The double bill from Hell

August 16th, 2013

My favourite fact I learned today, from a MetaFilter thread prompted by the release of an English-subtitled trailer for Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises [Previously.]:

[...] Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro were released together as a double feature. Target audience: ?

posted by The Tensor at 5:39 PM on August 15

I can't imagine any way to sit through that pairing without ending up a sobbing wreck. One poster said that Totoro played second, possibly in an attempt to lift the audience's spirits after Fireflies had stomped them into the ground. Me, I doubt that even the appearance of a real-life catbus could make me feel good in the wake of the gut-punch Grave of the Fireflies delivers.

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Fantasy

August 3rd, 2013

Tokyo Traders Gear Up for the 'Curse of Ghibli':

TOKYO – Most people know Studio Ghibli as the Japanese film house behind animated hits such as 'Spirited Away,' about a girl trapped in a supernatural bath house, and 'My Neighbor Totoro,' featuring a giant raccoon-like creature.

But among Japan's stock and currency traders, Ghibli has a darker association.

Once every few weeks [NTK...] airs a Ghibli movie in the prime Friday evening spot. During the trading session after that, market veterans say, bad things happen.

Yen watchers expect the worst when a Ghibli flick airs at the same time that nonfarm payroll data is released in the U.S. [...] In eight of the past nine such convergences, the data came in weak. In seven of those cases, the dollar tanked versus the yen and Japanese stocks fell. [...]

Someone please remind me why news programmes listen so respectfully to analysts from major financial institutions…

[Via The Morning News]

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The Wind Rises

July 20th, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki's first film in five years, The Wind Rises is something a bit different: a biopic

Miyazaki has pulled out all the stops. The film is of immense length: 126 minutes of hand-drawn animation. It tackles huge, challenging subjects: the 1923 Great Kanto Eartquake, the Great Depression and the march to global war. In addition to securing for the nth time a score by Hisaishi Jo, Japan's greatest living composer, Miyazaki roped in Matsutoya Yumi (a.k.a. Yuming) to provide the theme song. He coaxed his colorist of 50 years to come out of retirement for this one last film.

And the subject of the first Miyazaki film about a real person: the life of Horikoshi Jiro, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M, the Zero fighter.

Not subject matter I'd have expected from Miyazaki, but judging by this (Japanese language) trailer the resulting film is every bit as good-looking as anything we've seen from him lately. We'll see how the story turns out in due course, but for now it's looking promising.

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Not an SFX shot. Just nature, being awesome.

March 24th, 2013

APOD: 2013 March 11 – Sakurajima Volcano with Lightning.

Sakurajima volcano

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25 versus 42

December 29th, 2012

Charlie Brooker, upon attending the Dosojin Fire Festival,1 found himself beholding the strangest of spectacles:

Imagine what would happen if a huge wooden spaceship full of laughing paedophiles landed in the centre of Hyde Park during a snow storm, and a mob turning up clutching flaming torches to dish out some instant justice. It looked like that – but conducted amid an air of good-natured, drink-fuelled insanity.

The story of what's actually happening is almost as strange, and makes for a pretty entertaining read.

  1. As it is held on 15 January each year I assume Brooker was attending last year's event, though he doesn't say so.

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Politically unreliable

July 5th, 2012

After a mini-marathon of Godzilla movies, William Moss puts forward the theory that Godzilla has finally encountered a nigh on invincible foe:

[No city...] has ascended the Olympian heights of popular culture until it has been ravaged by a giant monster. Tokyo is clearly way out in front in this regard. It's taken for granted that monsters are drawn to Tokyo like frat boys to Jaeger shots. Monsters have also afflicted New York, London, San Francisco, Seoul, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles and even Bangkok (look it up). But as far as I can tell, Beijing has been blissfully free of giant monsters. Mothra was reported to be attacking Beijing in "Destroy All Monsters," but it was never shown on screen, so it doesn't count. Neither does "Mighty Peking Man," which was made by the Shaw Brothers while Hong Kong was still British and, despite the name, had no action in Peking (the Chinese name was "Gorilla King").

Why hasn't there been a Chinese giant-monster film with a Chinese giant monster? While armies, police forces and parliaments have crumbled before Godzilla and his brethren, there is one bureaucracy that is apparently entirely impervious to giant monsters: the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television. SARFT has apparently erected a monster-proof shield around Beijing and indeed around all Chinese cities. This is not because giant monsters are particularly scary, obscene or conducive to social unrest. It is because they are politically unacceptable. [...]

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Twitterquake visualised

February 16th, 2012

This visualization of how Twitter users reacted to Japan's 2011 earthquake acts as a small-scale companion piece to the visualisation of a year's worth of earthquakes I posted the other week.

[Via currybetdotnet]

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World earthquakes 2011 Visualisation map

February 6th, 2012

It's one thing to be intellectually aware of the fact that there are thousands of medium-to-large magnitude earthquakes around the world each year, quite another to see their frequency, magnitude and location plotted in animated form, in great detail. It brings home just how fortunate I am to be living on a small, geologically stable island nation off the coast of the continent of Europe.

[Via Chocolate and Vodka]

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Stargate Yurikamome?

August 22nd, 2011

If I am interpreting this set of images correctly, it would seem that Tokyo's New Transit Yurikamome train service takes a detour through a Stargate. Neat.

[Via BERG Blog]

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Wardrobe savings

April 16th, 2011

It turns out that having your life savings exist solely as a bunch of ones and zeros in a bank's database might just be a good thing after all:1

OFUNATO, Japan – There are no cars inside the parking garage at Ofunato police headquarters. Instead, hundreds of dented metal safes, swept out of homes and businesses by last month's tsunami, crowd the long rectangular building.

Any one could hold someone's life savings.

Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners – a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn't circulate.

There's even a term for this hidden money in Japanese: "tansu yokin." Or literally, "wardrobe savings." [...]

Worse yet, according to the article under Japanese law any monies not claimed after three months become the property of the finder (presumably, in this case, the state.) Imagine that you'd survived the tsunami and returned to where your home used to stand only to find a pike of damp rubble. You've got another two months now to figure out out which police station your safe washed up nearest to before you lose your title to the safe's contents – if it even washed up at all.

I'm guessing that there might be some pressure on the Japanese government not to start enforcing that '3-month rule' any time soon.

[Via Bruce Schneier]

  1. Having said that, if you lost all your personal documentation in the tsunami – perhaps because it was in your safe that washed away – you might have a few problems persuading the bank that you're who you claim to be.

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Not forgotten

April 9th, 2011

Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors:

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.

"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point." [...]

I'm not sure "forgot" is the word. More like "chose not to heed", I think.

[Via The Long Now Blog]

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Plutonium kun

April 3rd, 2011

Spike Japan reckons that in the wake of the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power company will be retiring their cutest mascot, Pluto(nium) kun:

Plutonium kun [...] appeared in a 10-minute anime made about a decade ago by the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency), an industry body specializing in the development of fast-breeder and advanced-thermal reactors, an anime that was swiftly withdrawn in part because of a scene in which Plutonium kun gets his boy pal to drink a glass of liquid plutonium while he sweetly intones that "I'm hardly absorbed by your stomach or intestines and I'm expelled by your body, so in fact I can't kill people at all".

Good to know…

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The Origami Lab

March 20th, 2011

Susan Orlean on The Origami Lab:

One of the few Americans to see action during the Bug Wars of the nineteen-nineties was Robert J. Lang, a lanky Californian who was on the front lines throughout, from the battle of the Kabutomushi Beetle to the battle of the Menacing Mantis and the battle of the Long-Legged Wasp. [...]

[Via The Essayist]

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'My spacecraft went all the way to Itokawa and all I got was an equilibrated LL chondrite.'

March 19th, 2011

Ian Lyon (quoted by Emily Lakdawalla) on checking the Hayabusa probe's sample chambers:

When the sample chambers were opened they looked clean and empty. There was nothing visible larger than one millimeter in size, but fortunately on closer inspection, some smaller grains were observed. The team tried to pick out the grains with a quartz glass probe but this wasn't too successful at picking up the small particles. They then tried scraping a Teflon spatula across some of the chamber surface and fortunately on subsequent inspection in an SEM, found a number of grains stuck to the edge of the spatula. These grains had to be picked from the Teflon spatula and distinguished and separated from a large number of similarly sized aluminium-rich particles that were also present, a result of the scraping of the aluminium sample chamber surface.

Finally, somewhat in desperation one suspects, they turned the chamber upside down and held it over a quartz disk and hit the back of the chamber 20 times with the handle of a large screwdriver!

Sometimes, brute force and ignorance really is the only option.

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Liquefaction

March 18th, 2011

The very definition of calmness: walking around a park in Tokyo during the earthquake, adding narration to your film of the cracks in the ground moving around and subterranean waters being pushed up to ground level as the ground flexes beneath your feet. Bonus points for noting that this whole park was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay some years ago and idly wondering whether the sea is about to reclaim the land around you.

[Via Memex 1.1]

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Japan: before and after

March 14th, 2011

ABC News in Australia have put up some astonishing before and after pictures of Japanese towns and cities in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.1

[Via currybetdotnet]

  1. They used the same clever sliding-picture technique just a few weeks ago in depicting the effects of the Brisbane flooding. The same comment applied then as it does here: "Nice user interface for the gallery: horrifying images."

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Suddenly … Rice!

November 25th, 2009

100,000 years of Japanese history in 8 minutes.

[Via GromBlog]

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Yes, they can.

October 31st, 2009

President Obama has inspired Japanese youth to adopt his name as slang:

[It was found ...] as an entry dated 22 September in a collection of slang and modern usage put together by the Japanese Teachers' Network in Kitakyushu. Here's what they write:

obamu: (v.) To ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities, think "Yes we can, Yes we can," and proceed with optimism using those facts as an inspiration (literally, as fuel). It is used to elicit success in a personal endeavor. One explanation holds that it is the opposite of kobamu. (æ‹’ã‚€, which means to refuse, reject, or oppose).

[Via James Fallows]

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Bring it on, Decepticons

July 10th, 2009

A robot rises over Tokyo. 'Nuff said.

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Nail houses

June 13th, 2009

I've never heard the term 'nail house' before, though as it turns out I have seen photographs of a couple of them.

The house in Changsha, China1 looks especially surreal, not least because in one of the pictures it looks as if there's another remnant of the original street a couple of hundred yards down the road.

  1. The fifth house pictured in the linked article.

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