I went to a very interesting concert this past saturday in LA. Dubbed "MIKUNOPOLIS," it was the debut US appearance of a japanese pop star, Hatsune Miku. It was part of Anime Expo, which is held each year in Southern California.
I don't keep up with anime all that much, but I've gone to Anime Expo the past several years to stay in touch with that scene since it is relevant to my work, both when I was working in libraries with youth and now working at a video game company. It's also always a spectacle to see all the cosplayers, and Janet likes to go dancing at the after hours party there each night. It's a lot of fun.
Hatsune Miku's concert was amazing, not so much because of the music, but because of who she is. Hatsune is not a real person, she's a virtual character. In all sense of the word. She's unprecedented from other previous animated idols and even more different than persona bands like Gorillaz. Her design was created, but her identity and her popularity emerged virally from the fan community.
Using Yamaha's voice synthesizer program, a company called Crypton Future Media created a software that allows users to program a melody with words. Dubbed "Vocaloid," Hatsune Miku was the second specific voice bank released, in 2007, sampled from a japanese actress's voice. An artist was commissioned to create a design for the box, and he created this character to market the software to a young audience.
Once users got hold of the software, they began creating songs and music videos, and uploaded them onto the Nico Douga, a japanese youtube type site. One song in particular, this silly one, went viral, and other music videos soon followed. Her popularity exploded, with anime adaptations, merchandising, sponsorships following, and she began popping up everywhere in Japan.
Then last year in Japan, she performed her first concert as a holographic projection on stage, backed up by live musicians.
Fans went nuts and it completely sold out. Subsequent concerts in Japan continued with equal success, with no sign of her popularity waning. The same thing happened on Saturday, with the concert being sold out and fans coming from all around the world just to see her.
We sat next to one such fan at the concert. Glowsticks seem to be part of jpop concert going experience, and we looked around to see if anyone was passing out glowsticks. There was a stereotypically nerdy looking guy next to us, and when Janet asked him where he got the glowstick, he opened up his large backpack, and revealed a large supply of glowsticks. Why did he have so many? I'm not sure. He nervously smiled, and gave us each a glow stick.
During the concert, he sat almost frozen in his seat, with one arm waving the glowstick in a steady beat. After each song, he seemed to scribble something down on a notepad furiously with a pen. Was it the setlist? Notes for his blog? Music review? I'm not sure.
I was mesmerized myself by the spectacle, both on stage, and looking at the audience around us. I took a few camera phone photos, until another fan sitting behind me asked me to stop, saying it was against policy to take photos. In his eyes, I was disrespecting Miku. I was probably annoying a lot of other people too.
For all the true fans in the audience, this was a sacred moment, one where the object of their desire and affection, a fictional character, stepped in the real world. Not unlike god becoming flesh! More than that, this character was created by themselves, not by marketers or a focus group, like all other pop idols. They had literally adored her into life.
In a lot of ways, this computer generated prepubescent fantasy prancing on stage singing bubble gum pop felt more genuine and representative of modern youth culture than any other real band I've seen on stage. Zeitgeist had a face, and a voice, and several dance routines. Her name was Hatsune Miku and she is real.
I saw this band last night in LA, at a small cozy venue nearby where Janet lives. It was their first time to LA and the place was nearly empty. We got a table right in front of the stage and ordered a few beers and some fries. It was really nice.
We first heard them two years ago, during one of our first dates. We were driving back from a hip hop festival (which was terrible) near by my old college, and on the drive back I tuned into the old college station KSPC 87.7. This song called "Daniella" came on the radio, I had heard nothing like it before. Afterwards we walked around the colleges and I indulged in nostalgia and tried to impress her w/ inflated college tales. I looked up the playlist from the radio station the next day and tracked down the song.
The background of the singer is fun.
"Hurray For The Riff Raff began when a teenage Alynda Lee Segarra started hopping freight trains across the USA to satisfy a yearning to explore its mythical small towns and backwaters and live a life on the road and the rail track. She left her native Bronx, New York at the age of 17, and while riding the rails she hooked up with The Dead Man Street Orchestra, a home-made family of young, itinerant music makers living on the edge of the American dream. When the roaming was done she stepped off the box car and settled in New Orleans, a magnet for the creatively dispossessed and allowed music to properly take hold of her life. She quickly embraced the city’s own community of street musicians, who encouraged her to develop her voice by singing old Jazz songs. Meanwhile she took up the banjo and was soon performing with many of the traditional bands that cluster the sidewalks of the French Quarter, playing and singing while learning from the music of the city she loves."
Teenage runaway, train hopping with hobos, busking in the French Quarter, crafting songs on a banjo midst poverty and romance, it's all too perfect.
RIP DJ July 22nd, 1979 - April 6, 2011 Born: Dae Han Min Gook Died: California, America.
I had a terrible dream last night. A nightmare, even. It was the first nightmare I remember in a very long time. I was outside, at a restaurant or a bar. I went inside, it was nice, my friends from past and present were there. And then there he was. My old friend I hadn't seen since high school. David. We had been in the same grade and class and school for a long time. It was nice to see him.
Especially since it had been a long time, more than ten years, but also because last week, I had read on facebook that he had passed away. It had been a sudden tragedy, nobody I knew had remained close to him, so we weren't sure what had happened. Another old friend on facebook (this time from junior high), told us he had an unknown brain aneurysm that had burst. A sudden death. Unknown. A surprise, a shock. A tragedy.
So when I saw him there alive, well, and healthy, looking just as I remembered, I exclaimed, "Great to see you buddy! How are ya? Dude, I heard you fucking died on facebook, what the fuck! You're not dead."
And he replied happily, "yeah man that was fucked up, just a hoax on facebook. My account got hacked."
"Damn fool, I really thought you died. It was fucked up. All your old friends were trippin' balls."
"Yeah man, I know, I'm good. Thanks though. Good to see you."
I was really happy and relieved. I had been good friends with David in Junior High and throughout High School. He had gone to UCLA afterwards and we had lost touch. I knew he had been an ambitious guy in high school, one of the most, and also quite interesting. He had actually had drive and interests and strong opinions, and the rest of us burnouts had usually dismissed him as a result. At least my close circle. In hindsight, I always had thought, often privately, that he had been actually one of the coolest guys in high school. And the most true to himself.
In college, I had heard that he had become quite the party guy, and was into a lot of different stuff. I knew he had been a good musician in high school, and had been interested in that. His dad was a pastor, and I think his sister (one year our junior) had had a close relationship with my brother (one year our senior). One I probably mocked, having been always that immature and mean.
Anyways, back to the present, it had been good to see him, and I left the bar shortly afterwards. As I got into my car, I called my friend, who also had heard about David, and told him I just saw David. He was silent for a moment and said, "What the fuck are you talking about, I went to his funeral this past friday. When you were away at Coachella and couldn't make it because you were too busy having fun with your little girlfriend." I repeated, "What, I just saw him right now, here a minute ago!" He replied on the phone with the sneer, "You're crazy, get it together man. Have you been drinking?"
I hung up the phone and drove on in confusion. Then in a minute to my side, on the street in front of a building, I saw David again. He was just as surprised to see me. He asked, "What's up man?" And I replied, "You're dead dude! What are you doing?!" And he replied, "WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN?! I'M DEAD?! WHATTTTTT??!!!!" He screamed in my face as I jumped back into my car. I drove off.
After that, the dream fades a bit. I remember other figures from my past. Some warm and religious. Some cold and frightening. Some distant. Some close. Then I remembered thinking, "What am I dead too?! Is this the afterlife?!"
I woke up for reals in a start. I looked at the clock. 3:42 AM. It was still this night. It had been a dream. A terrible dream. A nightmare, even. It was the first nightmare I remember in a very long time.
I turned on the lights and looked out into the darkness. I saw shadows and heard strange noises. My bed shook a little. I was sweaty, and shaking. I was suddenly reminded of recent horror movies I've seen. Old fanciful memories of genuine fears and dread. I contemplated calling my mother. That was silly, she's in bed and nearly 65. I'm a grown man in my 30s in my own studio apartment alone and cold in the dark. What's going on? Is this still the dream. Am I still dreaming? Oh god.
RIP David. I hope wherever you are, you are happy and at peace and in love. I will miss you. Thank you for having been my friend.
Morning came, and with it the sun. With a large clasp, he heard the light come in, and warmth suddenly filled his cold clammy body. It was time to get up.
Kunte opened his eyes and looked out. The clear clean water refreshed him and he darted forward from under his favorite rock. Today was the day, the day he would finally have a chance to let his love know how he truly felt. But first, breakfast!
He swam over to the feeding grounds and saw his familiar friend, already face deep in the pebbles.
"Hey Kante, how's the grub today?"
"Oh hey Kunte," said Kante with his eyes still on the ground. "It's not bad, I found a week old nugget a few minutes ago, it was really good. Aged just the way I like it."
This morning, I was shelving some books when I saw it. A big fat giant brown dead roach. It was large enough that you could see its antennas from a distance, even though the carpet was as dark as the bug. I went closer, curious as to where it came from. There are no windows in my library. It must've walked in from the main lobby, or perhaps from the lounge. I got some napkins to pick it up and throw it away, and drew closer, when suddenly it moved. It was still alive!
I jumped back, went back to my desk, and scrambled about for weapons. I first picked up a book. No, too smashy. Then I looked at my dust mop. No, too clingy, Then I saw Chester's umbrella*. Perfect! I went over, threw some napkins on it, and shoved it into a trash bin with the umbrella. Then I used the umbrella to press down hard against the napkins, pushing and prodding until I heard that successful crunch. Success!
A few hours later, I had a team lunch in the library. After everyone left, I walked back to my desk, and suddenly saw another big fat giant brown roach on the edge of my desk. Except this one wasn't dead or half dead. It was alive. And alert. Its antennas were waving about excitedly. This time I couldn't mess about. I grabbed a napkin and ran over to squish it myself. It scrambled quickly away.
I ran after it with my napkin, but it was too fast and too furious. It crawled into my metal inbox, and I could hear its carapace scraping against the metal. Clink clink clink clink. I tried again to catch it, but then it was too late. It went underneath my desk, into the darkness, and I saw it no longer.
Was this roach the same roach I had seen earlier, one that had returned from the dead? Was it the dead roach's friend or mate? Were there more? There is no food in the library, where did they come from?
The rest of the day, I was haunted by these thoughts and troubled by the fear of something crawling up my leg.
* Chester's umbrella - Chester is a good friend of mine. We grew up in the same town and went to the same high school together, in the mid to late 90s. His umbrella is quite nice. Black, large, sturdy handle. It also comes in a nifty plastic sheath and folds up into itself; like stacking cups. He left it at my apt last Christmas, when we had a little party.
"For a generation, most Americans have been told by left, right and center that they would be failures if they ended their educations with high school, worked hard, saved cash for emergencies and bought modest homes they could afford. They have been told that to succeed in life they need to ape the lifestyles of the upper middle class that provides most of America’s politicians, pundits and scholars.
The result has been an experiment in social engineering that has gone horribly wrong: the creation of a faux mass upper middle class. Millions of Americans who by objective standards belong to the working class or lower middle class have persuaded themselves that they are part of the professional-investor elite, because they have worthless degrees from diploma mills, negligible amounts invested in stocks, and suburban trophy houses they cannot afford. For the college graduates at Starbucks working to pay off student loans for degrees that they will never use, as for the millions of Americans who are now "underwater," owing more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, the American dream has turned into a nightmare.
But many have profited from the peddling of the dream of the mass upper middle class. The claim that everyone should go to college served the interests of the educational-industrial complex, from K-12 to the universities, that now serves as an important constituency of the Democratic Party. (Along with Wall Street investment banks, universities provided Barack Obama with his largest campaign donations.) And the claim that everyone needs to pour money into the stock market, to be managed by banks and brokers who fleece their clients, served the interests of the financial-industrial complex that has replaced real-economy businesses as the dominant force in the Republican Party. Both the educators and the brokers have successfully lobbied Congress to subsidize their bloated industries, swelling them even further, by means of tax breaks for student loans and personal retirement savings. The big losers have been the millions of working Americans whom many Democrats and Republicans alike have persuaded, against their interests, to indulge champagne tastes on beer budgets."
I killed a large male mosquito last night. It was quite large.
Except it wasn't quite dead. His body was squished to the wall but the head was moving slightly.
I was proud of the kill and was considering leaving the corpse on the wall for display. Then I thought, hmm maybe there is another way.
So I dropped it in the frog tank. It floated there and refused to sink. I got kinda concerned, because floating there, on top of the water, it was quite large. The body of the mosquito was nearly as long as my frogs, and the legs were really long and tough looking. What if they choked on it?
I got the turkey baster I use to feed them and tried to break up and sink the mosquito but it refused to drop. Then suddenly, I saw Kunta jerk up and she put THE WHOLE THING IN HER MOUTH.
Or attempted to at least. She had a quarter of the body stuck in her mouth, the rest of the insect hanging out, wings and legs and all, and for a good 5 minutes tried to swallow the whole thing. She was twisting and jerking and convulsing like crazy. Then I think she tried to spit it out, but it was lodged in too far and it was too long, so she jerked and twisted and convulsed even more. After like 10 minutes, she floated to the top of the water, eyes glazed, mouth slightly open, and just floated there, motionless. She had choked to death.
I was really distraught and felt super guilty and got prepared to scoop her out. As I drew near though, she flipped back around and went back at it. After a few more minutes, 2/3 of a mosquito went flying out of her mouth, all chewed up and partially digested. She still had a long leg sticking out of her face like an antenna, which she tried to pull out with her hands, with no success.
After some time, I gave up too and went to sleep, it was late. The next morning I woke up, and her mouth was free of any mosquito limbs. 1/4 of a mosquito was still floating on the water though...
"African dwarf frogs are small aquatic frogs native to parts of Africa, spreading from tropical to subtropical areas primarily in the Congo region. All species of Pipidae are tongueless, toothless and completely aquatic. They use their hands to shove food in their mouths and down their throats and a Hyobranchial Pump to draw or suck food in their mouth. In the wilds, they relish small water-borne insects, mosquito larvae, small fish and worms."
I will try to feed them more live food now. It was highly entertaining.
I woke up this morning and found Kunta dead floating belly up bloated on the surface. Kinte was swimming around it, batting it about as if in denial and grief.
Shocked, I went outside to the balcony for a deep breath, retrieved the fish net, and went back inside to scoop it out.
As I opened the lid and stooped in, the dead she-frog suddenly flipped over and darted away into the corner. Kinte followed shortly.
I think they were both laughing at me....
Later I read that the female often plays dead after amplexus to get the male to stop humping her... she was simply resting after yet another all night fuck session... or worse yet... she was playing coy w/ Kinte.
I went to see some exotic frogs today at Muzeo in Anaheim. Great place for kids.
Here is a fat frog.
Here are some demon frogs.
Here is the frog that Naruto rides.
Gigolo fo' sho'
Amphibians are an important component of the global ecosystem, as indicators of environmental health and contributors to human health. They watched the dinosaurs come and go, but today almost half of them are themselves threatened with extinction. Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity.
I just got this letter today from the department of education Here is an excerpt that caught my eye:
CANCELLATION FOR SERVICE AS A LIBRARIAN
Upon making a properly documented written request to the holder of your loan, you are entitled to have up to 100% of the original loan amount cancelled for qualifying full-time service that includes August 14, 2008, or beings on or after that date as a librarian, if you have a master's degree in library science and you are employed in an elementary or secondary school that is eligible for assistance under part A of title I of the elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, or you are employed in a public library that serves a geographic area that contains one or more of these schools.
not exactly the Gift of the Magi but still, this made me chuckle. I will investigate...
LOLZ looks this went into effect immediately AFTER I left public service to work for World of Work so no free monies for me. >< It's a good thing I only have a small balance remaining otherwise I would've shaken my fist a little at the sky.
PLEASE forward this info to any once or future librarians or teachers. It's a nice move on the government's part to recruit more librarians and teachers, I hope it works to sway some people, esp. in these terrible public sector times.
I fed my frogs bloodworms yesterday, they gorged themselves and couldn't move properly because their stomaches were distended all american like, with the red of the worms visible through their pale vein-y guts. So gross...