Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ganbaru Shopping District Festa



(Kou-kun.)

The merchants from one of the nearby shopping districts had a "let's try hard" (ganbaru) festival in the plaza in front of the Amupla building on Sunday. It consisted of some stage shows, demonstrations and vehicles from the SDF, and some food stalls.



As always, photos of the kids with the SDF bikes and other stuff were very popular with the parents.


(Kai-kun)


(Some of the food stalls.)



I arrived late, at about 4:30 PM (I wasn't expecting to find an event going on at Amupla this Sunday). The hula dancing was just about to wrap up, and I caught the last 2 dances.



The remaining dancers were waiting for the big finale with everyone on stage for the last dance.


(The little camera has been having a lot of trouble focusing lately. It may be time to find some place that can give a good cleaning.)



After the hula dancing ended, one of the merchants came out to give the wrap-up speech, so I went downstairs to the Kaldi shop to get some coffee. When I came back up, the local radio station was participating in a "Self-Defense demonstration for women", with two of their male announcers dressed up in scanty clothes (I guess in reaction to the all-female hula dancers, to give the women in the audience something to look at).


Direct hula dance youtube link


Direct Women's Self-defense Lesson, Japan-style, youtube link

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book - Witch - review




Sigh. A few months ago, I bought a used Gameboy DS to replace the previous one because the top screen had stopped working. Unfortunately, the touch panel of the replacement DS was misaligned and I couldn't recalibrate it. For most games, this hasn't been a problem, but I decided to get a new Chocobo game that depends very heavily on the stylus and touch panel, and I couldn't play it on the second machine. I spent a few days debating whether to trade up to a 3DS, on the assumption that it was backward compatible for DS game cartridges. Since neither Bic Camera nor Book Off had any more used DS's, and Book Off had a couple used 3DS LL's in the 8500 to 9500 yen range (Bic Camera was generally 1000-2000 yen more expensive), I broke down and bought the one with the red case. I had to get the power adapter separately for another 950 yen, so the total came to about $85 USD. The start up screen is clunkier to use than the DS, and the controls are laid out differently, but it does play DS games (the 3D effect doesn't apply to DS games), and I've been able to progress a lot farther in Chocobo since the touch screen is lined up right. Now I get to see how long this machine will last before breaking down...


(The main difference from the DS is the location and shape of the Power button...)


Chocobo to Mahou no Ehon: Majo to Shoujo to 5nin no Yuusha (2008)
(Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book: The Witch, the Girl and the 5 Heroes)


(Part of the game's opening credits.)

Like the previous Magic Picture Book game, Witch is all mini-games. The over-arching storyline is that Cid is on an island, living in a big castle where he paints pictures. Some enemy has decided to subvert the stories in the pop-up picture books that he's painted, and this has caused him to fall ill. Chocobo stows away on a ship to the island, and finds himself having to save Cid and everyone else. There are two halves to progressing the story - playing a mini-game (i.e. - Frogger, dodge falling objects, curling, blowing into the microphone to push balloons around, etc.) or playing a pull-back duel. I have no idea how many mini-games there are, but it's at least 30. They all have 3 point target levels - Silver, Gold and Platinum. Silver unlocks the next part of the game and gives you a Pop-Up Duel card. Gold and Platinum give you coins that can be spent on ability upgrades for the pull-back duels (PBD). PBDs are 1-on-1 fights between you and an enemy. You drag Chocobo backwards and let him go like a wind-up car. There are four picture books you have to enter, and each book has its own PBD playing field and rules. In the first 3 fields, healing spots appear occasionally, which restore HP and give you some SP. SP are used to activate abilities (throwing bombs, using a wall of fire, attacking with swords or spears). You can use gold and platinum coins to upgrade each ability three times, which can reduce the SP needed to use it, or increase the damage delivered. The idea is to damage the opponent and bring their HP to 0 before they zero you. And then, Pop-up Duels are the same as in the other 2 Chocobo games (Cid's Dungeons and Magic Picture Book), where you use Yu-gi-oh-like cards to play games against the computer or your friends. Pop-up duels contribute nothing to the outcome of the Witch game.


(Part of the pop-up picture book storyline. There are 4 picture books total. When you fix the problems in one book you can move on to the next one.)

The artwork is good, the music is great, and the story is interesting. The character names are the same as in Magic Picture Book, but some of the designs have been completely reworked. The Pop-up Duel cards are exactly the same, while the Pull-back Duels are new. The main reason for getting Witch is to play the mini-games (which I still don't like). Some of the mini-games are minor tweaks from those in MPB, while others are either inspired by a MPB game, or are completely new. Most of the mini-games have minimal instructions and have taken a while to figure out how to play them. The one game that I still don't understand is the timed water slide and I've given up on it. I've been able to get Silver level on all the others, and a few I've been able to clear Platinum. Regardless, I don't like playing mini-games and have no interest in replaying any of them just to get higher scores.


(Chocobo boulder avoidance mini-game. You have to put the stylus over Chocobo to stop him from walking into the boulders. Crossing the red goal line on the right is worth 1 point. You need 10 points to clear Platinum level.)

I just don't like mini-games, but I got Witch because I like the Chocobo character, and it was 500 yen used ($4 USD). Not really sure if it was a good deal, buying a $90 USD Nintendo 3DS used just to play a $4 game, especially since I'm still not inclined to keep going until the end of the storyline. But, if the new machine stays good long enough, I hope eventually to find and buy a used copy of the latest Detune Korg synthesizer emulator that came out last year for the 3DS, and that WOULD be a good thing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Time-Lapse Sakurajima


Direct youtube link


After making the time lapse movie of Sakurajima back on the 13th, I decided that I'd try visiting various viewpoints around the city and turn it into a "day in the life of" video that would span sunrise to dusk. On the 20th, I got up at 6 AM, when the sun had already been up for well over an hour, and ran down to Dolphin Port to start recording. The battery ran out after 4 hours, and by that time, even though I had put on sunscreen and retreated to the shade of a gazebo, I was pretty badly sunburned. The next day, I went over to the Xavier landing spot and recorded from about 10:30 AM to almost 3 PM, when the battery ran out again. It would have been nice to have a second battery, but moving the camera would have messed up the shots, and it'd have kept me out in the sun longer. On the other hand, there was a big eruption at 6 PM that got mentioned on national news and I would have been in the perfect location to capture it. Finally, after work the following day, I returned to Dolphin Port, closer to the ferry docks, and taped from about 5 PM to a little after 7 PM, when the sun was down far enough that the camera was having trouble focusing in the low light.

The Canon PowerShot stores individual interval photos in separate folders, 200 files together. At 1 shot every 30 seconds, and a little over 4 hours per battery charge, that's 510+ photos in 3 folders in one outing. I used Window's MovieMaker to stitch the photos together into one movie per 510+ file batch (any more than that in one project and MovieMaker starts "losing" files during playback, destroying the project file). I rendered movies at 0.1, 0.15 and 0.2 seconds per frame to compare the results. 0.1 sec gave me very smooth movements of the clouds and ferry boats, but everything was too fast to follow easily. 0.15 was "chunkier", but the playback speed was easier to watch. 0.2 was too slow. After rendering all four videos at 0.15 secs each, giving me four files of about 1.2 minutes apiece, I started a new MM project file and copied the four smaller video files into it to get the final movie. While I was at it, I wrote a VBScript to rename the May 20 photos to reverse the filename order. This gave me one more small movie with Sakurajima running backwards, which I appended at the end of the main movie and ran at 0.03 sec/frame.

This left me with the question of what to do for a soundtrack. I was thinking about trying to match up Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream songs with various parts of the video, but that would leave me with copyright problems and the possibility of having to pull the video from youtube if they muted my video again. At about this time, I was writing up the Vocaloid P review for volume 18, and the Singer-Song Writer tutorial was walking me through the process of using pre-written phrases for different genres to make a full song. I was experimenting with the Trance phrases and some of them matched the timelapse actions pretty closely. Trance also has sound effects like explosions that I liked for emphasizing the volcano eruptions. So, when I finished the Vocaloid write-up I sat down with SSW for a full day and tried to copy-paste a song that lined up with the timing sheet I wrote up. I quickly ran into a problem where the playback speed of the sheet music wasn't in integer units of seconds. This meant that I couldn't just write a song based on 2 beat or 4 beat measures, because some of the actions occurred 2.4 seconds apart, and others at random intervals. I looped the drum track to last the length of each mini-movie and then tried to get the other instruments and sound effects as close to the action in the main movie as I could. Some of the explosions are half a beat off (either too early or too late) but I think the over all soundtrack works ok.

For the final mini-movie, I extracted 24 seconds of the music from the middle of the song, reversed it in Audacity, sped it up to drop the playback time to 12 seconds, and put that into MovieMaker. It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

-------------



On May 21st, I went down to the Francis Xavier landing site (where Xavier, the first Jesuit priest to visit Japan, originally docked in Kagoshima in 1549) to shoot part of my time-lapse series of Sakurajima. I'd grabbed two Coke-One Piece "leisure sheets" from the grocery store to have something to sit on in the shade. They were very convenient.



Having two cameras works out well when you want to use one to show the set-up for the other.



The landing point is also the site of a community center. There was one hawk that kept flying really low around the building, stopping on the roof a couple times.



He knew the good camera was being used to take photos of the volcano.



I hate it when birds mess with me like this. They never pose when I have the good camera out.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Parasyte




Window display for the new live-action movie version of Parasyte.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cowboy Kung-fu




Asakawa Moving is a transport and apartment relocation company.
Their logo is Cow-boy.



The text at the lower left reads "Kung-fu Cow".

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bad Fit




Looney Tunes meets bad glasses. Could be worse. Batman and Superman don't need Factory glasses.

Monday, May 25, 2015

One Day Tattoo




I like the artwork on the model. Very British 80's retro.
But, if you're just using a one-day magic marker as an eyeliner, can you honestly say this is a "tattoo"?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Move




Daihatsu produces the Move line of cars. Can you imagine being stuck in traffic with something like this in front of you for 2 hours? Instant road rage.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

MOS-man




Every time I see this symbol for the MOS hamburger chain, I think that they're trying to summon a super hero like Batman or The Tick.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fashion Stuff




There's this one collection of boutiques in Tenmonman, and they have display cases and posters on the outside walls in the parking lot. Looking at these, it seems like the whole point of fashion advertising in Japan is to come up with weird combinations of stuff (or endless layering) and then tacking on an "edgy" sounding English word as a brand name. Here, it's "Sly".



For shoes, the goal is height. Clunky and ugly is "in". If you collect all of the shoes here, you're An-nahl retentive.



Venom makes a good punk band name, but for a fashion brand I'd expect something a whole lot angrier. In Japan, "ego" is a negative word, because it elevates the individual over the group. An Egoist would be self-aware and self-absorbed. Immediate grounds for ostracism here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Doraemon




Doraemon thanks everyone for supporting him for the last 35 years. And asks that you see his latest movie, which came out a couple months ago (so this is now old news, and he is very disappointed in you).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Life is a rock

There've been a number of songs that I've missed from when I was younger. Most of them I've been able to look up on wikipedia or youtube, and get the title if I could remember only parts of the lyrics (one exception being "Sweating Bullets" because I could only recall one specific part of the music video). But, there's been one song that was absolutely killing me because I'd play the music in my head, and it had a really fast set of lyrics consisting of band names and other song lyrics, but whenever I tried googling it, I'd just come up with hits on Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire (which had a similar concept).

Then, as I was walking through Tenmonkan a couple days ago, I noticed that the complex's speaker system was playing music really, really softly. I picked out "Life is a rock", and I started shouting, "paper, paper, paper, paper". When it got to "at the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie" I'm screaming, "I need a pen! I need a pen! I need a pen!"

I'm better now.

Life is a Rock, by Reunion (1974)


Interesting trivia: Reunion was a group made up of studio session musicians, led by Joey Levine. The music for "Life is a Rock" was written by Paul Di Franco, and lyrics by Norman Dolph.

Levine sang the bubble gum hits "Chewy Chewy" and "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy". He went on to become a jingle writer, creating Almond Joy's "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut", "Gentlemen Prefer Hanes" and "This Bud's For You".

Paul Di Franco has 176 movie credits on IMDB, either as music director, producer or supervisor, with films including Scorpion King 4, American Pie Band Camp, Let Them Eat Rock and The Fantastic Four. He also has 8 credits as an actor.

Norman Dolph was an executive at Columbia Records, and funded the first recordings of the Velvet Underground. He's got one credit on IMDB as composer for Attila and the Great Blue Bean. There's a longer list of his works on Discogs. At the moment, he seems to be the president of a skin cream company, OxyGenius.com (unless that's a different Norman Dolph).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Hubris Stickers

I am posting this entry half a day early in the hopes that when I wake up in 7 hours that the weather will be good enough for me to go down to the volcano and take more time-lapsed photos for 5-6 hours (until the battery runs out). So, for those of you that haven't checked in for half a day, you get two blog entries in one sitting. Score!



Greg Cravens, the mastermind behind The Buckets and Hubris, has a new set of Hubris stickers out. If you donate a few dollars via the "tip jar" button on his website, he'll send some to you. These new ones look GREAT!



And I really like the packing material they came in. Looks like the original pencils for one of the Smythe-Cholera strips (Greg - is this true? Do you really sketch out all your strips on lined notebook paper?) (The scan doesn't do the pencil art justice.)



In short:
Send Greg Cravens all your money!
He'll give you stuff!
This will make you happy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kagoshima Music Festa, 2015


Day 1


Kagoshima City had their big free music fest in Central Park on the weekend of May 16th and 17th this year (before, it had been in the Fall, in 2013). The weather started out poorly, with rain all Friday, Friday night and Saturday morning. I was thinking the event would be cancelled outright, but I wasn't able to get to Central Park until 4 PM, on my way to a 4:30 lesson. So, when I did pass by, and found the event was indeed going on, I was able to catch about 30 seconds of South Shaker, a pretty decent heavy metal band.



A few people came out to brave the rain.


(South Shaker)


(And their lead guitarist. He was good.)


(Second stage being set up for the next band in the line-up.)



Part of the park had a flea market, and a couple booths for massage and chiropractic treatment, plus a line of stalls for festival food. At this point, the rain had pretty much stopped but there was still a little occasional drizzle.



My lessons ended at 7 PM, and I was expected home for dinner right after that. So, I swung by the park on my way to the apartment, and caught a few minutes of 3Set, a local pop and folk rock group, which was ok.


(3Set, pronounced "sunset".)

I finished dinner at 8:30, and the music for Saturday was scheduled to wrap up at 9. I went straight to the park, where Tissue, a Kiss cover band that has been playing for 20 years, was starting their set. I was able to record two of the songs, but the battery on the camera was running down and I held off on getting the encore song - "Rock n Roll all Night". They did a pretty good job, and the lead singer imitated Paul Stanley fairly closely. The bass player didn't quite have a handle on Gene Simmons' voice, though.


(Tissue)

Direct youtube link for Tissue



Day 2

(Mausuman)

The weather was much improved on Sunday, with mostly clear skies, and the wind blowing the volcano ash away from the city. I dropped by Central Park at 2 PM, just as Mausuman was wrapping up their rock covers set. As a 4-piece band they were pretty good, even though one of them looked like a junior high student. Unfortunately, the drummer insisted on doing backup vocals, and there was no one operating the mixer board to kill his mike (he was horrible and way too loud).


(UFO)

They were followed by UFO, which billed themselves as "a bunch of old guys playing modern covers". They were ok, but I've heard their opening song before, and it's a Japanese pop ballad that I don't really care for. So, I headed down to Dolphin Port, where I'd been told there was a Harley Davidson event going on for the weekend.

Harley




I consider the idea of a motorcycle company using trucks to haul their motorcycles around to be kind of funny. But, it turns out that it was a sales event to promote their new models, and they probably wanted the bikes to look pristine (that, and all the tents would have cut down on the aerodynamics of the bikes...)



There was a small practice area for the kids.



Lots of bikes.



I saw this guy zipping off around the city a few minutes later.


(More people here than at the live music concert...)


(Tsumuginchu)

When I came back to the park, Tsumuginchu, a female love-song trio, was getting started. Again, it's not my kind of music, so I went up to Amupla to do food shopping. There was nothing going on in the main plaza in front of the train station, and I returned home to drop off the groceries and check email.


(Sakurajima was easy to find between the buildings. It was nice that the wind was blowing the right way this time.)


(Kafka)

I'd gotten a copy of the schedule back on Saturday, and I knew that there was one band I specifically wanted to watch, which would be at 6 PM. After finishing with email, I went back to the park again as Kafka was playing and recorded one of their songs.


(Go Panix)

Go Panix was on the main stage, and I capped one of their songs, too. Up to this point, I was kind of leery of being too obvious in having the camera out, because KMF had had a strict "no cameras" policy last time. But so many other people were recording the music that I decided to go back to the apartment again to grab my tripod. Sitting and holding the big camera was making my arms so tired and the video so shaky, that the tripod was becoming a necessity.


(Bon DX)

I reached the park at 6:05 PM just as Bon DX (Deluxe) was getting ready to start, so I rushed getting the big camera out and the tripod set up. Fortunately, they decided to do a sound check, and that bought me a few more minutes. But, although I worked at getting the mounting level, there's this feeling that everyone is playing on the side of a hill. I had seen Bon DX at a live event in Tenmonkan last Christmas, and I liked them a lot then. It was a short set, only 15 minutes long, with some talking in the middle to advertise their current concert schedule, and introduce one song off their latest album. It was a great set.


(KoshaBand)

The last group for the weekend was KoshaBand, a Tatsuro Yamashita cover band. I've never listened to Yamashita's music before; he's an actor and composer and is pretty famous in Japan. The music was good, but the horn player was something of a distraction. I really disliked having the "official cameraman" on stage for every single band ALL the time. He had a KMF staff badge, so maybe he was just doing what he was supposed to, but he spent too much time in front of the musicians, blocking the audience's view of the players. And, to me, he had a lousy sense of timing as to when to get close-ups of the instruments (rushing to zoom in on a lead guitar solo just as the solo was ending).



Not a lot of people, but they did have a good time. I liked Tissue, Go Panix and Bon DX, and would have been happy if they'd played much longer sets, with less from the other bands.

Direct youtube link for Kafka and Go Panix


Direct youtube link for Bon DX


Direct youtube link for Kosha Band, part 1


Direct youtube link for Kosha Band, part 2