Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of an Era

I usually try to not be so self-indulgent here, but all things considered...
  1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
    I got my own apartment and started living on my own! Getting a real job, paying bills, etc.--all the things that go with living on my own--were new to me as well. There were little things, too, but that is the main thing that sticks with me.

  2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I don't think I made any resolutions, because I can't remember any... but I definitely did make a set of twelve for 2011. I did, however, reach a few goals, including my 100th つくれぽ on December 29.

  3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    No--my friends and I are definitely not at that life stage.

  4. Did anyone close to you die?
    Very thankfully, no.

  5. What countries did you visit?
    None, but I did go to the West Coast for the first time. Also, parts of Japan came to me.

  6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
    Love, or, more specifically, love that doesn't make me question myself.

  7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    March 31, 2010, for destroying so much of what had been constants in my life, and May 27, 2010, for forcing me out into the real world, diploma in hand.

  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    In a most typical and concrete sense, graduating from college and starting my first real job. On a more personal level, spring semester of my senior year is something I look back on and sometimes can't believe. I took four classes, worked in lab, planned the 40th anniversary of a benefit exhibition (and then some), made new friends, and survived the overnight collapse of a five-year de facto relationship.

  9. What was your biggest failure?
    I don't know--not forcing my Godot situation, I guess. At the time I thought I was doing what I needed to do to protect myself from a dead-end situation--and I was--but I also failed to act on my emotions and to actually force a serious consideration of what was going on.

  10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Thankfully, no.

  11. What was the best thing you bought?
    I'm not sure... maybe my graduation dress from Ann Taylor? I don't buy many things, and that dress was lovely and expensive.

  12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    I think everyone who donated their time, services, and talent--especially at the eleventh hour--to the benefit exhibition reminded me of how good people can be, even when some of those closest to me were showing just the opposite. That will remain with me for a long time and remind me to similarly act with generosity and compassion.

  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    My Godot's, and Jisha's, probably in that order.

  14. Where did most of your money go?
    Rent, I would say. I don't really spend money in general.

  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    That's hard to say... the Kids' Skate? Haha. Actually, most (if not all) of April 15-17, 2010. Spending time with のんちゃん, getting a job... I'm not sure. I don't get "really, really, really excited" about many things.

  16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
    Ugh, who knows? I listened to so many key songs depending on the funk I happened to find myself in. Hallelujah, I'm Not That Girl, One Day I'll Fly Away, Troublemaker, Monster, and M all received disproportionate representation, but I'm not sure that listening to any of these songs a while from now will trigger 2010.

  17. Compared to this time last year:
    a. Happier or sadder? I think maybe both. I spent a lot of time being upset about the way things in my life would ultimately end up, but was also happy because I was reassured that my emotions weren't completely unfounded. Now that that reassurance is gone, I am distinctly less confident in myself and what I believe, but logically I know that in the long run this is the point at which I become happier. Freedom can be addicting, and I am pretty happy with my life right now.
    b. Older or wiser? Again, I am probably both. The transition to 22 from 21 was fairly minor, so I am probably wiser than I am older, but I still feel the need to accomplish things and have these experiences during this period that everyone seems to call the best in our lives. I am wiser to how things find a way of working out in the end, but moreover I am wiser to how deceptive some people can be.
    c. Thinner or fatter? Ugh, I was on my way to becoming thinner, but then the holidays happened. I think I am tending towards thinner, though.
    d. Richer or poorer? Well, I have my own income now, but I'm spending most of it on rent...

  18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
    Do random things with my friends.

  19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
    Waiting for my Godot.

  20. How will you be spending New Years Eve?
    I will hopefully see some of my friends, but I will primarily be basking in the two-and-a-half-hour glow that is 嵐 hosting 紅白歌合戦.

  21. Did you fall in love in 2010?
    No. I was already in love, but I also slowly forced myself to fall out of it.

  22. How many one-night stands?
    Hah, right.

  23. What was your favorite TV program?
    Probably ひみつの嵐ちゃん, although I discovered I love 食わず嫌い and きたなシュラン/きたなトラン from とんねるずのみなさんのおかげでした.

  24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

  25. What was the best book you read?
    Sadly enough, I don't think I read anything that wasn't assigned. This past year has been a whirlwind, and I haven't worked on my To Read list since the summer of 2009.

  26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
    Priscilla Ahn, probably, whom I found through Other than that, I rediscovered, among other music, Hallelujah and the soundtrack from Moulin Rouge.

  27. What did you want and get?
    Freedom, a job, an honors diploma...

  28. What did you want and not get?
    I can't even begin to list... Well, closure, for one. Closure, an explanation, a satisfying ending. I wanted a real relationship with real love. I didn't get the fellowship that I wanted that I thought would let me run away from everything, but in hindsight I love the alternative that I have now. Of course, I wanted various things when I went shopping, but I refrained from pretty much all of it, but that's not really something I'll remember.

  29. What was your favorite film(s) of this year?
    I don't really watch movies all that much... I watched Ponyo and thought it was cute, but I wouldn't call it my favorite. Julie & Julia was fun, but again, not a long-lasting classic.

  30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    For the past seven years my birthday has either fallen on AP Exams or finals. This year I spent most of my 22nd birthday writing a paper on carnivorous in the dining hall. Exciting, I know. I did go out for drinks though with a bunch of friends--nothing that long or amazing, but lovely nonetheless.

  31. What would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    I don't know--a confrontation with my Godot? I probably wasn't ready for one, though. Finding a non-Godot replacement would have been an amazing SCREW YOU. Maybe knowing with complete certainty that medical school is in my future would have helped.

  32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
    I hope it was elegant and classy, even as I stayed casual. Several people have mentioned this to me over the past couple of years, and I found that incredibly flattering. I went for a lot of classic pieces, as usual, but also made a conscious effort to go for more immediate trends and less practical items.

  33. What kept you sane?
    Gchat and Google Docs. More seriously (not that my appreciation for Google isn't completely serious), my schoolwork and my labwork gave me goals that helped me temporarily block out a lot of what was going on around and inside me. Knowing that I could always go back to my sister was kind of comforting too.

  34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    What? I don't think any of them.

  35. What political issue stirred you the most?
    Let's see... I felt motivated enough to write a post on the validity of hate crimes as its own category, so I guess that counts. I am also still staunchly against affirmative action. I followed the DREAM Act near the end, and would have been much more "stirred" had it passed. Sometimes I don't understand liberals. At all.

  36. Who did (do) you miss?
    I miss my relatives in Japan and basically everything about the country, and I really miss my Godot.

  37. Who was the best new person/people you met?
    This is a difficult question with a multilayered answer... I appreciate so many of the people I met through the benefit exhibition this year because they reminded me that I can be loved and cared for. I look back and remember their incredible generosity towards patients they have never met and will never meet, and recall their kindness towards me in a time when work was the main thing that kept me going. They were the ones who first enabled me to construct a monologue in my head, for whenever the need might arise, that didn't end in anything self-destructive.
    "There are people backstage, right now," I would say, outside the rink, "who have known me for less than two days or have only seen me for a total of nine days in the past three years. But they care about me and they want me to be happy and they want me to be less stressed, and they came up with all of this compassion in such little time. So if after five years, you can't find it within yourself to care about me, even the slightest bit, then that is your shortcoming and not mine."

    Of course, I never did have the chance to say this.
    I also really value the friends I have made since starting my "real life." Many of them I had already known before, but my social network has widened and various relationships have become stronger.

    This is odd and ironic, but lastly one of the best people I met this year is my boss. Really. He is kind and patient, and that is all I need.

  38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:
    "The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned." -JK Rowling

  39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
    "But love is not a victory march / It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Japanese Nationals 2010: The Restoration of a Champion, Part II

Things are so much easier to watch when you know the outcome...

I know that there are various, well-informed figure skating observers who would disagree, but I actually don't really like Akiko Suzuki's skating. It's true, she has good musicality--great, I would even say, for an Asian--but there is a vague sloppiness to her jumps that is off-putting. Her complete lack of a personality doesn't help either. I can forgive the odd pairing that is this white dress with the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack, since it's absurd that she would try to actually portray anything from it anyway, and the style of the music actually suits her perfectly.

However, Akiko's clean jumps still seemed low to me, and there was a wild, rushed quality to them. She didn't quite warm up to the audience and sell her program until the step sequence at the end, which I do have to commend her for attacking. In any case, she is the latest sacrificial skater for Japan, and this time she made it easier for everyone by botching several key jumps.

In stark contrast to this study in tragedy is Kanako Murakami, who is the latest possessor of a bandwagon. I'm all for youth and smiles, but her technique worries me a lot. Her triple toe + triple toe combination is solid, but her Lutz will become a major problem soon. She is super fast, though--look at how the advertisements around the rink are blurred on camera! I loved her triple flip + double Axel sequence, and other than the generics, I really like her music choice. The Mask of Zorro plays to her speed and youthful energy while using a mature sound to help her grow as a performer. Mao Asada's debut senior free skate was done to the Nutcracker in a pink and white puffy dress. It was cute and worked well for her, but Kanako's equivalent program here feels more mature.

Kanako's expression at the end says it all--she's young, she's new, and she's here to take it all. Love it.

It is kind of fitting that Kanako's idol, mentor, friend, and sister figure Mao would be next. Now, I know that some of Mao's costuming choices have been pretty suspect (I think the last dress I really liked was from 2007, aside from her exhibition dresses...), and that people have continued to hate her current season's styles, but I actually love this periwinkle. It's elegant, sparkly, modest, and mature. It has a softness that matches the music, and it just works.

What stands out for me in this program is Mao's artistry. Earlier in the season, when her jumps completely abandoned her, it was difficult to make heads or tails of her skating in general, but now that they are mostly back but still not her strong point, the strength of the rest of her skating becomes evident. Her lines, the way she carries her arms, her knees... lovely. Speaking of jumps, though, I'm not convinced of the wisdom of planning a triple Axel in the second half of her program.

Although the triple Lutz received an edge call, it looked better than it initially did. It will probably never be as fixed as Tatiana Tarasova claimed, but we all can dream, I suppose. And, oh dear god--her spirals were gorgeous. And she actually smiled.

Nationals are such a magical stage for Mao. Look at the mess on the ice! Those little girls are working overtime to deal with the love of an entire country. It's actually kind of hilarious to watch. Welcome back!

I wouldn't call Risa Shoji's position particularly envious. Not only does she have to skate right after Mao, the coloring of her dress is similar but lesser. The direct comparison allowed me to realize--or rather to remember--that she is actually quite young.

Risa has incredible speed, and it's unfortunate that the pressure seemed to get to her in her early jumps. She also seemed a little more withdrawn than in the short program, which is not altogether surprising but also not necessarily typical of a junior fresh up the ranks. When she was fifteen, Mao used to seem completely blind to where she was placed after the short, and just skate with incredible reckless abandon. That's gone now, and this is where she's ended up.

Actually, Risa might benefit from choosing more dramatic music until she can define her own artistry and style--the quiet quality sometimes seemed to allow her skating to become lost. It'll all come together, though.

I almost skipped Fumie Suguri, but then I realized that earlier in the season Rafael sent me a picture of her with a weird head sash, and I knew I just had to watch. Sadly, the sash has been ditched, but the rest of her costume has not.

Fumie has surprising speed in her skating, and her straight-line footwork sequence had good energy to it, but to me there's nothing that really stands out in her performances. It pains me to think about all the money she spends on her career now.

I am appalled by the margin with which Miki Ando won. I'm not particularly appalled that she won--I don't have a very strong opinion on this either way--but there is no reason for a 10-point difference. Come on. The fact that Miki beat Mao even in the PCS is really troubling.

After a string of really hideous costumes, Miki looks fairly decent in this dress. There is a jarring quality to many of her jumps--I'm not sure what it is--but at least they were done cleanly. What bothers me most, though, is that Miki could essentially be skating to any music and you wouldn't really know the difference. There are moments in this program when she tries to be soft and to emote a graceful elegance, and I appreciate that, but as a whole Miki is simply just heavy to watch.

Miki's reaction at the end of her program was what left the greatest impression on me. Far too often in recent years, she's failed to live up to her hype, and has always looked disappointed at the end of her performances while blaming her shoulder or her back or her leg or whatever it is that is currently bothering her. This time, though, there was none of that. She was satisfied, plain and simple, and while I would have been able to warm more to her had she celebrated in giddiness instead of this aggressive glare, it's still refreshing and reassuring to see her actually pleased with herself for once.

The commentators need to calm down, though. Her skating wasn't so great that you'd want to watch it forever.

Monday, December 27, 2010

That College-Dream Life

24 hours ago I was angry at having a Godot, but then I decided to watch Eat Pray Love. I wanted something to relax to that was a step above the typical romantic comedy, and this movie fulfilled this requirement by about a hair.

I really despise Kate Chopin's The Awakening. This means that I despise selfish lead females who destroy their marriages and families and those who depend of them in search of something bigger and better. Elizabeth Gilbert doesn't want to listen to her husband talk about going back to school for a degree in education, and her solution to this is divorce, followed by a soul-searching global trip? Please.

It doesn't help that I'm one of the few people in the United States who is not a Julia Roberts fan or admirer, but in any case this film was an exercise in self-indulgence and fantasy. In Italy, the main character eats a napoleon for breakfast, then proceeds to demonstrate poor pasta-eating table manners. In India, she finally works up the nerve to actually end things with the James Franco character, because she was too self-absorbed to do it before she climbed into the taxi in New York. In Bali, she disregards her hosts' express wishes and the importance of preserving cultural relics by photocopying a manuscript. Her overnight mastery of Italian was too much to take, as was her seamless adaptation to Indian culture. Seriously, she probably had more of a culture shock when she realized how her baths in Italy would be drawn.

The film acts as if Liz learns a lot and becomes a completely new person, but in fact that is not altogether clear. Roberts' voiceovers tell the viewers that her character has learned a lot, but there is little to actually demonstrate that. Riding off into the sunset because a medicine man tells her about balance? Come on. All the audience learns is that Liz is a self-important feminist who is always impatient for results, just like the typical modern American but with a little extra money.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Japanese Nationals 2010: The Restoration of a Champion, Part I

Ever since she became aware of her own status and the magnitude of the stakes, Mao Asada has struggled early in the season. This year the struggle has been alarming, and even though I still have faith that she will get it together in time for Four Continents and Worlds there were those that suggested that she could miss the World team. Since pessimism doesn't usually follow Miracle Mao, I spent most of Christmas nervously checking for updated scores. My persistence paid off in the form of a great if temporary Christmas present!

There is something a little scary about Risa Shoji's face. Maybe it's the eyebrows. It's also like, an artificially Asianified version of Alissa Czisny or something. But no matter, I'll stop being petty. She appears to be the equivalent to Yuzuru Hanyu, and she lived up to the next-generation hype with a somewhat rare triple Salchow + triple toe combination. She doesn't seem to be particularly fast (although she isn't slow) or have great extension, but she has solid jumps and spins, which tend to be more difficult to fix. The extension in particular will come with greater maturity and polish--after all Risa is only fourteen(!)--and overall all of the fundamentals are there, more so than for Kanako Murakami. It's pretty unbelievable that last season she was a novice, although I guess that's also what Mao Asada pulled off. I'm really quite impressed and can only hope that puberty doesn't mess with her.

By the way, her coach is rather attractive.

Speaking of the young ones...

Kanako is older than Risa by two years, but Risa's look is currently much more mature. I'm not sure which I prefer--Kanako is much cuter but at some point she needs to become an adult--but in any case Kanako better get working on that Lutz before Risa overtakes her in time for Sochi.

LOL, I had no idea they call Kanako "Jumping Jack" and "Kanako Flash." The English language in the hands of the Japanese can be quite a scary thing.

Kanako so far has better speed and performance ability than Risa, and she backed this up with a great triple toe + triple toe combination and a triple flip. Her popped double axel was a very unfortunate miss since it seems to be such a solid jump for her, but I guess this is what Nationals does to skaters. I loved the speed through all of her spins, though. And really, can you say adorable?

Wow, geez. I must have missed several key things in the past few weeks, because I did not know that Miki Ando had made the decision to skate her new short program (wait, why did she change it again?) in a modified wedding dress. Actually, I just looked at a picture of her from the Grand Prix Final, and she was wearing another white dress there, so this is probably its debut. It helps make Miki look lighter and softer, but it's still a little creepy to see her wearing it as she stands next to Nikolai Morozov. Also creepy is that Nikolai actually kisses her (albeit on the cheek) in the Kiss & Cry instead of the traditional hug or handshake. I'm also unclear as to why Miki even bothers trying to be light or soft.

However, she actually surprised me here and pulled off a program far lovelier than I've come to expect from her. Miki's jumps didn't quite have the spring of Risa and Kanako, but she actually flowed. And she actually smiled.

I would probably be very sad for Akiko Suzuki if I hadn't already used up my dead-end fandom on Yukari Nakano. There is just something so tragic about her skating life. Here, I understand that her triple Lutz attempt was pretty much a failure, but the other parts of her program seemed to be unfairly underrated. Do her a favor for once, will you? Name recognition has helped every other skater, but not Akiko.

This was it--the moment that pretty much everyone was waiting for. Bring it, Mao! What's weird is that this is actually the first time that I'd seen her short program this season, since I avoid trying to bring unnecessary stress into my life. Anyway, even my amateur eye on this YouTube-quality video could tell that her triple Axel was probably underrotated, but the judges decided to give it to her anyway. I guess they needed to in order to a) ensure that she would go to Worlds and b) give her the confidence she needs to continue to attack her jumps. I feel like her underrotated triple loop was more rotated than her complete triple Axel, but who's asking me? I'm sure Nobuo Sato isn't letting anything slide anyway.

Her triple loop + triple loop combination is an interesting decision, and her triple flip was the Mao that we'd all been missing all this time. After this she seemed to light up a bit, and although her step sequence--or her skating in general--wasn't as fast as it could be, it was intricately set to the music. Watching her performance, for the first time I really regretted the elimination of the spiral sequence from the ladies' short program. Sato seemed decently satisfied, which seems like a good sign for her progress.

Mao's smiles and tears after the Kiss & Cry almost broke my heart.

By the way, I'm sure that my obsession with Nobuo Sato is quite clear, but I think it should be made equally clear that if I were his student I would live my life in sheer terror.

Dear god, I cannot believe Fumie Suguri still exists. I can't believe the JSF didn't even have the foresight to bury her and to keep Akiko's spirits up. I watched this short program on the basis of Fumie's name alone, but it was generally two and a half minutes I could have spent napping. I will admit that her jumps were surprisingly solid and that her musicality isn't so bad, but everything was just so slow and boring. Please, for your sake and everything's sake, stop. Stoppp.

Japanese Nationals 2010: A Long Time Coming, Part II

Continuing quickly, following the starting order:

In a word, this performance was all guts. After the short program and the collision injury that lay behind it, Daisuke Takahashi's attitude to go out and attack this free skate and defend his honor as reigning World Champion was pretty incredible. With the exception of his opening quad flip, which is an unbelievable jump to even attempt in competition, and popped double Salchow at the end, all of his jumps were clean, without any of the stops or shortness that marred his short program. As usual the step sequences were the highlight of Daisuke's performance, and I loved how his transition into his headless scratch spin in his final combination spin was perfectly matched to the music.

I was actually surprised he lost even the free skate to Takahiko Kozuka, especially considering Takahiko's two falls, but then I checked the protocol and realized that his quad flip had been downgraded to a triple, and then given a -3 GOE. Ouch. Regardless, though, this was the performance of the night. The commentators are right--there is some special power that comes from him, and without it things just aren't the same. These four and a half minutes flew by, and he is a champion with life experience.

By the way, Tonia Kwiatkowski can stop being so bitter--Daisuke Murakami was only eighth.

This is typically the moment when Takahiko loses his head and subsequently his short program position, so to say I was concerned is a serious understatement. This title needed to happen for him, though, not only because I love his skating but because he needs to find a way to believe that he is among the best in the world.

Deep purple and black seem to be Takahiko's unofficial official colors. It is quite a contrast to Daisuke's flashiness and works well for him, just as all of Daisuke's rhinestones and open collars and frills more or less accentuate his performance ability.

As usual I loved his triple Axel(s), and I was fascinated by the delay that seemed to happen in the instant before he tapped into his triple Lutz. The double toe loop he did in combination with it was kind of a girly decision (sorry), but it got the job done. Also girly was his awkward three-jump combination: triple Axel + double toe + single loop. Mao Asada, your future wife if I controlled this world, could do that combination. I was a little surprised that Takahiko could still get credit for a triple Lutz + triple toe combination in the second half of the program after his attempt in the beginning, but I'm not altogether clear on all of the rules (though probably more so than, say, Nobunari Oda) and now that I think about it, double Axels and triple Axels are considered different jumps, so. The fall on the final triple Salchow was unfortunate, but everything about it just screamed wasted nervous energy. Hopefully he'll learn, especially since he managed to keep up his stroking, step sequence, and spin speed until the very end.

I was hoping I could find a clip of the moment Takahiko becomes National Champion, but so far I've come up with nothing.

Oh hey, new flavor of the month. Your free skate costume is even worse than your short program costume, but I'll forgive it and your necklaces because you are still so damn adorable. (Edit: I just looked up Yuzuru Hanyu on Wiki to see if he's actually Christian, but instead of finding that information I instead found that in 2007 he modeled his hairstyle after Evgeny Plushenko's, and that this season Johnny Weir had a hand in designing his costumes. I feel validated in my assessment of Yuzuru's costumes before knowing this information, but at the same time this all makes him rather questionable. By the way, a moment after I gave up on finding the original information, the commentator said that Yuzuru's cross is actually a good-luck move to keep his shoulders level. Huh.)

I'm not sure how many times I've seen a jump end in a split fall, but I have to admit it was kind of graceful. I enjoyed his second triple Axel, and the rest of his jumps were fine, except the final triple Salchow attempt. It was a little bit Takahiko-like in how the program played out, complete with a missed quad attempt, an unnecessary fall, and an unfortunate triple Salchow.

Although I prefer Takahiko, of course, Yuzuru actually has a much better innate performance ability that will probably threaten Takahiko's status as the heir apparent to the No. 1 position four years from now, assuming Yuzuru can get his jumps together under pressure. I also really admire Yuzuru's lines and speed across the ice, but unfortunately in this performance the little technical mistakes crept in and added up, leaving him in fourth place by quite a margin. The disappointment on his face after he finished made me want to hug him again. No matter, though. It's all a learning experience in the first year of the new Olympic cycle. Welcome to the craziness!

Is it bad that I wanted to laugh when the commentators mentioned that what Nobunari Oda was most disappointed in after his short program was his weak mentality going in? I'd be quite interested to see the moments of his mental strength. Although he fell on his quad attempt (so that's 0 for 4 for all of the top men, I think?), Nobunari seriously makes it look like he lands his triple Axels on clouds instead of ice. It's rather unfortunate that he fell on the second one, but he made up for it with great jumps otherwise. Of course he simply does not have the excitement of Daisuke or the pure endearingness that is Takahiko and now Yuzuru, but he was good enough to do enough.

Yet despite this relative success, it's impossible to ignore that he seriously needs to learn how to hold up under pressure. Six falls between the top two finishers, and four from Nobunari? Come on. The commentators remarked that the tension swallowed him, and that he dislikes being the last to skate. Tough. Cookies.

Japanese Nationals 2010: A Long Time Coming, Part I

Every season for the past several years, it seems that Takahiko Kozuka, irrespective of his successes, has always been considered the third-ranked Japanese male skater. Part of it is his age, part of it is his inability to really hold it together when it counts (although Nobunari Oda seriously has this problem so this is probably not a valid reason), and part of it is Japan's fascination with preserving order. In any case, all of that changed this wonderful Christmas weekend.

(Side note: Nothing quite demonstrates an overall Japanese indifference to Christmas than holding its Nationals roughly between December 24 and December 26, year after year. Hah.)

I'd seen Yuzuru Hanyu's name around various times, mostly at Nationals and on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, but had never really paid attention or watched any of his programs. God, he is ADORABLE! There is something about him as he talks to his coach before his performance that makes me want to hug him. This is also possibly the first time I've ever seen a Japanese person cross himself. Cognitive dissonance, I tell you.

I was just thinking that Yuzuru's costume was a watered-down version of a Johnny Weir when the commentator mentioned that his music was from Swan Lake. Hah, perfect. Yuzuru's opening triple Axel--amazing! The knee bend coming out of it--and I feel like Dick Button saying this, horrors--was incredible. I loved his triple Lutz + triple toe combination as well. His transitions and choreography still need some work--sometimes it felt like he was just gliding as he waved his arms around--but he is still only sixteen. Besides, Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko never really moved on from that, and they both own Olympic Gold Medals.

At first I thought that Yuzuru's second-to-last combination spin was traveling out of control, but then it turned out that the cameramen were doing very wonky things with the angles. Ugh. Anyway, another combination spin later, Yuzuru was done with his first short program at senior Nationals. Commence the official anointing of Japan's No. 4, and one of its Great Hopes for Sochi. Let the media hounding begin!

Oh, Daisuke Takahashi, no. That hair really needs to go. Whether you slick it back or make it curly, it will not transform you into a Latino. Although I already knew before I started watching the program that he would not score well, it was still jarring to see Daisuke stumble on the jumps that are usually so easy for him. It was evidence of his sheer willpower that he managed to pull of the triple toe loop after an off landing on his opening triple flip, and that he stayed on his feet after his triple Axel. All admiration for willpower aside, though, whoever gave him a +1 GOE for the triple Axel needs to be examined. Maybe someone got an extra dose of the Daisuke Will Be Sent to Worlds memo.

The camera work was out in full force again as Daisuke's spin appeared to wander all over the rink, which really annoys me. Why take a spin shot from the ceiling? His triple Lutz was basically eked out, which was still bizarre to see even after the first two jumps. Despite it all Daisuke never forgets to perform, though, and somehow found the energy and smiles to bring it in his straight-line step sequence. No words necessary, indeed. (Amazing that on a technical level, Takahiko would later go on to beat him even in the step sequence, though.)

Shizuka Arakawa mentioned that Daisuke was injured in his collision with Takahiko at the Grand Prix Final, which doesn't surprise me but is still news. It wouldn't be news if I'd actually kept track of the Grand Prix Final, which I still need to do and probably will in the down time between now and Worlds, except when interrupted by US Nationals.

I just love every moment of this short program. Nobuo Sato's send-off words seem to capture exactly who and what he is--a gentle but strict coach who expects the best and is proud of what his students do--and I love that his wife's only comment is for Takahiko to fix his collar. Perfect pair, I tell you, except for the past where she looks 20 years younger than him.

I'm a little iffy on Takahiko's shirt--it goes well with the music and helps overcome his natural shyness on the ice--but it's also not him. But whatever. Takahiko covered so much ice on his opening triple Lutz, then just sort of tacked on a high, effortless triple toe loop. No big deal. Caroline Zhang needs to take a look at his free-leg tap-in. I loved his triple Axel, and although his triple flip wasn't quite as impressive as his combination it was still clean and smooth. I was really struck by his stroking speed throughout the program. Mao Asada, pay attention.

I think Takahiko's--for lack of a better comparison--ape-jumping at the beginning of his step sequence, as well as the strange, ad-libbed nose-rubbing, was just the icing on the cake. Eek! Perfect! His quiet fist-pump was adorable, and Nobuo Sato really looked rather pleased. I did notice, though, that there was no congratulatory handshake after the scores were announced in the Kiss & Cry. Also, is the distance between a conscious effort to give the sponsor logos as much air time as possible? Anyway, in one word: FINALLY.

More than anything I feel obligated to watch Nobunari Oda. I should probably find a fluff or two on him, preferably with Mao Asada in it, to make me like him again. Although I appreciate the tight, fast rotation and the nice flow out of his triple Axel, I really disapprove of the long lead-in. I kind of enjoyed how the commentators remarked that his last jumping pass needed to be a combination, which I think even the casual observer of the short program would pick up on fairly quickly but still seems like an appropriate reminder when it comes to Nobunari. Fortunately for him, he remembered.

Of course, no Nobunari performance would be complete without an unbelievable mistake (except those rare times early in the season when everything is just perfect), and it came in the form of a slip in the middle of his step sequence. Fantastic. He came back after it to nail a great combination spin, though, and his performance was more than enough to put a not insignificant lead over Daisuke. Intrigue!

I Have Been Waiting for Godot

Blogging is more time-consuming than I realized, and so is having a constant social life. These forces came together in the past two weeks or so, and now here I am, facing the end of 2010 and not completely clear on what I last wrote. I will, however, attempt to catch up, especially as this incoming blizzard demands me to do little else than try to stay warm in my apartment.

Anyway, in sophomore or junior year of high school--I had the same English teacher both years so it's difficult to differentiate--I had to read Waiting for Godot. Like most, if not all, of my classmates, I was irritated by this play, the only redeeming quality of which was its length, or lack thereof. There was really no point to the plot, and if meeting with this Godot was so important, then why didn't the characters actually go after him? Why did they stay in the same place and expect him to appear, even after it became reasonably clear that he probably wouldn't? Do something, I mentally screamed. At the very least, don't make me read and analyze your nothingness.

The irony of my frustration now hits with the force of a 2 x 4.

I was sitting on a crowded, snow-delayed train, on my way back to my apartment after a brief Christmas weekend back home. For whatever reason my past several days have been filled with these extremely detailed scenarios of what I would do, what I would say, what he would say, what I would be wearing, how I would act, how he would act, where we would be, of everything, if he were ever to come back and try to make things right. This monotonous train ride was particularly conducive to these pointless scenarios, and as I wandered in and out of sleep I started running through the details again. I have it all in my head and therefore am prepared if anything similar were to ever occur.

I realize and generally accept the idea that nothing probably will.

And all of a sudden, Waiting for Godot made sense to me. I have been waiting for my Godot for five years, if not more. I am the very characters that I despised, and I have been wasting my time leading that pointless, frustrating life. I would hate myself for this more than I already do, but my background self-loathing is already at its maximum level. Instead, I've developed a sort of sympathy for Vladimir and Estragon, and realize that, perhaps and hopefully, they are not as stupid as we then-teenaged readers assumed. Sometimes, even after you lose track of why, things are just too important to abandon, even after they've abandoned you or were never around in the first place.

There are a lot of things I don't want to be anymore, and most of all I don't want to wait for my Godot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Not Only Japanese TV

This reminds me of how the スベラーズ were sent to the northernmost region of Alaska for failing to crack the Top 10 of the Oricon charts. Except, well, the スベラーズ were on TV and were paid for the experience.

Apparently Americans can be just as strange.

Slow candy sales mean goodbye Hawaii, aloha Fargo!

FARGO, N.D. – There is an old saying in the sales business: Always be closing. Here is a new one: Always be freezing, if you do not sell enough.

The company that makes Hot Tamales candy offered its sales team an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii if it met its annual goals, and a trip to the nation's arctic tundra if it didn't.

The Just Born team did not meet its target and, on Tuesday, about two dozen salespeople gathered inside the 19-story Radisson hotel — the tallest building in frozen Fargo.

Outside, the temperature was 7 degrees. The ground had 2 feet of snow.

Not exactly Hawaii: Honolulu was sunny, and a comfortable 82 degrees.

"Fargo is not what you would think is one of the greatest locales in the United States and technically we didn't make our year," said Dave Bayha, a Just Born manager. "It was somewhat of a punishment."

Would Bayha rather be in Hawaii?

"Um, sure," the Phoenix resident said, laughing again.

The team had a good year, increasing sales from the previous year by 2 percent, said Josh Halpern, the company's director of U.S. sales. The goal was a 4-percent bump.

That earned them the trip to Fargo. Some had to go shopping for real winter clothes, such as furry bomber hats, long underwear and parkas.

They are trying to make the best of it, with a little humor.

They planned tours of two North Dakota wineries and a winter extravaganza with a sleigh ride, tobogganing and hot toddies around a fireplace inside a chalet.

On their first night in town, they went to the VFW in West Fargo for a spaghetti dinner. Five bucks a plate, all you can eat.

Afterward, they hauled an old-school popcorn machine into a conference room and watched a movie. "Fargo," of course. Yah sure, you betcha.

"Watching Fargo in Fargo is just one of those random bucket list things you get to check off," Halpern said. "It doesn't resemble the community at all," he said, laughing. "Maybe a few of the expressions."

The 24 employees from Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born have been popular among the locals, too, handing out care packages with treats like Peeps, Mike and Ike, Peanut Chews and Teenie Beanie.

Next winter, if the group fails to reach its goal, they will get an all-expenses paid trip to Rapid City, S.D.

"As a team, this is something we will never forget," Bayha said. "Twenty to 30 years down the road, when we see each other, we're going to say, 'Remember Fargo?'"

Monday, December 13, 2010

12.06.2010 SMAPxSMAP: 芦田愛菜


最近またBistro SMAPにハマって来て、今回のゲストは史上最年少だったので興味深かったです。前は加藤清史郎くんや武井証くんがこの番組に出ていましたが、必ず共演している大人の方と来店してました。今回は6歳の芦田愛菜ちゃん1人でした!















ゲームが終わって、試食の時間になりました。札を引いた結果、順番は1)草彅さん 2)香取さん 3)稲垣さん 4)木村さんでした。















Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trekking in the Himalayas

I usually hate commercials, and this one makes no sense (black guy speaking Japanese climbing the Himalayas talking to a white dog he calls お父さん?), but it's still my favorite, bar none.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Off To a Flying Start

Yes, yes, the Grand Prix Final starts tomorrow and I still haven't watched Cup of China or Trophée Eric Bompard. In a jarring reminder that the schedule is hot on my tail, here is a moment that gave my dear Japan a collective and simultaneous heart attack.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In the Midst of My Frustrations

"The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it." -Online Banking

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

12.02.2010 ヘキサゴン:灘高等学校

















(オレンジチーム 10点、黄色チーム 10点、ピンクチーム 35点)









(全チーム 100点)