sk4ek comments

Posted in: Wonder of the world See in context

Music by Stevie & Son, body by Steven Seagal...

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Posted in: Jake Shimabukuro speaks to generations through the ukulele See in context

alladin--if you think that, you've probably never met Jake or seen him perform (and while his success comes from what is traditionally considered a Hawaiian instrument, it has little to do with Hawaiian music per se, as he seldom plays Hawaiian numbers).

I've met Jake numerous times, talked to him, seen how he interacts with his audience, and I think he would have been a success at whatever he decided to do--with or without the ukulele. He's got character.

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Posted in: Jake Shimabukuro speaks to generations through the ukulele See in context

Jake's sure come a long way in five or six years. I can remember seeing him play (for free) at Willow's Restaurant in Honolulu, and I know he still does charity concerts in Hawaii, and of course he's since toured the U.S. with Jimmy Buffet and the great Bela Fleck, not to mention playing Europe, performing with Bette Midler (another of Hawaii's notable artists), even hitting blues clubs in New York City. His annual summer tours of Japan have crept up in price though, over the years, and his handlers (Sony Music Entertainment) have really pushed him to tailor himself to Japanese audiences, which has led him in a rather bland direction of late. Still, he remains a humble, hard-working, versatile, and extremely talented performer!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snPQ1z5FoqQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEqzV3ysPEg

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Posted in: Shinobu Terajima talks about cinema, sex scenes and why she hates doing commercials See in context

Maybe part of the problem--from the JT reader point of view, anyway--is that while there are any number of talented, thoughtful, intelligent, even subversive actors in the Japanese film and theater industries, they either don't speak English (and thus don't get much exposure to Western audiences), or express their sentiments about their art, the industry, the world at large, in documentaries and interviews not seen by the average foreign resident of Japan. I've seen any number of full-length interviews on NHK and other stations with Shinobu Terashima, where she expressed many of the same views as in this article, as well as with long-time stars such as Hiroyuki Sanada, Koji Yakusho, Chieko Baisho, Ken Takakura, Shima Iwashita, etc. etc. that were equally engrossing.

Until Hollywood is willing to incorporate subtitles in major productions, they will rely on stars with name recognition and English-language ability. The majority of truly great actors in Japan lack the former, outside of Japan, and certainly the latter, but why should that not be the case, as it is in many other countries?

And well...I'm sorry, but even putting those issues aside, there is no way any competent director or casting official is going to choose Norika Fujiwara and Shizuka Kudo over Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li, at least not for roles that call for any range of acting ability.

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Posted in: Shinobu Terajima talks about cinema, sex scenes and why she hates doing commercials See in context

Off topic but let's see, I count no fewer than 50 cast members in "Memoirs of a Geisha" with Japanese names versus what, 20 possibly Chinese names, 4 or 5 possibly Korean names, and a similar number of Vietnamese-sounding names. Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, and Kaori Momoi are hardly minor talent, either. Anyway, as Pukey2 says, it's a silly argument anyway--watch any Japanese TV drama with Western roles and listen carefully to how many "American" characters are played by Russians or other Eastern Europeans (thanks, Motoko Inagawa)...

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Posted in: Panasonic oven range See in context

Steam-powered! Ha! You don't need to plug it in--just hook it up to the hot water heater??? And double the amount of microwaves!!! Just what the happy, newlywed couple needs as they try to build a family!!

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Posted in: It’s time to get rid of sound trucks See in context

timtak--I've read Nakajima's books and enjoyed his curmudgeonly take on things. I think of him every time I get on an escalator!

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Posted in: Mitsui Garden Hotel to open in Ueno in September See in context

Finally, Ueno gets a 'real' hotel... :-)

Other Mitsui Garden hotels run in the 18,000-40,000 range, depending on location and room type. Their rooms are small but generally nicely designed and well-appointed. The location near Shimbashi Station/Ginza, across from Shiodome, has a really comfortable bar on, I think, the 25th floor.

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Posted in: It’s time to get rid of sound trucks See in context

Yeah, the yaki-imo and tofu vendors (an increasingly rare bunch) are two of the types I don't mind; they predate both commercial trucks and electronic amplification by a couple of centuries at least... and really, the calls for recycling appliances, etc. have really just replaced the guys going around offering to exchange old clothing and newspapers for rolls of toilet paper made from recycled pulp. I don't know if trucks still go around selling aluminum or plastic rods for hanging clothes ("sao-dake").

I actually kind of support the yaki-imo guys. Most of them (according to several friends who were radical leftists in the 60s) went into the job after being hounded by the Department of Public Safety for their activities as student radicals. The job offered mobility, an ear on the street, and--oddly enough, considering the noise--a kind of anonymity.

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Posted in: How important are ratings given to companies and countries by agencies like Standard & Poor's and Moody's? See in context

Well this is really a question that calls for a subjective response that I think the average consumer--i.e., the average reader of JapanToday--is probably not qualified to make. Asking for a quantitative judgment is even more difficult unless you are an economist or financier. And there is the qualitative query, as well--how important to whom??? Something more specific might be helpful: "Do you believe ratings agencies have too much influence in the market or in political policy-making?" or perhaps "Do you believe the ratings published by credit rating agencies are truly objective?"

The international credit-rating agencies originally played an important role, especially for smaller foreign governments and institutions looking to either raise capital or publicize the stability of their own underlying economics. But as their independence has gradually eroded, their ability to provide truly useful ratings has also been compromised, despite the fact that their influence on policy remains undiminished. They have been allowed to wield a very big stick with few or no restraints, a situation which must change if the flow or accurate, reliable analysis and information is to be maintained.

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Posted in: It’s time to get rid of sound trucks See in context

Though the players change from time to time, there are at least a half-dozen companies that regularly patrol our neighborhood (central Tokyo) offering to relieve people of their unwanted appliances, computers, anything. They start at 8 a.m. and go on until evening, at roughly half-hour to sixty-minute intervals. Because I work at home, and my work requires a good amount of concentration, these trucks are a serious distraction. After some investigating, I found there is a Tokyo metropolitan ordinance that prohibits sound trucks from operating on streets of less than 3 meters in width--and the road running alongside my building is certainly less than that--so I lodged a complaint with the ward office. I don't know if it did any good (I wasn't able to provide specific company names; though my mailbox is regularly stuffed with fliers from these companies, their trucks are unmarked, so it's difficult to know which is which), but I've noticed a definite drop in frequency, if not volume.

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Posted in: New breed of corporate head choppers set up errant workers for decapitation See in context

All of these tactics skirt the boundaries of legality on many, many fronts. Given the potential liability, it is unlike that any major Japanese corporations would stoop to using this kind of service--they have plenty of other ways of fixing personnel problems. But I wouldn't be surprised to see this kind of thing from any of the thousands of medium-sized companies that are fighting for survival these days.

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Posted in: Titan Arum See in context

Actually, those are leaves, not petals... :-)

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Posted in: Bieber's 'Baby' is most-watched video on YouTube See in context

Ack!! Ack!!

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Posted in: New program warns elderly against 'ore ore' scams See in context

Surely there is a problem with some of these figures. 854 billion yen in false billing incidents??? That's more than $8 billion, or almost $800 million per incident. I think they mean 854 million yen, and 98.6 million yen...

That said, Japanese people are hardly the only gullible ones. Otherwise, why do some obviously fraudulent phishing schemes ("Your order with Amazon", "Your FedEx Account") generate any response? Or why did thousands of elderly in the US give their Social Security, Medicaid, and other confidential information to strangers who then used it to defraud the government of hundreds of millions of dollars? Why does the so-called "Kenya Scam" still reel in victims?

It's a problem everywhere. It just takes on different forms in different countries.

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Posted in: The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka sets the pace See in context

I am a long-time fan of the Ritz-Carlton chain, though I've never stayed at their hotels on my own dime. I almost ended up working for them in Hawaii, and turning down that opportunity (in Asia/Pacific sales) is the one career move I've ever regretted. Their service philosophy--and the way they put it into practice--is unparalleled in the industry, despite some of the issues with language, etc. (which surprise me, given my past experiences).

I wouldn't shell out $100 for one of their hamburgers, but coming into a hotel and being greeted by name before you've even had a chance to introduce yourself is a very nice feeling.

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Posted in: The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka sets the pace See in context

Recession is just a state of mind

Yeah, tell that to the people crowding the Hello Work and social welfare offices...

Oops, I forgot, that's not your customer base, is it.

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Posted in: Purple patch See in context

I like these mass displays--tulips, lavender, cosmos--great use of idled farmland (though it would be better if the land were back in use for food production), and a sight better than a golf course, which can only be enjoyed by a few.

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Posted in: Silent strings See in context

Love the design, but you'd think they'd at least mention the name of the manufacturer so someone interested could go and look for one.

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Posted in: Summitry See in context

Laureen is just so stunningly.... Canadian

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Posted in: No Wii can't See in context

For those of us averse to "real" exercise for one reason or another, the Wii can be a good starting point. Thanks to the Wii Fit board and software, I've been getting 20-30 minutes of perfectly legitimate exercise every morning, more than I ever got before (I work at home), and lost almost 50 lbs. as a result. Now that I've lost some weight, I'm more motivated to get out and walk around, even swim at the municipal pool, and I give credit to the Wii for much of that progress.

And my living room is big, bright, and airy--hardly the dark, hellish cubicle of Mr. Chester's imagination.

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Posted in: BP CEO's yacht outing infuriates Gulf residents See in context

I can understand people piling on Hayward, he's handled this whole thing in spectacularly poor fashion, but I do wonder what it is exactly that the people who disapprove of Obama's handling of the matter expect him to have done at this point?

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Posted in: Internet service company to show 'The Cove' in Japan See in context

But he told The Associated Press that he plans to bring Hollywood stars, who support his cause, back to Taiji in September to make sure no dolphins are killed in this year’s hunt.

What's the point of the Hollywood stars??? No one here will care who he brings... their star status will get them nowhere when it comes to dealing with the local people, certainly.

Politics aside, it's truly regrettable that so many theaters have caved in to the pressure to censor their screenings.

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Posted in: Why Japanese property managers are so strict on renting apartments See in context

Try renting in New York City, THEN bitch about Japan.

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Posted in: Reconciling foreign workers' prayer breaks with production deadlines See in context

Come on, you'd come across the same kind of problems in any blue-collar American factory town, too, despite our supposed state of enlightenment about things human resource.

Still, diversity training is definitely poised to become a hot topic here. It is only a little bit about hiring and managing a more diverse group of employees, and a lot about managing preconceptions, resistance, and sometimes outright hostility among the existing workforce. Many companies get too tied up in hiring more...whatever--old people, the disabled, women, migrant workers--and forget to think about what happens once they hit the workplace.

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Posted in: Does Cool Biz help or undermine productivity at the workplace? See in context

Look at Japanese movies from the early- to mid-sixties (especially the "Shacho" series)--summertime scenes with everyone in short sleeves and neckties, hardly a coat in sight. Much more sensible back then, but of course most offices didn't have central air either.

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Posted in: Praying for a 'pokkuri' moment: No muss, no fuss See in context

Pokkuriman: I think Roger Ebert would strongly object to his being characterized as "dying of cancer." While he has had several scary episodes, and much dis-configuring surgery, his cancer has not, according to his blog, returned at this point, and he is as active and healthy as can be expected under the circumstances...

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Posted in: Does Cool Biz help or undermine productivity at the workplace? See in context

Statistics from past years have indicated that workplace productivity drops as much as 7-8% with every one-degree rise in ambient temperature (adjusted for other factors like hours worked, type of work being done, etc.). Many of these so-called eco-activities being promoted in the workplace or on an individual level are fine in theory, but they are not addressing the real problems, like over-dependence on automobiles, wasted energy in manufacturing (although Japan is a global leader in working on this), and all the hot air coming out of Nagata-cho.

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Posted in: Praying for a 'pokkuri' moment: No muss, no fuss See in context

The Japanese may be pragmatic about thinking about death, but they are less so when it comes to preparing for it. Even as the population of elderly living alone continues to rise, social workers and health care case workers find it a real challenge to get old people to do things like prepare a will, fill out an advance health directive, or make other practical arrangements; it's always "too early" to talk/think about such things until, of course, it's too late (and many older people consider it bad luck, as well).

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Posted in: Massage chair See in context

Any padded, upholstered chair is called a "sofa" in Japanese (I know not why), and they come as 1-seaters, 2-seaters (a "love seat" in the English-speaking world), and 3-seaters.

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