Archive for March, 2005

Japan Story #2: Kyoto University Student Protest

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

One day on our trip we were wandering around aimlessly in the rain when we ran into Kyoto University . There was a huge four way intersection and on the corner across from us was this:


We went over and tried to figure out what was going on. We examined all of the signs on the wall in the hopes of finding some english. There were copies of newspaper articles that had photos like mine in them. Eventually after studying “Do you speak English?” in the phrase book I worked up the courage to go ask them what was going on. So I climbed up the ladder (you can see it in the picture), took off my shoes, climbed up another little ladder, stuck my head in the flap and asked the three men sitting there if they spoke english. Of course, being University students, all three of them were practically fluent.

They explained to me that the wall the cafe was built on was the place where the University students posted their protest signs. The University was trying to tear down the wall (something about making the school clean, which I think didn’t translate quite right). They had built this structure to keep them from tearing down the wall. They had been there for two months. They offered me a cup of coffee and I signed their guest book and wished them luck. Then I climbed back down and rejoined my traveling companions (one of whom was getting a little nervous). We headed back into the rain.

puppet panic

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Tomorrow I am supposed to start the rehearsal process for my puppet work. That would imply that the construction was more or less done. Right. When I got back from my trip I went into a general panic and tried to cram as many hours in the shop as I could. Last night at 11pm my jet lagged brain shut down after making this:
shadow puppet

This is a shadow puppet articulated at the arm. He is part of a larger shadow scene (yet to be built), in which he will use that stick to poke the fire. He is meant to accompany this piece of text from the Futurist Manifesto by Marinetti:

At last they’ll find us – one winter’s night – in open country, beneath a sad roof drummed by a monotonous rain. They’ll see us crouched beside our trembling aeroplanes in the act of warming our hands at the poor little blaze that our books of today will give out when they take fire from the flight of our images.

Tonight I am trying to finish an economics paper, so the puppets have the night to themselves.

a deep sigh of relief

Monday, March 28th, 2005

UCT skyline
The e-mail just came from one of the two study abroad programs I applied to to announce that they would like to accept my application to go HERE ——>

University of Cape Town here I come !! Now I can move on to worrying about second semester’s plans.

Happy 90th

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

Today is my grandfather’s 90th birthday. Yesterday we had an enormous family affair to celebrate the occasion, during which I got to hear a fuller version of my grandpapa’s life story. For a long time I had been trying to figure out what order all the pieces came in… did he go to med school before the war? was that before or after he hitchhiked across the country? It’s really incredible to think about how much history he has lived through in the past 90 years… I get giddy just thinking about the incredible historical events that happened in the last 20 years.

My favorite stories from my grandfather’s life come from the 1930′s when he hitchhiked across country after going to the World’s Fair in Chicago. He likes to tell about the time he got arrested for ten days for vagrancy. Then my uncle was telling me about when he got arrested the hobos in the jail tried my grandfather in a hobo’s court inside the prison. There they tried to fine him $5 for some offense. He only had $3 and one hidden in his shoe. Due to his extreme youth and “the fact that it was his first time in this court” he got off with the $3 fine.

It makes me wonder what stories I will tell my grandchildren…

Japan Story #1: The Veggie Vending Machine

Friday, March 25th, 2005

I wanted to try and start with my favorite story from my trip, but I couldn’t decide. This one is definitely in the top five though.

There are vending machines everywhere in Japan. The first night after we got off the plane we took a train to Kyoto and in the dark the only thing I could see was the light of vending machines on otherwise unlit streets that looked to me like alley ways. But this was my favorite vending machine of all:

cabbage vending machine

Yes ladies and gentlemen, that vending machine has fresh vegetables in it, including cabbage, chives and lettuce. Behind me when I took this picture was an older woman sitting in her garage sorting vegetables which I assume would later go in the vending machine. The garage was attached to a very nice looking house. I like to imagine that the farm in the picture is where the vegetables we grown, but I don’t know that for sure.

All over Japan I was surprised to see little farms like this nestled into neighborhoods. Earlier this day I saw a farm which was about a hundred meters square which was in the corner of a super market parking lot. It looked like the owner had simple refused to sell the land, so the supermarket built around it. It was so different from the US where the only place you normally see farms are when they are stretching to the horizon. The patchwork of these farms much much smaller.

back from break – a reflection on traveling

Friday, March 25th, 2005

I know it’s been two weeks since I posted. sorry. It was spring break, and my brother and I went to Japan. yes, Japan.

So, now I’m back after traveling roughly 22 hours yesterday (it’s easier to fit that in one day when you add 10 time zones). Last night Julian and I crashed at 7pm and I slept till 7am… I think he woke up at 4am. Anyway, there is lots to say about Japan, but I wanted to start with these snapshots:

In the Osaka airport when I went through security I took off my shoes, since they have a history of setting off the metal detectors. A smiling young man looked me in the eye and said something in Japanese, and set a pair of brown slippers on the floor for me to walk through the metal detector with. On the other side, and equally friendly young woman took the slippers from me as soon as I slipped them off my feet. I am still confused when people bend down in front of me to take something off the floor for me.

12 hours on a plane later.

In Detroit after going through customs we had to go through security again. After standing in line for 5 minutes, and chatting with the woman behind me, I made it to the front and began taking off my shoes. Two employees were working on that side of security, all yelling, none of them acknowledging my presence. When suddenly out of nowhere three beautiful elderly Indian women appear beside me in wheelchairs with one airport person, and one older Indian man speaking English. The three beautiful and graceful women get out of their wheelchairs and put their sweaters and purses on the xray belt. I watch as one by one all three of them go through the metal detector and each set it off. The airport people yell more – “WHEELCHAIR AT GATE SIX” “DOES THIS WOMAN SPEAK ENGLISH?” “CAN YOU PLEASE STEP BACK?”. I walk through the metal detector unstopped, put my shoes back on, watch as they inspect my bag for a couple seconds longer than feels comfortable, and then walk away. As I leave as quickly as possible, I notice one of the beautiful Indian women being patted down in plain view, her sari (sp?) a little off kilter, by a gruff woman. After consulting with my traveling companions we agreed that we thought we saw all three of them being patted down.

The customs guy told Julian and I “welcome back.” It’s interesting how different it looks to say “welcome here for the first time.”

Next post will have pictures real pictures.

at long last, she posts pictures !

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Finally took my camera to the puppet shop last night. I’m really pleased with how these came out.

This is the marionette I’ve been working on since I got back from winter break. His limbs are all wood, with joints made of steel wire. The head is paper-mache, covered in wood putty and then painted. I strung him for the first time last night, and I’m not really happy with the way he moves. That will be something to discuss in class tomorrow. He also still needs to be dressed… that should make him prettier.

marionette airplane
This is the control for the marionette. It’s called an airplane. This took me way to long too figure out. The piece on the front (which has the leg strings on it) is detached from the rest. The idea is you hold most of it in your left hand and the leg control in your right to make him walk.

cardboard protesters
These are my protesters hanging out on the stairs in the shop. They people are made of cardboard, and then dressed in fabric and painted paper. They are the beginning of a crowd scene I am constructing on a plank of wood. The whole crowd moves as one piece, to indicate that they are marching. You can probably tell, the third one is not finished in this picture.

That’s what I’ve got right now. The slow progress is just starting to pay off.

rehearsal prep

Monday, March 7th, 2005

I’m going through my notes from my directing class to prep for my rehearsal tonight, and I found this:

“If your hanging out with happy artists than you’ve found a boring lot…. or you’ve probably been drinking too much.”

My notes credit my directing professor with that quote. Probably not exactly what he said, but still made me smile. For years I did theater and I always assumed directors knew exactly what they were doing. I am finally learning that that is bullshit.

my new home: the puppet shop

Monday, March 7th, 2005

I have been meaning to take pictures of my puppets to post, but I keep forgetting to take my camera down to the shop. I’ve started spending about 7 hours a week outside of class in the shop (class being 4 hours a week). At this point when I come home my roommate tends to ask “how was the puppet shop?” before I even mention I’ve been there. We are supposed to have finished our construction before spring break (which starts on Friday), so that we can begin rehearsal when we get back. Needless to say, I’m not there yet. Hence the increase in time in the puppet shop.

I’ve learned that anything I do puppet-wise will take twice as long as I expect it to. Now, at first I thought this would mean I could adjust my expectations of how long things would take. A project I once might have thought would take a half hour, I now expect to take an hour. That turns out not to work. What I expect to take an hour, will still take 2 and a half. It’s pretty impressive actually. My professor claims thats the most important lesson on the class. I glare at him as if somehow it could be his fault.

the mess is becoming a thinking organism

Friday, March 4th, 2005

On Friday mornings I don’t have any class, so this week I was going to use that time to post pictures of my applications to go abroad (which I am sending out today), and the funny things that happened at the scholarship auction I went to last night. I was also thinking of posting a picture of how messy my room is. Ironically my room is so messy that I can’t find the cord to upload my pictures. As a result, there are no pictures today, of anything. But I can tell you, my room sure is messy.

When I clean up and find the cord for my camera, I’ll post pictures.