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Saturday, October 31, 2015


Last Sunday, The Simpson's television program held it's annual Treehouse of Horror episode in anticipation of Halloween. 2015 was the 26th such special. Although... if the show has been on since 1989... I'm pretty sure it did NOT have a Halloween special that first year as a regular show... Hmmm.

The Simpsons has long held a fascination for Japan, whether it is through its animation or its culture in general.

The second episode on this year's Treehouse of Horror was entitled Homerzilla, with an obvious homage to the king of the kaiju (monsters), Godzilla.

The episode, shot in black and white pays homage (there's that word again) to the original Godzilla movie of 1954... and takes some great potshots at how the franchise was 'ruined' when American interests got hold of it. 

I took photos from my television to give you a bit of Simpsons unique Japanese flavor.

Title done in katakana, actually spells out Ho-ma-ji-ra, just as Godzilla in Japan is actually Gojira.
Springfield-ken or prefecture. They know their Japan.
Homerzilla as a buddha-like statue. A donut must be sent out to appease the god, and when that isn't done, the creature awakes. The palanquin and costuming is brilliant, but to me, the entire scene is presented as an ukiyo-e scene.
I just wanted to show how accurate the presentation of the high school boy student attire is.
Giving Bart-san glasses emphasizes the Japanese stereotype. In the background where the bully Nelson is punching a gong, we also see the billboard for Mister Sparkle (ミスタースパーコル Misutā Supākoru). Mister Sparkle's speech bubble in the box is supposed to read as "power clean!" (パワークリーン! pawā kurīn!); however, due to a typo, the diacritic on パ is absent, turning the phrase into ハワークリーン! (hawā kurīn!).What is cool, however, is that the Mister Sparkle image is from an episode in 1997, and they KEPT the error in this 2015 episode.
I disagree, but it is a western stereotype.
Homerzilla stubs his toe - d'oh! - as he stomps through Springfield-shi, Springfield-ken.
Karaoke was a painful part of my stay in Japan, as I was forced to sing songs by Tony Orlando & Dawn thanks to the limited number of English 'words' on the karaoke videos. I also did 'My Way' but sang it off-key like Johnny Rotten. Yes, I did it MY way. I received polite applause, as my Japanese bosses figured Frank Sinatra would be rolling over in his grave even though he wouldn't die for eight more years in 1998.
Homerzilla playing with WWII Mitsubishi Zero aircraft (they have propellers!) as through they were yo-yo's... here going 'around the world'.
After Homerzilla accidentally tumbles off the burning mini city set, he is helped up by a pair of Japanese crewmen... where fantasy reality intrudes on fantasy reality. Just brilliant. After all, this is a fantasy creation of a fantasy movie in our reality.

Homerzilla battles Gamera, the flying turtle kaiju. Shot in color, this is when American movie interests have got its claws into the original concept of the anti-nuclear weaponry of Japan's Gojira/Homerjira.
If you missed it - don't worry, I'm sure it will be repeated ad nauseum every year just before Halloween as part of some Simpsons marathon. Next year.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ahead Of The Curve: Reality Meets Fantasy

It's been a long while since I was ahead of the curve... maybe back when I wore teal back in 1992... paisley shirts in the early 1980s... I don't even try anymore. Because... well, I mentioned the 1990s and 1980s as part of my life as an adult.

I accidentally was ahead of the curve on October 29th, when I published an article HERE about the Mewgaroo, only to learn later that it WAS actually U.S. National Cat Day. Thanks, FFF!

Anyhow... the image above is a screen capture photo I took from the television program Heroes: Reborn, yesterday evening (October 29).

It shows a character's Japanese apartment.

As mentioned on my October 28th blog, this is actually my favorite Japanese building - HERE - the Nakagin Capsule Tower located in Tokyo.

Ahead of the curve? No, not really. Many other blogs about Japan have probably written about this apartment building long before myself... but at least my timing is curious.

Andrew Joseph

My Little Pony Cafe And The Rant Against Kawaii

I'm not into cute - even women. Sexy, yeah. Pretty, yeah. Gorgeous, mmm-hmm. Cute? No.

But, Andrew, I hear you say, didn't you have a  Japanese girlfriend? Wasn't she cute?

No… I did not have a Japanese girlfriend. I had many Japanese girlfriends, plural - and all of them were women - and not a single one of them would fall under the kawaii (cute - かわいい,) label. They were of the hot and sexy variety.

That whole cute thing smacks of underage youth to me - and no thanks.

Having said that, there is a time in every man or woman's life, when they get nostalgic.

In this case, I am talking about nostalgia for toys, sports or hobbies that one had when they were younger.

I'm unsure if I fall into that category or not. I love Warner Bros. cartoons—the ones I saw when I was a kid that were already old before I saw them as television reruns from the movie theaters, but there was never a time when I wasn't enthralled by them. The same for sports and all the hobbies I currently follow.

But for the generation that followed me - my brother's generation… Alice's too… they were cursed with what I call some god-awful cartoons.

Still… that was all they had…. and so… because everything old must become new again, revamps of those crappy shows from the 1980s were in vogue, as they tried to amp up the coolness factor for the jaded 21st century.

That's the only reason why stuff like Transformers and Smurfs and My Little Pony exist nowadays. If you think about it, those franchises bloomed in the 1980s, sucked the big one and died for around 15+ years, with nary a thought for them.

Hells… I'm not even talking about live-action stuff like Charlie's Angels (sexy), Get Smart (sorry about that, Chief), Three Stooges (funny, actually)… but merely those cartoons.

I guess I'm old school. The best cartoons were the Bugs Bunny one's et al for humor; Disney for sheer artistry; Scooby Doo for fun… but just the first two years. After that… wow… sporadic comedy from cartoons with little to know staying power.  I suppose the Laff-a-Lympics was close, but only because I like Muttley.

But really, I was talking about those crappy cartoons like Kissyfur, Potato Head Kids, Denver the Last Dinosaur, Rubik The Amazing Cube, Foofur, Gilligan's Planet (really? Wow!)...   

So what the hell is my point?

My frickin' Little Pony.

Back in the 1980s, if you were a girl under the age of 9, let's say, perhaps this show was geared to you. It was nauseatingly cute and since I was in my late teens to early 20s, definitely not my cup of green tea.

It had a recent and miraculous rise from the grave a few years ago. Hell's bells… even my brother wrote a few episodes of the life-sucking revamp. Because he's a writer, and all writer's have ego's, he even used his real name on the credits, as though he was proud of it. The guy's got a freaking Emmy! Not for that, of course, but for writing Roly Poly Oly. That's something to be proud of. But Pony tales? Oh, brother.

Anyhow, in the Harajuku part of Tokyo, Japan, the world's first and probably only My Little Pony-themed cafe is set to open on November 29, 2015.

Why? Are there that many 40-something fans of this blackhole of cuteness?

Pony names include: Twinkle Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle - and oh, I'm going into diabetic shock.

I'm so ashamed of my brother. I know he did it for the money, but what a whore.

If there are any 40-year-old female or male fans out there who love My Little Pony, please feel free to write and and tell me that I'm old and then explain why the franchise deserves it's own cafe.

Apparently the cafe is a collaboration between Umajo, a professional women's horse racing team; Sega Toys, which makes My Little Pony; and Sunday Jam, a restaurant known for its pancakes.

The cafe's menu offers… well… it ain't rolled oats:
banana, chocolate and marshmallow pancakes drizzled with something called pink sauce and topped with a My Little Pony cookie.

Look… I know this might be someplace you go to once in a while… because who hasn't spoiled themselves at a fancy pancake house… but the healthiest ingredient is the banana, and it's health benefits are negated simply because there is something called pink sauce.  

Okay... maybe I over-reacted. It doesn't look like a sugar bomb at all! I expected the bananas to be caramelized or something - not just split in half. The portions also look reasonable.
If that was too sweet, and you don't want your dentist to finally be able to afford that new Maseratti, then how about a milky rainbow parfait, or a matcha chocolate late with My Little Pony-themed foam, or perhaps a My Little Pony-emblazoned toast. 


I guess I just like my kitsch in small doses.

Actually, it's not that bad. I mean I recently bought some Scooby Doo-themed LEGO and I'd probably buy some Scooby Snax if I saw them and would even go to a restaurant with a Coolsville theme with of their famous monsters on display… so why am I thrashing My Little Pony?

Why? I'll tell you why.

Japan… stop trying to be so offing cute. Grow up. Give us more real badass characters that not only act un-cute, but look un-cute.

Stick with Hello Kitty, if you must, but why do you need to import excess sugar from the U.S. with My Little Pony?!

Look… since Sega is involved, one can only assume that they also sell My Little Pony dolls there. yeah - special editions ones available every month… or maybe even every week! How much??!!

Unless the pony is life-sized, the portions seem almost dainty. Ooooh... do you get to keep the Pony doll? How about the plate? Does the meat still have marks where the Umajo jockey was hitting it?
Okay… grumpy old man rant over… if someone dares go to the My Little Pony cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo - please provide a short note to me describing if it's cool, kitschy or a cash grab.

Thanks to Alice, whose sweetness makes me overdoes on sugars, for the story lead. Images (and original story) from

By the way, I also do not understand all of the kids cartoons tied around battle card games that you have to buy. I would buy the cards JUST to have a collection of the cool characters like Brock from Pokemon, for example... but card games? I guess I just like my cards to sit there and look pretty (not cute).  

Andrew Joseph
Let this be your Halloween story. Is it a trick or treat?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Mewgaroo - Japanese Fashion Statement

On the outset, the Mewgaroo hoodie looks absolutely ridiculous.

A combination of cat (mew, it says) and kangaroo (which according to my my old Japanese English book used to teach Grade 7 junior high school kids, means "I don't know" in reference to what the name of that hopping marsupial was called when asked by Captain Cook), the Mewgaroo is apparently a comfortable overcoat  featuring over-sized sleeves with thumbholes looking like paws with claws, and hood caps that look like ears, and… most importantly… possess a cat or small dog-sized pouch (the kangaroo thing, again) that the wearer can place their precocious pet in while the owner walks around town and pretends to be oblivious to the knowing stares of every person they pass on the street.

Whew! That was a long sentence.

The pet-pouch is fleece-lined, so those always shivering little dogs will not be so hard put out.  

According to the name of the clothing item, however, it is a cat carrier.

While I DO now own a cat (first one of four ever) that would not mind being carried in the Mewgaroo pouch, his 15 pound weight would at least permit me the opportunity to walk around as though I was pregnant with the offspring of some unholy union. So…. kewl!

Now I am unsure if this Mewgaroo is actually for outside use. I mean, I am pretty sure that a tiny shivering dog might stay, but outside of my own new human-dependent cat, Dante (still not sure of the name), I would figure most cats would attempt to get the hell out of the pouch and run into traffic to be killed by an old Japanese man riding with splayed legs upon his over-sized bicycle.

Now, because Japanese homes in areas not considered tropical, are not well insulated and are leaky and drafty prompting the use of semi-dangerous indoor kerosene heaters, utilizing a kotatsu like gal-pal Alice wants is great when you are stretched out in the living room.

But elsewhere around the house, the Mewgaroo could be useful as a provider of warmth to the human, and as some confusing giant cat to your pet.

The thing is, does your pet then need to sit in the Mewgaroo pouch for warmth when it could just crawl under some blankets and baste under the kotatsu?

Yeah, yeah… some cats (like Dante) just like to bask in the hellishly warm body of their owners for that whole proximity thing.

Oh well…

Holy crap! That looks like Dante!
The Mewgaroo is washable, so when your tiny puppy whizzes in your pouch, you don't have to come up with some excuse to explain the urine smell. Heck… even I can't come up with a good excuse. And this is ME!

As well, the pouch itself is removable for separate cleaning and even de-furring or de-hairing as the case may be.

Right now the Mewgaroo is a Japanese thing, but I suppose if enough of you tiny dog owners who don't mind being eye humped by four-legged creatures care, I'm sure it will be making its way to parts unknown that you call home soon enough.

If you are in Japan, and you don't give a crap what I say - and why the heck should you?! Your opinion is what matters, not some dumb blog writer who wishes he had the balls to purchase and wear one of these things - you can order one from, Rakuten Ichiba, or Yahoo! Shopping Japan

What the heck, eh? I'm sure there are plenty of ways in which the Mewgaroo - sans critter - could be used in some bizarre sexual fantasy game.

Thank you, FFF, for the heads up on this very interesting bit of Japanese fashion.

Andrew Joseph
That's a lot of cat stories this past week. I was also rushed when I found out that the work dinner I was going to on Thursday night also included a seminar I had to attend in the afternoon. I should never write these things in 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Japanese Metabolism Architecture

The delightful but evasive Alice knows I like Japan and LEGO and buildings that look like they could be made of LEGO.

While the building featured in the image above isn't LEGO, it certainly could be made into a model by designers mores skilled or with a more diverse collection of bricks than I.

This, is one of my all-time favorite buildings (the Chrysler building is #1 in my opinion) that isn't a single home: Tokyo's Nakagin Capsule Tower (中銀カプセルタワー or Nakagin Kapuseru Tawā).

Built in 1972, it is either really ugly, or beautiful in its strangeness when compared to Japan's penchant for a paved over landscape.

I does look like mess of front-loading washing machines or something easily constructed by a LEGO enthusiast with far too much time on his/her hands, but so what?

This was originally conceived to be teeny-tiny apartment living quarters for Japanese business men—a construct that features a total of 140 cubic pods.

Yes... pods... living quarters so small that it certainly helps confirm the Japanese stereotype of small apartments.
Concept art of the bedroom area.

The reality. Organized chaos. Yeah, I'd drink too... This apartment has been retrofitted with a modern furniture... but the reality is, he IS sitting on his bed.
A neater reality than the one above that is obviously owned by a writer. I am also pretty sure that the beds are not built to house the larger-sized gaijin/foreigner. I'm imagining having sex in that room right now with a special someone, and I'm pretty sure that I'm either going to moon Tokyo, or I'm going to have to use the walls for some leverage - plus she's going to have a headache from all of the headbanging - and not the cool kind. Yes... it was designed for the Japanese businessman and not the horny gaijin. 

A montage, showing the Nakagin coolness. The Large door in the center of the lower left photo leads to the outside of the room. The strange-shaped door with the two round vents - that's the bathroom. The image on the lower right... I'm pretty sure that while I thrash around in my sleep (Cobras!) I am going to knock the telephone of its mount and conk myself on the head.    
It was the world's first example of capsule architecture built for permanent and use… which may not sound like a big deal to you or to me, but in architectural terms, it is.

The bathroom. It's Japan... you don't have your shoes on. It seems very functional. You can sit in the tub and soak, or sit on the edge of the tub and wash yourself - which is also why there is a drain under the sink and in front of the toilet - for water spillage. It is not for peeing into... though I suppose every Japanese businessman probably did at some point in time of living there, just to see what would happen. There doesn't seem to be a mirror or medicine cabinet there, but perhaps that is something you add yourself.  
The Nakagin Capsule Tower is an example of Japanese Metabolism. Okay… I have no idea what that means either, but apparently it is an architectural style.

Pronounced in katakana Japanese (which is a phonetic version of English using Japanese alphabet sounds) - メタボリズム (metaborizumu - Metabolism) is a post-war style that meshes buildings with organic biological growth.

Man… I roll my eyes whenever I hear stuff like that.

The art style was actually the brainchild of Japan's Tange Kenzo, who in the 1959 meeting of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne presented two new concepts by Kikutake Kiyonori:
The Tower-shaped City—a 300 metre tall tower that housed the infrastructure for an entire city. It included transportation, services and a manufacturing plant for prefabricated houses. The tower was vertical "artificial land" onto which steel, pre-fabricated dwelling capsules could be attached.
Kikutake proposed that these capsules would undergo self-renewal every fifty years and the city would grow organically like branches of a tree.;

The Sky House—a platform supported on four concrete panels with a hyperbolic paraboloid shell roof. It is a single space divided by storage units with the kitchen and bathroom on the outer edge.[4] These latter two were designed so that they could be moved to suit the use of the house - and indeed they have been moved and/or adjusted about seven times over the course of fifty years. At one point a small children's room was attached to the bottom of main floor with a small child-sized access door between the two rooms.

This was the first exposure of Metabolism concepts to an international audience.

It has been revealed that the concepts of Meatbolism architecture were influenced by Marxists theories and biological processes.

Marxist? Doing my best Groucho impression while waving a cigar in front of my nose: "Y'know, Marxism is the worst thing I ever hoid of."

It sounds better in my head and looks funnier when you see me do it in person, because I can do the Groucho impression well enough.

Anyhow, Kikutake Kiyonori, Kurokawa Kisho and Maki Fumihiko and a few others created a descriptive essay on Metabolism: Ocean City, Space City, Towards Group Form, and Material and Man… the concept obviously included cities floating on the can and plug-in towers for organic growth…hmm, for the later, it's like building cells in bee hives or human-powered batteries like in the Matrix.

Artistically, the concept of capsule buildings seems amazing… but that's only because every other building back in the 1960s and earlier was simply a rectangular box made of steel and glass.

Examples of Japanese Metabolism architecture include:

  • Yamanashi Press and Broadcaster Centre, 1961, by Tange Kenzo.
The Yamanashi Press and Broadcaster Centre.
Built in Kofu, it is one ugly-looking building, in my opinion.The Yamanashi building had to house two news companies and a printing operation, and a cafeteria and shops on the ground floor—and it had to be flexible to allow for future building expansion.
So, for the three main businesses, shared facilities were designed, and stacked vertically according to need.
The printing plant was on the ground floor, which allows street access for loading et al.
Services such as elevators, toilets and pipes were grouped into 16 reinforced concrete cylindrical towers, five meters in diameter each, which was placed on a grid that also included functional group facilities and offices.
These were the flexible containers, that could be moved around and placed anywhere (later) within the facility. Really… you could pop it out, and move it somewhere else on the site where it could, in the future, be better utilized.
By 1974, the building did indeed receive an expansion, as originally planned for, but the design did not start a revolution of such fluid architecture in Japan or globally.
Basically, the design was critiqued for caring more about structure and flexibility than being a building built for people and people comfort. Marxism.

  • The Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower
Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower.

I like this building. Of course, who knows what it's lie on the inside.

Built in 1966, this building used a single core, with Tange designing the building with the offices cantilevered as steel and glass boxes.

  • The Nakagin Capsule Tower - my main reason for writing today, was built in a mere 30 days. Think about that.

It was prefabricated in Shiga-ken, home to the lovely Kristine South while I lived in Japan.
The 140 capsules are plugged into two cores each standing 11 and 13 stories high. Since this was 1972 when it was built, the then-latest hot gadgets built into each unit is pretty damn out-of-date as of 2015.

Made of light steel-welded trusses with steel sheeting mounted onto the reinforced concrete cores, each of the 2.5 meter wide by four meter long capsules features a 1.3 meter diameter round window.
Each unit came with: bed, bathroom, storage cabinets, a color television, clock, fridge and air-conditioner. Options include a stereo system.

So yeah… in 2015, if you were to live there, chances are good you wouldn't have a DVD, Netflix, or possibly even proper digital set-up for a TV, Internet or Landline telephone. But what do you care? You could use a cellphone, and with a tablet or laptop pick up some nearby free WiFi.

Despite being listed as an architectural heritage by DoCoMoMo (the International Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement) since 1996, the building's own residents voted to tear it down in 2004.

Yikes! It does look like it's in a state of decay, however… I mean, look at all of the water-staining on this future-looking construct. Tsk-tsk.

It has NOT been torn down, however, and still has about 15 people living in the capsule facilities. While many others are in a state of disarray internally, many of the units are being offered up for a daily rental of approximately Y3,000 (US$30).

As for that whole Floating City stuff postulated by Kiyonori Kikutake—it was partially realized when Japan built the Aquapolis - the centerpiece - for the Expo '75 held in Okinawa—an awful-looking monstrosity that looks like a floating oil platform.
Aquapolis - when good concepts turn ugly.

It was 32-meters tall with a 100-meter-square deck, costing Japan Y13-billion.

It remained open as a tourist destination until 1993. In 2000, it was towed to Shanghai and scrapped.

Okay… I have to stop, or I'll suddenly have to tell you what they built in that Floating City location.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dante The Cat's Divine Comedy

As stated, I do indeed have a new cat - Dante.

He's a four-year-old spayed male, short hair tabby, and he is very, very friendly. He also doesn't sit still yet, as he is curious about everything we all do.

At the animal shelter, I was actually more interested in his roommate Virgil, who seemed to know how to play the adoption game better.

But both the wife and Hudson liked Dante, who although preferred to hide inside a cubby hole, was a very loud purr-er and very affectionate once he was pulled from his comfort zone.

Both Dante and Virgil had previously been at the animal shelter, so I wonder if Dante was just playing it cagey, wondering if we were only going to be around for a short time. I think the previous owners lost an immigration case and had to leave the country. 

I didn't even touch him until we got home.

I have no problem with animals or kids liking me, so it was kind of a test to see if Dante would or could bond with the others first.

Unlike Daffy, Dante has immediately taken a shine to all of us. I'm not used to that, as I am usually the center of attention. But the bugger is so cool, I don't mind.

He is also a big cat - huge paws… and to me looks a little funny because it seems like he has a small head. But whatever. He's a very, very, very nice cat.

When he arrived home on Saturday, he sniffed around and immediately lost himself in our basement, first under my model train table, and then within the gnarly confines of my comic book mountains in another room. He stayed there for hours, finally coming out and hanging with us for lots of heavy petting.

He came up and slept on the bed for a while until the wife kicked him off after he tried to sleep on her head.

In the morning - no one could find him. After an hour of searching, we found him in the fireplace. We don't use the fireplace. In fact, it hasn't been used since 1974 when my dad tried it out once, and discovered you should open the flue to allow smoke to go up the chimney. Since repainting the living room, the fireplace has never been used again.

Hudson (right) tries to look serious. Dante doesn't seem to mind the flash photography.
For us, I have some teak bookcases in front of the fireplace blocking it off - the cases are filled with jars of LEGO. Anyhow, the TV is of to the side of it, so an enterprising cat could get in behind there and squeeze out when necessary. I saw Daffy do it, but even though Dante is thinner than Daffy, he couldn't get out of the hole he had crawled in.

So I had to pull the book case away from the fireplace and then coax him out of his cubbyhole before he caught the flue. I've now better blocked off the fireplace access with upturned lamps and crap.

Dante loves to come up and sit on people, which is fine by me. He has a loud purr, and he likes to flex his paws and lightly dig in with his nails - always where there is exposed flesh.

He's not a licker or a biter like Daffy - at least not yet - and I think I like that about him.

He did follow me into the bathroom this morning, but he's not as OCD about it - yet - as Daffy was. Again… I think that's good.

Dante has already lifted everyone's spirits after Daffy's passing, our goldfish Creamsicle dying a few days later, and the Blue Jays baseball team going out with a whimper.

He enjoys sitting on my lap, but seems to have reckless abandon when it comes to doing that - always perched on the edge of me… and I don't want to see him fall…

We're still not sold on the Dante name. I've read Dante's Divine Comedy a couple of times, plus a Sci-Fi version by writers Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle called Inferno about 11 times - but we're still thinking about something better - another two-syllable or less name.

I was thinking 'Fred' from Scooby Doo.

By the way... the Japan connection is that I bought Inferno while in Japan at a bookstore in downtown Tokyo back in 1990 on a roadtrip with Matthew.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 26, 2015

Russo-Japan Commemorative Postcard

I've had a long day of sitting around watching the boy play baseball - the last exhibition game this year for his rep team that he made a month ago. We'll have some winter practices and such - mostly to work on the team's hitting, which seems to be a weak spot. 

Above is a very cool postcard, that commemorates the end of the Russo-Japanese War. The yellow tiger represents Japan as it seeks to conquer the world. I believe it is from October 8, 1905.

The war took place between February 8, 1904 - September 5, 1905.

The Russian Empire (not yet communist) battled the Empire of Japan over Manchuria and Korea - both places each wanted for their own, so it was hardly a noble war... you know, where one side comes in to stop the other from doing or being evil.

Manchuria (now) is northeast China.

The big battles were fought in the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria, and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea.

I thought the card appropriate because - yes, I got a new cat from the animal shelter out in the east end of Toronto - not my usual stomping grounds. More on Dante tomorrow.

Not the name anyone here would have given him. But I do like Dante's Divine Comedy... we'll see if we can't give him a more appropriate name.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Yosegi-zaiku Woodwork

At first I was going to do a history of sudoku, but instead decided to look puzzle boxes and see if there was a Japanese equivalent to those tricky Chinese things I had known about as a kid. There is, and I'll do a write up on that as soon as I can discover a Japanese term for 'puzzle box'.

While researching it, I discovered something else I thought was cool - Yosegi-zaiku (寄木細工) woodworked handcraft that is essentially a mosaic of wood known in English as a parquetry. An example of the intricate pattern can be seen on the small jewelry box I bought while in Japan.

I just thought it was a wooden box with a neat pattern on it. Hmm... actually... buying something like this in Japan wouldn't have been something I would have done. I  know I was with Ashley when I bought it at a local shop in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken... either she bought it for me, or she thought it was neat which was why I bought it. I'm such a fish when it comes to women.

Anyhow, the term Yosegi-zaiku is derived from: yose = collect, put together; gi = wood (to make); zai = small, sensitive; ku = work.

The Yosegi-zaiku mosaic was created at some point in time by artisan Ishikawa Nihei (surname first), who lived from 1790 to 1850, who used the diverse woods from around his Hakone home base in Kanagawa-ken (Kanagawa Prefecture).

The mosaic work is made from natural fine grains and textures of wood to provide differing colors.

While I suppose if YOU wanted to create such a parquetry, you could use whatever the heck wood you liked, but in this now traditional Japanese form, there are certain trees used only:
  • White- Aohada (Ilex macropoda), Dogwood, Spindle Tree (Euonymus spp);
  • Yellow- Laquer Tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum), Nigaki (Picrasma Quassiodies Benn), Wax Tree, Mulberry (Morus alba);
  • Light Brown- Cherry Tree, Japanese Pagoda Tree, Zelkova Tree, Camphor tree aka kusunoki (Cinnamomum camphora), and a Japanese version of Maackia;
  • Dark Brown- Keyaki-Jindai;
  • Gray- Honoki (Magnolia Hypoleuca);
  • Black- aged Katsura-Jindai (Cercidiphyllum japonicum);
  • Purple - black walnut (Juglans nigra)
  • Blue - Japanese cucumber tree (Magnolia obovata);
  • Red - Chinese cedar (Toona sinensis).
A Japanese telephone card I own, made with a Yosegi-zaiku mosaic of thin woods and lacquered. I never tried it, but it should work - that is if Japan still has pay phones. You can see my entire collection of Japanese telephone cards HERE.
The woods are selected for their natural beauty and are NOT colored by the artisan.

These woods are cut and planed, assembled into a pattern, glued and then shaved into paper thin sheets and then glued onto boxes or other woodcraft piece, with a glaze or lacquer added to make the mosaic sturdy, shiny and pretty.

In May 1984, Hakone Yosegi-Zaiku was designated a national traditional handicraft of Japan.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Kilroy Was Here

When I was a kid, the cartoon image and phrase "Kilroy Was Here" was something I knew about, and something I, myself, would draw onto things--sadly to say I defaced a few books that way.

But who or what was Kilroy, and why was he 'here' or there, as it were? Strangely enough, I never thought to question anyone on that until this past Thursday.

When I was around 18 or so, a music group utilized Kilroy at the end of one of their songs, and while it confused me, it didn't intrigue me. I just figured it was something to do with my snooty friend of the past.

As you can see from the image above, it's a clever image of what looks like a man peering over a wall.

It turns out that "Kilroy Was Here", owes it origins to the Allies of WWII, with the signage appearing in both the European and Pacific theaters when they fought the Nazis and Imperialist Japanese forces.

But who did it and and why - well, it's unconfirmed, but the story seems plausible.

It begins in a shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S. of  A.

When the U.S. got involved in WWII after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, along with the scores of fighting men it offered up, it also began producing equipment, bombs, ships, planes, tanks, hand weapons and vehicles of all kinds to combat the spread of the enemy.

Over at the Quincy shipyard, a man named James K. Kilroy worked as a rivet inspector. Guys in that position were paid per the number of rivets they checked and recorded in their work... and they were all supposed to check off the machinery with a real check mark via white chalk.

To avoid other rivet checkers from erasing his marks, Kilroy began writing "Kilroy Was Here" on the machinery. Because the machinery was needed quickly, the machines were sent over unpainted to points overseas - ergo, the marks and images were not covered up.

Since the equipment was often sent overseas before the arrival of the fighting personnel... plus the fact that it was found in some very strange and hard-to-reach spots, people were a little confused... as in how the heck did that get there?

Soon seeing the notation of "Kilroy Was Here" was seen as something cool, that the equipment had been well-checked, and thus anyone using it would be well-protected against the enemy.

Everyone could use some luck in a war, and soon GIs were tagging "Kilroy Was Here" on places THEY visited, as a means to confound the enemy. (Did you know that GI stands for General Issue? I always thought it meant General Infantry!)

Apparently Japanese troops were so mystified by a "Kilroy Was Here" painted on a bombed out tank on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal, that they reported the find to their senior intelligence officers.

The Germans began to wonder if Kilroy was some sort of "super GI"...

After the war, a 1946 radio contest searched for the original artist of  "Kilroy Was Here", and learned or uncovered the story of James Kilroy.

Apparently nowadays, Quincy still honors Kilroy with some 'pin-the-nose-on-Kilroy' competitions.  

Now, I mentioned a music group using Kilroy in one of their songs - well, that was in the 1983 Styx album: Kilroy Was Here, that featured their huge hit, Mr. Roboto. You know... Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.

I always kind of liked the robotic voice in the song Mr. Roboto, as well as the grandiose rock opera of the album, but I wasn't a huge fan of Styx (sorry), as I preferred my music to have a bit more of a kick-in-the-teeth edge to it.

But I did like this song. It was odd. The song's last lines have the singer screaming out: "I'm Kilroy! Kilroy! I'm Kilroy...", and while I always knew what Kilroy was, I never understood what the hell it meant within this song, which was actually a small part of a rock opera. 

Some of the lyrics are in Japanese. The first few lines translate to "Thank you very much Mr. Roboto, until we meet again, thank you very much Mr. Roboto, I want to know your secret." (Man, I am learning so much with this blog today!)

"Kilroy" is the main character of the album. He is a famous rock star who is sent to prison by a group called The Majority For Musical Morality. In jail, workers have been replaced by robots, and Kilroy escapes inside a robot costume (thus, Mr. Roboto). This song is about his escape from jail, and makes a statement about the dehumanizing of the working class.

By the way... this song became the one song Styx hated to perform because it was too popular and not truly representative of the music they had become famous for. Hell... that's what happens when you create a rock opera album that is outside your usual comfort zone.

For fun... listen to this Japanese rock group Polysics, who do provide a very excellent version of Mr. Roboto. The video certainly kicks butt!:

Andrew Joseph Was Here.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mihata Joryu - Japanese Artist - Updated

I guess I have fallen under the evil spell of westernized stereotypification (I'm sure I just created a word) of Japan when it comes to Japanese artwork, specifically painting.

I am unsure why, but I assumed (I know what it means - I'm a Seinfeld fan) that the scope of Japanese art  prior to it opening up its doors to western expansionism, er, economy and trade, that Japanese art pretty much consisted of: ukiyo-e, scrolls, graffiti (Kilroy was here - more on that tomorrow!), and perhaps some of that sumi-e (ink brush style), and shodo (calligraphy). 

Basically, I didn't really consider that the Japanese might be doing painting in the style of water or oils.

In my defense, if was done prior to 1850s, it is not exactly celebrated by Japan in the same manner it celebrates artists in the dreaming world of ukiyo-e.

Heck… even Japan didn't really celebrate ukiyo-e until foreigners looked at it and began collecting it thinking it was supercool.

Maybe the Japanese didn't collect things back then, and only kept things that were useful to their wa (harmony) or for everyday physical use?

Anyhow… on Thursday I was on one website about some topic or another, and then I saw a phrase that made me look up another topic or another, and several subject searches later I discovered the artist  (and here I am assuming this is surname first - I could be wrong and would welcome clarification) Mihata Joryu (surname first).

The first piece I looked at was a scroll, made of colored inks on silk… so pretty much exactly like what I would have expected… scrolls.

What intrigued me about his art, was that he made his subjects look like different people… there was a lack of homogeneity about it… that one fatal flaw of early Japanese artwork as represented by ukiyo-e.

I don't have a lot of experience with Japanese scrolls… I own one, but its subject matter relates to Boys day and kites and carps and dragons… You can see what the heck I am talking about HERE:

Bijin with dragon obi - by Mihata Joryu.

But look at the women here… there's blush in the cheeks… something ukiyo-e artists can seem to pull off… these women have skin tones (plural)… they now have a realistic appearance about them… they look less stylized and now more accessibly human.

Now perhaps there are hundreds of such Japanese artists out there who did this in pre-1850s Japan. I've not come across them, but I'm more of a Jack of all Trades rather than a Master of One, and I prefer that.

So I decided to look up Mihata, and can you guess what I found? Not effing much.

His work appears to be very well respected in western art circles… but perhaps because I don't know the kanji (Chinese-like characters) for his name, and even if I did and could access Japanese websites, I wouldn't be able to read it without the use of Google Translate, which doesn't translate Japanese well enough except to barely give me the gist of things.

So… when was her born? I don't know. He was born in Kyoto… and apparently studies painting under master Toyohiko Okamoto (surname first), who was born in 1773, dying in 1845.

According to what I could glean from the line or two accompanying various paintings, was that Mihata specialized in a ukiyo-e style (oh - here's comes Andrew's stereotypification again! - which  now seems viable and justified)…
Beauty Cooling Off With A Fan - by Mihata Joryu.
He painted genre scene and bijon (Visions… of beauty - women, dude)… all of which was influenced by his Shijo Art School scroll training. Oh, yeah… I got your stereotypification right here.

And that's all I have.

If anyone out there has some real information on Mihata Joryu, let me know.

In the meantime, we can at least enjoy some of his work which is technically so good that if one didn't know better, thanks to his sense of proportion and scale, we might think it to be modern art.

By the way… I've often heard people complain about Japanese artists, and how they lacked perspective in their works.

Here's a typical flat painting from the U.S. in the 1800s.
Mrs. Kendall, attributed to Ruth Henshaw Bascom, American, 1772-1848, about 1831, Pastel, black paint, and graphite on cut paper attached to blue paper.

Compare it to say something from a 1600s artist like Rembrandt or any of the other Dutch masters.

Portrait of Johannes Wtenbogaert - Rembrandt - 1633.
I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I do appreciate art, however. I have some 30 pieces of original oils I have accumulated along the way - not to mention all those comic books and ukiyo-e and tobacco cards.

And I do like the art stylings of Mihata Joryu.... even though I'm pretty sure I never once came across a Japanese woman with a nose drawn in the typical Japanese nose-drawing style, as I've come across a lot of Japanese noses in my day. Wait... is that what I meant to write?  Aw, nevermind.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Sorry - I accidentally posted this story without actually finishing. I realized this some 8 minutes later and finished now, 10 minutes after that. D'uh.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Another Great Japanese Aviation Postcard Mystery

Last week, my friend Vinnie sent me a cool book and a couple of old postcards he picked up at an antique book fair down in the U.S.

To hear him talk about such matters, it appears as though there is a far greater love affair with ephemera south of the real North America, than there is here in the Great White North, Canada.

It sucks, but sour grapes aside, it's nice to hear. It seems like almost everything I collect—except coins—is a paper-type collectible: comic books, stamps, tobacco cards, sports cards, et al.

While I have not yet delved into the world of collectible postcards, Vinnie's gift makes me twitchy. And the fact that they are Japan-related, it's even better.

Previously, he sent me a postcard and dared me to resolve the multiple mysteries surrounding it. See HERE under the blog I called the Great Japanese Aviation Postcard Mystery - to learn how I solved a mystery that despite not having any meddling kids in it, the Scooby-Doo gang of Mystery Inc. would have been impressed. It involved three countries, five people and ultimately some great deductive reasoning from myself that was so impressive, that I'm going on about it yet again.

Being married, I'm every so rarely correct, so it's nice to achieve small victories wherever I can find them.

Anyhow… this past week, Vinnie sent me the Japanese postcard at the very top of this blog, and dared me once again to solve the mystery of what the Japanese plane was.

Maybe I'm just getting better at knowing my World War II-era aircraft, or I just got lucky, but I resolved the mystery in about 30 minutes.

It was just a solve-the-plane mystery this time, with nothing else to resolve, so I was pretty confident I could do it in an hour or less.   

Time issues aside, it was a bit of a frustrating bugger.

As you can see at the top, there are three different airplanes on the postcard, with the odd duck being the seaplane, or what the Japanese called 'floaters'.

Start with the odd.

A bi-plane, one wouldn't assume it to have been used after WWII. In fact, most would assume it hadn't even been used in WWII… but both sides utilized such aircraft for training purposes or even for battle.

The next giveaway for myself, was to search for images on-line for such planes with a bulbous engine… then comparing the tails and even the pilot compartments.

Thirty exhilarating minutes later, we have the:

Nakajima E4N

Built between 1931 through 1933, the E4N2 is the floater/seaplane, while the E4N3 are the two fighter aircraft.

The seaplane was a shipboard reconnaissance aircraft with two seats, a single-engine, equal-span biplane seaplane. That equal-span thing was part of my deductions, as well. It refers to the top and bottom wings of a bi-plane being of equal width, because it wasn't always the case, with the upper wing often being longer. On the E4N, it was the same size.

Anyhow, I know this wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I like airplanes—I write the well-received, but rarely visited blog: Pioneers of Aviation… I guess you really gotta be a fan of early (pre-1920) flight to want to read about the exploits of people flying eggbeaters with an engine with less horsepower than that lawnmower you push around each weekend.

Tomorrow - architecture - courtesy of Alice - with something about my favorite modern building in Japan.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When You're A JET!

I've never had anyone say they want to be like me - except my son who said he wanted to be a writer - and I convinced him otherwise that he shouldn't because, well, just because.

However, aside from the writer aspect, I think a lot more people could do worse than to aspire to be like myself.

For example - go to Japan and become an assistant English teacher. I did, and it changed me for what I believe is for the positive. I also got laid - and then some.

Sex aside (and sometimes in front, behind, on top and underneath - it depends on the moment… in fact, I recall… uh, never mind), I had a pretty damn good time in Japan.

… not necessarily as an AET - though it wasn't horrible - but it was the only way I was ever going to go to Japan, as I really didn't want to go to Japan.

And yet… I stayed for three years. I would have stayed longer, but my fiancée wouldn't stiff the overlord wishes of her father, and so, out of work, out of love, and out of options, I left Japan. But I didn't want to.

So yeah… Japan was cool, lots of fun, it helped me grow, I had a great time, made lots of money, and 22 years after leaving, I'm still writing about the place.

Did I mention the sex? Hey, I know sex isn't for everyone… I mean, what ever the hell it was that worked for me, may not work for anyone else.

Now what the heck was my point?

Something to do with aardvarks? No… no… that would be ridiculous.

Oh yeah, yeah, right-right-right… the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Well… applying to JET is open right now!!!! It's been open for a couple of weeks, actually…

But whatever… you have plenty of time. I got my stuff together in about eight days because I like to procrastinate. Or I used to.

Can you join?

First off...

JET Programme participating countries as of July 1, 2015:

  • Argentina;
  • Australia;
  • Barbados;
  • Belgium;
  • Brazil;
  • Canada;
  • China;
  • Egypt;
  • Fiji;
  • Finland - where's your neighbors on this list?;
  • France;
  • Germany;
  • Ghana;
  • Indonesia;
  • Ireland;
  • Italy;
  • Jamaica;
  • Kenya;
  • Latvia - where Doctor Doom is from? Oh. Sorry. That was Latveria;
  • Malaysia;
  • Mongolia;
  • Netherlands;
  • New Zealand;
  • Palau - 21,000 people in this paradise, and some of you left it?!;
  • Peru;
  • Philippines;
  • Russia;
  • Saint Lucia;
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Samoa;
  • Singapore;
  • South Africa;
  • South Korea;
  • Spain;
  • Switzerland;
  • Thailand;
  • Tonga;
  • Trinidad and Tobago (I've never met anyone from Tobago - ever);
  • Turkey;
  • United Kingdom;
  • United States;
  • Uzbekistan;
  • Vietnam.
Holy crap!!!! This is great. I was part of the second wave of AETs on the JET Programme, and we only had Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, Brits and Americans. That's it! It was easy to sleep through that - but nowadays… I would have to bring my A-game to sleep with at least one female representative of all the countries in JET. And a few more boxes of condoms.

I don't know if I could have done it back then, but it would have been fun trying. Ask anyone. I am very trying.

Perhaps things vary from country to country—I'll let you check on that later—but in Canada, the 2016 JET Programme application deadline is: Monday, November 30, 2015.

That's six weeks away… plenty of time… maybe I should to this blog a few weeks later…

Anyhow… how do you know if you even possess the qualifications to qualify for the JET Programme?

The basics haven't changed from Day 1 of the program - here's what the Canadian JET website says:
  • You need to be a Canadian citizen;
  • Have at least a BA university degree;
  • Have excellent language skills.
I would suppose that nationality thing is important.

Wow… the language skills part is kind of arbitrary, isn't it?

By the way… the Canadian JET website notes that people who possess a dual nationality with Japan, must denounce their Japanese nationality before accepting a position on the program. Rrrrrrright. Think long and hard about that one. Later on, should you want to reapply for Japanese citizenship - it's a looooning and miserable road to travel… and you still might not get it, even though you once had it.

Regarding language skills - accents are perfectly fine… an accent should not interfere with your language skills… unless you are difficult for the average English speaker to understand.

I've got Scots beside me at work who are perfectly understandable - except when they get excited about something like soccer hooliganism or haggis… and then all bets are off as to what the hell they are saying. It ain't English. The two Scots, by the way, are from two different cities and have two different accents - and sometimes they don't understand each other. I nod and smile a lot.

Additional requirements, at least according to the Canadian JET website are:

  • Be interested in Japan;
  • Be both mentally and physically healthy;
  • Have the ability to adapt to living and working in Japan;
  • Have a desire to proactively maintain relations with Japan;
  • Agree to obey all Japanese laws.
I love those additional qualifications... it takes a bit of soul searching. Like, everyone who ended up in Japan on JET was interested in Japan, right?

Not me. No interest at all. If you read the very first line (two sentences) I ever wrote for this blog HERE, you'll know I wasn't interested in Japan any more than I was interested in Switzerland or Egypt... actually, I wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, and Switzerland because I wanted to screw Heidi while rolling around in some sort of fondue. But Japan? No. It had never even entered my mind.

Healthy - sure... I was ... but really... when it comes to mentally healthy... how does anyone know? And what if they have meds?

An ability to live and work in Japan? How do you know? No one knows until they get there and experience Japan for what it is! I had only ever lived at home and had my mom cook my meals for me... laundry... I was spoiled... and yet... my ability to live and work and survive and thrive in Japan was pretty damn high!!!

You should have a desire to proactively maintain relations with Japan. I guess that means you need to try and make friends. No problem! I fit in with the jocks, nerds, geeks and freaks. It was those so-called normal people that was always difficult. Relations? The screwing around thing is too easy. Let's just say that I'm still maintaining relations with Japan via this blog - 25 years after I first stepped onto Japanese tarmac.
My relationship with Japan isn't as close as say my friend Matthew's, but I did give it a very good shot. I would suppose, however, that once in Japan, you should get out and meet and talk with people.

Obey all Japanese laws? Yeah, you should. The police can hold you indefinitely without charging you. I broke into a museum once, broke into a taxidermy exhibit at a hotel, was publicly intoxicated (frequently), and I think I stole a Canadian flag.

Now... this behavior will get you kicked out of the Programme should you be caught.

The museum - I didn't take anything - myself and some Japanese folks (maintaining relations) others just went in the backdoor (add joke here) and walked around the place and left. We had tried to pay and get in through the regular means but the museum wasn't letting any new people in despite it being open for an additional 45 minutes more. I was also some 500 kilometers from home and the odds of me being back in the area again turned out be zero.

Taxidermy exhibit? Read about that HERE.

Public intoxication - everyone walking anywhere in Japan after 11PM was publicly intoxicated.

The Canadian flag... actually, that wasn't me... that was ... never mind. I might want to eat turkey with him someday. Someone taller than myself was able to grab one of the many multiples of flags from many different countries waving as decorative streamers after some festival ended.

If you have read this blog, you know I have been very mature and very immature. I write about what I did, culling memories from a diary I kept - and shudder at my stupidity or marvel at my genius from a perch many years removed.

Japan... should you care to challenge yourself... is rife with opportunity. If I was you, I'd give it a shot.

And, should JET not be your bag, perhaps because of age restrictions (see HERE), you can always go and teach in a private language school or just go for a few weeks and see the place.

The Japan experience is completely different for everybody who goes. Some have a great time. Some are lonely. Some just take it for what it is... life.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Speak The Language!

For those of you wondering if you should bother reading any farther because you aren't baseball fans—I realize this is a global blog, and not everyone likes baseball or sports—but I think you should, because it isn't really about baseball, but rather is about ingratiating oneself within one's adopted community.

So yeah - all you newbies on the JET Programme… learn from Kawasaki Munenori (surname first) (川﨑 宗則), a Japanese baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was born June 3, 1981, and along with the Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners of MLB, he also played in Japan for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the Japanese national baseball team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.

Once again, thank-you Vinnie, for the lead—it made me smile.

Kawasaki, is an utility ball player… that means he isn't a starter, but is used sparingly as a pinch-runner or to play any number of infield positions. In 2014, he did play a large role for the Blue Jays, owing to injuries to regulars, even winning a few games for us (Blue Jays).

This year, he pretty much played the entire year down in Toronto's minor league team, the Buffalo Bisons… yes, Buffalo is a minor league destination for Toronto. Kidding. We love Buffalo!

However, when the Blue Jays rosters were expanded in September to 40 (up from 25), Kawasaki was included.

Kawasaki was rarely used by the Blue Jays. His range playing defense isn't as strong as some of the other players, and his bat is weak as well…

When the play-off roster was declared (it shrinks back down to 25), Kawasaki, not surprisingly, was left off it.

And yet… there he is on the Blue Jays bench… dressed in full team colors, cheering on his teammates.

Kawasaki… a Japan-born individual, is an oddball even for a Japanese person.

He's not a stiff, business-like individual, rather he is pretty loosey-goosy, always smiling, making his teammates feel good, but still being all serious when it's time for him to play on the field.

He has become, without sounding denigrating, the Blue Jays unofficial team mascot.

Whether he's admitting to being drunk after the team celebrating their first play-off berth in 22 years; or that it's time for a Bush Party top continue the celebration, or giving the team a Japanese-language only pep talk before their first play-off game because he knew it confuse and amuse them, the fact is his teammates absolutely love this guy.

And here's why… It's an NHK media interview from September of 2014. Pay attention to what he says at the end of the interview:


I think it's amazing that he when being asked question in Japanese by the interviewer, Kawasaki chooses to answer only in English.

At the end of it, I'm pretty sure the interviewer asks (in Japanese), why he doesn't answer in the questions in Japanese, and Kawasaki essential answers—this is Canada, we speak English here.

Remember that while you are in Japan.

No one NEEDS to speak English to you.

Don't be like me… be like Kawasaki (in reverse), and have the Japanese speak to you in English, and you respond back in Japanese. Correct them if they revert to Japanese.

This helps their language skills, and yours.

This means you all have some learning to do to make it happen.

Anyhow... Kawasaki choosing to speak English when it would have been much easier for him to speak Japanese? That's why everyone loves this guy.

Good luck!
Andrew Joseph
PS: More data on Kawasaki can be found on his Wikipedia page HERE

Monday, October 19, 2015

Born Late In School Year - Higher Suicide Rate

Born in England, but raised in Canada—I have a neutral Canadian English accent and don't say oot and aboot or eh—I was one of those kids whose birthdays was late in the year in November, with my son born even later in December.

For kids born on January 1, they would have to wait an entire year before beginning school in Grade 1.

It meant that we were and are younger than our respective classmates - generally speaking. It was worse for me, as I was also a year ahead, but whatever…

In Japan, researchers hypothesize that for Japanese kids born in late winter, IE January 1- April 1, these kids have a 30 percent higher chance of committing suicide than their peers.

In Japan, the school year starts on the first Monday of April… you enter Grade 1 if you are six years old by April 1 of that year.

If you are born on April 2 - you wait until next year (it's similar to the West's January 1 date).

So… Japanese kid's born between January 1 and April 1, are generally the youngest in their grade. (The same is true in the West, but it's for kids born between September 1 and December 31. Got it?).

An Osaka-based research team headed by associate professor Matsubayashi Tetsuya (surname first), working with a U.S. group from Syracuse University, says that this group of late birthers is behind its peers in three ways:
  1. physically; 
  2. mentally; and 
  3. emotionally.
It is because of this, these younger kids have a higher likelihood of falling behind their peers in sports and academics, which causes feelings of stress in some students, which could push them to commit suicide.

It sounds like a leap - but the researchers have numbers to back up the hypothesis.

Looking at people born between 1974 and 1985… and then looking at those who killed themselves between the ages of 15-25… and then separating the suicides by the date of birth, they found that:
  • Japanese students born between March 26-April 1 had a high incidence of suicide than those born at any other time of the year.
Japanese research head Matsubayashi says that Japan should stop the current method of determining when a kid starts school, and go back to the time when you went when you were ready.

Being ever so smart as a four-year-old, no Catholic or Public school in Toronto wanted to accept me as a Grade 1 student - regardless of the aptitude I had shown. 

But my parents found a private school that would accept me. And I excelled in school until I entering Grade 5. Between the ages of 8-1/2 to 23, I struggled to find my niche. Would I have been better served if I had gone to school per my age, versus being ready?

Some kids are ready at age 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 or maybe never?!

Being too old or too young relative to one's peers can be an emotional downer (eventually) for the kid, as well as the peers.

Okay… let's look at the research itself…

Now… not everyone born between those late dates is going to be inferior in size, mental acuity or emotional balance.

I did suffer emotionally by bullying thanks in part to my size, which affected my school marks (but not how smart I really was).

But many others, did and do not.

One of the HUGE factors that these researchers are not either taking into account or bothering to discuss, is WHEN these results were from: 1974-1985.

In Japan and the U.S., there must have been different levels of stress for kids born in that era.

Perhaps, thanks to the stress of the U.S.S.R. and Oil Crisis or disco, American kids had different levels of stress… or

... in Japan… in the 1990s, when the kids were around 15 or so… and Japan's economy went into the toilet… maybe they felt economic stress that led to suicidal tendencies?

Does the data look at the social strata of the boys and girls? Were the parents well-off? Educated? Did they eat well? Was drug-use prevalent? Where in Japan or the U.S. did they live? Urban versus rural? Did it make a difference?

There are far too many variables for me, that I found unanswered.

How many kids did they include in the data cull?

I'm sure all of that information is out there… it just wasn't presented in the news story I saw over at

It's not their fault anyway, 90 percent of all surveys are 50 percent correct. Double-speak, an ability to ignore that which does not fit into one's hypothesis… it's the norm.

I don't doubt that the data presented in this research is correct. The data is correct.

Stating that more people commit suicide who were born in a particular part of the year... well, I just think there are far too many variables to question the strength of the hypothesis.

Back in college, working for the school newspaper, two friends and I created a Sex Survey, asking the students of Humber College a bit about their sexual habits.

Of the some 500 people who responded - how many should we have discounted immediately because they were lying?

I also know that we were able to manipulate the data to fit a more interesting (to us) end result.

Granted the suicide data found by the research team has the definitive fact that so many people committed suicide… but they fail to examine WHY?

It could be a coincidence that more kids committed suicide who were born during that period…

I have no idea why I love to present the data of so many surveys. At first I'm excited, because it sounds plausible… and then, as I start to write about it, the cynic in me begins to question everything.

The article reports on the Japanese suicide-thing… but does the U.S. data come up with an equivalent?

Don't believe everything you hear or read - except for this blog.

I'll almost never try and confuse you most of the time - ever. I mean it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I included the homemade (not by me) motorcycle poster - mostly because of it's anti-Japanese motorcycle comment. Ha!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Crappy Day Leaves Me Very Sad

It's Friday night as I write this - six hours afterwards. Six damn hours after my cat, Daffy, died.

And make no mistake about it, she was mine, as I was hers.

I came home late from work today. Traffic. Store to buy ice cream for everyone after dinner while we were watching the baseball game. Thinking ahead.

When I arrived home, no cat came to greet me, so I assumed she was outside in the backyard. When we adopted her recently, she was six years old and 22 pounds. Stress eating. I know what that is like.

Immediately fitting in with the family and especially me, she immediately began dropping the weight.

She slept at the foot of my bed every night. She would come in and annoy me every time I went to the bathroom - purring around my feet. She would meow as soon as I arrived home, because I was the one who always let her out for a few hours. She would just sit outside on the patio.... maybe stalk a few birds...

She was down to 15 pounds... and had caught a mouse in the shed and somehow caught a bird - both of which she attempted to bring into the house as a present for me.

I didn't like that part of her. Live and let live and all that crap. I would never let her out, except that her previous owner must have allowed her to be an outside cat - so she would howl until she was let out.

Friday, she howled enough for my wife to let her out before I got home.

So... after greeting everyone else, I immediately went to the back door and spied her through the window in the door squatting some four feet away, with her back to me.

I knocked gently on the glass - and I swear it's true, she did a double take! I laughed! It was so human a thing. A double take! Seriously - the whole double head turn in surprise!

She was happy to see me, and she meowed loudly and got up to come in quickly as I opened the door.

She was my purr pal. She loved it when I stroked her back and go right up her rigid upright tail. It's something I try to do as she winds around my legs.

As I move to go up the three stairs to the main floor, she has to lead me up... stopping to eat at her bowl as I chat some more and tell everyone about the double take.

I go upstairs and change. She waits outside in the hall as usual, as she knows my next stop is the bathroom. Even if I don't have to go, I know I have to sit on the toilet and let her purr around me for a few minutes. Rituals must be observed, after all.

As I stand up and go to wash my hands, that's her cue to leave. I guess she thinks I might splash her - but never on purpose.

It's then that I hear and awful tumble and a crash... and it's from the landing between the main and upper floor... I race over and see her lying on her side. Daffy fell down the stairs.

I rush over and pet her head and body gently - and she moans... moans... and moans once more.

This isn't good. She continues to moan as my wife comes up to see what's going on... Hudson wants to come up and see, but I tell him not to.

She fell down six stairs and landed on the landing. Colette says her neck might be broken.

She gasps a few times as she struggles to breathe.

How does a cat fall down the stairs? How? How!

I can't watch this... I walk past her hoping she'll get up... I go into my room and swear and cry a bit... wipe my tears and go back out. It's only 20 seconds - maybe more.

Daffy ... twitches... it's an effing death rattle... and then stiffens.

She's gone. Eyes glazed, lips blue... my friend... damn this is tough to write...

When all else felt like crap, she made sure it wasn't.

This whole thing is just absolutely ridiculous. How does a cat fall down the stairs?

This blog has nothing to do about Japan except that every night at around 1AM, she would come into the computer room where I write these blogs and run around my feet until I stopped writing and would pet her - it was my sign that it was late and that we had to go up to sleep or I'd never be functional at work.

While I would be in the bathroom, she come in and we'd do our routine... I sit, but have to open the door to her litter box so she could go, too. She could do it herself, but rituals... it was one way she made me feel needed - besides being the guy who feed and watered her and cleaned out her box.

She'd lead the way into the darkened bedroom - I'd sometimes trip on her as I felt my way to my side of the bed... and after I'd get in, she'd wander below on the floor, waiting for my hand to snake out from under the blankets to pet her. She'd go and stare out the window... waiting until I turned away from her... then she'd jump onto the table, and tap me on the shoulder. If I was super-tired and already half asleep, it would scare the crap out of me... otherwise, if I was awake, she'd let me know she was getting ready and I'd have to play with her for another minute before she'd go and sleep beside my feet... taking up a lot of room... but I'd move over. Rituals.

Every day...

How the hell does a cat lose her balance like that?

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

I feel lost... in so many ways. Everything is off.

I can't stop weeping as I write this.

When we got her 16 months ago, she was Daphne, but she was Daffy to me. 16 months? It doesn't seem that long. It wasn't long enough.

Anyhow... HERE is where I first introduced her back on June 8, 2014. I got her down to around 15 pounds... no stress, I guess.

I miss Daffy.

Andrew Joseph
I took the photo above on September 15. It's Saturday now, and I reason she must have been licking/cleaning herself close to the edge of the stairs and over she went, probably breaking her neck on that first step - else she would have corrected herself.  While she lay there, not once did she move her legs, indicating a broken neck. I can make these guesses now, a few days later (Tuesday), but the sting remains. Every time I walk past certain areas in the house, I expect to see her there. I haven't slept well since the accident, but I do thank all of you well-wishers who didn't need to say anything, but did anyway. I appreciate it.