After keeping it on the back burner for way too long, I felt I should finally make this project public, no matter how unpolished:

KanjiStory.com is a website geared towards people studying Japanese kanji (and, I guess, to a lesser extent, Chinese… but it probably needs some tuning for that). It provides a simple yet powerful interface for people to write kanji mnemonics in the form of a simple story.

The best way to see what I mean is to go register (10 seconds, one click), read a few stories and finally: take a stab at writing your own. Allowing users to contribute stories is at least 90% of the point of this website at this stage, so please do not just go, check out the dozen sample stories and call it a day without trying the editor.

The current version of the website, although quite spiffy code-wise, needs a huge amount of work to be called a proper beta. And then, there are two million cool features just waiting to be added. However, given my very limited time resources, I figured I would first check to see how much interest (and active participation) in the project I can raise, before committing any more time working on it.

Do not hesitate to post your comments and suggestions below, but keep in mind that this is all very early-stage development and that many new features will come, once (if) this ever takes off the ground as a community project.

As an aside, if you are a reasonably experienced PHP dev with an interest in contributing to this project: get in touch (use the address: “zedrdave” at Google’s mail).

If you want to be kept informed of future KanjiStory-related news, easiest way for now is to sign-up as a fan on the facebook page (until I set up a proper forum and RSS feed on the website).

Sweet Sixteen

It appears that I am geared to turn sixteen at the end of this week (I started counting the years backwards a while back).

In celebration, a couple merry friends and I, will be drinking, spinning records and being a general nuisance to the gentle people of Shibuya, on Friday, August the 24th. This is all taking place at Cozmo’s Bar, from 9pm on (presumably until last train’s time).

So feel free to pop by and have a drink or ten with us !

Thanks to a last minute spare ticket provided by lovely Dame Kozlika, I went yesterday to a production of Lohengrin, at Opéra Bastille (the ugly 80’s monsterchild one of the two). I figured I may as well post a quick personal review – I’m told this is what this whole blog thing is about: empowering the People, all that… So here goes…

The Story

I’ll let you peruse the Wikipedia entry for a complete synopsis, but story goes a bit like:

  • Beautiful Damsel in Distress is saved in extremis by Handsome Stranger from Unknown Origin, who washes her honor by pounding on Manipulated Semi-Vilain Consigliere.
  • Beautiful Damsel in Distress offers own hand to Handsome Stranger from Unknown Origin, who gladly accepts it with proviso that she shan’t ever ask for his actual name or try to uncover his Unknown Origin.
  • Evil Manipulating Witch manipulates.
  • Naive Beautiful Damsel in Distress is manipulated.
  • Beautiful Damsel in Distress lasts all of 24 hours before asking the forbidden question: Handsome Stranger no longer from Unknown Origin, turns out to be none other than, theretofore unmentioned, opera’s titular character.
  • Swan this, swan that, swans are everywhere.
  • Handsome Stranger Better Known as Lohengrin leaves, pissed off. Swan becomes a prince. People rejoice, broken love mourns, evil pouts.
  • The End.

    [rough outline]

    Lohengrin was one of the few remaining major Wagnerian works I had not seen. Which must now bring my compounded Wagner experience to a few trillion hours. That is, like every other of his other opera, this one is long, very long. Unlike the Nibelungen tetralogy, though, it isn’t particularly fast-paced.

    I must confess to a couple yawns during the first act, while second and third act peaked up a bit, both story-wise and musically.

We had a couple tix for the Qwartz “Electronic Music Awards” last Friday (went, despite knowing this would imply spending the rest of my week-end, reading up the works of Messrs. von Neuman, Morgenstern and Nash, a coffee IV hooked to my arm)…

Despite grand ambitions and a few catchy headliners (most notably: Bjork and Pierre Henry, both a last-minute no-show), the whole event had a very homemade vibe to it. Most of the MC’s time was spent calling for people to come on stage who often had apparently picked that time to go drink champagne or weren’t even attending to begin with… The show ended up running a couple hours late (we gave up and left shortly before the end, leaving only a very scarce crowd behind us).

All this bickering notwithstanding, we had a cool evening: the live sets were very eclectic, ranging from über-experimental stuff, to dancefloor-friendly, beat-heavy electronica. The people were friendly and the venue absolutely gorgeous.

A few random rantish thoughts:

  • Despite the lack of an artificial commodities market where such could be sold at inflated prices, music does have its dubious “white-on-white-with-white-shadows” school of contemporary artists. They tend to make 10-minute long tracks using a sine wave generator, some bubble wrap and a microphone for sole instruments.
  • On the other hand, being a “serious” cutting-edge electronic artist making “dancefloor-friendly” tracks, apparently means 90% of the time, using the played-out-to-exhaustion Amen break like it’s 1998 and Drum’n’bass is the new cool shit.
  • Erm. Was Drum’nbass ever cool? Yea, nevermind.
  • Vitaminsforyou played one of the very few live acts I would have paid to dance to.
  • Cocoon had infinitely more ambition than substance. I have seen better post-situ art performances, waiting in line for Alcatraz at Pier 23.
  • Leonard de Leonard performed some pretty bouncy electro-hip-hop songs. Yet I couldn’t help notice they had little business being there: for all its cheeky joviality, the rapping wasn’t exactly Public Enemy-quality (kinda tried for it, though) while the “electronic” part ranked in the straight-outta-mom’s-garage league.
  • Try as I may, Pierre Shaeffer’s Musique Concrète still bores the hell out of me. Oddly enough, Soares Brandao’s “Hommage to Pierre Shaeffer” wasn’t completely devoid of interest (watching more than listening, actually).
  • Nominees and tracks that caught my ear : Wang Lei, Matmos (++), Electroluvs, Coloma, dr Bone, Hypo & EDH, Bostich…
  • Most of which (Matmos excepted) I wouldn’t dare putting up against any major mainstream electronic act (say, at random: Laurent Garnier, Matthew Herbert etc.) or even many smaller indie producers…
  • Despite a list of nominees spanning (only?) half-a-dozen countries, the whole music selection had a heavy French feel to it. Perhaps a little too much systemic bias within the selection process.
  • Foie-gras & marzipan gingerbread makes for truly divine petit-fours.

For somewhat more constructive insights on that event, you can check out this post (in French) from a blogger in my feed list who, as it turns out, also went.

Picture CIMG1479.JPG A somewhat public-interest announcement for once:

If you are in Paris today and looking for a way to spend an early evening, there’s a free pyrotechnics show near la Villette (19th arrondissement) tonight at 9pm. Seems like the weather should be nice, but I’d bring a warm sweater and a tarp to sit on.

We went yesterday and it was a good time. Much flames and explosions to be marvelled at.

Only downside, was the very forgettable smooth jazz soundtrack to the whole thing. If the sound of elevator-riding saxophones deeply offends your ears, I recommend you bring your iPod or large amounts of psychedelic substances.

Access map (in PDF format)

Today was the 6th of August, a special day for the Japanese people (I blogged about it a year ago).

Threading on this very tenuous connection, here are a few links of interest to japan-curious readers:

  • Japan Pop socio-czar and unconsolable mourner of yesterdays, Marxy offers an insightful dissection of Fujiwara Masahiko’s Dignity of a Nation: ‘a book that openly calls for the end of democracy and the return of “warrior ethics.”‘ (yea, that’s what the Japanese write about when they are not busy building flying cars or giant cat-eared robots).
  • Moresukine is a small webcomic documenting its author’s life in Tokyo from January to June of 2006 through a series of “assignments” submitted by his readers. It’s pretty entertaining and only ever so slightly orientalist. I found it via this guy, who used to maintain a most delightfully fucked-up repository of all things pleonastically weird and Japanese.
  • Of course, the Links section above, holds even more Japanese goodness for you to peruse (both colourful words and insightful photographs).

In case you are wondering (you probably aren’t) about this sudden surge in Japan-related material: it’s not [just] me getting all mushy on a Sunday evening and missing people and places 10,000 miles away…

You see, August is also the month where one has to send in their application to take the JLPT in December. Being a glutton for punishment, and despite standing absolutely no chance whatsoever, I have decided to go for Level 2 this year. Well, I think I have. I still have three weeks of studious browsing of the Japanese web to convince myself that this money would be much better spent on cheap imported shochu.

Picture martine_pics.jpg When I moved in, a few months ago, I had little time to spend on elaborate interior decoration. One of the only picture on the walls was a gift from Martine for my birthday last year.

When I finally decided to put more effort into redecorating my place, I immediately thought of asking her for a few more prints: she promptly mailed me a dozen of them, which arrived last month, although I was too busy fighting deadline psychosis at the time to do much more than file them in a corner and wait for brighter days. At long last this week, I was able to shop for some framing material and start hanging them on the walls.

And they look absolutely gorgeous!

For some reason, I have a stupendously high proportion of pro and semi-pro photographers amongst friends and acquaintances, and they all have beautiful works to boast of… But some of Martine’s pictures, on top of their moving aesthetics, have this striking liveliness and journalist-like veracity that make you feel like you are standing a few feet away, inside the picture. Her pictures are the closest to a stroll through the backstreets of Tokyo you will ever get without buying a plane ticket.

If you are looking for stunning photographs to decorate your life and bring a corner of Kichijoji’s parkside coffeeshops or a wandering Tokyo commuter’s smile into your existence, here is your chance: Go pick and order now!