Saturday, December 23, 2006

Every Kay's begins with K

Slot houses are popping up all over Pennsylvania thanks to the state's (er, commonwealth's) push to make gambling fun for everyone. It's supposed to alleviate property taxes, presumably by taking the money from gullible old people. While towns near Philadelphia have suckered the saps already, Philadelphia proper is still in the works to get some casino royals, although the plans continue on full speed ahead.

I don't understand why gambling is allowed but prostitution still remains illegal. It can't be an issue of morality, because gambling is just as "sinful" as prostitution, it just involves less fluids. The opposition to prostitution also can't be about money, because even though gambling brings in tons of money, prostitutes would still pay taxes and probably even go through a costly licensing process ("Pennsylvania Certified Whore"). In other words, there's money to be made. I don't even get the crime argument, because what's the difference between a high-class brothel and a high-class casino, besides the difference in odors?

I think the problem is related to the actual sex. Some of it can simply be puritan interests in denying people their pursuit of coital, but I believe more of it rests on the idea that society simply does not want women to be able to control themselves. Is it so wrong for women to make a living based on something most give away for free (which isn't really true; usually there's a lengthy courting process or even the purchase of a few drinks which costs more than a fair share of dollars). It's free market capitalism at work, providing a service people want for a fee people are willing to pay. I know some claim that it's dangerous or detrimental for women, but giving women the power to earn money with their bodies is probably the only danger with which some people are concerned. Of course, I can't really prove my case one way or another, can I? It sounds ominous, though.

In the meantime, however, there is a legal form of prostitution, and it's called dating (or worse, marriage). In this "dating," gifts, services and other tangibles are given by men to women in exchange for sexual intercourse and nagging (note: heterosexual relationships only). That's not how it really happens, but I'm being facetious. Making generalizations about specific groups of people to trick them into buying their products is the raison d'être of advertisers. At Christmas, there are a massive influx of diamond advertisements, presumably because men will feel the need to drop a large portion of their paycheck to give their wife or significant other something they will be too afraid to wear in public merely as a token of their appreciation.

Anyway, whether you can afford diamonds or not, Merry Christmas, except for those non-Christian religious types too stupid to celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas. Enjoy your Chinese food and loneliness, losers.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Flied lice? It's fried rice, you plick."

I was watching the Daisuke Matsuzaka press conference in Boston, and as many other people have noted by now, the Red Sox/Matsuzaka need to hire a translator that actually speaks English. It will be bad enough listening to announcers and reporters botch the pronunciations of the names of the new influx of Japanese players, but I'd at least like to know what the players themselves are trying to say. I need to understand their canned answers and evasive replies.

So anyway, I just wanted to briefly comment on the posting system, which I think is garbage, but not for any of the usual reasons given (such as the idea that it should be more like free agency). For the uninitiated, when a team in Japan is willing to allow one of their contracted players to come play for Major League Baseball, the various teams submit secret bids for the right to negotiate with that player. The highest bid wins, naturally, and that money goes to the team losing the player, which is sort of the equivalent of selling your daughter to a white man for marriage purposes. That player then has to either sign with the winning bidder or return to his Japanese club, which would cause that club to forfeit the posting bid and presumably bring disgrace to a nation.

The Red Sox posted a monstrous $51.1 million bid (6 billion yen, specifically), while the Bronx Bombers bid $26 million to talk with Kei Igawa (the Yankees bid was exactly $26,000,194, with the last three numbers reportedly Igawa's strikeout total last season, tied for first in the Central League along with Kenshin Kawakami of the Chunichi Dragons...source). Since both players have signed with the MLB clubs, that money has been paid to Japan, although it does not go towards luxury tax, much to the relief of the Sox and Bombers. That actually makes sense, as it is included as just another expense towards getting the player, in the same way the Mets recently spent money to fly to California to try to woo Barry Zito (hint: it takes mountains of cash). That shouldn't count towards the luxury tax.

Igawa (known as Iron Nerves, or as the top of his website says, "IRON NERVERS / トップページ") signed a five-year, $20 million dollar contract, while Matsuzaka (stupidly dubbed "D-Mat" and "Dice-K" in Boston) signed a six year, $52 million contract, potentially worth $60 million with "please don't suck" incentives. For all intents and purposes, we'll just leave it at $52.

The Sox paid a lot of money, and because of that, Matsuzaka got a below market value contract to help ease the weight of the dinero the Sox were dropping. Thanks to the bidding system, including the posting fee, Boston is paying about $17 million a year for Matsuzaka's services, while New York is paying a little over $9 million for Igawa. The players themselves are earning pauper's dollars; Matsuzaka gets roughly $8.5 million per season, while Igawa gets $4 million. Barely enough to feed themselves, let alone their families (fortunately rice cookers are cheaper in the U.S. than in Japan, go figure).

While millions of dollars is nothing to bark about, both sides in each deal are still getting shafted. The Red Sox could have negotiated a $13 million deal for Matsuzaka, saving themselves $4 million a season and giving Matsuzaka some extra dough, while the Bombers could have given Igawa $6.5 million a year, saving themselves some change in the process and giving Igawa some extra spending money.

I don't see why MLB teams can't buy the release of the player with a more reasonable sum of, say, $5 million. The highest team salary in Japan in the year 2002 was $32.6 million US (Yomiuri Giants); the Seibu Lions and Hanshin Tigers (Matsuzaka's and Igawa's clubs, respectively) had significantly lower payrolls (source). So $5 million US is nothing to sneeze at for a Japanese club. In fact, it would have been 1/3 Hanshin's 2002 payroll. So the Yankees probably paid more to the Tigers than the Tigers pay their entire team. Heck, the Red Sox probably doubled the Seibu payroll. In some sense, there may be no reason for teams to not start selling off their older stars. At least at $5 million, there is a little more cause for restraint. It's nice, but not jump up and down nice.

So, I guess that wasn't very brief.

As an aside, and going back to what I first mentioned, thanks to a brief yet intense interest in anime during college, as well as writing about Japanese video game people the past few years, I've become fairly competent at pronouncing Japanese names. Listening to the bastardized versions of these pitchers (I've already heard "Dice-kay" instead of "Dai-soo-kay" and "Key" instead of "Kay") is going to bug me all season. Fortunately, the foreign culture of Japan will offset that irritation by amusing and delighting me, as it has always done:

(P.S. - Welcome to New York, 井川 慶. Please do well. Thanks.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Strapless dresses are in, strapless Wiis are out

Some thought Nintendo's biggest challenge would be overcoming Sony in the holiday market. It seems, however, Nintendo's biggest enemy is the general incompetence of the American consumer. Due to "a rash of reports that the devices flew out of the hands of overzealous players," Nintendo is offering to replace 3.2 million straps for its Wii remote control, according to an AP report.

"People tended to get a bit excited, especially while playing Wii sports and in some cases the control would come loose from their hands" due to a broken strap, Nintendo spokesperson Yasuhiro Minagawa said. To fix this, Nintendo will be replacing the original strap (0.024 inch diameter) with a thicker strap (0.04000000000 inch diameter). The new straps can be ordered at Nintendo's website.

With Nintendo replacing their strap after people hurled their controllers through their television sets, it may be only a matter of time before the bruised eyes, sprained ankles, bloody noses, bladder infections, cracked toe nails, vaginal tearing and other reported injuries force the video game giant to stop producing Wii consoles altogether. Good job, America. First Iraq, now this.

Justin: I was going to post this earlier, but I didn't because it sounded bitter and fanboy-ish. But if I ran a popular Nintendo fan site, I'd just start posting dozens of articles per day about neighborhood kids breaking neighbors' windows with baseballs, and frisbees getting stuck on neighbors' roofs. Then after a week, I'd start to demand that baseballs and frisbees be recalled.

Chris V: Hey didn't you used to run a popular Nintendo fan site?