"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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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Superman's Patriotic Imagery

Superman's association with the U.S. flag and patriotism dates back to his beginnings in the late 1930s and 1940s.

In the 1940s, Superman was depicted in comic book covers as a morale booster for U.S. troops fighting in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II.

This association continued in the 1950s with the opening of the Adventures of Superman television show. The show's opening depicts a resolute Superman (George Reeves) standing in front of the American flag.

In 1953, Adventures of Superman's producers made a special episode, "Stamp Day For Superman" that was donated to the Department of The Treasury. In this episode, not shown on television, Superman tells elementary school children of the virtues of buying Savings Stamps to help their country.

The photo below from "Stamp Day For Superman" shows Superman with the U.S. flag and the word "citizenship" in the background. Would this Superman renounce his U.S. citizenship? Not likely!

Christopher Reeve's Superman also continued with this association. In Superman 2, the Man of Steel returns the White House's flag and pole to the Executive Mansion's roof after defeating three Kryptonian Phantom Zone criminals.

The comic books of the Modern Age also depicted Superman as an American patriot. The comic book cover at right of Superman unabashedly patriotic was produced after DC Comics re-booted the Superman character (along with other super-heroes in their stable) in the late 1980s. And the one below left is a more recent cover.

These images only scratch the surface. There are many more such depictions of Superman's patriotism. With all this ingrained imagery over the years, it is small wonder why the reports of Superman renouncing his U.S. citizenship in Action Comics #900 has some people upset. That's why it is tricky business to tamper with an iconic character.

One final point.

One of Superman's abilities is a super-intellect. Granted, even one with a superior intellect could get frustrated over some government policies. Rather than get angry and renounce his citizenship, he would shrug it off and logically figure that administrations come and go and policies change with each administrative change. He would also use his influence to get the ones he disagrees with changed. A person with his super-intellect would not act rashly and renounce his citizenship. It comes off as some politically correct internationalist bullplop. I wonder if DC's writers even considered this.

The storyline just rings hollow.

Superman: Tampering With An AMERICAN Icon

When Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster created Superman, they created a quintessential American icon.

The term "Truth, Justice and The American Way" is synonymous with the character.

Rocketed to Earth as an infant by his parents, Jor-El and Lara, to escape the planet Krypton's destruction, the child's rocket landed in middle America and was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. The baby, Kal-El, was raised as Clark Kent with wholesome middle American values and became the champion of justice and the defender of the weak and oppressed.

When Clark Kent reached manhood, he moved to the city of Metropolis to begin his career as a Daily Planet news reporter and as Superman. Thus began an American icon, recognized throughout the world.

DC Comics, co-owner of the Superman character with the heirs of Siegel and Shuster, is publishing Action Comics #900. In this anniversary issue, the story has Superman fed up after a clash with the federal government.

Says Superman, “I am tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy.” He plans to make his announcement before the United Nations: "I intend to speak before the United Nations tomorrow and inform them that I am renouncing my U.S. citizenship."

Messing with an icon is tricky business. And this has become a controversy already. It is like having George Reeves standing in front of the United Nations flag, not the American flag, to many people.

According to Fox News:

"Besides being riddled with a blatant lack of patriotism, and respect for our country, Superman's current creators are belittling the United States as a whole. By denouncing his citizenship, Superman becomes an eerie metaphor for the current economic and power status the country holds worldwide," Hollywood publicist and GOP activist Angie Meyer told FOX411's Pop Tarts column.

In the same article, Superman's publishers defended the storyline:

"Superman is a visitor from a distant planet who has long embraced American values. As a character and an icon, he embodies the best of the American Way," DC's co-publishers, Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said in a statement to FOX411.com. "In a short story in ACTION COMICS 900, Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."

Still, would Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster approve of this?

Before people get upset over this, one thing to remember: in comics, nothing is ever permanent. A character may get killed off, but quite often is brought back to life in another storyline. Sooner or later, Superman will reclaim his American citizenship.

Also, while everyone is aghast over this tampering with Superman's iconic American image, keep in mind that Clark Kent is still an American citizen.

UPDATE: A friend emailed this message (don't know if he read this blog post yet):

George Reeves never would have renounced his citizenship!

Sgt. George Reeves
U.S. Army Air Corps.1943

The email was titled, "George Reeves...Patriot!"

Friday, April 29, 2011

King Kong vs. Godzilla

Above, Godzilla and King Kong go after each other while demolishing Atami Castle in the process.

Over at the Classic Horror Film Board (CHFB), there is currently a topic in the Japanese Giants section titled, "Was KING KONG VS GODZILLA especially loathed in monster fandom?"

One thing about G-fans (or fanatics of any genre), there's always disagreements (some heatedly) amongst them. The subject of King Kong vs. Godzilla is one of those that brings up the passion level.

King Kong vs. Godzilla was released in the U.S. by Universal Pictures in June 1963. It as a heavily-edited version that inserted American actors to "help" with the narrative. Unfortunately, those edited-in scenes actually marred the movie. The original Japanese version plays out better as the satire it was intended to be.

I first saw King Kong vs. Godzilla at the Balboa Theater in Los Angeles in the Manchester-Vermont shopping area with my parents and friends. We sat in the balcony (photo left). I was nine-years-old at the time. It was paired with John Wayne's Donovan's Reef. (This was the subject of my first G-FAN article, by the way.)

While my parents and us kids laughed at the mangy King Kong suit, we were still greatly entertained by the movie. It was my first Godzilla movie to be seen on the big screen.

The premise of the thread, "Was KING KONG VS GODZILLA especially loathed in monster fandom?" really doesn't have any legs as there was no "fandom" back in 1963. Maybe a few monster elites didn't much care for it (Forrest J. Ackerman was one, so maybe that's why he came up with the phony "two-endings" tale), but to younger teens and pre-teens (and some adults), King Kong vs. Godzilla was good, mindless entertainment. If anyone "loathes" the movie, it is mainly by revisionist fans of today. King Kong vs. Godzilla still remains the boxoffice champ (by number of tickets sold) of all the Toho-produced Godzilla movies.

As an adult, I still find it fun and entertaining, but I now prefer the Japanese version.

A few side notes:

Back in 1972, I was perusing the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner's sports section and on page two, there was a doctored photo of King Kong and Godzilla in a boxing ring wearing boxing gloves. It was to hype KABC-TV Channel 7's airing of the movie. That got me wanting to see it again.

Some of the locations in King Kong vs. Godzilla are covered in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. They include Atami Castle, Diet Building, Mt. Fuji and Ginza (interestingly, the overhead tracking shots of Ginza are only in the American version).

The Balboa Theater still stands, but it had been converted into a mosque and is now up for sale. The theater opened in April 1926. It was once part of the Fox-West Coast Theater chain.

Gas Prices Jump Nationwide

Above, the rest of the country will be soon seeing these prices.

Looks like the price of gasoline is jumping higher.

According to ABC News, the country will be seeing $4/gallon at the pump soon. We in California already are paying over $4/gallon and have for several weeks. The rest of the country is catching up.

ABC News posted:

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is now within a dime of $4.

Drivers in 22 states are paying more than the national average of $3.91 per gallon. In Alaska, California and Connecticut they're paying $4.20 or more.

With one day left in April, gas prices are up 30 cents for the month. On average, the increase has been slightly more than a penny per day. At that rate, the national average for gas would reach $4 on Sunday, May 8. In 2008, when gas hit a record of $4.11 per gallon in July, it didn't cost $4 until June 8.

Analysts predict gas prices will actually start falling toward the end of May, as refineries increase production and more gas becomes available. That remains to be seen: Many analysts failed to predict the prices drivers are paying now, caught off-guard by surging oil prices.

And, they state the reason:

The main reason gas is up is the high price of oil. It rose again Friday, boosted by a weaker dollar. The dollar hit a three-year low against six major currencies. Since oil and other commodities are priced in dollars, they become more attractive to buyers with other currencies and prices rise.

Benchmark crude for June delivery rose $1.07 to settle at $113.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

We can all thank President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi for the dollar's loss in value due to their $14+ trillion spending spree and the Obama Administration's oil drilling policies.

How's that hope and change working out for you?

To read the full article, go here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornadoes In South; Family's Okay

Above, a tornado in Alabama. Fox News photo.

The tornado news out of the South is both terrifying and amazing. It is terrifying to see the amount of destruction, but amazing to watch nature's fury.

A swath of tornadoes has caused widespread death and destruction throughout several states. The death toll is expected to go over 200. 131 died in Alabama alone.

I checked with relatives in the Anniston, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia areas and all are all okay.

My cousin in the Atlanta area reported:

The storms went a little north of both of us. It was wild watching the news last night. Storms were back to back to back. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Most everyone at the office is sleep deprived though.

My aunt and uncle in Anniston said:

Alabama had a lot of damage but Good Lord watched over us. We had no damage in this area. Most of the storm went north of Anniston and south of Oxford. We had tree braches blown across the road and that was all.

Prayers go out to all in the affected areas.

I think I prefer earthquakes over tornadoes, if I were to have a choice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Timely!

Last night was very windy and I think the wind caused a power problem with my old computer. I was using it last night when I heard a noise and the computer shut down. As I was about to go to bed anyway, I just didn't bother trying to re-start it.

This morning, I tried to start it up but it seems to be not getting any power. The monitor is fine, but the computer is dead.

Although I mainly use my laptop, I used the old one for claims work-related stuff and printing. Now since the computer is down, so is the printer. I have no idea where the CD that came with the printer went to. I've had the computer and printer for 11 years.

As providence would have it (that's what I meant by "how timely"), I received a new claim assignment late this morning. It is to make a cold call on the president of a trucking company in San Pedro. Well, it appears that it's my luck this assignment came in so I can use the money to have the computer repaired (if it is repairable).

I went down to San Pedro and nobody was around, so I left a note and card at the door. The traffic coming back was terrible and the air temperature was in the eighties outside. It took me more than a half hour to get from Washington Blvd. to Sunset Blvd. (usually a 5 minute drive) on the San Diego (I-405) Freeway.

I shouldn't complain, my drive time and mileage are compensated. Plus, this also means I get to go back to San Pedro again.

"Godzilla, King of the Monsters!" Released 55 Years Ago

This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world. There were once many people here who could've told of what they saw... now there are only a few. My name is Steve Martin. I am a foreign correspondent for United World News.

55 years ago today, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released to theaters in the United States.

This was the Americanized version directed by Terry Morse that inserted actor Raymond Burr into the movie. The original was produced by Toho Co., Ltd. in 1954 and released in Japan in November 1954.

It was this version that was released around the world that made Godzilla an international star. A new American Godzilla movie is now in pre-production by Legendary Pictures.

Burr's scenes were filmed at tiny Visual Drama studios in Los Angeles on Vermont Avenue near First Street. The Frank del Olmo Elementary School now occupies the site and a commemorative plaque honoring Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is mounted at the school's entrance (above photo). The plaque was funded by fan contributions and co-sponsored by The Godzilla Society of North America and Platrix Chapter No. 2 of E Clampus Vitus. Terry Morse Jr. attended the plaque dedication.

Japan Trying To Coax Tourists Back

Above, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The official tourism agency in Japan, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has posted periodic Japan travel advisories.

Their latest one, dated April 26, has been posted. It is in question and answer format such as:

Can We Visit Japan Today? – YES!

The majority of regions in Japan including popular leisure travel destinations, are outside the areas affected by tsunami, earthquake and radiation, and received no disruption to infrastructure. Everything in these areas continues to operate as usual. The greater Tokyo area has already retrieved the usual condition, and there are no more periodical blackouts. The other regions are unharmed, and safe and normal as before.

Although the initial media hysteria over the quake, tsunami and (especially) the reactor troubles at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant have subsided, the effects of the hysteria are still felt by businesses who cater to the tourism industry outside of the quake zone.

Another question and answer from JNTO:

How is the Radiation Level? – NOT DANGEROUS!

Except for the proximate areas near the nuclear power plants, there is no dangerous level of radiation detected in Japan. Tokyo is not within radiation contamination concern area, located over 200km (124 miles) away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant facilities. The radiation level in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international organizations confirm that the radiation level in the atmosphere is within a reasonable safety level to human health.

Any little story about the nuclear power plant does have an effect as it feeds into the initial hysterical reporting immediately following the March 11 earthquake. The tourism agency is trying to assure people that it is safe to visit Japan. In fact, the U.S. State Department's travel alert to Japan has been reduced to only the 50 mile radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Other countries have reduced their travel alerts.

To see JNTO's travel advisory, go here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Busy Day: The Icing Came Later

Today's been a busy day.

It started out early when I headed to the Superior Courts in Van Nuys for a mandatory settlement conference. Finding the right department, etc. was a chore and, surprisingly, we find that the conference was cancelled. Someone dropped the ball and failed to notify us. Things like this happen.

Next up, I had to go to the Woodland Hills office of the California Highway Patrol to pick up an accident report. That took place without any difficulty (no problem there, the officers at the front desk know me now).

Then, I scanned the report and sent it off to the boss in San Bernardino along with my billing sheet for this claim and for the one involving the cancelled settlement conference.

After this, I had to head off to the bank and get a bank check drawn for the first installment of the Nebraska farm's property tax. Glad that's out of the way. The final installment is due in early September.

To unwind, I finally created a separate page advertising/promoting the claims company I work for, Crittenden Claim Services. I've been meaning to do it for some time since Blogspot provides 10 separate pages for whatever subjects my heart desires. I just didn't know how to approach it. Then I decided to just scan the company's brochure and let the brochure's pages speak for the company.

So now, Crittenden Claim Services joins the pages for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and Two Ladies In A Car. The links to each is just below this blog's masthead photo at top.

Once that was done, I had to do some grocery shopping (gotta eat, you know). When I got home, the mailman just left my apartment building, so I went to get my mail. Lo and behold, some orders for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan came in!

That was the icing on the cake for today.

Reminder: The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan is now available at a 20% discount through May 31! Go here for details!

Obama's Oil Solution: Higher Taxes and Prices

As usual, President Obama's solution for the current series of oil price spikes is...more taxes.

According to Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amid rising gasoline prices at the pump, President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders Tuesday to take steps to repeal oil industry tax breaks, reiterating a call he made in his 2012 budget proposal earlier this year. The White House conceded his plan would do nothing in the short term to lower gas prices.

The president wrote a letter to the bipartisan congressional leadership on Tuesday, a day after Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he was willing to "take a look at" repealing the multibillion-dollar tax subsidies enjoyed by the major oil companies.

Rising gas prices have become a political weight for the White House, with polls showing that as the cost rises at the pump, the president's approval ratings have slipped. Obama has increasingly sought to display action on oil, even as he acknowledges that there is no immediate answer to stem costs.

Of those subsidies were repealed, just were do you suppose the oil companies will look to in order to make up those lost revenues? In our wallets, of course!

Above, these gas prices would seem cheap if President Obama has his way.

As mentioned before, the current surge in high oil (i.e., gasoline) prices come from the Obama Administration's policies in not allowing new drilling (including his moratorium on no-drilling in the Gulf), the weakness in the U.S. dollar (caused by Obama's and the Democrat-controlled congress of 2009-10) and the tensions in the Middle East.

Boehner is not helping matters any by parroting the Left's "fair share" mantra.

To read the full article, go here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hamburger U

I have KFI-AM (talk radio) on and the topic is the "hate crime" of some black girls beating up a trans-gendered white girl at a McDonald's.

During the discussion, the host brought up McDonald's Hamburger University in Chicago. "Hamburger U" is where managers of McDonald's franchises receive training.

I hadn't thought of Hamburger U in ages. I worked at the Hawthorne McDonald's back when I was sixteen and some of the crew made up a Hamburger U cheer when the manager of our store was sent there for training (he later was fired for embezzlement).

It went like this:

Hamburger U
Hamburger U
Eat the meat

Talk about flashbacks!

End of April

It is hard to believe that in five days April will be over. It seems like only yesterday that I was preparing for my April 8 presentation on Japanese monster movie locations at Monsterpalooza (photo above) and getting my taxes paid.

It is gratifying that Haruo Nakajima had such a great reception and his American handlers (August Ragone, Dave Chappel, et al.) did such a great job. Plus, they raised a good sum of money for Japan earthquake relief.

As of late, I've been working almost continuously since Thursday night. This is due to some claim assignments that came in along with my parachute job. I had to work Saturday and last night (at least it was close by, up in the hills above Tarzana) and I worked a claim assignment in Burbank this morning and will be working in Studio City this evening. So far, I have a mandatory settlement conference in Van Nuys court on another claim tomorrow morning. When I say "so far," I mean that anything could change between now and then. After the settlement conference, my work schedule appears to be clear until Thursday night.

But I'm not complaining! I can use the cash! (I should be getting holiday pay for last night for Easter Sunday, which also helps.)

Tomorrow, after my work is done at the Van Nuys court, all I have to do is to send off my property tax payment for the farm in Nebraska.

Then, I can relax!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bats Are Friends of Farmers

Above, a brown bat.

Source: Western Farm Press, April 16, 2011

I read an interesting article yesterday.

Did you know that bats save the agricultural industry in the U.S. at least $3 billion a year by eating crop-destroying insects? It's true! But bats are the "most overlooked economically important, non-domesticated animals in North America," noted a study by scientists from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Tennessee and Boston University.

The value of bats' pest control services in the U.S. alone range from a low of $3.7billion to a high of $53 billion a year. A single brown bat, which has a body about the size of a human adult thumb, can eat up to 4 to 8 grams of insects a night. This may not seem like much at first glance, but it does add up.

The study also warned that economic losses could occur in the next four to five years due to an emerging disease called "white-nose syndrome" and fatalities of some migratory bats at wind turbine facilities. The loss of one million bats in the Northeast may have resulted in 660 and 1,320 metric tons of insects no longer being eaten. Why some bat species are susceptable to wind turbines remains a mystery.

The authors of the study feel that solutions to the white-nose syndrome and collisions with wind turbines may be found in the next few years. One estimate in 2007 puts the loss of bats due to collisions with wind turbines (or air pressure changes around them) at 33,000 to 111,000, just in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. (Gee, I thought wind-produced energy was supposed to be safe for the environment!)

Such work will require wider public awareness and support for these insectivorous bats to make possible solutions a national priority.

Tohoku Shinkansen To Fully Resume Operations April 29

Above, the Tohoku shinksansen train at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Daily Yomiuri is reporting the the Tohoku shinkansen will be soon resuming rail service:

The bullet train service on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori will fully resume on April 29, following the suspension in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, East Japan Railway Co said Saturday.

This is surely welcome news in Japan.

To read the full article, go here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dollar/Yen: Not Looking Good

Things are not improving in the rate of exchange between the U.S. Dollar and the Japanese Yen.

According to Bloomberg.com:

The dollar fell to a three-week low against the yen on speculation the Federal Reserve will reiterate next week its intention to keep interest rates near zero, damping the appeal of U.S. assets.

The dollar dropped 1.5 percent to 81.88 yen yesterday from 83.13 yen on April 15, for a second weekly loss.

I just did a check on the rate at the Universal Currency Converter and it came up with this:

1.00 USD = 81.9320 JPY

The graph at left shows the downward trend in the rate of exchange between the U.S. Dollar and the Japanese Yen from 2007 to 2011. The dollar has not been at or above 100 yen/dollar since 2009. Before I went to Japan last December, my most recent trip there was in April 2007. At that time, I was able to get 116 yen per every dollar I exchanged. There is no indication that the dollar will recover any of its value anytime soon.

Unfortunately, this makes Japanese goods more expensive for Americans traveling to Japan. Likewise, this does not help Japanese companies (like Toyota, for instance) in their overseas sales to American buyers. This will not improve unless the U.S. Congress and President Obama gets serious in reducing the U.S. debt. That's why it is important for the Republican House of Representatives hold firm in cutting the $14 trillion debt and not raise the debt ceiling. All the insane spending during the previous two years has devalued the dollar. It is just "printing press" money right now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Revisiting "The Right Stuff"

Above, the seven Mercury astronauts are introduced to the press for the first time.

Posting earlier today about the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard's flight into space in Freedom 7 got me into the mood to watch the 1983 movie version of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. It was the first time in ages I popped in the old VHS of the movie.

The Right Stuff is one of those kinds of movies that has to sit a while before viewing again. Not that it's bad. Not at all. This is to keep the movie "fresh" to me. The movie is over three hours long (if it included the X-15 project as Wolfe's book did, the movie would be at least five hours long). Even though the running time is a bit over three hours, its pacing and compelling story makes those three hours go by fast.

It begins with Chuck Yeager's breaking of the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 (named "Glamorous Glennis" after his wife) and moves into the Project Mercury program with emphasis on the Shepard, Grissom, Glenn and Cooper (to a lesser extent) flights.

Above, the astronauts pose with a Mercury capsule for the press after modification demands are agreed to by German NASA scientists.

The Right Stuff has a number of compelling performances. These include Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager (can you spot the real Chuck Yeager in a cameo?), Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager and Fred Ward as Gus Grissom.

Philip Kaufman directed as well as wrote the screenplay, based on Wolfe's book.

The movie also has an excellent Bill Conti score.

By today's standards, the special effects are primitive, but still are effective.

John Glenn was a U.S. Senator from Ohio at the time The Right Stuff came out and ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984. He hoped that the movie would give his candidacy a boost. It didn't. His campaign fizzled like a Vanguard rocket.

If you've never seen The Right Stuff, you may want to get a copy to view next month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard's flight into space.* I will probably watch again it next February when the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's orbital flight arrives.

My grade: A.

*Another movie to consider is The Space Movie (which features music by Michael Oldfield), if you can get your hands on a copy. The Space Movie was produced in 1979 by Tony Palmer at the request of NASA, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

First American In Space, 50 Years Ago

Above, astronaut Alan B. Shepard.

Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of Alan B. Shepard's sub-orbital flight in the Freedom 7 Project Mercury capsule. Shepard became the first American in space (although some may dispute that due to the X-15 rocket plane program).

It was on May 5, 1961 that the second man in space (the Russians launced Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961) was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida atop a Redstone rocket (photo below).

The flight itself lasted less than a half hour, but it got the United States into the manned space race.

Shepard returned to space in 1971 as commander of the Apollo 14 moon flight and was the first the hit a golf ball on the moon.

According to Wikipedia, inside Freedom 7 Shepard allegedly made a quote made famous in Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff:

Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: "Don't fuck up, Shepard..." This quote was reported as "Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up" in The Right Stuff, though Shepard confirmed this as a misquote. Regardless, the latter quote has since become known among aviators as "Shepard's Prayer."

Shepard died of leukemia near his home in Pebble Beach, California on July 21, 1998 and was cremated. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean off Pebble Beach.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Back In Craigslist

Above, Miki with "The Monster Movie Fan's
 Guide To Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan is now listed again in the Los Angeles area of Craigslist.

It's been a while since I last posted it there, so today I got the ad back in.

It contains links to two YouTube videos, one by the television show Monster Madhouse and one I did.

To see it, go here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tarzana Gasoline Price Sign

I just got back from picking up a few items at the local supermarket.

Since I had my camera with me (I had some insurance claims work to attend to today), I decided to take a picture of a local gasoline station price sign (above) in Tarzana, California.

In some areas of California, the price for full-service gasoline has passed the $5 mark. Some commentators are saying that gasoline will go over $6/gallon by summer.

We can thank the trillions of dollars in overspending that has weakened the value of the dollar and Obama's anti-oil industry policies for these high prices.

How's that hope and change working out for you?

Reagan's 1980 Acceptance Speech Applies Today

Many of you weren't around in July 1980 when Ronald Reagan gave his acceptance address at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan. I was and I was present at Joe Louis Arena as a California delegate to hear Reagan's speech (photo below at arrow).

The country was under the rule of President Jimmy Carter and a Democrat congress. Inflation was in double digits; we had an energy crisis; and the economy was doing poorly (stagflation was the term used in those days, a combination of a stagnant economy with high interest rates and inflation).

Reagan spoke directly to the American people at the convention and the people responded by ousting Carter from the White House and put the U.S. Senate under Republican control for the first time in 40 years.

What Reagan said that night chillingly applies to the problems we have today under Barack Obama and the congress under Pelosi and Reed. One can say that today's problems are like 1980 all over again. This time it is much worse. What began as a bad recession fueled by the mortgage crisis, was made worse by the trillions of debt the Democrats saddled us with, Obamacare and Obama's energy policies.

Fortunately, the GOP now has control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats' control of the Senate has been sharply weakened.

Here's what Reagan said on July 17, 1980 that applies today:

Never before in our history have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a disintegrating economy, a weakened defense and an energy policy based on the sharing of scarcity.

The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership --in the White House and in Congress -- for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us. They tell us they have done the most that humanly could be done. They say that the United States has had its day in the sun; that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems; that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities.

Note, Obama talks a lot about "sacrifice." Except for his union thug supporters and government employees.

My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view. The American people, the most generous on earth, who created the highest standard of living, are not going to accept the notion that we can only make a better world for others by moving backwards ourselves. Those who believe we can have no business leading the nation.

I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis to the next, eroding our national will and purpose. We have come together here because the American people deserve better from those to whom they entrust our nation's highest offices, and we stand united in our resolve to do something about it.

As your nominee, I pledge to restore to the federal government the capacity to do the people's work without dominating their lives. I pledge to you a government that will not only work well, but wisely; its ability to act tempered by prudence and its willingness to do good balanced by the knowledge that government is never more dangerous than when our desire to have it help us blinds us to its great power to harm us.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years."

If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement. But, with the virtues that our legacy as a free people and with the vigilance that sustains liberty, we still have time to use our renewed compact to overcome the injuries that have been done to America these past three-and-a-half years.

First, we must overcome something the present administration has cooked up: a new and altogether indigestible economic stew, one part inflation, one part high unemployment, one part recession, one part runaway taxes, one part deficit spending and seasoned by an energy crisis. It's an economic stew that has turned the national stomach.

High taxes, we are told, are somehow good for us, as if, when government spends our money it isn't inflationary, but when we spend it, it is.

Those who preside over the worst energy shortage in our history tell us to use less, so that we will run out of oil, gasoline, and natural gas a little more slowly. Conservation is desirable, of course, for we must not waste energy. But conservation is not the sole answer to our energy needs.

America must get to work producing more energy. The Republican program for solving economic problems is based on growth and productivity.

Large amounts of oil and natural gas lay beneath our land and off our shores, untouched because the present administration seems to believe the American people would rather see more regulation, taxes and controls than more energy.

Note that Obama has policies in place that includes a moratorium on oil drilling in our waters offshore.

Our problems are both acute and chronic, yet all we hear from those in positions of leadership are the same tired proposals for more government tinkering, more meddling and more control -- all of which led us to this state in the first place.

Can anyone look at the record of this administration and say, "Well done?" Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work?" Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, "Let's have four more years of this?"

I believe the American people are going to answer these questions the first week of November and their answer will be, "No--we've had enough." And, then it will be up to us -- beginning next January 20th -- to offer an administration and congressional leadership of competence and more than a little courage.

Can anyone take a look at the record of the Obama Administration and say, "Well done?" Can anyone say, "Keep up the good work?" Can anyone say (with Egypt, Libya, and other middle eastern states in turmoil) about Obama, "Let's have four more years of this?"

I will not accept the excuse that the federal government has grown so big and powerful that it is beyond the control of any president, any administration or Congress. We are going to put an end to the notion that the American taxpayer exists to fund the federal government. The federal government exists to serve the American people. On January 20th, we are going to re-establish that truth.

Reagan would be shocked to see that Obama and his Democrat congress ran up a $14 trillion deficit!

We are taxing ourselves into economic exhaustion and stagnation, crushing our ability and incentive to save, invest and produce.

This must stop. We must halt this fiscal self-destruction and restore sanity to our economic system.

Who does not feel a growing sense of unease as our allies, facing repeated instances of an amateurish and confused administration, reluctantly conclude that America is unwilling or unable to fulfill its obligations as the leader of the free world?

Egypt and Libya immediately come to mind.

The administration which has brought us to this state is seeking your endorsement for four more years of weakness, indecision, mediocrity and incompetence. No American should vote until he or she has asked, is the United States stronger and more respected now than it was three-and-a-half years ago? Is the world today a safer place in which to live?

To read Reagan's full acceptance speech, go here.

Major League Baseball Takes Over L.A. Dodgers

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, has taken over the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

According to the Wall Street Journal's website:

In the latest blow to one of his sport's marquee franchises, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday that he is taking over operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers because of concerns over team finances and the ability of owner Frank McCourt to run the storied club.

"The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly," Mr. Selig said in a prepared statement.

Too bad the Dodgers aren't still owned by Peter O'Malley and his family. It has been reported that the McCourts have been using team money like an ATM to fund a lavish lifestyle. An investigation is currently taking place.

To read the full article, go here.

Media Shielding Obama Over Gas Prices

Notice how the mainstream media ("state-controlled media") hasn't put out any stories on how the high gasoline prices (now creeping to $5/gallon with some areas already at $5/gallon) are causing suffering? Where's those "pain at the pump" stories that we saw during the Bush years?

In fact, some even put out stories on how good it is to have $5/gallon prices. What they are doing is trying to protect President Obama.

High oil and gasoline prices have a ripple effect on the rest of the economy. Higher prices for clothing, food and anything else that relies on transport are now taking hold.

There are several reasons for the current high gasoline prices. You only hear about the turmoil in the Middle East as the culprit.

Big Journalism.com has an article on the reason for high gas prices. According to the article, there are three reasons for high gasoline prices:

The real reasons are three-fold, with unrest in the middle east being the least of the three.

1) Devaluation of the dollar. The incessant printing of money by this administration began the rise of gas prices months long before the middle east blew up. I’m no Alan Greenspan, but I can figure out that if oil prices are tied to the dollar, and you print more dollars, the oil price will go up, up, up.

2) An energy policy that calls for less drilling for oil at home, not more.

3) Unrest in the middle east.

To read it, go here.

How's that hope and change working out for you?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Yuu Asakura!

Today is actress, model and Japanese-language instructor Yuu Asakura's birthday.

Regular readers of the Rancho know Yuu as the first promo model (photo above) for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

She first came to my attention in Donald F. Glut's movie The Mummy's Kiss: Second Dynasty (which also starred Christine Nguyen). Through Glut, I was able to contact Yuu for the photo shoot.

I found her to be a very nice person and easy to work with.

Last November, I got to see Yuu perform in the play, Utsutsu and she did a great job, especially in her death scene.

We met up at the press and kick-off party for Utsutsu in Culver City (above) a few days before.

Happy Birthday, Yuu!

"The 10 Best Low-Budget Films of All Time"

Just being a mega-costly movie of today doesn't always equal success at the box office. Many of these behemoths tank, while some movies made on shoestring budgets occasionally become hits and make many times their cost.

"The 10 Best Low-Budget Films of All Time" came across my desk this morning and I found the movies listed interesting.

The site begins with:

Success is relative in Hollywood. Some movies tank at the box office but cost so little to make that the studio still comes out ahead (especially when they use creative accounting), while others have to earn back their huge budgets just to break even. But the films here aren't just low-budget compared with what they earned; they're cheap, period.

To take a look at "The 10 Best Low-Budget Films of All Time," go here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Japan Tourism Woes Continue For No Reason

Above, the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Daily Yomiuri posted a new article on the continuing woes of Japan's tourism industry.

Cancellations to normally busy tourist spots from Hokkaido to Okinawa are up due to the March 11 Tohoku Earthquake.

The Daily Yomiuri reports:

From Hokkaido to Okinawa, the domestic tourism industry has taken a battering in the wake of the March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster, with foreign visitor numbers in March plunging 50 percent compared with the same period last year.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, at least 80,000 foreigners have called off visiting Japan and canceled hotel bookings and tours since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Some foreign airlines have also canceled flights to this country.

Many business operators in domestic tourist spots have blamed their plight on damage caused by rumors about the ongoing crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

"I've never experienced this before," said a 59-year-old employee at Suzuya, a souvenir shop in Asakusa, Tokyo, that opened during the early Showa era (1926-1989). She glanced down the normally packed Nakamise shopping street leading to Sensoji temple, but the street was almost deserted.

"The whole nation is being affected by rumors exaggerating the danger of visiting because of the nuclear plant accident," an official of the Noboribetsu Tourist Association said.

Okinawa Prefecture is nowhere near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but it saw more than 10,000 cancellations by overseas tourists in the weeks up until April 8.

Above, the Torii Gate at Miyajima near Hiroshima. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant problems occurred in the northeastern section of the main island of Honshu. Yet, people are cancelling reservations for places far away from the affected area. It is as if people were cancelling vacation reservations for San Diego, California due to a disaster at Mount Shasta in Northern California (Japan is roughly the size of California). It is silly to do so and is hurting businesses outside of the affected area for no reason.

Some people need to learn some Japan geography! Below is a map of Japan showing its regions and prefectures. The Tohoku Earthquake (now being called the Great East Japan Earthquake) was centered in-between Sendai and Fukushima in the Pacific Ocean. The damage from the earthquake and tsunami affected those areas. The problems with the nuclear plant is in the Fukushima area. Outside of those areas, things are normal in Japan, except people have the wrong idea that the whole country had been hit. It wasn't!

It is time people show their support for Japan by traveling there!

To read the full article, go here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Favorite Tokyo Hangouts

Above, a view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower.

Since 2001, I've made six trips to Japan, mainly for pleasure and some for business.

My most recent trip was in December 2010 where my activities in Tokyo were primarily for promoting The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. After a while, one gets accustomed to being in a given town or city. Such is the case for me with Tokyo. Also, one finds favorite places to just "hang out" and savor the surroundings.

Here's a few of the places I enjoy kicking back in Tokyo:

Hotel Asia Center of Japan

As a rule, I don't just go someplace and just sit in a hotel room. But, when I've finished my day of wandering around Tokyo, I enjoy the facilities that the Hotel Asia Center of Japan has available. This is my hotel of choice when staying in Tokyo. They've a good restaurant. Internet access. Laundry facilities. It is also within easy walking distance to eateries that are easy on the budget. There's also convenience stores within easy walking distance as is the Aoyama-Itchome subway station.

Tully's Coffee
Tully's Coffee is within easy walking distance from the Hotel Asia Center of Japan. Generally, I stop in before I take off on the subway to other points in Tokyo and I stop in when I return from somewhere before heading back to my hotel. They've a separate smoking room and a relaxed atmosphere. They also have good pastries to munch on!

Shibuya Crossing's Starbucks

A favorite place in Shibuya is Starbucks Coffee located in the building in the center of the above photo. I try to get a window seat in their upstairs dining room so I can relax and just watch people in Shibuya Crossing cross the street (below). One thing I found out, Starbucks cards issued in the U.S. aren't usable in Japan.


Asakusa is a great place to just hang out and do a little window shopping (without the windows) on Nakamise Street, the shopping street that leads up to the Sensoji Temple. On a side street from Nakamise Street, there's a McDonalds restaurant next door to a toy shop (it carries kaiju toys, by the way) should one get hungry. Also, another Asakusa hangout is at the Azumabashi Bridge which crosses over the Sumida River to Sumida City. At the bridge, great views of the Asahi Beer Hall and the Sky Tree (currently under construction) can be had (below).


During my December 2010 trip to Japan, I was saddened to discover that one of my favorite eating and coffee spots in Tokyo, Becker's, was gone. However, Becker's was replaced by The Beat Diner, which offers food and drinks along with classic rock music. The Beat Diner is located under the shinkansen (bullet train) tracks that separates Ginza and Hibiya. I am glad that I tried them out before going to see Space Battleship Yamato. It is a great place with pretty J-girl waitresses and bartenders. Also, The Beat Diner is an easy walk from the Godzilla statue in Hibiya.

As the years go on, I will probably find more places to add to my list of favorite hangouts in Tokyo.

Do you have any favorite hangout places in Tokyo?

Feel free to post them in the comments for this blog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Japan Tourism Hit Hard By Quake

Above, Asakusa in Tokyo before the earthquake. The Tohoku earthquake even affected tourist numbers in Asakusa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Source: Asahi.com

Asahi.com is reporting that tourism in Japan plummeted in the wake of the March 11 Tohoku Earthquake.

According to the article:

Hotels and inns across Japan lost an estimated 560,000 guests to cancellations following the Great East Japan Earthquake last month, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

Hiroshi Mizohata, commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, told an Upper House land and transport committee Tuesday that the public's sense of self-restraint had hurt tourism, causing the number of tourists not only in the disaster-hit areas, but also across the nation, to tumble.

"The consequences are extremely serious," Mizohata said. Concerns over the dispersion of radioactive materials due to the nuclear plant accidents are spreading among tourists, whereas a variety of events have been suspended all over Japan, leading to a sharp drop in tourism demand. There are also repercussions from numerous countries discouraging their citizens from traveling to Japan.

Fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy films should not be discouraged as most kaiju locations and landmarks* are mainly from Tokyo to the south. The hardest hit areas of Japan were in the northeastern section of Honshu, the main island of Japan. Even there, efforts to get tourism back on track is well underway:

Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, touted as one of the three most scenic places in Japan, is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country, visited by about 3.6 million people annually. The Zuiganji temple, designated as a national treasure, was reopened to visitors Sunday, whereas bay excursion boats also plan to resume operations on April 29. Damage in the surrounding areas was relatively mild, and efforts for the restoration of tourism is well under way.

Tokyo's Asakusa section has been hit by the drop in tourism:

Tourists were a rare sight in Tokyo's Asakusa district Tuesday afternoon despite the warm sunshine. A 59-year-old employee of a tourist information office said, "I have worked here for more than 20 years, but never before did we have so few visitors." Her office normally serves about 3,000 visitors per day even on weekdays, but the numbers have plunged to 500-600 following the earthquake.

As much as I'd like to go to Japan right now, I won't be able to until this coming winter.

To read the full Asahi.com article, go here.

*For more information on kaiju locations and landmarks see The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan, which is now available at a 20% pre-vacation season discount from now to May 31.

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