Top 5 Lives To See Before I Die

I’m going through serious live-withdrawals at the moment– a fact that isn’t helped by knowing that I’m missing Matenrou Opera, MIYAVI, and Dir En Grey this fall/winter. I pray there is a show in my near future, lest I go stark raving mad.

I started this list when I began going to lives in 2009. A while ago I shared the list with one of my brothers and he suggested I keep adding bands so that I never die. Seems legit.

The List – 2009

  1. GACKT
  2. abingdon boys school
  3. 雅ーMIYAVI
  4. D’espairsRay
  5. B’z

The List – 2011

  1. GACKT
  2. ONE OK ROCK
  3. B’z
  4. girugamesh
  5. exist trace

 

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Resolution.

It’s officially the last day of 2010. The last hour of 2010. The last post of 2010. After spending a rigorous day of cleaning (Yes…I know you can’t imagine it, and I really don’t require that you try) so that the house is ready to welcome the good fortune of the new year, I’m settling in to spend the next 50 minutes preparing myself for the turnover of the old year into the new.

I take the whole New Year’s and New Year’s Resolutions thing pretty seriously (self-improvement fixation, afterall), so I never got into the  partying till I drop gig. I prefer my New Year’s to be cognizant so that I can reflect clearly on the year behind me, and approach the oncoming year’s first light with striking and definitive poise. With determined resolve.

Because I adapted certain Japanese traditions into my New Year’s celebrations, the welcoming of the year happens in 2 stages. At midnight, I’ll open a bottle of champagne with the people I care about and make toasts and reflect on my resolutions. And then I’ll stay up until about 6:30, 7:00 AM when the sun starts to rise, and at that point, when the first light of dawn touches the sky, I will make my New Year’s wish.

Resolutions and wishes.

Today I’ve thought more about the difference between them than the actual content of the things I’ll state.

Resolution

1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.
Wish
An expression of a desire, longing, or strong inclination; a petition.

When it comes to horoscopes and  fortune telling and resolution stating and wish-making I am a firm believer in the idea that our experience is what we make it, and therefore “luck” and “fate” and “wishes coming true” are, by that school, the expression of an intention followed through with inspired and/or focused action, that results in desired, and/or usually unforeseen, results. I don’t believe in blowing out the candles and expecting your desire to be fulfilled (passive tense). I believe in stating your wish, blowing out your candles, watching the first rays of dawn light hit the horizon on the first day of the year, and knowing implicitly that you, and only you, hold the power to make that wish come true. It’s midnight, Visualists. Go write your resolutions, clink your glasses, blast GACKT, watch fireworks, do whatever you do at midnight on January 1st, 2011. And at dawn, when the first light touches the horizon, make your wish. Make your wish, but make your first resolution be that you will see it through.

Happy New Year.

あけましておめでとうございます。

 

 

Tadaima

It is with an intense sense of relief that I am sitting here typing this. The past three or four months have been, easily, the most hectic time of my life so far. I realize this is merely the problem of having a productive life on earth, and fully expect it to get busier as the days, months, years go by. I will accept that challenge when it arises, but for now, this time was intense enough to satisfy the morbid cravings of the last shredded remains of any over-achiever in me.

The reason that I’ve been away from blogging for so long is primarily thanks to my being committed pretty heavily to my job. Working 10+ hour days, 6 days a week while scavenging a life outside of work can start to add up fast, and during the past 5 or 6 weeks, I felt distinctly as though I was running on the final scrapings of the last reserves of my energy, and physically, all I wanted was sleep, all the time. The only thing that kept me going was the thought, I cannot lose to this.

I have a general interest in personal growth and, since my introduction to Japanese social philosophies, an avid obsession with “becoming stronger”. I feel as though this almost-academically-observational sense of perspective of my own experience, as well as that of others’, affords me a certain unsympathetic awareness of my innate human weaknesses and an ability to overcome them.

As most of my more melodramatically tragic habits are, I believe I picked this tendency up from GACKT. I thought often of the stories of him literally working until he collapsed, fell ill, etc. While these instances are examples of pushing extremes unhealthily far, the core value demonstrated within them has inspired me greatly, and I’ve carried the base sentiment in the not-so-back of my mind through this intense and hectic period.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T.S. Elliot

When natural energy became replaced by caffeine, pain-killers and pure willpower, I got to the point where every day my body was telling me no, while my mind continued to say yes. In the beginning, it was a struggle to make it through the craziness of each day, and in many ways, it only got harder as the weeks went by. But also, like moving through physical pain barriers and the struggles of physical improvement, after a while I could really begin to gauge the progress of my spirit, and how much my capacity to deal with the crazy experience had increased from Day One. Of course, it’s not enough to acknowledge that you’ve grown – from the place of flexing new muscles you didn’t really believe you were building, the desire to become stronger only increases.

I think there’s something really interesting in physically, knowing that you need to stop, and yet mentally, wanting to know how much farther you can take it. In my life, at least, that’s at the root of self-improvement.

Since we’re in the last week of the year, I’ve been considering the hurdles I’ve faced in 2010, and appraising the resolutions I made, and whether or not I was able to achieve them. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to change a lot of things, and part of that was a resounding desire to overcome the things I was afraid of, to be able to overcome the things within my mind that held me back. I wanted to live my life to the fullest that I possibly could — and not in that wishy-washy greeting-card canned response way; I wanted that sincerely. This is very un-zen, and I’ll own that, but I believe at least part of figuring out how to live life fully, is to increase the velocity of your experience as much as you can. Although this isn’t really “living life to the fullest” at all, filling each moment with something and never letting yourself stop, but constantly continuing to add more to your experience is one way of feeling like you’re living life fully, and as a result, discovering, hopefully, what that desire really means.

But as you’re racing along, charging through life, trying to make the most of it, live it to the fullest that you possibly can, at a certain point it seems like it’s entirely too possible to get too lost in the moment, to forget where you’re going, who you are, what you’re working toward and why. The velocity and intensity of experience, any experience, can just completely overwhelm a person’s being, their sense of self.

When you run out of energy, and you feel like you have no strength left to muster, I think everyone has to reach a place where they can acknowledge that there is something feeding their determination. That their “sense of self” is, in fact, rooted firmly somewhere. And the more you get stretched out, the more you drag yourself along independent of that origin, that source, the more you end up on the waning tide.

Drained, exhausted, those last fragments of energy completely sucked dry, feeling sorry for ourselves, the animal need for rest, sleep, rest sleep, overpowering our vision, making us forget who we are and why we do any of it. We forget how we were even able to do any of it.

This is when you realize what your source is. You find that thing that rejuvenates you, restores your strength, reminds you what you’re fighting for. None of it is empty challenge and reaction. For some people, I’m sure that thing that gives you back the will to continue is other people, material pleasures, whatever. For everyone, it’s different. The only thing that is the same is that we all have it, and inevitably, when we’re running on that last store of energy, we return to it. Sometimes we don’t even really know what it is until we’re at the point of total breakdown and suddenly it shows itself to us.

But I believe that whether you know it or not, when you’re there at the point of collapse, some instinct or inspirational nudge leads us back to that source place. Without interrupting the flow of what we’re doing, without taking any steps back, without requiring anything other than a sudden burst of awareness, we tune into that one thing that reminds us, blindingly, of who we are and what defines us, what gives us strength and the will to fight.

Finally, yesterday I had a detestable moment of weakness. Woke up with a pretty lousy cold, and although my now well-trained mind kept telling me to get up and go to work, to push through it, my body was screaming a pretty strong no. My ravaged immune system needs a break, so I’m giving in. Drained, exhausted, feeling sorry for myself, I instinctively turned to something that my being craved more than sleep: music.

Sitting around in the dark, WHAT’S MY NAME playing through at full volume, it was like I was hearing Jrock for the first time all over again. It was like I was hearing music for the first time all over again. All the wiring in my blasted zombie brain seemed to fuse back together again. I was able to remember something I knew all along, but somehow had completely lost track of: Visual Kei and Jrock are that source place I return to when I’m at the point of collapse. Visual Kei and Jrock are what define me, what give me strength and the will to fight. They are what give me the obsession with accepting challenges, and they are what lend me the strength needed to overcome the weaknesses that arise when I am teetering on the point of collapse. It’s this sense of unwavering courage that happens when I’m led to GACKT or MIYAVI‘s music at the right moment that is something I wish I could express in words when I am asked why I am a Visualist.

++

I find that when I don’t write on Secret Garden for an extended time, when I log into my Dashboard, I always experience this strange paradox of both feeling like a complete stranger, and at the same time, like I’ve finally made it back home.

Tadaima.

Thanx Givin’ Day

In an ideal world, we’re always aware of what we have, and hopefully expressing gratitude for it. However, I think most of the time we forget what we have, we take it for granted. We get caught up in our daily lives and the petty troubles and moderate dramas that cause strife and concern in our experience and we lose sight of the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, these issues are nothing more than mosquitos compared to the majesty of what we really have.

This world is far from ideal, and few of us are saints, so days like today are perfect moments to brush off The Swarm and reflect elegantly on the things we’ve been honored with. Although we often don’t remember this, every moment that we have is a gift, something to respect. I hope everyone is living their lives to the fullest, milking each moment for all it’s worth, and listening to as much Visual Kei as they can possible pipe through their headphones.

Typing this out, sometimes thinking selfishly that I need to be honored with more unscheduled moments to spend working on Secret Garden, I feel an incredible sense of gratitude for the past year and a half of blogging, reading, twitting, talking, and rockin’ out with everyone who reads my blog, and whose blogs I read. I would also like to take this moment to thank Reitsu, and Alisa at Sakurayume for being inspiring fellow Visualists, and inform them publicly that every post they don’t write makes for a less interesting blogsphere.

Whoever said there’s not a Visual Kei song for every occasion is obviously navigating their life sideways. As usual, MIYAVI never lets us down. Enjoy, and happy Thanx Givin’ Day.

Thank you Mama,
For there always being a hot meal,
Truly, truly, I’m grateful for that
But hey, Mama,
If occasionally I can’t eat everything and clean my plate,
Don’t be mad, ok?

Hey, I’m sorry, Papa,
For always just doing whatever I please,
For making you worry and causing you trouble
But hey, Papa,
When I also grow up I’ll become like you, you’ll see

Today, also, “thanks for your hard work,”
We know you’re both up doing your best, working hard, until the night grows late
But hey, Papa and Mama, it’s okay for you to take a break once in a while
Always be well,
But above all, always be kind to each other

Thanx Givin’ Day

ありがとうママ
いつも温かいごはん
本当に本当に感謝してるよ
でもねママ
たまにもし食べきれなくて残しても怒らないでね

ごめんねパパ
いつも勝手なことして
心配や迷惑かけてばかりで

でもねパパ
仆も大きくなったらパパみたいになるから見ててね

今日も”お疲れ様”
いつも夜遅くまで頑張っているの仆らは知ってるよ

でもね、パパもママもたまには休んで良いんだよ
ずっと元気でいてね

何よりも二人仲良しでね

Thanx Givin’ Day

Translation: gacktpause

The Announcement You’ve All Been Waiting For

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei

 

 

I know a few of you have been around for a while now (and I’m still happy to have you, rest assured), and some of the really good ‘uns will probably remember my mentioning a particular anime con that has been honored by my attendance several years in a row. Although I keep saying I won’t go back, and have little to no active interest in anime, I keep going back, utterly unable to resist the gravitational pull of the organized culmination of Japanese pop culture and its cult following.

This year will also mark my first step outside the blogsphere representing Secret Garden. You guessed it (or, I don’t know, maybe you haven’t), I have been granted the honor of appearing at the con as the first Visual Kei/Jrock panelist since circa ’07.

I’m pretty psyched to have this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to working with the con as a presenter, thus being able to expand the world’s awareness of Visual Kei, one step at a time.

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei
Presented by gacktpause

Friday, Oct. 22, 5:00 PM EST
Panel Room 2

BakuretsuCon 2010 Oct. 21-24
Colchester, VT

Say you saw it on Secret Garden.

At the Heart of Brock’s Jelly Donut

I was just on Purple Sky reading their interview with D’espairsRay, anticipating the release of their latest album MONSTERS, and preceding the onset of their world-tour which kicks off this month with dates across the US. Reading through the questions, I admit, although the band members were quite entertaining (e.g. when asked which Monster he would be, HIZUMI answers “Pokemon”. Vuvuzelamon? Or is that Reggae? Visual kei has too many random cross-references in it now, I don’t even know who I am anymore.), the more I read, the more I found myself getting riled up. Had I not known  that this interview was only sitting in my feed for a week, the questions posed to the Monsters would have led me to believe this was posted sometime in 2004.

I realize this sounds harsh, but taking that risk, I’ll say it. Are all Japanofiles neanderthals?

I’ve been following the Japanfandom thing for 5 years now, and seeing as Alzheimers hasn’t totally set in yet, I recall quite clearly the discussions and FAQs of the era. Unless of course journalists are simply given a sheet of preset questions that are never updated, I want to know why exactly they still insist on asking the droll, pointless, unenlightening questions of our generation’s troubled, AMV-watching youth? I was under the impression that we were advancing in the world. That the Japanese music scene in the West was beginning to liberate itself from the clinging, snotty tentacles of the emerging, adolescent internet and bloom into a better blogsphere. That we have actually been evolving over the past five to ten years. Apparently, as it was made clear to me this evening, this is far from the truth. At least in some respect, all Japanofiles are inherently neolithic, and while a few of us may have advanced to the Bronze Age, more or less we’re still wallowing in a dark, cave-like existence devoid of fire or arrowheads.

In response to this mind-blowing interview, I would like to pull those questions that particularly offended the intelligent Japanofile in me, and address them, hopefully, for the benefit of Ogg and Zug, my brethren:

1. Illegal downloads: The illegal download phenomenon exploded on the Internet many, many years ago. I remember Limewire from way back when Yoshiki was still a Japanese man (okay, well, that’s kind of a hard line to draw, but hey), and billions of websites and programs have since enabled such notorious activities. People download illegally off the internet– all it takes is one Google search and you have new albums for free. Entire websites and blogs have emerged devoted specifically to “promoting” their favorite bands by having one person acquire the album, and then upload it for the masses to leech off of.  This is not breaking news. We are no longer excited about this topic.

Musicians create music because it is their calling, passion, talent, or simply what they want to do as their job. Be that as it may, they do actually do this for their job– a job being, that is, a means of acquiring the papery stuffs we use in daily business in order to survive: in layman’s terms, money. When a band releases an album, DVD, or otherwise product, they do put it on the market for sale. That is to say, to be purchased using money. Obviously if they wanted people to download it for free, they would upload it onto the internet as free downloads. Asking bands what “they think about illegal downloads” is absolutely pointless. Unless one is fishing for that one band to say “Oh yeah, we just love it when everyone refuses to support our livelihood and just downloads for free everything we release.”, there is no longer any answer that can result from this question that can possibly shine a light. You have limited time to ask the band questions: for all our sakes, use it well.

2. People download illegally because Japanese CDs are “expensive”:

The Japanese music industry works slightly differently than the Western one. For example, in the West it’s not that common to release singles every other day. Most artists release albums frequently instead. In Japan, however, bands release full-length albums much less often, but tend to release singles several times throughout the year. A Japanese single typically costs around $10.00 – $12.00, and you get anywhere from 1 to 4 songs. Full-length albums typically cost around $30 – $35, with some as low as $25 and others as high as $40. Assuming it’s being shipped, that adds anywhere from $5 onwards in shipping fees, depending on who you buy from, method of shipment, and how much you order.

The misconception is that because it’s going to cost $45 to order an album from Japan, it’s okay to steal it by downloading online. Because a pair of denim from a chain store costs roughly $60, does that mean everybody shoplifts? No, I don’t think so. And yet does everyone wear denim?

“Expensive” is basically not an excuse. CDs, like everything, cost money, even if they come from Japan. If you have no money, get a job.

3. Japanese CDs are unavailable for Westerners to buy:

If you live in a rural part of the United States, let’s say like Wisconsin, where there are no strip-malls, no FYEs, no chain stores, no Hot Topic, and you have no access to the internet or a computer of any kind, then yes, Japanese CDs are totally unavailable for you to buy. Also, if you live in one of these places, you probably are out digging potatoes and not listening to Japanese rock music and Visual Kei on your 16G iPod with Skullcandy headphones.

Many popular Jrock bands are available on the most simplistic platforms such as iTunes and other online MP3 stores. Anything you can’t find there is readily available through a multitude of respectable English or multilingual websites dedicated to making Japanese music accessible and available to non-Japanese.

Get out from under your rock.

4.Westerners have no means of sampling/hearing the music:

MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon MP3, official websites, this amazing invention we all should have heard of by now: YouTube.

Get out from under your rock.

5.”Its either people don’t hear your music, or they download it illegally.”

I suggest moving from Wisconsin. That is all you can do.

In the beginning of time, these were once relevant, interesting topics, the answers to which many young Padawans were eagerly seeking. They were, yes, interesting topics back in a time when we all thought onigiri were donuts because Brock and Misty thought we couldn’t handle the truth. Now, however, we know what lies at the heart of the rice-ball, just as we now know that there are a lot of people out there who download music illegally. However, unlike being asked and consulted about the existence of illegal downloads, we are no longer constantly told “those are not jelly donuts. They are sweet rice packed around a shriveled plum with a little seaweed slapped on them.” And over and over again we do not go “oooh…is that what that is.”

The reason for this, is that a cultural awareness has developed in the West for things Japanese. We have learned about the existence of rice on earth, and even that it is shaped into triangular luncheon friends. As a media-driven, entertainment-industry society, we have evolved since the days when we were watching Pokemon on VHS. Although I never had problems inputting search queries into Google and clicking through results, I do recall that time when it seemed as though everything was truly on the other side of the world.

As of the year 2010, though, I really believed that our cultural consciousness around Japanese rock and Visual Kei had, like our awareness of onigiri, evolved and developed. CDs, merchandise, product, and even live shows are at least moderately available.

In response to the above mentioned questions, all I can say is, are all Japanofiles still completely paleolithic? Am I the only fan of Japanese rock music who has whole CD racks full of Japanese CDs that were neither unavailable, extortionately priced, or downloaded illegally? No. I am not. So why are we still asking these questions.

No disrespect to the folks at Purple Sky.

Just in Case giru Sets a Precedent…

It would seem that what started out as a few b-average, slightly disappointing releases has developed into a straight-up crisis in the grumpy wonderland of Visual Kei. Disappointment begins to develop into suspicion, which becomes paranoia, which becomes pressing your headphones into your ears as hard as you can, head cocked slightly to the side, thinking to yourself, I know they’re about to use that crappy synth….wait for it…wait for it… You don’t have to worry until you start feeling a glowing sense of self-satisfaction whenever such neurotic obsessions are fed.

However, dark times such as these happen, and we are left un-fulfilled by the big-name boys for whom the pressure is apparently becoming too much to deal with, to the point that they would rather fail repeatedly than regroup, re-assess, and be reborn in a tide of awesomeness and singles gushing with solid rock, oozing masterful metal, and practically vomiting creativity and inventiveness that makes us want to die, our fingers mashing the repeat button.

In these dark ages, it becomes apparent that our own creativity and inventiveness has a need to come out. If Visual Kei record labels refuse to dish up the goods straight, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, find your best set of headphones, crank up the volume, and you guessed it– branch out a little.

In some ways I actually find it really fun when it starts getting to this point. Just sort of knowing who you like and what you’ll buy, what you’ll listen to, the same artists on your iPod all the time, even if the music stays awesome, you have to admit it’s sort of boring. If there’s more amazing music to be discovered, there’s no point in thinking what you have is enough.

I know that originally I said that I was going to be returning to all of my old CDs and re-listening, re-appraising, and possibly reviewing; but actually I’ve been much more drawn to discovering new stuff than trying to get it going with my old collection once more. It seems like finding new artists is such a no-brainer remedy for this predicament to begin with. Maybe once you stop obsessing over everything The GazettE releases, and listen to something different for a while, you’ll have craving to go back, and then it will be refreshed automatically. Who knows, let’s give it a try.

I still think girugamesh should apologize for COLOR.