Blog - July 2006 Archives
July 2006 Archives
.28 JLPT revisited
.25 Denki Groove live report
.25 Bye Bye Nam June Paik
.25 "a place in the sun vol.6" report
.18 My Plugins at Six Apart
.11 Tagged sign
.09 Nomoto Karia in-store event report
.07 Un homme ne peut endurer ça
.06 Azusawa waterbus harbor
.06 Movable Type 3.3
.06 In the mail
.04 Karly on TV
.03 Movable Type NewEntryTemplate plugin
.01 Introducing Agenda: Magazine!
July 28, 2006
After having skipped last year's, I'm in for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 2 next December 3rd. I will need to try and do some studying until then, but hopefully everything I've learnt in my daily life since two years ago will be enough to get me that extra 1%. I just really need to remember to skip that long text in the reading part and first answer the shorter questions. Oh and I'd like to aim for a bit higher than just 60% too. Could 75% be within my reach? Hmm...
The way to apply is pretty straight-forward, first you buy the application form for ¥500 at a participating bookstore listed on the JLPT site (I love that they use the <ruby> element for furigana!). The application form comes with a 48-page booklet in 4 languages telling all the do's and don't's about applying and taking the test, so if you mess up it's really your own fault. However, one basic thing not mentioned is in which order to write your name on the form... You'd think they'd make things clear on such a basic point. After consulting Roy senpai, who just wrote about this topic, I decided to write mine in the same order as my gaijin card (family name first) since that's what they'll match against at the test.
I don't know yet what location I'll be assigned to (last time was Kichijōji), but if you're going too, let's eat our sandwich together ok?
July 25, 2006
Denki Groove live report
Last night I went with Tsugumi to see Denki Groove live at Liquid Room. It was their first one-man live since 2000, needless to say it sold out very quickly. Thanks to my foreseeing and cut & paste tactic, I had been lucky to be able to buy tickets at Liquid Room's pre-sale that closed in about 2 minutes!
After eating udon at a nearby place, we got to Liquid Room a bit before 20:00 and entered the packed lobby where several hundreds were waiting for the doors to open. We had rather bad numbers, in the 440's (no offence to DJ 440!), so we had to wait for a long while in the terribly hot place, we knew that it would be worse once we got down to the concert space though.
When we finally entered, Tanaka Fumiya was DJing while VJ Ukawa Naohiro prepared with his bunch of videotapes while smoking. I'm not so much into techno DJing, and that's probably why Tanaka's set sounded all the same to me from beginning to end.
Those who are going to see Denki Groove at Fuji Rock may prefer to stop reading here.
Bye Bye Nam June PaikWatari-um (aka The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art) in Gaienmae, and the current exhibition was "Bye Bye Nam June Paik". Having seen his works before at ICC and MoT, and especially loving what he does with all those dead and alive TVs, I went in. The ¥1000 ticket gives access to three floors of great installations, but also to re-admittance any time until the exhibition closes in October.
This time I just looked through the installations, paintings and other works that can be appreciated in a few moments, but I'll be going back to watch the many videos documenting his past works and life.
"a place in the sun vol.6" report
Last night I went to Shibuya O-Nest for an event called "a place in the sun vol.6". Artists playing included i robot and proud, Petset, Yucca, and a few others though these three were the ones I went there for.
Petset were playing for the first time in quite a long while it seemed. The band's three members, Moriyama Shinsaku (vocals and guitar), Honda Yūko (vocals, saxophone and keyboards) and Ichida Yūki (drums), were accompanied by support keyboardist and bassist. They played about 6-7 songs, including 3 or 4 that I knew from their album "Sound-Sphere" that I love. I'm especially fond of their syncopated beats and melodic guitar riffs, and it was great to hear those performed live.
I had heard Yucca's first album "laboratory products" before, and their show came as a great surprise. Their lively and very tight set often reminded of Cornelius' recent works (or not so recent, as I mean "Point"), with breaky beats, slappy bass and sharp guitar. Most of my attention was on drummer/singer Shinada Ayako whose powerful and precise play quickly brought her to my list of favorite drummers alongside the likes of Yoshié and Migu. There was almost no breaks between the songs, leaving about no chance for the amazed crowd to applause.
Their set list can be found on their blog.
Last to play was i am robot and proud, a guy from Toronto (Canada), whose album "the electricity in your house wants to sing" I've been enjoying lately. He got the most reactions from the crowd, with his soft click beats from his computer and his [what seemed to be] skillful live keyboards. Songs evolve from beatless and quiet to soft beats and then sometimes speed up until an abrupt surprising end. He was called back for an encore, and he said it was the first time that happened, and being out of his own songs he played some great and hilarious cover of some really major track, couldn't quite put my finger on it though since I don't know much about that stuff. :)
Unfortunately I was standing a bit far back and couldn't see much more than his face, and of course his projected and sometimes sync'd videos which were very nice.
Three very good shows that I'd see again. Actually, i am robot and proud can be caught for free in-store at Warszawa in Shibuya next Sunday (7/30) from 17:00. Better get there early though.
On my way out, Petset's Yūko happened to stand in front of me, so I told her that the show was great and asked about the rumored upcoming album (it's been 4 years since "Sound-Sphere"!), she said that they're working on it. I keep my fingers crossed!
July 22, 2006
DialHexbit Generations series game "DialHex" that I had ordered from Amazon (comes with a free GameBoy Micro strap!), and so far I'm enjoying it very much!
Despite its Tetris-like looks, the game-play is completely different as triangle pieces that have uncontrollably fallen down can then be moved around and also slide down when nothing is below them. Forming an hexagon (out of 6 triangles) of a same color makes the pieces disappear, and anything on top falls down. There are also special blinking pieces that can zap away a lot at once. It's harder than it may sound, but after a few hours I've developed some tactics and then I think I'll just need to gain some more speed in using these.
Oh, and the package is very cute, smaller than any GBA game package so far, it's a white square with a silver-colored box inside. It would look great stacked with other games of the series, sort of like collectible lucky items. Cartridges are a pitch black that contrasts with the usual gray ones.
Nintendo has added TV commercials featuring Lily Franky trying out the three first games and also opened previews for the four next games. There's another puzzle game called Coloris though it seems a bit slow-paced (time doesn't seem to matter as much as in DialHex where pieces keep falling), DigiDrive looks like it could be some fun action once having figured out what it's all about, and SoundVoyager suggests playing just by listening to the stereo sound without looking at the screen. I think I may collect these up when they start showing up in used shops for a bit cheaper than their ¥2000(+tx) price tag.
July 19, 2006
This weekend I did a short trip to 大子 (Daigo) in Ibaraki prefecture. I went to see 袋田の滝 (Fukuroda waterfalls), ate おやき, 茶そば (green tea soba) at 奥久慈茶の里公園 (Okukuji cha-no-sato park), and also soft ice cream from 里美牧場 (Satomi farm) on the way.
Here are some photos from the trip.
Larger sizes, and a few more, at Flickr
1-3. michi no eki Satomi
6. Mito Kōmon
7-8. Fukuroda no taki
9. Some twisted tree
10. Tea plantations at Okukuji cha-no-sato kōen
11. Tea soba
12-13. Daigo oyaki gakkō
And last, here's an Autostitched shot of the waterfalls.
July 18, 2006
My Plugins at Six Apart
My recent Movable Type plugins have been added to Six Apart's plugin directory. NewEntryTemplate is even currently featured, whether by choice or by randomness, at the top of ProNet. I think this one especially brings something that was lacking, and hopefully it can be useful to many.
I've taken the opportunity to do a few updates to the plugins at the beginning of this week, so those interested can upgrade to the latest version. All of these work on both MovableType 3.2 and 3.3.
- NewEntryTemplate (v1.2) now supports Movable Type 3.3's Tags field.
- AddComment (v1.4b) now includes a bonus "Add A Trackback" form
- Macron (v1.2) has an updated package containing correct images for both Movable Type 3.2 and 3.3
July 11, 2006
QP, Ekys and others have left their traces on this sign asking for respectful manners. Spotted in Kichijōji.
Larger sizes and some notes at Flickr
July 9, 2006
Nomoto Karia in-store event report
Tonight I dropped by Tower Records Shinjuku for an in-store event featuring Nomoto Karia and Konishi Yasuharu.
Tower Records staff asked the two questions, mostly about the recently released "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji" (or "the night is still young") single, regarding what they thought of the early download-only release, the CD finally coming out, the remixes, the videoclip that almost completely copies Pizzicato Five's, etc. Mostly stuff I had already read elsewhere.
The videos for this song and also "hitomi no naka ni Mirrorball" were played. About the "Mirrorball" video, which was directed by Konishi, he said that he wanted to do everything in blue-ish light, and they ended up using blacklight, which made other fluorescent and white things stand out, such as Karly's panties while she's playing with a hula-hoop. :)
At one point, Konishi-san asked Columbia's CEO Hirose Sadahiko (seen here) to come on stage, something that didn't seem planned. He walked from the cashiers' side of the store with a big Tower Records bag of stuff he had just bought. He was wearing a blue hawaiian shirt, and looked like a very fun and cool guy. He said that he's really hooked to YouTube lately, actually he pretty much only talked about YouTube, saying that he "works while watching YouTube" (rather than the other way around). Karia said that she sometimes gets emails from him with YouTube links.
He talked a bit about the copyright issues realted with YouTube, and he seemed to think that YouTube is all good, and that it's even got them offers from overseas regarding artists who'd have otherwise no presence outside of Japan. Interesting to see a major label's CEO who thinks so openly! He's also the one who went forward with the early download-only releases for columbia*readymade, while Konishi-san was very reluctant (he said he's only ever been into records and even rarely buys CDs, let alone download-only music), but Konishi-san said that in the end he realized that it could be a good thing since the process to release online is so much faster than the months it takes for a CD release, like Karly's next songs that are just being finished these days and will be out on iTunes already by the end of the month.
And now, some scoops! columbia*readymade will release a compilation of breakbeats-remixes of anime songs, in collaboration with Muro, probably before Karly's full second album that should be out in September! Also Konishi-san says he's determined to release a solo album, sung by himself, before he turns 50 (in less than 3 years) and while his teeth are still good. :)
At the end, those who bought the single at Tower Records Shinjuku were entitled to receive an autographed sticker from Karly's hands. Of course I was one of those so I stood in line and was very happy to be able to shake her hand. I told her to keep it up with the drums, as she's often been posting on her blog about rehearsing with friends in a studio, and she seemed pleased with that.
By the way, I realized just at the end of the talk show that there was no mini-live, while I first thought there'd be one. Oops! So, sorry if anyone who read my announcement ended up disappointed.
(Before Peter asks, pictures weren't allowed. :) I might scan and post my signed sticker later though!)
July 7, 2006
Un homme ne peut endurer çaCTPP art director Shindō Mitsuo's new comedy film "otoko wa sore o gaman dekinai -Un homme ne peut endurer ça-", which pays homage to the hip Tokyo area called Shimokitazawa.
Before the film began, there was a mini live show featuring Kojima Mayumi and Watanababy, accompanied by Kyon at piano. Mayumi first sang "mizuumi", as she does in the movie, then Watanababy sang two of his songs, and then Mayumi came back on stage to sing "konya wa Boogie Back" with him. Director Shindō Mitsuo was also brought on stage to receive flowers and to introduce the movie. He said that he used to live nearby Shimokitazawa some four years ago, and that the film became a plan after meeting Takenaka Naoto and offering him the lead role, about which he was very enthusiastic. He said he felt much in debt to Shimokitazawa after receiving so much help from the local shops and people.
It was great to see him up close, he somewhat reminds me of Konishi Yasuharu, in his way of speaking at the least.
The film itself was hilarious, and edited in a pop way that makes it look sort of like a long Pizzicato Five music video, with titles in English and Japanese and animation popping up. Music is omnipresent throughout the film, whether as BGM, karaoke or down at Club Que.
The story is about the community of Shimokitazawa getting progressively corrupted by the arrival of a first soapland in the neighborhood. At first everyone is against the idea of such a disgrace finding its place in calm Shimokita, but then the men, who start enjoying going to the "explanation seminars", and even the women, charmed by the evil businessmen's handsome visitors from their host club, get into the idea that it might all be for the best... Will the town's Buddhist priest (impersonated by Takahashi Yukihiro) and a determined woman be enough to bring everyone back to reason?
Beware, being in the hands of a leading art director, this movie is far from being any "normal". Starting like a French movie with narration by Florent Dabadie and then the titles showing the dancing beautiful girls of Tokyo Ca☆bunny (who take the role of the soapland's staff in the movie), the film then moves on to non-stop visual excitement. There are bits illustrated by Terry Johnson, depicting the backroom soapland action, and also an hilarious YMO parody break. There's also a scene where Kojima Mayumi sings in bar Lady Jane held by Kishino You-ichi (Lady) and Nomiya Maki (Jane). Plenty of unexpected surprises and lots of laughs.
Entirely shot in Shimokitazawa in August 2005, the film succeeds in immortalizing many of the town's key spots. When I go from now on I'll definitely notice places I used to oversee, and go "oh! that was in the movie!". A fun film I will want to see again.
July 6, 2006
Azusawa waterbus harbor
This is an apparently closed-down waterbus harbor, in Itabashi, Tokyo. The blue sign far away in the center reads "小豆沢水上バスのりば" (Azusawa waterbus harbor). To the right is bridge Shingashi-ōhashi that I've photographed before in 2003.
This panoramic photo was created using Autostitch, from about 20 source photos.
Movable Type 3.3
Well, it's been puzzling me for the last few days, Movable Type 3.3 is out in Japan but not yet in the U.S. Why? Anyway, enough waiting, I downloaded the Japanese version (which defaults to Japanese but also contains English, French and other language packs) and installed it!
Surprise, surprise (I wouldn't be if I'd have been reading the Movable Type 3.3 beta blog), BigPAPI isn't compatible anymore, so none of my own plugins worked anymore. Since there were no instructions to be found on MT's site about how to upgrade plugins that used BigPAPI, I checked the App.pm source and found that all there needs to be done is change the callback calls like the following examples.
MT->add_callback('bigpapi::template::edit_entry', 9, $plugin, \&_template);
MT->add_callback('MT::App::CMS::AppTemplateSource.edit_entry', 9, $plugin, \&_template);
MT->add_callback('bigpapi::param::edit_entry', 9, $plugin, \&_param);
MT->add_callback('MT::App::CMS::AppTemplateParam.edit_entry', 9, $plugin, \&_param);
Actually, simply adding the new-style callbacks, without removing the old BigPAPI-style callbacks, will make your plugin work on Movable Type 3.3 while still working on 3.2 (actually 3.16+). BigPAPI will need to be removed from your 3.3 package, and keeping it as a separate download for 3.2 users might be the best idea.
It seems to me like SixApart could have easily avoided everyone most of this trouble by simply keeping
bigpapi::param:: in their code... I understand wanting to standardize naming within the application, but BigPAPI was there first anyway, so it could have been a good idea to support the original naming for backward-compatibility.
Of course, if your plugin modifies templates, you may also have to upgrade your search string since CMS templates have changed a bit. In most cases it should be easy to support both 3.2 and 3.3 at the same time.
My own plugins have been upgraded:
In the mail
Here are a few postcards that found their way to my mailbox recently.
1. Direct mail from Comme des Garçons announcing their sale starting July 7
2. Laissez-passer to a pre-screening of SHINDŌ Mitsuo's new film "otoko wa sore o gaman dekinai"!
3. Oh! Mikey direct mail, announcing "Oh! Mikey Night" and the "Oh! Mikey Extra" DVD
The "otoko wa sore ..." flyer shows most of the cast, and I had fun using notes at Flickr to identify a few of them. Flickr users can try to fill in the blanks. :)
July 4, 2006
Karly on TV
Last night was aired the POPJAM DX show featuring Nomoto Karia's performance of "Tokyo wa yoru no 7ji" ("the night is still young") at Apple Store Shibuya last month. Here are a few stills, but unfortunately my reception of that channel only (NHK Sōgō) isn't very good on my computer.
You may be able to find me at the front left of the 6th picture (or check the notes over at Flickr). :) Luckily, I didn't get zoomed!
July 3, 2006
Movable Type NewEntryTemplate plugin
This is a Movable Type plugin that allows setting global or per-blog default content for these entry text fields: "Subject", "Entry Body", "Extended Entry", "Excerpt", "Keywords" and "Tags" (this last one in MT 3.3+ only).
If you find yourself always typing or cut & pasting the same stuff, this is your solution.
July 1, 2006
Introducing Agenda: Magazine!
This last day or two I've been preparing something new called Agenda: Magazine. This is a list of magazines featuring columns or interviews with some of my favorite artists. Each entry contains front cover (when available), featured artist names (in Japanese and rōmaji), edition number, and Web site and Amazon links (when any).
The main reason why I put this together is that I often end up in bookshops looking at magazines, and I can't ever remember what are the ones I needed to check out. Now as soon as I see magazine feature announcements on artist sites, I add the magazines to the list. The calendar page and its downloadable iCalendar version (works just fine on an iPod!) should then be enough to remind me what magazines to devote my attention to amongst the hundreds.
I'm also planning to add a simple Web interface for mobile phones soon, for when I forgot to download the latest data onto my iPod. I'd use the nice WINKsite, as I do on the Agenda, but it doesn't seem quite ready to serve Japanese text to Japanese phones (which don't widely support UTF-8).