Bird's new CD - out next week!

Bird (バード) has a new limited-edition, full-length album coming out this next Wednesday (06-Aug) on Universal Records called "My Love (初回限定盤)." It is her first cover-album and will feature cover songs of artists Yumi Matsutoya (松任谷 由実), KinKi Kids, Matsuda Seiko (松田聖子) and Magokoro Brothers. The CD will also contain an original bonus track-- a re-make of a track from her first album called "Beats."

Some of my readers might not know who Bird is. She is a very talented and innovative singer who was born in Kyoto on 09-Dec-1975 as Kitayama Yuki (北山有紀). Being strongly-influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin, she started her career in the late 1990s as a jazz vocalist singing in the jazz clubs of Kyoto and Osaka. Her cool, soothing voice led to almost instant fame and success in the area, eventually leading to her being discovered by producer Osawa Shinichi. She was picked up as the lead singer for his group, "Japanese Sound Project," and released her first single, "Souls" in 1999 on the RealEyes label.

The following year, she released her first full-length album on Sony Music Japan, simply called "Bird" which sold over 700 thousand copies and won her the Japan Gold Record for newcomers. The news resulted in a nation-wide tour that completely sold out at every single venue. She quickly became Japan's biggest name in Jazz. Bird continued her career, releasing 9 albums and 18 singles, seamlessly fusing the genres of jazz, R&B, pop, latin music, reggae and house into a unique and exciting style all her own!

If you have never listened to Bird, and you are looking for something totally fresh and new, definitely check her out-- she never disappoints. Those of you who downloaded my JPop Dance Mix from dannychoo.com had the pleasure of hearing the now rare Rascal Remix of her hit song, Mind Travel (マインドトラベル). Please enjoy the video below of the original, album version of this song.

Bird's Website
Bird's Blog


Seirei no Moribito comes to Adult Swim!!

Good news!! Adult Swim has a new show to take over the time slot of my beloved, most favourite anime series Death Note which ended here in the U.S. on 05-July. Seirei no Moribito (精霊の守り人 - "Guardian of the Spirit") will begin on 24-Aug!
Seirei no Moribito, which first aired on NHK on 07-Apr-07, is based on Uehashi Nahoko's (上橋菜穂子) series of fantasy novels called Moribito (守り人 - "Guardian"), which won the Iwaya Sazanami literature award in 2002. The anime is based on the first in this series, and is directed by the incredible Kamiyama Kenji (神山健治) who directed the Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊) anime series and also worked on Blood: The Last Vampire (ブラッド ザ ラスト ヴァンパイア).

Plot (courtesy of wikipedia): Balsa the spearwoman is a wandering warrior, who takes on the task of saving lives in atonement for a past sin. On her journey, she happens to save a prince and is tasked with becoming his bodyguard. And he is going to need one, for his own father, the emperor, wants him dead.

I really don't know much about these stories, but I am certainly looking forward to seeing something new! It's coming one month from now-- don't miss out!


My Mirei-san!

Konnichiwa readers! I haven't had very much time for updating my Blog recently since making wedding plans has been taking up all of my free time. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

You probably remember my heartbreaking experience one month ago in which I purchased an "Art of Shunya Yamashita Mirei-san" figure from an eBay seller in Hong Kong, only to realise that I had purchased a fake rip-off. It was the first time that I had this horrible experience and I will always remember it.

In the meantime, I managed to find the real Kotobukiya figure and ordered her from toyarena, a reliable seller on Amazon.com. Here she is! Let's celebrate! It should be obvious to see why I like her so much. I think my fiancee is actually a little bit jealous, but at the same time, there can be no denying that Mirei-san is a truly great part of my collection. Shunya Yamashita (山下しゅんや) is a wonderful artist and who doesn't love a wonderfully moe figure like Mirei!?

Thank you again, readers, for your kind compassion and thank you, Danny Choo! I'm happy now. :-)


Shiina Ringo - Watashi to Hoden

By far, one of my absolute favourite singers is Shiina Ringo (椎名林檎). Ringo-chan's voice is absolutely amazing and her lyrics are totally cool-- much different from the ice-creamy, schoolgirl-type stuff that most pop singers in Japan tend to vocalise (although I do enjoy that, too!). For all of us Otaku-- it also helps that she is cute and into cosplay! :-)

Ringo-chan released a new CD on 08-Jul-08 called "Watashi to Hoden" (私と放電 - "Me and electric discharge"). So far, I am really enjoying the new release. This CD is a bit of a departure for Shiina Ringo. The sound is decidedly more "Pop" than her previous, screamin', hard-rockin' releases. The disc contains love songs, pop, and also some of her trademark J-Rock sounds. One of the tracks (輪廻ハイライト) even showcases, beautifully, Ringo-chan's abilities as a jazz vocalist! She has more maturity and skillful control in her voice now, which is saying a lot considering all that she has already accomplished. Aside from the tracks, themselves, this release is extremely well-produced featuring expert-quality studio work and some wonderfully-perfected mix-downs. If you move fast, you can still get the limited edition release with DVD! All-in-all I definitely recommend Watashi to Hoden to Ringo-chan fans and Jpop lovers alike.

For my readers who don't yet know about Shiina Ringo, let me tell you about her:

Ringo-chan was born in Saitama, in 1978, as Shiina Yumiko. Yumiko moved with her family to Fukuoka as a young child, and grew up there (because of this she now sings with the dialect of the Fukuoka Prefecture). She was influenced early in her life by classical music and jazz, especially when played on the piano. When she started to develop her own singing career, she chose the name 'Ringo' because she was so well-known for the way that she turns red when she blushes ('Ringo' = 'Apple' in Japanese).

What makes Shiina Ringo so absolutely amazing is that she was born with an unusual illness that caused her esophagus to become very narrow, thus nearly preventing her from being able to eat! She had to undergo numerous surgical procedures to correct the problem which left her with scars on her shoulder blades-- scars which are said to look like the result of angel's wings being removed. Naturally this condition could also have interfered with her possibility of becoming a singer, but instead it seems like it has only made her stronger.

Ringo-chan officially launched her career as a singer in 1998 at the age of 19 with her first single, Kōfukuron. Less than one year later, she released her first full-length album, Muzai Moratorium, which is a complete masterpiece, and is one of my favourite CDs. Between 1999 and 2007 she released 6 full-length "Shiina Ringo" albums and several singles. While working on all this, she also formed the band, Tokyo Jihen ("The Tokyo Incidents") in 2004. She uses this band as an outlet for exploring her other musical styles which include elements of jazz and funk. There have been three Tokyo Jihen releases between 2004 and 2007-- all of them truly great musical works.

Enjoy this video of her awesome track, 'Honnou'-- the title track from her fourth single.



Fiery Fiend Hunter

Meet Rachel (レイチェル), the powerful Fiend-hunter, comrade to Ryu Hayabusa (リュウ・ハヤブサ) and heroine of Ninja Gaiden. Here she stands ready to strike, equipped with her Warhammer and Blade of Ouroborus, always prepared to dispense with the evil Fiends of the Vigoor Empire. Although Rachel is on a mission of her own-- to find and destroy Alma, her twin-sister-turned-Fiend, she became a strong and helpful comrade to Master Ryu after meeting him on his journey.

Like Ayane and Ryu, Rachel came from Kotobukiya and is clearly another extremely well-designed and expertly crafted figure. She was rather difficult to locate, being so rare and highly sought-after. She is the third Ninja Gaiden figure in my collection, leaving just one more to find-- Ryu's close friend from his village, Kureha (呉葉)!


Ozone Concept Car

Check out this amazing concept car designed by Ozkan Koral for the Peugeot design contest! The cockpit is accessed by huge glass doors that slide 360 degrees into its symetric metal body. The eco-friendly, twin fuel-cell-electric motors are controlled with a joystick panel in the dash. This looks so kool! Imagine the reactions of people seeing you driving this down the road!

More at gizmodo.com.


Death Note-- the conclusion

This past Saturday night, the final episode of Death Note aired on Adult Swim. Since I had not been paying attention to the schedule, I didn't realise the end was so near. I wanted to believe that the story was simply starting to take new turn and develop into a new plot scheme. I was shocked when I saw the ending and I must say that the way the story ended left me feeling both relieved and also sad. That being said, there can be no argument that the story finished in the most appropriate way-- Ryuk (リューク), the shinigami who started the whole story, ended the story. The conclusion provided a fantastic sense of closure, leaving nothing open-ended.

The fantastic story aside, I am still left with a feeling of emptiness. I fully understand, now, how obsessed with Death Note I really am! For the past year, I have spent Sunday through Friday looking forward to the next episode, very anxiously waiting to see what would happen next. I wonder-- what will I do now? It's certainly NOT the case that I do not enjoy the other anime that I currently watch every Saturday-- I am on the 8th episode of Code Geass and I am really into it. Death Note really is my most favourite story ever, though, and I will really miss it. I think I will have to go back to the manga and finish reading it. Maybe I can finally see the movie without being concerned about spoilers.

As of yet, it looks like Adult Swim doesn't have anything to fill Death Note's time slot, so they are going back to an earlier episode from the middle of the story. Strange, but that's typical for Adult Swim. It's better than them playing more episodes of that idiotic show, Frisky Dingo or something worse like Harvey Birdman.

Oba Tsugumi (大場 つぐみ) and Obata Takeshi (小畑 健 )-- you are *awesome*! Well done, and thank you. Domo arigatō gozaimasu!


Results Are In-- 2008 Hot Dog Eating Competition

Kobayashi Takeru (小林尊) admits defeat in the 2008 annual hot dog eating contest at Nathan's in Coney Island, New York. 20-year-old Kobayashi-san "The Tsunami", from Nagano, dominated the competition for five years straight until California challenger Joey "Jaws" Chestnut came out ahead in 2007.

Today, the competition came to a tie at 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Ties are settled in a sudden death showdown in which Joey Chestnut, age 24, consumed an additional 7 dogs, winning for the second year in a row. Chestnut will take home a $10,000 grand prize, a giant trophy and international bragging-rights.

Will Kobayashi-san come back to victory again? I hope so!!


The next step in my career...

OK-- this September will mark my 8th year of employment at Trading Technologies (TT)! Today I had a meeting and got the news that on August 1st I will transfer to a new department and lead a new team of Quality Engineers!

I will be responsible for the Quality of TT's server products used for linking traders to the Singapore Exchange, Tokyo Commodities Exchange, Osaka Securities Exchange, Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange, Italian Derivatives Market, and the BrokerTec Bond Market. This is pretty big deal because the Tokyo Commodities Exchange (TOCOM) is currently a very high-profile project at TT. Everyone will be watching to see how well we succeed.

The guy who currently manages these projects is very excited to have me working for him, especially since he knows my present manager very well and hears a lot about my contributions. The idea is that once I have gotten everything in order and have proven my ability to run a tight ship, I will also take my place as a Manager. To start, I will have a team of 5 people, most of whom have been working here for less than a year. It will definitely be a lot of hard work, but should prove to be an exciting challenge as well!

So wish me luck! This is definitely the stepping stone to the next stage in my career!

As far as my relocation to Japan-- it's extremely likely to happen, but that will most likely be 12 to 24 months away, as far as I can tell.