Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Revisit with Tokyo's Levitating Girl

She rarely gets it right the first time, or the second time, or the hundredth time. In fact she does what a good many of us could do, if only we had the incredible persistence, patience and camera talent of Natsume Hayashi. She has become known as Tokyo's Levitating Girl.

I came across Ms. Hayashi back in 2011 and wrote a blog entry about her here. I decided to see what she has been up to lately.

First of all, Natsume does what we all can do. Jump. She puts her camera on a tripod, sets the timer for ten seconds, sets the Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera speed at 1/500th of a second, stands in front of the camera....and jumps. But it is not haphazard jumping. She knows the scene that she wants to capture, so she continues to reset the camera and jumps and jumps, sometimes up to 300 times, until she gets what she wants.

She is meticulous. Look at the photo above....a simple scene of, well walking in air. Notice the position of the feet. She is walking. I presume this is a simpler scene because she is in little danger of her falling flat on her face, as she has done many times.

The picture to the left is such a deceptively simple scene. Go ahead...try it.

Little do you realize that she has to spring upward from her feet the fold herself into a sitting position in mid-air....but she also has to position her face and expression. She is not looking down to where she is going to land.

And where and how she is going to land after this jump?

Natsume says that one of the secrets is to keep her head high....never look down. She pre-plans her poses and keeps jumping (and she calls it levitating, not jumping) until she achieves her plan.

At first she had a problem with taking pictures around crowds. They would stand and gawk until she explained that they had to ignore her to achieve the composition.

In the five years since I first talked about her, she has continued taking pictures and gained quite a bit of notoriety. Tokyo's Levitating Girl was invited to exhibit her photographs, blown up to 20 x 30 feet at the Spiral Gardens in Tokyo. And the crowds aren't much of a problem these days since everyone now seems to know what to do.....except for that lady in the gift shop that threatened to call the police because there was a crazy girl jumping around in her store.

 Now her photographs are selling for up to $2,800 on Amazon.

Natsume Hayashi started with an experiment, which turned into a vision. And she kept at it, over and over again. Her product is unusual, fascinating, tasteful and simply remarkable. I like these kind of success stories.

You can visit her blog at よわよわカメラウーマン日記.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throw Way Back to the Year 1027

Everyone... Few... No one who knows me will recognize that I am from strong, vigorous Viking stock, with a bit of Celtic thrown in. That makes me Viking-Celt...or Celtic-Viking which fits because I do like Enya. In other words, my heritage is Saxon. It is quite an itsy bit possible that I come from Royal Personage, i.e. His Majesty Saeberht, King of the East Saxons who kicked the bucket in 619 A.D.. But I suppose that is pushing credibility a bit.

What is credible though is I am a descendent of a person named in the excerpt from a document pictured above.

My name is Jerry Mann, and since this is Throwback Thursday, I figured I would throw way back to to the year 1027 A.D. to the birth of my 23rd Great Grandfather, Soberton Le Man. It is sometimes written as Soberton Leman -- but Le Man looks cooler. All this is interesting, but actually his true name was Soberton Man. He added the 'Le' part to suck up to those stupid Normans who barged in and conquered the country in 1066. They tended to like 'Le's' in front of their names.

The quote at the top of the post is from Volume 1, page 38 of Liber de Witonia, which became the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the book of Final Judgement -- or the Doomsday Book.

You see, that Norman guy, William the Conquerer ordered that an inventory be taken of all that was in his kingdom. This resulted in the multi-volume doomsday book (which is now housed in the British National Archive on Kew, England). If you were Viking-Celtic-Saxonish like me you could probably understand the quote above. It says:
Soberton probably looked something like this, only more handsome

Meonstoke Hundred, The King holds Soberton Leman, held it of Earl Godwin, Harold when he reigned, took it from him, and made it a royal manor, and it so remains. Leman himself could not remove where he wished. It is said that he held lands in Finchdean Hundred, in parcenary.

A further quote continues:

Hampshire, The King's land, Bosmere Hundred. The King himself holds 2 1/2 hides, in Hayling Island. LEMAN held them in parcenary of King Edward, Harold deprived him of them when usurped the kingdom, and converted them into a royal manor, and they remain so. They were then assessed a 21/2 hides, now at nothing.

Yeah, I know. They talked funny back then.

Google says this is King Harold
 What is this about? You see, my Really Great Grandad and his friend Earl Harold Goodwinson owned 250 acres of land (2 1/2 hides). Soberton was land owner gentry and a knight under King Edward. Well, old Edward went and died, and Harold Goodwinson became king: King Harold -- the last Anglo-Saxon king. Well Harold, being kingly and all, took the 250 acres along with other land, and made it part of the Royal Manor. This screwed Soberton. In fact, he was double-screwed, because he was ordered to stay on the land as a tenant and care for it. I suppose during this process, he was de-knighted.

Well, Soberton did what any decent Viking-Celt-Saxon would do under the circumstances. He went and drank a bunch of grog (I am speculating here) and went home and had sex with...uh, Mrs. Le Man. This is fortunate for me, because they had a son they named Osbert fil Leman. It is because of Osbert that I am here today. 

How is that for a Throwback?

Yes, I have been able to determine a pretty reasonable line of male descendents from the 11th century. I have slowly erased most of the vagueness with with a firmer degree of, well about 80% certainty and have tried to discard speculation, such as: It is reasonable that the lineage of Soberton Leman is traceable to King Saeberht, yr. 619. 

Some of the shaky areas are Coats of Arms. It is important to note that a Coat of Arms is bestowed on a person, not a family. I think they should change this rule. Since there are four, and possibly five knights in the family, I keep coming up with...

 This is the oldest that I have found. It belonged to Sir Richard LeMan from sometime in the 1300's.

  I think this is from the 1500's. Somewhere in my piles of stuff I have a person for this......just can't find it right now. Just trust me.

Sir John Mann from 1550.

This belongs to s Sir Somebody Mann and is the latest Coat of Arms that I have found. Yeah, yeah I know. I have his name written down somewhere....somewhere.

Can I pick one and use it? Maybe use it on business cards and stationery? Can I be for impersonating a knight?

The Mann family name evolved from Man, Leman, LeMan, Lyman to Mann and they migrated from Saxony, England to Massachusetts, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and then Texas.

Forsooth, ye knaves and knavettes. I sign off with:

Sir Jerry Mann

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Driving to Houston with a Blue Tooth

My daughter said, “When you exit the motel, turn left and go down Legacy until you hit the North Dallas Freeway. There you turn LEFT. Then you travel to…..”

I had been visiting my kid in Plano, which is a suburb of Dallas, and I was preparing to return to Houston. While she is pretty sharp, she certainly doesn’t have the fine-tuned sense of direction that I do. I knew that I wouldn’t turn left onto the freeway. That would take me north instead of south toward Houston. So it was with this bit of directional knowledge that I left the motel at 5:30 a.m. the next morning.

I drove down Legacy in the right lane, knowing that I would need to turn right at the freeway. As I approached the freeway I looked for the encouraging road signs to confirm my decision. Crap! South was to the left. It was fortunate that it was 5: 30 a.m. so I could plummet across four lanes to turn LEFT! How could my innate sense of direction be 180-degrees out of phase? Crap!

Okay, maybe the kid is sharper than I thought.

Thus I began my early morning drive.

When I first got in my car that morning my phone chirped. This disturbed me because I knew my phone was magically connecting to my car. I am disgruntled to know that machines are talking about me behind my back. My kid had explained to me that I could somehow talk on my phone through my car audio system.
“You mean you haven’t hooked up your Bluetooth?” she asked in amazement.

“Well, I just haven’t got around to it.” She, of course, knew that I didn’t know what she was talking about, so she grabbed my phone and started punching buttons and punching things on my dashboard screen, and there was some chirping going on.

“Now we will load your contact list.” I grunted which is my standard response when I don’t understand what is happening.

As it turned out I can now talk on the phone without talking to the phone.

So as I was driving to Houston, I was worried that someone was going to call me. I think I was supposed to push that button on the steering wheel. Just not sure. And then people would see me driving down the road talking to myself and think I was a crazy man. I’m not sure that technology and I fit into the same groove. I still don’t like the thought of machines talking to each other behind my back!

I gave up worrying about it. I was now concentrating on the fact that I wanted to find a McDonalds, and go to the restroom. McDonalds is designed pretty well for bathroom people. You can go in and head off to the right to the restroom and you don’t even pass by the staff. So they will never know that you weren’t buying anything. But this time I was going to be a good customer and get some coffee.

If I could find a McDonalds. My criterion was simple. I wanted a McDonalds along the right side of the freeway….easy on and off. And I couldn’t find one. McDonalds are supposed to be everywhere. I kept looking for the signs that listed exit restaurants and for that big M. I found two Subways and a Dennys, but no McDonalds. How can one not find a McDonalds?

I drove and drove and my desire for a McDonalds became more urgent. Finally…there! As I exited the freeway I noticed there was also a place selling Kolaches….and I was immediately confronted with a decision. The thought of Kolaches seemed pretty exciting.

You know what Kolaches are. Right? This bakery good was brought to Texas by early Czech settlers. (You
need to Czech it out? Sorry….couldn’t resist.) Kolaches are a pastry, akin to a soft dinner roll, stuffed with all kinds of goodies….sweet jelly like filling, or stuffed with sausage and cheese…my favorite. It is the dough of the Kolache that makes it so good. It has to be soft with a hint of sweetness.

So I bypassed McDonalds and swung into the bakery, which had a restroom, by the way. I purchase Kolaches – the mild sausage and cheese Kolaches. The jalapeno sausage seemed to be a bit much for breakfast. But, I failed to follow my internal rule of, “Always get one less”.

That is an eating rule. If I want three tacos, get one less….two tacos. Two donuts, get one. Large order of fries…get a medium order. The One Less rule reminds me that I always over order. I got three Kolaches. One too many.

Back in my car and my phone and the auto started having some kind of conversation. I think it is a conspiracy.

People were driving too fast on I-45. I needed to find my speed sweet spot. When the speed limit is 60 mph, I usually set my drive computer at 63. I figure the cops will give me a pass. At 65, then about 68. But the speed limit was 75. Most places don’t have speed limits of 75…but in Texas, well they like to thumb their noses at everyone else. Texas seems to pride itself about going against the grain. Everyone else seems to be codifying gay marriage, and Texas is jumping through hoops to not make it legal. Firearms are a bad thing and Texas deems they are a good thing so everyone is allowed to carry one. It seems that Texas just wants to be obstinate for the sake of being obstinate.

But, I have to agree with the 75 mph thing. Long roads and wide-open spaces. It seems to work. So I figure that 78 mph would be the sweet spot. Or would it? If I were a Texas Highway Patrolman, or a County

Sherriff Deputy, or a Texas Ranger, or a County Constable, or in the city limits, a Policeman (where do all these overlapping legal jurisdictions come from?), I might think, ‘Hey – we already set a high speed limit. You should be satisfied with that. Now this idiot wants to go even higher? I’ll show him!’

I debated this for a few moments…then threw caution to the wind and set it at 78 mph.

I mused about the fact that I liked kph better than mph. I’ve driven a lot in Canada and they do the Kilometers per Hour thing. A kilometer is shorter than a mile….so you accumulate them faster than you do miles. It just seems like you are accomplishing more. And when you drive at 85 kph, it really seems like you are flying along, when really you are going 50-something miles an hour. Yep…I like kilometers. But that’s all. I don’t like the other metric stuff, especially Celsius. The temperature in Celsius lacks precision. For each degree in Celsius, there are a bunch of degrees in Fahrenheit. So Fahrenheit and Kilometers are the way to go for me.

So I figured I was traveling around 125 kph which made me think I was flying.

My daughter had told me that when I got to Conroe, Texas I should turn left onto Highway 105 and cut over to 59 which is somehow the same as I-69 to drive on into Houston. I don’t know why 59 and 69 or the same. I guess 69 is the interstate name, and 59 is the intrastate label, Is this Texas thumbing their nose at the Feds again?

So I turned left onto 105 when I got to Conroe. New territory for me. I happened to notice one of those signs that said, ‘Buckle Seat Belts – State Law’. Why did it say ‘State Law’? If I see a Yield sign, am I to assume it is not a State Law? How about ‘Speed Limit – 60 mph’. It doesn’t say State Law….I wonder if that would hold up in court as a speeding defense? I wonder about these things.

On Highway 105 I went through a town called, ‘Cut and Shoot, Texas’. I had heard the name before but had never been there. Cut and Shoot. I vowed to research how that name came to be when I got home. As I traveled through Cut and Shoot I spied a ‘Cut and Shoot Cowboy Church’. It wasn’t a Baptist Church or a Catholic Church….but a Cowboy Church. Cut and Shoot is an interesting place. Then I saw ‘Ye Olde Security Park’. Security park? Who names a park: Security? Obviously it is a CIA front. No – that is too obvious…..but, wait, I got it. The Cowboy Church is a CIA front, and the Security Park is a feint to throw nefarious people off.

I’m glad I solve that mystery.

Cut and Shoot. It seems that there was a disagreement involving religious freedom. The Baptists and the Methodists agreed that they could both meet in the same building, although at different times.  The agreement also stipulated that neither would bring an Apostolic into the building. I think Apostolic is Catholic….but I’m not sure. Well, it seems that one of the religious groups decided to bring in an Apostolic guy to do some teaching. This was a problem that led to a confrontation, complete with guns and knives.

Now you think you understand why the town is named ‘Cut and Shoot’. Well, you would be wrong.

According to the story, a young boy was witnessing this confrontation and shouted, “I’m scared. I am going to Cut around the building and Shoot into the woods.” Well, something like that anyway. So that is how the town got its name. The boy’s exclamation defused the situation and his words were remembered.

Hey, that’s what Google said!

I made it to the dual highway 59/69, and as I approached Houston I decided to take the technological bull by the horns! I punched a button on my dashboard that had a picture of a phone. On my screen a list of my contacts came up. I punched HOME. Suddenly I heard a loud dialing. Then  the voice of my wife.


I talked into mid air with people driving around me looking at me and thinking I was crazy. “Hey, I’m talking from my car.”


She didn’t understand. “I mean I am not holding a phone or anything….just talking to my car.”


“Uh, I’m going to be home in a few minutes. Could sure use some coffee.”

“Sure I will put a pot on now.”

“Really – I have a Bluetooth thing and I don’t have to do anything….just talk. My car called you, not my phone.”

“Okay honey, you can tell me about it when you get home.”

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cyber Seniors - In One Chunk

I am older. Somehow that seems more palatable than saying I am old. But maybe that is why I was attracted to a little show called Cyber Seniors.

I was perusing Netflix to see if there was any new stuff they were offering me, and I actually did find something . The show Cyber Seniors was described as a documentary in which high school kids teach old codgers about the internet. It sounded as if it would be delightful to watch in small chunks. I do that sometime – pick a show that I can watch fifteen or twenty minutes, shut it off for a couple of hours or days, then come back and watch another chunk. And the idea of high school kids becoming involved with Senior Citizens appealed to me.

Actually I watched it in one big chunk.

Cyber Seniors is not flashy. It is simply tells the story of retirement home people trying to understand what the internet is, and the story of 15 and 16 year old kids trying to teach it to them. An exchange of culture and mores that had some hilarious pitfalls
She was 93 years old. “I went to, but my email wasn’t there!”

She was 87 and murmured, “I don’t think I like Facebook. I wouldn’t want to dislike anybody!”

He rose in horror:
“No. I don’t want my photos imploded!”
“No Sir, they are uploading, not imploding!”

Mouse. Login. Password. Escape. Internet Explorer. Firefox. Save. Delete.Website.Email….and on and on – all foreign concepts to those who haven’t grown up with computers and the internet.

“What do you think about those Senior Citizens? Do you think there really is a generation gap?
“There is a huge generation gap! It’s crazy – but they are kinda’ cool. You know…like they’re people.”
“Now Ma’am, this is You Tube and you can see videos here. Even Music Videos.”
“You mean, people singing.”
“Yeah. Is there a song you would like to hear?”
“Well…oh, oh, yes. ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’. You know it don’t you?”
“Your music education is lacking, young lady.”

Soon, everyone in the nursing home was singing to the Hallelujah Chorus.
The Rapping Senior

Someone got the bright idea of having the seniors make You Tube videos. They would have a contest, and whoever got the most hits would win and be honored at a party. Brilliant.

For we got to see how a lady prepares her snacks….she uses an iron to make grilled cheese sandwiches and puts corn on the cob into a coffee urn to boil them. Or an 90 year old lady rapping (and she initially didn’t know what a rap was) about how she still had all her teeth.

Cyber Seniors. Not a lot of production quality here…..just a lovable, poignant, laughable story. If you are an old codger, you can relate. If you are a teenager, you too can relate to the rolling eyes and muffled guffaws. 

I liked it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Okay. Why?

Honey, I think I am going to start up my blog again.

Okay. Why?

Because…uh….well, I’ll get back to you on that.

Well, we had a flood. I live in Houston, and that is what Houston does – make a nuisance of itself. So I didn’t go to work, not that I had to anyway. I am retired. I only show up for work a couple of days a week out of extraordinary kindness and generosity to my previous co-workers. And the fact that my ex-employer pays me a bonus to come in every now and then.

Then I had a gout attack in my left foot Sunday that I am recovering from. Gout is a painful form of arthritis when uric acid crystals build up in my foot joints. I am not talking about wimpy pain like a toe amputation or a broken bone…but a level five pain that leaves me whimpering. Okay…maybe a level three pain. This happens rarely and there is medication for it, and it takes a few days to recover from. So I am robbed of the ability to handle customary strenuous and vigorous activity.

Honey, the dishwasher needs unloading.

Oh my foot….ow, ow…it hurts.

It’s your turn to feed the dogs.

Oh man….I wonder if I should get some crutches?

So what am I to do? I used to have a pretty lousy blog here. Maybe I could start it back up…something to occupy me during my painful recovery. Then I thought….actually I could start a blog anywhere. So I went to something called ‘Weebly’….and boy did I get confused. I figure it was the medication fogging my brain. So I went to ‘WordPress’….and well, it just seemed like a lot of work to set up another lousy blog site. So as much as I dislike Google, why not?

Actually, I can’t remember how I used to do this. It’s that medication thing again. So to start off with I am typing this into Word, then I think copy it into NotePad, and then copy it into a post. I am not typing directly into the Blog because this way I get to change my mind if I wanna’. Then I have to study the mechanics of everything….comments and people to monitor and….I can’t remember what.

Then I have to change my header somehow…update it. Hopefully I can figure that out.

Have you ever tried to do genealogical research? It is confusing.

I have been trying to trace my lineage…looking for a castle or two…or some royalty somewhere. It would be neat to have a Coat of Arms. After weeks of digging into I have traced, I think, my father’s side back to the year 1074. I have a couple of generations of ‘Sirs’ in my family, which I think means they were knights. So perhaps it would not be inappropriate if you called me Sir Jerry. My family traces back to the Norman/Anglo-Saxon thing and my oldest relative was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. If you don’t know, that is pretty significant.

 It was William the Conqueror (at least I think it was) who ordered his royal staff to….’Forsooth…goest out and enumeratith all the folks of the land and their holdings and their spouses and urchins and count every acre and every pig and every chicken and what property belongs to whatest family and…’ Well, he said something like that. All of this census and property information was compiled in a Big Book of the Kingdom. Because this book became the final arbiter of all court cases…..the final say, it became known as the Doomsday Book. It is now in the National Archives in Great Britain. I will show a picture of the book if I can remember how to do that.

Maybe Sir Doomsday Jerry would work.

But the problem with is that it costs money to use. Okay….I’ll pay my $20 a month. But then to do any research into Great Britain and Europe, I would have to pay a bunch more. I put my foot down at that! I mean, my right foot, not my left gouty foot. So I have to start digging elsewhere online to get more information. And that sucks. I have Great Britain on my father’s side, and Germany on my mother’s side.

And to add to my frustration, my great grandfather on my mother’s side wasn’t born! The genealogical record stops with him with no record of his parents….in Ancestry or anyplace else I can find. That sucks too.

I tell you this so you will know that my mind has not been idle. People think that retirement is idyllic, but retirees encounter frustration too. And gout.

Okay, will this do for a return blog post?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

From Russia (or Someone) With Love

Russia has offered us some mighty powerful music by way of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff and so many others that I could be here all day looking up how to spell their names. Russia is home to the heavy hitters of symphony. 

So what would you do if you received a letter from the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra proclaiming that they are going to be touring in your area and would like to perform in your town? I figure you would trip all over yourself to get to the Mayor and City Council and the Rotary Club and whoever else you could think of waving that letter in their face.

I suspect that is how Ms. Linus Fung of Hong Kong felt when she received such news back in 2000.  She was the Senior Manager of Music for the city. She excitedly scurried around and got commitments from the fine folks at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Tuen Wan and Tsuen Wan Town Halls for performances from August 7th through the 13th of that year.

Tuen Wan
Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Tsuen Wan

The upcoming performances were well publicized and the audience was packed for all performances by the prestigious orchestra. By all reports, the orchestra performed magnificently. The Hong Kongian music critics were out in full force busily writing glowing reviews. One newspaper enthusiastically proclaimed that the music was full of “…exciting acclerandos and heart-stopping rubatos.” Attendees to the concert paid the equivalent of $31US to witness all those rubatos.

What a satisfying musical summer in Hong Kong, and how satisfied Ms. Fung must have felt in pulling it all together.

But…uh, there was one minor problem.

Yelena Tikomirova
The publicity of the Hong Kong performances kind of confused Ms. Yelena Tikhomirova, who was the agent for the Moscow Philharmonic and Dmitri Yablonsky, the principal guest conductor of the orchestra. It seems that the way they remembered it, the group was performing at the Menton Festival in France from August 6th to the 8th, and then in Lisbon on the 9th to the 12th, and finally at the Llivia Festival in Spain on the 13rh.

 I’m pretty sure that none of these places are near Hong Kong.

Well uh…who exactly performed in Hong Kong?

Linus Fung
A defensive Linus Fung said, “If you receive proposals from a very renown orchestra, you would not doubt that it was actually that group.” She continued, “We are very concerned about the issue.”

This became a major scandal in Hong Kong with editorials flying back and forth. Some demanded refunds. But then other editorials asked, ‘Why? You saw a magnificent performance.’

Dmitri Yablonsky
If you think the Hong Kongites were flustered, think of how they felt in Russia. Mr. Yablonsky lamented, “It is a huge scandal in Moscow, very upsetting. It takes years to set up an orchestra, then some pick-up orchestra comes along and says they are Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.  The Orchestra  musicians still don’t seem to know what happened – and they couldn’t because they were on tour at the time.”

To this day, no one knows for sure who performed in Hong Kong in August of 2000. It is speculated that an ad hoc group of Russian musicians got together and pulled off this magnificent hoax.

And performed brilliantly.

You think I made this up, don’t you? Well, if I did, so did

The Deseret News  and  The South China Morning Post and The BBC.

P.S. I am still unable to post comments even after fiddling around every way I know to fiddle. Now I guess I gotta' fire off something to someone to get this straightened out.

P.S.S.  'Dark UFO - Top Blogger Contributor' came to my rescue. It seems I needed to enable 3rd Party Cookies in Firefox to get the commenting thing to work. Sigh....