Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

A 1000-Year Life Expectancy hr594

I’ve heard some scientists and science-fiction writers say the average life expectancy of humans will get even longer fast and we could soon live up to 1000 years old. If it’s true, it’s a huge game changer. Supposing I live until 1000 years old, the shape of my life will be entirely different as of today. First of all, the pace of living will get slower. I won’t have to hasten anything since I’ve still got more than 900 years left. I won’t fuss over the quick completion of my new song for which I’ve been deep into mastering. When I complete it without hurry, I will move on to another song and take plentiful time to finish it again. Even such a slow worker like me can stock ample songs in over 900 years. With that duration of time and the number of songs, the odds can be better that one of my songs could be found by some chance and be a smash hit, which will make me a celebrity and lead me to Monaco to live in. Secondly, I will be freed from fear of aging. I seriously resist getting old, sometimes quite hysterically. Of course no one likes to see their skin sagging and all wrinkled. But when I see my deteriorating looks, I feel a deadline for making my dreams come true. Getting older means getting closer to the deadline for whatever we haven’t yet achieved. The sense that we might not make it is dreadful if we have something to accomplish. Now that the deadline is well over 900 years away, how peaceful I can feel for the moment! I don’t have to pronounce my dreams dead just yet. The day could come when I see people all around the world listen to and hum my songs. If I moved in Monaco at the age of 300, I could live there for almost 700 years. In the course of 1000 years, it could become a common practice that a human body is replaced by a cyborg. Aging could be extinct. I could be a ballerina as I dreamed of when I was a child. Or, I would be the president of the united world when I’m 500 years old. As a simpler alternative, I could win the lottery before I die, since the odds turn good with the innumerable lotto strips I will get in over 900 years. That could give me a come-from-behind fortune. By making a smart investment of it, I could end my life as a team owner of Formula One. It seems anything is possible once I have 1000 years. This rapture is weirdly familiar to me. My grandfather. He had the habit of saying he would live until 100 years old when I was little. Back then, not so many people lived so long and everyone of my family used to scoff at him. Although he couldn’t reach 100 but died at 96 years old, it was close enough to his fantasy goal. In that respect, I could go as far as 900. But I noticed a long life expectancy is not necessarily all good. Life requires money. I’ve made ends meet with bare life so far in my life. As anything is possible, it’s also possible this state continues as long as I live. 1000 years of financial worries? It definitely sounds like a living hell…

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Illusions of Completion hr592

My work for the new song is drawing to a close and it’s in the mastering process now. I usually make the master track and leave it for a few days before the final check. The interval is essential for me because it gets me out of the zone, calms me down and gives me ears to listen objectively. Since this particular new song of mine required difficult mastering, I had trouble with finding the solution. It took much longer than I had expected to make the master track. I finally got to make one and tried to forget all about it for a few days. After the interval, I got so tense and excited that couldn’t sleep the night before the final check. What made me sleepless was the thought that on the very next day, I would finally end this painfully prolonged mastering and could see the song completed. I knew I needed a good night’s sleep for a good physical condition to make good judgement, but that pressure for all good kept me awake all the more. I listened to the master track the next day carefully and objectively, and found one slight flaw. I was disappointed that it wasn’t the day. I had to correct it and hold the completion over. I repeated the process of mastering, taking an interval, having difficulty sleeping, and making the final check. Then on the day I believed this would be the day of completion, I noticed one minor kink. I redid the process all over again. At the moment, I’m in this loop and can’t get out of it. I’m literally stuck in the mud of mastering. I make it a custom to open champagne when a song is completed, which doesn’t happen often because I’m a slow worker. Completing a song is so infrequent that I celebrate with Moet Chandon. It’s my favorite but too expensive for me to drink except for New Year’s Eve. This time, I put it in the fridge months ago when I thought this song was completed at any moment. And it’s been there unopened for months, as I’m deeply caught in the mastering mire. Every time I open the fridge, I see Moet chilled so long and almost frozen up, blaming my prolonged work. I keep declaring to my partner that today is the last day for this song, and retracting it at the end of the day. He doesn’t say anything but I feel his disappointment and anxiousness. As I’ve taken back my words of the completion so many times, I fear that he might see me as a useless liar who is just lingering slow work. I can take as much time as I like in theory since the deadline doesn’t exist for the song. Even so, I’ve already spent five years working just on this song and it’s too long for a slow worker like me. That notion puts a lot of pressure on me to complete fast. It seems to me as if both Moet’s and my partner’s patience is running out. Workdays have dragged on and on, and it has begun to eat me mentally. These days, when I finish my day’s work and tell my partner that the song hasn’t been completed again, I sense that he throws me a cold glance implying, “I thought so.” The other night, I had a dream in which I cried for joy because the song’s mastering went perfectly and it sounded flawless. The other day, when I failed to finish the song for umpteenth time, I was so irritated that I took it out on my partner and had a nasty dinnertime. In this anguish, winter ended and spring has come. I’ve been correcting small parts that I’m not satisfied with, which hinders completion. The thing is, those parts are too small to be called flaws or even kinks. I’m certain nobody would notice when he or she listens to it. Then what am I doing? What am I chasing? I may have lost a definition for completion. What is completion, after all? I’ve asked basic questions to myself and the answer is the same. I just want what I’m entirely satisfied with. If I called anything other than that completion, it would be a lie. I would actually become a useless liar and be done for. I would rather be bogged down in this mud of searching for my perfection than that. So I go on, starting another loop yet again, while I keep crying completion to my partner, to myself, and to Moet Chandon…

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A Picture-Card Show hr586

I was absorbed in one kind of play when I was about seven years old. It was paper play called ‘kamishibai’ in Japan. It’s a picture-card show in which a performer tells a story while showing a picture that corresponds to it. A performer impersonates the characters to say their lines and flips a picture to the next one when the scene changes. It’s a sort of street performance that is hardly seen these days. But when I was little, an old picture-card showman came to the small park near my house every two weeks or so. He would walk around my neighborhood while ringing a bell to let children know the show was coming. When I heard the bell, I would spring toward the park clenching small change in my hand. The show was free, but the performer sold cheap snacks and candies before the show. His theater was his bicycle. On the back of the bicycle, a big wooden box was fixed that contained both the pictures and candies. Once the show started, the box transformed into the picture holder. By tacit agreement, children who had bought candies stood in the front and those who hadn’t stood on their toes in the back to get a view. Although the story itself didn’t interest me so much, I loved the experience that I saw a live performance while eating delicious snacks. It was a luxury to me. Probably because I liked it too much, I asked my parents and got a picture-card show play set. The play set was available at a bookstore and came with a sono-sheet. A sono-sheet was a very thin flexible vinyl record on which the story, the lines of the characters and the sound effects all that corresponded to the picture cards were recorded. The instruction for the timing to flip the pictures was also recorded. The story and the pictures were from a popular TV animation program for kids. Unlike the picture-card show at the park, with this play set, I was a performer. Since there was a vinyl to be played along with it, I could sit in front of the picture holder and watch it as a lone audience while listening to the record. Only, I wasn’t interested in being the audience. I’d rather stood behind the picture holder and flipped the pictures according to the instruction played on the record. The characters’ lines were printed on the back of each picture and I read them along with the record. The number of the picture cards were over twenty and I practiced flipping each one of them in the perfect timing and reading the lines with emotions by imitating the voice actors on the record. That was my favorite play of my childhood and I spent a lot of time and energy every day. The funny part was, I didn’t need any audience. I practiced intently not to show the play but to perform perfectly. And I performed exclusively for myself. This play couldn’t be accomplished without the record player that sat in the guestroom of my house. I would sneak in there to play with the set because I couldn’t concentrate on my performance if someone heard or saw it. In case my younger sister asked me to play it to her, I drove her away. Not to be bothered by anyone, I didn’t even turn on the light of the room. I would play the show along with the record alone in the dark, and relish satisfaction and joy when I thought the performance went perfectly. Recalling my favorite childhood play now, it awfully looks similar to the way I engage in my work of music. I guess I make my songs strenuously for perfection not for audience’s reception. I always thought I pursued people’s attention and stardom, but it wasn’t true as long as I remembered how I felt happy in my childhood. That explains why my songs don’t ever sell. I perform to no audience. It seems that’s the way I liked, and the way I’m destined for…

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Huge Absence hr581

I went to the Tulip concert the other day. Tulip is my lifelong favorite band and the reason why I became a musician. They are making a national tour commemorating their 45th anniversary. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been to several concerts every time they were on tour. They used to tour every six months, which made the number of my attendance soar. Most part of my monthly allowance was spent on the ticket. Among the five members, I was an avid fan of the lead guitarist of the band, Toshiyuki Abe. I was always enchanted tremendously by the sensuous sound from his red guitar in my youth. After I grew up and the band broke up, they reunite every five years to make an anniversary tour. I had been to several venues each time by spending costly transportation fees and staying at a hotel when the venue was too far to be in time for the last train back home. That had been my usual pattern concerning Tulip until their 40th anniversary tour was wrapped up. Although I had waited anxiously for their 45th, the wait ended abruptly two years ago even before the tour started. Mr. Abe, who I believe is the best guitarist in the world, suddenly passed away. Tulip’s 45th anniversary tour turned out to be a memorial to him, which I’d never, ever pictured happening. I wasn’t going to go to their concert this time. I didn’t want to see the band without him who had been my idol for such a long time. It would be too sad. Whenever something related to Mr. Abe popped into my mind in my daily life, my eyes easily swim with tears automatically. I couldn’t imagine how sad it would be that I actually saw Mr. Abe missing in the band and realized again he was gone. On the one hand, I thought I’d better not go, but on the other hand I was curious how the band would play without him. They announced Tulip would become a four-man band without having a new guitarist. Who would play the guitar part then? Would they change the arrangement and have the keyboard cover the part? Or, would one of the members switch to a lead guitarist? Or, would a robot stand with a guitar? I had thought of possible alternatives every day and couldn’t stop thinking about it eventually. To solve mounting questions, I decided to face the sadness and go to the concert. After I got the ticket, though, I still felt hesitant to go. I couldn’t believe I was holding a ticket of Tulip in which Mr. Abe didn’t exist. I had asked to myself what I was doing for three months. But about ten days before the concert, I began to feel excited and my heart leapt up. I was headed for the concert hall on that day with odd rapture. The minute the concert started, all my questions were answered in an unexpected yet totally reasonable way. In the back of Tulip, there were three supporting players. A supporting guitarist was understandable, but there were a drummer and a keyboardist that made up the band of twin-drums and twin-keyboards. The sound was different accordingly and for some reason, wasn’t good as it used to be. They also lost edge on vocals with no reason. The loss of Mr. Abe has had effect on the band much greater than I thought. It reduced the quality of Tulip. It didn’t sound or look like Tulip. I was disappointed and felt so sad. I witnessed the band suffered a massive vacuum. Mr. Abe’s trademark red guitar that I’d watched and listened since I was a teenager was placed on the stage and made me cry instead of exult this time. His song was played while his pictures were shown and I bitterly missed him. As the concert went on, I realized how hard the members was trying to fill in the big hole that they knew couldn’t possibly be filled in. With their desperate attempts, they tried to carry on at all costs. Their strong intention to sustain the loss and to survive as Tulip was conveyed from the stage. I was deeply moved by their effort to continue. Before I knew, I was jumping and sang myself hoarse along to their songs with other audience as I had always done at their concert. Looking back, I became a singer-song writer to be like Tulip. Now I will do anything I can to keep on until I die like Tulip is doing. Just one thing I will not follow them is to accept that the quality of my music gets poor. I wouldn’t, I hope…

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Defection from A Negative Empire hr578

I’m a singer-songwriter living in Japan. Yet, I’m totally unfamiliar with Japanese recent entertainment. As I haven’t caught up with Japanese pop music, TV dramas and movies for decades, I don’t know any tunes, any titles and any names and faces of a band, a singer or an actor. I have lost interest in Japanese entertainment as a whole except for comedians for a long time. The reason is simple: there’s nothing worth listening or watching at all. Every single thing I encounter is rubbish and I have stopped trying to find something good. It seems that as a nation falls into decay, its entertainment perishes accordingly. The most common sales pitch for movies in Japan is ‘You can cry hardest.’ The tears in the pitch don’t mean what we shed when we are moved or touched or happy. They mean specifically the ones when we are sad. The sadder a story is, the bigger hit a movie scores. As a result, movies that center only on death of one’s beloved are overrun in Japan. That kind of movie is what I want to watch least. I prefer foreign movies which themes exist, touch me, and consequently make me cry. But Western films are not sad enough for Japanese people and every year the number of foreign movies that come into theaters shrinks. Even the Japanese comedy TV shows are aired less and less although they are the only domestic entertainment I can enjoy. I used to be an avid frequent visitor of a Disney theme park in Tokyo where I could feel like I’m visiting America. Sadly, Japanese taste has been greatly increased there and changed its atmosphere so much that I’ve long since stopped going. While less Western culture flows into Japan, more and more Japanese games and animations are going abroad. I’m afraid that the Japanese negative spirit might brainwash teens and children in U.S. through them. Thanks to cable TV I recently subscribed, I enjoy TV shows and movies from U.S. every day. Unlike domestic counterparts, good ones are abundant throughout the channels and I can easily find myself absorbed in. Zombies, devils, serial killers and the FBI come at me every night and I fight against them. That gives me food for thought, and makes my brain active and me feel positive. I’m duly aware of a lot of problems, but I can see hope exist in U.S. I suspect that’s the very reason why Japanese people are inclined more for domestic culture. They have lost hope and want to share denial of hope with others. They see themselves die with characters in the Japanese movies. I will stay away such a negative and would rather wander around cable TV channels from U.S. I intend to devour good entertainment as much as possible for my own survival. And I believe that will lead me to create good works of myself and help them be part of good entertainment. It’s not a matter of fame and money any more. It’s a matter of life or death. Well, of course it’s even better to stay alive with fame and money, I admit…

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