Archive | August, 2011

I like monsters

25 Aug

KISS has announced that they will release an album of all new songs sometime next year (2012) titled “Monster“.

KISS...still the hottest band in the world!

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always liked monsters.

When I watched the Disney cartoon “Peter Pan” as a child, for example, I didn’t care for Peter Pan or any of his friends. They were too “regular”.
Unlike Peter Pan with his pansy outfit and little knife, Captain Hook had a sword and a sharp hook instead of a hand.
(Admittedly though, Peter Pan could fly, which would be fun and Hook didn’t dress much better than Peter Pan.)
Captain Hook was the first movie character that frightened me…and even at that young age I enjoyed being frightened a bit.

Who cares about a practical prosthetic when you can have one that puts the fear of god in people?!

When I was a bit older, I saw Star Wars for the first time.  I was only seven years old when the first movie in the series was released, so I was a bit too young to fully understand the story.  But I still  enjoyed it a lot.  Especially when “Darth Vader” made his entrance!
Luke Skywalker was the hero…but Darth Vader stole every scene in was in.

The "Dark Side"

And of course I’ve always like the “traditional” monsters…Frankenstein’s Monster, The Werewolf, and Dracula.

And when I came to Japan, I learned about 妖怪 (Japanese monsters).

"Ge-ge-ge Kitaro" is Japanese cartoon inspired by traditional Japanese monster and ghost stories.

Even my favorite superhero character has always been “The Incredible Hulk“. He’s anger-incarnate. A huge pissed-off monster! The coolest of the superheroes.

Hulk will smash even Superman

Even the music I listen to reflects my interest in monsters.
I like heavy metal music. There’s a reason that the soundtracks to many horror movies are full of heavy metal music…heavy metal is to music as horror is to movies.

If you’re not interested in heavy metal, you may not know that that genre of music is further divided into sub-genres.
The sub-genre of metal music that I like the most is “Shock Rock“. It’s just as visual as it is musical. Shock Rock artist—such as KISS, W.A.S.P., Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Lordi—often look like monsters.

Alice Cooper

Anyways, as I mentioned at the top of this post, KISS will be releasing a new album soon.  The last time they they released a new album was about two years ago…it was titled “Sonic Boom“.

As I mentioned, KISS‘s new album will be titled “Monster“.  It’s an excellent album title…I can’t believe they haven’t used it before!

So far only five song titles have been confirmed by the band.  They are: “Hell Or Hallelujah”, “Born To Be A Sinner”, “Out Of This World”, “Are You Ready?”, and “Wall Of Sound”.

I’m looking forward to getting this album.

Sudoku

20 Aug

Have you ever played the Japanese number game 「数独」 (Sudoku)? Ironically, the game is known by the Japanese name “Sudoku” (which means “single number”) outside of Japan…but in Japan, it’s usually called 「ナンプレ」, short for 「ナンバープレイス」 (“Number Place”) in English.

Do you know how to play “Sudoku“? It’s good mental exercise.

Do you want to play online? I found a Japanese game site with “Sudoku”…there are probably sites in English with Sudoku games too, but if you want to try the Japanese one I found, click here.  This game is a bit different in that the goal is to win five games and get “Bingo“.

I’ll explain how to play.

First you'll see the "teacher" announcing the game "Number Place" (Sudoku)

I put a red arrow showing the 「スタート」 (“Start”) button. Click there.

This is the “Bingo card”, click a square on the grid. The arrow on the left points at possible points for each square (100 – 500). The arrow at the stove shows how many points you have.

The “100 point” games are the easiest and the “500 point” ones are the most difficult.
You can choose any five-in-a-row to try to get “Bingo”. Choosing the five “100 point” games is fine…but that “Bingo” is only worth a total of five hundred points. If you play the five difficult ones (“500 points” each) you can get a total of 2,500 points for “Bingo”. Diagonal or horizontal are OK, too.

To play "Sudoku", you have to fill in the missing numbers (1-9). But you can't repeat a number in a horizontal row...

...you can't repeat a number in a vertical column either...

...nor can you repeat a number in any of the block groups of nine squares.

Each horizontal row, vertical column, and block of nine squares must each have the numbers one through nine without repeating any.

Click on any of the empty boxes in the puzzle and a choice of the nine numbers appears. Hovering over a digit (in this case, "1") makes all of the other places in the puzzle with that number become highlighted...to help you not repeat a number in a row, column or group.

Click an empty box and then choose the number to want in that box from the pop-up.  (To help you, if you make a wrong choice, it shows up red.  The correct choice will show in blue.)

When you successfully complete the game, the screen goes back to your Bingo card and puts a circle in the space. And your total points increases. Choose another space on the "Bingo card" for the next round.

I played one round of each level for a diagonal Bingo worth 1500 points.

Click here to play the game.

If you try this game, tell me what you thought of it (and how many points you got) in the comments’ section of this post.

I want to be a wave

16 Aug

A Japanese singer / songwriter named 「花坂美里」 (Misato Hanasaka), who goes by the stage name “misato“, is from Iwate, Japan…which is an area that was hit by the 2011 March 11 tsunami.

She heard a news report about a four-year-old boy whose mother died in the tsunami. The boy, named 「及川律くん」 (Ritsu Oikawa), knew that his mother was washed away in a wave but he’s too young to really understand. He said 「波になって会いたいな。」 (“I want to become a wave so I can be with (mother)“).

Ritsu Oikawa (4), right, and his younger brother Ei (3). (photo from Mainichi News)

The boys’ father told them that their mother is now the most beautiful star in the sky and they can see her up there. (This is commonly told to children in Japan if they lose a loved one).

When misato heard about the boy’s story it make a strong emotional impact on her so she decided to write a song for the boy.

Her song is titled 「波になりたい」 (“I Want To Become A Wave“).

The song is in Japanese but it says such things as: “Hey Mama, please hold me again and we can look down on the street from up in the sky”, and “I want to see mama again. I want to become a wave and carry you home. I want to become a wave and then see mama again!”

Here’s the song on YouTube:

Night Zoo

15 Aug

From last Friday until tomorrow (2011 August 16), Tokyo’s 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) is having a “Night Zoo” special program where guests can stay in the zoo until 8:00PM and see the animals’ behavior at night.

I took a picture of this sign at the zoo's entrance. It says "So, let's go to the zoo at night. August 12 - 16 until 8PM (last admission is 7PM)"

We went to the “Night Zoo” yesterday. It was fun to go to the zoo at night especially in the summer when it’s sweltering everyday in Tokyo now…because the temperature goes down a bit.

Before we went into the zoo, I mailed a friend of mine a summer postcard from the panda mailbox that I wrote about in this post.

Back of the "panda mailbox". The tail and ears can be seen.

Panda Mailbox

Near the entrance of the zoo, close to the panda house, the zoo was collecting donations for the victims of the 2011 March 11 earthquake.
Anyone who donated at least ¥100 (US$1.30 at today’s exchange rates) was given a special うちわ (paper fan).
We got a couple of them.

Ueno Zoo "Night Zoo" fans...proceeds go to help the earthquake victims.

The front has many pandas and stars and says "midsummer night's zoo"

The back shows the back of seven pandas whose tails spell "Ueno Zoo" and it says 「がんばろう!日本」 ("Never give up! Japan") and 「手をつなごう、子供も大人も動物も」 ("Hand-in-hand...kids, adults and animals")

My camera isn’t so good at taking nighttime pictures, so I didn’t take many photos of the animals.
But we had a good time there. We’ve been to many zoos around Japan many times, but this was our first time to go to the “Night Zoo”. Ueno Zoo only has the “Night Zoo” once a year in the summertime…tomorrow is the last day for this year’s “Night Zoo”. So, if you’re in Japan now, you should consider going!

Does you local zoo have a “Night Zoo”? Have you ever attended it?

Robeks is in Tokyo now. What is Robeks?

14 Aug

The American “smoothie” chain has just opened their first store in Japan. It opened in Tokyo this weekend.

But what exactly is a “smoothie”? I remember a shop called Orange Julius that was in nearly every shopping mall when I lived in America.
They sold a blended fruit drink that tasted pretty good. Is that what a “smoothie” is?
Is Orange Julius still in business in America? Is it still as popular as it was in the ’80s?

Is Robeks a new business?
I guess they must be popular in America, because they’ve managed to expand to Japan.
Robeks Japan will probably be popular in Japan…but I think their drinks will be overpriced (like that over-rated American coffee chain, Starbucks) because their lone Japanese store is located in a bit of a uptown part of Tokyo called 自由が丘 (Jiyuugaoka).

I don’t drink these blended juice type drinks often, but if I wanted one I wouldn’t make a special trip to Jiyugaoka just for one. And even I was in the area, I still doubt I’d patronize their store…there is already a Japanese alternative that is both more convenient and affordable called 「ジューサーバー」 (“Juicer Bar“).

There are Juicer Bar stands in many train stations all over Tokyo (sometimes right on the platform) and they sell a cup of blended fruit juice for less than ¥200 (currently the U.S. dollar is very weak, so at today’s rate that would equal about US$2.60).

Do you drink at Robeks? How about Orange Julius? And have you ever tried Juicer Bar in Japan?
(A bit off topic, but what do you think of Starbucks? And, not that it affects me personally (I haven’t used American currency for years), but why is the U.S. dollar currently so weak?)