Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Fabulous Yard Sale Find:Samurai Archer on Horseback Print

Yesterday, I found a beautiful and rather well-preserved specimen of Japanese print, featuring a samurai in full armor on horseback, holding an arrow at the ready in his longbow. It appeared to be numbered “11” as if it were number 11 in a series. All other marks were kanji with a smattering of katakana. So I made a long and rather frustrating attempt to decipher the rest of the kanji, thinking my handy Denshi Jisho radical lookup might help me identify the unknown symbols. Boy was I ever wrong! I found some of them, but even the ones I found were often not part of the Joyo Kanji standard list. Obviously, one must be much more learned in this stuff than I am. 
My Mystery Samurai Archer on Horseback Print, 14.5" by 10"

The box in which the print came also held ephemera and photographs from just pre-World War I to about 1950, so I’m guessing the print is either just post WWII or perhaps earlier, especially since I had so much trouble finding the kanji. I realize that pre-WWII kanji would be carried on a list called the “kyujitai” or “original characters,” rather than the shinjitai, or newer system.  (Just to make things amusing, there’s something called the “seijitai” as well, which just means “proper characters” and is synonymous with kyujitai). So what’s correct? Anyway, I got in over my head, and so I’m posting the print in its entirety, along with closeups of the text and stamps. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who can make more sense of it than I can. It is possible I'm just missing a stylized font, who knows?
Kanji text at bottom left of print
Stamp and signature to lower right hand of image.

For a few moments, I thought I had found at least a companion piece to this one at this website, which shows a sold scroll print of Minamoto no Yoshiie, who is astride a similarly dressed horse with very similar clothing (but not quite the same). The artist’s stamp is different though, and so it probably isn’t related. That print was estimated to be approximately mid-20th century. I’m guessing this one is too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Paean to Photoshop, Or Sadie Takes Pictures of Herself in a Green Wig

Photograph is really of Sadie, as bizarre as it looks.

I finally decided that it was time to stop pretending that I’m Carrie Fisher on my various profiles and change my profile pic back to one that is actually me. While I still bear a phenomenal resemblance to Ms. Fisher, I don’t want to irritate her by perpetually passing off her “Return of the Jedi” metal bikini pic as my only. Credulity on the part of viewers only goes so far. No, I wouldn’t step one foot into that bikini. 

So, I came upon a short but interesting article about how to take good photos of yourself, and it had a few tips for Photoshop optimization, backgrounds, and so on. The green wig was a mere impulse accessory, but I don’t think it looks bad. Why wouldn’t I want to look like an anime babe? Anyway, the bright green hair straight from China and the three fighting silhouettes on my shirt made for an interesting set of referents as I played with a function on Photoshop called “curves.” 

Hitting Cntrl-M as the helpful article above directed, I saw a grid with a straight line diagonally across it. I had the choice of altering the shape of the curve (by dragging it at several points) in the RGB or individual red, green or blue. The table at the top will show what fun I had with this function.  The top left photo is the original. Some of them are not curve altered but have been modified with Color Balance on the Adjust menu to yield those funky, unnatural skin tones. (Oddly, my resemblance to Carrie Fisher seems to be amplified when I turn my skin magenta or yellow, wonder why?)

Anyway, the laudatory bit comes now. I have owned my copy of Photoshop since 1999, when I was a part-time student. At the time, it was Photoshop 5.5. Now,  13 years and 4 computers later, I can still run this old copy of Photoshop, meant for Windows 95 or 98 (and I think the brand new Windows ME at the time), on Windows 7 Home Premium, follow relatively up-to-date advice on modifying images in the program and come out with great results. Since I was a student at the time, I got the program for a reduced rate of about $300. It is the best $300 I’ve ever spent on a computer-related item. So, Adobe, want to make me an official cheerleader for Photoshop? I can’t really afford a copy of the new version, but the old version is so robust for what I use it for, I am continually flabbergasted (in a good way) with the results I get.

As an endnote, you see those funny little guys on my shirt, the ones who change color as I play with the color settings in Photoshop? Well, that’s a shirt exclusively from , purveyors of great old samurai flicks that I love to watch and imitate in the shower (j/k). I won the shirt in the 2010 Samurai Fiction contest for a story I wrote entitled, “The Samurai Who Lost His Head But Found Another.” If you enjoy a taste of Edo era bathos, read it here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Declaration of Disorganization

I suppose you could say I’ve been suffering from writer’s block, only I have about 10,000 words of nonsense written down about it that no one is going to see—ever. Every night, I attempt to create a blog post that I would not mind showing to the world (not that the world reads my blog or anything). Night after night, my efforts fall short; my theme hijacks itself to another realm, and the post dwindles into an inchoate rant about something totally unrelated to what I intended to write about. I am hoping this post will not be yet another of the same in a long string of pointless verbiage.  After all, I am writing about my inability to write, aren’t I?

Cluttered House, Cluttered Mnd

My house should be on “Hoarders,” only circumstances prevent such an option in the land of next-door in-laws and the desire for a measure of privacy. So I resolve every morning to make a dent in “Mount Filthabachi,” as I call the stacks of boxes and tottering towers of books. Some days I actually get some organizing done, but there is a strong tendency towards distraction. I have daily chores that take up a large chunk of the morning and afternoon.  In the evening, my time is hijacked by my unofficial position as personal secretary to my husband (an unacknowledged time-eater) and from-scratch cooking maven. The in-laws are constant loose cannons, placing unpredictable demands on our time at short to no notice. Between all this and my dependence of late on narcotic painkillers for long-standing chronic pain problems, I have found coherent writing to be next to impossible.  I am looking for solutions. Writing this post is a step towards that goal. 

If I drink enough coffee will I magically be able to handle this mess?

Online Clutter: Social Networks and Startup Madness

As I have waded into the waters of Wahoolya nascent “startup for startups” venture that promises to create a marketplace for social currency and reward social influencers with equity in startups, I find that there is a need on my part to consolidate and organize what social networks I now frequent. According to Klout , I wield sufficient influence to have rated the opportunity to participate in the Wahooly venture, but now I find that I am rather outclassed by my fellow Wahooligans in the realm of social networking savvy.  So naturally, I want to learn. 

There is soooo much to figure out though, and many signals cross over each other in my correspondences with my fellows. I find the demand on my time to be greater than what I have in any one time block. Social networking will expand to fill all available space if you let it. That should be an axiom, really. It is so true, even for a somewhat introverted geeky type like me.  So I downloaded a socialnetworking infographic and started bookmarking sites that aggregate interesting articles about social media and business. But somehow I’m still overwhelmed, as I have all my home responsibilities plus these online ones now. Oh yes, I forget to mention that I run an online bookstore on as well. That takes up those straggling moments of free time as well.

The secret is to organize it all. And for me, the hoarder’s wife, it is the Holy Grail, hard to see when there are 25 boxes in my immediate field of vision. As with all things, perseverance wins. At least I keep the food waste cleaned up and mice at bay. But that’s part of my basic housewife job description.