Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New TV Commercial

This is a still from a TV commercial I shot this past spring.

The man in front is none other than Koji Yakusho. His most recent Hollywood roles were in Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel.
Mr. Yakusho is an incredibly talented actor, and a very warm-hearted man to boot.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No, but seriously...

This is channel 10's idea of how to stress a point that they really want the viewer to understand.

"...and just how many people's pension money has been misplaced? [out of the corner of his mouth] Pssst, hold up the sign."
"Oh. Now?"
"Yes, now! It looks more official if we're holding them up at the same time!"

I nearly died laughing, but fortunately I was able to snap this photo before they switched to some gritty, on-the-scene reporting of a parliamentary debate.


Monday, May 21, 2007

School's Out

Today it became painfully obvious that the measles vaccination is indeed a good idea.

After my first lesson of the day finished (3rd period Academic Writing) I was informed that the entire next week of classes had been cancelled. The students rejoiced, and I was left to figure out how I can stay on top of all of my grading over the next week or so.

The measles, from what I've heard, are only fun for those who don't come down with them. And it seems that MMR (measles, mumps, and rubeola) shots are not as common in Japan as one would expect. Measles outbreaks tend to occur only in developing countries these days, but there is a large population of individuals in Japan that is not immune to the virus, so Waseda University is officially off-limits (for most people) until next Wednesday at the earliest.
It was reported that Waseda has had 30 reported cases of the measles so far this spring. To put that number in perspective, in 2002 there were 44 cases reported nationwide in the United States.

The whole economy that revolves around the tens of thousands of students from Waseda University has been put on hold for at least seven days, and there's no guarantee that the one week break will stem an epidemic.

Since many students cannot change their work schedules at a part-time job on short notice, they are finding it difficult to fill their windfall of a vacation. Many "circles" (university clubs) are using the extra time off from school to do some extra drinking. The measles virus has an incubation period of between four and twelve days, so the drinking parties are probably not going to help the situation much.

To make matters more exciting, a friend of mine who works at a hospital here in Tokyo said that they are already out of measles shots. Nice nice!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Right. Back to Normal.

We were never going to win that game anyway with Tateyama (0-2, 4.15 era) on the mound. In the third and final inning of Tateyama's afternoon he gave up five runs on five hits and three walks (the last of which forced in a run).

And it definitely didn't help that we were facing Hiroshima's ace, Kuroda (4-2, 2.72).

Kuroda got through nine innings on only 89 pitches this afternoon (7 hits, 5 strikeouts, and 1 walk). Both of Tokyo's runs were brought around by Guiel's bat (7th inning solo dinger and 9th inning rbi single to center)

Final score:

Hiroshima 5
Tokyo 2

Silver Lining:

Ishikawa (0-3, 7.08), one of Tokyo's many starters who forgot how to pitch during the off-season, made a two-inning middle relief appearance. He retired all six batters he faced and had two strikeouts.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Holy Crap! Tokyo Won a Game!

After seven straight losses, the Swallows got a win! Greisinger pitched six solid innings while giving up two runs on five hits.

Tokyo blew the game wide open in the third when the first five batters had base hits. That six hit inning translated into five runs.

In an interesting development, Guiel and Ramirez have been switched in the batting order. I would imagine that Furuta is trying to figure out where Guiel feels the most comfortable, and Ramirez is probably more than happy to give up the cleanup slot if it means that the team will knock in extra runs and win more ballgames. He's easy like that.

For those who are keeping track, Ramirez went 2 for 5, and Guiel was 2 for 4.

Final score:
Hiroshima 2
Tokyo 6

Update: This win enabled Tokyo to escape their first 8-game losing streak in 15 years.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Six Straight Losses

Fujii gave up a few big walks early on, and those proved to be the difference. Tokyo has now lost the first two games of the series versus Chunichi.

There have, however, been a couple of bright spots over the past week:

  • the chicken baskets (fried chicken plus french fries) made a rebound in the taste and freshness departments this past weekend
  • I caught a baseball thrown into the crowd by Tokyo's right fielder, Aaron Guiel

So it hasn't been a total loss.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Four Straight Losses, Actually.

Dropped the entire series versus Hanshin. Tons of fun.

Beautiful thing about baseball--it just takes a couple of iffy pitches for the whole thing to fall apart. Happened twice tonight.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Huh. Three Straight Losses.

It's turning out to be that kind of season. We have another starting pitcher who is in need of time away from the rotation, so we are temporarily without the services of our steadiest hurler, Greisinger. Seems he has some shoulder issues...hopefully he'll feel healthy enough to get back into the rotation before he's missed three or four starts (fingers crossed).

So the current tally is one loss to the Baystars followed by consecutive losses to the Hanshin Tigers. Game three of the Hanshin series is this evening. Yes, I will be at the game.

In (slightly) positive news, the bats at the top of our lineup continue to move runners around the diamond. Aoki, Ramirez, and Miyamoto are getting it done. Iihara and Guiel are also coming into their own week by week. Fujii pitched quite well (by his standards) the other night, so that was a heart-warming sign as well.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Huh. Three Straight Wins.

As an encore, the Tokyo Swallows have followed up their solid win on Sunday versus first place Yomiuri with two straight wins against the second place Yokohama Baystars (who have been having an amazing season thus far).

Didn't see that coming.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We Miss You, Dad


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tokyo Birds Take One From Yomiuri

Ishii proved that he still has it when he shut down the Yomiuri lineup tonight. He allowed one run off of only four hits in eight innings of work!

His seven K's were qualified by a pair of walks and one plunked batter.

He maintained decent control of his slider from start to finish, and he displayed some very good glovework on the defensive end of things.

Miyade (solo home run) and Guiel (bloop single, Iihara scored from 3rd) were responsible for Tokyo's two runs.

Final score:
Tokyo 2 - Yomiuri 1

Winning Pitcher: Ishii
Losing Pitcher: Takahashi
Save: Takatsu


Birthday 2007


Dave and Hisae's Wedding Reception (April 28th, 2007)


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tokyo Swallows Continue Dive

Tokyo just wrapped up another big loss at the hands of cross-town rivals, Yomiuri.

Our pitching is in shambles. We don't have two of our starters, Kawashima and Gonzales, and that has hurt us dearly. What's more, past greats like Ishii and Ishikawa, who represent the old and the new of Tokyo's bullpen, are not getting it done. Matsui, a rookie (and not our best rookie), was handed the ball again tonite. It didn't go well.

Only a few of our hitters are pulling their weight at the moment. Aoki (despite a sore neck), Ramirez, and Miyamoto are playing very well. Other than that, the lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Iihara and Tanaka, two of Tokyo's prized up-and-comers, are still a year or two from valuable production from home plate. Riggs's absence from the lineup has further complicated things by leaving a gaping hole in the business-end of the order. Guiel still sways between moments of brilliance and utter stupidity when he's up to bat. I think it's fair to say that consistency isn't really our strong suit.

And can we please buy a catcher who can hit?

At sixth in the central, it seems like we'll be content to win one out of every three games for the next few weeks. No run support was offered tonight (final score Tokyo 0 - Yomiuri 8), and that definitely needs to change. But run support is largely ineffective when your starter's era is above six (which is true for several of our starters [wipes away tears]).

Names that won't be back next year if this continues: Furuta, Ishii Kazuhisa, and Ramirez [even though he's playing very well right now. The foreigner will probably take one for the team (ie. not be offered a new contract) if Tokyo stays in the cellar all season].

PS. Hoshino, famed former Hanshin and future national team head coach, was an annoying guest announcer this evening during NHK's oft-interrupted telecast of the game. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive due to the big loss this evening, but he managed to dance all over one of my pet peeves. Bear with me...

I think he explicitly mentioned that a player was a foreigner (gaikokujin senshu) at least two dozen times during the game. Sounds innocent enough because they are, by all accounts, not Japanese, but it just seems like more of the same.

Is it really important that these men, who pay taxes here in Japan, are repeatedly differentiated as foreign? Some may argue that it is. I say it isn't. I think that the repeated reference to a person being foreign (and therefore un-Japanese) belies ignorance, and when repeated often enough, it belies an attitude of superiority.

In his defense, Hoshino is a man that operates in the pro sports world of us and them. Soon this rhetoric will sound all too acceptable when the Beijing Olympics roll around. Perhaps we want this sort of attitude from the skipper of our national side--he may be able to instill a sense of nationalism in his charges that will help inspire them to reach the gold medal game. Also, there were a few times when he was referring to all foreign players in Japan (as in, "The foreigners are brought here to hit"), and I can't really think of a more efficient way to say that in Japanese than the way he did.

But I would be surprised if Hoshino could come up with the nationalities of the three position players on Tokyo's roster (Ramirez is from Venezuela, Guiel is from Canada, and Riggs is from the United States of America). For him, they are all foreigners. Every time he repeated the differentiation, it seemed to be more out of habit and less out of necessity.

Perhaps it's too small a gripe for me to dedicate half a post to, but this guy is a role model. I think that many people, particularly folks who have spent part of their lives living in a foreign country, will agree that Hoshino's words are emblematic of a larger problem. Japanese, Venezuelans, Canadians, and Americans don't outrank each other in any way, shape, or form. It would be nice if everyone, especially people who spend a lot of time coaching foreign players, realized that.


Dave and Hisae's Wedding Reception (April 28th, 2007)


Adam's Birthday

Adam's family and friends are going to choke on their coffee when they see which sport he's taken up (he's British).


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spider-man 3

Yes, I've already seen it. Sorry, earthlings, but its world debut occurred in Japan today (May 1st, 2007).

The major themes in this installment are miscommunication / misunderstanding and forgiveness (both of self and others). Revenge also helps anchor the storyline.

This is an action-packed film (clocks in at a little over two hours) that doesn't waste any time getting started. Lots of twists and surprises, as usual, with both Tobey Maguire and James Franco showing a bit of range in portraying the good-guy/sinister-guy personalities that reside within them.

There's a lot of digital imagery in Spider-man 3 (special effects), but for some reason I didn't mind it as much as I did while watching the Matrix trilogy. On the plus side, the plot isn't too hard to follow. The villains (everyone seems to take a turn being one in this flick!) help keep the audience guessing, so my overall reaction to this movie is positive.
Spider-man 3 hits theaters in America on May 4th.