Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Springtime Magic

Today is the Vernal Equinox, one of the two times during the year that day and night are of equal length. In Japanese it is called Shunbun no Hi (春分の日, perhaps literally translated as "The Day of the Spring Portion"). Throughout history, this day has meant more than just the beginning of Spring. In many cultures and religions it has had special significance. It has been believed to be a day (and night) of special power, when flows of cosmic energy are in flux and there is all kinds of magic in the air.

Or is that just the pollen? (Actually, I'm feeling better today. The sugi are behaving themselves.)

Anyway, Sunbun no Hi has special significance in Japan, as well. It is a national holiday because it is one of the three times during the year that families gather to clean their ancestors' graves and leave incense and offerings to appease their spirits. After that traditional chore is over, the families then have a feast at home. Naturally, my family here observes this event together with the in-laws. Not doing so is not considered a very good idea, since it could irritate the ancestors' spirits and lead to all kinds of bad things.

Before you laugh, on three different occasions I failed to attend to the family graves on such festival days, and when I did, either my computer or my home studio (both in one instance!) strangely malfunctioned and became unusable...but then mysteriously cleared itself and went back to normal after I finally saw to my filial "duty". I'm sure it's just a lot of really weird coincidences, but why tempt fate? At any rate, my wife and her parents are definitely traditionalists, so we went through the routine today in and among our respective schedules. I guess that's why I'm able to write this post now.

(I wanted to take pictures of the family tending the graves so I could post them here, but my wife just about had a heart attack when I even suggested it. Superstitious to the end...)

Even so, there were still wondrous things that happened today. The most obvious was Japan's national baseball team at the first-ever World Baseball Classic. During the preliminaries they were falling all over themselves. Then, as if by magic, they managed to find their kiai enough to shut down unstoppable South Korea 6-0 in the semifinals. Well, today was the final round, and Japan was facing Cuba. (You have to understand that facing Cuba in baseball is kind of like facing Brazil in soccer. You just don't expect to win.) The wife, kids, and I were in a ramen shop having lunch, and the game was on. When the 7th inning ended, Japan was ahead 6-3. During the 8th inning, Cuba scored a 2-run homer. It was 6-5, our hopes were fading fast, and we had to leave the ramen shop (unfortunately) to get to work.

Guess what? The final score was 10-6. Japan won. It was a springtime miracle, to be sure, but it was also a testament to the various talented, quality players on the Japan team (who finally pulled out of their slump when they needed to). This evening half the nation was shedding tears of joy (and the other half was in a drunken stupor).

There was another mysterious occurrence today of a totally different nature.

I first heard Tangerine Dream's Poland album in 1986. It's a recording of a live concert performed in (wait for it...) Warsaw, Poland in 1984. My roommate in college at the time had a cassette tape copy of it. He said it was his favorite Tangerine Dream album, but he didn't like the way it ended. In fact, it didn't really end at all. It just stopped. I mean, the music built to a crescendo, and then just...nothing. Silence. Dead stop. Cut off in the middle. It was weird. (Actually, my roommate called it a "rip-off", but whatever.)

Last year I found a CD copy of Poland in Shibuya and bought it. It really is a good album (if you like Tangerine Dream), and I consider it one of my favorites. However, there was that damnable cut-off in place of an ending. The store-bought CD was no different from my old roommate's tape copy. The liner notes of the CD explain that that particular concert was held during a cold snap in Warsaw, and it was plagued with all kinds of problems. Not only was it held in an unheated hockey arena whose glass roof was in serious danger of collapsing (with the three members of the group having to have cups of hot water brought constantly to keep their fingers from going numb), but it was plagued throughout with equipment and power failures. Apparently the sudden cut-off at the end was due to a blackout that occurred at an inopportune moment. It sounded like a reasonable explanation. At least it did till this morning.

As I said before, the CD copy cuts off at the end just like my roommate's tape copy did. I dubbed it onto an MD (since I play the album a lot), and of course it sounded the same. Then, recently, I ripped it into mp3 files and copied them onto the hard drive of my car's navigation system.

Imagine my surprise when I listened to it on my way to ye olde academy this morning and it DIDN'T CUT OFF! It built up to the same noisy crescendo as before, but then it kept on going...tapering off into a quiet, mysterious ending followed by cheering crowds that fade out the way a live album should. Whathef...???!?!?!??? You mean that there really was an ending all this time?????!?!?? And why couldn't I hear it before?? Why couldn't my roommate hear it before??? Why couldn't the people who wrote the liner notes hear it before???? And why is it only on the mp3 copy?????

Curiouser and curiouser...or should I say seltsamer und seltsamer?

Weird. Welcome to Spring.


  • That is just plain weird, garçon. Now I need to find myself a copy of that.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:28 AM  

  • CD's have been known to have some peculiarities. I'll bet that there was a glitch in the master recording that fooled audio CD formats, but copied fine as a file, in the process, a missing bit was stuck in, and the file repaired. Wouldn't the publishers be surprised to know that?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 AM  

  • Yeah, that is weird. I wish you could share it over. But I'll be looking for the mp3 anyway. This should be interesting.

    By Blogger agus, at 4:51 PM  

  • Now, this is even more bizarre...

    When I play the CD in my car or one any of our home stereo setups it cuts off as I said before. However, I just popped it on the computer and played it using ITunes, and it didn't cut off. Hmm...better interface with a computer?

    Incidentally, Pa've, my roommate's tape recording was taken from the vinyl disk, not the CD version. His vinyl disk version did cut off in the same place.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:18 PM  

  • Where is Rod Serling's voice when you need him?

    Perhaps that explains my awesome Tuesday which I will post about soon.

    We went to K's ancestor's graves with our offerings at the local Shingon temple on Sunday.

    I've always liked Ohigan (other shore) services at the Buddhist temples in Hawaii. There was always a special service of course and the alter was decorated with extra silk embroidered cloths and lots and lots of flowers - very beautiful.

    zaixpz - the sound my Tangerine Dream album made when the arm of the turn table was knocked across it.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:08 PM  

  • Hello Mr. Minstrel. We need to meet with you. It seems you have come across a piece of information that requires.... discussion. I will be in contact.

    By Anonymous Zan, at 3:58 AM  

  • Looks like you're gonna have a really different spring this time. From tape to MD, CD, mp3...maybe you should get a video? Mpeg? :)

    By Blogger @ロウ 。LOW@, at 5:50 PM  

  • Mr. Moody, PLEASE REMEMBER :You must attend to your family graves each time on those kind of festival days. You won’t encounter these weird situations. (mm…mm….)

    By Anonymous The Spirit, at 6:35 PM  

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