Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Maui Vacation (Day 2) Breakfast / マウイ島旅行 (2日目) 朝食

Waking up the following morning and walking out on the lanai, this is the view we are greeted with.  Today's plan is to head to the Wailea Marriot Resort Hotel for a Hawaiian Luau along with my sister and her husband who will be meeting up with us later in the afternoon.  Before we meet up with them though, we are going to head to the beach for a little fun in the sun and some snorkeling as well.  And before that, breakfast!  Today's choice is Fred's Mexican Cafe.  My friend says it's a Mexican restaurant but serves some great breakfast.  So off to Fred's it is.


What a great thing to have nice restaurants within walking distance of the condo.  It was only a five minute walk to Fred's.  It's located in the same building as Moose McGillycuddy's.

コンドミニアムから徒歩5分で美味しいレストランがあるのは最高ですね。Fred'sはMoose McGillycuddy'sと同じビルに入ってる。

Greetings to Fred.  And now for the food!


My friend started his day with a "Big Stack" which consists of three large pancakes, three eggs (cooked how you want) and some bacon.  And this being Hawaii, you have a choice of using maple or coconut syrup!  Yes, I said coconut syrup.  But seeing the size of these portions reminded me of how American Hawaii is.


Mikako ordered the Mexicali which consists of Portuguese sausage, jalapenos, green chiles, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and cheddar.  Served with warm flour tortillas, chips and salsa.  I think I'm going to order this next time!


I ordered something called the "All American".  This consists of ham, bacon, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, served on a bed of country potatoes topped with melted cheese.  And you get your choice of toast or English muffin.


Bon Appetit!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Maui Brewing Company / マウイ島の地ビール

There's nothing like having a cold beer while on vacation and most of you know that I love trying different craft beers.  I'm still working my way through the microbrews of all 47 Prefectures of Japan.  I think I'm still a little less than half-way through on that project.  So of course I had to go in search of any craft beers on Maui.  And what do you know, at the little supermarket near the condo, I discovered three different kinds of craft beers from the Maui Brewing Co.


So I bought a six-pack that had two each of the three types of beers they make - Big Swell IPA (India Pale Ale for the uninformed), Bikini Blonde Lager, and CoCoNut Porter which I of course shared with my humble host and finally called an end to our first night in Hawaii at around 2:30am.


I started off with the CoCoNut Porter because I like dark beers.  For a Porter, it wasn't very dark but still quite tasty.  As you can see at the bottom of the can, this beer is brewed with hand-toasted coconut.  Interesting.  As to the "...LIKE HOT CHICKS ON THE BEACH", amusing.


The next beer I tried was the Big Swell IPA, that's India Pale Ale as I mentioned earlier.  You gotta love the pictures on the can.  Very Hawaiian.  The ale is a little lighter than the porter, but like it says on the can, very hoppy!  A nice way to run down the evening.


And finally, I had the Bikini Blonde Lager.  Being a lager, this is pretty much your standard beer.  Aren't the pictures on the cans great?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moose McGillycuddy's Pub & Cafe / ムース・マクギリカディーズ・パブ&カフェ

Dinner on Day 1 of our Maui trip was at a place called Moose McGillycuddy's Pub & Cafe.  Apparently a restaurant chain.  It was only a five minute walk from the condominium and my friend said they make great food.  That's all we need to know.


Our friend ordered himself a Bacon Mushroom Burger.  Hey, can you believe I was in a U.S. territory and didn't have a burger once?


My wife ordered the Shrimp & Penne Pasta.  This was made with sauteed shrimp and penne pasta in a vodka cream marinara sauce topped with parmesan cheese.


I ordered the Kalua Pig Plate.  This is made with smokey shredded pork with chopped cabbage and sauteed onions, served on a bed of rice.


Bon Appetit!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Maui Vacation (Day 1) / マウイ島旅行 (初日)

At just a few minutes before midnight, our flight took off and headed towards Honolulu, Hawaii.  A seven hour flight (one hour less than going to Seattle).  Unfortunately, our final destination is the Kahalui Airport on the island of Maui and since all the noon flights were full, we had to book a later flight from Oahu to Maui which meant we had a five hour layover in Honolulu.


Somewhere inside Honolulu Airport / ホノルル国際空港内のどこか

You know you're in Hawaii when you see the signs for the men's room and women's room.


Around 6:00pm, our friend picked us up from the airport and took us to his condominium in Kihei where we will be spending the next few days.  My sister and her husband will be coming to Maui the following day and they had rented a condo in the same complex as my friend's.  And good fortune was also on our side as we discovered their room would be located right across the way from ours.


Our home for the next few days / 4日間ここで滞在

Our humble host Dan, who was kind enough to invite us to Maui and stay with him at his condo.


Nice and roomy and you know we will be spending a lot of time out on the lanai looking at the ocean while drinking a cold brew.


Our room for the next few days.  This room also includes a lanai with a view of the ocean.


The dining table which we did not use at all (because there was too much fun to be had outside!)


I wasted no time in switching to total vacation mode sitting out on the lanai, looking at the ocean (okay, I had to look at the camera for a sec) while drinking a cold beer.


Right across the street from the condo is Kama'ole Beach Park 1, known as Kam 1.  Of course we had to check it out.


Kama'ole Beach / カマオレ ビーチ

After checking out our first beach, the next order of business was dinner (but I will save that for the next post).


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Haneda International Airport / 羽田国際空港

Yes, I am back from Hawaii.  Okay, we got back last Friday but we had no time to rest as my mother-in-law and nephew were coming to Tokyo from Aomori.  The wife and nephew were going to go to the BIGBANG concert at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture (BIGBANG being a very popular Korean boy's pop idol group), while I showed my mother-in-law around Tokyo.  Anyway, before writing about our trip to Hawaii, I thought I would share with you the newly opened Haneda International Airport.  After Narita International Airport had opened, Haneda became a domestic only terminal.  It has only recently become an international hub.  Yep, our flight is leaving from Haneda.  We'll be flying on Hawaiian Airlines.


As our flight wasn't until near midnight, we arrived a little early at the airport so we could check out the new International wing.  I don't know if it was because of the March 11 9.0M earthquake or because of the time or the fact that there still isn't a large number of international flights from Haneda, the area look pretty deserted when we there.  The shopping area was modeled after Edo and looks very nice but I thought there would be a lot more shops and restaurants but that was not the case.


As we woudn't be in Japan for a few days, my wife and I always have a nice Japanese meal before leaving.  I treated myself to some curry rice topped with a pork cutlet.


And I have created my own tradition having my pre-travel beer!


After having our pre-flight meal and beer, we still had time so we wandered around the terminal checking out the night view and airplanes.


Now, just a matter of time before we get on our plane and take off to Hawaii!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

NOTICE / お知らせ

ALOHA!!  Just letting you all know that there will be no new posts for at least a week as I will be on vacation.  By the way, the above is the state flag of Hawaii.  Yep, headed to the islands - Maui in particular.  I will be back with a lot of stories and pictures so stay tuned.

アロハ! 一週間の間新しいネタは書き込みませんのお知らせでございます。上記のハワイ洲の旗です。そっ!初のハワイに行ってきます。目的地はマウイ島です。 戻りましたいろいろ書きますので、お楽しみにして下さい。

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ern's Monthly Visual Victuals (February 2011)

Well hey, look here, I finally got around to writing my film reviews of movies watched in February.  And here it's already the second week of May!  Good thing I don't have an editor or agent pestering me about deadlines and such.  I chose a lot of domestic movies this time around.  A few foreign films as always.  And of course I won't forget to check out Hollywood blockbusters!  The standout film this month is definitely the Japanese film [Kokuhaku] or [Confession] in English.  It was also nominated Best Film for the Japanese Academy Awards.  Well worth searching for.  Check out your foreign film section.  Another one which could have been even better if it actually had a plot would be the film involving child soldiers called "Johnny Mad Dog", but of course you will have to watch it and decide for yourself.  So here you have it:

フライング・ラビッツ [Flying Rabbits] (2008) – A cute little movie starring Satomi Ishihara. It’s nothing to write home about but fun to watch on a rainy day. It’s a goofy little sports comedy featuring basketball! Ishihara plays Yukari Hayase, a cabin attendant trainee for JAL (Japan Airlines). However, she is sent to train with JAL’s women’s basketball team – the Flying Rabbits. But Yukari can’t play worth a damn and wonders why she was sent here, when a new member of the team finally shows up. The new team member’s name – Yukari Hayase! Since the first Yukari has no place else to go, she trains as a cabin attendant with the Flying Rabbits members, but then she is also ordered to join the team. Throw in a punk-loving monk who is her love interest and an aikido teaching father (played by Sho Aikawa of “Zebraman” fame) and you have the makings of a standard but average comedy. I was amused and Ishihara does look pretty cute. Hardcore basketball fans will cringe.

告白 [Kokuhaku] (2010) - The international English title of this film is “Confessions”. Oh my, this was quite intense. If only Japan would make more films like this, it would improve their image. This stars Takako Matsu as Ms. Mori, a junior high school teacher and starts with her giving a speech to her students on their last day of class before spring break. It is also her last day as a teacher and she makes a confession to the class. The class knows that she is a single mother, but unfortunately her daughter has passed away. Or rather, her daughter was killed…and the culprit is not one, but two of her students in her class! And she knows which two students they are. We hear in the background that the class is doing some kind of promotion for milk that all the students had been drinking. She tells them why she became a single mother. The father turned out to be HIV positive and thinking what’s best for their child, they got divorced. And still giving her speech in a monotone, she makes her big confession – she wants those two students to realize how precious life is and to live with the fear of dying as she has injected the blood of the father of her child into the cartons of the students that were responsible for her daughter’s death. She tells the two students to be sure to get tested for HIV and AIDS in six months, then she leaves the classroom. This is just the first ten minutes of the film. What follows is just as intense as her confession. One of the student becomes withdrawn and doesn’t go back to school. The other comes back but is faced with be bullied by the rest of his classmates. The plot changes and surprise ending will surprise you as well. As I highly recommend this, there are no spoilers in this short review. By the way, the film was based on a book by Kanae Minato.

ゴースト・リベンジャーJK [Ghost Revenger JK] (2010) – I believe most of you know that I have a strange taste for B-movies and just for your information, JK stands for joshi kosei (high school girl). There’s just nothing like watching a plotless, badly acted and silly film with cheap and lousy effects. Most of the time, what makes these movies fun is the humor that is instilled in making them. Of course, sometimes they try so hard to be serious and fail miserably, which also makes it entertaining to watch. This had all the makings of B-movie – unknown actors, really bad acting, no CG whatsoever so I had high hopes for it. I thought it might be on the same level as “One-Armed Machine Girl”. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t entertaining, and it was certainly a chore to watch. In fact, this film is so bad, it’s not even listed in the Internet Movie Database Website. It stars some unknown gravure idol, who isn’t even all that cute. Oh, the ridiculous plot of this piece of trash. Girl had gone to police to complain about a stalker. Police did nothing. Stalker kills girl. But girl’s older sister is a student of the black arts and brings high school babe back to life. The catch being, she will only be revived for a limited amount of time. So the JK, her sister, her boyfriend, and the cop who didn’t help track down her stalker only to find that he has killed himself. This does not satisfy the JK, so her sister also brings back stalker to life so they can duke it out. Dumb! Dumber! Dumbest movie I watched so far this year (of course the year is still early!).

LUFTSLOTTET SOM SPRANGDES [The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest] (2009) – The final installment of Steig Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy. At the end of the second film, Lisbeth was shot in the head and taken to a hospital. She is now recovering but still awaiting trial for the three murders that she didn’t commit. And being the last film of the series, it ties up all loose ends. It’s also the weakest film of the three. Mikael Blomqvist also helps in trying to prove her innocence as well as helping Lisbeth free herself from the State’s dependence. I only read the first book in the series and this last book was published posthumously so I couldn’t tell you which one is better. However, as you may have surmised from the title, this is the original Swedish production. The original Swedish title translates to something like “The Air Castle that was Blown Up” according to the Steig Larsson Wikipedia site. But of course if you watched the first two films, you’re not going to want to miss out the last.

ZOMBIELAND (2009) – If horror isn’t your cup of tea and you’re tired of the over-saturation of zombies and teen vampires, I can still recommend this flick to you. It’s not just any ole zombie story. It’s a zombie story that’ll keep you laughing until the end. And how can I not love a movie that starts off with Metallica’s "For Whom the Bell Tolls”. As a bonus, Bill Murray is also in this flick as well, playing himself. He’s been disguising himself as a zombie but one of our heroes of this flick mistakes him for a real zombie and so Bill gets killed! Hilarious! Okay, it doesn’t sound hilarious in print, but ya gotta watch this movie. You know, I hate horror movies, but horror comedies, now that’s another story.

KNIGHT AND DAY (2010) – Okay, so the plot is absolutely absurd but this is such a fun movie with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (darn, she still looks great!). More action comedy than action, but not quite to the point of Jackie Chan’s old Hong Kong films. Anyway, Tom is a secret agent named Roy and it seems the FBI are after him because they believe he’s a rogue agent. Cameron plays June, who owns a garage and is headed to Boston for her sister’s wedding. Roy tries to keep June off the plane but the FBI think maybe they’re working together and manages to get them both on the flight. Roy knows there’s something really fishy about this particular flight and while in the air, he kills everyone on board, except June of course. However, June wakes up at home the next day and wonders if it was all or dream until some FBI agents come to her home. Of course, Roy comes to the rescue and tries to convince her that he really is one of the good guys! If you take the story with a grain of salt, you will be sure to be entertained.

インスタント沼 [Instant Numa] (2009) – There is only word that aptly describes this interesting Japanese flick – quirky! There is just no other word for it. I couldn’t tell if it was a drama or comedy as it doesn’t make you laugh until your stomach hurts, but it does leave you smiling for some reason or another. Our heroine is an office lady named Haname. She was working at a magazine that just went under. Now with no job, she decides to make a new start for herself. As she decides to get rid of bunch of excess around her life she discovers a letter from her real father (which she never knew about). When she runs to ask her mother about her discovery, at around the same time, her mother was looking for a kappa in this supposed cursed numa (swamp), has an accident and falls into a coma. Don’t worry, this really is a comedy so it’s not a sad thing. Anyway, Haname checks out the address written on the letter and finds some old man working in some dingy shop. A punk rocker who also works there takes one look at her says she looks like the old man. Can this man really be her biological father? Anyway, Haname finds herself spending more time at the dingy shop getting to know the punk rocker and the old man, yet she still cannot be sure if the man is her father or not. Just weird, or rather quirky I say.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) – Alice is now nineteen and has just been proposed to. However, Alice is rather a free spirit and asks for a little time and leaves the gathered crowd who was expecting the announcement. As Alice sees a rabbit in a hurry which no one else seems to notice, she follows it and guess what? She falls down a hole!! Of course, even though this is like an Alice version of “Hook” – remember when Peter Pan grew up and had forgotten who he really was. Well, Wonderland has been taken over by the Red Queen and the White Queen needs a warrior. Alice just happens to be the chosen one, although she reluctantly accepts that role. But this being Hollywood, perhaps they should have called it “The Mad Hatter Outshines Alice” with Johnny Depp in that particular role. But fun all the same!

ちょんまげぷりん [Chonmage Pudding] (2010) – Yes, I quite enjoy watching different kinds of Japanese films. First of all chonmage is the hairstyle of the samurai. Perhaps, you now have an inkling as to what kind of story this is. An Edo era samurai timeslips and finds himself in present day Japan. A single mother who is also a career mom takes pity on the samurai and lets him stay at her home telling him its only for the night. Of course, she thinks the samurai is just a little funny in the head. However, the samurai has an epiphany when he gets his first taste of pudding! Mom makes deal with the samurai. He can stay at her place as long as he works for that privilege, even though he is a samurai and consider housework woman’s work and such. Anyway, he becomes so enamored of pudding and desserts, he becomes a pattissier. He also enters a dessert contest with Mom’s son and wins! Suddenly he becomes to fulfill his end of the original bargain. But will he be able to go back to Edo? Or will he continue his life as a pattissier? Cute movie starring Johnny Entertainment’s boy group NEWS and Kan Johnny 8 member Ryo Nishikido and Rie Tomosaka.

REPO MEN (2010) – Not be confused with the excellent cult movie “Repo Man” which starred Emilio Estevez. This is more like a prelude to “The Island”. You all familiar with that flick? Clones are bioengineered for their organs but are told that they could win a lottery and the prize being going to the “island”. Of course there is no “island”. That was like “carousel” in “Logan’s Run”. Oh, but I’m getting off the subject now. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker are Repo Men. They work for a company called “The Union”. “The Union” provides a service in which people can extend their lives by buying organs on loan. However, if one can no longer afford paying back the loan, The Union sends out its repo men to reclaim their property in which you guessed it, the result ends in death. When one of the repo men (Jude Law) has a cardiac arrest on the job, he wakes up to find himself with the Union’s top of the line new model heart and a huge debt that comes with it. When he can no longer afford the loan, his former partner (Forest Whitaker) is assigned to reclaim the organ. A great story about ethics but I found the ending to be rather disappointing. That’s what probably made it such a flop at the box office. Stupid Hollywood!

CORALINE (2009) – An animation film based on the book by popular author Neil Gaiman with Coraline being voiced by Dakota Fanning. Coraline’s family has moved into a new home. Feeling bored and neglected by her parents, Coraline discovers a door to another room. Upon opening that door she finds a world parallel to her own. Her ideal. With caring parents as well. The only difference is everybody has buttons for eyes! Coraline’s “other mother” invites Coraline to stay in this world where Coraline could pretty much have anything she wants. Only there is one catch. She also must have button eyes!! Coraline realizes that this ideal world was only a trap to lure her there and now she must use her wits to outsmart her “other mother”. The book is just as entertaining as the film and I love the animation. Studio Ghibli it is not but it does have its own charm. Check it out and you’ll be surprised.

THE LOVELY BONES (2009) – This movie is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. Not having read the book, I can only inform you of my opinion on the film. Our protagonist is 14 year old Susie Salmon, “like the fish” who tells us in the beginning that she was murdered. The setting is Pennsylvania, sometime in the ‘70s. Susie speaks to us from that place between Heaven and Earth. Seeing the grief of her family and her killer’s next target – Susie’s own sister, Susie feels she must do something to help them. According to my friends who have actually read the novel, they recommend the book over the movie. But still quite an interesting movie it is. Directed by Peter Jackson of “The Lord of the Rings” fame. I thought newcomer Saorirse Ronan was great in the role of Susie. Apparently there were some portions of the book that were deleted from the film but I guess you will have read the book to find out which part those are. In the end, the killer gets what he deserves but it seemed like such a trite ending, I wasn’t too happy with it, but that’s just my opinion.

UP IN THE AIR (2009) – This is based on William Kern’s novel of the same name which was published in 2001. Having read the novel before actually watching the film, I had fairly high expectations. Were they met? Not really. This is one of those items where the book is so much better than the film. This stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham whose job is to travel around the country to assist in corporate downsizing. To put it simply, he fires people for a living. But it’s not that he really enjoys his job. He has his own Holy Grail. He is on the verge of accumulating 10 million miles in frequent flyer miles (I think Hollywood went a little overboard there as the book, he was on the verge of hitting the 1 million mark which seems a lot more reasonable). Anyway, in this movie version, Bingham’s way of life is being threatened by some new young Ivy graduate who has ideas of her own on how to make Bingham’s job more productive. However, before Bingham becomes totally grounded, he requests that the newbie accompany him on his travels to see what he really does. The film is okay, but I recommend the book even more.

JOHNNY MAD DOG (2008) – This is intense but doesn’t really have a plot. You see, our hero is a child soldier in some unnamed African nation, (which everybody knows is Liberia). Of course, it could be Sierra Leone just as well. And he calls himself Johnny Mad Dog. If you’re familiar with the news of Liberia and/or Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front, you would know that a bunch of rebels drafted (not really the right word), coerced a bunch of kids into their army. They got them high on drugs, gave them guns, and told them to go kill anybody who was part of the government’s army or was sympathetic to the government, which means women and children were targets as well. Although it was hard to understand the Liberian English (ah yes, this was a Belgian/French/Liberian production) the story was quite easy to understand. Johnny Mad Dog and his fellow child soldiers took orders from a bigger guy and went on to pillage, rape, and torture whoever got in their way. But when Johnny’s commanding officer became part of the new army, these child soldiers no longer had any direction. And although Johnny still felt he had the power, all things don’t end as planned. This is not as a graphic as it could have been and since there really is no storyline, as even Johnny doesn’t really know what he’s fighting for, it kind of makes you shake your head and wonder, did something like that really happen in this world?