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beauty

Wave of Beautiful Humanity

Article first published as Bullet-Train TV Commercial Lifts Spirits in Japan on Blogcritics.

Initially withdrawn because of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a television commercial for a new bullet-train line helps a grieving nation dare to smile once more.

mundaneusername: tearing up. Thank you. koy1: why did i cry when i saw this? mundaneusername: Because it shows you what we can be like. ioduae: As silly as it is, it makes me feel a little better about humanity right now. Comments from Reddit.com
When Japan Rail filmed a commercial for their new Kyushu Skinkansen—a bullet train linking the southern-most island of Japan for the first time—all the marketing savvy in the world could not have predicted that it would first air the very day after the greatest earthquake and tsunami in Japanese history. With the entire nation reeling in disbelief, and out of sympathy for the victims, the bubbly, rainbow-filled 180-seconds-of-celebration was immediately pulled from the air. There can be nobody in the world who by now does not know why. The earthquake and resulting tsunami left an unimaginably devastating toll: 15,057 people dead, 5,282 injured, 9,121 missing, and its force was enough to move not only the island of Honshu 2.4 metres, but the axis of the entire planet. With the eventual cost estimated to exceed $300 billion, it will be the most expensive natural disaster on record. But what price to put on happiness? After a month of near endless, unbearable news, not the least of which was the full-blown nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan Rail choose to quietly return its Southern Line commercial to air. Beyond all expectation, it became an immediate, nationwide phenomenon. Viewers all across Japan literally shed tears of joy at the sight of an island-long, 15,000-person human-wave, and the advertisement quickly achieved something priceless—it made a grieving nation happy. With possibly the catchiest, Björk-esque J-Pop soundtrack ever by Japanese-Swedish artist Maia Hirasawa, a rainbow-clothed cast of thousands is shown staging spontaneous, unscripted acts of joy as the rainbow-painted train passes with film-crew on board. Far from being inappropriate, the unabashedly happy commercial proved to be unerringly appropriate, uplifting spirits and warming hearts the length of Japan. Wrote one grateful viewer from Fukushima itself, “I heard this commercial has been pulled off air after the earthquake. They shouldn’t have! It’s good to see so many smiling people, and the united power of a great country like Japan working together for a common purpose. This is a huge encouragement to people working for the reconstruction. Thank you!”
That day, Thank you for your waving, Thank you for your smiles, Thank you for your cooperation. Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now. In Kyushu, we are full of new power. From Kyushu, we should deliver happiness to all over Japan. With you all, Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now. Narrator, Japan Rail Kyushu Skinkansen Commercial
Spoken at the end of the commercial by a narrator, seldom have truer words been uttered in an advertisement, for with its island-crossing human-wave of rainbow-coloured joy, Japan Rail indeed did deliver happiness all over Japan.

Related Elsewhere

Kyushu Shinkansen commercial lifts Japan spirits Kyushu Shinkansen by Japan Probe

Just a Bubble…

Morning light reflected in a soap bubble over the fjord by Odin Standal Just a bubble. Floating out of a Norwegian fjord with the sunlight reflecting in it. Nothing unusual there... if your definition of “usual” denotates the otherworldly as commonplace. One half expects to see trolls and fairies dancing in the background, or perhaps the reflection of God—probably with a rather self-satisfied smile on His face. The photographer, Odin Standal, clearly playing down what one suspects are strong powers of sorcery, matter-of-factly describes capturing an image that might just win the internets thus:
We went out early one morning and tried to make giant soap bubbles. The sun was rising above the mountain behind us and I managed to capture the sunrise in the reflection of a bubble floating out the fjord.
You can see more photos by Odin Standal on his Flickr page.

Happiness Machine

Applause and awe-struck, gob-smacked smiles go to Barcelona based motion-graphics and visual effects studio Physalia, who created quite possibly the happiest entry in this year’s “Happy”-themed F5 Re:Play Film FestivalInductance. One giant magnet and hundreds of colourful capacitor-filled plastic balls later, and you can't help but smile. But is this superb creation from what is first and foremost a special effects studio—specialists in making the imaginary fly through the air—actually real? It's no secret that happiness in life can be elusive, but it's even harder to find through reasoning...

Football Zen

Football meditation by Pavitrata Football and the art of meditation, a photo sublime on more levels than playing fields, by sublime photographer Pavitrata Taylor.
If you see art, try to see the Artist inside it. You will do this only by taking them as one. When you see art, you will feel that inside the art there is something which you need badly, and that is the Supreme. The Supreme is both art and artist, both creator and creation. When you realise this, you can easily meditate on the Supreme in art. —Sri Chinmoy, Art's Life And The Soul's Light

The Urban Dictionary

Emo

Juvenile most of the time, reviled some of the time, but never banal, the Urban Dictionary provides an alternative take on the everyday, and the night-time in-between.

It is dressed downwards of mature sometimes, maybe most of the time, but that is why it is the “urban” dictionary—just like a city, you do not visit this place with your mother:
You do know what LOL means right? OMG!!1! Lol, Mum pls stop using teh internets!1!!
Clearly, the Urban Dictionary is by and for the “Google Generation,” the generation which, to quote from the horse’s acne spotted mouth, was:
brought up by doing their homework using Google, as in ’damn, all these kids in the google generation get A's’.
You'll note that being educated by a search engine has not necessarily been a step forward for grammar. Likewise, in this dictionary, proof-reading and spelling are out of step, lagging far behind. Did somebody say spelling? On this topic, the juvenile consensus of the Urban Dictionary is remarkably mature:

Spelling

  1. A lost art.
  2. What people are incapable of doing on the Internet.
  3. Absent from the internet.Spelling, O Spelling, where art thou? Along with grammar, punctuation...?
The internet may still be predominantly American, but in matters of pronunciation, the Urban Dictionary is at times refreshingly international, waving the global flag for the Queen’s English as the rest of the world, with stiff upper lip or otherwise, correctly enunciates it:

Aluminium

How the entire world (except the Americans) say aluminium. Why? Because that's how it's spelled. Brit: Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. American: You mean Aluminum? Brit: No, I mean Aluminium. Moron.
Everything is not as it seems in the Urban Dictionary. Words do not just mean what they mean, or even what they have evolved to mean, for on these mean, new, lexicographical streets, words are melded into new and wonderful shapes, twisted, turned and bent in a manner that would give Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary, a meltdown. You could say that in the Urban Dictionary, words become like plastic:

Plastic

A materialistic, fake man or woman. In particular, someone who is attractive yet lacks any sort of depth whatsoever. Everyone in this club is plastic.
It is perhaps not surprising that there is no entry in the Urban Dictionary for the author of 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language, for his child, now generations removed, has been herein defined to door-stopping, fly-swatting irrelevancy:

Dictionary

A very large book full of information about how words are spelled, pronounced, used in a sentence etc. Although originally intended for reading, the dictionary serves many functions: it can be used as...
  1. a stepstool
  2. a flyswatter
  3. a paperweight
  4. a doorstop
  5. firewood
  6. etc. etc. etc.
Likewise books are deemed no longer relevant by the precocious Urban Dictionary, and without search field and ability to instantaneously edit or copy and paste, depressingly one dimensional and linear. Which to paraphrase your English teacher is a shame, because despite their page turning, stitched and bound irrelevancy, books will never cease to have hidden dimensions of imagination and mind, dimensions not always apparent in their noisier, brasher successor:

1. Book

an object used as a coaster, increase the hight of small children, or increase the stability of poorly built furniture. where do you want me to put your drink? oh, just leave it on top of that book.
But every rule and just coined and spun at home homily admits an exception—who would have thought of the just consigned to paperweight and wastebasket book becoming a synonym for “cool”?

2. Book

Cool. In the T9 predictive text on cell phones, the numbers 2665 spell both "book" and "cool," but "book" is the first word to display. To save time, it is left and understood to mean "cool." be there in 20 book. see ya then.
Every generation adopts and adapts words to make a language all their own; if you didn’t grow up watching nursery rhymes on DVD, the Urban Dictionary is your looking glass to a wonderland of language you have probably never heard:

Meew

One of the best words ever.. can be multi-purposeful... basically it's a cat noise.. and implies confusion/question... Billy: OMG I went and got a trichi today... Sally: Meew?
While much in the Urban Dictionary can be classed as new and unfamiliar, one can not always assume all that is from beyond the horizon of right now is even a twisted path to making sense—clicking on the dictionary’s random button serves up words and phrases so nonsensical that a team of untrained monkeys could not have typed their way to a place of less sense:

Tocka

rapper from the Nasti Nati it's a new craze going into a new phase merk out and do the down da way -tocka
In the Urban Dictionary, sense and meaning is often found in a popular culture context. The respective 1970s and 1980s martial arts and ninja crazes give the following contemporary stereotype its brick-breaking cultural pin-point:

Basement Ninja

A person, usually male aged 13-35, who practices inferior self-taught fighting, killing, or stealth techniques in the basement of his/her parents' home or in a basement apartment. Typical hobbies include collection of decorative 'ninja' weapons for the purposes of practice and display. Typical behaviours include exhibition of martial arts proficiency, provision of stealth tips, and demonstration of human pressure points. Anybody who carries nunchucks to a 7-11 is a basement ninja.
Are you spending too much time online to avoid doing work offline? You’re a procrastinator, and the Urban Dictionary has got you coined:

Procrastinator

One who will do anything, including spending an entire day looking up random words on urban dictionary, to get out of doing work. This habit often has a terrible effect on that person's relationships, work, or grades. I am a procrastinator
Yes, this internet age dictionary is broad and multi-participational—anyone can submit a definition or word, anyone else can vote it up or down—but no matter which dictionary you use, the rest of the world just does not understand Canada:

Canadian Heritage Moments

Commercials made by the Historica association of Canada, outlining Canada's "achievements" in 60-second shorts. Considered by Canadians to be hilarious, people of any other nationality just don't get them.
Serious and overbearing from a distance, Germans are a people also often misunderstood, but not by the all-embracing, always glib Urban Dictionary:

1. Germany

A country that is ambitious and misunderstood. Everyone wants to be like Germany but do we really have the pure strength of will?

2. Germany

The country Hitler wasn't born in. Guy 1: Hey, do you know where Hitler was born? Guy 2: Not Germany. Guy 1: k.
Oh the youth of the today, they are so shallow, so infatuated with the temporal and passing, can we find any wisdom in any of what they say? Of course we can, but first we must understand the contemporary parlance within, the internet age idiom of cynicism and heavy sarcasm. Translated so, the following are as cutting and subversive as the polemic of any time:

Illegal Immigrant

Anyone who is Mexican and anyone who is mowing your lawn. Anyone who runs across the U.S. border with Mexico Mommy, look at that guy mowing the lawn. Look away, George. He's Mexican and he's an illegal immigrant, and he'll steal your ice cream if you keep looking at him.

Television

The early 21st century drug of choice. A shared illusion, making its addicts think they have friends, a life, access to good information, and the critical thinking skills to form valid opinions. Fatal in large doses. Paul spent the day eating Cheetos and watching Television, then had a light heart attack in the evening.

McDonalds

A place where people eat alot, get fat, and then sue to get money. I ate at McDonalds everyday for 7 years and now I weigh 500 pounds, so I'm gonna sue them to make some cash.
No matter the culture, no matter the time or clime, the feeling and spirit of the human heart will always beat and breathe to the one timeless tune. Once upon a time and century distant, love-lorn haiku poets wrote of these same sentiments, under the very same half-clouded moon that shines today:

Ear Synch

If you miss someone a lot and are away from them, you can both listen to the same song at the same time, and you will feel a deep connection to the other person, you will imagine what they are doing and feeling. It is different than talking on the phone. Both people get a strange feeling of bittersweetness and connection while the song is playing.
There is something soothing, reassuring about such moments of zen-like connectedness occurring in the most nontraditional of situations, and it is a reassurance that no matter how far we as human beings run, with iPod on and iPhone charged, from our cultural and social roots, we will never be able to SMS or Wikipedia ourselves away from the basic human condition:

Zen

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form Q: Does a cow have Buddha Nature? A: Moo
The final word on the Urban Dictionary to a seer-poet and library vast of his work, Sri Chinmoy Library, in haiku form:
E-mail is man-connection, And not God-communication— No, never!Sri Chinmoy

The Most Shocking Ending in All Literature

“How oddly situated a man is apt to find himself at the age of thirty-eight! His youth belongs to the distant past. Yet the period of memory beginning with the end of youth and extending to the present has left him not a single vivid impression. And therefore he persists in feeling that nothing more than a fragile barrier separates him from his youth. He is forever hearing with the utmost clarity the sounds of this neighboring domain, but there is no way to penetrate the barrier.” –Yukio  Mishima

A Biography of Author Yukio Mishima

Three times nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Yukio Mishima is considered the most important Japanese novelist of the twentieth century, and until the arrival in more recent times of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana, was the writer with the largest readership outside Japan. Extremely prolific despite a comparatively short life, he produced forty novels, at least twenty books of essays, poetry, eighteen plays—including modern Kabuki and Noh dramas, some of which he also acted in—and one libretto. He was an astute critic—his talent rated higher by some than his fiction—and appeared in four films as an actor of some ability, one of which he also directed and produced. Mishima was considered to be the only author of his time talented enough to write Kabuki plays in the traditional manner; a professor from Kyoto University described him as a man of “frightening talent.” Born Kimitaké Hiraoka, he was seized from his parents and raised by his Grandmother, the only one of the family of samurai descent, who both instilled in her grandson a love of literature, and according to some biographers, sickness and neuroses. Many trace his literary themes and later actions to these early, difficult beginnings. At sixteen he assumed the pen name Yukio Mishima, a move alternatively explained as hiding his writing from an anti-literary father and hiding his true age. Yukio comes from the word yuki, which means snow, and Mishima is a town known for its view of the snowy peaks of Mt. Fuji. Mishima avoided being conscripted by the army during World War II after being falsely diagnosed with pleurisy. While a student of law at Tokyo Imperial University he published his first collection of short stories, and the following year in 1944 published his first major work, The Forest in Full Bloom, a great achievement for any Japanese writer as few books were being published during the war. The first edition of 4000 copies sold out within a week. All of his novels contain paradoxes: beauty contrasted with violence and death; the yearning for love and its rejection when offered; the dichotomy between traditional Japanese values and the spiritual barrenness of contemporary life; paradoxes he himself embodied—his writing was in all cases semi-autobigraphical, sometimes fully. Mishima's best known works include the autobiographical Confessions of a Mask, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and the tetralogy The Sea of Fertility, regarded by many as his most lasting achievement—he sent the final volume to his publisher on the day of his suicide. At the end of The Decay of the Angel, the last volume of The Sea of Fertility, Mishima turned the entire series upside down, a single, blinding burst of prose undermining the very foundation of all that has gone before, a stunning plot-twist that the author pulled off brilliantly. Some reviewers suggest that committing seppuku immediately following writing such a passage is understandable—how could one continue living after writing something so brilliant? The ending to The Decay of the Angel has been called possibly the most shocking ending in all of literature; it was followed by one of the most shocking endings of all real life—an author who vehemently didn't want grow old or decline bowed out at the very top of his game, aged 45; following an elaborately planned yet guaranteed to fail coup attempt aimed at restoring traditional values to a Japanese society he deigned bereft of them, he committed ritual suicide, 25 November 1970.
“The whole of Japan was under a curse. Everyone ran after money. The old spiritual tradition had vanished: materialism was the order of the day. Modern Japan is ugly.”
Toshiro Mayuzumi, close friend of Mishima's for twenty years, explained: “He was a man of action. His suicide death was an attempt to change the world, at least to spur it by alerting the sensible population to the inconsistencies surrounding postwar Japan, the Constitution, the Self-Defense Forces, education, moral decay.” Friend, former follower and fellow novelist Yasunari Kawabata honored Mishima with the statement “a writer of [Mishima's] calibre appears only once every 200 to 300 years.” Ironically Kawabata won the Nobel Prize for Literature two years earlier in 1968, the first Japanese to receive an award long expected to be Mishima’s. His funeral was attended by 10,000, the largest of its kind ever held in Japan, and his commentary on the Hagakure—the moral code taught to samurai—immediately became a best-seller. Mishima wrote in his diary “All I desire is beauty.” A dedicated body-builder, practitioner of karate and kendo master, he sought throughout his life to make himself more beautiful, and strong. He saw beauty as a form of purity which could also be realised through noble action, and death.
“If we value so highly the dignity of life, how can we not also value the dignity of death? No death may be called futile."

Video of Yukio Mishima conducting the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra

Recommended books about Yukio Mishima

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