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Eroica: How I met Beethoven’s Third September 19, 2009

Posted by Matsu in Japan, Music, Random.
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As I was saying, just before I took a break from my blog, Beethoven’s Third Symphony is by far my favorite of all of his symphonies. Why? I’m glad you asked. I want to tell you the story of how I fell in love with the Eroica Symphony.

Title Page of the Eroica Symphony

Title Page of the Eroica Symphony

As some of you know, I grew up in Japan. I was born in America, but my parents took me to Japan when I was only about six months old. Being a native speaker of the English language had its advantages in a land where many of the young professionals aspire to learn to speak English. And, to the advantage of many teenagers in my day, most of the Japanese professionals who studied English had all of the book-learning they needed but they lacked the ability to properly pronounce English words. They needed help with their pronunciation. The best way to do that was to pay an American kid (at kid’s wages) to practice spoken English. So, at approximately $25 per hour, I worked a couple of hours a week with a thirty-something Japanese businessman who struggled to speak English in a way that American’s could understand.

From time to time, I was asked to record a reading of some book or manuscript (usually a presentation of some sort to be delivered at an international conference) so the “student” of mine could then play it over and over while practicing their own pronunciation of the text.

Cassette Tape

Cassette Tape (Side A)

One day, when I was about 16 years old, the person who I was giving English speaking lessons to asked me to read and record the play, Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller. That particular play was a favorite of the person I was instructing at the time. And, as often happened, he provided me with a used cassette tape to use for the recording. I had done this many times before, so it all seemed very commonplace to me at that time.

A few days after getting the recording assignment I placed the used cassette tape into my tape recorder and rather than start recording right away, I hit the play button. I’m not sure if it was a matter of curiosity or just a habit from playing so many tapes (at that time all of my music mixes were on cassette tapes, so I was playing them all the time).

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

What surprised me was the sound of an orchestra playing something that I didn’t recognize. After just a few bars, I was hooked. I let it play all the way through, which meant that I listened to the entire first side (side A) and flipped it over to listen to the other side. As it played, I was mesmerized. It just got better and better as it played. And, if you know Beethoven’s Third, it ends strong. That ending really got to me. I took the tape out and made note of the handwritten label that read, “Eroica.”

After listening to the tape a couple more times, I decided to keep the old tape and recorded my reading of the Death of a Salesman on a new cassette tape (something the student didn’t mind since I exchanged a new tape for his old used one). And, that’s how I met Beethoven’s Third.

You must understand, as a teenager I was not “into” classical music. Sure, I’d heard various classical pieces and had even been to the Tokyo Philharmonic Symphony to hear them play (it was required, not my choice). But my preferred type of music at that age was totally contemporary. Some of my favorite bands at the time were bands like America, Genesis, Eagles, Chicago, Boston, and Moody Blues (isn’t it funny that bands took on American cities for their name?). Okay, Dan Sims, I’ll admit that I also had a Bread album or two, but I didn’t listen to them that much! I mostly listened to 70’s rock and roll. So, it was really surprising to me that I actually enjoyed this random piece of classical music.

I can’t explain it, but even to this day when I hear even just a part of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, my ears perk up and I recognize it. If you are not familiar with it, you can listen to the entire 3rd symphony on YouTube. The two embedded videos below are the two halves of the same symphony. If you only listen to one, you might choose the second half (though I really like the opening few bars of the first half – it grabs you with the first note and after that it’s just a wonderful ride). Enjoy!

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Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony – Part 1:

Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony – Part 2:

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Amusing Sushi Bar Etiquette Video December 17, 2008

Posted by Matsu in Fun, Humor, Japan.
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A friend posted a link to this YouTube video on Facebook.

If you have ever lived in Japan you will pick up on all of the hidden meanings behind it, but even if you have never even visited Japan you should pick up on much of the humor. Trust me, this is a very satirical look at the Japanese sushi bar.

Disclaimer: Please don’t believe what you see in this video or use this actually learn proper sushi etiquette. If you do, you are totally on your own!

See your reflection in others July 2, 2008

Posted by Matsu in Family, Friends, History, Humor, Japan, Photography, Weblog.
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Dr. Bacchus ReflectionIt is interesting how much one learns of themselves by interacting with others. Yes, by interacting with people around you it helps you see yourself better and therefore you end up knowing yourself.

In the past several years I’ve worked with a person who has brought into focus the amount of influence my upbringing has affected my personality and character. I grew up in Japan. In fact, I spent most of the first 18 years of my life there, with the exception of three times when we lived in America for a year each time while on furlough. Well, the oriental influence on me is inescapable. And, this co-worker has been like a highly reflective mirror and given me a better view of myself and how I’ve been shaped by the oriental influences of my childhood.

One of the characteristics of oriental society is subtle communication. So, when I saw this photo posted on the Kyoto Daily Photo blog, I laughed out loud. It typifies how subtle the Japanese people can be, and by extension, how I am at times. The theme for the July 1st daily photo blog photos is “no.” The assignment is to take photos of signs that say “no” or “not permitted.” So, the photo of a walking path of large stepping stones with a single smaller stone sitting atop the first step means, “do not enter,” in the social language of Japan. That is a wonderful example of how small and subtle communication is in Japan — and while it’s subtle, I find it also to be crystal clear and almost obvious. But, that’s just because I think in those same terms.

So, thank you Bert for giving me a better view of myself and through that awareness, making this photograph that much more meaningful and amusing.

Disclaimer: The photo used in this post has nothing to do with the Kyoto Daily Photo blog. I wanted to use the stone path photo, but I didn’t have permission. Therefore, I found a good friend’s photo on the Wilmore Daily Photo blog site and used it without his permission. Hey, what is a friend going to do, sue me? Oh, oh! He seems to be tight with the local police. Maybe I should reconsider my attititude!

Apple Bento: The new personal database for Macs February 10, 2008

Posted by Matsu in Apple, Information Technology, Japan, Mac, Microsoft, Software, Technology, Windows/Microsoft.
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Japanese bentoYup, Apple is finally shipping a database for the rest of us. Yesterday they released a new product called Bento by FileMaker.

As you may know, FileMaker is an Apple company that provides database software designed for small to medium sized businesses. Now, they are selling a new $50 database product for individuals who want to track collections of things or just plan a party.

This product fills a whole in Microsoft’s offering as Office for Mac doesn’t include database software. Now, Mac users have a database program that will fill that need. I wonder how well it integrates with Microsoft Word or Excel.

By the way, did you know that “bento” means “lunch box” in Japanese? It does.

I haven’t installed the demo yet, but I will do it this week and let you know what I what I find out about integration with Microsoft’s office software.

Thanksgiving Discovery November 23, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Family, Japan, Technology.
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Thanksgiving Tire Swing

My wife and I alternate where we celebrate Thanksgiving each year. One year we have thanksgiving with my parents and extended family, then the next year we do the same with my wife’s family. This year it’s my wife’s turn, so we traveled to Georgia to spend time with my Relatives-In-Law.

We drove to Atlanta, Georgia, and spent Thanksgiving Day with Uncle Robert and his family. They had all gathered at cousin Paul’s new home just outside of Atlanta. We had a great time. Both the meal and the company were wonderful. After we ate and talked for a little while, we all went out to the backyard where Paul and his brother, Adam, and Brother-In-Law, Dan, set up an old-fashioned rope and tire swing. The children almost enjoyed it as much as the adults did.

One surprising discovery was when I learned about Paul’s work. He helped to start a brand new company (Stone Mountain Media) that specializes in LED sculpture technology. At first, I didn’t understand how it was possible to do what he said his company did, but after he explained it, I believed it could be done. (Of course, it is being done, it’s just so cool that my mind had a hard time believing it, not that I didn’t believe Paul. He is very credible.)

Paul’s company designs and makes high-tech sculptures. They really look amazing. The entire outer surface (skin?) of the sculpture is made up of LED lights that can display a of video image. If I understood correctly, the software can perform realtime ‘magic’ to display video across the surface of the sculpture to either look normal or to let it be distored (wrapped) acround the scupture/art. I hope I am not overstating what it does, because it was not completely clear to me how it worked. When you hear him explain how it is done and how the technology works, it sounds easy. But when you see it, you wonder at the blending of art and technology (it’s both art and technology or maybe neither – very difficult to categorize).

I searched the Internet for images of his work (he told me about several places all over the world where they have installed their art/technology). But, I couldn’t find anything and I don’t remember the names of the companies that already purchased (commissioned?) his product/art – but one was a health spa in Japan. I do remember the names of companies that he is in the process of proposing new projects, but since he is still negotiating, it would not be appropriate to mention those projects. If one particular commission (sale?) takes place, it will be placed in a high traffic area that will be seen by millions of people each year.

If do find out where a sample of Paul’s technology art work is on the net, I’ll post a link. Or, I’ll try to get Paul to send me a photo of one of his sculptures.

Update: I did find this article about one of Paul’s LED projects that he did for a casino. A photo of that project can be found here.

YouTube + How To = VideoJug November 19, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Humor, Information Technology, Japan, Random, Web.
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VideoJug Logo

What do you get when you cross a YouTube like website with educational ‘how to’ videos? Easy, you get the new VideoJug website.

Learn how to fold a shirt, or eat sushi, or even maintain your bicycle.

The quality may not be the best because they are homemade videos, but every video teaches you how to do something. So, forget watching dumb people perform stupid stunts on YouTube and head over to VideoJug to learn something useful. You will be glad you did.