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February 2010
 
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Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 02:05 am
Real plants and virtual water

I've been watching The Naked Island, Kaneto Shindo's 1960 film about life on a small Japanese island. Despite being in black and white, the film is very green; the family attempting to turn their island (a beautiful but inhospitable rock-in-a-bay) into a place where plants can be cultivated have to row fresh water by boat from the mainland then carry it up a steep mountain path in barrels. At the summit the precious lifeblood is poured over the dry plants scorching in the cracked earth. In one painful scene the wife staggers up the path only to stumble and spill half the water -- and receive a sharp slap from her husband.



These days, plants are likely to appear in Japanese culture in a somewhat different light -- as the inhabitants of guerilla flowerpots in the urban jungle, or as chic lifestyle accessories in "avant gardening" magazine Planted (currently celebrating its sixth issue with an exhibition in Harajuku).



For a globalized consumer society which can import most of its food from poorer neighbours, tight space, hilly landforms and the difficulties of irrigation no longer pose the problems they once did to Japan. However post-agrarian a society gets, though, water is still a precious resource, and some say a world water crisis is one of the less pleasant things we're likely to be facing this century, as the world's supply of fresh water runs out (just, ironically, as sea-levels begin to rise).

Virtual Water is a double-sided poster by German graphic designer Timm Kekeritz intended to raise awareness of the world's water crisis. On one side he breaks down the Virtual Water Inside Products (virtual water includes all the water used in the production of the commodity), on the other he shows the Water Footprints of Nations in terms of water use per capita per year.



The data on Kekeritz's map comes from this study by Hoekstra and Chapagain. It makes for interesting reading; the virtual water content of a 250ml glass of beer is 75 litres. A cotton t-shirt, if you count all the water taken to raise the cotton it's made of, uses 2000 virtual litres of water, and a pair of leather shoes uses 8000. In terms of national per capita water footprints, it's of course the US which wastes most water -- almost 2500 cubic metres per person per year (one cubic metre contains 1000 litres). China, India and Japan are the most water-efficient countries -- Japan's 1153.6 m3 puts it amongst the developing countries in thrift. Japan is certainly the only advanced country I've seen that runs a little tap off the toilet flush so you can wash your hands without using the sink -- and saving water is the logic behind the Washlet's recording of a flush (bashful ladies were said to flush unnecessarily to cover embarrassing noises, thereby wasting water, so I guess the electronic flushing sound is another kind of "virtual water").

To show that a sense of water's preciousness still runs deep in today's Japanese, here's my friend Tomoko Miyata live at La Générale in Paris, using carefully measured and tuned water in rice bowls as a musical instrument:


21CommentReplyFlag

uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)

I've been wanting to see The Naked Island for a long time. It has a beautiful soundtrack by Hikaru Hayashi, who made the soundtrack to Onibaba, one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.

I got The Naked Island soundtrack years ago - recorded it off a record collector friend. I eventually wore the tape out. Finally, when Soulseek came out, I found an mp3 version.

Now if only I could find a copy of his soundtrack to Onibaba.

Sorry to derail everything - it's a good post - but I'm happy that I can finally see The Naked Island.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)

The soundtrack is good, but it's used in a rather heavy-handed way in the film -- there's too much repetition of the main themes. The film is almost dialogue-free, and what I really like is just hearing the sounds of the island. When the music comes in it's a bit too sentimental and epic.

I just borrowed Onibaba, which Kaneto Shindo made four years after "The Naked Island" with, as you say, the same composer. Of course I've seen it before, but not for a few years. Will listen out for the music!


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)

i can't stand japan now because of how much you talk about it

do you ever shut up about it because it seems you never do


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 07:11 am (UTC)

It may be that this blog is not for you, then.

Never fear, there are others out there you could grace with your wit and charm!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)

you should rename your blog to "japan opera and the rare discussion about something else"

your obsession with japan ruins your music in my opinion


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 08:21 am (UTC)

The last seven days on Click Opera

19th The aesthetics of record collecting - 63 comments

20th In Båtsfjord on the Barents Sea - 41 comments

21st Lovefoxxx: Inca-Lycra queen of the 00s - 91 comments

22nd Adelaïde: flashdance frenchypops in dub - 26 comments

23rd There's more in 8 street minutes than 80 movies - 42 comments

24th Why Bowie's new house won't be by Bow Wow - 72 comments

25th Real plants and virtual water - 5 comments

26th Why anonymous trolls who think this is "narrow focus" should just go and read Gawker instead - 200 comments


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 08:48 am (UTC)

19th: first video is in Japanese
20th: no mention of Japan, good job
21st: Lovefoxxx is of Japanese descent.
22nd: Kumisolo is Japanese, your "Thatness and Thereness" video features a Japanese girl that was eating edamame
23rd: My favourite YouTube channel is Hitodori: People in the Town. "Here is collection of videos taken from cities around the world. I record video on the street to see the people of the town," says its Japanese creator, who has assembled 366 fixed-camera "visual field recordings" of people passing on the street. Each recording lasts about eight minutes. I find them completely absorbing. Some are shot in my favourite people-watching spots, like this one at the entrance to Daikanyama Station:
24th: good job, David Bowie story
25th: I've been watching The Naked Island, Kaneto Shindo's 1960 film about life on a small Japanese island.

go ahead and say that you only briefly mentioned these things. your language while writing about them indicates your preferential treatment towards japan. it's kind of hard to ignore these themes when they're mentioned almost every single entry.

anyway, i find it amusing how you treat "anonymous trolls" who made it clear that they once liked your music. no wonder you aren't that successful. i don't even think you like your music yourself.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)

20th: no mention of Japan, good job
Not so, there's mention of the fact that 70% of the crabs processed go to the Japanese market.

24th: good job, David Bowie story
It's half about a Japanese architect, though.

The fact is that if you don't agree with me that the world's number two economy is often a great way into a huge diversity of subjects, then you might be better off reading another blog.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
from the other anonymous

re: anonymous

*facepalm*


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xishimarux
xishimarux
ishimaru
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)

My whole life has been about water conservation. Being that I'm from southern california its huge huge topic here. I read a book in college that everyone should read called Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. Changed my views even further on water and preciousness of it. A funny rhyme I remember from when I was kid was...

If it's yellow keep it up,
If it's brown flush it down. :)


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)

Momus, You remind me of Felix Rial in his D'ya Think I'm Sexy vid


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)

By the way, more of Tomoko Miyata's lovely music is here.


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cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)

There is no shortage of water on the planet. There IS a shortage of potable water that meets Western safety standards, though.

What is needed is not so much the conservation of consumption as much as an increase in the efficiency of cleaning of used water to recycle it as much as possible.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)

Dance tosser, dance! Dance for your king!

I am still intrigued by the zep album on your desktop. And by Jeff Koon's new obsession with Zeppelin. ( I saw an interview with Robert Plant on VH1 and halfway through it he started babbling about wanting to be Laurie Anderson's boyfriend, to find out about those planes she was on about...)

And speaking of Koons. Everytime I hear your song about him, I hear echoes of Anthony Newley in your phrasing. Which made me think, I would love to hear a momus cover of Pure Imagination. (did you know he wrote Goldfinger?)


ReplyThread Parent
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)

The movie works as a metaphor for Click Opera too. But I hope you don't slap your wife.


My friend the momus


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Jan. 26th, 2008 08:43 am (UTC)

The Zep image on my desktop was just a mistake -- I was image-googling for something else and it came up.

I had my Anthony Newley phase. Don't we all? My favourite song of his was "My Friend Howie" (my friend Howie writes songs...) because I could imagine it was about Howard Devoto.


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georgesdelatour
georgesdelatour
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)

I love your love of Japan. Blog about Japan every day. It's fine by me.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)

wow -- very Michael Jackson about one minute in.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Fri, Jan. 25th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)

So I post that at mefi and no one hears the momus connection, but I am quickly informed about a Newley/Bowie connection. So maybe I'm not crazy. Yay me.


ReplyThread Parent
anglerfish96
anglerfish96
anglerfish96
Sat, Jan. 26th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)

Japan is alright by me.

So is Onibaba. I have to watch that again soon. And yes, the soundtrack is fantastic. I also love the soundtracks to Woman in the Dunes and Kwaidan, by Toru Takemitsu. Similar synthesis of Avant-Western and traditional Japanese composition techniques.

My new roommate recently curated a project which I think relates to this post.




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(Anonymous)
Fri, Feb. 1st, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)

They didn't calculate how much water it took to produce the poster.


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