"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.)

Friday, December 31, 2010

"Two Ladies In A Car": Season Finale

Above, Cae Camille and Melissa Cyrnek.

As 2010 comes to a close, so does the first season of Two Ladies In A Car.

To close out the year, The Ladies have their final webisode along with a special "blooper" video.

The final episode is...

(From the Two Ladies In A Car website)

“It’s a Pig”
written by Cae Camille
Season 1, Webisode 11: (Posted December 31, 2010) Will The Ladies survive the Season Finale of TWO LADIES IN A CAR? (*Fan Favorite)

And, the "blooper" video, etc....

“Speed Bumps”

Season One, Bonisode: (Posted January 1, 2011) The Ladies and their BLOOPERS throughout the year! CAE & MELISSA would like to thank CALIFORNIA for being so Fabulous, FAST-TRAC DESIGNS for their Lady Apparel and Vehicle Signs, VISTA PRINT for their Affordable Publicity Products, VOLKSWAGEN for their Buffet-Sized Dashboard (large enough to fit their Suction-Cup Tripod), SONY for their Indestructible Video Camera, APPLE for creating: Macbook, Iphoto, Imovie, Iweb and Final Cut, GODADDY for their Wonderful Staff and for being Open 24/7, VIMEO for providing Online Video Hosting to Unknown Film-Makers, FRIENDLYMUSIC.com for Existing and All the Musicians who offer their Music on the Website, because Music is Everything, ARMAND VAQUER for reviewing their Little Webseries Adventure on his Blog, BRIAN and RICHARD for their Spoof of Love: “Two Gentlemen in a Car” on You Tube, DAN HUDSON the Sole Player and Winner of “The Lady Game”, THE VIEWERS for watching and OUR FRIENDS and FAMILY for their Love and Support.

To view the webisodes, go here.

Armand here:

While we're busy with "thank-yous," I, in turn, would like to thank Melissa Cyrnek for being such a great friend, especially this year. It's going on two years since I've known Melissa and she never fails to boost my spirits and giving me a good laugh. And, she's been a great shoulder to lean on during trying times.

Simply put, thank-you for just being you!

Reagan Centennial Celebration

The Reagan Centennial Celebration begins January 1, 2011

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, along with sponsor, Jelly Belly, is proud to have the first-ever presidential themed float in the Rose Parade. We hope you will not only watch as this historic float makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, CA on New Year's Day but also help it win the Viewers' Choice Award!

To show your support, please participate in the Viewers' Choice Award on New Year's Day by voting for the Reagan Centennial Float. You can vote up to 5 times by either:

1) Texting "FLOAT52" to "50649" or visit

2) Tournament of Roses website to cast your votes online

Voting will take place between 8AM and 2:10PM PT on New Year's Day and
one can vote up to five times for their favorite float!

With your help we can "Win One More for the Gipper!"

*Please forward to other individuals or groups who would also be interested in voting*

Ronald Reagan: Inspired Freedom. Changed the World.

Star-Powered Event In Ginza

Above, past Toho Godzilla stars join Tom and Diane Dougherty at the Godzilla Fan Club's event in Ginza. Left to right: Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Koizumi, Diane, Tom and Akira Takarada. Photo courtesy of Clawmark Toys.

The Santa & Mrs. Claus of Japan, Tom & Diane Dougherty, attended a Godzilla Fan Club event on Christmas Day that was held in Ginza, Tokyo. The event was held in a building across Ginza Crossing from the Wako Department Store.

Says Tom Dougherty:

We were lucky enough to get invited to a Godzilla Fan Club function on Christmas day. Check out our site for the full story and all the photos.

Lots of Godzilla star power. The event was held right across from the Wako Dept. Store (how fitting). I am attaching a couple of photos you might enjoy. Anyway check our site under "Monster Happenings In Tokyo."

Above, with Godzilla in the foreground, the Wako Department Store clock tower can be seen from the party room's window. Photo courtesy of Clawmark Toys.

The Daily Yomiuri Article On Monster Japan Travel Guide (Print Edition)

The print edition of The Daily Yomiuri article, "A Look Around Godzilla's Old Stomping Ground" showed up (faster than I expected) in the mailbox today.

I scanned the article and here it is below (click on image to view larger):

The interview for the article and photo were done on December 7th in Hibiya and published in the December 24 edition.

In case you haven't read the article or the image isn't clear enough, here's the full text:

A look around Godzilla's old stomping ground

Tom Baker / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Godzilla was the embodiment of war in his eponymous 1954 debut film, but he saved the Earth from ecological doom in Godzilla vs the Smog Monster in 1971. The giant reptilian monster has meant many things to many people.

But did you ever imagine him as a tourist? According to The Monster Movie Fan's Guide to Japan (51 pp, 15 dollars, available via www.comixpress.com), Godzilla has ranged as far north as Sapporo, where he destroyed the TV Tower in one of his many films, and as far south as the Sakurajima volcano in Kyushu, near which he came ashore in another.

One place he hasn't visited is New York. Or perhaps that point is arguable. Armand Vaquer, the guidebook's author, told The Daily Yomiuri in a recent interview that devoted fans refer to the 1998 U.S. film in which Godzilla took a bite of the Big Apple as GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only").

For fans devoted enough to make a pilgrimage to Japan, Vaquer's book will tell them where to find landmarks associated not only with Godzilla, but also with his titanic terrapin counterpart, Gamera.

Some of the practical information in the book is a bit dated. For instance, it has been a few years since a plane-to-terminal bus ride was a routine part of arriving at Narita Airport.

However, most travelers are likely to rely on more conventional guidebooks for such details, using this one for it specialized insights. Those begin at the airport, too, about which Vaquer writes: "Interestingly, a video of the procedures at the Immigration desk features G-FEST XIV [monster fan convention] guest and Godzilla actress Shelley Sweeney. So at least you will be able to see a familiar, friendly face."

Vaquer's devotion to his subject shines through in his book and also in person, but it is not uncritical devotion. In the entry on the Seto Ohashi bridge, which connects Okayama and Kagawa prefectures, he writes, "In Godzilla vs King Ghidora (1991) King Ghidora blasts the bridge (in a not-too-convincing effect) during a fly-by."

A more positively memorable scene involved what Vaquer described in the interview as a cake-shaped cinema that stood on the site of the present-day Yurakucho Mullion building in Tokyo.

"That was in the 1954 Godzilla, where Godzilla steps on the train tracks, and the power surging through him causes his tail to whip about, and it smashes into the building. The inside joke there is that the patrons that were seeing the movie in that actual theater got to see the tail just hit the building they're sitting in watching it," he said.

In another part of town, the Diet Building has suffered abuse in several films, by Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, Mothra and King Kong, which must have been a cathartic experience for at least some members of the audience each time.

The book includes a page about the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Koto Ward, Tokyo, which houses the Japanese fishing boat whose 1954 irradiation by fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test was a real-life reference point for the original Godzilla film.

For monster movie fans, a stop at this spot will mark a solemn pause in an otherwise lighthearted journey.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NYC Sanitation Bosses Caused Deaths

Did New York City's Sanitation Dept. (who is responsible for snow-plowing the streets) intentionally slow their snow-plowing operations during the recent snow storms?

According to the New York Post, they did intentionally order a work slowdown.

CBS News.com reports:

The New York Post is reporting that Sanitation Department bosses in New York City's outer boroughs ordered their drivers to slow snow removal in protest over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Queens, told the Post that he was visited by guilt-ridden sanitation workers who told him about their bosses' plot.

The New York Post wrote:

These garbage men really stink.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

Mark Steyn, who is guest-hosting today's Rush Limbaugh show, said that this action caused the deaths of a 75-year-old woman and a newborn baby because first responders could not reach them in time.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/sanit_filthy_snow_slow_mo_qH57MZwC53QKOJlekSSDJK#ixzz19cPaSwfX

I'd say the perpetrators of this scheme need to be prosecuted.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shibuya HMV Just A Memory

Above, this view of Shibuya Crossing from April 2006 shows the HMV sign prominently displayed. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the HMV sign is gone in this photo of Shibuya Crossing taken in December 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Upon my return from Japan three weeks ago, I posted about some changes I noticed while in Tokyo.

One change I forgot to mention was that the HMV store in Shibuya is gone! According to GaijinPot.com, the store closed its doors last August, citing declining CD sales as more people opt to download music instead of buying CDs. (See HMV Shibuya Closes).

I first stepped foot in the Shibuya HMV store in November 2001 to see and photograph
the Godzilla (left) and Baragon filming suits that were on display from Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (GMK).

Later, in 2006, HMV Shibuya played host to displays of items from Gamera The Brave that were placed throughout the store.

GaijinPot.com summarized it perfectly:

...so for now all we are left with are the memories.

"Monster Japan Travel Guide vs. The Japanese Media"


For Immediate Release

"Monster Japan Travel Guide vs. The Japanese Media"

The world's first travel guide tailored to fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy movies, "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," has made a big splash in the Japanese media.

Author Armand Vaquer of Tarzana, California recently visited Japan and was interviewed by "Japan Today," "The Daily Yomiuri" and "Metropolis" magazine on the travel guide.

"I was kept pretty busy during my trip to Japan, " said Vaquer. "During the Tokyo portion of the trip, I was interviewed by several publications and even had my photo taken with the Godzilla statue in Hibiya, Tokyo. The questions ran the gamut of monster movie locations in the travel guide to who would really win a fight between King Kong and Godzilla."

While the interviews did take up much of Vaquer's time in Tokyo, he did manage to tour around Tokyo to see the new Godzilla statue at the main gate at Toho Studios and the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower now under construction. A photo of Vaquer with the Toho Studios Godzilla statue was included with one of the interview articles.

On the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower, Vaquer was asked if Toho should resume production of Godzilla movies, "Would the Sky Tree make an appearance?" His response, "Without a doubt! Many new sites were featured in Japanese science-fiction movies over the years including the Saikai Bridge in Kyushu in "Rodan" (1956), Tokyo Tower in "Mothra" (1961) the Fukuoka Tower in "Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla" (1994) and the Atami Castle in "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (1962). These locations are featured in the travel guide. The Tokyo Sky Tree Tower would be a natural location for Godzilla to attack."

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" is available through ComiXpress.com.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Spotlight On The Wako Dept. Store

Above, the Wako Dept. Store in November 2001. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Wako Department Store building in the Ginza district of Tokyo is one of the most iconic locations used in Godzilla movies.

It first appeared in Godzilla (1954) when Godzilla (above), during his nighttime rampage through Tokyo, is angered by the gonging clock on top of the building. Godzilla then proceeds to demolish the clock along with the rest of the building.

Later, the Wako Dept. Store building appears in the U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) via inserted stock footage.

Once again, the building appears in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) during the exploding Godzilla scenario sequence.

Above, the Wako Dept. Store in December 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

According to Wikipedia:

From 1894 to 1921, the Hattori Clock Tower stood on the site that Wako occupies today. In 1921, the Hattori Clock Tower was demolished to rebuild a new one. The reconstruction was delayed due to the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1, 1923. The new tower was completed in 1932 as the K. Hattori Building. In homage to its predecessor, the new store was also fitted with a clock.

Its 1932 Neo-Renaissance style building, designed by Jin Watanabe, with its curved granite façade, is the central landmark for the district and one of the few buildings in the area left standing after World War II. The building functioned as the Tokyo PX store during the Allied Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952. The clock tower plays the famous Westminster Chimes.

Above, the Wako Dept. Store clock in December 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are photographs of the Wako Dept. Store standing almost untouched while the rest of Ginza is in rubble due to Allied bombing raids. It is not too difficult to locate them on the Internet.

During my recent trip to Japan, the building was adorned in Christmas lighting (above).

The Wako Dept. Store is one of the must-see locations for G-fans visiting Japan. The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan covers the Wako Dept. Store building.

2 New "Two Ladies In A Car" Webisodes

While I was off to Japan or doing other stuff after I got back, a couple of new webisodes of Two Ladies In A Car have been posted.

The most recent one, "Tea For Two" was posted last week. Here's the synopsis:

written by Cae Camille

Season One, Webisode 9: The Ladies take a trip to Santa Monica to have Afternoon Tea; along the way, they investigate pussy-cat spray and discuss other topics . .

And, the one from the previous week, "Hokie Pokie." Here's the synopsis:

written by Cae Camille

Season One, Webisode 8: Lady C is ON Lady M’s nerves today (as usual) as they make their way to what should be The Happiest Place on Earth. But, Lady M takes a new route and a wrong turn (The Hokie Pokie), making the drive to Disneyland seem endless . . .

To watch these episodes, go here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Daily Yomiuri Hard Copies On The Way

The response to The Daily Yomiuri article on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has been excellent.

Like the Japan Today interview article and the GaijinPot.com article, it, too, has been making the rounds around the Internet through various feeds and other linkage.

I heard from Tom Baker, The Daily Yomiuri reporter, yesterday:

I'm glad to hear you liked the article. I'll put some hard copies in the mail to you right away, and I think you'll like it even more when you see that the print version ran with a large photo (which does not appear on the website).

The photo he mentions is one of me with the Godzilla statue in Hibiya, Tokyo (below, right). This one is one of several I took during my recent Japan trip.

As soon as the copies come in, I'll scan and post the article here.

Christmas Eve 2010

Christmas Eve was spent down in Wildomar, California (near Lake Elsinore) at my cousin's.

Had a great time with family. A few photos:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Cleverly Brothers

If you thought one Chuck Winston was enough, now you have two (or, perhaps, three).

Here, Chuck gives his take on the Everly Brothers in "Time Is Passing By":

Friday, December 24, 2010

Post Your Birthday Greetings To Haruo Nakajima!

Above, Haruo Nakajima and his alter ego.

On January 1, Haruo Nakajima (a.k.a. "Mr. Godzilla") will turn 82.

It has been a tradition on this blog for the past two years to have fans post their birthday greeting messages for Mr. Nakajima. I, in turn, pass them along to his daughter Sonoe. She sees to it that he receives them.

So, now's the time to post your birthday greetings to a man who has entertained us with his Godzilla and other kaiju performances for many years. Just post your message below in the comments and I'll see to it that Sonoe Nakajima receives them to give to her dad.

Remember, Mr. Nakajima will be a guest at next year's Monsterpalooza in Burbank!

Above, Haruo Nakajima in 2008. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

UPDATE (12/31/10): I sent off the received greetings along with a link to this blog post to Sonoe Nakajima, so she can present them to her dad, earlier this afternoon. She will be able to pass on any "late arrivals" to her dad through the link.

Thanks to everyone who posted their birthday greetings to "Mr. Godzilla!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Daily Yomiuri Article On "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan"

The Daily Yomiuri has its article on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan posted at its online site.

As mentioned earlier, it was scheduled to be published/posted on Christmas Eve. Since Japan is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles, it is already Christmas Eve in Japan. So they're right on schedule!

The article starts out with:

Godzilla was the embodiment of war in his eponymous 1954 debut film, but he saved the Earth from ecological doom in Godzilla vs the Smog Monster in 1971. The giant reptilian monster has meant many things to many people.

But did you ever imagine him as a tourist? According to The Monster Movie Fan's Guide to Japan (51 pp, 15 dollars, available via www.comixpress.com), Godzilla has ranged as far north as Sapporo, where he destroyed the TV Tower in one of his many films, and as far south as the Sakurajima volcano in Kyushu, near which he came ashore in another.

One place he hasn't visited is New York. Or perhaps that point is arguable. Armand Vaquer, the guidebook's author, told The Daily Yomiuri in a recent interview that devoted fans refer to the 1998 U.S. film in which Godzilla took a bite of the Big Apple as GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only").

We didn't discuss Godzilla's New York visits except for GINO, as fans are aware the real Godzilla did pay a visit to the Big Apple in Destroy All Monsters. Besides, the Guide is on Godzilla's Japan locations, not New York.

Above, Ai. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One bit of information in which the article noted as "dated," the bus ride from newly-arrived planes to the Narita Airport terminal:

Some of the practical information in the book is a bit dated. For instance, it has been a few years since a plane-to-terminal bus ride was a routine part of arriving at Narita Airport.

Prior to this month's trip to Japan, my last trip there was in 2007 in which I did have to take the shuttle bus ride from the plane to the airport terminal. It didn't happen all the time in my previous trips, just when there wasn't a gate available. It is nice to know that Narita totally did away with the shuttle bus ride. A welcome change.

The article did note Immigration's video featuring G-actress Shelley Sweeney.

To read the full article, go here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Year End Thoughts

2010 started badly for me as my mother passed away January 15 at 76 at the Tarzana Medical Center. Although she had been in ill health (she started getting worse around Christmas 2009), her passing was unexpected. This threw me for a loop as The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan "went live" on January 12 at ComiXpress. My mom was ambulanced to Tarzana Medical Center January 12. Exploratory surgery that night found a dead gall bladder and sixteen feet of dead intestine. The dead tissue was removed. Unfortunately, the toxins (sepsis) from the dead tissue were causing problems with my mom's kidneys and other organs. She died of total renal failure.

For weeks, my attention was diverted from getting on the promotion bandwagon by dealing with her death, making funeral arrangements, clearing out her apartment and dealing with her estate. Somehow, I muddled through. Thank God I have a tight-knit extended family who pitched in and helped. My mom's passing hit my daughter Amber hard as they were close and Amber would occasionally "kidnap" my mom for shopping at the mall. Amber and my cousin Lydia were at my mom's side when she died. I was down the block getting my car jump-started with Amber's boyfriend when the time came. I went back to my mom's room in ICU and the respirator was still on. Lydia led us in a prayer over my mom and we then departed. This was about 2:00 a.m.

Although exhausted by the ordeal, sleep was impossible. I made a few calls and blogged an announcement of my mom's passing. The first condolence message in response to the announcement was in an email from actress Christine Nguyen.

One would expect that going to a mortuary to make funeral arrangements would be a traumatic experience. For some people it is. For Amber and me, it was a hilarious experience. This happens to a lot of people. Quite often, levity is used as a shield during this task. We had the mortuary's representative in stitches. It was my mom's wish to be cremated and we were shown a number of urns. I had Amber there so she will know what to do when the need arises in the future. Amber (or me) asked if a particular one was big enough to contain my mother's cremated remains. The representative said it would be big enough for me. Amber then said, "But grandma had osteoporosis!" I said that "it wouldn't add any more mass. The only time it would if she had the "Elephant Man" syndrome." That caused the representative to burst out laughing (well, we all did). She was embarrassed as, she said, "I'm supposed to present a serious demeanor."

Her services took place at Riverside National Cemetery. Strangely, her services were held in the same cemetery shelter as my dad's in December 1999. She died exactly ten years and one month to the day after my dad's passing. It was surreal as recent storms left clear blue skies and snow on the nearby mountains. Her urn was buried at my dad's grave. (One thing I learned, although the body was cremated, the urn has to be placed in a urn-sized "vault" according to federal national cemetery regulations.)

I had to consult with a grief counselor as the effects of my mom's death affected me in ways I never experienced before. It caused judgement impairment, irritability, sleep disorders and other problems. It caused the loss of a job (I've heard this happens to a lot of people in such situations).

My mom's estate in California was easy as all she had were her personal belongings and furniture and bank accounts. For the farm in Nebraska, I had to hire a Nebraska estate attorney to handle the transfer of the property to me along with all the paperwork for the various farm programs of the U.S. Agriculture Dept. and Buffalo County. Luckily for me, I found a good estate attorney through the Nebraska Bar Association.

The estate matters were finalized in May, so that gave me more time to devote to the travel guide promotion, which became a third job. The other two jobs are my adjusting position with Crittenden Claim Services and my "parachute" job working in security patrol. The guide itself is doing well and has met with favorable reviews. Although J. D. Lees and I had a parting of ways back in December, much credit is due to him for the splendid job in laying it out and editing. Archie Waugh's talents as a graphic designer shone with his work on the cover based on an idea of mine utilizing photographs I took during my previous visits to Japan.

Two other passings of note occurred in March: Elizabeth "Bette" Shayne, widow of actor Robert "Inspector Henderson" Shayne of the Adventures of Superman television show of the 1950s and mother of actress Stephanie Shayne, and Denise Geriminsky, wife of friend Mitchell Geriminsky. Bette Shayne's passing wasn't totally unexpected as she had been battling cancer for several years. I had the privilege in meeting her in 2001 found her to be a very nice lady with a great sense of humor. Her passing left Stephanie in the same boat as me: no living parents to enjoy. I attended her memorial service at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital. Stephanie and I commiserated over our losses and occasionally "compared notes." I had to return to Riverside National Cemetery for Denise's burial. Denise's passing from a blood clot following hip surgery was a shock as she was younger than me. Mitch was as shocked over her death as I was with my mom's. While at the cemetery, I visited my parents' grave for the first time and put flowers there. The new marker was in place. I was able to tell Mitch how a shocking death can affect survivors and what to expect from what I learned from my own experience.

I started a new job in late March and found myself in great surroundings in Malibu. A number of interesting things occurred while I was working there and they've been recounted on this blog in articles under "Tales of Adventure In Malibu." Who can complain about working at the beach surrounded by bikini-clad college girls? Funny thing, I made a friend in a Malibu Pavilion's market checker, Heather Johnson. She was transferred to a Von's market (Von's and Pavilion's are owned by the same company) in Reseda in September. Then, in November, I ended up working two nights doing patrol (in a golf cart) at a townhouse complex across the street from it. We were talking the other night noted that it was funny how we both ended up near each other again.

Things looked like they were brightening up in April when I was reunited with a gal I met in mid-2009. We seemed to be hitting it off but I discovered that appearances were deceiving. And I was deceived. Once that came to light, I ended the relationship. I had just come out of the shock of my mom's passing a few weeks before when all this transpired, and my "b.s. antenna" was still not working as it normally would. On the bright side, through all this I did have friends who had my back. For that, I am very grateful.

In May, my daughter Amber made us proud when she graduated from Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in biology. She's currently taking classes at Moorpark College before she decides on what graduate school to attend for the field of veterinary medicine.

The summer was mild by San Fernando Valley standards heat-wise. On those rare hot days, I would get relief at my job in Malibu.

One night, in late-August, I was heading home from work up Malibu Canyon Road when a deer decided to dart into my path. Fortunately, I was going slightly uphill at about 30-35 m.p.h. and hit the brakes before we impacted. The deer darted off and I haven't, to this date, heard from its attorney. The only damage to my car were some slight paint cracks to my front bumper.

My tenure in Malibu ended in November and I am working closer to home. It is almost like getting a raise as I am not spending so much money on fuel. The round-trip to Malibu and back was 52 miles. The furthest I have to drive is Burbank. Otherwise, I am working areas under 2 miles from home. Big difference in fuel costs!

The November elections turned out splendidly. The people rebelled against the excesses of the congress and White House of the past two years. Hopefully, most of the extreme legislation can be reversed by the new congress.

2010, at least, ended on a much happier note as I returned to Japan for the first time in 3 1/2 years for my 6th trip there. Thanks to the corn crop proceeds from the Nebraska farm I inherited, I was able to afford the trip. It was a mix of business and pleasure. I was able to meet with book dealers/buyers and media on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. An interview with Japan Today has already made the rounds throughout the Internet (other sites picked up the feed) and that has led to another interview with Japan's number one English-language magazine, Metropolis (circulation: 30,000). I also interviewed with Daily Yomiuri in Hibiya. That interview is slated to be published/posted on Christmas Eve (December 24).

I managed to roam around Tokyo a bit. I visited Toho Studios and had some photos taken at the front gate with the Godzilla statue. I noticed a lot of changes there since I was last visited in 2001. I also visited the Tokyo sections of Nakano, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Asakusa. While in Asakusa, I photographed the new Tokyo Sky Tree Tower that is currently under construction and expected to open in 2012. I also saw the new movie Space Battleship Yamato at the Toho Theaters in the Yurakucho Mullion Building in Tokyo. It is hoped that a distributor can be obtained by Toho to show it in the United States. I had lunch with former Toho-Los Angeles General Manager Masaharu Ina in Hibiya. We caught up on things and had an enjoyable visit. It was a real treat to see Ginza and Shibuya decked out in Christmas decorations, especially at night. I did some gift shopping in Asakusa's Nakamise Avenue. Early one morning, I visited the Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market (commonly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market) where the latest catches are bought and sold. It is Japan's most important fish market. I also had the best sushi ever at a restaurant near the fish market.

Whenever I go to Japan I try to visit places I hadn't been to before. This time, I wanted to see the Sea of Japan side of Honshu (the main island) and went for a few days to Niigata. It is much more laid-back than Tokyo. Astro Boy is prominently displayed at a bank's ATM machines throughout the city and at their branches. Niigata is known for its soba (noodles) and sake. I sampled some soba and sake while there and brought home a bottle of rice sake.

I had another reason to go to Japan in December. I anticipated a bit of gloom as this will be the first Christmas without any living parents. A trip to Japan, I figured, would be the right tonic to beat back the gloom. So far, I was right! The trip, plus the media coverage of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan, has lifted my spirits.

I am writing this in the middle of the night with pouring rain outside. I am in the biggest guard "shack" I've ever seen. It is as big as a "McMansion." Literally! This place is huge! It also has a kitchen and an upstairs conference room. The restroom alone has more floor space than most guard shacks. Normally, I just work patrol in my "parachute" job (as claim assignments are sporadic), but they needed someone to cover for the regular guard. And, it is about a mile from home and has full cable television. So, what the heck? Here I am.

Hopefully, 2011 will turn out to be a much better year. We can only hope, right? If I were to make a New Year's wish, it would be for no funerals. I've had enough of them this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christina Aguilera, Yuu Asakura and I

It is still raining cats & dogs in L.A. and I have to go to work in little over an hour from now (luckily, it is nearby, so I don't have to drive far).

But, despite the rain, my spirits are up as I just received the layouts for my interview article on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan that will appear in an upcoming issue of Japan's Metropolis magazine. They look teriffic! And...I share the pages with singer Christina Aguilera!

I can't wait to receive the printed copy!

The editor and I were bantering about via email tonight and I sent him this photo of Yuu Asakura:

In response, he wrote:

And thanks for that awesome photo of the lovely Ms. Asakura. Who knew writing a book about Japanese monster movies would get you in good with gorgeous models?!? I gotta remember that!

Tokyo Sky Tree Photos

Above, a view of the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower from Asakusa taken December 6.

One of the things in Tokyo I wanted to see was the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower that is currently under construction.

The Sky Tree will replace Tokyo Tower in 2012 as the primary broadcasting tower in Tokyo as Tokyo Tower was deemed too short for digital broadcasting.

Back on September 15, Jim Ballard took this photo of the Sky Tree from across the Sumida River:

Above, a beautiful evening shot of the Sky Tree Tower
 taken September 15. Photo courtesy of Jim Ballard.
Above, a zoom shot of the Sky Tree from Asakusa two weeks ago. Compare
the construction progress of this photo with Jim's of three months ago.

The next two photos were taken December 12:

Above, a lucky shot of the Sky Tree between two
 buildings from a moving Narita Express train.

As you can see in comparing Jim Ballard's photo of September 15 with mine of December 6 and 12, much progress has been made on the Tokyo Sky Tree Tower.

Monday, December 20, 2010

FCC's Power Grab Of The Internet

Defying Congress and a court decision, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is trying to regulate the Internet in the name of freedom. In actuality, it is freedom of the Internet that's being threatened.

According to Robert M. McDowell, Republican member of the FCC in the Wall Street Journal:

Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government's reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.

How did all this start? According to McDowell, it was a campaign promise by Barack Obama:

It wasn't long ago that bipartisan and international consensus centered on insulating the Internet from regulation. This policy was a bright hallmark of the Clinton administration, which oversaw the Internet's privatization. Over time, however, the call for more Internet regulation became imbedded into a 2008 presidential campaign promise by then-Sen. Barack Obama. So here we are.

Last year, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski started to fulfill this promise by proposing rules using a legal theory from an earlier commission decision (from which I had dissented in 2008) that was under court review. So confident were they in their case, FCC lawyers told the federal court of appeals in Washington, D.C., that their theory gave the agency the authority to regulate broadband rates, even though Congress has never given the FCC the power to regulate the Internet. FCC leaders seemed caught off guard by the extent of the court's April 6 rebuke of the commission's regulatory overreach.

In May, the FCC leadership floated the idea of deeming complex and dynamic Internet services equivalent to old-fashioned monopoly phone services, thereby triggering price-and-terms regulations that originated in the 1880s. The announcement produced what has become a rare event in Washington: A large, bipartisan majority of Congress agreeing on something. More than 300 members of Congress, including 86 Democrats, contacted the FCC to implore it to stop pursuing Internet regulation and to defer to Capitol Hill.

The FCC appears to be reversing itself and is trying to ensnarl the Internet into its tentacles.

Contact your member of congress today and tell them to stop the FCC!

To read the full article, go here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nakajima Update

Above, Sonoe and Haruo Nakajima in 2008 in Chicago. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today, I heard back from Sonoe Nakajima, daughter of Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima.

They're back from their vacation and she said they received the copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan I left for them at the Hotel Asia Center of Japan in Tokyo.

Before I arrived in Tokyo, she had left an autographed copy of her dad's new book, Kaiju Life (photo below) for me at the hotel.

They will be appearing at next year's Monsterpalooza in Burbank, California.

Metropolis Magazine

Above, Ai. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As Japan Today said a day or so ago, I heard from Metropolis magazine about running an article based on Japan Today's interview on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Early this morning, I received an email from the editor of Metropolis, which reads in part:

Dear Armand,

Greetings. I'm the editor of Metropolis magazine here in Tokyo. In case you're not familiar with us, Metropolis is a weekly entertainment/lifestyle magazine for English-speaking foreigners -- kind of like a Time Out guide. We have a circulation of 30,000, which makes us Japan's most widely read print
publication in English.

I was hoping that you could answer a few new questions by email. The reason is, the focus of Japan Today and Metropolis are a bit different, as is the format of our Q&A articles.

Fortunately, I am familiar with Metropolis magazine, I have a couple of issues of the magazine from previous trips to Japan.

The questions were a bit different from the Japan Today questions, but I was still able to get them immediately answered and sent off before I headed for work this morning. They were fun to do.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Making A Co-Worker Happy With An Ambush

When a co-worker at my "parachute" job as a community patrol officer learned that I was going to Japan, he asked me to bring him something.

Being the nice guy that I am, I picked up a Bandai 6" Heisei Godzilla at a toy shop in Asakusa for him.

This morning, I had his toy and a copy of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan waiting for him when he showed up for work. Here's a couple of photos of when he discovered the items. I ambushed him with my camera for fun.

Getting him the Godzilla toy worked great! This is his first Godzilla toy. I found out that he's a G-fan and says he has a Godzilla card from the 1980s. He said he'll bring it in when I see him next week.

Above, the Bob Hope Airport from the Burbank hills that I took early this morning.

Monster Japan Travel Guide Story To Appear In Metropolis Magazine

Above, Ai. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last night, I had to work the graveyard shift with my "parachute" job. When I got home this morning, I found an email from the reporter from Japan Today who conducted the interview with me on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan:

Metropolis magazine will run a shorter version of the story. We have a content-sharing agreement with them. So you may get an email from one of their editors.

This is excellent news! Metropolis is touted as "Japan's No. 1 English Magazine." I have a few copies of Metropolis (almost sounds like a Superman-related publication) from past travels and it is an excellent magazine.

The content-sharing arrangement is similar to one they have with GaijinPot.com, he tells me.

Googling around, I see that a number of travel-related and non-travel-related websites picked up the Japan Today feed on the interview.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Japan Today" Interview On Monster Japan Travel Guide

My interview with Japan Today on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan that was started last week while I was in Tokyo, Japan, and finished up a few nights ago, has been posted.

The interview begins with these introductory paragraphs:

TOKYO — Written by American Armand Vaquer, “The Monster Movie Fan’s Guide To Japan” is the world’s first and only Japan travel guide especially tailored to tourists who are also fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy movies. Most of the locations covered in the book are primarily from Toho’s Godzilla series of movies, but other studios’ monster movies are also covered.

Toho started the giant monster movie genre in 1954 with “Godzilla.” Locations used include the Wako Department Store in Ginza, Kachidoki Bridge on the Sumida River and the Diet building. These and other Tokyo locations are covered in the guide. Also included are Ultraman-related places of interest.

The guide starts north with Hokkaido and makes its way down the main island of Honshu and finishes off in Kyushu.

Japan Today catches up with Vaquer to hear more.

To read the interview, go here.

Blake Edwards Dies At 88

Veteran director Blake Edwards has died. He was 88.

Edwards died last night at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calf. due to complications of pneumonia.

Edwards is best known as the director and writer of many of the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers, but he also directed 1960s classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Days of Wine and Roses.

He received a honorary academy award in 2004.

He leaves behind his wife, actress Julie Andrews (whom he married in 1969) and five children.

Funeral and memorial arrangements are still pending. I will be extending my condolences personally to his nephew tonight.

Monster Japan Travel Guide Article In Gaijinpot.com

Gaijinpot.com has posted an article on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

It includes one of the interviews I did during my recent trip to Japan.

The article reads in part:

Most of the locations covered in the book are primarily from Toho’s Godzilla series of movies, but other studios’ monster movies are also covered. Toho started the giant monster movie genre in 1954 with “Godzilla.” Locations used include the Wako Department Store in Ginza, Kachidoki Bridge on the Sumida River and the Diet building. These and other Tokyo locations are covered in the guide. Also included are Ultraman – related places of interest.

To read the article, go here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Famous Monsters #253 Arrives!

Above, the Kerry Gammill cover.

Famous Monsters of Filmland #253 arrived in the mailbox today.

Boy, was I pleasantly surprised! The issue is beautiful! The production values are outstanding and the images reproduced brilliantly on slick paper. It is light years ahead of the old days when it was printed on inferior paper. It is 80 pages of pure monster delights.

The issue's cover depicts Bela Lugosi as "The Sayer of the Law" in Island of Lost Souls was beautifully rendered by Kerry Gammill. This is the subscription cover, but there are three different covers available at newsstands and Captain Company.

Another pleasant surprise: my ad for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan appears full-page on page 43 and it reproduced beyond my wildest expectations! A big kudos to Archie Waugh for creating the ad!

Above, the ad.

According to editor Jessie Lilley, Famous Monsters is "in Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Hastings."

UPDATE: Archie Waugh, who created the ad, doesn't seem to have a dealer in his area who sells Famous Monsters. He asked me to take a picture of it. So I did and sent it to him. Since I already have the photo, I thought I'd post it here. I had to use my laptop as an easel.

Archie noticed that Famous Monsters replaced the lime green border with a black one. I thought there was something different.

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