Friday, September 30, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki April 19, 1996 (Considerate Driving & Parking)

 As everyone knows, in America automobiles drive on the right side of the street, not the left (as in Japan). Many (Japanese) people tell me, "It must have been difficult to get used to that." However, it was not all that difficult because the gear/shift and steering wheel are set to drive on the left side. What I notice most when I'm driving is everyone's manners. I often see people parking directly in front of vending machines or public telephones; basically wherever they want to park.

In the US, where we have wide roads and wide open parking lots, we have the same problem. Without thinking of the other person, everyone seems to want to park as close as they possible can to their destination. I got my driver's license when I was sixteen. When I was still a rookie, my mother told me, "Drive considerately and always think when you're parking. you were blessed with healthy legs, so you should park a little farther from the entrance and walk." I still believe this to this day. 

Because Japan's land mass is so small, if we drivers don't practice careful driving and parking we are very likely to cause some problem to pedestrians. In order to make our town Aya an accident-free town, please practice considerate driving AND considerate parking. 

See you next time! 

It's been 15 years since I wrote this, and since then we've lost public telephones and gained cell phones. I can only imagine what kind of problems exist in Japan because of texting and talking on the phone!

I do still park at the first parking spot I find, no matter how close or far it is from my destination. The daughter drives now, and we laugh about this all the time.  

JLA # 8 "The Space Olympics!" AFTERWARD

So, what did you think?
This is one of my stories that I absolutely can't make up my mind about: sometimes I absolutely hate it, and sometimes I think it's actually got some charm. Like I seem to say every time, there are a few things I really liked about it, and yet....yet....hell, it's not bad. It's just not great.

1. I liked how the story started. This one was another throw-back to the classic Gardner Fox type JLA story where the members are pulled out of their individual lives to attend some emergency session or, in this case, are "kidnapped."

2. I liked how the story progressed. Let's allow for a minute the main idea: that some bad guy would be stupid enough to kidnap the Justice League. HOW would he/she maintain these captives? By threatening to kill innocents, of course. I especially liked that bit where the JLA realizes that they are cornered and that the next "move" belongs to Despero.

3. I liked how the Flash I tried to make him (and Superman) a bit pompous (if that is the word), in the sense that if he really is The Fastest Man Alive there shouldn't be a whole lot that he couldn't handle alone. Well, this is one of those things he couldn't, haha.

4. I liked the one page of the "alien/space cops" JLAers coming together and trying to figure out what is going on. I thought the bit about them suspecting Dr. Light first was a nice nod to continuity.

5. The JLA carrying the UN flag into the ceremony. I just liked that.      

6. Aquaman having stronger mental telepathic powers. In most comics he is shown being able to communicate with fish. In my stories I made him almost a telepath. Certainly it comes in handy that he can shield their conversation from the guards. I also liked the bit where he takes a shower. No explanation necessary: he's away from water, and he needs it. This sequence is another one of those Batman-sits-and-plots bits. He does end up wrestling with an alien in this story, but I definitely saw him as The Brains of the outfit. So he is always watching and waiting. I loved how I drew him with his fingers together, just sitting there while Green Arrow gets all bent out of shape (which I also thought was very much in character, haha!)

7. I introduced Hawkwoman and the Hawk-Guard in their "battle uniforms" because this was when HAWKWORLD was the current DC continuity, and I wanted to be able to put up posters of Hawkman and Hawkwoman by Tim Truman etc in the classroom. So I had to establish that these were uniforms that they sometimes wore. Did it work?

8. For all the aliens I had to draw I figured I would use characters that were familiar to me. And in Aquaman's swim meet, somebody near and dear to me. Did you recognize Namor, the Sub-Mariner from Marvel Comics as one of his opponents? I thought that was pretty funny. Once I drew that, I went a bit over-the-top with my various other cameos at the end...  

9. Wonder Woman's "leap" gave me more trouble than I had expected. You see, in Japanese "jump" and "fly" sound the same (tobu) but are written with different Japanese kanji characters.  So I had to use both characters and then *dot* them to add emphasis to them. This is when Mariko-san really helped me out! (And I have never forgotten these two words since this story!)

10. How many cameo characters can YOU recognize? :-) However, in hind-sight this was a mistake, as I later establish that Brainiac and Darkseid were both legitimate JLA foes. You might miss Brainiac (standing to the right of Despero) if you're Superman or Green Lantern, but you can't very well miss Darkseid! Yet he got away without anybody making any comment about his appearance whatsoever. (And I'd like it if you just ignore Red Tornado, clearly visible over GL's right shoulder!)
What I didn't like very much at all is the fact that the heroes had to cheat to win. I mean, okay, that was the whole point I guess, but I didn't really like it. Re-reading it now, years later, I feel like my earlier self let the readers down with this story. There was no down-and-out climactic battle with Despero! And the ending we do get is just sort of...blah. Totally flat. I'm beginning to see a pattern in my stories: they start off with a pretty good idea but then flicker out or falter in their execution. (sigh) However....

Be here next time for an issue where I think I licked that's one of my all-time favorite issues,  Justice League #9: Nothing Beats The Royal Flush Gang!! 

An odd post-script to this story: check out this link and see that Like Minds come up with similar themes. Nearly twenty years later, here is another "Super Olympics of Space" this time starring the DC Super Friends. Where's my royalty check? Okay, there is NO way the author could have found and read my story first, but is a bit weird. :-)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My First Collectibles: POGO (Part Two)

If you haven't read my first essay about my POGO collectibles when I was a kid, check it out here.
To summarize: in 1969, when I was about five, Proctor & Gamble came out with adorable plastic POGO figurines. You had to buy BIZ or CASCADE or SPICnSPAN or some other P&G product to get them, but somehow I managed to get all six.

They must have been a success, because two years later P&G came out with plastic mugs with the same characters. They were strapped to the sides of the boxes just like the figurines were:
A word about the dates: on the bottom of each character's foot was the name of the character and the words "(C) Walt Kelly 1969 Made in Japan." Now, as you can clearly see if you enlarge this photo of BIZ, underneath the words POGO character MUG are the words "(C) Walt Kelly 1971." So that's how I got my timeline. Now back to my story.

As I mentioned before, my mother was not a consumer of BIZ. (Is it even still around?) Nor did we use a lot of SpicNSpan. For toys for her youngest child she probably figured she could afford (get it?) to get six various boxes of this stuff. Two years later, though, for mugs for a seven year old....well, the point I'm getting at is that I never did acquire a complete set of these mugs. Of course, I may not have wanted all six. I mean, they weren't toys, right? I do seem to recall having Pogo. Hey, I wonder if his was the most printed version....interesting to know if the six were made in roughly comparable numbers, or if Pogo had a bigger "share." I also seem to recall my sister JoAnne had Beuregard, but maybe I'm misremembering that. For that matter, maybe we *did* have all six, and they never had the emotional attachment the dolls did, so I don't remember them. We are talking 40 years ago, ya know. Wow...just writing that makes me feel old. Moving on....!

So...several years ago when I discovered e-bay and then remembered these items, I did try to collect (or re-collect) them all. However, they are surprisingly rare and therefore expensive! I managed to get Porkty (third from the left) and Pogo (first on the right). The others still elude me. When I have some extra cash to spend (perhaps by selling some of *my* junk on ebay) I will recommence the search. In the meantime, I grabbed this photo from the internet to remind me of what I am missing.  

Gosh, I loved POGO. :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our Last Game of the PreSeason Vs. Buffalo Sabres

 Well I don't know what it was, but tonight's crowd seemed more energetic than last week's against Washington. There were fewer Sabres fans than there were Capital fans, too. And there were more shots at and IN goal! We beat The Sabres decisively, 4-1!

Although I don't think the Nash-Carter combo has gelled yet, they did seam better than last year. And the team as a whole definitely played better. We had several Power Plays and we managed to get a score on one (when we were actually on a 5-on-3). More importantly, we killed off the Buffalo Power Plays *very* nicely. The one point that was allowed was when they had a 5-on-3 advantage over us, at the end of the third period. Steve Mason in goal was very very good. He was chosen as one of the Three Stars Of The Game afterwards, and the announcer said he had made 17 saves. So that sounds pretty top-notch to me.

I think my favorite part of the night was seeing both Russell twins (Kris and Ryan) on ice at the same time. I'm not sure if this was the first time ever, but it was the first time *I* had ever seen them. I like these guys!!! :-)

Next week there are three more pre-season games, but we don't have tickets to any of them. So this is our "last" pre-season game. Coming next for us: Opening Night on October 7th. I can hardly wait. It's against one of our arch-rivals, the Nashville (Sexual) Predators. I'll tell the story of our visit to Nashville then. Basically, we hate them (I think we have never won a game on their home ice...if we have, it's been a several years dry run). Our other arch-rival is *my* old team, the St. Louis Blues. (sigh) And I'll write about that when the time comes, too.

In the meantime, as promised, here are two photos taken from our new half-season seats. As you can see, they are not too shabby. You may notice the netting over the glass, which impedes the view of the ice at around the Blue Line, but we are used to it and can see "through" it. (Unhappy story: the nets are there

because several years ago a player for the Columbus Blue Jackets hit a puck out of the arena and hit a teen-aged girl in the head; she died the next day. So now all NHL arenas have these nets.) We are at the "Attack Twice" end of the ice, so it definitely is a different vibe than we had last year at the other end.
Here's another photo taken standing up when we gave the team a standing ovation for winning (note the final score, hooray!).  Also note that the top of the net intersects with the screen on the billboard, which was something we did *not* anticipate. So if we had picked a row higher or lower we would have gotten a better view of the screen!! Oh, and learn. :-)  


Happy Birthday, Aquaman!

 Seventy years ago, on September 25, 1941, MORE FUN COMICS # 73 was published. This comic cover-featured Dr. Fate, with two of the back-up features being Green Arrow and Aquaman. Now, if  you are a comic-book fan you may have heard of Dr. Fate. If you are a SMALLVILLE fan you have heard of Green Arrow. And if you are over the age of 20, you've heard of Aquaman. 
He is so well known, in fact, that he is one of the ten DC super-stars that made it onto stamps in 2006. He was part of the JUSTICE LEAGUE MONOPOLY set. He was a founding member of that organization as well as its Big Brother-Big Sister branch, the SUPER FRIENDS. He was the first super-hero to get married (Reed and Sue were a year later) and the first to have a child (ditto). Unfortunately, he was the only super-hero I know of whose child was actually killed (murdered by Black Manta). He shared a cartoon show with Superman in 1968 (Batman was busy being Adam West). He's appeared on SMALLVILLE (with Green Arrow, in fact, and almost by the same actor) and was made into a movie by no-less a luminary than James Cameron on the tv show ENTOURAGE.
More recently he has appeared in the Mattel toy line DC SUPER FRIENDS and on Cartoon Network's BATMAN: Brave & Bold show and YOUNG JUSTICE, making him cool for a whole new generation of fans. Pretty good pop culture presence for somebody who "only talks to fish."

Personally, I remember that I first encountered Aquaman on the SUPER FRIENDS show. I knew the others, but I had never heard of this blonde guy. As soon as I saw him I wanted to know more. This was right around the time of JAWS, and anybody who could control or befriend sharks was OK with me! Nowadays a lot of punk comedians want to make Aquaman the butt of lame jokes. However, if you go back and watch some of these old SUPER FRIENDS episodes, he sometimes actually managed to be useful, especially early on before characters like Green Lantern, Cyborg, and Firestorm appeared. It wasn't his fault the writers wrote Superman, Batman and Robin, and Wonder Woman as the stars. I mean, really, any show that BOASTS the Wonder Twins, you're going to take seriously? ;-)
Nowadays, when anybody tells me Aquaman is lame I always say, "He could kick your ass." I mean, really. Go to the local pool sometime. Swim for a few minutes. Then get up and out of the pool and realize just how many of your muscles hurt. Aquaman *lives* down there at the bottom of the ocean. He rides whales (or humongous sea horses). Spiderman has New York City. Batman as Gotham. Aquaman has 70% of the world to protect. Now tell me that isn't cool.

Happy Birthday, Aquaman! May you give as much pleasure to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren as you have for me and my daughter!

To read other birthday wishes and to be impressed by sheer Aquaman Awesomeness click here:  The Aquaman Shrine Celebration

Friday, September 23, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki April 12, 1996 (About カタカナ (katakana))

As an English teacher I often get asked questions about English. However, I also often get asked questions about Japanese! For example, the baseball term デッドボール (dead ball) or the term for marriage, ゴールイン (goal-in), although they sound like English, are actually Japanese-made-up-terms. Also, popular songs such as ハート・ ツー・ハート (haato tu haato) and  ハーティー・パーティー (haati paati) are good examples. If you ask any American about these terms no one will understand them. Why? Because all of these are actually not English but Japanese.

I have been studying Japanese for approximately 14 years. I like Hiragana and Kanji because they are logical and easy to remember. However, I hate Katakana. If you write my name in Japanese in Hiragana as
らっせる, you still won't think I'm a Japanese person. (Note: Katakana is the "alphabet" used exclusively for foreign words Japanaese have adopted into their language. Hiragana and Kanji are used almost exclusively for "native" Japanese and Chinese terms.) However, if you write  ゴールイン ("goal in") in Katakana I think most people will just naturally assume that this is an English term for getting married, when in fact it isn't!

Also, I hate terms such as ハート・ツー・ハート (haato tu haato). If you spell it "Heart to Heart" it makes sense in English and we have this term. However, this song is actually spells it as "Hurt to Heart," meaning a heartache of some kind...and of course, this is not a correct English term. In Japanese these two words "hurt" and "heart" are close but different; in Japanese using Katakana they turn into the same word! This is a mistake. Young people I know think this sort of thing sounds "cool." However, if you really want to be cool, I'd suggest bypassing the Katakana mistake and go directly to the English. We live in an international age, and it won't be any easier if we don't communicate in foreign languages correctly.

By the way, last week's Aya Shu-Ho had a spelling error of our own. The word should have been "Information." We'll all try to be more careful in the future. See you next time!

I wrote this article in April 1996 and I still hate Katakana. I think it is a terrible crutch for the Japanese to learn English badly. Don't get me started on all the problems with the Ministry of Education...! :-)
Eventually I hope to have Japanese language capabilities on this comptuer and then I'll be able to write in Japanese. Until then, I will have to make do with cutting and pasting.
Mata ne!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My First Collectibles: POGO (part one)

When I was five years old I lived in University City, Missouri. My parents had just moved us there from either Boston or Bloomington; I do not remember. St. Louis is the only city I can remember living in while I was young, although I was actually born in Illinois. I consider St. Louis my original "hometown" and I will get around to writing about it sometime, I promise. That isn't the point of this story, though. As the youngest of four kids, in 1969 I was the only one dragged with my mother whenever she went grocery shopping at the neighborhood IGA. (This was before we switched our allegiance to the A&P and then to Schnucks. That isn't the point of this story, either. I'm just trying to paint a picture of my life in 1969.)
There has been a lot of things written about your subconscious and your "buried" memories. I'm not sure if I agree with everything I've heard, but for the sake of this story I do agree with the gist of the theory, which is this: a song, a smell, an image, or any sensory input linked specifically to a memory can, when re-acquainted by the person in question, re-establish that memory link. I know this is true because that is what happened to me when I saw this and similar images for the POGO Character Dolls.  
 I hadn't thought about these POGO Character Dolls (as they are called on this box of BIZ) in years, literally. However when I came back to the US in 2001 and started surfing the internet and looking at ebay I suddenly came across these things and I began to remember dimly that I had these toys as a boy. Then more recently when I was looking into them to write about them on this blog I came across this image on the left and suddenly I was walking down the aisles of the IGA on North & South Rd in U. City gazing up at the boxes of BIZ and the bottles of DOWNY hoping that we could get all of the six characters. I want to say they also came attached to CASCADE, the dishwasher detergent, because my mother did not *use* BIZ or DOWNY, which makes this story a tragedy!! We did use something for sure....maybe SPIC & SPAN....and I remember bugging my mother to use more and more of it so that I could get a complete collection, haha! I know I somehow managed to get all six of them (shown below) because as an adult I went on ebay and managed to re-buy all six of them and I definitely can remember having them all as a kid! We had a huge back-yard when I was a kid (well, huge to me, anyway) and it was bordered by railroad ties in the gardens. This, to a 5-6-7 year old was definitely a swamp-like environment. Also I remember playing with them at bath-time. I am pretty sure I had GI Joes and Big Jims, and later Aquaman and the Super Friends, but first I had POGO.

I chose to use these photos I got off the internet rather than try to take a photo of my actual dolls for two reasons: 1. this photo at left makes them look like they are brand new, and I think mine *never* looked this good, haha, and 2. the photo on the bottom right shows them faded and worn, and that is how mine looked before I disposed of them. I have no idea what happened to them....I want to say I sold them at a garage sale, but I'm not sure....

As to the figures themselves, there is Pogo, of course. He is wearing his typical red & black striped shirt and his yellow fishing cap at an angle. Likewise Porky is wearing his red & black tartan hat and holding a big walking stick. Their heads rotate around on their necks. Howland can move his head as well as his left wing. I always thought he was posed to say, in all seriousness, "Well, in MY opinion..." or something else similarly bombastic! Churchy can move both of his hands and his head. He is either about to "strike a pose" or laugh, depending on how you move him around. He was one of my favorites because he's the most colorful: He has a bright yellow stomach, green legs and head, and an olive-green shell. All four of these characters are approximately the same height (about 4 1/2 inches); however, the last two, Albert and Beuregard, are both closer to 5 1/2 inches tall. (You can sorta see that in the bottom photo; Pogo is the smallest, and Albert and Beuregard are the tallest). Albert follows fellow reptile Churcy's lead in that he can move both his hands and his head. He has a red scarf around his neck and a cigar in his left hand (paw?claw?). Beuregard is like Howland, with one hand moveable and one hand on his chest as if he is about to pontificate. He's wearing his standard red & white striped shirt. 
As soon as I saw these dolls on the internet I knew I needed to re-acquire them. I couldn't get a whole set at one time, so I had to get them piecemeal. In fact, in order to re-acquire the whole set I ended up getting two Alberts. So if I ever do a blog contest I can offer him up as a prize....! Let me know if you're interested in this, haha.

Ever since I got them I have had them on my desk. At first they were standing on my large monitor (before it crashed) and now they are standing here on my desk. They watch over me as I work and serve as a reminder not to take life so serious. :-) 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our First Game of the (Pre) Season CBJ vs. Washington Capitals

Tonight is the night!!! We've been saying for the past six months that we couldn't wait for the hockey season to start, and now..we're *almost* there! Tonight is our first NHL game since last April.

This week there are two pre-season games, one against Winnipeg Jets yesterday and one tonight against the Washington Capitals. When we bought our half-season plan back in July we got to pick two pre-season games. I wanted to see the Winnipeg Jets in Columbus, but we chose their actual official season game on Nov 12 instead of yesterday's exhibition game. This way we'll be able to cheer on former CBJ Coach Noel (no-'el, like Christmas) because he didn't actually come to town last night. (They split the teams and played simultaneously here and there). So anyway, choosing the Washington Capitals made a better choice this time, even though it means we had to wait another day before we could watch hockey! :-(

Here's a photo of us in our seats, taken back in July at the Draft Party. If you are familiar with Nationwide you'll see that the cannon will be located directly behind us on our left. And if you are NOT familar with Nationwide Arena...yes, the cannon. Every time we score they blow up the cannon. It is awesome!
Here's the view *from* our seats. Obviously, we'll have a somewhat different view tonight. I'll be sure to take a photo "for real" and post it in the next few days. Still, the goal should be right around the place that kid is, should be exciting!!


JLA # 8 "The Space Olympics"

Monday, September 19, 2011

JLA # 8 "The Space Olympics" FORWARD

When I went to write this story in early 1992 quite a few things were going on. First of all, the first three stories of my "new and improved" Justice League had been successful and my students had asked for more. So I was enthusiastic about the work, which I think shows in the efforts here (and in next issue in particular). I also re-did the Member Profiles again. Japanese fiscal and educational years run from April to March of the following year, so the three issues I've already uploaded (5-7) were in the Fiscal Year 1991. Now we are in Fiscal Year 1992, and for that "new" year I decided to re-do the portraits. In some ways, these were my favorites.

Also, 1992 was an Olympic year: Winter in Albertville, France and Summer in Barcelona, Spain. I figured I would use that sports interest for my comics. Let me know if you think I did a good job or not.

Translation was still being handled by my good friend Mariko Tadokoro. I seem to recall she liked this story because it was more straight forward than the two previous "super villains" stories.

The Fabulous SUPREMES!!

I think everyone who knows me knows that I *love* MOTOWN music. I grew up in St. Louis surrounded by black, white, jewish, and methodist people. I was like a sponge and absorbed Rhythm & Blues, Pop/Rock, and Country/Western music. And of course my mother loved classical music and my father had various sound-track albums in the house. So I literally listened to *everything*. But as soon as my sister Connie turned me on to Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Diana Ross & The Supremes, I was hooked.  I don't really remember a time when there wasn't Motown in my life. As for "The Girls," I know I bought into the whole "package" of the Supremes: how Diana was the natural lead, and how her talent was too large to keep constrained in the trio, and how the group died off without her around to guide them. My sister had the three album ANTHOLOGY collection and I would listen to sides 2 and 3 over and  over again. Even then I could tell there was a definite gap in quantity after 1967, and I almost never listened to that last LP with the final songs of the trio. And oddly enough (or perhaps not, seeing how I am not a gay male, haha) I never really liked Diana Ross as a solo artist: her "diva" status never appealed to me and her solo records sounded way too over-produced for me. She has a few good songs but in general I am not a fan.  I was definitely a fan of the Golden Oldies. Besides, so many of her solo songs sound like they should be Supremes songs, what with the heavy background vocals in them; I thought AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN was by her & The Supremes for YEARS!

Later in high school and college I read books like NOWHERE TO RUN by Gerri Hirshey and THE STORY OF MOTOWN and realized that for all the great music there was also great drama and tragedy. To this day I regret that I did not know who Florence Ballard was when she died in 1976. When DREAMGIRLS came out I was fascinated by this Broadway musical supposedly "about them" but I never did get to see it (I was in St. Louis or at college in St. Paul MN by this point, remember!). I began to understand that Diana had *not* been the original lead; that the group was a victim of their own success once they were so popular; that Florence and fellow original member Mary Wilson were treated badly, both emotionally and financially. 
My sister bought me Mary Wilson's autobiography DREAM GIRLS
when it came out in the early 80s and after reading it I stopped listening to "Diana Ross & The Supremes" records. No offense to Flo's replacement, Cindy Birdsong, but evidently she isn't actually singing on their two biggest hits, anyway! (nor is Mary). As Motown owner Berry Gordy and Diana Ross conspired (if that is the word) to rename the group in order to give Diana a solo career, Flo's pride wouldn't allow her to put up with it and she either quit or was fired (depending on your point of view). As soon as she left, in the spring of 1967, Commercialism won out over Art. So now when I listen to The Supremes I can either think of a nicer, gentler nation, or I can think of all the "what ifs" of the situation, or I can think Gosh those girls can sing. It depends on my mood.

One of my favorite memories of my college days is taking a bus down to Minneapolis and seeing Mary Wilson live in concert at some club. I even got to say hello and tell her how much I loved her music. It was an adventure that I will never forget.
I'm not going to make a list of My Favorite Supremes Songs but I will say that my favorite album is The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart with Live at the Copa a distant second. There are quite a few songs on the Rodgers & Hart CD where all three women are allowed to sing, and their harmonies are beautiful. "Falling In Love With Love" and "My Romance" are two of the highlights. And during their live performances you can really hear all three women; I recommend you track down some live songs and compare them to the studio versions just to hear for yourself how drowned out Mary and Flo ended up being. On YouTube search for The Supremes and Bobby Darin, The Andrews Sisters, and Sing Rodgers & Hart for some great stuff.

To end this article, here's the only "happy" hit The Supremes ever had: "I Hear A Symphony" from 1966. Every other song they had was a sad song in the He Done Her Wrong vein...think about it: "Where Did Our Love Go?", "Stop In The Name of Love," "Come See About Me," "Love Child" etc etc are all great songs but they are not "happy." The closest other "happy" song they have is "Back In My Arms Again," which IS a great fun song, but *this* one is just plain beautiful. This version appears to be from The Mike Douglas Show in 1966. The song was so new that Diana hadn't actually remembered the words yet, so you know they aren't lip-synching. ;-)

JLA # 8 "The Space Olympics"

Another "posed" group shot poster cover. I think I wanted to let all the possible readers know just who they could expect to find inside, so I didn't want to use a lot of Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman action poses. I did start using more action shots in the next few stories, though. I did try to change it up. This is the first issue of the new fiscal year, too (more about that is in the FORWARD) so maybe I wanted to use a "poster" shot to show the new kids who these characters were....? Anyway, I thought this was an okay effort.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fan Fest 9-9-11

I am SO ready for hockey season to start!! This morning the wife and I went down to Nationwide to watch Training Camp 2011. We were going to get up early and get downtown for the beginning of it (9 AM) but because I've been so busy lately I overslept and we didn't get to Nationwide until about 9:45. We saw the end of the first team and then stayed for most of the second team. It only made me want the season to start all that much sooner! It also reminded me that I never got to write up "Fan Fest"! It happened on Friday, Sept 9 but then I went off to Detroit on business and didn't get a chance to finish this report. So here it is, a week late...sorry! 
On Sept 9, 2011 my family and I went down to Nationwide Arena to attend the Columbus Blue Jackets "Fan Fest." It was billed as an open house for CBJ fans to come down and meet "More than 20 CBJ Players" and to, by the way, purchase flex packs or half-season or full season tickets. We have already purchased our half-season tickets (with every intention of going to additional games when we can or when they give away cool stuff that we want) so we didn't have to bother with the "business" side of the evening. No, we went down to meet the players, and in my daughter's case, one player in particular.  
The event started at 5 pm with various Autograph Sessions starting at that time. We were going to try to get Rick Nash's autograph, because even though we've been to these types of things before we've never met The Captain. Well, we still haven't! There was a *huge* line for him and all the "guaranteed" tickets had been given out by the time we got there. (An aide hands out 250 tickets to the people in the line and if you have one, you are guaranteed to get an autograph.) So we quickly split up: the daughter and wife got in line to wait for Derick Brassard and Kris Russell and I went to try my luck with Derek Dorsett and Antoine Vermette. There wasn't quite the line for them as there had been for Rick Nash, so I got my brand-new pennant signed by these two guys first (that's Derek on the right and Antoine on the left). While I was waiting in line, I struck up a conversation with the women behind me. It turns out that the daughter and son-in-law live in the same apartment complex as many of the single players, so they are friends! It was so fun to hear stories about them as I waited to meet them.... and the woman heard that my daughter was in line to meet Derick, she asked if she could go with me to meet up with him, too. So as soon as we said Hello to one Derek we headed over to say hello to another! He hadn't arrived yet, so we ended up having plenty of time.

First up was my favorite guy, Kris Russell. Not sure why I like him....I just do, haha! Well the woman in line with us had a son and she asked Kris to hold him while she took their picture. I figured I'd take a shot, too, to commemorate the experience. Take a good look at Kris Russell's face...more about that later. Then we were there, right in front of him: Derick Brassard, my daughter's favorite player. She had written him a note and after handing it off to him she got him to sign her CBJ flag. Then his neighbor, who I was still standing with, said, "Derick, you're her favorite player. I heard all about it. She loves you!" To which I said,  since I was now standing in front of him asking him to sign my pennant, "It's true. She loves you. I just like you a lot." We both laughed.

With that, it was just a matter of killing time before we had to get in line to get our "official" Player Photo Station picture taken with Derick. His time was set at 7:30 (after Antoine, Jeff Carter, and Steve Mason). So we decided to get in line to get our photo taken with Antoine because I was the only one had met him. So we had to go to the other side of the arena and get in line to go on the ice and stand with the player as a professional photographer took our picture. The line actually moved pretty quickly and it was all done very well. That's Antoine on the right. :-)

Like I said, the daughter was just waiting for Derick to be available again, so we decided to do what I wanted to do and got in line to get autographs from Kris Russell's twin brother, Ryan, and relative newcomer Matt Calvert. Look again at that photo above of Kris Russell. Now look at this photo below of his brother, Ryan. Kris. Ryan. Twins alright. I 've already talked about Ryan Russell joining the CBJ this year, but I haven't told the story about meeting (yes, actually meeting) Matt Calvert. Last season he was on fire as LW. He played some game and actually scored a Hat Trick (three goals in one game). It was awesome, and my wife and I happened to be at Nationwide when it happened. The next day all three of us drove to Nashville to watch the CBJ play the Predators. We joked that it would be funny if we happend to see any players in downtown Nashville the night before the game (we drove down on Saturday; game was Sunday afternoon). Well you can probably guess...we were walking down the streets of Nashville and who isn't crossing the street but Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome! We did a double-take and then I, being the shy type that I am, shouted at them, "Matt Calvert! and...Grant Clitsome! You guys are awesome! Good luck tomorrow!!" They looked at us, kind of nodded, and kept walking. We, of course, were ecstatic! Fan Fest when I handed him my pennant to sign we said, "We were the people who met you in Nashville." And he said, "That was YOU!?"
as if he would never forget that experience. (We joked that it was probably the first time he had ever been recognized outside of Columbus.) So that was nice.

By that time it was time to get in line for Derick again. We got to the tail-end of the Jeff Carter line and let several people go on ahead who wanted his photo. Now, a few words about Jeff Carter. He was evidently a star for the Philadelphia Flyers whom I had never heard of. Now what I think sucks about his situation was that when he heard rumors that we wanted him and that he was going to be traded, he went into Philly management and asked them directly about it; they told him a bald-faced lie that they weren't going to trade him. They, of course, then turned around and gave him to us for Jacob Voracek and some other bodies. Now I *know* that Sports is a Business, but I still think this sucks.
For a few days there were stories about whether Carter would fight the trade or be angry at us for the trade or what have you. It turns out that he was rightly sore at Philadelphia! Unfortunately, the Flyers don't come here to Columbus this season, but on Nov 5 you better believe we're going to be watching that Philly game on TV! May I predict that we will win that game? ;-)

Anyway, we got in line to get our photo taken with Derick. First, of course, the daughter got her picture with him by herself first. Then we all joined him. He was as nice as could be. He put his arms around us and acted like we were his good friends. I guess this is one of the reasons I like supporting the Blue Jackets....the players who I have been lucky enough to meet have all been genuinely friendly and nice. They certainly don't come off as "divas" or a$$holes or whatever the term for jocks is. Maybe because in Columbus they have to play second fiddle to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team; I don't know. But it's fun to cheer these guys on and meeting them at things like this just makes it easier for me to do it.

After this photo op there was an additional exhibition On-Ice Skills Competition that we stayed for, but for the half hour before it started all the daughter did was try to take candid photos of her favorite. I'll leave you with one of the better ones.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki April 5, 1996

Editor's Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a column being written by our Co-Ordinator for International Relations, Russell. He will comment on Japanese culture, customs, and languages from his point of view. Understanding the differences between cultures is the first step towards "International Relations." We hope to be interesting, fun, and at times please look forward to it.

Let's Protect the Earth!
When Spring rolls around the Japanese heart turns to Nature, right? The strong image I have is "Let's drink at Hanami (outdoor flower viewing drinking parties)." However, the other image I have is that after Hanami parties there are always beer cans and other garbage left on-site. Why is this? I always hear about "Japan is very short of natural resources," but I see people dash in to grocery stores without turning off their engines and people not turn lights off when they leave rooms. I just don't understand this. The responsibility to protect the Earth has nothing to do with national boundaries. However, I think Japan is behind other countries in their Environmental Protection activities.
Aya Town* is blessed with beautiful bountiful nature, and I hope that they maintain it as it is forever. However, "We've gotta keep it pure" can't be just something we say. Everyone, individually, must cooperate Recyling and re-using should be something that is done more fervently. Aya citizens who live in such a beautiful town such be the leaders in the (Miyazaki) prefectural Environmental activities. On Sunday, April 14 there will be an Earth Day Festival in Miyazaki City. It will start at 11 AM at the Miyazaki City Park. Please stop by and visit us there! (located next to the Science Engineering Hall).

*Aya (cho) Town is the name of the "machi' I lived in from 1987 to 2001. It is located in the Shoyojurin Teruha Mountains, which is registered with the Japanese Environmental Agency as one of the most beautiful and natural areas in Japan.

By 1996 I was one of the "leaders" of the Miyazaki (prefectural) international community. (Most other CIRs (CoOrdinators for International Relations) were only there for 3 years at the most; however, I was already on my 9th year.) I had been asked to be on the prefectural Earth Day committee, which planned the April event every year. When I was asked to begin writing these articles I started off with something I figured everyone would agree with: Keep the Earth Beautiful!
This was a good start. :-)
And by the way, my editor was my wife, Yuko. I'll let you know if there was ever any back-stage drama.

Let me know what you think of these, please.
My computer doesn't allow Japanese characters, but I can usually read them, so Japanese is OK nihongo no comment demo kekko desu yo!

Programming Note:
Starting next week, Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki will be moving to Fridays. The weekly bulletin where these columns originally appeared were published on Fridays, so I thought that would be more appropriate. I'll have something else on Mondays. :-)