Ya to na so re yoi! yoi! yoi!


The Japanese are nuts about baseball and it’s still a sport for the masses here. Hirasaki-san has kindly purchased tickets for a Japanese major league baseball game. The air is humid but picking up here at Jingu Stadium.

Now the teams playing tonight are the Yakult Swallows versus the Hiroshima Carp. Now you might think it would be difficult, nay impossible, to do a baseball cheer either for carp, or for swallows. You would be mistaken.

And I know what you’re thinking about calling an entire baseball team the Swallows, and that’s just not right, so put that out of your head. Let’s say you’re rooting for the Swallows and you want to show your team support. What do you do? You take out your big green umbrella, of course, and you bounce it up and down, while singing the team song, Tokyo Ondo, at the bottom of the seventh.

That’s what you do, if you’re a fan of the Swallows.


The seventh inning stretch comes up. The Carp contingent doesn’t sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Instead, the Carp fans inflate all these rubber balloons (see, you’re back thinking about the Swallows again, and I told you to stop thinking like that) and we sing the team song and then we let the balloons go and they float into the sky just like… well… here’s a QuickTime movie.

Alo Salut sunt eu un haiduc

A smoke-filled restaurant somewhere in Omotesando. Jars of sake and imojochu decorate one wall. I keep hearing this Romanian song all over Tokyo — the US will probably be inundated with it shortly. So I’m hanging out with Haba-san and Oikawa-san, enhancing the jet lag with Kirin. I ask about the Kyushu skewers that we’re munching on. “Cow organs,” Haba-san tells me. Haba-san’s girlfriend, Kumiko, arrives, and after a few more beers we initiate the time-honored cultural exchange program of teaching one another dirty words.

“I am mad with him,” says Kumiko. “This case. What do I say?”

“Ah,” I say. “In this case, you say, ‘You shithead.'”

“You?” asks Kumiko.

“You shithead,” I say.

“You shit?” says Kumiko.

“No. You shithead,” I pronounce.

“You shit… You shit, head. You chit. Chit head,” says Kumiko.

“Ssshhhit-head,” I say.

“Ssssshhhhhit-head,” says Kumiko.

“You shithead,” I say.

“You shit, head. You, shit head. You. Shit-head. You shithead,” Kumiko said, with conviction. Then, pointing at Haba-san, she says, “You shithead.”

I nod satisfactorily.

Kumiko pauses, and thinks. “What is shithead?”

What a field day for the heat

               INT. OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT
               A round mahogany table in a dimly lit room.  The Presidential
               seal leers down on a dozen generals and bureaucrats. 
               Computer screens flicker and scroll an endless stream of
               data.  The President taps a note pad with a ballpoint pen.


                                   GENERAL #1
                         Four thousand five hundred dead,
                         Mr. President.  Bridges into the
                         city are out.  Side roads
                         impassable.  Power, water, all out.

                         Stop.  You.

                                   BUREAUCRAT #1
                         Survivors gathering at the
                         Convention Center.


                                   BUREAUCRAT #1
                         Thirty thousand.  Dozens of deaths
                         every hour.  Looting, raping,


                                   GENERAL #2
                         We've dispatched haz-mat teams from
                         McClellan.  Eight thousand men,
                         armaments, vehicles.  Arrives
                         tomorrow morning.


                                   BUREAUCRAT #2
                         Administration approval rating down
                         twenty-four points.  Friendly news
                         media replaying your speeches from
                         three days ago.  Unfriendly media
                         calling for your resignation.  The
                         region went solidly against us in
                         the last election.

                         I know.

                                   GENERAL #1
                         Sir, we need a go no-go.

               The President sighs.  He caps the ballpoint pen.


               Urban hell on earth.  Fires burn; people attack one another
               with sticks, knives.  Stampeding, glass breaking, an idiot
               melange of screaming.

               A woman clutches a wailing baby in her arms and dodges
               bullets.  A bleeding man staggers into her; she pushes him
               away with a shriek.

               Four men surround her.  They carry guns and knives.  One man
               swings a pipe experimentally.

               A new, mechanical sound: the distant hum of rotary engines. 
               The chaos pauses and the people look up.



               Helicopters appear over the black city skyline.  Their blue
               searchlights scan the destruction.

               The mob stops fighting, drops their weapons.  People flag the
               helicopters, shouting with joy.

               INT. PRESS ROOM - DAY

               Bright sun through the windows.  The President shuffles
               papers behind a podium.  A makeup artist touches his nose
               with a powder puff.

                         We're on in five.

                         I'll rehearse.


               Helicopters slowly descend upon the crowd.  The faces of the
               people, smiling, shouting, waving, gather around beneath

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         My fellow Americans...

               Our woman's face.  She looks at the helicopters, thinks...
               then turns, and begins to run.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         I have consulted with the governors
                         and the mayors of the affected

               A milky white powder billows from canisters on the sides of
               the helicopters.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         And unfortunately, despite the best
                         efforts of the state and federal

               As the powder hits the people, they crumple and fall like
               narcoleptics -- silently, suddenly, as if poleaxed.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         No survivors have been found.

               EXT.  BLIND ALLEY - NIGHT

               The baby in her arms still screaming, our woman cuts down a
               back alley.  She runs into a blind end: a door, a metal
               Dumpster, three brick walls.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         We will be tireless in our efforts
                         to overcome this disaster...

               She wrenches at the locked doorknob -- useless.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         We will not falter and we will not

               A familiar mechanical drone.  The baby wails.  Our woman
               looks up, and as she does a dark helicopter fills the sky
               above the alley.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         And though there has been great
                         misery and pain...  

               She wildly looks around her, sees the Dumpster.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         I believe we as Americans can rise
                         to the challenge.

               She looks up.  From the woman's POV, a billowy cloud
               envelops us, and we are in sudden perfect white silence,
               except for the President's voice...

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         Through this challenge, we will
                         discover our capacity for

                                                               FADE TO:


               Morning, gray and fine.  Camouflaged army troops, bearing
               rifles, pick their way through innumerable piles of corpses. 
               Smoking, charred rubble, overturned cars.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         It will take more than weeks or
                         months.  It will take years.

               EXT. ALLEY WAY - MORNING

               An Army grunt wanders down the alley.  He shoulders his
               rifle.  Our woman lies in the alley.  He nudges her hand with
               his boot.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         It will cost billions.  We will
                         find the money.

               A tiny, reverberating cry.

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         For a time, my fellow Americans, we
                         will mourn.  But then...

               The grunt turns toward the Dumpster.  Tentatively, he lifts
               the lid, and we hear a baby's cry...

                                   PRESIDENT (V.O.)
                         We will rebuild.

                                                          CUT TO BLACK.