Sunday, March 9, 2014

In Memory of March 11, 2011

In between getting the kids ready to leave the house and changing the kids' clothes and diapers to get ready once again to leave the house I'd like to take a minute to share three events taking place in New York City today, to commemorate the 3-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

1 - Consortium for Japan Relief - http://nyjapan311.org/

2 - Together for 3/11 - https://www.facebook.com/TOGETHERFOR311

3 - "Memorial services for victims of Earthquake and Tsunami" - http://www.jaany.org/monthly_events.html

Three years after the triple disaster over 130,000 people are still displaced. Please help by purchasing my personal account of being there in Fukushima: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0984364714

From Japan, thank you for your support.


Monday, February 24, 2014

In Support of Those Who Remain...

From my kitchen table in New York the events of March 11, 2011 seem a distant memory.

For those still living in Fukushima, for those displaced to other areas, some of them mothers and children separated from their husbands and fathers who remain in Fukushima to work, the rumbling has yet to stop.

Three years on, the rebuilding of towns, of communities, of lives continues - as it does anywhere disaster strikes. This is why I am grateful to be teaming up with Catholic Relief Services in the ongoing effort to give an assist to those who need it most.

Proceeds from the sale of For Now will be passed on to CRS, to help many thousands of people still in need.

So please, grab a copy, and a couple more for your friends. Help spread the word throughout your own circles. Influence others to help by sharing your thoughts on the book in an online review.

And please, keep those who continue to suffer in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sochi Recap #2: Slovenia 5 - Houston 0

The medal count slowly continues to rise in Sochi. And with the US sticking around the top of the leader board millions of Americans continue to scream "We're Number One!" for doing nothing but drinking beer and cheering from their barstools. And while I take comfort in China being out-medaled by countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Austria, I watch the US and Russia beating on countries one-tenth their size and I feel my nationalistic pride mitigated.

In high school sports (as least as far as I can recall - it's been a few years) teams were put in conferences and, particularly for state championship bragging rights, competed in groups based on size of school.

In college, schools are placed in divisions based on a number of factors including size of school, size of football stadium, scholarships granted and suitcases full of cash handed over in back-campus parking lots.

In the Olympics there are no divisions, no groups. Everyone competes on one big global playing field (figuratively speaking). So to speak of medal count as a measure of a country's success can be misleading. If Russia scores more medals than the Netherlands where's the pride, really? Russia is 8 times the size of the Netherlands in terms of population and, here in Sochi, they know all the best parking lots for handing over suitcases full of cash. So when considering the number of medals a country has won, that country's population (in terms of people and suitcases) should also be taken into account.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 2014 Sochi Games

Update #1 (of at least one)

US snowboarder Danny Someone
showing off his point-scoring Stylus.
I’d love to be in Sochi right now, gadflying about, taking in this suicidal skiing event here and that narcissistic judge-based ‘Look at me fly around on my snowboard’ event there. I’d kill to get paid to post articles that regurgitate the same ‘stunning, heart-pounding’ results everyone else is spewing up while trading my per diem for Sochi cuisine and a non-alcoholic beer (judging from this video, which is about as dry as they make Sochi out to be). I'd even abandon my semi-warm New York home for a room in Sochi, in the athlete village that seems designed to double as a tribute to the failings of communism.

But the reality is I am at home – where I don’t even have a TV. (Technically I do have a TV, a nice flat screen someone down the street put out for the garbage man last month, but I have not subscribed to the dogma of the cable gods so it's only good for my sons' DVDs.) I did recently scored free wi-fi from my neighbor so my son and I could enjoy the Super Bowl on my laptop (giving me my first reason since the inception of The Simpsons to like FOX). However the powers-that-harumph at NBC have a different definition of modern corporate goodwill, magnanimously allowing my fellow Americans and I to view the Games online – exclusively through our cable provider.

So I find myself relegated to this whimsical Internet connection and staccato clips of a (maybe) blond Julie Donaldson still capitalizing on her 2000 Miss Florida USA title as she gets to read about the highlight videos from a teleprompter. Alternatively, I can read thousands of update articles that express no humor or irony in how these Games are playing out.

This is where I feel I must jump in.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

'Happy Wedding!'

The Japanese Wedding Industry

Photo courtesy of Jonelle Patrick (http://jonellepatrick.me/)
My fellow English teacher Yuriko just couldn’t be any more excited about her yellow wedding dress.

She giggled as she dreamed aloud of the church, decorated with flowers. The sound of heavenly music streaming in from somewhere overhead. The pews filled with happy, smiling friends and family (actually they’d only be a quarter full but we’ll get to that).

She stared through me into space, breathing visions of a robed, bible-toting celebrant declaring proudly and warmly (and completely unofficially) that she is now married to the man at her side (a man wearing a tuxedo he got from the men’s dressing room under the church).

Yes, standing before an altar that looks very real, beneath stained glass and surrounded by replicas of holy things, she and her beloved would hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes as their rent-a-priest recited religious platitudes no one in the building – not she nor her new husband, nor the carefully-selected congregation, not even the priest himself – could understand.

Welcome to the meticulous and non-sensical Japanese wedding industry.

‘Sounds nice,’ I said to my starry-eyed co-worker, who had invited me and the rest of the teaching staff to her wedding celebration, supposedly in two weeks. ‘I’m looking forward to it.’

No response. Still starry eyed.

‘So…what did you do this weekend?’ I asked. She was probably busy with all the preparation I assumed went into planning a wedding.

Yuriko’s face brightened. She looked gleefully into my eyes. ‘Oh, I got married!’ Then she grabbed something off a shelf and hurried down the hall.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Look At Us!


If the Huntington, NY town council had a mascot it would be the Greek god Narcissus.

It was in the waning days of August 2012 when I noticed the sign. I was cruising down Larkfield Avenue in East Northport. (A bit of clarification: here on Long Island villages are part of towns are part of bigger towns, it makes no sense,  please accept the weird fact that the town of East Northport is part of the town of Huntington).

John Walsh Memorial Park, read the sign in big proud letters. I wanted to stop and get a better look, both at the park and the sign but there were people behind me - people who, I'd learned in my first hour in town, didn't stop for stop signs. Plus my car had New Jersey plates. I kept moving.

But I had just decided I would be making my home here in this nice little town within a town along the north shore of Long Island. And I figured I'd have the chance soon enough to come back and find out who John Walsh was. I mean, not everyone gets a park named after him, old JW must have been something special, at least around these parts.

Alas, I'd not find out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A government of laws, and not of men.

Ever get a parking ticket in New York City?

I have.

Ever fight one?

I did.

This past May I took my family to the Japan Day festival in Central Park, and after twenty minutes of driving in circles I found a spot four or five blocks from the nearest park entrance.

Now what need there is for parking restrictions on a Sunday I can not imagine. Neither, I would bet, can anyone in the monstrous entity that creates these rules but Hey what a money-maker!

The particular block I parked on is, according to the sign, quite busy between 4 and 7 every day of the week. Reality proves quite a different and, to the city, entirely irrelevant matter. It's 4 o'clock, your car is now a $115 nuisance.

I admit I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to stupid rules and useless authority figures - in other words, anyone and anything that tries to tell me what to do. So I decided to tell NYC Finance what I thought about being ticketed at 4:11 because my one son had very recently dropped a massive bomb in his diaper and my other son was going to soil his Umbros if we didn't find a bathroom pronto.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to Survive Your Kid's Summertime Birthday Party (as seen on Yahoo!)

The following is an intro to my debut as a contributing writer on Yahoo! With this I join the exclusive ranks of those who have been selected to have their literary genius brought to the masses. I think I'm number 608,773. Someone please pass the SEO.


8 Ways to Survive (one involving assaulting a watermelon)

If you are as poor a planner as I am, perhaps you have a child who was born in the dog days of summer. If you are as ambitious a parent as I pretend to be, maybe you're determined to weather the heat and humidity and have your kid's birthday party out in the yard. If so, I'd like to extend a few pointers I've picked up along my way that might help you too avoid a big day meltdown...

I don't expect to change the world. But if I can save the sanity of just one parent it will all be worth it. Though I'd rather get a few million hits.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Small-Town, Good Times: Floyd, Virginia

On the Music Trail - Floyd, VA

The great thing about traveling is, you never know what the road might lead to...

Thus begins my latest post over at Full Of Knowledge. For all you denizens of the Mid-Atlantic looking for a place to go to recharge the old batteries and maybe take in something new this summer, here is one suggestion. You may thank me at your leisure.


I Am Full Of Knowledge

Yay!

That post titleby the way, is meant not to brag about my extensive expertise on innumerable subjects but to merely point out that I am now writing for FullOfKnowledge.com - this despite my self-appraisal as Full Of Something Else.

While I expect to be digging into the archives here once in a while to unabashedly beef up my content over at FoKn, you can feel confident, keen and caring reader, that I will not simply be cutting and pasting. Aside from the fact that certain Lords of the Web know how to find and punish such sloth, I find looking back that my writing has had a tendency to suck.

Okay that's a little harsh.

My writing has had a tendency to be as intelligible as my Japanese.

There, that's better.

So when I do bring my classic and dusty wit and wisdom to my new audience I will be editing and refining and splitting my long-winded posts into parts so my list of titles will be longer and it will look like I've been even harder at work than usual. I will not, however, be shutting down this blog. On the contrary, I will be cutting and pasting excerpts from there and sticking them here. Got to keep those Web Lords occupied.

FoKn, aside from providing a vast array of subject matter, aspires to publish only the highest-quality writing anyone will produce for no guaranteed compensation. Which means until they take a good look, I will be contributing in my own linguistically acrobatic way.

So please do head on over to Full Of Knowledge - and feel free to click those wonderful ads.