Japan

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Greg Kennedy ended his career as an engineer over 10 years ago to begin professional juggling. Kennedy will perform his show, “Innovative Juggler,” this Thursday at the SAC Auditorium.

Over 10 years ago, Greg Kennedy took a three-month leave of absence from his engineering job, packed up his bags for Japan and set off to pursue a brief stint as a performance juggler. That sojourn turned into a career as the “Innovative Juggler,” who will perform on campus Thursday.

Kennedy received an engineering degree, but, rather than pursue this field as a    career, he uses his knowledge to spice up his juggling act. Instead of throwing and catching a ball in the air, Kennedy said he experimented by bouncing balls on different sculptures — all of his own creation — and seeing the different things he could make the ball do. 

“I started applying some of my engineering principles and just basic principles of geometry and physics into the design of these [sculptures],” Kennedy said.

Although only about one out of every three of his sculptures makes it into his show, Kennedy said his passion for creation and innovation keeps him designing and planning the ideas in his mind. 

“Once in a while, you see that little gem and you say, ‘Wow,’” Kennedy said. “It’s almost like having a child. You’re taking something that you’re putting into this world that has never existed before.”

Kennedy said he especially likes to combine engineering and art to create innovative “pieces” — what Kennedy calls his short performances.                                       

The 22nd annual Jugglefest kicks off with Kennedy’s show “Innovative Juggler” — an hour-long performance that involves traditional juggling, clean comedy and innovative use of props. The three-day event, which the Texas
Juggling Society puts on, begins Friday. The weekend consists of workshops, games, demonstrations and juggling shows. Kennedy performs Thursday at 8 p.m. in the SAC Auditorium.

Psychology graduate student Nathan Blanco, president of UT’s Texas Juggling Society, said the organization invited Kennedy to start the weekend’s festivities.   

“[Kennedy’s] specialty includes lots of innovative props,” Blanco said. “He’s always got something new, and he’s got a lot of things no one else is doing or has thought of doing in his juggling act.”

Kennedy said he never intended to become a professional juggler. 

“I always juggled as a kid,” Kennedy said. “It was kind of a hobby, and I actually got really good at it to the point where I won a gold medal at the international juggling championship. But I was still not really thinking of doing it as a full-time job.” 

After graduating college, Kennedy entered the engineering field. Two years into that career, Kennedy felt the job no longer challenged him. Around this same time, his friend offered him the opportunity to perform juggling shows in Japan. Kennedy said he took the offer and never looked back. 

“I feel like I use my engineering degree a lot more today than I did when I was an engineer,” Kennedy said. “In the late ’90s, I kind of began experimenting and just altering what people think juggling is. I kind of thought, ‘Hey, how can I change that path?’”

Little by little, Kennedy gained a following in the juggling community. His “Cone Piece,” which garnered more than 2 million views on YouTube, features Kennedy standing inside a giant cone and bouncing balls off the sides.

In another piece, “The Rotating Square,” he draws inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketch, “Vitruvian Man,” which features a man inscribed inside a circle and a square. Kennedy acknowledges that, although juggling may seem hectic to onlookers, he finds calmness in its repetition. 

“One of the nice things about that piece is how many times the ball can bounce,” Kennedy said. “It’s very interesting because, to the audience, it’s very chaotic. But, to me as the juggler, I’m throwing and waiting, throwing and waiting. I just love that cycle.”

Movie Review: 'Big in Japan' is small in impact

"Big in Japan" is a borderline experimental chronicle of an American band in Tokyo. Middle-aged friends Sean, David and Phil are in Tennis Pro, a Seattle-based rock band that never gained any traction of the years of playing in bars. After a chance meeting with a bizarre traveler, the band decides to try their luck in Tokyo to see if they can make a name for themselves before quitting for good. The three musicians leave behind their jobs and families for one last shot at being a successful rock trio. 

That's about the extent of the film's plot. The rest of "Big in Japan" comprises of loosely connected sequences of the trio's experiences in Tokyo. Hijinks and life lessons abound, all set amid a series of concerts that grow larger and larger with each gig.

Unfortunately, despite director John Jeffcoat's devotion to creating an authentic feel of the Tokyo music scene, “Big in Japan" fails in the fundamentals. The dialogue is as simple as can be, with most interactions between characters serving to inform the audience of exactly what is happening or what someone is feeling rather than functioning as actual human conversations. Expounding this are the three main actors, who are never able to sell the idea that this is a group of life-long friends. The end result is an interesting plot that’s hard to care about because of the lack of connection with the main characters. 

"Big in Japan" is listed as a loosely based on true events, and actors David Durry, Philip Peterson and Sean Lowry all play themselves as the members of Tennis Pro. Whether Jeffcoat could have made a better experience by either casting experienced actors and making the film a fiction narrative or gone full documentary is unknown, but the mesh of both styles the "Big in Japan" adopted to tell its story results in a fragmented story that quickly proves to be unworthy of its premise. 

Photo Credit: Isabella Palacios | Daily Texan Staff

The Center for East Asian Studies held a two-day conference Friday and Saturday discussing Japanese cuisine, covering topics ranging from cultural nationalism to bodily impact.

The conference, titled “Devouring Japan: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Japanese Cuisine and Food Ways,” served as the culmination of an extended look at Japanese cuisine over the past few months. The Center for East Asian Studies showed a film series and hosted lectures held on the same topic in the fall of last year.

In December 2013, Japanese food, or “washoku,” was given a bid into UNESCO — the United Nations’ cultural organization — as a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, marking the cuisine as a world treasure.

The conference was made possible by a grant from the Japan Foundation — a Japanese institution tasked with the dissemination of Japanese culture — and several private endowments. Nancy Stalker, associate professor of Asian studies and co-organizer of the event, said she was turned down by the University when she asked for funding. 

“Unfortunately, East Asian Studies is not a priority for this university,” Stalker said. “I encourage the UT administration to support us more.” 

Erin Newton, Asian studies graduate student and a volunteer for the conference, said the reverence Japanese people have for their cuisine is unlike that of any other culture.

“There are few societies which recognize food as a real cultural asset,” Newton said. “Considering we spend so much time and money on it already — to consume and not just produce it — why not pay more attention to food?”

Speakers at the conference covered a large range of topics including Japanese food history, regional culinary identity, food security, impact on the Japanese body and food in literature.

Nico Ramos, a recent Asian studies graduate, said that, although food is a relatively new field of study, it should be explored more.

“Food culture in general is just so embedded in our daily lives,” Ramos said.

According to a 2013 estimate by the CIA, Japan boasts the third longest life expectancy of any country. Also, most Japanese women don’t experience symptoms of menopause — in fact, there is no Japanese word for the phrase “hot flashes.” Ramos said both health perks can be attributed to the Japanese diet.

Newton said she found the turnout from the Austin community refreshing. In addition to the public, conference attendees included professors and students from universities across the country, as well as scholars visiting from Japan.

“I can’t think of any conference I’ve ever been to that has drawn so much outside interest,” Newton said.

World Baseball Classic set to wind down Tuesday night with Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico final

And with the blink of an eye, the last two weeks of madness in the World Baseball Classic is set to wind down Tuesday night, pitting the powerhouse Dominican Republic squad against the somewhat Cinderella team from Puerto Rico.

Both teams made it out of the loaded pool C to advance to the quarter-finals in Miami a week ago. Puerto Rico took a misstep in their first game, losing to the Americans 7-1. The Dominican Republic had a dramatic comeback against team Italy, finally squeaking by and winning 5-4. With the Americans and Dominicans both winning their first game, they each got the right to square off against one and other for the right to advance to the semi-finals, leaving the other to play in an elimination game against the Puerto Ricans after they had eliminated Italy the day before. The Dominicans won a tight one, edging the Americans 2-1, scoring the go ahead run in the top of the ninth and advanced in the tournament. The Puerto Ricans got their chance at redemption against team USA, and won the elimination game 4-3, sending them on to the semi-finals and sending the Americans back to their respective Spring Training venues.

Once the venue switched to the West Coast out at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the final four teams standing from the original field of 16 where the Latin American clubs from pool C, Japan and the Netherlands. Japan returned to America looking to keep their perfection intact in the WBC, winning the only other two tournaments in its brief history. It was there the Puerto Ricans shocked not only Japan but the rest of the baseball world when they took down the Japanese by a score 3-1, placing themselves in the championship game. The Dominican Republic kept their perfect record intact and moved to 7-0 in the tournament by dispatching the Dutch, setting up the all Latin American final set to go down tonight out by the Bay.

The Dominicans are favored and will be led on the mound Samuel Deduno. Deduno has been solid this far in the tournament, and matches up well with the relatively weak lineup of the Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico will send Giancarlo Alvarado to the mound in hopes of slowing down the powerful lineup of the Dominican Republic. Alvarado is sporting a 2.16 ERA in the WBC, but the task of slowing down Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion and others is daunting to say the least.  

This is the third game the two teams have played against each other up to this point in the tournament, with the Domincans winning both by a combined score of 6-2. Puerto Rico will have to hope the clock doesn’t strike midnight on them before the ninth inning tonight, or their magical run will come crashing down as they watch their fierce rival celebrate their first World Baseball Classic title right in front of their very eyes.

TOKYO — Japan’s two biggest airlines grounded all their Boeing 787 aircraft for safety checks Wednesday after one was forced to make an emergency landing in the latest blow for the new jet.

All Nippon Airways said a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the 787 on a domestic flight to land at Takamatsu airport in western Japan.

It said a later inspection of the plane found leaking electrolyte and burn marks around the main battery, located in an electrical room below the cockpit.

The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch, which came after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks. Japan’s ANA and Japan Airlines are major customers for the jet and among the first to fly it.

Japan’s transport ministry said it received notices from ANA, which operates 17 of the jets, and Japan Airlines, which has seven, that all their 787s would not be flying. The grounding was done voluntarily by the airlines.

ANA executives apologized, bowing deeply at a hastily called news conference in Tokyo.

To avoid future nuclear plant disasters, Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) called on Dale Klein, UT System administrator and UT mechanical engineering professor, to lead an advisory committee that will oversee plans for reform.

The five-member committee has been meeting since October of last year and will continue to do so. Klein, the system’s associate vice chancellor for research, is the sole American on the committee.

A March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused radiation leaks at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan. Much of the criticism fell on TEPCO, which acknowledged late last year that they did not implement additional safety measures despite knowing that it needed to do so.

“I think it is a very positive step that TEPCO has taken to create the reform committee because they need to reform the way they conduct themselves,” Klein said in a statement.

Klein is the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and served as assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs under President George W. Bush. Klein does not teach any courses at the University but finds research projects for the different universities in the system. Previously, Klein headed a Department of Energy consortium with UT, A&M and Texas Tech universities for the maintenance of nuclear weapons at the Pantex facility
in Amarillo. 

“He knows the industry well and knows how we regulate policy dealing with nuclear issues,” said Erich Schneider, associate professor of mechanical engineering and an affiliate of the University’s Nuclear Radiation Engineering Program.

Randall Charbeneau, UT System assistant vice chancellor for research and UT civil engineering professor, said Klein’s expertise is a good fit for the committee.

“He specialized in research administration,” Charbeneau said. “TEPCO needs someone who understands policy and he has experience dealing with regulation.”

Charbeneau, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, too, said that the reactors failed because the force of the tsunami exceeded the design requirements, which are specified by regulations.

“Regulations also change over time,” Charbeneau said. “These reactors were built a number of years ago, and the regulations are continually updated as we gain more knowledge.”

Printed on Thursday, January 17, 2013 as: UT official to advise nuclear reform in Japan 

Women's Soccer

Abby Smith missed the first portion of the season while playing with the U.S. under 20 team in the World Cup. Her immediate impact has turned around Texas’ season (Daily Texan file photo).

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

With three shutouts under her belt, Abby Smith has quickly made her mark on the Texas program. She missed most of the nonconference schedule while playing internationally with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National team. While Texas was at home fighting through a scoring slump, Smith was part of the U.S. team competing for the World Cup in Japan.

“Being with the U20 girls helped a lot,” Smith said. “Being over there because the speed of play is a lot faster, and coming back over here it’s also a high level.”

A 3-0 loss to Germany sent the U.S. in the quarterfinals as the second team from its group, but wins over North Korea and Nigeria set up the rematch with Germany in the final. The U.S. would not fall a second time and took the gold with a 1-0 win in the final Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, Texas had just completed a road trip through Utah that saw it shut out by both BYU and Utah while giving up six goals for its fifth and sixth losses of the season. Smith joined Texas for the first time with the Longhorns riding a four-game losing streak. Her presence would change that.

Smith shut out her first opponent as Texas rolled to a 3-0 win over Fresno State in Austin. Her next game was not quite as comfortable, as Denver came in fresh off of a win over Kansas and scored three goals on Smith. But Texas answered with three goals of its own to force the tie.

“[Getting Smith back] is huge. It helps tremendously,” sophomore Whitney Jaynes said. “Her communication is awesome. Coming from someone who plays in the back line, it helps so much. You just have this trust in her.”

Having only played two games as a Longhorn, Smith was thrown into conference play on the road against Iowa State and Oklahoma, and she did not disappoint. She recorded six saves on the way to shutouts of both Iowa State and Oklahoma as Texas went from the cellar to the penthouse in the Big 12 standings.

Despite being only a freshman and missing most of the offseason, Smith has gotten off to a fast start thanks to her time overseas with the U20 team. But Smith’s time away has not dampened her expectations.

“I expected all the girls to be ready to go, and obviously we were because we won two big games,” Smith said. ”Our expectations are on both sides because they were expecting me to be ready and I was expecting them to be ready for the game, and we were.”

Smith brought new energy to the Longhorns who were struggling through their first season under head coach Angela Kelly. But Kelly was not worried. A similar start in her first season at Tennessee had prepared her for the ups and downs that came along with the grind of the season.

Now Texas must prepare for what may be its biggest test of the season. The Longhorns host Oklahoma State Friday. While the Cowgirls are off to a rough start in Big 12 play, they are still the defending regular season champions and are one of the best teams in the conference. They are one of only three teams in the Big 12 with at least 10 wins and are the highest-ranked team in the conference at No. 22. But Texas has had the week off to prepare for the Cowgirls’ attack, but more importantly, it’s given Smith a week off to rest.

“We chose not to schedule a game this weekend knowing that Abby Smith would have to be emotionally and physically responding to what would hopefully be a World Cup victory,” Kelly said.

With the World Cup running into early September, Smith has played 23 games since February while traveling all over the world.

Texas and Oklahoma State will kick off Friday at 7 p.m.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Smith gives Texas new energy

This November 2011 file photo shows Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 3, rear, and No. 4 units of the Ohi nuclear power station in Ohi, Fukui prefecture, western Japan. Japan is facing a power crunch, and the government is anxious to restart two reactors in Fukui, western Japan, before the last of the country’s 54 operating reactor goes offline in May. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File)

TOKYO — Japan’s economy minister said Monday two nuclear reactors tentatively met government safety standards even though completing improvements will take several years, paving the way for final approval for their startup soon.

All but one of Japan’s 54 reactors are offline for regular safety checks, and the last will be shut down in May. Residents fear another disaster like the Fukushima crisis, but Japan faces a severe power shortage if reactors are not restarted.

The government issued new safety guidelines last Friday to address residents’ worries. In response, Kansai Electric Power Co. submitted its safety plans earlier Monday for two reactors at the Ohi plant in Fukui prefecture, saying the full upgrades will take up to three years.

Hours later, Economy and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said the two reactors at the Ohi plant “more or less met our safety standards.”

Edano said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that the Ohi reactors’ past safety upgrades since the Fukushima crisis alone could provide enough safety margins and protections to keep reactor cores from melting even in the event of a similar earthquake or tsunami.

However, more than one-third of the necessary upgrades on the list are still incomplete, utility officials said.

Filtered vents that could substantially reduce radiation leaks in case of an accident threatening an explosion, a radiation-free crisis management building and fences to block debris washed up by a tsunami won’t be ready until 2015.

Tadahiro Katsuta, a Meiji University associate professor who was on a government panel that produced nuclear safety recommendations, said the upgrades completed are “mostly quick-fix measures,” and that more important ones, such as a crisis management center, have been put off.

“I doubt if this would suffice to carry out the lessons from Fukushima in the case of another accident,” Katsuta told public news NHK.

Starting up the reactors would usually take one or two days after approval is granted, but it is still unclear how long it would take in this case. Edano is expected to visit the region to request a startup and gauge public reaction.

Local consent is not a legal requirement for restarting the reactors, though government ministers are unlikely to force if the mood is strongly against it.

If people had a window of opportunity for more time off work, they would spend it on leisure activities rather than efficient actions such as studying or cleaning, according to a new economics study.

Economics professor Daniel Hamermesh co-authored a study examining how people spent their free time after a permanent cut in work hours by reviewing data from national time-use diaries from 1976-2006 in Japan and 1999-2009 in Korea. The study was completed last year and was conducted with UT alumnus Jungmin Lee and associate economic professors from Korea and Japan. Hamermesh said the study used thousands of daily time diaries from before and after the governments of Japan and Korea passed laws making it more costly for employers to use overtime work. The study examined how those keeping diaries spent the time they had free.

Hamermesh said the results showed that people spent their free time engaging in relaxing activities.

“In neither country was the extra time used to clean the house, take care of the kids, cook or shop,” Hamermesh said. “It was used for leisure and/or personal maintenance, such as grooming.”

Hamermesh said he has done much research on time use and finds the study to be a topic that has intrigued people for many years.

“It is very difficult to answer because so many things are happening at once, but this data provides the opportunity to get a clean answer,” Hamermesh said.

Although the study did not include Americans, Hamermesh said he firmly believes that Americans generally work too much and Europeans do much less work but seem happier.

Advertising senior Amanda Cummings, president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said she spends every day studying and is constantly doing something for her organization or taking care of her priorities. However, she said she does separate some time to collect herself after she learned that relaxation is also a key aspect of living life, as the study has shown.

“I would always be busy and would emotionally break down,” Cummings said. “Now, I find it’s important to make free time for yourself.”

Psychology sophomore Ian Bell, an officer of the Longhorn Powerlifting team, said he spends his free time working out in order to stay fit and keep busy. However, Bell said his daily routine includes about an hour of relaxation in order to keep his life balanced, which relates to the study’s conclusion that people do prefer more relaxing activities.

“Without my free time, I wouldn’t be able to work out as much as I would want to,” he said. “If you use your free time efficiently, then you can accomplish more things throughout the day and keep things from piling up.”

An in-depth view of Hamermesh’s study will be published this spring in the American Economic Review Journal.

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Leisure takes precedence in spare time, study show

Over the past century, Japanese photographers and artists have captured the devastation caused by earthquakes to their country and the responses elicited by its people.

Gennifer Weisenfeld, an associate professor at Duke University, spoke about the earthquake that struck Tokyo in 1923 and the resulting depictions in Japanese artwork and mass media in a lecture on campus Friday called “Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923.”

Weisenfeld said she believes images of the earthquake in 1923 do not only depict the disaster, but they communicate the demeanor of Japan and its people at the time.

“In examining artwork illustrating the earthquake you can see physical damage and psychological trauma, but also moments of reflection and renewal,” Weisenfeld said.

Weisenfeld said artwork and imagery are highly representative of a culture, especially in times of crisis.

“The images of the earthquake’s aftermath had a chillingly conflicting effect,” Weisenfeld said. “They simultaneously represented feelings of tragedy and thrill. Many [images] displayed many peoples’ doubt in modernity after seeing almost half of Tokyo decimated, while others celebrated the solidarity [of the country].”

When the images were transmitted around the world, they spurred a worldwide response,
Weisenfeld said.

“People throughout the nation and the world were able to live out vicariously the plight of Japan’s catastrophe,” she said.

This spurred relief organizations globally, including in the United States, to mobilize and provide aid, Weisenfeld said. Images of individuals had similar effects too, she said.

“Many photographs depicted the heroism and resilience of earthquake survivors and the nation,”
she said.

According to Weisenfeld, images served a similar role in depicting the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

“In examining past images, their effects are very relevant to the recent events that took place,” she said.

Tamami Motoike, marketing senior and secretary of the Japanese Association at UT, said she agrees with Weisenfeld’s analysis of the images.

“Artwork has definitely been a big part of the Japanese culture,” Motoike said. “It is one of the ways we learn about our history.”

Motoike said her family was directly affected by last year’s earthquake, although they fortunately lived far away from where the majority of the damage occurred. However, she said her father was close to where the earthquake struck while on a business trip.

Motoike said she found out about the earthquake through images and posts on Facebook.

“My initial reaction was, ‘no way,’” Motoike said. “I didn’t want to believe the posts I saw but of course they were all true.”

Advertising sophomore Rebecca Neu said she agreed with Weisenfield’s view on the power of images and believes they can deeply touch people and say things that cannot be said otherwise.

“If someone is watching the news and is informed of an unfortunate event in the world, it’s easy for them to disregard it as not having a personal bearing,” she said. “However, if you see a picture of a mother and her child running from danger, it changes things completely.”