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Happy New Year!

It’s the end of the year, with only two hours to go until 2014, and I’m thinking about the last year and how amazing it has been for me, and a lot of the people I know. Of course, bad things have happened this year; some of my friends have had terrible tides, but I’m left on this final day of 2013 feeling content and ready to face the new year. I’m a little lonely, because N J is in Canada currently, but it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’ve just finished watching Kōhaku Uta Gassen (Red & White Song Contest), the first time I’ve ever watched it, and I was fairly entertained. I had a bit of a fangirl moment when Linked Horizon came on.

I figured I would come to the blog and close out the year by sharing an old myth and info about the Chinese Zodiac, which is related to the New Year (of course), talking about some of my blog stats (boring to everyone but me, I’m sure), and sharing a few screenshots from the concert I watched tonight (because Japan knows its showmanship, and it’s something that everyone who is interested in Japan should watch at least once in their lifetime). More than anything, I just want to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year!

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Maybe you’ve heard the story of the animals from the Chinese Zodiac before. If not, I’m going to include an excerpt from Barnes & Nobles’ Year of the Dragon, written by Nigel Suckling and illustrated by Wayne Anderson.

The Supreme Being, the Yellow Emperor of Heaven, Huangdi, decided one day that humans needed some kind of compass to guide them through the invisible maze of life’s undertakings. So he decided to create the zodiac. To decide upon the symbols he announced to all of the animals of the world that there would be a race, and the first twelve beasts to cross the finishing line would be chosen to stand forever as signs of human character and destiny.

On the eve of the great race all of the beasts went to sleep early to be fresh for the dawn start. But in the night Ox suddenly awoke and thought: ‘I am so slow that if I am to have any chance at all of being among the twelve I had better start now.’ So he did, but as he passed among the other sleeping animals he woke Rat, who guessed his plan and thought: ‘I am so small that no matter how hard I run even Ox will beat me at this rate.’ So he scurried up a tree and dropped so lightly on to Ox’s back as he passed below that he did not notice.

At dawn the other animals awoke (all except Dragon who overslept), found that Ox and Rat had gone and raced off after them as fast as they could, but no matter how fast they ran they could not catch up. When the finishing line came into view they all saw Ox comfortably ahead of them and about to cross the line. Ox paused to look back and was pleased to see how well his plan had worked. But as he paused, Rat leaped off his back and raced across the line. Which is why Rat comes first in the zodiac, followed by Ox and then all the rest of the twelve.

We heard many variations of this tale, but what they all share is the idea of Rat achieving first place by riding upon Ox’s back. It is often said that the reason for the enmity between cats and rats is because Rat had promised to awaken Cat for the race and she missed her place in the zodiac by oversleeping.

I’m particularly fond of this story, perhaps because it IS a story, whereas I don’t really know (or was never taught) the story behind the western zodiac. All I know is that the constellations form a ring which we see throughout the year…. but that’s fairly boring compared to a race between animals.

Do you know which sign you are? The book also outlines some pretty cool data, which I’ll include here (though I highly recommend picking up this book if you are a dragon lover, even though it is, at its core, a children’s book). You can click on any of the pictures below to figure out your sign and element.

Going by this chart, I am born in the Year of the Wood Ox, the Month of the Rooster, and the Hour of the Dragon. A healthy mix, I think! Haha. I don’t usually put much stock in horoscopes, but do you think the characteristics match your personality? Mine (Ox) is pretty spot on, actually.

2014 is the Year of the Horse, so it’s a good time for adventure and chasing your dreams.

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Now, on to stats! Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. I started my blog this year, on March 16th. Since then I have written 67 posts (roughly 7 posts a month), and have amassed a total of 735 followers, 326 of which do so through Twitter, 267 through Facebook, and 133 that follow through WordPress or some other RSS feed (and a few other negligible areas I won’t bore you with).

Andrew Leon was my top commenter (with 44 comments), a fellow author who writes middle-grade fantasy. You can check out his Shadow Spinner series here, or his blog over at Blogger. Thanks a bunch Andrew!

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Annnnd finally, a short explanation of Kōhaku Uta Gassen, the concert I watched tonight.

From Wikipedia:

Kōhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦), more commonly known as simply Kōhaku, is an annual music show on New Year’s Eve produced by Japanese public broadcaster NHK and broadcast on television and radio, nationally and internationally by NHK’s networks and some overseas (mainly cable) broadcasters which bought the program. The show ends shortly before midnight.

Literally “Red and White Song Battle,” the program divides the most popular music artists of the year into competing teams of red and white. The “red” team or akagumi (赤組, 紅組) is composed of all female artists (or groups with female vocals), while the “white” team or shirogumi (白組) is all male (or groups with male vocals). The honor of performing on Kōhaku is strictly by invitation, so only the most successful singing acts in the Japanese entertainment industry can perform. In addition to the actual music performances, the costumes, hair-styles, makeup, dancing, and lighting are important. Even today, a performance on Kōhaku is said to be a big highlight in a singer’s career because of the show’s large reach.

Though the music at the beginning, especially, was pretty bad, I applaud all of the artists (except SKE48) for not lipsynching. I had my fan-girl moment when Linked Horizon came on.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for an amazing 2013!

6 thoughts on “Happy New Year!

  1. Miranda Stone says:

    This is very interesting! I knew I was born in the Year of the Sheep, but I didn’t know there was also a month and hour. I wish you a very happy New Year, Alex! I can’t wait to see more of your creative ideas.

    Like

  2. Andrew says:

    Ooh! Top commenter! That’s awesome!
    And I wasn’t even trying!
    Hmm… Maybe, I’ll have to work that into a “thing.”

    Oh, and thanks for the reviews! I did see that they were there the other day; I’ve just been too busy to get a word to you about it.

    Like

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