"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

With the news that new tests on samples of the Shroud of Turin date it to the first century, the time of Jesus Christ, I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a program from last year by the History Channel, "The Real Face of Jesus."

Whether or not the Shroud of Turin was actually the burial linen of Jesus, it is an interesting program on how modern technology was able to re-create the face of the man whose image is on the Shroud.

As today is Easter Sunday, it would be an appropriate program to watch and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japan: A Train Buff's Paradise

Above, bullet trains connected at Tokyo Station.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

American train buffs travel throughout the continental United States to ride the rails of different railroads such as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado, the Skunk Railroad in California, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in New Mexico, the 1880 Black Hills steam train in South Dakota, the Sierra Railroad in the Gold Rush area of California and others.

There are train buffs who plan train vacations in Europe and other areas.  One such mecca for railroading is Japan.

Japan Railways (JR) is the country's biggest owner and operator of train lines in Japan.  They own and operate about 70% of Japan's railway network.  The remainder belong many other private companies.

The JR Group is comprised of several regional companies including JR East, JR West, JR Kyushu, JR Central, JR Hokkaido and JR Shikoku.  Trains range from long-distance bullet trains to  local commuter trains.  There are some metropolitian train lines (Tokyo's Yamanote Line is one example) operated by JR.

There are several JR Rail Passes that foreign visitors can obtain at relatively low cost.  These rail passes can only be bought in their home countries as a voucher.  Then, when the tourist arrives in Japan, these vouchers can be exchanged at any JR office for the Rail Pass.  The advantage of the Rail Pass is that travelers get unlimited use during specific periods that the pass is valid, thereby saving a lot of money.   The Rail Pass is not valid on certain trains, but it is valid on a majority of rail lines in the JR Network.

Authorized dealers in the U.S. for Rail Pass purchases can be found in most cities or through the Japan Travel Bureau at (800) 777-0112 or visit www.japan-rail-pass.com.  They also can be bought at KIE/Kintetsu at (800) 422-3481 or www.kinetsu.com.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weakened Yen Boosting Japan Tourism

The weakening yen is causing a surge in foreign tourism.  I've maintained over the past several years that Japan's tourism industry would see a big rebound once the U.S. dollar regains some value when exchanged for yen.

Sure enough, according to an article in The Day.com:

Tokyo - Foreign visitors to Japan rose 33 percent last month to their highest on record for a February as a weakening yen boosted travelers' buying power. 
Arrivals increased to 729,500 in February, from 547,948 a year earlier, the Japan National Tourism Organization said in a report Friday. That's the highest for a February, according to tourism agency statistics going back to 1964.
Currently, the dollar buys around ¥94, this is slightly down from the earlier ¥96 yen of a week or so ago.  The decline is due to jitters over the monetary problems of Cyprus.

To read the full article, go here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Due For Friday Arrival For Pastor Tony Isabella

One of the things I needed to do once I returned home from Mad Monster Party was to mail the autographed photo of Haruo Nakajma to comic book writer, creator of Black Lightning, columnist and Godzilla fan Tony Isabella.  He bills himself as pastor of The First Church of Godzilla (Reform).

I accomplished this yesterday by going to the post office and mailing it to Tony.  It was a of Nakajima taking a break while filming the Frontier Missile scenes for 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla (released here as Godzilla vs. The Thing).  I gave Tony a choice of photos and it is the one he chose.

After Nakajima signed it, I had him pose with the photo:

According to the post office, he will be getting it Friday.

UPDATE (3/28/13):  Tony Isabella reported,  "It arrived today. I am now officially the coolest damn kid on the block!"

"Loaded For Bear"

Great Month For "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan"

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

March is turning out to be a great month for sales of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Besides the sales at the recent Mad Monster Party convention, both ComiXpress.com and the Amazon Kindle Store have been logging more sales.   I hadn't checked either for the past week.  Finally, I checked both this morning and they are reporting more sales since before I left for Charlotte, North Carolina.

Above, my table with "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" at Mad Monster Party
just before the convention opened its doors for business.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Although sales of the travel guide were good the first two days of the Mad Monster Party, they were nothing like the third day (Sunday).  Attendance for conventions are generally down on Sundays, as in the case of the Mad Monster Party, but sales skyrocketed on Sunday.  I am guessing that people wait until the last day to make purchases.  One of my customers was actor Laurence R. Harvey of The Human Centipede II.

Quite a number of people picked up my business card.  So sales will likely be generated from that.  My business card states that the travel guide is available at ComiXpress.com.  A spike in sales at ComiXpress.com, immediately following the Los Angeles Comic Book and Sci-fi Convention last year, was the result of people picking up my business card.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Haruo Nakajima At Mad Monster Party

Our "stiff" volunteer Jeff Blanken sent these shots from Mad Monster Party:

Above, Haruo Nakajima takes the wheel of the time machine DeLorean with translator Yoko Connelly (left)
and Sonoe Nakajima (right) at the "Back To The Future" display.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.
Above, Haruo Nakajima meets Godzilla.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Above, the Nakajima panel session.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Nakajima Panel Pics

Well, I finally made it home from the Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, North Carolina this evening.

The Flyaway bus ride from the airport to the San Fernando Valley was more tiring than the flights as we were in rush-hour traffic.  I'm glad I wasn't driving.

Thanks to our volunteer "stiff" Jeff Blanken, more photos of the panel session with Haruo Nakajima are available for viewing:

Above, Haruo Nakajima discusses his career as a suit actor with Yoko
Connolly translating with assistance from Sonoe Nakajima.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Above, Haruo Nakajima regales the audience with stories of his career.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Above, the Mothra portion of the discussion.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Above, following the panel discussion, Haruo Nakajima and I pose for audience photos.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.
For some more photos by Jeff Blanken, go here.

Mad Monster Party Post-Mortems

Above, Charlotte was a nice city to hold a convention.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As I have a few more hours to kill before I head to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, I thought I'd post a few more photos and add a few thoughts.  The Nakajimas left the hotel to head back to Japan about two hours ago.

Above, the main entrance to the Blake Hotel.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Bearing in mind that this is the second convention the organizers put on, there are a few bugs that need to be addressed.  People learn from experience.  I've seen conventions improve over the years with fewer and fewer problems as organizers become more adept.

Above, the main building of the Blake Hotel.  I had a top floor room with a balcony (second from left).
The Nakajimas were in the room next to mine at left.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There needs to be better communication between organizers and the guests.  The guests need to have a printed schedule telling them where to be and at what time.  The guests were left in the dark on different events and only found out about them when their helpers found flyers with printed schedules.  Things need to be in writing and clearly communicated, especially for Japanese guests.

The V.I.P. room has to be solely for the guests and nobody else.  The celebrities had to share the V.I.P. room with R.I.P. people (who paid $200 to be first in line at events, etc.) and had no reliable meals.  They were left on their own.  What food was there was gobbled up by non-celebrities.  The celebrities are there to draw attendees, so it would be self-defeating for them to have to leave the hotel for a meal.

These are the main problems that immediately come to mind, which is a good thing since this is a young convention.

Above, the massive dealers room.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As for the Blake Hotel, I was pleased with my room with a big balcony.  I was in the original building and only the top (the 14th floor) had balconies.  Unfortunately, despite advertising to the contrary, there were no coffee makers in the rooms.  The hotel restaurant was only open for breakfast.  The only other eating place was the bar with maybe ten food items to choose from.  The prices were about the same as other hotels (a bit pricey).  The maids started knocking on doors (or just entered) starting at eight in the morning.  That is too early.  There are no racks for towels in the bathrooms.  It was annoying to try to find some place to put them.  Some people complained of mildew or musty odors in their rooms.

Above, NASCAR headquarters view from my balcony.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The ballrooms and other convention facilities were massive.  There was plenty of room.  In general, the hotel staff were very helpful and courteous.

Above, the backside of the distinctive stiff (staff) t-shirt worn by the volunteers.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mad Monster Party Day Three: A Plus For "Team Nakajima"

Above, Haruo Nakajima with actress Lea Thompson.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Mad Monster Party 2013 is now history.  I had a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people.

First, I have to commend Eben McGarr and Joe Moe for putting on a great show.  I think they exceeded their attendance expectations by a few thousand.

Above, the Nakajima panel.  Photo by Jeff Blanken.
Next, I have to thank the members of "Team Nakajima" (translator Yoko Connelly and our volunteer stiff (staff) Jeff Blanken)  for their help in making everything involving the Nakajimas go smoothly.
Above, Haruo Nakajima with a fan-made Godzilla suit.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As this was the second convention, there were a few bugs that need to be ironed out.  But, learning from experience will greatly aid in making next year's convention even better.

The day began at about one o'clock in the morning with the sound of police vehicle units pulling up to the Blake Hotel or driving nearby.  It was a bit hard to sleep with all the noise from the police sirens.  I found out  this morning that seven units of the Charlotte Police Department responded to a call involving two nude girls at the convention at that time.  I'd bet the police fought over who was going to respond.

Above, Haruo and Sonoe Nakajima going over their flight schedule for tomorrow in the R.I.P. room.
  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After breakfast, I met with the Nakajimas and went over the questions for the panel discussion.  Following this, we migrated over to the ballroom for the session.  I received many words of praise for the session which included slides (when the projector decided to work properly) and roars and music from Godzilla (1954) while people were entering the ballroom.

After the panel, we migrated over to our tables.  The line was already long of autograph seekers when we go to the tables.  I sold more copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan today than I did with Friday and Saturday put together (which weren't bad either).  Thanks to everyone!

Above, Haruo Nakajima and yours truly.

The Nakajimas did VERY well with their sales of autographs photos with fans.  It will probably hit them when they convert the dollars into yen when they return home to Japan.  I am very happy for them.

Above, Haruo Nakajima with our volunteer helper Jeff Blanken.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Just before the convention ended, we had a photo session for group shots of everyone who comprised "Team Nakajima."

Above, Haruo Nakajima with translator Yoko Connolly.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After the convention was over, we went over to the V.I.P. room (known as the R.I.P. room) to review everything and to make plans for other future activities.  While there, actress Lea Thompson stopped by to be introduced to Haruo Nakajima.

Above, "Team Nakajima" at Mad Monster Party.  
After we said our goodbyes, I took Jeff out to dinner at the Hickory Tavern.  We relaxed over dinner and beer.

The trip to Charlotte, North Carolina was worth it and I enjoyed what I did manage to see of the city.  Would I return to a future Mad Monster Party?  The answer is a definite yes!

Haruo Nakajima Meets Metallica's Kirk Hammett

Here's Haruo Nakajma with Metallica's guitarist Kirk Hammett yesterday at Mad Monster Party:

Photo by Re Evolution Mgmt.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mad Monster Party Day Two: I Acted With Haruo Nakajima

Above, Godzilla poses with "Godzilla."  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Day Two of Mad Monster Party started out with a movie shoot outside in the light rain.  I did my second bit of "acting" with Haruo Nakajima (the first was a couple of years ago in Malibu).  This might have been the first acting work Mr. Nakajima has done in quite a while.  He proved that he still has his acting "chops" at age 84.  It was for a video that will be shown later this year.

Above, Haruo Nakajima and I during our movie shoot.

The convention itself was busy with many fans lined up to get Mr. Nakajima's autograph and to have their picture taken with him.  Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett sought out and met Mr. Nakajima while Nakajima was returning from a break in the V.I.P. room.

Above, Haruo Nakajima approaches "Godzilla."  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One fan was dressed in a homemade Godzilla costume and they posed together for several photographs.

Above, Haruo Nakajima signs a rare Mattel Shogun Warrior Godzilla toy.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tomorrow will begin with my Q & A session with Mr. Nakajima that will begin at 11:11 a.m.  Later, he will be posing for photographs (at 2:00 P.M.) in front of the green screen with fans.

Above, Haruo Nakajima signs a M1 Godzilla toy of himself.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Haruo Nakajima and I during our scene.

A funny thing happened to me this evening as I was about to enter the bar that was holding the "Scaraoke" event.  A Charlotte police officer was standing guard at the entrance and asked to see my i.d.  I just grinned and said, "Thanks for the compliment!"  He laughed.  This was the first time in 37 years I've been carded!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mad Monster Party: Day One

Above, Haruo Nakajima signs a vintage "Godzilla vs. The Thing" poster.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today was the first day of Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The convention was jam-packed with happy convention goers.  Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima had a steady stream of autograph-seekers.  He signed photos, CDs, DVDs, laser discs, LPs, toys, posters and many other kinds of Godzilla and other kaiju memorabilia.

I sold several copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.  As predicted, the Nakajimas sold out the copies of his autobiography, Kaiju Life, pretty quickly.  One of which went to Sean Linkenback.

To give you an idea of what the day was like, here's some photos:

Above, the "Back To The Future Display."  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, my table.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Haruo Nakajima's table,  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, eager fans wait in line for Haruo Nakajima's autograph.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Haruo Nakajima is assisted by interpreter Yoko and daughter Sonoe.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Haruo Nakajma poses with an autographed photo I had him sign for comic
book writer, columnist and Godzilla fan Tony Isabella.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

In NASCAR Country!

Above, the view of the Charlotte skyline from my hotel room balcony.
After a whole day's worth of flying, I made it to Charlotte, North Carolina this evening.

The Blake Hotel is a great convention facility.  The ballrooms are enormous!  Vendors are now hard at work setting up their displays.

Above, yours truly on the balcony.
I haven't yet seen the Nakajimas.  They went out on a spending spree today with the translator and were out to dinner at the time I got in.  I heard they've been having a great time since they got in yesterday.

I left Los Angeles at around 6:35 a.m and arrived in Cleveland, Ohio to catch my connector flight to Charlotte.  My first reaction to seeing the plane that would be taking me to Charlotte was, "A lear jet?"  It was actually an EMB-145, a Brazilian commuter jet.

Light snow was falling during the time I was at the Cleveland Airport.  I had enough time to get a very good bacon cheeseburger at the airport.  The wings of the plane had to be de-iced before we took off.

Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame (I can see it from my hotel room balcony).  It isn't snowing in Charlotte, but it is pretty darn cold here at night.  The temperatures are into the 20s.

Above, I joined artist Bill Chancellor in the hotel bar.
So far, I've seen Joe Moe, Bill Chancellor, Eben McGarr and Ron Chaney (grandson of Lon Chaney Jr.) along with a few others.

Above, the United Express EMB-145 that would take me to Charlotte at the Cleveland Airport.

The Mad Monster Party officially kicks off tomorrow.

Above, the Charlotte skyline at night.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The King (of the Monsters) Is In The Building!

Haruo Nakajima and his daughter Sonoe have arrived in Charlotte!

Above, Sonoe Nakajima (far left) and her father Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima chat with convention
organizer Eben McGarr.

ANA Launches "Let's Do Japan" Website

All Nippon Airways has launched a new website that targets U.S. tourists who are also manga and anime fans.

According to Japan Daily Press:

In the tradition of Japanese manga-style comics, All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently launched a tourism and culture website called “Let’s Do Japan” (www.letsdojapan.com). ANA, Japan’s leading airline in terms of sales, built the site to let online visitors create their own Japanese manga personality while learning helpful tidbits about Japanese culture and trends. 
This is ANA’s first-ever tourism campaign that is specifically targeted at U.S. consumers, given that Japanese manga and anime are becoming global phenomena, especially in America. Site visitors will be able to create their own manga characters through a site feature called “Manganizer”. The app uses manga-style graphics and features five distinct Japanophile travelers that the visitors can choose from: they can either be the Executive, the Fashionista, the Gourmand, the Designer or the Aficionado, thus creating a true-blue manga hero with stories that use the visitors’ own pictures.

Sounds like fun.

To view the full article, go here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Green Screen Photo Op Info

In case you're wondering about the green screen photo op (as in opportunity) that the Mad Monster Party convention is having, here's some info as posted by Don Myers:

TShirtBordello will be doing greenscreen celebrity photo ops. We'll photograph you and the celebrity on a greenscreen background, then we'll take the green background out and insert an amazing background that we've created for each celebrity from our original photography. We've scoured the land for creepy slaughter houses, old cabins, dark and mysterious forests and ancient forts for these images. You will LOVE them! 
The celebrity photo op area will be right by the main entrance. Each guest will receive an 8 x 10 print a few hours (in most cases) after your shoot. Additional 8 x 10 photos are $10 each and must be ordered prior to your shoot. Within a week after the event, we will email you a FREE digital copy of your photo, ready for print or online posting. 
The list of celebrities is CRAZY! (here is a link to all the guests http://www.themadmonsterparty.com/guests.html) Bruce Campbell, Alexa Vega, Kirk Hammett, Haruo Nakajima, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Lita Ford, Lea Thompson, Peter Criss (KISS), Laurence Harvey, Wendy Leech and many more! 
Your photographer will be Holly Gordon of www.HollyGordonPhoto.com and the organizer is Don Myers of www.TShirtBordello.com

Final Preps For The Mad Monster Party

Above, yours truly with Haruo Nakajima in July 2000 in Hollywood.  I had Mr. Nakajima sign it in 2008.  

Early Thursday morning, I head off to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Mad Monster Party.

Everything's been re-confirmed: flight, hotel, etc.  The hotel part was a little tricky as the Blake Hotel switched to a new reservation system about a month ago and they couldn't locate my reservations at first.  But, everything worked out just fine.

The slideshow that will be presented during the Q & A with Haruo Nakajima is completed.  The discussion will take place on Sunday, March 24 at 11:00 a.m.  All I have to do is finish up the topics I will discuss with "Mr. Godzilla."

I'll have plenty of copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan available at a 20% discount for convention attendees.  So, instead of paying the $15.00 cover price, they will be available for $12.00 per copy.

It appears that Sunday will be a little busier for me.  Besides the Q & A, the photo op with Haruo Nakajima in front of a green screen (that will put a Godzilla image in the photos) will also be taking place on Sunday.  This should be interesting.

If everyone who shows up for Mr. Nakajima votes (as a write-in) for him to be inducted into the Rondo Awards's Monster Kid Hall of Fame, he should win by a landslide.

It will be nice to be on the East Coast again for the first time since June 1982 (when I went to the White House for a reception).

If you are open to going to the Mad Monster Party, here's where you will find the details.

Mad Monster Party Schedule

The Mad Monster Party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina will be held this week (March 22-24) at the Blake Hotel.

The convention's official website now has the schedule up with a map of the convention (click on image to see larger):

The panel discussion with Haruo Nakajima is set for Sunday, March 24 at 11:00 am in the Carolina Ballroom.  The discussion will be led by yours truly.

To view the schedule page, go here.

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