Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Going Back...

The idea being that next time I am in Japan (later this year!) I will be posting people hardcopy photographs made into postcards, from places I visit.  each postcard will have a QR Code (a kind of two dimensional barcode) which you can scan with the camera on your iphone or android phone with the assistance of a small app you can download for free ( such as NeoReader ). the QR Code is actually a web link to an audio clip, recorded in the place the photograph was taken. 

if you have an iphone, try it with the image above.  download NeoReader on your phone, click on the image above to view the full size version, (or the qr code will be too blurry to read), scan the QR code in the bottom right corner, and see  where it takes you.  If its all working, it should take you Here.

Of course, if i manage to do this, you will be scanning the QR code on a real postcard you got in the mail, not an image on a website. :)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

back to the bump and grind...

one month back in oz now.

Im starting "internet lessons" with Kakizakai, where I record myself playing the piece I'm working on, and email him a copy of the recording, and he sends me feedback.

Here is a link to the first of these - the piece I'm currently working on is called "Takiochi", which translates as "cascading waterfall". I cant play it from memory yet, so this recording was made while playing from the notation.

The recording isn’t so good - I was using a stereo mic setup so it was aligned up-down instead of left-right - I was hoping to get a better range of the sound this way - but I think I was too close to the mic, so it was very sensitive to any horizontal movement - there are a couple of phrases that sound a bit muffled, where I must have leaned to the side a little. Next time I think I will just sit back a lot further from the microphone. I got a bit ragged towards the end of the piece - pitch control went out the window a bit, but its a lot better than it was a week ago.

anyway, its a start...


Monday, June 09, 2008


Ben: You know the abandoned places in japan website? Well, it turns out this place is local to me! Someone told me how to get there today. I'm going to check it out...
Dave: Cool!

D: Hmm. Decaying, abandoned hospital. Played silent hill?
B: Noooo!
B: No no no!
B: No zombies
D: They only show up on video
B: So ill leave my camera at home
D: Then you won't be able to see what's biting your neck...

B: Hmm. I need some disposable companions.
B: I'm a main character. I have to survive. At least until I get to sacrifice myself heroically to save the female lead at the end.
D: You could be the guy in the opeing scene who gets dismembered spectacularly to set the mood...

B: If I'm the prelude, then the main movie is you coming over to find out what happened to me...
B: Maybe the climax of the movie is you facing the zombie-boss, who is actually me.
B: appealing to my last shred of humanity
B: causing me to not eat your brains, and instead hold back the zombie horde while you get away, before detonating the explosives.
D: That works pretty well for me...

B: I'm not sure if ill go up today yet - the weather is looking dicey, and I don't want to get stranded there by a sudden typhoon...
B: It's about 40kms from here, out in the middle of nothing but mountains and forest.

D: Man, you ARE starring in a horror flick!
D: Surely you can think of some compelling reason why you need to be in the area
B: Why do I need a reason. There's nobody around, right? right?!
D: Is it a nuclear powered hospital? Maybe the reactor is about to blow and only your unique blend of technical expertise and wisecracking dark edged humour can cut through the red tape in time to save the beautiful Japanese zombie princess!
B: Ooh! I like the sound of that!

B: But then, maybe my parents didnt tell me everything about my origins...
D: Aha! mystery man! Maybe you are half human, half zombie, with the powers of both.
B: and a strange compulsion to visit a decaying research facility out in the middle of nowhere in Japan...

B: Drawn there, by who knows what
B: But its stronger now...
B: Don't you see! I have to go!
B: It's my only chance to understand these dreams!
B: To end this nightmare! once and for all!!

D: Every hundred years the call goes out, and the undead hordes converge, making their horrid shambling way to the ancient gathering grounds. There they hold the worlds biggest dance party / experimental performance art show, and the chosen one is crowned with the mysterious and eldritch Brain Helmet.
B: Braaaaaains!!
B: I went to a reggae festival yesterday. does that count? I don't even like reggae...

D: Were there zombies?
D: Also, reggae vs Japan? who won?
B: Haha. It was a good match. I think I have to give this one to Japan, though. Reggae put up a strong effort, but in the end, it wasn't really a fair fight.
B: Was a good vibe tho. Lots of fun on a beautiful day. Good for throwing frisbees and running around.
B: I mean who can compete with Japanese kids high on a sunny day, singing along to English tracks that they only have a sketchy understanding of the meaning of...

B: The Beatles... "A rub is all you need!"
B: Which was spot on if you ask me...

B: Do you think my chances of survival would be improved by downloading and watching Resident Evil before heading out to this abandoned research facility?
D: Definitely. Also the House on Haunted Hill.

B: If I die out there, I'm so coming back to get you.
B: Your brains are soooo sucked out, and your ancestors haunted till the end of their days...
D: :D
D: So long as I pass the video tape of your demise on within seven days I should be ok.

B: Oh no. You don't get out of it that easily. In 20 years time, you and all your classmates are going to get together for a reunion and im going to kill you all one by one.
B: AFTER I've eaten your brains
B: THEN you'll all come back to life 24 hours later, and I'll take you out and give you to the hillbillies...

D: Will I survive, a broken man, to tell my tale to any who will listen through a haze of turpentine fumes?
D: In between paying for my next bottle of unleaded by doing hedge-trimming jobs with my stump-mounted hand chainsaw
D: it makes picking your nose unbelievably hard

B: Yeah. Maybe. But every 5 years, you'll turn into a zombie werewolf and roam the streets until you are captured by a research facility and taken to the secret underground lab somewhere outside chichibu, japan...
B: And so on for 5 or 6 sequels...
B: Then they'll make a movie about your sorry tale, but the cast of the movie will start dying in unexplained accidents.
B: So you better hope I come back in one whole, human, happy piece.

D: Haha! Well, ok. At least I hope the incubation period is long enough that I get to see the photos...
B: I'll post them to flickr with my last human gasp.
B: Hmm. Maybe I should wait until just before sunset before going up there.

B: Seems like the smart thing...
D: Make sure your headtorch hasn't got too much charge in it, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity of navigating around using only the flash on your camera
B: Ahh good plan. I'll just leave it switched on for a few hours now.
B: And I'll make sure the scooter is almost out of fuel too...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

tom's place, and back

At Tom's place, much time was spent playing in the workshop, trying different flutes, and just keeping up daily practice.

Tom had repaired the utaguchi (mouthpiece inlay) and made a few modifications to my new flute, a nishakunanasun (2.7) that I had picked out earlier this trip, at my request. A few 'safety' bindings on the top half to ensure it wouldnt crack on me, and a slight widening of the mouth hole.

I finished Sokkan, the piece I was working on with Kakizakai on this flute, and am now revisiting Shingetsu. I enjoy alternating new pieces with going back to add another layer of refinement to ones ive already learned - there's always improvements to be made, and new levels of understanding and focus to reach.

While at Toms, the last few days of a major Sumo tournament were being televised. So at about 5 o'clock each afternoon, we parked in front of the telly with cups of tea and enjoyed watching Kotooshu, a Bulgarian, become the first European to win a major tournament.

This crazy thing is a wasp's nest, just outside the window of Tom's workshop. the large one is about 60cm in diameter. There werent many wasps around though. the layers of different coloured mud are quite incredible. I can understand the wasps getting different coloured mud from different places at different times, but the way the patterns are in this seems much more deliberate than that. Maybe it was an artist's colony.

Sunday afternoon saw me back on the scooter and heading for home, with a plan to take it easy and camp out somewhere halfway home. I was thinking about somewhere high up, with a good view of the sunrise. As I was coming back over Mugikusatoge pass, in foggy weather, I was looking for a potential spot, and I happened to glance down off the side of the road while coming around a corner, straight into the eyes of what could only be a bear - though it looked more like a very very large, shaggy wombat to me. I decided that maybe i would camp a little further on, perhaps somewhere closer to human habitation...

So I ended up at a lookout, at 1800m with a wonderful view. I pitched my tent once the sun was down, cooked up some pasta on my camp stove, and watched the clouds fill up the valley below. An early night, and up at 4am, to watch the sunrise...

Odd though - I woke up at 4am, but could hear people around outside the tent, and the sounds of equipment being set up. I stuck my head out and found half a dozen Japanese photographers with all their camera gear set up, trying to catch that perfect sunrise moment. Not what I was expecting, but the view must be well known.

Its lovely being up that early. the roads are empty, the light is beautiful and everything is so still.

I left the lookout at 5am, and had a wonderful ride home with the morning sun coming out and warming me nicely (its cold at 1800m!). I was home by 8am, and ready for breakfast. Not a bad way to start the day :D

I knew the scooter would give me freedom to explore a bit more, but I really had no idea it would reward my investment in it the way it has. The experiences it has enabled are worth a million times more than what I paid for it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Over the hills and far away

This is where I woke up this morning...

I've been on a bit of a road trip. Decided the weather looked good, so 6am last friday morning saw me head out on the scooter, loaded with camping gear, off to visit my friend Tom, the shakuhachi maker, in Nagano.

Route 299 would take west me over three high passes, before I turned south down Route 152 towards Tom's place. The first pass was the one that took me out of the Chichibu basin, and out of Saitama prefecture and into Gunma. The roads were wide and well maintained, until the beginning of the climb that took me over the second pass, Jukkokutoge, just on 1400m.

This was the view back the way I came, just before the top of the pass. The road was mostly single lane, with some damage in places, and a couple of small repair teams at work. As you can see from the photo, there isnt much out this way but trees and mountains. The road was narrow, but lovely, and the scooter took me up at a steady 30km/h without too much complaint.

I became quite attached to the Route 299 signs, feeling little surges of enthusiasm at the sight of them. As well as indicating that I was on track, each one seemed to promise even more wonderful things than the last. this was especially true of the ones leading up to Mugikusutoge pass, which at 2127m, was the highest point on the trip.

The tree above was up on the pass, which still had a good two feet of snow on it (thankfully not on the road). The bark had this amazing pattern, colour and texture. Anyone know what kind of tree it is? They only seemed to grow right up on the top of the pass. the bark on a lot of them was peeling in layers, like a paperbark tree, but the layers were so fine you could see through them, but still quite strong, unlike paperbark. A bit like wood shavings from a very fine plane.

From there, it was down to civilization again, before heading south up into the mountains again along Route 152, which is the back way to Tom's place, and another wonderful piece of foresty mountain goodness...

Friday, May 09, 2008


This is my teacher.

Dont mess with him.

He's Badass...