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Monday, December 15, 2014

2014: Year In Review

Above, a group shot at Toho Studios at the Godzilla statue with Jessica Claros, Jonathan Bellés and Yoshikazu Ishii.

Now's the time to do my annual "year in review" of the highlights (and, maybe, "low-lights") of the year that is soon to be ending.

The year started out on a good note as I attended the Oshogatsu celebration on New Year's Day in Little Tokyo near downtown Los Angeles. While there, I had a reunion with former State Assemblyman Paul T. Bannai, for whom I worked for during my college years. He's now 94, but still has a lot of energy.

Above, a reunion with former Assemblyman Paul
Bannai at the Oshogatsu celebration in Little Tokyo.
Not long after New Year's, my "roomie" Jes came down with liver failure. This was caused by Methotrexate, a medication she had been taking for a skin condition. We almost lost her at one point, but the liver department of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has been giving her good treatment and her condition has stabilized. But she needs a liver transplant, and we spent the year jumping through all kinds of hoops to get her approved for a liver transplant. The light is almost at the end of the tunnel on approval as she has a meeting with the transplant doctor early next month.

While this was going on, I went to Japan for about a week to gather material for an updated edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and to assist Jonathan Bellés of Spain with his documentary on Godzilla and The Bomb. We spent a whole day at Toho Studios at one point conducting interviews. I did wander through the studio lot and noticed many changes to the studio since I was last inside in 2001. Although Toho Studios is now a very modern studio with gigantic new sound stages and facilities, I think I liked it better thirteen years ago. I was lucky to see it as it pretty much was when Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya were cranking out many science-fiction movie classics.

Above, lunch with the crew of JapanTravel in Roppongi Hills.
Also while in Japan, I took a train ride down to Yokosuka to see the Godzilla slide at the Kurihama Flower World park. It was a cold and snowy day when I had to hike to the slide. But it was a fun excursion. I also met the crew of JapanTravel while in Tokyo. We had an excellent lunch meeting in Roppongi Hills.

Speaking of snow and cold, I managed to be in Japan when Tokyo and other areas were hit by two unusually strong snowstorms. The first storm arrived when I did at Narita International Airport and it caused the Keisei Line to stop their trains midway between Tokyo and Narita. I didn't reach my hotel until 22 hours after landing. It was an interesting experience, one that I would not care to repeat. At least I got a lot of photographs of the snow. After checking into my hotel, I took a taxi over to Kitchen Town (Kappabashi) to pick up a chef's knife for Jes. 

Above, Masaharu Ina and Armand at
the Godzilla statue in Hibiya.
I also had lunch with the former general manager of Toho's Los Angeles office, Masaharu Ina in Tokyo. He laughed when I put my gloves on the Godzilla statue in Hibiya for a photograph to illustrate on how cold it was in Tokyo. We had an excellent lunch and caught up on things since our last visit in 2010. It snowed again in Tokyo the night before I departed for the U.S.

The Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla opened in the U.S. in May to generally favorable reviews (I gave it a B+). Prior to its opening in Japan in July, I was asked to contribute an article to Metropolis magazine in Tokyo for their "Godzilla issue" they published the week of the release of Godzilla. It was on "The Top Five Monster Attack Locations In Tokyo." It was indeed an honor to be asked to contribute to the issue. Godzilla eventually earned over $500 million worldwide. Not bad!

Above, the Adventures of Superman plaque in Tarzana. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While this was going on, work was taking place in getting the Adventures of Superman plaque prepared, made and installed for the plaque dedication honoring the show and the 100th birthdays of George Reeves and Superman creators Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster in Tarzana. It was placed at the only location site where all main cast members appeared.

Above, my article in Metropolis magazine.

The plaque dedication was part of the Superman Celebration that was organized by Jim Nolt for August 16. The celebration also included a luncheon and a tour of the Pasadena Playhouse (where George Reeves got his acting career started).

Above, Jack Larson addresses the Superman
plaque dedication ceremony attendees.
In October, I participated (for the third consecutive year) on the Godzilla panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It was again headed up by Jessica Tseang and, this time, we were also able to show some audio/visual materials during the panel. We discussed our thoughts on the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla.

November was relatively quiet except for Election Day and until a hot water pipeline decided to give out in two locations (under the kitchen sink and bedroom closet) in the concrete floor. It saturated the carpet and some of my personal property. It was a mess. I had been meaning to go though stuff and discard things I will never use again or don't need. This just advanced the calendar on that drastically. I managed to get rid of a lot of clutter. Things are finally back in shape. I have a new carpet and new linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom.

Above, the Godzilla panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo.
The holidays, so far, haven't registered all that much in my brain since I had to work on Thanksgiving Day and will have to work on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. I am considering retiring a year from February, but will continue to work for something to do and for medical insurance coverage since Obamacare forces people to have medical insurance, whether people want it or not.

As for next year, plans are now being discussed for a presentation in San Francisco on Godzilla movie locations. More on that when those plans are finalized. In fact, I was on the phone discussing it today.

Once things with Jes's transplant and other things are completed, I will be getting the next edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan done and to the publisher. It is likely that I will make another trip to Japan to gather more material to include.

Above, Election Night with GOP candidate Mark Reed.
Thankfully, I did not have to attend any funerals in 2014. I hope this trend continues into next year.

One milestone was reached this year: this blog clocked over one million page views!

Best wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season!

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