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  • – Japan’s delinquent girl gangs. The Sukeban were massively influential in popular culture. Influences were wide across manga, anime and even films. For example, the film Sukeban Deka (1987) inspired several characters in Kill Bill such as O-Ren Ishii and Gogo Yubari.

  • The trailer’s description on YouTube reads:

    A young boy named Mahito yearning for his mother ventures into a world shared by the living and the dead. There, death comes to an end, and life finds a new beginning. A semi-autobiographical fantasy about life, death, and creation, in tribute to friendship, from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.

    Seemingly ominous! It seems to have all the trappings and flow of a classic Miyazaki films. I’m excited for this one to drop. This couldn’t come any sooner. Looks like the US will see a theatrical release in December 8th.

  • Truly devastating. Ryuichi Sakamoto dies at 71. Cancer claims another great. One of the greatest pioneers of electronic music. An early adopter, a vanguard of just so much. His influence alone was revolutionary and profound. He was deeply beloved, and considered to be the father of J-pop and other synth-pop influences.

    From Pitchfork:

    “While undergoing treatment for cancer discovered in June 2020, Sakamoto continued to create works in his home studio whenever his health would allow,” Sakamoto’s management, Commmons, wrote in its statement. “He lived with music until the very end. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to his fans and all those who have supported his activities, as well as the medical professionals in Japan and the U.S. who did everything in their power to cure him. In accordance with Sakamoto’s strong wishes, the funeral service was held among his close family members.”

    The man knew how to create magic out of thin air. I mean just listen to this stuff:

    Unbearably tragic to think about him being gone.

  • The MSX2 was a home computer that pre-dated Nintendo’s Entertainment System (NES). Just like the NES, the MSX2 had a top-slot cartridge port. It was a pretty cool design, and other home computers that came before (and after) it featured a similar top-slot design. Here’s a MSX2 computer fabricated by Phillips:

    The MSX was originally release in 1983, however this specific model produced by Phillips was released in 1986.

    Japan (as is normally the case) was ahead of the curve, as they believed a home computer could be at the center of every home. Oddly enough, they were right.

    One of the smash-hit titles that was released for the MSX2 was Metal Gear (メタルギア) in 1987 by Konami. Metal Gear was a legendary action-adventure stealth and espionage video game title. The game, and the franchise that followed, was so successful that successors and sequels continue to be produced to this day. Here’s the original Metal Gear artwork:

    Special Force Group: Fox Hound — heck yeah, so sick.

    This had a legendary musical score (check out a sample here). The original score is credited to composer Motoaki Furukawa. He was a key member of Konami’s in-house band (that’s right, Konami has an in-house band), Konami Kukeiha Club. The band has been in operation since the 1980’s.

    Mondo, a purveyor of extraordinarily fine goods, t-shirts, media, sci-fi paraphernalia and god-knows-what-else — is dropping a 10″ original soundtrack pressing of Metal Gear replete with new artwork and camouflage colored vinyl:

    This premiere physical release of the soundtrack is cut at 45RPM, and features all new original artwork by Paul Mann that pays tribute to the 80’s action films that inspired the game, and is pressed on heavyweight Camouflage colored vinyl.

    If you are a fan of chiptunes, looking for an edge-up on your next DJ set, or simply just a Metal Gear superfan, this record is an absolute must-have. You can pick up this super-dope limited release at Mondo, here.

  • The Coronavirus is essentially a flu-like respiratory-illness. Here’s what we know so far:

    • It’s contagious like SARS, and about 2x more infectious than the seasonal flu.
    • So far, the fatality rate is less than 3%. There’s already been more fatalities than the last SARS outbreak in China. Keeping that number low is going to have to be a global effort. Young children and the elderly are at a higher-risk of respiratory issues.
    • The period for symptoms to fully appear is roughly 2-weeks. This is what makes this virus especially difficult to detect and prevent. The virus can easily spread from person to person prior to showing any symptoms.
    • The virus has already spread across multiple borders. Primarily mainland China has the most confirmed cases. Russia, Unites States, United Kingdom, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, Australia and have had infected travelers confirmed.
    • The WHO has declared the Coronavirus a global health emergency which should catalyze superpowers to work to contain the spread of the infectious virus.
    • To prevent further spread of the disease, many Chinese companies are asking their corporate workforce to work-from home:

    Tiko Mamuchashvili, a senior event planner at the Hyatt hotel in Beijing who was supposed to return to work on Friday, was initially told her vacation would be extended until Feb. 3. Then she received a notification to work from home for two additional days. A few days later, the directive was extended until Feb. 10. She has to notify her department each morning about her whereabouts and report whether she is running a temperature.

    “Usually going back to work from holidays feels a little weird, but working from home this time with such short notice feels even more unusual,” she said. With hotel event cancellations rolling in on a daily basis, “basically, all I can do is answer emails,” she said.

    Wuhan’s concerted effort to fight the spread of this virus abroad and within its border is remarkable. But, other metropolitan areas like Hong Kong are not getting the same countermeasures. Reportedly there’s been 15 confirmed cases in Hong Kong. Hopefully others can and will emulate Wuhan’s work-from-home experiment and their hyper-mobilized efforts to quarantine, treat and contain the spread:

  • I’ve always been intrigued by specialized instruments and devices. Some items that first come to mind are Post Hole Diggers, SoloWheels, Garlic Choppers or even the Ninm It’s OK Bluetooth Cassette Player.

    This one is no different. It serves a very unique purpose. Toasting a single slice of bread to a niche specification preferred by Japanese markets. I’m talking about the Mitsubishi Electric TO-ST1-T.

    Akio Kon/Bloomberg

    Reed Stevenson for Bloomberg:

    There’s nothing more enchanting than the perfect slice of toast, says Kaori Kajita, founder of the Japan Butter Toast Association, which sounds half-baked but actually exists. “You can’t help but be elated.”

    It helps that bread in Japan is tailored for toast. Called shoku pan, Japanese-style square bread has been around for years (think of a high-quality version of Wonder Bread). The toaster boom has its origins in the desire to have soft, chewy bread that tastes and feels like it came out of a baker’s oven, Kajita says.

    I can relate. Nothing is better than fresh bread from the baker (well okay, Mr.s Baird’s Bread beats em all but I digress).

    Japan is full of specialties, traditions, and politeness the rest of the world often doesn’t understand. This toaster slots into that cultural framework easily. Let’s face it, toasters (and now, more than even smart ovens) are temperamental and frequently too complicated. I’m not in love with the price tag, but personally, I find the TO-ST1 a refreshingly simple device I can get behind.

  • Joshua Hunt for Pacific Standard Magazine writes:

    The name of the restaurant was 注文を間違える料理店, which means “The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders.” While its chefs are young professionals, the wait staff is made up entirely of elderly people living with dementia. One of the silver-haired waitresses, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, occasionally forgot what she was doing there.

    “What do I do?” She asked one young couple.

    “You’re here to help us order food,” the man said.

    “Ah, yes,” she said, then laughed gleefully while covering her mouth with one hand.

    It’s striking to witness such a jovial scene surrounding an issue that people tend to resist discussing openly in Japan, where 4.6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. The country’s rapidly aging population means that, by 2025, the figure will rise to 7.3 million people, or one out of every five Japanese citizens over the age of 65.

    Here’s a brief clip of the restaurant in action from TBWA\HAKUHODO, and some of the community reactions as well:

    I don’t know about you, but Dementia and Alzheimers are two of my greatest fears. I imagine, I’m not alone in that regard. The self-destructive neurodegenerative attack of the nervous system is largely caused by prions. Which are terrifying, and still a bit of a mystery.

    As such, treatment techniques are still largely hit or miss and based on the severity of the disease progression, and many of the treatments still aren’t fully understood either. For now, the best thing we can do is fund Alzheimer’s Research non-profits and support ethical treatment centers such as the Hogewey in Amsterdam, which is essentially an entire town of medical professionals devoted to caring for 150+ patients.

    Places like The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders in Japan, keep the conversation of vital treatment and research alive, and unconventional concepts like this give those suffering a reprieve from the social frustrations these sorts of neurodegenerative diseases can create. It’s a charming and lovely restaurant concept that I hope stays afloat for as long as possible. I think we can all take a page out of their playbook and bring dignity, patience and respect to everyone in our lives. Wether they are afflicted with Alzheimers or just Arthritis — a little patience goes a long way.

    Photo: @rebelvisual
  • Just unbelievably beautiful.

  • House

    House is a rare piece of cinema, too few have seen. It’s a fucking thrilling Japanese art-house horror film. It has a strange and violent surrealism on par with what you could call, a bad trip. Beyond that, it’s an incredible odyssey of explorative special effects that influenced generations of filmmakers from Steven Spielberg to Ari Aster to Edgar Wright. Nobuhiko Obayashi, left no stone unturned in the art department. Rotoscoping. Rotating sets. Animation. Puppets. Analog frame splicing. Sound effects galore. Legendary locations. Lens and lighting tricks and of course — loads of gushing squirting blood punctuated by levitating severed limbs. Pure magic. Here’s the trailer cut from Criterion:

    Of course Obayashi went all out, because he basically had creative carte blanche with the studio. Which makes total sense when you think about the timing of its release in theaters. Chuck Stephens at Criterion writes:

    What Toho Studios was hoping for when it hired Obayashi was a homegrown Jaws: a locally produced summer movie roller coaster sufficiently thrill-chocked to at least partially deflect the ongoing onslaught of Tokyo-box-office-topping New Hollywood hits from Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas—something fast and loud, with tons of fun packed between screams. In the Japanese cinema of the mid-1970s, “fast,” “fun,” and “homegrown hit” were in short supply. Adults-only pinku eiga (pink cinema) had taken over, and even master genre filmmakers like Kinji Fukasaku found themselves struggling to sustain the successes of the yakuza and other action flicks that had proved so lucrative earlier that decade. The radical glories of the country’s 1960s New Wave had managed to last well into the early 1970s (thanks mainly to the independent funding and screening initiative known as the Art Theater Guild, where Nagisa Oshima would produce such form-shattering works as Diary of a Shinjuku Thief and The Man Who Left His Will on Film), but by 1976, the most trailblazing new Japanese film was the one no one in Japan was allowed to see: Oshima’s sexual-passion-as-radical-politics treatise In the Realm of the Senses, whose shameless thickets of pubic hair ran head-on into the nation’s final visual taboo and which remains to this day banned in its country of origin. (Meanwhile, former Nikkatsu action director Yasuharu Hasebe’s ultrasadistic rape fantasia Assault! Jack the Ripper!—which strictly adhered to that quaint follicular technicality—went on to become a major pinku eiga box-office success that year.) 

    The greatest thing about this is, 5 years later Spielberg produced Poltergeist, which is basically an American bastardization of House. Don’t get me wrong, I love Poltergeist, but there was clearly a studio rivalry going on. While Poltergeist borrows very little in terms of story or surrealism, it borrows enough. House stands apart on its own from the other adjacent haunted-genre films that came after it. Jonathon Barkan at Bloody Disgusting writes:

    House is a film that needs a shelf of its own. In no way can it be perfectly described in all its visual glory. Words are truly inadequate to do it justice. The film is atypical – not like The Old Dark House or The Haunting, but not as abstract or pretentious as earlier Cronenberg/Lynch films. Despite including all the usual Bava-isms, and regardless of his knack for staining the surreal on film, it’s still amazing that he could have dreamt up such imagery.

    Obayashi really is one-of-a-kind. He has quite the resumé to prove it too. Mr. Obayashi is currently ill with cancer, but he is still very much so active. In fact, last I could find, he was shooting a film about “how the atomic bomb came to be dropped [on Hiroshima].” Really looking forward to that film release.

    Until then, I’m going to re-watch House while packing up my own apartment, as I’m moving in three weeks. Wish me luck 😅

  • From The Age:

    As a teenager, Murakami had read “all the great authors” – Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Dickens, Raymond Chandler. He spent his lunch money on pop and jazz records. He wanted a lifestyle that guaranteed maximum exposure to the warmth of Western books and music, so he opened a jazz club where the music was too loud for conversation and read books at the bar until his customers considered him anti-social.

    And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.

    It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realised he could write a novel.

    I began reading 1Q84 a little over a year ago (I’m a slow reader, and admittedly horrible at starting books and not finishing them). I don’t have a long-form review of 1Q84 (other than you should go read it), but I think it’s worth picking up. So, I won’t claim to know or fully understand Murakami’s entire catalogue. But they are ensconced in beautiful and complex vistas I crave to visit and know. Parallels, strange events, pregnant mysteries and enigmatic characters that are his hallmarks — and they are fun.

    I just love Murakami’s apocryphal “epiphany.” Not only is it an apt for the author, but it should be more widely known that Japanese Baseball is 100% more badass than the American League.

    PS: this ultra-rare version of 1Q84 produced by the international imprint, Harvill Secker is absolutely stunning:

    1Q84 used to be produced in three volumes, but now it is commonly bound as one. The iconic cover and jacket, was designed by Chip Kidd, the same creative genius who designed the infamous Jurassic Park jacket:

    Photo by @swallace99