but so-so for a movie blockbuster.

Star Wars… well… depending on whom one talks to, had three good movies (Episodes IV, V, VI), three dull and dismal affairs (Episodes I, II, II), and nice bounce back with Episode VII…  though some like my buddy Matthew question why so many lane jokes needed to be in the movie, and even why we needed Princess Leia and Han Solo… and yeah, why did we?

I read the comic books (once official canon according to God, er George Lucas, and have known for 20 years, that Han and Leia have twins (boy and a girl), and are the beginning of the Jedi (and the Light) making a comeback in that galaxy far, far away and still a long time ago…

The Star Wars universe has always been a marketing strategy juggernaut above anything else. Anyone else recall that strange creature in the Mos Eisely Cantina in Episode IV? No? Well now you can with his action figure.

It’s okay, I’m part of that. I was part of some fan club and purchased five members of the Cantina band (w/instruments), own a ghost (see-thru) version of Ben Kenobi, have Luke wearing an Imperial helmet and costume, and even have a Luke in black outfit that was given away to 10,000 people when Episode VI opened up in LA at some theater.

I also have two original Millennium Falcon star ships… one with original box (opened, though). Oversized, proximity action piggy banks, boxes and boxes of unopened characters, vehicles and scenes from the release of stuff in the early 1990s. plus lots of original action figures, scenes and vehicles from the original release. 

And I don’t even collect! At least I don’t think I do. I don’t ever recall going out of my way to purchase anything that I thought would be valuable, like I do with comic books… though I have to be able to enjoy what I’m collecting… I don’t get any joy from my Star Wars stuff. Never played with. Never displayed. I took over stuff my brother left behind and put it carefully aside.

Anyhow… as you should know, Star Wars is bringing out two more movies of its nine-part trilogy… something that Lucas had mentioned as his plan all the way back in the 1970s.

Oh yeah - I also have a first edition hard cover Star Wars novel with dust jacket written by Lucas. I swear I don’t collect Star Wars.

While the last two movie parts are a good five years away or so, in an effort to capitalize on the still large potential of the Star wars name, they will be releasing several movies that will independently stand, but are still part of the Star Wars canon and mythos.

The first movie is Star Wars Rogue One. In the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV), these were the fighter pilot squadron that somehow got their hands on the evil Empire’s construction plans for the Death Star 1.0… enabling those lovable Rebels to realize that s single torpedo in an air hole could potentially take out the entire planet killer. Poor Alderaan.

That’s what Star Wars Rogue One is about. And it looks good. Solid. Less childlike than some of the franchise’s recent efforts.

To celebrate, they released a trailer:



And then they released a slightly different one for Japanese audiences:


Since no one asked, in my opinion, Episodes I, II, III were criticized too harshly. Yeah, little Darth seems a bit stiff… the Jedi Council seem like pricks (which is what led to their downfall - pride) … and there was far too many scenes depicting boring Senate posturing. It also needed Natalie Portman wearing something skimpy. Just a wee bit of leg. Ankle even. She has nice ankles. Jar-Jar Binks… yeah… too stupidly annoying, but that’s okay. Me-sa tink he okie-dokie, numba one. He’s just continuing the tradition of aliens talking funny.

Recall how all the Warner Brothers characters from the Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies all had speech impediments - except Bugs… but he had a Brooklyn/Bronx accent… and Yosemite Sam, but he was vertically challenged and always wore a mask.

Disney? Squeaks, fer gawrsh sakes, and a duck that nobody understand. Goofy’s a dog (he was originally named Dippy Dawg) and he can talk, but Pluto the dog can’t. Weird stuff.

Anyhow… Star Wars… it’s just a story, folks. Enjoy it while you can, should we all live long enough.

Live long and prosper - d’oh - wrong one!

Oh well, the sentiment remains,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top by Jonathan Olley©Lucasfilm LFL 2016.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tales From Kevin Blackburn (and Myself) #2

While I await two to three weeks to pass until I can get my Acer touchscreen computer back from the manufacturer—it types everything backwards on the keyboard, and I can’t call up the touchscreen—I am limited to writing these blogs at lunch time at work.

It is the only way I have left to keep up my stupid streak of writing a blog every day since February of 2011.

I need to keep things short and sweet.

Without much further ado about nothing, allow me to represent a short piece written by Kevin Blackburn, a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) who lived in Batō (馬頭町, Batō-machi), Tochigi-ken, back in 1990-2.

As a CIR—well… I have no idea what they really do… and I don’t mean it as an insult - rather I’m sure duties vary from CIR person to CIR person.

Batō… this was a tiny little hamlet then (13,195 people as of 2003), that has since been merged with the hamlet of Ogawa (6,939 people as of 2003) to form the town of Nakagawa (which has a population of 16,956 as of 2015)…. which is down by 3,178 people in 12 years…

The Nakagawa area is getting older… and will, I feel, one day disappear… so all we’ll really have left will be Kevin’s thoughts.

But, in case I have not made things perfectly clear in the 7+ years I have been writing this blog: Every situation is different for anyone coming to and living in Japan… but, also… you can read all you want on Japan, and you are still going to get blown away by the complexity of Japanese society and culture.

Like all CIR’s, Kevin was damn-near fluent in Japanese writing, speaking and reading - and as such, one would assume he knew quite a lot about Japan.

From the September 1991 issue of Tochigi-ken AJET’s The Tatami Times monthly newsletter (as edited by me), we have Kevin Blackburn’s:

International Corner
The one serious question I am asked the most is, “What has been the most difficult thing about living in Japan?”
Without question, it is the rigidity of Japanese society.
There is a “way” to do everything, and that makes Japanese culture appealing.
The tea ceremony, the making of sushi, the wearing of a kimono—there is always a “way” to do it.
From a distance, it’s fascinating.
From the inside, it’s stifling.
There is also a way to cross the street, a way to raise your hand in class, and a way to use towels to wash dishes.
I am constantly causing problems by unintentional (and, occasionally intentional) breaking of these rules.
I held a party at my apartment for some high school students, and was thoroughly chastised by one student for using a drying-type cloth to wash my dishes,
Last month, I did not wear a hat when I helped plant rice.
I had more friction with the Japanese over that decision than at any other time in Japan.
You can’t plant rice without wearing a hat (I did, and the rice & I are fine).
It’s worse for the Japanese, who are expected to know and follow every rule.
I sometimes think my greatest value is in showing my coworkers that by looking at life from a broader perspective, not only will it be more enjoyable, but will be a more open approach to problem solving that Japan needs now.

-30-

Amen, Kevin. It’s the real reason I believe that us early JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme people were sent to Japan.

Teach English - sure… I guess… but really, it was to internationalize the Japanese.

When there were people who would take the time to stop, gawk, point and shout out: “Hora! Gaijin-da! (Look! A foreigner/outsider” as I rode my bicycle about Ohtawara, then surely the fact that it had diminished by the time I left was encouraging.

My Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) boss, Hanazaki-san (Mr. Hanazaki) would correct other Japanese people who dared to call me “gaijin”… telling them I was “An-do-ryu sensei (Andrew the teacher).

It was all about attempting to bring Japan out of this insular world it had lived in for (then) 120 years, and still kind of lives in.

Imagine… using the wrong cloth for washing and/or cleaning one’s dishes? Hell… I didn’t know this one, either!

I bet none of the male high school students at Kevin’s get-together knew about it either. I’m just guessing that anything to do with the kitchen would be the domain of the Japanese female. Yes, that’s a sexist comment, but Japan is still largely a sexist institution.

I was with Kevin - fug your rules. I never wore my indoor shoes in my apartment! I vacuumed the carpet! I kept it neat and tidy! If I didn’t want to wear my indoor shoes, I don’t have to.

If I want to wear my outdoor shoes inside, that’s my right, too!

Maybe these things were important to Japanese society 150 years ago when the world was muddier than it is now (no sidewalks, roads… cars, bicycles, trains)…

… but Japan could maybe do away with some of the rigidity that makes its people seem like they have a pickle up their butt (sometimes).

Wear a hat when planting rice. Why? I am going to assume that in this case it was to prevent Kevin from getting too much sun on his dainty complexion.

Talking to many women who were NOT farmers in my home town of Ohtawara (Big Rice Field Field)… the city so rural they had to have the word “field” in it twice”, to have a tan would imply that you have been out working in the sun… something only a peasant would do.

Of course, in Kevin’s case they may have simply wanted him to wear the proper clothing to avoid getting sunstroke.

To Kevin’s point of Japanese rigidity, I agree with him… but I wouldn’t really want to see it go the way of the __________ (insert extinct animal here), as I find these points of Japanese society and culture to be interesting.

Kevin made the fatal point, in my mind, of finding fault with the Japanese without also checking to see if similar faults exist within his own culture.

I’m not talking about the culture of Kevin, but rather a North American culture.

It’s true that I could pick up a bow and arrow and hit a target… but to do it the Japanese way is not only time-consuming in its form, but distracting in its zen. In Japan, it's all about form and substance - but mostly about form.

But why is there a “way” of doing things in Japan?

I am sure there are books and books on the subject: though the best I have ever read was Japaneseness (click HERE) available via www.stonebridge.com.

I would essentially assume that without order, there is chaos.

Look… us ‘westerners” know that you are supposed to hold the fork in one’s left, the knife in the right hand… that with the cutlery at a table setting, we use the implements from the outside in…. that you don’t tuck a napkin into one’s shirt collar, that you don’t swirl a glass of Merlot wine and chug it back, that you don’t slurp your soup or noodles… there are just a few of OUR rules. Maybe they differ from the Japanese… maybe they are the same.

At the home of some of my Toronto friends, I am expected to remove my shoes (though no indoor footwear is provided), but at other homes I can keep the shoes on. How do you know when to do what? Obviously always offer to take off the shoes… but wouldn’t it be better if there was just one rule?

You’d always be correct.

But being told to keep your shoes ON is fare less stressful to be told by some hysterical friend that they had just cleaned that floor! and then you see them rush to drag a mop and sponge to wipe away the vestigial traces of your invisible footprints as you struggle to take off your shoes and sheepishly place back at the entrance way.

Then again… in the grand scheme of things… who really gives a shid.

I’ve never done that faux pas, but whatever. It's happened before. Heck, it's probably happening somewhere in the world right now.

I have enough class to know that if I really had to, I could avoid a scene and simply clean the house again later. I mean… I’ll have to eventually, right?

Also, to put the boot to Japanese rigidity, I kind of like the fact that as a person who has a home, I have the option of wearing or not wearing footwear in my place, and offer the same courtesy to any guest unlucky enough to come over.

Kevin, buddy… my point is that we are/were just guests in Japan. It’s not really our place to complain about how bad Japan is at something (which you didn’t really do), but rather it’s up to us to adapt.

Hey… at least we all know there’s such a thing as a washing towel and a drying towel, and never the twain shall meet.

I would bet that many a homemaker around the world would ALSO have two separate towels for two separate jobs. If you think about it guys, to use one for the other IS kind of gross.
Try not to use a washcloth on your dishes that isn't normally used for washing even a hot dish like this. 
Yes… the Japanese have a lot of rules—as do us westerners (Do you hand her the money or place it atop the back of the toilet?), but I do agree, Kevin, that Japan seems to have a lot of rules of stiff etiquette.

Too much? Too many? No longer make sense? Probably. Let the revolution begin.

Kanpai, Kevin!
Andrew Joseph
PS: Apparently this length of blog is what passes as short and sweet for me. Sighhhhh.

Kevin Blackburn’s The Lighter Side #1


One of my friends in Japan was a dude named Kevin Blackburn, who was part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations).

Kevin looked like a brainy nerd with his short curly brown hair and glasses with a thin frame, but dammit, appearances were indeed deceiving with Kevin.

Maybe he was a nerd. Hell. I’m a nerd, despite my love of sports and sudden (as of Japan) ability to talk to women… but Kevin… as a CIR he had a very high Japanese-language ability… speaking, writing and reading.

In the photo above singing Country Roads karaoke, from left are: Kevin, myself, Jeff Seaman, Matthew Hall, and Tim Mould. In my defense, while I have great legs, I had never sung karaoke before. For a reason. I am pretty sure we were all advocates of singing after drinking a lot of beer. I am also sure I—as a suburban punk—had only ever heard Country Roads once before in my life when my bosses at the board of education began singing it one night at an after-party office party. 

Kevin: he was also very charming, polite, intelligent, witty and extremely funny. He would not shy away from having a beer with you… in short, I don’t have a problem on saying (ego aside) that he was a lot like me, except he was better at all things Japanese.

Or was he?

Kevin lived in Tochigi-ken, like myself… and while I was in a small city called Ohtawara-shi (Big Rice-field Field City) that had everyone joke about how do inaka (rural) the place must be, Kevin lived in Batō (馬頭町, Batō-machi).

While  Batō had some 13,195 people there as of 2003, by 2005, it merged (with to create the town of Nakagawa, but I assume that the Batō district still exists within that area. While Kevin was there, Batō had just begun a sister-city relationship with Horseheads, New York, U.S. - perhaps because Batō could be translated to mean “horsehead”. Not to worry, Nakagawa still keeps up appearances with its sister city.

Nakagawa as an entity, as of 2015, is hardly much larger than Batō was 10 years previous, with a town population of 16,956, that I suspect will decrease or dwindle as its population ages, with the youth moving away for work. 

From what I recall, Batō back in 1990 wasn’t really a town… or even a village… I recall (still) Kevin calling it a ‘hamlet’. He also said there was very, very little of significance in Batō… though I may be incorrectly putting words in his mouth 26-years later. I had thought there was some sort of pottery scene there, but a perusal of the Internet turns up nothing there.

Anyhow… Kevin. Being a friend and friendly, Kevin sent me some humorous stories about himself and his situation in Batō for inclusion in the Tochigi-ken AJET newsletter (The Tatami Times), edited by yours truly.

Kevin’s work is entitled: The Lighter Side

Here’s one of them from the September 1991:

Murphy’s Law # 43J says:
If Kevin hangs his laundry out to dry, it will rain.
At first, I was discouraged by this discovery.
Now I’ve applied the scientific method to the problem, and through experimentation have found a foolproof way to change the weather in Batō.
If Batō’s gone too long without rain, I can generally end the drought by hanging out a full load of laundry.
A couple of pairs of underwear (my own, mind you!) and a pillowcase guarantee a light sprinkle.
One pair apparently does nothing (although the high school girls walking by stop and giggle).
If I put my futon (Japanese bedding) on the veranda to air out, a thunderstorm is guaranteed, and generally starts when I am in a meeting I can’t sneak out of.

-30-

Short and to the point.

In Japan, I was known as the Ame Otoko (rain man). Yeah, it sure seemed to rain a heck of a lot in the Ohtawara/northern Tochigi-ken area, but even when I traveled to… hells, anywhere, you could be sure that I would bring along the rain clouds to make sure I destroyed everyone’s chance at a good day.

For three years in Japan, I have so very few photographs that depict a blue sky. There’s always a grey cloud somewhere, and truthfully, those blue skies would clear up and the usual grey, rain clouds would roll in after me.

I’m the King of Japan - and when I reign, it pours!

Kevin, in his neat little write-up, seems to have forgotten a major contributor to his scientific theory: he forgot to include the proximity of the Ame Otoko!

Or, perhaps Kevin had a little bit of the Japanese rain god inside him as well!

Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get together all that often. We would have swamped our local area in rainwater.

I have one more Kevin story for tomorrow.

Kanpai, Kebin-san!
Andrew Joseph

Monday, August 15, 2016

Blog Filler #2

Image result for Japan airline poster My keyboard is typing backwards.

?naem  tahw eeS

So just a picture for another day.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph