Monday, July 31, 2006

The deadliest fish

Fugu (a.k.a. pufferfish) is a delicacy in Japan. Because of the lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin that most species contain, only specially licensed chefs are allowed to prepare and serve fugu.


But that doesn't stop a lot of unlicensed amateurs from preparing, eating, and dying from fugu. No one's sure exactly how many die each year in Japan from fugu. Estimates range from a few to over a hundred. In 1975, famed kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro VIII died soon after eating four servings of fugu liver (which is illegal to serve even for licensed chefs).


The few American restaurants that serve fugu serve farmed fugu, which does not contain any toxins. Nontoxic farmed fugu is now available in Japan, but my prediction is that it will never catch on: Eliminating the possibility of death takes all the fun out of it.



"Hey, Ton'. See these guys next to me? They're sleeping."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Drug to improve parental memory

Experimenting with a class of drugs known as ampakines, researchers found that the drugs appear to "trigger a natural mechanism in the brain that fully reverses age-related memory loss."


The hope is that some day, aged parents will not only remember that one time in 1978 that you brought the car back late—they'll also remember the 1,217 times that you brought the car back on time.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Improving mother-daughter communication

Linguist and author Deborah Tannen offers her insight into why communication between a mother and her daughter sometimes goes south.


As a husband and as a father of a teenage daughter, I've seen this dynamic in action. It ain't pretty.


But, according to Tannen, this is an aspect of family dynamics where we guys can have a stabilizing influence (sort of a like a referee in a title fight).


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Robot nation

This article analyzes the question "Will robot technology help make Japan a world superpower by midcentury?"


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Fake sugar and weight loss

So, if we're consuming more and more artificial sweeteners, why is the nation as whole getting fatter? Here's one possible answer:

Some researchers think artificial sweeteners may actually interfere with our efforts to diet. A 2004 study by psychologists at Purdue University found that when rats were fed artificially sweetened liquids for 10 days, they lost their innate ability to gauge the calorie content of foods containing real sugar.

Of course, there's more to it than that...


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, July 28, 2006

A video game where mellowness is the goal

This has got to be a first: a video game in which the mellowest player wins.



"You cannot win, Grasshopper, until you abandon all concern of losing."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

A British tea entrepreneur in China

In Hangzhou, China, a Guardian reporter talks to Bruce Ginsberg—grandson of a South African farmer who helped popularize rooibos tea—about zen medidation, life in a traditional tea village, and the clash between the old and the new in China.



A photo taken just before Joe's cellphone rang—and was promptly thrown into the water.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tea room shocker!

Here's something I bet no one saw coming: Tea rooms in America are having trouble attracting male customers.


On the other side of the Pacific, however, the Japanese have found an unconventional solution to this problem: maid cafes, which seem like something the late entrepreneur Robert Brooks would have conceived.



The problem with this idea is that you gain male customers but at the expense of the women folk.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Insulin from safflowers

A Canadian company has announced the successful production of commercial quantities of human insulin from bioengineered safflowers.


This is important news for diabetics, because worldwide demand for insulin is increasing relentlessly. By 2010, total demand is projected to rise to 16,000 kg from 5,000 kg in 2005—a 320% increase in only five years.


Here are previous postings about green tea and diabetes.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Boat full of cars flounders

The 654-foot Cougar Ace was on its way from Japan to Canada with 5,000 Japanese automobiles when on Monday it suddenly began taking on water and listing 230 miles south of the Aleutian Islands. The 22 crew members were safely rescued by the Coast Guard.


As of yesterday, the ship was still listing but showed no signs of sinking.



"Hello, Boss? Yeah, it's me. I have some bad news about those five thousand Japanese cars you ordered. It's the darnedest thing. It all started when we were on deck watching some dolphins and we all moved to one side of the ship..."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Japanese cartoon from 1933

Posted to YouTube is a rare find indeed, an 11-minute cartoon made by Toho in 1933:

Title: UGOKIE-KO-RI-NO-TATEHIKI (1933)
(Moving Picture: Fox and Asian Raccoon Tricking Each Other)
Director:Ikuo Oishi

In old Japan, foxes and tanuki (Asian raccoons) were considered to have almost mystical powers of disguise, deception, and trickery. In this cartoon, a fox disguised as a samurai uses its magic against a mother-and-child pair of tanuki at a ruined temple. The drawing style shows the influence of Max Fleischer on early Japanese animation.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Japan underground

Joe Nishizawa has published a collection of photographs of various underground structures in Japan, such as the subway tunnel shown below. The linked-to article includes a brief interview with Mr. Nishizawa.



At that point I said to my traveling companion, "You sure pick the damnedest places to lose a contact, don't you?"


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

The sword versus the gun

The producers of a Japanese TV show took a top-quality samurai sword made by a master swordsmith to the U.S. to see whether it could withstand being shot with a bullet. Will the sword prevail, or will it be snapped in two? See the slow-motion results for yourself below.


Sorry, there are no English subtitles. Also, if playback is jerky, press STOP and wait for the entire file to download, then press PLAY again.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Photos of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923

Swiss photographer Kengelbacher August took these photos of the aftermath of one of the worst earthquakes in Japan's history, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.


Last year I reviewed a book called Confessions of a Yakuza, a true story about old-school yazuka in prewar Tokyo. One chapter contains a harrowing account of the protagonist's escape from a raging, fast-moving fire after the same quake. A hair-raising account indeed.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Pot tea

That's not a typo. I didn't mean to write "tea pot."


No, those crazy Europeans are at it again. This time, they're marketing a kind of tea made with hemp flower syrup, which gives it a trace THC content.


But why even bother with "THC tea" when honest-to-goodness green tea, chock full of mellowness-inducing theanine, will get you relaxed and mellow?


That's why we at Mellow Monk say: Get mellow with something that's green and legal.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You'll know you're old when...

You'll know you're old when, some day in the future, you mention an actress in an old, old movie you recently saw for the first time in years, and your teenaged daughter, or grandson, or niece, etc., says, "Julia Roberts? Who the heck is she?"


But wouldn't that be funny if they had heard of Julia's brother Eric.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Healthy buildings

In her column "Surreal Estate," Carol Lloyd writes about modern office buildings designed to make its occupants healthy—or at least not make them sick.


For instance, the building in the photo below (headquarters of a newspaper company in Shanghai, China) was "designed with a lung that provides it with natural air circulation."


After my last PG&E bill, I can appreciate the significance of design features like that.


There's a slideshow of images like the one below.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zatoichi's mistress

Did you know Zatoichi's mistress was the basis for the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha?


Actor Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997), who played the blind swordsman and masseur Zatoichi in one of the longest movie series in Japanese cinema, had an affair with a real-life geisha named Mineko Iwasaki. In her day, she was the most famous geisha in all of Japan. She entertained President Ford, Queen Elizabeth, and other luminaries.


Long after retiring, Ms Iwasaki was also one of the primary real-life geisha whom Memoirs author Arthur Golden interviewed for his book. In Japan, the film version was heavily criticized by geisha traditionalists, who blamed Iwasaki for what they felt were grievous mischaracterizations of the geisha world. In fact, according to this article in Wikipedia, "Iwasaki received criticism and even death threats for violating the traditional geisha code of silence."


It's hard out there for geisha.


So she did what any self-respecting woman would do under such circumstances: She wrote her own book. To tell her side of the story, of course.




I wonder if she ever said to anyone, "Mister, if you have to ask, then you can't afford it."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kirk does Camelot

It's Captain Kirk meets the Knights of the Round Table!


To appreciate this video, you have to know the original "Star Trek" TV series and the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Even if you're not that familiar with them, this video is still a hoot.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Trendy tea salons

Tea rooms are making a comeback, only now they're called "tea salons." Here is an article about a few such tea salons in the Miami area. From the article:

We're not talking doilies and crustless watercress sandwiches, though there are places in town to have a traditional English tea (see sidebar). We've discovered tea rooms that make you feel you've stumbled onto something truly special -- a Secret Garden-like nook, a hip SoBe haunt, a British market cum nana's drawing room, a tatami-esque lounge, even a Caribbean hideaway.

In other words, the sky's the limit when it comes to today's tea salons. The only requirements are good tea and a relaxing atmosphere.


Of course, if you can't make it to a tea salon, you can always boil up a pot of Mellow Monk green tea and kick back in your living room any time you want. For atmosphere, simply pop in your favorite mellow CD or, if you're old school, vinyl LP.



"Excuse me, Miss. Could you tell me where the Wi-Fi hotspot is?"


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Green tea prevents gallbladder cancer

According to a study published in the June 1, 2006 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, tea drinkers have "significantly reduced risks of biliary stones ... and gallbladder cancer."


The researchers defined "tea drinkers" as those who drink at least one cup of tea each day for at least a 6-month period.


You can read the abstract here or the full article here.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tea tourism

The Indian government wants to capitalize on the explosive popularity of tea worldwide by promoting tea estate tours in Assam, one of the world's most famous tea-growing regions.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Movie review: "Fall Guy"

[Note: The following is my review of a Japanese movie recently released in the U.S. on DVD.]


Fall Guy is an early '80s Japanese film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, the man behind Battle Royale. But don't rent this film simply because you thought BR was a kick-ass film (which it is) and want to see more of the director's work. Fall Guy is about as different from BR as Terminator 2 is from March of the Penguins.


Fall Guy is a comedy-drama, and a silly one at that, but in a very Japanese, almost manga-ish way. The film is set in the 1960s at an unnamed Japanese movie studio where a big-budget samurai film is being made. On the set, a love triangle forms between leading man Ginshiro, his drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend (and fading starlet) Konatsu, and Yasu, a bit-part actor who is a member of Ginshiro's entourage. Yasu, who absolutely worships Ginshiro, works as both a bit player and a stuntman, in an age when no boundary separated the two. Ordinarily, a nobody like Yasu would never even get the time of day from a classy moll like Konatsu, but Ginshiro's scheming brings the incongruous pair together.


One of the extras on the DVD is an insightful interview with Yamane Sadao, Fukasaku's biographer. He points out that the director took on this project after having spent the '60s and '70s making almost nothing but yakuza and samurai flicks. By the dawn of the '80s, Japan's movie studios realized that to reverse their sagging fortunes, they had to make films that appealed to women, not just men. In fact, Fall Guy was essentially Fukasaku's first film to feature a female central character, and it shows: Konatsu's histrionics go a bit over the top, but they somehow fit in with the story's screwball nature.


For Westerners, another potentially annoying element is one on which the whole film hinges—the slavish, masochistic devotion shown by Yasu (played by funnyman Mitsuru Hirata) to Ginshiro. Ginshiro, it turns out, has knocked up Konatsu (Keiko Matsuzaka), but to clean up his playboy image and hopefully salvage his career, he commands Yasu to marry her and tell the world he's the father. Yasu, though feeling completely out of his league, meekly complies. Konatsu is naturally indignant but doesn't know what else to do.


Ginshiro also hits on the idea of convincing the film's backers to restore an elaborate fight scene in which his character's heroics are sure to return Ginshiro to matinee-idol status. The scene, which was to climax with Ginshiro slicing down a bad guy who then tumbles down a ridiculously long, steep staircase, was written out of the script after the bigshot stuntman the studio hired got cold feet. Guess who Ginshiro wants to do the potentially neck-breaking stunt?


The codependent relationship between the subservient Yasu and the sometimes abusive Ginshiro may, to Americans, seem too frustrating to work in a comedy, but it is nevertheless an interesting window on Japanese society. (For better or worse, such codependence is considered a social norm there.) What makes the depiction even more annoying is the filmmakers' apparent affirmation of this extreme codependence. In American cinema, goofy slackers like Jay and his "hetero lifemate" Silent Bob may be good for a laugh, but not if Jay slapped around Bob and his girlfriend and the two of them still came groveling back. Oh, well. Different strokes, as they say.


The famous falling-down-the-stairway scene in Fall Guy was inspired by a real stunt performed for the 1969 Toshiro Mifune flick Shinsengumi (Band of Assassins). The award-winning book on which Fall Guy was based was adapted by the author from his own play. The play, book, and film are all known in Japanese by the title Kamata Koshinkyoku, which literally means "The Kamata March." It's the same name as the real-life company song of Shochiku, whose first major studio was located in, and named after, the Kamata area of Tokyo.


Fall Guy is also one of the few films available on DVD in the States in which you can see famed beauty Keiko Matsuzaka at her peak, before she hit middle age and was immediately relegated to housewife roles. Even in the sometimes outrageous '80s fashions she wears in the film, Keiko is a looker indeed.


Another thing to understand before seeing Fall Guy is how immensely popular the film was in its day. Theatergoers flocked to see it, and the critics loved it. In fact, the movie swept Japan's Academy Awards. All of Japan was imitating Mitsuru Hirata's line about needing all the stunt work he can get because "my you-know-what is you-know-what" (accompanied, in rapid-fire sequence, by the gestures for "wife/girlfriend" and "pregnant"). The movie's theme song got a lot of radio play. So did the hit song heard in the film, Koibito mo Nureru Machikado (The Street Corner Where Even Lovers Get Wet), which you can still hear crooners of a certain (middle) age belting out in Japan's karaoke bars.


Fall Guy was conceived as a nostalgic look back at the frenetic, slapdash moviemaking of the '60s. Now itself a relic of Japanese pop culture of the '80s, Fall Guy is a look back at a look back.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Out of the ashes, an intrepid Brit launches his own tea company

When the tea company where he worked as operations manager burned down and the owners decided to call it quits, plucky Englishman Paul Needham teamed up with the company's former financial controller and started his own tea company.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

The fish who fought blindness

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the eldery, and a recent study shows that eating fish can help prevent this disease.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, July 17, 2006

U.S. tea sales continue to roar ahead

Sales of tea in the United States have tripled in the past 15 years.



The ladies had a nice hearty laugh at green tea newbie Maybell's innocent question: "Do catechins break down in ready-to-drink tea?"


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

How to wake up early

Read a list of tips on how to wake up earlier—as in actually getting out of bed earlier than you already do, as opposed to just setting your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier but then just spending the 30 extra minutes laying in bed. (That doesn't really fulfill that New Year's resolution, now does it.)


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The kamikaze: reluctant warriors

A new book about Japan's kamikaze completely destroys the image of these "suicide warriors" as brave young men who gladly gave up their lives for honor and country. On the contrary, says author Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney in Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers: these young men were often forcibly enlisted, did not necessarily believe in the cause for which they were fighting, and often went to their deaths reluctantly, feeling they had no other choice but to obey their superiors.


From a review in The Economist:


The student soldiers, argues the author, were wantonly sacrificed in the military government's final gambit of the war. She reveals that the tokkotai (“special attack force”, which is what the kamikaze are referred to in Japan) had no volunteers when it was formed in October 1944. Instead, new recruits were either assigned by their superiors or forced to sign up using pressure tactics. No senior officer offered his life for this mission; instead the “volunteer” corps comprised newly enlisted boy-soldiers barely of age and student conscripts from the nation's top universities.

That the image of the kamikaze as uniformly bold and fearless survives to this day is not only because of American wartime propaganda, but because of a "myth of the nationalist hero spun by conservative institutions in Japan."





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

History of sudoku

Many believe (incorrectly, it turns out) that the number puzzle phenomenon known as sudoku hails from Japan, but it actually got its start in New York, took root in Japan, and then came back home to the U.S.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Shocking rainbow picture!

It's not often that you see lightning and a rainbow in the same (non-Photoshopped) picture, but here you are, courtesy of Britain's Daily Mail.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

No more allergies--ever?

Oh, wouldn't it be nice:

Allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever could be snuffed out within five years thanks to pioneering work at The University of Manchester.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cyril's cigarette trick

Here is a video of Cyril, a Los Angeles-born magician who's incredibly popular in Japan, doing a series of sleight-of-hand tricks with a cigarette.


(Yeah, yeah, I know. Cigarettes aren't politically correct here, but that's not nearly the case in Japan, and besides, it's still a pretty nifty series of tricks.)


Here is a previously posted video of him doing magic at a green tea ceremony.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

The Monk sponsors Earth Day Festival at UCSD

Back in April, Mellow Monk sponsored the Green Campus Earth Day Festival at the University of California at San Diego. You can read about it in the May 2006 edition of the campus newsletter [PDF].


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tea ceremony

Eighty-one-year-old Aiko Somi Rodgers has been conducting Japanese tea ceremonies at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Massachusetts, for 30 years. She's seen a lot over the years. For instance:

When members of English royalty once were guests at a tea ceremony in Kyoto, Rodgers related, culture shock briefly roiled the atmosphere of harmony. "The queen made a face" after sipping her tea, Rodgers said, "because she was expecting milk and sugar." At subsequent ceremonies, Rodgers warned English visitors that the Japanese don't use milk or sugar in their tea.

—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Like sudoku, but harder

Pic-a-pix puzzles are a type of "picture logic" puzzle. Like sudoku, the object is to get the numbers right, except that when you do, the result is that the filled-in squares form a picture.






—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Help for the punctuality-challenged

How much stress in your life would you say is due to your own lateness and procrastination, or to the lateness and procrastination of the people in your life?


If the percentage is significant, then you may want to consider getting or gifting a book like Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged.


I haven't read it, but the reviews are nearly universally good. And I can think of quite a few people who could stand to read it.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

20 things about sleep

Here are 20 things you may not know about sleep.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

My favorite sudoku site

I should say "my wife's favorite sudoku site," since she's the one into sudoku. The site not only has free sudoku puzzles but also offers different types of puzzles and levels of difficulty, and even allows you to generate large, printer-friendly PDFs for offline puzzle-solving.


See my previous postings on sudoku here.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Don't fear the fever

People sometimes get all worked up about the slightest of fevers, but here is an article explaining why a fever isn't necessarily a bad thing—it's a sign that our body is fighting "invaders".


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Getting less sleep than you thought?

A study shows that Americans are getting less sleep than they think—only 6.1 hours a night in the case of the 669 middle-aged participants in this study.


This information should not, however, be taken as a cause for alarm. I have a feeling we all get less sleep than we think, especially if the definition of sleep does not include activities such as watching the last 15 minutes of a movie in bed.


(What I want to know is whether they counted the time people spent half-awake after hitting the snooze bar for the first time but before actually getting out of bed.)


But if you'd be surprised by how much sleep you're actually getting, then that may be a good thing—it means you're getting enough sleep. Insomnia, they say, is largely a state of mind: If you're stressing about not getting enough sleep, then you've got a problem, regardless of whether the amount of sleep you're getting is actually enough to maintain good health.


If you're having trouble sleeping at night, I'm not going to dispense medical advice, because insomnia can be a serious problem. Then again, I started sleeping better —here I get a little plug in for Mellow Monk—when I switched from coffee to green tea.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Monday, July 10, 2006

100-year-old Tea

The town of Tea in South Dakota recently commemorated the 100th anniversary of its founding. The festivities included, of course, mud volleyball. And some tea-related activities, too.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Japan's singing cowboy protests his firing

Every morning since he was fired from his job 25 years ago for refusing to take part in mandatory callisthenics, Tetsuro Tanaka has shown up at the company entrance to sing protest songs.


Which shows how tolerant Japan is of the more eccentric members of its society.


Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to that chainsaw-wielding guy.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Godzilla's tea kettle

Here's an old newspaper clipping about what has to be the largest tea kettle ever made.


Somehow, I doubt this gimmick ever got off the ground (literally): Filled to capacity with 20 gallons of water, the kettle would weigh 175 pounds.



Said a contemporary newspaper reader, "Someday they'll come up with a better way to doctor photographs."


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

How to live a long and healthy life (but not forever)

The field of life-prolonging research is full of quackery, such as:

Aubrey de Grey of the University of Cambridge, in England, ... favours intervening directly to repair the changes in the body that are caused by ageing. This is an approach he dubs “strategies for engineered negligible senescence”. In other words, if ageing humans can be patched up for 30 years, he argues, science will have developed sufficiently to make further repairs more effective, postponing death indefinitely.

But research is showing that emotional well-being—especially our emotional support network—is an important determinant of how "successfully" we age:

Older people who engage in a lot of social interactions stay young for their chronological age, argues John Rowe, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Research has shown that people who receive emotional support not only have higher physical performance than their isolated counterparts, but also that they show lower levels of hormones that are associated with stress.

—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Creepy origami

Don't squash 'em—they're not real monsters.


They're not dried-out deep sea creatures found in a museum basement, either. These are actually paper art made by Japan's Hajime Emoto.





I apologize for the wait, Monsieur. Here is your Chef's Surprise.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Japan's Takeru Kobayashi wins another one

"Another what?" you say? You mean you weren't glued to the TV watching the Annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th?


Alright, I wasn't, either.


Winning the competition for the sixth year in a row was Japan's Takeru Kobayashi. Not only did he win, but he broke the world's record (which he himself had previously set), eating 53 3/4 HDBs (hot dogs and buns—there's an acronym for everything) in the 12-minute limit.


So, next time your significant other glares at you for scarfing down a package of Oreos (not that I'd ever do such a thing), tell him or her that you're in training.



Only after winning his sixth hot dog-eating contest did his mother finally forgive him for dropping out of school to become a competitive eater.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Nintendo releases "Brain Age" in U.S.

Previously, I wrote a couple of postings about the brain-training game and software that Nintendo had released in Japan. (Or have we all completely forgotten about that already?)


Now, Nintendo has released a version for the American market called
Brain Age.



If you're 45 years old and score a brain age of 12, that probably means you've been watching too many movies based on Marvel comic books


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The true balance isn't between "work and home" but "outer and inner life"

We often hear of achieving a balance between work and home as the key to an all-around healthy, stress-free life, but author Douglas LaBier states that

people are framing the problem incorrectly. There is no way to balance work and home, because they exist on the same side of the scale -- what I consider the "outer" part. On the other side of the scale is their personal, private life -- the "inner" person. I encourage clients not to think about balancing work life and home life, but to balance outer life and inner life.

This is my favorite line from the article:

[A man] was debating whether to leave an out-of-town meeting early, which would be difficult, to be home for his daughter's 18th birthday. I asked him the simplest question: Which choice would he be more likely to feel good about at the end of his life?

—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Fair trade: changing Indian tea planations

The international fair trade movement is changing the lives of workers on Indian tea plantations for the better.


Although not officially certified as such, Mellow Monk tea is fair-traded in that we buy directly from the grower at the grower's stated price. We do not buy from wholesalers, warehousers, or any other middlemen. Selling directly to a retailer like us allows the seller to sell at the market price. In other words, the growers, not wholesalers, have more power over what "market price" is.


In fact, the Nagata Family, the growers who supply Mellow Monk tea, sell only to other retailers, such as local tea shops and department stores. We are the only retailer outside of Japan to whom they sell their tea.



Sprawling Indian tea plantations like this one are self-contained worlds unto themselves


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy birthday, America!



—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Cafe haiku: book and website

Here's a book to put you in a mellow mood: Cafe Haiku, by Zenbu Nometa (text) and Jeffrey Goldsmith (photographer). It's a collection of haiku mostly having to do with coffee, coffee houses, and related themes. (There's a tie-in website here.)


I really liked this haiku from the book:


Enjoy this moment.

No matter how still we sit,

time passes quickly.

Just substitute "green tea" where you see "coffee" or "espresso" in the book!

What do you mean "girdle"? This isn't a girdle. It's functional underwear.

Here's an unexpected story about Japan—the guys in Japan, that is.


Japan's undergarment manufacturers are selling more and more girdles for men.


Of course, no one calls them "girdles." If a man buys it, it's not a "girdle." It's "underwear with tummy-flattening, posterior-compressing design features."


Think that's strange? Then you ain't seen nothing' yet. Check out the iPod underwear.


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A samurai's 360-year-old will is found

In Kyushu, the Yatsushiro Municipal Museum on June 27 announced it had found in its collection a will written in 1644 by the lord of Yatsushiro Castle, who had just sent a letter of protest to his feudal lord, for which he fully expected to be ordered to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. (The guy had a lot of guts—rimshot!)


The castle lord, Matsui Yoriyuki, had written Hosokawa Mitsunao, lord of the Hosokawa Clan, to protest being denied the military rank held by his family for generations, including his father, who had just announced his retirement.


Historians aren't sure why Yoriyuki was denied the promotion, "but it must have been important enough to his family to risk dying for," said a museum representative.


Lord Hosokawa must have been impressed with this display of courage, because Yoriyuki not only survived but later went on to serve as karo, a top-ranking samurai official, in the shogunate.


A photo of the actual will is shown below. You can see a close-up of another piece of Yoriyuki's writing here.





—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Reader's question about Okinawan tea

A reader wrote in with an interesting question, so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

Dear Mellow Monk,

I found this page from a Google ad. The "Rare Okinawan Slimming Tea" looks bogus, but I wonder what's really in it? Have you ever heard of it?

Mary

Hi, Mary.

The ad says this Okinawan tea is "green tea with jasmine" ... meaning it's simply green tea with jasmine, a very commond blend. Chemically speaking, green tea is green tea. All green tea is from the same species of plant (Camellia sinensis). Although there are thousands and thousands of varieties, none of them has a "secret" weight-loss compound that can't be found in any other variety.

Having said that...

Green tea, although not a miracle weight-loss drug, can help you lose weight. Here are some of my blog postings about green tea and weight loss.

I hope this helps. You know the old saying ... if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Take care,
Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)

Sudoku and crosswords: a cultural comparison

This long cultural analysis of the differences between crossword puzzles and Sudoku, Japan's number puzzles, isn't very kind to the latter. Crossword aficionados are quoted calling Sudoku "a total negation of crossword culture ... [requiring] no knowledge of trivia or history, no literary bent." It's something you can play even if you're "completely illiterate." Ouch.


On the other hand, in a jibe at the crossword crowd, the author writes, "Sudoku doesn't care what you know, smarty-pants" and quotes Wayne Gould, the man who introduced Sudoku to the West, as saying, "It's not what you know—it's how you think. That's what Sudoku tests."


Sudoku is the product of a country—Japan—whose education system places a lot of emphasis on mathematics. Puzzle-oriented people there naturally gravitate to games like Sudoku.


Sudoku is escapism, like watching TV, but unlike TV, which is passive, Sudoku is also a workout for the brain. Considering some of the time-killers out there, such as catching up on the latest news about TomKat or Brangelina (I had to look up those spellings, by the way), Sudoku isn't a bad way to pass the time at all.


You can play Sudoku online here.



"Geek? Who you callin' a geek?"


—Mellow Monk


Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
Bookmark this blog
Subscribe to the blog feed (RSS)