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Monday, July 24, 2017

Time Enough For A Tryst

Immortalized forever in a timeless embrace, we have an art scene created in 1680, but made at some later date into a woodblock ukiyo-e print.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Produced by famed Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hishikawa Moronobu (surname first), the untitled print has been given the name “Lovers in an Autumn Meadow.”

The title was given to the print by the United States Library of Congress staff, with the monochrome woodcut physically standing 28.8 x 41.5cm.

You can easily see the quality of the linework of Moronobu in this print…. simply exquisite.

Unlike later artists, Mornonobu gave his people an individual look… to me, if I didn’t know better, these characters could be taken out of a modern anime or manga.

While the secretive tryst takes place amongst some very beautifully-drawn flowers, I found it interesting to see the young warrior’s katana sword perched upright (and I’m pretty sure that even though it might be bad form to leave the sword splayed upon the ground, the sword being in an upright position was done for a reason).

While there may or may not be proper conduct regarding placing a sword upright or flat on the ground for a warrior, my point is the warrior has carelessly placed his katana far away from him… so even if he is lucky enough to notice someone approaching his amorous embrace and can break away in time… he still has to leap up and grab his sword perched all the way over against that gnarled tree.

The fact that the sword is still in its sheath could also imply that it hasn’t been used yet in a phallic way - if you know what I mean…

Because there are no fallen leaves surrounding the gnarled tree in the background, rather than suppose this is Autumn (per the Library staff), it could either be Summer or Spring.

Since rolling around with your favorite girl in the Summer can be hot work—would you like to imagine the warrior's hand reaching for a sweaty boob?—I prefer to to think the two young lovers are simply being randy in the Spring… 

To whit... though very few people know where the line below is from, many can quote it:

“In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Locksley Hall, by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Of course, since that’s a line from a poem, and one near the poem's beginning, I would assume that “Spring” implies “youth” - hence our young lovers.

So… what do you think… is it possible that our artist Moronobu actually saw such a scene, and sat down to sketch the action while quietly hiding in the bush holding his pen? Voyeuristic? Opportunistic? Had a couple of models pose out in a meadow? Had a couple of models pose in his art studio and used his imagination for the rest? 

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Voyeurism Of Japanese Gods In Art

I really like this small mono-color woodblock print at the top.

The ukiyo-e image published between 1685 -1695, at the infancy of woodblock printing, is a 26.8 x 38.1 cm horizontal Oban Sumizuri-e (monochrome) woodblock print that is attributed to Japanese artist Sugimura Jihei (surname first).

The subject title is Kume no sennin… which means nothing to most people… until you realize it’s about the god, Kume, quietly spying on a Japanese beauty doing her laundry…at least he has both hands visible.

In fact, the United States Library of Congress files this print under the officious subject heading of “voyeurism”.

Kume no sennin (米の仙人) is a Taoist immortal (god) who has the ability to fly and/or float.

In all other depictions of him (that I could find) in ukiyo-e format, Kume no sennin can be seen spying on women doing their laundry… perhaps hoping for a peek between their legs as they spread their limbs to wash the clothes… also assuming that since they are doing laundry, there is a high probability that they may NOT be wearing underwear… 

Hi - sorry to disturb you, but I couldn't help but notice that you are washing your undergarments... before you do, could I purchase one or two items from you? 1856 ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kunisada.

A diptych of ukiyo-e featuring Utagawa Kunisada's apparently favorite subject matter in 1856, Kumme no sennin swooping down upon an unsuspecting Japanese honey doing her laundry. You can tell it's a sexually-charged image because you can almost see the woman's knees. In this version, Kume no sennin looks more lecherous than in the art immediately above it.IN this image, the woman hardly looks surprised... her hair is NOT out of place, and the expression of moving water—while there—isn't as obvious as in the upper image. This image does have more background, but it's not necessarily "good" background. Which one was drawn by the Master and which was drawn (and signed as the Master) by the Student? Yeah. I hope it's as obvious as it seems.
To be honest, I don’t even know if wearing underwear was a thing in the 17th century Japan for women.

But, thanks to the artistic interpretations, we do know that Japan had a peeping Tom god it could worship if the need arose.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Quiet - I'm Eating (And The Snub To Trump)

In a recent NY Times interview, U.S. president Donald John Trump (aka Don John Trump) talked with journalists Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman about his time in office through July 20, 2017.

In it, the president talked about the many trials and tribulations of being King of ‘merica, and about all of the fun (garbled) and interesting people he has spent time with in an official capacity, including meeting with Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) and his wife Akie.

The Abe’s have met with Trump and his wife Melania three times so far in the few months Trump has been in office:
  • at Andrew’s Air Force Base;
  • a weekend at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home where the two leader’s played a round of golf;
  • and last week’s G20 summit in Germany.
Here’s what Trump had to say in that NY Times interview about that G20 summit's dinner:

TRUMP: So, it was tremendous media. And we took a picture of everybody, the wives and the leaders, and then the leaders, and, you know, numerous pictures outside on the river. Then everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner for not only the leaders — Lagarde (Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund) was there, who I think is terrific, and various others. You had the E.U. people there, people other than just the leaders, but quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 people, you had Christine Lagarde, you had some others also.
So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe (Shinzo Abe of Japan), who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero? 
TRUMP: Like, not “hello.” 
HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating. 
TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for—— 
TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.

That would suck, wouldn’t? Being stuck beside someone who can’t speak your language…if only someone could translate for you...

TRUMP continues: OK, so we’re sitting at this massive table. And the wives are separated from their husbands, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But they did. It’s always easier when they don’t do it, because you always have somebody to talk to, right? And I was sitting next to the president of Argentina — his wife — (Mauricio) Macri — nice woman, who speaks English. And the prime minister of Japan’s wife, Prime Minister Abe. Great relationships. So I’m sitting there. There was one interpreter for Japanese, ’cause otherwise it would have been even tougher. But I enjoyed the evening with her, and she’s really a lovely woman, and I enjoyed — the whole thing was good.

Hey, at least Trump has admiration for Abe and his wife Akie.

But here’s the thing… Abe Akie, wife of Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo… she can speak English.

She once talked baseball in fluent English with former U.S. president George W. Bush and first lady Laura, back in 2007—albeit about a Japanese ball player in the North American MLB.

Along with speaking with the wife’s of Canadian prime ministers Stephen Harper and current PM Justin Trudeau in English, Akie attended an elementary school audience in Virginia alongside former U.S. president first lady Michell Obama.

I won’t even mention her speech in front of business leaders in New York City. Oops.

Look at the photo at the very top of this blog... Akie is having a great time speaking to the masses - apparently no translation is necessary.

The fact that she chose NOT to speak English during that G20 dinner party… or apparently at any other time when around U.S. president Donald Trump (or else he would know she could speak English), is… interesting, to say the least.

Was that because she didn’t want any of her comments to be taken out of context? Was it because she was too busy eating and would not talk with her mouth full? Did she simply not have anything to say? Or did she NOT want to say anything to Trump?

Could it have been that Trump is allegedly boorish in his treatment of women?

He did comment out loud on French president Emmanuel Macron’s wife Brigitte: “in such good shape — beautiful.” When president Emmanuel Macron was a lad of 15, by the way, Brigitte was his teacher… I’m just throwing that out there, in case you didn’t know or forgot.

As far as sitting beside Abe Akie at the G20 dinner, Trump did say he had a translator with him, but HE actually kept his mouth shut except to eat, preferring to not say anything to her.

Was that a snub?

Even if Trump didn't say anything to her, Akie could have initiated a conversation, but didn’t. Was that a snub?

Trump did actually leave his seat to go and talk to Russian president Vladimir Putin for about 15 minutes…

Maybe he was told by advisors, and finally listened, to not talk to the women there for fear of causing a ruckus within the fake news media… of which I suppose this blog is part of.

So… was this just old-time sexist behavior in action of a woman knowing her place?

Did Akie simply not have anything interesting to say?

Was the G20 dinner food so uninteresting that it couldn’t spark a comment like “Wow! This bisque is wonderful!” or “Ugh, my salad is raw”?

I’m sure we’ll never know the truth… as I’m sure Honest Abe Akie isn’t talking.

Andrew Joseph
PS: My computer is apparently on the fritz at home, so I’m writing the next few day’s blogs on Friday at lunch. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

You Must Remember This

I’m a Humphrey Bogart fan - but only since my early 20s, because that is when I was in university and trying to be more worldly by watching black and white movies and talking about bourgeois things, because that what supposed middle-class people do instead of being a drunken frat-boy.

Actually, I don't know if that’s true. I certainly could drink… but I was never a frat-boy, so I have no idea what they did or didn’t do. My only frame of reference is Animal House (movie) and its misshapen spawn Delta House (TV). The good thing about Delta House was that it was the first time I fell in love with Michelle Pfeiffer, as I had a thing for blondes back then.

Speaking of blondes, the Japanese movie poster for the Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca (above) also stars Ingrid Bergman.

While Bergman did not begin my love affair with Swedish women—that may have begun with porn star Seka… who may not have been Swedish, but at the very least did star in numerous Swedish Erotica films.

For the record, I no longer look at a woman based on ethnicity or color of hair, because…  well… despite my juvenile humor here, I’m a grown-up now.

Intelligence is the thing... not necessarily diploma-based, either... intelligence to keep me intrigued. Or sex... sex can also do that. (See? Juvenile.)

Released in 1942, Casablanca is a drama/romance flick set in Casablanca, Morocco… about Bogart’s character Rick Blaine—he owns a nightclub—and learns that an old flame, Ilsa (Bergman) is in Casablanca with her husband. The hubby has Nazi Germans after him. Ilsa, knowing that Bogart’s character is a bit of a slickster, comes to him to help her husband out of a jam.

Yup… that’s the plot. Obviously things start to heat up, proving it is impossible for men to be friends with a woman without him thinking about sex. 

I don't know if that was the typical way of thinking back in 1942, but in the 21st century, I can guarantee you that even if a guy was to help your husband out of a jam, that guy is not doing it because he's a nice guy... he's doing it because he wants you. And, if you are using him because you know he will do anything for you, what does that make you?

This is why I struggle with Bergman's Ilsa character. Is she really so naive to believe that her ex-boyfriend will help her out because:
  1. I really need help for my husband, and because Rick's a nice guy and it's the right thing to do, this should be a no-brainer, or;
  2. I need someone with questionable morals help my husband escape from the Nazis... and that's Rick... and I can play off his lust for me to help ME out, or; 
  3. I am just using this whole thing with my husband as a means to see Rick, because as much as I know he wants me, I want him twice as much. 
Speaking as man—albeit a man with a juvenile sense of humor—I can 100% guarantee you that every heterosexual man thinks that when a woman comes to him for help, Option 3 is the ONLY option—that that he thinks it is what the woman is thinking.

As evil as she wants to be, the Notorious Ingrid Bergman played a nun in 1945's The Bells of St. Mary, and a saint in 1948's Joan of Arc... and used her sexy wiles to get exactly what she wanted in 1942's Casablanca. 
My guess is that if this was a 2017 movie, Option 2 would be the correct answer... but again... I'm unsure exactly what moralistic drama the writer(s) were employing for this 1942 movie. Could Ilsa really believe in Option 1? Sure... but is that naive considering she knows that Rick is conniving? No... because she knows that Rick can help her husband, the implication is that Ilsa knows Option 2 is the ONLY option.
So... is this really a story about romance? Or is this about a woman using her feminine charms to manipulate a greedy man who just wants to lay pipe? And no... nothing is bothering me... I'm just looking at the movie from a different angle. Obtuse may eventually come to mind. That's funny and you know it.

Anyhow… the above poster of the Warner Brothers movie is from 1946 Japan… the movie did not make its debut in Japan for four years after its North American release... not until June 13, 1946—owing to the fact that Japan was partners with those self same Nazi’s who were after Ilsa’s husband (Victor Lazslo played by Paul Henreid) until September of 1945.

You know that for any guy lusting after another man's woman... even though he might actually do his best to help both parties out, he is secretly hoping the Nazi's will win out and kill the competition, knowing that within six months, yeah six months, after playing nursemaid to her grief, yeah, that's the ticket, I can make her mine. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Okay, while no sane guy is going to kill for you, we might, however, accidentally on-purpose choose to look the other way to help create the ultimate fail for him, and win for me. Oh, and that, of course, means a win for you, too, honey.

I didn't say guys were smart. But I am wondering/saying/asking that in this movie... one of the best movies of all-time... who's the real bad guy? Might not be a guy, afterall.        

The B3 poster (sized 15” x 20.5”) is an atypical size of movie poster… with this particular size ONLY appearing at the three theaters in Japan where the movie debuted on June 13, 1946: Musashimo Kan, Houraku Zza, and Denkikan… so three theaters… that’s it… you know this one is rare. Rare as an honest man in Bogart’s Casablanca.

If you are interested in this poster, Heritage Auctions is currently offering it for purchase HERE, with an estimated value of US$2,500-$5,000.

Regardless of what Casablanca’s main song “As Time Goes By” utters, a kiss is NOT just a kiss. If you’ve ever been with someone… and shared some weird connection from something as electric as a single kiss… you know that it can transcend time and space, making the angels weep with jealousy.

I got plenty of time,
Andrew “let me rethink that” Joseph     

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big Brother Is Watching You In Space

There's probably a bit of a creep factor here, but odds are that if you are an astronaut/cosmonaut, you already know that every little thing you do up in space, is being recorded.

Meet the JEM Internal Ball Camera, aka Int-Ball, a camera placed aboard a spacecraft, that can move around thanks to the really remote control system down on Earth.

"Beep... moving Int-Ball to go and checkout Astronaut Carly..., er the sleeping arrangements of Astronaut Jenkins... Int-Ball indicates her blankie has slipped off."

What's the matter, Dave? ... Big Brother is watching You.

I'm not actually creepy, even though it appears as though I think that way. I just want you to know I think this way because we need to be aware that even the most innocent thing can be turned into something evil... just like how Einstein's E=mc2 helped usher in atomic weaponry.

You'll notice I didn't say he invented it.

Launched on June 4, 2017, the U.S. Dragon ship met and delivered the Int-Ball to Japan's experiment module "Kibo" aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Here's what the Int-Ball can do:
  • The camera can move autonomously in floating space and record still and moving images under remote control on Earth at the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center;
  • The recorded images and videos can be checked in real-time by flight controllers and researchers on Earth, and sent back (a real up-load) to the crew in space;
  • The camera adopts existing drone technology and its exterior and inner structures were all manufactured by 3D-printing;
  • The Int-Ball weighs 1kg (2.2lbs), has a diameter of 15cm, and has 12 propellers;
  • Looks a lot like BB8.
So... WTF good is the Int-Ball?

Excellent question - glad you asked.

JAXA says that since astronauts currently spend about 10% of their work day actually taking photos, Int-Ball will save the astronauts time allowing them either 10% more time to goof off or, more than likely, give them more time to do real science-y stuff that I suppose astronauts do. Why don't I know what they do? I know they do experiments, monitor the experiments, and stuff like that... I would guess they secretly deploy spyware satellites for such covert operations like MLB (Major League Baseball).

Fact checking... I swear this is on the JAXA website:
  • Enabling flight controllers and researchers on the ground to check the crew's work from the same viewpoint as the crew. The effective cooperative work between in space and on the ground will contribute to maximized results of "Kibo" utilization experiments.
The ground crew and their slide rulers will doublecheck the work of the astronauts. Imagine if that had happened on Apollo 13... oh wait, it did. Nevermind.

Wanna see the Int-Ball in action? C'mon... ya gotta... you've read this far...

By the way... when I first heard of Int-Ball, I thought about Happy Fun Ball... a "commercial" from a 1991 episode of SNL (Saturday Night Live)... of course I was in Japan at the time, but I did see it on a special edition of SNL and their "commercials".  You can see a "blurry" version of Happy Fun Ball HERE, as apparently this was in the days before HD... or even SD... or even D.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Beats me how I can remember "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball" but can't recall what I had for dinner on Tuesday. Ugh... I hope it wasn't Happy Fun Ball.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Japanese Security Is A Dalek Away

Just as The Simpsons long ago lampooned the iconic Star Trek television series with the immortal line: “Again with the Klingons?”, so too might you utter something similar with news that Japan’s train stations may soon have a new robot system to help passengers.

 To be built by the East Japan Railways (JR East), the new JRE Robotics Station isn’t a train station run by robots who help you purchase a ticket.

No, rather JE East’s plan for its coming one year soon JRE Robotics Station is to have each large hub contain a team of robots with four different classifications.

1) Yes, there will be a robot squad that will help travelers find their way around a train station.  Okay… that could be helpful - but even myself, with no sense of direction of Japanese language ability, and in the days before APPS and the Internet… I somehow found my way from point A to Point G, Q, C, E1 and to my destination of Point B. Hmm, so maybe this might come in handy.
The good news is that the plan is for these robots to have multiple-language capabilities… so yeah, Japanese (because even they get confused in these subterranean labyrinths), English, and then your guess is as good as mine… probably not Mandarin, in case Chinese boats and aircraft keep stepping over the international borders and that leads to another Japan-Sino war… why give them help in getting to the Diet or to the Palace to assassinate royalty? Maybe just Cantonese then… kidding.
We already have such devices in our large shopping malls in North America… they are called maps… all visual like an Ikea instruction manual for a GRÖNKULLA (which translates from Danish to English as “Green Gables”, which is a nod to Canadian book Anne of Green Gables, but also Ikea’s version of a tabletop sink.

2) Red caps - self-piloting robots that will help carry a traveler's bags. In the bad old days, this was a job relegated to Black men wearing ‘red caps’ at the local train station. Now, anyone can be one. Even you, Robbie the Robot! And they don’t need a tip!
JR East says that while these types of robots CAN carry luggage, their primary function is to provide support to passengers with physical disabilities. Hey… that’s kindda cool.

3) Cleaning ‘bots… I’m guessing that some human beings are going to lose their jobs. For the most part, every train station in Japan that I’ve walked across seems clean. Yeah, things get messy after someone jumps in front of a train, or poops all over the platform, but crews are often there to clean-up and hand out a pack of tissues before the guy has even pulled up his pants.
But, I suppose having a team of robots in a constant state of movement cleaning up after passengers isn’t a bad thing.
I can just imagine a robot eyeing me as I stand at Harajuku station eating my octopus on a bamboo stick (takoyaki)… waiting to see if I’m going to accidentally drop a tentacle, carelessly discard the skewer on the platform, or need a wipe (aka a small pack of tissue).

4) Security ‘droid. Not quite up to par with a conical killer Dalek, the concept drawings for the security robots have them looking kind of pear-like… which, for a conceptual drawing is probably a good thing. See image at very top.
“Excuse me, Security ‘Bot 47, but a man touched me right here.”
“In your hard drive?”
As you can see from the drawing, the security bot has spotted someone acting suspiciously… perhaps it was the tight perm, 9-1/2 fingers and tattoos that ultimately tipped it off…

While I don’t think we could expect to see a reverse scene of Will Smith chasing down a would-be purse-snatching robot, JR East says these security robots would be able to detect shoplifters. If it’s anything like what exists in Canada and the U.S., the security robot will immediately detect any Latinos or Blacks as they enter a station-located ramen house and will casually follow them around as they make their food choice, eat their food, pay for their food and even go to the washroom until such time as they leave the restaurant and then it’s someone else’s problem. Man… I gotta stop watching W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America on CNN.

Okay, just having fun… it is supposed to detect shoplifters, but honestly, if shops have a security system whereby all products with QR codes or bar codes are NOT scanned before the exit of a shop, the theft alarm sounds off. I’m pretty sure that system would cost lest than a JR robot security guard.

But, if they are going to make one, do not let the security robot sit in a rocking chair. Seinfeld fans know what I mean.

Not just limited to train stations, JR East says these JR robots could work other JR things as well… like its hotels or shopping malls. So, yeah… kiss your jobs good bye if you are in the security industry. Time to start learning “robot care and repair.”

Bonsai (yeah… I meant the tiny tree),
Andrew Joseph
PS: Any bets on when the first robot gets “pushed” onto a train track by drunken Japanese business men in a work-related team-building exercise?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sexism And The Japanese Actress

The above image may be many things:

1) incredibly sexist;
2) taken out of context and done with everyone's permission;
3) why so many people wanted to be a movie director.

The drop-dead sexy woman in the above photo is Japanese actress Mizuni Kumi (surname first), one of the country’s earliest scream queens, appearing in a multitude of flicks for Toho in the 1960s-70s.

Born on January 1, 1937 as Igarasho Maya (surname first ) —and I’m betting she’s still hot—in Sanjo, Niigata-ken. she changed her name in 1958.

While the the director in the photo above obviously has no problem in directing young starlets, what is equally impressive is that Mizumi did not react to this overtly non-professional behavior, leading me to believe it was a comedic outtake.

But it’s Japan… so who the fug knows.

Me? I love her eyes. The eyes are the gateway to the soul… and as far as starlet eyes go… you could swim in hers to infinity and beyond.

I know you think I’m full of it, but, while I have no doubt I am full of it, not when it comes to the eyes.

Here’s Mizuni from the same movie… er… but in a color promotional shot… because everyone surrounding her knew she could sell a crappy movie.
Dig those shoes!

Of course, the point of the director squeezing Mizuni's boob is based on the fact that she is supposed to be a robot... devoid of emotion...and to prove the point, she did not react at all when the director squeezed her boob.

At least that's his excuse, and he is sticking with it.

I know... I know... not much info on Mizuni or even what movies she was in. I just liked the photo at the top and below. 

Andrew Joseph