Here Comes Rui Hachimura...

With everyone in NBA circles focused on the hype around Zion Williamson, I think people might be sleeping on Rui Hachimura. While he was a very much heralded lottery draft pick (the first player from Japan to ever go that high) he wasn’t necessarily viewed as a slam dunk. He was seen as athletic, unselfish and pretty much viewed as a defensive specialist. However, this is a guy who has shockingly only been playing basketball for about seven years. And given the leaps he took at Gonzaga in his second and third years, it’s not ridiculous to imagine another leap or two from what we’ve already seen. With his play in the recent FIBA world basketball championships, he showed that he could carry the offensive load, and at times even dominate. This was something he didn’t need to show on a more balanced Gonzaga offense. But now that he has shown the ability to dominate on both ends of the court, I expect his stock to rise even more. There will always be an adjustment period for rookies as their bodies get used to going against much larger and more athletic players. But the flashes Rui has shown could turn into something truly special once he hits his NBA stride.

rui hachimura japan

Fables of the River


Just one more cover.

I beat through field-dusted artifacts,

To Sun streets gone.

Your blur, free streaming ahead.

River Legends,

Have hidden speeds.

Body behind it perfect nobody.

Sun mountain just can’t picture.

Faltering behind steaming hand writings.

The field,

Where your chairs fall.

I, body, and all time.

Cuts streets.

A Bull’s post.

Free before slight lines.

See plans behind hidden ears.

Below sweet mountain.

Nobody locks all your culture.

Can’t blur that through more ghosts.

The train,

Breathing before the steaming river.

Cross dry, perfect suns.

All speeds of us,

Cut waves wide open.

By Oyl Miller

From the Land of the Rising Heat

Roki Sasaki.

The next monster of one hundred years.

A spindly 16-year old who was born to hurl a baseball. To throw at blinding speeds. All of his long-limbed body folding and unfolding in proper timing and efficiency, to unleash a sonic boom with the snap of his right wrist. Eliciting oohs-and-ahhs with every blaze of glory. Poor high school hitters, trying to make sense of phenomenal warp speeds—fanning blindly at the gust of baseball wind rushing past them. Failing with the futility of trying to drink soup with a single chopstick. No chance in this world or any other.

It is the stuff of anime or manga lore. A Chosen Boy, rising to national prominence. The Japanese Dream. Gracing the nation’s newspapers. Dominating long segments of airtime on nightly primetime. Triggering the tweets of celebrities. A whole country in rapt attention of Sasaki’s mound exploits. If you’ve been following Japanese baseball for any amount of time, you know the cadence and intensity the country’s mainstream fervor burns with. You’ve experienced the hallowed tones used to speak of these myths who emerge from the depths of Japan. Splashing to the surface fully realized, heaven sent from the mountain top, into the spotlight of Japanese media hysteria. First there was Dice-K, then Darvish, then Ma-kun. All moving along the celestial baseball timeline. Now, here stands Roki Sasaki. Number one in your program. Number one trending topic.

There is an obvious innocence when you see Roki standing on the mound. He’s just doing what he’s done every day of his life. It’s impossible for him to know that the very axis of baseball power now spins around him like a tightly wound slider.

It’s impossible for him to know that a single speeding fastball from his fingertips, topping 100 mph cracks the earth to its very core. That it sends a tremor over land and cyber space. A single Sasaki pitch, in less than a second, travels the world. The smack of the catcher’s glove, mass broadcasting a clear message. Announcing a presence. A baseball Spector. A new man-child has awakened in Japan.

Ready your scouts.

Prepare your fanbases.

Notify your coaches. Ping the redditors. The hype is resonating. Empty your pockets and prepare your best offers. Work on your Japanese etiquette. For soon, baseball innocence will be ready for market. This innate ability is available to be bought and sold. This lively arm is ready to join the arms race immemorial between Yankees and would-be-Yankee-killers. Always just one mystical pitching arm away from tipping the balance of power in the baseball universe.

Roki knows not which chalk line he is drawing nearer every day. His moment of crossing is coming. The final inning change. Until then, the redditors are worm-holing deep into a wikipedia frenzy. The American sportswriters are firing up their mobile word processors. We’ve got a live one here boys. Hear that? That’s the sound of a thousand bloggers cueing up lofty think pieces lauding the modernity of American baseball’s reliance on science, and bashing the archaic ways of Japanese ball that would put young pitcher’s arm in danger through stoic, traditional overwork. For in Japan, pitchers throw everyday without mercy. Without rest. (And in the darkest parts of Japanese baseball, without water.) For here, pitch limits don’t exist and taking a starter out of a game is viewed as a sign of weakness.

Young Roki is sparkling culture shock in the sporting world. The presumptuous and stubborn East versus West debate. Old school versus new school. Wrong versus right. Crystalized through the lens of sport. One of the most rooted in tradition sports. Which has yielded vastly different mentalities and ballplayers on two sides of the world.

Young Roki? He’s just trying to climb to the top of Japanese baseball Mt. Everest. He stands now on a Mt. Fuji peak, ruling Japan, and looking to claim legitimate baseball immortality by powering his team all the way to the Koshien title. To win the national high school baseball tournament. For in Japan, this conquest carries a perpetual cultural royalty. It’s a deep sporting honor on par with rising to national fame during March Madness. Even millionaire Japanese MLB stars, like Dice-K and Darvish still speak in reverent tones about their time at Koshien. Considering it the crowning jewel of their careers. For better or worse, it’s all down hill from the cultural highs of Koshien.

Hence the intense burn. Hence the meteoric pitch counts. Hence the literal embrace of giving everything for the good of your team. It’s an iconic sacrifice that echoes the Japanese love of the collective. The country rallies around, imbuing itself with a self-confirmation of their national identity, holding a mirror up top who they really are, all by living vicariously through young sports stars in the national spotlight. Young icons who leave fleeting but indelible impressions on the psyche of a nation.

And so now, in this moment, the world turns to Roki Sasaki. It turns for Roki. For now he unwittingly shoulders the weight and soul of this island nation. Shoulders that are still developing, that are already capable of unusual feats of diamond magic and of turning the world’s head with the snap of a lethal, embarassment-wreaking breaking ball.

Enter Roki Sasaki.

Paranoid Music Box: Thom Yorke's ANIMA Album Reviewed

Thom Yorke’s latest solo offering, ANIMA, sounds like the personal sequel album to Radiohead’s shock and awe masterpiece, Kid A.

Kid A was the national anthem that radically broke the music industry with it’s bold departure. It created a seismic shift that reframed the narrative of not only Radiohead, but it was the singular popular music album that signaled the end of rock and roll as we knew it. It burned the guitars and familiar drum textures in the dumpster out back, and replaced the familiar sonic palette with bloops and bleeps. With cut and paste lyrics that turned humanity into a machine and twisted it so far that the humanity and intention came back out through the speakers. It was a brilliant effort of smoke and mirrors piping directly into our collective ears. Minds were melted. A statement was made. 

And it’s one of the last “rock” albums we all definitely point to. The last hurrah before Napster, before streaming, before we had a million songs in our pocket. Before Steve Jobs changed the world. Kid A was a record of intent of a certain time and place. A shared space.

If Kid A was meant to ironically dominate stadiums filled to max capacity, ANIMA is the same artist, and longtime producer Nigel Godrich, working from hotel rooms and basement studios, intended to go directly and personally out to each of us. Through headphones. Starting intimate conversations and picking up threads. Weaving shared textures.

Call it chill-paranoia. A cousin of the paranoid-android sci-fi branch of rock pioneered by Yorke and Radiohead bandmates. Here, the discomfort in our modern times comes even closer to home. In paired down, minimally backed electronic tracks, Yorke croons and meanders in melodic and sedated tones. He sings of regret, disconnection and the fragility of our so-called shared experience. His lines, sharply written as ever, elucidating truths that we all feel but maybe haven’t articulated for ourselves. Yet when Yorke pulls his lines through the gentle ecosystem of beats and loops, the sentiment hits home.

ANIMA is filled with dream imagery. Upon first listen, it has the sensation of someone waking up from a dream and being forced to deal with a startling new reality. Slowly observing and then reckoning the change in atmosphere from a lost time.

The album’s opening track Traffic, crystalizes this awakening with tonal clarity. The track pulses in as Yorke’s disembodied voice calls out “Yeah.” The first command comes “Submit” followed by “Submerged.” Then comes world play with “Nobody and No body” an incantation to the avatar filled world we anonymously find ourselves drifting through—submerged. We then move immediately into a crystal clear thesis “It’s not good. It’s not right.” And then two more bits of stark imagery “A mirror. A sponge.” In this shattered poetry, Yorke establishes the setting and atmosphere. 90 seconds in, the characters have emerged. 

But then comes a line that straddles hope and irony “But you’re freeeeeeeeee,” Yorke lilts, letting the last syllable roll out and come undone as a chorus of machine-like applause rings out. The bass doubles down.

From here its terse verses and turns of phrase roasting elitist pigs, or apparently “zombies” now. Yorke muses on as the beat sustains. It’s all very dystopian—what else could it be—but there is also a brightness that coarses through the album. It’s as though, three albums into a “side-project” solo career, Yorke has found a sense of mission. A clarity of purpose.

On ANIMA, Yorke and Godrich paint from the same palette they’ve been using since Kid A, however there is a refinement and sophistication here. It suggests that perhaps this is not so much a side project, as it is a alternate project, or a legitimate Thom Yorke vehicle. Worthy of attention, not just as a restless oddity from a creative soul, but as a document of admiration in its own right.

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Below Thom Yorke discusses ANIMA and how his creative process has evolved over the years: