Robot News: Pepper

SoftBank telecommunications company rolls out Pepper, the robot with heart.


Lavatory Self Portraits in the Flemish Style: Give Her a Nobel Prize

Or whatever prize they give for inspired masterpieces. I was tickled to get mention at the Blog of Funny Names today for my news tip about this lady!

“While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits.”

Check out the incredible photos at the link.

Keiko Fuji RIP

The sad news today is that Keiko Fuji, a hugely popular singer back in the day, took her life. I wasn’t a fan, but the song I most liked as I was searching around just now is her cover of an oldie called “Casbah Woman.”

She had a deep, earthy voice with a lot of emotion, and is considered Japan’s equivalent of a female blues vocalist, though I would characterize enka (her genre) as more like Country & Western than blues.

Her debut “Shinjuku Woman” (1969) was a massive hit. It’s sadly ironic that she died in a leap from her apartment building in Shinjuku. She had a history of emotional instability and some episodes of very eccentric behavior. I can’t help wondering, from what I’m hearing now, if her condition could have been treatable.

Though I wasn’t a fan of Keiko Fuji, I’ve been an admirer of her equally famous daughter Hikaru Utada, a very, very talented singer-songwriter (though not active lately). She single-handedly raised the bar on Japanese pop music with her brilliant debut, “Automatic” (1998).

March 11th Two Years Later

Today marks the two year anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, marked on tv today with a moment of silence at 2:46, a speech by the emperor, and some specials filmed live at the Tohoku region (N.E. Japan) hit by the tsunami.

This video from the day of the quake shows six tv stations as they were running when the quake hit、then one by one stopping the regular broadcasts to provide emergency information:

The one on the top left is NHK, the public station. The xylophone like alarm is advance warning that comes seconds before a major quake hits (a pretty scary thing to hear!). The continuous droning bleep sound is a tsunami warning.

I hadn’t seen this clip before, made by a guy from his car as it was swept up in the tsunami (he survived).

This is another clip I had not seen of the quake as experienced in Fukushima prefecture:

Another clip of the tsunami. There are so many I can’t remember any more if I’ve seen this one yet:

Still More Smog in China

If such a thing were possible, it’s worse now. These are from just over a week ago.

Driving conditions.

The one above is a Japanese report. Summary: Gas masks for sale. Kids crowding the hospitals because of respiratory sh*t. Villain is a small particle called PM 2.5, just a fraction of the size of fir pollen, in turn a fraction of a human hair radius. PM 2.5 comes primarily from diesel exhaust and coal fires. Visibility on expressways real bad, accidents. Ships can’t go out. People buying canned air. About 70 cents a can. Heavyish smog also drifting over to Fukuoka city in Kyushu (Southern Japan). They are measuring the PM 2.5 levels in Japan. Not a dangerous level yet, but keeping their eye on it.

Update It’s the firecrackers and fireworks to celebrate Chinese New Year now that are making it even worse. Apparently raises the PM 2.5 levels tenfold.

Update BTW, you can see the “canned fresh air” at 2:00, including production, which is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.

Good future in air filtration systems.