Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Have I Mentioned Before that Anime Rules?

OK, so I'm a bit biased. But check this testimonial from Lumpenprofessoriat. A magical girl series I never heard of? Now I know how I'll be entertaining onechan and imoto while the Full Metal Archivist sleeps over in Buffalo on Thursdays this semester!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Announcing sf@SF: Science Fiction at SUNY Fredonia

My science fiction course begins in less than an hour, so I'm officially launching the course web site and course blog!

Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 LPGA Preview: Top 30 Predictions

Hound Dog has listed his predictions for 2008's top 30 on the LPGA over at his blog in hopes of starting a meme. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, he's invited everyone to join in and rank each of their top 30 picks by her odds of ending up as the Player of the Year. If anyone wants to participate but doesn't have a blog to post their predictions on, just email your list to me at the[underscore]constructivist18[at]yahoo[dot]com and I'll post it here for you.

Here's my list, showing how I think the vets, the mid-career cohort, and the young guns I ranked last month, previewed last week, and overviewed last weekend will match up against each other:

1. Lorena Ochoa
2. Paula Creamer
3. Seon Hwa Lee
4. Jee Young Lee
5. Annika Sorenstam
6. Morgan Pressel
7. Jeong Jang
8. Hee-Won Han
9. Se Ri Pak
10. Mi Hyun Kim
11. Angela Park
12. Stacy Prammanasudh
13. Cristie Kerr
14. Natalie Gulbis
15. Suzann Pettersen
16. Ai Miyazato
17. In-Kyung Kim
18. Momoko Ueda
19. Eun-Hee Ji
20. Jane Park
21. Karrie Webb
22. Brittany Lincicome
23. Christina Kim
24. Shi Hyun Ahn
25. Angela Stanford
26. Juli Inkster
27. Meena Lee
28. Laura Davies
29. Sophie Gustafson
30. Inbee Park

[Update 2/11/08: Mulligan Stu joins in!]

[Update 2/15/08: The Florida Masochist joins in!]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tiger Woods Is Legend, But I'll Be LPGA Blogging in 2008

I've been following Tiger Woods's career for what amounts to a long time by now, but he always finds new ways to amaze me. Pick your metaphor for what he's doing to the rest of the field at the Buick this week--smoking, lapping, demolishing first come to my mind--and it still won't convey how close to irrelevant he is rendering his closest competitors. No one else has put together 3 mid-60s rounds on the two Torrey Pines courses this week; in fact, most of the people who have reached that level have also posted a round in the mid-70s. Stewart Cink needed an eagle on his final hole Saturday to become the only other player in the field to break 70 in all 3 rounds; by doing so, he cut Tiger's lead to 8. That is not a typo.

With this victory, Tiger will tie Arnold Palmer in career PGA victories at 62. The only question worth asking is whether he can possibly catch and pass Jack Nicklaus at 73 this season--it's a foregone conclusion Ben Hogan at 64 will drop a spot in 2008 to him. But while witnessing a player make history and become a legend before your very eyes is awe-inspiring, I'll still be focusing almost exclusively on the LPGA this year at Mostly Harmless. Here's why.

When you compare the PGA career victory list with the LPGA one, you'll see that Annika pairs well with Tiger, Karrie Webb with Phil Mickelson, and Juli Inkster with Vijay Singh. Se Ri Pak, Laura Davies, and Lorena Ochoa have more wins than Davis Love III, Nick Price, and Ernie Els, but after that you see many more active PGAers with 10-15 career victories than LPGAers, the next rank of whom are clustered in the 6-to-10-win range. So there's no denying that the talent pool, both historically and currently, is deeper in the PGA than LPGA.

But here's the thing: although at times various players have come close to Tiger's level, no one has consistently matched him, much less surpassed him, from season to season. That's not true of Annika. Her challenge will be to do to Lorena Ochoa in 2008 what she did to Karrie Webb in 2001, after Webb had been the #1 player on the LPGA for two consecutive years. So the showdown at the top will make the LPGA more interesting than the PGA this year.

But Annika isn't the only one looking to take Ochoa down. With her 5-win season in 2007, Suzann Pettersen reached and threatened to surpass the level that Paula Creamer, Mi Hyun Kim, Seon Hwa Lee, Cristie Kerr, and Jeong Jang have been at for the last several years. Whether Annika will be able to keep pace with the lead pack chasing Ochoa--and whether anyone else in this pack will make a run at Ochoa--is another question that makes the LPGA more interesting than the PGA to me in 2008.

Players like Se Ri Pak, Hee-Won Han, Morgan Pressel, Jee Young Lee, Stacy Prammanasudh, Karrie Webb, and Natalie Gulbis make up the next pack--those who have been less consistent over the last 2-3 seasons, but who have shown they're capable of running with the lead pack. Will Annika fall back to their pace? Will some of them move up--and how far?

And then there are the wild cards. Can Angela Park, In-Kyung Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, Inbee Park, and Jane Park avoid the sophomore jinx? Can Ai Miyazato, Julieta Granada, and Brittany Lang pull themselves back into contention with the leaders from the class of 2006? Can Momoko Ueda, Hee Young Park, and Na-Yeon Choi build on their experience, live up to expectations, and make the Rookie of the Year race relevant to the Player of the Year race? Who among the others--from rookies to veterans--will step forward in 2008?

I'll be making my predictions tomorrow, using my notoriously unreliable 100-yen Nishijin crystal ball. But we won't know the answers to these and the other questions I've raised about the 2008 LPGA season until it is done. Should be fun to follow!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hottie Paradise

That's one translation of the title of a smash hit on Japanese tv. Hanazakari no Kimitachi e is apparently already popular internationally, as witness this clip from the first episode subbed en espanol:

For more, go to, search for the Japanese title, and look for the episodes fansubbed in English (the Full Metal Archivist and I are in the middle of the fifth).

What's the show's hook? More ikemen per frame than any other J-drama. "Hottie" would be one translation of ikemen, but "teen idol" works better for me. The show is a naked ratings grab--meant to appeal to everyone from the teenage audience it represents to moms and grandmas who like a little eye candy. In case you couldn't tell from the clip, it's adapted from a popular manga series. But here's what makes it interesting to me: rather than a parody of daytime drama conventions or a sitcom like, say, Bosom Buddies, it's really a pure melodrama. That is, all the ridiculous exaggerations of setting, plot, characterization, and acting--all the self-consciously artificial/meta aspects of the show--completely fail to subvert the emotional impact of the core relationships among the main characters, even on me. The show combines ironic distance and emotional intimacy in a way I've never seen before. The closest I can come to it is Daria (the Beavis and Butt-head spin-off I got hooked on way back when), although I suppose if I had gotten into Beverly Hills 90210 instead of hating it with a passion from afar, I might not have to stretch so far to find a comparison. Although so far it doesn't seem like any romantic comedy I've ever seen, maybe the best comparison is to a movie like Tootsie?

Uncharacteristically, I complained to the tsuma between episodes that the entire premise of the show is completely unrealistic--really, how could a barely teenage Japanese girl living in America be so moved by the struggles of a Japanese high school high jumper (who gave up the sport after sustaining an injury that she holds herself responsible for) that she would run away from home, apply to an all-male high school in Japan that selects its student body by appearance only, and successfully cross-dress her way into his social circle so she could motivate him to return to his sport?! She replied that it was psychologically realistic: many Japanese girls, she claims, develop intense, idealized crushes on boys or men they want to save, not least because this is a popular narrative in Japanese popular culture. I won't report the trump card she dropped to convince me of this here, but suffice to say it worked.

So I'm curious about reactions to this show from Blogoramaville. Did you like it? What does it remind you of from American tv? Could you see yourself getting addicted to it? Why or why not? Could it become massively popular in the U.S. the way it is in Japan? Or could it at best only become a cult classic? What do you think it reveals about gendering in Japan? And, by your response to it, in your home country?

Friday, January 25, 2008

On Fantasy and Science Fiction

So the Full Metal Archivist and I have been catching up--very slowly--on the movies we missed while in Japan. And the nights she sleeps over in Buffalo (it's an evening class, morning internship, avoiding the Thruway in winter thing), I'm renting movies she has no interest in seeing. Last week we saw House of Flying Daggers and I saw A Scanner Darkly, and you know what? It would make a great study of what difference genre makes to a basically similar scenario to like, look at them together, closely. (Plus you could throw in Infernal Affairs and bring action movies into the mix and stretch the criteria for inclusion just to bring the wacky and unexpectedly deep Running on Karma along for the ride.)

Suffice to say this post shall not do this, not least because I'm still trying to figure out how to structure my science fiction course for the spring semester (on which more later). But I do wonder why there have been so many movies already this millennium that riff on the classic "what going undercover does to your identity/thin line between cops and criminals" themes?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Holy GNF Batman!

Seen on Czech TV:

The NYTimes has an article about these pranksters.

2008 LPGA Preview: Career Crossroads, Part III--The Young Guns

Before I lay out the 25 players from the classes of 2006-2008 whom I believe have the potential to get or stay in the top 30 this year and eventually be considered among the game's best, I want to highlight a few other LPGA season previews I've come across while preparing this Mostly Harmless series. Jason Sobel names 5 women out of 18 golfers he thinks are ready to make "the leap," Hound Dog's ride on the LPGA Elevator is smooth, Golfgal's run-down of big names is not half bad, and Jason Wulterkens's prediction that women's golf is poised to go prime time like women's tennis did in its heyday is interesting (if at times sloppy in its details). And while I'm citing my sources, I'd like to acknowledge Mulligan Stu's assessments of the 2007 Q-School and Futures Tour grads, the Seoul Sisters 2007 Q-School discussion forum, and my own most recent ranking of the class of 2006.

Oh, and the stats I list are career winnings (rank); # of LPGA events entered/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/cuts made (made cut rate); non-member and international wins. When there's a discrepancy between the LPGA bio sheet and performance chart, I go by the latter.

Sure Things

1. Seon Hwa Lee (2006) $2.02M (#79); 57/0/2/7/15/31/55 (.965); 3: Her 12-1-0 record in match play events over the past two seasons should say it all--she is one of the grittiest competitors in the world, bar none. If she putts in 2008 like she did in her rookie season, this former Rookie of the Year could go from being the best Asian golfer to the best in the world.

2. Morgan Pressel (2006) $1.44M (#112); 48/1/1/4/17/29/44 (.917); 0: At least the third-best American already, she was the most-improved player of the class of 2006 last season. And she still has a long way to go to reach her potential.

3. Jee Young Lee (2006) $1.54M (#102); 49/0/0/4/16/28/47 (.959); 2: The top Young Gun in my latest Best of the LPGA ranking, despite suffering a heart-breaking playoff loss to Suzann Pettersen in May and a shoulder injury two-thirds of the way through the season, I agree with Hound Dog that she may well have the most upside of anyone in her cohort. If she can put together a putting performance like in her rookie year (T6 in PPGIR) and an approach shot performance like in her sophomore year (4th in GIR), watch out for an Ochoa/Pettersen-style breakout sometime in the next few years. Going by her strong play at the end of 2007, including dominating performances at the Kyoraku and Lexus Cups, we might not have long to wait for her first win as an LPGA member.

4. Angela Park (2007) $.98M (#159); 28/0/0/4/8/12/27 (.964); 0: The only thing the 2007 Rookie of the Year needs to do is get used to being in contention. Once she learns to play better on the weekend, we can expect multiple multiple-win seasons from her. She has the best chance of anyone in her class to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx--or at least minimize its effects.

Great Bets

5. Ai Miyazato (2006) $1.32M (#119); 46/0/0/4/14/19/38 (.826); 14: Speaking of sophomore jinxes, one sure hit her hard after a minor injury sustained during her runner-up finish to Seon Hwa Lee at the HSBC decimated her swing and confidence for the rest of the 2007 season. If the 2005 Q-School medalist would have had to compete in the 2007 edition, she would have been back on the JLPGA in 2008. Still, everyone goes through slumps and I have faith in my favorite player to bounce back strong this year. Go Ai-chan!

6. In-Kyung Kim (2007) $.45M (#253); 26/0/0/1/4/7/21 (.808); 0: Not only was she #2 in the Rookie of the Year race and almost beat Lorena Ochoa head-to-head for her first win last season, she rocked the Lexus Cup, as well, outplaying Angela Park and just about everyone else in the competition except the Fighting Super Soph Lees. She should have loads of confidence heading into her sophomore season--and deserves to.

7. Momoko Ueda (2008): Like Jee Young Lee, the #1 player on the JLPGA last year already has a non-member win on the LPGA, which brings her victory total to 5. Moreover, she has 3 top 10s in 5 LPGA starts as a non-member and has never missed a cut. How she adjusts to life in the U.S. is an open question, but with Ai-chan already having blazed the trail, I expect great things from her.

8. Eun-Hee Ji (2007) $.25M (#349); 4/0/0/1/2/3/4 (1.000); 4: Among the top 3 players on the KLPGA in 2007, she played well in three of the four countries in which she competed on the LPGA that same season. Like Momo-chan, will have to decide how many LPGA events to compete in this season and will have to adjust to life in a new country if she decides to jump in with both feet. But both are young enough to be flexible and experienced enough to be a threat to contend in any tournament they enter.

9. Jane Park (2007) $.06M (#478); 11/0/0/0/0/2/9 (.818); 0: Struggled mightily in her rookie season as a non-exempt player, but improved on her .700 made-cut rate from her years as a non-member, and, more important, matched Miyazato's record-low score in her wire-to-wire win at Q-School last month. I'm with Mulligan Stu--she's the real deal and should have a breakout season in 2008.

Good Bets

10. Julieta Granada (2006) $2.05M (#78); 57/0/1/5/10/19/43 (.754); 0: Should be well over her sophomore jinx--which struck almost immediately after her runner-up finish in the first event of 2007 and pretty much stuck around all year, except for a couple of bright spots at the Corona and the U.S. Open--this year. I hope. She's still the leading money winner in her cohort...nobody can take that 2006 ADT win away from her!

11. Inbee Park (2007) $.38M (#266); 26/0/0/1/2/5/18 (.692): Great play at the U.S. Women's Open and Safeway Classic salvaged what would otherwise have been a bitterly disappointing rookie year for one of the dominant players on the Futures Tour in the previous season, although she did stabilize her game as the year went on and almost made the top 30 on the money list. If she has even a decent year in 2008, she'll be a top 20 player. And if she can pull a Pressel....

12. Hee Young Park (2008): The 2005 KLPGA Rookie of the Year has 4 victories to her name, made 3 of 5 LPGA cuts as a non-member, and had three runner-up finishes on the KLPGA in 2007. She's been aiming to play on the LPGA for some time and earned it with a great Q-School performance, which made her the only exempt rookie Seoul Sister in her class.

13. Ya Ni Tseng (2008): Joining Candie Kung and Amy Hung as top Taiwanese golfers on the LPGA, she's coming off a strong season on the Asian Tour, a fantastic performance at the Canadian Open last year, and a solid stroll through the pressure-packed Q-School.

14. Na-Yeon Choi (2008): Another top player from the KLPGA, with 4 career victories there, she will have to play her way into exempt status for the 2009 season, but since she only finished 2 shots out of gaining an exemption in Q-School last month, she shouldn't have any trouble doing this.

Pretty Darn Good Bets

15. Brittany Lang (2006) $.89M (#179); 54/0/0/2/9/21/36 (.667); 0: Until Ai-chan's horrific post-HSBC run, was enduring the worst season of any of the class of 2006, but she hung in there and was still a top 40 player, due in part to her ability to eke out top 20s even when she wasn't playing all that well by her standards. Look for her to bounce back in 2008.

16. Meaghan Francella (2006) $.51M (#238); 29/0/1/1/4/8/19 (.655); 0: After beating Annika Sorenstam in a playoff and continuing to shine in the first half of the season, she suffered a dog bite and a rib injury and her game suffered in the second half of 2007. Rested and healthy, she has a decent shot at qualifying for the ADT Championship for the second year in a row.

17. Kyeong Bae (2006) $.60M (#226); 52/0/0/2/6/10/37 (.712); 3: This top 45ish player over her first two seasons is poised to make a quantum leap in 2008.

18. Hye Jung Choi (2006) $.30M (#298); 27/0/0/0/3/7/18 (.667); 1: This co-medalist at the 2006 Q-School with In-Kyung Kim was essentially a rookie in 2007, so there's a chance her performance could fall off in 2008, but having gotten her first win on the KLPGA last year, that's pretty unlikely.

19. Na On Min (2007) $.31M (#296); 20/0/0/1/2/4/13 (.650); 0: Starting 2007 as a non-exempt player, she placed third in the Rookie of the Year race and by finishing in the top 40 on the money list earned an exemption for the next two seasons. With her fine record at the two majors she's competed in, she could be poised for bigger and better things.

20. Linda Wessberg (2006) $.17M (#376); 14/0/0/0/3/4/9 (.643); 6: After splitting her time between the LET and LPGA in 2007, this Solheim Cupper should play a fuller LPGA schedule in 2008 and should do quite well.

21. Sandra Gal (2008): She ended her impressive amateur career with a great performance at Q-School last month, finishing 69-69 to squeak in as an exempt player for 2008, so she'll be able to learn on the job.

Not Bad Bets at All

22. Ashleigh Simon (2008): In the same boat as Na-Yeon Choi is this year and Na On Min was last year, but with only 1 victory to her name from her abbreviated season on the LET last year, her adjustment to the level of competition on the LPGA, like Gal's, will likely be a bit rockier.

23. Sun Young Yoo (2006) $.36M (#273); 50/0/0/0/2/8/35 (.700); 0: Can she bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season in 2008?

24. Karin Sjodin (2006) $.32M (#287); 44/0/0/0/3/9/28 (.636); 1: Having made steady improvement from season to season, she will have a lot more young LETers to keep her company on the LPGA in 2008, so look for her to have a good junior year.

25. Shanshan Feng (2008): The first fully-exempt player from China on the LPGA will have her work cut out for her in her rookie season, but she's used to being in the winner's circle from her outstanding amateur career, so stands at least as good a chance as the better-known young American grads from Q-School and the Futures Tour.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 LPGA Preview: Career Crossroads, Part II--The Mid-Career Cohort

As the volatility of careers among the LPGA veterans I profiled last post shows, it takes a very special golfer to extend their time on tour beyond ten years. Who among the players whose careers began between 2000 and 2005 have what it takes to become leading veterans themselves? Of course, only one person stands out right now. Lorena Ochoa is putting in a strong bid to have the post-Sorenstam era in the LPGA named after her, but Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Hee-Won Han, Jeong Jang, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Natalie Gulbis are jockeying to pass Grace Park as the top challenger in her cohort. And there are a dozen other players who could break out the way Ochoa and Pettersen have in recent years.

Top 10

1. Lorena Ochoa (2003) $10.43M (#4); 17 wins/1 major: Hound Dog was the first to point out that she could qualify for the Hall of Fame in 2008. Now the only question is how quickly will she do it? Can HOFers Inkster, Sorenstam, Webb, and Pak elevate their games and deny her some victories? How many of her contemporaries can draft her and position themselves to pass her? Will any of the newbies throw their hats in the ring? Right now she's the only player in the world for whom a disappointing result is failing to be in contention on the back on Sunday. Will she be alone there by the end of 2008? I think she'll still be the world #1 at the end of the season, but she's going to face the toughest competition of her career this year.

2. Grace Park (2000) $5.23M (#23); 6/1: Once one of the best players in the world, now a cautionary tale for Ochoa and the others in their cohort--see her Seoul Sisters bio for the gory details. Despite dealing with the aftereffects of serious back injuries from her previous two seasons and playing a limited schedule in 2007, she did earn her card for 2008, so she's on equal footing with the two closest competitors in her cohort, Jeong Jang and Hee-Won Han. But unless she improves fast, they'll leave her in the dust by the end of the season. Barring Sorenstam, all the recent Hall of Famers faced real trials and tribulations over the course of their careers yet always found ways to come back from the depths. Don't count Grace out yet!

3. Jeong Jang (2000) $5.03M (#25); 2/1: Took advantage of Han's maternity leave for most of 2007 to pass her on the career money list, but she still had a disappointing season by her high standards set by her previous two seasons. At the start of her 9th season, has to be aiming to be one of the best golfers in the world. Can she do it?

4. Hee-Won Han (2001) $4.82M (#27); 6/0: Could easily have a double-digit win total if she had been able to close the deal earlier in her career a bit more often, she's looking to return to the game's elite in 2008. This new mom's season should be more impressive than Catriona Matthew's return from maternity leave in 2007.

5. Paula Creamer (2005) $3.99M (#32); 4/0: Should be recognized as the best American in women's golf by the end of 2008. Has improved her scoring average every year on tour and is the only player besides Ochoa in her cohort to have averaged more than one win per season. She never has earned less than a million dollars in her career and 2008 should be no different. Poised for multiple multi-win seasons over the next five years.

6. Natalie Gulbis (2002) $3.38M (#42); 1/0: Mid-season injuries held her back in 2007, but she finished very strong and should get off to as fast a start in 2008 as she did last season. A definite top 20 player, but will have to really work to get back into the top 10.

7. Gloria Park (2000) $3.11M (#49); 2/0: A streaky player, this newlywed is looking to bounce back from her worst season since her rookie year and regain her top 30 form. Can she maintain or improve her position in a very strong class of 2000, whose members have been characterized by great ups and downs already in their careers? Hopefully the win at the Women's World Cup by Dorothy Delasin and Jennifer Rosales will inspire and motivate her.

8. Candie Kung (2002) $3.07M (#50); 3/0: Due to her playing a limited schedule in 2007, she was passed by Gulbis on the career money list, and it's an open question whether she can return to being one of the best golfers in the world, as she was from 2003-2005. A good performance at the Lexus Cup may give her some momentum heading into 2008.

9. Suzann Pettersen (2003) $2.76M (#55); 5/1: Came out of nowhere--due mainly to her having to deal with serious injuries during her first three seasons--in 2007 to become the #2 player in the world. Can she continue to challenge Ochoa for the #1 spot or will she have to settle for trying to retain the #2 spot in her class by staying ahead of Christina Kim?

10. Angela Stanford (2001) $2.69M (#59); 1/0: Coming off the best season of her career, she ought to be a top 25 player again in 2008, as she has been in 3 of the last 5 seasons.

Best of the Rest

11. Dorothy Delasin (2000) $2.53M (#62); 4/0: This former Rookie of the Year has struggled her past 4 seasons, but she is ready to improve on the best in that bunch. In 2005, she and Rosales came in second at the Women's World Cup, so perhaps their win in 2008 will help her vault back into the top 40.

12. Christina Kim (2003) $2.46M (#66); 2/0: Like Gloria Park, another talented but streaky player. Unlike Park, 2007 was one of her best seasons, but she had to deal with the disappointment of not playing in any of the three international team competitions she was eligible for. Hopefully she'll use that as motivation for 2008 and 2009 and become the top 20 player she ought to be.

13. Stacy Prammanasudh (2003) $2.27M (#73); 2/0: Has improved every season and is now probably the 4th-best American, behind Kerr, Creamer, and Pressel. Don't be surprised if 2008 is a breakout year for her.

14. Jennifer Rosales (2000) $2.20M (#74); 2/0: Once one of the best players in her cohort, she has disappeared in the last two seasons. Hopefully her win with Delasin in the 2008 Women's World Cup will get her off the John Daly track of WDs, DQs, and MCs. If it doesn't, she'll lose her card for 2009.

15. Shi Hyun Ahn (2004) $1.94M (#84); 1/0: Another player who has had to deal with injuries early in her career, this Rookie of the Year has stayed well ahead of her two closest competitors in her class, Aree Song and Reilley Rankin, despite playing a fairly limited schedule the past 3 seasons. In 2008, looking to build on her best season since her rookie year.

16. Brittany Lincicome (2005) $1.85M (#89); 2/0: Although she faded a bit in the second half of 2007, she passed Meena Lee on the career money list to become Creamer's top challenger in their class. The big question for her is whether she can become a top 10 player in 2008.

17. Meena Lee (2005) $1.81M (#91); 2/0: Looking to bounce back from the worst season of her short career; should be able to get back into the top 30 again.

18. Young Kim (2003) $1.79M (#92); 1/0: After hovering around the top 40 mark her first two seasons and the top 30 mark the last three, this talented player is looking to catch up to her peers in the very strong class of 2003 in 2008.

19. Sarah Lee (2002) $1.76M (#94); 0/0: Looking to build on the best season of her career last year. Despite suffering through some mid-season injuries, she showed she has the talent to be a top 20 player. But most likely will struggle to stay in the top 30 in 2008.

20. Becky Morgan (2001) $1.65M (#97); 0/0: Looking to regain her 2003-2004 form in 2008, but unlikely to make up serious ground on Han and Stanford, the only classmates ahead of her on the career money list.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2008 LPGA Preview: Career Crossroads, Part I--The Veterans

Have I mentioned yet how excited I am at the beginning of the 2008 LPGA season? Team Philippines' shocking victory over Team Korea in the Women's World Cup of Golf, as covered by Hound Dog, kicks off this season just as the last one ended: with another huge upset that suggests we're in the midst of tectonic shifts in women's golf. What does it mean that struggling mid-career former stars Jennifer Rosales and Dorothy Delasin outplayed up-and-coming superstars Ji-Yai Shin and Eun-Hee Ji down the stretch this weekend? In this post, I want to focus on what it means for the LPGA veterans--the 10 active players whose LPGA careers began before 2000 and who are at or near the top of the career wins and money lists, along with 11 others whose careers I want to note.

Top 10

1. Annika Sorenstam (1994) $20.84M (#1); 69/10 wins/majors in the era named after her: After her injury-induced worst season on the LPGA since her rookie year, can she do to Lorena Ochoa, who has been the top women's golfer in the world for the past two years, what she did in 2001 after Karrie Webb had been the best in the LPGA over the previous two years? How many wins and majors can she rack up before she decides to end her LPGA career?

2. Karrie Webb (1996) $13.46M (#2); 35/7: Can she bounce back in 2008 like she did in 2006? That is, can she regain her Hall of Fame form and contend again for Player of the Year?

3. Juli Inkster (1983) $11.99M (#3); 16/4 (31/7 overall): Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent? Can she get one more win and qualify for one more Solheim Cup before she decides to retire?

4. Se Ri Pak (1998) $9.79M (#5); 24/5: Can she beat Ochoa to the $11M mark in career winnings just as Ochoa beat her to the $10M mark? Can she maintain her lead on her in career victories and majors? Can she regain her Hall of Fame form and contend again for Player of the Year?

5. Laura Davies (1988) $8.41M (#9); 15/3 (20/4 overall): Can she get those last two points she needs to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame? (She's 0-11 when she's had her best chances to do it in the last 6 years.) Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent?

6. Mi Hyun Kim (1999) $7.86M (#10); 8/0: Can she maintain her lead on Cristie Kerr on the career money list and catch her in the career victories/majors race? Can she break through and actually contend for a Player of the Year award? Or, given her string of injuries in 2007, are her years as a top 10 player numbered?

7. Cristie Kerr (1997) $7.83M (#11); 10/1: Can she continue her 4-year run as best American on tour, or is she going to be stampeded in 2008 by the youth movement of Creamer, Pressel, Prammanasudh, Castrale, and Lincicome? Can she break through and actually contend for a Player of the Year award?

8. Lorie Kane (1996) $6.64M (#14); 4/0: Does Team Canada's surprisingly strong performance at the Women's World Cup herald a return to competitiveness for her? Can she follow Juli Inkster's career path, or is she going to be remembered as a top 15 player who had three fantastic years but lacked staying power?

9. Pat Hurst (1995) $5.91M (#15); 5/1: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 2002 and become a top 30 player again?

10. Sherri Steinhauer (1986) $5.85M (#16); 6/1 (8/2 overall): Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent? Can she keep pace with Hurst on the money list before her career runs out?

Best of the Rest

11. Rachel Hetherington (1997) $5.40M (#21); 8/0: Can she become a top 30 player again, or are her best years on tour behind her?

12. Catriona Matthew (1995) $5.06M (#24); 2/0: Can the #2 player from the class of 1995 catch Hurst and stay ahead of Carin Koch before their careers run out? Can she remain a top 20 player on a tour packed with young talent?

13. Laura Diaz (1999) $4.10M (#29); 2/0: Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent?

14. Carin Koch (1995) $4.05M (#31); 2/0: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 1997? Can she keep pace with Diaz on the money/victories lists before her career runs out?

15. Wendy Ward (1996) $3.93M (#33); 4/0: Can she bounce back from her worst season since 1999, or are her years as an exempt player numbered?

16. Sophie Gustafson (1998) $3.90M (#34); 4/0: Can she remain a top 30 player on a tour packed with young talent? (Team Sweden's disappointing performance at the Women's World Cup does not bode well for either her or Maria Hjorth.)

17. Maria Hjorth (1998) $3.74M (#36); 3/0: Can she pass Gustafson on the career winnings/victories lists? Is she going to be remembered as a player who had three great years in an otherwise undistinguished career?

Of Note

18. Emilee Klein (1995) #3.15M (#47); 3/0: Appears to be the first top player in the class of 1995 to have retired.

19. Wendy Doolan (1996) $2.74M (#58); 3/0: Can she resurrect her career after the past 3 weak seasons, or is she heading in the direction of Ward and Klein?

20. Kelli Kuehne (1998) $2.12M (#76); 1/0: Got new life with her fantastic 2007 Q-School performance--can she carry it over to the regular season, something she's been unable to do the past 4 years?

21. Moira Dunn (1995) $1.97M (#81); 1/0: Can my old friend play well enough in 2008 to keep her card? Can she pass Kuehne on the money/wins career lists? Can she at least stay off Hound Dog's list of fluke victories since 1990? (He has her on probation right now.)

Premature and Irresponsible Political Speculation

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that money wins out in the primaries and Hillary and Mitt turn out to be their parties' nominees. What are the odds, do you think, that the likely runner-ups at this point--Obama and McCain--would decide to run together on an Independent ticket? How would you feel about such a scenario? And do you think they'd have a better chance to win the Executive Office outside rather than inside their parties?

Before you answer, check out this piece from the UK on Obama's appeal to moderate conservatives and this one from LA on his bipartisanship emphasis being in the American grain. And consider that while Obama can afford to wait 8 years for another presidential run, McCain can't, so if bridges between them and their party leaders get seriously burned in the coming months, Obama is in a position to demand some serious concessions from McCain (including, perhaps, the top of the ticket) in exchange for joining forces with him.

Sorry, all the sports-style coverage of the primaries has got me thinking like an NFL fan whose team is out of the playoffs (go Bills!) and is looking for ways to make them interesting. To borrow from Oaktown Girl's brilliant and prophetic playoffs post, I'm thinking of Hillary as the Patriots, Edwards as the Chargers, Obama as the Giants, Romney as the Cowboys, and McCain as the Packers.

Yeah, yeah, I know. At least I lived up to the post's title, eh?

[Update 2/8/08: Ah, well I accidentally invoked the Mostly Harmless jinx on Romney. Now if it'll only kick in on my real target. McCain vs. Obama is much more interesting than McCain with Obama.]

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Home Movies Meets WAAGNFNP?

You decide!

In honor of Oaktown Girl's second Mostly Harmless post!

Playoffs: AFC/NFC Championship Games

Because everybody has a right to my opinion (optional quickie pre-requisite reading is here.)

Yes, I'm bringing the hate to the new england patriots (small case letters intentional sign of disrespect). Anyone who wants to get up on their high horse and preach about how we should all just enjoy watching the "marvel" that is the 2007-8 patriots can kiss my Black ass. (So pucker up, fools!)

But praise Gojira, I'm not going to spend time here listing all the reasons I hate the pats. Let's talk about some other stuff.

1. Brett Favre - Now, you might think I'd dislike Favre simply because all the hype he gets could indeed make one nauseous. But oddly enough, it doesn't bother me too much. Yes, the yearly "is he or isn't he" retirement drama gets tedious, but in general, I'm cool with the guy. That's mostly because to my knowledge he hadn't said or done anything particularly offensive or stupid.

2. New York Giants - It's rare indeed that I'm ever cheering for a New York team, but damn if I wasn't cheering my butt off for them last week to beat Dallas. (I'm not a New York hater, just a yankee hater). Dallas hasn't been good enough in several years to be "bring the hate" worthy, but now they have enough hate-worthy elements about them to makes watching them lose fun again. And last week was a crushing loss for Dallas. Tony Romo is now 0-for2 in the playoffs. As for head coach Wade Phillips? Please. That dude's always been a joke.

3. Colts - I find the Colts to be a very likable team, and had believed them to be the best hope for stopping the patriots. What the hell happened? Ugly, ugly, ugly loss to San Diego. Damn, even if they had managed to win, they were playing so badly, new england would have stomped the shit out 'em. Pitiful. Just pitiful.

4. San Diego - Well, it was a Pyhrric victory against the Colts. So now with injuries severely limiting if their QB and star running back Ladainian Tomlinson, an upset may take nothing less than all the curses Lord Astaroth can heap upon new england (and boy are they deserving of some fierce interrogation!), as well as the divine intervention of Gojira herself.

The patriots don't turn the ball over much, and it's very frustrating. I'd love to see them get a whole season's worth of turnovers in one game tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, in the Super Bowl. No, I'll never stop dreaming.

5. Ladanian Tomlinson - have you ever just stopped and taken in the name "Ladainian"? If you move beyond the sheer uniqueness of it (or "weirdness" if you feel that way), you'll notice it's a truly lovely sounding name. Elegant, yet stong. Rolls off the tongue like it's royalty or something. Say it a few times. Ladainian.

6. Cheering Squad - Obviously I'm cheering for San Diego. Well, to be accurate, it's more like "praying for a miracle" than actual cheering. As for the NFC, I'd just like to see a good, competitive, entertaining game. I'll be watching from Ministry of Justice HQ, where the high temperature is supposed to be 51 degrees. High temp in Green Bay is predicted at 11 degrees. Game time temp could be as low as 1 degree, with a wind chill factor of Sweet Lord Astaroth!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bye-Bye Bacteria

To celebrate the end of onechan's sinus infection and imoto's ear infection, here's the first episode of Chibi Maruko-chan for your viewing pleasure. Will this be onechan and imoto in a few years?

The subtitles are almost as funny as the episode itself, eh?

These sisters have practiced the theme song's dance moves!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Silly Vegetable Music

Note that the sound appears to be delayed with respect to the visuals.

This too is Japanese:

Twinkle twinkle little paprika:

I don't know whether you want to show these to kids. It might give them the idea that it's more fun, and more authentically Japanese, to make music with their vegetables than to eat them.

Here's a little meat:

Japanese Fortune Cookies Made in America

Reporting in today's New York Times, Jennifer Lee informs us that Chinese fortune cookies originated in Japan:
Fortune cookies, Yasuko Nakamachi says, are almost certainly originally from Japan.

Her prime pieces of evidence are the centuries-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 etching of a man making them in a bakery - decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies. . . .

As she researched the cookie’s Japanese origins, among the most persuasive pieces of evidence Ms. Nakamachi found was an illustration from a 19th-century book of stories, “Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan.”

A character in one of the tales is an apprentice in a senbei store. In Japan, the cookies are called, variously, tsujiura senbei (“fortune crackers”), omikuji senbei (“written fortune crackers”), and suzu senbei (“bell crackers”).

The apprentice appears to be grilling wafers in black irons over coals, the same way they are made in Hogyokudo and other present-day bakeries. A sign above him reads “tsujiura senbei” and next to him are tubs filled with little round shapes — the tsujiura senbei themselves.

The book, story and illustration are all dated 1878. The families of Japanese or Chinese immigrants in California that claim to have invented or popularized fortune cookies all date the cookie’s appearance between 1907 and 1914.

So how'd Japanese fortune cookies end up in America as Chinese fortune cookies? WWII, that's how:
The cookie’s path is relatively easy to trace back to World War II. At that time they were a regional specialty, served in California Chinese restaurants, where they were known as “fortune tea cakes.” There, according to later interviews with fortune cookie makers, they were encountered by military personnel on the way back from the Pacific Theater. When these veterans returned home, they would ask their local Chinese restaurants why they didn’t serve fortune cookies as the San Francisco restaurants did.

And so they spread across the country from the West. However:
But prior to World War II, the history is murky. A number of immigrant families in California, mostly Japanese, have laid claim to introducing or popularizing the fortune cookie. Among them are the descendants of Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant who oversaw the Japanese Tea Garden built in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in the 1890s. Visitors to the garden were served fortune cookies made by a San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo.

A few Los Angeles-based businesses also made fortune cookies in the same era: Fugetsudo, a family bakery that has operated in Japantown for over a century, except during World War II; Umeya, one of the earliest mass-producers of fortune cookies in Southern California, and the Hong Kong Noodle company, a Chinese-owned business. . . .

Ms. Nakamachi is still unsure how exactly fortune cookies made the jump to Chinese restaurants. But during the 1920s and 1930s, many Japanese immigrants in California owned chop suey restaurants, which served Americanized Chinese cuisine. The Umeya bakery distributed fortune cookies to well over 100 such restaurants in southern and central California. . . .

Early on, Chinese-owned restaurants discovered the cookies, too. Ms. Nakamachi speculates that Chinese-owned manufacturers began to take over fortune cookie production during World War II, when Japanese bakeries all over the West Coast closed as Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

It's Come to This, Bacteria

This will hurt me a whole lot more than you. Really. But you've forced me to deploy the infamous Oshiri Kajiri Mushi:

James at Japan Probe alerted the English-speaking world to this butt-biting bug's popularity in Japan last June, and about a month ago he linked to a clip of OKM dancing with a bunch of cute kids. So, bacteria, go study your trivia and dance moves and boogie on away from onechan's and imoto's bodies for once and for all!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yes! More Enka! More! MORE!

Been waiting awhile to get this opening from Ojarumaru up here! With the bacteria definitely in retreat and the girls' moods stabilizing, now is the time.

Too bad the episode in which the protagonist gets in a poetry vs. rap showdown hasn't made it to teh U2bes yet. In any case, only a few more late-night antibiotic doses to go....

Monday, January 14, 2008

We Have the Bacteria on the Run

Both girls were feeling a lot better yesterday, which resulted in lots of "happy happy joy joy" time until the inevitable sisterly fight or parental misunderstanding of imoto's grunts and gestures arose--in which case full-blown tantrum time. Well, no tantrum could withstand this Enka performance (Japanese country music) that James at Japan Probe just shared. Take that, bacteria and bad moods! Away with ye!

[Update: Wil Wheaton rightly calls this list of 17 free downloadable graphic novels both awesome and sensational--and you know what? He's right.]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Time to Unleash the Awesome Power of Mottainai

Girls still not better. Must up ante. They're big fans of Mottainai Obaasan, this grandmother in a children's book who goes around telling the kids not to waste anything. Turns out there's an NGO called Mottainai, whose official theme song didn't pass the musume test. But here are two videos on the same theme that did, the first a little bit country and the second a little bit hip hop.

Maybe together they can lend extra power to the girls' immune systems!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mostly Harmless

No this is not yet another pointlessly self-referential post. Rather, "mostly harmless" is my gloss of Associate Justice Scalia's position on the pointless (unless you're a Republican-controlled legislature trying to restrict the franchise) Indiana voter-id law which was recently argued before the supreme court. I was perusing the transcript of the oral arguments and did a search for something that Scalia said. This led me to perversely read all of Scalia's comments in sequential order, and what a read it makes. Basically he just cannot seem to get too excited about what will be an "inconvenience to a small number of people" when it comes to voting rights. (Because elections are large-scale statistical things, small numbers of votes, much less individual ones, never really count in actual practice.) It is just too bad that the kinder, gentler Antonin Scalia of the past is no longer with us. You know, the one who used to care about the rights of individual petitioners, who was willing to act quickly to correct any hint of perceived harm in an election.

So in the spirit of that kinder, gentler Antonin Scalia, I propose that the Supreme Court should make itself more accessible to every one, because I know that in their heart of hearts they want every vote to count and for no one to be deprived of their rights as citizens. I offer the following modest example of a streamlined application for justice.


[insert your perceived harm here] does in my view threaten
irreparable harm to me, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what
I claim to be the legitimacy of [insert your desired outcome
[insert your name here]

Signature: __________________ Date:_______
Have a nice day!

Special two-for-one Bonus offer: Get a free Writ of Certiorari if you are the Republican Presidential Candidate!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Miracle Mimika Cures Sinus and Ear Infections

Or so we've heard. Actually, the Full Metal Alchemist and I just like to cook to this anime cooking show's theme song!

Oh, and onechan has the sinus infection and imoto has the ear infection.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On Race, Gender, and Golf

It's kind of weird to see the crying question making national headlines. I'm used to the back-and-forth between Morgan Pressel and the golf press corps on her tearitudinality, not so much Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. Seriously, what's the big deal about a few tears?

I'm tempted to follow Tiger Woods's own lead and say a similar thing about Kelly Tilghman's banter-gone-bad with Nick Faldo last Friday on the Golf Channel (both Geoff Shackelford and the Golf for Women blog have posted an edited version of the clip in which she drops the "lynch him in a back alley" bomb). But then I noticed that not only is Tilghman getting criticized for the comment itself, for a wishy-washy apology, and for getting off easy with only a 2-week suspension, but also that Tiger himself is taking almost as much heat for (through his agent) accepting her apology, calling this a "non-issue," and declaring "case closed."

As if. People everywhere are trotting out the usual scripts and entering into the usual debates: intent vs. effect; context vs. symbolism; conscious vs. unconscious racism; identifying black vs. identifying multiracial vs. identifying postracial vs. identifying antiracist; insensitivity vs. hypersensitivity; "playing the race card" vs. "sanctioned ignorance"; blame vs. taking responsibility; and so on. It's like Ethnicity/Race Studies 101 out there in Blogoramaville these days, although of course many more instances of unconscious stereotyping and ignorance in the golfy media with respect to race and gender are not getting the CNN effect. Any ideas why this is so?

Given how oddly Tilghman's comment rings (most lynchings were very public spectacles) and Woods's response sounds, I'd love to see them announce when both return to the PGA at the Buick that they are embarking on a joint research project, studying works like W. Fitzhugh Brundage's Under Sentence of Death (North Carolina, 1997), Jacqueline Goldsby's A Spectacular Secret (Chicago, 2006), Sandra Gunning's Race, Rape, and Lynching (Oxford, 1996), Grace Hale's Making Whiteness (Pantheon, 1998), Saidiya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection (Oxford, 1997), Jonathan Markovitz's Legacies of Lynching (U of Minnesota, 2004), Anne Rice's edited collection, Witnessing Lynching (Rutgers, 2003), Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck's A Festival of Violence (Illinois, 1995), and Christopher Waldrep's Lynching in America (NYU, 2006), and collaborating on a Golf Channel/First Tee-produced documentary based on their research. If these products of Duke and Stanford put together and promoted something of use to the educational community, then the lessons learned can go beyond the media's rapid spin cycle.

[Update 1/13/08: Jennifer at Mixed Race America has a great, thoughtful post on the very issues I gesture toward--and bypass--in my 3rd paragraph.]

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy Blogiversary, Mostly Harmless

If I was really together, I'd put together a Hitchhiker's Guide to Mostly Harmless, but since I'm in full-blown pre-semester panic mode, I'll just have to note that our first post was a year ago today, Fukuoka time. The most I can do to honor this historic day is to pass along this public service message from Home Movies:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

And in Other News...

...there's a new ending theme to Yes! Pretty Cure 5, which draws on the cheerleader chorus motif of Max Heart's ending and the dance sequences from Splash Star's!

Cue onechan and imoto going wild!

Fishbone, Official Band of the WAAGNFNP...and Barack Obama?

We've known for a long time that Fishbone is the official band of the We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Party:

But now I'm hoping that Barack Obama is taking a page out of their songbook. "Change," a beautiful acoustic number that closes their brilliant album Truth and Soul, could well be the Obama campaign's theme song. Unfortunately, it's not on teh U2bes, so the closest I could get for non-fans (in theme if not in style) is "Sunless Saturday":

Here's hoping Obama shows a bit of Fishbone's passion, range, versatility, and ability to bring together multiple traditions and audiences in his campaign. (For the record, I'm still torn between him and Edwards in NY's February 5th primary, but seriously, some Obama supporter had better put something up on YouTube soon with "Change" as the background music.)

[Update 1 (8/29/08, 12:27 pm): Hey, it took about 7 months, but someone did it! With this kind of rapid response from Obama's supporters, he should be 2016!]

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Don't Putt teh Baby!"

Reading this Tiger/Sam Alexis Woods piece at The Onion reminded me of a bit from the first episode of South Park:

That is all. Carry on as if Mostly Harmless's 200th golf post did not just happen.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Garuda: A Guardian Spirit

This carving is, say, 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. It's from Bali, but hangs on an outside wall a couple of blocks from me. It's a guardian spirit. That's why it looks so fierce, to scare evil away:


There are situations where this is good advice:


In my experience such experiences rarely happen in cyberspace. But who knows what'll become of cyberspace when the Glorious GNF goes off. Gotta' be prepared.



Looks like they didn't have a garuda and someone failed to lift the plow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Never Underestimate the Power of a Bad Haircut

So onechan has had the same fever as imoto had a little while ago (minus the diarrhea and vomiting, thankfully), and even though it left her little sister on the third day last week, I chalk up the fact that it left onechan on the exact same schedule to the bad haircut I gave her in the middle of the night last night. What could I do? She was revved up from the medicine and was complaining that her hair was getting in her eyes--in fact, it was her idea that I cut her bangs. I cut them just the tiniest bit short. Yeah, yeah, did I mention it was the middle of the night? It was kind of like that episode of The Powerpuff Girls when Bubbles and Buttercup accidentally destroy Blossom's hair, without the multiple attempts to fix the original mistake. At least I had enough sense to know to stop. The Full Metal Archivist did what she could to salvage onechan's hair in the morning, but it's still pretty bad. Bad enough to scare away whatever was causing her fever.

I'm not going to show the haircut, not just because I want to preserve onechan's privacy, but mostly because if I leave a visual record of it anywhere she's likely in the future to be much less accepting of it than she has been today. In fact, she's been in a great mood, playing for hours at baking and planning a birthday party with the FMA's best friend visiting from the west coast. As a preemptive peace offering to onechan, then, I offer the following Ojamajo Doremi version of the ABC song. Don't watch it on an empty stomach!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Make It Gackt in 2008

I was hearing some heavy metal-type music coming from the Full Metal Archivist's computer yesterday, which stood out from her usual SMAP, female balladeers, and Japanese talk show soundscape, so I asked her what she was watching. Gackt, she replied.

What's a Gackt?
He's a visual artist.
What, like a painter?
No, he's a vocalist, but he wears makeup. We call him a visual artist.
Come look.

What I saw was this:

The Full Metal Archivist was shocked that I could have lived a whole year in Japan and not heard of Gackt. Apparently he's so popular NHK just gave him full creative control over this recent appearance on the variety/talk show Motif, so he taped his performance and interspersed clips from the historical drama he's been starring in, rather than doing it live as usual. Must be seen to be believed. As must the reaction of Nakai-kun from SMAP at the very end of the clip. He babbles something like, "Thank you very much. I've seen the other side of Gackt-kun now," but it's his body language that tells the real story.

Of course Gackt is into anime and video games, so I guess he's a kind of an Okinawan otaku samurai metalhead. Cool. I'd love to see him open for Tool!

[Update 1/10/08: Catching up on the doings about Blogoramaville, I'm happy to report that the Full Metal Archivist mind-melded with Anime Genesis's 2007 Blogger of the Year on this, but sad to acknowledge that Patrick beat me to posting on it by about 9 hours. Next time, Macias, next time!]