Merry KPop Christmas 2017

Hi all,

As per yearly tradition I like to post a KPop music video for Christmas.  This harks back to the time on the blog when I used to post a lot of K-Pop related stuff.  Gone are the days of “Kpop Saturdays” here on the blog, but I still contend that every Christmas needs a good KPop song to go with it.

This year’s song is a single by Taeyeon from the venerable group Girls’ Generation.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

P.S.  RIP to Jonghyun of Shinee.  May he rest is peace.


Even in KPop, All Good Things Must Come To An End

After my second child, Little Guy, was born about 3 years ago, a lot of things changed in my life, and a lot of hobbies and personal projects got put on hold for years, not just months.  This included my love of K-Pop music.

I got so out of touch that when I finally started delving back into K-Pop recently, I was kind of taken back by how much had changed.  Some of the bands I knew and liked had broken up, or had become totally defunct.  Just a few months ago, one of my favorite, 2NE1, had a final goodbye song before breaking up.¹

I am sure there’s lots of new and exciting groups too, but I am not really interested in starting over.  As the last groups I used to follow slowly decline and drop off the scene, there’s a certain Buddhist lesson to this all.

The entertainment industry probably exemplifies this more than anything else, but if you look around, you can see it everywhere.

P.S.  So long, 2NE1.  You were a lot of fun.  😥

¹ Bom was always my favorite member of 2NE1.  I hope she finds the happiness and healing she deserves.  🙂

A Brave New World

So, recently one night, I had a quiet moment in my life and spent some time reflecting back on the last six months, starting with the last weeks at my old temple, my resignation, and subsequent efforts to find a new path, new projects, etc.  It’s been a more difficult transition than I thought, and I was definitely burned out and exhausted going into the holidays, but now that a few months have passed I feel a lot better about my decision.

Years ago, I switched my job from a certain online company (starts with an “A”) where I had been for 9 years.  That job was a huge part of my life, and I had been there so long, that even though it was a toxic, stressful environment¹ it was familiar and I was hesitant to leave.  I wanted to make it still work somehow, but after 9 years, it was enough.

Changing my job to a new company (think talking mouse) was challenging at first.  I was unfamiliar with the environment, I had to relearn a lot of things, and had to start over from the bottom.  I felt really stupid sometimes.  But after a couple years, I am so glad I changed.  My stress is much less than before, and it’s rubbed off on my family who’s a lot happier.

In the same way, I feel that way about my path with Jodo Shinshu.  I liked many things about the temple community I was a part of, and even now I miss a lot of people there, but I also had lingering personal misgivings about Jodo Shinshu teachings for a long time. However, since I had already invested so much though, and I really wanted to have an opportunity to teach Buddhism in person, I still tried to make it work for a long time.  But all it did was stress me out further.

Now that I’ve finally made a break with that tradition, it’s taken a while to adjust to the change in my life.  After my post about the primacy of practicing Buddhism, I decided that the best way to find my path was not to read about Buddhist schools, but to try them out.  I started a 28-day practice where I did some kind of Buddhist practice (chanting, meditation, etc) for 10 minutes a day.²  Each day I could choose whatever I wanted, but I had to do something.  Within the first week, I quickly lost interest in certain practices and settled on a personal routine that worked well for me.  I am now on day 23, and have stuck with it much longer than I thought I would.

So, in the end, a change in environment was probably the right thing for me.

Losing my community and friends was difficult, rebuilding my blog was painful too, but as the dust has settled I feel I have stepped into a brave new world, and am looking forward to many more years of blogging, exploring the many facets of Buddhism, and sharing with readers and viewers on Youtube.  🙂

P.S.  Double-post today.  Haven’t one of those in a while.

¹ The fact that I started having gastritis attacks almost monthly was a symptom of that.  These days my attacks are much less frequent partly due to improved eating habits, but also probably due to decreased stress.

² My idea was based on Dogen’s advice that all other aspects of Buddhism (sutras, chanting, etc) should be guide to and support for your practice, not an end of themselves.  How I wish I had read this years ago.

Pen Pineapple Apple Pen

On the lighter side of things, here’s this:

The video is self-explanatory… well, sort of.  Pikotaro (ピコ太郎), the guy who made this song, is a Japanese comedian/song-writer etc.  His official site is here.  The costume is based off of a character in the manga One-Piece (I have no idea which one).

My kids love this song and sing it frequently.  So much so, it is now stuck in my head, too.  We did watch a show in Japanese which interviewed Pikotaro and it was interesting when he tried to teach one of the hosts how to do the same dance. There is a surprising amount of detail in the choreography.  Like most successful comedians, Pikotaro is a lot more intelligent than his silly demeanor on screen would lead you to believe.

Some might compare this to the Korean song Gangnam Style, which I enjoyed a lot back then, but they’re kind of different to me.  Granted, they’re both unusual examples of Asian music making a hit in the West,¹ and both are comedic, but that’s about all that they have in common I think.

Anyhow, see how long it takes before this gets stuck in your head.  ;p

P.S.  Another Pikotaro song my kids like is this one.  For those who don’t speak Japanese kurai (暗い) means “dark” and akarui (明るい) means “bright”.  That’s about all you need to know.

¹ An interesting BBC article a couple months ago on why Kpop has tried, and yet failed, to penetrate the Western market apart from Gangnam Style.

Tulip Time in Seattle!

Every year, my wife and I go to the Tulip Festival at Mount Vernon, WA, which is a famous festival near Seattle. This year was the first for Little Guy. We always visit Tulip Town farm when we go. The weather was really great this time (it’s often rainy and muddy), and we got lots of photos:


I took that photo with my camera phone. This one too:


When we go to the Tulip Festival, my family and I often sing a famous children’s song in Japanese:

さいた さいた
ならんだ ならんだ
あか しろ きいろ
どの花見ても きれいだな

Saita, saita
Chuurippu no hana ga
Naranda naranda
Aka shiro kiiro
Dono hana mitemo kirei da na

Which I might loosely translate as:1

They’ve bloomed, they’ve bloomed
The tulip flowers have bloomed.
They’re lined up, they’re lined up:
red, white, yellow
No matter which flower you look at, they’re all beautiful.

This song was first published in 1932 (Showa 7), in a children’s book called 「エホンショウカ ナツノマキ(絵本唱歌 夏の巻)」 which might translate into something like “A Summer’s Collection of Pictures and Songs”. You can hear it here:

But also, being a Buddhist nerd, I am often reminded of a passage from the Amitabha Sutra (阿弥陀経), translation by Reverend Inagaki:

In the ponds [of the Pure Land, 浄土] are lotuses as large as chariot-wheels — the blue ones radiating a blue light, the yellow a yellow light, the red a red light and the white ones a white light. They are marvelous and beautiful, fragrant and pure.

Enjoying the Tulip Festival here is like enjoying a small sample of the Pure Land, I think. 🙂

Happy Spring everyone!

1 You might wonder why the English translation is so much longer. A complete sentence in English is SVO (Subject Verb Object), but in Japanese it is just V or A (adjective). So, “saita” is the past-tense to bloom, and is a complete sentence, but in English you have to say “the flower bloomed”, or even “it/they bloomed”. Tae Kim has a much better explanation of this.

Sour Grapes

Earlier today, I got really upset about something that I was rejected for. It was something I originally didn’t want, but was invited to take part in. However, I started to get my expectations up, and then when I was finally rejected, I felt insulted and was brooding and mad all morning.

Then I suddenly realized I was just being sour grapes. The term “sour grapes” (makeoshimi 負け惜しみ in Japanese)1 means that you want something, but you couldn’t get it, so now you act angry and pretend you didn’t want it. That’s exactly how I was behaving. Worse, thinking back, I didn’t really want it anyway; it was just ego. So, when I got rejected, my ego was bruised, and I got mad. How silly.

When I realized this, I kind of laughed for a moment and forgot about it. My bitterness was gone just like that. Sure, my pride stung, but oh well. Life goes on.

It reminds me of that great Japanese song 女々しくて (memeshikute) by Golden Bomber:2

The phrase 女々しい (memeshii) means “effiminate”, but applied to a guy, it kind of also means “whiny” or “emotional”. So, instead of sucking it up, and learning from the experience, I was just being memeshii.

I guess I need to develop more emotional intelligence. 😉

1 I couldn’t find the equivalent Korean term. If anyone knows, please send a blog comment, thanks!

2 Golden Bomber is a good example of Japanese Indie music, compared to big-name, polished groups like AKB or Johnny’s. The lead singer is a really nice guy, writes all the lyrics, and is pretty humble. Golden Bomber can be really naughty sometimes (please do not watch the “kpop version” of 女々しくて), but they have great energy and don’t take themselves seriously. They are a lot of fun.