I think a lot of the time weird Japan is weird, weird Japan knows it is weird and weird Japan is laughing about it, e.g.
“We know. It’s OK, go ahead and laugh. We know.”
But sometimes Japan apparently has no idea it’s peculiar and creepy to invent an AI talkbot bear called (I think) Himitsuno Kumachan– Secret Bear?– then have it introduced in a stilted, badly dubbed video by the 100 Yen Shop version of David Duchovny. Remarkably, even I can tell that the Japanese is even more stiff and unnatural than the English.
“Mr J” also visits a coffee shop to have a little chat with his bear, which isn’t a strange and awkward thing for a grown man to do, no, not at all.
Children are presumably the actual intended users for the product, as opposed to 100 Yen Shop David Duchovny. Here we see a genuine human child who is somewhat interested for a good forty seconds before looking around for something else to do. SUPAA FUN!!!
More information here, though like most of these sites it’s quite baffling even if you do read Japanese. Or if you’d like to immediately and decisively cut off the development of your child’s social skills and render them unable as adults to ever look at fake fur or shiny black buttons without an involuntary shudder, you can buy one for ￥10,778 (about €79 / £56 / $88)
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 )
Hands free tomato eating machine by Japanese artist Nobumichi Tosa. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu Tsuno.
A Japanese vegetable juice company has made a backpack robot with a tomato-shaped head, designed to feed its wearer tomatoes… because of course they have. Another solution to a problem nobody in their right mind ever thought was a problem.
It is at least credited to an artist, so we’ll give him some leeway to not be entirely utilitarian, and possibly even satirical. In the picture above it looks disconcertingly like some kind of high tech kawaii BDSM ball gag get up, and even more disconcertingly like these mechanoid, fetor-powered parasites from the manga ギョGyo (Fish) by Junji Ito, who seems to have a boundless imagination for scatology, body horror and despair. Probably not the vibe that Kagome were going for.
I hereby announce the blogging genre of Japanese misadventures with vegetables and/or with items which are technically fruits yet nonetheless generally classed as vegetables:
“I wonder if they’ll be humans or vegetables?” You can love vegetables without making love to vegetables, OK?
The Rite of Spring (Onions) Vegetable children extol the virtue of eating vegetables through the medium of J-pop, dancing and Japlish word play.
I’m still not entirely sure if this project which “aims to spread human ride robots” is in earnest or some kind of satirical sci fi art concept. Sometimes in Japan it’s hard to tell. It’s also entirely possible for any given thing to be both. I think “both” is probably the answer here although if it is a joke or has jokey elements, then it’s a joke carried out with unusual thoroughness and commitment. Well, unusual if you’re not Japanese, anyway. Obviously as usual any humour, intended or otherwise, has been missed by 90% of the lumpencommentariat on YouTube. As I’ve pointed out before, like the British the Japanese have an international reputation for being somehow both joyless stiffs and unpredictably eccentric, but in fact both nations across all social classes share a deep affinity for daft, surreal, mocking humour that doesn’t necessarily register in the USA, or with their neighbours in mainland Europe/mainland Asia respectively.
If you’re reading this at work you can visit the comprehensive and quite pretty Suidobashi Heavy Industry site to design your own Kuratas. My effort can be seen in the picture above, a $1.8 million/¥190,813,241/€1.38 million super-kawaii ‘Hello Killy’ model that would be ideal for attending a lipsync meet-the-fans appearance by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at a shopping mall or annihilating the last cowering remnants of the human race on the orders of Skynet. Again, perhaps both at the same time.
The people behind Suidobashi definitely have tongue in cheek for parts of the video below, one example being the unsettling and slightly deranged “smile shot” function at about 3:00. The robot will also hit targets only “from time to time.” On the other (robotic) hand, the prototype seems to be an actual and quite impressive thing that the artist has really built. It appears you can buy one from Amazon. You can also buy– via the related purchases on the same page– an 8.6 metre long Stegosaurus. Obviously.
Oh, and here’s the other hand I mentioned.
Brace yourselves, nerds. This week it’s an onslaught of vintage computer images from Computers: An Illustrated History by Christian Wurster, published by Taschen. Honestly it’s so interesting and visually arresting (and virtually wordless, as the title suggests) that I could scan almost every page of it, but I’m not going to. I strongly recommend that you buy this splendid book if you like the images I’m posting, just as I suggest you do for the work of any other authors, artists, musicians, or film makers whose efforts I feature here or that you see on other blogs, and just as I also gently suggest that you support me in a small way by buying one of my books if you enjoy this blog.
Anyway, commercial message over, here’s an inexplicable image from a 1984 German ad for the Atari 800 XL.
Caption: “Wow! I just said ‘Man in the Mirror’ and it replied ‘F-3, Passport, page 2, title 4’.”
The text on the screen describes what I initially assumed must be a fictional album, since the details seemed so daft: it says the genre is “jazzrock” and the songs have stupid titles like Mango Tango. Passport was, however, a real German prog rock and (shudder) jazz rock band who did indeed release an LP called Man in the Mirror in 1983. This confirms that the gentleman pictured here really is DJing at one of the shittiest discos ever. Probably best not to even try working out what narrative we’re meant to glean from this photo. Miss Average in Pink getting short shrift and a lecture on Hawkwind when she complains that nobody wants to hear prog and jazzrock at a disco?
Interesting with hindsight that actually playing a whole song as a file directly from a digitised playlist was still far beyond the capabilities of a home computer.
Aibo: “No, master, I don’t have any ports big enough for that.”
I’d forgotten that around the turn of the 21st century somebody at Sony seriously posited these barely functional, limping, chirping real world-embodied Tamagochis as a high-end pet. Sony stopped making them in 2006. I last looked at these images on my hard drive in 2002.
Latte: “Are you Sarah Connor?”
Macaron: “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“For was it, for instance, a thing likely to occur to any one as suspicious that, according to the declaration of an elegant beau of these tea-parties, Olimpia had, contrary to all good manners, sneezed oftener than she had yawned? The former must have been, in the opinion of this elegant gentleman, the winding up of the concealed clock-work; it had always been accompanied by an observable creaking, and so on. […] Several lovers, in order to be fully convinced that they were not paying court to a wooden puppet, required that their mistress should sing and dance a little out of time, should embroider or knit or play with her little pug, &c., when being read to, but above all things else that she should do something more than merely listen — that she should frequently speak in such a way as to really show that her words presupposed as a condition some thinking and feeling. The bonds of love were in many cases drawn closer in consequence, and so of course became more engaging; in other instances they gradually relaxed and fell away. “I cannot really be made responsible for it,” was the remark of more than one young gallant. At the tea-gatherings everybody, in order to ward off suspicion, yawned to an incredible extent and never sneezed. Spalanzani was obliged, as has been said, to leave the place in order to escape a criminal charge of having fraudulently imposed an automaton upon human society.”
The Sand-Man by Ernst T.W. Hoffmann, 1817.
This Figure For Ballroom Dancing Practice was patented in 1921 by one Sidney E. Feist, “of Brooklyn, New York.” The drawings are lovely, despite the inherent uncanniness with which most people in the 21st century automatically contextualise the idea of dancing with some kind of flapper-Dalek automaton who rolls towards you on what Mr. Feist worryingly (and Lovecraftianly) describes as a “tubular member.” She also has a kickstand under her dress. Continue Reading