Saturday, 29 June 2013

Steam Railmotor

Now, this isn't the kind of rail vehicle one often encounters. In fact, it was the first time in 77 years that this old Great Western Railway steam 'railmotor' (as it's called, rather than the more modern 'railcar') had been on the main line, from where it operated five trips from Liskeard at two-hour intervals during 11 November 2012, travelling along the Looe Branch Line.

This is a good video, well shot (apart from forgetting to pan once, at the start!) including scene-setting shots of the stations along the way and some nice scenic touches too. It's worth going through the full twelve minutes, but it isn't essential – although the tracking shot from the car, near the end, is rather good...

Weekly Political Digest – 28 June 2013

I have in fact held this over for a day as I was waiting for an expected important post by Guido, and it has now arrived...

Marginal Tax Levels

Here is Guido's info on the way that the country's over-complex taxation system penalises the middle classes. Correctly, he points out that this was part of (James) Gordon Brown's scheming for years, but it hasn't been fixed or anywhere near since the Coalition took over,three years or so ago.

Now, I have little doubt that the Lib Dem component of the current government has had a (strong) hand in stalling the Conservatives' 'tax simplification' initiative, and we really do need a Conservative majority in 2015 so that this and other pending initiatives can at last move forward.

Thus this becomes a Catch 22 type of situation, as the changes on this and a number of other policies can't really be made until after the 2015 General Election, whereas Conservative success in that election could well depend upon delivering in at least some of these areas. It's a tricky one; but at least we have a decent list of policies that have been enacted despite the coalition handicap...

The People's Assembly

With a pretentious title like that, it becomes immediately obvious that it's yet another attempt by the hard Left .to push their essentially Communist agenda. In reality the initial gathering of self-styled The People's Assembly was very much a damp squib, as Dan Hodges has reported as an attendee himself.

These things come, and they go. We have already had the ridiculous TUSC (Trades Unions & Socialists [against the] Cuts, in their current incarnation), the ever-ineffective Socialist Workers' Party, and various others over the years – technically including the Greens and Respect.

None of them ever really gets anywhere, despite the occasional mini-success by selling out to particular communities, as George Galloway has done though at the same time alienating the likes of seeming fellow-travellers such as Salma Yaqoob. I think most of us already have a 'handle' on the true nature of all of these and others, and are unlikely to be taken in by any of them.

Nevertheless, there are those who are relatively clueless or who have their own agenda, and I am aware of such types even within the council ward I once represented. That is useful knowledge, of course, on at least two fronts (the individuals and the collective significance, if any) and all helps to calibrate my own thinking in regard to that area – though I am no longer active there, and it just aids my polling predictions and little else, nowadays.

The Union View on Education

Predictable but none the less significant for that, is the National Union of Teachers' chief's view on why those from poorer backgrounds tend, on the whole, to achieve less within education in Britain than the rest. Fraser Nelson dissects this well, as he usually does.

I have my own experience of the dreaded Comprehensive system, as it deprived me at a stroke of any realistic chance of A-Level GCEs and a place at University. Thankfully my younger brother was at a Grammar School and did go to University and earn a degree.

I am pleased for him; but we could have both done that if it hadn't been for the sudden arrival of the Comprehensive system, wherein my school lost its sixth form and (among other insults to its teachers and pupils) downgraded its craft classes from precision metalwork to bricklaying (I kid you not).

Fraser's underlying point that it is the Comprehensive schooling system that is the problem is well made, and on solid ground too (follow the above link for some of the body of evidence) and all of us who have encountered it with knowledge of what came before are well aware of the drop in standards that this single change made. I have long been convinced that this was deliberate, in the attempt to manipulate our society into being more malleable and manipulable by the increasingly totalitarian State in future generations.

Air Capacity Developments

Earlier this week, the Airports Commission met representatives from several campaign groups, and the unanimous point-by-point message.those groups propounded is detailed here. Their approach is broadly correct; but what it (unavoidably) failed to provide was a politically exciting initiative that could be introduced, while keeping to the principles and factual assertives of their message.

In other words, any government commission needs to have something to offer to justify its existence, rather than a string of negatives and no major, headline-grabbing new initiative. This is a very tricky one to solve in this case, and indeed there might not be anything that the commission can offer the government beyond the negatives and 'more of the same at existing airports' – even though that is the correct message.

It needs some imaginative thinking to come up with something they can 'sell' to the politicians and get their enthusiasm going. I don't envy them with this task!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Tears of Chocolate

Really just to show how good Vocaloid IA's voice is, here is a quite attractive song, Tears of Chocolate, complete with English subtitles.

Although the IA-featured concert excerpt I posted here some weeks ago was good, the 'tuning' of IA in that was relatively poor (something that is apparently well known when it comes to Jin, who produced that event). The lady deserves a better opportunity to shine, and here it is, good enough for 'Aria of the Planetes' to give IA her full alternative title.

No 3-D character this time, just a fixed image with snow animation and scrolling Japanese language. We, though, shall no doubt be concentrating more on the subtitles...

Romania Vocalekt Concert

In fact, this edited together excerpts are from the second Vocalekt Visions concert held in Romania, at Nijikon 2012 on 3 November that year, only small parts of the first having been captured on video so not sufficient to make something like this. They get a remarkable thousand or so attendees to these events, no doubt helped by Vokalekt's neutrinoP coming from that country and promoting them locally.

I was particularly taken with the Yuzuki Yukari model, which is spectacular: this was created by neutrinoP (who is a versatile fellow) from a base model by one KumaMMD, of whom I hadn't previously heard. Between them, they have produced something quite special, I think.

Several of the featured songs will be familiar to those who follow these things avidly (John raises his hand at this point), and others will be new, including Overload and the Romanian Promisiuni. It's a good forty minutes, despite not having English captioning/subtitles, and is available in High Definition, selectable in the usual way from the cog icon at the base of the YouTube player once started...

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Running the Gauntlets

...or, in Strax's case, forgetting the gauntlets. It really is not a good idea to handle the Memory Worm without them, as this one minute (or so) clip amply demonstrates – not just once, but twice...

The Empty Stomach Song

Dedicated to all those who are hungry tonight and who are in our thoughts, with Miku performing the vocal in this charmingly optimistic song by nagi-P, here with English subtitles...

Miku is a Gadget

Well, the Gadget Show certainly featured Miku as their first item in the first of their World Tour episodes. Unfortunately I cannot find a way to embed the 3-minute clip here, but thanks to the Hatsune Miku Fansite I can provide a link to it.

There are several key moments in that clip, so I do urge especially British/western visitors here to follow the link and check it out. The Miku concert of 'ten thousand' in the audience, 'sold out a year ago', and the British presenters' own live reactions all show that this really is a phenomenon that is just waiting to have the same kind of effect here as it already has in Japan.

No longer can we say 'Oh, that's just the Japanese and their culture' when even British technology geeks find themselves caught up in the true spirit and atmosphere of one of these events. Their brief was to cover the technology, which they do, albeit briefly; but it is their comments (subtitled, as they aren't so easy to hear clearly) at the concert that tell the real story.

Incidentally, Miku/Vocaloid 'anoraks' like me will spot straight away that the music in some of the mini-clips within the video doesn't match the costumes and motion. Naturally I recognised them all straight away(!)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Stealing the Enterprise

This quite long sequence (nearly nine minutes) from Star Trek III – The Search for Spock contains so many memorable moments that you'll soon lose count as each comes back and you remember.

It was where Uhura showed her tough side, Sulu has his 'tiny' moment, Chekov and the "Surrender your wessel" line from the Star Fleet chief, then there are the pesky space doors, and finally the Excelsior's 'transwarp' drive. It does end before Scotty presents one surgeon's gift to another (Bones) and a few other equally memorable moments to those that are included in this clip, but I suppose it had to be brought to a halt somewhere sensible, before becoming overlong...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

SEGA Says Happy 4th Anniversary, GUMI !

Yes, SEGA themselves acknowledge GUMI's 4th anniversary (tomorrow) from her release date with this video, uploaded today, of Project Mirai 2 Chibi GUMI aided by Chibi Rin.

They are rather cute, I have to admit (as not a chibi fan generally), especially their eyes...

Sakura SPiCa

I haven't featured SPiCa for nearly half a year, so here it is performed on a virtual stage by one of the Sakura (cherry blossom) Miku models. Note the big cherries on her back, by the way!

No English words are provided this time, unfortunately, but perhaps this time one doesn't really need them – and they are easy enough to find at the usual sources to your preference if you wish to check them out.

For now, though, I suggest just enjoying the music, the outfit and the performance without distractions, especially in High Definition if your system can handle that: the outfit's detail shows up really well that way...

The Eleventh Doctor Says Goodbye

From Detroit, where his uncannily Ecclestone-like look is actually for a film acting part he has secured, but "fantastic" for all that (even the ears!) is this essentially non-verbal goodbye and thank-you to just about everyone. It's under two minutes long, too...

Monday, 24 June 2013

A New Name

Answering a call for help on Twitter that had come from one of the Vocaloid world's significant talents, whose standard of English was, he felt, not serving him well enough to write the lyrics for his latest song (celebrating Vocaloid GUMI/Megpoid's fourth anniversary), I offered to proofread what he devised and suggest corrections.

This offer was swiftly taken up and I tweaked (without detracting from the artistic aspects) the first verse, first bridge and refrain that he had written thus far.

Then, unexpectedly, I was granted editing access to the online lyrics document and asked to contribute. I hadn't expected to be that much a part of the composition process!

In the end, after a couple of minutes reading again the words that were there, and a few blank minutes more while I tried to get the feel of what the composer was trying to convey (along with a couple of explanatory tweets from him, which helped), I actually wrote the second verse and the second bridge in their entirety, based on the shape, style and metre of the first verse and bridge.

I had come up with something really quite straightforward that I thought might be just a useful starting point, but he was so pleased with my efforts that he accepted them straight away, flashing messages such as "Very good!" on the document before deleting them. The resultant song, Celebration, can be heard here, sung in English by GUMI (Megpoid).

Suspecting that my original offer is likely to be taken up again in future, and that I might find myself being a kind of lyricist for other words, I decided that the credit I had been offered should perhaps be for a pseudonym in the style of Vocaloid contributors. I am by no means a Producer, so the -P suffix is not appropriate, but I thought that perhaps I could introduce a -L suffix for 'Lyricist'.

Thus I am to be known on this and any similar future efforts as JWard-L – which I hope is not thought to be pretentious, as it's simply tipping my hat to established conventions and making it clear (when the new suffix becomes more widely known, as I suspect it will) that I am not a Producer, but something much more lowly.

Let's be completely open about this: my contribution to Celebration forms only a small (however useful and timely) part of the overall production, which included composition, 'studio tricks' and uploading in both sound-only (as above) form and as a video with the lyrics captioned, which is currently being worked on. I shall no doubt embed it here once it has been completed and uploaded...

UPDATE: Here it is, a couple of days before the Vocaloid fan-base celebrates GUMI's fourth anniversary on the 26 June...

Who knows? Perhaps this could be the start of a new career for me, and I might even write some music as well. I have written a few simple tunes in the past, which have impressed those with whom I've shared them (or perhaps they were just being polite to me!) so I suppose anything is – just about – possible...

Medway Monday 24 June 2013 – The Longest Loop photos

A couple of weeks or so back, I told you of my extraordinary trek along the A2 main road, across a (big!) golf course and through woodlands to arrive back at my starting point, much to my surprise at the time.

I subsequently decided that I'd return to take some photographs of at least part of that long route, though missing out those long sections, at least for the time being. I might venture along the whole of that huge journey again one day, armed with a camera, but for now here are nearly thirty pictures which, with captions, tell at least some of the rest of the story...

The starting point, after the 'bus ride to Strood: Bligh Way shops

Just round the corner, in Albatross Avenue, I spotted this

Ah, so that's what this place is

Approaching the opposite side of the Recreation Ground

And this is where it comes out

Up Sharfleet Drive and into The Shades

Around that bend is this spot, with a way onto the main road

This is that main road: the A2 Watling Street, heading west in this view

This is just the beginning...

Looking down on the M2 motorway. Now we jump in the story... the exit from Ranscombe Farm Reserve, much later!

Medway's Miracle, as David Bellamy termed this place

All that metal fencing was for the high speed rail line, which we now cross

Narrow path, even narrower aperture through that bike barrier!

The other end of that access path over the railway

Looks like something might be up ahead...

Yes, it's a bridge carrying the M2 motorway; but there's no way up from here

Hmm, a long track that way. It led to a building and a dead end

How about on the other side of that road bridge?

Doesn't look promising to the right...

...definitely nothing to the left...

...and ahead looks like yet another farm, so I assumed a dead end

However, when I asked, I was directed along that very path

Now this looks vaguely familiar from somewhere...

Real signs of civilisation ahead, the first I'd encountered in 3 hours!

Well, would you believe it? It's actually Bligh Way shops again, just down there!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sunday Slot – 23 June 2013

The Ongoing War

My church, the Salvation Army, has always known that what is going on in the world is a perpetual war between good and evil, God and Satan, with the latter using every trick at his disposal (and corruptible humans) to gain the upper hand.

As we were reminded at this evening's meeting at the Salvation Army meeting here in Chatham earlier this evening, our 'side' does not need to resort to trickery and uses love, compassion, salvation and sanctification as its substitute for weapons. Our tools are vastly stronger, in the final analysis, and the Bible reading from Acts chapter 2 was a good reinforcement of that truism.

Not that it's easy to live up to the aims of the church, especially mine, as I well know – and having gone through some dark times myself in recent years I can personally vouch for that difficulty and how easy it is to slip. Fortunately, I held myself together quite well, on the whole; and despite temptation was able to overcome the devil's attempts to ensnare and divert me, most of the time anyway. As I said: dark times indeed...

Although technically we have been in the End Times for almost two thousand years now, and this is all post-salvation in the sense of what happened on that wooden cross all those years ago, the war for souls is still being fought, as new souls appear in earthly form all the time. It can be likened in some ways to the mopping-up after the Second World War, which went on for some time after the cessation of hostilities, though this is on a much longer timescale than we experienced back in the late 'forties and early 'fifties.

The key points about living here and now include...
  • The spiritual war isn't over
  • We must always be vigilant and not caught off-guard
  • It doesn't get easier over time, though we learn how better to handle the onslaughts
  • The devil will use anyone and anything to attack us, more strongly than ever if our faith is growing
  • God and his grace are by far our strongest shield against the enemy
  • Sharing our experiences through personal testimony, and group worship, are also helpful
It was with that last aspect in mind that I offered my own testimony when we were invited to do so at the Salvation Army a couple of hours ago. Because of my medication, I didn't do a particularly good job of it, but I did manage to briefly recount my 'longest loop' trek and how God's message was that, no matter how far I roamed, he'd always guide me back home. It had taken me a while to work that one out, by the way.

Several others gave more eloquent testimony (I was the second out of half a dozen of us, by the way), and as usual on such occasions they were all illuminating, each coming from a different direction. Put together, they covered quite a range of topics, with God in all his three forms very much at the centre of all of them.

We are all involved in that spiritual war, whether or not we realise it. Some, like those testifying this evening, have shared with those of us who were there how they are battling against dark forces, including two who had former addictions and other such issues in their pasts, along with current difficulties of another nature. It can be tough out there on the battlefield of life; but with God's grace (and occasional interventions) we can all come through it, usually in some way stronger than we were before.

That's how life is, whether we like it or not. Let's rise to the challenge, but we don't have to do so alone. Remember the footprints in the sand...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Four-GUMI Poker Face

Now here's an interesting variation on a theme I have presented before, but not quite like this! Four really quite nice but all different GUMI models performing Poker Face.

It has been done very well indeed, using the existing motion and four excellent models; but they are all independent and give a very natural feel, despite not being the full quality that the very best such videos provide (though not that far off).

I found it sufficiently enjoyable to easily merit being posted here, and GUMI comes across as really quite feminine in all four models...

Friday, 21 June 2013

Weekly Political Digest – 21 June 2013

Largely as a concession to those who have been disappointed by my cessation of regular political blogging (indeed, a couple of folk have been quite indignant about it), I have decided that a weekly digest of short commentaries on both local and national/international matters probably has some merit. Here, then, is the first of these, which will normally appear on Friday evenings...

Missing the Chance

Almost certainly because of the compromises of being in coalition, the Government's so-called 'austerity plan' has missed the chance to fix Britain's economy before the bad times bite, according to Capitalists @ Work. I have a strong feeling that CityUnslicker is right on this, and the graphs and explanation provided at the link indicate what is likely to happen during the next handful of years and why.

Personally, I still think there is a way back from the brink; and much will hang on Chancellor George Osborne's Statement next week to show whether or not the Coalition is now grasping the nettle firmly. Even if they are, it will still be a difficult time ahead, but it could be made at least a little less painful than the scenario pointed to in the linked post.

Alternative Queen's Speech

On the subject of the Coalition, the so-called 'Tory Taliban' has produced a collection of Bills they – as in effect the Conservative backbenchers, or at least a subset thereof  – might like to propose if they had been in an overall majority situation. Guido has the full 42 listed in brief, spearheaded by what one might term the 'bones' of the Conservative backbenchers: Peter Bone MP and Philip Hollobone MP. There are two others involved in this exercise, but those two are leading with all of them.

This has got lefties in a real tizz, as they hate the thought of any real alternative to their own worldview coming into the public view, and some of them have spent the day denouncing it and otherwise trying to close down any debate. I prefer to let the electorate see real alternatives, as it is up to them to decide whom to elect and on what basis. As all lefties are at heart totalitarian by nature, that doesn't suit their dictatorial style one little bit; but it will be a lot more interesting – and informative – to find out what the voting public make of it all.

As Guido says at the link, it's essentially sound stuff with one possible exception, although I have slightly more mixed views myself. That, though, is too complex to go into detail in this digest, so I simply mention it in case something comes up requiring my view on some or all of these proposals at some time in the future.

Load of Rubbish

I have in the past day or so encountered a couple of photographs showing rubbish piling up in the streets in Brighton and Hove. Here is a link to one. Apparently this is happening now, though I have no details of that, or why. Interestingly, Labour are using this as an argument to dissuade people from voting for the Green Party – who of course have been running the local council there for a while, and who also have the only Green MP, the ghastly Caroline Lucas.

The irony here is that what might today be going on in one part of the country was in fact a nationwide phenomenon in the Labour government period known as the Winter of Discontent – 1978-1979. We also had power cuts, bodies unburied, and much more back then. I know: I was there!

Although I am pleased that any such repetition of even one aspect of that terrible time is being brought to wider public notice, it is certainly rich of any Labour bod to be using this as a political weapon (especially those who have then gone on to suggest that voting Labour would be better) when their party did far worse damage along the same and other lines within living memory...

It Could Happen

...or, then again, perhaps not. Any report that suggests something 'could' or 'might' happen should immediately be treated with suspicion, as they always turn out to be pushing the author's own agenda, I have found over the years. If it were at all likely, a much more definite statement could (and surely would) be made than could or might, fully backed-up with hard, solid facts.

I have seen so many of these claims, especially from dubious organisations like the fake charities that receive huge amounts of government funding and turn out to be mere lobbying outfits with very well-paid officers and luxuriously fitted out offices. Only this week I came across a photograph showing an expensively Apple-equipped office of one such, for example.

Today's example of the dodgy report, reported in the local press, has obviously been put together by officials at Kent County Council, and pushes the line that welfare reform will result in 'perhaps' a thousand families being moved into Kent from London, placing additional pressures on services in the county.

Well, in case it has escaped those officials' attention, I and many others are aware that people are being placed in Kent, for one purpose or another, all the time. It is one of the reasons we have to keep building all this new housing (though the main reason for that, in the last decade and a half, has been to accommodate Labour's deliberate vast influx of immigrants) – big clue there.

Another has been the asylum seekers specifically – something I ensured (using a ward colleague on the relevant Council committee to set it up) was brought to public attention, resulting in the unfortunate disciplining of a police officer who dared to tell the truth at that meeting.

There are a number of other categories, both adults and children, where significant numbers of movements into Kent from London have been going on for years, both via council (and other) placements and through their own volition. Another few hundred, even if it were to happen (which is by no means certain) will make relatively little difference in practice.

Miku Dancer

This video features a dance (to Melt) and an interview with Miume, who choreographed not only this Miku dance but also the excellent dance/motion for Romeo and Cinderella.

As the interview brings out, the dance featured here wasn't designed to make her (Miume) look good – and, to be honest, it doesn't; but it does remind us of what we no doubt think of as the 'original' – but to ensure that Miku looks cute when performing it.

It's instructive to appreciate that; and Miume has quite a strong fan following in her own right, so is worth taking the time to watch this if you have any interest in choreography...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Wrong Battlefield

This is a rare venture for me on this 'blog nowadays into a local political issue, but is important enough to warrant my doing so...

I continue to cringe every time I read a tweet or similar utterance from those who claim to be fighting against an estuary (or similar) hub airport, yet whose main output seems to comprise messages about a bird they have just seen on the marshes and an entreatment "let's keep it that way".

When a battle is being waged against decision-makers who therefore have control of the arena on which that conflict will be contested, it is no good going off to a different place that suits your own cosy preferences: it has to be tackled on their terms and in their chosen place.

Those who have not grown up sufficiently to understand this (very basic) truth are probably doing doing more harm than good, feeding easy 'ammo' to those who would accuse us here of NIMBYism and the like. It is axiomatic that the decision makers care not one jot about what birds might be spotted by enthusiasts on the site of a proposed new airport. Indeed, they will care not a billionth of a percent about that.

Take it from someone who has been in both central and local government, on all sides of the counter in various combinations (professional, elected, customer) and with considerable insight into how and why things work and a consequent hugely successful track record in campaigning on various issues.

It really is time that those who continue, even today (I have noticed), to post such messages to either grow up and learn the proper way to fight this campaign, or get out of the way of those who do understand and stop being an embarrassment and, in the final analysis, a hindrance.

Personally, I'd prefer the former: it would be the better option – but, as the low attendance at one of their events in my old ward several years ago clearly demonstrated, no-one outside the immediate affected area is likely to be all that interested even in something just a few miles away.

The sighting of specific bird breeds is going to be of absolutely zero interest to at least 99% of Britain's citizens, whereas air travel convenience and all that goes with it will be vastly more appealing. The only way to tackle this is to get our brains functioning beyond the infant school level, so let's all do that from now on, shall we?

This can definitely be won (and I have done a few things of my own, quietly, behind the scenes, to help ensure such a result) so we really don't need any more giveaways to the pro-airport camps, whether local like the completely wrong-headed DRINK or further afield.

I am as determined as anyone can be that the nonsensical idea of a new hub airport around these parts be killed off as an idea completely this time – and I started on this path over a decade ago. Where was DRINK then, one might ask? This time, let's not only get it right, without giving away ground to those who oppose us, but make it effectively permanent, as the current study will at last achieve.

To do so, we all have to be on the right battlefield, otherwise they'll invade us with their runways and islands, because we were too concerned with our own agendas rather than applying ourselves intelligently to the real task.

For a start, I expect to read no more tweets or similar about how spotting a bird or three is the primary argument in this business. If those posting such things really don't have anything more useful to contribute, perhaps they should just cease such communications until after the decision has been taken...

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Miku Mini Concert (sort of)

In fact, it's a miniature stage in someone's home, but presented as if it were a live concert. It's Miku only, which is fine for something of this duration, and if anything works better for that.

I have been watching 39diyMMDconcert and their videos for several months, wondering whether to post any of their collaborative efforts here, and now I have a half-hour video that makes it sensible to do just that. This was produced on 'Miku Day', but I didn't go through it thoroughly enough back then to be able to make a sensible judgment (it was a busy time for me).

I think this has been done very well, using some excellent models (especially the Append ones), and there is even a Daniwell song I hadn't heard before. I realised it was one of his after just two notes were played, though I waited for the third note, just to be certain. The style is a complete giveaway!

There is one Miku model that is really quite compelling, as any of the close-up shots of her face (including medium close-ups in particular) show, and quite expressive too. I am very taken with that, though not so much the somewhat skimpy outfit presented here. Despite that, this model (which I do not recognise and cannot even guess who might have created it) is, I think, one of the very best I have ever encountered of Miku...

Let It Be

Sir Paul McCartney turns 71 years old today, so here's Sweet Ann to celebrate the event with her (very pleasant) rendition of Let It Be, accompanied by the RealStrat guitar synthesizer...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Ask Strax

The most entertaining Sontaran ever here answers questions from 'miniature humans' (children) in his own distinctive way.

It's really rather good, and actor Dan Starkey's knowledge of earlier Sontaran characters from years ago is impressive too.

On a technical note, the editor(s) of this video put up the wrong photo for Commander Skorr: it's actually General (no less) Staal...

Rhythm is a Dancer

Can it really have been 21 years since this came out, from German group Snap?

It remains one of the most distinctive, stylish and original songs from that era, with quite a high 'tingle factor' too, that you got right from the opening seconds of the intro. There is also some good 'gunking' on the bass guitar(!)

This promotional video was almost equally attention-grabbing. Unforgettable...

Luka is Spectacular

Yes, well we knew that already; but in this case it refers to her spectacles, of which we see quite a variety of styles in this video of the song Megane, which means eyeglasses.

It works well for Luka, who has the elegance to be presented convincingly as a librarian (the classic 'glasses girl' that some men apparently find appealing), and crams a lot of video into an under three minute song. There are no English words, but I think it's easy to follow what is going on without really needing them...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sunday Slot – 16 June 2013

Father's Day

I was going to the Salvation Army this afternoon, but having spoken to my father on the telephone earlier in the week I decided that a personal (surprise!) visit to him would be more appropriate.

He and my stepmother are now quite old and have changed quite markedly, with physical and memory ailments that put my own difficulties – far from trivial that they are – into better context than from what I had formerly appreciated.

Although they were a long way from being pitiful, and they coped with their difficulties remarkably well including looking after two rescued cats (a long-standing feature of that household), the visit was a salutary reminder that what one hears down a telephone line, combined with memories from years before, does not constitute an accurate picture of how they are today.

It was a really good visit, and they both warmly and sincerely appreciated the time, effort and planning that I had put into it. I had to divulge some of that because my stepmother (who thinks of me almost as one of her own children, which is really charming and I know I don't deserve it) was so concerned that I get home safely that I almost ended up with my father being directed to come with me to make sure I got back here all right.

Only by explaining how well I had planned this trip (and allowing for engineering works on the railways and the delay they'd cause, and probably diversions) and how I always did the same on any excursions and always enjoyed them, did I placate them both so they'd let me leave on my own. I told them about seeing The Shard close-up when I was on London Bridge station waiting for the train to their local station, and other things, and it worked. It all went to show how much they care, though, and that is a very precious commodity.

Sometimes in my life I have felt that I do not warrant my earthly father's care, but he does anyway, and there was no possibility of anything less than (literally) wholehearted love and well-wishing for me from him and from my stepmother. It was amazing, and was one of the most uplifting experiences I have had from any kind of human contact in a very long time.

Think, then, just how much more than this comes from my Heavenly Father, who devised, created and knew the person that is the real 'me' before the Universe even came into being. That is something we cannot grasp, so we just know it intellectually without being able to appreciate what it truly means.

We just accept it as a fact, and no doubt one day, after this mortal life has ended, we shall be transformed back into our real, complete selves who are capable of grasping the full reality of that transcendent love. None of that detracts from what our earthly parents do and feel, nor does it diminish any of it, any more than a silver necklace loses its innate quality if a gold or platinum one comes along. Each has its value, and nothing else takes away from that.

To pick another analogy, closer to home for me than gold or silver: my appreciation of the qualities of one Vocaloid do not detract from any of the others, which is why I have such affection for so many of them simultaneously. SeeU may well be the most feminine, Luka have the greatest stage presence, Lapis the most lose-yourself-in eyes and voice, GUMI having the best English voicebank of the V-3s, and Miku is of course the undisputed queen of the lot – but I continue to appreciate all of them at undiminished levels.

In short: nothing spoils my appreciation of anything anyone does, and I am sure that is one of the purposes behind God's essentially hidden nature: so that we can continue to appreciate each other and the creation within which we live our mortal lives without it all being overshadowed by something vastly greater. That shows God's wisdom, and we should spend our time in this form of existence recognising that and thus living a full and enriching life, boosted by our families, friends and others, but most particularly the bedrock that our parents represent.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Rocking Kagamine Duo

Perhaps it's my age, but this immediately made me think of a Status Quo stage performance (which we've had here at Rochester Castle Gardens, in recent years) as Append models of Rin and Len Kagamine rock with their guitars (Len on bass. Rin on lead) like a couple of old troupers.

The song is called Kodoku no Hate, which I don't know what it means, and there are no English words – but who cares? Just enjoy it!

Just one question I'd like answered, though: what is it with the oddly-placed furniture?

Princess Mononoke Music

Pageviews show me that Joe Hisaishi's music is very popular with visitors to this 'blog, so here is what is described as a 'symphonic suite' from Princess Mononoke, performed live with Joe both conducting and playing the piano parts, as he usually does.

Strick with this: it's really quite something, and I suspect you will come out the other end feeling better, warmer, happier than how you were beforehand...

Friday, 14 June 2013

Miku at Good Smile Company

This is where, and how, so many of the Miku and other figures are produced. We are allowed into the offices and production room of Good Smile Company, home of series such as Nendoroid and Figma, and meet their CEO, Aki, among others.

Aki's interview is actually very interesting, and well worth paying quite close attention to: you'll understand what I mean once you've watched this. It's a bit longer than usual for these reports, but definitely worth spending eight minutes or so watching and taking in.

As for the products: I really like the yukata Miku figures, and am very taken with the large centrepiece on Aki's display table. Then there's our guide's desk...

Model Railway Driver's-eye View

This is an amazing model railway layout, on a scale I have never encountered before, at least in OO gauge. It is all laid with the excellent Peco Streamline track (which I used on my own vastly more modest layouts when I had somewhere to put one) and, although not complete (it needs more scenery and, more significantly, some signals!) it is still mightily impressive and must have taken many years to construct.

In this quarter-hour video, we are given the view from the cab of a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) that calls at all stations. I do not know what those stations are named as I cannot read them as we reach them and there are no notes on this at the video's YouTube page. Not that it really matters: just enjoy the ride...


This short (and unusual, but quite appealing) song has been performed by several vocaloids, and here it is SeeU giving it her own feel, via a rather nice Append-type model that apparently was created by this video's uploader in a three-day stint of designing work.

For just one and a half minutes of one's time, it's worth anyone giving this video a viewing, and I think you'll like the new SeeU model too...

Miracle Paint

Here is a live performance of this short song (not much over a minute in duration) complete with English subtitles, which comes from a concert in 2010 – older than most live performances I have featured so far.

It's a very western style, somewhere between swing and generic cool jazz, with a novel outfit for Miku, and her hair dressed in a single ponytail, for a change. It's all a bit Moulin Rouge-ish. I especially like the hat...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Amazing Martha Jones

Here's her top-notch theme, almost certainly the best piece of music Murray Gold has ever composed, along with some scenes from the series.

This video is a very good reminder of just how strong and independent Martha always was, probably the best overall of all the New Who companions, with her power and strength characterised in the theme's softness and subtlety...

Fleetwood Mac – Man of the World

Man of the World is a very powerful and emotional, though quite short, Fleetwood Mac song from Peter Green. Although some say it represents his own state at the time, reflecting his life up to that point, there are other views that suggest that it was nothing of the kind, and still others putting it down to drugs. I have no real clue as to the truth, so merely mention these possibilities, and there might be others for all I know.

Anyway, continuing this series of the best of early Mac, I present this as something to which I do not relate personally, but do realise speaks to many people...

Project DIVA F trailer

Just over a minute to briefly introduce the game to its potential western audiences...

Duet – Asteroid

This is a fairly powerful song by TokuP, here sung as a duet by Miku and SeeU. Miku takes her own character in the video, whereas SeeU is presumably the (frustratingly familiar to me, but I can't place her just now) dark-haired bespectacled young lady.

Incidentally, you might recognise those finned free-flying jet engines from the Project Diva F trailers...

This is one of those songs that you know straight away is good, even though I suspect others will be like me and not take to it wholly on first audition. Fortunately I've been around the music business long enough to recognise the signs and to stick with it, and I hope you will too, even if you are initially not quite sure...

Monday, 10 June 2013

Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well

I am starting a short season of early Fleetwood Mac material, that will include several true classics from that era. It was a very good time musically, as I well recall from when my boss's middle son, Richard Murray, introduced me to some of what I intend to feature in this series, in the basement demonstration area of the hi-fi shop where we both worked at the time (R.E.W. at 146 Charing Cross Road, London).

This video is of a live performance of just the song part of Oh Well, not the extended version (which I am trying to find) that has an excellent guitar arrangement. For now, this is a good introduction to at least part of the 'feel' of early Mac...

Miku's Disappearance

I once showcased this item as a walk-through with many costume changes en route, some five months ago. It's now a good time to watch the live concert version, complete with (slightly 'Engrish') subtitles, as it is one of the most spectacular performances I have ever encountered.

It's great in headphones, or via a sound system with a firm, tight bass quality (such as the classic JBL Century L100 speakers and a Harman Kardon top-line amplifier such as the Citation Twelve).

The Disappearance song, sometimes known as 'Miku's Intense Song', is part of a bigger story that culminates in a Dead End with a digital malfunction. I'm not so keen on that; but this one is truly excellent – though you will need to be a fast reader to be able to keep up with the lyrics in places...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sunday Slot – 9 June 2013

Lost and Found

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

Thus goes the famous hymn, speaking to so many of us who have had that experience of being lost in our lives.

I recently went through a difficult and dark time, and was in effect lost. Indeed, I wasn't at all sure that I'd survive the experience. Even during this time, though, I recognised that it was necessary for me to go through it in order to learn and to grow, so didn't resent it even though it was scary for a while.

It took three elements to find me and bring me back to where I had been before, so that I could move forward in an improved manner from that familiar place. This was a mirror of what I had experienced in my most recent walkabout, which I think must have happened the way it did in order to show me what must happen in my life, just as much as on that walking journey.

God is known for particular numbers, such as seven for the days of creation, and three as in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When it comes to recovering the lost (as I surely was last Thursday) he used three categories of people to bring me back to the exact point from which I had struck out earlier: himself, myself, and others I encountered along the way.

The message was clear: he'd be there for me himself, and he'd make sure others would be where I needed them, but it also depended on me. I was, as always on such occasions when in an unfamiliar place or situation, determined to press on and get back to a familiar part of civilisation, and God knew that. He was with me, alongside, throughout, and I talked to him as we went.

He, in turn, listened to me, both my anguish and my good-natured general conversation, and he also made sure the others I'd need were in position at the right times.
  • The golf course was hardly busy when I crossed and lost the path, but a group was close by for me to ask when I needed them.
  • On the lane on the far (southern) side, he sent the cycling caretaker to let me know where to go and how long a journey it was.
  • When I emerged from Ranscombe Farm and was look at five paths all seemingly leading nowhere, God ensured that the two young ladies were in position for me to ask for directions.
The final irony of my ending up at the exact same 'bus stop as I had arrived in the area some three hours previously, and (something I didn't mention before) the broken-down 'bus at that stop ('pumpkin' series single-decker P243 MKN), sent me a message that something special and different had happened to me that day.

It was not lost on me, even though it took me a couple of days to work it all out in my mind.

The bottom line, though, which is what counts most of all, is that God won't leave me, and will make sure I am brought back to where I need to be, and he'll use himself, my own determination, and others – all together if necessary – to do just that.

In the case of my dark time, he did exactly the same to get me back on an even keel. It needed my action, and my earthly father's aid, as well as my Heavenly Father's steer, but that bad time is now behind me. It still needs a fair bit of work on my part, but I know what to do and where I am now heading. I had also made several promises, and am in the process of implementing all that I have promised, some of which I had already done by the time of Thursday's walkabout, and more by today.

Recognising that it can be necessary to plunge into the depths at times, in order to raise oneself and be raised high again, is one of the most difficult lessons in life. It is especially tough going when, as our Major at the Salvation Army said in his talk this evening, we look at the situation before us and ask "where is God in all this?" and we find it harm to see him there. He is there, though, even if and when we fail to see him.

I went through something rather like that this past week or so; but despite shock-waves impacting my faith, I never lost it and that faith remained strong enough to see me through and out of the darkness. Indeed, it was like emerging from that bridge under the M2 motorway and emerging into the light that, in a way, led me back to Bligh Way in a move that I really hadn't expected (I had thought I was somewhere near Sundridge Hill in Cuxton!) and has left a permanent message in my mind.

Well, that was my tale, and I have no doubt that others have their own they could tell if they were to feel thus inclined. The main message though is that God is there with us always, through thick and thin, even if we don't realise it at the time. Some remain blinkered for life; but probably mosy of us either have experienced – or will experience in future, far more 'coincidences' than could ever be reasonably explained away by natural causes, especially in our times of greatest need.

That's what God does, like the Good Father that he is, without being blatant about it (which would be less valuable to us, and could even be harmful once we realise his power and our own weakness too profoundly) but giving us all the clues we need to piece it together for ourselves.

Works for me!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Teal'C and O'Neill in an Earlier Time

It is probably not realised by most people that Christopher Judge, who plays Teal'C in Stargate SG-1, was in an episode of MacGyver, the lead of which was played by SG-1's Richard Dean Anderson. This was in season 5, episode 13: 'Live And Learn'.

Here are a couple of excerpts from that programme as proof. See what happened when 'Darren' met MacGyver, long before Chris became Apophis's First Prime...

Iroha Song

This is a song I once featured before, with two singers – several months ago, now. It's a very attractive tune, sung and danced well by Rin alone here, wearing what could be termed an interesting outfit, which with the setting suggests a martial arts element. It's all very appealing as a package, especially with Rin's slightly orange tinted hair which also adds something extra, somehow.

There are no English words with this video, and from what I hear they aren't really worth checking out, so my recommendation is just to enjoy this as it stands...

I Was The Snow

I just realised it has been almost six months since I posted the powerful and beautiful song Yuki, Muon, Madobe Nite from the Haruhi Suzumiya anime, so here it is with English subtitles, and just a simple, high quality image of Yuki ('snow') Nagato to accompany the song.

Without knowing the story, it is difficult to grasp the significance of the lyrics; but for those who do know the story this is indeed lump-in-throat stuff. I get that (and more) every time...

First Ever TARDIS Flight

At least, it's the first one in the TV series, though implicitly the old Type 40 had been around a fair bit before we first encountered her in November 1963. I recall this scene from its first airing, which I watched at that time, now almost half a century ago.

This is the crucial excerpt from the first ever Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child...

World Vocaloid Convention

Today in Tsumagoi, Japan is being held the World Vocaloid Convention. If you can read Japanese (especially Kanji) then this web page might well be of interest, including the PDF file downloads for access info and the timetable for the day.

I have had a look at all three (web page and both PDF files) and can make little of them myself, so shall add no more here. I am really just noting the event itself, as it is bound to be significant and no doubt some things covered (perhaps even released) there will be followed up by formal announcements in the days and weeks to come.

Friday, 7 June 2013

That's My Loco!

Well, I do have a few shares in both D1062 Western Courier, seen here, and D1013 Western Ranger.

In this short clip, Courier is leaving Irwell Vale station on a trip at the East Lancs Summer Diesel Gala on 4 July 2009, a maroon loco hauling maroon coaches with plenty of 'clag' (a certain type of exhaust!) in a fast acceleration made possible by its twin Maybach MD655 engines and three-part hydraulic transmission.

The Western design was very clever, in that the engines were not linked, so that if one were to fail the loco could still proceed at reduced power on just one engine. It would be slow going, but it'd still get there unaided...

Going into the Weekend...

What better way to go into a summertime weekend, no matter what the weather might decide to do, with this series of stunning backgrounds by Kazuo Oga for various Studio Ghibli productions, accompanied by the music (either most or all by Joe Hisaishi) from each.

It doesn't get much better than this, even in real life...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Project Diva F Coming to the West

Yes, it's happening, as SEGA announce here. This will be the full version for the PlayStation 3 and Network (PSN), rather than the technically more restricted 'f' (lower case!) version for the PS Vita. With 38 songs, over 90 costumes and 100-plus accessories, there's lots to play for (and just to play) in the now-classic game in its latest incarnation.

I have to admit that I am tempted myself, even though I don't (yet) have a PlayStation, and despite my encroaching age and health related physical limitations. I have until August to make even a preliminary decision (if I want to be one of the first in the USA and Europe to get this), so there's no desperate rush; but it does sound very interesting!

Doctor Who Mini-Adventure

This mini-ep, called Good As Gold, was written by some schoolchildren; and although it takes a few liberties with Who canon (such as how to deal with Weeping Angels) it isn't at all bad...

The Longest Loop

This week, while we have had sunny days, I have been going walkabout again – not with the intention of reporting on any of these treks around places within Medway, but just as preliminaries.

Today's was highly unusual, starting with a 'bus ride to the Bligh Way shopping parade in Strood. I trekked around the immediate area for a while, most notably Albatross Avenue, before crossing the Knights Place Recreation Ground, ending up in Sharfleet Drive, leading to The Shades and onto the A2 Watling Street. The place and road names aren't essential, especially to non-locals, but can be looked up and viewed in the likes of Google Maps by anyone sufficiently interested.

Anyway, I headed west, crossing over the M2 motorway and continuing on past a farm-cum-equestrian training centre, eventually finding a place to turn off before I headed too far out of Medway. This led under a bridge for the high speed rail line, and to the only alternative to another farm: the Rochester and Cobham Park Golf Club.

Fortunately, there is a public footpath across the course, though one does need to be wary of flying golf balls, especially those coming at speed. It is advisable to cross as quickly as possible!

Unfortunately, probably because of my very poor sight these days, part-way across I lost track of the indicators showing which way the public footpath was going, and I had to ask a group of golfers – but it was their first time on the course, so they didn't know either. One of them did spot a yellow-tipped post and pointed me toward that. After waiting for them to deliver their drives in that general direction, I headed that way and found it was indeed a footpath marker.

Finally reaching the far side, I emerged into a backtrack leading left and right – no signposts or other indications of where it led, though. I struck off in one direction, which looked promising though it felt to me to probably be the wrong way. That ended in a farm. I headed back.

The other way was long, oh so long. I encountered the local woods caretaker (the place was like a collection of woodlands) on a bicycle, who said that Cobham had been down the way I had just been; but Strood was up ahead in this my current direction, but around three miles (5km) away. Well, I don't know of a way to get home from Cobham, so it seemed I was in for the long haul.

This by now wearying trek took me past an unlabelled monument, via cattle grids with side gates for humans, and eventually led me into Ranscombe Farm Reserve. Wow! I had hoped to visit this botanical nature reserve one day, and now here it was before me. As no less a personage than David Bellamy had described it, the place was indeed "Medway's miracle", and well worth a visit, I can now state from experience.

The far end of that came out into a narrow footpath that led to a bridge with the M2 motorway (again!) running overhead, but with no obvious way back to civilisation. There simply was no connection, and I tried the paths on both sides of the bridge that ran in parallel with the motorway. I ignored one leading away from the road on the opposite side.

Eventually I realised I was stumped, so had to ask a couple of young ladies who were sitting under the bridge intently doing whatever on their mobile 'phones. They were very kind, and pointed me to the path I had previously ignored, giving me very clear directions concerning a car park, some flats and a large pub', getting me to a 'bus stop.

I was amazed to discover that it was the car park on the edge of Knights Place Recreation Ground, which I had traversed nearly three hours before, and that I was back at the Bligh Way shops! I never had an inkling that the seemingly remote place I had been just minutes before was so close to this or any other part of urban Strood. To have been walking for three hours solid and unexpectedly coming back to the exact same spot has to be the ultimate irony.

It reminded me of Michael Caine in The Ipcress File, when he escaped from what he thought was an overseas concentration camp or similar, clambered over the perimeter fence and was suddenly on a road with ordinary traffic including a London 'bus.

I chuckled all the way home, despite my aching feet, on the top deck of the Number 141...

Miku on Canada's Daily Planet show

This appeared on Canada's Daily Planet programme on the Discovery Channel on 17 May 2013. Pity the uploader of this clip didn't pick a better image for the video (YouTube offers a choice of three); but the clip is actually quite good, and of course in English...

They Call It 'Melon Yellow'

Rather like that old ('sixties) Donovan song, Sainsbury's names its casaba melon as "Melon, yellow" on its products database, as I witnessed at the checkout this morning. The customer in front of me had one such, and it was causing problems.

You see, while the other melon varieties, such as cantaloupe, are identified by their proper names, the casaba is not. As they tend to have no bar code attached to them, unless one knows the PLU code for this item, it can be difficult to find quickly on their system, as the checkout operator discovered today. Only by going through all the melon types on the system.

The operator remembered the Donovan song when I offered the slightly modified line from it as an appropriate adjunct to what had just happened...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Love's Fugue – Double Meiko

Yes, we get two Meiko voices and personages in this good-quality (but not top quality) video, with Love's Fugue, which here comes complete with English subtitles.

Meiko is one of the 'thirty-plus' age Vocaloids, as are Teto and Akita, though I have seen younger versions of her (including 'chibi' and as a 16-year-old) so is considered to be more mature than most of the others. Her favourite tipple is said to be Sake, the Japanese rice wine.

I hope to feature more of Meiko, particularly instances that demonstrate that characteristic more clearly than today's offering does, good though it is...

Cockatiel Sings Totoro Theme

It's actually quite good, and amusing in its own way...

Abba Father

Here I am not referring to Agnetha's dad, but to the wonderfully simple song by the always-excellent Dave Bilbrough.

It has always been my favourite of the tunes played at the end of services (a.k.a. 'meetings') at my local Salvation Army, to which I shall be returning (hopefully full time) from this coming weekend, and with its simple words it is ideal for children as well as adults.

It tells the essential story of what, at our core, so many of us crave more than anything else – and this is a healthy craving, just for a change from those that are more typical of the lesser aspects of the world around us...

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Babylon 5 – Sheridan's Lateral Thinking

This video comprises edited together sections of the 13th episode of season 4 of 'B5' – Rumours, Bargains and Lies – how Captain John Sheridan, commander of the Babylon 5 space station, gets the League of Non-Aligned Worlds not only to agree to patrols by his ships, but to demand that he provides them. (It is also the first mention of the Rebo and Zooty comedy double act that were later played on the show by Penn and Teller.)

Very clever, Captain Sheridan!

Boop Leads The Troupe

The topic of what are generically known as 'virtual idols' and their immense popularity is covered by cartoonist Koriander, in his recent 'blog post.

He isn't surprised by the huge appeal, which as he points out has been around for a long time. Citing the example of Betty Boop (whom he labels the world's first virtual idol, though some might with reason contest that term), and covering the Miku Hatsune/Vocaloid phenomenon, he seeks to show why we shouldn't find the new virtual idol fandom unexpected either.

It's an interesting read; and those of us old enough to have even early-life memories of Betty B will recall something of how popular the character was. I remember that I wasn't over-keen because of her 'peculiar' look, especially her mouth and her awkward-looking stances at times – as illustrated in Koriander's piece – but I was only a child at the time, so what did I know?

There are short videos of both idols embedded in Koriander's piece, and they are worth spending a few minutes checking out, especially the Boop one where the lady sings in Japanese(!)

I think this short quotation from the linked post best sums up the appeal of both Betty and Miku, as the writer sees it...
" two starlets in the music world have ever appeared more human or more infallible, to countless generations worldwide."
Note that "more human" part: it really tells the whole story, and in Miku's case has been apparent in some of the items I have posted here. Perhaps it is because so many different (human) producers are able to put so much of their own humanity into a performance that isn't being filtered or re-interpreted by another's ego or other potential barriers that what we have available to us is so much more than an actual human performer could ever provide.

I suspect that is at least somewhere near the answer, and we can all benefit from that additional breadth – and sometimes depth – in this way of presenting music without the old barriers.

Monday, 3 June 2013


The beautiful last song at several Miku concerts, Starduster (not to be confused with the rather different Stargazer!) is just right for winding down, slow and quite soft and gentle. As we approach midnight here in Britain, even in June and with the clocks set to summer time the stars are now out, so this seems an appropriate time to post it here.

This is again taken from the Sapporo 2011 concert, and has English subtitles (overlapping the Vietnamese ones, but still readable, and you can drag them to a better location).

After listening, it's difficult to get that "Ai [w]o" refrain out of one's head for a while, but it does no harm and is in fact quite relaxing, as one mentally sways left and right...

Duet – Colourful Melody

This truly delightful duet featuring Rin and Miku must be one of the prettiest songs and stage performances by these two ladies, especially wearing their puffball dresses.

This live performance includes English subtitles, which as you might have gathered by now is what I am trying to focus on doing, at least for the time being. I shall still bring you good material before it has been subtitled if I feel visitors here might appreciate that, and add a subtitled version later when it becomes available.

That seems to me to be the best approach, although it means more effort on my part, which doesn't matter as I enjoy it anyway...

Time Machine – Subtitled

Here's another song I have featured previously (then it was with Miku displayed within a huge water spray mist!) but now with English subtitles.

This is the delightfully catchy and remarkably emotionally-performed Time Machine, which I wasn't originally sure I'd really like but that has changed after a few playings during these past months. It was written jointly by Vocaloid producers known as 164 and 40mP (short form of '40meterP') who, when working together like this, call themselves '1640mP'. Well, I suppose there's some logic to that!

See if you are similarly taken with it, in this more conventional (for a Vocaloid!) live performance...

Nine Same Type Locomotives in Convoy

Now here's something you don't see every day! Nine Class 66 diesel-electric freight locomotives in convoy, here heading into Eastleigh Yard on 18 February 2012, in two distinct stages, both captured in this video.

It is sufficiently unusual to merit inclusion here (I typically check out between twenty and thirty railway videos for each one I post here, by the way) and lasts just four minutes or so.

The Class 66 is quite distinctive, bordering on attractive in its styling; though only the red one has much visual appeal as the others look somewhat lacklustre in their more typical livery...

Love Words – Subtitled

A month ago I put up a video of one of Miku's live performances of Ai Kotoba (Love Words) by DECO*27, but it had no English subtitles.

This Dreamy Theater-style version does, and a number of mid-song instant costume changes as well. Many, perhaps most, of the outfits we have probably seen before: I know I have, but then I review a lot of material that doesn't end up on the 'blog, so perhaps it's just me(!)

Londo and Vir

This segment from the Babylon 5 4th series episode The Long Night is a short time after Vir unexpectedly assassinates the mad emperor Cartagia who had been running their world and empire for a while.

It is one of those numerous 'two men in a room' scenarios that J Michael Straczynski was so good at writing. Some of JMS's other writing was notoriously clunky, but put two characters alone together like this, and he tended to excel. Is this a good example of that? "You betcha!"


I have had the occasional face-to-face comment, away from the computers, suggesting that I think of anime and Vocaloid characters as real people, by the manner in which I refer to them. It is an interesting line of thought, this apparent anthropomorphism of these unreal people.

In fact, if you read what I write carefully, you'll realise that I never go that far, and it is the reader's imagination that I do. I refer to characteristics, and not to someone real, for one thing.

Of course, if we all (or most anyway, I strongly suspect) look at our own lives, we find that there is a huge amount of relating to characters, whether human television parts such as those in the soaps such as EastEnders, Hollyoaks or Coronation Street, or invisible ones such as in The Archers on the radio.

That's the first stage. Beyond those come cartoon characters such as Homer Simpson, Cartman or Brian the Dog. There are also puppet characters (mostly for children) such as Basil Brush – but don't forget Topo Gigio or other forms of animation such as Rastamouse.

We can easily relate to these characters, and indeed they are written for and produced in such a way that we will. The same applies to many (perhaps most) anime characters, even here in the west, and to the Vocaloid and similar performing characters (e.g. UTAU) – and there is nothing wrong with that.

Indeed, the pure love shown for the likes of Yuki Nagato and Miku Hatsune is remarkable: it could have turned out to be a cultish minority expressing somewhat offbeat feelings – perhaps even unhealthy and unnatural obsessions – and yet if one were to go through the contributions to Facebook, YouTube and similar on-line resources one would find an almost certainly surprisingly large number of genuine, heartfelt feelings for these two and others too.

In both genres, wonderful very human feelings are growing and, one could say, multiplying all the time, showing just how much the world in general has needed these kinds of characters to admire, relate to, identify with and even to love. The likes of Facebook and YouTube can show barely the tip of what seems to have grown into a huge iceberg, and much of the world is, I feel confident, becoming a broadly better place as a result.

That's a good thing, so let's just accept it and perhaps even join in ourselves!

Vocalectro – Lost Words

This song, performed by Miku, is interesting, despite having no English words (as usual, if they are added one day, I'll try to spot that and re-post the song with them included) and is a good use of one of her 'vocal texture' styles (as I call them) over this techno/trance backing.

The song is by KAZU-k, who left the music composition/production scene after writing this and at least one other song (Aquatone).

As is often the case, I have noticed, there is a long (nearly a full minute) intro, along with some enjoyable photographs and other graphics as well as a slowly scrolling Miku portrait, in this JRHarbort video of KAZU-k's original music...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sunday Slot – 2 June 2013

This is the first of a series of weekly Sunday posts with a Christian slant. They will be from my own perception, applying my own intellect, rather than taken from other sources of commentary. I hope they will be illuminating, especially to those who are not Christians themselves.

As long-term readers here will be aware, I do try to be as informative as I can be, with a 'clean' and often original approach that doesn't slavishly follow what others have written previously (at least, to my knowledge) but using this powerful tool I have – my brain – to get to the core of an issue.

I think my track record speaks for itself...

The Battle for Souls

The Universe didn't just magically appear out of nowhere, made from nothing and having no purpose. There is no conceivable reason for that to have happened, and it certainly wouldn't have resulted in a cosmos anything like what actually exists, even if it had happened for some unaccountable reason.

Therefore it surely has to have been created, with at least one overarching purpose, and is in the form it is for very important reasons – not that we are likely to be able to grasp more than an inkling of that from where we stand, but we have the innate intellidence to recognise that truth.

Similarly, those of us (myself excluded) who are parents recognise the need to let our offspring go their own ways and be their own people, without undue intrusion or interference. How much more that must count with an entity capable of creating an entire Universe and us along with it is impossible for us to fathom.

Thus we have a seemingly detached 'good father' who nonetheless devised a way to become three separate parts, right from the outset of the 'Universe Project' as we might call it, so that he could come among us in our own form, and leave behind a 'Holy Spirit' who has been in the world for around two thousand years now. These underpinned the then emerging updated religion of the Jews that became Christianity.

Against this backdrop is the opposing force of Satan, the devil, also known as Lucifer.

In the battle for souls, which is certainly how Satan looks upon it, he did what any competent strategist (if sufficiently malign) would do: he spread misinformation by encouraging and assisting in the creation of a number of false ideologies, in various parts of the world, over the centuries.

The idea as I see it was twofold: to split off potential adherents of Christ and his Heavenly Father, and for others to come to the conclusion that as they all differed, none could be right. Thus atheism spread, the labelling of true faith as 'superstition', and all the other cop-outs from rational thought (though often dressed up as 'rational' themselves, but in reality only pseudo, as none of them can explain either the Universe or us).

He had started well before the coming of the Christ, and by that era had established a number of successful (and, one can surmise, many more unsuccessful) faiths and philosophies that acted like religions (e.g. Buddhism), all seemingly benign and positive in outlook – at least if one didn't look too deeply.

.After the coming of the Christ, the devil must have been getting desperate, as although the false leads he had in effect sponsored were having quite significant impacts, there was now the Good News (Gospel) with which to contend. This needed a much more aggressive approach, effectively compelling anyone born into any place dominated by the new 'faith' to either follow slavishly or suffer a painful death.

It has to have been particularly difficult in practice as (a) there was no reason whatsoever for any new religious expansion or addition between the first and second comings of Christ, and (b) it needed the right kind of seriously flawed and, indeed, corrupt (and even more corruptible) human individual to act as the conduit for foisting this oh-so-obviously fake pseudo-religion onto the masses.

Eventually, after several centuries, someone suitable was found: a warlord who could be inveigled into even more serious murder and other nasty stuff, including a way to overcome a former moral restriction that the perverse nature of this individual strongly desired could be overcome somehow.

As for the devil's desperation: when he was dictating this new religion to the prophet on the mountainside, part of that was that those born into communities controlled by the new faith were not allowed to choose to leave. As a strong disincentive, a painful death was to be meted out to any who tried to leave.

Does all of that negate the other religions? Not necessarily; as despite their probable origins, people can live decent and God-aware lives despite the intended outcome of the evil one. He is just a big failure, and in a curious way this twist is further evidence of that. Humanity, especially when allied with God, is better and stronger than the devil – though of course not everyone can resist evil, even the more severe kinds

The specifics of the 'warlord' example I touched upon above are not in themselves all that important: it is the method the devil used that should keep us all alert to his ways. I have fallen prey to his 'whisperings' in the past, so am well aware of how easy it is to be lulled into a trap if 'sold' a right-sounding message without at the time being aware of its origin. He still attacks me frequently, both directly and by getting others to act against me, so again I can speak from personal experience on this.

There are others I know who have had their own encounters with Satan, and those are so obviously genuine (in the 'you couldn't make it up' category) that a consistent picture of the true battle going on for human souls is revealed even more clearly than simply taking it on trust from scripture.

This is real, it affects all of us, and none of us should fall into the trap of 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' by 'tarring all with the same brush' (how's that for a mixed metaphor?), usually done for reasons sparked by the activities of (necessarily flawed) human beings rather than the faith itself. That's a common failing with agnostics in particular, and atheists in some cases as well. They've all missed the vital clues that surround our lives at all times...