Sweater Day to honor Mr. Rogers (and Pittsburgh)

You have seven days left to put on your favorite sweater. To be really Mr. Rogers like, although it’s not necessary, choose a cardigan. March 20 is being deemed “Sweater Day” to honor Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. The show was filmed in Pittsburgh and March 20th would have been Mr. Rogers 80th birthday. Sweater Day is part of a six day (March 15-20th), “Won’t You Be My Neighbor Days” a promotional event for Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday year celebration. Here is the link to the events page.

People around the world can participate in Sweater Day and are invited to send photos or a video of themselves wearing a sweater to neighbordays@fci.org

Here’s a YouTube video of Mr. McFeeley from the show explaining what Sweater Day is. As a person who loved Mr. Rogers as a child, this is one event I’m all about. So spread some good cheer and get out that sweater.

Don’t like red sweaters? How about Japanese fashion?


Amazing Race 12 episode 9 recap

As the teams left Mumbai, India for Osaka, Japan I thought, now there’s a contrast. I haven’t been to Mumbai or Osaka, but I’ve lived in New Delhi and traveled in Japan. If you put the two places on a spectrum, they’d be at opposite ends. Smells, sounds, music styles, food, religion, dress–if you come up with a category, I can assure you that they are nothing alike.

Ah, I have one. Tea is a popular beverage and both places have a real fondness for flowers. And one more similarity. Temples are quite prominent as cultural and historical landmarks in both countries. If you want insight into the inner workings of the countries’ belief systems, the temples are a good place to start.

Japan’s organizational style seemed to suit the teams well once they got to Japan, although for most of this episode TK and Rachel weren’t featured. Since they made a mistake by going through two airports–New Delhi and Beijing– to get to Osaka, by the time they landed in Japan, it was almost dark. The moral is: Never, never, never expect that going through two airports will get you anywhere fast, particularly if one of the airports is the one in New Delhi.

The other three teams ended up on a flight that went from Mumbai through Hong Kong to Osaka which meant they hit the ground about the same time, managing to be neck and neck for a good part of the episode. The first stop was Kishiwada Castle, a majestic, pagoda style building with pristine, orderly gardens.

Built in 1547, the castle is now a folk museum. Hmmm. I didn’t see any folk art or folk artifacts, but perhaps that’s because the teams barely had time to catch their breath from hoofing around the grounds and up into the main building to find their clue that would direct them to Kanjosan Noda Station–part of Osaka’s subway system.

At the point when Nate and Jen snatched their clue out of the box, they were as happy as could be since they figured out they were in first place. Likewise Ron, still vowing to be a better father and a better traveling companion, quit chastizing Christina and let her lead the way for a change–after all, she lived in Japan before and had studied Japanese. Don and Nick , now in third place, continued along in their consistent, affable and respectful way, even though Don was beginning to feel road weary and it showed.

I did notice Nick’s smart move when he asked the taxi driver to stay and wait for them while they looked for their clue at the castle. When I lived in India I often asked the taxi I hired to take me someplace to wait. It was worth paying the extra money just to have a taxi after whatever errand I was on in order not to be left stranded.

Once at the station, each of the teams found the station cleaner person who handed them their Road Block instructions. One member from each team had to don white gloves and a hat worn by Japanese taxi drivers so they could actually become taxi drivers just long enough to take a Japanese couple assigned to their cab to the post office five miles away, drop them off and head back to meet up with their team mate. Not so easy.

In Japan traffic patterns are opposite to the U.S. and the driver’s side is on the right. Then there are the signs mostly written in Japanese and the one way streets and the roundabouts. If I was doing this leg, I would have flashed back to my high school driver’s ed nightmare.

While watching the couples patiently sitting in the back seats of the taxis I thought that it must have not been that hot in Osaka. No one was perspiring. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be the Japanese couple wondering if and when they’d get to the post office? Or what it would have been like to drive if the temperature was what it was in Mumbai?

During this task, Christina discovered knowing Japanese did not do squat. She set the windshield wipers off once and couldn’t find the key. Turns out, she doesn’t drive back in the U.S. because she doesn’t have a car.

I was totally rooting for Jen in this part of the race. She was so darned pleased with herself, and so proud of how she looked in that hat. She’s growing on me. The white gloves and hat reminded me of the airport folks who work at Narita airport. Japan is such a tidy place. Plus, she’s so polite to everyone. Notice how many times she turns to say, “Thank you?”

One snippet I enjoyed seeing during this segment was watching Don and Ron drink water and share snacks at the subway station while they waited for their team mates to come back. It was a “Since I can’t do much about anything at this point, I may as well relax” moment.

The relaxation was totally over after Jen & Nate, with Christina & Ron close behind, headed off for their second Road Block. Nick managed to get himself lost while driving the taxi, therefore arrived at the subway 10 minutes behind the other two.

I’m not sure why Don is worried about his age. Nick somehow manages to get lost during every episode. If Don had been driving, they may have fared better. Still with TK and Rachel not even in Osaka yet, what’s the hurry?

Halfway through the episode there was a shot of TK & Rachel heading through the airport in New Delhi realizing that they probably made a bad move. The first time I saw the New Delhi Airport I wondered the same thing. The lighting in that place is so funky; it can make you think something is wrong with your eye sight–plus it doesn’t really smell all that swell.

After the taxi driving, you’d think that Jen and Nate could have enjoyed their triumph. She was trying to by excitedly recounting her moves, but he was an idiot. Instead of praising her for her driving skills, he told her that he couldn’t really listen while they were taxiing it to the Kita-mido Temple, a 16th Century Buddhist temple for their next Road Block directions.

Oh, bad move. This prompted Jen to become upset and the mood chilled which they had a hard time shaking, even after they arrived first at Saera Flower Shop for the Road Block task “Sense of Smell. “

If teams picked Sense of Smell their task was to pick a real flower from the fake flowers by sniffing it out. Ron and Christina also chose the Sense of Smell. As soon as they hit the shop close behind Nate & Jen, Christina told her father to blow his nose and he did. They found their flower not long after Nate and Jen found theirs and left.

Since Nate and Jen were back in their bickering mood, they had a heck of a time finding a taxi to take them to the Pit Stop at Tempozan Park, which allowed Christina and Ron time to catch up.

For a brief while though, it seemed that Ron and Christina would lose their edge since their taxi driver was acting like he might, to use Ron’s word, croak. Now, that would have made for some interesting TV. Even more than Jen accusing Nate of shoving her. There was a repeat of that footage, and from what I could tell it was more of a nudge, as in a “Get in already, we’re in a hurry and I’m excited because we might win a million dollars” kind of nudge.

Nick and Don were also beginning to narrow the gap between the two teams in the lead and them because of their ability to get along. Nick, who by this time was carrying his grandfather’s bag as well as his own, never blamed his grandfather for their lag time which is probably why they rarely court disaster. Even though Don wasn’t thrilled with their “Sense of Touch” Road Block task of getting small robots to play soccer at the Shimojima Building, he didn’t let that get in his way of letting Nick show him what to do. This was a pretty nifty way to work in Japanese gadget smarts.

The task involved using some sort of cell phone gadget to get the robots to move. It seemed to me these two were pretty good at this task, although I couldn’t tell how long it took them to get the robots to score the two required goals. For a guy who is going to be 70 soon, Don exhibits probably the traveling behaviors that lead to success. He will admit when something is out of his realm, but will try it anyway, and eventually succeeds.

TK & Rachel, who seemed to breeze through all the tasks even though they were all done after dark, were determined to enjoy themselves whether they ended up in last place or not. They did, and they were rewarded. When they stepped onto the mat at Tempozan Park, Phil told them this was not an elimination leg. Yipee. So for one more week, we’ve found out that it does pay to be nice.

As for Ron & Christina who came in first, they each get an environmentally friendly electric car for their efforts. I wonder if Christina will sell it or use it to tootle about when she goes back home. Neither of them seemed that thrilled with their prize, but they are thrilled to come in first, something Christina attributes to Ron not being negative towards her all day which helped her to concentrate.

I wonder if TK & Rachel ever get miffed at each other? I hope they get more air time next week.

*Shots of the teams are from the Amazing Race Web site.

The TV Show The Office is Boosting Scranton Tourism

In case you don’t know this, Dunder Mifflin, the paper company of the show The Office isn’t in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It doesn’t even exist. That’s one thing about Scranton that’s fictitious. There are more. According to Jan Chaney’s Washington Post article Hooters isn’t in Scranton. Benihana isn’t either. Just because those places aren’t in Scranton, doesn’t mean every detail is made up. Local places do get mentioned to add a flavor of authenticity.

Because of The Office’s success, Scranton is getting a tourist following and the city is recognizing there is tourist dollar potential in maximizing the relationship between reality and fiction. At the end of October, 26-28, there is The Office Convention where fans of the show can converge on Scranton to meet some of the cast and participate in a variety of Office related activities. Screenings of episodes at movie theaters are part of it. So is a cast member look-a-like contest. All cast members aren’t coming, but who cares? The ones who are are a hoot. Check this link for the list and updates. Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fisher and John Krasinski are currently not on the list.

You can purchase tickets on-line. Prices range from $25 to $250. Tickets that include visits with cast members are $50 and up.

Chinese Tattoos: Funky Translations

Chinese lettering is so art-like, so lovely. I bought a scroll of a Chinese poem when we were living in Taiwan and it now hangs on our wall. The translation in English was written on a piece of paper and paper clipped to the scroll. I assume that the translation is accurate. As lovely as the writing looks, however, beware when heading to a tattoo parlor. Make sure that what gets inked in your skin says what you want it to say–or thereabouts. The problem is that Chinese doesn’t translate to English word for word all that well. For example, since we couldn’t read the local movie listings when we lived in Taiwan, the only way we could ever figure out what was playing was if we described what the movie was about to our Chinese friends and they could let us know what movie title came close to what we described.

As Chris Mitchell points out in “Tattoos Gone Bad: Engrish in Reverse,” Chinese characters, when used as a direct translation from English, can make missives worthy of a laugh. One of his favorites is “Inferior goods.” Since the tattoo is over someone’s backside, the joke is even more poignant. Mitchell cites the blog, Hanzi Smatter, dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters, as one of his favorites for Chinese language butchering. The photo is from the last entry on this blog. According to Tian, the blogger, one of the characters doesn’t exist, and one is upside down.

30 Years Later: Elvis Lives at Graceland and Its Getting a Make-over

Spring before last, when I stood outside the gates of Graceland before I drove to Mississippi (see post), besides wishing I hadn’t arrived after closing time, I thought, “Gee, this neighborhood looks dingy.” I had expected something grander.

The mansion looks pristine and impressive inside the gates . Outside, it’s a rag tag group of business establishments and more Elvis attractions.

The other attractions are connected to Graceland, but the connection isn’t clear–at least not from first glance. That’s my impression anyway. Perhaps this was because I had that disoriented feeling that comes from expecting a direct flight fom Columbus to Memphis and ending up spending several hours at the airport in Detroit instead.

Since I wasn’t sure exactly how to get where I was going in Mississippi, I didn’t take the time to explore further. I do remember feeling confused. I thought that the mansion and grounds were all there was to see. People I know who have toured Graceland have never mentioned to me all the Elvis attractions across the street from the mansion–his airplanes for one. After reading this article in the LA Times about the updates to come, I can see why it wasn’t clear to me exactly where the visitor’s center was.

According to the article, realizing there is an image and attractions flow problem and a visit can be made even grander by new facilities, the folks who keep track of Elvis’s stuff have arranged for a neighborhood make-over. A large hotel and a new visitors’ center is in the works.

I wonder what will happen to the graffetti on the walls that surrounds the property or if that is now part of the Elvis legacy? It looks to me that people just like to write on wall when given the chance. However, today there are 75,000 people showing up to pay tribute, so perhaps there’s more to the missives than what one normally thinks of urban scrawls. (Here’s a BBC article about what’s going on at Graceland today, August 16, 30 years after Elvis’s death.)

In case you are heading to Graceland, here’s a price list photo thanks to G.J. Charlet III on Flickr. As you can see, there are several tour options. Maybe everyone I know has only done the basic, $25 option.