Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kanye West: Runaway [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy]

Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Rolling Stone - 5 Stars

"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his most maniacally inspired music yet, coasting on heroic levels of dementia, pimping on top of Mount Olympus."

Runaway is a 35-minute long, short film directed by Kanye West. It serves as the music video for the song of the same name. The film depicts a romantic relationship between a man and a half-woman, half-phoenix, and is set to music by Kanye West, most of which is from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

It was filmed in Prague over the period of four days in the summer of 2010. West describes the video as an "overall representation of what he dreams and a parallel to his music career". According to model Selita Ebanks, who co-stars in the video, the moral is, "the world doesn't accept, or they try to change, what is different, instead of trying to understand it." On a personal note, I totally agree with that sentiment. Bill

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Pacific Century (1992)

The Pacific Century was a 1992 PBS Emmy Award winning ten part documentary series narrated by Peter Coyote about the rise of the Pacific Rim economies. Alex Gibney was the writer for the series, and Frank Gibney, his father, wrote the companion volume, The Pacific Century: America and Asia in a Changing World. The series was a co-production of the Pacific Basin Institute and KCTS-TV in Seattle.


1. The Two Coasts of China: Asia and the Challenge of the West
2. The Meiji Revolution
3. From the Barrel of a Gun
4. Writers and Revolutionaries
5. Reinventing Japan
6. Inside Japan, Inc.
7. Big Business and the Ghost of Confucius
8. The Fight for Democracy
9. Sentimental Imperialists: America in Asia
10. The Pacific Century: The Future of the Pacific Basin

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frontline: God In America

Frontline: God In America, 6 hours over 3 nights, Oct 11-13, 2010

Since the days when the Puritan "city on a hill" beckoned on the horizon of the New World, religious faith and belief have forged America's ideals, molded its identity and shaped its sense of mission at home and abroad.

For the first time on television, God in America explores the tumultuous 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America, from the first European settlements to the 2008 presidential election. A co-production of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, this six-hour series examines how religious dissidents helped shape the American concept of religious liberty and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation's courts and political arena; how religious freedom and waves of new immigrants and religious revivals fueled competition in the religious marketplace; how movements for social reform -- from abolition to civil rights -- galvanized men and women to put their faith into political action; and how religious faith influenced conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

IMAX Cosmic Voyage

From the IMAX Film Powers of Ten. This part seems inspired by the film Powers of Ten by Charles & Ray Eames.

Monday, October 04, 2010

BBC Planet Earth

Planet Earth is a 2006 television series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit narrated by David Attenborough. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series by the BBC, and also the first to be filmed in high definition. The series was co-produced by the Discovery Channel and NHK in association with CBC, and was described by its makers as "the definitive look at the diversity of our planet".

Planet Earth was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One in March 2006, and premiered one year later in the USA on the Discovery Channel. By June 2007, it had been shown in 130 countries worldwide. For Discovery Sigourney Weaver's voiceover replaced Attenborough.

The series comprises eleven episodes, each of which features a global overview of a different habitat on Earth.


1. From Pole to Pole
2. Mountains
3. Fresh Water
4. Caves
5. Deserts
6. Ice Worlds
7. Great Plains
8. Jungles
9. Shallow Seas
10. Seasonal Forests
11. Ocean Deep

Friday, August 13, 2010

BBC Yellowstone

Yellowstone is a BBC nature documentary series broadcast from 15 March 2009. Narrated by Peter Firth, the series takes a look at a year in the life of Yellowstone National Park, examining how its wildlife adapts to living in one of the harshest wildernesses on Earth.


1. "Winter"
2. "Summer"
3. "Autumn"

Its been described the series as "amazingly shot" and a "work of art". The Times gave it five out of five, and TV Scoop described it as "majestic yet understated and consistently surprising". At the 2009 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Yellowstone gained the Best Series Award, and "Winter" gained the Best Wildlife Habitat Program award. It was also a finalist in the Best Cinematography category. At the 2009 International Wildlife Film Festival Awards, the series won the Best Cinematography and Best Ecosystem awards, and gained Merit Awards for Editing and Sound Design. 

Cosmos: Evolution

Carl Sagan's Cosmos: Evolution

Carl Sagan 1934 - 1996

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WGBH Forum Network: Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth I

Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth I
WGBH Forum Network
October 5, 2005
Lynn Rothschild astrobiologist, NASA

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Japanese Language: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana

The Japanese writing system uses three main types of characters, the Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.

The Kanji: traditional symbolic characters that originated in China.

Kyōiku Kanji

The Kyōiku kanji ("education kanji") are 1006 characters that Japanese children learn in elementary school. The number was 881 until 1981.

Jōyō Kanji

The Jōyō kanji are 1,945 characters consisting of all the Kyōiku kanji, plus an additional 939 kanji taught in junior high and high school. The Jōyō kanji were introduced in 1981. They replaced an older list of 1,850 characters known as the General-use kanji (tōyō kanji) introduced in 1946.

The Kanas:

Each kana is either a vowel such as "a" (あ); a consonant followed by a vowel such as "ka" (か); or "n" (ん).

Hiragana: 46 phonetic syllables used for native Japanese words.

Hiragana (read top down right to left, starting on the top right with 'A')

Katakana: 46 phonetic syllables used for foreign words.

Katakana (read top down right to left, starting on the top right with 'A')

I've lived in Japan for about 13 years, and the nice things about Japanese is that it is a phonetic language and easy to pronounce. It was quite easy to learn Hiragana and Katakana very quickly from the beginning. Kanji took quite a bit longer and never will be good enough, but makes a lot of sense after all this time. Kanji is mostly used for nouns and the root of verbs. Hiragana is used for particles, the suffix of nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Katakana although used for foreign words can be difficult because you can't assume the language from which the word was derived from. For example the Japanese word for bread パン (pan in Katakana) is actually the French word for bread.

To get a decent grasp of Japanese grammer, both colloquial and literal Japanese need a lot of practical usage. Below are some good books I've used as guides to help me along the way.  

Study References: (Although these are Kodansha books, I'm not promoting Kodansha, but these are the ones that have been most useful and practical for me over the years)

Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese-English Dictionary
This is an excellent dictionary. It has Kanji and Furigana. Romanized (Alphabet) dictionaries in alphabetical order (vs. the Japanese order that the Kanas are listed in) may be easy from a western perspective, but doesn't help much in getting used to the order of the kanas and the kanji in the same way Japanese do. In short dictionary uses their order, not ours.

Furigana refers to the small kana that are printed above or alongside kanji to show the pronunciation of the Chinese characters. They are common in children's books and comics to assist them as they learn the kanji. With furigana superscripts, the beginner who is familiar with hiragana and katakana is able to read even the most difficult and obscure kanji at a glance. Most books provide little or no guide to kanji readings or romanize some or all the Japanese words and sentences. This book also has full sentence examples to support the word definitions provided (also in Furigana).

The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs
One thing I've struggled with is verbs, adverbs and adjectives. Unlike English there aren't many irregular verbs. If you know the root verb, then it is quite easy to conjugate it appropriately. So the challenge is not in the conjugation but the broader sentence structure. It took a while to grasp this and the book as well, but it includes an addendum that show the many sentence compounds along with the meaning they convey.

For any beginner of Japanese, adjectives and adverbs are bound to present a challenge. Unlike English adjectives, Japanese ones conjugate, meaning that you must memorize their various forms before being able to build sentences of any complexity. Adverbs do not conjugate, but make use of particles to show their grammatical relationship to other words, and some have very subtle shades of meaning that are difficult to grasp. Moreover, many adverbs do not translate into English adverbs. The role these parts of speech play in adding flavor to the Japanese language is invaluable. This handy reference manual introduces the basic (and basics of) adjectives and adverbs in a clear and sensible way.

A Dictionary of Japanese Particles
As I mentioned earlier, hiragana is used as particles within a sentence. This book is invaluable to how to communicate clear and concisely. It would be like trying to speak English without 'the, a, an, or, at, on, of...' Japanese as a phonetic language has many more particles than English. Although phonetically and literally simplistic, it is the particles that give the Japanese language flexibility, expressiveness, and depth.

For English-speaking students of Japanese, particles are perhaps the most difficult aspect of the language to learn. It would be no exaggeration to say that, for most people, they can never be completely mastered. Thus, the study of particles is a lifetime undertaking, and students need a lifelong companion to help them along the way. This dictionary covers over 100 particles in alphabetical order, explains the meanings of each (most have more than one), and gives sample sentences for each meaning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Devil's Dictionary

The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, is a satirical book published in 1911. It offers reinterpretations of terms in the English language.

My favorite examples:

AMBITION, n. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.

AMNESTY, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.

BEAUTY, n. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

LOVE, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder.

MISFORTUNE, n. The kind of fortune that never misses.

MONEY, n. A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Gall–Peters projection

The Gall–Peters Projection shows countries in proportion to their relative sizes . It is based upon Arno Peter's decimal grid which divides the surface of the earth into 100 longitudinal fields of equal width and 1000 laditudinal fields of equal height. It treats rectangles around the equator as squares and builds the other rectangles onto these in proportion to the areas they represent. The zero meridian on this system is combined with a proposed new international date line.

The traditional maps distorts the world to the advantage of The North, in actual fact is only half as large as The South, and on Mercator maps to be much larger. On the Mercator Map Europe appears larger than South America, and shows Alaska three times larger than Mexico even though Mexico is much larger. Russia appears twice as large as Africa, even though Africa is much larger. Greenland appears larger than China, even though China is four times as large. Scandanavia appears larger than India even though India is three times as large.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MLK: A Call to Conscience

Tavis Smiley Reports MLK: A Call to Conscience (view online)

Tavis Smiley Reports examines Martin Luther King, Jr.'s stand against the Vietnam War and the influence of his legacy today. Tavis speaks with scholars and friends of King, including Cornel West, Vincent Harding and Susannah Heschel.

Full Beyond Vietnam Speech Text
New York City Riverside Church
April 4, 1967


Talk of the Nation: The Story Of King's 'Beyond Vietnam' Speech
March 30, 2010

Democracy Now: As Obama Visits Afghanistan, Tavis Smiley on Rev. Martin Luther King and His Opposition to the Vietnam War
March 29, 2010

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"

Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


On air and online Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 9:00pm (check local listings)

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

On January 12, 2010, one of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Those responsible for handling the catastrophe, including the Haitian government and the United Nations, were amongst the victims and struggled to respond. FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith bears witness to the scale of the disaster and examines the ill-coordinated relief efforts. Drawing on interviews with key officials and humanitarian experts from Port-au-Prince to Washington, The Quake asks whether the world can do better. And how?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

PBS: Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr.

What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Harvard scholar turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans — professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

Episode One, Our American Stories
Episode Two, Becoming American
Episode Three, Making America
Episode Four, Know Thyself

Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. executive producer William R. Grant and producer Stephen Ives discuss the series with Dr. David Altshuler, a clinical endocrinologist and human geneticist from the Broad Institute. In the Harvard professor’s latest production, Gates uses genealogy and genetics to explore family histories of 12 renowned Americans and their immigrant pasts.







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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All In Love Is Fair

All is fair in love
Love's a crazy game
Two people vow to stay
In love as one they say
But all is changed with time
The future no one can see
The road you leave behind
Ahead lies mystery
But all is fair in love
I had to go away
A writer takes his pen
To write the words again
That all in love is fair

All of fate's a chance
It's either good or bad
I tossed my coin to say
In love with me you'd stay
But all in war is so cold
You either win or lose
When all is put away
The loosing side I'll play
But all is fair in love

Stevie Wonder
"All In Love Is Fair"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A People's History of the United States

A People's History of the United States is a 1980 non-fiction book by American historian and political scientist Howard Zinn. In the book, Zinn seeks to present American history through the eyes of those rarely heard in mainstream histories. A People's History has become a major success and was a runner-up in 1980 for the National Book Award. It has been adopted for reading in some high schools and colleges across the United States and has been frequently revised, with the most recent edition covering events through 2003. In 2003, Zinn was awarded the Prix des Amis du Monde Diplomatique for the French version of this book, Une histoire populaire des Etats-Unis. Over one million copies have been sold.

Howard Zinn 1922-2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FRONTLINE: digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

Digital Nation
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Over a single generation, the Web and digital media have remade nearly every aspect of modern culture, transforming the way we work, learn and connect in ways that we’re only beginning to understand. FRONTLINE producer Rachel Dretzin (Growing Up Online) teams up with one of the leading thinkers of the digital age, Douglas Rushkoff (The Persuaders, Merchants of Cool), to continue to explore life on the virtual frontier. The film is the product of a unique collaboration with visitors to the Digital Nation Web site, who for the past year have been able to react to the work in progress and post their own stories online. Dretzin and her team report from the front lines of digital culture -- from love affairs blossoming in virtual worlds, to the thoroughly wired classrooms of the future, to military bases where the Air Force is fighting a new form of digital warfare. Along the way, they begin to map the critical ways that technology is transforming us -- and what we may be learning about ourselves in the process.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

New Technologies in a Sustainable Energy Economy

MIT World
The Role of New Technologies in a Sustainable Energy Economy
Angela Belcher
Daniel Nocera
October 25, 2006

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Japanese Onsens

A Japanese onsen is a natural hot spring for bathing. Also an onsen is used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around such hot springs.

Japan is a volcanically active country, and has thousands of onsens scattered across the archipelago. Onsen by definition use naturally hot water from geothermally heated springs. Note: An onsen should be considered different from Japanese sentos, which are just indoor public bath houses where the baths are filled with heated tap water.

Major onsen resort hotels often feature a wide variety of themed spa baths and artificial waterfalls in the bathing area. Onsens come in many types and shapes, including outdoor and indoor baths. Baths may be either public run by a local city, or private run as part of a hotel, ryokan or Bed and Breakfast.

Historically, traditional onsen were located outdoors. A large number of inns have now built indoor bathing facilities as well. Onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content. A particular onsen may feature several different baths, each with water with a different mineral composition, at different temperatures.

The outdoor bath tubs are most often made from Japanese cypress, marble or granite, while indoor tubs may be made with tile, acrylic glass or stainless steel. Many onsens boast about their unique water and mineral compositions, plus what healing properties these may contain. Other spa services like massages are often offered.

Traditionally, men and women bathed together at the onsen and sentō but single-sex bathing has become the norm since Japan opened to the West during the Meiji period in the late 1800's. Mixed-sex (named konyoku) bathing still exists at many onsens in the rural areas of Japan, which usually provide the option of separate "women-only" baths or different hours for the two sexes. Children of either sex may be seen in both the men's and the women's baths.