Monday, March 31, 2008

Old sketches of old Japanese toys

BibliOdyssey has highlights of the Ningyo-Do Bunko Database of late 19th and early 20th century Japanese watercolor sketches of toy designs.



Sketch of a paper octopus.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yazawa Eikichi, Japan's Elvis

I wouldn't use the phrase "Elvis of Japan" lightly, but Eikichi Yazawa is certainly worthy of the title.


Yazawa got his start in the early '70s and is still going strong today. One of his secrets is that he is a one-man music industry—a singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, publicist, marketing department, and road manager all rolled up in to one. He has never depended on any single producer but instead has a knack for inspiring the musicians around him to create the rock 'n' roll sound he envisions.


Here are a few clips of Yazawa—or "Ei-chan," as fans know him—on stage in the U.K. and Japan, singing in English and Japanese.


"Don't be Cruel"





"Flesh and Blood" (in Japanese)





"Rockin' My Heart" (1982)






"Pure Gold" (in Japanese)








Eikichi Yazawa at the Budokan.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 28, 2008

The secret to happiness: good health, giving, and green

Waaaay back in the days of black-and-white TV, Jack LaLanne — the "immortal fitness sensei" — talked about the secret to happiness, and his advice still rings true today:





Another secret to happiness is giving:

Think you'd be happier if you won the lottery or just had a few extra bucks in your pocket? Think again. Overturning classic economic wisdom, new research shows that it's not how much you have that matters, it's how you spend it. People who donate their dollars to charities or splurge on gifts for others are more content than those who squander all the dough on themselves.

Another thing that can contribute to your sense of well-being is — yes, you guessed it — green tea.



"Those who donate are happier than those who do not."


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 27, 2008

More meditation videos & music

Here's a plan for a 15-minute stress-busting meditation break:


First, brew a cup of green tea. Once the leaves have steeped for 3 to 5 minutes, remove the leaves from the water. (Or, if you're brewing in a teapot, pour a cup of tea from the pot.) While waiting for the tea to cool, play the first video. Keep your eyes closed and focus on the music. Try to smell the tea that's cooling.


When the first video is done, have a few sips of tea. Between sips, breathe deeply. When you've finished about half of the tea, start the second video.


Close your eyes and relax again. Focus on the music, on the taste of the tea in your mouth, on the warm feeling of the tea in your belly.


When the 2nd video is over, finish the rest of your tea, then stand up and stretch your arms above your head.


Don't you feel better?







—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green tea helps you burn fat faster

A study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that drinking green tea before exercising increases the amount of fat burned during exercise by making more of it available as fuel.

This study is the first to show that green tea extract can increase the amount of fat burned during moderate-intensity exercise. The researchers observed a 17 percent greater fat contribution to total energy expenditure during exercise when the extract was taken, compared to taking a placebo.

You can read the abstract of the study here.





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Green tea, the superfood

At the AARP Magazine website, green tea appears [look in the column on the right-hand side of the linked-to page] on the list of "superfoods" named by Dr. Toni Bark, director of the Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal.


And drinking green tea is better for you than taking green tea extracts. Says Dr. Bark: "Your body will absorb vitamins better through foods than through supplements. ... Diet is the basis of our building blocks."



Why, look who's on the cover.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 22, 2008

When it comes to treating heart attack victims, have we been getting it backwards?

This is the most interesting science news story I've read in quite a while. Simply put, this is a fascinating development.

When a person has a heart attack on the street, by the time he reaches the emergency room, his body has been deprived of oxygen for an average of 15 minutes. Doctors have always assumed that by this point, heart and brain cells and other cells in the body are past the point of resuscitation.

But it turns out not to be the case:
That dogma went unquestioned until researchers actually looked at oxygen-starved heart cells under a microscope. What they saw amazed them, according to Dr. Lance Becker, an authority on emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "After one hour," he says, "we couldn't see evidence the cells had died. We thought we'd done something wrong." In fact, cells cut off from their blood supply died only hours later.

But if the cells are still alive, why can't doctors revive someone who has been dead for an hour? Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed.
The reason for this phenomenon has to do with a cell's "power plants," the mitochondria:
Mitochondria control the process known as apoptosis, the programmed death of abnormal cells that is the body's primary defense against cancer. "It looks to us," says Becker, "as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."
The key to improving post-heart-attack survival, then, is not getting the victim oxygen as quickly as possible:
Instead, Becker says, we should aim to reduce oxygen uptake, slow metabolism and adjust the blood chemistry for gradual and safe reperfusion.


The mitochondrion, the cell's power plant.

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Reciting pi to 100,000 decimal places

From the "Pi Across America" website:

π On October 4, 2006, Akira Haraguchi, a 60 year old Japanese mental health counselor who lives near Tokyo, recited pi to 100,000 decimal places from memory. It took him fourteen and a half hours. Haraguchi is seeking to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records which at the time, listed Hiroyuki Goto also of Japan, as the record holder having recited 42,195 pi decimal places from memory in February of 1995.


Click on the photo to read more about how he did it.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rare ibis seen in Aso, Japan

Reporters and birders in Japan have been flocking [pun intended] to Aso to see a kurotoki, or black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), a species rarely seen in Japan. (Its normal habitat is China and Southeast Asia.)


According to this news video [in Japanese only], this individual ibis first appeared in Aso last fall and has been seen in the area almost daily ever since. "He's like a member of the family now," says the woman interviewed.


The news report also says that although the bird seems to have an injured leg, it can still fly and feed itself, so the local branch of the Wild Bird Society of Japan (Yacho no Kai) has decided not to capture it for protective purposes.


The kurotoki ("black toki") is not to be confused with the crested ibis, or just plain toki, which was once common throughout Japan but long ago disappeared from the country's skies. Captive breeding efforts using birds from China are attempting to save the crested ibis from extinction and re-introduce it to Japan.



The rare bird. (Click on the photo to watch the video.)


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Green tea lemonade—spiked!

This is too late for St. Patrick's Day, but here goes anyway . . .


One of the signature cocktails at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley, California, is spiked green tea lemonade:

Signature drink: Green tea lemonade ($8.75), made with Charbay green tea vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water; raspberry lemon drops flavored with Chambord ($9.25); and refreshing cucumber margaritas ($9.50) are solid choices. Also try the usual suspects, like a mojito or Negroni.


Bartender Kelly Phu pours a cocktail at Bungalow 44. She also makes a mean spiked green tea lemonade.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Photoethnography of Japan

One of the online exhibits at Karen Nakamura's Photoethnography.com is a collection taken at Japan's Tsukiji fish market, one of the world's largest.


Also note that there are multiple pages of photos in this collection, so if you like what you see on the first page, be sure to click the "next" button to see pages 2 and beyond.



An fish auctioneer at work.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 17, 2008

Green tea can help you lose weight

Green tea makes yet another list of foods that help you lose weight:

Recent clinical trials at the University of Geneva suggest that green tea can help you lose weight. Researchers believe that compounds in the tea called catechins increase metabolism, helping your body to burn fat more quickly. Taken without milk or sugar, the tea has no calories.

And by the way, you most definitely do NOT want to add milk to your green tea. But citrus juice, on the other hand, actually boosts the benefits of green tea.



Another way that green tea can help you lose weight—by picking it.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Human Tetris

This TV show clip isn't subtitled, but subtitles aren't really needed: Contestants try to pass through strangely shaped openings in moving walls—or get knocked into a pool of water.






—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Meditation video: crashing waves

This is wonderful—a 14-minute video of waves crashing against the shore. That's it; nothing more.


So tune yourself out from the world and either gaze at the screen or close your eyes and listen to the relaxing sound of the waves as you focus on deep, deliberate breathing and on gradually relaxing all your muscles.


Remember—the secret to relaxing through meditation is getting used to doing and thinking about nothing.


The full-size version of the video is available here.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yosakoi!

Yosakoi is a style of Japanese festival dancing performed during the season of Obon. "Yosakoi" literally means "Come at night" in the Tosa dialect of Japanese, which is spoken in what is today known as Kochi Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku.


Yosakoi began in 1954 as a modern version of the centuries-old Awadori dance style, which originated in neighborning Tokushima Prefecture ("Awa" is the old name for Tokushima), so you could say that Yosakoi is a modern, "citified" (but still very Japanese) version of a traditional rural dance.


After its inception, Yosakoi gradually spread throughout Japan, and today there is even a Yosakoi festival held in Tokyo's über-trendy Harajuku district.


The historical Tosa area is significant as the birthplace of Sakamoto Ryoma, a hero of the Meiji Restoration. His statue is prominently displayed at Katsurahama beach, near the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum.



From the 51st Yosakoi festival in 2004 in Kochi.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hardware Wars, the original "Star Wars" parody

Here it is, in two parts, "Hardware Wars," the first-ever "Star Wars" parody. This was made soon after the first "Star Wars" movie came out, and it's still funny today.


The voice-over was done by voice actor Paul Frees, who dubbed Toshiro Mifune in many of his English-language films as well as dubbed versions of Mifune's Japanese films.


So boil yourself up a pot of tea, kick back, relax, and prepare to "laugh, cry, and kiss three bucks goodbye."



Hardware Wars - Part I





Hardware Wars - Part II




—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Green tea tastings and lessons in Texas

If you live in or will be traveling through the Fort Worth, TX area on March 15 or 16, you can stop at Weston Gardens to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with green tea lessons and tastings.


Weston Gardens bills itself as offering "English gardens Texas style."


And while we're on the topic of tea in Texas, the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden (more here) reopened on March 8 after a big renovation.



One of the many demonstration gardens at Weston Gardens.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Meditation tip: imagine you've been buried alive

Meditation is a great way to unwind after a rough day. But a lot of folks have trouble getting started — they find it hard to relax, or hard to focus on their breathing, for instance.


Well, a construction worker in China went through a horrifying episode, and his survival tactic provides the rest of us with a scenario to visualize in our minds. It seems an effective scenario for forcing yourself to relax your muscles, slow your breathing, and calm your mind.


The scenario is this: You've just been buried alive in a cave in. Your only air is the air in the helmet that just happened to be pressed around your face by the earth covering you.


To survive, you've got to stay calm, relax, and slow your breathing. Panic, and you'll run out of air before your coworkers can dig you out.


Now that's powerful motivation to destress.



Meditation can save your life in more ways than one.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 07, 2008

Skip breakfast and gain weight

Did you eat breakfast today?


A study done by the University of Minnesota has found that "[t]eens and adolescents who eat breakfast every day are less likely to become overweight or obese in the near future and they typically lead a more active, healthier lifestyle than their peers who skip breakfast."



Hey, Junior, that citrus juice is a great thing to add to your green tea.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sip hot tea while soaking your tired feet

The Japanese have always enjoyed a nice hot soak, whether it's at home in the bathtub, at a public bathhouse, or at a natural hot spring tucked away in the mountains.


A new variation on this theme is the "foot-bath cafe," where customers take a load off and sit with their feet in nice warm water while they have a nice cup of tea.


If you can't find a foot-bath cafe in your neck of the wood, you could always make your own.



Enjoying a refreshing foot soak.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lost America

"Lost America " is a collection of nighttime photographs of modern-day ghost towns and other abandoned buildings and facilities in the American West.


Although slightly creepy in a last-man-on-Earth-movie kind of way, these pics are still fascinating and perfect viewing for a green tea break.


By the way, to see more photos you may have missed previously, click on "photographs" under "Labels" below.



Are you sure it's really ... empty? [Cue evil laughter.]


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Japan's hot-tubbing monkeys

Humans aren't the only ones who've discovered the pure bliss of a nice, hot soak in a natural hot spring. The length and breadth of Japan are dotted with hot springs thanks to the country's many volcanoes, and wild macaque monkeys (or "minkeys," as Inspector Clouseau would say) can be seen bathing in natural hot springs in places such as Nagano.


Another example of hot-spring aficionados in Japan's animal kingdom are the famous hot-spring-bathing capybaras of Ito City.



Movie-star monkeys pose for pictures.



This hot-spring inn is for humans only.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 03, 2008

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

The story came out last year but for some reason has now been rediscovered because of the oh-so-clever headline.


The story has nothing at all to do with "Star Wars" but instead is about a high-wire festival in South Korea, in which contestants vied for a $15,000 prize for the speediest crossing of a wire strung across the Han River.



He's crossing the Han (River) solo. Get it?


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Citrus juice boosts green tea's antioxidents

Adding citrus juice to your green tea increases the amount of EGCG and other green tea antioxidants that make it into your bloodstream. It seems that the vitamin C or something else in the juice binds to the antioxidant molecules and protects them during digestion.


So the British custom of putting lemon in black tea and the Japanese custom of putting pieces of orange peel in a pot of green tea could be rooted in ancient knowledge of the health benefits involved. Pretty cool!



No, we said green tea!


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Does relaxation, not stress, make us sick?

The term is "leisure sickness," and the theory behind it is counterintuitive to say the least: It's not hard work and stress that make us vulernable to cold and flu viruses, but rather downtime that makes us sick.


The evidence cited by proponents of this theory boils down to this: Look at how often people get sick while they're off work.


Many are skeptical of this theory—including yours truly. I don't doubt the correlation between vacation time and getting sick, but I think the explanation has less to do with psychology and more to do with the reality of downtime: When we're off work, we're more likely to, say, get together with friends and family we don't see every day, or go places we don't normally go. In short, we're more likely to be exposed to new viruses and whatnot when we're off work.



Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where the cited study was performed.


—Mellow Monk


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