Archived entries for Japan

Hiroshima_10km-615

This recently discovered photo was taken from an elementary school about ten minutes after the Enola Gay delivered Little Boy and ushered in the Atomic Age.

From The Atlantic, where they’ve got more information.

I’m sure by this point, you’ve all heard of the Cthulhu dildos. Boing Boing had them, and people were tweeting about them even before that.

I’m not sure what more you need to know beyond the phrase “Cthulhu dildo”, but here’s what I’m talking about if you are (luckily) in the dark.

That bit of eldritch sex toy plastic got me thinking about all the weird mass market tie-in sex toys that have come out lately.

Take the Hustler/Fleshlight alien-vagina-in-a-flashlight-case. It was part of a partnership between the two companies to promote Hustler’s porn parody of Avatar. Think of it this way – if Avatar took 3D filmmaking to a new heights of technology, the Avatar porno was going to take masturbation to new heights of technology as well. Which I guess is great for people that fantasize about watching adult film stars dressed like Thundersmurfs go at it while sticking their bits into the triangular orifice of a piece of molded plastic.

If you ask me, the real technical achievement of the Avatar porn parody was that they managed find body make-up that wouldn’t smear all over everything once the bow-chica-wow-wow started.

But, I digress.

Twilight fans of both sexes can also have their plastic genital needs seen to, as well.

Chief amongst them is what L and I laughingly refer to as the “sparklecock“. (We’ve named a band in ROCK! after it.) It’s a pretty standard dildo, except for the infusion of sparkle glitter to make it match the sparkle that Twilight’s vampires have. Yes, I know, vampires aren’t supposed to sparkle, but whatever, they do in Stephanie Meyers’ head. The other key feature of these things is their temperature retention properties. See, the vampires in Twilight are dead – their bodies are cold. And this plastic was designed to stay cold if you stuck it in the fridge for a while. For the “authentic experience”, as the seller promises.

For those with their genitals on the outside, there’s also the Fleshlight-esque “Succu Dry“, a plastic woman’s fanged mouth. It’s pretty much your standard plastic cavity, except this time the mold is of a mouth and not of lady parts. Branding-wise, the manufacturers are leaning more toward the True Blood angle than the Twilight kids. Probably a smart idea, since most of the male Twi-hards probably wouldn’t want a blowjob anyway, at least not from a girl. But, it is still a sex toy cash-in on the popularities of vampires right now.

It does make me wonder, though. I mean, teeth are a perpetual worry during the specific sex act the Succu Dry is designed to replicate. What sort of laissez-faire attitude must you take toward your sexual well being when you decide that not only are teeth OK, but that bigger more, dangerous teeth are BETTER. It makes me feel that the world is probably better off with that person sticking their penis into plastic that some one else, you know?

Not to be out done by American perverts, the Japanese also have their own versions of a Fleshlight. They call it the “ona-hole”. Yeah. Can’t make this shit up. Anyway. The “ona-holes” get branded just like Fleshlights do here. Except sometimes they go a bit…awry. Like when instead of making the internal part into something that would seem to fit what you’re putting into it, you instead make it into a negative space molding of a famous anime character. An underage, marginally pubescent anime character, at that. I can only assume that the Japanese are training their men to use their penises as lock picks. Because nothing else really makes sense.

“Ona-hole”.

Jesus fucking Christ.

EDIT: Oh god, my friend Katie just sent me a link to the sparklecock in full effect. It’s a plastic dong flying in mid-air, up to you how safe for work it is.

La Machine’s website.

Via Dark Roasted Blend.

Anti-pollution poster (Kenji Ito, 1973)

Via Pink Tentacle.

And, yes, I know there’s a slight nipple. But, if you’re really worried about such things, you probably shouldn’t be visiting a place like this during your work day, should you?

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

Growth – Life Science Library, 1966

Prince Lighters, 1974

(This guy reminds me a lot of Jack Terricloth.)

From the best blog on the Internet, Pink Tentacle. There are more at that link. Do yourself a favor, go check them out.

Kawasaki industrial plant #7

Picture by Junigo via Grinding.be

That’s the HRP-4C. Some kind of crazy Japanese robot. Sex robot, probably, considering the Japanese do everything they can to have sex with anything but each other.

Honestly, though, I can’t find a damn reason for them building this thing. They’ve been working on it for years, and so far they’ve taught it to walk like a model, and prance like a pop star.

Which considering both of those are completely pointless activities, gives credence to my sexbot theory.

Robots are a Big Thing in Japan. They’re so scared of dealing with an entire population of infirm elderly, they’re dumping hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to build a robot that can change out grandpa’s bedpan. And so far they’ve really only succeeded in doing things like the above. Oh, and building tech that lets people control robots with their brains. Which, admittedly, is kind of cool – and also really fucking scary.

It’s always amazed me that they can’t get robots to move right. In animation terms, there’s no ease-in/ease-out. The motion curves are essentially straight lines, and their platforms are so unstable they wobble like palsy case every time they finish a gesture. With just a little bit of collaboration from some one who understands how to make motion look good, they’d be able to fix a lot of the Uncanny Valley problems they are running into.

I’m rambling now.

One last look at the HRP-4C, showing us some of her its emotional range.

I mean, who doesn’t love that freaky, pore-less, super Muppet face?

Via Pink Tentacle

That’s the trailer for Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, the new series from Gainax, the studio behind such classic mindfucks as Neon Genesis Evangelion and FLCL.

Yes, this does look like they took something from the cartoon network and forced it through the seediest Japanese adult novelty store they could find. Yes, it does revolve around two female characters who are able to make their unmentionables into weapons. Yes, it will be cut down to 12 minutes episodes to give that extra bit of speed-freak pacing.

No, we have no idea when it’ll see this side of the Pacific. Or if it’ll be prosecuted for indecency the second it gets here.

Oh, and the soundtrack to all of this is little more than a techno-mashup of porn sounds, so be careful of that if you watch this at work.

A pair of action-packed Ultraman Monster paintings by Toshio Okazaki were published in Shōgakukan’s 1979 edition of Ultra Kaiju (Shōgakukan Nyūmon Hyakka Series #97).

From the incomparable Pink Tentacle, which you should visit immediately to see these in full size and in detail with each monster named.

Satoshi Kon passed away yesterday at the age of 46. He directed and created high concept animated feature films and television series.

His directorial debut was the beautifully twisted Hitchcockian thriller Perfect Blue in 1997. I saw it my sophomore year of college, and it’s stuck with me, like broken glass jabbed into my brain, since then. The way he dealt with the concepts in that movie, especially the creation and destruction of celebrity, are incredible.

He followed up his debut with award winning films like Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. They’re less scarring, but still just as intriguing as his first film.

After those two, he took a break from the big screen to bring the bizarre Paranoia Agent to the small screen.

His last release was Paprika, which won him the most exposure for his mind bending works.

Kon was a visionary and an advocate of his medium. There were decades of work ahead of him, and the world is diminished by his passing.

Coming to DVD and Blu-Ray July 27th from Tokyo Shock!

The kappa, in Japanese folklore, are water goblins that are closely associated with a certain town in the country. Unfortunately, the area is also home to a militant splinter group of researchers dedicated to developing amphibious super soldiers based on the kappa of legends. When their experiments result in murders by some escapees, the appearance of an actual kappa, and the triggering of an atomic bomb, the consequences are of epic proportions. A monster arrives in the midst of the nuclear fallout, and Japan’s defenses are helpless against it. Mankind’s only savior is an irradiated water goblin that is on the rampage with death in its eyes.

Yes, this exists. And yes, it is already sold out on Amazon.

Via BBC News:

He was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo – but when officials went to congratulate Sogen Kato on his 111th birthday, they uncovered mummified skeletal remains lying in his bed.

Mr Kato may have been dead for 30 years according to Japanese authorities.

They grew suspicious when they went to honour Mr Kato at his address in Adachi ward, but his granddaughter told them he “doesn’t want to see anybody”.

Police are now investigating the family on possible fraud charges.

Welfare officials had tried to meet Mr Kato since early this year. But when they went to visit, family members repeatedly chased them away, according to Tomoko Iwamatsu, an Adachi ward official.

Authorities grew suspicious and sought an investigation by police, who forced their way into the house on Wednesday.

They discovered a mummified body, believed to be Kato, lying in his bed, wearing underwear and pyjamas, covered with a blanket.

Mr Kato’s relatives told police that he had “confined himself in his room more than 30 years ago and became a living Buddha,” according to a report by Jiji Press.

But the family had received 9.5 million yen ($109,000: £70,000) in widower’s pension payments via Mr Kato’s bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn.

The pension fund had long been unable to contact Mr Kato.

“His family must have known he has been dead all these years and acted as if nothing happened. It’s so eerie,” said Yutaka Muroi, a Tokyo metropolitan welfare official.

I love comparing/contrasting crime in the States vs crime in Tokyo. In America, stuff like this happens every day. People keep cashing social security and pension checks for dead relatives long after they’ve been stuck in the ground. But at least we know you don’t have to hang on to the body. Only in Japan would you keep the body around and tell people that he was both still alive, and transcendent like the Buddha.

You almost have to respect them for that extra mile they go. We just dump the deceased in a hole in the ground. The elevate them to near godhood.

Note to everyone: When I die, I want you to preserve me, then build in an animatronic skeleton. You know, so you can trot me out every holiday and have me wave at people. Should be a hoot around Halloween.

There’s a whole series of these, all of them referencing pop culture and classic art.

And all of them are awesome.

I’m telling you, Pink Tentacle is absolutely amazing.

Not simple a frequency this time. I couldn’t find just the audio of this interview, so you get to look upon the face of a brilliant, but shattered man.

Sixty five years ago today, the Enola Gay, a United States Airforce bomber out of Tinian in the West Pacific dropped a nuclear gravity bomb, called Little Boy, on the Japanese port city of Hiroshima. The Japanese had seen the Enola Gay and her two escort planes coming. They had even raised the air raid alarm. But after seeing that there were only three bombers, the raid was called off and no fighters were scrambled. The Japanese felt that it would be a waste of gasoline to engage the bombers, and three of them could do no serious damage to the city.

At approximately 8:15 local time a second sun exploded over the Hiroshima.

The world was never the same again.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

This has been your Friday Frequency.

That’s a demonstration of the Telenoid R1, a telepresence communication robot…thing.

The idea is that the R1 will act as a physical, minimalist representation of a far, far away person sitting in front of a computer. Through a webcam, the R1′s software tracks the physical movements of said person, and moves the R1 robot accordingly. That’s the rationale to blame for the creepy as shit movements of the wormbot that you see in the video.

Right now, porn’s tech heads and lawyers are exploring the real time, peepshow-esque things that came be accomplished with the iPhone 4′s Facetime application. Just think of what they could do with the R1′s hardware slapped into something like a RealDoll. Dial into a pay per minute/pay per act service and have a real human being digital service you through nothing more than a webcam and a broadband connection.

Who needs a virtual sex doll when science is bringing real ones to our doorstep?

The worst part of this?

The really creepy people are the ones that want fuck the damn thing as-is.

Story is everywhere today, but give Pink Tentacle your traffic. They are awesome.

Boris, aka boris, and BORIS, is an experimental rock band from Japan. They specialize in making sounds that musical reviewers try to categorize as “stoner metal” or “stoner doom metal”.

I don’t know what any of that means.

However, I do know that Boris is batshit crazy.

You see, there’s not just one Boris. There are three Borises.

BORIS – all uppercase, is the more listenable mainstream stuff. The track I’m going to have you listen to below, “Pink”, is an example of this kind of music. Loud, rough, but there’s melody and pop there at the core.

Boris – uppercase B, the rest lowercase, is more experimental. Long, slow waves of feedback appear. Traditional song structures may fade away into explorations and thematic fugues. You’ll probably find yourself wondering if they’ve fallen over dead against an amp on at least one track.

boris – all lower case, makes “Boris” seem downright coherent and bubble-gum. This variety of Boris often appears in collaboration with other noise artists like Merzbow. This stuf is unintelligible to most, and it can even be physically painful to listen to. Be wary of people who listen to this kind of boris.

But, BORIS is excellent. And this is one of my favorite tracks of their’s. The hard-rocking “Pink”.

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This has been your Friday Frequency.

What’s now decay and rot once was bright and brilliantly full of hope: Who lived here? What were their lives like? What happened? How did it all come apart? How did it all crumble to almost nothing?

In the case of Hashima Island, or Battleship Island (Gunkanjima in Japanese) as it’s often called, hope and optimism became dust and decay because one black resource (coal) was replaced by a cheaper black resource (oil). Populated first in 1887, the island – which is 15 kilometers from Nagasaki – only began to really, and phenomenally, become populated much later, in 1959.

Via Dark Roasted Blend, with many more pictures and information, along with more things about abandoned urban spaces.

Here is a collection of vintage bromide cards showing various pachimon (imitation creatures based loosely on famous TV and movie monsters) at iconic locations around the world. Published by Yokopro in the 1970s.

From Pink Tentacle, which you all should be reading.



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