Unpopular Opinions

One of the reasons I started with this blog is that a few of my unpopular opinions were being censored. A few months back, on a rather prominent message board (which is now deceased) I was banished from the board while defending an artist’s freedom of speech. My expulsion made the board’s self-appointed censors look ridiculous for censoring an artist who advocated free speech during a debate about free speech.

In a more annoying case, I was censored in a Usenet moderated newsgroup during some trivial chit-chat. Some people were complaining about how boring they thought the Winter Olympics were. I responded that the Olympics were boring because they were stacked with fake sports like snowboarding. I said that Halfpipe Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing were pushed into the Olympics by the USA, and stacked with American competitors that were likely to win gold. I compared snowboarding to previous ridiculous “sports” that had been added and subsequently removed from the Olympics, like Tug-of-War and Indian Club Juggling. The message was stopped by the moderators, and returned to me with a note that it was “offensive and unamerican.”

I decided it wasn’t worth arguing. I could have explained my rationale, but wouldn’t make any sense to them. I mean, I was one of the first snowboarders, I owned a Snurfer back in 1965, and it was the toy that started the whole snowboarding craze.

snurfer

I was a snowboarder and skateboarder from an early age, I knocked out my two front baby-teeth out while skating on an old skinny skateboard with hard clay wheels (like the old four-wheel roller skates). I still own a nice Sims ultra fat skateboard that I bought at Val Surf, back around 1985 when I lived in the San Fernando Valley and there was only ONE Val Surf, the one in my neighborhood, and everyone in my neighborhood skated (even the old farts like me). All my friends in LA were skaters or surfers. It’s not like I’m biased against the sport, I love these sports, but I recognize them for what they are, just plain fun and a big goof. And that is the point.

There isn’t any skateboarding or surfing in the Summer Olympics, because it just isn’t an Olympic sport and everyone knows it. Similarly, there shouldn’t be any snowboarding in the Winter Olympics. The motto of the Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius, and snowboarding events like the Halfpipe just have no possible chance to be swifter, stronger, or higher (well maybe higher, but I don’t think that’s what the slogan means). It’s all a matter of subjective judging about the aesthetic qualities of your triple-flip-oopsie-daysie, what possible chance does this event have for long-term Olympic sustainability, maybe in a few years people will achieve a quadruple-flip-oopsie-daysie, and eventually a pentuple? And in a hundred years? The sport will be long forgotten, like Olympic Tug-of-War.

I recently read with amusement that the Japanese efforts to include Sumo as an Olympic sport had failed. Other sports like Karate are in the Summer Games, and of course Japan would love to get a lock on another event. The sport was introduced at Nagano as a demonstration sport, they had 2 years to show the International Olympic Committee that the sport of Sumo had advanced around the world sufficiently to produce a world roster of competitors. And of course there wasn’t a single new Sumo wrestler outside of Japan in the two years.

So that’s what I was thinking when these weirdo censors dumped my message. It’s just as ridiculous to have Snowboard Halfpipe in the Olympics as it would be to have Sumo, skateboarding halfpipe, or for that matter, Tug-of-War. So I just had to rant against these idiot censors, it’s insanely ridiculous to denounce these sort of opinions as somehow antiamerican.

Camera Obscura

San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique is closing, and the campaign to save it surges across the net. It is ironic that these old mechanical toys are being retired just after the closing of the popular exhibit at the Getty Museum, Devices of Wonder. But I am more concerned with the Camera Obscura adjacent to the Musee.

San Francisco Camera Obscura

Back around 1990-92 when I lived in San Francisco, I often took visitors up to the Camera Obscura and the Musee Mechanique. It’s the sort of place that you never go to yourself when you live near it, but when out of town visitors come, that’s the sort of place to go. Back around ’92 when I left SF, they were threatening to close the Camera Obscura but the local photographers and galleries banded together and worked to save it. It looks like they were successful, the Camera is on the National Register of Historic Places. But without the Musee, there probably won’t be enough traffic to keep the Camera in operation. If the Musee goes, the Camera will probably be next. Unfortunately, the Camera is not something you can relocate to another location, it’s there because of the view from the Cliff House.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

I just learned that Slaughter and the Dogs are playing in my town tonight. I bought their first single Cranked Up Really High back in 1977, it was one of the first punk records I ever bought. I listened to their first album Do It Dog Style constantly and it’s still in my all-time Top 5.

do-it-dog-style

Now I’m faced with a terrible decision. Do I want my keep my current mental image of these original Manchester punk rockers as I formed it in my youth, or do I want to go see them now that they (and I) have become a bunch of old farts?

Desktop Publishing in Japan 100 years ago

My friends were discussing ancient printing processes, and I pointed them to a very interesting site about the history of the “Toshaban.” Some of this site is still preserved at the Internet Archive.

The toshaban or “gariban” process uses the stencil process like silk-screen printing, with the speed and low cost of a mimeograph machine. It flourished in the early 20th century and developed into a wide cottage industry of amateur printers across the entire country. My university has a huge collection of music and film fanzines from about 1900 to 1960 printed in this manner, some are fantastic works of art, and obviously took an immense amount of effort to produce

2-06

The toshaban is becoming a lost art, but there recently has been a resurgence of fine-artists in Japan using the process. This website ends with a wonderful tale of these artists traveling to Laos to teach the toshaban to schoolteachers, who immediately loved the low-tech process for its simplicity and low cost.

Downloadable Reference to Japanese Paper Dimensions

I’ve posted a chart of standard Japanese paper dimensions. This will primarily be of use to graphic designers, artists, or researchers that need a quick reference to dimensions of prints, photographs, or other papers. This TIFF file is very small, only 216K, but very high rez and optimized for laser printing. Iy should be easily viewable if you click on the image to zoom in (the type is very tiny, the original document was a wallet-sized card).

j-paperguide.tif

I picked up this reference card in an art supplies shop in Tokyo several years ago. This may seem like an extremely obscure set of information, but there really is an interesting story behind it. Governmental regulations on paper dimensions go back hundreds of years in Japan, and the archaic names in kanji (i.e. “hanga” or “half-picture”) still give a hint of that ancient system.

A Picture of Me

By popular demand, here is something never before seen on the net: a picture of me. This picture was taken sometime around 1974, so I would have been around 14 or 15 years old. My old friend Will Neuhauser took this photo, and it’s the only photo of me that I like. I’m taking a picture with a 4×5 Graflex Speed Graphic camera with sheet film.

Chas.jpg

I remember this picture, our high-school newspaper had an article about palmistry and I had to make a graphic design for it. I used my own palmprint and made a shadowgram of my hand in the darkroom. But the image proportions were all wrong for the page, which is why I rephotographed it with the Graflex, I was going to shrink it down. But it just would not fit, so I had to redo it from scratch.

I examined the entire newspaper staff for someone with the smallest hand, it turned out to be Mary Hoenk, our Editor-in-Chief. I made a shadowgram of her hand, it fit perfectly. But when I inked up her hand, I could not get a clear impression of the center of her palm, no matter what I tried. I finally told Mary to relax and let her wrist go limp, I took her arm and started shaking it until her wrist flopped around under my control, and then suddenly without warning, I whacked it hard on the paper sitting on the table! Mary immediately jumped up and started howling in pain, jumping around with the paper still stuck to her hand. I yelled “Don’t move!” and carefully peeled the paper from her hand. The palmprint was perfect. She was hopping mad, until she saw the final result.

85 Whales Beach in Hasaki, Japan; 32 saved

FujiTV News reports that 85 whales beached in Ibaraki Prefecture, 32 were transported to a nearby deep harbor and released back to sea. The "melon-headed whale" travels in pods of 100 to 500. Last year near this same spot, 50 whales beached themselves. Local residents of Hasaki that assisted the biologists in the rescue were left with the task of disposing of tons of dead whales. One local resident said "last year, we cut them up and ate them…they were delicious." And again this time, the prime cuts were quickly carted away by fishmongers.
The report concluded with government warnings against eating possibly-diseased whale meat, and complaints of the cost of disposing of beached whales. Kagoshima Prefecture recently spent ¥25Million (about $186,500) to bury whale carcasses, and Hasaki faces similar disposal costs.

Lust for Vinyl

I seriously lust for the Denon DP-DJ151 turntable. This unique turntable has a preamp and Analog/Digital converter built in, and outputs a digital SPDIF stream. Drop the needle, and CD-quality digital audio comes out.

DenonDP-DJ151

I like to digitize my old vinyl punk rock albums and convert them to CDs and mp3s. It can be quite a challenge, some of these indie records were pressed poorly and sounded like crap when they were brand new, let alone after 25 years of listening. Some of them were recorded in weird ways (like “fake stereo”), and it’s hard to capture that ragged sound. But that’s the sound I know and love, so I want to preserve it. With some digital audio restoration, I can do wonderful things to my favorite old music, and give it new life in digital format.

I’m looking to upgrade my equipment, but this Denon rig is a little out of my price range. The DP-DJ151 is available on the grey market for about $300, but that doesn’t include the stylus and cart, so that’s another $100 minimum, more like $200-250. And I need a SPDIF input box, I can get a cheap SPDIF USB input from Roland for about $350, but it would be preferable to use the fancy Edirol pro box which is more like $500. Or better yet, a Firewire box for about $750. But that’s overkill, a Firewire SPDIF box will run 7 or 8 streams, I only need one. I’m trying to keep this project under $500, but it looks like it’s out of reach at about $800 minimum to go all-digital. I called Denon, and a friendly tech suggested I just use this turntable’s internal preamp (with RIAA EQ built in) and pump the amped output into my Mac’s sound input. Hell, that’s what I’m doing right now with a turntable and external amp, I wanted to step it up a notch and go all digital. Oh well..