Hari-Kuyo

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Kimono-makers laid their old needles to rest during the “hari-kuyo” needle festival at Buddhist temples all over Japan at the beginning of February, sticking them into soft chunks of tofu bean curd to thank them for their hard work.

Japan’s throwaway culture can rival that of any Western country, but at the Sensoji temple in central Tokyo, dozens of women in jewel-coloured kimonos honoured their broken tools with the 400-year-old rite.

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Do I Really Need Two Phones?

Bryan Timlin always carries an iPhone and an Android phone.

The 57-year-old is an app and graphic designer with a Michigan company called OptHub, but he doesn’t carry two phones for work. He carries the iPhone because that’s what he likes, and he carries the Android because it’s what he needs.

The Android phone monitors his behavior. Five years ago, Timlin was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by four or more manic or depressive episodes a year. Some episodes, he says, can last as long as eight weeks. “Being bipolar is like jumping out of an airplane knowing you don’t have a parachute on,” he says. “You know you’re going to be hurt, but the high is so euphoric that it’s worth the risk. You can deal with the consequences later.” With his Android phone, he hopes to deal with these moments in other ways.

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An Approach To Combat Right Wing Extremism

I found the inspiration for this article on an Israeli news site. Knuckle-draggers seem to be on the ascendancy in mainstream politics and in extremist politics. Since the 1990s, neo-Nazi demonstrators invade the village of Wunsiedel in south Germany every November to commemorate the National Heroes’ Remembrance Day by visiting the grave of Adolf Hitler’s Deputy, Rudolf Hess, which was located in the village until it was dissolved in 2005 when the lease agreement ran out.

The almost 1,000 inhabitants of Wunsiedel have been trying to stop these demonstrations every time, to no avail. They held counter demonstrations and formed action groups dedicated to tolerance, commitment and moral courage.

57026880990100640360noThis year Wunsiedel gave it another try – with a completely new approach. Even though the number of neo-Nazis decreased after reaching its peak in 2004 with 4,500 protesters, and they were repeatedly barred by the courts from holding their demonstration.

Instead of taking the neo-Nazis seriously, this time they decided to play a prank on them. Under the slogan “Right against right: (“rechts gegen rechts”), Wunsiedel’s residents gave the neo-Nazis’ march a new purpose.

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Thoughts On Wu Wei

In Chinese culture, the benefit of not trying too hard—of “going with the flow” or “being in the zone”—has long been appreciated by me. The jazz great Charlie Parker is said to have advised as­piring musicians, “Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.” This same openness is also crucial in acting and other performing arts, which fundamentally rely on spontaneity and seemingly effortless responsiveness. A stand-up comedian who is not in the zone is not funny, and an actor who is not fully inhabiting his or her role comes across as wooden and fake. Explaining how to prepare for a role, the actor Michael Caine cautions that simply memorizing the script and trying to act it out step by step will never work; when it comes time for your line, the only way to bring it off authentically is to not try to remember it. “You must be able to stand there not thinking of that line. You take it off the other actor’s face. He is presumably new-minting the dialogue as if he himself just thought of it by listening and watching, as if it were all new to him, too. Otherwise, for your next line, you’re not listening and not free to respond naturally, to act spontaneously.”

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Kewl!

Old Mix, New Post

Sunday Morning Mix by Mixmaster Tons Of Fun on Mixcloud

The above is the first mix I made public.

It dates back to around a year ago. I had both dillied and dallied with Mixcloud for sometime – never set on a specific formula. However, I figure I would rather just use this account as opposed to the numerous ‘professional’ accounts that I had dotted about.

It is nothing special – I think I just used Garageband or some such software – not really DJ’ing. But, still, it is quite awesome.

If you have anything to say about it please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.

Electrotheremin

My wife has a Theremin. Theremins are associated with the Beach Boys and as a cheesy sound effect used for UFOs in sci-fi movies from decades ago, although actually in both cases the instrument in question is actually a Tannerin, otherwise known as an electrotheremin, which is far easier to manipulate to get the desired tones—that was developed by Paul Tanner, trombonist with the Glenn Miller Band.

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Hygge

After Denmark banned the non-consensual act of sexual violence against animals, it dropped the moniker of ‘happiest nation’ – however: can ‘hygge’ can help you get through winter. The vague cultural concept doesn’t translate easily into English, but it has helped Denmark become the ‘happiest country on Earth’ despite long, dark winters.

Denmark was the happiest country on Earth, according to the United Nations in 2013, which may seem odd for a small, subarctic kingdom where the winter sun often sets before 4 p.m.

Yet Danes are almost defiantly merry. Not only did their country rank No. 1 in both 2013’s U.N. World Happiness Report (WHR) and the inaugural 2012 edition, but it has topped the European Commission’s well-being and happiness index for 40 years in a row.

So what’s behind all this boreal bliss? It’s partly a regional phenomenon, since the U.N. also lists Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden among its five happiest countries, along with nearby Switzerland and the Netherlands. But Denmark stands out even in euphoric Northern Europe, suggesting the country has an emotional ace up its sleeve.

Denmark isn’t short on reasons to be happy. Its population is only about 2 percent of the United States’, but its per capita gross domestic product is four spots ahead of the U.S. at No. 6 in the world. Its citizens enjoy easy access to health care, low crime, high gender equality and relatively clean air (half of Copenhagen residents commute by bicycle). They also get at least five weeks of paid vacation per year, which probably helps morale.

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