Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Food Porn

Ooooh, yeeesss! Those of you who live (or lived) in Japan will probably catch on to what I mean here. Food is appreciated here in a way that many visitors don't quite get. Whole daytime talk shows are devoted to scurrying about the countryside trying out the local cuisine. People scream out in ecstacy at first bite (no matter what they're chewing on). Punishment on game shows is routinely in the form of watching the other team eat something that looks and smells (and sounds!) delicious. I guess you kind of have to come here and see for yourself. Anyway, if you can't beat 'em... So here are my food porn pics. Ooooh, look at the colors!


More Food Porn

I'm not sure how many courses this meal consisted of, but it was a lot. I can recall at least eight, and that's not counting the various glasses of tipple that were offered. It seemed like the servers were bringing out something new to eat every time I set my chopsticks down.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Sake Cask Cracking

18 liters of sake (Japanese alcohol) plus a big mallet equals stains on the carpet. Here Takahiro and Hiromi Suzuki crack open their celebratory cask of sake. The guests then went to town on the dozen or so liters that survived the impact. The mallet inexplicably disappeared once the guests started drinking.


Japanese Wedding

(l to r) Takahiro Suzuki, Christopher Pellegrini, Yong-nam Kim, and Hiromi Suzuki (formerly Kawagoe). Hiromi is in here second outfit of the afternoon. Takahiro, Christopher, and Yong-nam are still working on their first.


Japanese 'Kimono'

This photo is actually from before the wedding. This is a picture of four of Hiromi's friends. Yong-nam took a picture of them because there's obviously a theme going on here. They are wearing traditional Japanese 'kimono'. Coincidentally, they ended up being seated at the same table as us during the reception (assigned seats). In this photo they are standing behind the desk where gifts for the newlyweds are dropped off. The guest book is front and center. You sign your name from top to bottom, and right to left (in that order, of course).


Hiromi and Takahiro's Wedding

Japanese weddings involve several costume changes. The bride, Hiromi in this case, wore three different outfits during the course of the ceremony and reception. Takahiro only had to make one costume change, and this is how we remember them from the end of the reception.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

The happy couple.


Takahiro and Hiromi Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki on the left. This is part of the receiving line on the way into the reception.


Japanese Wedding

Hiromi and Takahiro are married!

Today we had the pleasure of witnessing our first Japanese wedding. The ceremony itself was on the traditional side of the marriage-spectrum in Japan, so we weren't able to take any photos during that part of the afternoon. The wedding ceremony itself was solemn, and meticulously rehearsed and organized. That doesn't mean that Hiromi and Takahiro knew what was going on. Much like our experience in Korea back in September, a rehearsal is not part of the package!

We did, however, take a lot of pictures after that. 153 to be exact!

It was a beautiful day, and an educational one (for us) to boot.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Yesterday and Tomorrow

We went to my friend Dave's gig last night. It was somewhere out near Ueno - on the Saitama side of Ueno. He plays the drums in a band called Life After Failing, and he's good. The band itself is definitely worth the price of admission. They're a jam band: two guitars, and Dave sits in the back hitting things.

They played in jam band heaven - if there is such a thing as heaven for jam bands here in Tokyo. The place is called Yukotopia, and it was set up by a dead head. Apparently he saw the Grateful Dead play more than 200 shows live back in the day. Two jam bands, including Life After Failing, played last night.

Tomorrow, Hiromi is getting married! Both of us were invited, and this will be our first wedding in Japan. We're very excited! I'm tempted to wear my pink suit, but maybe I'll save that for when our friends Arata and Junko get hitched this summer.

Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post tomorrow.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dan!!

Dan is 28 today. Actually, at the time of this post, he still has one more hour of being 27 left to go (EST). Do we think he's actually awake right now? No, our panel agrees that his butt is fast asleep. The man's got to work tomorrow.
So let's all travel on over to www.r-f-d.blogspot.com and help the man pick out his next place of residence.


Old Friends

Kiriko came over for dinner a long while back. I think this photo was from the first time she visited the place where we live now. Kiriko is largely responsible for Yong-nam and I getting together back in January, 2001.


Gin 'n Juice.


Old friends.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bobby Ologun Got Mad!

Bobby Ologun, for those of you who don't pay attention to K-1 or Japanese TV, is a pretty well-known celebrity in Japan. He's definitely at the top of the list for foreign-born talent anyway.

He must have been pretty angry today! See, the agency he works for happens to be in the same building as the one I work for. At about 3pm he got into a pretty big argument with the management over there, and either broke some stuff, or tossed his boss across the room...I don't know. I wasn't in the building at the time, but I arrived a little bit later. The media, of course, was there nearly as quickly as the cops (how does that always happen here?). They had the entire front of the building blocked off.

I was there to do some narration work. I thought they were filming a TV show in the street there were that many cameras and lights. Nope, just reporters and cameramen. I was quizzed by a couple reporters on the way in, and then again on my way back out. "Hey, there's a foreigner! He probably knows something!" They were gagging for some insider knowledge!

In retrospect, I'm glad that I kept my trap shut. I'm not a big fan of the agency that Bobby is employed by (poor guy!), but I definitely could have hurt my career by letting loose with some of the things I know about them. However, I will say, and this is just speculation, that the agency probably decided not to pay him what they had promised to.

I'm sure it will be in the papers tomorrow. I guess they got tired of tracking Horie's every movement, so...Bobby, look out!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thatcher Spero in Pusan, South Korea (Sept 25th, 2005).


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Old Photos

I just uncovered a bunch of old photos on my hard drive. They are from various parties related to Waseda University, and the people, both past and present, that I have worked with. They are a couple years late, so...sorry.


Adrian having a smoke break (William's sayonara party).


Party at William and Mitsu's place (2004?). Two good friends from WUI (unfortunately, both of them have since gone home), Adrian (center), and William (between Adrian and I).


Big Day Out (WUI) Winter, 2004. 500 year old bonsai tree.


Big Day Out (WUI) Winter, 2004. One of the buses heading out to eastern Tokyo for the afternoon. Followed by a dinner cruise in Odaiba!


Traditional Tea Ceremony.


Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. (Feb., 2004)


View from the top of Tokyo Tower.


Big Day Out (WUI) Winter, 2004. You can see the spire of Tokyo Tower in between those two big buildings.


Sally Glover, Steve Hurling, and Keith Tarrier forming a chorus line. Karaoke: the great uniter.


Post-Christmas party photo of Christopher Pellegrini. It was one of those nights.


Another one from Christmas 2003. Stephen was on fire that night.


Here's one from Steve Kane's sayonara party. Steve Kane on the left, and Luke Timms on the right. Notice Luke's fine choice in football attire (Leicester City FC). Go Foxes! These two got well into the karaoke that night.


Our poor waiter at the after-hours piss-up at a bar near the university. This party was to celebrate the end of spring semester, 2003.


Me and Kyoko. Again, from back in summer of 2003. Kyoko left to do an MA in Hawaii.


Steve Kane and Liz Watson sharing a cold one. This was at the 'nijikai', or 'after-party-party'. Unfortunately, like Kyoko, these two left as well.


Waseda University End-of-Spring-Term Party, 2003!


Monday, January 23, 2006

Horie and Livedoor

Right now they are chasing the car carrying Horie with a helicopter. He has either been arrested, or is being taken down for more intense questioning about his business tactics.

I have no idea whether he has committed a crime or not, but I feel like I need to comment on the media attention this whole thing is receiving. The charges against him amount to 'cooking the books' in order to inflate his company's stock price. What we have on TV right now is a replay of something out of the OJ Simpson chronicles - except for the fact that Horie is already in police custody.

Horie has always walked on the wild side by Japanese business standards. He plays hardball, and seems to understand the nature of business a little bit better than many of his rivals. He has made a hobby out of buying companies, and springing surprise takeover moves during after-hours trading on the stock market. He does things his way - he rarely wears a tie - and as a result, a lot of people in Japan don't really like him very much.

I'm not proclaiming his innocence here, but I will say that we probably won't make it through the week without another corporate or government scandal being uncovered. A little bit of perspective is needed here. If the media decides to tackle someone over here, they go for the knees. And that is exactly what they seem to be doing right now. The more optimistic observer might comment that this is a sign of things to come. "All bigwigs, corporate and political, will be shot down if they try to operate above the law" some might suggest.

Maybe it's because I'm appreciative of the ruckus he caused in Japanese baseball a couple of years ago that I'm sympathizing with him now. However, he hasn't even been charged yet, so I think we should give him a break. By what I'm seeing on TV right now, you could excuse the casual observer for thinking that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces just found Osama bin Laden hiding out on top of Mt. Fuji.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

I found this dartboard on sale at Don Quijote (a chain store that sells just about everything). The computer in our old board was on the fritz, and it seemed like it was time to get something better.


So now we have two. Cricket anyone?


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ishii Signs Contract

Southpaw Ishii rejoins Yakult

The Yakult Swallows and Kazuhisa Ishii agreed Friday on terms that will see the left-hander return to Japanese baseball after a four-year stint in the major leagues.

Baseball sources said both sides agreed on a two-year contract for an estimated total of 600 million yen, including performance incentives, during their second round of negotiations.

On Thursday, Ishii, 32, said he had decided to pitch again for the Swallows and declined offers from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

"I thought about which of the teams I can fit to in the best possible fashion for the rest of my career," Ishii said after Friday's talks with Yakult officials.
"Hopefully, I'll produce results that make me say that I made a good decision."

The Japan Times: Jan. 21, 2006

Well, now the Tokyo Swallows have secured an experienced, quality pitcher who should be able to lead the bullpen through the tougher parts of the season. Hopefully the middle part of our lineup proves to be as potent as predicted.

One big question remains: how effectively can Furuta guide the team while playing behind home plate?


Friday, January 20, 2006

Learning the Language Just a Little

One curious thing, for me anyway, is how people can be over here for years and years, and not pick up any of the language. I know several people who have been here five, eight, ten years, but can't do much more than tell the cashier that they'd like their coffee 'to go'.

I've noticed this in all three countries that I've spent long periods of time in (Spain, S. Korea, and Japan). What's the deal with that?

Learning a second language is a pain in the ass. I've experienced it, and I understand how hard you have to work to figure out language number two, three, four, etc. And I'm not expecting people to be fluent by default after a decade in a foreign land. However, I think a little effort is called for. Just a little.

Where I'm from, anybody who comes from overseas is expected to speak at least a little bit of English. I know that English is the Lingua Franca, but come on. If you're going to be in one place for more than six months, put a little bit of effort in. Just a little.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ishii Return is Nearly 'Done Deal'

Source: Ishii to rejoin Swallows
Japanese left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii is likely to return to the Yakult Swallows after spending four seasons in the major leagues, according to baseball sources.

Former Mets pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii is rumored to be rejoining Yakult.

A Yakult executive said Wednesday the Central League club will have talks with Ishii on Friday for the second time this offseason, while Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters General Manager Shigeru Takada said Ishii has declined the Pacific League club's offer, a day after the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles had a similar revelation.

Ishii was released by the New York Mets last month and has held talks with Rakuten, Nippon Ham and Yakult, while saying he plans to decide about Jan. 20 which team to pitch for in 2006.
If Ishii and Yakult agree to terms, he may announce his return to the team the same day.

Ishii had been courted by a reported seven teams, including squads on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

The Japan Times: Jan. 19, 2006

Well, I'm glad that he's back, and I'm glad that I don't have to go back and edit any of my prior posts on this subject! Ishii now leads a bullpen of solid youngsters here in Tokyo. If the Swallows are lucky in terms of injuries this season, then I'm predicting a solid top-two finish this season.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hollywood, Part 3

No dice. It turns out that they decided to invite back a smaller group of actors for the callback than originally announced. I was not included, so there ends my run. There's not a whole lot you can do when you just don't have the look (or 'looks', probably) they are seeking.

I also had an audition cancelled tomorrow due to my agent's displeasure with the contract that we were expected to sign, so it has quickly turned into a 'character-building' week.


Hollywood, Part 2

I passed the first audition, so I've got a callback audition next week. I have no idea if there will be any further callbacks, but I kind of hope so. I have a very good strike rate when there is at least one callback, and a perfect one when there are two or more. At the same time, the more callbacks I go to, the greater chance there is that I'll suffer a stress-induced ulcer.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I'm on a roll. I just watched this movie as well. I tend to enjoy Brad Pitt movies where he's using his fists. Snatch and Fight Club come to mind. I guess I figured that Troy would be along the same lines in that he might end up beating a few people senseless. In this movie he skips straight to killing, but hey.

My opinion of Troy is very simple. The younger men in this film don't act so well. The older men do. That is all.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Baby's First Horror Movie

Not since I was in junior high school, way back in the day, have I watched a horror movie. I remember a slumber party over at Jesse's place, the one on Mtn. Street Extension that burned down, where we watched a couple of movies that were way too scary for me.

I have a very active imagination, so I can't sleep at night after I've seen something really interesting, disturbing, thrilling, etc. I remember when I was one of the first people at the scene of a pretty messy traffic accident back in tenth grade. Two people died in that wreck; one of them, the guy with his face pushed over near his right ear, stopped breathing while I was holding him. Needless to say, I didn't sleep for a few nights after that. Actually, mom said that I didn't really speak very much for the better part of two weeks. I don't really remember that part, but I guess the moral of the story is that I'm a big baby.

So the effects of The First Power on the former version of myself at age 12 were significant. The whole demonic possession thing really got inside my head, and I haven't watched a horror flick since. Until last night, that is. I watched The Grudge with my wife. It's a remake of a Japanese film, and it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was reasonably scary, but I paid more attention to the cinematography, music, and acting than to all the killing that was going on.

I'm not a born-again horror fan or anything, but I'm happy to report that I could be persuaded to watch another horror film now. Hmmm, I wonder if I should try watching The First Power again...


Saturday, January 14, 2006

No Decision Yet on Ishii (my bad)

I may have been a little premature in announcing Kazuhisa Ishii's return to the Tokyo Swallows. He has not officially announced his decision yet, and his personal website is still being updated. Actually, they have been updating it for several days, so maybe I'm looking to the wrong media outlet for confirmation.

The bottom line: only Ishii, and those close to him, know where he will be playing this season.

In case you were wondering, I will no longer be naming the company sponsor (Yakult) when I talk about the Swallows. I've never been a big fan of naming teams after corporations. Teams named after cities I like. And marketing the Swallows (an unfortunate name in its own right) with the name of a yogurt company attached to its front is not sound business practice. They might as well have been called the Yogurt Penguins. Not very potent. You get the picture.

Come to think of it, their little mascot does kind of look like a penguin...
Tokyo Swallows Mascot Picture


Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm Going to Be In a Hollywood Movie (maybe)

I've got my first ever casting for a Hollywood movie coming up soon. It's been a while since I've been to an audition that was conducted in English, so it will be refreshing to be able to communicate clearly with the casting director for once. Most of the acting I do now isn't really all that challenging, and theater work is really hard to come by in this town (for someone with imperfect Japanese). I'm sure that I'll make the callback, but that will be the end of my run I'm guessing.


Memoirs of a Geisha Review (by Roger Chriss)

I tend to spend a lot of time flipping through blogs that have something to do with language, Japan, or Korea, and Mr. Chriss' blog has all three.

He does a quick review of Memoirs of a Geisha (Wed. Jan. 11th, 2006), which he seemed to think was OK, but probably wouldn't pay to see again.

I normally don't have a problem with people's reasons for liking or not liking something, but this comment caught me off guard:

Another nit: Sayuri is played by Ziyi Zhang (from Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon) and Gong Li (of Farewell my Concubine fame) plays her nemesis. Neither
of these women look remotely Japanese.
The other characters are played by a
hodgepodge of Asians, including some Japanese (a complete list can be had here)...P.S.: For people who think I'm being a snob or playing expert, I lived in Japan for years in the 80s, and spend my days translating Japanese stuff into English. (Note: italics are mine)

Hmmm. I wonder how well he would do on this test at the All Look Same? website.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tokyo Swallows Get Ishii Back!

I can't confirm this, but I heard through two of my sources that Kazuhisa Ishii will be returning to play for the Swallows!!!

Ishii was released by the New York Mets after last season, and he has been shopping around for a new club. The Japan Times reported that seven clubs, including three from Japan, have expressed interest in him.

Ishii left the Swallows at the end of the 2001 season, and moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free Agent. After three season in LA, he was moved to the Mets.

Ishii was a highly effective pitcher before making a move to the majors. It was expected that he would be a very strong addition to whichever club he chose to sign for. I will continue to check the web, but it sounds like he's coming back to Tokyo!


Final Grades

Many of my students were lamenting the state of their grades this term.

"During first semester I worked pretty hard, and I got A's and B's. But then I got lazy, and I'm worried that I might get some D's or F's this term," they said.

I chuckled. They are typical freshman at this university in Tokyo. However, I can't imagine that many of them are actually going to fail their classes. It takes a criminal amount of absences to fail a class here. The course that I teach has one of the most stringent attendance policies in the school. Students are required to come to 70% of the classes in order to pass.

My students are doing pretty well this semester, so I cautioned against getting overly pessimistic.

Hey, at least they show up for class.


Back to Work

After a three week vacation, it's back to the office tomorrow. I can't really complain though, because I only have a few more weeks of work this semester. Two of those weeks involve grading, so I can't really call it work. I won't mention how much paid time off I get each year, but it's plenty. One of the nice things about working for a university is that if the students aren't there, then I don't really need to be there either. And in my experience, the more expensive the university (tuition), the less time the students are required to spend in class. For the record, I teach at a very expensive university.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Junko and Arata were very disappointed with the picture of them that we have in the kitchen. They said they looked stupid. So, we took a new picture. Now this is the one that's in our kitchen.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tort Reform (stopping crazy lawsuits)

This web site (click here) tackles some common urban legends. It's an interesting read. It's also worth clicking through to the details on the well-known McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit.


Typing Speed Test

To test your typing speed click on Power Typing.


No More Blue Screens of Death! Norton's vs. Trend Micro

I'm happy to report that I found the source of the instability that my poor desktop was suffering from. It was Norton's Anti-Virus. My system routinely crashed if I let it idle long enough. I tried a number of tricks advised by some of the generous tech people who can be located in various forums on the net. Nothing worked.

Then my subscription to NAV ran out. Nice nice! I uninstalled Norton's, and voila! No more blue screens!

I'm now running Trend Micro's PC-cillin. No complaints so far. One of the big bonuses, aside from system stability, is that it doesn't use up nearly as many resources when doing a scan as NAV did. Norton's was slow!


White Christmas

The view from our hotel room at the Harvest Club Kougen (Karuizawa). Technically the Kougen is in Gunma Prefecture. We were less than a couple of kilometers from Nagano.


Christmas in Nagano Photos

Garrett and I getting ready to tuck into a rather large bottle of sake.

Chris: Hey, Garrett. Do you have tickets?
Garrett: Huh? Tickets to what?
Chris: To the 'gun show'!
Garrett: You're dumb.
Chris: Fine, then get your hand off my teat.


We did a lot of shopping even though it was damn cold. About half of the people in Karuizawa at any one time are likely to be crammed into this Starbucks. Garrett was so delighted we found a table that he touched my nose.


Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture) is famous for jam.


Masumi, Kate, and Michiko, with Scott in the foreground. This is what a couple bottles of 21-year old Scotch will do to you.


Sightseeing in Tokyo

Kate and Dad sitting in front of the shopping arcade in Asakusa.


Pellegrini's in Tokyo, Japan

Above: The spread that the Watanabe's cooked up for us! Middle: (back l-r) Christopher, Kate, Scott, and Yong-nam (front l-r) Daiki, Dad, and Mom. Below: (back l-r) Masumi, Michiko (holding Rin), Masaki (Masumi's husband), Akira (front l-r) Yasu (Michiko's husband), Ruka, Yukiko, Miyu, Mamoru, and Daiki. Masumi, Yasu, and Akira are Yukiko and Mamoru's three children. Miyu and Daiki are Masumi and Masaki's children. Rin and Ruka belong to Michiko and Yasu.



A busy street near Harajuku station. Downtown Tokyo. By the way, McDonald's is dumb.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Scientific Whaling and Dolphin Hunting in Japan

Greenpeace and the media do a pretty good job of focusing attention on the things that they don't like. There was another confrontation between a Japanese research ship, and a ship operated by Greenpeace.

I think it might be good for them to start shining a little more light on the way that dolphins are rounded up and killed in some fishing communities here in Japan.

It has been claimed that this practice no longer takes place. On a large scale, that may be true. However, it is possible to find individual fisherman on the beach in some areas who will sell dolphin meat to you. It's mostly kept quiet, but I seems that it's still taking place.

For more details on dolphin fishing click here, here, or here.


Granddaughters and Grandfathers

This is what happens

...you add a whole bunch
of wine to the left,...

...but only a little bit
to the right.


Uncle Bill looking at the collage that my parent's made.


This is from the family party we had at my sister's place the night before she graduated from university. That's me, my sister Kate, her 'love man' Aaron, and my brother Scott.


P-money had two too many a bit too early. This is about six seconds before Pete Buonincontro and Dan Eling dumped him on his face. He quickly climbed back in and fell back asleep.


Ryan Lucia from way back in May of 2004. Zita and Jesse's wedding in Brandon, VT.