Thursday, May 29, 2008

Six Things May 29, 2008

Stupid "#%()'$#%( weather.

Rain, The Beatles

(thanks to debsue)

One More Rainy Day, Deep Purple

(thanks to elihzzz)

It's Raining Men, The Weather Girls

(thanks to SuperPat1972)

Singin' In The Rain, Gene Kelly

(thanks to hafizaguncesi)

No Rain, Blind Melon

(thanks to hqvids)

Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday was supposed to be here but watching the video sent me on a quest for something else so I'm using what I found instead.

(thanks to peternokidding)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Former TBS announcer Ako Kawada commits suicide 川田亜子さん自殺

Former TBS announcer Ako Kawada 川田亜子 was found dead Monday. Kawada sealed herself in a car belonging to her talent agency and died of carbon monoxide poisoning via a small grill in the backseat of the car. She was 29.

There was a note addressed to her parents in the car but nothing else indicating why she had decided to commit suicide. In her 5/22 blog post she wrote: 一番苦痛であります。(It is most painful) and 今はせつないです。(Right now (I) am sad) and according to her talent agency she was recommended to see a doctor as her physical appearance had worsened at the beginning of the month.

Other reports:
MDN (English)
Tokyograph (English)
Sankei Sports (Japanese)
Yomiuri (Japanese)

This is currently the cover story for a number of the daily sheets and what I woke up to when watching めざましテレビ. One of the main reasons I know who she is is that as a TBS announcer, she was one of the hosts of BODY, the precursor to SASUKE Maniac. She was also a sideline reporter at both SASUKE, KUNOICHI and the Sportsman No. 1 competitions during her time at TBS (2002 to 2007).

Monday, May 26, 2008

SASUKE MANIAC May 25, 2008 Sort of liveblog! サスケマニア

This week! No more Maguro Festival! It'll be like Motley Crue said, "Girls, girls, girls!" Except not! Someone send me a copy of "The Dirt!"

While we're waiting let's see what's happening in the world of Japanese sports! Baseball highlights set to a cover version of Beat It! Kotooooooooooooshu! He won. Women's volleyball! They lost. Soyjoy! Everyone wins!

I hope that monster eats Kimura one day.

Jero! He's already sold out to the man!

Finally! Muscle Queen 2008! Tonight! The final stage!

1st Stage: Yurisa. 2nd Stage: Kayo Noro.

Last week Cherry Pie EXPLODED as one of them took out the other one.

Next up: Yurisa ユリサ vs. Inui Mayu 乾麻由! They are taking each other on that weird balance thing in Muscle Park (バランス). Yurisa's time was 3.03 seconds. Inui's second try! Here she goes! 2.49 seconds! Yurisa wins!

Kayo Noro 野呂佳代 vs. Nishiaki Aina 西秋愛菜 in the Body Clock (ボディクロック)! They have to press the button and try to be the closest to 10 seconds. Noro's time...9.81 seconds! Nishiaki...11.28! Noro wins! Nishiaki is out!

Momomi Yoshino 吉野ももみ vs. Miho of Cherry Pie! チェリー☆パイ みほ Whoever wins here will go on to the Final Stage! They have to touch the pads in order (アジリティ). Yoshino is first! Her time is 14.28. Miho is next! Can she do it? Here she goes! Ah! She misstepped! Will it cost her? 15.85! It did! Wait. Miho gets another chance. Here she goes! No! She missed the top button! 17.18 seconds! Yoshino is going to the Final Stage!

Flash Circle! (What?) First up is Noro vs. Yurisa! They have to touch lamps on poles (フラッシュサークル). Noro is first! AHH! No! She missed! Oh, they have to touch the lamps in order. Yurisa! She did it! Noro is out!

The next event! Workout (ワークアウト)! One minute of push ups! Not exactly the fastest of paces. Yoshino is in the early lead. One minute of sit ups! The pace picks up! It's still close! Yoshino is up by about 7. And that's the final difference! Final tally: 50- 43! Yoshino wins the third stage!

Yurisa is still in the lead with 20 points. Noro is next with 18 and Yoshino is last at 16. Yurisa is still hurting from the Workout!

Now they are in Dex Hiroba! Wherever that is. Yoshino finished 3rd, 3rd, 1st. Noro was 2nd, 1st, 3rd. Yurisa was 1st, 2nd, 2nd.

The last event! 空気椅子 Kuuki Isu! I forget what we call it in English. Chairs? They have do that thing where you have to hold yourself up in a sitting position with your back against the wall. Because of the point totals, Yurisa gets an extrat 40 seconds, Noro an extra 20 seconds. So Yoshino has to start, then Noro, then Yurisa.


We're back! Reaching 1:30. This is thrilling! Two minutes coming up. Yurisa is looking pained. This event possibly favors Yoshino. Wait! Noro is the first out! Yurisa and Yoshino! Two and a half minutes! Remember that Yurisa started over half a minute after Yoshino. Three minutes. Yurisa looks pained! She's tilting her head forward!


That air conditioner will follow you wherever you are! You can't escape it.

Because when I hear Goldfinger and Shirley Bassey, I think Nissan.

Back. Going past three minutes. Abunai! Yurisa tilts her head forward. Yabai! Yurisa's leg is buckling. That's it! At 3:50 (actually 3:48 is when Yurisa goes down but the horn goes off at 3:50) Yoshino wins and pulls off the comeback! Crying ensues. Yurisa is kind of whiny. Why is Miho crying? Yurisa I can understand. Yoshino gets a laurel wreath! She's your 2008 Muscle Queen! No previews for next week? OK then!

Congratulations to Momomi Yoshino!

Bonus material: Here's her wearing her wreath at home.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Japan Women's National Volleyball Team qualifies for Beijing Olympics

(photo shamelessly stolen from Megumi Kurihara's blog)

The Japan Women's National Volleyball Team beat their Asian rivals South Korea 25-20, 25-19, 21-25, 25-13 to clinch a berth to the Beijing Olympics. The women placed 5th in the 2004 Olympics and the team is currently ranked 8th in the world. Japan won the gold in '64 and '76 but haven't placed in the top three at the Olympics since 1984. The sport has seen a sort of resurgence in popularity in Japan as of late and recent tournaments involving the team have been broadcast during Golden Time.

Some of the popularity of the women's team is due in part to the team's young stars such as Megumi Kurihara 栗原恵 (Princess Megu プリンセス・メグ) and the way the team is marketed. Several team members have only their given names printed on their uniforms and some go by nicknames (Miyuki Takahashi 高橋みゆき goes by the name Shin). Kurihara, who graduated from high school in Hofu City, Yamaguchi, is extensively featured on the covers of volleyball magazines.

Volleyball at the Beijing Olympics will be held from August 9, 2008 to August 24, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

SASUKE MANIAC May 18, 2008 Sort of liveblog! サスケマニア

As always, the pictures that go with the story are here!

Yamada! Nagano! Takeda! Akiyama! Someone else! You have two choices! The All-Stars go head-to-head at the Maguro Festival! Can their friendship survive? Will the maguro ever be the same? Who will be number one? Who will conquer the Maguro Festival Mock-SASUKE Obstacle Course of Doom and Destruction? It's SASUKE MANIA!

While we're waiting, let's watch JSpo and take a look at Princess Megu (プリンセス・メグ) and the rest of Yanagimoto Japan, i.e. the Japan Women's National Volleyball Team who beat Puerto Rico tonight, 25-20, 25-18, 17-25, 26-24 in their bid to play in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

Whoa, what's up with that new Axe commercial? (It's the limited whatever one with the puppets)

What would YOU do if your girlfriend was a cyborg?

Last week we saw the first day of the Maguro Festival and the fun to be had there. This week, they promised us a competition of sorts as the All-Stars and others try to complete the short course.

More information about the Maguro Festival. HEY! That's Shingo Yamamoto! Perhaps he was busy pumping gas. Hey! Crazy marriage lady again.

Pipe Slider, Jumping Bar, Trampoline (just Trampoline), Shin-Cliff Hanger. It's some kind of special stage for today? No idea.

Some spectators try to tackle the course.

One guy (Yahagi Makoto 矢作誠) is from Tokyo. He has sent in SASUKE videos before but couldn't cut it at the last SASUKE trial. The Maguro Festival could be his chance!

Start! Pipe Slider. Cut to the Jumping Bar. No problem! Takeda and Yamamoto look on! Shin-Cliff Hanger. Swinging...swinging. NO! Was this his last chance? I guess we'll have to wait for 21 to find out.

Others are unable to clear the Shin-Cliff Hanger.

The All-Stars confer with each other. They're going to do a time trial! So they'll not only be competing against the course but against each other! All-Stars explode! They climb to the top of the course as they are introduced. Too bad Yamada didn't fall down while he was doing that.

Akiyama is up first! Pipe Slider. Hayai! Jumping Bar. SASUKE no All-Stars Gachinko Battle! Trampoline! Shin-Cliff Hanger coming up. NO! He fell! (He had made it during the demo part last week.)

Yamamoto is up next! Pipe Slider and Jumping Bar are done! Whoops! He went in the wrong order! He went for the Shin-Cliff Hanger before the Trampoline. Shin-Cliff Hanger..NO!

Mr. SASUKE is next! Pipe Slider and Jumping Bar are fine. Trampoline (you jump to a bar to hold on to then go a short distance). Shin-Cliff Hanger. OY! He's the first to complete the course! 50秒91!

Takeda up now! Pipe Slider. Jumping Bar. Woo. He's going fast. HOLY CRAP. Did Mr. SASUKE do something to piss him off? Takeda finishes the short course in less than half the time of Yamada. 20秒87!

Nagano! Can he do it? Man. It was too fast to even describe. What was his time? We wait to build some tension...21秒20!

Takeda wins!

Your Maguro Festival Mock-SASUKE Obstacle Course of Doom and Destruction winner is Toshihiro Takeda!

Yamada and Takeda miss Shiratori.

They go to Shiratori's house to talk to him (where he was apparently cleaning his SASUKE set - does he use Pledge?). Didn't quite catch what they said. Sorry.

Back to Maguro Festival. They all get a present! Free fish for everyone!

The All-Stars talk about their experience. Some little kid tries to get into Nagano's camera shot.

And that's it for this year!

2008 Muscle Queen! 2008 マッスルクィーン!

Last week! Kayo Noro 野呂佳代 defeated Yurisa ユリサ to tie them up at the top of the leader board. This week they go to Hiromichi Sato's old hangout, the Muscle Park!

Noro and Yurisa are already through so the others have to battle it out to determine the

Coordination! Momomi Yoshino 吉野ももみ and Izumi Takami 泉貴美! They have to follow the voice and touch the appropriate pad with their hands or feet. Yoshino is first! She gets 42. Izumi up now. She missed one somewhere I think. They stop tracking her score to build suspense. She has 40! Yoshino wins!

Next! Cherry Pie チェリー☆パイ explodes! I have no idea what the name of this event is. It's like Can Alley, if you know what that is. They have to throw balls into a raised basket but a cover is rotating so something. I have no idea. Kassun gets a total of 15 after two rounds. Miho only needs five to get through since she had 11 in the first round.

CMs. FYI, Kyoko Fukada has taken Kumi Koda's place as the CM face of Kirin.


Pressure! Miho struggles but pulls through! Kassun is out!


Oh wait. The program is over. I guess next week is more Muscle Queen! See you next week!

Monday, May 12, 2008

SASUKE MANIAC May 11, 2008 Sort of liveblog! サスケマニア

Update: Arsenette has pictures that I was too lazy to take here.

Decided to watch this one since it a) wasn't simply another re-hash of 20 and b) wasn't completely focussed on the Muscle Queen competition which I wasn't following because I didn't know who most of the people competing were.

D'oh! I missed the preview at the beginning.

We pick up at the station airport (Kagoshima Airport to be exact) where the All-Stars~! are meeting each other. There's Akiyama and Nagano meeting Mr. Tight Shirt Mr. SASUKE. And there's Takeda. He's the youngest but he's the latest!

It's off to the Maguro Festival! Day 1! Everyone is looking forward to it. At the Maguro Festival, there is a decided focus on Maguro. Who'd have thought it? Ohh..I'd like to try try some Maguro gyoza. 400 yen! They've got a whole SASUKE set-up there.

The All-Stars share their thoughts. Live from Kagoshima! It's the 17th Annual Maguro Festival!

Nagano reflects on how the event is important for SASUKE's popularity. Mr. SASUKE is nervous about something for some reason.

The reason could be that random people in the crowd grab his chest as he's walking around. Or old ladies accosting him. We see the All-Stars mingle with the common folk, signing autographs, shaking hands etc. One lady is soooo overcome with meeting Nagano that she can't help but be giddy as a schoolgirl. She says that she wants to marry Nagano and that it's like a dream because she wanted to meet him.

Takeda and Nagano receive something from two little kids. One is a picture of maguro and the other is a letter. They apparently give them to them every year. When that little boy grows up he wants to be compete on SASUKE!

This is the third year that the All-Stars are at the festival. The old obstacles were:
Lamp Grasper
Cliff Hanger
Soritatsu Kabe
A Rope Climb similar to the old Final Stage

This year they've added:
Salmon Ladder
Shin-Cliff Hanger
Spider Walk
Jumping Bars
Pipe Slider
Something that looks like the Swing Ladder.
A pole that serves as a bridge (no idea).
Plus the Lamp Grasper and Soritatsu Kabe for a total of nine obstacles.

And parts of it are over a pool of killer sharks! No wait. I think those are more maguro.

Yamada and Akiyama are a bit nervous. Takeda is all cool by saying zen zen daijoubu (no problem).

Nagano demonstrates the Lamp Grasper. Yamada does the Jumping Bar. Nagano with the Soritatsu Kabe. They talk to an old lady who is a wee bit confused as to what she is watching.

Akiyama does the old Cliff Hanger.

Kakkoi! The youth of Japan have spoken!

Some random people try out the obstacles. Nagano laughs at their failure! Laughs I tell you!

Kids try too. Slightly uncomfortable moment as Takeda (?) looks like he's catching some up-skirt of a little girl trying the Spider Walk.

After the festival the All-Stars run into some people who are apparently fans as they go out for a drink.

Hrm..Yamada and Takeda are having beer. Either Nagano and Akiyama are drinking oolong -cha or long island ice teas. I bet on the former. Squares.

They really like playing with kids! Wait. I don't think that's what they mean.

The next day the All-Stars and others will tackle the course! But that's for another episode! We've got women to show off here!

2008 Muscle Queen!

We're entering the 2nd Stage. Last week the ladies paired off in different events. This week, different pairs (I think) and different events.

1st Battle: Kayo Noro 野呂佳代 of AKB48 vs. idol Yoshino Momomi 吉野ももみ in the 50m Hurdles. Noro does dance as part of her training for AKB48. Yoshino is part of this geinojin female futsal team that competes against other idol teams. They're off! And it's Noro!

2nd Battle: comedy team Cherry Pie's Miho vs. model Yurisa in a 100m race where the point is to reach the goal as close to 30 seconds as possible. Miho is off! She' To keep time? She's finished! It's Yurisa's turn! She looks serious! She dashes for the line! What is she going to do! She stops right near the line! Waits. Then crosses! Time to for their times! Yurisa's time is 26.59! Miho is 32.18! She went over! Yurisa wins!

2nd Stage Final: Noro vs. Yurisa! Again! They had faced off in an earlier event, the Eternal Jump, which sounds really cool but was actually just them jumping rope until one of them (Noro) trips up.

The event is 5 50m interval runs. Whatever that is. I guess we'll find out. They're off! I still have no idea. OK. It's like they just have to complete 5 laps of 50 m. 1. 2. 3. 4. Yurisa looks tired but at the 4th she shoots out at the start! Last race! But let's cut to a CM first.

Riverdance is back in Japan!

Last run! Revenge! Noro wins the last race! Yurisa says Yappari stamina nai!

And it's on to the 3rd Stage! They will find the top the Muscle Park! Synergy!

Next week! More Maguro Festival! More Muscle Queen! More Riverdance! Well, maybe not the last one.

Thanks to this AKB48 fan blog which is where I got the names for all the competitors!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Top Ten SASUKE Moments (as chosen by SASUKE Maniac viewers)

During the run-up to SASUKE 20, SASUKE Maniac (サスケマニア) had their viewers write in their Top Ten SASUKE Moments. Here are the results.

(Taken from Japanese blog Music In Life. The following is not a translation of what they are saying but my own thoughts on each moment.)

10. Katsumi Yamada SASUKE 12, Second Stage 山田勝己 (第12回2nd)
Mr. Dumb-Ass SASUKE forgets to take off his gloves for the Chain Reaction before attempting the Spider Walk which results in a controversial DQ (no one had heard that they had to take their gloves off before that). Yamada cries. He skips the 13th SASUKE (too busy crying), comes back at the 14th but hasn't passed the First Stage since.

9. Koji Yamada, SASUKE 12, First Stage 山田康司 (第12回1st)
Yamada (Koji, not Yasushi), in his first appearance, becomes the first number 1 to clear the First Stage. He's still the only person to have accomplished that particular feat.

8. Toshihiro Takeda, SASUKE 14, First Stage 竹田敏浩 (第14回1st)
Takeda BLITZES the First Stage in 32.44 seconds. Still the First Stage record and unlikely to be broken since the present course makes such a time impossible.

7. Makoto Nagano, SASUKE 12, Final Stage 長野誠 (第12回Final)
Nagano's second straight attempt at the Final Stage and he misses by only 0.11 seconds.

6. Shunsuke Nagasaki, SASUKE 17, Third Stage 長崎峻侑 (第17回3rd)
The boy becomes a MAN. He also causes his mom to scream and look away in terror.

5. Bunpei Shiratori, SASUKE 15, 白鳥文平 (第15回)
白鳥文平がダウン Shiratori Bunpei ga down! Shiratori comes back from heat exhaustion in the First Stage to make a memorable run that unfortunately ends during the Climbing Bars in the Third Stage. Monster 9 learns that the the middle of summer is not a good time to have people running and jumping around.

4. Kane Kosugi and Jordan Jovtchev, SASUKE 8, Final Stage ケイン・コスギ, ヨルダン・ヨブチェフ (第8回FINAL)
Gaijin rule! On a rainy evening, two foreigners are the only ones left standing. Jovtchev becomes the first person to time out during the Spider Climb portion of the Final Stage. Kinniku Banzuke poster boy Kane Kosugi reaches the Final Stage only to time out during the Rope Climb. Kane's tears mix with the rain as the in-studio team looks on in stunned silence. As Kane is taken away by van little did anyone realize that as the door was being closed it was also closing Kane's SASUKE career.

3. Katsumi Yamada, SASUKE 6 and 10, Third Stage 山田勝己 (第6回3rd、第10回3rd)
Mr. SASUKE cries after failing to reach the promised land, unable to complete the final jump at the end of the Pipe Slider both times. One attempt (the 6th) actually lands but he is unable to maintain his balance and falls off the platform. His pleas to continue fall on deaf ears (he had also promised to retire at that time). Failure during the 10th prompts the clip that TBS LOVES playing where he is crying and says 俺には…、SASUKEしかないんですよ (Ore ni wa...SASUKE shikanaindesuyo) -- which basically means "For me, there is nothing else except SASUKE" (or SASUKE is everything to him). Someone at TBS must hate him a lot more than me to keep playing that clip all the time.

2. Kazuhiko Akiyama, SASUKE 4, Course Completion, 秋山和彦 (第6回完全制覇)
The first person to ever complete SASUKE. 34 people completed the First Stage in SASUKE 4, the most ever. 11 make it to the Third Stage but only one reaches the Final Stage and enters the books as the first man to complete SASUKE. And then there is a seven year wait until...

1. Makoto Nagano, SASUKE 17, Course Completion 長野誠 (第17回完全制覇)
Nagano finally realizes not only his dream, but the collective dream of the SASUKE All-Stars, a group that had been created in the 5th SASUKE and had come to represent the kind of camaraderie and dedication found in all the SASUKE competitors. It was Nagano's fourth attempt at the Final Stage and was followed by an almost complete overhaul of the course, ushering in a new age of SASUKE. The show would hit American shores which would add a new element in the form of the Michael Dudikoff Memorial Competition American Ninja Challenge and a whole new set of fans.

(Note: I had written this up on a previous site but didn't research it very well the first time so if there's a cached version of the list it's rife with errors.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Six Things May 7, 2008

Golden Week is over and it's back to work! But before that happens let us enjoy a little bit of music, shall we?

1. This got stuck in my head all because of EDSBS. Die schnellste Maus von Mexiko!

(thanks to youtube user TheSpeedyGonzales)

2. Small Time Blues was written by Pete Droge at the request of Cameron Crowe for the movie Almost Famous. The song was meant to be in the style of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The actual clip in the movie is very short and happens when Penny Lane and William are going through the Riot House.

(thanks to youtube user PaulMdx)

3. Frank Wilson - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).

(thanks to youtube user IanLevine)

4. Brian Wilson - Surf's Up. Not the finished version of the song. If I remember correctly, this clip was for a Leonard Bernstein program where he praised the song as standing out from the rest of popular music from the time (which Bernstein did not have a high opinion of).

(thanks to youtube user chocolatina)

5. Opening credit theme to Bruce Lee's Big Boss (or Fists of Fury if you're going to get all picky about it) by the Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra

(thanks to youtube user nasos72)

6. 踊る大捜査線 - RHYTHM AND POLICE.

(thanks to youtube user HAKUGINHI)