Sunday, December 31, 2006

Kicking and Screaming - Night at the Museum

Me, again. The book junkie. No surprise that I much prefer reading a book than seeing the movie adaptation of the same.

Case in point, did anyone see Ella Enchanted a couple of years ago? What were they thinking? The book was... well, enchanting. The movie? Not so much.

I really worried that Night at the Museum was going to be the same kind of overstretching, badly-interpreted dreck. I had read the book by Milan Trenc years ago and really enjoyed it so my toes curled when I saw the previews for the movie. The fact that critics seemed to agree with my initial reaction didn't help much.

But, as these things go, the kids wanted to see it, and so I found myself at the theater, an oversized bucket of (ugh!) movie theater popcorn in my lap... laughing. Wow. What a pleasant surprise. They actually did a decent job with this one.

My favorite characters were the cowboy and the roman dude, and of course Robin Williams made a great Teddy Roosevelt. Never did quite get the purpose of the Easter Island head, but the dinosaur bones were great. In all, it wasn't a total waste of celluloid.

I do hope it is not the only movie I get to see while in the States, however...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

TBR Piles

Hi. I'm Gerb and I'm a book junkie.

There. I've admitted it. I don't really want to recover, I'm just saying. Some women collect shoes. I collect books - even though I have very little space for storing them all back in Japan. Whenever I come to the States, I end up lugging back a suitcase full of books, and my To-Be-Read pile grows while my bookshelves overflow.

I've been feeding the addiction while on vacation, catching up on finding books by authors from my online groups. In case anyone is looking for great YA reads, let me give you a few titles to check out:

Adios to my Old Life by Barbara Ferrer
I Was a Teenage Popcicle by Bev Rosenbaum
Stake That by Marianne Mancusi (but first you should read Boys that Bite.)
The Salem Witch Tryouts by Kelly McClymer
Golden by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
and definitely
I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

And when you're done with those, come back here and I'm sure I'll have another list for you in a few weeks! :)

Toliver, Toliver

The fun never ends. On the 19th I met up with Wendy Toliver, who I met on one of my author's online groups. She said my blog entry would sound something like this; "So this Wendy chick yakked my ear off..."

Not even.

I had a great time. Wendy's a fellow author, and you know how I love to talk books. Besides, she's smart and fun and has some great things brewing. That's right! Be watching right here 'cause I'd love to announce some great news for her in the very near future...

Wendy, great meeting you!

Vic and Nikki

No, this is not the title of my next book...

This morning, I met with Vic Method, from Women's Ski Jumping, USA, and Nikki Stone, Olympic Medalist and all-around cool person.

For those of you who are new to the blog, Vic was my contact person from WSJUSA and very helpful in coordinating meetings and invitations and gathering information as I was working on SASS: THE FINNISH LINE. He's been up on the front lines, fighting for a women's ski jump event at the Olympics.

Nikki is working on an exciting book project, which I won't reveal details about at this point, though I will say, it will be worth watching for and grabbing a copy for your bookshelves!

Why I love Utah

I'm writing to you from beautiful Park City, Utah, where the kids and I are on vacation. This is the view from our front window (above) and Mount Timpanogos (below.) *sigh* It's perfect. If you have never been to Utah, you are really missing out. The mountains are breathtaking.

Happy getting-ready-for-the-holidays, everyone!

The Day the (ex) President Came to School

Guess who came to our school the other day? (Okay, so I sort of gave it away with the title, but...) yes! George Herbert Walker Bush and former first lady, Barbara Bush.

Politics aside, it was really cool. Former President Bush walked around the grade school shaking hands with the kids...

"Wow, there are a lot of kids out there. Do you think any of them are Republican?"

...and then spoke at an assembly for the middle school kids. (I suspect that he avoided a High School audience as there may have been too many pointed questions being asked by the older and more cynical crowd. This tactic was further evidenced by Former President Bush's address, which included a multitude of references to his recent work with Former President Bill Clinton - as if to appease the largely liberal audience. The message was nice, though. He reminded the students at ASIJ that they had been blessed with a lot of opportunities, and that with that came responsibility. He stressed a life of service - in or out of the political arena.)

"When I retired, Mrs. Bush gave me a 'honey-do' list about this long! And then I heard the one Bill got from Hillary was about twice as long. So I said to him, I said, 'hey, Bill, I have an idea to get us out of the house...'"

"...and I said to Georgie, 'you did what???'"

And get this - I was able to give a copy of NOW AND ZEN to the former president and Mrs. Bush. :) Let's see if they read it.

"Good-bye! Thanks for the book, dear!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

End of the Season Blues

One of the cool discoveries after we moved to Japan was a service called Slingbox. Many of you know what I'm talking about but in case you don't, I'll give you the whirlwind tour. Slingbox is a program that makes it possible for us to watch American TV here, on our computer.

In the States, the slingbox is hooked up to our aunt's TV, and pipes into her computer. By some magical, mystical cyber miracle, we can then watch the programming all the way on this side of the world. We can even change the channel and everything. Kewl. And then we discovered that we could also add Tivo to this handy set-up so now we don't have to get up at like four in the morning to watch the good shows.

Like Veronica Mars. Seriously. I am totally hooked.

But what's up with this short fall season?! I swear I'm going to go into withdrawals. Ditto for Lost. How can they leave me hanging like that?

Here's to a brief winter hiatus and a quick return to the lineup!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gender Equity and the IOC

I'm still in shock over the IOC's blatant snub of Women's Ski Jumping. What were they thinking?????

There appears to be no clear logic to their decision. "Not enough countries and athletes?" here are 109 athletes from 14 countries actively competing in women's ski jumping at this time. In comparison, when a slot was given for the skeleton event, there were only 15 athletes from 9 countries involved. Bobsled had 30 athletes from a dozen countries. SkiCross, which got the nod this month, reports 35 athletes from 15 countries. What's wrong with this picture?

Another bizarre IOC statement; "This is a new discipline which requires extensive review and committee approvals." Wrong again. Ski jumping is not new. It has been an Olympic sport since 1924... but only for men.

Remind me again which century we are living in?

And what about the 1991 amendment ot the Olympic Charter that mandates that all events added to an Olympic Program must provide competition for men and women? Gee, if your sport was added prior to 1991, you're just out of luck? We don't have to provide gender equity?

This was a supremely stupid move on the part of the IOC.

Their legitimacy has already been called into question after past ethical missteps of some IOC members. Do they really want to wave the old-boy-network flag in our faces again? Our patience is wearing thin.

Some Canadians are questioning how their government can fund construction of a multi-million dollar facility that bans women. It flies in the face of the rights enshrined in the charter as well as Canada's federal and provincial Human Rights Acts.

Sponsors of the Olympics are glancing around nervously. Can they really sponsor an event that does not uphold gender equity in all its events?

Alyssa Johnson, one of the athletes directly affected by this, put it well; "If they get away with this, it diminishes the whole idea about the Olympic Games and fairness and equality."


A Master in our Midst

Yes! Another cool benefit of living near a top international school... Herbie Hancock visited ASIJ this week, offering a Master Class to the Jazz Band and Vocal Jazz groups. (He was in Tokyo on a concert tour.) He graciously opened the auditorium so the rest of us could watch him teach and hear him perform. Have you heard this man play? Wow. I mean it. Wow.

Now check out his website (link above.) Don't you think he kinda looks like a cross between Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington?

Again. Wow.

The Dark Ages

I'm sad, so very sad today. I just found out that the IOC has voted NOT to allow a women's ski jumping event in the 2010 Olympics. The reasononing and "logic" reeks of sexism and politics. When did we lose our focus? Why was this decision not based on the athletes and their ability to perform?

Here is the press release out of Salt Lake:


International Olympic Committee Ruling appears to be out of the “Dark Ages” according to Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini

“The recent IOC decision to block women ski jumpers from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is blatant discrimination and a stunning move that harkens back to the Dark Ages,” according to Deedee Corradini, the former Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah and President of Women’s Ski Jumping USA.

The Olympic Charter’s mission is to “encourage support and promotion of women in sport at all levels and structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women,” said Corradini. “By denying women ski jumpers the right to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the IOC is exhibiting the most clear-cut case of discrimination of women in the Olympics since the reluctance to add women’s marathon in the early 1980’s.”

The world’s second ranked women’s ski jumper, Anette Sagen of Norway, said "I am truly disappointed by the IOC. Worldwide, people are working for equality for women, but the IOC has failed to do that. They have a double standard when it comes to women's ski jumping."

In May 2006, the International Ski Federation (FIS), the governing body for ski jumping, voted 114 to 1 that the women ski jumpers are qualified to compete. Subsequently, they formally requested the IOC add women’s ski jumping to the 2010 Olympics. In addition, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) and the Canadian Olympic Committee also sent requests to the IOC for inclusion.

"The ladies are ready to compete in the Olympics,” said Fabien Ebenhoch, coach of the Italian Women’s Ski Jumping team and former Austrian coach. “The World Jr. Championships were on a bigger hill than would be used in the Olympics, and the juniors have already done in 2006 what the seniors can do in 2010."

Last year, Influential IOC member and FIS President Gian Franco Kasper told National Public Radio that ski jumping “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”

According to the IOC, there are not enough nations and participants to justify addition of the event. However, since 1995 women ski jumpers from over a dozen nations on three continents have been competing on a women’s elite competition circuit. By 2010, women’s ski jumping will have held four World Junior Championships and a World Championship.

In contrast, women’s Ski Cross, which was accepted by the IOC for inclusion in Vancouver 2010, has half the number of athletes, competing in less than half the number of competitions on just one continent.

ZEN is Launched!

It's official. NOW AND ZEN has been launched!

Thanks to super ultra mega cool librarian at ASIJ, Mr. Swist, we celebrated the book at a Book Launch Lunch in the library. We ate pizza, talked about the book and had a great time (at least I did...)

This was extra fun for me because I had based Nori's fictional school on ASIJ and some of the students I know there, but also a little bit scary, for the same reasons. I mean, these people know Japan. If I made any mistakes, they'd be sure to catch them, right?

And you know what? They did.

Well, actually, I caught one of them... you know where Nori has just arrived at Baba and Jiji's house, and Baba tells her to wear her slippers indoors to protect the tatami floors? Well, that's not completely accurate. Most Japanese wear slippers in the house, but would remove them to enter a tatami room.

The other is completely embarassing. I somehow spaced it through writing, rewriting and the entire editing process and wrote that the Hachiko statue is the favorite meeting place in Shinjuku. Um, no. Hachiko Square is located in Shibuya. The entire scene took place in Shibuya. How could I have written Shinjuku?! Unbelievable.

But other than that face-reddening moment, the launch was fantastic. Here I am with the winners of two signed copies of NOW AND ZEN. (Special shout out to my favorite Question Girl!)

Thanks again, Mr. Swist and ASIJ!


One of the cool things about being overseas is the opportunity for travel. In our expat community, taking off every time we have a long weekend or holiday is the norm. This year for Thanksgiving break or family went to Guam.

Guam in November is a beautiful place to be - sunny and warm, which was a nice change from the rain and cold we left behind in Tokyo. Here's the view from our hotel window. *sigh* How could you not love this?

But of course, me being me, I had an ulterior motive for choosing Guam. Last year we visited Saipan, and I became fascinated with the latte stones that are found throughout the Mariana Islands. I had done some research on them while in Saipan and wanted to learn more while we were on Guam. Yes, another story idea brewing. :) The age and mystery surrounding the stones is fascinating. Here is a picture from the Latte Stone Park in Agana.

Guam is also a US territory and houses a large military base (which is about to expand as troops transfer from Okinawa) so we had all the advantages of being Stateside (Wendy's, Taco Bell, ColdStone and the new Bond movie, baby!) PLUS the exotic setting and cool finds such as old circa WWII Japanese tunnels and ancient Chamorro star maps in caves. What could be better than that?