Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Can't Beat That

The Drum Beat

The God of Light Drummers 
Here are some cool cats who make up the local band of percussionists known as The God of Light Drummers. I've been sticking with this group for the past few years now. 

To tell you the truth, nobody in this photo is really "cool," especially after laying down the beat all over the streets of town one recent sweltering Sunday. The group spent the whole day following on the heels of the much taller and even more sweat-soaked folks pictured in the background. On the shoulders of these men and women, clad in a thin cotton robe covering a garment the likes of which I haven't worn since infancy, rests the temporary abode of a divinity from the local shrine. 

I don't pretend to know all the social, religious, and cultural aspects behind this particular festival. I just know that without me, the music just might stop. Given that the average age of the group's membership is ten (with their ages ranging from five to near eighty) and their average height not much taller than the average drum, I'm one of the few among the God of Light drummers whose muscles are developed enough to actually pick a drum up and rest it on its stand. That fact makes me an outstanding member of the group. Still everybody else is a lot cuter (and younger) than I am and no matter what, I just can't beat that. 

Related posts: 

Can't Beat This 
Festival Dream

Monday, July 30, 2012

Picture Imperfect

A Japanese emoticon used to express embarrassment

This past Friday the media monitoring site, MediaBugs, caught The Atlantic Monthly in a little goof-up in one of its recent Japan-related articles, "The Strange Rise and Fall of North Korea's Business Empire in Japan." The MediaBug report notes:

The caption for a photo of a 2005 North Korean state ceremony accompanying this article on "the strange rise and fall of North Korea's business empire in Japan" reads: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours the Tehran nuclear research reactor. " The AP photo looks like it was shot inside some sort of an auditorium in what very much seems to be North Korea. The Iranian president, nuclear reactor and Tehran are completely out of the picture.

I kind of hope those smarty pants editors over at The Atlantic don't fix the photo gaffe or other errors (such as the spelling mix ups like "Hughey Long" for Huey Long, etc.) in the article. After all, they say "to err is human." If you believe that, then all those mistakes would seem to bring the editors at the illustrious journal totally down to earth, which is not such a bad place to to be.

Related post: Betwixt Mortal & Divine

Saturday, July 28, 2012


From 51 to 31, What are the Chances of That?

"Ichiro Suzuki is in the last year of his contract with the Seattle Mariners. That being said, many believe that this season, after everything he's accomplished, he'll retire. I suspect he hasn't done 1 thing yet...be a New York Yankee." -- BYB, June 2, 2012

It's been a few days already since Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard released his ode to Ichiro and I still can't get it out of my head. It's in a word, "catchy," which I guess is appropriate for an outfielder's ballad. 

As the Japan Times' Shaun McKenna noted in the Japan Pulse on Tuesday, "Gibbard... says he wrote the song in honor of Suzuki years ago but that today was the “best day” to release it to the public — Suzuki, 38, was just traded to the New York Yankees after more than 10 years with the Seattle Mariners." 

The legendary right fielder looked right at home in his "Yankee blue" away uniform as he went toe to toe with his former teammates in what used to be his home stadium just hours before. Amazingly, in a career full of amazing feats, the trade is a deal that everyone seems to be happy about, or at least happy for Ichiro about. He's sure to dazzle fans from coast to coast and around the globe once he dons the pinstripes in his new digs in the Bronx. 

In wrapping up his short "J-blip" in the Pulse, McKenna writes, "Be forewarned: The song, “Ichiro’s Theme,” is incredibly catchy." I wish I read that warning before I had listened to the song but it probably wouldn't have stopped me anyway. Ichiro fever has spread beyond the shores of the Pacific Northwest and nothing can stop it now. 

Give a listen to Ichiro's Theme and see if you don't catch the fever too. Oh and by the way, you can easily replace the words "fifty one" (Ichiro's old Mariner's jersey number) in the song's lyrics with "thirty one" (the number now stitched across the back of his Yankees uniform) when you sing along and it still sounds just as great. What are the chances of something like that happening.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Betwixt Mortal and Divine

The correction policy penned by Benjamin Harris, editor of the oldest American newspaper, 
Publick Occurrences, over a couple of centuries ago.

In the wake of the 3-11 killer earthquake and tsunami, legions of foreign journalists scrambled to the devastated shores of Japan to cover what was the big  story of the moment. Their reporting was often derided as being a nothing but a pack of lies or just ill-informed at best. While some of the criticisms were valid , much of the reporting by international media outlets, like the New York Times and others, was right on target and in many instances ahead of the coverage by the Japanese press corp. 

A commonly heard complaint among detractors was that at the heart of the inaccurate reporting by foreign media outlets was a lack of linguistic ability and cultural knowledge. The reporters, who couldn't speak the Japanese language and knew next to nothing about the culture, were dropped onto the scene overnight and they were completely out of their depth the critics cried.

The truth is even native born journalists covering the Japan beat with all their cultural sensitivity and linguistic proficiency can goof up or even just plain make stuff up. It happens from time to time. In fact it happened earlier this week when the Nikkei Shimbun ran a story saying that eleven ward offices in Tokyo refused to cooperate in an emergency management drill being conducted by Japan's Ground Self Defense Forces (GSDF). While Japan is constitutionally prohibited from having an army, the GSDF is the nation's de facto army and has been traditionally tasked with playing  a key emergency management role whenever a natural disaster strikes (which seems to be every other week lately). When the city administrators at the eleven ward offices read about their reluctance to cooperate with the GSDF's emergency drill in the Nikkei, it was literally news to them. Some accused the paper of making the story up and issued statements on their official city ward web pages claiming the article to be false. 

There was a big stink about it all over Tokyo.
That's why it's not surprising that the next day the writer of the provocative piece and his editor showed up at the offices of the angry ward officials to deliver their mea culpas with a promise to print a correction ASAP. It seemed to be the best solution to put the whole bad situation to bed and it might have even worked. 

According to one Internet source, the problem was that when the two representatives from the newspaper showed up to deliver their apologies they were delivered the latest edition of the Nikkei. There staring them in the face was another article. This time it was an op-ed blasting the eleven ward offices for shirking their responsibility to keep the public safe and it was all based on the erroneous article published the day before (oops). 

It was the proverbial salt rubbed in the open wound of these very hurt city officials. On top of that, the commentary piece was literally news to the reporter and editor who had showed up with their tails between their legs ready to make amends.

Commentary happens to be the bailiwick of an entirely different department at the paper and they had no idea their stinky story would be wrapped up a second time and served up raw in the pages of the Nikkei. While the paper eventually issued a correction to the first story, the second continues to stand completely unapologetic.

The truth about the truth reporting business is that mistakes happen all the time. Literature on the subject is scarce but one U.S.-based study  indicates that over half the stories in all American newspapers have some kind of an error (from typographical to factual, etc.). What's worse is that only about two percent of those errors ever get corrected. The study goes a long way toward explaining why many readers have lost faith in the media. It also may point the way to how we might bridge the divide and in the process set the record straight once and for all.

In this age of digital reporting, mistakes can be spotted and, more importantly, corrected more easily and quickly than ever before. It's just up to the media and also the people they serve to take responsibility for rooting out the mistakes before they take on a life of their own and pop up when we least expect them. 

Alexander Pope once said, "to err is human, to forgive is divine." I say to correct our mistakes builds the ladders that bridge the gap between the two extremes. 

To learn more about correcting mistakes in the media read: Bugged By the News?

Further Reading: Corrections in the Web Age (@ The Atlantic)

Bugged by the News?

Visit Media Bugs and start debugging.

Read all about it! @ MediaBugs.org

View the newsreels:



Read more about "fixing the news" with MediaBugs at Poynter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Track

The Sit-Down

Jiro's school, Craneview Jr. High
Last week my son, Jiro (who is in the second year of junior high), and his mother had a sit-down with his teacher, Ms. A, before summer recess began. It's a regularly scheduled parent/student/teacher conference that takes place at least twice a year. 

Everything was running smoothly until talk turned to homework and turning in assignments. Ms. A pointed out a perennial problem that keeps popping up on Jiro's report card - missing homework.

It's really not lost or missing. After all, you can't lose something that never existed in the first place and in Jiro's case homework isn't even on the radar. I  give the kid a lot of credit for just showing up to school at all. That alone is a groundbreaking achievement for our small, immediate, and like it or not, grossly undereducated family. Not only that, he has some great academic skills that don't ever appear on the official school record. They are admittedly hard to pin down and come out of nowhere, especially when you're least expecting them.  

They came out last week and just in time. After skirting around the big issue for a few minutes Ms. A finally hit the nail on the head with the blunt end of a damning report showing that Jiro had not handed in any of his assignments for three out of five hardball subjects. 

Jiro's mother quickly agreed that he needed to get down to business while the boy calmly poured over the checklist of faults. After the other two conference attendees were done shaking their heads in agreement, Jiro waved his hand over the evidence on the table, and then slowly pointed all five of his fingers to the section detailing last semester's performance record. 

Tilting his head ever so slightly, he noted, "Last semester was even worse." Everyone immediately conceded to the painfully obvious point he seemed to be making. He failed to submit any work for five out of five academic subjects last semester. "I didn't do anything last time. This time I've done my work in two subjects! Isn't that an improvement?" He had them all exactly where he wanted. They were cornered and about to be schooled by the least schooled among them.   

"That is an improvement," said Ms. A as she nodded in agreement. "Yes, it's a big improvement," replied Jiro unexpectedly. Ms. A's eyes quickly darted from Jiro to his mother and back before blinking once. The rails had been suddenly switched beneath her wheels and now with a sigh of resignation Ms. A uttered, "Yes it is a big improvement and I just encourage you to stay on track." 


This is an episode of the once long-running junior high-themed TV drama, Kinpachi Sensei. Rumor has it that the fictional school portrayed in the show was initially modeled after the local junior high school serving Temple Valley. 

Kleenex Alert: If you watch this clip you may become verklempt.

Rail Against the Machine

That's what model railroading is all about.

While I always envisioned the model railroad as being solar or somehow pedal powered, the Hara Model Railway Museum in Yokohama does seem like a place that inspires dreams, albeit very small ones.

You can read more about the museum and the 93-year-old man who engineered it all in the Japan Times (Model Train Buff Brings Out His Toys for Everyone).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

That Girl

Source: giantrobot.com via Anne M on Pinterest

She’s been seen at every major  anti-nuclear power demonstration in Japan this side of 3/11. If you’ve ever been to one or seen a photo of a no nukes rally in the paper, you’ll recognize her immediately. If you’ve ever wondered who she is, Japan Times writer Edan Corkill has the answer for you. Read all about her in The Japan Times (Nara's 'No Nukes Girl'Joins the Protesters).


The Frying Dutchmen perform under the 
watchful gaze of Nara's "Miss Spring" 
at July 16, Sayonara Nukes Rally in Tokyo
It's not mentioned in the Japan Times article but I've heard that, for one hundred yen (about a US dollar), anyone who lacks their own printing device can download and print out a poster-size copy of the "No Nukes Girl" at 7-11 stores and maybe other convenient locations in Japan using a special code made available to the public by the artist.

Post Postscript

You can get the 411 on downloading the "No Nukes Girl" at 7-11 and more @ Today's J-blip: Yoshitomo Nara for No Nukes. 

Post Post Postscript

If you go to see "a bit like you and me," an exhibition of works by the artist behind the "No Nukes Girl," now running at the Yokohama Museum of Art, be careful not to fall into the fountain out front (believe me, it can happen easily).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Brand New Spin

Click here for full photo effect via Tumblr

It's the latest sensation circling around the Internet and it's been called, "creepy," "brilliant," "hypnotic," etc., all rolled into one. In fact it's called "Rrrrrrrroll." 

It's a project started not too long ago by a group of artists in Japan whose story has been covered by Huff Post, This is Colossal, and more. The artists behind Rrrrrrrroll (there are supposed to be 8 r's in that, count 'em if you don't believe me) employ the graphics interface format (GIF) to produce what Coco Rocha might call something that's "more than a photo but not quite a video."

Everyone seems to have his or her own unique spin on these amazing GIFs. Tumblr user (I believe Tumblrette is the officially recognized nomenclature for these creatures but I've gone with "user" for the uninitiated), Smooth Yeti, says "these .gif's are made to remind us that time is passing by and only few things can be truly stuck in time." Of course, your perspective may differ.

I recommend that you roll on over to the Rrrrrrrroll_GIF Tumblr page, take a spin around the site, and then put your own spin on these head turning images.

Related post: Hopping Mad in Japan Today

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Giving Credit Where It's Due

Japanese typewriter (photo via Wikipedia)
Earlier this week popular independent journalist Yasumi Iwakami interviewed former Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama. During the interview Hatoyama said he would like to participate in this Friday's no-nukes demonstration outside the current prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. According to the vox populi (via Twitter) the quote was widely reported in the Japanese press yesterday and today with one minor omission. They say the reporting news outlets generally failed to give proper credit to Iwakami, noting the source as merely an unnamed "Internet TV site."

Suited for Dancing

I like this song by Sake Rock but more than finding my ears bent to the music, my eyes are drawn like a magnet to the dance styling of  idevian crew dancer and choreographer, Shigehiro Ide. 

At first glance he doesn't look like your prototypical skin-and-bones dancer. I feel like I've seen him before, maybe perched on a bar stool, overlooking a foam capped ice cold beer while contemplating the mysteries of the six o'clock news through a thick pungent haze of tobacco smoke. Maybe it's the suit that gives me that impression. 

Then I look at his portly physique and I realize where I've seen him. I've seen that rotund build in the mirror. We share the exact same body type! Watching him move sends my spirits soaring. The only thing holding my feet down to earth now (aside from years of intensive study and training along with a healthy helping of talent) is the lack of one of those suits. Once I get my hands on one of those there will be no holding me down.

Don't miss Ide's dreamy duet with singer/song writer Gen Hoshino on the musician's latest release, Yume no Soto he (Leaving the Dream).


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Out of the Box

"Can you open any box the right way?" Her voice grows more exasperated each time she utters the now well worn question. At first I thought she might find it an endearing curiosity but after more than twenty years of life together she just doesn't get it. I'll never figure out which end is up. 

I wonder how long a shelf life I would have living with these people...

For the Record

"It’s been 100 years since Jim Thorpe dashed through the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, and we’re still chasing him," writes Sally Jenkins in the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine. When it comes to being a great athlete and more, Thorpe broke more than records, he broke the mold. 

Read Why Are Jim Thorpe's Records Still Not Recognized  in the Smithsonian Magazine to find out more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toeing the Line

Tokyo, July 16, 2012 - 
Tokyo's finest form a human wall to hem in protesters during Japan's largest anti-nuclear power demonstration to date.
Looking over this photo I spied a lone pair of boots pointing in the opposite direction. I wonder if their owner decided it would be nobler not to toe the line? Maybe the title should be To Toe or Not to Toe the Line.

The Big Picture

Photo: (cc) NODA Masaya / JVJA  

Press reports on yesterday's Sayonara Nukes Rally in Tokyo say the police estimated the crowd to number 70,000, while rally organizers put the figure at 170,000. Pick a figure, split the difference, either way it was big.

Earlier today someone on Twitter said this photo reminded him of a Tokyo public pool loaded with bathers on a hot summer's day. It certainly is a sea of people and that's usually what it takes to create the waves needed to bring sweeping changes.

About the photo: The aerial photo above was shot by Masaya Noda from a helicopter chartered by the Tadashi Hodo Heri Kai (Media Done Right Helicopter Association). The photo, along with others found on the fotgazette Online PDF Magazine  website, has been made available for use under a creative commons license.

The Anti-Nuclear Umbrella

Sayonara Nukes Rally (Tokyo, July 16, 2012)

A protester at Monday's Sayonara Nukes Rally in Tokyo makes a bold fashion statement with a parasol specially hand-crafted for the occasion. While we're not sure if the designer drew his or her inspiration from the nuclear umbrella, this is definitely a much brighter covering that puts an entirely new spin on atomic power. Rain or shine it should be a style that's always in season.

There are Days...

and Then There are Days

Sayonara Nukes Rally 

There are days where I like to walk backwards along the bustling sidewalks of metropolitan Tokyo and pretend that I'm a drum major leading an enormous parade. Sometimes the pedestrians seem to follow along, other times they wander off, scattering to the four corners of the city. Then there are days like yesterday where they all come together perfectly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Buddha out of a Box

Here is an old recycled BBC news story featuring sculptor Yuji Honbori who crafts statues of Buddha from discarded cardboard boxes.


Read more about these reincarnated boxes and Yuji Honbori's "environmentally friendly path to enlightenment" at Spoon & Tamago

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Counting Crowds

Japanese hash marks 
It’s an almost indisputable fact that public opposition to the Japanese government’s decision to restart the country’s nuclear reactors continues to grow. The same can’t be said for counting the numbers of no-nukes crusaders who march on the prime minister’s doorstep in what has for many become a weekly pilgrimage. Reported crowd counts for the Friday night anti-nuclear power protests in Tokyo fluctuate wildly. 

Earlier this month the country’s largest English daily, The Japan Times noted that “protest rallies have been gradually been [sic] growing in size ever since they started being held each Friday night since late March. Police reports estimate that the number of protesters this Friday night was at least 10,000, while event organizers later put the estimate at 150,000 people.” 

While many have suggested that both the police and organizers may be inclined to skew the numbers in the direction they desire, the Japanese periodical Alterna suggests a whole other dynamic altogether may be at work behind the crowd calculations. In a July 14 story, Alterna reported that while Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) does estimate the number of people attending the rallies, they don’t make that information publicly available. Wondering where the official police figures so often cited by the media come from, the magazine asked the local police department that has jurisdiction over the area of the city that the prime minister officially calls home. 

The answer Alterna basically got(and this is not a direct quote or translation)was something like: Why should we provide that kind of information when the NPA doesn’t? It’s a good question and leaves me wondering where do they get those official figures if, as Alterna suggests, they don’t officially come from anybody official.

Related posts: The Art of Protesting
               Carried Away

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thicker than Water

"Blood may be thicker than water but you can't live without either of 'em."

-Merican Fiend(some guy on Twitter)

It took what seemed like hours but I finally managed to stop the bleeding. It wasn't anything serious but it was one of the worst gushers Jiro, my second oldest, has had in a while. The cause was the same as usual, internal laceration of the nasal passage lining. In other words he was picking his nose and a little too vigorously. It happens from time to time and experience has taught me to remain calm, cool and collected. 

A few years ago I would have been calling the ambulance at the first sign of life's juices flowing over to the exterior side of the body wall. Now I know exactly how to overreact without involving the paramedics and I've learned from the best in the business. 

I got my first lesson a few years ago while I was shaving. It was then that I nicked the surface of the skin covering an area so uncharted by modern anatomy that few dare speak it's name, the philtrum. If you've ever cut the skin in this area you'll know how difficult it can be to stop the bloodshed that ensues. Even if you do manage to clot the leak, the slightest movement of the upper lip (like a smile, a frown, etc.) will open the floodgates again. 

It all went down on a Saturday morning, I had promised to take my oldest son, Ichiro, to the pool. I was shaving by the glow of dawn's early light when Ichiro called to me from behind. My head turned faster than I could move my hand holding the razor away from my face, resulting in a huge gash stretching from below the opening of one nasal passage across to the other. There was no way I could stop the flow of blood with simple pressure or a styptic pencil. I knew that I would have to bandage the whole lower proboscis and breathe through my mouth if we ever hoped to get to the pool before it got too crowded.

That's just what I did and it worked pretty well. I was no longer bleeding all over and I was breathing so we were good to go. Our local city pool is wonderful. It's like a little slice of paradise only probably much more crowded than the real one. It boasts a myriad of different cement swimming holes all moderated at varying temperatures with the higher ranges designed to suit the most cold-blooded of human beings. There is a pool for serious swimmers, a kiddie pool with a slide resembling a cliff, a lagoon with a swift moving current that surrounds a jacuzzi and a couple of more bubbling bodies of water that are the natural habitat of the elders of the swimming species. The most amazing thing about the whole place is that the hot air bubbles that get infused into the water all come from an adjacent city garbage incinerator. It's a virtual oasis smack dab in the middle of Japan's famed Keihin industrial belt of which it has the most exquisite view. Above all the pool has a crack squad of the most intrepid senior citizen life guards this side of the Pacific. I know because I've seen them in action, up close and personal. 

I originally planned to keep my bandage dry by watching over Ichiro from the confines of a glass enclosure that overlooks the entire pool area. Since Ichiro is the clinging kind he wouldn't go along with the plan and insisted that I join him. I agreed on the condition that I would remain poolside. 

He accepted the deal but that still meant I had to get through a gauntlet of shower heads standing between the locker/changing room and the pool area. Fortunately the shower heads are set at an average height which I just manage to tower over so staying dry wasn't that much of a challenge. When we finally got to the pools, Clingy (that's Ichiro) refused to get in the water without me. Well, I hadn't just spent eleven hundred yen and braved the Scylla and Charybdis of showers for nothing, so I grabbed Ichiro's hand and we plunged into the lagoon. 

Everything was going swimmingly until one of the septuagenarian lifeguards blew the whistle and waved me out of the pool. It was then I realized that I had sprung a leak and that I was being taken to the security headquarters where I would no doubt be charged with some crime, perhaps attempted manslaughter or worse, for exposing the community to a potential bio hazard. He zoomed in for closer examination of my nose and motioned for me to follow after calling over a younger, perhaps stronger, aquatic savior who escorted me to the lifesaver station (not security headquarters as I had feared).  

Once safely inside lifesaver central the pair laid me down on a gurney and went to work removing the blood and chlorine-rich water soaked bandage from my nose. The chemical content in the pool water must have acted as an anti-coagulant because I was once again hemorrhaging like a fountain. 

After applying enormous amounts of pressure to no avail the team consulted with the head honcho who manning the pools' temperature control booth. After the brief meeting they retrieved and broke the seal on what appeared to be some sort of miniature fire extinguisher. As I stood there face to face with the business end of the device, the elder life guard gave the order to let it rip. It released this miraculous white powder that manage to gum up my broken circulatory system. I don't know exactly what effect it may have had on my respiratory system but I was breathing a lot easier just knowing that the bleeding had been put to a stop for good. To finish the job they wrapped my nose in gauze, circling the bandage around my head for extra good measure.

Job done, my new found friends and saviors immediately returned me to the pool, releasing me back into the watery environment from which they had plucked my wounded body. There I was soon reunited with my young fry who upon spying me smiled and said, "Da, did you see what I just did?" He hadn't even noticed that I was gone or that I was sporting a stylish new bandage around my head. 

We had both learned a couple of valuable lessons. Ichiro had learned to become a little more cling-free and swim without me, under the watchful gaze of the ever-vigilant grandparently lifeguards. Me, after having my life saved by total strangers, I learned that while blood may be thicker than water you really need both to swim in this world. 

More from an Inquiring Mind

Anonymous asks (in the comment section below):

Okay, so is the part about the bandage wrapped around your head really true?

The author responds:

Oh Anonymous you doubting Thomas! This time (see end of previous post, "Forget You Not") it's all true believe it or not. It's a very difficult location to apply an adhesive bandage, especially if you are in a watery environment. The wrap made perfect sense and it wasn't done in the fashion of the ancient Egyptians or anything like that. It was noticeable but subdued. Yet I never once thought they would let me back into the pool in that condition, let alone escort me! The ordeal was all over in a few minutes though. At the time 800 yen entitled an adult to a a two-hour swimming session (300 yen for kids) at Yokohama's Fureyu swimming pool. Once you subtract all the time I spent on the gurney in the life guard's office plus navigating around Scylla & Charybdis, etc., there wasn't a whole lot of splash time left.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Forget You Not

Artist's rendering of the TV American Club
The green design makes use of a refurbished
 oil refinery tank that blends in
seamlessly with the existing environment.
If Temple Valley had an American Club, I would be its president. Okay, maybe I would be the vice-president. I would definitely be one or the other. There are, after all, only two of us (Americans) in the whole valley. I see the other one (my potential running mate) from time to time around the neighborhood and at various local gatherings since our kids attend the same school. We always say hello and if we should meet at the school's annual field day event we usually spend about five minutes in one another's company making small talk. 

He'll say something along the lines of  "Wow that kid's a fast runner." Then maybe I'll find some way to compliment him by saying something like, "Hey that was a good idea. I wish I had brought a book to read too." After that we part ways and usually never cross paths again for at least six months. 

When we do meet, it's usually at the convenience store. He runs a small English language school and spends a lot of time making copies of classroom handouts on the corner convenience store's xerox machine. We met each other there just the other day. As I was entering the store, he was walking out the door with one of his sons and gave me a big hello, enunciating every syllable of my name extra loud and clear (which I chalk up to a side effect of his profession). 

Then it was my turn to return the greeting but for the life of me I just could not remember his name. The words, "How ya doing?" had just came out of my mouth when I suddenly realized his name had totally escaped me. In a panic I quickly added "youse" while pointing my wagging index finger in their direction. I guess so they would know who I meant by "youse." 

Of course, I didn't have to add any wordy embellishments to my passing salutation, but unfortunately I did. I said, "How ya doin' youse?" I couldn't believe it, "YOUSE!" That's not even English, as my fourth grade teacher pointed out time and time again. Where did that come from? 

If only I had tacked on "guys" to the end of the sentence. Then it would have come out, "How ya doin' youse guys?" At least that might have sounded like I was doing a Tony Soprano impression for some odd reason but all I managed to blurt out was "youse" and swirl Mr. Pointer around in the air. 

I just couldn't believe what I was hearing coming out of my mouth. "Youse!" What an idiot I am, I thought. I just kept walking and didn't dare look back as I desperately searched my internal memory bank for a hint of his name. I don't know exactly what I would have done if I had come up with it anyway. Maybe I would have stuck my head out the door and shouted, "Youse Smiths!" or something. I'm glad I never did remember because that's probably exactly what I would have done and that would have been even more mortifying.

About a week has gone by and I completely forgot about the little embarrassing incident until today. This morning I was walking along the street where my fellow American resides. His house is hard to miss. It's the one with the big shingle out front advertising the name of his tiny school.

The real sign is much snazzier.

"The Hughes Academy!" I had his name pegged right all along!! Maybe it was just a stroke of luck, or perhaps God reached into the recesses of my memory and pulled the name out of the back of some forgotten mental file cabinet for me. Whatever it was, I managed to make the right call. Even though calling him by his last name alone no doubt came across as  vaguely gym teacherish (like: "How ya doin' Hughes. Nice throw, now go hit the showers."), it probably sounded okay otherwise. 

I'll never forget his name again. I have that wonderful ability to learn from my mistakes. It's one of the qualities that I believe will make me an outstanding vice to the next president of the future Temple Valley American Club (I'll just call him Mr. President then). If you look back on the careers of some of the world's greatest leaders you'll find that it's a quality that is well, universal. You can count on it and so can you Hughes.


Reader, Anonymous, asks:

“Is this true?”

The author responds:

Is Anonymous your real name? I can't believe you would doubt the veracity of this article and question the integrity of a trusted institution like The Temple Valley Times. Okay it's 80-85% true, more or less. I had to change some story elements to protect the innocent (me). His name isn't Hughes and he wasn't with his son and I didn't say "How ya doin' youse?"  I did plum forget his name though. He was wearing a shirt bearing the image of a winged creature and I said, "How ya doin' [name of bird]?" and pointed to the picture emblazoned across his chest. I thought that was just as stupid as saying "Youse." It's kind of like calling someone wearing a red shirt, Red. Anyway I called him by the name of the bird imprinted on his shirt and felt pretty silly about it. Sometime later I was walking down the street where he lived and spied a sign saying "[Bird name] English School" and realized that said bird moniker really was his name.

I didn't want the guy to Google his name, find this post, and confirm the fact that I'm an idiot so I concealed key parts of the story in other words. Now the cat (or bird) is out of the bag.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Days of Miracles & Wonder

Searching For Sugar Man (trailer)


It's described on the IMBd website as the story of two South Africans  who "set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock 'n' roller, Rodriguez." After picking up two awards at Sundance and backing from Sony Pictures, Searching for Sugar Man is slated for worldwide release this month.

Coming to a theater near you?

Unfortunately it's likely never to hit the big screen in Temple Valley. The last movie theater to grace the streets of this neighborhood has long passed away along with a lot of its overwhelmingly gentlemanly clientele who would cram into its darkened cavern featuring a strictly grownup genre dubbed "Pink Film.

It was a place where imaginations of all sorts ran wild. On summer afternoons the pink theater was transformed into a treasure house of animated classics that was filled to the rafters with the laughter of little ones. Their eyes riveted to the screen, kids would sit on the edge of their seats and reel over the antics of their favorite cartoon characters and more.

Then everything changed and maybe not all for the worse. As advances in technology gave rise to the video cassette recorder (and later the DVD player), movie houses across the world came crashing down and Temple Valley was no exception. Now the computer age has ushered in an entirely new world of cinema. Today within a blink of an eye after a Hollywood movie's theatrical release I can legally download it for my viewing pleasure practically anywhere around the globe via a host of services like iTunes, etc. If that's not amazing enough, it all takes just a fraction of the time it once might have taken to stand on line waiting to buy the ticket just to get inside the moving picture show. I'll probably be watching the search for Sugarman play across my home theater's tiny screen in half the time it took to find him in the first place. After all, as the man in the movie trailer says, "these are the days of miracles and wonder."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Undercover Report

We may never know exactly how many people (concealed under their rain covers) turned up at the Japanese prime minister's doorstep for this Friday's weekly anti-nuke protest but without a doubt it had to be one of the largest assemblies of umbrellas the country has ever seen and that's saying something, especially for a country where the collapsible devices are virtually part of the landscape.

Feeling Awfully Hopeful

Inventor, Cesar Harada, says the one thing the BP oil spill, islands of floating plastic garbage in the ocean, and the Fukushima nuclear reactor leak have in common is that "they are man-made problems but they are controlled by natural forces. This should make us feel terribly awful as much as it should make us feel hopeful because if you have the power to create these problems we may have the power to remedy these problems..."

The description for this video on the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED)website says: "When TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada heard about the devastating effects of the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, he quit his dream job and moved to New Orleans to develop a more efficient way to soak up the oil. He designed a highly maneuverable, flexible boat capable of cleaning large tracts quickly. But rather than turn a profit, he has opted to open-source the design.
TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada aims to harness the forces of nature as he invents innovative remedies for man-made problems like oil spills and radioactive leaks." Full bio »

"What is the purpose of technology if it doesn't reach the right hands? ” (Cesar Harada)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

US News Outsources

Local US reporting farmed out to Asia

Stop the Presses!
Web-fed offset lithographic press at speed (via Wikipedia)

"You can't make this stuff up."

The following story was "stolen" from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). You can also read this article on the outsourcing scandal at its source by viewing it in on the TBIJ website.

Are low-paid Filipino researchers the answer to US newspaper woes?

(originally published by TBIJ on July 3rd, 2012)  

This American Life, by That Filipino Writer

Newspapers across the United States of America are outsourcing the production of local news to low-paid researchers and writers in the Philippines, radio program This American Life has revealed.
In an interview with a young American journalist, Ryan Smith, This American Life presenter Sarah Koenig exposes the work of outsourcing company Journatic and the newspapers for whom it works, many of whom would rather remain unknown.
Former Journatic employee Smith says in the report that Journatic’s news is ‘written overseas, half-heartedly edited and slapped on a page’.
Smith, who risked being fired for speaking publicly, says he wrote and edited stories for newspapers in Texas while never leaving Chicago, about 1,000 miles away.
Using freelancers in the Philippines, Brazil, Eastern Europe and Africa, Journatic produces vast quantities of local stories, such as death notices, house sales and bowling scores based on publicly available information, for American newspapers that no longer have the resources to cover the micro detail of daily life.
Journatic and some of the newspaper companies who use it told This American Life that no writing was done in the Philippines itself. Rather, the Filipinos, who earn between 35 to 40 cents per story, ‘assemble information, in paragraph form,’ which is then written and edited in America.
However, it is hard to know how true this is. Koenig spoke to one anonymous Filipino freelancer who claimed to write stories himself. Yet their real names are never published. Instead, American newspaper publishers can click a ‘Select Alias’ button and choose Americanised names such as Jenny Cox or Glenda Smith.
While the program paints the practice in a negative light, Journatic CEO Brian Timpone argues a good case for his model. He says he knows that he will be criticised for his business interests, but he argues that outsourcing information aggregation is the way forward for the financially-strapped media industry.
‘I personally think we’re saving journalism with our approach, ‘ says Timpone.
‘The single reporter model, the old model, just doesn’t work and hasn’t done for 30 or 40 years.’
‘We’ll be able to see more things, things that no one covers,’ Timpone says.
He goes even further, asserting that having journalists on the ground does not produce more accurate or more engaging stories than his at-a-distance model.
Timpone claims that his company can produce more content for less, helping to drive traffic for newspapers and encourage local advertising, an important stream of revenue.
‘If you have a better idea, I’m all ears,’ challenges Timpone.
Listen to the original This American Life programme here.

Further reading:Journatic worker takes ‘This American Life’ inside outsourced journalism (@ Poynter.org)

The Death of Quality Local News: Why I Blew the Whistle on Journatic's Practices (seen in the Guardian on July 7)