Foto Friday

6ixth — Jeff Chouw’s photo exhibition of Opposition MP Chiam See Tong campaigning in 2006 — is now online on Chouw’s site.

(Found via Tan Pin Pin’s blog. And coincidentally: Yisheng’s just posted his review of the 2006 exhibition up on his blog.)

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An extract from the NYT feature on Yoshiyuki Kohei’s series on park voyeurs (picked up by Boing Boing)

“The predatory, animalistic aspect of the people in Yoshiyuki’s work is particularly striking,” she continued. “The pictures are bizarre and shocking, not only because of the subject itself but also because of the way that they challenge our clichéd view of Japanese society as permeated by authority, propriety and discipline.”

The series reminded me of Imamura Shohei‘s work, verging on documentary. This is the man who once said: “I want to make messy, really human, Japanese, unsettling films.”

And of course he made The Pornographers (1966)

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Behind-the-scenes photos from A Clockwork Orange

(found via Ectomoplasmosis)

Randomness #520F

Whew! The Japanese Film Festival‘s over.

If you missed this year’s movies and the Q&A sessions with director Ichikawa Jun and actress Yoshiyuki Kazuko (who seriously looks like she’s 50 and not 70+), Stefan has taken very detailed notes.

Q&A with Ichikawa Jun

Q&A with Yoshiyuki Kazuko 

I may not always agree with his opinions or like his writing, but I genuinely admire his diligence. The man’s a true movie fan.

So what if this rumour that Google might be developing a virtual world isn’t true? Bet the folks up on Mountain View are working on something similar anyway.

More interestingly, judging from the slate of apps that Google already has — especially Google Earth and Google Maps — maybe their virtual world will do what none have so far: integrate both the real and virtual — bring us closer to augmented reality.

But with one company controlling almost all this tech… that’s scary. Some possible glimpses into a Google-dominated future from Bruce Sterling and Cory Doctorow

This is not a painting of Ophelia — it is a picture of Elizabeth Siddal dying of hypothermia.

Ievan Polka x Vocaloid2

First you wonder: “What the heck is this?” You listen to the whole thing, then click the play button because you can’t quite believe what you’re hearing and seeing. Then play it again. And gradually, imperceptibly, you find that you can’t pull yourself away…

Everything you need to know about the context behind that clip, you can find in the links in the description sidebar on YouTube.

(earlier post about Vocaloid2)

A “fit” between technology and usage

Steven Poole recalls his increasing frustration with successively souped-up versions of MS Word:

Microsoft Word still uses the metaphor of the page, the computer screen that imitates a blank, bounded sheet of physical paper. For me, this is outdated and unimaginative. It has become a barrier rather than a window. And there is always the distraction of changing font and line-spacing, jumping ahead too quickly to imagining the text as a visual, physical product instead of a process, a fluid semantic interplay. Instead, turning my MacBook into a kind of replica 1980s IBM machine, with the words glowing and hovering in an interstellar void, is liberating: as though I am composing the Platonic ideal of a text that might eventually take many different forms.

The irony’s easy to see — so much processing power and yet the barest of layouts. But Poole makes it clear that the writing process is a more than just entering letters and formatting pages. The technical functions are there but do they truly improve the writing experience?

(I sympathise, but I like the physicality of pen and paper. Still I’m curious about the stripped-down alternative word processors mentioned.)

I’m reminded of an article by Cory Doctorow on the longevity of print novels despite widespread digitisation. He points out that novels will continue to exist simply because technologically speaking they are the best format so far — portable, bound sheets with letters printed in ink — for reading long content.

The problem, then, isn’t that screens aren’t sharp enough to read novels off of. The problem is that novels aren’t screeny enough to warrant protracted, regular reading on screens.

For short content most people are fine with screens.

So there seems to be a kind of “fit” between a given media technology and its usage. Could this could be considered a kind of equilibrium state? Once defined, might it be possible to use this as the basis for discussions about the adoption of new media technologies?

(Steven Poole found via anti-babel)

Vocaloid 2; Value from Efficiency; User-Generated Content distribution

I’m still impressed with the abilities of the Vocaloid 2 software (found via Boing Boing). Put in a melody and lyrics, and the software generates singing.

It sounds pretty good. Try this sample:

The opera sequence from Final Fantasy 6 — one of the most touching sequences from the best RPG I’ve ever played.

Watching this brought back good memories of the experience playing the game, and that’s partly what makes Vocaloid memorable for me.

The singing isn’t perfect — one comment remarked that the singer sounded like she’d a cold — but this is a technological factor. As coding gets better, so will the voices. But it may not matter — most people are willing to accept less-than-ideal quality media in certain contexts, compression codecs affect sound quality, and when you’re listening to music in a subway train, bus or car you can’t tell anyway.

The value of Vocaloid lies in how it flows with the trend for more user-generated content. It fits in nicely with existing distribution chains for user-generated content. Make a song with Vocaloid, overlay on a video file and upload to YouTube.

(Does it still make sense to call UGC a “trend”? Isn’t it already here and a part of our lived experiences?)

I’m also struck by how YouTube has become a music player although it began as a video-sharing site. This serendipitous use has been driven by the sheer ease of use and easy availability via laptops and widespread broadband.

Compare this with how people rarely used CD-based gaming consoles like the Playstation to play music. Clearly it was silly to turn on the player and a TV set to play music when it was much more efficient to use a CD player. Even a Discman with speakers plugged in was a preferable alternative.

So functionality is nice, but if it’s not efficient relative to current alternatives the functionality won’t add much value to the user.

Although Vocaloid is aimed at otaku, there must be similar groups that would buy such software.

Let’s consider characteristics of the otaku audience — predominantly teenagers, tech-savvy, relatively affluent and of course, a little obsessive.

Hmm… has anyone tried packaging Vocaloid for Christian rock fans?