January - December 2013
We rarely go to the movies. Most cinema complex-style movie theaters are torture chambers: too loud, too much air-conditioning and too many trailers. The movies today aren't very good, either. Many kids movies for adults. So we watch movies on TV, and sometimes there is a pleasant surprise. Here is a list of the movies we really enjoyed this year on our TV screen.
- The Devil's Double by Lee Tamahori (2011)
- Incendies by Denis Villeneuve (2011)
- The importance of Being Earnest by Oliver Parker (2002)
- Shine by Scott Hicks (1996)
- King's Speech by Tom Hooper (2010)
- Two Brothers by Jean-Jacques Annaud (2004)
- A Little Romance by George Roy Hill (1979)
- The American Friend by Wim Wenders (1977)
We went to Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo to enjoy the autumn leaves. Here are some photos. The last one is my bonsai.
I've been in Japan for more than 3.5 years, but I still check out the news from America. The latest is the new health care. America probably has the worst health insurance system of all the advanced nations in the world. Before I left the average HMO was about $12,000 a year. Apparently, Obama's health care plan isn't as good. What was the point?
I had some pain in my left hand and a bad back recently. I go to a rehabilitation clinic around the corner from my house any time I want without an appointment. They see me in about five minutes for a 30-minute treatment. I'm charged a dollar or a dollar fifty each time. Plus I get to practice my Japanese with the nurses.
I'm deaf in my left ear from an accident and it has to be examined and cleaned every other month. In New York, after waiting at least an hour even with an appointment I was charged $350 with Medicare. Now I pay $2.00--a dollar for seeing the doctor and another for my eardrops if I need them. The same kind of medicine cost a $100 a bottle in New York.
All I had to do to get coverage was to register as a resident at the local ward office. I won't tell you how much premium I pay because it will make readers in America cry.
By the way, I'm not a Republican. I believe that there is only one party in America--The Rich Politician party!!
Watching the shutdown of the government in America had the effect of shutting down my own activities. The members of Congress most likely made a killing on the stock market and have gone back to work with pockets full of cash.
Shutdown or not people have to eat.
Here is my collection of family dinners. Bon appetit.
Our dinner is usually composed of what my wife cooks and food her mother brings from her kitchen.
Meanwhile our garden had a mysterious visitor...We think we found the guy.
It was a few days after finishing the story board for our next digital picture book. My wife and I were walking next to the park and we saw on the hot sidewalk a beautiful green caterpillar hurrying to a nearest tree with not much of a chance of getting there. While we stared at it a lady on a bike pulled up and the three of us admired the creature. The bike lady, who had gloves on, picked it up gently and placed in on the leaf of a hydrangea in the park. We all clapped.
By the way, the next digital picture book is about a boy and a caterpillar. We looked the green creature up in a book of caterpillars that we had bought for research and discovered that it was a common blue bottle. The same butterfly that has been trying to lay eggs on our avocado plants.
Elsewhere in the world, the US wants to bomb Syria to send a message meanwhile here in Japan, holding the Olympics in seven years is more important than cleaning up the nuclear mess in Fukushima. But our caterpillar made it to a leaf.
The discount sale for our six stories is on until September 23. Don't miss this chance!
I grew up in a family of artists who all competed with each other. So I
became a musician. I never thought that I'd ever do children's stories
like my father. But while living in New York, Naoko, a friend of my wife's
sent us a card with a beautiful drawing of a horse on it. That inspired
me to write Dizzy and Luigi. I was born in 1942, year of the horse. We
found a Japanese publisher and Naoko illustrated the book. I wanted to
include a CD of music to go with the book, but it didn't happen. Since
then my wife and I have done five digital picture books with my drawings
and music. I've always wanted to do Dizzy and Luigi in this form. Last year we got ownership of the piece back and decided
to do it right with Naoko doing the artwork again. I'm very happy with
Since both Naoko and I have our birthdays in the month of September we agreed to have a discount set price for all six digital picture books including our latest Dizzy and Luigi from August 15 to September 23, my birthday.
Hope you'll take advantage of this opportunity to check out our original stories.
This month, I uploaded some drawings and a new Jazz Japan Travelogue video clip. Enjoy!
We just took a trip to Tateshina to visit a English garden and enjoy the hot springs. It was a short trip, but before leaving we took a cable car up Kitayatsugatake. There is a naturally formed garden of conifers and alpine plants over volcanic lava. The English garden didn't compare to the wild plants but each place had a difference charm.
We got a deal on a suite of a hotel because it was still out of season. The room had a giant television. I hope to have music composed for the photos of the beautiful scenery in Nagano by July. Please look forward.
I also got my first bonsai, a Chinese quince tree. Its name is Jeremy, Jr. I already wrote him a tune. Last year when we saw the pandas at Ueno Zoo, there happened to be a show of bonsais in Ueno Park and I've wanted one ever since.
Last month we visited HARA Model Railway Museum (www.hara-mrm.com) in Yokohama. The original intention was to go to the circus in the Bay area, but the lines were too long. As it turned out I was in the right place. Nobutaro Hara built his first model train when he was in elementary school and never stopped. There were hundreds of perfect models; all of them built by Mr. Hara. He is now 93.
There was this giant train set with mountains, a river, towns and a train station. It was so realistic that the close-up photographs I saw looked like real life. The train set was about the size of a basketball court. There were 450 meters of tracks.
It all brought back memories of my childhood. My first interest was collecting HO trains. My second interest was the flute. Not long after I began studying flute my teacher Paige Brook bought my train set from me to give it to his son.
Photo taking is allowed only in a limited area for kids. Here is the toy model train track.
We have a big black street cat in our neighborhood. He used to live around the house of one of our neighbors who left about six months ago. The house had been empty and the cat had made it his house.
About two weeks ago the house was torn down. The lot was flat with some long steel pipes drilled down into the ground. The cat began to spend most of the day sitting on one of the parked bikes right outside the door to my backyard.
Now, about a week ago, they started building a new house on the lot. The black cat can't stand the noise and has moved into our backyard. He strolls back and forth on the steel fences that surround my backyard and sometimes sits on the flat stone next to my blueberry trees. Our backyard has nice shady corners where my wife has put some gravel down.
Whenever he saw us he used to run away, but recently he has been staring at us from right outside our glass sliding doors.
He once gave us a gift of a dead rat. This is one of the benefits of having street cats. They keep the rat population down. We hope that the resident of the new house will be a cat lover so he can go home.
This spring was a commercial disaster for the street vendors that set up for the annual cherry blossom viewing period in Yokohama The trees were fooled by early warm weather in the middle of March, after which cold rain and strong winds knocked the petals into the river. Nobody was there except for a small number of locals like me who ate at home before going out. But here in Japan, where people have special emotional attachment to cherry blossoms, there is even a word for the surface of a river covered with fallen petals. That word is hana-ikada. Hana means flower and ikada means raft. You'll see what I mean when you look at the photos I took.
I apologize for the delay to the average five people who read my blogs
regularly. I was composing music for our new digital picture book, Dizzy and Luigi.
After spending a few days in Tokyo I went to pay my hotel bill. The girl at the reception desk had a bad case of the sniffles. I offered a Kleenex. She said it was from the flowers. A lot of people in Japan have the sniffles. So many that there are people handing out packages of Kleenex with ads on the street. It's really bad now because of cedar pollen, and PM 2.5 and yellow sand (Compliments of our friendly neighbor China). The PM 2.5 gets stuck on the pollen and when it rains the pollen absorbs water and explodes into very fine particles that are easily sucked in by the lungs. It was in the news.
There are a lot of things that can kill you these days. We just saw a movie called HOME (about our planet) that listed about ten thousand reasons the planet is doomed. It made me want to play my flute and draw while I still had some time left.
Our local cormorant is still alive and kicking. Here is a photo.
Even here in Japan, I see plenty of New York when I watch Law & Order on TV. There are many scenes in Greenwich Village. We lived a block away from Washington Square. The TV gives me the best of New York without the smells and the noise.
Of course, Law & Order reminds me of the crime in New York and the time I was mugged at knifepoint in my apartment elevator or the day Mrs. Saltzman got murdered on the first floor.
I read that America is soon going to be buzzing with drones spying on people. I won't be there for that.
I also read that the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is leaking and contaminating the Columbia River. It produced the material for the a-bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. Karma?
I've added several drawings to my gallery.
WELCOME TO MY RENEWED WEB SITE
There is lots of new stuff this month. Most importantly THE BULLY. It's our newest digital picture book with a large cast of characters. Bullying is a big problem here in Japan as it is in America and the rest of the world. In THE BULLY we try to find some answers.
They are saying that Lance Armstrong is a bully but I think in his case the more interesting party is the snitch.
The is also a new performance video and more art in the new gallery.