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Friday, August 31, 2007

Del Rosario versus Inoue

In January 1993 Roberto del Rosario filed a complaint to the Regional Trial Court at Makati, Philippines, for patent infringement against the Janito Corporation, the Chinese firm that claimed to have invented the Miyata Karaoke machine. Del Rosario alleged that he was a patentee of audio equipment and had improved what was commonly known as the sing-along system or karaoke. He described his sing-along system as a handy, multi-purpose, compact machine that incorporated an amplifier, speaker, one or two tape mechanisms, an optional tuner or radio and a microphone mixer with features to enhance one's voice, such as echo or reverb to simulate opera or a studio sound. The whole system was then encased in a cabinet. He stated that he had developed the system in 1975 and began to market it in 1978. On 15 March 1996 the Supreme Court in the Philippines ruled favour of Del Rosario, making him the world's sole patent holder for the Karaoke system.

Del Rosario's claim further muddled the already complicated origins of karaoke. As with the Bible, there are many accounts regarding the genesis of karaoke. The most common belief is that karaoke originated in Japan, since the term is abbreviated compound of two Japanese words: 'kara', from karappo('empty'), and 'oke, an abbreviation for okesultura ('orchestra'). Toru Mitsui, however, explains that the original terms karaoke in Japanese does not mean 'empty orchestra', but instead should be understood as 'the orchestra on the recording is void of vocals', referring to the karaoke machine as well as to the singing.

In 1996, about the time the Supreme Court in the Philippines was anointing Del Rosario as the inventor of the karaoke system, a Singapore based all-karaoke RV channel 'discovered' an amiable-looking character named Inoue Diasuke, from Nishinomiya in Hyogo prefecture, Japan, and made him the 'Grand Daddy' of karaoke.

In 1971 Inoue was a none-too-successful 30-year old keyboard and vibraphone back-up player in a bar in Kobe. He was, however, much loved by many amateur singers since he seemed to possess a magic touch; his ability to make even a poor singer sing in tune.', which later earned him the nickname of 'human karaoke machine'. Inoue was in such high demand that he had to clone himself. One day a customer asked him to go on a company trip and play for him during a party. Inoue was too busy to go, so he recorded the backup music on a tape and gave it to his customer. according to Inoue, "That guy was worse than your typical bad singer. He couldn't hit the notes, couldn't even hold a beat. so I purposely recorded the song off-beat. and you know what? He was very happy with the results!" The businessman delivered an emotional rendition of Frank Nagai's 'Leaving Haneda Airport on 7:50pm Flight', Inoue collected his money in absentia and came up with another brilliant idea:'As for me, I couldn't play well without looking at the sheet music, and new songs kept coming out one after the other, so I thought maybe a machine could make things easier for me. In a sense, my invention came about because I was too lazy to learn new songs!'. Inoue asked for help from three friend: an electronics specialist, a woodworker and furniture finisher. Within three months they made him a karaoke machine, a more sophisticated clone of Inoue, complete with microphone and echo effect. They called it the '8-Juke'. By depositing a 100-yen coin into the machine, the backup music would start playing in just five seconds. Initially they made only eleven machines, but they quickly became so popular that they had to produce another ten thousand.

In 1999 Time magazine astonishingly named Inoue one of the twentieth century's most influential Asians, arguing that he 'had helped liberate legions of the once unvoiced; as much as Mao Zedong or Mohandas Gandhi changed Asian days, Inoue transformed its nights. In 2004, described in similar terms as 'thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other', he was presented at Harvard University with the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, a semi-serious award presented by real Nobel Prize winners. Inoue has also been the subject of films, the most recent one of which, simply called Karaoke, features a much better looking actor than the plump, shortish Inoue. 'At least they got someone tall to play me', he laughs. As for his monumental contribution to the human race, Inoue is less enthusiastic. 'I simply put things that already existed together, which is completely different. I took a car stereo, a coin box, and a small amp to make a karaoke. Who would even consider patenting something like that?'

Inoue now makes a living by selling an eco-friendly detergent and a cockroach repellent for karaoke machines: 'Cockroaches get inside the machines, build nests, and chew on the wires .... this is the reason why more than 80 percent of the machines break down. 'This is not the first time he has partly profited from the revenues produced by the karaoke industry. In the 1980s he ran a company that successfully persuaded dozens of small production firms to lease songs for 8-juke karaoke machines, but the introduction of new laser and dial-up technology left him jobless until he discovered that cockroaches, too, love karaoke.

In order to make karaoke into an authentic Japanese story, Wikipedia has attributed its origin to the long tradition of singing and dancing in rural Japan, which dates back to ancient times, or to Noh, a major form of musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. The emphasis on singing and dancing in a samurai's training is also thought to have contributed to the development of karaoke. During the Taisho period (1912-26) the Utago Kissa (song coffee shop), where customers often sang to a live band, became popular. Another popular story claims that, years later, when a strolling guitarist failed to appear, a snack bar owner in Kobe put on tapes of music and asked people if they wanted to sing.

(Source:KARAOKE The Global Phenomenon by Zhou Xun and Francesca Tarocco)
posted by infraternam meam @ 5:09 PM   2 comments
Sunday, August 19, 2007

1996 - 98
Mammals ..... 484
Birds ............. 403
Reptiles ......... 100
Amphibians .... 49
Fish ............... 291
Total --------------1,327

Mammals ..... 510
Birds ............ 532
Reptiles ........ 174
Amphibians ...1,180
Fish ............. 491
Total ------------2,887

An estimated 7,725 animal species, many of which live in Africa and Asia, are currently threatened with extinction, several because of hunting. A few examples:

STATUS: Endangered
POPULATION: 3,000 to 4,500

DISTRIBUTION: Southern oceans
STATUS: Critically Endangered
POPULATION: Approximately 34,000 nesting females

STATUS: Endangered
POPULATION: Fewer than 3,000

STATUS: Endangered
POPULATION: About 1,600

DISTRIBUTION: Southern Africa
STATUS: Critically endangered
POPULATION: Approximately 3,600

DISTRIBUTION: Nepal, China,SE Asia
STATUS: Vulnerable
POPULATION: About 10,000

DISTRIBUTION: Chad, Niger, Mali
STATUS: Critically endangered
POPULATION: Fewer than 500

(Source: NEWSWEEK MAG by: Marc Bain)

posted by infraternam meam @ 9:21 PM   0 comments
Have you finished reading? What do you think? Is Harry Potter a Christian story after all? Harry has made news, ever since his arrival on the scene in 1998, for provoking the ire of some right-wing Christians who believe his magical powers and wizardly aspirations - not to mention his boarding school peopled with eccentric friends and demonic villains - promote occultism and Satan worship.

The enemies of young Potter arm themselves with this quotation from Deuteronomy: "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjure spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead." Conservative Christian leaders continue to make public statements against the book. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, reiterated last week in a statement that he has "spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter Products," and Chuck Colson, of Prison Fellowship, said in somewhat gentler terms that while most kids will probably read the books, he personally does not recommend them.

But what to do about the fact that in the last book Harry - spoiler alert here - walks willingly to his own death in order to save the world? After which, in a chapter portentously titled "King's Cross", he finds himself in a place with "great domed glass roof (that) glittered high above him in the sunlight" talking to a father figure with "long silver hair and a beard" whose supernatural powers are accompanied by a profound message of love? And what, finally, should the reader make of the fact that after that intimate scene. Harry comes back to life and leads his friends to victory over evil?

J.K. Rowling has said that she goes to church from time to time, more than just for weddings and christenings. Surely, this does not make her a C.S. Lewis or a J.R.R.Tolkien, both serious Christian theologians. But there's no mistaking that Rowling knows what she's doing - she's steeped in the fantasy tradition and in the Christan myths of her British predecessors. Though Harry settles for human love, and thous his resurrection for all, the Christian parallels are glaring. In the last analysis, it's hard not to agree with Rowling's own assessment - that the accusation of Satanism is "lunatic".

(Source: NEWSWEEK MAG/PERISCOPE by: Lisa Miller)
posted by infraternam meam @ 4:49 PM   0 comments
Friday, August 17, 2007

THEY'RE BUNGLING BALLADS IN KAZAKHSTAN, mauling Bollywood favorites in India and shout-singing Beyonce's numbers in Bolivia. Most every country - even those that lack running water and free elections - has its own version of "American Idol". This is not necessarily a bad thing. The very American idea that anyone can be a star has helped break down rigid class barriers in several countries. In places where the concept of democracy is still shaky "Idol" let viewers have the vote - last year alone, global number of votes cast for contestants within "Idol"'s influence on music? Let's just say now that regional productions of the show have infiltrated 39 countries, "Idol" has lowered the artistic bar so drastically that Britney and 'N Sync sound like creative genuises by comparison.

Listen to singing amateurs from Argentina to Afghanistan, and you'll discover that they all sound the same, down to the Celine dion melodrama in their voices and the Mariah carey hand sweeps. To ensure maximum predictability (which idol" producers call "brand integrity"), the "Idol" franchises keep regional flavor to a minimum. "We are virtual Nazis about keeping the format the same from country to country," says executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz of FremantileMedia North America, the company that sells "Idol" around the world. That means the same logo, opening music and lucrative voting system worldwide. And a lot of the same music. In Kazakhstan, nearly half the songs performed in the final rounds were American or British hits, sung in English. when local custom and culture do creep in, it's usually in "Idol" knock off shows, like China's "My Hero!", where the audience pumps up its favourite contestants by shouting, among other colloquial sayings, "Add oil, good boy!". Of course it's fun to see a Kazakh who isn't Borat imitate James Brown. But it's also really painful. Malaysia pulled its "Idol" off the air by its third season, partly due to a flood of viewer complaints that the leading contestant was chosen for his looks rather than his voice. Sanjaya, anyone?

The American domination of the world's music is nothing new - remember when Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was more universal than a Coke and a smile? It would'nt necessarily be a problem if other media conglomerates, such as "Idol"'s parent company, Bertelsmann, were developing artists with shelf live longer that yogurt. But in response to a hemorrhaging record industry and Internet privacy, they're banking on the Taylor Hick's of Vietnam to keep their industry afloat. "Idol" winners almost always have a hit single and/or album right out of the box - only to fall off the chart soon after. In a few years, there'll be no new catalog artists like Madonna or U2 - the music business's bread and butter for decades - because they've all begun to rely more on superaccessible quick fixes.

The true "Idol" breakthrough has more to do with busting cultural boundaries than artistic ones. In India, where caste and class are everything, "Idol" winner Sandeep Acharya became, for moment, as famous as a Bollywood star. The "Pan Arab Idol" achieved something that only Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser had: it united the region, or at least "Idol" watchers in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Jordan. so congratulations, Iraq's Shada Houssan -- you rule!


(Source: NEWSWEEK MAG by Looraine Ali)

posted by infraternam meam @ 9:13 PM   0 comments
About Me

Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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