"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.

Buy The Amazon Kindle Store Ebook Edition

Buy The Amazon Kindle Store Ebook Edition
Get the ebook edition here! (Click image.)

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Barbecue For The Beast

One of the joys of camping and eating is to grill steaks, chicken, hamburgers, fish or hot dogs on a barbecue grill at a campsite in the great outdoors.

Not too long after buying The Beast, I spotted a barbecue grill for around $17.00 at CVS. It seemed like a good deal, so I bought one.

Unfortunately, the old addage, "you get what you pay for" rang true in this case. My main beef (pun intended) was that the grill virtually sat on top of the charcoals. Even then, it only would fit one flat layer of charcoals.

Additionally, it made steaks tough to chew. It was about like chewing on a shoe. So I decided to get a better barbecue grill.

I checked around Amazon and settled on a Weber Smokey Joe Premium tabletop barbecue grill.

I ordered it last Saturday and it arrived today. It only took about 20 minutes to assemble. It is a beaut! I picked this model as it is perfect for travel as it has a locking bar that holds the lid in place.

I have had Weber barbecues before and I should have known better to get one instead of the one I did. They cook very well without turning meat into shoe leather.

Can't wait to try it out!

Japan To Levy 8% Consumption Tax On Ebooks October 1

For the past several months, my blog postings have brought positive news for foreign visitors to Japan when the subject is Japan's consumption tax.

This time, the news isn't so good, at least as far as residents of Japan are concerned. I received this notice from Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing division, who is handling the ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan:
Starting October 1, 2015 an 8% consumption tax will be applied to all ebooks sold to customers living in Japan. No action is required of you, but we are notifying you because you currently have one or more titles available through KDP that may be affected by this change.
If you are living in Japan and want to get the ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and avoid the consumption tax, now's the time to do it! You have from now until October 1 to get the ebook without being taxed at Amazon Japan.

To get the ebook, go here.

Return To Dodger Stadium and Major League Baseball

Above, the current standings of the NL Western Division.

The 1994 Major League Baseball strike was, according to USA Today last year, "the most embarrassing moment in MLB history." The strike lasted 232 days and it ended the 1994 baseball season.

Many fans (and some players) refused to attend (or play) in another MLB game since the strike. I haven't attended a baseball game since 1994. Prior to the strike, Dodger Stadium was almost a "second home" to me. I used to attend at least one game during every Dodger homestand. I also attended quite a number of Angel games down in Anaheim.

Well, that is about to end tomorrow night as I will be stepping inside Dodger Stadium for the first time in 21 years.

I will be attended tomorrow night's game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, who are battling for the National League Western Division Championship.

It will be interesting to see the changes that have been made to Dodger Stadium since Peter O'Malley sold the team.

It will be nice to have a Dodger Dog or two tomorrow night.

Dollar At 121 Yen In Tokyo

The dollar has risen a bit against the yen.

According to Jiji Press:
Tokyo, Aug. 28 (Jiji Press)--The dollar cut gains versus the yen in Tokyo late Friday after retaking 121 yen for the first time since Monday.
This follows the turbulent week where the U.S. stock market along with other stock markets around the world were down due to uncertainty in China's economy and other factors.

The U.S. stock market has made a recovery after several days of falling stocks.

The exchange rate between the dollar and yen was around 124 yen before the markets had their "correction".

To read more, go here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Black Lies Matter

Milwaukee Co. Sheriff David Clarke on Sean Hannity's show:
MILWAUKEE COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE: Hillary, meet Frankenstein, they created this monster, now they realize that, if you cannot continue to feed the beast, the beast will turn on you and eat you. And that’s what’s going on here. Sean, let’s take a look at this group, this Black Lives Matter, which I have renamed ‘Black Lies Matter,’ and the reason I have is because, this is the bastard child, as you know, of the ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ The whole thing is built on a lie. The whole premise is built on a lie. But it’s a conglomeration of misfits, alright, you have the Occupy movement, you have organized labor in on it now, you have criminals, you have black racialists, you have cop-haters, and anarchists have now formed together this full movement, if you will. No longer in the United States, and I think that I’m living proof of that, no longer can blacks as a whole claim victim status, except for one situation. They are victims to the Democrat Party in the United States of America, and what modern liberalism has done to the black family.
For more, go here.

George Reeves "Superman" Costume Ensemble Up For Auction

A Superman costume, purported to have been worn by George Reeves during the 1953 (second) season of the Adventures of Superman television show of the 1950s, is up for auction this coming month.

The costume's colorization was tailored for black & white film for contrast.

Along with the costume, a "flying pan" device used for flying scenes is included with the costume.

They are being auctioned by Profiles In History.

Here's the auction's description:
1014. George Reeves “Superman” costume ensemble with fx “flying pan”. (Warner Bros. TV, 1952-58) This amazing Superman ensemble was worn by George Reeves in 26 second season episodes of The Adventures of Superman – the last year the show was shot in black & white. The gray knit wool suit (with Berman’s Hollywood label) consists of tunic with under-strap, leggings, dark brown trunks, tan leather belt with oval brass buckle, brown cape and brown leather suede boots with rear zipper closure. Stitched on both the chest of the tunic and back face of the cape is the signature stylized “S” insignia in dark brown on a field of crème. The muscle under-suit is constructed of a durable synthetic satin-like fabric with sculpted rubber torso, suggesting muscular pectoral, abdominal and bicep muscles. At the end of the first season, George Reeves was hanging by some wires in an effort to achieve a flying shot. One of the wires broke and George fell about fifteen feet. He told producers he would never use the wires again and that they needed to devise a better way of “flying” him. Several special effects men were asked to come up with ways to achieve the flying shots without risking harm to Reeves. Special effects specialist Thol Simonson, along with others on his team, developed the system of using a molded fiberglass pan to hold Reeves when he flew; he would lay on the pan with his costume over the pan to conceal it from view. The pan was bolted onto a hydraulic system that would move him up and down and side to side while a blue-screen projection was running behind him to simulate flight. This 35 x 16 in. fiberglass and steel “flying pan” rig – the magic behind Superman’s flight – is included with the costume and was used during Season 2 through to the final Season 6. Both the costume and the “flying pan” come with a LOA from Thol Simonson who kept the costumes following the production of the groundbreaking show. The costume is in unrestored condition exhibiting small areas of surface abrasion and minor tears and staining from production use. The muscle torso under-suit exhibits numerous stains and applied patching (during production) under the arms, yet the rubber still remains supple. The sequences of Superman in flight were the highlights of The Adventures of Superman legacy, and this hero Superman costume with special effects flying rig represents the finest, most complete and historic costume in the history of television to be sold at auction.
$100,000 - $150,000
Above, George Reeves in a 1953 season costume.

Both items are from the Thol "Si" Simonson (the show's former special effects director) estate and includes a certificate of authenticity (did Simonson sign it knowing that both would be sold at auction after his death?).

The auction, "Hollywood Auction 74" begins September 29 and will end two days later. It is indicated that the Superman items are to be part of the second day's (Wednesday) offerings. I am tempted to attend the auction as it will be held in nearby Calabasas.

The items estimated to bring in $100,000-$150,000. The starting bid is set at $100,000.

For more details, go here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

del Toro Wants To Include Godzilla In "Pacific Rim 3"

Above, Godzilla arrives in San Francisco in Legendary Pictures 2014 blockbuster.

Fans of giant monsters and giant robots have been treated to movies featuring both in recent years, most notably by Legendary Pictures. Toho Co., Ltd. is about to film a new Godzilla movie of their own in Japan.

Legendary Pictures' Godzilla (2014) was a worldwide hit as was Pacific Rim the year before.

The director of Pacific Rim wants to bring the two franchises together, according to an article in Cinema Blend.

They begin with:
We already know that when Pacific Rim 2 stomps through theaters in 2017, it’s going to be big. It’s a movie about giant monsters battling giant mechanical warriors, how can it not be massive? However, if director and mastermind Guillermo del Toro has his way, the franchise will get even bigger: he wants to bring Godzilla into the fold.
The possibilities are endless.

To read more, go here

Ginza To Get Airport-Style Duty-Free Shops

Above, a department store at the Yurakucho Mullion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Foreign visitors to Japan who want to go on shopping sprees in Tokyo, but don't want to be taxed on their purchases, are in luck.

The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) reported:
A series of new duty-free stores will open in Ginza, Tokyo, from this autumn to cater to the growing number of foreign customers coming to the shopping district. 
“Airport-style duty-free shops” — where not only the consumption tax, but also customs, alcohol and other taxes are waived — are scheduled to open for the first time in Tokyo. An influx of foreign visitors has brought a change of mood to Japan’s renowned shopping district, and progress has been made to create a place that will entertain both foreign and Japanese visitors.
To read more, go here

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sometimes, You Really Have To Scratch Your Head

Above, one of the residents of Yellowstone Bear World. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A recent visitor to Yellowstone National Park left this comment at one of the park's lodges:
To read more, go here.

It Was Probably Better During The Stone Age

How many of you have phone numbers memorized? How many of you carry a personal phone book (the "little black book")?

If your Smartphone's or flip phone's (if it still works) battery should go dead, and you are a few miles away from home and you need to let your ride know that you're ready to be picked up, do you have that person's phone number memorized to call? Do you have the phone number written down somewhere in your pocket or purse?

I would hazard a guess that the answer is "probably not".

People in this Age of Cell Phones are at a disadvantage if they face similar problems as the scenario above.

When I was in my teens, 20s and 30s (back in the Stone Age), we didn't rely upon a cell phone with programmed phone numbers. If we needed to call someone, we either memorized the phone number or carried a "little black book". People then didn't have to rely upon a cell phone with charged batteries. All they had to do was to find a pay phone or use someone else's land line phone.

This is one of the consequences of relying upon technology. If you haven't memorized the phone number or carry a "little black book" to call to be picked up and your phone's battery has gone dead, what would you do?

You're S.O.L.

The Greatest of Japan's Great Buddhas

Above, the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan has several "great Buddha" statues. They are in such locations as Nara, Kamakura, Gifu and Takaoka.

Japan Today has posted an article on Japan's giant Buddha statues.

They begin with:
TOKYO —Who says size doesn’t matter? In Japan, when it comes to showing piety and religious devotion, bigger is definitely better. Indeed, some of Japan’s Great Buddhas have iconic status, both in the country and overseas. 
“Great Buddha” is the English translation of “daibutsu,” the Japanese label for any Buddhist image that is more than life size. But among the greatest of the great are a number of statues that are several times life size.
To read more, go here

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hillary Takes "Responsiblity" (But Not The Blame?)

Hearing Hillary Clinton say she "takes responsibility" for using a private email account and server yesterday reminded me of an old comedy album (released in 1973) that I have by impersonator David Frye.

The album, "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy" (shown above), Frye portrays President Richard Nixon. During one segment, he is addressing the nation over the Watergate scandal. During the speech, Frye (as Nixon) says, "I accept full responsibility. But not the blame." He goes on to say, "Let me explain the difference. People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are responsible do not!"

Maybe Hillary thinks taking "responsibility" will save her campaign, but taking "blame" will demolish it?

Dealing With Pet Illness

Above, Siren a year ago. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the things about having pets is that eventually, they will become ill and grow old. Just like people.

Today, Amber and I took our cat Siren, age 18, to the vet as she has been losing weight and getting weak. She's been eating like a horse, yet she has become very thin.

Fortunately, Amber works at a veterinary clinic and knows the main doctor and has a lot of confidence in him.

After listening to our descriptions of Siren's symptoms, he drew blood and gave her fluids (as she was a little dehydrated) and took x-rays. The blood test results should be ready later today.

His initial thought are that it is either feline diabetes or a hyper-thyroid condition that older cats develop. Luckily, if it is either one of these, they are treatable.

I just hope we are able to nip this in time and Siren will be hale and hearty again.

Japan For Cheapskates: Eat On The Cheap

Above, an Asakusa sushi restaurant. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are in Japan and don't want (or can't) to spend a lot of money on food, Inside Japan Tours has an article on where tourists can go to "eat cheap".

They begin with:
Just like anywhere else in the world, you can spend an awful lot on food in Japan if you want to. But if you’re travelling on limited means, it’s actually very easy to eat on the cheap. Unlike most other countries, the Japanese hold their eating establishments to very high standards – so whether you’re paying top dollar for a Michelin-starred meal or a couple of quid for a bowl of ramen, you can expect it to be delicious. 
To read more, go here

Japan Easing Up On Tattoos

Above, a Japanese bath. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Foreign visitors to Japan who sport tattoos on their bodies will be able to access some Japanese bath houses. But, there is a caveat.

According to the Japan Times:
Restrictions on tattooed customers at bathing facilities and resort swimming areas are being loosened around the country. 
A number of facilities allow people with tattoos to enter if the tattoos can be covered by stickers. This is aimed at treating foreign tourists, many of whom consider tattoos a fashion item, differently from gangsters, some of whom sport elaborate tattoos. 
With the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, some facilities are calling for greater understanding of cultural differences.
I am assuming that the bath houses will supply the stickers. If not, I guess American travelers should visit their presidential candidate's headquarters and stock up on bumper stickers before heading for Japan. Imagine someone climbing into a Japanese bath covered with Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders bumperstickers.

To read more, go here

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Three Recommended Tours In Kyoto

Above, Kinkaku-ji, which is part of the Zen Gardens Tour. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning on visiting Japan, one of the cities you should see is Kyoto, the ancient capital.

There is lots to see in Kyoto and Japan Info has three tours of Kyoto they recommend taking.

They begin their article with:
Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, where the centre of government sat for hundreds of years. Kyoto is steeped in history, culture and architecture which is truly breathtaking. Kyoto is one of the top travel destinations for tourists in Japan, however, some people find it difficult to navigate. Public transport relies more on buses than trains and Kyoto is a bit more spread out than other cities. If you want a stress-free way to travel, then why not try taking a tour to make the most of your time?
To see their recommendations, go here

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Osaka Sees Record Numbers of Foreign Visitors

Above, Osaka Castle, site of the final battle between Godzilla and Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Osaka, Japan is seeing a big influx in foreign tourism this year. The number of tourists visiting the city may exceed 5 million for the year.

According to the Japan Times:
OSAKA – Thanks to a favorable exchange rate, relaxed visa restrictions, more discount airlines flying into Kansai airport and an increase in the number of duty-free shops downtown, the number of foreign visitors to Osaka this year is expected to top 5 million for perhaps the first time. 
From the luxury hotels and tony brand-name shops of the city’s northern Umeda district to bars and restaurants of the southern Shinsaibashi and Namba districts, as well as in Tsuruhashi’s Koreatown, the Osaka Castle area and the working-class Nishinari district, foreign visitors are arriving in droves. And they are spending money and injecting much-needed revenue into a city that until fairly recently was rarely if ever on the itinerary of most foreign tourists.
I will be doing my part in helping Osaka achieve its 5 million as it is on the itinerary during my October Japan trip.

To read more, go here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Dino Don" Gets His "Dino"

Above, Don Glut and Armand in the dissection room* of The House of Glut. Photo by Yuu Asakura.

Sandwiched atop the craggy, rugged and jagged peaks near the Borgo Pass and the sleepy little hamlets of Goldstadt and Burbank, stands an ancient castle that the locals call The House of Glut. Herein, resides the old keeper of dinosaur artifacts as well as memorabilia of monsters and mad scientists, Donald F. "Dino Don" Glut.

On this very evening, I paid a visit to Herr Glut and delivered to him a new dinosaur artifact, a plush of Sinclair Oil Company's "Dino" mascot.

During my recent vacation to Yellowstone National Park, I searched far and wide through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah for this rare artifact and finally found a specimen at a Sinclair gasoline station in Utah.

After several weeks passed, I gained enough courage to make the trek to The House of Glut to deliver this prized dinosaur specimen to Herr Glut.

As Dino Don was very busy plotting his next reign of terror upon Burbank and Goldstadt, I made haste after handing him the specimen (and taking the obligatory photograph to memorialize the event in the dissection room*) to the flatlands of the San Fernando Valley.

Needless to say, Dino Don was very pleased to receive this priceless specimen to include it in his dinosaur collection.

*Commonly known as "The Kitchen".

Japan Info: Autumn Things to Look Forward to in Japan

Above, Nakamise Street decked out in autumn colors. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In about a month from now, Autumn will begin in lands above the Equator. And that includes Japan where people can finally cool off after a sweltering summer season.

Japan Info has posted an article on things to look forward to during the autumn season.

They begin with:
Japan’s four seasons have very clear cuts. It usually goes: “Boom!” and a new season has started. And once it is autumn, the whole country has a beautiful reddish colouring, making one want to enjoy the season to its limits. 
Whereas summers are quite hot and exhausting, people strongly look forward to Autumn. Finally it is cooler, finally one does not sweat anymore each time he or she steps a foot outside. Air conditioning becomes less necessary and one can switch back to fans and open windows. Official dates state that 9th of August is the date when autumn starts, but it is usually not until the end of September when the temperatures finally drop.
To find out what things the Japanese people look forward to, go here

Kyoto Etiquette Guide

The Kyoto City Official Tourist Guide has been published to advise foreign visitors on what they can do to annoy the locals with etiquette mistakes.

The guide features several Kyoto locals with pissed off looks.

To access the online version, go here and click on Akimahen.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Looney Sacramento Leftists Want To Take Your Gasoline and Privacy

Looney Left Report

The left-wing Democrat-controlled California legislature has introduced Senate Bill 350 that, if enacted, will restrict the use of gasoline in California by 50%, raise costs, increase regulations and eliminate your personal privacy by monitoring and collecting your personal driving data.

According to the California Drivers Alliance:
Right now, reckless politicians in Sacramento are working to restrict gasoline and diesel fuel in California by 50% over the next 15 years - The California Gasoline Restriction Act of 2015.  
The 50% gas restrictions would be carried out by California's Air Resources Board - a panel of unelected bureaucrats empowered to restrict gasoline usage in California by any means necessary. The Air Resources Board would have the power to:
  • Ration gasoline and diesel fuel
  • Limit how many miles you can drive
  • Monitor and penalize motorists for using too much gasoline
  • Increase gas taxes to reduce demand
  • Impose surcharges on family mini-vans and pick-up trucks
They will have a blank check to cut your gasoline use by 50%!  
Sign the Digital Petition today to tell the politicians NO unfair gas restrictions! No to SB 350!!!
To tell the Sacramento politicans NO, sign the petition: http://support.californiadriversalliance.org/

Wall Street "In A Correction"?

Last week's financial numbers on Wall Street were horrible. A lot of investors, including me, took a bit of a beating.

According to Fox Business:
All eyes will be on the U.S. stock market next week after the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices all took major beatings this past week. In fact, during Friday's trading alone, the Dow lost a whopping 531 points, S&P fell nearly 65 points and the Nasdaq tanked, losing 171 points. The Dow has now lost more than 1,800 points since its all-time high on May 19 of this year. The main culprit for their demise: China. U.S. markets have been clearly impacted by fears China’s economy is slowing. The Shanghai Composite closed down more than 11% for the week. Investors are bracing for more volatility from the world’s second-largest economy.
I met with my financial advisor Friday and he sees what happened was a "correction". He, admittedly, received many calls from his clients. He feels that over the long term, investors shouldn't worry as "the fundamentals in the U.S. are sound."

I told him that I'll be watching the financial numbers next week and will decide what I am going to do.

To read more, go here

Biting Bugs Swarm Burning Man Site

Above, the kind of bug invading the Burning Man site.

Thousands of people are looking forward to the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada that's scheduled to open August 30.

But, unfortunately, so are thousands of biting bugs.

According to Fox News:
The Burning Man techno-fest looks like it’s headed for a real buzz kill. 
Black Rock City, the location in the Nevada desert where the annual festival will be held later this month, is overrun by thousands of flying, biting, crawling bugs, according to festival organizers. 
"They're everywhere. They bite. They crawl all over you. They get up and in you," the organizer, John Curley, wrote on the festival's official blog. 
Curley said the bugs got into a woman's t-shirt and settled in her bra, while others went through a welding mask.
The article includes photos of the critters covering vehicle tires.

What kind of bugs are they? Here's what the article says:
According to Gizmodo, the bugs are called Nysius, or seed bugs.  They spoke to entomologist Karl Magnacca who thinks there are actually two other species here along with Nysius, one of which is probably in the family Miridae. And according the report, these guys also release a terrible smell too. 

To read more, go here

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Yellowstone Wildlife

Above, a park ranger controlling crowds at a bear sighting. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the great things about visiting our national parks is to see wildlife indigenous to those areas. Such was the case during our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park.

I would have liked to have seen some wolves, but that wasn't in the cards.

Here's what we saw:


Above, not far from the road, two elk females were seen in a meadow. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, with tourists nearby, two elk females were enjoying
 the shade in Mammoth Village. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Pronghorn Sheep.

Above, two pronghorn sheep were seen grazing on a hill. Photo by Armand Vaquer.


Above, an osprey nest on top of cliffs in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photo by Armand Vaquer.


Above, two bison (buffalo) on a hill near a gasoline station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above and below, a herd of bison in a meadow next to a river. Photos by Armand Vaquer.


Above and below, a mother and her cub. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo's Best Outdoor Art

Above, "Maman" at Roppongi Hills. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you're an art lover and a Japanophile, you can see both at the same time as Tokyo has outdoor art that you can see. And, they're free to see.

According to Time Out Tokyo:
Tokyo is filled with museums, alternative art galleries and exhibitions. But that doesn’t mean you need to pay to see some of the best art in the city – heck, to see these pieces, you don’t even have to go indoors. Here’s our list of some of the best outdoor art around town.
To see the list (which also includes the Big G), go here

Friday, August 21, 2015

Coping With Japan's Summer Heat & Humidity

Above, Shinjuku in the distance from Tokyo Tower during the summer of 2004. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Summer is a month away from ending, but this blog post should be useful to you if you're planning to visit Japan during an upcoming summer season.

First off, I have been in Japan once during summer (that was with the first G-TOUR in 2004) and the temperatures were hot and humid. Thankfully, most of us knew ahead of time about Japan's hot summers and packed accordingly (except for one pair of slacks, I packed nothing but cargo shorts). I don't think I've ever drank so much water in my life.

The most recent G-TOUR ended about a couple of weeks ago and those who went said Japan was very hot. A major heat wave hit Japan during the time of the tour. The weather reports from Japan confirmed that it was one of the hottest summers in recent memory.

Japan's hot & humid summers are one of the reasons I prefer to visit Japan in the autumn or spring. Dry heat I can take, humid heat is brutal. I am heading to Japan this coming October.

But, if you are only able to visit Japan during summer, InsideJapan Tours has some tips on keeping cool.

They begin with:
Japan isn’t traditionally thought of as a “hot” country, but let me tell you – Japanese summers are flipping roasting. Unbelievably warm, in fact – and with an atmosphere so humid that you can almost swim in it. 
Now don’t get me wrong – summer is a great time to visit Japan. Not only are there fewer crowds, but it has a whole plethora of its own unique attractions – from delicious summer foods and crazy ice cream flavours to beautiful beaches, fantastic scuba diving, amazing hiking opportunities, and some really awesome summer festivals. (If you need any more convincing, you can read our 10 reasons to visit Japan in the summer here.) 
But there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s bloody boiling – and this can take some visitors by surprise, even if they have had a peep at the weather forecast before they travel. Sunburn isn’t the only danger – heatstroke is a real issue for those who fail to prepare adequately for the weather, and every year Japan sees a number of heat-related deaths and hospitalisations. 
If you prepare correctly, however, there’s absolutely no reason why summer in Japan can’t be a thoroughly enjoyable time of year to travel. To help you beat the heat, we’ve whipped round a few of our Japan-based colleagues for their top tips on staying cool!

To see what they recommend to keep cool, go here.

Party Boating In Tokyo Bay

Above, yakatabune boats moored at Asakusa on
 the Sumida River. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For a different experience in viewing Tokyo, why not take a dinner cruise in Tokyo Bay aboard a yakatabune party boat?

According to Gaijinpot.com:
Nothing screams summer louder than being out at sea with a bunch of lads and lassies. The wind blowing across your face, while skyscrapers light up in the distance. This the Tokyo Bay Nouryousen! Or roughly in English: Evening Boat Cruise. 
If you’re looking for a unique experience to check off your summertime bucket list, why not see Tokyo from a different perspective? The perspective a ship floating off into the sunset as fireworks light up the night sky in the distance.
To read more, go here.

Japan Tourism Agency To Seek Lowering Purchase Threshold

Above, Asakusa's Nakamise Street in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is planning to making more moves to entice foreign visitors to the country.

The latest is a plan to lower the purchase threshold so that foreign visitors can make more purchases that are exempted from taxes.

The Japan Times reported:
The Japan Tourism Agency will seek to expand the scope of consumption tax-free shopping for foreign visitors as part of efforts to spread the economic benefits of a tourism boom throughout the country, officials said Thursday. 
The tourism agency will call for lowering the minimum expenditure amount subject to the exemption of 8 percent tax to ¥5,000 (about $40) from the current ¥10,001. The request will be made soon, as part of the annual calls for tax changes in the next fiscal year. 
The lowering of the minimum amount would not only enable foreign visitors to buy expensive products such as appliances and clothing at shops in major cities tax-free, but also crafted goods and other cheaper souvenirs in regional tourist destinations.
To read more, go here

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Secret Iranian Side Deal: Obama Is A Bleepin' Idiot!

If President Obama really thinks the Iranian nuclear deal is a great benefit to mankind, then he's a f*cking idiot!

A side deal has been revealed by the Associated Press that allows Iran to do their own inspections, with their own personnel and equipment.

According to Fox News:
Capitol Hill opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal was stoked Wednesday by a bombshell report that Tehran will be allowed to use its own experts to inspect one of the country's most controversial nuclear sites.  
"Allowing the Iranians to inspect their own nuclear sites, particularly a notorious military site, is like allowing the inmates to run the jail," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a presidential candidate, said in a statement.  
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that, in an unusual and secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, Iran can use its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence for activities that it has consistently denied -- trying to develop nuclear weapons. 
To read more (if you can stomach it), go here

For The Ladies: Japan Tourism Boom Benefits Japanese Cosmetics Industry

Above, the famed Ginza shopping district in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The current tourism boom in Japan has been reaping many rewards to different companies and industries in Japan. The cosmetics industry is one of them.

The Japan Times reported:
Massive consumption by foreign visitors to Japan, notably Chinese, is proving a godsend to some Japanese daily goods and cosmetics-makers, but others seem to be left out in the cold. 
Kao Corp. and Shiseido Co. have enjoyed strong sales by winning the hearts of Chinese tourists looking for high-end Japanese products. But some makers are losing out because their mainstay products are not designed with foreign consumers in mind. 
At Kao, its hot eye masks and subsidiary Kanebo Cosmetics Inc.’s face-wash powders are flying off the shelves. Kao President Michitaka Sawada says foreign visitors “tend to buy high value-added products.” 
Foreign visitors’ shopping binges boost the Kao group’s annual sales by some ¥15 billion, excluding sales of paper diapers for children. 
Shiseido also expects a ¥15 billion boost to annual sales, excluding duty-free stores at airports and elsewhere. Pricey cosmetics are particularly popular.
To read more, go here

Alexander E. Charleston, Sr.

Sad news has arrived from Anniston, Alabama.

My great-uncle, Alexander E. Charleston, Sr. passed away on August 18. He was 90.

My cousin, Al, Jr., posted the photo (at right) of his dad.

Here is the obituary from Gray Brown-Service Mortuary:
Funeral Services for Lt. Col. (Retired) Alexander Edwin Charleston, Sr. (90) of Anniston, who passed away August 18, 2015, will be Friday, August 21, 2015 at 10:00 am at Gray Brown-Service Mortuary. Burial with full military honors to follow at Piedmont Highland Cemetery. Services will be performed by Dr. Mack Amis and Rev. Kevin Garrett of Parker Memorial Baptist Church.  
Col. Charleston, a native of California, completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles and his graduate degree at Jacksonville State University. He retired from the United States Army after 27 years of active duty service. He served in World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Conflict. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), United Nations Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, 5 Overseas Bars. After retiring from the Army, he taught school for nineteen years in the Calhoun County School System and two years at the Donoho School. He served as President of the Northeast Alabama Retired Officers Association, Secretary of the Alabama Retired Officers Association, Deacon at Jacksonville First Baptist Church, Deacon at Parker Memorial Baptist Church, and member of the Board of Directors for Anniston Kiwanis Club. He was a member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Jacksonville Hiram Lodge #42, Alabama Society Cheaha Chapter Sons of American Revolution (SAR), and The Sons of the Republic of Texas, First Families of Tennessee, First Families of Texas, and The American Legion. 
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Joy Woolf Charleston; three sons Ray Burgess (Joy) of Anniston, Alabama; Keith Burgess (Kathy) of Nashville, Tennessee; Alex Charleston, Jr. (April) of Marietta, Georgia. Six Grandchildren: Amber Burgess Harbison (Michael), Mary Ellen Burgess Mulkey (Ray), Allison Burgess Kent (Michael), Amy Burgess Eggleston (Alex), Reed Charleston, Remy Charleston. Six Great Grandchildren: Hannah Harbison, Elizabeth Harbison, Nathan Kent, Josephine Kent, Samantha Kent, Raegan Mulkey.  
Pallbearers will be the United States Military Honor Guard. Honorary Pallbearers will be members of MOAA, SAR, and Hiram Lodge #42.
He was a great man who was well-respected and will be remembered fondly. Au revoir, Uncle Alex. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Yvonne Craig, TV's Batgirl, Dies At 78

Above, Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.

This is stunning news.

CNN reported that Yvonne Craig, who played Barbara Gordon/Batgirl on television's Batman series of the 1960s, died August 17.

They wrote:
(CNN) Before Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, before Joanna Cameron's Isis, before Scarlett Johannsson's Black Widow, Yvonne Craig was a pioneer of female superheroes on screen. 
As an actress, she originated the role of Batgirl in the 1960s "Batman" television series. As a trained dancer, she did her own stunts. 
Craig died this week after a long two-year battle with breast cancer. She was 78.
Jim Nolt said that he invited Craig to the Superman Celebration of last summer, but she declined the invitation. Now we know why, unfortunately.

I was fortunate to meet Craig at Noel Neill's 85th birthday luncheon in 2005.

To read more, go here.

Record 1.91 Million Foreign Tourists Visited Japan In July

Above, the Yurakucho Mullion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is en route in a big way to reaching their goal of 20 million foreign visitors by 2020 (when they host the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo).

According to the Japan Times:
The number of foreign passenger arrivals in Japan reached 1,918,400 in July, the highest monthly total on record and a 51.0 percent surge from a year earlier, government data showed Wednesday. 
The total at the start of the summer vacation season surpassed the previous monthly record high of 1,764,691 set in April, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. 
Meanwhile, a record 11.05 million foreigners are estimated to have visited Japan from January to July, up 46.9 percent from the same period last year, moving closer to the annual goal of 20 million that the government seeks to achieve by 2020 when Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Japanese Etiquette 101: Our Top 10 Tips

Above, a Tokyo sushi restaurant. Rules for eating and drinking can be a minefield. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning to visit Japan any time soon, or in the not-too-far-off future, then you should look over an article that InsideJapan Tours blog posted on 10 rules of Japanese etiquette and even bookmark it for future reference.

They begin with:
Japan has a reputation for being a land full of obscure customs and unwritten rules, completely incomprehensible to the unwary foreigner. It’s something many would-be travellers worry about, and we’ve written about it numerous times in the past. 
As usual – there’s no smoke without fire, and it is true that Japanese culture is a bit of a maze for the uninitiated. It is also true that the Japanese will very rarely tell you when you’re doing something wrong (out of politeness and respect for your feelings, mind you), and that it is a place where things are done doggedly and relentlessly by the book. 
BUT – do not let this put you off. No Japanese person will ever expect you to know all the ins and outs of their culture, just as you would not expect someone from a foreign country to understand every vagary of yours. Making mistakes is perfectly acceptable – and it certainly should not be something to lose sleep over when visiting Japan. Moreover, it is the differences between Japanese culture and our own that make visiting this country so fascinating and eye-opening. Without them, it would be a lot less fun.

To read the top ten Japanese etiquette tips, go here.

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