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SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 7)

We’re entering the middle weekend of the Nagoya Basho, but we’re doing so with ANOTHER top rikishi having withdrawn from the tournament. This time it is ozeki Tochinoshin, who lost his share of the lead and severely jammed his big toe in yesterday’s match against komusubi Tamawashi. That leaves just ONE rikishi undefeated and alone atop the leaderboard—sekiwake Mitakeumi! It also leaves only ONE rikishi still in competition who has previously won a yusho [tournament championship]—ozeki Goeido!

What a strange situation to be in.

As I’ve pointed out over the past few days, Mitakeumi looks strong, and has been steadily ranked in the sanyaku group (the top four rankings in the sport) since November 2016, having had only one make-koshi [majority of losses] in the intervening ten tournaments. But the fact remains that during that time he likewise has never managed to get more than 9 wins in any single tournament. Now, with both yokozuna and Tochinoshin absent, and the two other ozeki not performing at the top of their games, this seems to be the tournament where Mitakeumi will break the 10-win barrier. But as in any sport, great psychological pressures gather as one closes in on a championship—particularly for the first time. There’s no way to know how Mitakeumi will respond to those pressures as we move into Week 2.

Of the thirty-five other rikishi remaining in competition, ONLY ozeki Goeido has ever won a tournament . . . and he’s only done so ONCE. He’s also currently kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] and is not giving a stellar performance, having only amasses a 4–2 record over the first six days. While his likelihood of getting kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and securing his ranking has greatly improved with the withdrawal of his three toughest upcoming opponents, he still pretty much needs to win 8 of his remaining 9 matches in order to have a strong chance at winning or tying for the yusho . . . and, as I just noted, he didn’t put on that kind of dominant performance in Week 1. This is sumo, though, and all of that is behind him. He certainly has the ability to do what it takes in Week 2—the question is, WILL he?

The other remaining ozeki—Takayasu—is technically in the same position as Goeido, having gone 4–2 so far AND also currently being kadoban. But he also has looked shaky all tournament, and seemed to re-injure his left arm (which sidelined him completely for the May basho) in an awkward loss on Thursday. I’m still uncertain he’ll be able to secure 8 wins and save his rank, let alone compete for the yusho, which is a real shame because I’d very much LIKE to see Takayasu get his first top-division championship (he won a Makushita Division championship when he was an up-and-coming rikishi back in 2010).

With the collapse of clear dominance at the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet], it becomes interesting to note which of the rikishi lower on the banzuke [ranking sheet] are currenly holding 5–1 records. Normally, they’d pretty much be aiming for double-digit wins and a shot at a special prize, but now they have to consider themselves legitimately in the hunt for the yusho itself. Rather than review them all here, I’ll make sure to point them out in today’s top matches.

The only thing that is certain is that we should have a very WILD Week 2 as a whole crop of new blood takes aim at hoisting the Emperor’s Cup, without any of the old guard standing in their way.

Today’s important matches include:

M15 Meisei (2–4) vs. M13 Asanoyama (5–1)—Asanoyama may be down near the bottom of the banzuke, but he’s amassed a 5–1 record so far, putting him one loss behind the leader, and he’s much stronger than the competitors at this rank. That means he may have the easiest path to stay in the hunt for the yusho. (1:50)
M9 Miyogiryu (5–1) vs. M6 Chiyotairyu (5–1)—Another two rikishi, both currently ranked in the mid-Maegashira range, who are currently one win behind the leader. Of course, after this match, one of them will have fallen off that pace. (5:20)
M6 Endo (5–1) vs. M8 Kyokutaisei (1–5)—Crowd favorite Endo is also among the one-behind-the-leader crowd. He’s very quietly been racking up some impressive wins so far, and the fans would go crazy if he could end up winning the whole shebang. (6:05)
M1 Kotoshogiku (2–4) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–0)—The sole leader, still undefeated Mitakeumi, takes on former ozeki Kotoshogiku, who has been putting on a good performance, this tournament, but simply being out-fought by stronger competitors. Mitakeumi’s pressure-cooker starts to build steam now. (10:50)
M3 Abi (2–4) vs. ozeki Takayasu (4–2)—Here’s our first chance to see what kind of condition Takayasu’s left arm is in. He’s still fighting to ward off his kadoban status, so he won’t go kyujo no matter what. But if he’s not healthy then he’ll be struggling to get kachi-koshi, and if he is then he’ll be fighting to get back into the hunt for the yusho. (14:05)
Ozeki Goeido (4–2) vs. M3 Takakeisho (3–3)—Let’s see which Goeido comes out fighting today—the strong one who manhandled Abi yesterday, or the unfocused mess that lost two matches against weak Week 1 competitors. (15:00)

 

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 6)

It’s Day 6 of the Nagoya Basho, and still we have a pair of undefeated rikishi leading the pack—ozeki Tochinoshi and sekiwake Mitakeumi. But what’s more, we have another big name withdrawing from competition. 

This morning, yokozuna Kakuryu reported that he has suffered some unspecified injury and is going kyujo [absent due to injury], meaning that for the first time in nineteen years, we have a hon-basho with NO yokozuna in competition. Honestly, that doesn’t seem SO strange to me, as in the first year or so of my sumo fandom there WERE NO yokozuna. (Asahifuji retired in January of 1992, and Akebono didn’t get promoted until March of 1993. And even then, as the lone yokozuna, Akebono was kyujo for two basho later in 1993.)

Could this have something to do with Kakuryu’s embarrassment after losing to M3 Abi, who at one time served as one of Kakuryu’s tsukebito [attendant/assisntant]? Or was the loss caused by this mysterious injury . . . because I thought the loss was because Kakuryu continues to backpedal and pull on opponents whenever his Plan A doesn’t work out, and all the good rikishi have learned that when that happens he is highly vulnerable to a strong thrusting attack (which happens to be Abi’s ONLY weapon). Still, whatever the reason, it is clear that Kakuryu will not three-peat as a yusho [tournament championship] winner. 

The biggest winners in the wake of Kakuryu’s withdrawal are the ozeki, particularly Goeido and Takayasu, who are both kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] and now will have two of their Week 2 matches converted from probable losses against yokozuna, to probable wins against mid-Maegashira rikishi, since all the sanyaku and upper Maegashira rikishi were ALREADY on their schedules. This makes it much easier for them to secure kachi-koshi, no matter HOW badly they do in the rest of Week 1—Goeido already has 2 losses, and Takayasu looked like he might have sprained his wrist in yesterday’s win over M2 Ikioi. An even bigger sigh of relief has to be coming from sekiwake Ichinojo, whose record currently stands at 2–3, and will also trade a pair of yokozuna matches for ones against opponents he might be able to scare with just his sheer size.

Our two leaders, of course, also benefit in the same way from the pair of yokozuna kyujo, but they aren’t fighting to stave off such dire consequences. Indeed, for Tochinoshin, rather than being a relief against calamity, the absence of Hakuho and Kakuryu instead makes him the odds-on favorite to win the yusho (which would give him at least a shot at making a run for a yokozuna promotion in September). He still has to put up stellar sumo for the next week, but he now knows that if he does, his final weekend won’t be nearly as challenging as it otherwise was sure to be. While the same is true for Mitakeumi, the sekiwake has still never even succeeded at getting more than 9 wins while ranked in sanyaku, so it’s a stretch to suppose that he has an equal shot of taking the yusho as Tochinoshin (who won the yusho in January) does. 

KAKURYU UPDATE: As the time of the matches drew nearer, Kakuryu’s oyakata [stable master] made an announcement that yokozuna’s problem was a recurrence of the elbow pain that kept him out of action through much of 2017. He said that this started before the basho kicked off, and that Kakuryu has been unable to do tsuppari [thrusting attacks] or generate any power with the affected arm. But like any other rikishi he “tried to weather the storm.” Now, though, he’s decided that the metaphorical seas are too rough.

Today’s top matches include:

M15 Ishiura (3–2) vs. M16 Meisei (1–4)—The first match of the video, but a very exciting one! (0:15)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (2–3) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (1–4)—Ichinojo keeps seeming to be on the verge of shaking off his poor performance and showing us the style of sumo he did in May—then he goes back to lumbering about aimlessly. Meanwhile, Kotoshogiku has been fighting hard all basho, but running headlong into the fact that he’s no longer got top-tier skills. Still, he may not need them, if “bad Ichinojo” shows up today. (10:25)
M1 Shodai (1–4) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–0)—Mitakeumi is looking solid and confident. Shodai, on the other hand, has been shaky all basho. But nothing focuses a rikishi’s mind like the chance to knock one of the leaders off the top spot. (11:10)
Komusubi Tamawashi (2–3) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (5–0)—Everything I said about the previous match applies here, just switch the names. (13:05)

 

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 5)

Well, well, well . . . what a difference a day makes, eh? Because Day 5 at the Nagoya Basho looks NOTHING like Day 4 did! At the start of the day yesterday there were a bunch of undefeated rikishi (including most of the top-rankers). Now with Hakuho having gone kyujo [absent due to injury], Kakuryu having notched his first loss, and Goeido and Ichinojo adding another loss to their records, we’re left with just two undefeated rikishi atop the leaderboard—shin-ozeki Tochinoshin and sekiwake Mitakeumi. Of course, there are still a whole bunch of 3–1 rikishi up and down the banzuke (it is only Day 5, after all), so the yusho is still very much up for grabs.

Let’s start by talking about Hakuho. Apparently he injured his patellar tendon when he slipped in the dressing room after his Day 2 match. We have no further information, such as how long he’s likely to be out of action, but the chances of him coming back during this tournament are pretty slim. This, of course, puts an end to all the speculation about how his strength and stamina will hold up in the summer heat, and we’ll almost certainly have to wait until September to see him in action again.

The withdrawal of Hakuho, as I said yesterday, gave a bit of a boost to Kakuryu, the only remaining yokozuna competing in the basho. But then he came out and seemed to sleepwalk through his match against M2 Ikio. Of course, in May’s tournament he also lost on Day 4 (though that was to Shohozan, whom he’s already faced and beaten this basho) and wound up taking the yusho with a 14–1 record. So his stumble against Ikioi is certainly not catastrophic. But it DOES put him in a more precarious position.

Speaking of echoes of the May basho, Tochinoshin now finds himself one of only two unbeaten rikishi, and with a clear lead over the rest of the division. In theory, he controls his destiny, but it’s too big an ask for even an ozeki to EXPECT to win eleven straight matches. Still, his position is stronger than in May in that his co-leader is not a legendary yokozuna who has more zen-sho [no loss] tournaments than any other rikishi in history, it is a young sekiwake who so far in his career has NEVER managed to even get double-digit wins while ranked this high. 

Another ozeki, Takayasu, followed up a sloppy Day 3 outing with a strong and determined Day 4. Finally, Takayasu looked like himself again. His record is 3–1, so he’s just one win off the pace. And if he really is getting back into his old rhythm, he’s one of the few opponents who we can expect to give Tochinoshin a hard time. Of course, Takayasu is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament, so he’s got to FIRST keep his eyes on the goal of securing kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

The third ozeki, Goeido, on the other hand, lost for the second time in this young tournament. He’s also kadoban, and with a 2–2 record here on Day 5, he’s putting himself in the position of having to work hard to secure his kachi-koshi. The absence of Hakuho is a distinct advantage for Goeido, as it turns an almost certain loss into a probable win for the ozeki (whose schedule will already include all the top-rankers, so whoever is chosen as a replacement will be a mid-level Maegashira at best).

Worst of all, though, is sekiwake Ichinojo, who seems to have completely forgotten all of the strides forward he made in his performance in May. He let himself get pushed around by komusubi Shohozan, who came into the match with a 0–3 record and weighing 84 kg (185 lbs) less than Ichinojo. Just when I was beginning to get used to the idea that I might be able to root for the Mongolian behemoth, he’s gone back to the style of sumo that had me not just deriding but mocking him for the past couple of years. In my heart, I DO hope that he manages to regain his inspiration, because if I go back to mocking him, I’m going to be MERCILESS.

Finally (and unfairly so), let me say a couple of words about sekiwake Mitakeumi—who is undefeated and our current co-leader. I really like Mitakeumi, and I have ever since he first came up to the Makuuchi Division in the last basho of 2015. You could see him learning, and learning quickly as he climbed the banzuke, taking tactics and maneuvers that more experienced rikishi used to beat him one day, and using them to secure a win on the following day. It only took him a year to get promoted to sanyaku, and he’s held onto either a komusubi or sekiwake rank for the past nine tournaments, establishing himself as one of the best in the sport. The only thing is, he hasn’t found the knack to get double-digit wins at this level, and in order to get promoted to ozeki he needs to gather thirty-three wins over the course of three consecutive basho. Mitakeumi is looking strong again this tournament, and although he IS a co-leader at this juncture, his REAL goal has to be to reach 10 wins . . . or better yet, 11. Then he’ll be a t the start of a potential run for ozeki promotion!

Today’s top matches include:

M15 Ishiura (2–2) vs. M15 Ryuden (3–1)—Two young rikishi who are almost polar opposites. Ishiura is small, speedy, and full of tricks. Ryuden is tall, powerful, and pretty much a straight-on pusher/thruster. Amazingly, they have one of the most interesting matches of the basho so far. (1:00)
Komusubi Shohozan (1–3) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (4–0)—Let’s take a look at how the co-leader Mitakeumi is doing. So far this tournament, he’s undefeated, but hasn’t done anything particularly flashy. Today he faces Shohozan, who is fresh off a victory over the other sekiwake, Ichinojo, yesterday. (9:30)
M1 Kotoshogiku (1–3) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (4–0)—The former ozeki vs. the newly minted ozeki—there won’t be any emotional drama there, right? Kotoshogiku has been looking better than his 1–3 record would indicate, but Tochinoshin is our co-leader and very much looking like someone who is going to be contending for the yusho. (11:15)
M2 Ikioi (1–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (3–1)—Ikioi is fresh off getting his fifth career kinboshi [gold star award] for a rank-and-file rikishi beating a yokozuna. But I dare say that he’ll have a bit more trouble with this ozeki, even though Takayasu has been somewhat erratic this tournament. (12:40)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (3–1) vs. M3 Abi (1–3)—Kakuryu had an unfortunate loss yesterday. He forgot that when he starts to backpedal, he often gets run out of the ring. (For some reason, he seems to need to re-learn that about once a week.) Today he faces his former tsukebito [assistant/attendant] Abi, who has to learn a second form of attack other than using his freakishly long arms to push his opponents away. (13:50)

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 4)

It’s Day 4 of the Nagoya Basho and things are really heating up—literally. Nagoya is the most physically demanding of all the hon-basho because it takes place during midsummer in a city where you can count on the temperature being over 90F and the humidity being around 90% (or higher if a typhoon happens to be passing over central Japan). Also, the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium doesn’t have air conditioning, meaning that conditions are even MORE brutal on the dohyo. Pay attention to the crowd during this tournament, you’ll see that they pretty much ALL are constantly fanning themselves, and quite a few have that drenched, I-just-stepped-out-of-a-sauna look about them.

All that having been said, the fact is that the sumo action on Day 3 was particularly hotly contested. We saw the best matches of the tournament so far, and even had a couple of the top-rankers notch losses.

Ozeki Takayasu looked out of sorts on Days 1 & 2, but he looked much better on Day 3—strong, confident, and moving decisively. His opponent M2 Chioynokuni also looked good and, indeed, they gave us the match of the day, with a back-and-forth battle that looked like Takayasu had the better of when his opponent’s foot slipped leaving him in a precarious split . . . but the ozeki didn’t finish him off, and Chiyonokuni managed to hold his balance, and the match continued. In the end, they wound up grappling at the ring’s edge, each trying to throw the other to the ground. It was one of those teetering situations where you knew that BOTH rikishi were about to go down, the only question was which one would end up on the bottom of the pile. In this case, Chiyonokuni won out by a matter of inches, and Takayasu notched his first loss of the tournament.

The other big name rikishi to lose on Day 3 was sekiwake Ichinojo, who once again went back to his bumbling old style of sumo and wound up falling easy prey to komusubi Tamawashi. If Ichinojo continues in this vein, he’ll only be competitive every other day and he’ll at best end up with a 7–8 make-koshi [majority of losses] . . . and quite probably worse because even his A-game isn’t good enough to beat all of the ozeki and yokozuna.

Speaking of ozeki, Tochinoshin got a chance to show his incredible power yesterday, bodily lifting komusubi Shohozan off his feet, carrying him across the dohyo, and depositing him on the ground outside the ring. It’s a maneuver that Tochinoshin used to use pretty regularly when fighting against opponents at the bottom of the banzuke [ranking sheet], but that he doesn’t get a chance to deploy as often now that he’s facing the cream of the crop.

Yokozuna Kakuryu continues to look solid and focused, which plays in his favor. He won’t often be the flashy rikishi whose fancy maneuvers make him one to talk about, but as long as he avoids upset losses here in Week 1, he will almost definitely be among the favorites in the yusho [tournament championship] race in Week 2.

Yokozuna Hakuho put on another strong performance on Day 2, beating M1 Kotoshogiku for the fifty-fifth time in their head-to-head rivalry (with the former ozeki only having one six matches during all that time). The yokozuna looked strong and confident, but you can bet that the pundits will keep giving him the hairy eyeball all tournament, looking for any crack in his armor. For his part, Hakuho is highly motivated to have a very strong outing in Nagoya because for the first time since 2005 (when he was a sekiwake) he failed to win at least one of the first three tournaments of the year.

The BIG news today, though, is that Hakuho is kyujo [absent due to injury]! It wasn’t announced ahead of time (generally we know at the start of the day who has withdrawn), but came as a surprise to EVERYONE at the lead-in to the final two matches of the day. The reason cited is a right knee injury, but there’s no word whether this is something that will keep him out for a few days or for the rest of the tournament. Completely shocking!

Today’s top matches include:

M4 Kaisei (2–1) vs. M4 Kagayaki (2–1)—So far this basho, Kaisei has been showing his A-game and looking like the rikishi who was the runner-up just a few months ago in the March basho. Kagayaki has also been looking strong (which is a little more surprising because despite his size, he tends to do poorly when ranked near the top of the banzuke). Today we get to see which one is looking stronger! (7:30)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (1–2) vs. komusubi Shohozan (0–3)—So far in Week 1, Ichinojo’s sumo has been erratic. You never know whether you’ll see the dominant rikishi who earned and retained his sekiwake ranking, or the one who can’t get out of his own way when facing any kind of serious competition. Shohozan, on the other hand, has been putting on a good show with his brand of scrappy, aggressive sumo—he’s just run into superior opponents on the first three days. (8:45)
M1 Shodai (1–2) vs. ozeki Takayasu (2–1)—Takayasu looked strong for the first time in the tournament, yesterday . . . but he didn’t finish the job and notched his first loss. Here’s hoping that he keeps that energy level up today, but pairs it with a fight-to-the-end performance. Meanwhile, Shodai has looked strong all tournament, but has had the bad luck of facing both yokozuna and one of the ozeki already. The GOOD news for him is that he managed to beat Goeido on Day 1, so there’s every reason for him to believe that he CAN beat another struggling ozeki. (11:25)
Ozeki Goeido (2–1) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (0–3)—After a shaky Day 1, Goeido seems to have settled down a bit. But seeing as he’s kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament, he has to be very careful against high-ranked opponents in Week 1. And Kotoshogiku is both the current top Maegashira rikishi AND a longtime former ozeki (who has faced Goeido 48 times in the past). (12:30)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (3–0) vs. M2 Ikioi (0–3)—With Hakuho’s withdrawal, Kakuryu finds himself once again the only yokozuna in the tournament. That gives him both a psychological edge over opponents and an added bit of internal pressure on himself. Ikioi hasn’t won yet this basho, but he has been looked strong and healthy against higher-ranked opponents—two ozeki and a sekiwake. I hope he’ll keep that spirit going as he faces the yokozuna today. (13:15)

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 3)

It’s Day 3 of the Nagoya Basho, and the most notable thing about yesterday’s bouts is that ALL of the top-ranked rikishi won. Granted, this is how it is SUPPOSED to be, particularly this early in the tournament, but based on recent experience, we know that it rarely seems to go that way. Still, there were some interesting performances that are worth mentioning.

To begin with, yokozuna Hakuho had a couple of noteworthy points. First of all, the head shimpan [ringside judge] called a matta [false start] on Hakuho for not putting both hands fully to the ground at the start of the tachi-ai [initial charge]. While that is the rule on paper, it is one that is broken in a good many matches every day, and in most cases a yokozuna is given the leeway to stretch that rule quite a long way. Hakuho’s tachi-ai was no different than many that were seen in earlier matches, and certainly no different than he’s been performing regularly during recent tournaments. The point in calling a foul on him is that that the Kyokai [Sumo Association] wants him to make an effort to be an exemplar of well-done sumo. It is a new step in the same process that led them earlier this year to give him a mild reprimand for being too bruising in his tachi-ai. Basically, as Hakuho is getting older, he’s taking advantage of his speed to give himself an edge at the match’s start that makes up for his nagging injuries and slight loss of raw strength. But as the all-time winningest yokozuna, and arguably the greatest sumotori ever, the Kyokai wants him to stand for more, or more accurately, they want to keep him from perpetuating a type of sumo that they don’t want OTHER rikishi to emulate. Because he is such a role model and ambassador for the sport, the Kyokai is insisting that he keep his style of sumo as straightlaced and by the numbers as possible. And if age weighs on him to the point where it keeps him from continuing to dominate, then they’d rather he retire than that he skirt the edges of what is permissible looking to keep an edge over his opponents.

Having said all that, the other noteworthy thing about Hakuho’s match against M1 Shodai was that he DID show his full speed and strength, keeping the same game plan in his match and STILL beating his opponent with ease. The jury is still out on whether or not Hakuho can keep up the same power and speed through the whole tournament, but there is now no doubt that he has both here at the start of the basho.

Ozeki Goeido also showed that his speed and power are still intact, and that he has the will and wits to perform as well in the tournament as he did in his pre-basho warm-up fights. He looked pretty hapless on Day 1 against Shodai, but was back in fine form yesterday against komusubi Tamawashi. He is kadoban, and still needs to secure 8 wins in order to save his ozeki rank, but at least now it seems like something he’s got a real chance to do.

The other kadoban ozeki, Takayasu, may have taken his record to 2–0 yesterday by beating komusubi Shohozan, but he didn’t look at all confident in doing so. In fact, despite being undefeated, Takayasu looks like he might have a struggle to reach kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. He just seems uncertain as he moves around the ring, and unable to apply the strong sumo that got him promoted to ozeki earlier this year. Still, if he keeps winning here in Week 1, his task will still be manageable. 

The two strongest performances over the first two days of the tournament have been turned in by the two rikishi who fought for the yusho in May—yokozuna Kakuryu and shin-ozeki [newly promoted ozeki] Tochinoshin. They both have been rock solid, doing the kind of sumo we expect from them. It’s early in the basho, but so far they seem to be the favorites.

There is also one dark horse contender that several commentators are keeping a close eye on—M11 Onosho. He had a great year in 2017, breaking into the Makuuchi Division and storming up the banzuke [ranking sheet] to land a komusubi ranking in his fourth tournament. Unfortunately, he injured himself in January and sat out entirely in March. for the May tournament, he’d dropped all the way out of Makuuchi and back into Juryo, but he made his comeback by winning the Juryo yusho [tournament championship] and earning a promotion back to M11. Now he’s fully healthy, and will be facing low-ranked opponents for most of the tournament. If he can get back to doing the sanyaku-level sumo he was before the injury, he should dominate his competition and may well be able to stay at or near the top of the leaderboard deep into Week 2. 

Here are today’s top matches:

M11 Onosho (2–0) vs. M10 Nishikigi (1–1)—Since I mentioned him in today’s write-up, I thought we should pay some special attention to Onosho, who has looked rock solid so far this tournament. (3:50)
M6 Endo (2–0) vs. M8 Chiyoshoma (0–2)—A quick but terrific match. Don’t blink or you might miss some really skillful sumo. (7:20)
M2 Chiyonokuni (1–1) vs. ozeki Takayasu (2–0)—In a day with lots of really great sumo, this is clearly the match of the day!  (11:15)
Komusubi Shohozan (0–2) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (2–0)—Shohozan is a fast, scrappy rikishi (very much in the mold of former yokozuna Harumafuji), and his speed and aggressiveness often causes trouble for Tochinoshin. (13:10)
M1 Kotoshogiku (0–2) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (2–0)—This is the sixty-first time these two have met, which is A LOT. But Kotoshogiku trails in the series 6–54. That’s what he gets for fighting Hakuho so often. (14:30)

 

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 2)

The Nagoya Basho is off to a terrific start, and we’re ready for action here on Day 2. There was only one major upset on Day 1, and that was ozeki Goeido losing his opening match to M1 Shodai. Goeido is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament, so he NEEDS to reach kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and with six of his matches being against the yokozuna, his fellow ozeki, and two strong sekiwake, he can only afford two losses in Week 1. To suffer one of them on Day 1 really puts Goeido immediately behind the eight-ball and places added pressure on him every time he climbs the dohyo.

Another upset yesterday, though less shocking than Goeido’s, came in sekiwake Ichinojo’s loss to M2 Chiyonokuni. The main reason I say this was a more minor upset is that no one is really sure what to make of Ichinojo. He has always had the size and strength to be a dominant rikishi, but for most of his career he’s produced plodding, unimaginative sumo and had trouble winning against top-ranked competition. In May he seemed to finally have turned a corner, showing energy, enthusiasm, and a spark of creativity in notching his first ever kachi-koshi while ranked as a sekiwake. However, the Ichinojo we saw today was back to the same lumbering behemoth we knew in the past. Sumo will be a more interesting sport if he can rekindle that fire in his belly, but anyone who has watched him over the past couple of years has to be skeptical about that possibility, particularly given his Day 1 performance.

While none of the other top rikishi lost yesterday, a few gave performances that opened doubt as to how successful they’re going to be in this tournament. To begin with, yokozuna Hakuho looked very similar to the way he did in May’s Natsu Basho—he was fast, nimble, and clever, but he didn’t seem to have the power we’re used to seeing him produce. He got the immediate advantage against his opponent, komusubi Tamawashi, but he wasn’t able to use that to grab a quick and easy win. Indeed, Tamawashi fought back and pressed the yokozuna to edge of the ring. but once there, Hakuho showed his mastery of the sport and easily turned the tables, throwing Tamawashi onto his fice and off the dohyo. For all the fact that the bout ended with a very convincing and definitive final maneuver, it posed some real questions about whether Hakuho has enough strength to go the long haul here in the most physically draining of the hon-basho.

Likewise, ozeki Takayasu notched his first win in his bout against M1 Kotoshogiku, but the former-ozeki seemed to have the advantage through MOST of the bout. Takayasu managed to make a smooth defensive move, dancing nimbly to the side as Kotoshogiku pushed him toward the tawara [the straw bales that mark the ring’s edge], and letting his opponent fall face first onto the clay. It was a very near thing, and didn’t leave the ozeki looking particularly strong. Like Goeido, Takayasu is kadoban this tournament, and must get 8 wins in order to keep his ozeki rank. And he’s in just the same tight spot as Goeido in that his Week 2 schedule will be filled with matches against very strong opponents. He’s gotten a leg up on his fellow ozeki, though, by pulling out a victory on Day 1, leaving him a bit more wiggle room in the coming fortnight.

Looking more to the positive side, yokozuna Kakuryu—who won the yusho [tournament championship] in May’s and March’s tournaments—looked to be in the same shape here in Nagoya. His Day 1 opponent was M1 Shohozan, who was the only rikishi to beat the yokozuna in May. Kakuryu came out calm and strong, and didn’t let Shohozan get inside his defenses and force him backward (the way he did two months ago in Tokyo). Even at his best, Kakuryu isn’t as flashy or dominating as Hakuho (or even Kisenosato, when he’s healthy), but he can be absolutely rock solid. And given the fact that so many of the other top rikishi have been streaky and unpredictable, that can be enough to win a tournament.

Shin-ozeki [newly promoted ozeki] Tochinoshin also looked solid in his opening bout. He faced M2 Ikioi, a fan favorite and a strong counter-striker, but was able to come off the tachi-ai [initial charge], grab his favorite grip, and march his opponent out of the ring. All this despite the fact that Tochinoshin had a minor arm injury during practice last week, and spent the month of June going through the media circus gauntlet that every shin-ozeki must face. He says he’s not as fit as he wants to be, but he looked fine in his Day 1 outing. 

Today’s top matches include:

Sekiwake Ichinojo (0–1) vs. M3 Abi (0–1)—Ichinojo disappointed on Day 1 by falling back to his old style of sumo. Will he revive the style that he showed us in May? Meanwhile, Abi continues to show that he has only one winning style of sumo, which relies on his long reach and his opponent’s inability to concoct a countering move (which means he’s been losing against top-ranked competition). Which one of these two will figure out a new way to win? (8:50)
Ozeki Goeido (0–1) vs. komusubi Tamawashi (0–1)—Goeido looked great in pre-tournament practice matches, but he looked lost on Day 1. If he gets his head back in the game, he can still save his ozeki rank (all he needs is 8 wins). Meanwhile, Tamawashi looked strong yesterday against Hakuho, but still got literally dumped on his face. He wants a better result today. (10:25)
Komusubi Shohozan (0–1) vs. ozeki Takayasu (1–0)—Shohozan fought tough against Kakuryu yesterday, but came up short. On the other hand, Takayasu looked out of sorts, but managed to beat Kotoshogiku. It’s hard to say what to expect from this match, but they always fight one another tooth-and-nail. (13:00)
Yokozuna Kakuryu (1–0) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (0–1)—These two have faced each other a lot. In fact, this is their fiftieth meeting, with Kakuryu leading their series 27–22. The question is, who will get the upper hand today? (14:10)
M1 Shodai (1–0) vs. Yokozuna Hakuho (1–0)—On Day 1, Shodai showed a lot of strength in beating Goeido, while Hakuho showed a lot of dexterity in beating Tamawashi. The jury is still out on whether the yokozuna can still summon the power that he’s famous for to back up his skillful touch. (15:10)

 

 

SUMO: 2018 Nagoya Basho (Day 1)

Greetings, sumo fans! We survived the long eight-week drought and made it to the big summer tournament in central Japan—the Nagoya Basho is here! Fifteen days of sumo begins here and now, and I for one can’t wait!

To refresh everyone on the results of May’s Natsu Basho, yokozuna Kakuryu won his second yusho [tournament championship] in a row, sekiwake Tochinoshin got 36 wins over the course of three consecutive tournaments and was promoted to ozeki, Hakuho struggled a little due to ongoing problems with his toes, and we saw a big shift in the rankings at the top of the Makuuchi division. This Nagoya Basho will see a bunch of young rikishi at their highest ranks ever, and a few old favorites down toward the bottom of the banzuke [ranking sheet] trying to hold onto their spots in the top division. Sumo really seems to be going through a generational shift that will keep things exciting and unpredictable for the rest of the year, and probably most of next year, too.

The big question here in Nagoya is can Kakuryu win THREE tournaments in a row? My answer is, yeah . . . he probably can. Those of you who have been reading my commentary for a while will know that over the past few years I’ve been pretty down on Kakuryu, saying that “he’s more of a strong ozeki than a real yokozuna,” but this year he’s really proven me wrong. So what’s been the big change? How has Kakuryu managed to improve so much this late in his career?

In my opinion it’s NOT that Kakuryu’s sumo has gotten significantly better—it’s that the competition he’s facing has gotten notably weaker. In 2015–2017, Kakuryu finished most tournaments with only 10 or 11 wins, and usually finished third or fourth behind yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Kisenosato, or yokozuna Harumafuji. Kakuryu would generally lose 2 or 3 matches to rank-and-file rikishi, then lose most or all of the matches against the other top competitors, saddling him with a final record that just eked into double-digit wins. But in the past six months (more, really) Hakuho and Kisenosato have been injured often missing whole tournaments, and Harumafuji has retired. In the meanwhile, Kakuryu has continued to perform the same steady way he has over the past few years, but with those top competitors out of commission, he’s added 2 or 3 extra wins to his record each basho and finished among and atop the leaderboard.

It might seem unkind to say so, but I think it’s true that Kakuryu hasn’t gotten any better, he simply LOOKS better without those others rikishi in the mix—or, more kindly, he suffered by comparison to them, and is showing his real skills now. It also means that since his recent dominance hasn’t been a new “surge” or particular high-water-mark, he may be able to keep up this kind of performance and dominance for another year or two, until age starts to catch up to him or some of the young rikishi finish their maturation process. Until then, it will take Hakuho completely recovering from his toe problems and regaining his full strength, or for one of the ozeki making big strides to knock him out of the top spot.

But, lest you think that Kakuryu’s is the only drama going into this tournament, let’s look at some of those others.

Hakuho has been having a lot of practice bouts leading up to the Nagoya Basho, and it’s possible that he WILL be back full force for this tournament. Back in May, his biggest problem seemed to be his strength. Even as he was winning most of his matches, he wasn’t physically dominating his opponents that way he used to, and he looked tired in the final five days of the basho. That could have just been residual weakness from having been out of action for so long, or it could be that at the age of 33 he’s just starting to decline physically. It will be very instructive to see how he looks in Nagoya, the most physically demanding of the hon-basho because of the brutal heat.

And for the eighth tournament in a row, yokozuna Kisenosato will be kyujo [absent due to injury]. According to some sources (I say that only because I can’t confirm it independently), this is the longest streak of absences for a yokozuna who still remains technically “active.” But the YDC (Yozkozuna Deliberation Council) has given their nod of approval to Kisenosato staying out until he is well and truly healthy. Personally, I think that if he fails to appear in September we’ll begin to hear rumblings about forced retirement. Then if he fails to appear in November, he’ll be given an ultimatum of “you must fight in January, or you must retire.” In any case, he WON’T be fighting in July.

Our two existing ozeki, Takayasu and Goeido, are both kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament because of their losing records in May. They MUST get kachi-koshi [majority of wins] in Nagoya or they’ll lose their rank. Takayasu was injured and so sat out most of the Natsu Basho, and he’s still struggling with nagging arm pain. Meanwhile, Goeido just looked terrible in May and never gave an explanation as to why. Physical ailments are bad enough, but if Goeido’s problems are mental, he’s in real trouble.

Meanwhile, there’s Tochinoshin, the shin-ozeki [newly promoted ozeki]. It’s traditional for a new ozeki to do poorly in his first tournament at the rank. They have a lot of new responsibilities (including congratulatory parties from supporters of his heya, television interviews, and in Tochinoshin’s case, a trip back to his native Georgia to see his family, including his newborn daughter), and that often cuts into their training regimen. Add to that the fact that Tochinoshin pulled his shoulder in training last week, and one wonders if he can keep up the domineering performance that got him the promotion in the first place. 

Both sekiwake, Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, say that they want to follow in Tochinoshin’s footsteps and start their own campaigns for promotion to ozeki. In order to do that, they’ll have to solidly get double-digit wins (they must have 33 wins over the course of three tournaments to secure a promotion), and that’s something they’ve both struggled to do when fighting at a sanyaku rank. 

Wow … and that’s just SANYAKU!

But enough of my blather for Day 1. I’m sure I’ll have other insights to share about the rank-and-file rikishi over the next few days, but in the meanwhile, here are the best of today’s matches.

M14 Kotoeko vs. M13 Asanoyama—This is Kotoeko’s first match as a Maegashira-ranked rikishi, and it’s a doozy! Welcome to the big league, rookie! (1:50)
M6 Endo vs. M5  Yoshikaze—Two fan favorites who always seem to bring out the best in each other. You can usually count on their matches to be fun and hotly contested. (6:55)
M2 Ikioi vs. ozeki Tochinoshin—Tochinoshin’s first match as an ozeki. (9:35)
M2 Kotoshogiku vs. ozeki Takayasu—Ex-ozeki Kotoshogiku did so well last tournament that he’s back ranked among the top dogs again . . . where he was pretty soundly outclassed just a two tournaments ago. We’ll see if he’s got what it takes to hang tough at the top of the banzuke. Meanwhile, Takayasu is coming back from an injury in May and is kadoban, so he needs to get his kachi-koshi as quickly as possible. (10:45)
Ozeki Goeido vs. M1 Shodai—Goeido is also kadoban, so he needs a quick kachi-koshi, too. The thing is, no one knows what was wrong with him in May, so there’s no real telling what signs to look for here (other than pure win/loss performance). He starts off facing Shodai, who seemed like a strong ozeki candidate as he was rising through the ranks, but stalled out and seemed to just tread water over the last year or so. Rumor is that Tochinoshin’s promotion has lit a fire in Shodai’s belly. (12:05)
Komusubi Tamawashi vs. yokozuna Hakuho—Hakuho is said to be in good health, but based on his performance in May, the world is still wondering about his strength and stamina. (13:30)

MEDICAL: Insurance Troubles

I was planning to make a post to let folks know that today’s the day for my cardiac ablation—the procedure I was talking about in my previous medical update. By the time most of you read it, the procedure would probably be done and I could answer questions and show off my newly ablated heart. However, something went awry along the way, and that thing is my medical insurance.

Apparently, the craptastic version that is available to me is only a “limited plan” and doesn’t cover cardiac ablation at all. Period. And since I’m a single person with a decent job, with no dependents, no disabilities, I’m too “rich” to qualify for Medicaid and too young to qualify for Medicare, I also don’t qualify for any of the various kinds of financial assistance that the hospital offers.

I’m in the process of making phone calls, sending emails, and contacting help desks to chase down all the information and options that I can. It’s possible a mistake may have been made somewhere along the line, or that a corner-case exception can be found, in which case we can just reschedule the procedure for a few weeks from now. However, failing that, the only option open to me is to pay for the whole hundred-thousand-plus-dollar procedure out of pocket … or just stall until the open enrollment period for insurance comes around again and hope that miraculously some better option is suddenly on the table.

In the meanwhile, I’ll just be here with a fluttering, fibrillating heart, hoping that my condition remains as benign as it’s been since we discovered it. I mean, as long as I feel well, I can carry on normally. I’ll take my meds and do what the doctors suggest and hope that we figure out a way to take this to the next prescribed step before my situation changes significantly.

I am NOT going to turn this into a rant about the healthcare coverage problem we have here in the U.S. … and really, I’d appreciate if no one did so in the comments, either. I certainly have a lot of very strong feelings on that subject, and I’ve aired them many different places. Right now, though, I don’t want to add that debate to the things that are stressing me out.

What’s On the Drawing Board

Yesterday I made a post about some changes in my schedule, including broadly stating that I was going to devote more time to cartooning and some personal projects. Since I’m doing my best to eliminate vague-booking in my social media, today I’m gonna spill the details. (Well, SOME of the details. I have to leave some kind of mystery to keep you all interested enough to come back for updates.)

First of All, Just Draw!
The most basic thing I’m going to do is set aside some time just to draw—to sketch and doodle without agenda. In high school and even college, this is something I did naturally. Because I was so good at active listening and recalling what I heard, I would doodle in my notebooks rather than take notes. This drove my teachers and parents crazy (not to mention any classmate who wanted to borrow my notebook), but since I was pulling a GPA over 3.75, no one could complain. Because I was consciously concentrating on the instructors, I was drawing only semi-consciously, and all sorts of ideas, proto-designs, story nuggets, and other bits of creative raw material just magically appeared on the pages. Later, I could sort through that material on the weekend or in the evening and actively develop it into usable material.

This whole process continued to work even into my professional career because of how the business world of the ‘80s and ‘90s LOVED long meetings. The more my job transferred from creator to manager, the more meetings I had to attend, and the more raw material I generated. I’m STILL pulling ideas for gag comics, short stories, and other creative projects from those old notebooks.

But in recent years, I’ve stopped having so many meetings. And the ones I do attend usually require my direct participation, so I can’t get into a doodling zone. Because of that, I’m just not generating new ideas much anymore, and THAT is a problem! So I’m going to set aside time once or twice a week for me to go to a café or restaurant or park and just draw.

I’m sure some of the material I generate, perhaps MOST of it, will show up on my Instagram feed as one of the “Today’s Doodle” series. But SOME of it will be good, high quality project seeds or comic gags. Some of it may be images worth developing for use as stickers, or pins, or other salable merch.

Closing Existing Accounts
Over the past year or so I’ve taken on a few drawing projects that have stalled for one reason or another. (Okay, the reason almost invariably has been my available time and energy.) One of the FIRST things I’m going to do is close those accounts. I’ve got two character designs I have to develop, and a story that needs to be illustrated. I’m going to get going on those projects BEFORE I start developing new ones for myself.

Comics! More Comics!
Several times in the past, I’ve done single-panel or strip-style comics regularly. And even though in my early 20s I consciously, purposefully steered my career AWAY from that medium, I find in my 50s that I’m definitely drawn toward it (pun intended). Now, I’ve had some fleeting success in the past couple of decades with the “Bolt & Quiver” strips I did for Dungeon Adventures and Kobold Quarterly magazines, and the “10’x10’ Toon” single panel comics I did for KQ and as a weekly webcomic. Admittedly, the success was “fleeting” mostly because I stopped producing new material, as opposed to the audience losing interest.

Lately, I’m feeling quite motivated to get back into doing comics, and so I’m going to be spending time this month developing a new comic project with an eye toward launching it over the summer. I’m also going to spend some time developing an idea that my friend and business partner Owen K.C. Stephens and I came up with a couple of years ago—and if that goes well, I may launch THAT comic sometime over the summer, too.

Finally, I’m going to take a leap into a new market that I never even considered in the past—I’m going to start developing and submitting comics to The New Yorker. There’s actually a pretty interesting story about how I came to the decision to give this a whirl, and I’ll spin it for your entertainment in another post some time.

Caricature Practice
I’ve never been a particularly good caricaturist. This despite the fact that from a very young age one of my strongest artistic influences was Al Hirschfeld. I can see the impact his line work and minimalist technique have had on my own style. And over the years I’ve tried my hand a caricature on many different occasions. The problem isn’t so much that I’m bad at it, it’s that I’m unpredictable. Sometimes I can really nail a person’s essence, first try, minimal lines. But other times, no matter how long I work, or how detailed a breakdown I use, I just can’t make my drawing look like the person I’m seeing. 

So I’m going to spend some of my time over the next few months practicing caricature. Not the least of this will be by attending a weekend-long caricaturing seminar given by MAD Magazine’s own Tom Richmond. In fact, I’m REALLY looking forward to that seminar! But then I’ll follow up by practicing caricatures of people in the news and actors/characters from newly released movies—something along the lines of the work that Hirschfeld himself did, only for geek culture rather than Broadway theater.

Truth be told, this caricature practice is the work I’m most likely NOT to share. At least, not unless I’m regularly producing images that I’m proud of. 

Step Three: PROFIT!
Since all this cartooning will be done in what’s essentially my “work time,” and since I can’t afford to keep paying myself for that time indefinitely, EVENTUALLY I’ll have to find a way to generate revenue from this work. To that end, I’ve got a few ideas.

FREELANCE: I’m buying my own time for the next couple of months, but after that I’m going to put that time back on the open market. That is, I’m going to make myself available for freelance work, and I’m going to put a PRIORITY on getting cartooning gigs. That might be big as in doing whole projects for game publishers, medium as in doing illustrations or comics for magazines and websites, or small as in taking on individual commissions. I’ll for sure post a price sheet when I’m ready to re-open that particular door.

MERCH: At the end of last year I explored producing a few different items that could be popular as general merchandising. Most notably, I’ve figured a way to produce very nice “fancy pins” of the type that are enjoying a lot of popularity among fandom lately. I’m now looking at what the best way is to bring them out and make them available for purchase. Etsy? Shopify? A completely boot-strapped online store? Anyway, once I figure that out, I can begin trying to build some kind of income stream from the books and other bits of merch I’ve already got—AND start creating more.

PATREON: Some of you will be familiar with Patreon.com. For you, this probably seems like a no-brainer. Of course I should set up a Patreon! But I bet that the majority of folks who enjoy my cartooning still have no idea what Patreon is, and that is something I’ll need to overcome before I can do one successfully.

Why am I being so cagey about it? Because THAT’S going to be the topic of my NEXT blog post, of course! C’mon back soon and learn the details of WHAT a Patreon campaign is, WHY it’s a good fit for me, and HOW I plan to make it happen.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

The other day I made a post giving details for past medical vague-booking, and that got me thinking that there was ANOTHER bit of vague-booking I’ve done that I never got around to explaining. So I guess it’s high time that I did an info dump on what’s going on in my professional life, too.

If I recall correctly, my mysterious post said something about “change being in the air,” with exactly WHAT the change would be remaining undecided. And yeah . . . life was kinda like that for a few weeks. But now it’s all been figured out, and as of today, the plan is being put into action. So here’s the dealio . . .

THE CHANGE THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN
Let’s start with the path that wound up being not taken.

I really like living in the state of Washington in general, and in the greater Seattle area in specific. After spending five years in the San Diego area, I came to realize that the green hills and laid back culture was a much better fit for me, and though I’d enjoyed being in an area where it was 72° and sunny nearly every day of the year, I was just more comfortable in the overcast and cooler Pacific Northwest. However, I’ve always said that for the right job, I’d leave again—I’d just know that when that job had run its course I’d want to return to the PNW as quickly as possible.

About 8 weeks ago, a job like that came onto my radar. It was at a really big digital game publisher (like top of the industry big) and would have put me right in the thick of their physical publishing narrative projects—books, graphic novels, etc. It was a company where I already had friends (including the hiring manager) in an area where I knew lots of people, and it was a high level position. Basically, it was “one of those opportunities,” so I threw my hat into the ring.

No need to make a long story out of this, although I’d have been a good choice for the gig, another highly qualified candidate got the nod. Often in cases like this, people come along and say “tough luck,” or “sorry you didn’t get it,” or “bad beat,” but I have a hard time thinking those apply here. Because in the end, although I didn’t get that particular job, I DO get to stay here in the PNW, which is where I want to be.

Of course, that doesn’t make me immune to other changes. And although I’m not headed down to SoCal again, I can feel the sands shifting beneath my feet.

WHAT’S BEEN UP
For the past two years (and a little bit) I’ve been working as a contractor at Wizards of the Coast. Because it’s been such a long time, and because I’ve had such a nifty title—D&D Producer—it’s been easy for folks to forget (or to never realize) that this has been a contract gig, but it always has been. I was brought in to do a specific task, achieve a specific set of goals, and help out in other ways as needs arose. I’ve helped manage the production of most of the recent D&D products—Tomb of Annihilation, Tales of the Yawning Portal, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes—plus a few that are still upcoming (like the recently announced Dragon Heist and Dungeon of the Mad Mage).

As much as I’ve enjoyed that, and as much as my work has been appreciated, though, it has always been done with the knowledge that the position itself, the seat I was sitting in, was a temporary one. And round about the beginning of this year, it became clear that the need for that temporary seat was lessening. Basically, working together, the team and I have solved many of the problems that required me to be brought on in the first place, which means that many of the tasks that have occupied my time are going away (many of them are gone already).

Of course, there are still some tasks that remain on my desk, and my broad set of skills and experiences makes me a handy guy to have around as a “utility infielder” on the bench. But those things no longer constitute a full-time slice of the pie. So back in January I began working with the team leaders to figure out how much of my time they DID need and how much extra resource they wanted to keep reserved for “on call” availability. It was a more complicated question than anyone really suspected, but in the end we sorted it out.

WHAT’S COMING UP
As of this week and running through the end of the year (and hopefully longer), I’ll still be a contractor at Wizards, but I’ll only be there half-time (about 20 hours a week). I’ll still be performing some key functions—contacting and supervising freelance writers and editors, for instance—and I’ll still be available for work “off the bench.” But slice it any way you want, I am no longer a full-time Wizard.

I’m also still doing rewriting work for Viz Media on various manga titles. (I’m currently working on titles such as Ultraman, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, and the upcoming Record of Grancrest War.) Since starting my gig at Wizards, that work has been on evenings and weekends—now it gets at least partially rolled back into the work week.

But that still leaves a gap in my time and, let’s be honest, my earnings. But I’ve managed to save some money during the past two years, and I’m going to use some of that to pay myself NOT to go immediately back into the freelance pool. I’m going to buy some of my own time to focus it on cartooning projects I’ve had sitting on the backburner for a while (in some cases for years).

Of all the various creative activities I do professionally, cartooning is the one I love the most. It’s also the one I’ve had the least success at (particularly if you measure “success” as “generating enough money to pay the rent,” and I don’t by any means limit my definition to that).

What are these projects? When can you see them? And how do I plan to turn personal projects into an income stream? All very good questions. Questions that I intend to answer in my NEXT blog post, because on top of everything else I’ve got to start giving people a reason to come back to my blog on a regular basis so I can be sure that my family, friends, and fans know about ALL my current and upcoming projects!