Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unlike America, Japan Cuts Energy Use Ruthlessly

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Every time the price of fossil fuels jump, the Japanese people respond to government commands they cut back by ruthlessly cutting down energy use, for example, not heating buildings at all. Meanwhile, America can't even throttle back gas guzzling vehicles.

From the Washington Post:
When the Japanese government issued a national battle cry against soaring global energy prices this winter, no one heeded the call to arms more than this farming town in the misty mountains of western Japan.

To save on energy, local officials shut off the heating system in the town hall, leaving themselves and 100 workers no respite from near-freezing temperatures. On a recent frosty morning, rows of desks were brimming with employees bundled in coats and wool blankets while nursing thermoses of hot tea. To cut back on gasoline use, officials say, most of the town's 13,000 citizens are strictly obeying a nationwide call to turn off car engines while idling, particularly when stopped at traffic lights.
Note the difference from America. When we lost a lot of our oil wells, like a big baby, we ran over to Europe and demanded they supply us with lots of oil or we would run up the price of oil to over $100 a barrel. So, grinding their teeth, they forked over the fuel which we then happily guzzled, hardly pausing in stride.

We made nearly zero attempts at curbing our consumption on any level. I remember when Carter was savaged for suggesting we heat our houses at 68 degrees and put on a sweater! Reagan said, "What me worry?" and we all cheered, turned up the theromstat and went on to party like there was no tomorrow.

And there will be no tomorrow at this rate.
Takao Iwase, Kamiita's husky administrative director, joined other locals in switching off the heat at home, too -- leaving his family to quickly hustle from steaming nighttime baths to the warm comforters on their traditional futons. "We're saving [$100] a day at city hall by shutting off the heat," Iwase, wearing four layers of clothing and a winter coat inside his office, said proudly. "But we no longer see this as just an economic issue. Japan has no natural resources of its own, so saving energy has become our national duty."
This sounds so much like the Chinese, heh. Japan runs a giant surplus with us. They must import all their oil but in our case, even if it is only 60% of our oil we are importing, this is still, by volume, more than Japan imports and since we have nearly wiped out our industrial base, very little of the oil we import is creating value that can be exported at a profit, unlike Japan.

The Japanese have always put their personal comfort second to other considerations. For example, there is no clamor for cheap beef. Why? Well, it would have to be imported and this will ruin the trade balance so shop owners and meat packing houses and everyone conspire with the government to not only not allow foreign beef in except for a very small amount, but the media won't express consumer rage over high prices.
Canon's $225 Pixus MP500 printer, which uses 60 percent less electricity than the company's other models, has become the number one seller here despite a variety of less costly options on the market. Matsushita, maker of the Panasonic and National brands, is selling a $600 energy-efficient ceiling lamp that proudly tells its users, "You are saving 10 percent on electricity," each time it's switched on. Last year, the company jumped into the housing subdivision business and is now building suburban "eco-homes" fully equipped with energy-saving gadgets and solar panels that can chop 65 percent off the average Japanese power bill of about $180 a month.
The Japanese use much less energy than we and their cost per kilowatt hour is much higher. America's trade imbalance is a very serious thing and one component that is very bad is our importation of fossil fuels.

Just like balancing the budget, we have to cut back on that element or else slowly or increasingly swiftly, bleed to death.

As my illustration above shows, the typical American house has central heating and many of them use natural gas. In Japan, it has been quite different up until recently. The table the family in the picture are using is called a Kotatsu. It is a low table with two quilts thrown on top of and then, to protect them, a hard surface for eating off of. I have eaten at such tables when visiting Japanese nuns, for example. When your legs are warm, the upper body feels much warmer than expected and to warm the hands, you slip them under the quilt occasionally.

We lived in a tent complex on a very cold mountain for ten years. We got used to wearing bathrobes that are big and thick, like huge quilts, along with heavy felt booties and long woolen socks. I used to warm up bricks on the Victorian cook stove and slip them under the blankets, wrapped in a towel, to heat up the beds so we wouldn't freeze when climbing under the covers. The other thing was to drape the bedding covers over a chair by the woodstove and then, when it was warm, go to bed with it.

I also took old fur coats and remade them as blankets and trust me, nothing is warmer than a mink coat, fur side under.

Because America is big and was allowed to run up a gigantic debt, we have resized ourselves and our infrastructure to deadly proportions. I once owned a mansion and heating that monster was a nightmare. I was glad to be rid of it. Right now, America is dotted with mini-mansion of great size, all of which will have to be abandoned when the energy problem becomes the energy nightmare. What a waste.
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Monday, February 06, 2006

High Halloween Couture Big Hit In Paris!

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

It now looks like the French top designers want to crib from some of my past NYC Village Halloween Parade specials! Only they left out my lovely bat wings. Well, next year, after they look at my art here, they will remember that item, too!

From the NYT:
THE GRAND PALAIS was built for expositions — many Parisians in the last century saw their first airplane there — and since its reopening last fall Karl Lagerfeld has used it to display Chanel's new clothes and, of course, himself. Last October he had a giant video screen erected, with his image blown up like Kong. For his spring haute couture show on Tuesday he put up what looked like a missile silo. At the end of the show, the tube lifted toward the glass ceiling, revealing the models on a spiral staircase.

It's easy to snicker at Mr. Lagerfeld. He is 70-something, he speaks brutally fast, and he has an eccentric collection of jewelry. The other day he had on a porcelain carnation made for Madame de Pompadour and retouched with gold by Jean Schlumberger. "He was kind of gifted, Schlumberger," Mr. Lagerfeld said, squinting behind his dark glasses and breaking into a huge grin.

But — from Madame de Pompadour's breast to Karl Lagerfeld's lapel — that is the arc of couture's incredible comet. If you are gifted like Mr. Lagerfeld, or like John Galliano at Dior, you don't have to ask whether couture is dead. It's relevant if you can make the meaningful connections between the past and present. On Monday, Mr. Galliano sent out a provocative collection with allusions — in the rough work boots and red-splattered white organza — to the French Revolution and, not incidentally, to the recent riots in France.
Well, Muslims are now burning down embassies all over the place, in at least six different countries. Luckily for the Grande Palais, Lagerfeld didn't do this, too.

I was one of the very first people to start off with the now famous Village Halloween Parade in NYC. It started because we young freaky mothers in the arts community wanted to show off our creations with our little tots so we all dressed up hugely and walked the kids through Washington Square Park and went begging together. This grew rapidly into a wild show over the years.

The costume here got a rousing reception. I was with two guys dressed as a bear and a bull in business suits and we wheeled a Wall Street lampost with us as we joked about the coming recession (we were right on the nose, too! Haha!).

I had "Vagina Dentanda" with me, my baby monster. I kept him hidden in my volumous skirts which were made out of the Wall Street Journal which is, by the way, in serious trouble at Wall Street because that rag is losing money! Haha! Again!

Anyway, this skirt was huge and so were my wings, I couldn't get on a subway except sideways. And as I stalked along 6th Avenue that night, every time someone yelled that we didn't scare them, we would surround the brave soul and talk about stocks falling. And I would whip out Baby and people would scream. It was a riot. A little Japanese girl cried when I did that to her daddy so I had to kiss him with my monster face. She loved it and wanted to hold Baby. I said, "I am a demon, you shouldn't be my friend," but she insisted.

So I was a total failure.

Well, seeing this year's fashions in Paris, I plan to hop the next broom over or maybe just fly with my lovely wings and go instruct them on how to design really cool demons.

Read my hips. No new fashion designers!
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Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Material Girl In A Material World: Dancing Like Loie Fuller

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

This is a publicity photo from one of my dance performances. The fine fabric has storm clouds and rainbows printed all over it and it would drift through the air wonderfully, catching every breeze and onstage, I could whirl it into a vast, billowing cloud about me, it being over 50 yards in width. Manipulating material and reality: dances inspired by Loie Fuller, the first American modern dancer.

Loie Fuller, in Wikipedia The very first American modern dancer was a stout young lady from Illinois. She not only took Europe by storm, she revolutionized the art of dance, sponsored Isadora Duncan and inspired many future dancers. She and her brother invented stage lighting that used gels and changed rapidly like the color wheel, for example. Yet less than 50 years after she died in the twenties, she was nearly totally forgotten.

I was visiting MOMA in Manhattan in 1969 when I ran into this amazing statue showing a delighted lady flipping a mountain of material around her body, estatic.

"Impossible," I said. "Probably just made up." I read the dancer's name on the base and decided to figure out how she danced. This took more than a year to do. Once I figured out from various pictures how she made her fabulous costumes and the bamboo rods she used as the flexible supports to extend her arms to tremendous degree, I began to reproduce her dances, one by one.

This is the great lady dancing in her most difficult costume. I reproduced this one in particular for the Lily dance, for example.

It was over 100 yards in size and moving all that fine material at such an extention was very hard work. Since I do construction work too, I am very muscular with powerful legs. When I demonstrated this dance at the Julliard School of Dance, one ballet student told me, it was simple to do a Loie Fuller dance so I dressed her in this costume and told her to give it a whirl. Within minutes, she was tangled in the masses of material to the snickers of the other dancers.

I enjoyed doing these dances because they were very meditative, I didn't pay attention to my feet or arms but instead, my mind would dwell upon the far edges of the cloth which was moving sometimes at lightning speed far from my body. In the Fire Dance, I would be moving the cloth so ferociously, the sound of it moving around me in an ever rising pillar was a loud roar but the audience couldn't hear it over the sound of the Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner.

I would go to the studio and stand in front of banks of mirrors, peering around the billows of material as I would perfect the movement of my arms to draw the cloth into various shapes and designs. I got so good, I could do it in my sleep and indeed, today, can reproduce any of my dances with no rehearsals, it is ingrained so deeply.

The only time I could see myself was through photographers because the material, especially when lit up, can't be seen from within.

Instantly, when I set off in Manhattan to show this dancing, other dancers ran off in imitated me. It is amusing to see all the offspring of my efforts even until today. But precious few understood the core of her dances, aside from myself. They simply wave the material around. They don't make it into anything except surface razzel-dazzle.

When I danced the Rose dance, for example, the cloth would fold and roll until it was a bud, then blossoming into full flower and then disintigrating lavishingly. The Fire dance starts as bluish ripples with my fingers tweeking the far edges of the cloth, then rippling higher and higher until I became a pillar of literally roaring fire with the cloth cascading over my head and rolling to my ankles only to shoot even higher! It would reach over 15' high.

Then there was my favorite, a dance I made myself. Using photos of Voyager, I took everyone through the solar system, ending with the earth, to "Au Claire De la Lune" by Debussy. Utterly dark stage with light absorbing black velvet backdrop. As the music plays, I silently glide onstage and only when the cloth intersects the stars projected from the booth can anyone see anything.

As the planets get nearer, Saturn's rings suddenly appear, rippling and rolling across the material which flies out in graceful whirls. I move faster and faster until the Earth appears.

Then I slow down to near immobility, the sheer cloth trembling, slithering across the stage, at this point, invariably, silence falls and I could hear sobs from the audience. Head back, I pull back into myself, pulling the cloth with me until I dissappear.

This dance was beautiful because it was infused with my intense feelings about our planet, Mother Nature and the Universe. Dances done without heart are meaningless.

Anyone can dance, but to find the Heart of the Matter is what escasy is all about. To step into another world, to become something more than a mere mortal, the nectar of the Gods is what Creation is all about, to gain this, even death won't stop, for it is beyond death and suffering.

It is Heaven. (And yes, I was the first to revive her dances)
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