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Survivors Mark Four Years Since 3/11 Disasters

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck northeast Japan, unleashing a humanitarian and nuclear disaster. Four years later, Japan commemorates the casualties of that day and those who continue to suffer. I can still remember sitting at the table in my home in Osaka having a chat with my friend on the telephone when my house began to shake like I have never felt before. I knew right away that is wasn't a normal earthquake as I looked out the door and saw the train tracks and light poles wobbling like rubber. The violent shaking continued for about 4 minutes even though I was hundreds of kilometres away from the epic centre. Today is a special day to remember the survivors.

Survivors mark four years since 3/11 disasters


Japan on Wednesday commemorated the fourth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami with prayers for the more than 18,000 people who died or who remain missing following the disaster, which devastated much of the Tohoku region.

The anniversary comes at a time when post-quake reconstruction in hard-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures remains incomplete, with many evacuees still forced to live away from their hometowns amid decommissioning work at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and decontamination work across Fukushima Prefecture.

 A government-sponsored memorial service held in Tokyo was attended by Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as representatives of people who lost family members. A moment of silence was observed at 2:46 p.m., the moment that the magnitude-9 quake struck four years ago.

“To make the most of the precious lessons learned from the earthquake and tsunami, I will push forward the effort to build an enduring nation that can stand firmly against disasters,” Abe said at the memorial service.

The Emperor also expressed compassion for those affected by the disaster, noting that “the situation surrounding affected people still remains difficult, and I think citizens’ continuous efforts to help each other and unite as one is important.”

A total of 30 relatives of the deceased from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures participated in the memorial, with representatives from each prefecture taking turns to speak about the four years since the disaster.

Michio Uchidate, a 38-year-old man from Iwate who lost his father in the massive quake, said he sometimes has difficulty moving forward and feels as if he is fighting a battle against time and fading memories of the disaster. Still, he said, he was determined not to let them be forgotten.

“In my daily life, warm memories of my father unexpectedly surround me. But soon after that, the grief fills my mind as I remember encountering his dead body and recall scenes of gigantic tsunami waves, cold mud and uncountable debris left behind,” he said.

“Along with reconstruction of tangible objects, we turned grief into grace, remorse into tolerance, and regret . . . into the spirit of mutual cooperation among the survivors,” he added.

Sayaka Sugawara, who was born and raised in the devastated city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, said she was 15 when she lost her mother in the earthquake. Now, at 19, she feels as if the events of four years ago were merely a dream.

Sugawara spoke of losing her mother in the giant waves.

“I heard someone calling my name from below (my home),” she said. “Then I found my mother, whose contorted body was trapped amid debris, with wood and nails stuck in it and both her legs broken,” she said. “Her right leg was stuck in the debris, so I tried to help her pull it out, but her body was too big for me to do so.

“I wanted to help her, but I would be swept away and die. . . . I thanked my mother and told her I loved her as she begged me not to leave her.”

Sugawara survived by swimming to an elementary school that was being used as an evacuation center, where she spent the night.

“What we lost in the disaster will never come back, and neither will the sorrow of the affected go away,” Sugawara said.

Yukie Suzuki, 32, from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie — once designated as a no-go zone after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the nearby No. 1 plant — lost her father, mother and a little brother in the disaster.

Suzuki said the current situation in the disaster-hit areas has left her both distressed and uncertain about the future.

“We still face a mountain of issues, including radiation, the rebuilding of permanent housing, and the restoration of agricultural lands,” she said. “But we promise once again to work together step-by-step, undaunted in our reconstruction efforts.”

The temblor was one of the most powerful on record in Japan, and the ensuing tsunami left 15,891 people dead and 2,584 missing, most in the three prefectures in the Tohoku region, according to the latest tally released by the National Police Agency on Tuesday.

Among the 228,863 people evacuated due to the triple disaster, 47,219 Fukushima residents remained outside the prefecture as of Feb. 12, after being affected by the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

None of the nation’s 48 commercial nuclear reactors are active at the moment. But despite lingering safety concerns among the public, the Abe government is pushing to bring some of the reactors back online.

Four of these reactors — two at a plant in southwestern Japan and two at a plant in western Japan — have obtained safety clearance to restart under tighter regulations introduced after the triple meltdown in Fukushima.

The government has allocated a total of ¥26.3 trillion ($217 billion) for reconstruction work over the five-year period through March 2016, mainly for infrastructure improvements that include relocating low-lying coastal communities to higher ground and increasing the height of seawalls.

But the reconstruction of residential areas remains slow due to a shortage of construction workers, and higher prices for essential construction materials.

The number of people living in prefabricated makeshift housing complexes in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures at the end of February totaled 80,372.

The disaster has also taken a heavy toll on survivors, leaving some vulnerable to ill-health as they continue to live in temporary housing. Since the disaster, 3,244 people have died due to infirmity, suicide and other causes.

Konoyo Short Film Poster Release

Hi everyone, I finally got you all added to our newsletter. Illectric Sheep is the site hub of my operations and I will be sending out all updates from here on Konoyo Short Film and other projects to come as blog posts that will go directly to your inbox. KONOYO is a Japanese style supernatural short film set in Scotland and Japan. The film tells the story of a teacher's struggle to unlock the mystery of one of his elusive students. My film has evolved to become a personal story drawing on my experiences living in Japan. These experiences combined with the impetus from the real life events (2011 Tohoku Earthquake/ Tsunami disaster) have set the backdrop for my film project.

In same theme as the catalyst Nouvelle Vague film, Hiroshima Mon Amour my short film highlights the Japanese sentiment of mono no aware - "what we feel today we forget tomorrow; this is perhaps not as it should be, but as it is." The Japanese word Konoyo means, “this is life.”

At the moment the film is still in the post-production stage, the running time looks to be estimated at about 6 minutes so far (don't expect too much lol!).  This purpose of the the project is to serve as a calling card for future films. I wrote and directed the thesis film and brought it to life on screen with +20 of my fellow students. It will be exhibited at the Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show in August 2014. The film will be released to Kickstarter campaign backers first and to others later on.

Once again I would like to say thank you to all my Kickstarter backers, and other supporters. I am proud to release our new poster for Konyo Short film. Please share the love...much appreciated. Thank you.

Japanese Subculture : A Bathing Ape Takes a Final Bath


Photo by: David Simpson

Sightseeing in Tokyo is always a pleasure for me. However, I have always had a special fascination for Harajuku. My love for the area inspired the name of my first short film - Harajuku Moment. Moreover, it is the birth place of a storied brand, A Bathing Ape, which I have followed for many years now. Nigo's moves over the years good and bad have taught me a lot about branding and marketing. However, economic realities seem to have caught up with Nigo and his brand visions. This past weekend when I visited the Ura-Harajuku store there was barely anyone in there except for Chinese and other foreign tourists. Also the staff were unusually friendly, making all kinds of recommendations and waiting on me like a king(very different than years past).

Enter W. David MARX

In Summer 2000 I came back to Tokyo to research the popular Ura-Harajuku street fashion brand A Bathing Ape for my senior thesis. My makeshift mentor was an editor of Hot Dog Press — a men’s lifestyle magazine from Kodansha that ceased publication in 2003 — who had covered the Fujiwara Hiroshi family of brands over the years.

One day he drew a triangle on a piece of paper with the x-axis being number of consumers and the y-axis being brand cachet. He explained, “At the top point here are very cool but low-selling brands. At the bottom of the triangle are all the mass market brands with huge sales but no cachet. The secret to A Bathing Ape and the Ura-Harajuku brands is that they keep themselves right in the middle of the triangle and don’t let themselves slip down. They have a healthy number of consumers but they make sure to never go all the way to the bottom.”

This was the general understanding about A Bathing Ape’s success: They would always use specific marketing techniques to appear underground even when selling to millions of young Japanese across the country. I understood this “brand cachet über alles” strategy to be so integral to their success that I ended my thesis with the prediction, “Once the Ura-Harajuku cultural complex disintegrates, Ape may lose its subcultural base and will be subject to the normal forces of fad market structures. [Founder] Nigo will probably stop producing Ape before this point in order to save the brand’s reputation.”

Photo by: David Simpson

How wrong I was.

Within a year of writing that overly-confident forecast of Nigo’s future fate, the brand embarked on an extremely conspicuous tie-up campaign with soda maker Pepsi. Bape then quickly dropped all of its previously-important artificial brand barriers to mass market appeal and tried to win over anybody and everybody. When I moved back to Japan in 2003, things looked pretty grim for A Bathing Ape: The Tokyo stores were empty during weekdays, and the only consumers seemed to be the high school kids who came into the big city on weekends.

The brand hit their second wind, however, when Nigo met Pharrell Williams, and for about three years in the mid-2000s, Bape became one of the hottest brands on earth — this time framed as an integral part of the American hip hop scene. Nigo made one of the least plausible yet most accepted visual transformations in recent history, dropping the Cornelius-lookalike routine to slot in gold teeth and wayward baseball caps (or worse, a skull cap).

Photo by: David Simpson

Despite this international expansion, Bape’s days at the top of the Japanese brand hierarchy were long over. The Ape head had become too ubiquitous, and the brand was spread way too thin. When the U.S. bubble for Bape burst around 2008, parent company Nowhere started heading towards serious financial insolvency. Now we have learned that Nowhere — A Bathing Ape’s parent company — had been suffering massive losses. The Wall Street Journal states that fiscal year 2009 ended with ¥267.4 million and 2010 ended with ¥119 million in the red. Nowhere also has debt in the range of ¥2.6 billion.

In 2001, we believed that A Bathing Ape had mastered the dynamics of the brand life-cycle pyramid so that it would never fall prey to the dangers of becoming too mass market and seeing their consumer base quickly dry up. But with the changes in 2002, the brand went on an expansion spree that could rival Uniqlo. There were Busy Work Shops in every single major and minor regional city from Kyushu to Hokkaido despite declining demand. At some point Nigo established a Bape-themed hair salon, a restaurant, an art gallery, shops for his secondary lines like Bape Kids and Baby Milo. Meanwhile they were so desperate for consumers that Nigo stopped any sort of passing attempt to be cool. Most famously, Nigo made $15 yellow Ape-head T-shirts for Nippon Television’s charity telethon 24 Hour TV in 2007, which could often be seen on the backs of housewives and elementary school kids.

Photo by: David Simpson

In 2009 Nigo — seemingly bored with his crumbling empire — stepped down as CEO of his own company, giving the reigns to an ex-World executive. (Perhaps not so coincidentally World also bought up former Ura-Harajuku brand Real Mad Hectic.) Nigo lately has been working on not particularly significant side projects such as “Human Made” and suit brand “Mr.Bathing Ape.” Meanwhile things were not looking good for Nowhere post-Nigo: the L.A. store closed in 2010.

Bape did, however, have one remaining ace in the pocket: massive support from consumers in Greater China especially Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hong Kong in particular had always been attracted to the Fujiwara Hiroshi empire of Japanese street brands, and since 1999, HKers had been intimately familiar with A Bathing Ape. That year Nigo teamed up with locals Eric Kot and Jan Lamb to open an Ape boutique on the 17th floor of an office building. The result was the most draconian shopping policy in Ape history. Potential shoppers had to apply to become Busy Work Shop members, which required a Hong Kong passport. This excluded all non-Hong Kong residents from using the shop. Moreover the applications would be sent to Japan for ultimate approval. Once customers were approved as members, they would have to make an appointment before being able to enter the store — no casual walk-ins allowed. The image, however strict, matched perfectly with the super-exclusivity of the original Japanese strategy.

Although the first Busy Work Shop Hong Kong was never a huge phenomenon in itself, the brand’s sudden presence in the Chinese language media put A Bathing Ape in the wider Asian pantheon of hot labels. The Baby Milo shirts in particular were a huge sensation in Hong Kong, making the evening news as a noteworthy youth trend. While Japanese lost interest, the rise of a new youth consumer in East Asia balanced things out for brands. Anecdotally-speaking, most shoppers I have seen inside or near A Bathing Ape in Harajuku have appeared to be from Greater China. Nigo has also directly targeted fans in these locations with a Taipei store in 2005 and an enormous new store in Hong Kong in 2006. Beijing and Shanghai opened in 2010.

Photo by: David Simpson

So if Nigo’s 18-year old pet ape is being primarily consumed by the Chinese in its old age, it only makes sense that a Hong Kong based company — I.T Ltd. — would buy out the whole thing (including the debt). The depressing detail was the 90% equity purchase only cost the acquirers $2.8 million. Nigo has easily put more than that in his art, toy, and vintage LV trunk collection alone. This sell off of A Bathing Ape is an incredibly dramatic flame out for a company that defined the potential of Japanese independent brands to go abroad and changed the face of global fashion. It’s better than bankruptcy but not exactly a feel good denouement to an otherwise remarkable success story.

But just as Japanese apparel companies like Onward and Renown bought up heritage Anglo brands like J. Press and Aquascutum in the ’80s and ’90s, Chinese companies are likely to be the future bulk purchasers of Japanese brands. The Japanese fashion ecosystem relies more and more on the flow of East Asian cash, and the desperate fire sale of Nowhere is likely the opening paragraph to an entirely new chapter of Japanese cultural history.

W. David MARX February 2, 2011


Post via: NeoJapanism

For more articles like this: @simpsonthemaker

Why 'The Artist' Heralds a Golden Age in French Cinema


This year's César award nominations are proof that France's "7th Art" is healthy both at home and abroad. France has always placed its “seventh art” form on a pedestal and, for the most part, kept it in a glass case, like a sculpture in a museum to be visited by the rest of the world, but never touched. Now, however, French cinema is more relevant than ever as The Artist paints a new picture of the country’s thriving film biz.

Ticket sales have never been higher in France – a record 215.59 tickets were sold, the most in 45 years – and, even more surprising, these titles are actually attracting audiences abroad as well. Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s Untouchable is at the top of the German box office and has sold more than 2 million tickets. Last year, French films made $519 million at the international box office, a 19 percent jump in revenue from the year before. None of these figures are surprising to anyone who has seen this year’s crop of films since, to put it simply, they’re good.

PHOTOS: 2012 Academy Award Nominees

Finally, French filmmakers are using their artistic freedom and story-telling savvy to make films that appeal not only to themselves and their inner circles, but also to audiences across the globe. Finally, “auteur” and “commercial” are no longer mutually exclusive terms in the French language. In 2009, Olivier Dahan’s La Vie en Rose planted the seeds for French cinema to flourish abroad. Now, just a few years later, instead of simply exporting Gaul’s prettiest faces (think: Marion Cotillard) or hottest talents (think: your favorite French Alexandre –  Desplat or Aja), Hollywood’s finest are starting to look to French shores with a closer eye.  Harvey Weinstein has enjoyed a recent shopping spree for French titles that has proved to be haute couture already as The Artist continues its silent but deadly conquest of Hollywood’s awards season and Untouchable prepares for a US release and remake.

What’s interesting about The Artist is that, until stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and director Michel Hazanavicius spoke on stage at recent awards ceremonies, most audiences may not have even realized the films were French. In fact, Colombiana, Unknown, Carnage and The Three Musketeers are also French-made titles disguised as U.S. blockbusters.

PHOTOS: 2012 Academy Award Snubs and Surprises

Not only have French films traveled well, but the country is becoming an increasingly popular destination for foreign production. Look at this year’s Oscar nominees. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Roman Polanski’s Carnage and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris were all filmed in France.

More and more French producers are looking to make English-language titles and are finding it easier to find U.S. partners who are now starting to see French-made fare as bankable.

This correspondent’s typical short list of the year's best films is predominately filled with US titles with the occasional worthy French title thrown in. This year, however, is quite the contrary. Poliss, Untouchable, The Artist and Valerie Donzelli’s Declaration of War are some of the best films from any continent in 2011.

Unlike past years, many non-residents of France are familiar with this year’s crop of films because most of them premiered at this year’s Festival de Cannes and have been generating positive buzz ever since.

Posted via: The Hollywood Reporter

Sundance Trailers and Short films: View Online


Over this last week, I have been watching loads of Sundance Trailers and Short Films that have been released online. I was particularly impressed by documentaries, Indie Game: The Movie and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. The game documentary was done by a friend (Brad Crawford at Strata Studios) of a friend and Tsunami doco, well, I live in Japan. I felt the quake when it happened and I knew it was no normal quake. Even though I am in Osaka it was a major shaking! Indie Game: The Movie was created by two people, James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They have been working on the project for over a year, gathering stories from indie game developers all over North America. They have done all the producing, directing, cinematography, editing, and writing for the feature film and all the web videos made during the process.

Indie Game: The Movie Official Trailer from IndieGame: The Movie on Vimeo.

Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan's recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins. A stunning visual poem about the ephemeral nature of life and the healing power of Japan's most beloved flower.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom - Trailer (2012 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE) from Tsunami Blossom on Vimeo. Directed by Academy Award Nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker (Waste Land), featuring photography by Aaron Phillips and music by Moby.

A whole host of other trailers can be view at this link: Sundance Trailers on Prescreen

Yahoo’s got an additional ten Sundance shorts available at the link below. Here are their synopses:

’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card Jim and Dave, two brothers who don’t like each other very much, are forced to come together when their dad dies in Kansas City. Dave is pretty sure he has an Alonzo Mourning Skybox Series rookie card, but Jim has other ideas. (Dir. Todd Sklar)

Aquadettes A meditation on life, death, and synchronized swimming. (Dir. Drea Cooper, Zackary Canepari)

The Arm To keep up with social pressure in a technologically advanced world, Chance starts a texting relationship with Genevieve—a girl he meets at a yogurt shop. But tragedy forces Chance to realize that he was never in a relationship at all. (Dir. Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis)

Dol (First Birthday) A gay Korean American man yearns for a family life that is just out of reach. (Dir. Andrew Ahn)

The Debutante Hunters In the low country of South Carolina, some true southern belles reveal their more rugged side, providing a glimpse into what drives them to hunt in the wild. (Dir. Maria White)

Henley Meet nine-year-old Ted Henley, budding motel manager and roadkill entrepreneur. (Dir. Craig Macneill)

Una Hora por Favora A woman hires a day laborer for an hour and gets more than she bargained for. (Dir. Jill Soloway)

Long Distance Information Father always told us, “Never talk to strangers,” . . . But surely we have to phone home sometimes? (Dir. Douglas Hart)

Odysseus’ Gambit During his lifetime, each man plays cosmic chess against the devil. (Dir. Àlex Lora Cercos)

Link: Sundance Shorts at Yahoo

[via Filmmaker Magazine]


Sayonara to 2011 and Best Wishes for 2012!


It has been an incredibly eventful year (as you can see from the video below) especially for those of us here in Japan who looked on as Tsunami disaster engulfed the northeast, my prayers go out to those who suffered losses and are still in need. I would like to say a heart felt thank you to all of those of you who supported my creative efforts through my label Illectric Sheep. This has been a year of refocusing, rebuilding, and incorporating my new found filmmaking skills into Illectric Sheep. Thanks for your continued patience.

This is Simpson 'The Maker' signing off for 2011 (for the next few days at least) and wishing you all the best for 2012. Have a beer for me and see everyone on the flip side. It's been a pleasure!

Leaving you with a Year End Review of 2011 by Google Zeitgeist.

See you in 2012!!

Behind the Scenes Photos: Shi-chi-go-san Film Shoot

"Shichi-go-san" (Seven-Five-Three) is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three & seven-year-old girls and three & five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15. The ages three, five and seven are consistent with East Asian numerology, which claims that odd numbers are lucky. It was a pleasure to spend the day with the Spence family to help capture this rite of passage for young Kairi. The Shi-chi-go-san film shoot was produced and created by Lee Blois. My role on this shoot was photography, here are some of the images from that day below. See the gear we used.





Behind the Scenes Photos: Japanese Guest House Shoot

Here are a few photos I took behind the scenes on our Japanese guest house shoot. We were very lucky to have a great day of weather. See gear we used on this shoot.

Seven Inspiring TED Talks About Filmmaking


1. Jehane Noujaim Wishes for a Global Day of Film: In this TED talk, Jehane Noujaim discusses the power of film and the potential it has to change the world. Each year the TED organization works to grant one wish of one of its speakers. Here, Noujaim reveals her wish for a global day of film. She discusses the ability film has to bridge gaps between cultures and continents. Noujaim’s powerful film, Control Room, documented Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq war and the differing ways Arabs and the U.S. covered the war. In her talk, Noujaim discusses the power of film, inspiring any individual with dreams of making a difference in this world to pick up a camera and try:

2. Jeff Skoll Makes Movies that Matter: Discussing the things that inspire him and his dreams for the future, Jeff Skoll gives a TED talk about his media production company. Skoll’s company Participant Productions aspires to make movies to inspire social change. With films about social and political issues, Skoll’s production company has driven real change in the world. This talk discusses the real life social events that inspire Skoll and his company to make films. Skoll explores the potential of film to make change and the potential of people to do good:

3. Deborah Scranton on Her “War Tapes”: Filmmaker Deborah Scranton discusses making her film The War Tapes and discusses what inspired her to create this experience. The War Tapes is a film that puts cameras in the hands of National Guard troops stationed in Iraq during the war. Discussing clips from this film, Scranton approaches discussing matters that are uncomfortable and difficult to talk about. She emphasizes the importance of conversation and the potential of film to create and encourage that conversation:

4. Shekhar Kapur: We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves: Shekhar Kapur discusses where creative inspiration comes from, while exploring his thought process behind the making of the film Elizabeth. In this talk, Kapur explores the misunderstood world of storytelling and creativity, explaining that inspiration is born from “sheer, utter panic”. Emphasizing the power of storytelling, Kapur explains that stories create our existence. This talk takes clips from his film and discusses his thought process behind cinematography and what the film is trying to convey:

5. James Cameron: Before Avatar… a Curious Boy: Immensely famous director James Cameron, reveals his fascination with the fantastic and the uncanny. Discussing his life and interests as a child, Cameron explains how his childhood interest in science inspired his passion and vision for science fiction. With this talk, Cameron explains that inspiration for film and pictures can come from things that are just the opposite of film. Cameron’s interest in the real mysteries of the world bred a capacity for the creative storytelling of fictional mysteries in fiction worlds. This talk also approaches the issues of computer graphics in modern film and why Cameron is inspired by computer generated animation and graphics. Computer visuals enabled Cameron to display the mysteries in his imagination in film. Ultimately Cameron explains that inspiration and imagination comes from experience and exploration:

6. Morgan Spurlock: The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold: Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock discusses film as a means for discussing important societal issues. In this talk, Spurlock discusses his new inspiration and idea for a film that would explore the world of branding and marketing. Spurlock reveals his interesting thought process for filmmaking when discussing the film he wishes to make that is completely funded by sponsors. However, while discussing his specific idea for his sponsorship film, Spurlock uncovers the things that inspire him such as people, problems, and societal contradictions:

7. J.J. Abrams’ Mystery Box: Writer, director, and producer, J. J. Abrams discusses his passion for “the unseen mystery” and how that mystery inspires his films. As is evident in his works Cloverfield, Lost, and Alias, Abrams explores the mystery and depth of the unknown with his film work. In this talk, Abrams expresses his enthusiasm for mystery and the interest mystery creates. He explains how mystery and the unknown are his inspiration for his work and for life. He discusses how mystery represents potential, imagination, and hope. This speech will encourage any individual, filmmaker or not, to attack the unknown, explain the mystery, and find passion in something:

Posted via Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @