Thursday, October 31, 2019

Protest to Bring Back Central Canada Comic Con C4

The past weekend normally would be the host weekend for Central Canada Comic Con. It was the largest convention in Manitoba and probably had the most diverse age, culture, gender and family dynamic of most events hosted at RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Alas, there will be no more C4 now and likely forever.

Still, tomorrow a group is going to peacefully protest at 11 AM, November 1st, Friday outside the facility for a saviour to re-start it.

They have a petition to sign as well.

Alas, the lack of corporate partners and a rise in prices at the Convention Centre and competition for the Halloween dates has made things tough.

Keycon and FanQuest don't even attempt to get into the Convention Centre because it is a monster to run. Heaven knows how Ai-Kon does it every year but they seems to have a number of women with unlimited energy.

Let's see how efforts to revive a comic con goes. Suffice to say there are investigations presently going on a new event. Some are by groups outside the province, some are within. It may be that such an event starts smaller and at another venue though unless some good sponsors are part of the picture.

Good luck to all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Manitoba Liquor Mart - The Old Days

If you have to ask what wine goes with fish, you are too young to be in here, son.

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission didn't mess around. Prohibition might have ended but it didn't mean that Manitoba government had to like it. You could still be a dry town if you wanted.

If you did sale alcohol, it had to be a government store. And no alcohol where you could paw at it. You had to write your order down, show your ID where it was recorded and then you could buy. One of the white shirt, tie and bow-tie guys would get your order. And no funny business. Lots of veterans worked stores. They dealt with Hitler or Japanese or Koreans in the war and could certainly deal with you.

The regulations on alcohol were stringent and in no way was the retail experience supposed to be nice. Beer was sold by hotel vendours but there too, you didn't get past the front counter.

In light of alcohol thefts, lots of ideas are being bandied about. The Crown is being hostile to the media, the public and saying they are working on it or blaming society's ills. The police are telling the public to do nothing.

It is true that retail thefts are happening everywhere but we haven't heard it happening in cannabis and beer stores. For the beer stores, it is probably because steeling cans or bottles is heavy work and that $60 theft is likely to get your caught as you lug it down Portage Avenue. For cannabis, it is because is sold the way liquor was sold decades ago! You need ID and it is behind the counter, Good luck.

Liquor execs might get angry but they should fear a public that says: Toss it. What they might get is demands for online sales and delivery (which they'll get regardless) , privatization and end of the retail experience they get now.

No one likes watching criminal behaviour take place in front of them every day.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Bank of Montreal Portage and Main - The Future

The Bank of Montreal main branch closes soon. It is unlikely to branch will be torn down immediately for a parking lot. However, it is also unlikely that the Bank will pay taxes year after year on a building they don't own.

It is very likely the city or some non-profit will get it.

But what do they get? They get a bank set on an island with a decaying Concourse below it. Even above it has decrepit stairs and non-functioning elevators for wheelchairs.

The city voted no on opening the corner. But seemed to promise to fix the Concourse. That doesn't seem to be happening.

So the Bank of Montreal will close and will likely have to be boarded up and have 24 hour security lest squatters move in and begin removing everything they can. And before the city can pull its head out, we can see it burn down.

At that time we can get the surface lot we all want at Portage and Main.

Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas Japan 1990 - Trump Promoter

I arrived in Japan in August of 1989 and the Tokyo Dome was not even a year old. For my first week in the country, I was at all day orientation and seminars in Shinjuku at the Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel. Built in 1971 and was the tallest building in Japan for a time till other nearby towers surpassed it. While I was there, the immense Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters were being constructed and were complete a year later and it became the tallest building for many years. The Keio Plaza had been rumoured to have a U.S spy station in the 1980s for the U.S. military. Even now there are bases all over such as the Hardy Barracks in Rappongi and naval stations, air stations near Yokohama and the Marine base near Mt. Fuji. Not to mention most of Okinawa.
The picture above is the Keio Plaza being built on what used to be city land for the water filtration plant in 1970. It now looks like Manhattan but it all started out with that hotel. Stayed there for a week in 1989 and was back for events in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

I arrived on a rainy, desperately hot and sticky night at rush hour. My first views of Tokyo were like that of Blade Runner. It was all neon and colour and umbrellas. Thousands of people everywhere. At Narita Airport, the Japanese English Teaching program participants packed the airport as people disembarked a few dozen 747s that had transported everyone from several countries. The Manitoba and Saskatchewan contingent numbered just under 50 people.

I befriended a Saskatchewan person and one afternoon and each evening ventured into Tokyo when work assignments were over. Well, not quite. One afternoon was skipped. It is why I was able to quickly learn the massive and sometimes befuddling Japanese subway, rail and transit system. Thankfully I inherited my mother's sense of direction rather than my dad's or I would have still been lost in Japan till today.

By the second day and with clearer weather I travelled up and down the Marunouchi Line and transfer points to get me to the Rappongi area where many foreigners went because it had many of the embassies nearby including the Canadian embassy. It also had western restaurants and bars including the Hard Rock Cafe which sat on the second floor over a Tony Roma Ribs. It was here that I met NFL players who were there to play the first American Bowl Japan game (although everyone I knew in Japan called it the Coca Cola Bowl) at the recently built Tokyo Dome Stadium. The 50,000 seat facility was like a sister to the 1986 built B.C. Place.
The NFL teams were the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. Now this is not the story I want to tell at this time but meeting the players and see quarterback Joe Montana, I ended up with tickets to the August 5, 1989 game. The 49ers would in that season go on to win the Superbowl in a lopsided win against Denver Broncos televised on Japanese TV. The Hard Rock at the time had King Kong peaking in the window of the second floor. He is no longer there.

My familiarity with the Marunouchi Line helped me find the Tokyo Dome in the Bunkyo district. I give this background because as a new facility,  the stadium was attracting every major concert or event in the world and my living just 90 minutes outside the city gave me a unique opportunity to see sports and performances.

Once I settled in at my home and job outside, I subscribed to the Japan Times and got a number of magazines like Tokyo Journal and Tokyo Weekender. I wanted to to see as much as possible on semi-weekly trips into the city. I quickly learned that Paul McCartney would be performing for the first time in 10 years live and since his arrest by Japanese police for marijuana in 1980. There was to be 6 concerts at the Tokyo Dome from March 3 to 13, 1990!
I was determined to get tickets for the concert and was shocked that it was sold out before I finished working that day. This was prior to any Internet and I was not sure how scalping took place or it was even permissible.  I tried every source to see if I could latch on to tickets as I'd been successful in the past finding them but no dice. Paul McCartney was simply beyond me to get.

I was back in my hometown in Tsuru and often on a Friday after work had pizza at Popcorn restaurant down the street from the university campus where I lived at. I dejectedly told the bartender or owner (I can't remember which) about my Paul McCartney problem. It was a familiar story to many Japanese also denied tickets. It was at that time I was told there was another big event that he had an extra ticket for and would I be interested.
Popcorn in Tsuru city is still around 30 years later down the mountain alongside Tsuru University that my apartment looked over. Much of my street has changed including my old Yamura High School which was knocked down in the 2014 and re-built as a high school for more of the surrounding communities. A new train station was also built at the end of my street which I would have appreciated after so many 30 minutes walks up hill from the main city station.
My old high school Yamura above being re-built and my favorite Italian restaurant Pips still standing over 30 years later. Best baked spaghetti in the world until I went to Garwood Grill in Winnipeg

Anyways, that ticket I mentioned happened to be for the Mike Tyson versus Buster Douglas fight Sunday, February 11 at the Tokyo Dome. I had never seen a boxing match live so I was very interested. And Mike Tyson was the most famous fighter in the world at the time defeating challengers in seconds. I immediately said yes and was prepared to pay but was told I was a guest so not necessary. It was useless to argue so one did their best by buying drinks or doing what you could hospitality-wise. As an aside, I would be invited to many events in the years ahead including two Mt. Fuji Jazz Fests at Lake Yamanaka and another at Mr. Yatsugatake.

I had been in Japan less than a year and was fairly familiar with the commute to Tokyo and back as I did it every other weekend, it seemed. At this time I didn't have my Honda scooter so it was roughly a 30 minute walk from Tsuru University to one of two train stations. I chose Yamura Station in central Tsuru as it was a serviced ticket office. It was also the second most expensive private rail line called Fujikyuko off the main Chuo JR line at Otsuki station. The two hour commute had two train changes. Fujikyuko to Otsuki and Otsuki to Takao station and the rapid line to Shinjuku Tokyo.
Above is Shinjuku which was my go to for books, CDs and movies but I only stayed in hotels there when someone else was paying the bill. This is looking toward Shinjuku Station which is beyond the big towers. The twin towers were being built while I was there and completed in 1990. They are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters. The Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel is immediately behind it. The three pointy towers are the Park Hyatt where Lost in Translation was filmed. It was under construction while I was there and completed in 1994.
The above picture shows that Shinjuku was wiped out in 1945 by American fire bombs in the last year of World War II. Illustrated is what came after.

Luckily for the journey to the Tokyo, our group was to take the Chuo Expressway from Tsuru to Tokyo. From my home into Tokyo on the highway usually took 90 or so minutes. All told it was probably just a 100 kilometers. From Shinjuku it was not much farther to the Bunkyo District where the Tokyo Dome was. This was the only time I ever travelled into the city in a car and used a parking lot. Likewise, I only did it once more on a holiday to Osaka, Kyoto to Kobe. It generally was expensive. Since it was not an overnight stay I think the day max was paid which might have been 8000 yen. With four people in the car, it wasn't a major hardship.
When I first came to Japan I was at the Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel in Shinjuku which had rates fit for execs. The picture above is the Keio Plaza, the original skyscraper in Tokyo. Thankfully I didn't have to pay for it. Stayed in a few others in Tokyo that were high as well before settling on the best priced hotel near Rappongi called the Asian Centre Hotel. Even my Japanese friends outside Tokyo regarded me as something of an expert in navigating Tokyo for the best prices and fun.
The Tokyo Dome was built on the site of the old velodrome beside Korakuen Stadium in the Bunkyo Ward and home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team. Once the dome was complete in 1988 the main tenant became the Giants and the old stadium which had stood from 1937 was torn down and replaced with the Tokyo Dome Hotel. The entire surrounding area had been a military base that was destroyed in the Kanto Earthquake of 1927. And way before that it had been a home to a Japanese prince.

So there I was walking with our group into the area surrounding the Tokyo Dome and and was struck by how much international media was there along with the full phalanx of Japanese media. It was a full spectacle. In short, it was crazy! I had the Japan Times delivered to my home so I had brought that along with me but that day I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku and bought all the Japanese English papers Mainichi Daily News, the Daily Yoimiuri, the Asahi News and the International-Herald Tribune all had articles and front page newspaper stories. All the TV networks from Japan and abroad were there.

The only thing to knock the fight build-up off the screen was Nelson Mandela being released from prison after 27 years locked up. On a cool day looking at the screens, a young Japanese asked me. "What does it mean?" I remember my reply was: "It depends what is in that man's heart. It could be good for South Africa."

It was getting increasingly crowded as we moved through the streets to the Tokyo Dome. I was the only gaigin (foreigner) in a group of Japanese headed in. There was so much promotional material up related to the fight. I wanted to take it all in. Typical of Japan there was large illustrated pictures of Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas everywhere. Any movie or concert would inevitably have giant pictures plastered a high as a few stories. It was very exciting.

We got to the entrance of the Tokyo Dome and there were so many staff and security there. I've seen heavy police presence but this was pretty big even against those standards. It took a while to get in. I had my ticket and it looked like good seating and I didn't realize how good till we were directed to the floor of the stadium. I've no idea why thought my seat was in the stands but I did. I did know that the price was pretty high. I had offered to pay but was told no, I was a guest. Had I known that I'd have that money, I'd have bought Rolling Stones tickets as they were slated to play 10 days in a row in the Big Egg three days after the fight.

We found our seats and I realized just how close to ringside I was. Row 8! In that close, there were tons of business people from Japan as well as the world all dressed in suits. So many print and television media who were distinguished by their clothing. All the TV people well dressed and the print people not so much. There were many women dressed elegantly in evening wear. Keep in mind it was February in Japan. There was a coat check somewhere but initially I found the cavernous 40,000 seat place cool. That soon ended as things heated up.

Eventually, as the main event neared people started filing to their seats, a guy sat right in front of me. I thought, swell. His stupid head with blond hair was standing up and blocking everything. I worried about my sightlines and looked to the ring to the person to his left where a blonde with plunging neckline was sitting next to him. Looking to the ring meant looking just past her boobs. Made me mad at the guy in front of me. I wondered: Who is this asshat?

He was chatting up the business people in front of me who I overheard had all come in private planes. It was when the man turned to in side profile that I realized was Donald Trump. And the woman? I knew it wasn't Ivanka Trump because I had see pictures of her with him. In the 1980s, he and his public life where fairly well known even outside of New York.

What I didn't know was that Trump was there because Buster Douglas was the guy he was promoting. The Japanese I was with were less impressed with Trump despite his fame and more alarmed at who he was with: Akio Kashiwagi, a billionaire with dubious ties. How dubious? Well, someone behind me took a picture and one of the security people for the businessman took the camera, a throwaway Fuji, and put in his pocket. He didn't speak English except for "no picture." As reached past me, his sleeve lifted up and I saw tattoos all the way up the wrist. One of my Japanese leaned over to me and very quietly clutched my arm and whispered: "Stay still."

He probably sensed my annoyance for Trump and his stupid party. Thankfully, they got up from what was a temporary seating and moved in closer to the ring. The woman rose and leaned over to pick up the program and right in my face were boobs. I had just had a close encounter with Marla Maples as I would learn much later.

I was elated they had left as they were replaced by much shorter and much more reasonable Japanese businessmen who did not have stupid floppy hair or big boobs blocking my view. My Japanese friends were visibly relieved. They told me that the men with Trump and his party were Yakuza. I thought they were being a little over dramatic although my prefecture had many gangsters as well as links to prominent local Liberal Democrat politicians.

As for Kashiwagi, he lived near my home in a palatial house by Mt. Fuji. The visit in 1990 led to many trips to Atlantic City where he gambled in the tens of millions. I had heard about Kashiwagi's legendary gambling. The man had won $20 million in Australia and lost nearly $6 million in Las Vegas. He would eventually be Trump's special guest in Atlantic City and be up on the house in the millions upon millions. Some say the fear was he could win near $50 million and bankrupt Trump.

The truth is somewhere in between. Tens of millions were lost on both sides maybe more. Many of Trump's casinos were bankrupt by 1992 and in January 1992, Akio Kashiwagi was stabbed 150 times in his home by a Samurai sword in a case that remains full of mystery. My Japanese friends were wise to tell me to keep my distance. Picture below of Trump Plaza Atlantic City being dismantled.
But back to the fight. Tyson had black trunks and Douglas had white trunks. The moment Tyson entered the stadium was pandemonium. The crowds was in on its feet and cheering. Douglas came in and some in the crowd near us booed. The ring was so bright that all I could focus was the red Toyota turnbuckles and blue Toyota apron. The light in the audience dimmed to very dark and the crowd took its seat as the intros were announced. The audience roars shook the building.

The Round 1 card was hoisted up and the bell rung and the fight was on! Some people had bet it wouldn't last thirty seconds. The response of Buster Douglas disabused them of that notion as he took punches and dished them out...hard. I'm not a boxing judge but I was thinking Douglas looked strong and Mike Tyson was more on the defensive. As the rounds went on, it looked to me like the left jab from Douglas was making Tyson's eye swell up.

Round after round went past and the crowd got more intense. Douglas had Tyson on the ropes in the Round 8 and the suddenly Pow! An uppercut came completely unexpected on the chin and spray from the hit flew into the crowd. Douglas fell back onto the canvas. A ten count began and Douglas got up and moved to stand and by eight was back on his feet. Some people said it was a slow count but that was not my impression.

He stood and then ding! It was end of the round. Any momentum Tyson hoped for was lost as Douglas went toe to toe with him again and had him on the ropes a lot in the Ninth. When Round 10 was rung in, Tyson's eye was closed up from repeated jabs. It was about to get worse when Douglas again had him on the ropes and jabbed and hit with a right cross and then one almighty jab and Tyson was out.

There was an audible whoa sound from the crowd. A ten count was started and Tyson was very slow to get up and when ten was counted, he stood and was caught before he fell again. It was over and three belt titles ended up going to Buster Douglas. The crowd was awed and also cheering. History was made.
There was some speeches after and then the boxers filed out and the house lights came up and there as a bit of gasp from the crowd as the 40,000 people present became visible.The crowd left shocked and exuberant. The last I saw Donald Trump, he was leaving with other celebrities out a entrance restricted to VIPs. I was so thankful he didn't sit in front of me with that hair in my face.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Oakland Raiders Versus Green Bay Packers August 11, 2019

There will always be controversy about this game in Winnipeg where Oakland Raiders played Green Packers in Week 3 of the Exhibition Season for ticket prices that even the more ardent fans in the U.S. would have rejected wholeheartedly.

Me above. This fall I'm working on no sugar drinks. I started earlier this year just to be overwhelmed by my mom's heart attack just as I had shed some weight in the four weeks before. This fall I am now having to re-locate my business after 12 years in the same spot. Wish me luck.

In any event, I enjoyed the game despite the 80 yard field that Green Bay insisted upon and the pulling of 33 of their players to sit out the game. I had free tickets with my brother and family as a result of work done last minute to assist the game getting done.

It seems no NFL teams should be criticizing Winnipeg's field when Oakland's has looked like below for years.
For the middle of August it was not a blazing hot day or even amazingly bright. IG Field can be a steamy sweatbox in August for Bombers game. I went to the game with my brother and his girlfriend. The road was not nearly as crowded as it would be for a sell-out game though. A lot of tickets went out the last day or two but no one knew what attendance would ultimately be. My brother below.
Despite the high ticket prices people were festive in various NFL jerseys with both lots of Green Bay and Raiders wear being worn.

Without first comment, the rest of the pics that day. I had a good time even no regular players played and the field was short and there was no additional NFL experience such as a tailgate party. But then, I didn't pay hundreds of dollars.