Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

Monday 2 January 2006
Passed an uneventful New Years Eve.Passed out on my couch after going out for dinner.Arrived home round 10pm.Drifted off to sleep.Awoke 4a.m cold.Never a big fan of New Years Eve anyway.Still going to happen regardless...Not sure what this year will bring.I do know I want to travel and visit a few places and do a few other things in my spare time.

Shuffled down to Osu Kannon temple to witness firsthand the locals making their first visit of the New Year.To pray for happiness,safety and prosperity in the coming year.This custom is called "hatsumode" in Japanese i.e the first visit of the year to the local Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine.A variation is called "hatsuhimode" ...a prayer ceremony held on a sacred mountain-top during the first sunrise of the year.
According to an article in the Japan Times 91 million people are forecast to visit temples or shrines in the first three days of 2006.Provided the weather is good of course.Tokyo's Meiji Shrine is predicted to receive the largest number of visitors at 3.1 million people.Locally in Nagoya,Atsuta Jingu Shrine is crowded with about 2 million visitors.Its one of the most important shrines in Japan housing an Imperial Family treasure.There are usually lots of police and the streets around the shrine are closed to ensure safety and access.
My neighbourhood temple isnt as old as the 1900 year old Atsuta but Osu Kannon is still packed with people.The temple has been on its present site since 1612 though due to war,floods and fire the current buildings date from the 1970s.
As you can see from the photo above the temple area is crowded.People have queued up the stairs on the left and after praying and making monetary donations exit via the right hand side stairs.Queuing time was about 20minutes when I was there yesterday,the line snaked out of the temple grounds into the street.Many young women wore fetching fur lined collared kimonos to keep warm.Also in evidence were people clutching small dogs;this being" the year of the dog" their owners were taking the whimpering,shivering beasts to be blessed for the coming year.
As well as making monetary donations, people could also buy lucky charms for themselves,their houses or cars.There were also various food stalls for the patient lined up hordes.My favourite is tacoyaki...grilled octopus balls.See below for photos and more details..The queue for tacoyaki was almost as long as that for the temple and the toilets.

Movie Soundtracks.
Read recently a CNN article about movie soundtracks.How they can make a good movie better or even be the best feature in a less memorable one.The writer offered as examples the recent movies "Memories of a Geisha" ,soundtrack by John Williams and "The Legend of Zorro" soundtrack by James Horner.Both well known especially Williams for his Star Wars score.Horner is known primarily for his "Titanic" orchestration though I also know him for his "Glory" and "Field of Dreams" efforts.

The premise behind the article got me thinking about movie music.It can in some cases become a character almost itself..take for example "jazz music" in "The Talented Mr Ripley."
Sometimes its used as a background effect in scenes.Later,maybe years later, when you hear the music again you associate it with a particular scene or movie.Take for example Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous".Or even the music that accompanies the "Building the Barn" sequence in "Witness".I can still conjure up the image of a very young Harrison Ford hammering nails, competing against his rival, an Amish carpenter.
To my musically illiterate mind a soundtrack should elevate a scene in a way words or actions cant.There are many obvious examples of this..the music of "Psycho" or "The Exorcist" scores jar to mind.Then again there is the haunting,sense of loss and the futility of war engendered by Horners "Glory" music.Or the equally sad,doomed feeling generated by the use of Beethovens Piano Concerto No 5 Opus 73 "Emperor" in Sean Penns "The Assassination of Richard Nixon".
While watching a movie is first and foremost a visual experience a soundtrack should complement and enhance that experience....

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