Even more from the series of Japanese short films about crafts and manufacturing, which was featured yesterday: this time the videos feature the making of clockwork and tin toys, daruma (達磨, the hollow good luck dolls supposedly modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism), oil pastel crayons, oil paint for artists, and mosquito coils.
The film about daruma shows equally fascinating traditional hand-made techniques, and slightly more industrial manufacturing of them. Even so, they’re all still finished individually just like the other items shown in these videos, the paint and the mosquito coils included. The pastel one is a bit tedious at the start, but if you’re an artist like me or otherwise just get excited about colours, stick with it and the one about paint for some huge, lush blobs of intense, glossy pigment erotica. The film about mosquito coils is initially rather alarming because despite them working with insecticide all day, not a single person is wearing a mask or gloves. A little research, however, showed that pyrethrum and pyrethrins derive from chrysanthemum flowers (as shown in the film) and are so safe to humans and other mammals that a person would have to ingest many grams of the substance to even get ill. The film also does a little introduction to anti-mosquito incense, which was in fact invented by a Japanese gentleman in the 1890s, although it was his wife who came up with the improved coiling version still in use today. Guess who usually gets the credit, though?
And since we’re on the subject of mosquito coils– how often does that happen?– what a great excuse for a link to two of my favourite posts on the site, though they’re among the least favourite with readers: MUSHUDA and Mushuda II: Miscegenation!
(See also Fascinating Repairmen )
Along the same lines as the aforementioned Fascinating Repairmen, more short documentaries from Japan about crafting, which is apparently a genre. There seem to be dozens if not hundreds of these that have been uploaded to YouTube by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Apart from a few captions– in Japanese, obviously– the videos are all wordless and self-explanatory. The seven embedded here are the ones I’ve found most interesting so far (listed in ascending order of Japanese-ness, possibly): manufacturing marbles from recycled glass, sculpting and moulding shop mannequins, kendo (Japanese bamboo stick-fighting) armour, paper lanterns, dolls for the annual 雛祭りHinamatsuri (Doll Festival), realistic fishing lures, and creating food samples out of PVC and wax.
All the laser beams, neon lines, wireframes, Knight Rider-esque cars called Fairlady Z, and er… giant salamis floating in space that you could want in this 1983 demo reel by Japan Computer Graphics Lab.
修理、魅せます – Fascinating Repairmen– is, I’m sure, a nice skill to have but in this case it’s not an unusual talent or the first scene of an erotic film. Instead it’s the title of a Japanese series celebrating craftsmen and craftswomen who give new life to various old objects. This one is about a Tokyo bookbinder called Nobuo Okano and his process of restoring a much loved and therefore fairly well trashed English-to-Japanese dictionary. Its owner’s daughter is starting university and he wants to pass it on to her, so Okano does what he can to rescue and regenerate the book.
It’s a fascinating process, and you don’t really need to speak Japanese to appreciate what’s going on. The incidental music’s a bit overpowering, but it goes with the Japanese territory. About the only relevant information you can’t get just from watching is the client actually being quite pleased that the restoration will obliterate the embarrassment of his high school girlfriend’s initials still being written on the side (though you probably won’t miss the narrator triumphantly saying “sayonara” as the ex is amputated), and that it took Okano about four hours to re-flatten all 1000 dog-eared pages with tweezers and a small iron.
PS: Don’t try ironing or guillotining the edges off your Kindle if it stops working correctly.
PPS: Here’s a link to a playlist of another 13 episodes. Repairs to jeans, soft toys, ceramic statues, and old photographs, among others.
Some bonkers choreography with Heather Parisi, from the 80s Italian variety show Fantastico. Firstly, Frankie Goes to Hollywood never seemed so… confusing? It looks a bit like a toned down, bowdlerised high school production of Cruising. Still molto gay, though. If Heather’s dance partner is thinking about relaxing, doing it or coming, I very much doubt it involves her. Put some trousers on Heather, love. You’ll catch your death of cold.
Even better, here’s Heather again doing some way-ahead-of-their-time Gangnam Style ridiculous dressage pony moves and gurning to Tullio De Piscopo’s nail in Italo Disco’s coffin, Stop Bajon (Primavera). The smoke in these bubbles must be what the choreographer was inhaling when they came up with this number.
Watch out for a random, drunken, camp fellow enjoying his big acting break at 11:48, a bit of very irresponsible chiropraxy at 12.49, some very unsexy from 13.35, and– saints preserve us!– pierrots throughout.
Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle
We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).
But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
LET’S COOKING AND DANCING!
I hope the Japanese never learn that in English “let’s” doesn’t just go directly with any verb you can think of. It’s such a charming error.
Maracas de Popcorn is a Japanese product for making popcorn with maracas. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wanted to make popcorn with a special pair of maracas? I daresay the company conducted extensive research and discovered to their horror that a commercial void existed, a howling abysmal hellscape in which maracas are just a Latin American hand instrument and nobody can ever make popcorn inside them. Coming soon: Xylophone de Toast, Bassoon de Pancakes, and Bongos de Beefburger. I think at this point the Japanese are being deliberately random and weird to save face because the rest of the world would be so terribly disappointed if they just made popcorn without measuring it in a golden crown then microwaving it in a globular vinyl king’s head, attended by two little girls with moustaches. It always blows my mind how many people must have signed off on a thing like this as it went from concept to manufacture and sale.
Knowing what real kids are like, this product is certainly inviting– at best– popcorn being flung all over the house because they didn’t close the maracas properly. At worst, flaming maize and molten plastic fires because they had the microwave on for 20 minutes instead of 2. But who cares? Let’s cooking and dancing and burning house fun now!
Incidentally, “When moustached Japanese children make popcorn with maracas” was the original title of Prince’s 1984 hit single, but he couldn’t ever get it to scan or rhyme. Henceforth is became When Doves Cry instead.
While we’re on the subject of things that shouldn’t go together but do, because Japan… BABYMETAL. I don’t even ironically like BABYMETAL or regard listening to them as a guilty pleasure. It’s all pleasure, no guilt. Helium-voiced Japanese J-Pop teenaged idoru + actual metal backing band (although sometimes it’s just some guys in skeleton costumes miming) + bedroom headbanging session + a very sensible, safety conscious and Japanese precaution of a neck brace = ヘドバンギャー！！[ Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!! ]
They also occasionally have little outbursts of ska, rap and dubstep. I’d like to think it’s with the intention of pissing off purists who are into those genres, too.