May 2007 Archives

Yanagisawa's Robot Nation

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This is the Robot Nation video I showed at Design Festa this weekend. I opted out of doing sound for it (DF is so noisy that nobody could have heard it anyway) but might revisit it to add some sound effects now that it's onlnie. The Japanese version is online at YouTube, too.

During the weekend, thousands of people just passed by without pausing, but a few hundred stopped and watched it all the way through. Reactions were either expressionless viewing or laughing at the right places. A few people got to the racy scene and turned away. A handful of people (mainly men) watched it several times in a row. One young man called his girlfriend over to watch it - that pleased me.

I'm not sure if the message got across to everyone, but I hope it did to at least a few people.

Day 2 Stats
31 capsules vended
9 friends greeted: Bob & Tomoko, Sayaka and her daughters, Jim & Yuka, Tracey & Ashley (thanks for coming!)
2 interviews given

Design Festa, day 1

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The day started with three disaasters, but turned out OK despite them.

First disaster: my can of paint toppled from its perch as I tried to get my cart out the door of the apartment building. Paint all over me but thankfully mostly inside a plastic bag, otherwise. Photo here.

Second disaster: I arrived at the venue to discover no walls or tables. They'd misplaced my order. Fortunately, they found it after digging around and they had enough stock on hand to bring me my stuff within 30 minutes. Photo here.

Third disaster: The capsule machine jammed. I ended up standing by with the key and doing Ceasarian sections as needed. When Tod arrived at 1:30, he got it working again and I was free to roam the event.

And it was good that I walked away; my booth seems to attract more attention when I'm not there. (I watched from a distance for a while to see how it was going.) People stopped and watched the video. Reactions varied from stony-faces to laughs. Some people stood and watched it several times - I think they liked the robot porn scene.

Lots of people ran up for a look at the capsule machine and walked away without buying one, though by the end of the day, I'd moved 42 of them. I think the opaque capsules confused people. They didn't want mysteries. I put a sample out, but they still were confused.

I was at my booth to receive visits from friends. Camilla and Andy came by; and Rob with his friend Miki were interviewed for the Design Festa website while they stood talking to us; Greg & Yasu ran into us at the food court and stopped by for a chat later on. And Ian from Tiltyhouse did a video interview for his podcast.

When I wasn't hanging round the booth, Tod & I roamed the other booths. My goodness, there is a lot of creativity on offer. Some of it is fabulous, some of it is wretched and there's a lot in between. I now have enough postcards to last the rest of the year and a beautiful glass wind chime for the summer, but I kept my shopping to a minimum. No telling what I'll see today in the sections I didn't get to yesterday.

Overall a good day. I'll be back today from 11 - 7. If you stop by and I'm not there, ring me and I'll come running.

Birth-Giving Device

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The birth-giving device is almost ready...

My exhibit for Design Festa is coming together: the birth-giving device is nearly finished; I have 211 "robot babies" ready; and the video is nearly complete. A final frantic push tomorrow and I should be all set.

The show runs this weekend, 11 am - 7 pm at Tokyo Big Site. Ill be at Booth C-202. I hope you'll stop in to say hello! There will be 2600 other booths to visit, too, so plan to enjoy the day (and do some shopping). Design Festa details are all here.

Home minus two

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todenroute.jpgTod was picked up in a limo bright and early this morning for a week's work trip to London. He sent me this photo from his lace-covered seat as he headed towards the airport and the first-class lounge where he and Zoupi will hole up until flight time. Lucky!

I'm staying home to work and clean the house. Lucky? On my list of tasks this week (this list is to ensure I actually do these things, you can stop reading here):

Saddle soap the sofa and chair; rearrange the living room furniture; wash down all the walls; wipe the ceilings; install a screen door in the office; wash all the curtains; clean up my studio space. I'll also work on the DF booth elements, mail off a few packages, and do some drawing. That and try to eat healthily and sleep soundly.

Tod will be home next Sunday. Already counting the days...

What's the Funny Smell?

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Yesterday, Tracey asked me if I thought the air smelled like wet dog. I didn't smell anything doggy and attributed her odd sense of smell to a headcold. But on Tuesday I thought the air was fresh and salty like the seaside.

At dinner last night, Jim asked if we thought the city smelled like old shoes. Tod agreed that it smelled weird; he described it as "cut grass that's been sitting around." Yuka suggested the scent reminded her of sperm. I sniffed long and hard but couldn't smell anything over our newly planted lavender and mint.

Everyone seemed to feel unusually sleepy, too.

OK, something was definitely going on with the air.

Yuka says it's from a tree, but she couldn't remember the name. There are a lot of them near the Chinese Embassy, she says, and they smell bad when they are flowering. I wonder what tree it is...anyone know?

Fishies Cleaned My Feet

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Zoupi towels off after the onsen

Yesterday, I found myself at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a hot-springs bathing theme park at Odaiba. It opened 4 years ago and I'd never heard of it. Camilla and Liz, visiting friends, told me about it and we went together for a five hour bathing extravaganza.

We did the full round of baths twice, had a sand bath, sat and enjoyed the outdoor foot pond, wandered around the Edo-themed complex and tried the doctor fish. As great as the baths and the retro decor were, the fish were the highlight of the day.

Doctor fish nibble the dead skin off your body - in this case our feet - leaving them smooth and fresh. It feels very strange to have a horde of fish surrounding your feet and sucking on them, but it works. Once you get over the giggles (it tickles), it settles into a tingling sensation as the fish have their dinner.

In Turkey, where these hot-water dwellers come from, they are used for treating psoriasis. Here in Japan they are more cosmetic than medical. Why do they dine on your skin? The fish are starved so that they'll go for your crusty bits. Maybe it's cruel, but I appreciate the effect. I can still see the pale pink demarcation just above my ankles where the dozens stopped dining. I sort of wished they'd worked on the rest of me, too.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari does not allow persons with tattoos, but they didn't notice mine and I spotted another foreign woman with a tattoo. They didn't seem to have a problem with Zoupi or his friend Moe, either. Maybe they were feeling lenient on a weekday afternoon without too many customers. In any case, tattoo'd folks attend at your own risk.

Making Robot Babies

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Part of my Design Festa exhibit is a "birth giving device" that delivers little baby robot charms. I took the easy way out and bought a "treasure capsule" machine to do the dispensing. I'm not sure what it's called in English; it's like a gumball machine, only with plastic prize capsules...

Anyway, I've been busy making the baby robot charms to go inside the capsules and took some photos while I worked.


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First, I drew nine robots on a sheet of shrink film. Repeat 25 times or so...


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Next, I cut the sheets into separate charms, trimmed the corners and hole punched each one

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Working in batches of three, I heated the plastic until it shrunk to size, then quickly removed each charm and flattened it between boards.

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Slowly and steadily, I amassed an army of robot babies.

Be sure to come try the birth-giving device and get your own baby robot charm on May 26-27 at Design Festa vol 25

Tod's New Spice Cake

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Tod's New Spice Cake
serves Tod

2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1.5 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
2/3 cup butter
1 cup milk
3 eggs

In a large bowl, mix together flour, white sugar, baking soda, spices and salt. In a medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, then add milk. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until smooth. Pour into prepared round layer pans and bake at 350/175 for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

I filled this year's cake with a layer of maple syrup flavored frosting and sprinkled the top with powdered sugar mixed with a little chai masala.

Jasmine & Ease

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Jasmine blooming along a Shinjuku-ku street

It's a another beautiful day. Our Golden Week weather has been stunning this year and we've enjoyed so many pleasant, sunny days that I wish the summer heat and humidity would never come. It's just around the corner, but I will relish every one of these perfect days until the dog days set in.

Our day is a luxury of idleness. This afternoon's agenda: consume a bottle of sparkling wine. Tonight we'll grill a chicken and vegetables. We've been out for a walk, enjoyed lunch at St. Martin (they were out of chicken roti so I finally tried another dish from their menu), wandered around Kagurazaka a bit. I love the holidays.

Happy 38th

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Tod blows out his candle.

The birthday boy couldn't wait to try his spice cake - in fact, he came into my office to apologise for messing up the topping - he had sugar all over his nose from getting too close. (Tod has a flavor!)

So we had a speedy, early afternoon candle lighting ceremony followed by gobbling of a slice each. There's plenty more to share if you hurry on over. I can't guarantee cake after tomorrow morning, though. It's pretty good.

New Fluoro Colors

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Kitchen light - before and after changing the bulbs

I've always disliked fluorescent lights; the sickly blue-green color and the flickers and hums make me cringe. So the recent bans on incandescent light bulbs in Australia and Canada seemed pretty horrible. But now I've done some research and discovered (as 80% of the Japanese market already knows) that fluorescent lights aren't so bad after all.

In fact, the new compact fluorescent lamps look quite a bit like incandescent bulbs if you buy the "L" color. And they use considerably less electricity so we will slowly replace our incandescent bulbs with CFLs. We stared with the kitchen fluorescent fixtures just to improve the color temperature. Now the kitchen is warm and cozy.

The color isn't perfect. The L color CFL is too pink in the daytime when sunlight mixes with it. And because CFL isn't full spectrum light (there are several single-color phosphors mixing together to make its color) what will it do to our eyes in the long run?

There's been controversy over various aspects of CFLs and Tod wondered if people complainingly questioned incandescent bulbs when they became widespread. I don't know; I'm just happy to have warm light in the kitchen.

Walnut & Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli

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I was putting my new ravioli press to the test earlier this week and it did a good job once I'd figured out some of its secrets. Press the filling in tightly, don't overfill even a tiny bit. Allow the dough (rolled to indicator 5 on the Imperia) to dry slightly and/or flour it thoroughly so it doesn't stick to the press. Roll firmly with the rolling pin, being especially careful to cut the edges and use a bench knife on any inside seams that don't perforate sufficiently.

I cooked up three batches of ravioli that night: herbed cottage cheese; four mushroom; & today's recipe, walnut with sun-dried tomato. I'm sorry there's no photo of the ravioli made up but it was too quickly eaten for me to even think about the camera. It was gooooood. The walnut recipe is salty, bursting with umami and vegetarian (even vegan if you substitute for my egg-based dough). I didn't measure anything as I cooked, so this is an approximation. Adjust as desired.

Walnut & Sun-Dried Tomato Ravioli
stuffs 48 ravioli with a bit left over

1.5 cups walnuts
8-10 sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
olive oil
black pepper

Put the nuts in a food processor. Snip the tomatoes into slices with your kitchen shears and add to nuts. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper. Drizzle with oil. Blend until you have a rough paste - the mixture should stick together but still have texture. You may need to add a bit more oil as you go.

The Perfect Pasta Dough works well with this filling - good tooth and flavor to balance the boldness of the filling. I used about 2/3 of the dough recipe to make 48 ravioli (2 pans' worth). The leftover dough cooks up great as a side dish the next day or can be frozen. I topped the ravioli with an herbed tomato sauce, but a cream sauce would have been equally delicious.

Robot Nation

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In a couple of weeks, I'm exhibiting a new artwork at a huge creative arts event. I'm sure it will be lost in the crowd, but I'm enjoying putting it all together.

It's a reaction to Yanagisawa's boneheaded "women are birth-giving machines" speech in January. What if all Japanese women turned into machines and had little robot babies? This is the idea I'm exploring in a short animation and an interactive sculpture.

I was working on the animation today. It's very simple. Maybe embarrassingly simple, but I don't mind. It gets the message across. Here is a 15 second clip (currently silent) from the beginning of the program.


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Watch "Robot Babies" intro

If you want to see the rest of the animation or to play with the sculpture (more on that in a future post) why not plan to come to Design Festa? Not only will I be there, but 2600 extremely talented artists and craftspeople, too! Bring your wallet, there's lots of amazing handmade stuff to buy.

Design Festa vol 25
May 26-27, 2007
Tokyo Big Site

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