Monday, May 30, 2005

Cliff House Gallery

My friend logs the "Deep in the Arts" calendar for our local NPR affliate (KERA 90.1), and thus has her finger on the pulse of all music and arts events throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She keeps me well informed on everything even remotely Japanese-related, so I was very keen to check out the textile exhibition & sale at the Cliff House Gallery.

Cliff House Gallery is tucked away in the corner of the far west side of Fort Worth overlooking lush woods and pastures. It's the home of Pamela Summers and Raymond Rains, local artisans who specialize in ceramics and blown glass, respectively. On their lovely property they've created a garden with winding stone footpaths, indoor/outdoor workshops and an interesting gallery space to show off their wares. But today the attraction was Ms. Alice Dale, who has what appears to be my dream-job: traveling (and shopping) the world for interesting textiles and objects, then selling them to finance her further travels. Not a bad setup, I must say!

After raising two sets of children and a divorce, Ms. Dale moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico about 10 years ago. She told me she scooped the African trading bead phenom early on and made quite a bit of money selling her jewelry designs (one of which she's wearing in a photo below). She has a boutique there in sunny Mexico where she sells her creations and textiles from all over the world.

At the gallery she was showing some interesting textiles from South America, Vietnam, Cambodia and of course, Japan. There was one sakiori obi and a vintage bolt of shibori cotton, shown below, that I would have snagged in a heartbeat had I not been so penniless.

(WARNING: pics below open into insanely huge, high-resolution photos!)

Sakori Obi
Sakiori Obi

Interesting vintage shibori bolt
Interesting vintage shibori bolt

While at Cliff House, I was interested to learn that they have a raku kiln! No pottery was on display, unfortunately, but they have a "raku" party in December, so I'll definitely be checking back!

Cliff House View
View from Cliff House Gallery

Ms. Alice Dale Kimsey
Ms. Alice Dale Kimsey

Red Jyuban
Red rinzu jyuban (under-kimono)

Vintage Hagoita
Some fun vintage hagoita, a sort of badmitten racket, and miscellaney

More Shibori!
A shibori wonderland...

Obi odds & ends
Obi odds & ends

Breathtaking embroidery
Breath-taking embroidery on this padded kimono

Bags and beads by Jewels Elite, another exhibitor

More jewelry
More jewelry...

And more bags...
And more bags...

Alice Dale Kimsey
Ms. Dale had the most arresting aqua blue eyes!

All this has got me thinking on how I might do something similar. Dallas defintely NEEDS a Japanese antique source and I'm just the person to do it...but first I need to do a little work... Of course there are issues of money, time & distance - but compared to these relatively modest concerns, my biggest hurdle is emotionally letting go of some of the items in my collection! Auuughh!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lady Snowblood

Finally watched "Lady Snowblood" (Shurayuki-hime) over the weekend. Said to be the "inspiration" for Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series, it's actually more like the template for those films. I used to think Tarantino was quirky and original, but now I find he's just a rip-off artist with a taste for cheesy films from the 60s and 70s. If you've seen "Kill Bill Vol.1" you'll recognize the theme song pretty's original to "Lady Snowblood!"

Yuki (aka Lady Snowblood) is a fey, kimono-clad beauty whose only purpose in life is to avenge the brutal crime that killed her father and eventually landed her mother in prison, where Yuki was born. Her favorite accessory is a Japanese parasol with a small katana blade hidden in the handle, which she uses on dozens of baddies to good, bloody effect.

Since this is "samurai" story from the free-wheeling 70s, as expected the film incorporates copious amounts of fake blood: rivers, torrents and geysers of it - YAY! There's even a couple of acrobatic Hong Kong-style leaps that foreshadow the high flying choreography we all take for granted these days. The fight scenes are fairly well done and anyway, I usually find "girl-kicks-ass" stories pretty satisfying.

One aspect that stood out for me in this film is the director's predilection for extreme facial closeups, which are particularly effective when Yuki is the object of focus. Played by Meiko Kaji, her eyes literally burn with a dangerous ferocity and cold purpose that make her seem all the more beautiful, really. Lady Snowblood may be a "child of the netherworlds" but she is also a woman, sometimes torn between her sworn duty to kill her many enemies and other, softer sensiblities. It's this tension between Yuki's drive for revenge and some unexpected, womanly feelings that keep the heroine from being a merely 2-dimensional (but beautiful) killing machine.

As a film, Lady Snowblood neither takes itself too seriously nor devolves into outright camp, but "hews" to a middle ground (haha). Be warned however, it IS a samurai film and there IS a disturbing scene or two...if you can't handle blood or a few corpses, you might forego this one.

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the extras on this DVD, released by AnimEigo. Particularly impressive are the story notes that outline the period in which Lady Snowblood takes place (Early Meiji). For people not entirely familiar with Japanese history, the notes give a good frame of reference for the action of the film, and explain some rather confusing elements in the plot. You might consider viewing the notes before you view the film. There's even a small dig on Tarantino, where the crew at AnimEigo offer him a position in their translation department, as an unpaid intern, of course. Nice.

There is a sequel, called "Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengence" but I haven't seen it yet, so until then, here are a few screen-caps to keep you busy:

This look means:  SOMEONE IS GONNA DIE!

The deadly secret of the parasol

My kimono may be ruined, but you're fucking DEAD!

Extreme closeup #563

Partial English translation of the Lady Snowblood theme song:

Begrieving snow falls in the dead morning
Stray dog's howls and the footsteps of geta pierce the air.
I walk with the weight of the Milky Way on my shoulders
But an umbrella that holds onto the darkness is all there is.
I'm a woman who walks on the brink of life and death
Who's emptied my tears many moons ago.
All the compassion, tears and dreams -
The snowy nights and tomorrow hold no meaning.
I've immersed my body in the river of venegance
And thrown away my womanhood many moons ago.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Of Japanese Trains

Dear Readers & Friends-

I got a few good laughs out of today's Ichiroya newsletter (except for the part about the dead train passengers) so I thought I'd let Wada-san fill in for me on this post:


Dear Customers & Friends

Hello from Japan!

This is Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No 93.Firstly we would like to thank you very much for a lot of e-mails worrying about the train crash last week. The accident happened not far from our office (about 30 minutes by a car). More than 500 people were injured or dyed, but fortunately no friends or acquaintance got involved in the crash. 107 people lost their lives in the accident--the young train driver was included among them. We want to express our sympathy for those who lost their beloved families and friends.

Both of our daughters go to school by train and some of our staffs come to our office by train also, and we cannot feel it is someone else's affair. We couldn't imagine more than hundred people dyed by a train crash. We always thought the train was safe, punctual, cheap and reliable. Teachers taught us Japan had most extensive railway system in the world (when I was young). Nowadays most people have their own cars, but our family didn't have a car until I graduated from high school, and we seem to be able to live comfortabley without private car both now and olden times.

Most people go to office by trains. When I worked for Daimaru Department store, I rode a bus from the bus stop near my house to the railway station, and took a crowded train, and had to change train near Osaka. It always took about 75 minutes in the morning, and return trip in the late evening it took nearly 90 minutes. Trains during the commute are very crowded, and we can not even open books. Please imagine riding a very crowded elevator more than 30 minutes! When I was very tired, I sometimes fell asleep with leaning to the people around me. Trains are so crowded that some troubles occur. In the passengers there are digger, sexual molesters, drunks and so on. In the crowded train we must take care for the wallet in the pockets, and must be careful about the hand position to avoid to be mixed up with sexual molesters. Everyday's crowded train suffered me a lot. When I had to be freezed in the crowd, I always endured with listening to jazz or English learning CD with walkman.

But because of its mass passengers, Japanese railway system developed many apparatus. I heard that automatic ticket checker was invented in Japan. If you visit Japan, you will be astonished how the system are mechanized efficiently. We don't know what is familiar with you, but we try to itemize:
  • Automatic ticket machine can accept banknotes, and we can throw in the multiple coins at a time. We can buy multiple tickets at a time. (Please check the fare before you get in the lines of machine. The sign above machines shows the route map and fares.)
  • If you put a ticket or commuter pass in the ticket checker, it will be ejected at the another end in a blink of an eye. Even if you have two tickets for the ride, you can put them in piles. (Never pause for waiting the ticket. After passengers will rush against you! And never forget to take the ticket when you go in the station. If you forget to take the tickets, after passenger will take your ticket and all after passengers will take wrong tickets!)
  • There are 'Norikoshi-seisanki', which means 'fare adjustment machine'. (If you have wrong ticket, you can adjust the fare by that machine, which are usually put in near the ticket wicket. But of course, asking station attendants is more easily for foreigners!)
  • There are some kinds of advanced payment cards. For example we can buy three thousand yen card, and we can put it in the ticket checker machine. Ticket checker prints boarding station, exit station, fare and the outstanding balance. (It is very useful to when you must note down the fares. )
  • Most advanced ticket is ICOCA, which is issued by JR. Only letting the ticket touch to the machine, everything is recorded. We don't need to put in the machine, and only let it touch which is in the card case.
  • We can buy tickets of Shinkansen bullet train on the internet. (But we need to subscribe in advance. If you once subscribe you can take the ticket even on the handiphone's internet.)
  • Very punctual. Except the accidents, Trains always are run on time precisely. Time errors are always within a minute. (If you ride during rush hour, and getin the last, you must be pushed by station attendants strongly to close thedoor. Be careful to your bag and cloth. Sometimes bag or skirt are bitten by door, and you will not be able to move it until next stations. Station attendants are eager to be punctual, but do not really care about your bag or cloth!)

The icing on the cake - There are women-only car during crowded time. (Please check the gender of passengers. If you are male, and passengers around are all female, it is not the time to be delighted!)

Of course there are many other trains which you can enjoy the tranquil scenery and have a very relaxing trip (as Yuka wrote about the train ride to Shikoku last time). Yuka told me that when she was a junior high school student-she was studying for the test in the train and there was a man who were eager to teach her and her friends math and helped their study until they arrive at the destination.

We are sorry about the theme, which are not connected to kimono or fabrics. We are adding new arrivals of kimono, haori and bolt in about 5 hours from now--we hope you have some time to browse our new arrivals, domo arigato gozaimasu.

Ichiro & Yuka Wada
Kimono Flea Market "ICHIROYA"