Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pittsburgher busted for selling fake jerseys via Korea.

From WPXI:
An Army veteran who made contacts with counterfeiters while serving in South Korea pleaded guilty Tuesday to trafficking in Asian-made knock-off jerseys that violated trademarks held by the NFL, NBA, MLB and Philadelphia nostalgia sports apparel maker Mitchell & Ness.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Anthony Powell, 47, of Pittsburgh, likely faces 12 to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced March 23 by a federal judge.
. . .
Powell began buying and re-selling the counterfeit jerseys from undisclosed suppliers while he was stationed in South Korea and continued to receive them -- sometimes by falsifying customs documents -- when he returned to Pittsburgh, Hull told the judge. He also had them mailed to other peoples' addresses to avoid detection.

Powell bought the jerseys for $15 to $20 each and sold them for $30 to $50 apiece on Craigslist and eBay -- until the online auction site "threw him off for selling the counterfeits," Hull said.

Investigators reconstructed Powell's business based on information he provided and concluded "he netted at least $24,000 a year from 2004" until his arrest in August 2008, Hull said.
I would think it'd be less hassle to produce and traffic knock-offs domestically, rather than having to get them from South Korea.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good neighbors at Green Pepper.

I'm late in sharing this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Random Acts of Kindness section on Thanksgiving:
One evening, a couple named Dawn and Kwan shared their meal with me at a Korean restaurant on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

I was eating alone. They sat next to me, said hello, and asked me about being at the restaurant. When they heard I had never eaten Korean food before, they proceeded to pull my table next to theirs and welcomed me to try their cuisine.

They got me a plate and shared their food with me. I was touched by their friendliness and generosity. It gave me an opportunity to try and enjoy food that I was unfamiliar with. The staff at the restaurant were also kind and informative. I will be back there again for another wonderful experience.

Thank you, Dawn and Kwan, for sharing a lovely meal and evening with me.
I think I was sitting across from this trio; well, I remember seeing something like this happen at Green Pepper at a visit a few months ago, anyway, when two people invited a third to pull her table together and share their food. The efforts to globalize Korean food get criticized a lot when Korean restaurants abroad are unwelcoming to non-Koreans, inaccessible to new diners, or prohibitively expensive. It's nice to see good neighbors coming together at Green Pepper to give a friendly welcome the uninitiated.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pirates looking at pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada.

A couple of sites are reporting the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking at a couple of pitchers who played in Japan last year, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada.

For what it's worth, the Pirates have had rotten success with the few Asian players they've signed. The most intriguing was Masumi Kuwata, a 20-year-veteran and 8-time All-Star pitcher out of Japan. He was 39-years-old when the Pirates signed him, though, and the sequence on his Baseball Reference wiki page shows a typical trend in Pirates acquisitions:
"1987-1994: The Glory Years," "1995-1996: Injury," "1997-2002: Post-Injury," "2003-2006: Further decline," "To the USA."
After 19 games with the Pirates in 2007, he retired in the next spring training:
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."
Next the Pirates tried reliever Byung-hyun Kim, who never made it out of spring training in 2008 because he wanted to start. Before the 2010 season they acquired infielder Aki Iwamura, who would hit .182 with 9 RBIs through 54 games and be among the worst Pirates in recent memory. Late in the season they claimed pitcher Chan-ho Park off waivers from the Yankees. Park is the best-known of the Korean players in his home country, and during his limited time with Pittsburgh he pitched fairly well and would set the record for most wins by an Asian-born pitcher in the Major Leagues.

Then again, the Pirates have had rotten success with most of the players they've signed the last two decades. If Chen and/or Wada are signed, it will only be a matter of time before they're traded for backup catchers and 26-year-old Double-A pitchers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shen Yun in Pittsburgh, February 15-16, 2012.

Chinese classical dance company Shen Yun will be performing at the Benedum Center on February 15th and 16th, 2012. The website promotes:
Inspired by the spirit of an ancient culture, Shen Yun Performing Arts brings to life classical Chinese dance and music in a gloriously colorful and exhilarating show. Its masterful choreography and graceful routines range from grand classical processions to ethnic and folk dances, with gorgeously costumed dancers moving in stunning synchronized patterns. Based on ancient heroic legends and modern courageous tales, Shen Yun and its breathtaking beauty are not to be missed.
The performance does look impressive, if the website and promotional materials are to be trusted. Tickets are relatively pricey, ranging from $50 to $150.

Reviews of the show have been mixed, due primarily to the company's religious ties. Wikipedia has a summary of those comments. If Falun Gong plays a part in the performance, it is relatively hidden from the promotional materials. It isn't mentioned at all in the brochures lying around town, and it wasn't until reading the very end of their large coffee table book at the Pittsburgh Corporate Sponsorship Festival last summer that I made the connection.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday cards for Northern Japan.

This worthy cause has been making the rounds on Facebook and blogs:
If you have a pen, paper and a little time for children in Tohoku (the region of northern Japan where the earthquake and tsunami happened), please consider writing a Christmas or holiday card to them! A professor emeritus from Chuo University has started this project called 'Christmas Cards from Friends Around the World'. The letters from other countries will surely cheer the children up. Thank you very much for your cooperation with this project! Cards can be written in simple English or in Japanese – any kind of card is fine, from short messages to commercially printed or handmade cards. The cards can be sent directly (preferably in time for the holiday – arrival in Japan by December 16th is preferred so they can be distributed at an event) to:

Mrs. Mayumi Hoshi
Shichigahama-cho Saigai Volunteer Center
Noyama 5-9, Yoshidahama
Miyagi 985-0802

The Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh will also be collecting cards to send or providing supplies to make cards. If you’d like us to mail the cards on your behalf, you can drop them off at 4104 Posvar Hall or mail them to us so that we can express mail the cards to Japan by DECEMBER 16 (in time to reach Japan for the holidays):

Cards for Japan Project
c/o Jennifer Murawski
Asian Studies Center
University of Pittsburgh
4104 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

To see the full request for cards with further information (in Japanese only), you can find a copy of the original the announcement at http://www.jetaausa.com/wp-content/uploads/Xmas-Card-Project.pdf.
If you're interested in participating with Pitt, check the Asian Studies Center Facebook page for updates: for example, they can provide you with card stock, and have written some tips on making your card.

"The Blood of Yingzhou District", November 30th.

The University of Pittsburgh will show "The Blood of Yingzhou District (颍州的孩子)" Wednesday afternoon, November 30th, as part of the Asian Studies Center Global Film Series.
Gao Jun is an AIDS orphan in a remote village of Anhui Province, China. In this Academy Award-winning documentary, the young protagonist does not speak a word until the closing minutes of the film. And little is known about him, not even his age. What is known, and is poignantly depicted in this film, is how traditional Chinese obligations of family and village collide with the terror of infection with HIV/AIDS and how these forces play out in the lives of children like Gao Jun.
No registration required.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shonen Knife in Pittsburgh, 11/17.

Via the 31st Street Pub's Facebook page.

Punk group Shonen Knife, one of the better-known Japanese rock bands internationally, will be playing the 31st Street Pub in the Strip District on Thursday, November 17th. The band's founder said in an interview with the Beaver County Times (lol what?) of their Pittsburgh show last year:
I remember the audience there were so energetic and so kind to us. I can't wait to see them. I like the venue 31st Street Pub. It's rock 'n' roll.
The group has opened for Nirvana and Sonic Youth, and says of their upcoming set,
We'll play our original songs from early and recent albums and an "Osaka Ramones" set, too. Everybody must have fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stone pagodas in Fox Chapel.

Neat discovery while driving along Squaw Run Road in Fox Chapel: two loose-stone pagodas (돌탑).

The creek alongside them made it difficult to get too close, but they look to be between four and five feet high, and must've taken several hours each to build. You'll find these frequently when hiking in Korea: some as impressive as this (or larger), and some only three or five stones high.

Poor choice of flag for "I'm a Japanese Steeler Fan" shirt.

Make anything black and yellow in Pittsburgh and you'll sell a lot of it except Pirates merchandise. Make something that appeals to locals' interest in their ethnicities and you'll sell a lot more. So it's no surprise that a vendor in the strip district has a whole storefront full of "I'm a _______ Steeler Fan" shirts with dozens of ways to fill in the blank. What is surprising is the way Burgh Nation Tees chose to decorate the Japanese one.

The Rising Sun Flag
is considered offensive in East Asian countries, specifically in China and the Koreas, as it is considered to be associated with Japanese militarism and Japanese imperialism during World War II.
It looks more interesting, I guess, than the current Japanese flag, and as such it gets used inappropriately on t-shirts and in ad campaigns (such as by the Chicago Cubs when Kosuke Fukudome joined them in 2008).

While many of the shirts---like the English, Italian, and Korean versions, for example---have the country's flag, others---like the Slovak, Ukranian, and Puerto Rican ones---have the country's shape or another easily-recognizable emblem. A typical yinzer reaction to anyone being upset by the shirt would be "well this ain't China or the Koreas". But considering how few Japanese visitors to and residents of Pittsburgh would by a "I'm a Japanese Steelers Fan" shirt to begin with, and how even fewer would wear one with this logo, Burgh Nation Tees might want to think about switching to something less controversial when they print the next batch.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Korea Society presents: Korea Day Follow-On {Pittsburgh}, December 1.

The Korea Society will be presenting a "Korea Day Follow-On" in Pittsburgh on December 1st at the Fairmont Hotel.
The Korea Society and The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh co-host an evening on New Trends in Asia for Council members and young professionals in policy, business, and foundations. Featured speakers include World Affairs Council President Steve Sokol; The Korea Society Senior Vice President, Dr. Stephen Noerper; The Asia Society’s Executive Director of Global Leadership Initiatives, Dr. Mike Kulma; and The Korea Society Assistant Director of Policy, Nikita Desai. Slides of works from the recent The Korea Society exhibition, Social Graphics: The Art of Jeski (Jeseok Yi), are on-view at The Fairmont Pittsburgh event.
The Korea Society is, explains the website,
an organization that, for over 50 years, has promoted greater awareness, understanding, and cooperation between the peoples of the Unites States and Korea. From our base in New York City, we present timely and informative public programs in business, policy, education, culture, and the arts.

Our active Korean Studies program provides American educators and students with expense-paid opportunities for study and travel in Korea. The Society also programs a nationwide schedule of Korean performing-arts groups and exhibits, and a new “Korea Day” series brings discussions of business, policy, and cultural affairs to regional capitals throughout the United States. In addition, many of our programs reach national audiences through a growing online presence.
Browse some of "Jeski's" work online at his website. (Casual observers might know him best not for his award-winning campaigns but for his ridiculous "Kimchi Prevents Flu" mask during the swine flu scare in 2009.

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