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  • mono 7:11 am on October 31, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , kanji, , , music video, , , , Youtube   

    Study Japanese with Ken Tanaka: The Power of Music and Coffee 

    coffee shop japan

    When I was a university student, a band that I was in (and am still “in,” even though I’m an ocean away) – Special Dental Team, wrote several songs with Japanese titles and even one with Japanese lyrics. In retrospect, I do recommend this as a study tactic to be stressed in my 50 Study Tips for Improving your Japanese.

    That is, if you are prone to create your own art, whether via music, poetry, film, and so on, incorporate some Japanese into your art and develop your art through the frame of a different language. This will give you a more personalized approach to learning the language and will hopefully expand your art in a refreshing way.

    Ken Tanaka recently uploaded a video, in which he teaches viewers the kanji for “coffee shop,” through an original song that he wrote. The combination of melody, real-world images and text is helpful and humorous, at least to me. Here is the video:

    Keep studying!

  • mono 8:54 pm on October 25, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Dominique Fung, Keiichi Niita, , LA, Martha Chan, Terry Richardson, Youtube   

    Ken Tanaka and Keiichi Niita (Video) 

    In this video, Ken Tanaka meets photographer, Keiichi Niita, who worked with Terry Richardson for a number of years. The theme of Niita’s show was, “Japanese people should be more open.” After briefly speaking with Niita, Tanaka also visits another gallery, which is showcasing work by two up and coming artists, Martha Chan and Dominique Fung.

  • mono 7:06 am on September 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cutting Edge, , Harper's Magazine, , , University of California, , Youtube   

    The Perspective of David Foster Wallace: Video 

    The sky in Japan has clouded over. Airplanes rumble overhead. A typhoon is coming this weekend. At six o’clock in the morning, I find a video that I want to share with you. Thirty minutes with David Foster Wallace speaking at the “Artists on the Cutting Edge” series from The University of California Television Channel on Youtube.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
    • samfrancis 1:35 pm on August 20, 2009 Permalink

      Thanks for the video, I’ll get to it when I’m more awake. Just getting into David’s work as of late. Currently reading “consider the lobster.” What a brilliant sense of observation ~

  • mono 7:39 pm on June 8, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Hawaii, , , , , Shimane, Shinjuku, , Youtube   

    Oden with Tanaka, Ken 

    It was a rainy and slightly muggy Tuesday evening as I caught up with Ken Tanaka in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Amidst the neon blur of Shinjuku, we found ourselves enjoying Japanese “oden” and sharing some wonderful conversation. Thank you Ken for taking the time to meet up and converse.

    I hope you will find the time to watch Ken’s videos. And just in case you are wondering, yes, he is a very nice man.

    Here are some links to Ken’s recent adventures in Hawaii:

    Ken Tanaka goes to Hawaii
    Ken Tanaka learns to speak Mo Bettah
    Ken Tanaka’s Tour Guide in Hawaii
    Ken Tanaka Eats Hawaii and Breaks His Mouth
    Ken Tanaka Meets a Taro Farmer
    Ken Tanaka Gets LOST in Hawaii


  • mono 4:51 pm on May 25, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Networking, News and Media, , , Youtube   

    Eyeslit-Tube and Eyeslit-Vimeo 


    I am working on media for both the Vimeo channel and a new (as of today) Youtube channel for Eyeslit’s viral content. At this point, you can experience original music and abstract viral projects. The viral addresses are:


    Both channels contain almost identical content, so please choose your favorite and check back regularly as there will be a steady stream of new and original content. I think that while both sites have their advantages and disadvantages, Vimeo users seem much more welcoming to the aesthetic and interests of the Eyeslit-Crypt, but still does not have the same amount of traffic that Youtube has. If I decide to do any straightforward “vlog” type pieces, they will probably only show up on the Youtube page and I will reserve the Vimeo page for sound projects and creative pieces.

    Thank you.

  • mono 9:04 pm on April 30, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 20th Century Boys, Adam Green, Blues, , California, Folk, Gantz, , , , , , Kurt Vonnegut Jr., , Manga, Onsen, , , Yakiimo, Youtube   

    Japanicity: Three Questions w/ Ken Tanaka (田中けんさんとミツの質問) 

    sakura lomo

    “Three Questions” is a song by the Kentucky based musician Bonnie “Prince” Billy from his “Master and Everyone” album. This haunting and beautiful song has been with me since winter 2004 and today I would like to incorporate the idea of “three questions” into The Eyeslit-Crypt. It is really quite simple. I choose one person and ask them three questions. Since this is my first experiment with this kind of blogging format, I kept the questions very simple and accessible. The honorable person whom I chose for this first endeavor is none other than Ken Tanaka…three questions were asked and this evening a response was received. As the beloved “Hero” Hiro Nakamura may say, “Yattttttta.”

    If you are not familiar with Ken Tanaka’s video work, I suggest the following links:

    Ken Tanaka on Youtube
    Ken Tanaka on Myspace
    The Japanicity of Ken Tanaka

    THREE QUESTIONS with Ken Tanaka

    Q: What kind of adventures have you been up to these days?

    A: I recently have been traveling to a few locations searching for my parents…I just got back from Hawaii today. I am hoping to put up a video soon, but I am having some bad technical difficulties. I will also be returning to Japan sometime in May, hopefully. I hope to do some more videos about life in Japan if I can get my camera fixed.

    Q: Any musical or literary recommendations from Ken Tanaka?

    A: I have recently been reading some American authors. I like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He seems like a very nice man. I have also been enjoying traditional American Blues and folk music by Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. I recently heard a song at a vintage clothing store in Los Angeles by a New York folk/punk singer called Adam Green. I hope to listen to more of his music soon.
    As far as recent manga, I am reading Gantz and 20th Century Boys (20seiki shonen).

    Q: What are some of your favorite things about your home country, Japan?

    A: Well, here are the things I miss most about home. Onsen and ofuru. It’s very hot in Los Angeles and I often wish I could go to a nice onsen for refreshment. There are Korean style spas in LA but they aren’t quite the same. When I arrive in Japan, I will go straight to a Sento. I also miss the quality of food. In the Japanese countryside, there is lots of tasty food everywhere. I have found that it is quite hard to find good food here, even in the city. There is very good food in Los Angeles, but you must do research in order to find it.
    I also miss Game centers. Sometimes I want to play video games but it is hard to find them in Los Angeles. I miss trains and subways, and bento and sakura and anmitsu and matsuri and depa-chika and yakiimo too.


    Thank you for reading the first installment of “Three Questions” and I hope you learned something new about Ken Tanaka.

  • mono 3:55 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Japanese Comedy, , , , Vlog, Vlogger, Youtube   

    The Japanicity of Ken Tanaka and the Social Media Community of Youtube 

    Ken Tanaka

    As stated on his Youtube “helpmefindparents” profile, “Ken Tanaka lives in a reality that is likely very different from your own. In this reality, rather unreal things can and do happen.” I have been fascinated by Ken Tanaka ever since seeing his first Youtube video last year. At the time of writing this, having achieved over 87,000 channel views, it is evident that even after his emergence, the quality of Ken Tanaka’s humor, presentation and creativity is here to stay, hopefully for a long time to come. If you have not seen Ken Tanaka’s videos and are interested in Japanese culture, Japanese language and Japanese comedy, then I recommend you visit his page and give him a try. Moreover, I think that he presents a relevant study of the depiction of the Japanese culture through the filter of an American gaze. As stated on his Youtube profile, “My name is Ken Tanaka and I am from Shimane Prefecture Japan. I was adopted and I am in The United States to find my real parents. Please send a message if you know Jonathan and Linda Smith.

    Ken Tanaka’s Reality and Communication

    The reality that Ken Tanaka lives in is a bright one, although perhaps perpetually overshadowed by the fact that he never achieves the satisfaction of finding his birth parents. His reality is perpetually side-tracked by the minute, by friendship or by wanting to purely entertain us. At times, Tanaka plays the role of educator and has produced two videos showing how one can communicate in Japanese without having to actually speak a word of Japanese. This is particularly interesting to those of us who have been immersed in Japan and how interact through these ways of communicating in our daily life: the perpetual nodding of the head, the shifting eyes not penetrating, but hesitant, the “heeeee” and “unnn” of affirmation or the “tshhhhhh” and tilt of the head while disagreeing. This playful look at the Japanese way of gesturing is humorously yet skillfully pulled off by Tanaka and friends.

    The Warmth of Ken Tanaka

    It is perhaps not so unusual to envision a Japanese child being raised in America, speaking both English and Japanese, but I think that one point of interest with Ken Tanaka is the reversal this image. That is, Ken Tanaka, being visually Caucasian, but carrying the tropes of a Japanese identity, make for an authentic comedic experience of interest to both Japanese and non-Japanese. Moreover, the way that Ken Tanaka interacts with the other Americans in Los Angeles makes for a warm blend of humor and social commentary. That is, Ken is not trying to take advantage of his Californians, but rather, under the umbrella of a man searching for his birth parents, really asks nothing of them, doesn’t try to expose their flaws or trick them into humiliation (as seen in the Borat character). Moreover, my Japanese friends immediately took an interest in Ken Tanaka and could instantly relate to the humor that he was creating. When visiting Japan, Ken confuses the Japanese people that he interacts with, playfully fooling them or playing into their conversational tropes.

    Youtube and Social Media Community

    What Youtube has been providing for some time now is the experience of character creation through the social media platform by providing a free opportunity to upload original content (within limits of both time and content). It seems that a character such as Ken Tanaka, while perhaps being too risky a venture in the eyes of television, given the context of a user-generated viewer base such as Youtube, can flourish without corporate backing and perhaps serve as a relevant resume builder future potential movie or TV proposals based on interest generated through the social media platform. With the advent of Lonelygirl, the Youtube experience was transformed as a space for bottom-up likability and popularity, not to mention, the interactive element of the site, provided viewers the chance to help fuel a given channel’s ideas for future relevant videos.

    But, that was then and now we are fully immersed in such networks of media accessibility and open upload-ability. I have lost track of sites similar to Youtube and have given up trying to follow Youtube built characters and such social commentary. What happens at this point and perhaps I am not the only one, is the searching out or stumbling upon a certain “channel” that sparks our interest, knowing full well that there is no possible way to keep track of the perpetually uploaded barrage of new content. As Nick Cave may suggest, “No news from nowhere.” We search the forums, follow links, track blogs to no end until at some point an authentic slice of video pie lands in our lap…the labyrinth is deep, the hole leads to God knows where. We spread, mash, mass email, post, link, cut-up and comment on these sporadic visions of the yet-unknown others.


    If one spends enough time on Youtube, one finds the continued use of the word “community,” but I want someone to explain to me the purposes and aims of this community. What is a “community” in the minds of a dedicated Youtube vlogger? How does a centralized site such as Youtube foster the sense of community? How has the idea of community shifted with the advent of such video uploading sites? Moreover, to what end are these communities advancing?

    In closing and to briefly return to Ken Tanaka, I would like to add one comment. Does not Ken Tanaka’s search for his parents play out like a Japanicized “Waiting for Godot?” That is, up until now the searching for his parents has been the pool in which he swims, in what guides him and, many of his videos act as daily life adventures with the implicit undertone of this searching. These videos are him searching and what he does when he is not searching (but, it seems we are led to believe that in his reality, he is always searching, hence his coming to LA).

    Thank you for reading and I hope you can enjoy some videos of Ken Tanaka.

    Ken Tanaka’s “Help Me Find Parents”
    TokyoMango on Ken Tanaka
    Ken Tanaka on Myspace

    • not kentanaka 7:51 pm on May 5, 2008 Permalink

      Ken Tanaka is really an American actor who spent some time in Japan. Its a great act but I thought the secret was out already.

    • jgrefe 8:44 pm on May 5, 2008 Permalink

      @”not kentanaka”: Yes, I believe that most everyone who watches the videos are aware of the fact that it is a performance (the Groundlings improv Japanese sensei piece also displays his Japanese talent quite well). One purpose of this post was to open up the idea of the character Ken Tanaka and express the Japanicity of the “reality” that he creates.

    • interval 12:41 am on April 4, 2009 Permalink

      Ken Tanaka is actually David Ury, comedian from California, I believe he was a member of the Groundlings (if that’s wrong David I apologize.) He’s done a brilliant job of playing an American adoptee of a Japanese family on youtube. His Japanese is very nearly flawless but you can see a crack of truth in one video where he is talking to a Japanese native and is surprised when the native remarks that he detects a very slight accent in David’s speach.

    • jgrefe 11:27 pm on May 27, 2009 Permalink

      Thank you for your insight. Acting…acting…acting.

    • acheter tweet 8:37 am on March 10, 2013 Permalink

      Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues.
      It was really informative. Your website is very useful.
      Thank you for sharing!

    • jgrefe 10:30 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you for stopping by. I’ll be updating a lot more now.

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