Saturday, October 31, 2009

"It depends on the mood of the machine"

Our last day of rehearsal. Tomorrow's the day.
The above was said by Coco today, about whether the smoke machine will work for our big final trick of the show.
The klim (dried milk, for those not posessed of an extensive WWII POW escape story library) in the rehearsal room always gets me singing that Radiohead song.

Below, my team in our final burst of writing and development. It was about this time I had a powerful burst of deja vu, as I was demonstating an action that would illustrate Megumi and I drowning in a pool of oobleck. Oobleck-o? Ask your mums, kids: it's made with corn starch and water and is the funnest stuff. It's our first big trick.

Prize for Best Japanese/English sentence so far goes to Chris Krishna-Pillay for the below, which basically means, "This is the best mess."

And the mess.

We lunched outside, in the sun, before a dry fountain and a fashion model photo shoot.

The toothpick, happily, did not hurt my finger.

Back in the room, it was time to roll out the astroturf. Things were getting serious.

And, after a run, we needed to debrief, to streamline the show, to make things make more sense. Many questions arose about the language that we had decided to put in the show, and whether it now worked in the overall picture. Much got changed.

And at this point the conversation got very serious indeed.

Luckily we were just discussing the fate of the show mascot, Maurice Fitzmaurice.

His big monologue remains.
My character has developed substantially.

Oddly enough I'm no stranger to bobbed-wig-wearing, see here for my turn as Liz Moran.
At 6pm we went down to the stage under the GeoDome (where we'll be performing tomorrow) to be part of the opening ceremony for the Science Agora 2009 - we got up on stage and each of us spoke for a minute about the experience, made our thanks etcetera. It was an interesting moment to 'see outside' of what we have been doing, out of the womb of the rehearsal room, to realise that this precious world made by these 16 people will be a memory by Monday.
Before the tears began, we hustled off to dinner at the Telecom Centre Building, the square with the hollow centre, I will post a picture, then back for the inevitable late night walk-through and then dress rehearsal.
We get another one in the space tomoorw morning at 8.30am, so I'll mosey off to bed now.
But I know that the Mighty Atom will be smiling over us tomorrow - and I'm sure he'll look after my colleaugues back at Museum Victoria who will be working on the big Children 365 day there. Good on you, my friends: ja mata (see you soon).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shall I be Mother?

Another great big day, and big great day. Some of us were over at Miraikan at 8.30am, test-driving rockets, but me I ambled over for the 9.30 start with the rest of the crew. We got right into it, with Yuko keeping a firm hand on the timetable tiller. Our first task was to pull each of the experiments, or 'demos' as they're called in the scientific communication world, that were located in each setting in the show, under a common theme expressible by a Japanese character, or kanji. Below, Akihiro and Megumi help Kate to write the kanji for 'change' and 'water'.

The garden part of the show uses the kanji for 'air' and the third part, 'explosion'.
All this time, of course, and all throughout the process, everything that is said needs to be translated, from Japanese into English, or vice versa. Also this particular day it struck me that there were a couple of words that have double meanings in the strange science performance world we are in. 'Character' refers to both kanji and the fictional people on stage. 'Reaction' decribes what people do and what chemicals do. While this was going on, I did a drawing I like to call "Hairstyles of the Scientific and Performative':

Though it all, Yuko kept transcribing our babble of Babel into charts and lists of actions and story and experiments and transitions and characters and characters and reactions and reactions.

Some time after lunch, a cheer went up as the giant smoke ring box appeared: constructed by the Miraikan technical department over the last day! There WAS a little worry for a while that we wouldn't be able to get the smoke machine going,

but then we did,

with magnificent results.

A fairly shambolic (to be fair, it's to be expected at this stage in the process) walk-through of the show ensued. I must say, I am always a bit downcast at this point, in every show I do, because all the great writing and ideas up to that point DOES NOT, not ever, immediately transform itself into great stage material. That metamorphosis is always a difficult process. And that, hopefully, is what will happen tomorrow Saturday.

Luckily though, Megumi made friend with Minmi, the dinosaur doll puppet that I used in the presentation last night. And some casting got done, with Cathy as the grandfather

And I was cast as...

After this long day, with workmen putting the stages and booths together down on the ground floor of Miraikan for the Agora, starting tomorrow, we trucked out again to the 100 yen shop for last minute supplies: rolls of fake grass, check, kilos of corn four, check, frilly apron for me -- nowhere to be found. Hmm. Maybe tomorrow.
We ate dinner at a place called 'Pasta and Sweets: DUCKY DUCK on the beach' and while there, Coco talked me though a drawing of Azuki Terai and then she drew/wrote in the characters:

Back at the station (310 yen fare back to Daiba), Pete, Motozugu and Akihiro put their feet up...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Okay, who's here to work?

This morning, both parties of the exchange breakfasted together in the 'Sky Lounge' on the 30th floor of the Grand Pacific Le Daiba. As I slurped down sweet potato rice porridge, Coco ate adzuki beans and told me about the character/demon/ghost Adzuki Arai, a little old bald man who spends his time washing beans, made famous in a manga by Mizuki Shigeru. Will have to track that one down when I visit Akihabara.

What with the view and the demons, we were 5 minutes late in getting to Miraikan for our first session. Never again: Yuko (below left), our process wrangler, was so politely disapproving that it chilled us to the marrow. Tomorrow, five minutes early.

But it was time to hit the floor, to start writing the show. Yuko kept us moving at a clip, and we arrived at a setting (a house) and characters (a family), to help us to tell the story of 'familiar science', the brief which has been set for us.

Then it was time for small group work to start to generate scenes. Below, Hiromi reports from the 'bathroom' group - from left Yuko, Patrick, Motozugu, Hiromi, Mitsuru and Chris.

Can't see Motozugu? Here's a sketch:

Below, Mami reports on the 'garden' group's progress - Cathy, Coco, Mami and Pete.

And below is our team, with the stirling interpreter Naoko doing the pointing either just before or just after Aki's report on our progress with the kitchen scene. Naoko, Kate, Megumi and Aki.

At 4pm we were joined by Matsuda Suzuki from the National Science Museum of Japan, which we will be visiting on Monday arvo. She was one of the attendees at last year's inaugral exchange at Questacon in Canberra. She performs science shows from Hokkaido to Kyushu. She made the point that Japanese science performers do not do so much character work/acting, but that after last year's exchange she was putting more emotion into her shows.
She brought her own matches:

and liked to make things burn.

After her demonstation, which examined oxgen and fire, she and Patrick got up and spoke about their experience last year in Canberra.

After which (heck, I think it was after which - wow, it was only 7 hours ago and I've forgotton the order of things: I do feel a bit brain-fried at this point I must admit) Patrick delivered a talk featuring snippets of show from each of the Australian performers. Cathy (Questacon) did Newton's third law for 3 year olds, I did part of a show from Melbourne Museum called 'A Fly in Your Eye', aka 'What Poo Do you Do?', Pete (Queensland Museum) did film canister pop rockets, Kate (Scitech) did fire-in-a-flask/pressure change/water filled balloon sucked in, and Chris (CSIRO) did a Tesla Coil/PET bottle detonation. Bang!
Then, was it time for an official welcome dinner? It most certainly was! Up we went to the 7th floor where we were congratulated on being selected and welcomed to Miraikan by Doctor Mamoru Mohri, the Executive Director of the museum, who recalled his happy years studying at Flinders University in Adelaide. Mohri-san is an astronaut who has been up in the space shuttle.
In amongst eating and drinking Australian wine (thanks Embassy!) and Japanese beer, there were more demonstrations from the participants, both Japanese and Australian. Static electricity, annoying noises, centres of gravity, sound waves, dinosaur nativity,
a bit of a custard powder fire ball from Kate,

and a big yellow balloon kept up in the air by Aki.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who can? Miraikan!

On my post-breakfast stroll this morning, I came across this guy who beckoned me to cross the street. They don't all wear hats, the crossing guys, but some of them do, and as you can imagine, the number of those who do is in direct ratio to the amount of goodness in the world.

Post-stroll, we were met by the lovely Noriko and we walked though the warm autumn Odaiba Island morning to... Miraikan! Where we were met and welcomed by the Director of Operations,
then given a briefing by Noriko and Nahoko and Yuko, after which we explored the museum for a while.
I was struck by the use of affective (ie emotional) techniques being used in the communication of scientific concepts and ideas, even in panel descriptions (ie words on walls) and the frequency and ease with which metaphor was used as a tool, and the visitor's imagination was called on to engage with the exhibits. Miraikan, in short, seemed more playful than an Australian museum.
After lunch I had a coffee (and a piece of cheesecake, if you really must ask) on the 5th floor and pretended to read but watched and drew people. Japanese men do a lot of suit-wearing, and this fellow, clearly on a day off, was wearing his well.

This woman (from a letter to John Murphy, yet to be sent) travelling down to the 4th floor, probably didn't have quite such broad shoulders as depicted here...

In the afternoon, we met our Japanese Science Performer collaborators! Very exciting! Yoko got us to play a getting-to-you game, and then the whole gang caught lifts, walked down corridors and visited rooms for an hour or so. Below, you can see Motozugu Ueno on the left and Akihiro Kumagai on the right, looking up. That's Patrick's chin, far right. Or perhaps Pete's...

Almost finally, we went up to the restaurant on the 7th level where tomorrow night Thursday night we'll be having a dinner at which many of us will be presenting bits from shows from our museums. I will be hatching a dinosaur, which I hope works... from the left, Mizhuo ('Coco') Awakawa, Mami Ikeuchi, Megumi Osashi, Mitsuru, Nariko, Patrick, Yuko.

Finally finally (well, before we all got on a train and went to Toyosu, where we visited 'Seria: colour the days', a 100 Yen Shop, and bought scads of possible props, which activity was followed by a barbecued feast at a Japanese/Korean restaurant) we visited the space where we are going to perform on Sunday.

It's actually even bigger and of even vaster space-shuttle hanger dimensions than this picture indicates. It's huge, which is very exciting. Can you see the weeny ants there, on the left hand side of the picture? People. Japanese and Australian people. Japanese and Australian Science Performer people, both terrorised and exhilerated at the thought:
'And WHAT will we fill THIS with, in four day's time?'
Luckily, after dinner, outside the hotel, Patrick performed a quick science trick which turned all our minds to other things...

Namely, taking photographs.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out and about in Harajuku and Shibuya

So before I embrace a few zeds in preparation for tomorrow, which will be the first day of the Science Performers' exchange, where we will visit Miraikan for the first time, meet our Japanese collaborators for the first time, and get down to business making the show, here's our arvo...

We strolled past the Odaiba Statue of Liberty to Aqua City, our local mall, found the food court and some lunch, which for me meant tempura fish, cuttlefish and vegetables. Finished off by a visit to the jersey-becapped ladies of Moumou,

Who created for me a Hallowe'en special, yes complete with finely diced pumpkin. Mitsuru informed me that the island of Hokkaido is famous for its cows and dairy and, clearly, its ice cream too.

Then we spent a few hours riding the trains and walking the streets, which also means walkways and boulevards. For a city with so many BIG, and some gargantuan, buildings, I got a real sense of space today in Tokyo, of the architecture having room to breathe, of sky being part of the city.

At may points Mitsuru would stop and 'consult' with us as to where to go next,

But it was always clear to me that he had a

By 4pm he had got us to the top of 'New Government Building No.1', via its lift that climbs 45 floors in 55 seconds (that's Tokyo Time, folks!), joining many other locals, tourists and members of the Japanese National Parks Service gazing down god-like over this sprawling, Godzilla-fearing metropolis.
Yes, the train system is bewildering to me right at the present (so many lines! some government! some private! so many exits at stations! how is it possible to make sense of it all?)
but with a bit more practice, and the kind help of Chris' mate PASMO

I reckon I'll get there. Maybe.
We sauntered the main drag of Harajuku, diving in and out of sock shops and dodging creperies, of which there are Very Many.
(We were walking down 'Meiji Dori' when I saw - but yes!- a Paul Smith shop! Heck! I dodged inside, all thongs and shorts and t-shirt, and nabbed me some very natty socks. Two to be precise. Photo to follow)

Thence to the big, big, many-screened, many, many peopled (it's Tuesday night, folks! Shouldn't you be home watching telephone directory juggling or something?) Shibuya... Junction? Crossroads? Convergence? Whatever it is, it was certainly very crowded, and crazy, but somehow also calm. No sense of incipient violence beneath the surface. Rather, what seemed to me to be playing behind people's faces was curiosity. Humour. Interest. And by gum, such beauty: the people, their clothes, their costumes... an aesthete's delight.
After a fine downtown (?) downstairs meal, accompanied by Suntory beer and Plum Wine and a bottle of Shioju, we made our way back to the subway, stopping by the line of people holding 'FREE HUGS' signs across their chests.
We caught the JR Yamanote line back to Shimbashi station, and it was on this stretch that I caught my first, much anticipated glimpse of a young bloke reading his manga on the train. A baseball story in a mag called 'Big Comic'. A weekly, 350 pages for 300 Yen (about $3.50 Australian), which I then needed to nab on the way back to the hotel.
But not before very roughly sketching our crew as reflected in the window of the driverless train that brought us to Daiba station tonight. Inked, again roughly, here tonight with the Pentel black ink nylon brush bought today at one of the very many ...'everything' shops...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting to Tokyo

Thanks to Susan and Joseph and Zebedee for dropping me off at Tullamarine. Chris Krishna-Pillay and I flew together to Sydney, where we met the rest of the crew:

Above from left to right is Mitsuru, Kate, Chris on the phone, Cathy, Peter and Patrick. We nabbed us a snack, we misplaced and then found a suit, and then it was onto QF21 for the nine and a half hour flight to Tokyo.

I read a bit of the Tokyo Time Out guide (thanks H and Torrie), then needed some fiction so turned to John Barth's 'The Sot Weed Factor' (1961) which I've always meant to read and had finally began on Saturday on Phillip Island. Some great language in there so far, including this exchange between Henry Burlingame III and Ebenezer Cooke, 'over small beer after dinner':

The sun came up over the Pacific, and we dived down to Nariba Airport where we had a couple of breakfasts: my first was a BOSS can o' coffee and a red bean paste bun. It was very tasty and I was very lucky: it could have been anything...

From the airport it was 100 kilometres and about an hour and a half to Odaiba Island (built on a pile of rubbish in Tokyo Bay - hmm, I will check on that). It's a fairly recently constructed place and has quite a Canberra feel (quick note: I am a Canberra fan). Our hotel though, the 'Grand Pacific Le Daiba' is constucted on the Opulence and Elegance school of architecture - zow. Ee.
A quick shower to rinse a couple of plane trips and a bus trip off (looking down into Tokyo Bay the while, la di da) and then... the nightshirt.

I'm sure it has a Japanese name.
Okay, time to head down, meet the others and have an explore.
Next: the wonder of toilets.