Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Kipping On The Job

Long-term visitors to my 'blog might recall that I have mentioned in the past that UKIP Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) take their duties and obligations so lightly that they don't bother to put in the attendance or make any other effort to do the job for which they were elected. I don't think it's universal, but it is reputed to be the norm. Of course, they have plenty of excuses – but what it always boils down to is that they are pursuing their own (generally quite lazy) agenda rather than doing the job of an MEP.

If they prefer to do that other thing, then that's fine – but not as a make-believe MEP. If they can't hack it and do the job they are supposed to do, then they should resign so that someone who will make the effort can take their place. I recall when I was elected that there were some aspects of the work I had to do that didn't sit easily with me – but I always put my duty first and my own preferences or comfort very much in last place...so it can be done by those with competence and an honest approach.

All of this extends right to the top of the party, as pointed out here by Guy Verhofstadt...

John Redwood has recently blogged on the same topic. Yes, this is indeed a genuine case of the British electorate being hoodwinked into paying out nice fat amounts and a comfortable existence to those who are even less worthy of it than a lot of the less good MEPs from all over the EU.

The English Democrats, whose very public writings give a strong impression that they are the most fervent enemies of UKIP, do occasionally have their uses despite the now-endemic monomania that makes them one-dimensional and unsuited ever for office. An example of the benefit in keeping an eye on what they are putting out is today's detailing of the outcome of an Ipsos MORI poll and its predecessors showing how the UKIP leader in particular has seemingly fallen out of favour with the British electorate.

This post is very revealing, although it has to be said that it merely confirms what I have been predicting all along – that UKIP are, in effect, a flash in the pan and their support will fade. Indeed, I know I predicted (in one of my now-deleted posts) that we should see this effect kick-in by or around the end of this calendar year. It is why I have always been so relaxed about them, content to point out a few things from time to time, but not being vehemently 'anti' as the Eng Dems seems always to be.

In particular, it shows that UKIP leader Nigel Farage's personal ratings have turned around during 2013. Now, as the party is essentially a one-man publicity machine, with the public-at-large knowing of no other UKIP elected member or party official, and with it now being fairly wide public knowledge that the leader controls and dictates just about everything within the party, this produces a nexus-style 'big swing' in UKIP's prospects. It all hangs on him.

Although the party is still likely to do well at the EU elections this coming May – near-enough by default, as a protest vote, rather than through earning it – after that (and a few months for the headlines and follow-ups to die down) I can see their support waning quite markedly, as the voting public see where the real battle is to be fought for the vastly more important (to most people) General Election the following year.

It will be Cameron-vs-Miliband, with Clegg as a sideshow, and all others will if anything be consigned even more than usual to the sidelines. This will be too big, and at a crucial time, for more than a few percent of voters – and a minority of commentators – to pay more than merely perfunctory attention to anyone else. What is covered outside of that will comprise mostly tokenism dressed up to look more significant than even a basic analysis would disclose.

UKIP had their short period of fame, threw it away in their Farage mania and embarrassingly poor work record, and their time will pass. The boys will be pushed aside when the men come out to do electoral battle...

Happy New Year – Ushering In 2014

My composer/producer friend 'Mr Neutrino' (as I often call him) has just produced this cover of the classic ABBA song Happy New Year, featuring Gumi on the vocal. The visuals are the local fireworks in his part of Romania, as viewed from his balcony at this time last year.

May I take this opportunity to wish all of us a really good year to come. I know it has been a difficult time for many during 2013, for all sorts of individual reasons, and it is my very strong hope that all will change for the better as year 2014 rolls in and throughout those twelve months...

Monday, 30 December 2013

Ghosts of Christmas Eve

With the approach of New Year, it is all too easy for the spirit of Christmas to fade away all too soon. I started to feel it myself, so decided that the full Ghosts of Christmas Eve by Tran-Siberian Orchestra (and guest performers) was in order, and I offer it to others here.

Do try to find three-quarters of an hour to watch this from start to end, preferably uninterrupted – though there are natural breaks here and there in case of need.

There are a number of excellent solo and group performances, a simple but important storyline behind all that transpires and why it is presented in the exact form that it is; and of course there's Ossie Davis as the Caretaker, for which part he was the perfect choice...

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday Slot – 29 December 2013

I haven't written one of these for over three months, for a very good reason. After the revelations in the videos I embedded here back then, I (not unexpectedly) started to receive some 'interesting' responses from, specifically, within the Roman Catholic church.

Were these contributions facing up to the issues raised in the videos, much of which is easy enough to verify from history? No: like a Lefty politician would probably do when the game is up, it was the usual selection of diversionary tactics including ad hominem  attacks on me as the messenger. Not one of them dealt with any point raised in the revelations – which, interestingly, were and are tied into the biblical Book of Revelation.

They knew, and were complicit: there is no other possible reason for taking that approach. Put yourself in an analogous position, and ponder how you'd respond. Yup, clear-cur, isn't it?

That warned me; so I have allowed what I hope is enough time to elapse so that they think they have cowed me into inaction. They are wrong: I have never stopped letting others know, and enough seeds have now been sown that – now – more harm would be done to the Satanists' cause by acting against me in any way, than would occur if they just ignore me.

Interestingly, the only comment that did relate to anything specific was in relation to the second video in that earlier post, concerning the Throne of Satan – as even Vatican staff refer to it, and they aren't joking either! Take a look at these photographs of it and see what you think.

The comment tried to suggest that it was just 'poor taste in art' or words to that effect; but it must be obvious to anyone, by looking at the original illustration of what was to be Satan's throne, that it was clearly deliberately modelled on that. It is inconceivable that the commissioning Vatican official(s) could have been unaware of the original design and it is all an unlucky coincidence, just because it isn't a precise copy. We weren't born yesterday...

Unfortunately for the Catholic professional trolls (for that is how they behaved), I have considerable experience of that kind of beast, so had not a moment's difficulty in sussing out what they were really doing or why. Their reaction to what I posted confirms so much more strongly than anything I could have written just how strong a grip the devil has upon that organisation, and of course also does nothing to contradict the historically vacked-up contention that it has been so for many centuries..

While it is hardly surprising that an unscrupulous and completely immoral opponent should infiltrate and seek to corrupt his opponent's most important edifices, subverting and undermining from within, this is a most dangerous time when some very big things are set to occur soon. We are now aware that the anti-Christ has been on Earth for some time, and that his throne has been prepared. Armed with that knowledge, we are now better equipped to prepare ourselves for what is shortly to come upon us.

We shall all need God's help and guidance, through His Holy Spirit, to get us through the tough times ahead. Already, persecution and murder of Christians by certain seemingly satanic movements is rife: it's always there, out in the world, but has reached a whole new proportion in recent years (also this).That specific targeting, which often also includes the Jews, demonstrates very clearly where it originates and gives a huge and unmistakeable clue about its origin (only the devil in specifically interested in those two groupings, and content to ignore all others).

This is a dangerous time. May all the good, decent people of Planet Earth survive intact what is yet to come, the spiritual storm that brings a tide of crazed inhumanity in its wake, with murder in their eyes and blood already on their hands, either as individuals or collectively. They are with Satan and obviously so: we must be with the true God, no matter what it brings for us personally.

We know which side will win out in the end, and after a relatively short period: it has been foretold. We just have to stick it out – somehow – while the oppressors, the persecutors and the murderers around us try to change the already-known future. Ultimately they will fail!

Episodic Haruhi

It has been almost a year (would you believe) since I recommended the wonderful Hauhi Suzumiya series to visitors here, since when quite a few new regulars have added to the mix of readers/viewers here.

The following video is the first episode, with automatic feed-through to each episode in turn, making it more controllable (despite Haruhi's wild nature!) for the viewer, rather than the all-in-one versions of each series I posted last January. Those have since disappeared anyway.

As then, this is dubbed into English, and features a top-notch narration by the excellent Crispin Freeman – probably the best of its kind ever done anywhere in the world. He gets the mood and manner of Kyon just right, introducing us to 'Mr Happy (not)' in a way that is brilliant and perfectly contoured to the character.

As far as my inexpertise can determine, there are occasional very mild adult references scattered throughout the series, and the language is just one level off fully family-friendly, so it's probably not advisable for the under-12s (again using the official film classification bands as a guide) – but the underlying nature of what turns out to be quite a complex storyline probably wouldn't appeal to those below that kind of age anyway.

Now, although there will always be a few 'Kyon's in the real world, perhaps the odd one or two reading these words right now, I suspect that most viewers of this landmark series will be at least smiling most of the way through, and probably laughing a lot too: it's quite infectious...

The Story of Eve

Here is a new song by MJQ-P, of whom I had never heard before today, using Miku English very effectively. The Story of Eve is sad, but enjoyable nonetheless; and technically has been so well done that you probably won't need the captioned lyrics, although the spoken parts are slightly less accurate in a few spots,

As the comments at the video's YouTube page indicate, Miku's voice is just right for this, as you'll discover...

Friday, 27 December 2013

Haruhi Review

Specifically, a review of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I don't post others' reviews here ordinarily, but this one is very accurate and I think has considerable value.

If you can cope with the sometimes rather obvious editing, and the presenter's manner (no problem to me, but I can see he might not be to everyone's taste) this is worth ten minutes or so of anybody's time who likes a really good story well produced and presented.

I have checked a few of this guy's reviews, and he is genuinely good at this and has an obviously broad knowledge along with considerable personal experience. He looks at story, characters, production, sound, whether subtitling or English voice-dubs are better, personal enjoyment and other factors.

Interestingly, he has rated this movie one of the highest of any he has ever reviewed. Although the opening page of the video warns that it is intended for 'mature audiences', and some of his other reviews are definitely of that type, this one is suitable for those aged (based on film certificates) twelve years or over.

Amazingly, although this review has been on YouTube for just three days, it has received well over a thousand comments there (it's worth skimming through at least a batch of 'em, too) and more than 32,000 viewings...

Winter Cleaning

As today is Dec 27, it seems appropriate for Vocaloid song producer DECO*27 to produce a seasonal song for today. In Japan, and many other countries too, there is a practice at this of the year to clean one's home, ready to meet the incoming New Year a few days hence.

Thus we have Winter Cleaning, performed by Miku, which goes further than just physically cleaning of dust and grime. Play this video, with its entertaining animation, and you'll find out where DECO*27 has taken the basic 'clean-up' concept into another realm of all our lives...

Happy Birthday, Rin and Len

Yes, today (27 December 2013) marks the fifth anniversary of the release of the Kagamine duo, often thought of as brother and sister, though they can of course be considered and used as other male/female pairing types.

Here is an interview with their voice provider, the delightful Asami Shimoda (with slightly 'Engrish' subtitles!), including excerpts from a few of the duo's songs – especially Asami's own favourite Rin Rin Signal...


Kokone is a new Japanese vocaloid – another year-end announcement for release in early-ish 2014. I have known of her for a few days now, but decided to hold this back until after Christmas.

Her name means heart sound, as I suspect at least a few long-term followers of my posts on the Vocaloid scene might have worked out: koko- from the root that gives us Rin's song Kokoro (the actual heart) and ne which means sound, and is already known to us from ends of the Crypton CV-series' surnames: Hatsune, Kagamine and Megurine.

Kokone is scheduled to be released this coming February; and the fairly short (just under two minutes in duration) demo track in the video below gives us some idea of what to expect from the new package. There is, as yet, no formal artwork to show what her humanoid avatar will be like. No doubt this will soon be revealed to the public.

It could be said with justification that we already have enough Japanese female vocaloids, and this one seems to offer little more than we have had in the more recent releases – such as the wide pitch range (three octaves), smooth sound, and (no doubt) the better control of vocal characteristics that are facilitated by newer developments including V-3 itself.

While not wishing the market to be swamped with too bewildering an array of similar products, I welcome this newcomer as the standards now being set have raised the bar another few notches and this is a good thing, to become a new, better norm. I think the market can stand these newcomers; but too many and most simply will not get the sales to support continued development and addition of new 'append'-style vocal styles, each of which requires its own complete voicebank so is a major undertaking.

For today, though, let's enjoy First Impression – an apt title for an initial demo, though currently without English words provided...


LEGO has come on a long way since my youth, when as – friends of a part-Danish family – my brother and I were introduced to this LEGO thing years before it was actually sold in Britain. We learned the correct pronunciation – 'lee-go' – years before the Brits incorrectly started calling it 'leggo'...

Something not particularly widely known is that one of the LEGO bosses, Mrs Boland, stayed at our house for a couple of weeks and really liked our English tea...so I bought her a tea caddy as a gift.

Anyway, today's LEGO is capable of many more design types than we had back in those days, and one can even make Miku from a specially-designed kit, as demonstrated in the video below...

Thursday, 26 December 2013

GUMI is now a Voiceroid too!

Megpoid Talk is a new – and, to me at least, completely unexpected – product that gives the singer we more commonly know as GUMI proper speaking abilities via a separate voicebank and user interface.

So far at least, it seems that it is only in Japanese; but as Megpoid English already exists as a Vocaloid, it would be no surprise if an English version of Megpoid Talk were to appear as well, either with this or in the future. I have no idea on this point as yet, but shall keep watching developments.

The new package will be released in February 2014 and will contain a range of expressive and other controls, a selection of what might be termed 'mood sounds', and even allows one to speak into the software and it will have Megpoid speak it in the same tone and inflections – this last feature being somewhat like VocaListener. It can also handle vocaloid-format sound files (VSQs).

I do not know what its intended applications are, but no doubt the style and location of advertising of the new product will reveal distinct clues in this regard.

The following short demo gives a very good idea of what will be possible, and it seems to do it mostly perfectly. Time will tell whether there are any significant issues, but my initial impressions are very favourable....

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

O Holy Night

This is the night! Not necessarily correct by the literal calendar, but the one on which we celebrate our dear saviour's birth, as the lyrics say in this most precious of Christmastime songs and carols.

This is, as I always feature, Michael Crawford along with what I now learn (despite indications to the contrary in previous year) are children from the St Bartholomews Episcopalean Church in New York. My apologies for unwittingly passing on incorrect attributions in previous years – but little angels are still angels no matter where they live!

Although the resolution and clarity are a little lacking in this version, it is the best I can find currently on-line; and the comments at its YouTube page are among the most consistently positive and uplifting I have ever read for any video...

Night In The Galactic Railroad Train

Some reading this might remember this music from the Isao Tomita concert extract I posted a few weeks ago. It's from his Symphony Ihatov; and I do believe it might be he who makes a guest appearance in what follows, conducting this work.

This time the music is set in context, based on Kenji (sometimes written 'Kenzi') Miyazawa's Night On The Galactic Railroad, a full-length movie made in 1985, and the video here is very well done. A familiar performer also features in places, though the train and the landscape are perhaps the real stars here.

Stay with this: it's well worth it especially in full-screen and high definition – and it is a fitting video for Christmas Eve: we know that the Christmas Story was the first step on Planet Earth toward the Easter Story and the cross...

Christmas Eve, Sarajevo

Yes, it's time for the perennial Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the one with the truly delightful child, the scraggy kittens and the snow-covered piano and rather distinguished orchestra conductor outside.

I make no apologies for re-posting this wonderful, magical and yet modern mini-masterpiece of video on this day each year. The occasion just wouldn't be quite the same without it...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Merry Merry Christmas

I have been looking for some time (months!) for a version of this with English subtitles or captions, without success, but in the end have decided to go with it anyway as it's just such a delight. Yes, I know I did this with Snow Miku just a few days ago, but it bears repetition as you will see.

Miku in her Santa costume is irresistible – even though some leggings might have been beneficial in the cold, snowy weather. A garter on one side isn't going to keep her warm!

For any visitor here who (a) likes this costume concept and (b) has access to Nico Nico Douga, there's a nice video here of three Lat Teto models, the lead one in a (somewhat different) Santa outfit, performing the famous World Is Mine. It is worth noting, in regard to this, that Teto's screams are very good, though Miku's are probably still the best in the business...

Voc-Xmas 2013 – How Many Nights Until Christmas?

Not many now; but here's Vocalekt Visions' original song of that title from two years ago, featuring GUMI and CUL and lead vocalists – and don't they go well together? There is also a chorus of SF-A2 Miki, Iroha Nekomura, Miku and Gakupo.

No English words are provided, unfortuinately, though there are some obvious ones actually in the song. As it happens, with this song, it isn't essential (though it would be helpful) and it is essentially a getting-in-the-mood number, which it does well enough as is, complete with cartoon-y graphics.

This is also yet another reminder of just how good the two primary driving forces of Vocalekt Visions – Tempo-P and neutrinoP – were as a composing team, and it is so good that the bond between them has just this past few weeks been re-established, after a period of several months when they were going separate ways. Perhaps, in a way, that 'mending of fences' is the best Christmas present the Vocaloid community will have this year...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dream Dream

As a short break from Christmassy videos, here's Miku with the popular Deco*27 song Yume Yume ('Dream Dream') complete with English – and Japanese as well, both Kanji and romanised – subtitles. This was uploaded just a few days ago, so you probably haven't seen it yet.

This is one of those with a number of costume and other changes as we go along, and it works very well. Those who have been following the Vocaloid scene as I have unfolded it on this 'blog will recognise a few of the outfits as being associated with a particular song, and the standard Append box-art model, along with several others. There are even cat ears...

It's just one of those things that human performers cannot do – especially instant hair colour and style changes – and it all adds to the enjoyment...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Chug Patrol

"...and we're ready to roll!"

Chuggington's Wilson leads in this fairly short clip (described as a 'sneak peek') of Chug Patrol, which is – as one might expect – a sheer delight. From what has been written at the YouTube page and on Twitter, it looks like this is just part of a longer video production to come in the New year some time...

Let's Split says Chuck

This is the 'gone viral' Chuck Norris one-minute Christmas greeting video, for anyone who hasn't yet caught it. Well, it is only a couple or so days old...

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Santa Baby

Sweet Ann (the Vocaloid developed here in Britain, in collaboration with an outfit in Sweden) here performs Santa Baby. The (English, of course for this) words are provided but are hardly necessary. Whoever produced them didn't know how to spell 'yacht' either(!)

It's a very good effort, especially as it was made three years ago, but Giuseppe is very good, as we found with his Big Al work a couple of days ago...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Voc-Xmas – The First Christmas

Although there are no English words provided, this is such a delightful and uplifting number that I thought it merited inclusion in this season of Vocaloid Christmas songs. This is Len with The First Christmas, by MusukaP.

The video is fairly simple, but effective in the context, with some development including scene changes, which doesn't happen nearly often enough with this style of music-video imagery...

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Silent Night, by Miku

It's a bit old now, hence the low resolution; and this is just two verses of Silent Night, but it is nicely done and suits the mood, I think. It just feels right...

What Are The Odds...?

...of gamblers turning to on-line alternatives as payouts on the 'fruit machine' type of gambling device are reduced to a tiny maximum by statute, as is being proposed in some quarters?

Douglas Carswell MP has today written on this topic in his Telegraph column, citing an existing, equally predictable (at the time, and even more obvious now) effect of government imposition on another activity. Although there are differences, the result was exactly what is almost certain to happen in this move in regard to what are known generically as Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Locally, here in Medway. Labour has been pushing the drive against the device, not addressing the underlying issue. It is their way: as ever, they even now pursue only the issues that they judge will give them the chance to make the political running and gain them kudos in the electorate's eyes.

The other constant is that their 'solutions' almost always impose new laws and/or regulations – such is the natural dictator's way of doing things, and all Lefties are wannabe dictators at heart, though most deny this, unsurprisingly.

When I looked at this subject in one of my weekly digests (currently on hold throughout the Christmas season, but material still being actively pursued every day), I stated that it was the gamblers' behaviour, and their desire to gamble in particular, that is the real issue. As nearly always occurs, Labour miss the target yet again because their interest is only in serving their own interests, not in serving society – and this is yet another of that ever growing pile of obvious examples of that worthless approach.

As Douglas says, gamblers will turn to on-line gambling instead; and it should be said that there – as most of it is provided from overseas so has no UK jurisdiction overseeing or moderating it at all – they are likely to end up with greater problems than they have had in the establishments, not forgetting a lack of exercise by staying at home, as a secondary effect.

Personally, I don't like these FOBTs or their arcades – but I'd rather keep them if the alternative is going to be worse, as seems close to a certainty.

UPDATE 20 December: I see that at least one member of Medway Labour is (somewhat desperately, it has to be said) trying to twist the above post into me-against-one-Conservative (out of almost three dozen of such, I might add). Apparently, this one member is supportive of Labour's stance, which suggests to me he is simply not up to speed regarding what I and Douglas Carswell have written on the subject, for example. There's certainly nothing in the local newspaper article (linked from that tweet) that suggests the member concerned actually is what the Labourite claims, however.

Nevertheless, the real question is: was it that one member who has been pushing this issue for months, and seeking as much publicity as possible in self (and party) promotion? No: all that haas been done by Medway "look at me! look at us!" Labour, as is firmly embedded in the public record.

As for the Conservative councillor concerned: I recommend reading the above post, follow the link to the Carswell column, and have a good hard think about the probable consequences of the action Medway Labour have been pushing, in case there actually is any doubt in his mind.

Further UPDATES 22/23 December: Local Labour blogger Cllr Tristan Osborne, who was tweeting just a couple of days ago on this as I mentioned in the first update, has come out of blogging hibernation (no posts for a month and a half) to have a go at those of us who have a different (i.e. intelligent) view on the subject, no doubt bolstered by this (blatantly) one-sided story in our local newspaper. Won't work: read Alex Massie for an appraisal coming from near enough the opposite direction, but still reaching more-or-less the same conclusion that I did. Also, this from David Atherton fits in well with the Massie piece.

Labour show themselves to be either unable to or unwilling (probably both) to treat the subject as adults and with any shred of intelligence whatsoever. For them it is nothing more than an attack line and an excuse to regulate our lives further – their two ultimate aims in life.

One Nation Labour, One Idea Balls

Continuing his tradition of re-using old ideas (and hoping that no-one will notice), such as allocating the funds Labour would supposedly raise from a one-off 'bankers tax' ten times over, Ed Balls is now trying a variation on broadly the same lines.

This time, he is launching the same idea he has put about previously – in fact, twice before, as Guido reveals (as have others).

It is interesting to note that the first time he repeated this 'launch' of his so-called zero-base cost review of all public spending a good year after his original announcement of precisely the same thing (although we can now expect Labourites to 'explain' how this is actually something different, somehow). The first was in September last year, repeated this past September.

Now, just three months later, here it is being 'launched' yet again. It seems that he has no other ideas, and has to repeat the same old same old instead of any original thinking, going forward. The reason appears to be an increasingly desperate attempt to hold onto the Shadow Chancellor position which, you might recall, he didn't get originally anyway: the somewhat hapless Alan Johnson held the position previously.

Now it looks as though it could pass to old hand Alistair Darling, or perhaps another, as Balls becomes ever more of an embarrassment to ed[ward] Miliband both for putting out messages that disagree with the party leader's stance (hardly a 'one nation' approach!) and for his weak and childish pranks before the television cameras, not least as the 'turkey' at Prime Minister's Questions.

As I have mentioned on a number of previous occasions when writing my political entries for this 'blog: the clues are all there, and their actions so often betray their motives. While it is always possible to read more into a situation that actually exists, often there are just so many indications, both current and from individuals' and parties' established patterns of behaviour, that it becomes a safe enough conclusion to deduce such as what I have outlined here.

This continues to leave Ed-M with the dilemma of what to do about (and with) Ed-B. Probably his only way out is to do something similar to what was done by Tony Blair to move John Prescott out of harm's way (at least in theory), which was to create a new position specially for him. Thus Prescott became Deputy Prime Minister, with his own ministry.

Something similar might be the only feasible way to deal with Ed Balls, though in opposition it is not quite the same thing. It would therefore be tricky and need a lot of very clever strategic thinking. I can think of a few approaches, or components of an overall approach, that might work...

In any case, all we need to do for now is sit back and watch what develops over the next few weeks and months, but with knowledge of 'the story so far' to inform our reading of that future. I expect lots of light bulbs to come on over people's heads, when that unfolds, because of this foreknowledge.

British Politics in 2014

Looking forward to next year, three members of award-winning PR firm Weber Shandwick – one each from the standpoint of one of the three traditional mainstream national political parties – discuss what could well lie in prospect for our nation's politics in the upcoming year.

Unsurprisingly, the European and local elections that will be held during 2014 are covered, as are moves and policy directions that will lead up to the following year's General Election. Notably, the panel – very well chaired by The Independent's Steve Richards – includes no less than Alex Deane, who has one of the most rational and broadly-encompassing outlooks I have encountered in this country's political-and-related scene during recent years...

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

I am grateful to Channel Miku 39 for pointing me to this three-year-old version of the seasonal classic performed by vocaloid Big Al.

It's generally very good, and despite a little awkwardness with some of the pronunciation should be easy for anyone to follow without the aid of the captioning, even by those who don't already know the words Big Al's voice is definitely a strong, masculine one that isn't overpowering.

I have been looking toward the idea of adding a male Vocaloid to my set-up here one day if I become a true producer and earn enough to pay for one,and think I might have found him...

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Immature World

That title is a good description for Planet Earth and specifically its human population anyway, but I don't know if the meaning of this song accords with that broader view either in part or in total. Probably not at all...

This, though, is the promised duet of the fairy sisters, Merli and Lapis, that vanished shortly after first being uploaded to YouTube earlier this week. Here it is back again, presumably with whatever was found wanting in the earlier version now fixed. The song is by Taishi.

It won't be to everyone's taste as songs go (but, then again, what is?) but is a useful demonstration of how the two voices can work together. While they are not an automatic complementary pair, for items such as this they actually work well together; and I think this pairing opens up another of those areas that perhaps haven't really been well suited to Vocaloid usage before now.

Yes, I know: I'm probably being too analytical, betraying my background as more behind-the-scenes in and close to the music industry in years gone past, but it's a useful perspective to have sometimes, especially in this relatively new and supremely exciting area of the industry...

Wizards in Winter – New Light Show

As is an annual tradition on this 'blog, I am featuring a light show set to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's excellent Wizards in Winter. I searched for a new one, created this year, and ploughed through (at least part of each of) more than a dozen 2013 videos of this.

Disappointingly, most were of low technical quality, poor sound, or were somewhat lacklustre as these shows go. One even started half-way through. I don't know what has happened: it suggests that much, perhaps most, of the sheer creativity and attention to technical and other matters has passed its peak and is now in decline. Or it could just be a bad year and 2014 will be back to the higher standard we have witnessed before.

In the end, I found two that were worthy of inclusion here, and I think this one is fractionally better than the other one, overall (despite having been taken in a way that makes the house seem to be listing to one side), so here it is for your enjoyment...

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Merry Merry Christmas

Continuing the Merry Christmas theme from the previous post, now that the term has become acceptable again this year, who better than Snow Miku 2014 to give us this long-established seasonal song. The English words haven't been provided, but we all know them anyway so that is no hardship.

With a brief switch to a different stage, and an animated (in both senses!) performance, this certainly keeps hold of one's attention, and I think might well become the definite Vocaloid video of this number. It certainly deserves to be so...

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Merry Christmas To The World

This is a really nice seasonal song by Rin, who seems here to be the perfect choice to perform Merry Christmas To The World in a delightful arrangement.

It doesn't get much better than this, although it is true that the full English words (some of it is already in English) would have been welcome...

Merli Magic

Lapis' older sister Merli is now ready, and will be released a week from today, on Christmas Eve – so there's one idea for a last-minute gift, perhaps even to oneself!

As anticipated, her voice is more mature than that of Lapis, and perhaps lacks some of the little one's charm while adding some characteristics of her own. The two demos below, of Justitia and Fate Leading Star (in Japanese, and with no English words supplied so far) give a good idea of her capabilities, and from these alone I feel confident in being able to judge Merli to be another worthwhile addition to the Vocaloid ranks. They are really getting to be very good indeed.

There has been a joint demo track produced with Lapis as well as Merli, but that has been taken down for the time being. I shall feature it here when it re-appears, as it surely must...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Angels We Have Heard On High

This is the Hatsune Chorus with quite a nice arrangement of this traditional carol...

Music Score Of Starry Space

This is another of those exceptional Vocaloid songs with a cumbersome title(!) This is Maika, here used truly outstandingly, with tremendous feeling and understanding of human vocals, in this song by Daisuke-P that has been uploaded to YouTube just this morning.

It is performed in Japanese, which is an interesting twist: historically, producers have often tried to make Japanese Vocaloids speak and/or sing understandably in other languages. This time it's round the other way.

The English captions have a couple of minor errors ('saving' instead of 'saying', 'thoudsands') but nothing that obscures the intended meaning. It's one of the longer single pieces I have featured here, at just over six minutes, but well worth it...

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Trans City

This event in a place in Japan called Beppo (which I recently checked out parts of in Google Maps and Street View) recently hosted the Trans City event featuring Miku and Miku/Vocaloid-related activities, goods and all sorts.

Here is a report from that event, including a video of the event's theme song Asterism that features a nice Tda Miku model. There  is also a video of Light Song (by kz/livetune, no less) that has a Miku model with a slightly odd face: perhaps it's just an unfortunate effect of the close-up shot that shows this.

Overall, it looks to have been an interesting and innovative event – especially the 360-degree 'skylight theatre' in the dome...

AR Vocalo Walk

There's a new Android app that allows you to animate and control twenty animated characters – essentially chibi versions of various vocaloids – to get them to walk around. Only one can be controlled at a time, and to switch control from one character to another one has to 'tap' the wanted character, as demonstrated in the clip..

Although it's obviously fun, I think it probably has only a relatively short-term appeal. We shall see. Anyway, well done to daniwell, no less, for producing this and making it freely available...

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Invaders

Several episodes of the classic Quinn Martin TV series have been going up on YouTube this year, and here is the pilot episode Beachhead, in which all the ingredients mentioned in the opening narration for every subsequent episode came to pass. Here is 'the man too long without sleep; and the 'closed, deserted diner'.

This is the kind of series that made real impact on the audience because of its storytelling, intrigue and development – despite some 'goofy writing' (as one commenter to the next episode put it) and relatively low-grade special effects. Now we can re-live the gripping drama of The Invaders as it was properly devised by Larry Cohen, without the peculiarities of the two-part mini-series starring Scott Bakula some years later...

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Jingle Bells

With the voices of (alphabetically) Gakupo, GUMI, Iroha, Miki, Miku and Yukari, it's Jingle Bells as produced by my composer/producer friend neutrinoP, whose real name also happens to be Miki, and whose home town this is – Hunedoara in Romania – and where these scenes were shot (by someone called Pixelino) last Christmas (2012).

I think those responsible for the decorations in Hunedoara did a splendid job, much better than we tend to do in similar sized towns here in Britain. Perhaps our local council might like to watch this and have a bit of a think about their own offerings...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Lux et spes KOBE

It's not in English, but this is so nice that I don't think the lack of English words really matters, any more than it does for Latin Christmas and other songs, carols and hymns. That said, I shall of course post the English-subtitled (or captioned) version if and when it appears and I find it!

On the subject of Latin, there are some Latin words (just a few) within this, captioned at top-right, about three and a half minutes in...
Caelum lucidum
Levis corde
Plenus lumine noctis
Lux et spes means 'light and hope', I should explain for those who do not know Latin. – and no, 'Levis corde' does not mean a brand of corduroy jeans(!)

This video features the ever-charming fairy Vocaloid Lapis Aoki, whose delightful voice is absolutely perfect here...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Voc-Xmas 2013 – Macne Nana

Not a Caribbean plantain dish or drink, but the admittedly unusual name of a new Vocaloid whose English voicebank is due to be released next month (January 2014), more than four years after the original (Japanese) release. I am grateful to Channel Miku 39 on Facebook, for spotting this before I did, and providing a link to the short (52 seconds) Soundcloud demo below.

Technically, the Macne series – comprising six characters – are neither Vocaloid nor UTAU, both of which are PC-run systems whereas the Macne series (four sisters, their father, and another about whom I have no info as yet), as the name suggests, are for the Apple Mac'. The voicebank is embedded within the software rather than a separate file, so the software structuring is markedly different – although I gather that a way has been found to 'acquire' the voicebank for use with at least one UTAU editor.

It's a somewhat child-like female voice – as the artwork suggests (I am no expert at this, but am guessing at a 13-14 year old... UPDATE: officially 14-15 years) – but is good at both Japanese (as far as I could determine) and English, even without pronunciation 'tuning', none of which was applied here. Nearing in mind that there is a somewhat limited range of sounds (phonemes) supplied with Macne Nana – just 104 – this is a good achievement.

Interestingly, her younger sister, Macne Petit (yes, I spotted it too: it should be 'Petite' for a female!) has the same voicebank with fewer sounds, and was therefore cheaper to buy, though an expansion pack was later released  to extend the range of phonemes for Petit.

So, here is the new Vocaloid Macne Nana with Deck The Halls in both languages. If the player doesn't appear first time (a bug I have mentioned before) just force a page reload and it should then be visible and its controls accessible...

Wardrobe Malfunction!

There are times when even the (generally) well-organised among us can have clothes difficulties, and thus it was with me today.

I was going to the funeral of a departed female friend, who also acted as my 'wardrobe mistress' in a way and would go around shops searching out suitable clothes for me to buy – usually for upcoming social events.

Today, as a tribute, I had decided to wear (as far as possible) suitably funeral-coloured (for want of a better term) garments from among those we went out to acquire. The lady herself would adjust lengths and suchlkike after I had tried them on for her insepction.

What I hadn't realised is that, since buying the items I thus chose for today, I had lost girth but gained width in the neck department. This meant that, this lunchtime, as I was getting dressed for the occasion, I found the trousers loose and the top shirt button wouldn't do up.

Panic stations! Well, not quite, but I did check to see if anything else was suitable. Nothing that fit me any better was (the only shirt now has a worn collar and I keep it only for indoor wear, not in company) and the other trews are all too light-coloured for such a event. Fortunately, a belt did the trick with the latter – or seemed to – and a tight enough knot in the tie near-enough camouflaged the unfastened shirt top button.

Unfortunately, something seemed to go wrong with the belt by the time we had reached the wake, and the garment they were supposed to be keeping snug around my waist was listing to one side, slowly heading southward.

I had to hide from view while I unthreaded the offending item and re-attached the thing in an attempt to rfix the problem. It never felt right after that, but at least it looked acceptable now, from what I could perceive. I really needed a full-length mirror, but there wasn't one at the venue, so I had to hope that my appraisal matched others' views, or near enough..

For the future, I shall have to remember that my once constant size (nothing changed more than on a miniscule scale for decades) is now a variable quantity – or, in fact, a whole batch of measurements of which any one or combination could have changed since the last time I wore a particular garment.

Therefore, from now on, I shall have to do something that was never necessary in the past, which is to try on what I intend (or hope!) to wear the day before. Ah, the 'joys' of the ageing process...

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Girl From Ipanema

This delightfully tuneful classic is here sung in Brazilian Portuguese by Maika, the new Spanish Vocaloid. It is not (yet) very well known that Voctro Labs added some non-Spanish phonemes to Maika's voicebank to make this kind of performance possible. The lady is certainly versatile!

For those familiar with the language (and when I worked on the public counters in Immigration the lady on the next position spoke Portuguese, from whom I picked up a little) the differences in pronunciation in the Brazilian variation are noticeable, and Voctro seem to have done a very good job on this. Her release date is 18 December, just over a week from now (as I write this).

Overall, I think it's a nice treatment, and benefit's from Maika's clear and slightly more mature voice than many of the Japanese Vocaloids have – so here is Garota de Ipanema...

Kozue dances Viva Happy

I originally posted this video here almost three months ago, but it warrants a re-post, especially as I have some more information now, the pertinent parts of which I shall summarise in a few short paragraphs...

As I have mentioned before, the wonderful Kozue Aikawa left Danceroid a while back owing to physical health problems at the time. The troupe recruited replacement members (nowadays they are seven strong) and Kozue appears to be back in form.

As a talent not to be wasted, Kozue has returned to dancing more recently, and has pursued the demanding task of finding someone to partner her who could perform as well, including keeping up, which is no mean feat!

Lilia has been the answer – sometimes known in a more feline version of her name Lilia-nyan, or as Lilymouse, as here, dancing to Mitchie M's recent vocaloid release Viva Happy, which I have also featured before in its original form. The rather bland setting is perhaps a little disappointing, but that's the only negative I can find, and a mild one at that.

Those of a certain age will spot a Tiller Girls step or two in among the various moves in this typically complex routine, though I doubt the performers are aware of its origin. Churu-chu-chu...

Danceroid – Song of the Gods

At least that's how I interpret its Japanese title Kamigami no Uta.

For a change, here are all seven of Danceroid's members performing yet another of their very complex and precisely timed/spaced dances, in an appropriately traditional setting and after a visit to the temple to prepare them mentally...

Christmas 2013 – Angels We Have Filmed From High

Well, sort of... (to quote Premika Eaton as Laurie in S P Somtow's cult classic 'The Laughing Dead')

It's the second week of December and the world is now well and truly in Christmas mood – at least those parts of our planet that recognise and celebrate this time. Therefore I shall feature some appropriate videos from now on, mixed in with other posts, as I have done for the past several years. This year, some will feature Vocaloids as a bonus.

I am grateful to my composer/producer friend 'Mr Neutrino' for sharing this highly unusual performance of Angels We Have Heard On High performed by The Piano Guys on one piano, and filmed from all angles via a walking toy, a model train, and a radio-controlled helicopter among others.

There is a commercial bit at the end, after the performance, for their new album and sheet music nooks. It's worth letting that play through to the end on one's first watching of this, especially for the 'monkey business' just after...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

SeeU says 'Byee'

Yet another farewell-titled song by SeeU, this one originally from GLAM (or her 'backing group', as I like to think of them, though I am sure they wouldn't agree!)

I have been aware of this for a while, but haven't posted it before because of its relatively low resolution – though it is still good enough. I had just hoped that a higher quality version would appear, but it hasn't, so we'll need to go with this for now.

It's typical of a tourbux SeeU model (a variation on the one we saw perform with GLAM in I=Fantasy) choregraphed to the usual excellent – I'd dare to suggest world-beating – standard...

Exposed in Public

I am just starting to catch up with jobs like blogging, after the storm, a death, and a number of other things. I hope to write a (3-week!) political digest later today. We shall see...

Meanwhile, the subject of exposure to the public eye is worth revisiting. Old hands here will no doubt be well aware of what UI have written before, especially regarding the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) – and specifically the Kent PCC – once any that had been accustomed to working out of the public view were plunged into the spotlight of open scrutiny.

In the case of the Kent PCC, no amount of political maneuvering is going to be able to hide the deep and permanent flaws for ever. Now, the Kent PCC ran far and away the most political campaign of the six candidates here, with only Labour coming anywhere near, despite the public stance of supposedly being 'non-political'.

Some interesting historical information has come to light that emphasises this, and the PCC's ongoing style continues to reinforce that  unavoidable perception, that more and more of the voting public in the county are waking up to, all too late for this term. The PCC's established standard approach – 'If it's a success, then it's my success; but if it's not so good I'll say it's 'an operational matter' and 'I'll take it up with the Chief Constable' – has now been realised by a fair number of separate, independent observers, and the lady ain't fooling any of them any longer.

The ongoing style that shows it is (and always has been) about her, with everything else coming second or third at best, has also been spotted quite widely now. When your newsletters are plastered non-stop with images of yourself, you do rather give away the actual nature of your approach, along with all the other clues.

This is what I have been talking about here, in other media, and in private conversations, for some time now. Exposure to the public gaze reveals more than the less-than-straight participants in these lines of work find comfortable. It is why Left-wing (and any other dodgy) régimes operate largely or (if they can) entirely in secret , from the former USSR to Gordon Brown plotting and planning in his 'bunker'.

So it is with UKIP too. Now that they are garnering a lot more media and public attention, their true nature is coming into the public arena much more and their members' own characters are becoming more widely known. Now, there are certainly elements of the media and elsewhere looking for anything they can exploit – as is done to all parties, and grown-ups just have to deal with this.

Nevertheless, there is some genuinely nasty stuff in the mix – and, of course, an outfit such as UKIP tends to attract such types. Not only those sorts, of course; but they do have a tendency to drift in that direction. Thus it becomes relatively easy to see who might switch to UKIP, especially among elected members in one or another place and hopeful candidates. I have ticked-off a few on my mental 'scoreboard' in recent years.

The latest controversy, over a fairly high-up UKIPper (Victoria Ayling) who, it is suggested, has said that her wish is for all Britain's immigrants to be sent back, is a case in point, and the story is worth watching as it unfolds during the next day or two. In fact, her 'rant' turns out to have been about illegal immigrants and others not entitled to be or remain in our country, as is coming out just as I write this (and made clearer later, so I have since edited this bit a little, for the sake of accuracy).

This is just the latest in what is in fact quite a long series of UKIP truths and half-truths coming out – most of which have not been denied, but attempted to be defended, including this one although with some justification this time.

Thus the already-disillusioned British electorate will have yet another reason to wish 'a plague on all your houses' to our political parties; but they will come out of that uniformly negative phase in due course, as they always do. Eventually, every thinking person realises that someone needs to run the nation, especially in the increasingly global nature of human society.

There is no point throwing out the baby with the bathwater, which – experience tells us (especially with Trades Union elections, as many reading this will probably already realise) – lets in the extremists whose activists will all dutifully go to the polls and cast their vote for the Unite candidate or whoever it happens to be in their own local case.

The rest of us need to be pro-active, and that includes at election times; and what we are now learning about what we might have mistakenly thought were rising stars is valuable in our need to re-calibrate our own thinking sometimes. All parties have faults, and some have lots – but what is, in all truth, the best way for the country to go?

My advice is to heed the lessons of these public revelations, and don't make the mistake that the people of Kent made when (just a few of them) elected the wrong PCC!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Storm

Most of the borough of Medway is just sufficiently inland to have avoided most if not all of storm Xaver's effects. A few places in Rochester (Esplanade area) and Strood (Canal Road and Knights Road areas, and inland a distance from there) were evacuated, and flooding was reported before the waters receded during Friday morning.

I stayed up through much of the first night, monitoring the situation, using social media to disseminate useful information and contact details, and filtering out unnecessary material, so that it was as lean yet valuable as I could make it, without worrying people unnecessarily with blow-by-blow accounts such as those from more coastal areas that didn't apply to us here in Medway. I think (and hope) that was the best approach...

Our biggest issue was the extremely powerful wind, which made it difficult to stang up. even hours before it was all due to kick-off in earnest. I was surprised when returning from a shopping trip much earlier in the day, just how much the wind had built up during the half-hour I was indoors in the Pentagon Centre.

This short news video gives an admittedly all too brief taste of what happened in various parts of Europe and the east coast of Britain, but is still useful to gain an idea of what it was like – nowhere near as bad as some extreme weather we have seen around the globe in recent years, but bad enough nonetheless...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Autumn in December

Here I am referring specifically to the Chancellor's regular 'autumn statement', which this year has been delayed a short while owing to the Prime Minister's visit to China. That visit secured £6 billion of new deals among other things, so is significant enough that this statement would be either misleading if it omitted it, or presumptuous if it assumed anything ahead of deals being formalised.

I am not going to go into details on the Statement itself, as others are already doing just that and will make a good enough job of it (provided my by-now well trained readers apply their reasoning and judgment to what they read, hear or see, as I have been teaching over the years), so – at least for now, while the debate is still going on in the House of Commons – will limit this post to an aspect that only a few outside the Chamber have seemingly noticed, at least as yet.

That aspect is that the Labour benches, initially noisome as is their perennial way, have quietened down as the good news about Britain and its economy continued to be presented to Members and to the viewing public. More than that, those same benches' occupants have become gloomy and even despondent.

This bares a raw truth that applies only when the Commons is this way round, and did not occur (as I recall) when Labour were in office. The only Labour member making any real noise was an incessantly shouting Ed Balls while responding to the Statement.

I have, just minutes ago as I write this, summed that truth up in a single 'soundbite'-type of sentence, in this tweet...
"The last thing Labour want is for the UK to be doing well."
That is just so telling, isn't it, and so true too, as the scenes in the Commons plainly show!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Conflate and Confuse – Part Deux

This is actually quite funny, especially when one bears in mind its source: probably the most discredited and self-confessed fabricator within the Labour ranks, who has had to admit it publicly more than once (it's all on the record so can be easily checked).

It is also interesting to see which local to me (i.e. Medway) Labour person has retweeted this – yes, the Labour candidate for Chatham and Aylesford. He seems determined to become such a laughing-stock as to lose quite spectacularly, come 2015. Read on to see why....

The claim is that there is a numerical difference between the numbers on the two charts shown at the link. One shows an increase in employment of 1·1 million over the past three years, the other shows something related but different – that 1·3 many private sector jobs have been created during the same period..

Ignoring vacancies, training and other comparatively small variables, all of which are changing all the time of course, it is not exactly a secret that something approaching a quarter of a million public sector posts have also gone. After all, it was Labour and the Union pals who were beefing about this very factor themselves not so long ago.

Therefore it becomes simplicity itself to see why there is this difference between the two numbers. Are Labour so dim-witted that they don't even understand these two separate but simple enough indicators? If so, they are hardly competent to run our country: a bunch of schoolboys would do much better. If not, that means it is yet another attempt at misrepresentation, which again disqualifies them from running the nation.

Britain deserves – and still needs – much better than that!

Within ARM's Reach

Here's a short (under two minutes) mini-feature of Sophie Wilson, who devised the ARM processor's instruction set (Prof Steve Furber designed the hardware of the processor) while at Acorn Computers some thirty years ago.

One fun thing I recall from the early 'nineties where this very same individual was demonstrating the Acorn Archimedes series computers at an exhibition, and showed a work colleague of mine what could be done within moments (a rotatable 3-D textual logo, in the Draw and Euclid programs, dragging and dropping from one into the other). My colleague's immediate reaction was "I want one!"

There's some amazing information to be gleaned from this brief clip, which was made over six months ago, such as the fact that by then a good 35 billion ARM chips had been shipped – well beyond the total number of all others ever produced, added together. Also, the sheer reach of the ARMs, almost everywhere in portable and other technology now, some definitely not realised by most people.

The few comments at the video's YouTube page also tell a story or two...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

Thus the Princess Irulan opened David Lynch's film of Dune, almost thirty years ago now. The movie had many faults, but it was epic in scope, mostly true to Frank Herbert's original story, but suffered much from (a) the medium – which can never do justice to it – and (b) the need to edit it down from around six hours of material to not that much more than two hours.

Here is a version with a decent amount of the cut material included, plus a lot of good work to retain the integrity of the original, now coming in at close to three hours in length. It is fascinating to experience the chunks that have been put back in, such as the Padishah Emperor's conversation with the Reverend Mother just prior to the Guild Navigator's arrival.

Unlike another re-edit I encountered a while back, this one retains Virginia Madsen's monolgue, unaltered, at the opening. It is probably the best-ever to-camera monologue in the history of cinema, and shows just how good the lady could be with the right material – sadly never utilised subsequently in her career, as far as I have been able to ascertain. What a waste of a truly great talent!

This version is presented in a series of 24 short 'chapters', one of which is in two parts, and I have set them to auto-play in sequence (via the 'Play All' button) – so be prepared to spend three hours re-living this evocative, powerful and now less flawed epic...

Monday, 2 December 2013

An Angel's Cruel Thesis

That's the title of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series' opening theme, and it makes about as much sense as the rest of the series did for the most part, much becoming clearer at the end (more in the movies than at the end of the series itself).

Anyway, it's a striking and quite powerful theme, here with the programme's opening sequence and with English subtitles added as well...

Mantovani Magic

Despite the relatively early stereo recording techniques (this is from 1970!) the legendary Mantovani and his Orchestra made a delightfully light but memorable version of just about anything they touched. This is A Day In The Life Of A Fool, which is very musical and suits their style so very well.

I certainly have never forgotten this (it 'earworms' me from time to time) since the day I bought the old vinyl LP ('album' in modern parlance) from a shop in Hartfield Road, Wimbledon in 1967.

This video simply presents an image of the great man – and that is all it needs...

Even The Toughest Cars...

...can be cute, at least in Japan. Decorating one's car with favourite manga, anime or vocaloid characters is now more-or-less mainstream in Japan, and Toyota even offer an at-factory service, as this well-illustrated article tells us. The popularity of Miku is also covered, and comes as no great surprise to me.

It is perhaps the biggest cultural difference between our part of the world and that country, that the more natural Japanese outlook favours cuteness over fierceness. In the more feudal times, and even as recently as the Second World War, aspects of their society were effectively constrained by traditions and impositions that presented a very different face to the rest of the world. I suppose we might have gained a slanted impression, just as we did of Germans, Russians and others for not dissimilar reasons.

Let the true nature of many peoples shine through, though, and in at least some cases one finds a much softer, and one could even say cuddlier, society. Yes, as with all large groupings of people it will not be universal – but it is dominant, as a wander around such nations' towns and cities readily reveals to the observant.

The real key is in how the public in these places react to anything of this nature, whether it be decorated cars or an impromptu dance in a plaza (as I showed recently, from Taiwan, for one example). It's not a matter of becoming blasé as such: it's more a question of one's societal norms. In such matters the Far East are, in the main, way ahead of us, more cosmopolitan and with a cultural breadth and entrenchment that could teach us a few things, if we'd let it in to our lives as a nation...