"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, May 31, 2015

Japan's Perfect People Mover

Above, a Tokkaido shinkansen car at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Oklahoma's Stillwater News Press has an interesting article on Japan's shinkansen train system. It focuses on the Tokkaido shinkansen line that runs between Tokyo and Osaka. I rode this line several times and the views during the ride are enjoyable with the ocean on one side and towns and mountains on the other. If one is lucky to be riding on a clear day, Mount Fuji can be clearly seen from the train.

The article begins with:
There’s been a lot on the news about the Amtrak train wreck in Philadelphia. I’ve never ridden on an Amtrak train, therefore, I’m in no position to pass judgement on the system. 
However, I’ve traveled many miles on Japan’s Shinkansen or “Bullet Train” system and know it’s a superb rail system with an incredible safety record. 
The Shinkansen rail system went into operation on Oct. 1, 1964. At that time the total length of the line was 331 miles, the distance between Tokyo and Osaka. It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to travel from one city to the other, which was an average speed of 102 mph. That line, called the Tokkaido Shinkansen Line, celebrated its 50th birthday on Oct. 1, 2014. During those 50 years, the system has operated 18 hours a day from 6 a.m. until midnight, and a train has left both Tokyo and Osaka every 12 minutes, but staggered by six minutes.
Above, Atami Castle on the hill above Atami City. Atami is one of the stops of the Tokkaido line. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Godzilla Named Official Resident

Above, Godzilla news story on Fox News. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The new Godzilla head atop the Toho Cinemas Kabukicho/Hotel Gracery Shinjuku entertainment complex was newsworthy. Godzilla being named tourism ambassador for Shinjuku was also newsworthy.

Now, Godzilla has been named an official resident of the Shinjuku district. What's more, you can obtain a copy of the official document naming Godzilla as a resident. I guess that, too, is also newsworthy.

RocketNews 24 reported:
You could make a long list about all the ways Japan is uniquely awesome (and as a matter of fact, we just did), but it’s not like every aspect of life in Japan is more enjoyable than in other countries. For example, taking care of paperwork at city hall or other government facilities is as boring as it is anywhere else in the world. 
So why is it that this week people have been voluntarily visiting the Shinjuku ward office in the heart of Tokyo? Because they want to get a copy of the official residency document of the district’s newest resident, Godzilla!
All you Godzilla artifacts collectors will want to head over to Shinjuku to get yourself a copy! Otherwise, your collection will not be complete without this very important document!

To read more, go here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Spectre" Poster

The next James Bond movie, Spectre, will be hitting theaters this coming fall, but promotional materials are already out. Daniel Craig returns as 007.

I saw the first one (below) the other night when we went to see Poltergeist.

"Free Wi-Fi Passport" In Japan

Above, Nakamise Street in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The push continues by different entities in Japan in providing free Wi-Fi Internet access for foreign visitors by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

According to AsiaOne News:
Visitors to Japan have long complained of the difficulty in finding free Wi-Fi hotspots, a situation the government wants to improve by the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 
On Thursday, mobile carrier SoftBank Mobile Corp. said it will join the push to provide visitors with easier access to the Internet. Starting July 1, it said it will offer visitors free Wi-Fi services at 400,000 access points nationwide. 
Called the "Free Wi-Fi Passport," users can register to the service, supported in English, Chinese and Korean, by dialing a dedicated number. The trial period of the service will last until March 2016.
To read more, go here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

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Japan's Yen Hits New Low, Shoppers Going Japan Crazy

Above, the Shibuya 109. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The weakened Japanese yen has made Hong Kong residents, among others, to stock up on yen and flock to Japan in record numbers. The U.S. dollar has also reached heights not seen since 2007.

According to Hong Kong's The Standard:
Hongkongers are stocking up on the yen and making plans for travel to Japan as the currency drops to a new low of 6.269. 
This came as the dollar sat around eight-year highs against the yen yesterday. 
In Tokyo, the greenback bought 123.66 yen, at one point reaching 123.69, its highest since mid-2007. 
Long queues were seen outside forex dealers in Hong Kong, with about three dozen speculators queuing up at shops in Central. 
Japan's foreign arrivals rose to a record of 1.764 million last month, up 43.3 percent from a year earlier, figures from Japan National Tourism Organization last week show. 
The agency also said arrivals from China more than doubled last month from the year before, exceeding 400,000 for the first time on a monthly basis.
 To read more, go here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brian Wilson Biopic "Love & Mercy"

Above, the Beach Boys monument in Hawthorne, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back on December 31, 1980, I attended a New Year's Eve concert of the Beach Boys (fellow alumni of mine at Hawthorne High School) at the Forum in Inglewood, California. It was an excellent concert that left fans musically satisfied, although the show ended before the stroke of midnight (and the new year) and most spent the changeover in the Forum's parking lot.

One thing was striking during the concert, I noticed Brian Wilson wandering the stage zombie-like or sitting at a grand piano, robotically banging on the keys.

At the time, one had to wonder if Wilson had much time left on his world. His brothers, Carl and Dennis, were healthy and joyously played and sang that night.

However, years later, Dennis drowned and Carl died of cancer. And now, Brian is the only Wilson brother left and has made a huge comeback musically and personally.

A new biopic on Wilson's trials and tribulations is about to be released and it is one movie I am looking forward to seeing. It is called Love & Mercy.

Here's what Ultimate Classic Rock has to say about the movie:
If you’re a Brian Wilson fan, it’s tough to be objective about Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, a biopic that reverently jockeys between the Beach Boys mastermind’s unraveling and redemption, but shows little in between. 
Deftly alternating between the mid-’60s and mid-’80s, with brilliant portrayals by Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson, the duality allows each actor to play to his strengths: Dano masters a youthful exuberance and silent pain; Cusack shows the reserve, mannerisms and whisper of longtime suffering.

Read More: Brian Wilson's Brilliance and Pain Explored in 'Love & Mercy': Movie Review | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/love-and-mercy-review/?trackback=tsmclip

Dollar Hovering Around 123 Yen In Tokyo Trading

There's good news coming out of Tokyo on the foreign exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the U.S. dollar this morning.

According to Jiji Press:
Tokyo, May 27 (Jiji Press)--The dollar hovered around 123 yen in Tokyo trading on Wednesday after topping the level in overseas trading overnight, for the first time in nearly eight years, following solid U.S. economic data.
To read more, go here

New "Poltergeist" Is A Crashing Bore

Above, the poster for the new version. Definitely false advertising.

Rarely do remakes exceed the quality of the original movies. The new Poltergeist totally bombs in that department.

Here's a synopsis of the new version by 20th Century Fox and MGM:
All seems well for Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell), wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their three children as they move into their new house in the suburbs of Illinois. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) begins talking to an imaginary friend, or so the family thinks. It's not long before sinister spirits wreak havoc in the home, holding Maddy captive and forcing the parents to consult a team of parapsychologists who engage the supernatural entities in a battle for the girl's freedom.
In watching the movie, I was struck by the feeling that we've been here before and when it was done before, it was done way better. The original was produced in 1982 with Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams and Heather O'Rourke and it was directed by Tobe Hooper.

The characters in the original were much more likable and it had a very satisfying "chill factor". This movie wasn't scary at all. And, despite decent effects, it just had nothing suspenseful about it. It was a crashing bore. I asked myself several times, "Why?" (was this even made).

My advice: save your money and rent (or buy) the DVD of the original. The producers of this movie (who also produced The Grudge and Evil Dead) ought to be ashamed.

My grade: D (and I am being charitable here).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Shake 'n Bake: Japanese Man Dumps Wife's Ashes Down Toilet At Market

Above, a Japanese cremation urn.

This story caught my attention.

News On Japan posted:
A Japanese man turned himself in to authorities after trying to flush the ashes of his "hated" dead wife down a supermarket toilet, reports and police said on Sunday. 
The 68-year-old man told police he dumped his wife's ashes into the toilet bowl at a supermarket in Tokyo's Nerima Ward immediately after she was cremated last month.
- See more at: http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/112640.php#sthash.6sqJuEBa.dpuf

Japan's Economic Boost From Foreign Tourism

Above, souvenirs for sale at Asakusa's Nakamise Street. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan's economy has been in the doldrums since the "bubble" burst back in the early 1990s. So it stands to reason that the benefits that the boom in foreign tourism is giving the country a big shot in the arm.

According to Tourism-Review:
Foreign visitors' spending in Japan skyrocketed to an all-time high in what may be the past two decades. This ultra-high spending has added about 0.1 percent points to the gross domestic product. If you think the change is small, then re-think. For an economy that has been crippled to dormancy for a very long time, a positive change of 0.1% in GDP is not a small achievement! 
According to Yuichi Kodama, who is an economist at Tokyo's Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, Japan can effectively seep into the rising purchasing power of the Asian market through foreign tourism. He attributes this to the declining local population that has led to a decrease in the domestic demand. Thus, the domestic market cannot be looked up to for substantial economic gain. 
The economic boost from tourism in Japan has been influenced by two major factors – China and the dwindling Yen.
It was only a scant few years ago that I blogged how the Japanese tourism industry will rebound once the foreign exchange rates between foreign currency and the Japanese yen become more favorable to potential foreign visitors. Back then, the exchange rates between the U.S. dollar (to give an example) were down around 80 yen. Today, the dollar and yen exchange rate is around 120 yen.

Read more at http://www.tourism-review.com/tourism-helping-the-stagnant-japanese-economy-news4568#AuMRJxfWMiGLB0mk.99

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 23 Blog Post Pick-ups

The good folks at The Japan Daily picked up several of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Japan Info: What Railcard to Use in Japan

Above, two of the JR Rail Passes I've used. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are planning to visit Japan and want to see much of the country, but are on a budget, Japan Info has posted an article on different ways to save money on transportation.

Above, the fronts to the rail passes I've used. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Included in the article are the ten JR Rail Passes that are only available to foreign visitors and pre-paid travel cards.

They start the article with:
Japan has an amazing and extensive public transportation system, being famous for the Shinkansen, or bullet train which is the fastest train in the world. It might seem overwhelming at first when you come to plan your trip due to all the different options for travel, today I will focus on getting around Japan by train and what products you can have to make this simpler and cheaper!
To read more, go here

Donna Loren

Back in the mid-1960s, there was a celebrity who appeared in so many things that it almost seemed that if one popped their head out the door, she'd be there.

That celebrity was singer-actress Donna Loren.

She appeared as far back in the 1950s on the Mickey Mouse Club. She later appeared on many variety shows and appeared numerous times on the dance show Shindig. She was the "Dr. Pepper Girl" for many years and was featured in "beach party" movies such as Pajama Party in 1964. Donna was even The Joker's moll on Batman.

Now 68, Donna is still active and looks very well for her age.

I obtained this nice autographed photo from Donna this week:

Zooming Japan: Top 3 Night Views In Japan

Above, a view of Nagasaki out of my hotel room's window. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here's another one of those lists of things to see and do in Japan.

This time, it is provided by Zooming Japan. It is the "Top Three Night Views In Japan."

They start it with:
Japan loves lists, so it’s not a surprise that you’ll find lists for almost everything.
For visitors this is perfect as it saves a lot of work! There are the “Top 3 Views of Japan“, “Top 3 Gardens in Japan” etc. 
Today, I want to introduce the best night views in Japan according to the “official list”. They’re called “Sandaiyakei” (三大夜景, Three Great Night Views).
To see what they are, go here

News From NRA-ILA


Court Rebukes D.C. for Discretionary Licensing Regime, Orders Issuance of Concealed Carry Licenses to Eligible Applicants
On May 18, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order prohibiting enforcement of provisions of D.C. law that effectively grant to the police chief the discretion to decide who may lawfully exercise the right to bear arms in public for self-defense. This follows on the heels of an earlier ruling in which the District lost the argument that the right to “bear arms” does not apply outside the home, leading to the hasty enactment of an "emergency" may-issue concealed carry licensing scheme. Such a license is the only means by which most people can lawfully carry firearms in D.C. for self-defense.  Monday’s case, Wren v. District of Columbia, made a preliminary ruling that D.C.’s policy of discretionary issuance would likely run afoul of the Second Amendment. 
Rep. Steve Scalise Introduces Bill to Relax Restrictions on Interstate Firearm Sales
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) has introduced a bill to modernize certain aspects of interstate firearms commerce. The Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, H.R. 2246, would yield increased convenience and choice for consumers, while continuing to allow states to set their own policy regarding transfer and possession of firearms within their borders.
Anti-gun Congresspersons Try, Try Again, Reveal Prohibitionist Ambitions
As we reported last week, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) is seeking to revive failed and rejected gun control strategies of the past by implementing burdensome and unnecessary controls on sales of ammunition. H.R. 2283, the so-called Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2015, wouldn’t just ban online ammunition sales, it would generally ban private ammunition sales altogether. So while a widow, for example, could still sell her deceased husband’s guns to a neighbor if the bill were passed, she could not sell the neighbor any ammunition that might go with them. Even from a gun control perspective, this seems like odd public policy, but then we’ve never accused our opponents of being burdened by logic or consistency. 
U.S. Senator Thom Tillis knows NRA Makes a Difference
No summary available
Finger-gun Slinger in Chief Rides Again, Conveys Hopeful Message to America's Kids
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama once again exposed the irrationality of public school administrators intent on punishing children for imaginative play under overbroad zero-tolerance weapons policies. While attending the United States Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremony in New London, Conn., the 44th president took time to pose with some of the graduating cadets. While getting his picture taken with Graduate Robert McConnel, Obama and the cadet struck back-to-back James Bond-like poses--with matching finger-guns in the air. 
Gun Control Called "Absurd" on Anti-Gun Website
To say the very least, articles questioning the advisability of gun control are few and far between on HuffingtonPost.com. Recently, however, a blogger on the normally anti-gun website expressed views that are liable to work gun control supporters, into a tizzy. In a piece titled In Gun Control Controversy, Can Americans Handle the Truth?, self-described public relations consultant Mario Almonte says that in countries plagued by corrupt governments, violent religious fanatics, and civil war, people would "welcome guns to protect themselves and their families” and would consider gun control "absurd" and its advocates "extraordinarily naïve."
Remember What We Are Celebrating on Memorial Day
This weekend, our country will celebrate Memorial Day.  We'll cook out, relax, and visit with friends and family.  But this holiday weekend is about more than barbeques, swimming pools, and family get-togethers.  As we celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, let us keep in mind what we are "celebrating" -- those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that Americans, and people around the world, would be able to reap the benefits of freedom. 
Contact Your Elected Officials to Support Pending National Right-to-Carry Legislation
Thanks to your continued calls and emails, NRA supported Right-to-Carry bills have seen increases in cosponsorships this past week.  Please continue to contact your elected officials and urge them to cosponsor and support these important bills:


What’s the Real Strength of the NRA?
In this News Minute from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, Jennifer Zahrn speaks about the driving force behind the NRA – our unparalleled grassroots support.


Florida Alert! Governor Rick Scott has SIGNED the Mandatory Evacuation Bill into Law
Connecticut Connecticut
Connecticut: Flawed Due Process Bill on the Move
Illinois Illinois
Illinois: Your Legislators Need to Hear From You on Pro-Gun and Pro-Hunting Legislation
Iowa Iowa
Iowa: House Passes Omnibus Pro-Gun Provision for the Third Time
Maine Maine
Maine: Legislative Document 801 Voted Down in Committee
Minnesota Minnesota
Minnesota: NRA-Backed Omnibus Legislation Signed Into Law
Missouri Missouri
Missouri: 2015 Legislative Session Ends with School Security Funding
North Carolina North Carolina
North Carolina: Your Action is Needed on Important Sunday Hunting Legislation
Ohio Ohio
Ohio: Constitutional Carry Legislation Scheduled in Committee Next Week
Oklahoma Oklahoma
Oklahoma: Your Elected Officials are Failing to Protect the Second Amendment
South Carolina South Carolina
South Carolina: Update on Legislation in the Palmetto State
Texas Texas
Critical Texas Campus Carry Legislation Needs Your Help!
Vermont Vermont
Vermont: Session Ends on Positive Note as Suppressor Legislation Clears Legislature

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