For the past several issues of Make Magazine, I’ve been profiling some talented Japanese makers whom I met on a recent trip to Japan. The current issue, Make Volume 19, features an interview I did with Takayuki Ohira, the inventor of the ever-so-popular Homestar and Megastar planetariums. He’s really quite amazing. Please take a read, and if you like it, you should buy or subscribe to Make because it’s full of fun, creative stories like Ohira’s.
My interview with San Francisco artist/roboticist Marque Cornblatt airs on PRI’s Studio 360 this weekend. You can listen to the segment here and check out the slideshow at Studio 360’s web site. Cornblatt and I actually took his RC robot to the Museum of Modern Art completely unannounced to see if we could get in — it was a prank of sorts, and we had no idea what would happen. Lucky us, we not only got into the galleries, but we scored three free tickets!
The first magazine cover story I ever wrote was this Tokyo area beach guide for Metropolis in June 2006. I only mention this now because those of you who are reading TokyoMango in Tokyo are probably dying from heat right about now, and this may help you find a quick escape in the ocean somewhere nearby.
Four hundred years ago, a ship from Mexico wandered onto the shores of this Boso Peninsula town, and the local fishermen’s wives helped them out. Today, two kilometers of soft, white sand welcome visitors to this sister city of Acapulco for hot sun and easy surfing. The atmosphere is so pleasant in Onjuku that it inspired one man to write a famous children’s song, “Moon Desert.” There are fireworks and beach volleyball in August, and high-quality lobster dinners in September.
Life’s a Beach (Metropolis)
At Boing Boing Gadgets today, I wrote a feature about my visit to Geisha Tokyo Entertainment, the quirky start-up that created Augmented Reality Figure Aris:
Aris folds her tiny hands across her aproned lap and smiles. “If you need me, please poke me to get my attention!” she says in a peppy, high-pitched voice. “Just don’t poke me in a weird place! “
As if to deliberately defy her request, Taisei Tanaka, who is sitting next to me in a soccer jersey and jeans, lifts up Aris’ poofy skirt with a stick, revealing the ends of her black thigh-high socks and a glimpse of her blue panties. Aris screams at the top of her lungs. “Please stop! This kind of thing is not good!”
Tanaka has every right to lift up Aris’ skirt. He is her creator, after all. Besides, Aris is not a real person; she doesn’t even really exist. She is an optical illusion, a three-dimensional projection of a brown-haired girl in a maid outfit who lives inside of a cube that looks like an oversized die. The cube has QR codes pasted on each of its sides that uses image recognition, motion-tracking, and other computer-generated data to project images into space when recorded with a webcam.
My New York Times Magazine story about guys who are in love with anime characters is online. The main protagonist is Nisan, a thirty-something year old man who has a body pillow girlfriend named Nemutan. This is a photo I took of Nisan and Nemutan during our interview, at his favorite salad bar in Hachioji. Read it here, or buy the print version of the NYT Magazine this coming Sunday to read it on paper.
Love in 2D [New York Times Magazine]
Hey guys, if you have a sec hop on over to BBG to check out the stories Steven and I are doing on PARC, the esteemed Palo Alto Research Center. Don’t miss photos and diagrams of the first ethernet cable in the world, the carpet on which graphical user interfaces were conceived, a mirror that helps you comparison shop, a gallery of caution signs, and interviews about what it’s like to work there.
I was interviewed for the Wall Street Journal’s Front and Forward section, which is in today’s paper, about 3 tech trends from Japan: virtual boyfriends, augmented reality tourism, wearable remote controls, etc. I don’t get the print version of the WSJ, but you can find it here.
On BBG today, I wrote about coffee in a can which, as far as I can tell, is largely a Japanese phenomenon disguised as a manly American one.
When I was a teenager in Tokyo, I used to drink coffee all the time — from a can, from a vending machine, often at the train station on my way home from school. In went a 100 yen coin, and out came a piping hot 250 ml can of delicious brew, pre-mixed with cream and sugar. Coffee in a can is everywhere in Japan, and when I moved to the US, I wondered why it’s not as prevalent here. Why? It’s so much more convenient and cheaper than searching for a Starbucks.
This week on BBG, I wrote an open letter to JJ Abrams about popping my Star movie virginity. I also interviewed my mom on her quirky gadget usage habits.
Here’s a very nicely edited video of my 5-minute slideshow presentation at Ignite SF at the Mezzanine (a night club) on April 1st. There was a technical glitch, and you can see me give the slidemaster a dirty look when it starts getting screwy. It was fun though—I am grateful to have had the opportunity to face that kinda situation in front of hundreds of people. Next time I won’t freak out, I promise.
I hesitated about putting this up on TokyoMango-a LOT-because it’s kinda embarrassing to see myself on TV, but here it is: a clip from my appearance on ABC’s View from the Bay in July 2008. I’m actually also on their new digital network show, Home with Lisa Quinn on Live Well HD, but I haven’t seen that yet. Don’t laugh!
This week on Boing Boing Gadgets and Offworld, I wrote about:
– Why underwater cables might not solve the problem of Internet access in East Africa.
– The “sex with the cable guy” fantasy, and whether it happens in real life.
– Why the new DS Lite game Rhythm Heaven is the perfect conduit for understanding otaku culture.
It was my first full week as an editor at Boing Boing Gadgets, and I wrote two fun stories for our Printers and Gardening theme days, respectively: a photo gallery of museum-grade sculptures made with 3D printers, and an illustrated guide on how I am composting Ruby and Malcolm’s poop.
Starting this week, I’m going to be writing regularly for Boing Boing Gadgets. BBG is a sister site of Boing Boing (whom I guest blogged for last fall), and it’s now a three-man, one-woman team including Joel Johnson, Rob Beschizza, Steven Leckart, and me. Most of the stories I write there will be about technology and how it is infiltrating our lifestyles in fun, creative ways.
The profile I wrote about Kazuhiko Hachiya, a very well-known idea man and maker in Japan, is in Volume 17 of Make Magazine. You can read it here.
I will be writing about cool Japanese makers like Hachiya in each of the upcoming issues of Make Mag (except then next one, which is a special issue) so keep an eye out!
The Studio360 Japan special airs tomorrow on NPR, but you can listen to all the segments online starting right now. Super exciting! Basically, Studio360—an award-winning arts and culture radio show hosted by Kurt Anderson—got a grant to go to Japan for two weeks and find a bunch of insightful, contemporary stories that will paint a larger picture of what’s going on there right now.
I went out and met some amazing young women, including Toast Girl and Erina Matsui, who are breaking the mold of conventional aesthetics and expectations and doing really cool shit through their art. Leital, one of the producers, and I went everywhere from Golden Gai to Takashi Murakami’s studio to interview these artists. Then we met up in NY to edit the piece together. You can hear my segment right here:
Everything else is right here:
Studio360 in Japan!