Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Korean movie The Way Home in Oakland, September 2.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland will be showing the 2002 Korean movie The Way Home (집으로) on September 2nd. It's from 2:00 to 4:00 pm in Classroom A, and it's free.

The best part of the Wikipedia page?
Many critics praised the style of the movie as well as the acting of the inexperienced Kim Eul-boon who at 78, had not only never acted before, but never even seen a film.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hisanori Takahashi debuts with Pittsburgh.

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pitcher Hisanori Takahashi debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, getting three outs on six pitches. An excerpt from his blog post yesterday:


Takahashi was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Here's another picture of Takahashi in his new uniform, via his blog:

His blog is worth a read. He updates frequently and makes extensive use of emoticons. If he continues to pitch well I'd like to see Pittsburgh keep him for next year, but that isn't usually the case with their veteran pitchers or late-season additions.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pirates claim Japanese pitcher Hisanori Takahashi.

The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. Takahashi is 37-years-old, played his Japanese ball with the Yomiuri Giants, and has been in the Major Leagues since 2010.

The Pirates have had practically no success with Japanese players in the past, and only two have played---Masumi Kuwata and Aki Iwamura---for their big-league roster. Though the Pirates briefly had a Japanese relif pitcher in their system last winter, Takahashi will be the first Japanese player on the team since 2010.

Kuwata was the most intriguing, and spent part of 2007 with the Pirates. He was signed as a 39-year-old and after a successful career in Japan, but followed a path typical of Pirates acquisitions over the past two decades. The timeline on his Baseball Reference wiki page:
"1987-1994: The Glory Years," "1995-1996: Injury," "1997-2002: Post-Injury," "2003-2006: Further decline," "To the USA."
Nonetheless he was treated with respect by the Pirates at his retirement during spring training in 2008:
Kuwata, a baseball superstar in his native Japan, formally announced his retirement after the Pirates' 7-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon, a game in which manager John Russell asked him to pitch one final time as a show of respect. But he declined.

"He told us he's pitched thousands of innings, that we should use that time to look at pitchers for our future," Russell said. "He's a class act, a true professional and a great human being. We wish him the best of luck in everything he does."

The ritual at the mound was meant to symbolize a farewell to the game. And, although Kuwata's impact in Pittsburgh was negligible, some in the assembled Japanese media were saying that this farewell would top their nation's news for the day.

"He's a legend in our country," said reporter Yasuko Yanagita, who broke the story of Kuwata's retirement for the Hochi Shimbun sports daily. "Everyone will want to know about this, and everyone will be surprised."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Japanese-language play "Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech" in East Liberty, September 28-29.

Belgian premiere, via Utopia Parkway.

Interesting news about "Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech", a Japanese-language play coming to the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater on September 28 and 29. A summary, from the theater's website:
Hot Pepper captures the malaise of young low-level office workers in three quirky scenes set in an office break room. In the sharp and visually vibrant world of write-director Toshiki Okada, twenty-something co-workers wrestle with issues as mundane as selecting a restaurant for lunch or the temperature of the office. Okada mixes dark humor, absurdity, and a disctint musical backdrop by John Coltrane, Stereolab and John Cage to capture the empty and ungrounded nature of Generation Y. Characterized by a seemingly insubstantial narrative accompanied by exaggerated gestures-turned-choreography, the groundbreaking works of chelfitsch (Five Days in March and Enjoy) have drawn global recognition, making them a leading theater company in Japan and abroad. In Japanese with English supertitles.
Very good news, if a couple years late---the play opened in North America in 2009 in New York, Columbus, Minneapolis, Seattle, Vancouver, and St. Louis---because this type of thing would always skip right over Pittsburgh. The theater is at 5941 Penn Avenue (map), accessible (for now) by city bus 71B.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Japanese film Battle Royale in Dormont, August 17 - 21.

One of the most popular, and most controversial, Japanese films in recent memory will be playing at Dormont's Hollywood Theater (map) this month. Here's how imdb summarizes Battle Royale:
In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.
And an excerpt of the Wikipedia summary of controversies:
The film was labeled "crude and tasteless" by members of Japanese parliament and other government officials after the film was screened for them before its general release. The film created a debate over government action on media violence. At one point, director Kinji Fukasaku allegedly gave a press statement directed at the age group of the film's characters, saying "you can sneak in, and I encourage you to do so." Many conservative politicians used the film to blame popular culture for a youth crime wave. Ilya Garger of TIME magazine said that Battle Royale received "free publicity" and received "box-office success usually reserved for cartoons and TV-drama spin-offs." The Japanese reaction to the film in the early 2000s has been compared to the British outrage over A Clockwork Orange in the early 1970s. Critics note the relation of Battle Royale to the increasingly extreme trend in Asian cinema and its similarity to reality television.

For eleven years, the film was never officially released in the United States or Canada, except for screenings at various film festivals. The film was screened to a test audience in the U.S. during the early 2000s, not long after the Columbine High School massacre, resulting in a negative reaction to the film's content.
The movie, released in 2000, didn't make it to Pittsburgh until this past April. It will run August 17th through 20th at 9:15 pm, and Tuesday the 21st at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $7.
Vietnamese food at the McKeesport International Village Festival? Chicken on a stick, egg roll, shrimp fried rice. Chinese food at the McKeesport International Village Festival? Chicken on a stick, egg roll, shrimp fried rice. (2012 menu)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tribune-Review visits Highland Park's Teppanyaki Kyoto.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review visited Highland Park's Teppanyaki Kyoto, one of the best-kept secrets around. The write-up is rather minimal, though the writer gets it right in the first line:
There’s more to Japanese food than sushi and steak, not that you’d know from the menus of most local Japanese restaurants.
Teppanyaki Kyoto is highly-favored among local Japanese, and by serving foods you're most likely to eat in Japan is one of the most authentic, though steak and sushi places like Ichiban Steakhouse and Nakama are routinely, inexplicably voted the best Japanese in the city. If you go with a small group, I'd recommend each person ordering something different so you can try the all the varieties of okonomiyaki. My personal favorite is the hiroshimayaki.

The Pittsburgh City-Paper had a more extensive review, which I noted in June:
[P]erhaps more surprising than Pittsburghers' taste for tuna tartare is that it has taken us so long to discover the rest of Japanese cuisine. Sure, we all know about sweet teriyaki sauce on beef and salmon steaks, most of us learned to boil ramen noodles in college, and some have probably tried Japan's other staple noodles, soba and udon. Then there are hibachi restaurants, which merge an authentic Japanese cooking style — the griddle — with an inauthentic theater of juggled cleavers and sizzling meat. But these do not give a full picture of Japanese cuisine any more than pasta and pizza sums up Italian. In all the derring-do surrounding eating raw fish, we have all but ignored the deserving hot, hearty fare of an island nation as rocky and rugged as Western Pennsylvania.

Into this void, steps Teppanyaki Kyoto. Kyoto, of course, is the ancient imperial capital, whose name evokes the traditional Japan of tatami mats, temples and cherry blossoms, while a teppan is a flat iron griddle, and yaki means grilled or fried. In a small, serene storefront on Highland Park's revitalizing Bryant Street, Kyoto offers something like a Japanese version of a diner. There is a counter for watching food cook at the open teppan, and a menu comprised of humble yet delicious foods drawn from the menus of the lunch counters, train stations and family kitchens of Japan.
The restaurant is located on 5808 Bryant St. (map), a short drive from the Pittsburgh Zoo. The area looks a lot better today than it does on Google Maps. Their Facebook page is pretty active, with menu updates, pictures, and news.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Japanese film I Wish in Dormont, August 10 - 14.

Japanese movie I Wish (奇跡), which played at the Melwood Screening Room in June, will run at Dormont's Hollywood Theater (map) from August 10th through 14th. The Pittsburgh Filmmakers site summarizes:
The adventure begins with 12-year-old Koichi, whose parents are divorced, and who desperately wants to reunite his family. We see his sullen gaze on the active volcano that touches everything in his new town where he lives with his mother. His younger brother lives with his father. When he learns that a new bullet train line will open, linking the two towns, he starts to believe that a miracle will take place the moment the trains first pass each other at top speed. Features wonderful, natural performances from the kids.
The movie is okay, not exactly "a gem of world cinema", but it's not every day that Pittsburgh gets an Asian movie in its theaters. Tickets are $7, and the showtime is 7:00 pm on Friday the 10th, 9:15 pm Saturday through Monday, and 8:00 pm on Tuesday the 14th.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Remembering Hiroshima's "miracle of terror" in Pittsburgh.


As I wrote on July 30, the group Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace is marking the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, with shadow-making at various spots around the city. These chalk outlines are to represent the casualties of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the effect a nuclear blast has on the people it instantly vaporizes. Unfortunately, the Saturday afternoon event at Southside Works was rained out, so I visited "The Unkillable Human" sculpture on the Northshore Heritage Trail.


Beween the permanent installation there, two outlines were made with bungee cords, with yellow roses placed in the center. The sculpture by Frederick Franck is located basically across the street from Warhola Recycling on Chesboro St. (map). A marker there reads:
At Hiroshima Franck was confronted with the shadow of a human being burned into a concrete wall by the atomic bomb.

The indestructible spirit rises from the ashes.
The Shadow Project's website has information about shadow-making events tomorrow, August 6. This year's events aren't well-received by everyone, as one local stooge noted on the Post-Gazette's August 1st write-up:
If they wouldn't have attacked the US they would have not been bombed! Let us NOT lose sight of that fact!

Here's how the Pittsburgh Press editorialized the bombing of Hiroshima on August 7, 1945:
We read the fantastic figures--power equal to 20,000 tons of TNT, 2000 times the destructive force of the British blockbuster--and our lay minds simply can't comprehend the atomic bomb.

Yet this miracle of terror has been wrought by the human mind. The brains of many scientists, working together, have loosened atomic energy, and the brains of industrial engineers have put it to work. Surely this marks a new epoch, comparable to the first use of metal, the discovery of the wheel principle, the invention of gunpowder, the use of electricity.

How lucky we are that our scientists and the British jointly won this race against the Germans. If the Nazis' long research had produced this bomb first, where would civilization be and where would we be today?

Now it can speed victory over Japan. By so doing, it will save countless numbers of American lives. If the mad militarists of Tokyo had any doubts of the outcome before, the great blast that descended from the skies upon their country last Sunday must have seemed to them the proof of doom.

Now they know what President Truman meant when he said the only alternative to unconditional surrender was prompt and complete destruction of Japan--annihilation literally.
And here's the cartoon that sat atop page 10, using the monkey-like depiction that characterized the Japanese during the war:

Right below that cartoon is a letter to the editor from A.W. Pfalzgraf of the American Legion, which in turn quotes from a letter from Pittsburgh's Cpl. William Wingerson, deploring the discrimination against Japanese-Americans and Japanese-American veterans occuring domestically. It reads, in part:
It is very disillusioning to read of such incidents as the enclosed articles portray (cases of civilian action against Japanese-Americans in this country)---disillusioning and disappointing.

Is this the 'democracy' for which we have been fighting?
. . .
The 100th Battalion did a damn good job, and its members deserve the same honor and respect that is every soldier's due. It must be very demoralizing to think of going home to face desecrated graves, evictions, abuse, threats, etc.

My suggested solution is that the [American] Legion back up and fight for our Japanese-Americans nationally.
More on contemporary local Japanese-American residents a little later this month, hopefully. For now, as I noted last week, in past years (2008, 2011) there have been other pacifist events to commemorate the bombings, although no details have been released just yet for 2012, maybe because local universities are still on summer break.

Linda Fang at 2012 Three Rivers Storytelling Festival, August 11.

Northland Public Library in McCandless township (map) will host the 2012 Three Rivers Storytelling Festival on August 10 and 11, which will include China's Linda Fang on Saturday. The McKnight Journal has a profile:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Kimbap, tteokbokki cooking class at Dasonii, August 26.

Dasonii Korean Bistro in Robinson township (map) will hold its monthly Korean cooking class on Sunday, August 26, at 12 pm.
It is only $15.00 per person. We are going to have Ddukbogi and Gimbap for lunch and you will take home Gimbap for your family or your dinnner. Please call us or write e-mail to me. We had 17 people were attanded on last Kimchi class. Class will be limited to 20 people.
Previous cooking classes include kimchi, naengmyeon, mandu, and bibimbap. As I said last month, the "cooking" is a bit of a misnomer, as it's more of an introduction to and preparation of certain Korean dishes because many of the ingredients are already cooked, mixed, and ready. Nonetheless it's a great start-up social club in a city that doesn't have too many, and the owners of Dasonii have been generous enough to open their restaurant on Sundays to accommodate it.

Also rare in Pittsburgh is a kimbap + tteokbokki combo for $15 or less, a set that would cost about $2.50 in Korea. Dasonii and Green Pepper each charge $10 for their tteokbokki, and kimbap goes for as much as $8 or $9 around town.

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