"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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Sunday, December 28, 2008

G-FAN #86

G-FAN #86 Summary

This quarter, we have a "special guest summary"* of the new G-FAN #86 by Ryan Clark:

Godzilla & Friends III review by Ryan Clark (yours truely).

The Last Samurai interview with Hiroshi Fujioka by Brett Homenick.

Racing for Megalon interview with Yutaka Hayashi by Brett Homenick.

Cult Classic Commander interview with Robert Horton by Brett Homenick.

Godzilla 1998: A Second Look by Mike Bogue.

Lord Zedd Invades ACen by Brett Homenick and How I felt About ACen by Robert Axelrod. (Really enjoyed these artcles, being a Power Rangers fan.)

Monster Music article about French band Gojira.

Kaiju Singalong Time with original and translated lyrics to Miyarabi's Prayer and Get Mechagodzilla!

G-Fan Retro Review: Attack of the Crab Monsters by Mike Bogue.

3D Kaiju Fun concerning Monster Planet of Godzilla.

Centerfold of Gamera vs. Godzilla by John Belloti Jr.

Godzilla Appears In Northern California featuring a suit made by Gabe McIntosh.

Guilala's Godfather interview with Minoru Kawasaki by Jorg Buttgereit.

Tales of King Komodo: Episode 4 comic by Rouge & Tennant (if I read that right).

Kaiju Poetry Corner

A Wonderful Kaiju Weekend G-Fest review by Armand Vaquer and staff writers.

G-Fest 2008 Costume Parade Roundup by Paul Gavins.

My G-Fest XV Experience by Lyle Huckins.

The Show Must Go On! overview of the Biollante incedent at G-Fest by Jonathan Morris.

G-Fest Trivia Quiz 2008 questions and answers. G-Fest XVI registration form.

Godzilla vs. Rikao Yanagata book review by Jason Meininger.

Atami Castle by Armand Vaquer.

I should add, the Far East Monsters ad in the back of the magazine says, concerning their DAM Battlezone figures, "Order by Dec. 31!! After that, these babies are gone!!" I'm not sure if this means King Ghidorah or both that and Godzilla, but their prices are now reduced; I recommend grabbing these great figures while you can.


G-FAN is available at comic and specialty stores or by subscription. See you next quarter. Stay warm!

*Since I haven't received the issue yet to do my usual summary.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apollo 8: 40 Years Ago

Above, the Earth as seen by the Apollo 8 astronauts in moon orbit.

It is hard to believe that forty years have passed since Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders were the first humans to leave Earth orbit and to travel to the moon in Apollo 8.

Their mission in December 1968 was to test the Apollo spacecraft's systems in achieving moon orbit, which was crucial for a manned moon landing. Originally, they were going to test the Lunar Module (LM) in Earth orbit, but production delays prevented that plan. So NASA sent them to the moon instead. They orbited the moon ten times in 20 hours. The live televised broadcast from the moon was highlighted by Borman's reading from Genesis. The rocket engine that would break Apollo 8 from moon orbit and sending it back to earth was fired on Christmas Day.

1968 was a year of turmoil. It was marked by bitter civil unrest over the Viet Nam War, the assassinations of Sen. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the Tet Offensive, which led to President Lyndon Johnson to not seek re-election. The Apollo 8 mission was the only inspiring event that year.

It is hard to believe that 40 years have passed since Apollo 8.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Above, a shot taken at the Mt. Aso Volcano National Park in Kyushu, Japan in 2007.

For some people, years start out great and end not-so-great. For me, 2008 was the opposite. I started the year on unemployment. However, it is ending on a good note.

I am now working two jobs. At least things a looking better for me financially. I am now contemplating a return trip to Japan next year. That's provided that the money is still flowing in and the currency exchange rates improve. It is now at 1.00 USD = 90.8772 JPY, which is not too hot! Hopefully, the rate of exchange between the dollar and the yen will improve.

As for 2008's highlights, well, they've been few and far between. Each of my presidential candidates in the primaries fell by the wayside. The end result of the November general election was a disappointment, but I'll still remain optimistic.

In July, thanks to J. D. Lees, head honcho of G-FAN magazine and G-FEST, I was able to go to G-FEST XV in Chicago and had a good time. It was great to see the original Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima, get the Mangled Skyscraper Award and to see many friends in fandom. It was also great to meet Don Frye, from Godzilla Final Wars.

It was also great to see G-FAN named among the Chicago Tribune's "Our Fifty Favorite Magazines" list for 2008. It shows that what we do is appreciated and it gives all contributors a nice pat-on-the-back.

Currently, J. D. is doing the layouts for the Travel Guide To Kaiju Japan. It was a project that I started in February and completed in April during my idle days. We hope to get it completed long before G-FEST XVI so we can have it available there.

I hope that we can see the bottom of the current economic mess soon and start heading back upwards to more prosperous times.

Have a happy and safe holiday season and here's a toast to a bigger and better 2009!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fukuoka Tower

by Armand Vaquer

(Originally published in G-FAN #80)

Featured in 1994's Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Fukuoka Tower is the highest seaside tower in Japan. The Tower stands 234 meters tall and the observation room is at 123 meters above the ground and offers spectacular views of Fukuoka City and Hakata Bay. Fukuoka Tower is the symbol of Fukuoka City.

Fukuoka Tower was completed in March 1989 at a cost of 6 billion yen. It was designed by Nikken Sekki and the construction took 14 months. The Tower is designed to withstand wind gusts up to 63 m/s (about 140 mph.), but the strongest wind recorded so far was only 49 m/s. It is also designed to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake and the strongest recorded earthquake so far has been a magnitude 6 in Fukuoka.

Although the above ground weight of Fukuoka Tower is 3,500 tons, the underground weight is 25,000 tons. This bottom-heavy construction provides the Tower with greater stability.

Fukuoka Tower, with a triangular cross-section, is covered with 8,000 half-mirrors that gives it the nickname of "Mirror Sail."

Above, a view of Fukuoka City and Hakata Bay from the observation room of Fukuoka Tower.

Besides the 123 meter observation room, it also has a cafe lounge (120m) and a lower observation room (116m). During different holidays and seasons, the Tower is illuminated in spectactular lighting at night. In July/August, the theme is the "Milky Way." For Christmas, the Tower has lights shaped like Christmas trees. For Valentine's Day, hearts illuminate the sides of the Tower.

The Tower staff apparently had no idea that Fukuoka Tower was featured in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla until I told them. I joked that they nicely re-built the Tower after Godzilla knocked it over. This was met with wide-eyed blank stares. I then had to explain the movie and the situation involved to them. I guess their minds work too literally.

Admission to Fukuoka Tower is 800 yen for adults (I was able to obtain a discount card from my hotel which lowered the admission to 640 yen), 500 yen for students and 200 yen for children under 4 years old. For additional information on Fukuoka Tower, log onto www.fukuokatower.co.jp. If you go to Fukuoka City, make sure you visit Fukuoka Tower.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Deep Throat" Dies

Weird things happen on occasion, and last night was another one.

I was reading David Frost's book on his interviews with former President Richard Nixon, I Gave Them A Sword, last night. There's a new movie starring Frank Langella as Nixon called Frost/Nixon and directed by Ron Howard, so I figured I'd re-read the Frost book before seeing the movie.

At about 10:30 last night, I heard the news report that Watergate's "Deep Throat" had passed away:

W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as "Deep Throat" 30 years after he tipped off reporters to the Watergate scandal that toppled a president, has died. He was 95.

Here I was reading about Watergate last night and, lo and behold, one of its principal figures passed away. Talk about weird!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Walter Moore For Los Angeles Mayor

Since 2005, Los Angeles has had only a part-time mayor.

L.A. Weekly, a local Los Angeles newspaper conducted a study months ago and found that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has only conducted official city business an average of 11%. That's why he's called the "11% Mayor." Considering his hare-brained tax and housing plans, maybe 11% isn't so bad after all.

Villaraigosa has been a joke (a rather bad one) since his election. The topper was the disclosure that he had an affair with a Latina reporter, who was covering him for a local Spanish-language television station.

This year, instead of dealing with the city's problems, he spent much of his time out campaigning out of state for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and currently serves as an "advisor" for President-elect Barack Obama's transition team.

Los Angeles can do better than Villraigosa. The only viable candidate for mayor is Walter Moore, a local attorney instrumental in Jamiel's Law. He has raised enough in campaign contributions to qualify for matching funds.

His website now is offering yard signs and bumper stickers. The election for Los Angeles Mayor is March 3, 2009.

For more information, go to the Walter Moore for Mayor website by clicking here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bailout Car Ad

I saw this car ad parody at a forum I belong to. It hits the nail right on the head!

This is what I call "truth in advertising!"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

G-FAN #86 Is En Route!

G-FAN #86 is en route! I was told tonight by J. D. Lees, editor & publisher of G-FAN magazine that issue number 86 is printed and out in the mail. So keep a watchful eye at your mailbox for the issue.

I received 2 photos of the original Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima at the Toho Studios Godzilla statue with his Mangled Skyscraper Award. Those will go into issue 87 that will come out next Spring.

Once I receive #86, a summary of its contents will be posted. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 12, 2008

GOP Wrecks UAW Bailout

The U.S. Senate shot down the United Autoworkers bailout that is disguised as a bailout of the big three U.S. automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler.

According to FoxNews.com:

GOP objections stalled the measure in the Senate Thursday night. Republicans put pressure on the powerful autoworkers union as they tried to squeeze out concessions in exchange for their support.

"This was just simply subterfuge on the part of the minority in the Republican Party who wanted to tear down any agreement that we came up with," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said at a press conference, declaring "the auto industry around the world is in peril."

Intense negotiations broke down over the union's refusal to meet GOP demands for wage cuts. Corker, the architect of the Republican counterproposal to the House-approved bill, told FOX News that negotiators were "just three words away from a deal."

Corker rejected the accusations, telling FOX News the union simply refused to offer a date by which they could be competitive with foreign automakers who have plants in the United States.

"I was stunned that they would walk away from a deal to put these companies on an incredible footing, a healthy footing for their employees for years to come," Corker said.

The senator complained that the UAW pay scale is "far higher" than at other plants in the United States, particularly those of foreign automakers.

In terms of hourly wages, the pay scales are similar. For instance, General Motors says the average UAW laborer makes $29.78, while Toyota says it pays about $30 per hour.

The difference is in the benefits, however. GM's hourly labor costs (including pensions and health care) total $69 for active workers. Toyota's total about $48 per hour at older U.S. plants.

This does not even mention the benefits that thousands of retired autoworkers are receiving. The UAW is unwilling to make any cuts until 2011. Sorry, but if this really were a crisis, then they should be willing to make cuts now.

Hugh Hewitt wrote in today's Townhall.com blog:

Now Senator Reid has announced he's giving up and going home --one of those moves that makes me wonder about the whole premise of the exercise. If a real crisis is at hand, does the Congress go home for a month?

Since no input by the GOP was allowed by the Democrat majority, so small wonder the Republicans in the Senate voted against this bailout of the UAW.

It is about time the GOP showed some backbone. If the Democrats continue to refuse to negotiate for terms favored by the Republicans, then this bailout is good as dead.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hello, Hollywood! I Have Your Gov. Blagojevich!

Hello, Hollywood! I Have Your Gov. Blagojevich!

When the news hit about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat in a "pay to play" scheme, I noticed that he bore a strong resemblance to a friend of mine, actor Steven Kirk.

Here's a photo of Steve Kirk and his family:

And here's a photo of Blagojevich with Barack Obama:

Many others who know Steve Kirk also noticed the resemblance: Noticed Something Funny.

Hello, Hollywood! If a studio decides to make a movie on Gov. Blagojevich, I strongly urge you to cast Steven Kirk as the Governor!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2008: Not A Good Year For Democrat Governors

2008 is turning out not to be a good year for Democrat governors.

First, we had the scandal involving New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (below), who was found to be a customer of a prostitution ring.

Now we have a new scandal involving Illinios Governor Rod Blagojevich (below). Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday, accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling Obama's vacant Senate seat. The governor has authority to appoint Senate replacements.

This is called a "pay to play" scheme in which an appointment to an office is sold to the highest bidder.

Obama has called for Blagojevich's resignation, but he needs to go further in this matter as it raises a lot of questions about Obama and his staff's associations. What did they know and when did they know it?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Actress Nina Foch, 1924 - 2008

1924 - 2008
Actress and drama teacher Nina Foch has passed away.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Nina Foch, a veteran actress from Hollywood's film noir era of the 1940s who became a widely respected acting coach and teacher of directors, died Friday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She was 84.

The cause was complications of long-term myelodysplasia, a blood disorder, according to her son, Dr. Dirk De Brito.

Foch became ill Thursday while teaching "Directing the Actor," a popular course at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, where she taught for 40 years. She also offered the class for years at the American Film Institute.

Her students have included a number of accomplished directors, including Randal Kleiser, Amy Heckerling, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.

I mostly remember her as Nicky in Return of the Vampire in which she co-starred with Bela Lugosi in 1943 for Columbia Pictures.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman, 1916 -2008

Forrest J. Ackerman, known to many fans of science-fiction and horror, died last night of heart failure. He was 92.

Ackerman, who knew Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi, was the former editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland and was the one who coined the term, "sci-fi." He was also a literary agent and he discovered his lifelong friend, Ray Bradbury.

He is considered to be the "Godfather" of science-fiction and horror fandom. Although slowed due to the effects of a stroke, Ackerman was still sharp and just as enthusiastic over the sci-fi and horror genres as a twelve-year-old. It was simply a case of a willing mind betrayed by a aging body.

"Uncle Forry" may be gone, but whenever you watch a science-fiction or horror movie, he will be there.

Whenever you attend a sci-fi or horror convention, he will be there.

Whenever you read a science-fiction or horror novel, he will be there.

Whenever you read a sci-fi or horror magazine, he will be there.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tokyo Tower

Text and photos by Armand Vaquer

(Originally published in G-FAN #78.)

Category: Travel

In celebration of the 50th birthday of Tokyo Tower this month on December 23, the Tower is given the spotlight.

Japan's Tokyo Tower has been featured in several kaiju films over the past 46 years, the first being in Mothra (1961). The Tower was also featured in King Kong Escapes (1967) in which Kong and Mechani-Kong do battle while climbing it. It was also featured in Gammera The Invincible (Daikaiju Gamera) in 1965.

Above, Tokyo Tower from Sumida River.

The Tower was blasted in 1995 by Gamera in Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe and it became a nest for Gyaos in the same film. It was also blasted by Godzilla in Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and it appeared as a ruin in 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars.

Tokyo Tower was modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The Tokyo Tower is 333 meters high. Since 1958, it has been the world's tallest self-supporting iron tower. The Eiffel Tower is only 320 meters tall. The Tokyo Tower weighs 4000 tons, which is much lighter than the Eiffel tower, which weighs in at 7000 tons. The Tower is painted in white and orange to meet Japan's aviation safety regulations. The Tokyo Tower broadcasts 14 signals for radio and television. It also has a lightning rod on the top.

Visitors can take an elevator to an observatory level which provides excellent views of the city, which is what 60 G-fans did in August 2004 during G-TOUR. There's a gift shop on the observation level and more gift shops can be found on the ground floor.

Above, Shinjuku as seen from Tokyo Tower's observation level.

The observation level has several telescopes available for use by visitors. Visitors can ascend to the main observatory at 150 meters and the special observatory at 250 meters to get a bird's eye view of Tokyo. Under good weather conditions, Mt. Fuji can be seen in the distance. A ride to the top floor, the special observatory, costs roughly ¥1500 per adult.

An aquarium, wax museum and several more attractions can be found on the ground floors of the Tower. Separate entrance fees apply.

An even taller tower is now being planned for Tokyo.

When in Tokyo, a visit to Tokyo Tower is a must.

Above, a morning moon and Tokyo Tower.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Official: We're In A Recession! Duh!

As if we didn't know this already, but it is now official: We're in a recession! Well, duh!

From FoxBusiness.com:

The National Bureau of Economic Research declared Monday that the U.S. has been in a recession since last December.

While it may now be official, the announcement hardly came as news to economists and consumers.

“We’ve been saying this since February or March,” said Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody’s Economy.com. “It’s been pretty obvious for a while.”

Faucher cited as evidence payroll employment numbers that have been falling every month since January. Private sector employment payroll figures have declined every month since last December, he added.

These figures have been indicating for months “that firms are cutting back and that they are producing less,” said Faucher.

A recession is traditionally defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

The NBER, a private group of leading economists, also cited declining employment numbers as a key indicator that the recession began nearly a year ago.

Hell, I could have told you that. I was laid off last November and found that insurance claims work job offerings have been sparse at best. I did land a position as an independent contractor for an independent adjusting company last February, but claim assignments have been few and far between. Luckily, I maintained my security permits that I obtained years ago when I worked in armed private patrol. I was able to get a job working as a field supervisor for a company who contracts with Los Angeles County.

I have landed a job this week with another independent adjusting company. This one looks to be more promising. If things work out as I hope, I will just concentrate on that.

It is not surprising that insurance claims positions are sparse, as AIG problems has shown, insurance carriers are very much tied to the financial markets through investments. Since the mortgage meltdown, insurers have had a tough time because of bad investments, and by people cutting back on buying insurance. We can thank Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Barney Frank and others for this mess.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? I hope so, but right now I don't see it. Things may get worse before it gets better. But putting the same people in charge of the economy who denied problems with Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, et al is not boosting my confidence level any.

ADDENDUM: See How The Democrats Created The Financial Crisis by Kevin Hassett at Bloomberg.com.

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