Good day to you, my fine reader.

Time to take a break from the chaos and stupidity sweeping the globe. (But then again, when hasn’t there been stupidity and chaos sweeping the globe?)

As William Shatner said, “Live life like you’re gonna die – coz your gonna.” I try to remind myself every day that there’s still room in the darkness for truth and beauty.

They’ve been replaying “The World At War” on the History Channel here in Japan to coincide with the anniversary of the end of World War 2. That was 66 years ago. I am continually impressed by the scope of that documentary series, as well as its timeliness. It was released in 1974, so it includes a lot of eyewitness accounts and interviews with some of the protagonists. For historians, you always try to find primary sources, and this series is chock full of them. As the generation that experienced that war is passing away, it makes it all the more poignant. A lot of the remaining survivors of Hiroshima were infants at the time. Watching the episode on how Russia endured invasion by the Nazis and eventually turned them back, losing 20 million people in the process (basically the entire population of Australia killed in two years), I was amazed at how the Russians kept their spirit and determination alive through all that suffering.

There also lighter amusements keeping my interest in good things alive and well.

“You Are Not A Photographer” highlights the worst of so-called ‘professional’ photography done by spare-room hacks with a digital camera and free software. It’s hard to believe people get paid for churning out this stuff. I really like the use of their terms, “fauxtographer” and “fauxtography”. May it inspire us all to better and brighter things.

Some 153 photos of teeny tiny things. Gizmodo often has neat photo compilations.

Sand magnified to 250 times normal size looks cool. So do air bubbles frozen in ice.

There’s tilt shift photography, and then there’s tilt shift photography. I might have to go into making giant mockups of small things for fun and profit.

The cast of The Big Lebowski got together at Lebowskifest. How I wish…

Australia will soon have a boneyard of its very own. Time to rent a helicopter and a super 70mm camera and make my own version of Baraka…

Some very cool time lapse video.

The history of villains in American films makes for some interesting reading.

Japan hasn’t run out of cute girls, but the handlers of AKB48 decided to use computers to piece together bits of their stable to make a new one.

Faking it is huge in fashion photography, but I never realized how much models contorted and abused their bodies until I read this article.

Astronomers have found another moon around Pluto. That’s four, if you’re counting. 

A whole bunch of man-made passages have been found in Bavaria.

Somehow I keep alternating between Middle School and College.

Home made cola. I wouldn’t mind trying this out sometime. Just dump half the sugar and the colouring and I’ll be there.

Imagine batteries that last forever. Not oo far away, hopefully.

The key to longer life might lie inside cancer. What? Yes, cancer. There’s a mutation in the genes of pancreatic cancer that can lengthen the telomeres on the ends of DNA, thought to control when cells die.  

So, we can’t currently actually travel to another universe. However we could perhaps detect evidence of the multiverse in the Cosmic Background Radiation.

Closer to home, the recent discovery of fossilized life from 3.4 billion years ago that lived by metabolizing sulphur gives hope to finding evidence of life on Mars.

On a personal note, I would really appreciate a new spine.

 

Time to go through some things lurking in open tabs that I found interesting / cool / funny / neat, etc. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which was which.

I visited Uno earlier this year to visit Naoshima with my mum and her friend. We stayed at an excellent guesthouse called Uno Slope House. The proprieter is a Japanese fellow named Max, who has opened up his parents’ house for visitors, as well as trying to open up the area around Uno to more tourism. The Uno/ Naoshima area is trying to reinvent itself as an destination for artists. The museums and installations on Naoshima are certainly well worth a visit. As for Max, he’s a filmmaker, and is also one of the main organisers of a film festival that takes place in August every year in Uno. This year’s is going to be held over the first two weekends, so if you’re keen, try to head down there and enjoy some real Japanese hospitality along with the art. They’re also trying to raise funds to run the event, so if you’re feeling generous, there are some goodies in it for you as well. I might see you there!

This photo tour of an abandoned amusement park in the USA caught my eye. I could add it to the list of ghost towns I want to see. If I had the time and money, I would love to get more into astrophotography. I spent a short while up the top of Norway last Christmas and saw the aurora, which was phenomenal, but these pictures from Australia were also amazing. This photoset captures in great detail the stark reality of North Korea – a sterile showcase of perfection that somehow has stripped almost all vestige of humanity away from its citizenry. I’ve never seen such emptiness. (I still want to go there by the way…)

If you can force your way through it, you should try to read Umberto Eco’s Travels In Hyperreality. In particular the section on post-modernism and The Last Supper. It’s true, there are bizarre versions of it everywhere! The internet is also a great place to see the collective creative genius at work.

I’m glad to say that I’ve seen quite a few of these great films that have no plot.

I’m getting more and more into whisky, particularly 10 year-old single malts, but also the Irish varieties have caught my eye – as well as tastebuds. I have also recently been spending some time with some very naughty beers from Belgium and Germany. These are the sorts of beers that I wouldn’t mind taking on a dirty weekend somewhere….

I’ve tried a couple of these coffee hacks, such as buying a French press and adding a pinch of salt to the brew. Yummo.

I wouldn’t mind opening a tea house though.

Love Hotels are not just for Japan any more. Auckland says hello to its first.

I have enjoyed Sean Bean’s work for quite a while. He has the ability to play the kind of character who can be a badass but also be frail at the same time. Think of his roles in Lord of the Rings and Ronin. Last week they played Patriot Games on satellite TV and his character was just a one-way ticket to Hell and he didn’t care who he took along for the ride. Awesome. Now you’d think such a man might be a bit of a douche/chav in real life, but not if you’re a lady. He went out for a few drinks with an Italian Playboy model one night (as you do) and some punter started to insult her honour. He took the fella aside to have a quiet word. Later, when Sean went outside to have a cigarette, he got stabbed in the arm with some broken glass for his trouble. Did Sean Bean go to the hospital? NO. He walked back inside and ordered another drink. All hail!

You think your TVs big? Try this one on for size! You could try to get it in see-though format as well. That window/TV is not too far away.

The Swedes are funny. Really.

There has often been a lament about the lack of women in science and engineering. Some women have made an enormous difference to our understanding of our world and the universe. Dads, if you have daughters, I’d recommend you buy a microscope to go along with those toys. A great example in point is of Amelia Fraser-McKelvie. She was on a six-week internship at Monash University when she solved part of the riddle of the missing mass of the universe.

The story behind one of the greatest images of the Civil Rights movement.

A few bits and pieces to clean out the browser and to share with you, dear reader.

This was a really inspiring story about some girls in Afghanistan who still go to school, despite the harrassment and assault by (supposed) Taleban. I hope these kids will be OK.

The Vietnamese government is rallying against official corruption by jailing anyone who reports or publicises it. Way to go Vietnam!

A sad and disturbing story about an Australian Christian charity taking government money to supposedly help  women with mental illnesses or drug problems, but actually just providing untrained counsellors and exorcisms. The government response? Nothing to see here, move along…

The strong yen in Japan is having an effect on the number of tourists coming here, as well as on the major exporters. Why is the Japanese government allowing this to happen – and when will they step in? This article goes some way to explaining why and when.

One of the latest fitness fads sweeping Japan is workouts with swords… I’m simultaneously turned on and a little scared.

A recent travel trend has been to visit obscure and rarely-visited train stations. That Seishin-18 Kippu may come in handy next holidays.

A bizarre commercial from Japan (is there any other kind?) of a crazy gaijin (foreigner) who braves the oceans to come to Japan and …. smoke.

A village in the countryside of Japan is providing cheap housing to its singles in the hope they’ll be fruitful and multiply.

Want to visit the new Tsujiki fish markets when they open? Don’t worry about the cancer-causing benzo(a)pyrene in the soil. Yeah, that stuff which the government has admitted withholding reports about. But don’t worry, there’s no official environmental standard for it, so it must be safe. Want some sushi?

I was trying to find this before when I was writing about how the youth of Japan-land are being encouraged to work in the fields. It’s otaku (geek) meets desperate marketing ploy to keep rice farmers in the cash. And it seems to be working…

International geeks can now get help in English when they visit Akihabara. I want to know if this campaign extends to the Maid Cafes….

An interesting read about black culture and hip hop.

Some really great pictures of the Earth, New York City, as well as Obama’s inauguration.

My buddy and occasional travelling companion, Sheree, sent these pictures of a cutaway Nikon D3. Her blog is a riot too.

I think I posted some of this guys pictures before, but I saw some here that I hadn’t seen before, so I’ll post them again!

An interesting idea: it’s possible to review a restaurant within the first seven seconds of arriving. It goes to show that at least in the hospitality industry, first impressions count for a lot.

More coffee good news: it can beat Alzheimer’s AND increase your chance of having hallucinations! Some people may say that the hallucinations may be a bad thing, but not I. I just just won’t try operating heavy machinery after consuming a double espresso, that’s all.

A great story about how rock and roll excess has fed thousands of hungry people.

So where did the Hokey Pokey come from anyway? Who knew I was teaching Japanese children all about the effects of cocaine use? Hard drugs were never so much (innocent) fun!

I always enjoy Helen Razer’s rants, and this one taking on the upcoming internet firewall surrounding Australia is a doozy.

Another reason why biofuels are bad – they congeal in cold weather.

Researchers have linked fat teenagers to a lack of Vitamin D. It’s also called a lack of OUTDOOR EXERCISE – or just a lack of exercise, period. Go for a walk. Me too.

Related to health – if you’re feeling sick, just go and drink some water from an Indian river. It’s likely to contain the medicine for whatever’s ailing you – as well as everything else imaginable. Then you’ll die.

The Monarto Zoo near Adelaide is set to expand, and they’ll be offering punters a chance to sleep under the stars WITH the animals! Excuse me if the idea of sleeping in the same field as lions, elephants and rhinoceros does not appeal…

And that does it for now. Sayonara!

A little roundup of things that have caught my eye…

India launched its own mission to the Moon recently –  a satellite that will make the highest resolution map on our closest extra-terrestrial neighbour yet. Apparently we have better maps of Mars than the Moon. Whoops. It sent back some nice shots of Earth recently – featuring Australia in all its glory.

NASA also recently made available some spectacular shots of one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus taken by the Cassini orbiter.

I have this fascination with North Korea… Call it playing on my fetish for industrial decay, as well as my interest in power and the way it has been used and abused over the centuries. There’s nowhere on Earth like it, so I think I would like to visit there if I had the chance. I stumbled across this site showing photos of the theme parks of Pyongyang – an spooky notion if ever there was one!

The fascination continues across abandoned hotels, towns and cities. There’s even a place close by in Japan I would like to visit.

The Capri Theatre has made a book on 500 places to see before they disappear. The Capri is decorated in the art deco style and has been meticulously restored. It is also one of the few places where you can catch a performance on an eye-popping and entertaining Wurlitzer theatre organ. Highly recommended.

One place not on the list will be Berlin’s Templehof Airport which has shut down. You should have a read of Wikipedia’s entry on the Berlin Airlift to get an idea of how important this airport was in history.

Ssssh. The protective shield of the sun is shrinking.

Quietly, under the radar of the US election hysteria, a story about a drug resistant form of TB. Not good.

Also, quietly whispered, a chance for peace in Kashmir, as a trade route opened across the fractured divide.

I now have an itinerary for when I go to Ireland. Also an idea of what I would like to do if I could ever open a business. I swear I’m not an alcoholic.

Finally – flying car!

Some bright spark with a good sense of irony has documented China’s rise as an economic superpower through images of its people sleeping. Someone needs to do this for Japan too – although my friend, Vince, certainly put forth a great effort.