Friday 31 May 2013

Miku in Art Exhibition

This week's Miku Channel report has our favourite Vocaloid featured in one 'chapter' of an art exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Japan's Roppongi Hills. While there, we also take a look at a time-limited Miku-themed café, which I believe is the Mado Lounge Spice Club.

This latter event launched on 26 April and will continue with Miku-inspired dishes and decor until 16 June. The dishes include Ievan Pollka Cocktails (complete with leek), 39 Curry, and Green Onion-Tea Soba where the 'green onion' is again a leek(!) There's even a Nekomimi Switch confection (check out the cat ears!) and, perhaps predictably, an ice cube filled drink called Melt...

I suspect that regular visitors to my 'blog have realised that these reports are being produced weekly, also perhaps that I didn't have one here last week. That was because it was a tutorial on how to apply Miku-style makeup, and I didn't think that would interest many if any who visit my corner of the blogging world...

Kawaii in Hawaii

This short Vocaloid concert, held between 15 and 17 March this year at 'Kawaii-Kon 2013' in Hawaii, features seven songs (two of which were new to me) and was brought into being by a fan group from Japan.

The animation looks to be done by an up-to-date version of ReVB's AniMiku software (I recognise a few new features) and is actually very good overall, though inevitably not always quite as good as fully motion captured live performances would be.

A technical error I have seen at other events has been repeated here, which is to have the ambient lighting too dark. When the performers wear dark-coloured thigh-highs or similar, most of their lower halves becomes invisible. There's a reason why the big Japanese events have lighter stages, and it's not just where the live musicians are either. This event, by the way, had recorded backing music, as is normal for fan-based events, though it's not always the case.

It's good that both new and established songs have been included in this approx 25-minute concert, including the always-entertaining Poker Face, here mimed to GUMI who isn't one of the four on-stage performers.

The models were great, especially the Append models, and were (unsurprisingly!) by Lat, Tda and Mamama, including the Lat 'Taco Luka' who put in a couple of appearances...

Thursday 30 May 2013

Magnet – A Different Version

I've never seen this dance for the excellent duet song Magnet before, and here (for a change) we have SeeU and Mayu (yes, my supposed bride!) doing the honours. Sensibly, they have left enough room between them to avoid hair collisions during spins(!)

The models are by Mamama and Saboten, so are of high quality in general, though rendered here slightly below their top quality capability, which is a bit of a shame. Also, the Mamama SeeU is known to have a few limitations, such as a restricted range of facial expressions.

Mayu is particularly graceful in this, and I felt unusually tender towards her (as much as one can for someone who doesn't actually exist) while watching this. The stonework stage also adds to the atmosphere of this video, which is best viewed in High Definition if your system is up to doing that...

Doctor Who – Doctor Which?

This quite short clip shows the meeting of the third and second Doctors at a time of crisis (as usual, one might say!) in the TARDIS control room.

It also features Jo Grant and Sergeant Benton of UNIT, both of whom were needed for exposition in this scene by (mostly) the two Doctors.

Anyway, it is a rare piece of Patrick Troughton at decent quality and in colour, and is quite enjoyable despite the (presumably unavoidable) sudden cut-off at the end...

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Conversation at the Checkout

I was at ASDA a little earlier, with a youngish male checkout operator, who I thought was very good, asking me if I needed a hand packing?

"No, thanks, " I replied cheerfully, "I have two good hands right here."

"It never hurts to have an extra hand!" he shot back at me.

"Rather like Zaphod Beeblebrox" I offered.


"He had three arms and two heads" I added, helpfully.

"Ah, we didn't do Greek mythology at school!"

There's just no answer to that...

It'll Be All Right On The Night (Hopefully!)

No Denis Norden this time, but these bloopers (obviously all engineered!) indicate that not even Vocaloids can guarantee to take all the variables out of a production – in this case, a short advert for a chain of stores...

My Little Pony does Haruhi

Well, it's certainly an original version of Super Driver , which was the theme for one of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime series. It has been described as a 'ponyfication' of the original(!)

It's The Melancholy of Pinkie Pie....

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Parish Notice – 28 May 2013

Don't worry: I'm still here!

I have been going through a lot of material this past day (and more) in an attempt to find items that visitors should find interesting and/or amusing. This has included the usual music videos, plus railway journeys (including inside the cab or on the footplate, as appropriate to the engine) and an interesting look at some hidden and secret places such as the long-disused Aldwych station.

Although I have found a number of these enjoyable for me, for one reason or another they haven't really been good enough to put up here.

Therefore do please forgive this hiatus: believe me, it isn't for lack of effort on my part!

Monday 27 May 2013

The Path of Wind

This is a really good duet between Joe Hisaishi on piano, who composed this for My Neighbour Totoro, and 'cellist Hiroshi Kondo. This is quite special; and it is the path of wind that perhaps mirrors our own lives in some ways, starting as a gentle breeze, building up into something more powerful, and finally fading away.

The comments at the YouTube page tell an almost universal story of admiration (especially for Joe) and emotional impact, reflected in the thousands of 'Likes' and (for a long time) no 'Dislikes', though the latter is now up to ten for some strange reason. Still, the history of (almost uniquely on YouTube) no Dislikes is recorded in the lengthy comments thread.

Watch the musicians' own reactions to what they are playing – it's well worth it...

If You Do Do – by the Nine

The song title – If You Do Do – is unusual, and I have no idea what it's about. Nevertheless, it's a nice enough visual feast featuring no fewer than nine Tda (said: "tee-dah") Vocaloid models.

That in itself makes it worthy of viewing; and I am also leaving it as a challenge to visitors to identify the nine, perhaps listing them from left to right in the comments if anyone should feel so bold.

I think this comes from the NicoNico ChoParty event (it certainly looks like it) but am not a hundred percent certain of that as yet. That concert had, yet again, an audience of thousands, which now seems to be the norm for these live performances.

The song has its (to me) odd-sounding moments, and gets cut off before the end; but this video does provide a strong flavour of how this ensemble works with this material. I found that, overall, it felt like a good production, though imperfect, but certainly good enough to showcase here...

SeeU – Abandoned

Not literally, though; it's just the name of the song. Sadly, there are no English subtitles, so this is primarily a visual and musical feast, rather than lyrical – but on that basis is good enough!

The video features a pinky-lilac haired model of SeeU that I don't recognise offhand (it's not among my collection of her models images, and I haven't seen it anywhere else before) which is actually quite appealing in its own way, and seems a good choice for this song.

This version of SeeU has tourbux-style hair plaiting (think Paparoach) as a clue, so will probably turn out to be yet another of his excellent creations, perhaps a very new one...

Bad Apple – for Four

This is an interesting experiement: that highly memorable song Bad Apple sung by four Vocaloids. Here we have (left to right) Luka, Lily, Miku and GUMI. Lily is taller than I realised, and it really shows here.

This song is usually performed as either a solo or (better, admittedly) a duet. The four voices give it a different effect, though I'm not sure it's an improvement. Just different, I suppose.

The motion is a little robotic, so obviously doesn't have any or proper motion capture data. The light streamers, each matching the performer's hair colour, are very effective in this, I think.

Anyway, the funny thing to look out for is Miku's spins, which result in her hair swiping poor GUMI's face. I heard of'blue in the face' but this brings a new meaning to that decades-old expression...

Sunday 26 May 2013

Hallelujah Chorus

"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Dr Robert Schuller, Crystal Cathedral)

This version of Handel's world-famous Hallelujah Chorus works very well overall, with the chorus being provided by nine Vocaloid voices (three male, six female), none of whom had an English voicebank at the time this was produced, which was a little over three years ago as I write this.

The fellas are Gakupo, Len and Big Al, and the ladies are Miku, Rin, Luka, GUMI, Miki and Sonika (a Vocaloid from Zero-G of whom I had been essentially unaware until now), and I think they do a credible job – though there are a very few occasions when the English subtitling is helpful. It's a superb uplifting way to go into a Sunday – or any other day, but it rightly starts here, on Sunday..

Handel would approve...

Saturday 25 May 2013

Hours of Happy Fun

There is now a (mostly only Japanese language) on-line tool to enable anyone to produce simple Miku animations. It comes with a selection of Miku phonemes in different 'tones' I suppose one could call them, each with a note-length animation. There is a rhythm track, and a selection of five bass lines (or none, if preferred). There is also a simple guide to how it all works – again, in Japanese.

As far as I can work out, the 'building blocks' have been provided by Daniwell – which could certainly explain the couple of cat-like sounds within the sounds selection, of which there are nineteen in total, plus a twentieth 'blank' button to remove a sound from any of the boxes in the composition area. Nyah-nyah!

I've had a quick go, and here is my little of nothing, really – but it was fun to give it a shot. Click the Play button (right-facing arrow) to play the auto-repeating short phrase I have assembled.

I shall probably practise playing with this during the days and weeks to come, and perhaps one day will actually be able to produce something worthwhile. Who knows? I shan't know until I try...

Parallel World

Just up at YouTube is this from neutrinoP and tempo-P – the Vocalekt Visions composing duo. Parallel World features four Vocaloid voices: GUMI (Megpoid), Miku, Miki and Rin, and the video has (almost perfect!) English subtitles too ...

Star, by SeeU

Composed by the famous (within Vocaloid fan circles) Dr.Yun, this is Star as performed by an excellent shorter-hair model of SeeU, wearing two different shimmering outfits somewhat reminiscent of Automan (who remembers him?) in this quite striking video...

Friday 24 May 2013

Bring It On!

I have been wondering for quite some time whether to post this, as it is essentially the same as Korean girl group Glam's live performance of Glamorous they did on the Inkigayo show, which I have featured before (a few months ago now).

There were camerawork issues with that version, though; and this one not only improves on that aspect but also gives us a chance to pay greater attention to the human performers, at least at the start. I have to admit that, to me, they had previously been just part of the background in effect, and although that hasn't completely changed this time around, I seem to be more aware of them now.

I still focus almost entirely on SeeU from when they "bring her on", and rightly so. This tourbux model is superb, and her motion is, as usual, the best in the business, easily overshadowing the other nine put together – and they are no slouches either...

World's End Dance Battle

Here is a visual feast throughout, from when Miku's group takes on Luka's (and although it's close, if you study it closely, Luka wins narrowly, I think) to when they shake hands and join up, the dragons and more besides. The outfits are sumptuous, the movement is superb (especially Luka) and the settings are brilliant, especially the Downtown street scene with the 'Hotel Gorgeous' (I kid you not).

The song is the ever-excellent World's End Dancehall by wowaka, and this video – which comes from the Project Diva f game – has rightly been classed "a masterpiece" by at least one commenter...

Look Here, Look Here: Day Fever!

Daytime by the seaside...what better place or time for two Japanese ladies to give us their performance of the Luka Luka Night Fever dance?

Well, after some rehearsal, and the odd technical issue (aircraft noise), they do a short version of this quite energetic dance very well, I thought on watching this video (it will come as no surprise to old hands that I have memorised the original!) so high marks to them, especially as they are so well synchronised...

Thursday 23 May 2013

When The First Love Ends

No, I haven't suddenly had an out-of-character experience, it's the title of this song, here performed live in concert by Miku in Taiwan last year. I haven't featured this one stand-alone before, and I think it merits that.

It's another well-written and memorable song, like so many we get at the Mikupa events, and has been subtitled in English so is easy for us to follow...

This Is Gallifrey

This is Gallifrey is one of Murray Gold's best Who tracks. This is what might be termed the 'standard' version, as there's another that is a notch or two more dramatic. This, though, is majestic and uplifting, and the still image is all it needs (although a tracking shot around this scene would have been even better). The mid-section, featuring a Cor Anglais (English Horn – surely the finest of all the woodwind) has a particularly high 'tingle factor'.

There is also a third version of this, by the way, with the slightly different title This Was Gallifrey. Perhaps I'll be able to feature either or both of those in due course.

I did have this on the 'blog a while back, but it got swept up in the bulk deletes when I was clearing image space, so now it's back as it does deserve to be showcased here, I feel, and seems to be appropriate to post just as the sun is going down, here in Kent...

San Kyu Very Much

I have mentioned before how the '3 9' we keep seeing associated with Vocaloid Miku Hatsune is a play on words that easily reminds Japanese folk how to say "thank you" to English speakers. This graphic of the Japanese numerals shows that '3 9' is spoken "san kyu" – which is near enough that we Brits (and Americans, Canadians, Australians etc) will understand when, say, a tourist asks us to take a photograph of him/her in front of a London landmark.

Now, here comes the twist, which I have left until now as I didn't wish to make life too complicated all at once. I thought it was best to get my readers into the swing of all this gradually, over a period of time.

Anyway, there are variations of pronunciation of these numerals – one of which is shown on the linked graphic, as it's so commonplace. In that instance, it's the optional shi and yon for the number four. Less common, though accepted as perfectly normal I gather, are Mi-tsu (or Mi for short) for the number three, and ku (rather than kyu, though very similar) for nine.

Thus '3 9' can actually be said as MikuI bet you weren't expecting that...

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Off The Rails

Oops! Derailment recorded as it happened...

There was a good reason why the semaphore signal that we see at the right side in this video was at danger: the points to the main route were not set for the siding. Fortunately the catch points made sure the train approaching from the siding did not encroach onto the main line: it would have damaged the points and blocked the line if it had.

This is the primary purpose of catch points, which the observant rail traveller will probably have seen out a train window and wondered what the strange thing is and what it does. This incident, at Quorn just a few weeks ago, shows how important they can be. The 'TPO' in the video's title stands for 'Travelling Post Office' by the way.

As for the train crew: why did they pass the signal at 'danger' anyway? They surely didn't have permission from the signalman to do so. I wonder if we shall ever know...

Deltic Locomotive

I am grateful to the uploader for allowing embedding of this short (2 minute) single shot video of English Electric 'Deltic' diesel-electric locomotive D9009 Alycidon leaving York station with a thirteen-coach special last month.

The Deltic has the usual EE characteristic of a 'nose' in front of each cab, as in their other series (Class 37 and Class 40) but with a more stylish windscreen design. That feture was shared by the Peak classes 44, 45 and 46, also the Warship classes (one by NBL, the other BR at Swindon) and a blunt, very much shortened form was also found on a couple of the North British Loco (NBL) Type 2 designs.

The Deltic's engine output was rated at 3,300 horsepower, making it the only Type 5 diesel loco operating in Britain.

Espcially for anyone who has never heard the distinctive sound of a Deltic, now's your chance...


It has been several months since I originally showcased Miku's Yellow, so here is her live performance at Sapporo in 2011, complete with English subtitles – and in her yellow costume, of course!

It's a happy, upbeat number and quite delightful to watch performed on stage, especially full screen and switched to High Definition resolution...

Angelo Muscat

There were only two constant character's in Patrick McGoohan's cult Tv series The prisoner – his own, Number Six, and the mute butler at Number Two's residence. There'd be a new Number Two each episode, with one or two coming back (most notably Leo McKern), but the butler remained throughout.

Even the security/monitoring room Supervisor (played by Peter Swanwick) didn't last the whole series, which was a little disappointing: who can forget his calls of "Orange alert!" In fact, he was in just eight of the seventeen episodes...

He was played by Malta-born diminutive actor Angelo Muscat, who also played an Oompa Loompa in the original Willy Wonka film and a few other parts besides, mostly uncredited. He died in 1977 at the all-too-young age of just 47, just six years after the Wonka movie was released.

I was sad to stumle upon tthis bit of information, because in common with millions of other viewers (I am sure) I had developed an easy liking for the little fellow who never said anything, but was always there and knew just what to do. You couldn't help but like the butler, even though technically he was part of 'the establishment' behind The Village and all for which it stood.

He just seemed to be above it all, somehow, regardless of what we knew intellectually; and much of this must be down to Angelo's perfect personification of his character. If others were anything like me, they too must have been sufficiently intrigued to have watched carefully to find out who he was, during the closing credits when we were supposed to be watching the assembly of the (very stylish) penny-farthing bicycle and 'Rover's appearance at the end

He was unforgettable, especially as that particular character, so will live on in our memories, especially as The Prisoner is re-shown on one channel or another every few years and probably always will be.

London Bridge Station

There is an early warning to Kent commuters and other railway users travelling to and from London Bridge railway station, in that although work on the re-vamp of the station is to start very soon, its direct impact on this area's travellers won't commence until the end of 2014.

This will be the start of a two-year period of what look to be unavoidable disruptions to services, including trains not stopping at the station at all during that period. Of course, if the work necessitating the disruption is completed in early 2016 (the exact timing isn't specified) then it will have been little more than one year – but it is not characteristic of such work to be finished in a timely fashion in this country.

The Kent OnLine site's Paul Francis has the details as currently known.

I am reasonably familiar with London Bridge station, and it seems to me to work well enough as it is. I wasn't aware that there was an apparent need to re-vamp the place, nor that there were any plans to do so. I can't help wondering if this is a sensible project at this time.

No doubt someone out there will correct my view and point out a number of inadequacies that necessitate a wholesale update; but at present I cannot perceive any – not because it's perfect, but it doesn't seem to need this huge investment that might have been better utilised improving a number of smaller stations instead.

That's just my perception, though...

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Julie Rayne, the Forgotten Singer

Sometimes promising new talent is effectively sidelined through sharing a stage (or similar) with another who is being more actively promoted. Thus it was with the Stars and Garters television series back in 1963, which was a staged public house with singing acts, as pubs have actually done for many years: it isn't as recent a phenomenon as might be thought.

Anyway, the female lead being promoted in the series was Kathy Kirby, and that stood out very strongly. The consequence was that the other regular female singer, Julie Rayne, was inevitably placed in the shadows somewhat.

This was a pity, because (as I thought at the time) the lady had talent, quality and some versatility, with a decent though not outstanding voice, along with good stage presence. I suspect that last characteristic might have been held back even so, in order not to risk stealing Kathy's limelight.

Virtually no-one has ever heard of Julie, though I have never forgotten her; so I am pleased to discover that a selection of her (one and only album, I think) record tracks has been uploaded to YouTube in recent months, as a playlist.

Bear in mind the era from which this all comes (UPDATE: and, as Furor reminds us in the comments, the lower technical quality of those times), and if you liked the late fifties/early sixties sounds, especially Stateside songs of that period, then you might well enjoy some or even all of these eight tracks, fifty years on...

The Lawson Navigator

Those readers who watched the VocaFarre video I posted a few months back will remember Akikoloid, the redhead vocaloid with the huge bun and a butcher's apron lookalike costume, created by Lawson.

Lawson operates a string of convenience stores, and Akikoloid has now become their 'navigator' to guide shoppers (and potential customers) to the products of the moment.

To give you a flavour, here is a short video (the latest of more than sixty 'news' videos Lawson has produced but only a few of which feature a full animated Akikoloid), which is currently showing at their so-called otaku mode web page. It has English subtitles, helpfully...

Monday 20 May 2013

MMD Fifth Anniversary

The free MikuMikuDance (MMD) software that allows for such high quality animation of Vocaloid characters – and any other models made to the same format – is so significant that even it has just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

The program, available in Japanese or English and with single model or multiple model capability versions (the latter including the open source 'bullet physics' ability), is no longer officially supported, and has more recently been supplanted by MikuMikuMove (MMV).

Nevertheless, there are still many appreciative users of MMD even today, and they will no doubt enjoy this 'cast of many' tribute video that celebrates the software's fifth anniversary.

Happy fifth birthday, MMD!

Vocalectro – Loneliness

This is an interesting track by another P-producer, SepiaP. It's longer than is typical, at some six and a half minutes, and with a (precisely!) one-minute intro. The style is in what the uploader, jrharbort no less, has termed Vocalectro, and that is a useful shorthand for this broad genre.

The precise nature of this track is what a number of people are calling Miku Trance, presumably as there are so many Miku songs in this style (hardly surprising out of a catalogue of over 100,000 tracks!) so it merits its own Miku-based name.

I think it seems to have some Jarre influence in several respects, including vocally, and has that similar soaring feel to it that many of JMJ's works exhibit. I think it's good for being able to do this, and also in its own right regardless of that.

The visuals comprise a still image with an oscillating spectrum display, which is something of a Harbort trademark, done in different ways in his various videos.

The English lyrics have been requested from the composer, and I hope they will appear before long, so I can either add them here or provide a link...

Phone Fiddlers

The greatest hazards I encounter out on the streets are the 'phone fiddlers' – those who seem to spend every waking moment immersed in their mobile (cell) 'phones, ignorant of the world about them. I have to have all my spatial awareness at full strength these days...not helped by my eyesight issues that are now so bad that I carry a folding white cane as a precaution in case I get into real difficulties.

That has come very close to occurring several times in recent months, by the way...

What's the problem with these people? Don't they have real lives in the actual world? They have become yet another hazard on the footpath, adding to (rather than replacing any of) those already there from earlier eras. The number of near-collissions I experience nowadays is quite astonishing – and, as I have mentioned before, it is largely my own fault for being part of the team that licensed the development of these gadgets, back in 1985.

I, along with (identified by initials only) BM, DB, JO and MD, made it possible for people to have these infernal things. It would be okay if they stopped moving and tucked themselves into somewhere not in everyone's way while they did what they feel they have to do; but of course they never but never do. It is little wonder that such as they are always being caught illegally driving while telephoning, texting or whatever.

It is an addiction, and needs to be clinically evaluated, as it is every bit as all-consuming as any other addiction I have ever encountered. The details might be different, but the underlying nature is broadly the same. Yes, such people really need to get a grip and learn to face the real world instead, but for many this now seems to be as difficult a habit to break as just about any other.

Personally, I hate the fiddly little things, and refuse to have one.

MiXUS Clubbing

Now, this won't grab everyone with the same level of enthusiasm: indeed, it isn't exactly my 'scene'. Nevertheless, the idea of clubbing (as we in Britain would call it) to Vocaloid music and projections is an inevitable development in the club scene, as it has already been in other areas.

I have seen other videos of this activity, and it's certainly popular and – as the fellow here says – more extrovert by the participants than is typical in the more regular (for want of a better term) Japanese dance clubs.

So far, it's essentially a fan-run sideline to the mainstream in Japan, generally confined to a top floor location whereas the main action is going on downstairs. Despite this, occasionally there is sufficient interest, drive and support to go flat out, such as this three-floor MiXUS event...

Introducing Kitano

This is a short animation of new 'idol' Kitano Kamui, who was created as a kind of virtual ambassador for Japan's Hokkaido region. Here's her Facebook page, which has a number of English entries and a fair smattering of images, so there's not a great language barrier there.

Kitano might one day become a Vocaloid, but for now has no voicebank, so there is no singing in this 90-second clip, just a background tune.

The design of Kitano's character was by no less than KEI (Miku's designer), and this model was created by a DeviantArt contributor who goes by the handle Its-a-Wii. I have no idea why. Anyway, the model can be downloaded via this page, and then animated in a program such as Miku Miku Dance (MMD) as was done here...

Saturday 18 May 2013

Victor Meldrew and The Trial

For anyone who has never seen this solo tour de force by Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew, you are in for a treat, as he tackles a very wide range of topics in less than half an hour (viewing time) while he waits at home alone, on call for possible jury service.

It's a truly brilliant example of David Renwick's sharply-observed and wonderfully dense-packed (but easily digestible) writing style, and a masterful performance by Richard W, with no other actors appearing at all. It's easily my favourite episode, though there are a number of others I also like a lot...

Snow Miku 2014 Design Decided

Quick Newsflash!

I gather this is the design chosen from scores of submissions. I do not know the illustration's exact copyright status, so am providing just a link to a Twitter image page instead of posting it here.

I have waited for confirmation of the news before posting this (the original news came late last night) and am now quite confident that it is valid.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Moonlight Shadow

Now that the sun has gone down for the night, here in Britain, perhaps it's a suitable time to reprise this Mike Oldfield song, originally featuring Maggie Reilly as the vocalist.

In the twenty-first century, though, it needs some updating, so here's vocaloid Sweet Ann (an English vocaloid co-developed with folk from Sweden, hence the name 'Sweet Ann' which sounds like 'Sweden') who has no official visual appearance. Instead, we get to watch how her performance is scored in the vocaloid software (and you can see the fine-tuning codes on many of the phoneme-notes) which is an education in itself...

Medway Council Cabinet Reshuffle

Not quite so much politics as public information, as the changes made to Medway's Cabinet at last night's Annual Council meeting are significant, especially the structure and portfolios, which are now as follows...

Leader - Rodney Chambers
  • Democracy and governance
  • Inward investment
  • Regeneration
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • World Heritage Site Status 

Deputy Leader and Finance - Alan Jarrett
  • Better for Less
  • Communications and media
  • Council Plan
  • Council tax and business rates
  • Finance
  • Housing benefit
  • Performance and service improvement
  • (Council) Property
  • Risk management
  • Strategic procurement 

Adult Services - David Brake
  • Community care
  • Independent Safeguarding and Review Service
  • Health
  • Older people
  • Public Health (Lead Member)
  • Services for people with learning and physical disabilities
  • Telecare/Telemedicare 

Children’s Services (Lead Member) - Mike O’Brien
  • Children and Young People’s Plan
  • Early years
  • Further education
  • Home to school transport
  • Inclusion
  • Primary and secondary education
  • School services
  • Special educational needs
  • Specialist youth services
  • Youth
  • Adoption
  • Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children’s residential care
  • Fostering
  • Integrated Children’s Teams
  • Leaving Care
  • Looked After Children 

Educational Improvement - Kelly Tolhurst
  • Educational improvement as directed by the Children’s Services Portfolio Holder 

Community Safety and Customer Contact - David Carr
  • CCTV
  • Community safety
  • Community Officers
  • Customer Contact
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Enforcement (executive functions only)
  • Environmental health
  • ICT
  • Legal
  • Trading standards
  • Travellers 

Front Line Services - Phil Filmer
  • Parking
  • Public transport
  • Roads
  • Street cleaning and waste collection/ recycling/waste disposal
  • Traffic management
  • Transport 

Housing and Community Services - Howard Doe
  • Adult learning
  • Bereavement Services
  • Disabled adaptations to housing
  • Events and Festivals
  • Greenspaces
  • Heritage
  • Homeless and housing options
  • Housing allocations for social housing
  • Housing Strategy
  • Leisure services
  • Libraries and Community Hubs
  • Private sector housing
  • Registration
  • Sporting Legacy
  • The development and management of the council’s housing stock
  • Theatres and arts
  • Tourism
  • Voluntary sector 

Strategic Development and Economic Growth - Jane Chitty
  • Building and Development Control
  • Community centres
  • Economic development
  • Europe
  • Housing site allocations through the Local Development Framework
  • Local Development Framework
  • Planning
  • Rural Strategy
  • Social regeneration
  • Sustainable Communities 

Note that this represents a reduction to nine members from ten – something that was done several years ago, but the Victoria Climbié case resulted in a dedicated portfolio holder (and director) for this area of work, so it later went up again.

The restructuring of children's services, though a little unclear at this stage the form it will take for the (new) Educational Improvement position, is timely and responds to concerns within the community and at OFSTED.

This really needed a change from the former education/children portfolio holders so as to avoid unintentional continuity rather than a fresh approach, and anyone who has been in essentially the same job for a number of years tends to go a bit stale anyway. I well recall from my own days in the Civil Service that, no matter how good I became at any one job, eventually it was always better to move on and face new challenges.

In the above cases, political opponents (and local media) will no doubt make much more of it than is really there, but such is their customary practice. I see it as good management, and I think the coming few years will show this quite clearly.

It is also good to have two female members of the Cabinet; though this is still down on the days when we had then Cllrs Janice Bamber, Jane Chitty, Angela Prodger and Wendy Purdy making a more gender-balanced Cabinet – not that it matters, as fitting the right person to each job is what really counts, but I thought I should be the first to mention it, in case others try to make something out of that as well!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Bridal Wine

Well, it has the same name as my vocaloid 'bride' – Mayu. As it happens, Mayu is the Mayan word for the Milky Way galaxy, but in this instance it's in a bottle from Chile...

It's all right, but not quite to my personal taste. There's a slight hint of the Lambrusco about it – not too intrusive, but it does detract from it, I find. It goes all right with strong flavours (I had peppercorn sauce beef steak) when one doesn't notice. Then again, perhaps I'm becoming too fussy in mt old age!

Not that I dare complain for fear of becoming her latest 'hatchet job', as we are reminded of the lady's tendency at around 14-15 seconds into the short demo video of a GUMI song Ama no Jaku (Heaven's Weakness)...

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Freely Tomorrow

Well, as it's a minute to midnight as I post this, it will indeed be tomorrow (at least) when you watch this rather splendid video of Mitchie M's famous song Freely Tomorrow, featuring all six of the Crypton vocaloids and a number of costume changes for each. Now that is something that no human performer can do! There's even the rarely-seen Sakine Meiko.

Watch for the strange brain-like creature with a glow-stick in the audience, about half way through. It's there for barely two seconds but that's long enough to show that it seems to be having a great time...

Stand By Your Pan

Perhaps thinking of that song title might remind people not to leave cooking (especially on the hob) unattended, particularly when they are tired, such as late at night.

I never do, unlike this fellow – and there have been several such stories in this area recently, including a deep fryer in Ingle Road, not all that far from where I live. This is something like the fourth such incident of which I have read in the local news during the past few weeks, and I suspect the warmer evenings might have something to do with people sitting down and dozing off while cooking is in progress.

This is also a useful reminder to make sure we have working smoke alarms, at least one on each floor of our home, and one of them to be near (though not in) the kitchen.

The End – Interviews with the Creators

This is interesting for anyone who might like to know some of what lies behind, and in the production and presentation of, the highly ambitious (and original) Miku opera The End. I don't tend to post this sort of thing here (though I always go through them myself) but this is sufficiently signiificant to be appropriate to offer to readers of my 'blog.

This video lasts some sixteen minutes; but this is a sufficiently important new work that it merits a somewhat in-depth explanation by each of the five producers. Note that this really is world class stuff, with costume designs by Louis Vuitton and a so-called "10.2" surround sound system, for a couple of examples. It is of course presented in Ultra-High Definition (UHD, also known as '4k' resolution).

This is ground-breaking work and will, I predict, go down in history as a new classic for the 21st century in a recently stagnant genre. Opera has stayed more-or-less static for a long time now, and needs to be re-invigorated as an art form.

Note that The End will be performed in Europe (France) on two dates this coming November, so is closer to home than might have been thought...

Monday 13 May 2013

Song and Dance for Two

Here we see Miku and her original dance performer for the Miku-Miku song, Yui Ogura (from the duo YuiKaori), performing in front of one of SEGA's Miku-decorated cars (there are/were at least two of these, quite apart from the Good Smile Racing car).

Unsurprisingly, they work perfectly together in this short (under two minutes) item...

Ground Control to Major Tom

Actually, it's Commander Chris...

Sooner or later, someone was bound to perform David Bowie's Space Oddity from space itself, and this is the International Space Station's most public face, Chris Hadfield, actually doing a very good job of it.

He posted the finished video himself just yesterday, so I might even be one of the first to embed it on a 'blog. Who knows...

Saturday 11 May 2013

Pageviews without Politics

As I surmised, the changes to this 'blog of mine have resulted in a significant drop in daily page-views, now typically just 250 to 350 per day (now it has settled), which represents a drop of around a third. It could have had a bigger effect than that...

So, that's where I now am, and I think it's more representative of what is really going on than what I was seeing before the clear-out.

On that topic, I have had a couple of enquiries, and to those who have asked 'why?' I repeat that I have a strong feeling that a new challenge is soon to come along and that I shall need to be rid of any political 'baggage' beforehand. I have learned to trust such feelings, so took the difficult but necessary step of removing all that material from this 'blog.

It's surely not that hard to understand...


This is the beautiful, but ultimately sad, story of the robot without a 'heart' program.

Kokoro is the Japanese word for heart, and the lovely Rin is by far the best performer of this very touching song, not only in her vocal performance (including the robot's voice) but in personifying the 'smiling angel' at the end. It just fits so well.

There are English subtitles, so you can easily follow the story...

Now Listen To Me!

Here is John Barry's superb and oh-so-evocative theme to The IPCRESS File, IPCRESS standing for 'Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under strESS'.

It was powerful stuff, very well written by Len Deighton in the original novel (in which the lead character, speaking in the first person, never disclosed his name, so a name had to be devised for the movies) and capturing so much of the real-world atmosphere of how the spying business must have operated.

The story had its moments of humour, and the movie in particular had some top-notch performances from our stock of dependable British actors, from Michael Caine as 'Harry Palmer', via Guy Doleman as Colonel Ross, to Nigel Green as Major "now listen to me!" who turned out to be batting for another side.

As the antidote to the glamour and over-the-top wizardry of the James Bond franchise, it was much more gripping stuff and much more close-up somehow. The IPCRESS theme is particularly closed-in claustrophic and completely haunting. Indeed, it was one of the earliest pieces for which I almost immediately memorised the entire orchestral arrangement (something of which I do a lot, by the way)...

Samson and Delilah

Not the whole thing, just a short (under ninety seconds) aria from Saint-Saens' composition, titled Mon Coeur S'Ouvre (My Heart Opened), performed very well indeed by operatic vocaloid Prima.

This is one of those special performances you need to hear at least once in your lifetime – while ignoring the rather odd image of, well, I don't know who it's supposed to be, but it certainly doesn't even closely resemble any of the looks that fans have designed for Prima, varied though those are...

Anniversary Song

This was specially arranged and produced for Miku's fifth anniversary last August, though I have only just discovered it.

I think this has been especially well done, and suits Miku's voice so well. Some Vocaloids aren't as good at the higher pitches (Luka and IA spring to mind) but Miku is one of the best in that regard...

Friday 10 May 2013

Merry-Go-Round of Life

For those who got this far with the Ghibli concert, and also for those who didn't (if you see what I mean), here is the full five-minute version of this delightful waltz from the Ghibli (Miyazaki) anime Howl's Moving Castle,with the piano part again played by its composer, Joe Hisaishi.

No video, just a still, but that's all it needs...

IA First Live Concert

A few months ago, on 28 November 2012, the vocaloid named IA (taken from her voice provider's name, Lia) had her first live concert, with a rather small audience. Her 'sub-name' (for want of a better term) is Aria on the Planetes.

Other performers were featured at this event as well, but the following eleven-minute clip is of just her three songs: Children's Record, Headphone Actor, and World Calling. Sadly the subtitles are in Japanese and Chinese only, but the performance is very good, I think, and merits watching at least the first song.

The lady's very good live, with her own vocal and visual style and stage presence. Her second outfit is really quite sweet, and it's worth sticking with this: trust me!

Overall, I was impressed with this effort, and am pleased that more vocaloids are appearing on stage nowadays.

Oh, and I don't think that was really Darth Vader on the dark side of the stage, on guitar...

Go West

This is a little different: the Pet Shop Boys' very catchy Go West performed by operatic vocaloid Prima with Miku used singly and as multiple voices for backing vocals – almost as a set of textures, in fact, in the innovative way it has been done here.

It's actually quite good, and is one of the earlier uses of Miku, dating from early 2008. Despite the boring still image, which I suggest ignoring altogether, I feel it is worth a handful of minutes lending one's ears to this...

Venus remix

Although I am not a fan of dubstep as a style, this is a high quality and stylish version of Venus (written by someone known as 'y0c1e') performed by Miku in a remix assembled into a video by the dependable Johnny (J R) Harbort. If I've interpreted what's been done correctly, the remix is by one Jinnosuke Okibayashi, but I'm not a hundred percent clear on who has done what precisely, so am open to correction if I have it wrong.

I do know that the main image is by an artist known simply as Arikoshi.

The specific style has been dubbed (pun not really intended!) Mikustep, though generically within the Vocaloid context it is now widely known, rather clumsily I feel, as DubSteloid. I'm sure there must be a better term just waiting to be devised by someone!

The visuals here comprise a still image with 'sun ray' effects and a live spectral display overlaid, along with the lyrics in Japanese only so far, sadly. It works well enough within that restriction, as a musical experience alone, but an English translation is mooted. I shall add that when it appears...

Thursday 9 May 2013

I Will Never Say I'm Sorry Again

Um, that's not me speaking here, it's GUMI with her 'Megpoid English' voicebank. The title sounds like it could belong to a James Bond movie...

This very good composition has just this afternoon been uploaded by its creator, the illustrious (and quite prolific!) neutrinoP, under his real name.

Although the exact wording of the song isn't entirely correct English in places, it's near enough that we can all get the meaning. This video also features a rather splendid still image of GUMI herself...

Prawn Again

I've enjoyed prawn cocktail starters ever since I discovered the dish in 1975 (at the Minerva Greek/English restaurant in West Croydon, long since gone). Over the years, I've found (as one does) that different establishments each have their own way of preparing and presenting this starter, as for other dishes.

Some would serve it up in shiny metal dishes, some in glass, some on a plate. Some would include a slice of lemon, sometimes in a squeezer, others on the edge of the glass/dish. Some might have a small slice of cucumber and/or one of tomato. And so it went on...

My preferred style was with the tomato and cucmber slices, plus lemon to squeeze the juice of over the dressing, and cayenne pepper. This I found delicious, especially with slices of brown bread on the side.

My own experiments, here and at Chateau John before that, have included substituting king prawns (either standard or large) for the usual prawns, and sometimes paprika for the cayenne pepper. I also sometimes have a crusty white roll, warmed and still crisp, with butter (this is one of those occasions where no other spread works as well), and I have just done today – indeed, with all of those variations: large king prawns, a good mixed (crispy) salad, paprika, and a warmed crusty white roll with butter.

All of this was washed down with the classic (if unadventurous) Montpierre French Sauvignon Blanc, which happens to be ideal for this sort of meal.

In recent months I have also been trying a new (to me) technique of pouring out the first glass of white wine well in advance, and placing the filled glass in the 'fridge to chill, i.e. glass and all. It's actually rather good; so if I am sufficiently on the ball, I hope to make this a more regular practice.

Overall, even something as comparatively simple as a prawn cocktail can be made more interesting with a little experimentation, and I do recommend trying variations on such established themes.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Ghibli Music Concert

Here is an amazing concert featuring 25 years of music from Hayao Miyazaki's world-famous Studio Ghibli's animated productions, some of which are shown on a huge screen in excerpts to accompany the music. All the music was (I believe) composed by their brilliant composer Joe Hisaishi, who also conducts the orchestra and choirs at this event in Budokan and plays the piano.

It's nearly two hours long in total, so you might wish to watch it in several sessions. I think after just the first few minutes you will want to go through the whole event, so be prepared to be captivated. There is a lot of life, fun, variety and considerable style in this collection, even though one item sounds somewhat Wagner-ish!

Items featured come from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea, Kiki's Delivery Service, a few of the truly excellent pieces from Howl's Moving Castle (and not forgetting Laputa: Castle In The Sky while we're with the mobile castles) and of course My Neighbour Totoro. How could anyone forget him?

My favourite piece? Has to be the lovely waltz Merry-go-Round of Life from Howl's Moving Castle, starting at 1:18:10...

UKIP are Dave's Downfall

The latest re-captioning of this now notorious clip from Der Untergang, with Hitler playing (in effect) David Cameron on this occasion, looks at the success of UKIP at last week's local elections.

Although it's sort-of political, it's more humorous than anything else, so I think it can be posted here. Besides anything else, it's one of those rare examples of the parody that is 'family friendly' so is acceptable here. It's why I was able to post so few of them in the past...

Chinese Snack

I am having one of my 'funny times' where I am up during much of the night and have necessarily had lie-downs during the preceding day.

Usually, when I have to get up in the night, it is because of hunger: my insides operate on their own timetable these days. Hopefully this is just a passing phase and I shan't be like this for the rest of my life; but we shall see...

Anyway, for tonight I cooked half a pack of Chinese snacks/side items: that's two each of sesame prawn toasts, won tuns and mini spring rolls. As usual, I had these with some crispy veg-based tray salad and a generous (though not excessive) splash of sweet chilli sauce. I actually prefer the hot sauce, but it's not easy to find, and I do like the sweet variety almost as much.

The 'secret ingredient' tonight, though, was surprisingly simple: an ordinary tomato, cut into very small pieces. Each quarter of the (standard size) tomato was quartered, and then those sixteen pieces were each halved again. Thus I had 32 small pieces of tomato, each such piece just enough to have a bonus effect on each mouthful (four per won tun, four per mini spring roll, six per prawn toast), with four spare to intersperse as I went along.

It worked really well, and is something I recommend trying. Sometimes the simplest things can have a disproportionately beneficial effect...

One way to spend the Night Shift...

Trust the French to be so much more adventurous than I and my colleagues at ASDA ever were during the nights. Usually it was stuff like folding (the special 'ASDA fold' at that) and tidying the towels display for us...

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Lucky Star – It Begins

All right, it's about time I got my visitors introduced properly to this wacky show called Lucky Star. You'll either love it or you'll hate it, or perhaps simply wonder what on earth it's all about.

I resisted it for a long time, because of the underlying nature that originally made me a little uncomfortable; but it's actually okay after all, or a good 98% of it is, with even the more 'adult' themes very tame (I think: I'm no expert on this).

Here is the first episode of the 24 anime shows, dubbed into English and in full High Definition if desired. It's surprisingly addictive. It draws you in with its exploration of the trivial, and with its sharply-written dialogue and its well-defined main characters. It's mostly a metaphor for explaining everyday life, with no particular overarching storyline, but does it so well that you (probably) won't be able to help sticking with it.

You don't have to go into the Lucky Channel bit at the end: although it is amusing in its own way, this regular segment won't appeal to everyone, nor the oddball song at the very end, different for each episode.

If you decide to continue with the series, the next episode is always listed at YouTube so it is easy to follow for as long as you wish.

Give it a go, and see what I mean about this surprisingly compelling series...

Project Mirai

This is a variation on the Project Diva game, this time featuring what I call the 'diminutives' of the six Crypton vocaloid characters: Meiko, Kaito, Miku, Luka, Rin and Len. I do not know whether this will follow the original game to the West if that goes ahead, as looks very possible.

Although it's not really my type of thing, I have to say that it is very well done and at top quality, as this introductory video (with no actual game-play) from Sega shows. No doubt it will be hugely popular, as the chibi-style characters already are and have been for a few years now...

Monday 6 May 2013

My Neighbour

Totoro, Totoro, one of Studio Ghibli's most famous, charming and enduring productions, released in 1988. Totoro is so famous and so well loved that he even appears throughout Toy Story 3 (!) This is just the original movie's closing theme with some scenes to accompany it...

Dancing Cockatoo

This is Frostie the cockatoo, here dancing to (appropriately) Shake Your Tail Feather. I am grateful to Miki Branescu (a.k.a. neutrinoP) for pointing me to this.

I might well feature other examples of this rising star's talent in future...

Steve and Mel in Jersey

A lovely couple whom I first met and sat with at meals during an Alpha course here at the Salvation Army (SA) in Chatham, Steve and Mel Scoulding, have really gone places since those early days.

They'd come across from their home some fair distance away, every week, to participate in Alpha.

Later, they took over running our later Alpha courses themselves, and attended the Army as their church, eventually becoming full uniform-wearing officers.

Since then they have been to the Salvation Army's training college in London, and have subsequently been 'posted' to Jersey in the Channel Islands, which has had an SA presence for well over a century.

Now they are arranging a significant event on the island, and appeared on BBC Radio Jersey yesterday, on the Chris Stone programme with Simon Jupp standing in for Chris on this occasion. It's worth spending five minutes to hear their interview.

Go to 2:23:54 when replaying the programme which can be found at this link, but do be aware that this is the BBC so it will vanish six days from now (i.e. on 12 May).

Kitano Kamui

The troubled story behind this planned new vocaloid, whose purpose is to be an idol representing the Hokkaido region of Japan who will also become a vocaloid, is mentioned here as well, where people are contributing to cosplay and in other ways.

Kitano's official webpage shows her likeness (complete with SeeU-like cat ears or 'nekomimi') and gives some basic characteristics – though in Japanese, but it's easy enough to (for example) work out her height... As for her surname: yes, it's the same as Gakupo's, but I don't think there can be any significance in that as there is no connection between the two that I can see.

Because her originator and its boss are in such difficulties, this one might not now make it to completion; but there is a rescue effort under way. The plan is to have 30,000 combined Facebook 'likes' and Twitter followers by the end of October this year, whereupon the ailing company that owns her will pass everything over to a new outfit to take the project forward to release and beyond.

This short song We Are 'Tomodachi' by SukarupuP apparently uses Miku's Append 'soft' library over illustrations (by KEI no less) of the newcomer, who presumably does not yet have a voicebank available...

ZOLA Project

Yamaha, the creators of the Vocaloid engine, have been content to let others produce voicebanks and all the specifics that go with them. Now, though, they are bringing out a three-in-one male voice package under the name of ZOLA Project. ZOLA apparently stands for Zenith Operated Liaison Aggregation, which seems rather contrived to me.

I have no info on any names for the three performers, or if they are supposed to be related (three brothers, perhaps), but here they are in a short demo song called Omoide ga Ippai. They are very good indeed, though it has to be said that males have not done anywhere near as well in terms of sales relative to the female vocaloids over the years, so this looks like a bit of a gamble for Yamaha.

There is no animation in the video, and no English words. This is really just to showcase what is coming soon to the market...

Sweeps Festival 2013

I generally try to have a look-in at our annual Sweeps Festival in Rochester, and this year's (the 33rd) was no different.

The festival stems from the practice in a bygone era of the boys who were sent up chimneys to clean them having a special free day where they could have a great time away from their miserable day-to-day lives. These days, it is more a celebration of the sweeps, so boys dress up as sweeps and make themselves 'look dirty' as if it were a working day for them (I imagine they originally washed off the grime for their day out).

In reality, it is one of our slightly less interesting events, as essentially it's just a load of Morris sides performing in the street. In fact, it is believed to be the biggest congregation of Morris men (and women) in Europe, apparently with more than sixty sides taking part. Yes, there are the usual fairground, ice cream vans and burger bars in the Castle Gardens, but the event itself is rather one-dimensional.

Don't get me wrong: I am quite a fan of the Morris, and have been for many years, following a couple of sides in my home town of Wimbledon for example. It's just that it doesn't seem to be sufficient somehow, even with the dressing-up that local people do at the drop of a (Victorian) hat.

It is therefore very gratifying to find that just about all of historic Rochester was more-or-less packed, as least as much as we get during the summer Dickens Festival. The warm sunny weather will have contributed to this, but on a bank holiday weekend when many people go away for these few days it was a remarkable success story, finishing later today.

I didn't take any kind of camera with me, still or video, as others always do, and several video clips of this year's event have already appeared at YouTube, such as this rather well-produced one by a John Martin...

Saturday 4 May 2013

Yoshiwara Lament

We haven't had any Teto for a little while, so here's Yoshiwara Lament. Sadly there are no English words provided, but it is an enjoyable musical experience despite that omission.

Also, Teto's rather splendid traditional-style off-the-shoulders print dress is quite spectacular, especially the hanging sleeves. The sakura colour scheme complements the falling cherry blossoms (which are a common Japanese motif, by the way).

Overall, this is a good use of Teto's voice style and has a strong, powerful underlying feel to it...

Sweet Devil

Miku is all dressed up for Saturday evening in this video that, although it was uploaded by Project Diva France, has (some) English words, enough for us to follow what's going on.

Oh, and in this almost Barbarella-style spacecraft (at least on the inside), it's literally all hands on deck – at least until the artificial gravity is switched off...

Friday 3 May 2013

Politics No More

Something I have been considering doing for a while now is abandoning the political side of my 'blog.

From the attitudes and (veiled, dishonest) hostility even from my own side of the political divide that really came to a head nearly three years ago and has continued ever since, I reasoned that it probably wasn't worth it. I have held off until today's Kent County Council election results came in, but have now deleted just about all the posts that had a political aspect.

In a sense, last week's exercise was part of the same process. Now I shall post no more political material here, and the only political tweets anyone will get from me from now on will (normally) be re-tweets of someone else's contribution(s).

I might also completely re-design my banner, or I might just amend it to suit: I haven't yet decided...

Thursday 2 May 2013

Jack in the Green

The annual event early in the morning of Mayday (about this time yesterday, in fact), at Blue Bell Hill, of waking the character known as Jack in the Green, has this year been recorded on video and edited by Medway Council, who have kindly allowed embedding, so here it is. It's essentially two minutes of traditional English 'stuff', including Morris-style male and female dance sides.

It is interesting to note that, when I lived not all that far from where this happened, I tried to be up in time for it, year after year, but never made it despite considerable efforts...

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Love Words

Don't we all, though – love words, that is?

Actually it's the title of this song, here performed live in concert by Miku. Its original (Japanese) name is Ai Kotoba, and this is a good reminder of the sheer quality of these performances.

The comments at its YouTube page (accessible via the YouTube button on the player when running) reflect this overwhelmingly, along with the strength of Miku's fandom around the world...

Snow Miku 2014 Contest

The fifth Snow Miku will be released early next year, and a competition is being held for anyone to submit a design for consideration. The theme for this fifth design (though, strictly speaking, only the fourth anniversary from its beginnings) is 'Magical Girl Miku' and must include some kind of magic wand and what is termed a pet. That useful site piapro has the details, though only in Japanese.

The contest was launched just over a week ago, and already there are around fifty designs submitted to the site, though there doesn't seem to be a specific web page for this to which I can provide a link. Take an example page, though, and look toward the foot of that page where several of the others are shown. Following these tends to bring more of them into the frame (and other images as well, so one needs to pay attention to what is being offered), so it is possible to check them all out via this somewhat circuitous route.

Some of the submissions are great, others are good, and a few are not so good. The standard of artistry is mixed though generally high, and it's all looking good. It's definitely compelling to fans of Miku (especially to those who like the Nendoroids) and/or cuteness, though not really worth making any great effort otherwise.