Monday, August 29, 2011

Three Weeks Magazine Review of We See Fireworks

Upon entering the room, lit by faded iridescent light bulbs, you instantly find yourself embedded inside someone else’s vibrant reminiscence; ‘We See Fireworks’ is an unimaginable, enchanting collection of precious and personal memoirs. All 300 voices welcome the listener, to share their story, which is extremely moving as they are often private or once-in-a-lifetime experiences. All the memories relate to theatre and explore the idea of ‘performance’ and how people relate to it. The glowing and fading light bulbs become mesmerising, as you listen to stories of love, fear, woe, hope, longing and contentment. Then they fade and you are left in darkness with other people’s experiences lingering around you. A truly unique, inspirational and poignant piece of work.
Rating 4/5
28 August 2011

Mary Brennan of The Herald reviews We See Fireworks

Maybe a memory of it will fetch up, along with the other confiding voices in Helen Cole’s haunting, absorbing installation, We See Fireworks. It sound simple. Various light bulbs dangle overhead. Unseen, unidentified strangers volunteer taped memories of performances – some staged, while others were moments of a personal nature – that combined and heightened into a recollected theatricality. You listen. Bulbs flare collectively or dwindle into lone flickerings. And the power of stories – secrets, in many cases – seizes you, makes you hungry for more. Not least when, as happened, I heard a guy speak feelingly about a show I’d seen and reviewed. I saw the stars I’d awarded it, not just the fireworks ... I’d love this to tour all around Scotland.
The Herald 
Mary Brennan 
29 August 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I suppose the moral of the story is don't judge a book by its title?

I spent the months of March, April, May wrestling with a book that will be my horror until the end of time.

Consumer.ology by Philip Graves.

I think I was fooled by its funky title when I agreed to translate it. (I was also fooled by the purple prose. I think when I read it before I accepted it, I was reading it on autopilot mode, so the book superficially appeared to be interesting.) I regretted it for a whole three months.

The book on the surface was supposed to be about consumer behaviour, which to be honest wasn't a subject that came to me easily when I did it at university. I actually got a decent mark in it but it was hard. But I thought I'd at least have some background on it and would be able to do it, though it might be a little harder than Brand New World.

Oh boy, I was wrong. The basic gist of the book is: market research is popular, but it doesn't work, because people don't know what they want and they say one thing but want something else. Sounded simple enough, except that the book was laced with about 80% pure, academic psychology, which, let's just say, I don't have enough background to even understand in English. But that actually wasn't the problem.

The problem was that this book just read like a very, very long piece of discouragement. The author went on and on and on about how market research is faulty, lists reasons a, b, c about why market research is terrible, based on these x, y, z theories of psychology, but doesn't tell you what the alternative to it is. It was extremely repetitive, like someone took a hammer and was beating the message into my head. There came a point in the book where I literally banged my head down on the keyboard and wanted to scream, "Fine, I get it, market research sucks! Now tell me what to do differently!"

And I've finished the book, but I still don't know what the alternative is.

Actually, no, I do. The author says that instead of asking people (market research) what they want, you should see (observe) what people do and base your market decisions on that. Except that when he finally got to this alternative method, it was like he ran out of steam, having spent 200 pages talking about how faulty the talking method is. So he sort of waffles through a couple of examples of the observation method and say that this is the best method.

Except I have a feeling the author rather misses the point of the whole concept of market research in the first place. He defines market research (very narrowly) as going around talking to people and having people telling you what they want. Then he spends the whole book shooting it down, saying this is horrible. Yet his alternative is just another aspect of market research. I thought the idea was rather obvious. Of course you can't base your decisions on what people say alone, you have to observe what they do.

I don't think any undergrad student who took MARK2012 (Marketing Research) at my university really thought that the company we did our research project for should definitely sell rainbow lollies because a bunch of UNSW students who came to our focus groups say so. Even applied to real life, isn't it rather obvious that yes, people do change their mind, and yes, if people are in a focus group being filmed, they're going to act not themselves, so you shouldn't take everything they say at face value? (That's his entire argument against market research, basically.)

So I guess in the end, I just don't know what the point of the book was. It was rather like proving the obvious, yet in a very long-winded, discouraging, repetitive manner.

It didn't help the translation process that I wasn't convinced by many of the author's arguments in the first place, and his writing style was...weird. It was like reading an academic piece of Conrad (I can't stand Joseph Conrad's writing style.) My editor wasn't too fond of this book either so I'm not sure what state it will be in when it finally hit the printers. I have a feeling it'll be a lot shorter.

PS: I have absolutely no idea why my ISP has decided to block the domain blogspot.com. I have to use a proxy to actually view blogspot. How fun.

Fukushima now

People all over the world have to reconsider nuclear power plants. We, Japanese definitely should do right away! But sadly, our Prime Minister will have to be replaced soon due to the ugly conflicts among politicians who think about only their own merits. New candidates are positive about nuclear power. We don't have the right to vote for our Prime Minister. We need a strong leader with the good will.






Thursday, August 18, 2011

Be well, do good work and keep in touch

I can't believe I am writing this until almost one month later. But here it is.



I had a great time in Kauai. The meeting was super exciting. The scenary could not be better.



I want to thank April Zack for her coordinating of the blogging and her behind-scene editing of all the posts.



With my supervisor Alexei Sokolov's support I could not do any of this.



My husband helped me with kids as with all the other conferences. I appreciate his constant support.



I don't think I will do blogging anymore. It is simply impossible to combine it with attending talks, giving a talk and with a family around you. Last year at UP I was only presenting a poster so I had more time posting. I apologize for the short and delayed blogs I wrote this year. It was constantly on my mind though. I take it seriously.



Overall it was a lot of fun.



I will borrow Garrison Keillor's sign-off from his Writer's Almanac as a way of bidding farewell for a while: Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

What is the highest harmonics number ever created up to date?

Sorry for the belated post but I felt the urge of writing about the wonderful talk On Thursday the planary session by professor Margaret Murnane:



NLO from 2 w to 5100 w in 50 years.



(It was original titled "Nonlinear Optics at the Timescale of the Electron – Bright

Coherent Attosecond-to-Zeptosecond KeV X-Rays". I like the new title much more.)



I alway enjoyed her talks. I noticed during her talk she used the word "beautiful" many times, which showed her strong passion toward her work.



Indeed, this year they sucessfully generated 6-cycle FWHM, 3.9 micro meter 20-Hz, multi-mJ pulses from a novel optical parametric chipred pulse amplifcation architecture, which has the higest pulse energy from a femtosecond mid-IR source to date. (Optics letters Vol. 36 page 2755 2011, published a few weeks before the NLO meeting).



With this laser, full phase matching of HHG in the KeV region of th spectrum (up to the 5031th order) is possible. (CLEO 2011 postdeadline and 2011 NLO papers).



She mentioned that 5th and 7th HHG was discovered by accident in 1987. I wonder what those people would think of her achievement of producing several thousands of harmonics today?



The broadest coherent supercontinuum they generated support transform limited 2.5 attoseocnd pulse duration, scalable to zeptosecond time scales (1 zs=10 to the minus 21 s).



Below is a picture of the laser-like x-ray beam which I found from the 2011 CLEO postdeadine paper:







By the end, she mentioned the exciting application of the X-ray as the ideal probes of the nanoworld. It can also be used for coherent lensless imaging.







Monday, August 15, 2011

the anniversary of the end ot the Second World War





A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima

Aug. 15th is an unforgettable day for Japanese. On the date of 66 years ago, it was the end of the Second World War. There are other unforgettable days in August. The first A-bomb was drooped in Hiroshima on 6th and the second one was in Nagasaki on 9th.

It is very difficult to talk about the war. All the countries have their opinions. Of course, Japanese have! And I have!!

Whenever I take a group to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I have to talk about the war. I try to be objective and talk about the timeline and data. I trust how they felt when they visited the sites and museums. And at last I always say, `I don't add and extract anything.  Please trust what you felt here and relay the message.'

I often had a group of mixed nationalities. It is very sensitive and difficult time as a guide. When I have a group of Asian members, I shouldn't take them to Shinto shrines and talk about Emperors.

Twice in my guide life, I had a group of old Americans and Germans. I was with both groups about 2 weeks. The Third World War was almost started between them. One German couple who were very nice but treated badly by Americans in one group said war was not the subject but the object. I like this phrase. Another German lady in another group actually said the war still continued. In my point of view, she was a very difficult lady and it was not the problem of the countries but the problem of herself.

No wonder why I'm so strong mentally! I met so many people from many countries and went thorough unbelievable experiences.

Although we suffered from A-bomb in 1945, we didn't learn anything. The nuclear power plants in Fukushima were exploded following on the heels of the earthquakes this year. As for this, not only I but also many Japanese citizens would like to say many things. But I try not here.

More and more of us start to think of environment and seek the way to live an eco-friendly life. When we destroy the environment, we can't live in this planet. We are powerless in front of Nature. Please stop fighting. Live peacefully.

Considering a long history of this planet, we, the human beings are newcomers. We have obligations to pass this planet to our children and our children have rights to receive this planet as we did from our parents.
Please alway remember this fact!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beautiful Fireworks!

It is a summer holiday now in Japan. For a few days centring on the 15th of August, companies and shops are closed. Office workers add their paid holidays to spend a long vacation in foreign countries. Although I said `long', office workers can't take a longer vacation more than 9 days. Usually a 9-day holiday one time is at maximum. Many go back to their hometown and they suffer from heavy heavy traffic jams.

One of my favorite things this season is Fireworks Displays. These days, I don't go to the sites because I can't stand so many people. I found a video of a beautiful fireworks display held in Nagaoka this year.
The fireworks in Nagaoka is one of the most popular displays. There were 420,000 visitors on Aug. 2nd and 380,000 on the 3rd. Nagaoka is located in Niigata, the northern part of Japan. It was OK this time but Niigata suffered from 2 big earthquakes in recent years.

Not only Niigata but also many prefectures which are still suffering from this disaster held and will hold festivals and fireworks displays. Thousands of fireworks which were supposed to be used in Tokyo were saved and delivered to the damaged areas. This fireworks is out hope of the recovery.
Please enjoy the beautiful fireworks!



 






Friday, August 12, 2011

We See Fireworks on Facebook

If you're a Facebook user have a look at the We See Fireworks event page for Edinburgh Fringe.  If you've seen WSF in London then say what you thought of the event.  WSF on Facebook





A Memory (Anonymous)


Bristol. June 09

I think it was this year. I had to go and see my girlfriend to say I was going to be late home. I was in an enclosed space with a piano and a kind of upside down barber’s mirror. It was a really interesting space. Anyway I was talking, and they kind of closed the space, and I was stuck in there.  And I really did not have any time for live art. I really did not have any time for it at all. I wanted to leave, but I had to stay because it was disrespectful to leave the performance. And it was stunning.

This guy came in and he moved the full weight of the piano onto himself, and played this gorgeous song. It was quite pointed, not an ‘oh-I-love-you’ song, but an ‘I-am-going-to-miss-you-but-I-will-be-fine’ sort of thing.  The piano was really heavy, and it seemed to be crushing him, and there seemed to be this kind of struggle that was coming from him holding the piano. But the struggle gave the song much more poignancy. It was actually really positive and uplifting, and I felt desperately privileged to be there. It was beautiful, and I think that for about 3 days, maybe a bit more, the performance was my first thought. It just stayed with me, especially the song. It inspired me to move on. He really got deep inside me. It showed his strength, to hold this piano up. Like it was right on top of him. Every sinew in his body was stretched to the limit, and he had to pause between lines to get his breath back and to sing. I have never forgotten it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hakone Trip

I went to Hakone with my friend. It takes about 3 hours from my house by train and bus.
Hakone is one of my favorite places because it has everything I like!  I love Nature very much. I realize I can't live without being surrounded by nature! While I'm guiding a group, I travel all over Japan and enjoy viewing nature all the time. I love my job. I hope tourists come back soon!




Hydrangeas were still beautiful there. The weather was cloudy, sometimes sunny and rainy for 2 days.
I went to Hakone Shrine. Many events were going on there.


Hakone Shrine


Lion Dance


At the stage of the shrine, the Lion Dance, Shishimai in Japanese were conducted. 2 people manipulate this lion, one for the head part and the other for the rear. Two of them are covered by cloth. This dance is usually conducted on the New Year.




This is the procession of Shinto priests and a Shinto maiden at last. They went inside and conducted some ceremonies because in honor of this shrine, a festival was going on and the fireworks that night was a part of it. I love this shrine very much because I feel the serene atmosphere surrounded by mountains and trees.


Lunch at Kinubiki-no-Sato


We ate lunch at my favorite restaurant, Kinubiki-no-Sato. There are 3 types of noodles, Udon(wheat noodle), Soba(buckwheat noodle) and Kinubiki-Udon(wheat noodle mixed with sesame). I love Kinubik-Udon best!
The owner of this restaurant is my good friend now because I often bring guests here. All the meal was treated on that day! Thank you very much!!

After lunch, we walked the Old Tokaido Haighway.




Besides this avenue, there is a road now. But old travelers traveled from Edo(old name for Tokyo until 1868) to Kyoto. It took about a month on foot. In order to protect travelers, those cypress trees were planted. This avenue was an only part of the highway but I felt history.




This is lake Hakone. It wasn't clear weather. The 3 floating white things are lanterns. They have the name of the hotels which donated them. I could see this lake from my Ryokan(traditional Japanese inn) room.



This was the dinner, Kaiseki(Japanese course). Usually each plate is served separately. But here, in order to save time, they were set at once.
Before dinner, I went to Hot Spring. It is said that when you are in hot spring, you should take a bath 3 times during your stay, first before dinner, second before sleep and third the next morning, which rejuvenate you, BUT if you take more, you'll be shrunken! The last part is my joke but my guests always love it!




This is fireworks taken from my room! It was difficult but I tried!
It was my dream trip, Nature, Hot Spring, Dinner at room and Fireworks!

Working very hard is good but you sometimes need to relax and allow yourself to indulge!
Enjoy your life!!



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A few soundbites from those who have seen fireworks...


'We were sat there really, really high up and I just have this memory of watching 40 odd performers on stage all moving in complete, perfect unison.  There was 50 or 60 rows of people in front of me, but I can still smell their sweat and hear their breath.'
'I walked into a car that came from Liverpool I think, and I really didn’t know what to expect….  And there was this man in the car and he offered me a sweet and he talked to me about, about the death of his brother…
'I wonder how many memories I have of shows I haven’t actually seen.'
'I saw a strong person, a lovely person, break on stage and even if it was pretend, it was heart-wrenching.'
'Walking the stage and gazing. Staring at the audience, daring them to do something….'
'And the last light goes out and there’s such a vacuum-like loss at the end that seems to suck everything into it, it’s like a star imploding or something.'
'You find yourself laughing and all of a sudden you don’t know why you have been laughing at all.'
'….like someone was stroking your soul…'