I got a lot of work done in my latest painting session, some ideas are starting to form. You can begin to see how I work, I bring the image down and then back up several times in this animation. I’m not sure I like working in a single color at a time, but this is tempera paint and I don’t really have any choice, I have to wait for one color to dry before applying another.
This new animation is getting rather long, so I made it 3 times faster. Due to the increased speed and higher bandwidth requirements, I’m not sure if 56k modem users will be able to see this animation. If any 56k users could give a report, it would be helpful. Feel free to leave any comments about the painting, the animation technique, opinions, etc. Remember this is an experiment and your input could help shape the results.
I did another quick painting session, I appended it to the end of yesterday’s work since this video is so short. It’s still under 1 minute.
I used a big flat synthetic bristle brush to block out some big strokes with intensely black sumi ink. Remember I told you this painting was barely started. And there’s no hesitation now, sumi is indelible. But this painting is still barely started, and most of this new work will disappear soon, underneath a new layer of paint.
I’m rather pleased at how much easier this session was. It took me about 4 hours to work out the system on the first pass. On the second pass, it only took me about 15 minutes. The resolution is good, the oblique lighting from above is highlighting some interesting qualities, you can see the fresh wet ink, then see the paper buckle slightly as it soaks in and dries.
I had to put some more staples around the edge, the tape partly pulled away and it needed more tension to keep the paper flat. Unfortunately, I knocked the easel and the new camera frame was misregistered. I took precautions not to bump the tripod and camera, but I forgot to secure the easel. It’s a huge 20lb. board so I thought the weight would be sufficient to keep it stabile. Fortunately, I got everything back into exactly the correct position.
A year ago, I produced an experiment in online art, I called it Art Stunt. I streamed live video of a painting in progress for a week, viewers could watch me paint or tune in over time to see how the work progressed. I considered the experiment a failure, the painting developed too slowly, the video resolution was low, and only by a rare coincidence did the small audience manage to actually see me at work.
I considered these problems, and created a new method using stop-frame animation. I’m photographing my painting with my new digital camera. I have my laptop operating the camera by remote control, every few brushstrokes I can tap a key and it captures a high resolution image. I use Final Cut Pro to process the images into a continuous “intervalometer” animation, one frame every 3 seconds. Now you can watch the brushstrokes appear as I paint them. An evening’s work is compressed into 30 seconds.
Don’t judge this painting too harshly yet, I’m just throwing down some light gray underpainting, I’m barely started. I haven’t really discovered what this painting is about yet, it will take a few days of bad painting to get it working. This is nonobjective, nonreferential painting, I work without a plan, more involved with the process than the result, hoping something develops as I work. I throw out a lot of these paintings, or use them as sketches for more fully developed work, so it’s a little disconcerting to have the world watching over my shoulder when I might end up trashing it when I’m done. But that is the nature of this experiment. That is also why I’m calling this Art Stunt 2.0beta, this is mostly for proof-of-concept.
I can already see a few problems here, but they’re minor. The tungsten lighting is a little yellowish and uneven, I could use flash only, but I need a bit of extra light to see what I’m painting. It’s good enough for a beta test, I could do better if I had serious lighting, but I’m doing this on the cheap. Still, the effect is rather dramatic. I can see how I first laid down some broad brushstrokes in light gray, then a few thinner ones, then switched to a darker color, then used a smaller, floppier brush for some finer work. I’m not sure I want to know this much detail about how I paint, I never really thought about this before. I’m not sure how this will affect what I will paint, or if this information is even useful. But it will surely be entertaining, so stay tuned and watch what happens.
Update: This story is consistently my top referral from search engines, and I’m sick of people finding my site while searching for methods to commit theft. So I have altered the text of this article to make it harder to locate with search engines. I apologize for this article being a bit hard to read.
Disinfotainment presents the latest horrific discovery in Japan, a new way to secretly steal your c r e d 1 t c a r d data using Wi-Fi technology. This video from FujiTV (4min25sec, English and Japanese subtitles) explains how the wireless s k 1 m m e r scam works.
S k 1 m m 1 n g c r e d 1 t c a r d numbers isn’t particularly unusual, many portable s k 1 m m e r s are in use today, I’ve even had my own c r e d 1 t c a r d s k 1 m m e d and my own accounts raided for thousands of dollars. Recently a top-class Tokyo hotel made a startling discovery, someone secretly installed a c r e d 1 t c a r d s k 1 m m e r inside the restaurant’s normal c r e d 1 t c a r d authorization device. The s k 1 m m e r was connected to a Wi-Fi transmitter so the numbers could be secretly recorded from a laptop computer anywhere within 100 meters. If the restaurant staff hadn’t noticed someone tampered with their machine, the crime might never have been discovered, and the thief could have sat outside the restaurant in his car skimming numbers and nobody could ever connect him with the crime.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Similar devices were discovered in 6 other restaurants in Tokyo. The scam had previously been discovered in Malaysia, so of course this new crime wave is blamed on foreign devils. This is fairly typical of Japanese news reportage. I was particularly amused by the Japanese loan word for s k i m m e r, sukima, which sounds more like “schemer.” And that’s just what it is, the product of an audacious schemer.
BlogTV is back on the air with the latest video from Japanese news. This short video from FujiTV (1min30sec, Japanese and English subtitles) pushes a preposterous new fashion on the public.
Eating eel, (unagi) is a well known summer tradition in Japan. It is an ancient belief that eating unagi during the hottest days of summer will restore one’s vitality and help endurance under the sweltering temperatures. I think this “ancient tradition” was invented by unagi vendors, just as surely as is this new fashion concept, eelskin sport coats.
We are treated to a fitting by a haberdasher, offering the sport coat for the modest sum of 220,000 Yen, approximately $1850. These eels were grown in Canada specifically for their skins, the narrow strips of eelskin are shipped to China for tanning and stitching into larger pieces, and cut into the final product in Japan. It may be hard to see in this low resolution video, but during a closeup of the leather you can see the leather is rough and crudely stitched. Our fashion victim expresses his surprise and says the jacket is extremely light, sugoku karui, an expression you might likely hear when someone describes a light summer food. The comparison is made between the thickness of cow leather and the thinness of eel leather. Perhaps this is an evocation of ancient buddhist prohibitions against eating meat, while no such prohibition against eating fish and eel existed. Certainly nobody ever described grilled unagi, with its syrupy sauce (as seen briefly in the closing sequence) as a light dish.
Success! I have finally fixed the streaming video server and BlogTV is back on the air. Now everybody should be able to see the videos, even if they’re behind a firewall. I am gradually repairing each video so they work with the new configuration. It will take a while to repair everything, but for now, you can test the new server by trying the How To Start A Crime Wave video, it has already been repaired and should play on all systems. If anyone has problems seeing that video, please leave a comment. I will fix the other videos as soon as possible.
There are a few adjustments still remaining. I’m running the new server configuration off my slowest disk drive, once I get everything adjusted perfectly I’ll back it all up and restore it back onto my ultra-fast drive. In the meantime, performance may be a little slower than usual.
Update, July 1: I have repaired all the videos and everything should be working better than ever. If anyone encounters a video that is unplayable, please leave a comment, and be sure to let me know which video, your QuickTime connection speed preferences setting, and the error message you received. This will greatly help me in identifying any videos that need further repair.
Server performance is still poor due to the slow disk drive I’ve used for this configuration. Some videos may stream poorly from this slow disk, so I will migrate the server back to my high-speed drive as soon as possible. There will be a minor service outage during the migration, and then everything will be running optimally.
Japanese TV news always shows the strangest things, and covers events in the strangest manner. This FujiTV video (6min40sec, English and Japanese subtitles) vividly demonstrates the one thing that I find totally incomprehensible about Japanese news reportage.
The crime wave of home burglaries is a constant source of news coverage and analysis. This story is about the recent arrest of a gang of burglars that used a novel technique to break in. The method is called yakiaburi, a very interesting combination of two verbs, yaku and aburu, which both mean “to heat.” The video actually shows the yakiaburi technique, first you heat the window for 20 seconds with a small butane torch. Then you spray water on the hot spot, the window silently cracks into pieces. The thief can gain silent entry rather than causing a commotion by smashing the glass.
And this is what I cannot understand about Japanese TV news. In their reporting of the crime, they reenact the methods of the crime in such detail that it is practically an instructional video for criminals. If you never knew how to break into a home, now you are an expert. We see demonstrations in a glazier’s office, he prepares typical home windows and shows how easily they can be bypassed. Then he shows another technique, using a glass cutter in a triangle pattern, a neat wedge is silently removed right next to the latch, just enough room for a finger to reach in and unlock the window. The video uses a blur effect to conceal the precise movements of the glass cutter, but the methods are obvious despite the blurring. The glazier finally shows a secure safety glass, which of course costs ten times what the typical window glass costs.
I am continually astonished at this type of news coverage. I suppose they think this modus operandi is already common knowledge in Japan, so it is safe to let the public know how the thieves work. But I still can’t help thinking they are educating a whole new generation of criminals with these detailed demonstrations.
I’ve only ever seen one similar incident in the USA. When I lived in San Francisco, there was a rash of broken parking meters. The local TV station investigated, and discovered some thieves were breaking into parking meters with an automotive dent puller and stealing the coins. And then they demonstrated the actual technique on camera. Within a week, there was not a single working parking meter in San Francisco. The City had to replace every meter in the entire city at a huge expense, and boy were they hopping mad at the TV station. They promised not to ever do anything like that again, but a few weeks later, they showed how to break bicycle locks with a car jack. The same result: a crime wave of bicycle thefts.
I am also painfully conscious that this technique may not be widely known and I may be importing yakiaburi into the US. But that is ultimately FujiTV’s fault. Or so I will keep telling myself.
BlogTV responds to the first ever request from a viewer. A correspondent in Japan drew my attention to a recent story he saw on FujiTV, and indeed, my TiVo captured the story. This story (5min25sec, English and Japanese subtitles) is about a McDonalds that caters specifically to elderly customers, and has some interesting observations about language usage in older vs. younger Japanese speakers.
Japan’s commercial culture is a youth-oriented culture, and corporate institutions like McDonalds primarily target young customers. But the Tokyo district of Sugamo is hangout for the elderly, and of course the Sugamo McDonalds must adapt.
Our first linguistic challenge comes from the interviews with the elderly customers. Demosthenes is said to have cured his stutter by practicing speaking with pebbles in his mouth. Here we face the opposite task, we must challenge our listening comprehension abilities by trying to understand old folks talking with a mouth full of Big Mac. I always like to observe the speech patterns and mannerisms of the extremely elderly, but I can’t decide if the 92 year old woman is discreetly covering her mouth when she smiles, or pushing her dentures back in.
A nearby shrine attracts the elderly people to Sugamo, and we briefly see the ceremonial cleansing of the temple’s statue with water, the figure is Jizo, the wise bodhisattva that protects the weak and innocent. The attendance at this McDonalds doubles on the days of temple observances, which by tradition are days of the month ending in the number 4 (the 4th, 14th, and 24th).
But none of this is within McDonald’s control, their clientele is a gift from the Gods. What McDonald’s is primarily concerned with is how to sell burgers to these customers most profitably. And we should observe closely, the simple transaction at a cash register is one of the most ritualized interactions in Japan. In such ritualized situations, any deviation from standard routine may cause confusion or even panic. This store has anticipated the quirks of their customers and adapted the process for them. For example, older customers are less familiar with English loanwords like chikin nagetsu so the menu substitutes the conventional Japanese word tori niku (chicken, literally “bird meat”). Drink sizes are not Large, Regular and Small, but the traditional dai, chuu, shou system. A magnifier is available so customers with failing eyesight can read the menu, it goes by the interesting name of mushi megane, literally “insect eyeglasses.” In English it is called a Fresnel Lens, apparently the circular ridges of the flat lens evoke the multiple lenses of an insect’s compound eyes.
There is an old saying in Japan, “okyaku-sama wa kami-sama,” the customer is God. So clerks must be particularly attentive to the everchanging needs of even the most demanding customers. One woman tests the patience of a clerk by changing her order even after it is rung up, she admonishes the clerk to listen more closely. Even a forgetful God that cannot remember an order issued moments ago, must be obeyed strictly.
The story closes with more interviews, everyone is happy and full of hamburgers. A woman in a rakish hat expresses her gratitude for being allowed to rest and relax here, she bows deeply with her hands clasped together as if in prayer, and smiles.
Disinfotainment is occasionally lucky to capture video of recent inventions in Japan. New technological devices can provide an insight into social problems and conditions, the way the inventor solves the problem reveals much about that culture’s mindset. Unfortunately, it also shows us their blind spots, as this news segment from FujiTV (4min38sec, Japanese and English subtitles) will reveal. I’ll skip most of the translation since English subtitles are available, but there are Japanese language points of interest for students as well.
Japan has always had the reputation as a safe place where nobody even has to lock their doors and windows. But Japan’s burglary rate has increased 30% over the last decade. The newspapers and TV news are full of stories about gangs of foreigners that have learned to pick common Japanese locks, and can burglarize apartments at will. Some of this media coverage is outright racism against lower-class foreign residents, but regardless of the reasons, many households are rushing to upgrade their locks and security systems.
This video announces the latest security system by NTT DoCoMo, a door lock operated by keitai denwa, your cel phone. And what a system it is. You can activate the lock either by remote control, or by dialing on your cel phone. I can immediately see problems here. The lock can be accessed from the outside by anyone with a cel phone, you’re merely trading one security problem for another. You’re betting that there are fewer phone hackers than lockpickers. The announcer describes the lock as the kagi-ana no nai kagi, the keyholeless lock, it cannot be accessed from the outside. But this could also be a problem, I hope it has a battery so you can still activate the lock in a power failure, fire, or earthquake. But what concerns me more is the privacy aspects. Your phone is creating a complete database of every time you leave your house. I’m not sure I want this data collected. Advanced versions of the system have video cameras accessible by cel phone. The system may not stop a burglar from getting in the window, but the motion detectors will trigger the cameras, and conveniently email you an image of the burglar. These cameras will become attractive nuisances for hackers, especially since they are marketing these security systems to single women that live alone. Somehow I forsee trouble.
Japanese consumers are extremely well educated in the most trivial aspects of every product. In many cases, the presentation and packaging may be as important as the contents, and consumers are extremely particular about their preferences. It appears that this consumer education starts very young, as this video from a popular FujiTV morning show reveals. This video (4 minutes, Japanese subtitles) reveals knowledge sought throughout the ages, the secret Egg Salad Sandwich Recipe.
Little 5 year old Hazuki-chan has written a letter to the morning show. She has a complaint, her Mommy’s egg salad sandwiches are boroboro, sloppy and loose. They’re not perfect like the lady-finger sandwiches you get in a store or restaurant. Hazuki-chan whines, why are Mommy’s sandwiches so crappy?
First, a little background is in order. Japanese bread is usually sold in loaves with the end crusts cut off, because nobody likes the crusts. The slices are usually extra thick so it’s easy to slice the crust off the edges. If you order a sandwich at a shop, it will usually come with the crusts cut off and sliced into four wedges.
As Mommy prepares Hazuki’s sandwiches, the announcer observes the problem, he shrieks kuzureta (it’s crumbling) as she tries to slice the bread into quarters. Of course proper video coverage must include interviews of people in the street, to see how the average person would attempt to cut their sandwich. They all have sloppy, loose sandwiches, just like Hazuki is complaining about.
Let us instead visit the hallowed halls of the Tokyo Culinary Institute, where dozens of professional chefs are prepared to examine this problem. A master chef demonstrates a common technique, the sandwich is wrapped tightly in plastic cling wrap and sliced right through the whole package. It works well but it’s time consuming and wasteful. On the other side of the kitchen, a row of students are mass producing sandwiches, they seem to be working much harder than the professor with the cling wrap. They’re chopping stacks of sandwiches into neat halves, using long knives. One woman declares the secret is the special knife designed just for this job, it would be impossible without the proper knife.
But the proprietor of a local izakaya insists that he can make a pefect egg salad sandwich with any old knife. So FujiTV brings Mommy and her old knife along so he can teach her the secret recipe.
The usual ingredients for this sandwich are a slice of lunch meat (looks like chicken or turkey), some lettuce, mayonnaise, and a dollop of egg salad. The threefold secret of the sandwich is thusly explained:
1. The hardest to cut ingredients go on the bottom. That means the lunchmeat goes first, then the lettuce. If you put them on the top, when you try to cut it, it just squishes.
2. Squirt some mayo in the center. This keeps the bread from getting soggy.
3. Hold the sandwich at the edges while cutting the diagonals. Hold the sliced halves together and make a second slice through everything, into quarters.
After all this research, we are reassembled at little Hazuki-chan’s lunch table, to place a new set of perfect sandwiches in front of the most spoiled child in all of Japan. Hazuki merely declares they are better than they used to be.