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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sophie Mei in the semi-final of Britain's Got Talent

Shout out to all those TV owners resident in the UK:

On Monday night at 9pm on ITV1, Sophie Mei, daughter of a good friend of mine here in Sheffield, will be one of 8 performers in the first live semi-final of Britain's Got Talent.

She's made it through to the final 40 - out of 100,000 hopefuls.

Selection for the final is based on audience votes you know what to do!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tech Talk: the power of feeds (and an IC video)

The CILASS tech group had a really interesting meeting today. Started out with planning for Friday's technology session that we'll be filming for upload to the website, then went on to discuss the recent developments in web platforms / streaming services etc. I find this kind of thing very exciting as I see enormous potential in it.

I'm really looking forward to picking up my podcast again and producing something a lot more interesting. Despite being pretty crappy at the moment and my posting no new episodes, I'm getting about 500 new subscribers every month, sustained growth. Imagine if this was a business - how much would I be paying to attract this kind of attention? I don't see myself as making money out of listeners, but rather, I see it as a case of using the podcast to promote whatever other projects I'm involved in which people may be interested in.

Other services I'm using and recommend for people interested in building up a web presence

I forget if I've mentioned it before but I've also started experimenting with Live Video Streaming via uStream (, something else I'd like to use professionally in the future. Then there's Twitter (, which I have mentioned before - essentially it's micro blogging, up to 140 characters per post.  Really been enjoying using that. It has tremendous potential, as when used with something like Twitterific it can also notify Facebook and update your Skype Status, meaning that you can get something out in seconds to hundreds (or thousands) of people. It's also really interesting observing how other people are using it, and how it affects ones own attitude towards being open to the world.

I also use tumblr, which is more than micro-blogging, but less than standard blogging. I have that reserved for quotes and things to be thankful for - updated via a dashboard widget for ease of use.

Finally, I've recently started using Friendfeed, which brings together all of the above and my YouTube Channel, and Flickr posts, into one single feed that is displayed on my facebook profile page (or can itself be subscribed to via RSS).

What I've come to appreciate is that these tools can be used as key elements of a marketing strategy. Yes, they require sustained input, but they needn't be all that disruptive and they are ultra-low cost, and, based on my exposure to other users, they're pretty effective in creating a buzz.

Another thing we were discussing was the idea that university should really be introducing students to things like RSS feeds (what is RSS?). RSS feeds can be such powerful learning tools, yet if you ask the average student what an RSS feed is, they probably wouldn't be able to tell you, (and through no fault of their own). 

I think I'm a bit of an RSS junkie though. I currently have 61 feeds in my reader, although about 40 of those are friend's blogs and other sites that are updated about once a month. The remainder focus upon: news from Japan; digital photography (that's how I'm learning Adobe Lightroom); business, inspiration and Lifehacks.

The great thing with RSS is it's so simple to subscribe and unsubscribe. Unlike email subscriptions you don't have that fear of being spammed - you can trial something, and if you don't like it you just remove the feed from your reader. YOU are in control. It's also good for producers, as you get a good idea of what size your audience is.

Aside from RSS, I think it would be good if the university made more use of 3rd party technologies, rather than relying upon expensive in-house development. 

Take the Catsters for example - here YouTube is being used to teach some pretty complex mathematics. Just looking at the comments on their channel shows how welcome this is.

Hmm, YouTube excites me, even when it's a mathematics channel.

Anyway, I reckon all this stuff is going to play a big part in my future. Quite how I don't know.

To finish off then I bring you a great little video of the Information Commons. If you're a Sheffield student the first minute or so is well worth a watch! 

I reckon we need a song like that for the Arts Tower - not just a video of how to get on the roof!

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Japan swoons as Joseph makes his national TV debut

The first grainy images are coming through following Joseph Tame's debut on national Japanese TV. In a deliberate ploy by Fuji TV producers, his grand entry was saved for the dramatic climax, only 6 minutes before the ending of the 2-hour drama.

Statistics released shortly after the prime-time airing of 'Bizan' showed that 97% of the population had tuned in for this long-awaited debut, and at 9.54pm when Joseph, known for wearing his Tilley hat in order to cover up his manly hair-loss, finally made his entry, there was a sudden rush on mains water supplies as women across the nation were forced to cool themselves following the rapid onset of hot flushes.

Photos © A.N., Tokyo

In the first image Joseph can be seen at Ueno park, just behind Tokiwa Takako as they admire the statue of that famous chap. The second shot sees him delicately perusing some souvenir stands in Yoyogi park.

Joseph's debut comes on the back of a wave of interest in his acting style, and no doubt over the next few days there will be intense media scrutiny of his performance. In particular, the manner in which he moved his legs so as to walk, and the adoption of a devastatingly meaningful gaijin expression which summed up the feelings of a 1000 years, will attract the critic's attention. The dramatic, death-defying hat-clutching technique he employed in the Yoyogi park scenes was said to have moved millions of Japanese nationwide to tears.

It is thought that the tape of Bizan will become available online in the near future, and will at that point be shared with Daily Mumble regulars.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

National TV debut (Japan): Friday 4th April 2008, Channel 8


Brief note to say that I'll be on Fuji TV tomorrow night, for my national Japanese TV debut. Channel 8, 9pm to 11pm. I play "stereotypical western tourist" in the drama "BIZAN"(眉山) (more info here).

You should see me alongside Tokiwa Takako as she goes on a Hato Bus tour of Tokyo. Watch out for me in Ueno Park, pointing to that big statue, then later in Yoyogi koen - and I'm sitting opposite Tokiwa Takako on the bus too. When you see the shot of the bus going past the diet building, please appreciate it as it involved what seemed like hours of driving round and round in circles to get that (click here for the relevant mumble)

Based on past experience when I spent a whole day in the NHK studios only to find that our scene was cut entirely from the final program, you will probably only catch sight of the end of my nose, for about 3 seconds.

The stifling bus


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Last entry from Tokyo

Well folks, this is it. *Twinkle* and I moved out of Viva Kami Itabashi this afternoon, after about 15 hours of packing and cleaning. I was shocked by how much stuff we have acquired over the past year, although I'm happy to say that there's very little in the way of junk. We bought quite a lot of the sort of things you'd ask for on your wedding day: nice plates, a pan set that will last longer than our bodies, the water filters that are only too necessary for us chlorinated Tokyoites, the printer and scanner, the bedding, the carpet... Still, in the end we managed to make the move back here to *Twinkle*s parents' house in two trips; everything is now expertly stowed in nooks and crannies in this already over-populated house. When packing, I just kept on thinking "I can't wait to unpack all this!" I love 'making a home', and the idea of living somewhere bigger than a bonsai ants nest with *Twinkle* is very exciting.

Random photo: Tea Ceremony in our home

Fireworks in the park, starring *Twinkle*

Last night the two of took a walk around the local area. As we walked, we recalled that we had done exactly the same thing almost a year ago, the morning after we arrived from the UK. It's amazing to look back and see how much we've accomplished this past year, and how fast the time has gone. I wonder though, us humans always talk about time flying by - why are we still under the illusion that time is slow? Perhaps it's because regular tick-tock time doesn't really exist, and thus it's only natural that when we examine our own sense of 'time' it bears no resemblance to that shown on the calendar or clock.

I did my last night at the English school I've been working at 4 hours a week a couple of nights back. I feel kind of sad leaving there as I had grown to really enjoy conversations with the students. It was wonderful to see how relaxed they were in their use of the language compared to several months back. Several of them gave me little presents - as did the owner, thank you! - and one of them wrote me a lovely thank-you letter, in Japanese!!

After that class I made my way to a little bar in Meguro, where our partners in business held a little farewell party for me. I was presented with the most beautiful bunch of flowers I have ever received (and we've received a fare few recently what with the engagement and all!); I must admit to being a flower-holic, often buying a bunch for the table.

I said my goodbyes to the staff at uni - Hirai san really is a legend. I would strongly encourage anyone wanting to study Japanese at a Japanese uni to consider Rikkyo uni in Ikebukuro. The staff, the course, the campus, all great.

Tom and *Twinkle*


I was delighted to get a call from my good friend Tom two days ago with news of the birth of their baby boy. He sounds like he's doing really well, the hungry little chappy, and is blissfully unaware of the agony he put his mother through when he made his entrance. He also happens to be very cute! Congratulations both Miyu and Tom, I can't wait to meet him at Christmas time. Likewise with Emmie and Russ (their baby girl being born earlier in the week!) And Jo (Ling) I hope you and your new baby are getting over the rash, and Jo (in Hereford), I trust new baby Ben and new hubby Joe are glowing as ever. Not with nuclear radiation, but with happiness and healthiness.


I did want to Mumble on for hours about my starring role, alongside the Japanese superstar actress Tokiwa Takako in the Fuji TV drama "Bizan" to be aired next Spring, but due to a lack of time, I'll just mention it briefly. (The full story can be heard on the final episode of this series of 'A Year in Japan', now available for download - see previous blog entry).

Despite our 11 hours of filming, I'll probably only make it onto the screen for about 30 seconds. Watch out for the idiotic foreigner standing right next to Takako san, when, in Ueno Park, he is shouted at by the non-English-speaking tour guide (in English), "HEY, MISTER! This is a Statue of Saigo Takamori!" (I was quite amused by her "Hey Mister", she'd made it up on the spot). I can then be seen just behind Tokiwa san and her partner as they have their photo taken - now I am being taught the Japanese word for 'Dog', whilst pointing at the statue of Saigo san and his faithful friend.

Rebel and Ryu, a couple of my co-stars

I can also be seen perusing some Japanese wares at a mini-market in Yoyogi Park (that was a tricky bit of filming to do as a rock band was practising just across the way, thus it was a case of trying to film scenes between their songs! The director had spoken to them, but as they'd actually hired the stage on which they were practising it was only natural that they refused to stop!)

Then there's the bus scenes.

Rebel, the lovely Spanish girl, and moi
The 1975 tourist bus scenes, using a genuine 1970s bus complete with no air-conditiong, shot in scorching temperatures! Round and round the diet (parliament) building we went, for 5 hours. Sometimes with the camera inside the bus, sometimes outside. I can be seen in the seat opposite that of the stars. That was no accident by the way, more a case of an idiotic foreigner desperate to secure his place in shot. It's during those scenes that you will hear my marvellous singing voice. As jolly tourists it was only natural that we sing a traditional Japanese song, despite being non-japanese speaking tourists. Well, since when did they ever go for realism on Japanese TV?

The Diet Building (Government building) around which we drove for 5 hours on our "Tokyo Tour"!

It was whilst doing the bus scenes that Tokiwa Takako started to take an interest in me, asking all sorts of intrusive questions. Questions such as, "What time is it?" At one point she got very personal, with the classic "Where are you from?". Then there was the time when she apologised to me when I almost sat on her cup of tea on the wall. Oh yeah, me and her, we're like this (Joseph wraps two fingers around each other). The famous actor blokey, Hashimoto someone or other, was a very nice guy. He didn't have that upper class air of superiority about him, although like everyone else on set he did smoke.

Tokiwa Takako, taken using the secret photo-taking tecnique

About the broadcast - Don't worry, I'll let you know when I find out the date and time. All I know at the mo is that it's likely to be next year, and will be broadcast on Fuji TV primetime.

EDIT: Bizan was broadcast nationwide on Friday April 4th 2008. Click here for the related Mumble, which has photos of yours truly on the box!

*Twinkle* in the park

Anyway, time for the Last Supper. We leave for Osaka at 5.15am.