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Friday, January 31, 2014

Quitting Game Not An Option For Nintendo Boss

Same as it ever was… same as it ever was.

You either have to admire his pluck and stubbornness or see that he's just someone who enjoys a paycheck.

Video game maker Nintendo’s president Iwata Satoru (surname first - and pictured in the middle in the photo above, flanked by Mario on left and Yoshi on right) says that even though the company has been suffering from dismal sales of its games and systems he will not resign.

In fact… he won't even cut prices.

In fact, and you'll love this one, he vows to stick to the company's old ways.

That's right, big guy… stick with what got you to the top… innovation. Uh… you did mean more innovative stuff, right? Like basically creating an arcade video game industry… or creating a home video game industry… right?

Or did you mean living off former glories with outdated thinking circa the 1970s? Pssst… Iwata-san… I think that's what everyone believes you meant.

Iwata did say that Nintendo plans to enter the health care industry.

Whaaaaaaa-?! Or, WTF?!

Nintendo in the health care industry. Let me see if I can picture that. Yup: You're sick and dying and on your last legs… you step into a Nintendo hospital, give them 100 gold coins and you get an extra life. Awesome!

Iwata did not provide any details of the what he called his “quality of life” business plans. All we know is that it won’t be a wearable device.

Hmmm… maybe Nintendo will hide golden stars all over the world, and when you find one you become invulnerable for a short time - maybe even long enough to take over some islands?!

Now… the news story DID say Nintendo was getting into the health care business… and not getting into creating health care video games… BUT, the same article makes it a point of declaring that "Kyoto-based Nintendo already offers fitness games."

By putting THAT in the story, I'm a little less sure about the veracity of the 'health care industry' statement. Thanks, Associated Press (I say sarcastically).

For some reason - and I don't understand this - video game makers are being hit hard (they aren't making as much money as they used to) by the fact that people are spending lots of money on smartphones and other mobile devices… as people just can't seem to stop diddling their hand-held devices, rather than sitting comfortably in their home playing a video game on a large screen television.

Yes… give me eye strain and weak thumbs anyway. D'uh.

Anyhow… Nintendo has resisted coming into the 2014s because it does not want to change its business to incorporate tablets and smartphones.

Well… actually… that's good. Why follow the crowd? The only complaint would be to hurry the fug up and start your new market segment.

"Nintendo has value because it is different from others," says Iwata.

Nice mustache!
Note that he said that one day after he - and other top Nintendo executives took a pay cut… as a form of hari-kari (ritualistic suicide) for the company's poor 2013 performance.

Now… wait a minute… just how badly did Nintendo do?

Well… apparently between April-December 2013 the company ONLY made ¥10.2 billion (US $99 million). That's profit. Not sales… not before costs… profit.

So why the pay cut?

Well… for the same period in 2012, the company had profits of ¥14.55 billion (US $141.78 million).
Hmm. I would be upset if I lost ¥4.2 billion, but Nintendo did not LOSE ¥4.2 billion… it MADE ¥10.2 billion… it still made a profit, just not one as large as it hoped.

What sort of fudged up world is this? World #FU47 in Donkey Kong Country? (I made that board up).

The guy - Iwate - still made a 10-billion profit. No wonder he's not quitting. No wonder he wants to stick to the old ways - the old ways still know how to make a ¥10-billion profit!!!

Personally, I think Nintendo failed with the Wii game system. Yes, it had the innovative game play where gamers are encouraged to move… but screw that! If I wanted to exercise I'd go for a walk… but I don't! I want mind-numbing video game reality that helps me forget that the real world sucks. Sucks Donkey Kongs.

Any video game player worth his salt will tell you that the Wii systems are video game systems for people who don't usually play video games. Like little kids and grand parents (Me - I'm a parent and I play video games).

None of them will ever kill a zombie. In fact, one day they will all be killed by a dyslexic zombie. The Wii running game will not help them at all. Briiiiii-aaaaannnnnssss.
The graphics and game play are kiddie. If you wanted a real video game system, you played X-Box or PS3/4.

But… you have to love the fact that Nintendo came up with the motion control system.

Anyhow… Nintendo's Wii U sales are sucking. The company says it has dropped its 2014 forecast from 9-million units to just 2.8 million units… which tells me they need a new game plan.

In fact… earlier this month, Nintendo says it forecasts a LOSS of ¥25 billion (US $242 million) for the fiscal year through March 2014. It had earlier forecast an optimistic (in my mind) profit of ¥55 billion (US $532 million).

Nintendo, 25 years ago you may have created the Famicon - Family Computer video game system (image above)… but let's face it… it wasn't a family system… it was a teenager video game system. So why try and create and market the Wii as a real family video game system?

Teenagers will buy all the new, cool video games… not families for their weekly game night… all they need is bowling… or tennis…. or (yawn).

Microsoft's X-Box and Sony's Play Station… the ones the teenagers and young adults prefer (and older adults young at heart)… you can play rock guitar, kill zombies, aliens, smack a home run against 'real characters', drive real cars rather than race against oil-slick dropping turtles… There's simply not enough room for the Wii player to grow as they - the kids - turn into ugly teenagers.

Okay… that's my 25-cents (US $0.22) worth,
Andrew Joseph

One In Four Tsunami Kids Needs Psychiatric Help

You read that headline and go - wow… is that all? Only 25 per cent?!

On March 11, 2011 a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake spawned a massive tsunami that crashed along the northeast coast of Japan, responsible for the deaths of over 18,000 people… tearing apart families.

A recent study has found that 25.9 per cent of kids aged between three and five suffer from a host of psychological problems such as: vertigo, nausea and headaches, with some exhibiting worrying behavior such as violence or withdrawal.

I assume those physical illnesses are psychosomatic effects of the trauma felt after seeing friends being swept out, homes destroyed, family separation, living in make-shift housing, or even seeing the huge wall of water sweeping towards them. (I took a lot of psychology courses in university.)

I watch the videos of the tsunami every once in a while to re-ground myself back into reality, and it still gives me the shivers. I can only imagine the horror faced by the people who survived it. And the kids… ugh. It hurts.

The study says that with such alarmingly high numbers or REPORTED trauma - and you know there are plenty who will attempt to hide it - there is a fear that there are not enough psychiatrists to handle the numbers… and unless the kids receive help quickly, it could impact upon them negatively for the rat of their life.

Hmmm… I actually wrote about this scenario back in 2011 HERE (talking about a coping center)... and especially HERE in 2012 (where I discuss mental health issues after the tsunami) with another blog HERE (with some great information from Andrew Grimes of Tokyo Counseling Services). Maybe these mental health folks who want to do studies should read this blog for some ideas.

According to Kure Shigeo (surname first), a professor at the Tohoku University School of Medicine who led the study, some of the negatives that could impact the children include: developmental disorders and learning disabilities, which would affect academic achievement and employment prospects, "as they may have trouble in communicating with other people due to the influence of experiences related to the disaster."

Kure says that the study looked at 178 children from Iwate-ken, Miyagi-ken and Fukushima-ken, after receiving permission from their parents or guardians. They used an globally-recognized child behavior checklist as they interviewed the kids between September 2012 and June 2013.

Unfortunately, only 178 kids were part of the study. I would imagine that more were asked to be in the study - but there is still a stigma regarding mental health and the fear of not being considered 'normal' that played a huge role in that relatively small sample size.

But don't blame the Japanese... that crap goes on in every single country in the world... though I'm thinking that that attitude is changing - slowly - for the better.

The findings show that in those three areas, kids requiring some level of psychiatric help are up to three times that of kids in areas unaffected by the tsunami, who are generally in the 8% range.

"I was surprised at the percentage of children who need medical care. I didn’t expect it would be this high," Kure said.

And I say "WTF??!!" These kids experienced horror, horror and more horror, and the Japanese psych professional didn't expect it to be traumatizing for them?

Can we get a therapist in who has a clue and doesn't need to be spoon-fed data?

He now realizes that things are worse than feared: "I imagine there are lots of children, who seemingly are leading normal lives but show behavior that needs a doctor’s attention, for example, waking up suddenly at midnight or biting their nails."

An official at Japan's Health Ministry said it would closely examine the final report when it is produced in around two months’ time and consider whether current psychiatric healthcare provision is meeting needs.

Ah… good… and what if it isn't? Where the hell do you get the psychiatric professionals from? You need specialists who deal with children… that's a special training… so… what do you do? Do you ask for international help? Have someone who doesn't speak Japanese come in and talk and listen to the kids?

And… Japan is not the only country with issues like this. Look at any country scarred by war, famine, disease, disaster… poor economics…

And... I can tell you for a fact, the victims are not necessarily just the ones who die.

And... sometimes, it's not just the ones who suffer trauma that are the victims, but also the ones that are around the one's with trauma.

Japan is going to need a lot of help still.

No cheers here.
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guide Cats Help Tourists In Japan

One of my girlfriends, Alison W., sent me a link to a blog article that nearly made me barf up a hairball thanks to its near-offensive cuteness.

It's an article about cats… and not just about how cats are considered cute in Japan (kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii), but rather about how cute cats in Japan are being turned into tour guides.

I know, I know… you want to know how anyone could take the laziest or stubbornest or smartest creature on the planet and make them do… well anything.

My 20-year-old cat, Spek, who has become mine since the wife can not amuse her the way I do—I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand—has not done anything since I first met her 15 years ago. In this case I am talking about the cat.

She eats, sleeps, poops, barfs, and can do any of those four things while sitting on my lap. Again... the cat.

But a tour guide? I don't think my cat knows her head from her ass. Check that… I've seen her lick that, so she must know something.

I know that in my head I have given Miss Spek the voice of a Southern Belle living in Victorian England (really!), so if she could stop sleeping and get a real job (the cat), there is a possibility she would have a wonderful voice for it.

And then… then I actually read the description of the tour guide job the cats perform… and apparently they are part of a video or something like that (I didn't read the article that closely) that uses cats instead of real Japanese people doing things a Japanese person might do in Japan.

Check out the photo above... those cats are doing hanami - cherry blossom viewing... apparently drunk on sake (rice wine)... just like the Japanese people do every Spring!  

It's cute.

Aw crap. I just bought into the program. I think I've got cat scratch fever - dann-dann-dannnnnn!

Anyhow… here… check out the blog here at Kotaku.

And… thank you, Alison W., for extending your kitty curiosity to me. Meow.

Andrew Joseph

The Supreme Truth About The Aum Shinrikyo - Part 4

Welcome to the fourth and final blog entry on Japan's Aum Shinrikyo religious and terrorist cult.

Four, in Japanese, is "shi", pronounced 'she' ... which verbally sounds exactly like the Japanese word for 'death'.

So... in Parts 1, 2 and 3, we looked at the origins of the Aum Shinrikyo cult religion, its terrorist attack on a suburb, and its terrorist attacks (plural) on the Tokyo subway lines—the latter event probably being the one that truly brought international focus onto the cult who believed that in order to save the world, they needed to destroy it first.

Now... the Tokyo sarin gas attacks in the subway system was done on March 20, 1995. What you may NOT have known was that it may have been a retaliatory gesture on part of the cult.

One month earlier, the Aum Shinrikyo kidnapped Kariya Kiyoshi (surname first), the 69-year-old brother of an escaped cult member. Now... you might think that all the cult wanted was their returned member, but no... these guys took their victim to a compound at Kamikuishiki near Mt. Fuji, killed him, and then destroyed the body in a microwave-powered incinerator and then took the few remains and tossed them into Lake Kawaguchi.

Now... Kariya was smart. The Aum Shinrikyo had previously called him on the telephone threatening him if they did not tell him where his sister, the former member, was hiding out, that something bad would happen to him. As such, he left a note that said: "If I disappear, I was abducted by Aum Shinrikyo."

He even said 'disappear'... wow.

The police were informed after Kariya Kiyoshi disappeared, and were making plans to raid all of the Aum Shinrikyo facilities across Japan simultaneously.

It is believed that the Aum found out about the upcoming raids, and to perhaps deflect attention, they ran the subway terrorist attack on March 20, 1995 (Part 3) as a preemptive move.

But... it didn't work.

From March 23 - September 4, 1995, Japanese police made over 500 raids on suspected Aum Shinrikyo facilities and compounds: 398 arrests and over 66,000 confiscated items.
Of those captured, they faced a variety of charges, including: murder, conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, kidnapping, obstruction of justice, harboring, and theft, to petty traffic and licensing offenses.

While one would think that having the cops onto you would cause one to lie low, the Aum Shinrikyo was still brazen and aggressive - basically thinking itself above such petty attention from the police.

And yet... on March 30, 1995 police chief of the National Police Agency Kunimatsu Takaji (surname first) was shot four times near his home - wounded seriously, he survived.

On April 23, 1995, in a JFK/Jack Ruby-like event, a Yakuza member from the Yamaguchi-guchi, Jo Hiroyuki (surname first) stabbed Aum Shinrikyo's Ministry of Science leader Hideo Murai (surname first), in front of a crowd including 100 reporters and cameras outside the cult's Tokyo headquarters. Like Ruby, no motive was given.

May 6, 1995, another chemical weapon—sodium cyanide—was attempted at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Two plastic bags... one with two-liters of powdered sodium cyanide; one with 1.5 liters of diluted sulfuric acid. When found, they were both on fire and promptly extinguished... luckily, because when the chemicals mix, you get hydrogen cyanide gas - which in the amount present could have killed 10-20,000 people.

Up until this time, lots of cult members had been arrested, but the police were biding their time, trying to ensure that any case against the leaders was going to stick.

On May 16, 1995, cult leader Asahara Shoko (surname first) was arrested, found hiding behind a wall in the Kamikushiki facility. Not necessarily in retaliation, because these things take time to create and deliver, but a letter bomb mailed to the Governor of Metropolitan Tokyo later that night exploded in the hands of his secretary, blowing off the fingers of his left hand. Five members of the Aum Shinrikyo, including its Intelligence Chief Inoue, were indicted for producing and posting the explosive five days earlier on May 11.

Apparently another gas attack was stymied on July 4, 1995 - another hydrogen cyanide attempt with four delivery systems at various washrooms at Kayaba-cho, Tokyo and Ginza subway stations and the Japanese Railway suburban Shinjuku station. None of the gas bombs worked.

So... Asahara was initially charged with 27 counts of murder on 13 separate indictments, as well as 16 other offenses. His trial was unimaginatively dubbed "the trial of the century" by the press, ignoring some 95 other years of stellar trial work in other countries.
In my hometown of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, protestors demand that the Aum Shinrikyo cult be removed from their city. Holy sh!t. It was that close...

Eventually, perhaps to be removed from the death penalty, other members of the Aum Shinrikyo testified against Asahara, and he was eventually found guilty of 13 counts of murder... including the Sakamoto family that was involved in the initial news broadcast regarding the bad stuff going on in the cult (see HERE near the bottom).

Asahara was tried and found guilty and sentenced to death in on February 27, 2004... which makes you wonder why things took so long... Despite appeals, he still sits on death row. There is no scheduled hanging date, as Japan tends to do these things in secret... Well, actually, his death sentence has been put on hold as of June 2012... which makes me think that he's providing information on the cult and cult members...

The Weed Of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit
All said and done, 12 members of the Aum Shinrikyo—including cult leader Asahara Shoko (I dated a Shoko... isn't that a girl's name?!) were given death sentences.

As for the five idjits who tried to use the sarin gas in the Tokyo subway attacks (Read about that HERE), here's what's going on with them:
  1. Hayashi Ikuo (surname first) apparently provided help to the police regarding the sarin gas attacks and cult activities, so he did NOT get the death sentence... and only received life imprisonment.
  2. Hirose Kenichi (surname first) was sentenced to death... he appealed, but the Supreme Court of Japan on November 6, 2009 upheld the sentence.
  3. Toyoda Toru (surname first) was sentenced to death, appealed and lost, upheld by the Supreme Court of Japan on November 6, 2009.
  4. Yokoyama Masato (surname first) was sentenced to death in 1999.
  5. Hayashi Yasuo (surname first)... he actually evaded capture for 21 months, but was eventually found on Ishigaki Island, about 1,000 miles from Tokyo. He was sentenced to death, but has since appealed...
Japan's longest running manhunt finally ended on June 15, 2012 with the arrest of Takahashi Katsuya (surname first), who was the former bodyguard of cult leader Asahara Shoko.

I found a website that offers data on the arrests, so let me direct you THERE to Religion News Blog
A wanted poster of Aum Shinrikyo cult members... some already captured.
Numerous trials involving Aum Shinrikyo members are scheduled to be held during 2014 - hence my initial decision top find about a little bit more about the cult.

In conclusion... the Aum Shinrikyo does not exist anymore - at least not in name. On October 10, 1995 the group was stripped of its religious legal entity status and declared bankruptcy in 1996. But, thanks to funding from its computer business and donations - all carefully watched by authorities - the group continues... and, actually changed its name in February 2000 to that of Aleph.

Apparently religious texts related to controversial Vajrayana Buddhist doctrines and Bible were removed. They even apologized to the victims of the sarin gas attack and established a special compensations fund. Provocative publications and activities that alarmed society during Aum Shinrikyo times are no longer in place.

Hmmm... it almost makes me wonder why they don't take their revised doctrines and start a new religion - rather than change the name as they have done.

With any luck, this will be the last time I have to write about the Aum Shinrikyo.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If You Unhook It, They Will Cum

Geez-Louise, Japan! What with Japanese youth already not all that in on having sex (See HERE), now a bra manufacturer goes and makes things even MORE difficult for the guys that want to do the nasty?!

Manufactured by Ravijour, and part of an publicity campaign for its 10th anniversary, the company has come up with, a chastity belt for boobs.

I'm not talking about stupid people - or maybe I am - but rather a lockable bra that can only be opened if the one doing the opening is "in love".

The "True Love Tester" bra uses sensors and a special doo-hickie that is linked to a mobile APP device that will analyze the pattern and speed of the user's heart beat in the heat of the moment - is the heart all a flutter when she sees her man?" - and will unlock her treasure chest for her man to plunder.

The bra's ability to measure heart rate and changing pattern and the duration of the change, will, say the manufactures, allow the bra to be able to tell when a woman is jogging, flirting, horny, or in love.

Okay… I can see all of that… but at the end of the night… how the fug does a woman take off the bra when she needs a change of undergarment?

The bra wants to make sure that the woman is really in love before it releases the sweater puppets! Why do I foresee a lot of women wearing these bras ending up having sex with their top on?

Or… rather… if there is a Japanese woman who would wear such a device upon her heaving bosom… chances are pretty good she's either going to accidentally electrocute her nipples (which I hear can be either quite painful or quite pleasurable) or she's simply not going to have sex again as her bra simply might be too finicky for a any man.

"Nay, He is not the one for you," says B.R.A., as it secretly harbors a forbidden love for its mistress.

The good news here, guys, is that the odds are pretty good that if you are picking up a woman for some raunchy sex in an alley or love hotel, she's probably not ever going to wear a bra like this - or panties. Just saying.

Of course, as mentioned… this is a one off.

No kidding…

But I mean, it's merely a publicity stunt… I just don't think it's a particularly good publicity stunt even if marketers and advertisers say there is no such thing as 'bad press'. To that I say - horse hockey!

Why make a bra like this? It shows you don't really have a great grip on the feelings of society.

I mean, come on! Men already fumble and bumble trying to unhook a bra - I know I've had to rip more than a few off with my teeth - but now we (men) need to find out if the woman is in love with us first?

What if she isn't? Game over. Make a note to buy more tissue before heading home to watch porn on the computer.

Anyhow… let's grab a closer look at this bra.

So… if the app… determines that the woman's heart pattern and rate are within the pre-determined parameters indicating she is in love, the clasp at the front of the bra pops open allowing for things to get out of hand, or into hand, if you will.

“We wanted to do something that wouldn’t just appeal to people who wear our products, but also to lift the romantic mood between men and women,” spokeswoman Yuka Tamura said.

In a promotional video (below), viewers are shown how the glittering gold lame bra conceals sensors placed inside the cup, which send wireless signals to a smartphone.

Gold lame? Any woman wearing gold lame is not in a romantic mood! She's rich and horny - two of my favorite combinations.

And did you get a look at the bra? Is it just me, but does it look huge… like a pair of gold-painted shaved coconuts?

And WTF?!! Does the woman need a smart phone to get laid now? What is someone steals your phone? Will women sudden;y be popping their bra open at inopportune times thanks to trigger-happy thieves?

And… are women so dumb nowadays that they need an app to tell them they are in love? Riiii-iiight… and when I used the Love Tester game at a strip club not only did it determine that I was a Hot Tamale love god, but it also have me an STD.

Stunt or not, having to be told by a machine that you are in love or not in love smacks of Orwellian poppycock, which, I suppose, is the only poppy a woman wearing this bra is going to get in her.

It is “a revolutionary bra that knows truly how women feel,” the video says.
Let's hope this is not the wave of the future, because all I can say is that when setting the bar, Ravijour has set the bra low with its chastitty belt.

Here… watch the video on YouTube.

Andrew Joseph

The Artist Alfred Stevens And Japonism

What's in a painting? Apparently NOT all of the work I wrote yesterday, as it mysteriously disappeared - much like some of my work on Aum did a few days ago... and with the automatic saves, it's not like it shouldn't be here even if I forgot to save it. It's too bad... it had my raw thoughts on a painting... and that will be impossible to recapture. sucks.

So... let's look at the term Japonism, and an artist who whole-heartedly embraced it before it became a 'thing'.

Japonism comes from the French term Japonisme, and was first officially recognized as a term in 1872.

As you might guess (maybe), it relates to Japanese influence on European art, culture and aesthetics. There are, of course, different meanings, but really the above covers it.

Until 1868, Japan was a closed off society, but for nearly 20 years before that, the U.S. had been making aggressive inroads to Japan to convince (at cannon-point) that they should stop being an isolationist country and open up their doors to economic trade with the US.

By 1868 and the Meiji era's abolishment of the warring shogun-rule and re-establishment of the Emperor as the supreme ruler, Japan was soon doing global trade with anyone with something to sell.

Japan... this mysterious country and with its strange customs, became a fascinating subject for the world at large.

Whether it was its furniture, clothing, art or people, the Japanese were the 'it girl' of the 1860s and 1870s. Even if people weren't turning Japanese, they were turned on by all things Japanese.

While people became fascinated by Japan's ukiyo-e artwork - its lack of perspective or use of shadow, compiled with flat areas with strong but limited colors, artists around the world learned. They also learned that when it came to Japanese artwork, it was not necessary to have the subject placed square in the middle of the frame... the eye will follow what the eye will follow.

I should try and recreate what I wrote here previously.

First off, I have no artistic talent. I can sort of draw a stick figure... maybe a car, a rocket ship and an elephant's behind. I can paint... but only models... and aside from some Dungeons and Dragons 25mm figurines that I would put up against anyone else on this planet, I lack painting knowledge.

I only know what I know and, when it comes to legitimate art, like paintings, sculpture et al I don't know why I like certain things, except that I do.

I do have about 35 pieces of art... 33 paintings and two sculptures (One Native Indian made of ironwood, and one Inuit made of whale baleen). My paintings are oil, oil and wax, acrylic and pastel and range in style from: landscape, allegory, impressionism, abstract and more.

Just like a woman, I have no idea what it is that turns me on, suffice to say that certain art (and women) do. I likes what I likes.

But... I should state that the artwork needs to tell me a story. Why is the Mona Lisa considered a great painting? Surely it's simply a painting of a moon-faced woman... but apparently it's that smirk she has. Smile? Nay... smirk. It's like... he... Leonardo... I'm not wearing any panties. It's the viewer wondering just what it is she is thinking... not to mention just who the hell she really is... history is not sure who the subject is.

For me... the story is key. Probably because I am a story-teller... more so than a writer, in my own head.

There has to be a story that captures my imagination.

I hate still life... bowls of fruit sitting there all pretty... but if there was a bad apple in the bunch... or an any crawling on a leaf... then... then we have the beginnings of a story.

In fact... one of my paintings... an Oleg Koulikov oil and wax from his Houses series... that has a nuclear green background... trees in autumn foliage... and then blackened windows, dead trees... and it makes one wonder just what the hell is going on in the painting. What's the story? I love it.

I hate nudes reclining on a chaise lounge. Boring. But... give me an image of a woman facing away from me, legs slightly spread and arms pushed up high against the wall... holding up the building or looking to be frisked... and you have a story.

I have a portrait oil painting from the 1840s... it's a man in a powdered wig sitting on a bench, bent elbow propping up the disconsolate head... but here's the thing... he has one leg shackled to the bench! Why? There's the story... and one's imagination can run wild.

It's why I have chosen to express the term Japonism with a painting by Belgian painter extrodinarie, Alfred Stevens, who was one of the first artists to incorporate his love affair with Japan into his artwork...

While Stevens was a collector of many forms of furniture and exotica from around the world, his Japanese love affair revolved more feminine things... as in real, human life, the female form certainly is more desirous of more delicate and beautiful things than man. Stevens loves such items as kimonos, umbrellas, fans, folding screens... and as evidenced by the artwork above... masks.

Just like a woman you see for the very first time, you don't know why, but she takes your breath away... and when you get closer you find she has taken more than that. That's what happened to me when I first saw the above painting - The Japanese Mask - by Alfred Stevens.

Two weeks ago or less, I was searching to see if Japan had an artistic period to rival European art in the 1600s... a Rembrandt... or a da Vinci, even... but sadly no... until western influences rained down upon Japan in the 1870s, Japanese art was pretty much the same. Ukiyo-e portraits, landscapes and animal nature; screens; and scrolls... even while certain artists obviously excelled at their art, it was always done in a similar style.

Now... let's take a closer look at The Japanese Mask.

Truthfully, I don't even see the mask when I first look at the canvas. I don't even see the pale redhead front and center... no... my eyes are immediately drawn in towards that sultry brunette.

Now... those of you who know me, know I have a thing for redheads, but there is something about that brunette that is absolutely captivating.

You know what I love about the brunette in this painting... the initial love... it's her brains. I sure do want to suck on her intelligence. I mean look at her... you can see the intense look of concentration in her smoky brown eyes, with her pondering head perched delicately upon the back of her hand.

She's concentrating with inquisitive intelligence deep into the laughing eyes of the Japanese Noh mask... the devilish contenance of the Japanese theater mask perched a-way off to the side of the painting. Even though the painting dares call itself The Japanese Mask, Stevens has learned from Japanese artistic stylings to not place such devices front and center... he allows us to find the mask by following the sultry stare of the brunette.

Why doesn't my eye follow the look of the redhead? It's because she looks afraid of the mask... which is why she has her hand clutched to the thigh (Helloooooo, nurse!) of the brunette.

As well... the light rose or peach color of the redhead's dress... it's a color too close to her delicate skin tone... which is pale enough as it is... but... it's what the redhead is hiding that makes me want to see more. She's hiding, or rather, obscuring the brunette. If I didn't want to see more of the brainy brunette before, I certainly want to see more of her now. She is the enigma studying, to her, an enigma.

Just look at how she is dressed. I know it's difficult, because we are only afforded glints and gleans of her. We see the smart yellow ruffled dress (again... I'm no expert in women's fashions... though I have some of lingerie thanks to THIS website)... and we see the diamond (?) wrist jewelery along with her headpiece amongst her sexy piled up hair... but as ever... I am drawn in by her eyes... hypnotized by the devil mask or hypnotizing the devil?

I know, I know... I should get a room for four hours. I could... the brunette challenges me... draws me in... it's funny... the Japanese mask is almost arbitrary... it's so dark, and pushed almost to the edge of the painting that while it has captured the fancy of the ladies, it's the ladies - and one in particular, which capture our fancy.

Completed in 1877, The Japanese Mask is merely one of several Japan-inspired paintings by Alfred Stevens (May 11, 1823 - August 24, 1906) - and I will take another look at some of his other Japonism-inspired paintings after I get some juice.

I suppose, depending on one's own preference, others might not think this one is all that special... but... if I were to chose one piece of art to hold up my wall... this... The Japanese Mask would be it. Sexy and intriguing. What a story! 

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Canadian Eco-Scientist Apologetic About Mistaken Fukushima Warning

Here's an article that I enjoyed reading... it's  essentially about David Suzuki... Canada's own, but one of the most trusted global environmentalists...

Back in October of 2013, at the University of Alberta, he spoke at a symposium where by he predicted that 'a second earthquake hitting Fukushima's Dai-ichi nuclear reactor facility would mean the evacuation of North America's entire west coast.'

Needless to say, Suzuki's remark caused quite the stir.

He said, at the time: "I have seen a paper which says that if, in fact, the fourth (nuclear) plant goes under in an earthquake and those (fuel) rods are exposed, it's bye-bye Japan and everybody on the West Coast of North America should evacuate.

"If that isn't terrifying, I don't know what is."

That paper, Suzuki mentions was the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report.

But... that report did NOT actually mention anything about the need to evacuate the West Coast of North America.

Suzuki is the second speaker in the video below... and he's the one on the far left of the two speakers on stage.

To Suzuki's credit, he has since realized his mistake. In an e-mail to British Columbia, Canada's, The Province newspaper, he says:

"I regret having said it, although my sense of potential widespread disaster remains and the need for an urgent international response to dealing with the spent rods at Fukushima also remains."

You know... David's Canadian of Japanese decent, but I would still feel better if no one of Japanese decent ever used the word regret or regrettable again. 

Anyhow... an honest mistake... but still...

Sorry David... I love ya, but I still believe that while better safety controls are required when dealing with any sort of technology, I do not believe that fear mongering is the way to promote an agenda of a safer Earth.

Andrew Joseph

Japanese Fairy Tales: The Adventures of Kintaro, The Golden Boy

Because I mistakenly left my work for tonight's blog at work, I'm going to shoot out another Japanese Fairy Tale. I am completely pissed off, because.. well, the paragraphs at the end of this story recount my day - in brief.     

This version of the Japanese stories was translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki, back in 1908, and appeared in print as Japanese Fairy Tales.

The Adventures of Kintaro, The Golden Boy

Long, long ago there lived in Kyoto a brave soldier named Kintoki. Now he fell in love with a beautiful lady and married her. Not long after this, through the malice of some of his friends, he fell into disgrace at Court and was dismissed. This misfortune so preyed upon his mind that he did not long survive his dismissal — he died, leaving behind him his beauti­ful young wife to face the world alone. Fearing her husband's enemies, she fled to the Ashigara Mountains as soon as her husband was dead, and there in the lonely forests where no one ever came except woodcutters, a little boy was born to her. She called him Kintaro or the Golden Boy. Now the remarkable thing about this child was his great strength, and as he grew older he grew stronger and stronger, so that by the time he was eight years of age he was able to cut down trees as quickly as the woodcutters. Then his mother gave him a large axe, and he used to go out in the forest and help the woodcutters, who called him "Wonder-child," and his mother the "Old Nurse of the Mountains," for they did not know her high rank. Another favorite pastime of Kintaro's was to smash up rocks and stones. You can imagine how strong he was!

Quite unlike other boys, Kintaro grew up all alone in the mountain wilds, and as he had no companions he made friends with all the animals and learned to understand them and to speak their strange talk. By degrees they all grew quite tame and looked upon Kintaro as their master, and he used them as his servants and messengers. But his special retainers were the bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare.

The bear often brought her cubs for Kintaro to romp with, and when she came to take them home Kintaro would get on her back and have a ride to her cave. He was very fond of the deer too, and would often put his arms round the creature's neck to show that its long horns did not frighten him. Great was the fun they all had together.

One day, as usual, Kintaro went up into the mountains, followed by the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare. After walking for some time up hill and down dale and over rough roads, they suddenly came out upon a wide and grassy plain covered with pretty wild flowers.

Here, indeed, was a nice place where they could all have a good romp together. The deer rubbed his horns against a tree for pleasure, the monkey scratched his back, the hare smoothed his long ears, and the bear gave a grunt of satisfaction.

Kintaro said, "Here is a place for a good game. What do you all say to a wrestling match?"

The bear being the biggest and the oldest, answered for the others:
"That will be great fun," said she. "I am the strongest animal, so I will make the platform for the wrestlers"; and she set to work with a will to dig up the earth and to pat it into shape.

"All right," said Kintaro, "I will look on while you all wrestle with each other. I shall give a prize to the one who wins in each round."

"What fun! we shall all try to get the prize," said the bear.

The deer, the monkey and the hare set to work to help the bear raise the platform on which they were all to wrestle. When this was finished, Kintaro cried out:
"Now begin! the monkey and the hare shall open the sports and the deer shall be umpire. Now, Mr. Deer, you are to be umpire!"

"He, he!" answered the deer. "I will be umpire. Now, Mr. Monkey and Mr. Hare, if you are both ready, please walk out and take your places on the platform."

Then the monkey and the hare both hopped out, quickly and nimbly, to the wrestling platform. The deer, as umpire, stood between the two and called out:
"Red-back! Red-back!" (this to the monkey, who has a red back in Japan). "Are you ready?"

Then he turned to the hare:
"Long-ears! Long-ears! are you ready?"

Both the little wrestlers faced each other while the deer raised a leaf on high as signal. When he dropped the leaf the monkey and the hare rushed upon each other, crying "Yoisho, yoisho!"

While the monkey and the hare wrestled, the deer called out encouragingly or shouted warnings to each of them as the hare or the monkey pushed each other near the edge of the platform and were in danger of falling over.

"Red-back! Red-back! stand your ground!" called out the deer.

"Long-ears! Long-ears! be strong, be strong — don't let the monkey beat you!" grunted the bear.

So the monkey and the hare, encouraged by their friends, tried their very hardest to beat each other. The hare at last gained on the monkey. The monkey seemed to trip up, and the hare giving him a good push sent him flying off the platform with a bound. The poor monkey sat up rubbing his back, and his face was very long as he screamed angrily, "Oh, oh! how my back hurts — my back hurts me!"

"Seeing the monkey in this plight on the ground, the deer holding his leaf on high said:
"This round is finished — the hare has won."

Kintaro then opened his luncheon box and taking out a rice-dumpling, gave it to the hare saying:
"Here is your prize, and you have earned it well!"

Now the monkey got up looking very cross, and as they say in Japan " his stomach stood up," for he felt that he had not been fairly beaten. So he said to Kintaro and the others who were standing by:
"I have not been fairly beaten. My foot slipped and I tumbled. Please give me another chance and let the hare wrestle with me for another round."

Then Kintaro consenting, the hare and the monkey began to wrestle again. Now, as everyone knows, the monkey is a cunning animal by nature, and he made up his mind to get the best of the hare this time if it were possible. To do this, he thought that the best and surest way would be to get hold of the hare's long ear. This he soon managed to do. The hare was quite thrown off his guard by the pain of having his long ear pulled so hard, and the monkey seizing his opportunity at last, caught hold of one of the hare's legs and sent him sprawling in the middle of the dais. The monkey was now the victor and received a rice-dumpling from Kintaro, which pleased him so much that he quite forgot his sore back.

The deer now came up and asked the hare if he felt ready for another round, and if so whether he would try a round with him, and the hare consenting, they both stood up to wrestle. The bear came forward as umpire.

The deer with long horns and the hare with long ears, it must have been an amusing sight to those who watched this queer match. Suddenly the deer went down on one of his knees, and the bear with the leaf on high declared him beaten. In this way, sometimes the one, sometimes the other, conquering, the little party amused themselves till they were tired.

At last Kintaro got up and said:
"This is enough for to-day. What a nice place we have found for wrestling; let us come again to-morrow. Now, we will all go home. Come along!" So saying, Kintaro led the way while the animals followed.

After walking some little distance they came out on the banks of a river flowing through a valley. Kintaro and his four furry friends stood and looked about for some means of crossing. Bridge there was none. The river rushed " don, don " on its way. All the animals looked serious, wondering how they could cross the stream and get home that evening.

Kintaro, however, said:
"Wait a moment. I will make a good bridge for you all in a few minutes."

The bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare looked at him to see what he would do now.

Kintaro went from one tree to another that grew along the river bank. At last he stopped in front of a very large tree that was growing at the water's edge. He took hold of the trunk and pulled it with all his might, once, twice, thrice! At the third pull, so great was Kintaro's strength that the roots gave way, and "mèri, mèri" (crash, crash), over fell the tree, forming an excellent bridge across the stream.

"There," said Kintaro, "what do you think of my bridge? It is quite safe, so follow me," and he stepped across first. The four animals followed. Never had they seen anyone so strong before, and they all exclaimed:

"How strong he is! how strong he is!"

While all this was going on by the river a woodcutter, who happened to be standing on a rock overlooking the stream, had seen all that passed beneath him. He watched with great surprise Kintaro and his animal companions. He rubbed his eyes to be sure that he was not dreaming when he saw this boy pull over a tree by the roots and throw it across the stream to form a bridge.

The woodcutter, for such he seemed to be by his dress, marvelled at all he saw, and said to himself:

"This is no ordinary child. Whose son can he be? I will find out before this day is done."

He hastened after the strange party and crossed the bridge behind them. Kintaro knew nothing of all this, and little guessed that he was being followed. On reaching the other side of the river he and the animals separated, they to their lairs in the woods and he to his mother, who was waiting for him.

As soon as he entered the cottage, which stood like a matchbox in the heart of the pine-woods, he went to greet his mother, saying:
"Okasan (mother), here I am!"

"O, Kimbo!" said his mother with a bright smile, glad to see her boy home safe after the long day. "How late you are to-day. I feared that something had happened to you. Where have you been all the time?"

"I took my four friends, the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare, up into the hills, and there I made them try a wrestling match, to see which was the strongest. We all enjoyed the sport, and are going to the same place to-morrow to have another match."

"Now tell me who is the strongest of all?" asked his mother, pretending not to know.

"Oh, mother," said Kintaro, "don't you know that I am the strongest? There was no need for me to wrestle with any of them."

"But next to you then, who is the strongest?"

"The bear comes next to me in strength," answered Kintaro.

"And after the bear?" asked his mother again.

"Next to the bear it is not easy to say which is the strongest, for the deer, the monkey, and the hare all seem to be as strong as each other," said Kintaro.

Suddenly Kintaro and his mother were startled by a voice from outside.

"Listen to me, little boy! Next time you go, take this old man with you to the wrestling match. He would like to join the sport too!"

It was the old woodcutter who had followed Kintaro from the river. He slipped off his clogs and entered the cottage. Yama-uba and her son were both taken by surprise. They looked at the intruder wonderingly, and saw that he was someone they had never seen before.

"Who are you?" they both exclaimed.

Then the woodcutter laughed and said:

"It does not matter who I am yet, but let us see who has the strongest arm — this boy or myself?"

Then Kintaro, who had lived all his life in the forest, answered the old man without any ceremony, saying:

"We will have a try if you wish it, but you must not be angry whoever is beaten."

Then Kintaro and the woodcutter both put out their right arms and grasped each other's hands. For a long time Kintaro and the old man wrestled together in this way, each trying to bend the other's arm, but the old man was very strong, and the strange pair were evenly matched. At last the old man desisted, declaring it a drawn game.

"You are, indeed, a very strong child. There are few men who can boast of the strength of my right arm!" said the woodcutter. "I saw you first on the banks of the river a few hours ago, when you pulled up that large tree to make a bridge across the torrent. Hardly able to believe what I saw I followed you home. Your strength of arm, which I have just tried, proves what I saw this afternoon. When you are full-grown you will surely be the strongest man in all Japan. It is a pity that you are hidden away in these wild mountains."

Then he turned to Kintaro's mother:

"And you, mother, have you no thought of taking your child to the Capital, and of teaching him to carry a sword as befits a samurai (a Japanese knight)?"

"You are very kind to take so much interest in my son," replied the mother; "but he is as you see, wild and uneducated, and I fear it would be very difficult to do as you say. Because of his great strength as an infant I hid him away in this unknown part of the country, for he hurt everyone that came near him. I have often wished that I could, one day, see my boy a knight wearing two swords, but as we have no influential friend to introduce us at the Capital, I fear my hope will never come true."

"You need not trouble yourself about that. To tell you the truth I am no woodcutter! I am one of the great generals of Japan. My name is Sadamitsu, and I am a vassal of the powerful Lord Minamoto-no-Raiko. He ordered me to go round the country and look for boys who give promise of remarkable strength, so that they may be trained as soldiers for his army. I thought that I could best do this by assuming the disguise of a woodcutter. By good fortune, I have thus unexpectedly come across your son. Now if you really wish him to be a samurai (a knight), I will take him and present him to the Lord Raiko as a candidate for his service. What do you say to this?"

Ai the kind general gradually unfolded his plan the mother's heart was filled with a great joy. She saw that here was a wonderful chance of the one wish of her life being fulfilled — that of seeing Kintaro a samurai before she died.

Bowing her head to the ground, she replied:

"I will then entrust my son to you if you really mean what you say."

Kintaro had all this time been sitting by his mother's side listening to what was said. When his mother finished speaking, he exclaimed:

"Oh, joy! joy! I am to go with the general and one day I shall be a samurai!"

Thus Kintaro's fate was settled, and the general decided to start for the Capital at once, taking Kintaro with him. It need hardly be said that Yama-uba was sad at parting with her boy, for he was all that was left to her. But she hid her grief with a strong face, as they say in Japan. She knew that it was for her boy's good that he should leave her now, and she must not discourage him just as he was setting out. Kintaro promised never to forget her, and said that as soon as he was a knight wearing two swords he would build her a home and take care of her in her old age.

All the animals, those he had tamed to serve him, the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare, as soon as they found out that he was going away, came to ask if they might attend him as usual. When they learned that he was going away for good they followed him to the foot of the mountain to see him off.

"Kimbo," said his mother, "mind and be a good boy."

"Mr. Kintaro," said the faithful animals, "we wish you good health on your travels."

Then they all climbed a tree to see the last of him, and from that height they watched him and his shadow gradually grow smaller and smaller, till he was lost to sight.

The general Sadamitsu went on his way rejoicing at having so unexpectedly found such a prodigy as Kintaro.

Having arrived at their destination the general took Kintaro at once to his Lord, Minamoto-no-Raiko, and told him all about Kintaro and how he had found the child. Lord Raiko was delighted with the story, and having commanded Kintaro to be brought to him, made him one of his vassals at once.

Lord Raiko's army was famous for its band called "The Four Braves." These warriors were chosen by himself from amongst the bravest and strongest of his soldiers, and the small and well-picked band was distinguished throughout the whole of Japan for the dauntless courage of its men.

When Kintaro grew up to be a man his master made him the Chief of the Four Braves. He was by far the strongest of them all. Soon after this event, news was brought to the city that a cannibal monster had taken up his abode not far away and that people were stricken with fear. Lord Raiko ordered Kintaro to the rescue. He immediately started off, delighted at the prospect of trying his sword.

Surprising the monster in its den, he made short work of cutting off its great head, which he carried back in triumph to his master.

Kintaro now rose to be the greatest hero of his country, and great was the power and honour and wealth that came to him. He now kept his promise and built a comfortable home for his old mother, who lived happily with him in the Capital to the end of her days.

There you go... that was a nice Japanese fairy tale. It almost cheered me up. Almost... my day today: three hours driving to and from work, a wife who takes my bank card and forgets to replace it meaning an embarrassing event at lunch which ends up being a can of pop and a bag of chips from the office vending machine, a kid who lies, no Coke Zero, and some stupid sign-in snafu with Netflicks has really made today one to forget... and of course... me actually e-mailing myself the wrong data rather than a completed story has totally put me off my game. 

If it wasn't for a nice e-mail in the morning I might really have been in a bad mood.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, January 27, 2014

Japan Has A National Curry & Rice Day

Under better late than never, Matthew informs me that January 22 was national Curry & Rice day in Japan.

WTF?! I'm not concerned that I missed it, but rather that there is such a day...

Proving I will never know everything about Japan, apparently Curry and Rice is so beloved in Japan, that it is almost a national dish of Japan.

Known as karē raisu (カレーライス), the dish was first introduced to Japan after the beginning of the Meiji era (1868) by the British... as they owned India until 1947, and while they may have robbed the sub-continent of her wealth, they paid for it by falling in love with Curry & Rice... which can blow your guts open with its spicy heat.

I should note that the whole Cury & Rice thing confuses me. Although I sound like I have a British name (John Andrew Matthew Stephen Joseph), and the fact that I was born in London, England, my parents are from India... and are real Indians... the dot, not the feather. Now... perhaps it as because I was raised in Canada after my initial three years on this planet, and my folks wanted me to fit in, I never ate Indian cuisine, instead chomping down on such white Canadian foods as Hamburgers, hotdogs, potatoes and god knows everything without a major spice in it.

As such... I never could handle spicy foods.

Case in point, my lunch with Matthew in 1990 in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

Matthew... whether it was because he thought that since I was of Indian descent... or because he wanted (and he wanted company) to try the local Indian curry and rice restaurant.

I'm unsure if there was a bottom floor, but I do recall us walking up a set of stairs to a very well lit restaurant, with a lot of tables... and maybe 15-20 customers... who all stopped eating and sweating to stare at the two gaijin (foreigners) who plopped themselves down at a table near (not at) a window. I do recall facing north, and that Matthew was opposite me.

Anyhow... I'm in Japan at an Indian restaurant... I, at this juncture, know nothing about Japan's love affair with Curry & Rice, so I expect the food will be pretty blah, which is fine by me.

The menu is dropped off... we order a couple of bottles of beer... Eagle brand from India... and as we stare at the menu, it seems obvious that they have a meat of various kind - pork, chicken, lamb and a veggie curry... with rice.

What I find amusing - because I'm a stupid gaijin - is that there are - in English - numbers detailing the heat level of the curry.

Matthew being the smart one of the bunch orders a 3 or a 4... which isn't so hot.

Me, being the show-off, I ordered the 8... because... just how hot can the Japanese make Indian food. There's no Indians working in the back.

When I said #8 to the waiter, he actually took a step back and said "whoah" or something like that... and when he went back to the kitchen and shouted the order, the cook came and peered out to see just who was stupid enough to order the #8.

Satisfied that I was an Indo-jin (Indian), he went and made the meal(s).

Some back ground. My parents made two meals usually... one for my little brother and myself, and one for them. Ours was meat and potatoes. Theirs... theirs was something that was so hot that when it was being cooked on the stove, spices would get into the air and burn the hell out of our eye... our lungs... and just plain make me want to poop my pants from the spiciness that I was ingesting through osmosis.

My parents always used to say that a curry wasn't worth a damn unless it was served with a bucket. In this case, they meant a fire bucket containing cold water to be used to put out the fire in their mouth.

I didn't see any buckets on the menu at this Indian restaurant in Ohtawara, which, along with ego, prompted me to order the fire - the Japanese fire. Why I didn't go to 10 is just plain luck, but I figured that 10 would contain a little bit of heat, and since I already have a twitchy stomach that has me feeling constipated if I go sit on the toilet fewer than five times a day, I avoided double digits - 10.

So... when the plates arrived at our table, I watched and followed Matthew's lead, because I didn't know the Japanese rules for engagement when attacking Indian Curry & Rice. Apparently, you place the napkin over your lap, wash your hands with the wet towel, pick up something called a fork and dig in.

Matthew decided to keep his spicy ingredients separate, while I decided I could at least get some flavor in my mouth if I completely mixed the curry sauce and meat throughout the rice.

That first taste of Japanese-Indian curry and rice is something I still wake up sweating from in the middle of the night.

Apparently No. 8 on the menu meant that the curry and rice would be hotter than the furnace of hell!

Not only did my face turn red, then purple... I began to sweat... and my tongue hung out as I tried to scrape off whatever it was that was on my tongue using my fingernails. Japanese rules of engagement? Fug Japanese rules of engagement!

I poured my beer into my mouth and let it stay there to try and cool of my tongue... but apparently whatever the fug the Japanese put into this curry, by adding a liquid it only made the curry angry... and caused the beer to bubble and then turn to vapor in my mouth.

I then shoveled into my mouth the yogurt sitting idly beside the rest of the hellfire... bit to no avail. Unable to talk that I was, Matthew being a smart and caring guy noticed my discomfort and ordered a yogurt drink - lassi - for me... which came quite quickly.... and which I grabbed from the waiter's tray and tried to chug down quickly... until my gag reflex remembered that I was drinking a yogurt drink. Gah!

I don't mind yogurt... but this yogurt drink was yogurty, and didn't have any fruit in it.

Anyhow... I ate my damn meal. I ordered it. I was going to pay good money for it. I was hungry. And dammit, I didn't want t o show weakness in front of the Japanese or Matthew... who also said his #3 or #4 was pretty hot.

That was the beginning of the end for me, as far as not having a tolerance for hot and spicy foods.

While Matthew asked if I wanted to go out riding around and shopping after we ate, that twitch in my stomach said I was going to be incommunicado for several hours as soon as I left the restaurant... in fact, maybe even before I left the restaurant. Still... I tightened the stomach and sphincter and had the most uncomfortable bicycle ride I've ever had... and barely made it into my washroom in my apartment.

Since then... after I had my girlfriend Ashley call me a wimp regarding my ability to eat hot foods, I built up my tolerance by making chili con carne increasingly more and more spicy with each dinner... until the time I nearly killed Ashley. Hee-hee-hee.

As well... I discovered that I was allergic to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers and lettuce, which was just swell... and that I was lactose intolerant... and that all of those problems would disappear once I stopped drinking over 2-literes of regular Coke every day, and going to less than half that of Coke Zero. Really... now I hit the washoom once or twice a day, but not like clockwork... I've seen guys here at work go everyday at the same time. That's just weird... and this is coming out of me.

Anyhow... Japan's national curry and rice day was January 22... and it is, indeed, apropro that that fact was delivered to me by my good friend Matthew. Good times, eh, buddy?!

Andrew Joseph

The Supreme Truth About The Aum Shinrikyo - Part 3

Holy crap... I had no idea this would have to be a four-parter, but we are coming to the conclusion of our look at the Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese religious cult that used the toxic nerve gas sarin as a means to destroy the world in order to save it.

Apparently that only makes sense to crazy people.

Oh wait... Noah's Ark and that whole flood thing. (While some might poo-poo the whole Ark story, there is ample scientific evidence of a huge flood - though maybe not a global one.)

You should, but don't have to, read the primer and second part of my report on the Aum Shinrikyo cult to get a better understanding of things. I should tell that aside from the take-over-the-world-to-save-it thing, it is quite impossible for me to get into the mind of the members of this terrorist organization - especially with court trials coming up soon for many of the key members.

Anyhow... let's take a look at the final act of terror (hopefully) caused by the Aum Shinrikyo on the peoples of Japan. The fourth part will look at what happened to the Aum Shinrikyo after the following terrorist attack. This one is too long to NOT break into another blog. Sorry.

The founder and leader of the Aum Shinrikyo is Asahara Shoko (surname first) began his religion out of his yoga studio... which also doubled as his apartment in Tokyo. For the record, his real name is Matsumoto Chizuo (surname first).

It's March 20, 1995… morning rush-hour in Tokyo…

The Aum Shinrikyo has targeted random passengers aboard subway trains on three different lines.

Five deliverers of the sarin, and five getaway drivers are involved - 10 people in total are going to be physically involved in a major terrorist attack in Japan:

Assigned Train          Perpetrator              Driver
Chiyoda Line             Ikuo Hayashi            Tomomitsu Niimi
train A725K                 (林 郁夫)                   (新実 智光)

Marunouchi Line       Kenichi Hirose         Koichi Kitamura
train A777                     (広瀬 健)                 (北村 浩)

Marunouchi Line       Toru Toyoda            Katsuya Takahashi
train B801                     (豊田 亨)                 (高橋 克也)

Hibiya Line                Masato Yokoyama    Kiyotaka Tonozaki
train B711T                  (横山 真人)               (外崎 清隆)  

Hibiya Line                Yasuo Hayashi          Shigeo Sugimoto
train A720S                  (林 泰男)                   (杉本 繁郎)

Four of the five delivers carried two plastic bags containing an approximate total of 900 milliliters of the liquid form of sarin - Hayashi Yasuo (surname first) carried three bags. Each bag was wrapped in newspaper bought just prior to the attack by either the driver or the perpetrator. Each perpetrator also carried an umbrella with the tip sharpened.

The plan called for each, at pre-arranged subway stops, to drop a pack and puncture it with the umbrella while still in the train, exiting as the doors opened at the station. They would then leave the station and be picked up by the driver.

The Players (surname first): 
  1. Hayashi Ikuo:
    You might think that people in this terrorist organization must be complete whack-jobs - and perhaps they were... but as far as education goes, Hayashi was a senior medical doctor with a great record at Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. He was a heart and artery specialist, and later head of circulatory medicine at a hospital before he, in 1990, resigned and joined the Aum Shinrikyo. As a favorite of cult leader Asahara Shoko, he was named Minister of Healing... which wasn't as benevolent as it sounded. Hayashi's duties included administering sodium pentothal (truth serum) and electric shocks to Aum members suspected of disloyalty. It later came out that there were a few deaths from his 'healing' treatments. he was 48 at the time of the subway attacks.    
  2. Hirose Kenichi: Only 30, Hirose had a post-grad degree in physics from Waseda University. Also a part of Aum Shinrikyo's Ministry of Science and Technology he was a key figure in their Chemical Brigade as well as its Automatic Light Weapon Development attempts (see 1st part of this blog article).   
  3. Toyoda Toru:
    27 years old when the subway attack occurred, he has a MA degree in applied physics and was about to get his PHd when he figured he could get a better education at Aum Shinrikyo's Chemical Brigade.
  4. Yokoyama Masato: he was 31 at the time of the attack. He was a graduate in applied physics from the engineering department of Tokai University. He was working for an electronics company when he quite and joined the cult becoming undersecretary at the group's Ministry of Science and Technology. He was also involved in their Automatic Light Weapons Development group.
  5. Hayashi Yasuo:
    37 at the time of the attacks, he studied artificial intelligence at university, and after graduating he went to India to study yoga... so not really interested in using that university degree...Joing the Aum Shinrikyo in 1988 he became one of the top three at the cult's Ministry of Science and Technology. Because cult leader Asahara had once suspected him of being a spy, he carried three packs of sarin to prove his loyalty to the cause. 

I just want to say - just how difficult it was to try and get photos of the five men who released the sarin gas in the Tokyo subways! I could find plenty of photos of other members of the Aum Shinrikyo who were involved in different aspects of terrorist activities... but dammit... I could not find photos of Hirose Kenichi nor of Yokohama Masato. If anyone can direct me to images of these two, it would be greatly appreciated.

Stations, Everyone:
  1. Chiyoda Train Line: Hayashi  boards train A725K - the first car going southwest, at 7:48AM. Hayashi wore a flu mask - which does NOT look uncommon in Japan, as many people wear such masks to show go to work even while sick. As the train approached Shin-Ochanomizu Station, the central business area in the Chiyoda District of Tokyo, he pierced one of the two sarin pouches on the train floor - leaving one untouched - and left the train at Shin-Ochanomizu. With the sarin leaking out and evaporating into the air, and with people complaining of something in the newspaper-wrapped pack, at Kasumigaseki (four train stations later), station attendants boarded the train car and removed the two bags... the train continued for another station, was evacuated of passengers and crew and was cleaned. Two (2) station attendants who came in contact while removing the sarin pouches die.
  2. Marunouchi Train Line I: Hirose gets onto a westbound Marunouchi Line train, transfers to JR East Saikyo Line at Shinjuku Station and exits later at Ikebukuro Station to purchase a sports newspaper to wrap his two packs of sarin pouches. He then gets into the second car of westward Train A777 on the Marunouchi Line. Placing the two wrapped sarin pouches on the ground, he felt that the newspaper crinkling had attracted the attention of a Japanese school girl, so he picked up the two pouches and exited the train at Korakuen or Myogadani Station... and moved back one car to the third train car. With the train approaching Ochanomizu Station, Hirose dropped his two sarin packs, said an Aum Shjinrikyo mantra, and poked each pack with his pointy umbrella - poking it so hard he bent the tip - but releasing all 900mL of sarin onto the floor - left the train and left the station to be picked up by his car driver. Now... despite two packs being pierced... it was a long 14 train station stops later that two sick people were carried out of that train car... and train station attendant Nishimura Sumio removed the two sarin packs. No one cleaned the train car.. and so, five stops later at 8:38AM, the train reached the end of the line at Ogikubo Station. Heading back east, passengers continue to board the train... but thankfully just two stops later at Shin-Koenji Station it was taken out of service as many passengers became sick - along with those who were exposed to it for 14 train stops. All told, only one person died (one of the two who were initially carried out), but 358 passengers were seriously injured.
  3. Marinouchi Train Line II: Yokoyama's job was to release the sarin on a Ikebukro-bound train. Driven to the Shinjuku Station, Yokohama donned a wig and fake glasses and wrapped his two pouches of sarin packs in a newspaper purchased earlier. He got onto the fifth train car of the B801 train heading to Ikebukuro, Tokyo. With the two packs on the ground of the train, as it approached Yotsuya Station, Yokoyama poked the sarin pouches and left the train and was picked up by the driver. Luckily, however, the two packs of sarin were not fully puncture... in fact, one was still intact. This meant only one pack, with a tiny hole, slowly released its deadly contents. The train reached the terminus of Ikebukuro at 8:30, passengers left... the train was searched, but the packets were not seen... or rather they were missed. Now called the A801 train, it left at 8:32AM heading back towards Korakuen Station... but soon passengers started feeling ill and pointed out the sarin-soaked packs to station attendants at Korakuen Station, who, one stop later at Hongo-sanchome Station removed the packs and mopped the floor... but allowed the train to continue on its way. At 9:09AM, it arrived back at Shinjuku and, after changing train numbers again - now B901 - the train headed back towards Ikebukuro. The train was finally put out of service at Kokkai-gijidō-mae Station in Chiyoda at 9:27AM... which, was a total of one hour and forty minutes after Yokoyama first punctured a pack and left the train. Luckily... no one died, but there were over 200 people made ill.
  4. Hibiya Train Line I: Toyoda was to release his two packs of sarin on the northeast-bound Tōbu Dōbutsu Kōen train of the Hibiya Line. Toyoda boarded the B711T Hibiya train at Naka-Meguro Station at 7:59AM, sitting in the first car near a door. Placing the two newspaper wrapped packs on the floor, at Ebisu Station (the next stop for Toyoda), he punctured both backs with the umbrella point and exited the train. Passengers began to feel ill two stops later at Roppongi Station and began to open the train windows. The next stop was Kamiyacho and by then, the passengers were panicking, causing the first car to be evacuated and several passengers to hospital for sickness. And yet... the train continued on. At the next stop, however, Kasumigaseki Station, the entire train was evacuated. On this attack, one person dead and 532 seriously ill.
  5. Hibiya Train Line II: Hiyashi's job was to poison people along the southwest bound Hibiya Line on a train heading towards Naka-Meguro station.  As you will recall, in order to prove his loyalty, Hiyashi carried three packs of sarin liquid, something he himself asked to do. Dropped off at Ueno Station, he got aboard the third car of train A720S at 7:43AM and headed south. Dropping his three sarin packs, he quickly punctured them and exited at Akihabara Station and was picked up and driven back to the headquarters of the Aum Shinrikyo. Passengers still on board began to feel ill... and, after one passenger correctly surmised that the trouble was coming from the wet packages on the floor, he kicked them all out at Kodenmachō Station, where they landed on its subway platform. Unfortunately, four people died from sarin exposure on the platform. But... as we know, the pouches were pierced by Hiyashi's umbrella, so even though the packs had been moved out of the train, a puddle remained... and as it evaporated into a gaseous form, the sarin continued its deadly course. Ay 8:10AMm as the train left Hatchōbori Station, a passenger in the third car pressed the emergency stop button. Because the train was in a tunnel, the train continued on to Tsukiji Station. Upon arrival, passengers stumbled and crawled out of the train, and collapsed on the platform. Needless to say, the train was taken out of service. No one knew what was going on at first, but by 8:35AM, the entire Hibiya train line was shut down when station attendants realized it was a chemical attack.

Final tally: eight dead, 275 seriously ill and Japan knew for sure it had just faced a terrorist attack... but by whom?

In the next blog we'll look at how the Aum Shinrikyo got caught and what's happening to cult members now.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Japanese Fairy Tales: The Farmer And The Badger

Many countries and civilizations have a long oral tradition of telling stories... and particularly fairy tales. Japan is no different, of course... and eventually, someone gets it in their head to write these stories down. But with people no longer reading books, preferring digital renditions, allow me to do my part in maintaining the tradition of story telling. I've always fancied myself a far better story-teller than a writer, anyway.

My late uncle Harold Joseph, who was a damn fine musician and the conductor of the Indian Army band and the New Delhi Symphony Orchestra, used to travel around India listening to old folk songs... and thanks to his amazing musical skill, would write down the music (and words) to permanently ensure the music would live long after the people who knew the songs passed along this mortal coil.

He was even nice enough to have sent me a few songs he wrote... and copyrighted them in the US... but I figure many of them being Traditionals, they belong to everyone... much like the Japanese Fairy Tales that I am copying out from a 100+-year-old book.

This version of the Japanese stories was translated by Yei Theodora Ozaki, back in 1908, and appeared in print as Japanese Fairy Tales.

This story is much better than the last one I presented (HERE), in that while not necessarily a happy ending, there is an ending that speaks well of old time justice.

Just so we are all aware... despite the story being called "The Farmer And The Badger", make no mistake... the true Japanese Fairy Tale does not involve a badger... it involves a tanuki... which is a Japanese mythical racoon-dog. And... if you look at the image above, you'll notice a sign mentioning Kachi-kachi yama? That translates to 'Fire Crackling Mountain'. Punctuation is not my own.

I think you'll enjoy it... as I continue, once per week, to offer up a new very old traditional Japanese fairy tale:

The Farmer And The Badger

Long, long ago, there lived an old farmer and his wife who had made their home in the mountains, far from any town. Their only neighbor was a bad and malicious badger. This badger used to come out every night and run across the farmer's field and spoil the vegetables and the rice which the farmer spent his time carefully cultivating. The badger at last grew so ruthless in his mischievous work, and did so much harm everywhere on the farm, that the good-natured farmer could not stand it any longer, and determined to put a stop to it. So he lay in wait day after day and night after night, with a big club, hoping to catch the badger, but all in vain. Then he laid traps for the wicked animal.
The farmer's trouble and patience was rewarded, for one fine day on going his rounds he found the badger caught in a hole he had dug for that purpose. The farmer was delighted at having caught his enemy, and carried him home securely bound with rope. When he reached the house the farmer said to his wife:
"I have at last caught the bad badger. You must keep an eye on him while I am out at work and not let him escape, because I want to make him into soup to-night."
Saying this, he hung the badger up to the rafters of his storehouse and went out to his work in the fields. The badger was in great distress, for he did not at all like the idea of being made into soup that night, and he thought and thought for a long time, trying to hit upon some plan by which he might escape. It was hard to think clearly in his uncomfortable position, for he had been hung upside down. Very near him, at the entrance to the storehouse, looking out towards the green fields and the trees and the pleasant sunshine, stood the farmer's old wife pounding barley. She looked tired and old. Her face was seamed with many wrinkles, and was as brown as leather, and every now and then she stopped to wipe perspiration which rolled down her face.
"Dear lady," said the wily badger, "you must be very weary doing such heavy work in your old age. Won't you let me do that for you? My arms are very strong, and I could relieve you for a little while!"
"Thank you for you kindness," said the old woman, "but I cannot let you do this work for me because I must not untie you, for you might escape if I did, and my husband would be very angry if he came home and found you gone."
Now, the badger is one of the most cunning of animals, and he said again in a very sad, gentle voice:
"You are very unkind. You might untie me for I promise not to try to escape. If you are afraid of your husband, I will let you bind me again before his return when I have finished pounding the barley. I am so tired and sore tied up like this. If you would only let me down for a few minutes I would indeed be thankful!"
The old woman had a good and simple nature, and could not think badly of anyone. Much less did she think that the badger was only deceiving her in order to get away. She felt sorry, too, for the animal as she turned to look at him. he looked in such a sad plight hanging downwards from the ceiling by his legs, which were all tied together so tightly that the rope and the knots were cutting into the skin. So in the kindness of her heart, and believing the creature's promise that he would not run away, she untied the cord and let him down.
The old woman then gave him the wooden pestle and told him to do the work for a short time while she rested. He took the pestle, but instead of doing the work as he was told, the badger at once sprang upon the old woman and knocked her down with the heavy piece of wood. He then killed her and cut her up and made soup of her, and waited for the return of the old farmer. The old man worked hard in his fields all day, and as he worked he thought with pleasure that no more would his labor be spoiled by the destructive badger.
Toward sunset he left his work and turned to go home. He was very tired, but the thought of the nice supper of hot badger soup awaiting his return cheered him. The thought that the badger might get free and take revenge on the poor old woman never once came into his mind.
The badger meanwhile assumed the old woman's form, and as soon as he saw the old farmer approaching came out to greet him on the veranda of the little house, saying:
"So you have come back at last. I have made the badger soup and have been waiting for you for a long time."
The old farmer quickly took off his straw sandals and sat down before his tiny dinner-tray. The innocent man never even dreamed that it was not his wife, but the badger who was waiting upon him, and asked at once for the soup. Then the badger suddenly transformed himself back to his natural form and cried out:
"You wife-eating old man! Look out for the bones in the kitchen!"
Laughing loudly and derisively he escaped out of the house and ran away to his den in the hills. The old man was left behind alone. He could hardly believe what he had seen and heard. then when he understood the whole truth he was so scared and horrified that he fainted right away. After a while he came round and burst into tears. He cried loudly and bitterly. He rocked himself to and fro in his hopeless grief. It seemed to terrible to be real that his faithful old wife had been killed and cooked by the badger while he was working quietly in the fields, knowing nothing of what was going on at home, and congratulating himself on having once and for all got rid of the wicked animal who had so often spoiled his fields. And oh! the horrible thought: he had very nearly drunk the soup which the creature had made of his poor old woman. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!" he wailed aloud.
Now, not far away there lived in the same mountain a kind, good-natured old rabbit. He had heard the old man crying and sobbing and at once set out to see what was the matter, and if there was anything he could do to help his neighbor. The old man told him all that had happened. When the rabbit heard the story he was very angry at the wicked and deceitful badger, and told the old man to leave everything to him and he would avenge his wife's death. The farmer was at last comforted, and, wiping away his tears, thanked the rabbit for his goodness in coming to him in his distress.
The rabbit, seeing that the farmer was growing calmer, went back to his home to lay his plans for the punishment of the badger.
The next day the weather was fine, and the rabbit went out to find the badger. he was not to be seen in the woods or on the hillside or in the fields anywhere, so the rabbit went to his den and found the badger hiding there, for the animal had been afraid to show himself ever since he had escaped from the farmer's house, for fear of the old man's wrath.
The rabbit called out:
"Why are you not out on such a beautiful day? Come out with me, and we will go and cut grass on the hills together."
The badger, never doubting but that the rabbit was his friend, willingly consented to go out with him, only too glad to get away from the neighborhood of the farmer and the fear of meeting him. The rabbit led the way miles away from their homes, out on the hills where the grass grew tall and thick and sweet.
They both set to work to cut down as much as they could carry home, to store it up for their winter's food.
When they had each cut down all they wanted they tied it in bundles and then started homewards, each carrying his bundle of grass on his back. This time the rabbit made the badger go first.
When they had gone a little way the rabbit took out a flint and steel, and, striking it over the badger's back as he stepped along in front, set his bundle of grass on fire. The badger heard the flint striking, and asked:
"What is that noise, 'Crack, crack'?"
"Oh, that is nothing," replied the rabbit; "I only said 'Crack, crack' because this mountain is called Crackling Mountain."
The fire soon spread in the bundle of dry grass on the badger's back. The badger, hearing the crackle of the burning grass, asked, "What is that?"
"Now we have come to the 'Burning Mountain,'" answered the rabbit.
By this time the bundle was nearly burned out and all the hair had been burned off the badger's back. He now knew what had happened by the smell of the smoke of the burning grass. Screaming with pain the badger ran off as fast as he could to his hole. The rabbit followed and found him lying on his bed groaning with pain.
"What an unlucky fellow you are!" said the rabbit. "I can't imagine how this happened! I will bring you some medicine which will heal your back quickly!"
The rabbit went away glad and smiling to think that the punishment on the badger had already begun. He hoped that the badger would die of his burns, for he felt that nothing could be too bad for the animal, who was guilty of murdering a poor helpless old woman who had trusted him. He went home and made an ointment by mixing some sauce and red pepper together.
He carried this to the badger, but before putting it on he told him that it would cause him great pain, but that he must bear it patiently, because it was a very wonderful medicine for burns and scalds and such wounds. The badger thanked him and begged him to apply it at once. But no language can describe the agony of the badger as soon as the red pepper had been pasted all over his sore back. He rolled over and over and howled loudly. The rabbit, looking on, felt that the farmer's wife was beginning to be avenged.
The badger was in bed for about a month, but at last, in spite of the red pepper application, his burns healed and he got well. When the rabbit saw that the badger was getting well, he thought of another plan by which he could compass the creature's death. So he went one day to pay the badger a visit and to congratulate him on his recovery.
During the conversation the rabbit mentioned that he was going fishing, and described how pleasant fishing was when the weather was fine and the sea smooth.
The badger listened with pleasure to the rabbit's account of the way he passed his time now, and forgot all of his pains and his north's illness, and thought what fun it would be if he could go fishing too; so he asked the rabbit if he would take him the next time we went out to fish. This was just what the rabbit wanted, so he agreed.
Then he went home and built two boats, one of wood and the other of clay. At last they were both finished, and as the rabbit stood and looked at his work he felt that all his trouble would be well rewarded if his plan succeeded, and he could manage to kill the wicked badger now.
The day came when the rabbit had arranged to take the badger fishing. He kept the wooden boat to himself and gave the badger the clay boat. The badger, who knew nothing about boats, was delighted with his new boat and thought how kind it was of the rabbit to give it to him. They both got into their boats and set out. After going some distance from the shore, the rabbit proposed that they should try their boats and see which one could go the quickest. The badger fell in with the proposal, and they both set to work to row as fast as they could for some time. In the middle of the race the badger found his boat going to pieces, for the water now began to soften the clay. He cried out in great fear to the rabbit to help him. But the rabbit answered that he was avenging the old woman's murder, and that this had been his intention all along, and that he was happy to think that the badger had at last met his deserts for all his evil crimes, and was to drown with no one to help him. Then he raised his oar and struck at the badger with all his strength till he fell with the sinking clay boat and was seen no more. 
Thus at last he kept his promise to the old farmer. The rabbit now turned and rowed shorewards, and having landed and pulled his boat upon the beach, hurried back to tell the old farmer everything, and how the badger, his enemy had been killed.
The old farmer thanked him with tears in his eyes. He said that till now he could never sleep at night or be at peace in the daytime, thinking of how his poor wife's death was unavenged, but from this time he would be able to get to sleep and eat as of old. He begged the rabbit to stay with him and share his home, so from this day the rabbit went to stay with the old farmer and they both lived together as good friends to the end of their days.

The End... I don;t know about you, but I really hate badgers now. "Badgers? Badgers?! We don't need no stinking badgers!"

Kudos to you if you from which movie that quote (a parody, in fact) was actually uttered.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The blogs looking at the Aum Shinrikyo will continue in 24 hours time.