cry of the electric mouse

Submitted without comment:

(ubiquitous Wikipedia link)

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just waiting for my girl from another world

What happens when you combine Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami, American actress Kirsten Dunst, and vowelless director McG over a classic ’80s hit from one of my favorite bands?  Would you believe it’s this?

(Warning: contains images not safe for work or family.)

(via BoingBoing, who just referred to “Murakami” in their post, and thus had me thinking they meant Haruki Murakami, which made even less sense.)

I’m not really sure how I feel about this video.  Dunst’s cover doesn’t bring a lot musically, but I don’t think that’s the point.  The trio seems to have set out to make something more like a short film, but it has no sense of narrative or flow.  Magical Girl Super Kirtsen doesn’t have a consistent character–in one shot, she seems lost and outside of reality, in the next she’s flirting with the camera like we’re real and everyone else is outside.  There’s some cultural statement lurking under the surface–not just about being an outsider, but about how we relate to pop culture, how foreigners can become engrossed in what is commonplace to locals (BoingBoing talked a bit about this recently), but the quick-cut, non-linear film never manages to get to the point.  I give it an A for concept, C for execution.

For contrast, here’s what an actual Vapors video looks like:

thursday sumo: old school stereo

Back in October (when the Elephant was hibernating), Pink Tentacle posted a set of wonderful animated stereoviews by early Japanese photographer T. Enami, including this one of a handful of rikishi displaying their kesho-mawashi:

(Click through to check out more of Enami's photographs, and other shots of vintage sumo and other scenes of old Japan, from Flickr user Okinawa Soba.)

It’s a fascinating combination of stillness and motion, depth, and not-quite-natural color.  Also, the dude on the left moved during the exposure, dooming him to an eternity of ghostly half-existence.  Scary.

For our edification, I also decided to do a little ImageReady work so we could check out the embroidery in more detail, which is not a phrase I ever expected to type:

koknishu: spring 1, #5

I think just the act of posting that last translation has made me dislike it.  I’m sending Spring I, #3 back to the drawing board.  Don’t look at it any more.  We’re moving on:

梅がえに
きゐるうぐひす
はるかけて
なけどもいまだ
雪はふりつつ

    the warbler
back in the branches
    of my plum tree,
singing in the spring
even as the snow falls

Japanese poetry often lacks a sense of “speaker”, due in part to the structure of the language itself.  Using “my” inserts a presence not expressly there in the original, but I find it shrinks and personalizes the scope of the poem.  “my plum tree” has a softer, smaller feel than “the plum tree”, pulling the scene of the poem into a familiar back yard, rather than a vague, open space-with-a-plum-tree.  Still not committed to the punctuation here–I played with dashes and different use of commas, even a colon, but nothing stuck, so I went with this one-comma version.

As always, comments and criticisms welcome!

kokinshu: spring 1, #3

In an effort a higher echelon of dorkdom (Nerdvana?), I have been devoting a portion of my free time to the translation of classical Japanese poetry.  The following tanka–a short poetic form which dominated Japanese culture for quite a long time–is from the Kokinshu, specifically the first book of spring verses.  I do not claim that it is perfect, or even necessarily done, but it is the first one I think I’ve gotten to the point of “decent”.

Here we go:

春霞
たてるやいづこ
みよしのの
よしのの山に
雪はふりつつ

oh where
do the spring mists rise?
here in fair Yoshino,
in the mountains of Yoshino,
snow keeps coming down

I’m still a bit uncomfortable with the “oh where”, it’s a little melodramatic…  Thoughts, comments, and criticisms are welcome.

thursday sumo: big goings-on

I tend to watch sumo tournaments on a time delay–that is, I download them, and make my way through the thirty hours worth of video where I can, usually while doing dishes.  When I’m catching up, I tend to avoid sumo news sites for fear of spoilers.  As of right now I’m only on day six of the January basho, but when sumo news makes it onto BoingBoing, I figure I should come out of my hole and check for my shadow.  This week, we get a double header:

First off, after an incident in which Asashoryu allegedly punched a dude in the face during a bout of extreme drunkenness, the yokozuna has announced his retirement.  The news feed at Sumotalk has a fine account of the details of the altercation, and its aftermath, so I’ll leave the technicalities to them.  I’m sad to see him go–he was a dynamic, powerful figure who, despite his attitude problems, brought a lot to the sport–but given the stoic, traditional culture that exists around Japan’s national sport, there isn’t really another path.

My main curiosity is: what does this mean for the sport?  The two yokozuna have been completely dominant for years now, to the point where there’s no real candidate to fill the vacuum at the top level.  Only two of the ozeki, Kotooshu and Harumafuji, have recent tournament wins, and both have been inconsistent at best.  Still, there will be pressure on the Sumo Association to fill the vacancy, and with the recent withdrawal of Chiyotaikai, I expect we’ll see some unusual movement at the top of the rankings.  Perhaps Asashoryu’s absence will make it a little easier for somebody-or-other to really shine?  Kisenosato, I think we’re all looking at you, here.

Meanwhile, in less punchy news, Takanohana-oyakata seems to have staged a coup, sidestepping the Sumo Association’s normal political process and getting himself elected to the board of directors (normally, elections are perfunctory, and members are selected by their own ichimon, or collection of training stables).  This has caused a great deal of murmuring amongst the various coaches, council members, and stable heads, with those who voted for Takanohana being branded traitors (again, Sumotalk has better details than I can provide).  It’s difficult to say. especially as an outsider and a foreigner, what impact this will have, but, schismatic that I am, I think this shake up may bring a new energy to the Association, and hopefully help them cope with the loss of a great, if troubled, yokozuna in a creative, intelligent way.

Or maybe it’ll look like this:

(you guys may recognize Akebono from that Glee commercial from last week.)

big man sings Journey (uh, thursday sumo? sure.)

Yes, that’s yokozuna Akebono in this ad for the Japanese release of Glee. (via Neatorama)