Definitely worth giving a try!
I don’t like balloons. I loathe them. So what was I to do when websites kept saying, “Hey, you have to use a balloon”? Find another balloon-phobic soul with piñata-making skills on a budget!
I made my piñata, a beautiful and large Frankenstein head, with cardboard, tape, hot glue gun glue, and origami paper. If you go to Daiso, it’s around $5 of material. It’s the labor that sells a Halloween piñata for $17 (Oriental Trading). Took me a day to make!
For a step-by-step guide to make a cheap piñata, please go to http://keephomesimple.blogspot.jp/2013/02/how-to-make-homemade-pinata-for-under-5.html.
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and played games like Mario Brothers, Double Dragons, Zelda, Doom, and Sonic the Hedgehog. They were simple in concept; beat the boss and save the girl or the world. As I grew up, I watched platforms and game graphics became more sophisticated. No more pixels running around as Mario or Link. No more overheated Segas and Nintendos.
While the platforms today seem more like computers than consoles, the games for these platforms have taken a big jump back.
Look at Capcom’s Dead Rising, Techland’s Dead Island, and Bethesda’s Skyrim and Fallout. Players usually talk to Character One, go to the other side of World One, get Item One, and go back to Character One. Then repeat. And repeat.
Today’s video games still have a core story—defeat the Big Bad Dragon and save the world—but it’s forgotten somewhere between Character Eighty-Seven and Item Five Hundred. Sure, players get to kill zombies, mutants, and gods, but that’s all there is to it. Mindless killing. Mindless Retrieving.
Don’t get me wrong. The visuals are great and the gameplay is smooth. Even the loading time is forgivable (save for Dead Rising and Fallout) compared to the older consoles. Still, the formula is the same: talk, kill, retrieve, and return. Game developers have dropped the controller on recent games just to make sales. I understand that business can’t be business without money, but if I pay fifty bucks for one game, I want my money’s worth or at least have something fun to play.
Games today leave me with one question: what happened to video games between the 1980’s and the 2000’s? It could be that the gamers themselves have changed and the game developers are trying to appeal to that change. In the 1980’s, it was cool to be anyone. Androgenism, nerds, and Flocks of Seagulls haircuts were cool. In the 1990’s, it was cool to be aware of deep issues like education, racism, drugs, poverty, pollution. In the 2000’s, people hated people. The Rise of Fear and Haterism came up and squashed the open-minded, experimental, fun-loving 80’s and 90’s attitude to a pulp. Many products followed suit, and video games weren’t immune to the haterism. Some of the most marketable games, namely Call of Duty and Dead Island, are racist, war-supporting games OK with murdering Afghanistan or Iraqi people and depicting black and Mexican people as gun-toting thugs and drug-dealers. Not cool or fun anymore. No more hard-boiled, take-no-shit characters. Just emotional train wrecks with guns and a sore spot for colored people.
Game developers didn’t ask for this paradigm shift. They’re regular folks who grew up with the same games I did, maybe dreamed of developing the same fun games. Between their creative minds and their investors, something’s gotta give, and that would be the fun and the story. Those are the two things that keep gamers gaming. I’d rather play Tetris all day than play five minutes of trying to find a saving point in Dead Rising or facing a million of the same zombie in Dead Island or picking up one more useless item on the way to delivering another useless item in Skyrim or Fallout. It’s not my idea of a good time.
The recent video games that are exciting with a polished story are few and far between, but they do exist. PopCap Games’s Peggle, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II, Telltales Games’s The Walking Dead, Vogster Entertainment’s Unbound Saga, Capcom’s Devil May Cry, Konami’s re-released Castlevania, and id Software’s Rage are reminiscent of the 80’s and 90’s optimistic attitude, only with today’s graphics and gameplay. Their core stories and uncompromising characters make up a fun world. In Assassin’s Creed II, players bring conspiracies to light while free-running in Renaissance Italy. The Walking Dead’s in-depth character and story development keep gamers coming back. Unbound Saga embodies Double Dragons’ and Streets of Rage’s linear game play while the hard-boiled main character remains hard-boiled. Rage gives players everything Skyrim and Fallout couldn’t: a small yet interesting world, cool cars and weapons, unique personalities, and fast loading times.
What makes these games memorable and re-playable? These games are reduced to a condensed but polished arena. People have short attention spans, and making the world too big means pushing that attention span to its limit. Rage understood this by taking the player to a different world before the game began to feel repetitive. Players want realism in their games, but games like Skyrim and Fallout abuse it by making everything interactive. Who wants to carry around a billion flowers? The Walking Dead, Assassin’s Creed II, and Rage limited the interactivity to the core stories. Even something as basic as letting players save whenever and wherever they want keeps players happy (Dead Rising, ahem). And the hard stages are beatable—without the help of Google.
Let’s remember: gamers play games to get away from reality. If games are created to frustrate the player with overly-vast worlds, repetitive characters and missions, excessive interactivity, slow loading times, insensible saving controls, war-supporting and racist undertones, and complicated bosses, what’s the point of escaping reality?
Maybe you’ve seen a happy-go-lucky bear, maybe you haven’t. If you’re in Japan, you’re likely to see him on everything. Yes, I mean, everything. Tissue boxes, frozen fried rice packages, candy, cookies, soba bags…I think even on Ninja‘s shaved tummy (from her spay).
Kumamon is a mascot bear from the Kumamoto Prefecture. Since his creation in 2010 from the Kumamoto Surprise campaign for tourist through the new Kyushu Shinkansen line, Kumamon has become a hit in Japan. In 2011, he won a national mascot contest, generating a large revenue prize for the Kumamoto region.
Kumamon isn’t just a prize winner; he’s a profit builder as well. Anything with Kumamon is expected to be bought up. Is it because of his sheer cuteness? Who knows? All I know is that Kumamon looks very much like my Bombay cat.
There are many festivals celebrated throughout the year in Japan. However many festivals exist in Japan, there is only one fixed festival that honors the representation of stars: hopeful wishes.
Tanabata (たなばた, 七夕), or the Star Festival, is celebrated every year on July 7th all over Japan with local variations. It honors the legend of two lovers separated by the Milky Way. Fortunately, the lovers, Cowherd Star, or Altair, and Weaver Star, or Vega, are allowed to meet once a year on the evening of July 7th.
The legend, which is derived from a Chinese folktale known in Japanese as Kikkoden (きっこでん, 乞巧奠), is about a cow herder named Hikoboshi and a weaver princess, Orihime, who played together so much, they forgot their duties, upsetting the king. In response, the king separated Hikoboshi and Orihimi by a river called Amanogawa River, or the Milky Way. However, Orihimi begged the king to allow her to see Hikoboshi again, so the king set aside one day for them to meet. Though tanabata’s legendary story is one about two lovers, the festival itself is a time where wishes are asked to come true.
During tanabata, people write their wishes onto small and colorful strips of paper called tanzaku (たんざく, 短冊). Once the tanzaku are hung onto bamboo stalks or trees and displayed in their yards and home entrances, people pray for their wishes to come true. The next day, the decorations with the tanzaku are released into oceans, rivers, or streams. Colored streamers are also used to show off the tanabata spirit around the neighborhood. Other decorations include a casting net, or toami (とあみ, 投網), for good luck in fishing and farming, and a purse, or kinchaku (きんちゃく, 巾着), for wealth and good business.
Each area of Japan celebrates tanabata differently. Several areas light torches as part of the celebration, while others use horse-shaped puppets instead of bamboo stalks for displaying their tanazaku. Though tanabata is largely celebrated on July 7th, some areas of Japan celebrate tanabata on August 7th alongside the ancestral summer holiday, Bon (ぼん, 盆), which honors the return of the family’s ancestors. Outside of Bon, some cities couple tanabata with another celebration. Aomori of the Touhoku Region also celebrates the star festival with the Nebuta (ねぶた) Festival, parading lanterns made of papier-mache alongside customary tanabata decorations.
Amongst all of the tanabata celebrations, Sendai of the Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka of the Kanagawa Prefecture are known to have elaborate tanabata events. Because of this, Sendai and Hiratsuka have become tourist attractions during the month of July.
With the exception of the original tale, tanabata is one of Japan’s celebrations where hopes and wishes are requested in full festival fashion.
Japan National Tourism Organization. “Tanabata (Star Festival)”. http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/history/traditionalevents/a69a_fes_tanabata.html.
Renshaw, Steve and Saori Ihara. (1999). “Orihime, Kengyuu, and Tanabata: Adapting Chinese Lore to Native Beliefs and Purposes”. Appulse; Bulletin for the Philippine Astronomical Society. Vol. 9:8. August, 1996. http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/orihime.htm.
“Tanabata”. Kids Web Japan. http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/july/tanabata.html .
“Tanabata”. Leighton Buzzard Childminding Association. http://www.lbcma.org.uk/festivals/Mtanabata.asp.
“Tanabata”. (2007) Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Tokyo, Japan.
In January, I posted my New Year’s resolution. Now, six months later, I’m doing a check-in.
#1: Losing weight: Drop 25 pounds.
In January and February, while my husband did a cleanse, I opted for only eating meat once a day. I don’t know if I dropped weight, but my clothes did fit differently–good for not exercising (my husband did, though). Just when we were going at a good pace, my husband hurt his back and the exercising (for him) and the non-meat meals stopped. It goes to show how much being in a relationship can affect your body.
Three weeks ago, I started doing Tae Bo again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered (I did it last year for two months), but I decided to do cardio three times a week and strength training once a week. A week ago, I hurt my knee, so I’ll have to stick with strength training and minimum cardio. Injuries are the worst!
Plan: Do 30-45 minutes of exercise every other day. Two times a week include a strength training regiment (12 reps, 3 sets with weights), and work on abs every exercise day.
#2: Learn Japanese: Become a more fluent speaker.
I entered an international speech contest in Japanese, but I wasn’t picked. Maybe next year… Every day, I learn a new Japanese word (today’s word is 野良猫, noraneko, or “stray cat”) to build my vocabulary. I also write in a journal in Japanese, and some of my posts on this blog have a Japanese translation. So far, my reading comprehension has gotten easier as well as my kanji.
Plan for the rest of the year: Sign up for the JET Programme’s free advanced Japanese course and get ready for another speech contest (to get picked this time!).
#3: Save more money
I haven’t saved any money (according to my Mint account), but I have managed to slim our daily expenses. Instead of buying many snacks and going out to eat, we cook at home and avoid sugary products like cookies and fruit juices.
Plan: Send a set amount of money to my American bank account and not touch it except for emergencies and bills.
#4: Travel more.
Because of Item Number 3, traveling is out of the question. Sadness!
#5: Get to reading and writing!
I became a part of a creative writing circle. We get a prompt and two weeks to write something, then we post in on Google Plus. It’s very convenient because I never know how people will react to it. Also, it keeps me on my toes in keeping with deadlines!
Plan: Continue with the writing circle. Win at least one writing contest!
1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg
2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif
3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg
4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg
5. Books: http://jadesescape.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257
I was humming in the copy room, and Reading Rainbow popped into my head. I couldn’t help but smile. I love Reading Rainbow! From the theme song (below) to LeVar Burton (Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation) to each book, I fell in love with the show. Reading Rainbow taught me many useful things, some things that I still carry with me today.
The theme song was inspirational. “I can go anywhere” and “I can be anything” inspired me to believe in myself, especially as someone who liked to read. When I was in fourth grade, I realized that most of my classmates hated reading, and if you read, you had a big “Pick on me” sign on your forehead. The first time I heard Reading Rainbow‘s theme song, I realized that it was OK to read. It was a catchy, cool theme song (up there with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters). I believed in it. I could go anywhere and I could be anything–as long as I was reading. Reading gave me the friends I didn’t have, took me places my family couldn’t go, taught me lessons that my parents couldn’t teach. To me, Reading Rainbow said, “It’s not only OK to read. It’s great to read!” As an English teacher, I encourage my students and colleagues to read books.
I’ve been using folded paper cups for over ten years. I learned how to fold paper cups when I was in fifth grade. My English teacher put on an episode of Reading Rainbow, LeVar folded a paper cup and put water in it, and we followed suit. When I got home that day, I showed my mom how to make a paper cup, and she commented, “Oh, this can hold more than water.” Eighteen years later in Japan, I use folded paper cups to hold game pieces, stickers, and laminated papers.
My mom is really a Chinese descendant or she knows the value of woks. My Filipino mom always used a big wok for making pancit (Filipino noodles), and I always wondered, “Why does Mom use that gigantic pot? Is she the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel?” When I watched an episode with LeVar in the Mandarin Inn Pell (above), I remembered my mother saying, “Oh, we’re Chinese descent,” before going on about her roots and Buddha. Now as an adult, I plan to use a wok because it heats the food evenly–and I get to say, “It woks!”
Mummies taught me to love mythology. Episodes about Egypt, like “Mummies Made in Egypt” (above), was a gateway into Egyptian mythology. By the time I hit seventh grade, I loved Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, and my knowledge of them was vast for an eleven year old. When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined a quiz league (not Decathlon) as the mythology expert. Now that I’m a high school teacher, I don’t study mythology anymore, but it does influence the stories I write.
Cultures are awesome! Growing up in a homogeneous area (either black or white people), “culture” was a word that made people uncomfortable. My brothers and I were the only half-black, half-Filipino kids in our side of town, and for some reason, I always felt that my parents were trying to down-play our differences. We weren’t sure what to do about ourselves. It was important for me and my brothers to see LeVar–a black man–appreciating different cultures–Chinese, Japanese, Native American, you name it. I learned that it was OK to respect other cultures no matter what your skin color said.
Reading Rainbow isn’t on TV anymore, but it’s still around for the old and new generations of kids to love. But you don’t have to take my word for it.