Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Rock the Vote II – Sumo Video “The Director’s Cut”

 This another video that I’ve upload to Current TV. It’s a “Director’s Cut” of my recent sumo video with a title sequence, 30 seconds of extended footage, and extra tidbits of information.

 If you feel like voting please go to:

http://www.current.tv/watch/61470061

register and vote!

Thanks!

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June 23, 2007 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, current tv, japan, life, media, news, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, TV, video, yokozuna | 2 Comments

Rock the Vote! Vote for “An Eclectic Cultural Montage”

The above video I just sent to Current TV (current tv). It’s up for votes to get picked for TV so if you feel generous, please register and vote for my pod/video at:

http://www.current.tv/watch/47178271

Current TV is a cable show that puts on viewer-created material. Check out the Wiki article for more info:

Current TV

Now the way the voting system works is that newbie voter’s score is only about 1.5 points and more active members have a whopping 10 points behind their vote. So for those who really want to help, I’d advise voting – which means Greenlighting – and commenting on other pods/videos to get your score up before voting on mine. Here’s a small eclectic selection of a few pods/vids that I like which I think deserve votes:

A surreal vid on the Old West in the Old Communist East:

Bohemian West

A very interesting vid on the incompetent sale of weapons by the US government and the apathy of media and the public:

Big Media Fails Again

An environmentally friendly car:

electric car

You may have seen him on Youtube or Myspace, anything by Mark Day deserves votes for being funny, witty, and insightful:

Secrets of the universe

markday

another chlling political vid which shows the position of the US fleet in the Persian Gulf:

toys in the gulf

A candid look at a group of soldiers in Iraq made by the soldiers themselves:

Soldiers in an Iraqi city

These are are just a few of the great videos over there so surf around and vote for the ones you like. I plan to upload remastered versions of some of the videos here for later shows so please vote for them too!

Thanks!

The theme music is Jack’s Surf Shop by the exotic ones

June 14, 2007 Posted by | beefeater, culture, current tv, dance, devils, England, festival, geisha, japan, Kendo, Kyoto, life, martial arts, matsuri, media, montage, morioka, music, nebuta, ninja, politics, samurai, sansa odori, sumo, taiko, travel, TV, video, voting | 2 Comments

Capitalizing on Tragedy

Capitalizing on Tragedy
The use of tragedy for not-so subtle socio-political agendas

Well another tragedy has occurred and its unfortunately time for the capitalizing of it for not-so subtle socio-political agendas. Time for the loonies and hatemongers to mount their specially-prepared soapboxes and let fly with whatever harebrained agenda of theirs that they can loosely tie this tragedy to.

From racism, gun control, 2nd Amendment, bias media coverage to conspiracy theories, various media spokespeople, politicians, and bloggers will find a way to use and manipulate this recent tragedy to fit into their agendas.

At least since 911, I have seen in a variety of media outlets and on the Internet similar efforts to use such tragedies to fuel barely connected situations and barely logical arguments.

Debate is one thing but these type of people seem less interest in debate and more interested in promoting their socio-political views using the current tragedy of the day as their platform.

This situation is of course nothing new going back centuries, millenia even. However, Internet media with blogs and video blogs helps to compound the capitalizing of tragedies more so than in the past.

On a number of sites, I have seen people commenting (some of them rudely) on why the Virginia Tech tragedy gets so much media coverage while people are dying in Iraq. These comments have come from ultra-liberals, pro-war supporters, and anti-Americans from my observation. Despite the different backgrounds they have the same thing in common: a lack of tact and common sense.

I have seen similar comments in the wake of other violent tragedies such 911, the London subway bombings, the Bali bombings, and the Madrid train bombings.

These kind of comments are not new nor are they terribly thought-provoking. Not for a moment did I then nor do I now believe that the purpose behind such statements were honest or sincere. They are just surprise attacks while people are reeling from an unexpected tragedy.

Different tragedy yet similar comments by some tactless person pretending to care when they really don’t. It’s when the TV show American Idol gets more news coverage than Iraq War violence that one should make such comments.

Other forms of capitalizing I’ve seen so far with the Virginia Tech tragedy are fanatics trying to tie this event in with the war in Iraq, immigration policies, gun control, religion, and terrorism.

Gun control, however, is less capitalizing in that given the nature of the tragedy, it’s only natural to debate over the readily availability of guns. There is a connection unlike the Iraq War, immigration, religion, or terrorism. But what is capitalizing is blaming guns for the tragedy as though they were the sole source of a much bigger issue – or the reverse: creating strawman arguments that there is a big movement out to ban all guns.

Racism has to be the worst thing coming from fringe groups and disturbed individuals who are using the Virgina Tech tragedy to spread their hatred whether against Asians or towards white Americans. The popular WebTV site, Youtube, has seen a small number of videos either praising the shooter or condemning all Asians.

The anonymity that the Internet gives users allows certain people to be more tactless than they would be in person. Thus message boards are targeted with hateful racist comments or displays of sick humor.

It is unforunate that such tragedies often brings out these types of opportunistic people who care less for the victims and more for their agendas. And we will more than likely see it again whenever the next tragedy occurs.

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, gun control, life, media, opinion, racism, tragedy, virginia tech | 3 Comments

Money Talks And Listens – Spying Canadian Coins


Coins That Spy

A Penny for Your Thoughts and Your Whereabouts
Kooky Canadian Coins

As an American, I’ve always thought Canadian currency a bit funny but not in the “ha! ha!” funny kind of way. More like the “how the hell did I end up with this goddamn Canadian quarter?”  kind of funny. I had always been particularly mystified how Canadian coins periodically would turn up in financial transactions as far south as Alabama. Usually these coins are secretly pawned off on unsuspecting victims mixed in with an assortment of change. The victim having no idea walks off and discovers too late that they’ve been hit by the chain letter of coin currency. Now they have to become the perpetrator of international money laundering.

Now it seems that perhaps these migrant Canadian coins floating about in the flotsam and jetsam of American coinage might not have been so innocent after all or even just part of a harmless but annoying currency prank.

The Pentagon has recently discovered Canadian coins tracking government contractors with high level security clearances. Why Canadian coins would want to track such people or anyone for that matter is a mystery. But it’s beleive that the coins really had no say in the matter and were being used by an unknown group.

The coins were discovered to contain radio frequency transmitters inside them. The Pentagon so far has not released information on how these transmitters exactly function but experts feel such a transmitter would have an effectively short range and be affected by the metal of the coin itself.

The coins would also be at risk of being easily passed on at restaurant or vending machine. Left in a briefcase, however, the coins might not arouse suspicion or be readily spent.

Despite the belief in the ineffectiveness of such a device, the Pentagon insists the coins are real and the risk serious.

The leading suspects who would have access to such technology which might be able to track a person for several kilometers and have actively engaged in espionage in Canada are Russia, China, and France.

Canada is not a suspect but true to its nature apologized anyway. Hollow coins have been used before by US spies to hide film and messages.

So the next time a Canadian coin just “accidentally” pops up amongst your American coins, it might just be a tracking device. The evil Russkies, the commie Chinese, or the godless French could be monitoring your every move . I know I’ll be ready. I’ll bore whoever is tracking me to death with my extreme lack of movement away from my computer and Playstation.

January 11, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, Canada, CIA, coins, media, news, Pentagon, politics, spies | 8 Comments

Madonna Wraps Up Controversial Confessions Tour in Tokyo

Madonna Ends Tour in Tokyo without Fuss
The controversial crucifixion scene

Madonna wrapped up her controversial yet highly successful Confessions Tour on Thursday September 21 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. Madonna’s Confession tour has been dogged by outrage and protest from religious groups throughout the world for her crucifixion performance.

Many have felt the act blasphemous and disrespectful to Christianity. Madonna countered this by saying the performance was designed to highlight the suffering of AIDS orphans in Africa.

The tour started on May 21 in Los Angeles and went through several major U.S. cities gaining notoriety as it went before leaping over to Europe and into another hotbed of controversy. Even the Pope got involved. From Russia, her tour flew to Japan where she performed without much fuss two nights each in Osaka and Tokyo. Originally she had planned to finish the tour in Australia but was unable to do so for logistical reasons.

By the time, the Confessions tour ended, Madonna had performed 60 shows in front of over a million people on three continents. The Confessions Tour grossed $193.7 million, the highest ever for a female artist.


The huge Tokyo Dome — taken from the nosebleed section

What shocked and angered religious groups was not the belly dancing, the male-slave horseback riding, nor the hedonistic glam rock-n-roll roller-skating. It was the crucifixion scene that sent them into catatonic fits of religious fervor. During one of her sets, Madonna was slowly raised up on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns. She sang “Live to Tell” while images were shown of the African AIDS crisis and its orphans.

Religious groups comprising Jews, Christians, and Muslims voiced outrage at what they saw as sacrilegious.

Madonna recently issued a public defense of her crucifixion scene:

“I am very grateful that my show was so well received all over the world. But there seems to be many misinterpretations about my appearance on the cross and I wanted to explain it myself once and for all.“There is a segment in my show where three of my dancers ‘confess’ or share harrowing experiences from their childhood that they ultimately overcame. My ‘confession’ follows and takes place on a Crucifix that I ultimately come down from. This is not a mocking of the church. It is no different than a person wearing a Cross or ‘Taking Up the Cross’ as it says in the Bible. My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing.

“My specific intent is to bring attention to the millions of children in Africa who are dying every day, and are living without care, without medicine and without hope. I am asking people to open their hearts and minds to get involved in whatever way they can. The song ends with a quote from the Bible’s Book of Matthew:

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me and God replied, “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers… you did it to me.”‘

“Please do not pass judgment without seeing my show.”


Madonna tries to bring peace to the Middle East via modern interpretive dancing.

Madonna even invited the Pope to attend her show.


Madonna complete with riding crop and hat to go slaveback riding.

There was little fuss made in predominately non-Christian Japan. When the mirrored cross was raised there was little in the way of excessive cheers or jeers in Tokyo. For most of the Japanese audience, it was just part of the show.


Madonna with a T-shirt endorsement of Japanese sexual prowess

With the exception of the crucifixion scene, the Confessions Tour seemed far milder than earlier tours. In the early 1990s Madonna garnered notoriety with sex-laiden acts that included topless dancers, S&M outfits, simulated masturbation, and so forth. She particularly prickled Puerto Rico by rubbing their flag in her crotch.


Madonna as a re-imagined John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever

As for moi, I was way up in the stratosphere of the Tokyo Dome somewhere in the vicinity of the orbit of the planet Venus. The ticket still cost me a whopping $90! I only went because a Japanese girl wanted to go. I was more taken by the beer girls before the show. Truly working class heroes/heroines for the common man!


My heroine!

Still it was a fun concert. And whether I like her music or not is immaterial. As with any Gen Xer, Madonna is an intricate part of my pop-culture universe. Her songs ebbied and flowed in the background of my growing up experience influencing the style and thinking of my peers. We were either consciously or sub-consciously voguing, expressing ourselves, living to tell the secret to preaching papa’s, praying to Black Jesuses on our own private Isla Bonita while justifying our love to our virginal-like lucky stars. Personally, I think she was a far sight better than those god-awful hairbands of the late 80s.


One more for the liver, baby, onegaishimasu!

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 20 years since Madonna made her debut during the baby years of MTV. Her original teenage audience are now in their late 30s to early 40s with young teenagers many of whom listen to Madonna today. One of my students told me that she saw Madonna in concert 18 years ago in Tokyo.

The amazing thing about Madonna has been her ability to re-invent herself. And she knows how to work the media to her benefit by shocking the hell out of conservative types. Despite calls for boycotting the concert, Madonna made more money than any female artist in concert ever has before. She should send donations to the religious groups who kicked up such a fuss that created all the free publicity.

September 30, 2006 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Blogroll, confessions, japan, madonna, media, music concert, tokyo, TV | 1 Comment

Some Thoughts on “Lost in Translation” and Tokyo

©2005 Zoetrope

Bob Harris: Can you keep a secret? I’m trying to organize a prison break. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I’m in.

I recently re-watched “Lost in Translation” on DVD. Watching the movie again, I was reminded of the first time I saw it in Tokyo and the Japanese reaction to the film. It was in a small, overheated theater in Shibuya last spring. It had taken close to seven months for the movie, which had been shot entirely in Japan, to finally open here.

The theater was packed with Japanese, and boy were they upset! At the end of the movie they began to attack the few gaijin (foreigners) in the theater.

Actually, the Japanese audience seemed to really enjoy the movie. I heard a lot of laughter. I don’t know why there was so much controversy when it was first released in the States. In time the movie became popular enough among Japanese to be shown in quite a few movie theaters (with better heating systems) throughout Japan.

Many Japanese I talked to liked the film. There were a few things they thought were a little too much, such as the interpreter for Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) for a Suntory Whiskey commercial who translated only the barest amount of the director’s comments, and often inaccurately.

“Lost in Translation,” in my opinion, is not “anti-Japanese,” as a few people apparently think it is. It is rather “anti-Tokyo,” and subsequently, “anti-big city.”

Tokyo is a huge city even for the Japanese, more megalopolis than metropolis. One of the main complaints from residents is that the city has very little in the way of nature. At times it can seem as though every square meter of Tokyo has been covered in concrete and has a convenience store placed upon it.

A train pushes through the urban chaos of Tokyo.

For a culture whose roots lie in the nature-based spirituality of Shintoism, places like Tokyo can be difficult even for the Japanese to bear. However, what is not shown in the film, and is often overlooked by visitors and foreign residents alike, is the way in which many Tokyoites have brought nature, albeit on a small scale, into the big city. Countless small but elegant gardens dot Tokyo. Flowers are everywhere, from temples to train tracks. The city may be crammed with buildings, but it does possess parks where city dwellers can completely lose themselves and forget they are in one of the largest cities in the world.

Some Tokyo parks are virtually a forest within a city.

A good deal of “Lost in Translation” focuses on the urban loneliness that can affect both visitors and residents in Tokyo or any big city. At times Tokyo can feel like it is crushing one’s senses with all its buildings, neon, noise, confusion, oddness, traffic, and massive amount of people. Tokyo is definitely a city people have to come to terms with on their own.

Tokyo is a busy city for busy people with busy plans. For those who are in a transition or a stagnant period of life, such busy-ness can be overwhelming. The “Lost in Translation” effect is the alienation that anyone stuck in a rut can feel, not only in Tokyo, but in any place that is new and strange.

The main characters of the film are only in Tokyo for a week or so and much of the time they seem to spend in their hotel. The few times they venture out, they generally seem to have some fun, such as when they go to karaoke.

Their animosity towards Tokyo and the Japanese seems to stem more from the underlying loathing they have for their own lives and their lack of direction. By the end of the movie, however, we see they don’t really hate Tokyo, as Scarlett Johansson’s character, Charlotte, jokingly suggests to Bill Murray they could start up a jazz band and never leave.

Panicking on an overcrowded train

Overall, I thought the movie did a good job in its portrayal of two lost souls in the urban chaos of Tokyo. Murray gave a fine performance by simply not going overboard and giving us the “Bill Murray” from the movies and “Saturday Night Live.” He was funny in a low-key, genuine way.

Johansson never gave into dramatic displays of despair or soul-wrenching monologues that scream “I’d like to thank the Academy…” Both actors gave earnest performances that were stronger for their restraint. In a time where over-acting melodramatics abound in cinema, it was nice to see a movie that didn’t seem like a movie. It felt like the kind of bittersweet story that either has happened or could happen to any of us in our lives.

Now, from the point of view of a foreigner living in Tokyo, I thought “Lost in Translation” was quite accurate, though I have never stayed in a five-star hotel in Japan, had a high-priced prostitute sent to my room, or gone to any of those ritzy strip clubs depicted in the film. Had they filmed more scenes in izakaya (Hub Pubs), cheap noodle places, and sleazy meat-market dance clubs in Roppongi, I could have related more to the movie.

One of the myriad of drink machines that inhabit Tokyo.

A few extra things I feel the film needed to make it even more representative of Tokyo:

  • Elevator doors that squash you.
  • Revolving doors that kill you.
    Japanese goth girls
  • Drunk salarymen vomiting everywhere, especially on the platforms while they are trying to catch the last trains — I have seen more vomit on an average Friday night in Tokyo than I ever saw at Oktoberfest.
  • Drink vending machines everywhere.
  • The seemingly prerecorded programmed speech of “irrashaimase” you hear from service staff every time you enter a convenience store, restaurant, department store, brothel, etc…
  • Tissue-packet people who make it impossible to get by without taking a packet.
  • Those lovely, photogenic Sunday Harajuku Goth freaks in front of Yoyogi Park.
  • The orange-skin girls with Day-Glo make-up.
  • Massage girls in the street harassing men saying, “Massagee? Massagee?”
  • Pampered, neurotic little dogs.
  • Asking fast-food staff to hold an ingredient like mayo from a sandwich/burger and receiving a look of severe confusion.
  • Monstrous crows — the governor of the Tokyo area has made it his personal crusade to rid Tokyo of these winged pests after two crows viciously attacked him on a golf course.
    One of Tokyo’s large crows enjoying the cherry blossoms
  • People walking and e-mailing on their phones all the time, oblivious to everything around them.
  • Drunk, embittered English teachers in tacky blue shirts and badly knotted ties — I’m convinced the jazz band at the hotel had day jobs as English teachers.
  • Neurotic expats that make such a point not to look at you that you are very aware that they are making a point not to look at you. (There is a certain breed of expats in Japan who have adopted the xenophobia of right-wing Japanese and pretend to be Japanese at all costs.)
  • Road construction crews and the guy whose only job is to wave people through with a flashlight.
  • Oppressive cuteness.
  • Trains so overcrowded at rush hour that people have to be squished into the car by white-gloved train attendants.
  • Convenience stores on nearly every block. There must be a law that states there have to be at least 10 convenience stores in one square kilometer around any major station.
  • The little animation of women on ATM and train-ticket machines that bow to you after you make your transaction.
  • Annoying department store music that repeats itself over and over again.
  • The knee-high boots and short-skirts fashion in the winter — a personal favorite of mine.
    Passengers pack themselves in
  • September 18, 2006 Posted by | Bill Murray, Blogroll, Goth Girls, Harajuku, japan, Lost in Translation, media, Scarlett Johansson, sofia coppola, tokyo, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

    Remembering the Scandals of the 90s or why I lost respect for the Media

    A look back at the newsworthy items that American media pumped out to the masses
    Coming from America, a country that is at one point news-obsessed with countless news programs on TV, newspapers, and magazines available and yet at the same time often oddly unaware of what is going on in the world, I’m used to having the news media giants dictate what is newsworthy and what isn’t. Prior to the 90s, I had little reason to question the media’s competency and objectivity. The media still seemed to possess some element of aloof professionalism. Of course, I was horribly young at the time and easily influenced.It had to be the Buttifuco scandal in the early 90s that first shook my faith in the professional media. A New England tart decided her boyfriend, a man twice her age, was worth keeping to the point of shooting his wife point blank in the head. Her aim was not as true as her love apparently as the wife survived as the story hit nationwide. For some reason this was worthy of national news. But it wasn’t just one blurb on the nightly news – spoken and soon forgotten – it became an obsession of the nation fueled by numerous follow-up reports.

    Amy Fisher’s Mugshot
    2006 Wikipedia

    Shortly after came the infamous Bobbitt case where a young wife tired of her husband’s cheating ways, decided to releive him of his pride and joy while he slept. The conscequences of her actions rode a slurpee cup to the operation room and into the living rooms of millions of Americans. What should have been tabloid fodder became food for thought for the professional media to ponder over.

    John Wayne Bobbitt briefly became an Adult Film Star after his brush with a kitchen knife
    2006 Wikipedia

    When that began to die off yet another scandal arose – the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding Olympic figure ice skating fiasco where Ms. Harding had decided to even the odds in her favor with a crowbar to Kerrigan’s legs. This newsworthy item dragged on to its bitter end with Ms. Harding crying pitifully to the judges over a skate whose lacing had come undone.

    Tonya Harding cries over loose laces as many Americans shake heads in disgust
    2006 Wikipedia

    Then came the be-all grandest scandal that shook the media world to its knees. Not Somalia, not the Yugoslavia War, it was the (cue trumpets and drums) the OJ Simpson scandal – undoubtably the grandest of all scandals that dragged on and on and on and on like some B-grade horror monster that refuses to die no matter what.

    When OJ Simpson’s white ford bronco hit the LA streets one warm summer evening, media moguls must have shed a tear of gratitude as their fingers speed-dialed their news offices.

    OJ Simpson’s white Ford Bronco leads the LAPD on a slow chase
    2006 internet

    By that time I had reached a point of utter disgust and distrust of the so-called professional media. Gone seemed to be the days of the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. “This is what the public wants!” was often the defense for the coverage of these stories. Perhaps, but is it what the public needs from the professional media? Let the tabloids print the tabloids.

    The Jerry Springer Show
    The True Media Circus without the Pretension
    The Ringmaster: Jerry Springer
    Wikipedia

    For the astute followers of American pop-culture, they are no doubt aware that the controversial talk show: “The Springer Show,” came about in the midst of these scandals. The Springer Show hosted by former mayor of Cinnicinata, Jerry Springer, allowed trailer trash, ghetto garbage, flashing exhibitionists and theirl like to debate their differences, ie swing fists and chairs at one another while the audience chanted “Jerry! Jerry!”

    Jerry Springer gave the public what it wanted but he never made the pretense that his show was anything other than a type of public circus. In the face of critics, he has even said his show is dumb. Therein, I think, lies the difference between his show and the professional media especially in regards to their coverage of similar topics. / David M Weber

    The icing on the proverbial cake had to be the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair that followed in the wake of the OJ trial. The theater of the absurd was in full swing as an American President was nearly impeached over a completely overblown non-issue. And the professional media was there to discuss the finer details of Presidential deposits on intern dresses.

    Monica Lewinsky gets a hug from President Clinton
    2006 Wikipedia

    Finally at the end of a long decade of tabloid scandals which were given more media attention than was possibly needed, came the debacle of the 2000 Presidential election coverage. Here was an actual newsworthy event and they bungled it royally. Before all the votes were in, FoxNews declared current President Bush the winner. Many of the other media sources fell in line save a brave few. This premature call just caused more confusion in the months that followed as the results were being sorted out.

    6 years, two wars, and thousands of dead later, one wonders how different the world might have been if the professional media had just done its job and not jumped the gun so quickly.

    For these reasons whenever criticism is leveled at citizen journalism, I just roll my eyes and think just how objective and professional the professional media has been in my country over the last 15 years or so as they chased one tabloid story after another. Thanks to such indepth coverage, Americans knew more about the dresses the prosecutor wore at OJ Simpson’s murder trial than they did about Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

    August 6, 2006 Posted by | 1990s, Amy Fisher, Blogroll, Bobbit, Clinton, media, Monica Lewinsky, OJ Simpson, politics, scandals, Tonya Harding, TV, Uncategorized | 9 Comments