[The American Years]

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Japanese (products) are Coming!

I once bemoaned the lack of unsweetened green tea available for purchase in the US. No more. I've been educated that it's around and easy to find. Mostly at Target.

There are other welcome Japanese products which have made their way into our hearts and homes. The "Washlet" toilet seat by Toto is widely available. Sure it costs a little more, but my keister is worth it. (No, I don't have one yet, but I'm saving my pennies.)

Newest welcome find is Kagome Juice. It's fruit and veggie juice blended together, with (get this) no sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup. V8 splash had the idea, sort of, but they couldn't resist putting in sugar. Kagome has the true essence. Just fruits and veggies, nothing else. I was very happy to find it at my local store.

Kathleen will kid me because I went a long time in Japan not drinking the Kagome, because I didn't like the green one. I do like the purple and orange ones, however. Haven't seen the green one in the states. Maybe my aversion was borne out.

Now the American yogurt industry needs to take a lesson from the Japanese. How about plain yogurt with just fruit mixed in, and no sugar. So simple and brilliant! The US yogurt people have still not caught on that fat free, or low fat or adding Splenda or Sucralose is not helping anyone. Just yogurt with just fruit. Keeping a product simple makes it a specialty or boutique item. C'mon Dannon and Yoplait! (Hmmm. They're French. Figures.)

Japanese yogurts are often advertised to be Bulgarian style, whatever that means. Yogurt is treated like health food. There are versions with fancy and exotic bacteria, which are supposed to do something to you. One of the above, "Space Yogurt" even boasts that its bacteria spent time in space. How's that for exotic bacteria. ("Exotic Bacteria" will be the name of my next band.)

For all my praise of Japanese yogurt, I have to caution you about the drinkable kind. It's not for kids.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Akemashite Omedetoh

Which is Happy New Year in Japanese. Happy Year of the Mouse, or Rat. It's no longer the year of the pig.

Yes, I'm a month late.

Japanese celebrate Buddhist on New Year's Eve, but don't follow the Lunar New Year calendar, which usually has the New Year in February. Many people in the US call it "Chinese New Year", but that's not as enlightened as calling it Buddhist New Year, or even Lunar New Year. Best is "Embarrassingly Late New Year".

Christmas Eve is a party and date night, with fireworks and festivals. New Year's is solemn and holy. Basically opposite of the our methods. Go to Buddhist Temple on New Year's Eve, when they ring and ring those massive bells you've all seen. Then they go to Shinto Shrines on New Year's Day, especially at Sunrise, to ensure good luck for the coming year. Then, at some point, they sleep.

Cynics can argue that there's a fine line between religion on superstition. In Japan it appears to be an especially squiggly, dotted and smeared line. I didn't live there long enough to know what was up, but it seemed to me that most of the reward system of Shinto is tied up temporaly. Do this or that and get good luck or good fortune.

I'm off topic. My main reason for bringing up Japan again, and for bringing up the New Year again is to celebrate Nengajo! New Year's Cards! We send Christmas cards, and we got New Year's Cards back. They're typically postcards, with pictures of the family members, well wishes, and a stamp showing the New Year's animal... Mousy Rat!

The samples we got this year (If someone can make it to that "portrait" images aren't shrunk so bad in Picasa slideshows, I'd kiss them.):

A funny Mac vs PC commercial from Japan which features New Year's Cards. (And you thought we had the monopoly on geeky PC vs hipster Mac adverts.) Side note, I lived in Japan for a year, and knew and worked with hundreds of the guy on the left. The guy on the right doesn't exist in Japanese society. Maybe there are lots of hip people, and lots of Mac users, but none of them are like that guy.

FYI: Inoshishi, or Japanese Wild Boar, as mentioned in the Mac vs PC ad. For year of the Pig. Acutally he is kinda cute.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hillary is the New Gay Marriage

First off, the structure "_______ is the new _________" has jumped the shark. It's also been thrown under the bus, and has been there and done that.

I'm not going to preach or proselytize, or even prognosticate or prestidigitate. I'd rather peruse my own proboscis.

This is not a political blog. Keep repeating that.

In 2004 Gay Marriage elected GW Bush, like him or not. Here's the way I figure. A divisive "true threat" was imagined and fabricated, and it got people who believe strongly about it to vote. For and against. Turns out there were more people who held strong opinions on it who were for GW Bush than against him.

Here's the idea: Pick an issue that people within your opponent's support crowd don't universally agree on. Make the candidates decide which half of their supporters they want to alienate. Gay Marriage was done to the Democratic ticket in 2004. Evolution was attempted here to try to divide the Republicans, but it didn't really work. Wolf Blitzer (one of the five W's of high-school journalism) asked Republicans at a debate to raise their hands if they believe in evolution. Not a lot of room there for a nuanced response. Answer one way you're a druidic potsmoking pagan lefty, answer the other way and you're Pat Robertson, only moreso, and you might not believe in gravity or photosynthesis either.

I think they should have asked the candidates if they believed in Santa Claus. Would they dare alienate the kid vote?

This is not a political blog.

(Side note: My favorite recent quote about the would-be evolution debate (paraphrased): "Scientists are asking for one free miracle. They say 'Give us one free miracle and we can explain the rest.' The free miracle they want is that all time, space, energy and matter, and all the laws that govern their interaction seem to have sprung from a singularity, before which there was no time, space, energy or matter. Give them that miracle, and they're happy to explain the rest." -Rupert Sheldrake)

So I'm not sure who fabricated the gay marriage issue, looking to drive people to the polls, but GW Bush won the election because of it. Like-minded people came out strong on that issue, and pull their levers for Bush while they just happened to be in the booth to keep the gays from getting married. (Because you know, once they're married, they might start having relations.) Have you noticed the the gay marriage issue is not around right now, and hasn't been around since... around 2005? Curious.

So what's the issue this year? This time the Republicans don't have to look far, or fabricate an issue at all. I think it's Hillary Clinton. Normal, sensible people get politically passionate about her. Mostly against. She inspires people toward voting against her. I'm not sure why, but it's as sure as the turn of the earth. She's the love her or hate her candidate, with very little room for liking her.

Mark my words. One year from today we'll be swearing in President John McCain.

Here's how it will unfold. McCain gets the republican nomination. He's normal, has integrity, and is likable. None of the others have all three. Hillary gets the democratic. (I can offer no explanation of this.) McCain wins. The Democrats find a way to have a pro-Iraq war candidate beat them when the country is (or was) enormously anti-war.

I don't have anything against John McCain. I was ready to vote for him in 2000 had he received the nomination on the Republican side.

By the way, this is not a political blog. I just need to get my comment rate up higher. Also, for some reason I can't upload photos of the Japanese New Year's cards I wanted to share with you. I'll try again soon.

Next post: The Superbowl. Soap Opera with cheerleaders, and why you shouldn't care (if you still do).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gas Bonanza!

Do I have your attention? Where did I ever take this picture? Can I bring some garbage bags to fill up there, to store for later?

Sorry Kids.

Yes, this was in Canada... and there's not any even "Exchange Bounce" from paying in Canadian Dollar (pronounced 'Doaller') is now nearly at par with the US Dollar.

And how did I know I had returned to fair Kentucky?

Gas prices and Marlboro prices are the two leading economic indicators here. Along with the fair market value of a fifth of bourbon.

Note, even if it's called Wawa, don't necessarily drink it.

But no matter what inflation is, a $2 wager at the track is always $2! Bargain!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy 2008

[ed note: Hello, I'm ed. Since I'm not sending out emails announcing this drivel anymore, you can 'subscribe' over on the right hand side there. I don't think you can unsubscribe, however. Ever. Enjoy!]

My resolutions for 2008 fall into 3 categories:

To become a master cornholer. I just heard in an NPR story about bleeping out bad words on TV, that my beloved Arrested Development show got in trouble, not for too many bleeps, but for using the word "Cornhole". It was used in reference to the "Cornballer" a failed single-purpose home cooking device, which makes... Cornballs.

I recommend the npr story. I recommend Arrested Development even more. I further recommend eating cornballs while playing cornhole. Both go great with beer.

When NPR does a story about my beloved cornhole, that'll be a real driveway moment.

1) To see my abdominal muscles by the end of the year. (10% chance of success). Haven't seen them since high school. I heard they took up with a folk music trio... performing as the washboard of course. They were replaced with a saggy, hairy washboard.

2) To be 'value added' as much as possible (100% success guaranteed, in that "as much as possible" is not measurable). When I'm at home, rather than doing important things like researching imdb for the film career of Ronald Coleman or Farley Granger, or creating the perfect playlist which will never be listened to... I will do something useful. I will get up and unpack our boxes (Yes, we moved in on June 2 2007), walk the dog, take pictures of the kids, bake bread, create lasting peace in the Middle East... something! Or if I just sit there, I'll at least scribble out a blog entry.

3) To not fall asleep on the couch anymore. (0% chance for success.) I was in the horrible habit of watching a little TV after everyone went to sleep. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are largely to blame. I would make it about 5 minutes into The Daily Show and fall into an uncomfortable, fitful sleep. (Our couch can handle about 5'11" of my 6'5" length.) What little sleep I would get would be restless.

4) I had a fourth, but have forgotten it already. 100% success guaranteed! Awesome! Maybe I'll replace this forgotten resolution with a resolution to never own a single-purpose kitchen appliance. What started with the toaster has gotten out of control!

Real and already failed:
See #3) above. The night of the Iowa caucuses, I had to watch the coverage. For 5 minutes. Then sleep through it in my clothes. That's pure democracy baby! Freedom, the way the founding fathers imagined it.

Our Christmas Photos Slideshow.