Blog - March 2005 Archives
March 2005 Archives
.27 FPM interview at Nippop
.23 Hong Kong: The food
.22 Zigorow does Nakano
.21 Don't be a cluck, disco duck
.19 moneybookers update
.15 MeroMero #4
.14 Hong Kong
.09 Off to Hong Kong
.07 Moving... Moved!
.05 Panikaraqs at Space Force
.04 Ōtomo Yoshihide New Jazz Ensemble feat. Kahimi Karie
.01 You The Rock★ mini-live
March 29, 2005
The MIT-developed hide-and-seek alarm clock Clocky seems to be just what I need.
Clocky is, quite simply, for people who have trouble waking up.
When the alarm clock goes off and the snooze button is pressed, Clocky will roll off the bedside table and wheel away, bumping mindlessly into objects on the floor until it eventually finds a spot to rest. Minutes later, when the alarm sounds again, the sleeper must get up out of bed and search for Clocky. This ensures that the person is fully awake before turning it off. Small wheels that are concealed by Clocky's shag enable it to move and reposition itself, and an internal processor helps it find a new hiding spot every day.
Their theories on the use of several communicating Clockies in a same room are also interesting.
[...] maybe they can form an alliance and simultaneously target the offending over-sleeper.
They'll surely be glad of their bouncy brown shag when I decide to throw them out the window after they ganged up on me.
No danger in the horizon though, since Clocky is still just an academic research project.
March 27, 2005
Recently I had been feeling the urge to find an adaptor that lets me play old Famicom (in North America the the corresponding game system was called Nintendo Entertainment System) cartridges using the GameBoy Advance. I remembered seeing such a thing on our trip to Bangkok last year, though at the time I wasn't yet interested in it, and recently on our trip to Hong Kong I couldn't find any trace of something similar.
Then one week ago I asked a friend about it, who's a real gamer and collector, and he told me that there were some of these in Japan, something that hadn't even crossed my mind, assuming that Nintendo wouldn't let that kind of device be sold.
A few searches later I found out about GameTech's AdFami, which is exactly what I was looking for. This one came out about a year ago at ¥8000 but that was then cut to below ¥3000 when CyberGadget released Cyber FamiVance (all have such creative naming) last November, a similar one that adds a TV output and the possibility to use an AC adaptor.
Since I didn't want to pay too much for this thing, as I'd prefer to get an actual Famicom if I decide to play it on TV, I got the AdFami from Amazon.
Having now played a few days with it (with games I bought for a few hundred yen, such as Flipull and After Burner), I'm happy to be able to say that it works as advertised and it's possible to play most Famicom games on the GBA's small screen, which is a lot of fun. The AdFami fits on both the old GBA and also on the GBA SP.
There are however a few points worth noting before getting one, most of which I knew before getting mine.
- The GBA's screen not having the same resolution as a TV, some lines are dropped, making some text (mostly small hiragana and kanji) completely unreadable (no exageration). Unfortunately, better forget about playing RPGs.
- There are 2 connections that must be very stable while you're playing: AdFami<->GBA, and Famicom cartridge<->AdFami. If either moves even just a little bit while playing, the game will hang. I guess you'd experience similar with a real Famicom if you'd be holding it in your hands while playing.
- 2-player-only games and any game requiring special peripherics can't be played.
- Be ready to blow in your cartridges and remove/re-insert several times, just like in the good old days.
I had also read that the sound was very bad, and there is indeed some constant buzz coming from the AdFami's speakers, but otherwise I don't think it's that bad, not much worse than I recall anyway. Still it may not be good enough for sampling.
The AdFami sure is good enough for its current price of ¥3000, but I'd definitely not pay its original price or buy a FamiVance which probably has the same limitations as above.
Another thing that kind of sucks is that most shops that have Famicom games here really over-price the good ones, so I'll probably end up getting most of what I want at flea markets and Yahoo! Auctions.
FPM interview at Nippop
March 26, 2005
On Thursday we went to see the Moog documentary at Shibuya Cinema Society. It was a fun and instructive film, including a lot of performances. It looks into the Moog's evolution, its concept and circuits, and also into Robert "Bob" Moog's head.
In Japan, all of the publicity for the movie puts big emphasis on the pronounciation of "Moog". Until now Japanese have always pronounced it "Moog" as read in English ("oo" as in "food"), while "oo" should be pronounced like the "o" in "vogue". I guess this mistake isn't only in Japan though.
The film is very well done and gives a great overview of Moog's career, the people he worked with and those who used his instruments. There are great live performances, both early and recent. I enjoyed very much the recent Emerson and Yes performances, clips of the first live performance by Kingsley's First Moog Quartet, also a funny old beer commercial featuring Edd Kalehoff.
The huge modular Moog synths with all the cables sure are very impressive and it was great to get a closer look.
Dr. Moog is interviewed, on his own and with celebrities (both musicians and early partners) and talks about everything. Interesting topics included how Dr. Moog who questioned whether the keyboard was the right interface for his instruments. He also says that he loves the theremin because it's a sort of natural instrument, with very simple circuitry and with a unique sound that transpires the player's skills and feelings.
I did find some of the film's elements sort of contradicting, or rather not quite at their place, like DJ Spooky talking about how he likes to put together samples from 20's and 60's and 80's records using his computer, while Robert's focus seems to make it possible to create synth music live... almost two opposites. So I didn't really get why there was that sequence with DJ Spooky. Maybe to show the contrast with recent electronic musicians?
A funny part and nice surprise was a part showing Dr. Moog when he came to Tokyo, having a try at Taiko no tatsujin. He can also be seen walking in Tokyo streets and talking about his surprise when he gave a talk show at LAOX in Akihabara for about 40 people, and out of them 4 were serious theremin students.
If you have a chance to see the movie and are curious about anything about Moog, the man and the machines, go!
Before the representation we went to, there as a fun talk show featuring Mooog Yamamoto (Buffalo Daughter) and Odajima Hitoshi (illustrator). They talked mostly about pronouncing "Moog" correctly (モ and not ム) giving a lot of wacky examples. Mooog had printed large Japanese characters all pronounced either モ (毛、猛), ム or グ (具). They ended with 無 (can be pronounced ム and also means "no") and saying that there's no "mu" (「ム」が無い！)! Good example, I thought. However, towards the end of the talk show, Odajima-san pointed at a Minimoog next to the stage and said "There's a Moog right here!", mis-pronouncing "Moog" and putting all their efforts to waste. :)
Mooog avoided the topic of his own name being both a tribute to Moog but also being pronounced incorrectly, so I concluded that he must be ashamed of it.
When exiting the theatre, in the hallway were all the printed characters, all signed by both speakers. We weren't of the first ones to leave, but it seems that no one had yet figured out they were being given away, so we could pick some of the best ones!
March 23, 2005
Hong Kong: The food
Here's now a sum up of what we ate while in Hong Kong.
We got there late Wednesday last week, so our first meal was breakfast on Thursday morning. We found a sort of large restaurant (kind of Hong Kong-style famiresu), not far from our hotel, where they were serving breakfast for about $18-20. I had instant noodles with a scrambled egg, crab sticks and luncheon meat (spam!), which was pretty good. The breakfast came with coffee or tea, a very good deal!
Later, for lunch, we went to a dim sum restaurant. There was a lot on the menu and we had a hard time making up our minds, so some guy came and recommended us about 5 plates which all ended up being great!
From left to right: white radish (daikon) cakes, shark fin dumplings, shrimp dumplings, sweet meat in steamed buns (sort of like nikuman), and something else.
For dessert we had mango pudding.
Later, we had a break at a food court in Times Square and ate mango pancakes (these things don't have much to do with any pancakes we know, but they're very good nevertheless) and black sesame and tofu pudding.
In the evening we went to walk around Soho and resisted entering any foreigner-packed restaurant, rather we walked down to Sheung Wan where we ate at a dumplings (sui gyōza) place called 餃子園 (would read gyōza-en in Japanese, meaning "dumplings garden") I think. We had three plates of 10 dumpings each.
The service was pretty bad there, we were practically being ignored by one of the ladies who didn't seem to understand English (not something that could have prevented us from ordering by pointing at the menu), until another one came by.
On the next day (Friday), we went to have brunch at another dim sum restaurant in Mong Kok, where we had been to a year and a half ago during a one night stay on our way back from Europe. At that one, food is carried around the place on wheeled carts, you catch one "vendor"'s attention and ask them to show what food they have, you pick what you want and they stamp your card accordingly, which is then used to pay when you're done. A fun system.
Later we stopped by 許留山 (Houlaisan?), a chain of delicious ice cream and mango desserts. We had mango pudding with mango ice cream, and the black and white (black sesame and coconut) ice cream combo.
Last but not least, on our way back to the hotel we went to 池記 (Chee-Kee), just across from Times Square, to have good and cheap wonton noodles for dinner.
March 22, 2005
Zigorow does Nakano
This morning on saku saku was Zigorow's latest song, 「中野のうた」 ("Nakano song").
Here's the chorus.
♫ 中野 サンプラザ 中野
サンプラザ 中野 サンプラザ ・・・
♫ Nakano Sunplaza Nakano
Sunplaza Nakano Sunplaza ...
The man or the building
which is which?
sometimes I can't tell anymore ♪
March 21, 2005
Don't be a cluck, disco duck
A piece of nostalgia...
Last Saturday night I went to Hoi! at Kōenji Enban, and Fukuta Takeshi (8-bits) played Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots' "Disco Duck", a single I used to listen to a lot when I was little, from my parents' collection. It must had been about 20 years since the last time I heard this song.
On Sunday, coincidentally, I was at the Meiji kōen flea market with Swedish friend Per, organizer of Malmö's elepop/pico-pico/Shibuya-kei club event oo-e, and I found a copy of this single I had just heard and seen the previous night! Of course I couldn't resist picking it up.
♪ Disco, disco duck
Disco, disco duck
Try your luck
Don't be a cluck
Disco, disco, disco, disco ♫
The often very instructive Japanese liner notes tell that Rick Dees, who sings this song, was a DJ in Memphis at the time. At first the song was only released and spinned in Memphis until RSO bought it and sold it nation-wide, making it a big hit. "'Disco Duck' is a unique number not unlike recent Japanese disco hits 'Soul Dracula' and 'Soul Frankenstein'."
The next song Fukuta-san spinned was Kagurazaka Kaoru's "Disco Geisha", which I think I'll need to also need to look out for.
Oh, and why not also "Soul Frankenstein" and "Soul Dracula". I could swear I also saw this latter one yesterday at the same place, but I hadn't read the liner notes yet.
March 19, 2005
After a month and a half, I was able to proceed with my withdrawal request at moneybookers.com. I'm crossing my fingers hoping the withdrawal will complete without trouble. I'm however posting this update now as other people having trouble with them have been finding my previous entry.
It was quite a pain to deal with their staff who expect you to send personal documents (scans of your passport, photo ID, credit card, bank statement,...) by email. The process took so long because they were incredibly slow at replying, sometimes waiting over a week and me having to resend my email several times before I received an answer.
So here's a sum up of the slow and painful process... This is long and boring so be warned. All quotes are my own.
March 15, 2005
Swedish radio show MeroMero is back this week with a 4th episode, focusing on Kahimi Karie and her entourage.
This time the streaming is of much better quality than before, for your delight.
The two first shows are also now available in better sound quality.
March 14, 2005
On Saturday we got back from Hong Kong where we spent 3 nights at the recent Cosmopolitan Hotel. The weather was warm (around 25°C), humid (90-95%) and cloudy, but at least no rain. It was a shock to come back to a cold Tokyo (about 5°C), on Sunday it even snowed a little bit, brrr.
Our stay at Cosmopolitan Hotel was very nice. The room was clean and modern-looking, the staff was nice and helpful. We were on the top, 25th floor and had a nice view over Happy Valley which is mainly the site of weekly horse racing. The hotel's location was alright, a bit of a walk from MTR stations Wan Chai and Causeway Bay. The hotel does have a free shuttle bus service to major locations around Hong Kong island, however it's also our only complain about the stay as it's incredibly off schedule... we learnt by mistake that we shouldn't have paid so much attention to the timetable found in our room. Taxis are cheap though (from $15HKD) so it was easy to get back to the hotel when tired of walking. There's also a useful tram stop right in front of the hotel.
Our trip mostly focused on shopping and eating out. We tried doing a bit of sight-seeing, but an attempt to go to The Peak (a high point recommended for beautiful views of the city) was doomed because of a lot of fog... we just couldn't see anything at all.
Here are some views from our room.
The elevator picture shows that numbers 4 (associated with death) and 13 are avoided. I've also posted that one to The Mirror Project.
March 9, 2005
Off to Hong Kong
We're now off to Hong Kong for a short trip and will be back in a few days! So I'll probably be quiet meanwhile. :)
March 7, 2005
I moved this site to another host today, it all went pretty smooth!
Since about last September, it only takes a few minutes for DNS to propagate instead of hours as it used to be, and indeed it only took about maybe 20 minutes until I could see the change.
I was getting pretty tired of my previous host (iPowerWeb) with who I had all sorts of problems in the past. In the case of another domain, their lack of decent support made me pack up and move to another host against my will, because they wouldn't fix what they broke, leaving me no other choice.
In this case (chipple.net), it didn't go all that bad so I waited until the end of my contract with them. A few weeks ago however, I was feeling a bit of weight when they refused to sync the server's time. It was a good 10 minutes off!, while I'm the type who likes to keep sync'd with an atomic clock (thanks to the great SelfCron). Will their server remain late forever? I'm not staying to tell.
Also they run a 2-year old version of cPanel (cPanel 5, instead of the better cPanel X), they have no way for users to keep their raw logs (it gets truncated every few days randomly), and, and... well I could go on and on.
I'm now done with them.
Now all my sites are hosted with the small, friendly, cheap and effective PenguinHost.net which has been serving me well for a year now.
March 5, 2005
Panikaraqs at Space Force
Last night I went to Nakameguro Space Force to see Panikaraqs in their event 三月の水祭り ("March Water Festival"), this was the band's third show. I had seen them a month ago at Roppongi SuperDeluxe. This time, the event was only ¥1000, with even no obligation to buy a drink (the opposite is very common). Also featured were side-units by each of Panikaraqs' members, making it really good value especially by Japan's standards.
Having never been to Space Force before, I was a bit mystified by their floor plan that shows a prominent 7m table in the center of the space. Well the large table wasn't there, small tables were against one wall while half of the space was first kept for the performance.
19:00 — Steve Etō solo
First, Steve played his HandSonic, djembe and other drums along with videos of himself playing other percussions. One video was cut & paste of him playing a sort of portable bamboo xylophone in Okinawa, and another showed him improvising with rocks with animations of cute rocks singing "Rock! Rock! Rock Rock! 石！ 石～！" (石 = rock). That was fun!
19:30 — Shinohara Tomoe and Chikage
Tomoe and Chikage danced while Steve DJ'd and played extra percussions. Tomoe used a black magic marker to draw freely on the wall around Chikage's body.
20:00 — les mongus (Yuka & moOog)
Honda Yuka (ex-Cibo Matto) looked great wearing a red top, a black cowboy hat and sunglasses. They played two songs.
First was I think an original where Yuka played a small synth and Mooog Yamamoto (Buffalo Daughter) did bass, over a pre-recorded basic beat. Yuka sang the lead vocals on this one, the chorus was something like "Psycho killer, don't go away..." and a part was in French. The second song was a cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" where Mooog played guitar and sang while Yuka played bass, this time with no beat or other instruments. It was great to hear these two's great English, since they don't usually sing much.
Between the two songs, Mooog said "Don't worry, we're just trying to look tough, but we're really nice!".
20:45 — Panikaraqs
The four took the stage. This time all were wearing white except for dancer Chikage who wore a funky black outfit.
I think they played all songs from last time, plus a few more. Tomoe even had her turn playing with electronics during two songs. A big surprise was a Yuka-arranged cover of "Oompa Loompa" from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", a film that I loved when I was a kid. It must not have been popular in Japan though, as when Tomoe asked "anyone knows this movie?" and "anyone recognized this song?" I was the only one to react with a bright "ha-i!!!".
... which makes me realize that I may have to check out the Tim Burton remake coming out this summer. I'm not usually a fan of remakes... at all, but I like Tim Burton and think he may well come up with something great.
So far no announcement of any further show or release. I'll be watching Steve Etō's site which will surely announce anything new.
Disclaimer: This is a fan page. Artwork by SHINOHARA Tomoe. SHINOHARA Tomoe official site.
March 4, 2005
Ōtomo Yoshihide New Jazz Ensemble feat. Kahimi Karie
Yesterday I went to see a radio recording of NHK-FM's show Live Beat, presented by Koga Yutaka (K.O.G.A Records) and Suzuki Keiichi (Moonriders).
Admission to the recording is free but requires sending a two-way postcard before the application deadline, and also applauding loudly between the songs and remaining quiet the rest of the time. Last night the place was rather packed with about 400 people.
This time the headline was Ōtomo Yoshihide New Jazz Ensemble (below ONJE) featuring Kahimi Karie. ONJE is Ōtomo Yoshihide's latest free jazz project that has grown from his ONJ Quintet. They play original songs in a way that leaves a lot of place to improvisation.
The current members of ONJE are Otomo Yoshihide (guitar), Tsugami Kenta (alto sax), Alfred Harth (saxes and trumpet, he is a German guy based in South Korea), Sachiko M (sine waves), Takara Kumiko (vibraphone), Mizutani Hiroaki (acoustic bass) and Yoshigaki Yasuhiro (drums and trumpet).
The show featured Kahimi Karie as a guest vocalist on three songs for which she wrote the French lyrics. Given the nature of the pieces, her performance was closer to poetry reading than singing. Her French seems to always be getting better.
Otomo Yoshihide sat discreetly on stage left playing his guitar and occasionally giving cues to the ensemble members.
They announced that an album will be released at the end of April, I think as Ōtomo Yoshihide New Jazz Orchestra (he admitted being himself confused with all the name changes), again featuring guest vocalist Kahimi Karie and also Hamada Mariko.
Other artists who appeared last night were Origami ("降神", rap duo) with KOR-1 (turntables), of which I mostly enjoyed KOR-1's great scratch intro, while the singing wasn't quite my thing, and then Yukawa Shione who sang beautifully while accompanied by harp and harpsichord (and sometimes piano), two instruments that always amazed me.
The shows will air on NHK-FM according to this schedule:
March 16: Origami / Yukawa Shione
April 6: Ōtomo Yoshihide New Jazz Ensemble feat. Kahimi Karie
I may well be returning to Live Beat when other artists that interest me will show up.
March 1, 2005
You The Rock★ mini-live
Last Sunday I was lucky to catch a mini-live by You The Rock★ in front of LaForet Harajuku, promoting his upcoming album "Identity" .
I was walking on the other side of the street and usually wouldn't have cared for some loud hip-hop, but then I recognized his recent single "Grand Master Fresh" produced by Fantastic Plastic Machine! So I went to watch the show, which ended up being a lot of fun.
YTR is quite a character and it was fun to see him up-close. I had seen him live once before, at Pizzicato Five's last live (2001/3/31), but I can't say that I had enjoyed his performance back then which didn't really seem to fit in the middle of all the cool DJs.
Seeing him on his own this time was great though!
His gear mostly consisted of "his truck" equipped for throwing a party anywhere. At the back was even a small spinning disco ball. They were 7 rappers/dancers including him, and a DJ. The show lasted maybe half an hour. For the last song he climbed into a nearby tree, and then came down and rode a bicycle right through the crowd to make his way out. :)
The funniest thing about the show though can be seen on this picture! Can you find the two intruders and identify them? :) No cheating!