J-Actors

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n Thursday, I wondered if asparagus would make your pee smell. I didn’t get a whole bunch of responses, maybe because it was too wierd of a question. Oh well. The pool of responses was too small to make any claims, but I did learn that it was just a guy thing as I had conjuctured. You live and learn. Thanks to those who shared their insights.

Anyway, I got this comment as well.

I’m just wondering if you can tell me, in your opinon, who the greatest Japanese actors are. (Past and present? TOP 5!)
Posted 3/22/2007 11:58 PM by onigiri

I watch my share of J movies but I’m not sure how qualified I am to answer who the “greatest” are. There are a lot of definitions for “great” but I will tell you who I think are the “best” actors, based on their ability to act. Now, acting is a craft. It is not about being a superstar. For example, Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro no longer act, in my opinion. They are themselves on screen. It seems to me that they manifest the same personality for every character they’ve played over the past twenty years, that being their own. But Daniel Day Lewis and Johnny Depp are actors, in my opinion. They bring something to the table, but it is their talents as actors, not some overpowering personality.

In Japan, Takakura Ken fits the “personality” actor. He is not as flamboyant as Nicholson, but his characters are always the same: the strong, silent type. There is virtually no change in any of this characters. Anyway, here are my top five.

  1. Ogata Ken–He is one of my all time favorite actors. He is completely natural and convincing, whether he plays a poor farmer in “Ballad of Narayama” or an elder trying to save his little island from distinction by adopting a girl from Tokyo in the TV series “Ruri’s Island”–which, by the way, is one of my favorite series to date. what makes hims stand out is his ability to do comedy, understated but definitely funny.
  2. Shimura Takashi–a versatile actor and one of Kurasawa’s favorites. He plays the intense Kanbei in the “Seven Samurai”, the inquisitive professor in “Gozilla” and the humble, at times bumbling Watanabe Kanji in “Ikiru–To Live.
  3. Baisho Mitsuko–There are very few female actors that stand out, in my book. Matsuzaka Keiko? Yoshinaga Sayuri? Attractive, yes, but not really great actors. Sakamoto Sumiko is pretty incredible, but her body of work is too limited–I don’t know why she has appeared in only three or four films after her great performance as Orin in “Ballad of Narayama.” However, Baisho Mitsuko–sister of Baisho Chieko who plays Torajiro’s younger sister in the “Otoka wa tsurai yo” series–would qualify as a competent actor. From roles in samurai epics such as “Kagemusha” to dramas such as “Unagi”, she has performed as well as any actor in Japan. She was also in :Ballad of Narayama” and “Ruri’s Island”.
  4. Nakadai Tatsuya–For my money, Nakadai is the best samurai film star (as opposed to TV which might be Sugi Ryotaro). He has played in modern roles, I’m sure, but I can only remember him as a samurai, from the over confident gun slinger in “Yojimbo” to the sarcastic ronin in “Kiru” (Kill) to the warlord Takeda Shingen in “Kagemusha” in 1980 AND Shingen’s father in the current NHK drama “Fu-rin-ka-zan”.
  5. Mifune Toshiro–Mifune is almost in the Nicholson category. His samurai’s seem to be a reflection of himself–intense, gruff, at times a bit crazy. Even in his role as a stubborn father in one of the last “Otoko wa tsurai yo” films, he looked like a samurai out of costume. But some of his earlier works are amazing. If you ever have the chance, watch “Drunken Angel” about a young tough trying to survive in the desolation of post-war Japan. It is an impressive performance and that alone gets him on my list.

So there you have it, for better or worse. There are a lot of other actors, of course: Yakusho Koji (Shall We Dance), Yamazaki Tsutomu (Tampopo), Tsugawa Masahiko (Taxing Woman), Ito Shiro (Suupaa no onna), Katsu Shintaro (Zato Ichi), Nakamura Kinnosuke (Yabure-gasa), and Nakai Kiichi (Love Letter). The list is long. Watanabe Ken is probably better known for his roles in American movies–“Last Samurai”, “Batman ” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”–so I don’t really count him in, although he was funny as Gun in “Tampopo”.

So who’s your favorite J actor, film or TV?

Weekend for B-ball and Asparagus Survey

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s usual, I have a lot of work to do this weekend. I have to read student reviews of Rashomon, directed by Kurosawa, as well as grade a batch of mid-terms that I gave the Thursday before spring break. That would be two weeks ago. Bad, bad, sensei! Of course, I will be tempted by extracurricular matters, but I will be strong. No drama, no drama, no drama. Oh yeah, UCLA is in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA b-ball tournament, but…

Well, maybe just one game…

And if they win tonight, then maybe Saturday’s game. But other than that, I will not, WILL NOT, watch TV and focus on the work I need to complete. I mean, I AM the responsible sort and should take care of work before pleasure. The choice is easy, right? Grading-basketball; grading-UCLA basketball; grading-UCLA basketball NCAA tournament; grading-UCLA basketball NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.

“Ha!” That’s what I say… The choice is soooooo easy! Now, where’s that remote control…

I think the indentation seems reversed; it seems more like the comments should be indented and your response in line with the rest of your entry… oh well.
Posted 3/18/2007 8:07 PM by TheGooberBoy

I swear, there’s a critic in every crowd…

Anyway, while I watch the game… I mean, while I grade papers, I’m gonna eat a lot of asparagus. I had a student come in today with his girlfriend, who is also my student, and for some reason, we were talking about a healthy diet and the topic of asparagus came up. It is my favorite vegetable, if not one of my favorite foods, and the student agreed except that “it makes your pee stink,” he said. I laughed and agreed, but his girlfriend said she had never noticed any significant difference in odor. “It might be a guy thing,” we laughed.

Of course, this is not based on any scientific research. Based solely on personal experience–and corroborated by one male student–when I eat asparagus, my next pee will have a very distinct and pungent smell. M also says that there is no perceptible difference in the odor. So in the interest of science and scientific methodology, I will put it to you guys in a simple survey.

Does eating asparagus make your pee pungent? Please let me know with a yes/no response along with your gender. And don’t be bashful ladies and gents. It is, after all, for science…

Distant Dad

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bviously, everyone’s got my number. Yes, the answer was number 2. I would like to go see my daughter as often as possible, but that is difficult for me. Responsibilities to my immediate family compel to stay put. The only way I would go to Japan is to go as a family and, as you all know, M’s passport and green card issue have yet to be resolved. Rest assured that if and when it is resolved, you guys will be among the first to find out about it. Until then, I stay at home, wishing I could see my daughter who will turn 20-years old next week. In Japan, that is the year you become an adult. I presume she went to her seijinshiki, the coming-of-age ceremony held by every local government. I hope she sends me a photo of the event, but it was in January and I have yet to hear from her.

Oh well. I guess I’m just an absentee dad. The distance feels overwhelming and sad.

Spring Break is Over

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es, spring break has come and gone, like the proverbial flash in the pan, the blink of an eye, a snap of the finger, a tongue in cheek… oops, wrong analogy. Anyway, I will be going back to school tomorrow and hear about all the wonderful places my students have been to–Miami, Key West, the Bahamas, Cancun. And I’ll tell them that I got to go to Pentagon City, a nearby shopping mall. Of course, I really didn’t go to Pentagon City. I just say that because the students will all know the place and they will laugh and jeer: “Oooh, pooooooooor sensei.”

I’m not necessarily trying to garner their sympathy; nor am I trying to foster a superiority complex in them. I just want to see them smile a bit and make the last seven weeks of the semester bearable. Not that school is unbearable; it isn’t. And not that my class is boring, although it can be, according to some students. But the weather is warming up and spring is here. With warm weather comes spring fever and the itch to spend time outside, not in class. Indeed, this past Wednesday the local temperature reached 79 degrees. I thought I was going to have a heat stroke. Then Friday came….

What’s with the weather around here? I went into work wearing capris yesterday and came back out shivering.
Posted 3/16/2007 10:18 PM by enygma81

You’re guess is as good as mine. I swear, it was cooking for a couple of days, then… then… SNOW! Wouldn’t you know it? It snows over spring break. SPRING BREAK, fer cryin’ out loud. I have been forsaken by the weather gods…

responses as an entry.. what a great idea..
Posted 3/16/2007 6:44 AM by starberri92

Actually, I used to do this pretty regularly, when I wrote almost daily and had more commenters. But beware, some readers may not enjoy it, as I learned from bane_vixen once upon a time. Basically, though, its called “being lazy”.

My sense of geography is totally retarded. I thought Virgina was really far from DC. And for some reason, I assumed you lived in Virgina. You do, right? O_O; We’ll be in for the Cherry Blossom Festival! I think I look forward to that more than seeing the monuments. xD
Posted 3/17/2007 3:09 AM by onigiri

Nah, your sense of geopgraphy is not retarded. I never associated Virginia with DC until I actually came here the first time in 1992. We landed in Dulles Airport in Virginia, and I expected to see tobacco plantations. Instead, I found a beautifully green environment dotted with small communities from Vienna, Fairfax, Centerville and beyond. It is nothing like LA where you have one continuous urban environment from the San Fernando Valley all the way to San Diego. And yes, I live in Virginia, specficially Fairfax County just outside of Vienna. I live near the Metro–DC’s train/subway system–and it takes me all of 40 minutes to get to work, door to door. And since Vienna is a terminal, I always get a seat. As for the cherry blossoms, hope you have it timed right. They bloom for about a week and then they are completely gone. Timing is everything. Check here for updates: http://www.nps.gov/nama/planyourvisit/cherry-blossom-bloom.htm Good luck. And still make time to see the monuments. I think they are worth it.

You sound horribly busy! Hope you find some time to relax… My friends from GW are visiting me in Tokyo at the moment, and one of them asked, “Do you still talk to [Onigiriman]-sensei?” And I said, “Yes, sometimes,” and she said, “I miss him!” She doesn’t know you, by the way, but I guess she misses hearing about you – it was funny anyway!
Posted 3/2/2007 2:50 AM by jcangel311

Sound busy? hahahhahaha. Busy is my middle name: Onigiri Busy Man… But I must say that I feel terribly flattered. I mean, how can a student I have never met miss me? I guess I tell enough stupid stories in class, so students talk about their stupid teacher to their roommates and others. But flattery aside, this, it seems to me, is how rumors get started. So I had better stop flappin’ my mouth too much.
Anyway, in a feeble attempt to stem any rumors about me, here’s a question to see if you could detect a falsehood about the O-man.

Of the following statements, ONLY ONE is false. Choose the false statement.

  1. Onigiriman won a singing contest in LA’s Lil’ Tokyo and got a free trip to Japan.
  2. Since returning to the US in 1996, Onigiriman tries to go back to Japan at least once every other year to see his daughter.
  3. As a professor of J-Lit, Onigiriman once recited and discussed the haiku of Basho on National Public Radio (NPR) for National Poetry Month.
  4. Onigiriman worked in a warehouse and can operate a fork lift.
  5. Onigiriman’s high school GPA was so low, he barely graduated and couldn’t even get into Cal State LA. He had to start at a community college.

Leave your answer as a comment, if you are so inclined…

Happy St. Patty’s Day

T

he best thing about St. Patricks Day is NOT the beer. The first time I took M to a bar on March 17, she just had to try the green beer. Of course, there is nothing special about it. It doesn’t really taste green like a freshly mowed lawn or, I suppose, the 18th green at St. Andrew’s golf course. I explained to her that it’s just regular beer–probably the cheapest one on tap–with a little food coloring. Still, it was novel enough for her to have a taste.

The best thing about this day is the food. Being the carnivore that I am, I love to dig into that corned beef. Man, is it good. And I am a pretty big cabbage fan, so corned beef and cabbage sounds just about perfect to me. That and a pint of green beer. M-m-M-M-Mmm….

Oh yeah, a little FYI: cabbage is good for the digestion. Indeed, in Japan, it’s the best thing to eat when you have a hangover. They even have an over-the-counter medicine called Kyabejin, which works pretty well when you have an upset stomach with that hangover. Come to think of it, when I eat cabbage while I drink, I don’t have such a bad hangover the next day. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that you can drink an entire keg as long as you eat cabbage… of course.

Everything in moderation.

Happy St. Patty’s Day

T

he best thing about St. Patricks Day is NOT the beer. The first time I took M to a bar on March 17, she just had to try the green beer. Of course, there is nothing special about it. It doesn’t really taste green like a freshly mowed lawn or, I suppose, the 18th green at St. Andrew’s golf course. I explained to her that it’s just regular beer–probably the cheapest one on tap–with a little food coloring. Still, it was novel enough for her to have a taste.

The best thing about this day is the food. Being the carnivore that I am, I love to dig into that corned beef. Man, is it good. And I am a pretty big cabbage fan, so corned beef and cabbage sounds just about perfect to me. That and a pint of green beer. M-m-M-M-Mmm….

Oh yeah, a little FYI: cabbage is good for the digestion. Indeed, in Japan, it’s the best thing to eat when you have a hangover. They even have an over-the-counter medicine called Kyabejin, which works pretty well when you have an upset stomach with that hangover. Come to think of it, when I eat cabbage while I drink, I don’t have such a bad hangover the next day. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that you can drink an entire keg as long as you eat cabbage… of course.

Everything in moderation.

Happy St. Patty’s Day

T

he best thing about St. Patricks Day is NOT the beer. The first time I took M to a bar on March 17, she just had to try the green beer. Of course, there is nothing special about it. It doesn’t really taste green like a freshly mowed lawn or, I suppose, the 18th green at St. Andrew’s golf course. I explained to her that it’s just regular beer–probably the cheapest one on tap–with a little food coloring. Still, it was novel enough for her to have a taste.

The best thing about this day is the food. Being the carnivore that I am, I love to dig into that corned beef. Man, is it good. And I am a pretty big cabbage fan, so corned beef and cabbage sounds just about perfect to me. That and a pint of green beer. M-m-M-M-Mmm….

Oh yeah, a little FYI: cabbage is good for the digestion. Indeed, in Japan, it’s the best thing to eat when you have a hangover. They even have an over-the-counter medicine called Kyabejin, which works pretty well when you have an upset stomach with that hangover. Come to think of it, when I eat cabbage while I drink, I don’t have such a bad hangover the next day. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that you can drink an entire keg as long as you eat cabbage… of course.

Everything in moderation.

Happy St. Patty’s Day

T

he best thing about St. Patricks Day is NOT the beer. The first time I took M to a bar on March 17, she just had to try the green beer. Of course, there is nothing special about it. It doesn’t really taste green like a freshly mowed lawn or, I suppose, the 18th green at St. Andrew’s golf course. I explained to her that it’s just regular beer–probably the cheapest one on tap–with a little food coloring. Still, it was novel enough for her to have a taste.

The best thing about this day is the food. Being the carnivore that I am, I love to dig into that corned beef. Man, is it good. And I am a pretty big cabbage fan, so corned beef and cabbage sounds just about perfect to me. That and a pint of green beer. M-m-M-M-Mmm….

Oh yeah, a little FYI: cabbage is good for the digestion. Indeed, in Japan, it’s the best thing to eat when you have a hangover. They even have an over-the-counter medicine called Kyabejin, which works pretty well when you have an upset stomach with that hangover. Come to think of it, when I eat cabbage while I drink, I don’t have such a bad hangover the next day. Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that you can drink an entire keg as long as you eat cabbage… of course.

Everything in moderation.

Response to Some Recent Comments

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t’s Spring Break and I am blessed with extra time… NOT. Yes, yes, yes. I said I have work, and I swear I will get to it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Insteeeeeeeead, I’m writing on Xanga. Anyway, here are some responses to some recent comments. I could respond to some individually, but what would be the fun in that?

Yay! Spring Break! For me, spring break is unlimited…till I get a job. Which, I am going to realize in about a month, is important.
Posted 3/14/2007 6:52 PM by Mr_Mephisto

I envy youth. Even when I was broke, I could do what I wanted and I felt so free. I want an unlimited spring break too… actually–this is only for those of us here on Xanga, but I’m planning to take a semester sabbatical in Spring of 2009. So that would be my unlimited spring break. But don’t tell anyone yet. It’s not official yet.

Spring break… Wow, I would love a spring break… Guess I’ll just have to wait for Golden Week…
Posted 3/15/2007 7:51 AM by LaMangust

Welcome to adulthood.

yay! nice to read your update.i graduated from college and i just started my first real job! =)
Posted 3/2/2007 11:52 PM by Di_Gah_Jea

Welcome to you too.

(In response to choosing a Mac.) It’s your funeral…..
Posted 3/14/2007 12:41 AM by bane_vixen

Aaah, the Vixen. I haven’t heard from you in ages. Of course, I really haven’t left many comemnts your site either. But it warms the cockles of my heart to see that you are still mean and cynical and so straight-forward, just the way I like ’em.

There’s no better machine than a free machine. Any choice you’d make would be a good one (which is usually the hardest choices to make anyway). Macs are nice enough and their hardware is usually of higher quality. Apple+click. Just remember that whenever you have one of the urges to right-click something on your new computer. Apple+click!
Posted 3/13/2007 2:20 PM by chenchanx

A man who thinks just like me–cheap. Thanks for the Apple-click tip. I try to remember that.

HOLY CRUD! You teach in the DC area? I’m going there during spring break for Japan Bowl! XD
Posted 3/8/2007 1:53 AM by onigiri

What? You just figured out I live in the DC area? I thought EVERYBODY knew that… but yeah, have a nice time in DC. If this is your first time here, take make sure you that you make time to see the National Mall, the Monuments and the Smithsonian. It is rather impressive: the expansive Mall, the sense of space. Visually, it is more grandeur that massiveness. It is closer to the Palace of Versailles than the other capitals of the world that have impressive buildings in the middle of a crowded city. DC is NOT a big city. It is not London, or Paris, or Rome, or New York. It is certainly not Tokyo. It is its pastoral quality that makes it rather impressive, I think… Have a good time in town.

Oh wow, can you post up on how you create these DVDs? What software do you use?
Posted 3/14/2007 4:18 PM by ekin

How I create these DVDs? Hmmm… I put the DVD in the DVD burner and click on the “burn” button. Basically, that’s how easy it is these days. I use Nero Express which came bundled with the external DVD burner I bought, a Liteon. If you don’t have one already, these external DVD burners are pretty inexpensive these days. I got mine on sale for less that $80 and got free shipping to boot at newegg.com. It burns DVD-R and +R at max 16x (depending on the type of disc you have), as well as CDs. I think I read somewhere that DVD-R was the initial standard for DVDs so virtually any player will play them, so I stick with DVD-R. I have tried a number of different DVDs as well, and I now only buy Verbatim. They can be more expenseive than others, but I have had only one bad Disc out of what… 250 disks? Philips, Memorex, Ridata–I’ve tried these and I’ve burned my share of “coasters”.
Since Nero is for PC, it will read PC compatible files, typically mpeg and avi files. It has been my experience that mpeg files are larger (less compressed? not compressed at all?), so most video files that last 45 minutes–like a typical drama–will be compressed in the more compact avi file. You will need Codec to decompress the files, but these are free online. I think many people just use the one that comes with the DivX player that anyone can download for free. I used to use ffdshow codec, but I have had occasional trouble since some of its fancier features slows down my computer significantly.
Speaking of which, I’d bet that you out there–expecially gamers–already have fast CPUs and a gig of RAM. But I don’t, so when I burn a DVD, it is a prohibitively time consuming project. Since I only have a 1.5 GHz CPU and 512 RAM, the encoding/burning process needs virtually all of my assets. So when I burn, I cannot use my computer, for it will significanlty slow down encoding time–encoding is close to real time for me: a 45 minute show will take me almost 40 minutes to encode. Further, any spike in memory use, such as when you load an Internet page or shut down a program, can cause a hiccup in the encoding process and audio synch can get screwed up. Once everything is encoded, the actual burning onto the DVD is not long and does not take a lot of memory/CPU power.
Other than that personal info, everything is pretty self-explanatory. Most free DVD burning programs on download.com have very few features–limited menu options, limited bitrate options, no customizing, etc. The only non-free program I have tried is Nero, but it does everything I want it to do–take screen shots, use your own menu backgrounds. Just read the instructions. Good luck.

Spring Break–Interim Report

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esterday, I mentioned that I had received comments from some people I hadn’t heard from in a long time–Tak, the Vixen. I was surprised, to say the least, especially since I don’t post as much as I used to. That they would say something suggests they still read–at least occasionally. Anyway, it is nice to hear from them.

Anyway, spring break is here and I had plans to do a lot of things–grade papers, grade midterms, clean the closet, do taxes. Of course, as president of Procrastinators Local 72, I am no where close to accomplishing any of these lofty goals, except for the closet thing. M stood behind me drumming her fingers on her folded arms until I moved. *sigh*

But I have burned a number of DVDs so that those members of my family who are not very proficient at using media players on the computers can watch J-Drama–yes, this includes finger drummers. So I have Hana yori dango I and II (except the last episode that airs this week) ready to go on DVD. I also burned Karei naru ichizoku (again, except the last episode). This is in addition to this season’s regulars, Haikei chichiue-sama, Imo tako nankin and Furin kazan. Being the anal guy I am, the menus of these DVDs are usually a screen shot from the drama, and after making sure the video and audio are in synch, I make DVD jackets for these which include a different screen shot as well as info about the drama gleaned from the Internet, usually Wiki-drama. I am creating quite a collection, and M’s friends’ are often flipping through the titles when they visit–Nodame Cantabile, Kekkon dekinai otoko, Yasashii jikan, Unfair, Ruri no shima, Orange Days, Trick (I, II, and III), Tiger and Dragon and about 20 other titles. They comment that the quality is much better than the pirated J-drama video tapes available at the local Korean markets, but they never seem to mention how much cheaper it is too: $2.50 vs. $0.00. Hmmm…

Anyway, this is how I am spending my spring break, going through spindles of DVDs like M goes through a box chocolates. But I have to admit that I enjoy doing this. It gives me practice for when I start editing and burning clips from Japanese films for my classes–well, at least that’s how I justify it to M…