Entries tagged with “Whimsy”.


Derwents!

Or, How To Get Product Placement on Tetherd Cow Ahead Without Even Trying

A couple of weeks back I told you the story of the tragic event in my youth that undoubtedly thwarted a brilliant artistic career; namely the loss of my beautiful set of Derwent pencils. To my surprise, the charming Rebecca from Derwent in the UK read that post and kindly offered to send me some Derwents, which I’m pleased to report she did. They arrived in the post a few days ago.

The look of the pencils has changed somewhat – gone are the rainbow hues, replaced with an earthy brown with colourful tips (they’re not really blue like they appear in the arty HipstaMatic1 shot above). I’m pleased to say, though, that the pencils themselves retain their waxy luxury and I aim to take a little outing somewhere over the next few weeks, to sit and draw, something I have not done in many years.

Wherever I venture, you can be sure that this time I will not leave my Derwents on the bus.

Thank you Rebecca, for the lovely coda to my childhood story.

  1. Dang. Secondary product placement! I should be getting kickbacks! []

What I’ve been working on for the last six or seven months. You should go see it. It’s fun.

The Huffington Post is carrying an article at the moment which is headlined:

Japanese HOLOGRAPH Plays Sold Out Concerts;
Science Fiction Comes To Life

The caps are theirs. Needless to say, once again this is not a holograph. Or a hologram either. In its typical air-headed style, the HuffPo goes on to delineate the fizz of the story while entirely missing the interesting bits:

In what is surely a terrible omen not only for musicians but also the continued existence of the world as we know it, holographs are now playing sold out concerts in, where else, Japan.

Firstly, I’ll reiterate (because stupid journalists just can’t seem to understand this) – the Hatsune Miku performances are NOT HOLOGRAMS. As I’ve said before on The Cow, we currently have no technology to allow anything like this as a holographic projection1 The giant avatars are simply projections on a screen. There is nothing three dimensional about them, as would be the case for a genuine hologram. Here’s a still frame from Hatsune Miku’s video Romeo and Cinderella, in which you can plainly see the flatness of the character, and the screen on which it’s projected:

It’s an impressive technical display, for sure, but it’s just a very bright projector and a piece of clever animation. You could, if you were motivated, achieve the same thing in your lounge room.

Of course, the Huffington Post, could have carried a story about what is actually happening here, which is far more interesting than their stupid and inaccurate ‘Look at those wacky Japanese and their holographs’ fluff piece.

The ‘live’ Hatsune Miku concerts are in fact the culmination of what was originally a promotional concept for the Vocaloid 2 speech synthesis engine. Vocaloid 2 is software developed at Pompeu Fabra University in Spain with funding by the Yamaha Corporation. The application takes snippets of real human voice and arranges them in such a way that the many complex parts of human speech can be controlled, via simple programming, to make coherent speech and song. In 2006, Vocaloid 2 was acquired from Yamaha by a the Japanese company Crypton Future Media, who, with exceptional insight, packaged it for sale to consumers as a ‘personality’: Hatsune Miku, ‘an android diva in the near-future world where songs are lost.’ The name Hatsune Miku is literally translated as ‘future sound’. Miku’s voice is generated from recordings of voice actress Saki Fujita. Using Vocaloid, musicians are able to program the Miku voice to sing whatever lyrics they choose along with their music.

When CFM released the software, they had the idea of creating several ‘mascots’ to anthropomorphize the Miku personality, and it wasn’t long before a programmer named Yu Higuchi released a freeware application, MikuMikuDance (MMD), which allowed users to easily create 2D and 3D animations based on the these mascots. A huge fanbase rapidly grew around this concept, with thousands of users interacting on Nico Nico Douga (a kind of Japanese YouTube) to produce videos of Hatsune Miku performances. The phenomenal success of Miku has spawned a family of new Vocaloids, such as Rin and Len Kagamine, Megurine Luka, Gackpoid, Megpoid and numerous ‘fan-created Vocaloids like Neru Akita and Teto Kasane.

Here is a video of Miku’s more sophisticated sister Megurine Luka,2 singing ‘Just Be Friends’:

The live Miku concerts with the 12 foot tall all-singing all-dancing projections of the character avatars are a natural result of the extraordinary popularity of the Vocaloid characters and their music.

Now isn’t that a lot more interesting than the Huffington Post’s (and others, I might add) flippant dissing of this story as an oh-my-god-singers-are-going-to-be-replaced-by-holograms-bring-back-the-good-old-days piece of sensationalism? Their silly take on it does nothing more than expose their white-bread middle-American sensibilities, and make them look like the insular conservatives they really are. The Hatsune Miku phenomenon might be slightly oblique to Western sensibilities, but one thing is very clear – here are large groups of passionate music fans having a genuinely good time. What the hell is wrong with that?

And besides, the music was made by musicians, not robots, people. And it’s damn catchy.

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Thanks to Joey for the find.

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  1. You will notice here that I have used the correct forms of the words ‘hologram’ and ‘holograph’. You’d think journalists would take the time. []
  2. Megurine Luka is the first bilingual Vocaloid. Calm down Atlas – I said bilingual. []

Ingredients:

•150ml Glycerine
•100g KY jelly
•1 level tspn sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
•1½ cups detergent concentrate
•1 cup hot water
•Filtered water to make up 2 litres

Hardware:

•1 x 2 litre plastic bottle
•1 small bucket
•2 x 1 metre lengths of wooden dowel
•5m natural fibre string

Method:

Dissolve the sodium bicarbonate in the hot water. Carefully mix in ½ cup of the detergent, all the glycerine and the KY jelly. Stir until dissolved as much as possible. Pour about 1 litre of cold water into the 2 litre bottle. Slowly pour in the remaining 1 cup of detergent, taking care not to make foam. Very slowly add the warm glycerine/KY/detergent/water mix. Add water to bring to 2 litres.

Gently rotate the bottle until the contents are mixed as much as possible (there will probably still be undissolved NaHCO3 and visible threads of KY & glycerine – don’t worry). Leave the bottle to stand for 2 days.



Meanwhile braid the string into a loop about the size of a basketball and attach to the ends of the dowel like this:

After two days have passed, check the solution and make sure it is completely uniform – there should now be no visible traces of any of the individual ingredients.

Now, go to a park or a beach – somewhere sheltered and not too hot. Pour some of the solution into the small bucket and dip the string into it – make sure you get it nice and saturated. Now do this:

You might even be able to make one like this…

Science! Just because something isn’t imaginary doesn’t mean you can’t believe in it…

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Bubble photos by Violet Towne.

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My new coffee cup (a NOT birthday present from Cissy Strutt), with my new favourite beverage (Hot NOT Bonox).

Munch


From the Museum of Animal Perspectives. Also enjoy ArmadilloCam, WolfCam and ScorpionCam.