"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brian Wilson Biopic "Love & Mercy"

Above, the Beach Boys monument in Hawthorne, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back on December 31, 1980, I attended a New Year's Eve concert of the Beach Boys (fellow alumni of mine at Hawthorne High School) at the Forum in Inglewood, California. It was an excellent concert that left fans musically satisfied, although the show ended before the stroke of midnight (and the new year) and most spent the changeover in the Forum's parking lot.

One thing was striking during the concert, I noticed Brian Wilson wandering the stage zombie-like or sitting at a grand piano, robotically banging on the keys.

At the time, one had to wonder if Wilson had much time left on his world. His brothers, Carl and Dennis, were healthy and joyously played and sang that night.

However, years later, Dennis drowned and Carl died of cancer. And now, Brian is the only Wilson brother left and has made a huge comeback musically and personally.

A new biopic on Wilson's trials and tribulations is about to be released and it is one movie I am looking forward to seeing. It is called Love & Mercy.

Here's what Ultimate Classic Rock has to say about the movie:
If you’re a Brian Wilson fan, it’s tough to be objective about Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, a biopic that reverently jockeys between the Beach Boys mastermind’s unraveling and redemption, but shows little in between. 
Deftly alternating between the mid-’60s and mid-’80s, with brilliant portrayals by Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson, the duality allows each actor to play to his strengths: Dano masters a youthful exuberance and silent pain; Cusack shows the reserve, mannerisms and whisper of longtime suffering.

Read More: Brian Wilson's Brilliance and Pain Explored in 'Love & Mercy': Movie Review | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/love-and-mercy-review/?trackback=tsmclip

Dollar Hovering Around 123 Yen In Tokyo Trading

There's good news coming out of Tokyo on the foreign exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the U.S. dollar this morning.

According to Jiji Press:
Tokyo, May 27 (Jiji Press)--The dollar hovered around 123 yen in Tokyo trading on Wednesday after topping the level in overseas trading overnight, for the first time in nearly eight years, following solid U.S. economic data.
To read more, go here

New "Poltergeist" Is A Crashing Bore

Above, the poster for the new version. Definitely false advertising.

Rarely do remakes exceed the quality of the original movies. The new Poltergeist totally bombs in that department.

Here's a synopsis of the new version by 20th Century Fox and MGM:
All seems well for Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell), wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their three children as they move into their new house in the suburbs of Illinois. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) begins talking to an imaginary friend, or so the family thinks. It's not long before sinister spirits wreak havoc in the home, holding Maddy captive and forcing the parents to consult a team of parapsychologists who engage the supernatural entities in a battle for the girl's freedom.
In watching the movie, I was struck by the feeling that we've been here before and when it was done before, it was done way better. The original was produced in 1982 with Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams and Heather O'Rourke and it was directed by Tobe Hooper.

The characters in the original were much more likable and it had a very satisfying "chill factor". This movie wasn't scary at all. And, despite decent effects, it just had nothing suspenseful about it. It was a crashing bore. I asked myself several times, "Why?" (was this even made).

My advice: save your money and rent (or buy) the DVD of the original. The producers of this movie (who also produced The Grudge and Evil Dead) ought to be ashamed.

My grade: D (and I am being charitable here).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Universal Hollywood Pix

Above, during the Jurassic Park ride. This reminds me of "a certain
1954 Japanese movie" for some reason. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It had been ages since I stepped foot in the Universal Studios amusement park. It is amazing how it grew over the years since I was last there.

Yesterday was a bit trying as my daughter was in a car accident in Santa Monica. But luckily, my ladyfriend Denise talked me into going to Universal, so Memorial Day wasn't a total bust.

We managed to partake in the Jurassic Park ride (how timely since the new Jurassic World movie is about to be released), the Revenge of the Mummy ride, the Shrek show and the Waterworld show. I'm glad we waited until dusk to take in the Waterworld show as the darkness made the explosions more spectacular.

Here's a few pictures:

Above, The Simpsons have their own section in the park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a view of Lakeside Golf club, where I work in my "parachute job" from Universal. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, during the Jurassic Park ride. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a spinx with the moon in the sky as we were in line for
the Revenge of the Mummy ride. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Waterworld show. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Denise and her cousin on the Jurassic Park ride. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the explosive finale of the Waterworld show. I can hear the
explosions at night from work. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Denise and I with the tall pharaoh girl. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

What A Day!

Memorial Day began typically as I had to work during the night. After getting home, I headed off to the local Vallarta Supermarket to pick up a few things.

After getting home, I made some guacamole and sat down and watched a Star Trek movie. I proceeded to nod off on the couch during the movie and woke up about four hours later. Minutes after waking up, I received a call from my daughter Amber who told me she was just in an accident in Santa Monica.

Above, Amber's poor car at the tow yard. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

She was t-boned in an intersection. It may have totaled her car. At least she's okay. I then proceeded to pick her up from Santa Monica.

After picking Amber up from Santa Monica, we headed to Crazy Tokyo Sushi in Tarzana for a late lunch. I'll have to take care of the insurance part of the accident tomorrow.

Following lunch and dropping Amber off at home, I went home to decompress. In about a half hour, I received a message from Denise, a gal I met a few weeks ago. I had told her about Amber's accident earlier. She thought I needed some cheering up and wanted me to go with her and her cousin to Universal Studios.

I thought we were just going to City Walk, but we ended up in the amusement park (can't believe that it now costs $95 for a one-day general admission ticket).

Above, with Denise and having a brew at Universal Studios.

Above, Denise on the Jurassic Park ride. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, Denise and I with a rather tall "pharaoh girl".

Well, we ended up having a great time and it was the first time since I was in the Cub Scouts (the Matterhorn bobsleds at Disneyland) that I was talked into riding a roller-coaster. It was the Revenge of The Mummy ride. I survived.

Above, Denise and I enjoying the Revenge of The Mummy ride. Photo by Universal Studios.

Actually, it was a lot of fun. It was a roller-coaster of a day anyway, but this was the topper!

Shake 'n Bake: Japanese Man Dumps Wife's Ashes Down Toilet At Market

Above, a Japanese cremation urn.

This story caught my attention.

News On Japan posted:
A Japanese man turned himself in to authorities after trying to flush the ashes of his "hated" dead wife down a supermarket toilet, reports and police said on Sunday. 
The 68-year-old man told police he dumped his wife's ashes into the toilet bowl at a supermarket in Tokyo's Nerima Ward immediately after she was cremated last month.
- See more at: http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/112640.php#sthash.6sqJuEBa.dpuf

Japan's Economic Boost From Foreign Tourism

Above, souvenirs for sale at Asakusa's Nakamise Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan's economy has been in the doldrums since the "bubble" burst back in the early 1990s. So it stands to reason that the benefits that the boom in foreign tourism is giving the country a big shot in the arm.

According to Tourism-Review:
Foreign visitors' spending in Japan skyrocketed to an all-time high in what may be the past two decades. This ultra-high spending has added about 0.1 percent points to the gross domestic product. If you think the change is small, then re-think. For an economy that has been crippled to dormancy for a very long time, a positive change of 0.1% in GDP is not a small achievement! 
According to Yuichi Kodama, who is an economist at Tokyo's Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, Japan can effectively seep into the rising purchasing power of the Asian market through foreign tourism. He attributes this to the declining local population that has led to a decrease in the domestic demand. Thus, the domestic market cannot be looked up to for substantial economic gain. 
The economic boost from tourism in Japan has been influenced by two major factors – China and the dwindling Yen.
It was only a scant few years ago that I blogged how the Japanese tourism industry will rebound once the foreign exchange rates between foreign currency and the Japanese yen become more favorable to potential foreign visitors. Back then, the exchange rates between the U.S. dollar (to give an example) were down around 80 yen. Today, the dollar and yen exchange rate is around 120 yen.

Read more at http://www.tourism-review.com/tourism-helping-the-stagnant-japanese-economy-news4568#AuMRJxfWMiGLB0mk.99

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 23 Blog Post Pick-ups

The good folks at The Japan Daily picked up several of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Japan Info: What Railcard to Use in Japan

Above, two of the JR Rail Passes I've used. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning to visit Japan and want to see much of the country, but are on a budget, Japan Info has posted an article on different ways to save money on transportation.

Above, the fronts to the rail passes I've used. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Included in the article are the ten JR Rail Passes that are only available to foreign visitors and pre-paid travel cards.

They start the article with:
Japan has an amazing and extensive public transportation system, being famous for the Shinkansen, or bullet train which is the fastest train in the world. It might seem overwhelming at first when you come to plan your trip due to all the different options for travel, today I will focus on getting around Japan by train and what products you can have to make this simpler and cheaper!
To read more, go here

Donna Loren

Back in the mid-1960s, there was a celebrity who appeared in so many things that it almost seemed that if one popped their head out the door, she'd be there.

That celebrity was singer-actress Donna Loren.

She appeared as far back in the 1950s on the Mickey Mouse Club. She later appeared on many variety shows and appeared numerous times on the dance show Shindig. She was the "Dr. Pepper Girl" for many years and was featured in "beach party" movies such as Pajama Party in 1964. Donna was even The Joker's moll on Batman.

Now 68, Donna is still active and looks very well for her age.

I obtained this nice autographed photo from Donna this week:

Zooming Japan: Top 3 Night Views In Japan

Above, a view of Nagasaki out of my hotel room's window. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here's another one of those lists of things to see and do in Japan.

This time, it is provided by Zooming Japan. It is the "Top Three Night Views In Japan."

They start it with:
Japan loves lists, so it’s not a surprise that you’ll find lists for almost everything.
For visitors this is perfect as it saves a lot of work! There are the “Top 3 Views of Japan“, “Top 3 Gardens in Japan” etc. 
Today, I want to introduce the best night views in Japan according to the “official list”. They’re called “Sandaiyakei” (三大夜景, Three Great Night Views).
To see what they are, go here

News From NRA-ILA


Court Rebukes D.C. for Discretionary Licensing Regime, Orders Issuance of Concealed Carry Licenses to Eligible Applicants
On May 18, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order prohibiting enforcement of provisions of D.C. law that effectively grant to the police chief the discretion to decide who may lawfully exercise the right to bear arms in public for self-defense. This follows on the heels of an earlier ruling in which the District lost the argument that the right to “bear arms” does not apply outside the home, leading to the hasty enactment of an "emergency" may-issue concealed carry licensing scheme. Such a license is the only means by which most people can lawfully carry firearms in D.C. for self-defense.  Monday’s case, Wren v. District of Columbia, made a preliminary ruling that D.C.’s policy of discretionary issuance would likely run afoul of the Second Amendment. 
Rep. Steve Scalise Introduces Bill to Relax Restrictions on Interstate Firearm Sales
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) has introduced a bill to modernize certain aspects of interstate firearms commerce. The Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, H.R. 2246, would yield increased convenience and choice for consumers, while continuing to allow states to set their own policy regarding transfer and possession of firearms within their borders.
Anti-gun Congresspersons Try, Try Again, Reveal Prohibitionist Ambitions
As we reported last week, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) is seeking to revive failed and rejected gun control strategies of the past by implementing burdensome and unnecessary controls on sales of ammunition. H.R. 2283, the so-called Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2015, wouldn’t just ban online ammunition sales, it would generally ban private ammunition sales altogether. So while a widow, for example, could still sell her deceased husband’s guns to a neighbor if the bill were passed, she could not sell the neighbor any ammunition that might go with them. Even from a gun control perspective, this seems like odd public policy, but then we’ve never accused our opponents of being burdened by logic or consistency. 
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis knows NRA Makes a Difference
No summary available
Finger-gun Slinger in Chief Rides Again, Conveys Hopeful Message to America's Kids
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama once again exposed the irrationality of public school administrators intent on punishing children for imaginative play under overbroad zero-tolerance weapons policies. While attending the United States Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremony in New London, Conn., the 44th president took time to pose with some of the graduating cadets. While getting his picture taken with Graduate Robert McConnel, Obama and the cadet struck back-to-back James Bond-like poses--with matching finger-guns in the air. 
Gun Control Called "Absurd" on Anti-Gun Website
To say the very least, articles questioning the advisability of gun control are few and far between on HuffingtonPost.com. Recently, however, a blogger on the normally anti-gun website expressed views that are liable to work gun control supporters, into a tizzy. In a piece titled In Gun Control Controversy, Can Americans Handle the Truth?, self-described public relations consultant Mario Almonte says that in countries plagued by corrupt governments, violent religious fanatics, and civil war, people would "welcome guns to protect themselves and their families” and would consider gun control "absurd" and its advocates "extraordinarily naïve."
Remember What We Are Celebrating on Memorial Day
This weekend, our country will celebrate Memorial Day.  We'll cook out, relax, and visit with friends and family.  But this holiday weekend is about more than barbeques, swimming pools, and family get-togethers.  As we celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, let us keep in mind what we are "celebrating" -- those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that Americans, and people around the world, would be able to reap the benefits of freedom. 
Contact Your Elected Officials to Support Pending National Right-to-Carry Legislation
Thanks to your continued calls and emails, NRA supported Right-to-Carry bills have seen increases in cosponsorships this past week.  Please continue to contact your elected officials and urge them to cosponsor and support these important bills:


What’s the Real Strength of the NRA?
In this News Minute from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, Jennifer Zahrn speaks about the driving force behind the NRA – our unparalleled grassroots support.


Florida Alert! Governor Rick Scott has SIGNED the Mandatory Evacuation Bill into Law
Connecticut Connecticut
Connecticut: Flawed Due Process Bill on the Move
Illinois Illinois
Illinois: Your Legislators Need to Hear From You on Pro-Gun and Pro-Hunting Legislation
Iowa Iowa
Iowa: House Passes Omnibus Pro-Gun Provision for the Third Time
Maine Maine
Maine: Legislative Document 801 Voted Down in Committee
Minnesota Minnesota
Minnesota: NRA-Backed Omnibus Legislation Signed Into Law
Missouri Missouri
Missouri: 2015 Legislative Session Ends with School Security Funding
North Carolina North Carolina
North Carolina: Your Action is Needed on Important Sunday Hunting Legislation
Ohio Ohio
Ohio: Constitutional Carry Legislation Scheduled in Committee Next Week
Oklahoma Oklahoma
Oklahoma: Your Elected Officials are Failing to Protect the Second Amendment
South Carolina South Carolina
South Carolina: Update on Legislation in the Palmetto State
Texas Texas
Critical Texas Campus Carry Legislation Needs Your Help!
Vermont Vermont
Vermont: Session Ends on Positive Note as Suppressor Legislation Clears Legislature

Tokyo Skytree's Elevators To Be Beefed Up To Resist Wind

Above, the Tokyo Skytree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Tokyo Skytree is a marvel of modern architecture, but it still has problems. One of those problems is about to be remedied.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:
TOKYO -- After disappointing many visitors by blocking access during windy weather, the operator of Tokyo Skytree decided to beef up the elevators to keep the attraction open even when it gets gusty.  
     The 634-meter tower marked its three-year anniversary on Friday. The initial boom has faded after visitor traffic peaked in fiscal 2013. Last fiscal year, the count decreased by 880,000 to 5.31 million. It is expected to shrink 11% this fiscal year to 4.7 million. 
     Operator Tobu Railway booked sales and profit declines in the year ended in March, even as rivals reported record profits by capturing growing demand from business travelers. This fiscal year, net profit is seen falling 20% to 24.3 billion ($200 million) due to the sluggish performance of the Skytree business. 
     The tower's vulnerability to windy weather has been a turnoff for many tourists. The elevators automatically stop working when strong winds blow, suspending operations on 28 days during fiscal 2014.
To read more, go here

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