Over the weekend of February 8-9, 2020, I attended the third iteration of Animation First at the French Institute Alliance Française. It was also the third time I’ve attended the event, but looks like the first time I’ve written about it. As with the previous two events, I enjoyed myself and the animations.
Here are a few of my highlights and a few photos at the end.
Louise by the Shore
The feature-length film I watched was Louise by the Shore (2016), by Jean-François Laguionie, the guest of honor. It was a movie about remembering the past and living simply.
Animated Shorts, by Jean-François Laguionie
I also watched a series of Jean-François Laguionie‘s early animated films, which had been recently restored and digitized. His works were both hand-drawn and stop-motion, such as the example below.
The animation style was relatively rudimentary, compared to today, but the stories were really good. I saw some student works and I’d say one of the key differences came down to telling a good story over technical ability.
The video below needs no translation.
Lorenzo Mattotti: Panel Discussion and Illustrations
I also attended a panel discussion with Lorenzo Mattotti, who recently directed The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily. He has also been an illustrator for New Yorker magazine for many years and examples of his magazine covers were on display.
After the talk, he signed books. Those lucky people got a sketch from him, right there on the spot. Amazing.
I wanted see the The Swallows of Kabul but it came on right after Louise by the Shore. I didn’t want to sit for back to back films and I wasn’t in the mood for something super heavy. Hopefully it will be released in the US, soon.
Back in October, I attended a Meetup on databases focused on 2 SQL-esque databases.
TimescaleDBis an open-source database built for analyzing time-series data with the power and convenience of SQL — on premise, at the edge or in the cloud.
CockroachDB – Architected for the cloud, CockroachDB delivers resilient, consistent, distributed SQL at your scale. CockroachDB is built by Cockroach Labs.
The presentations were very thorough, and as a result I found some of the details were a bit…esoteric. I don’t know that much about databases. (I was hoping for more IoT.)
But I did learn something about databases, replications, different types of databases, and node setups. Who knows where this information will squirrel itself away and pop up again in the future.
The NYC Databases of the Future: CockroachDB and TimescaleDB
Wednesday, Oct 30, 2019, 6:30 PM
Cockroach Labs 53 W 23rd St New York, NY
20 IoT’ers Went
New York City is known for many things… The perfect NYC slice, the lights of Broadway, and perpetually delayed subway trains. It is now known for something new and innovative, the databases from Cockroach Labs (distributed SQL) and Timescale (time series). Join us for networking, pizza and beer, and fantastic talks from Timescale and Cockroach La…
What got me interested in this topic was a video I watched about a rural Japanese town where pretty much the only people left were older residents; many young people had moved to big cities.
Despite everyone being 65+, the residents still try to maintain an active way of life. The video comes from two researchers focused on a study centered on “active” aging — “active” being a term created by the World Health Organization. You can read more about “active aging”, the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, and also download the brochure on their website.
Being Old in Rural Japan
Synopsis: The story portraits two single-living seniors: the 84-year-old Shimako, a former farmer wife, with a husky deep voice, who still grows vegetables. She regularly meets her neighbors for tea chats and joins the village choir and gymnastics course. Her biggest passion however is gateball, a very popular senior team-sport in Japan, similar to croquet. And there is the 93-year-old Genichi, the oldest man in his village with driving license, who hates sport but loves composing short poems (tanka) on daily events. As he enjoys his freedom in old age, deciding for himself when to get up and when to work, he refuses to live with his son’s family. Also he still cultivates his agricultural field for self-subsistence.
I thought it was a fascinating video. It’s about 35-min long, in German with English subtitles.
The talk was co-organized by New Food Economy; Design and Urban Ecologies, Parsons, The New School for Social Research; and Slow Food New York City. Presented at the Japan Society as part of their Innovators Network.
Our first speaker was Richard McCarthy, from Slow Food USA. He went to Japan to discuss and explore rural strategies through the Innovators Network. There was a moderated discussion following the presentations, led by Kate Cox, New Food Economy editor.
Rural Japan and Kuni
The Japanese speaker, Tsuyoshi Sekihara, is an artist who is involved in rural Japanese development. He was sharing the concept of Kuni and how it developed.
It’s easier to show the manifesto rather than explain it.
Explanations of Kuni:
Rural US and the Aspen Institute
I learned a few interesting facts from the Aspen Institute speaker, Janet Topolsky, focused on Rural Development Hubs:
About 49 million Americans live in rural communities
Over 50% of the Native American population live in rural communities
The top industries in rural areas are: education, health, and manufacturing, in that order
Seems like there are a lot of business opportunities in rural areas for creative entrepreneurs. Rural areas tend to get overlooked. Traditionally, businesses focus on scaling up. Rather than focus on scalability, the speakers suggested focusing on penetration. That is, what percentage of a population is using your business.
Marketplace, on NPR, recently discussed the lack of broadband access in rural Georgia.
A lot of rural America is a desert when it comes to high-speed internet access. And that’s a drag on economic growth: Communities without broadband have a hard time attracting new residents and businesses…
Another problem rural communities have is dwindling populations. Here’s a recent CBS Sunday Morning video about the population struggles of small towns in Japan, now facing extinction, as the country’s overall population decreases from a peak a few years ago. For instance, in the town featured in the video, the school’s 6th grade class now only has 6 students, down from dozens.
The video above reviews some of the more creative and technological solutions Japan has invented. Ideas range from repurposing malls to senior centers, to high-tech mausoleums, to robots — Japan likes robots — officiating weddings due to a shortage of monks. Lot of interesting concepts to think about.
Now that I think about it, this story of rural villages populated by an aging population reminds me of Tokyo Story, by Yasujiro Ozu.
I’m taking a break from all this portfolio stuff to talk about something fun I got to do recently.
Over the past 2 years or so, I have been learning about Japan and Japanese culture. Going farther back, I’ve been interested in Asian cultures for many years, having joined Asia Society Texas many years ago.
Japanese society being what it is, there are many ceremonies and rituals when a new emperor ascends the throne. They involve, among other things, music. And the fun thing I go to do recently was attend a performance of Japanese court music.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provides the following description for Gagaku:
Gagaku, characterized by long, slow songs and dance-like movements, is the oldest of the Japanese traditional performing arts. It is performed at banquets and ceremonies in the Imperial Palace and in theatres throughout the country, and encompasses three distinct arts. The first, Kuniburi no Utamai, features ancient Japanese songs, partial accompaniment by harp and flute and simple choreography. The second consists of instrumental music (especially wind instruments) and a ceremonial dance developed on the Asian continent and subsequently adapted by Japanese artists. The third, Utamono, is danced to vocal music whose texts include Japanese folk songs and Chinese poems. Influenced by the politics and culture of different periods over its long evolution, Gagaku continues to be transmitted to apprentices by masters in the Music Department of the Imperial Household Agency, many of whom are the descendants of families with deep roots in the art. It is not only an important cultural tool in confirming Japanese identity and a crystallization of the history of Japanese society, but also a demonstration of how multiple cultural traditions can be fused into a unique heritage through constant recreation over time.
Here’s UNESCO video on Gagaku:
Essentially Gagaku is the entire performance and Bagaku is the dance.
There are 3 types of musical instruments: Wind, String, and Percussion. I’m not sure if all of these instruments are included in every Gagaku performance, but these were listed in my program.
These are the wind instruments.
Gagaku translates to “elegant music” and that’s probably the best way to describe the sound of the Shô. You’d probably recognize the sound if you heard it. It’s a “mouth-organ”.
When I was watching the performance, the shô players rotated their instruments over some kind of urn. I thought it was something to catch extra moisture, like spit-valves in trombones. I learned from the video below that the shô has wax inside where the mouthpiece is located and these urns have small pieces of coal in them, which the musicians rotate the shô over to heat up the wax.
The Gakusô is a type of Koto, which is a 13-string instrument and is the national instrument of Japan. Modern kotos are derived from the gakusô used in Gagaku performances. I couldn’t find a great photo, but the wikipedia article where I found this info is interesting.
The yamatogoto, or wagon, is another type of Koto. But it usually has only 6 strings or so. It’s also considered fully native to Japan, unlike the other types of Koto which were imported from China.
Shôko is a kind of small, metal gong that sounds like someone tapping a iron/stainless steel skillet with a drumstick. The taiko is a kind of large, hanging drum. It’s struck with big, padded mallets. The kakko is a double-headed drum that’s beated with skinny drumsticks. (Shakubyoshi look like 2 wooden sticks. To be honest, I don’t remember these but maybe I was watching something else.)
These are photos I took after the performance. The theater lights helped them turn out really well! 🙂
Our program didn’t include much information about the dancing portion, but UNESCO comes through again. Here’s a video that goes much more into the dance portion of Bugaku.
When I was there listening, I felt like I had been transported into a Kurasawa film. In particular, “Dreams” from 1990. And specifically, the scene in the peach orchard when all the dolls come alive.
I love this movie a lot but I have found throughout the years that this particular scene is very difficult to find online (for free).
However, the trailer for the movie is available. The only problem is that it’s set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Invierno and La Primavera. (Violin Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1, RV 269, “Spring”: I. Allegro; and Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, “Winter”: III. Allegro.) It’s not bad music, but it’s not Japanese.
Anyway, if you are looking for more information on Gagaku and Bugaku, here’s some information: