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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Google Doodle For Saruhashi Katsuko

Katsuko Saruhashi’s 98th birthday
What we have here is a Google Doodle from March 22, 2018 depicting Saruhashi Katsuko (surname first), a Japanese geochemist who made some of the first measurements of carbon dioxide levels in seawater and subsequently showed the evidence in seawater and the atmosphere of the dangers of radioactive fallout.

Born on March 22, 1920 in Tokyo, Saruhashi graduated from the Imperial Women's College of Science (predecessor of Toho University) in 1943 before joining the Meteorological Research Institute (part of the Central Meteorological Observatory - now known as the Japan Meteorological Agency), and worked in its Geochemical Laboratory.

In 1950, she started studying CO2 levels in seawater. At that time, CO2 levels were not recognized as important, and as such he had to create her own methods to measure them.

She earned her doctorate in chemistry in 1957 from the University of Tokyo, becoming the first woman to do so.

After the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests in 1954 involving geothermal hydrogen bombs, the Japanese government asked the Geochemical Laboratory to analyze and monitor radioactivity in the seawater and in rainfall.

The Bikini Atoll is an atoll in the Marshall Islands which consists of 23 islands totaling 3.4 square miles surrounding a 229.4-square-mile (594.1 square kilometer) central lagoon.

A Japanese fishing trawler had inadvertently found itself downwind from a hydrogen bomb test, and as it turns out, its occupants became ill from the radioactive elements in the air. You can read about that sordid tale HERE in a blog I wrote just over four years ago.

The nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll program involved 23 nuclear devices detonated by the United States between 1946 and 1958 at seven test sites on the reef (atoll) itself, on the sea, in the air and underwater.

During the second series of tests in 1954, code-named Operation Castle. The first detonation known as Castle Bravo (shouldn't it have been called Castle Alpha?), was a new design utilizing a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb.

It was detonated at dawn on March 1, 1954. Scientists miscalculated (don't you hate when scientists miscalculate?) and the 15 megaton (Mt) nuclear explosion far exceeded the expected yield of 4 to 8 Mt, and was about 1,000 times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
The Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test on March 1, 1954. Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see here.
The scientists and military authorities were shocked by the size of the explosion and many of the instruments they had put in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the device were destroyed.

Anyhow, Saruhashi determined that it took 1-1/2 years for the radioactivity from the Bikini Atoll tests to reach Japan via the seawater.

By 1964, the radioactivity levels from those same tests showed that the western and eastern North Pacific ocean water had mixed completely, and by 1969, the traces of radioactivity had spread throughout the Pacific.

This was some of the first research showing how the effects of fallout can spread across the entire world, and not just affect the immediate area.

Now... what I don't know is just what they mean by traces of radioactivity. Obviously Saruhashi and her team were searching for traces of a particular type of radioactivity, rather than the common stuff that falls upon us everyday... but just what does "trace" imply.

Obviously it was not considered a danger to human or even marine health... er, that is long after it had mixed in with the waters for several years diluting its potency. But... what would be interesting to determine is how long did it take for the waters in the immediate area of the hydrogen bomb test to return to a level of "safety".

The U.S. military authorities and scientists had promised the Bikini Atoll's native residents that they would be able to return home after the nuclear tests. As such, a majority of the island's family heads agreed to leave the island, and most of the residents were moved to the Rongerik Atoll and later to Kili Island. But, both locations proved unsuitable to sustaining life, resulting in starvation and requiring the residents to receive ongoing aid.

The tests continued at the Bikini Atolls, with Redwing in 1956, and Hardtack in 1958... and despite the fact that the scientists and military had promised they could return to their island home once the tests had concluded (did they know it was going to be that many tears?), the constant bombardment from the hydrogen bomb testing made the entire area unfit for habitation, as the soil and water was far too high with radioactivity

The United States later paid the islanders and their descendants $125 million in compensation for damage caused by the nuclear testing program and their displacement from their home island, which is great... because well... I'm not sure why.

Apparently as of 2014, the Bikini Atolls has been declared "technically" possible for people to live there again.

So... they can go back, right? The problem of course is that they have spent what... nearly 70 years off the island? It's no longer their home. And what would they do there? Would you want to go back or, as the case for the majority is, go there for the first time ever to reclaim your heritage?

Despite that 2014 "technically"-speaking report that said people could go back and live, it didn't say for how long.

A 2016 report showed that radiation levels were at 639 mrem yr−1 (mrem = millirem, and a rem is short for "roentgen equivalent man", a measurement of radiation).

The  established safety standard threshold for habitation of 100 mrem yr−1.

Well... if these hardy Bikini Atollinders (Atollians?) can handle the heat, they would find, according to a 2017 Stanford University study, plenty of marine life in the crater of the Bikini Atoll.

The report did not mention any three-eyed fish.

 The islands continue to be uninhabited.

Later, in the 1970s and 80s, she turned her attention to studying acid rain and its effects.

Saruhashi earned quite few awards and distinctions throughout her scientific career:
  • 1958 - established the Society of Japanese Women Scientists to promote women in the sciences and contribute to world peace;
  • 1979 - named executive director of the Geochemical Laboratory;
  • 1980 - first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan;
  • 1981 - won the Avon Special Prize for Women, for researching peaceful uses of nuclear power and raising the status of women scientists;
  • 1981 - established the Saruhashi Prize, given yearly to a female scientist who serves as a role model for younger women scientists;
  • 1985 - first woman to win the Miyake Prize for geochemistry;
  • 1993 - won the Tanaka Prize from the Society of Sea Water Sciences.
Saruhashi was also an honorary member of the Geochemical Society of Japan and the Oceanographical Society of Japan.
Saruhashi Katsuko

She died on September 29, 2007 of pneumonia at her home in Tokyo, at the age of 87.

The Google Doodle was created in honor of what would have been her 98th birthday.

Andrew Joseph

Clear The Track - Here Comes The Cat

Back when I was a kid, one of the most famous hockey players was a guy named Eddie Shack. He may not have been the most skilled hockey player, but he sure was entertaining. It's why his nickname was The Entertainer.

Eddie (I can't call him Shack) was fun to watch on the ice and off the ice, as in both instances one never quite knew just what The Entertainer was going to get up to next.

He helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, was a three-time All Star... and sadly I only caught him towards the end of his career.

Here’s an example of what life with Eddie on the ice was like, however:

“I didn’t need an excuse, I’d had a thing going with Eddie Shack for a long time,” recalls Philadelphia Flyer Eddie Zeidel recounting a 1967-68 hockey game between his Flyers and Shack's Boston Bruins.

“The last time we were in Boston, the two of us had bumped during the warmup.  I figured it was time to balance the books. So I went to the game like a kamikaze.”

See... another Japanese connection! Kamikaze!

In the opening minutes of that particular hockey game, Eddie Shack and Zeidel collided and traded insults. Later in the first period, they again came together along the boards and Zeidel swung his stick and opened a three-stitch cut on The Entertainer’s head. Enraged, Eddie began to swing his stick at Zeidel’s head—some seven times. Zeidel, in a defensive posture held his stick horizontally in front of his face, somehow managing to escape the frenzy with only a three-stitch cut on his scalp.

Hockey aside, I did see Eddie do TV commercials.

The one that sticks out (and maybe this is the only one he did). it was to show the toughness of a Glad home garbage bag.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a video of it.

In a mock kitchen, a filled garbage bag is suspended via rope from the ceiling (like it is in everyday life). Eddie, besides his skills in carving up the opposition with his hockey stick, was also a renowned pugilist (fighter). 

The commercial called for Eddie to come out and punch at the garbage bag as though it was something akin to what you might find at a boxing gym…

There he is in the commercial, trying to beat the crap out of a full garbage bag (because obviously a tough guy like Eddie Shack wouldn’t have a problem in tearing a new one in a plastic garbage bag, right?

Eventually, after punching the bag multiple times, he gives up, but returns with a frenzied kick (I believe - maybe it was a stupidly hard punch) finally tearing a hole in the bag, as the garbage falls to the ground.

It was funny… as the commercial pretty much says it’s tough enough for whatever the average joe can throw at it without dumping a mess, but maybe we shouldn’t attack it or have Eddie Shack around.

I am working off 40+ years of memory here...

Before his commercial uprising, Eddie was the inspiration for a rock and roll pop song called 
Clear The Track, Here Comes Shack a catchy tune by Douglas Rankine and The Secrets in 1966.

That song is why I created the title for this blog article above...weird how some things stick in your head. Or my head, as the case seems to be.

Oh yeah, and if you look at the image at the very top of this article, you’ll see a pink shinkansen (bullet train).

The West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) will launch a Hello Kitty-themed shinkansen on its Sanyo Shinkansen Line between Osaka and Fukuoka this summer (2018).

The Kodama train will feature Sanrio Co.’s popular kitten character who can be purchased by companies looking looking to better market whatever product or brand they want to market. Hello Kitty don't care... she just wants the money.

Its design was inspired by Hello Kitty’s trademark red ribbon, which describes JR West’s desire to enhance ties between regions with shinkansen services in western Japan, the company said.

The train will pull eight 500-series cars... but a unique feature - besides being plastered with Hello Kitty graphics, is there will be a grand total of zero passenger seats in car No. 1, which will be dedicated to sales of local specialties. Car No. 2 will have full Hello Kitty decorations. I believe Cars 3-8 will have the standard bullet train seating.

I would imagine that if you are sitting in Car No. 2, not only will you get to pay extra for your seat, but you will also have access to Car No. 1 and its "local specialties"... what do you suppose "local specialties" are... I mean the freaking distance between Fukuoka and Osaka is a stunning 613.3 kilometers (381.1 miles), as it crosses the west coast of Japan.... which local specialties will it be? Food, drink, Kit Kat bars? Does the locality of it all encompass one of the following cities: Osaka? Kobe? Hiroshima? Kitakyushu? Fukuoka? Parts in between? Will it all have a Hello Kitty branding to it?

I guess we'll have to wait and see...

By the way... that image showing the bullet train at the top of this article... that's NOT what the train will look like. At this time, it is merely a conceptual image representing what the Hello Kitty shinkansen may look like.   

In the mean time, JR West put out this sorta promotional animated video:

So yeah... clear the track, here comes the Cat.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Japanese Crime A Portend To The Decay Of Japanese Society

My good buddy Julien sent me a bit of news the other day about how shoplifting has become something of a lifeline for Japan’s elderly population.

According to the old Bloomberg newspaper article (HERE), nearly one in five women in prison is 65 years of age or older.

I should first point out that this is the second age-ism related article that the much younger than I Julien has sent me (one in March of 2016), so I’m unsure if he’s trying to tell me something in an effort to find the best retirement plan for myself.

It is no big news that Japanese senior citizens are committing crimes so that they can go to jail in an effort to get free care, accommodations, food and even operations… like I said, Julien sent me a lead on that story two years ago.

The senior citizen plan is, a smart plan, as the penal system will look after the convicted for free… but the downside is you aren’t free.

But I say that as someone who feels trapped without the bars, but no longer enjoys going to bars. When did that happen? I used to like drinking. Now I don’t.
According to the latest media shoveled my way by Julien, nearly 20 percent of the female inmates in Japanese prisons are senior citizens. IE 65-years-of age or older.

It’s for the same reasons I stated previously… a means of escaping (ha-ha) a life of poverty.

To tackle the issue of seniors behind bars, Japan is building prison wards (in both male and female prisons) specifically for the elder criminals, and is increasing its nursing staff.

I noted in my previous blog on this topic two years ago, that since 2005, that approximately 35 percent of all petty crime shoplifting offense were committed by people over the age of 60… 

While no one who commits a shoplifting crime is going away for life - even in Japan - since the seniors wanting to be jailed has increased, so too has the rate of re-offense, with approximately 40 percent re-offended more than six times.

Why not, right? With kids unable or unwilling to look after them as was the norm for hundreds of years previous, this lost generation of senior citizens in Japan is being forced to survive the high cost of the 21st century by what us so-called younger generation seems to find distasteful…

… by any means possible.

For those who grew up as a child surviving a devastated Japanese economy post WWII, doing whatever needed to be done is a mantra not easily forgotten, unfortunately.

As I see it the only thing wrong with the fact that seniors are willing to go to prison to get three square meals a day, a bed, and medical care is that they have to do this at all… which is a crime against society.

It’s an indictment on Japan’s government that has created an economical problem for its growing senior citizen base, and it’s an indictment against the families of the seniors who are not providing for their parent’s well-being.

Unlike most countries, seniors in Japan have for umpteen generations counted on the fact that their golden years would be spent in the company of the eldest son’s family… who would invariably live in the same city/town or village as the one they grew up in… and in the same house, too.

But Japanese society has changed over the past 30 years.

While certainly most Japanese seniors are being cared for by their now adult kids… and the seniors who are now grandparents repay by providing free babysitting… or even doing nothing more than providing some financial contribution to the home with their monthly “retirement” checks…

But nowadays, the young adults aren’t getting married, or have found employment outside and away from the comforting constructs of the generational family home.

Perhaps these seniors are too proud to ask their kids for help, when they assume they shouldn’t have to ask… it should just be given as it always was for generations past. Maybe, they just don’t know how to ask for help, comfort or finances, because it’s not something they ever expected they would need to do.


Still, if that’s the case, they are being stubborn in their refusal to find familial help and are opting instead to go to prison to get the help… after all… “shouldn’t Japan look after us? We paid our taxes and were the good, perfect citizen Japan wanted..”

That was me trying to think like a Japanese senior willing to go to prison.

Is it being done to shame their adult children for not having cared about their well-being?

Maybe… the only way to find out is to talk to a senior who has willingly committed a crime to go to prison.

But this is Japan… how many people would be willing to actually talk about their feelings?

I’m almost 100 percent positive that no one will talk to other Japanese about it… but I bet you they would talk to a gaijin

Japanese people talked to me all the time about stuff they would never dare reveal to another Japanese person… who would I tell, they probably figured?

Until I began this blog 16 or so years after leaving Japan, I wouldn’t have told anyone.

What to do? Obviously Japan needs to adopt the whole “bread not circuses” approach… and instead of trying to make itself look good in the global eye, it should instead spend its money where it is really needed.

I am a fan of the Olympics… of sports in general… but why should Japan be spending billions of dollars on hosting an Olympics, when it should have instead spent the same billions (less advertising) on helping its senior citizens, or those impacted by the tsunami and nuclear accident circa March 2011?

Of course it is doing what it can… but it could have done a lot more than trying to prop up its own ego in the world of sports.

The thing is… in this day and age… with global social media a keyboard or mouse or touch screen away, all of Japan’s warts and flaws are easily exposed… such as the lack of care being provided to senior citizens who are willing to go to prison to be fed, clothed, etc…

Your national ego takes a beating regardless of how pretty the upcoming circus(es) will look.

It’s too late with regards to money spent on such three-ring affairs as the Olympics, but perhaps Japan needs to look inwards and really see what problems it has, and how it can better allocate its resources to alleviate them.

As a Canadian, I’m not one to talk. We probably have similar issues brewing. I have no retirement plan, except that maybe I’ll be dead before I have to retire. That’ll solve one problem.

Every payday allows me to go further and further into debt. How do I get out of this whorling eddy? I know, I know… sometimes you have to take a risk…

While mine doesn’t involve committing a minor crime to go to prison… because I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go to become a semi-permanent resident of Canada’s penal system… but I suppose I have options….. come on, lottery balls.

Anyhow, this isn’t about me… no matter how hard I try… this is about Julien sending me stories about Japan’s senior citizens, who have given up hope of receiving real help from their government and their family.

Is Japan becoming a nation without hope? They seem to be on the verge of giving up on the family-concept - both in having kids, a spouse and even looking after their elders…

Whither Japan,
Andrew Joseph
PS: from

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Einstein Manga Caricature By Artist Okamoto Ippei

Please forgive the shortness of this blog, but I've had too many things on the go.

Still, it is interesting.

What we have here is a portrait of Albert Einstein, preeminent genius, created by the cartoonist Okamoto Ippei (surname first, 岡本 一平) done in December of 1922 in Sendai-shi (Sendai City), Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), Japan.

Einstein was in Japan on a tour discussing Physics, after winning a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

I'll assume his talks were translated from German into Japanese. His talks were very well-received by the Japanese public.

Okamoto was born June 11, 1886 in Hakodate, Hokkaido-ken, dying on October 11, 1948.

The following was taken from

After his studies in Fine Arts in Tokyo, Ippei Okamoto made his comments on political and social actuality in his cartoons for Asahi Shimbun starting in 1912. At the same time, he created comics for several magazines, starting with 'Kuma o Tazunete'. He began collaborations with several magazines which resulted in works like 'Tanpô Gashu' (1913), 'Kanraku' (1914), 'Match no Bou' (1915), and 'Monomiyusan' (1916). In 1921, he made 'Nakimushi Dera no Yawa', before he started travelling around the world. 
When he returned in Japan, he introduced (classic) American comic (strips) like 'Mutt and Jeff' and 'Bringing up Father' to the Japanese public through publication in a supplement of Asahi Shimbum and in Fujokai. He also took on his own production again and produced 'Yajikita Saikou' (1925) and the collection 'Ipei Zenshû' (1929-30). His book with caricatures, 'Shin Mizu ya Sora', was very famous. Okamoto was additionally an artist of advertising comics, as well as a novellist ('Fuji wa Sakaku' in 1927).

He considered himself a manga-kisha (comic strip/book-journalist), an artist who made social and political commentary via his drawings... something that had certainly existed before him, but perhaps not to the degree to which he threw himself in Japan.

In 1915, Okamoto gathered his manga-kisha friends from the major dailies of Tokyo to establish the first professional organization of mangaka, the "Tokyo mangakai".

This association promoted their work through public events, festivals and exhibitions, especially the Tokaido manga ryoko ("manga trip on the Tokaido"), a trip of twenty designers in cars illustrating in their own way the fifty-three stages of this route between Tokyo and Kyoto immortalized by ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige Ando.

For more about Hiroshige, and an image of one of his original prints that I own, click HERE.

The mangakai were the ones who helped popularize the term "manga", aka comic book in Japan.

In 1921 when he began to travel the world, he visited Europe and the U.S., and was obviously back in Japan at the end of 1922 to provide the excellent caricature portrait of Einstein a la manga.

Between 1929 and 1932, he enjoyed worked abroad as a special envoy of the Asashi Shimbun (Asahi Newspaper).

He is considered to be a pioneer in Japanese manga, preceding the modernist stream embodied after the war by Osamu Tezuka (the man who created Astro Boy).

One of his fans was author Soseki Natsume (surname first), who had Okamoto illustrate many of his stories that first appeared in the Asashi Shimbun.

Okay... that's all I have time for!

Andrew Joseph

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Brief Look At Love Hotels And The West

Thanks to Vinnie, I read an article this afternoon that tried to introduce Love Hotels as a concept to North American audiences.

Back in the day - which is old guy talk for "I remember when..." - Love Hotels were a profitable concept in Japan where young non-married adults could get away from their parents for an hour or two (and pay for an hour or two) at a hotel, have sex, and go back home in time for their girlfriend's father-imposed curfew.

My favorite place (not visited by myself and whomever I was boffing) was the Japanese chain know as 5-5-5.

In Japanese, the number five is said as "go". Now say the name: Go-Go-Go... obviously a western English term of endearment encouraging someone to have sex... go-go-go!

At a love hotel, you can purchase a room for an hour or for an overnight stay (per a regular hotel).

In Japan, because single-aged adults (is that right?) needed privacy, because well, dammit, it's just not that comfortable to try and have sex in a stick-shift Toyota Corolla... and because well, maybe you want more than just the old in and out.

Sex in a Love Hotel offered that. As they became more popular, in an effort to draw in more business, the love hotels began offering special theme rooms for its paying clientele... a Tarzan room complete with swinging vines; a Star Wars room where you can dress up as Luke and Leia (that second movie must have caused a scene when it was revealed they were brother and sister); or other such rooms later based on Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (animated films).

It was a way for the young adult to let their inner kink out.

(I had only ever been in one Love Hotel... it was the only place Ashley and I could find at a cheap enough rate after a long day of walking and shopping down in Tokyo. I fell off the round bed while attempting a maneuver. I think I was trying to sleep.)

Now, of course... love hotels in Japan are taking a beating as many a young and single adult in Japan is moving out into their own apartment... so who needs a love hotel.

Then again... young people in Japan don't seem as interested in having wet, drippy, nasty, fun sex as the generation or two before them did.

They are too busy working... not needing to date because they are too tired, or don't want to follow into the same trap as their parents... or maybe there's some other reason. People aren't sure, and blame social media and video games and other things you can do by yourself.

Sad. In my day it was a Simpsons Sears' catalog and a powerful imagination, which made you want to find out more with a real living and breathing woman.

Now with porn available everywhere, there's no need for the imagination to be stimulated.

Hmm... I wonder if I've hit upon it?

Now, I say young single adults, but in truth, up until I was there (and I can't speak for what happened after), most married men (until the mid-1990s) had a piece on the side... a mistress... who would do things for them that their married wife would not... like listen to them, and maybe whip them or stick things in their backside, or maybe even just touch them. Whatever the reason, most men seemed to have one, and while never discussed in polite company (but talking to your local gaijin (me) while drinking was ever anything but impolite), the wife seemed to know about the mistress and if they cared, they accepted it as something that was part of the Japanese culture.

Just don't get caught in public and embarrass the wife if it should come out. No... it's not really about embarrassing yourself... though that would also mean embarrassing your company and bosses, et al.

Hence... the Love Hotel was a popular place to schtup.

So you accidentally bump into your boss as you are exiting the love hotel? Who cares? You don't acknowledge each other, even though you both know why each is there... and it is never brought up in conversation... except when you are talking by yourself to that gaijin (me).

The newspaper article Vinnie mentioned to me said that for westerners, a love hotel if it existed would be great... you could slip away from the kids, spend some quality time tying each other up, and be back later that evening... only having to spend money for rental of a hotel room for an hour.

Though.. you wonder how the department of health would allow it to happen... whatever you do... don't shine a black light in the room!!!

The only thing is... westerners already are willing to rent a room for the evening to have some adult fun, whether it's with their spouse, girlfriend, mistress, or someone earning a living or putting themselves through university.

The main difference is, the hotels charge per night stay... and why would they bother short-changing themselves by offering rooms by the hour?

Still... it might drive more business...

Somewhere with a great imagination,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Robot Hoop Dreams

Proof that one doesn’t always live up to their IQ (see the blog from March 15, 2018), this particular article is the second attempt at writing it because after spending two hours previously, I mysteriously decided NOT to save it before closing down the program. 

When I was a young kid in Toronto, one of my wintery past-times on a weekend afternoon was to watch with rapt attention the goings-on of the NBA (National Basketball Association), paying particular attention to Bob McAdoo of the Buffalo Braves (later the San Diego Clippers and now the Los Angeles Clippers). That guy could play. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and the 1975 league MVP.
He's one bad mamma-jamma!

When Buffalo lost its franchise at the end of 1978, that was kind of it re: basketball for quite a few years, as the Toronto television audience was no longer privy to catching games from the Buffalo stations across the border.

Still, I paid enough attention through the newspaper and the sports highlights on the evening news or through my once-a-year purchase of Sports Illustrated (for the Swimsuit Edition) to be a fan of other great players such as Julius Erving (Dr. J), Pistol Pete Maravich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor), Kurt Rambis (he wore sports glasses, as I did for soccer and squash and racquetball - they would call me GI Joseph when I played soccer); Earvin Magic Johnson; Larry Bird (I had and have too much respect for him to ever call him “The Hick from French Lick”); Michael “Air” Jordan, and countless others.

Man... basketball players have great nicknames. They used to have great nicknames in hockey, but now they kindda just add an "er" to a guys name or shorten it and then add an "s"... like Gardner becomes "Gards". I mean the so-called greatest hockey player in the game today is named Sid The Kid Crosby. He's 30 bloody years old! 

I would also make the annual trek to Maple Leaf Gardens to watch the Harlem Globetrotters when they came in town, as well as their appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports - I miss that show!

Geese Ausbie (Downtown, going downtown!) Curly Neal, Twiggy Sanders, and Marques Haynes - the most awesome dribbler ever!!!  He'd slide on the ground, lyingsideways with his hand propping up his head and would dribble!

And, of course, the extremely talented leader, Meadowlark Lemon. I met him a few years ago at a sports card show in Toronto. He was all smiles when I thanked him for entertaining me, and told him I saw him in Toronto for their 50th anniversary game (1976), and that I still have the gold cover event program (see below). He thanked me and shook my hand, shook my then eight-year-old son’s hand… who had never seen the Globetrotters, but at least he knew that my fandom of he Clown Prince of basketball was something that must have indeed been great, and that I wasn’t just snowing him.
Not MY copy, but you'll notice that on the suitcase, Japan's flag is directly below Canada's... it doesn't mean anything... I'm just pointing out the connection. As a Canadian, I always like to be on top.
You know that Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was a Globetrotter, right?

Of course, the following are also Honorary Globetrotters.. take of it what you will:

    •    Henry Kissinger, statesman (1976);
    •    Bob Hope, entertainer (1977);
    •    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1989);
    •    Whoopi Goldberg, actor (1990);
    •    Nelson Mandela, political icon (1996);
    •    Jackie Joyner-Kersee, heptathlon (1999);
    •    Pope John Paul II (2000);
    •    Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist (2001);
    •    Pope Francis (2015);
    •    Robin Roberts, newscaster (2015).

And, Magic Johnson signed in 2003, a $1/year lifetime contract with the Globetrotters.

Man… I have to take my kid to see the Harlem Globetrotters. He doesn’t care for basketball, but I think the Globetrotters are much more than just a sports entertainment team.       

When I was in Japan, back in 1990-93, I happened to be in a Tokyo department store in 1992, and as I rode up an escalator I came face-to-waist with a larger-than-life cutout of a basketball player I had never seen or heard of. That was Shaquille O’Neal, or so I quickly learned from someone who caught me staring… a newbie in that year’s upcoming season for the Orlando Magic. He blew me away with his size, and width… here was a guy who looked like he could stop a tank just by flexing his arms, sending out muscle waves to smash the steel into tiny shards.

This is what I saw...
In the 1990s, along with Shaq, my favorite baller was David The Admiral Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, who served in the United States Navy. His real rank, however was Lieutenant, Junior Grade.         

I had always wanted to be tall like a basketball player… yes they were freakish in height, but I was always the shortest person in my classes growing up, as I was nearly two years younger than everyone else, wore glasses, wasn’t white and although I had big floppy clown feet for most of my teenage years, there was never any proof that I would ever grow into them…

Fortunately, I had that growth spurt as I was about to enter my 18th year… but still, despite loving basketball, I couldn’t make a basket if my life depended on it.

I would play basketball with my friends pre-high school, usually in the position of traffic cone; played intramural in high school, and since I was always open, because I couldn’t make a shot, I always took a shot hoping for the fist time. I think I did score one basket over several futile attempts of playing.

I even played "horse" - with my fellow AET (assistant English teacher) Colin McKay from Calgary who lived a few towns north of me in Kuroiso-machi. Although Colin was several inches shorter than me, and had a few extra non-muscular pounds, he dominated me without ever having to wear a lot of leather. 

Apparently height does not equal talent.

But I like basketball. I followed the college fortunes of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, loved the Washington Bullets (now Wizards), and when Toronto got an NBA team - well… yee-haw. Let's Go Raptors!!! With apologies to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trailblazers, We the North, baby!

So… aside from shooting rims with Colin in Japan (i don’t shoot hoops, I shoot rims), what the fug am I talking about basketball for here in this wonderful blog about Japan?


The Toyota Engineering Society has created an android that shoots baskets better than professional basketball players…. though those basketball players specifically are from the Japanese B League team Alvark Tokyo.
Exterminate the competition! Exterminate! Exterminate! Image by Alvark Tokyo.
Not an A-league team, but a B league team… and while I have no doubt any of those fine folks can out-shoot me blindfolded and spun around and me open and unguarded, I wonder if having the android learning from a Japanese B league team is the best strategy?

The android is named CUE, he/it stands 1.9 meters (6 foot 3 inches) tall, and despite lacking having any lower limb mobility, is considered good enough to be the team’s unofficial mascot and shooting guard - even getting to wear Alvark Tokyo jersey No. 70… not sure why No. 70… 

Anyhow, CUE has AI (artificial intelligence), which means it actually can learn on its own… in this case it observes the actions of real basketball players on Alvark Tokyo and refines its own shot-making capabilities.

Oh... I get it... it takes its cue from you... if that's what it means, that's pretty witty. 
Image by Alvark Tokyo
Apparently, after some 200,000+ shot attempts from close-range, CUE is now shooting pretty damn close to perfect.
Image by Alvark Tokyo.
I suppose his is all a Revenge of the Nerds kind of thing, where the nerds the Toyota Engineering Society build a better athlete than what their arch-enemies the jocks could ever possibly be. 

Would you be surprised if I told you that the 17 engineers at the Toyota Engineering Society had no robotics experience before they designed and built CUE?

Sure, but, d’uuuuuuuuuuuh, dem nerds is good at things d’uuuuuuuuuh.

Would it surprise you to learn that the Toyota Engineering Society engineers were initially inspired to create this robot because of Sakuragi Hanamichi, the protagonist of the manga (comic book) Slam Dunk. Ahhh, now that’s nerdy.

If you would like to see a video posted on the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) website, showing CUE taking his cue from some basketball players on the Japanese team, well… Whoomp THERE it is. 

Apparently AI is far better than I, as I have watched basketball attempting to learn to play the game… and it simply does not compute for me.

Some where in a space Jam,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Today's title is a mashup of the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (a 1968 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick) and Hoop Dreams (a 1994 documentary that follows the real life of two Black high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players). The book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was adapted into the 1982 movie Blade Runner

PPS: And because I mentioned it, here’s the music video from hip hop specialists Tag Team and their 1993 smash hit Whoomp! (There It Is), a main stay to this day a basketball arenas everywhere.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Japan National Tourism Organization Uses Cute AI To Capture YouTubers

I have to admit that I detest the term “YouTuber”… people making videos - shouting all the time like its some kids television show, discussing plenty about nothing.

My kid loves this stuff, and it’s because of that, I had to get more bandwidth, as he was, on a monthly basis, using up all that we had, providing me with excessive Internet bills.

YouTube is a decent enough tool, but I can’t fathom why anyone would want to watch it constantly. I suppose it may have something with me NOT being 12-years-old.

Anyhow, because there’s nothing too stupid that someone won’t try to capitalize on… really… you can get rich creating YouTube videos that garner you millions of subscribers?

Is anyone actually clicking on the ads? Who are those people? Real solid leads, are they? Whatever…

You may have heard of Kizuna Ai, the virtual YouTuber whose introduction to the world at the end of 2016 became an instant hit. Her channel now boasts more than 1.5 million subscribers, and, despite not being a living human, her whole image and personality are crafted to seem like she is a real person, just in a different world. She is often cheerful, very expressive, and is always out to prove that she’s not just a picture on a screen. Her videos are also subtitled in English, which means that almost everyone can enjoy her funny antics.

Here’s a self-introduction of Kizuna Ai… I think the creator purposely did sharp cuts in the video to make it seem more “robot-like”… like a Max Headroom (see bottom of story) kindda thing:

Yes… Japanese people do talk as quickly as that… just like you do in your language… it’s why after two years, I gave up trying to learn Japanese and just let the women pick me up.

Now… the high-pitch voice is a put-on… it’s meant to show subservience… and is used in retail settings by female clerks, and in elevators by female elevator operators… it’s ridiculous and annoying, so why wouldn’t it be used by the Japan National Tourism Organization?

The “Come to Japan” is aimed at U.S. citizens, since, while Japan is a popular destination for people from Asia, for various reasons Westerners are less inclined to travel there.

Here's the first video: Let's Learn About Japanese Food!

Uh-huh… you know that the AI character is dressed up as a Japanese high-school girl, except that she has those lacy arm coverings… it’s all supposed to look both cute and sexy at the same time… though I’m unsure how any toon not named Jessica Rabbit is going to get me to do anything...    

As part of this whole promotional gig, Kizuna Ai has released her fist “Come to Japan” promotional video, in which she talks about the three types of Japanese food: sushi, ramen and Japanese sweets.
Say what? there’s only three type os Japanese foods… and one of them is “sweets”?


The video does have its good points… while Ai describes what these food types are, she/it (say the two words quickly ;) also tells us how best to eat them, as well as providing some fun food facts.

Did you know there is apparently some proper order top eating your sushi? Apparently everybody not Japanese has been doing it incorrectly since Black Ships first appeared on the horizon.

The second video has also been released: Amazing Technologies From Japan... or at least it was as of Monday, March 12 2018... but it was taken down - with a Coming Soon message replacing it. Hmmm:

Whatever... you can click HERE and check out things for yourself. 

If you were going to create a marketing campaign to encourage people to come to Japan, what would you do?

Sexy men or women? Regular men and women smiling and happy? Stewardesses?

Maybe have Godzilla sit cross-legged at an outdoor Japanese cafe having a spot of green-tea?

Oh… hello. My name is Godzilla, the so-called King of the Monsters.
I always get a kick out of that.
As you know, I am Japanese, or rather am a creation of the Japanese people… whatever. As a globe trotter, I always find myself drawn back to Japan for a vacation.
Whether it’s eating, er, meating… c’mon… meeting new people, seeing the sites, or just walking around enjoying myself, Japan has always been a great place to kick off my shoes and just relax.
The place has everything, from exotic foods, tremendous architecture both modern and futuristic, and there’s always some traveling too, should my kid wants to do something besides hand around an arcade playing Stomp-Stomp Dance Revolution. 
Oh… and it’s safe! Japan is renowned for how safe it is…
Sure it has earthquakes, volcanoes and the odd tsunami, but that’s just nature having a hissy fit and has nothing to do with anything Japan has done… except for maybe that nuclear thing that created me and irradiated a prefecture a few years back.
Like electronics? There's Akihabara.
Like fashion and theater? There’s Ginza.
Like soap land massage parlors and prostitutes? There’s a section for that too… or so I hear… (ahem).
They even offer hotels were you can pay for the night or pay by the hour depending on whether you are married, single or cheating on someone. What a country!
The theater is awesome! There’s Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki and Sumo!
And if you are into sports there’s baseball, and soccer… and even a form of professional ice hockey… though maybe you should just stick to the first two.
Oh  and the people! You know that stereotype of all the men wearing navy blue suits, wearing glasses and carrying briefcases 24/7? You can see that too!
But don’t expect to see an geisha, ninja or samurai. 

... okay... enough of me...  I do think the concept of a pretty young AI character attempting to influence foreigners to come and visit Japan is interesting. Personally, I just hate that super high voice. It would make me NOT want to go.

Maybe it's just me. Even in real women, I prefer a bit of a huskiness to the voice. Not enough for me to confuse anyone with Lola, like in The Kinks song, but a sultry huskiness.

It's one of those reasons I loved Kathleen Turner who voiced Jessica Rabbit in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? movie or in Romancing The Stone... the movie may not age well... but Turner's voice certainly does.

Andrew Joseph