Saturday, May 31, 2003
THE CLOUD RESEMBLES A RABBIT
In a previous millennium, not long after I had first come to Japan and seen how different the news was over here from what it had been back home, where Japan was still not quite above suspicion as an ally (and never will be, in some still-living minds), I was experiencing what every traveler senses at every international transit: that borders determine news, and that all news is local. Every seasoned wanderer knows how the truth changes when that juridical interface is passed, how the victims on one side become the murderers on the other. But this was all rather subconsciously perceived by me at the time, amid the swarm of new information travel stirs up.
I guess that's why not long after I arrived in Tokyo I had a dream in which as a dream novice monk I asked my dream abbot the koan "What is media?" and he responded "The cloud resembles a rabbit," which phrase was floating homeless in my newly alien brain as I awoke. I thought it a rather silly answer at the time; but then, I was only a novice alien dream monk. Since then I've traveled more, and have seen and heard more news here and there and elsewhere from an increasingly alien perspective, and have observed how difficult it can be for a local to maintain a healthy skepticism while immersed in a sea of information served up by 'trained' and 'qualified' professionals who are 'on the spot'. It seems most people never travel 'far' enough to see such a thing, to gain such perspective, and never see how profoundly their own borders alter news, and so general populaces tend to believe what their media say, that stand between the seeker and the truth.
Once upon a time, when there was nothing between us and reality, when rock or tree or flower or wind or stream was as real as our imagining-- when we were inseparate from the actuality around us-- our hands were easily water, our eyes easily sky, our hearts easily fire. There was nothing in between. Long before there were media standing dutifully in our light, or streaming through the air in disembodied voices or faces, or their representatives on sheets of paper covered with words from other minds, times and places we can never know or be in; before we began to indulge in the narcissistic addiction of setting ourselves up to believe even history was true as told to us, subsequently relying on second, third and fourth-hand accounts of events to keep us abreast of things we didn't really have a clue about except this or that smidgeon afforded us by an unknown yet somehow select and elsewhere accredited committee, thus collectively aspiring to the dangerous illusion that bides at the heart of modern society, i. e., that we actually have a handle on what is going on around the world even now-- as I say, before all these veils came to be (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain), we saw no separation between ourselves and the world around us, we had as yet created no distinction, no palisades of faith, no moats of patriotism, no need for better and better weapons and the right to bear them, no seeds of distrust, no doubting the very air.
Environed as we are now by information, with billboards on our eyeballs and tv in our faces, new stars in the sky and radio waves sectoring our very bodies, all we need is the internet. How crucial it has become, then, that we maintain our skepticism, our own intelligence as we carom like corks down the whitewater rapids of data directed by experts. So acquire perspective: look at a tree if you can find one, and remember the roots; or at least look up at a patch of sky and remember that the cloud resembles a rabbit.
First published in slightly different form in Kyoto Journal #46
If FAUX NEWS and the other news-controlling conglomerates get the FCC to approve this rules change, blogs may be the only source of real news left; how long do you think the infospin managers will let that go on?
For further info and to sign a petition to help counterbalance the entrenched media lobby or make a donation, visit MoveOn.
Friday, May 30, 2003
US SCHOOLKIDS TO BE GUINEA PIGS FOR MEATMASTERS
Meat is already the most karmically/chemically toxic and environmentally wasteful food you can eat, let alone try to grow healthy, long-lived kids on. As for irradiated meat, no intelligent adult wants it. So the MeatMasters are trying to sneak irradiated meat to the kids, through school lunches. You've got to admit, they sure don't give a damn.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
THE TIMES, ARE THEY A'CHANGIN?
You may recall the elation-turned-debacle that was the Toyosato mayoral recall a few weeks ago (Hooray for Toyosato! Unhooray for Toyosato!), well that setback doesn't seem to have put a damper on mayoral recalls, which seem to be the going thing around the country. Many folks in Shiga-cho are hoping to bring about a recall too, of the mayor who angered his constituency by selling some forest and okaying the construction of an industrial incinerator without even asking. This morning as I entered the village train station I was handed a leaflet that says they only need 674 more signatures for a recall vote. They have a week to get them, and I just heard yesterday that they still needed over 850 (they need 6000 plus, all told), so it seems they're getting some 200 signatures a day. Let's hope the nasty powers that be can't unify as well as they did in Toyosato, where the recalled mayor was squeaked back into office with a slightly smaller margin than Bush was squeaked in with. I can't vote here myself, being a law-abiding, tax-paying, permanent resident of Shiga Prefecture, but I gave the activist village folk handing out the leaflets a thumbs up for their efforts.
SO MUCH FOR HISTORY.
USA Today readers displayed their sense of America's history recently when in an April poll that asked who was "the greatest" president, the respondents ranked George W. Bush third (with Bill Clinton!) after Lincoln and Kennedy, followed by Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter. Bush's father tied at the bottom with Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. To paraphrase George Santayana, those who cannot remember the past don't have one.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Kasumi and Kaya the predominantly angelic have arrived for a brief stay at the house before moving into a house across the Lake as Kasumi prepares to give birth to her second child, making me a second grandfather and Kaya a first sister. Perhaps even more than the rest of us, Kaya is very excited at the prospect of having a brother or sister, though she would prefer a brother, since there is obviously no need for another Kaya. When she rubs her little hand on her mother's growing belly, the pride she takes in the eternal mystery of her impending brother-to-be is magically nourishing to us elder folk. The unstinting beauty that shines from complete innocence is of immeasurable importance in our lives.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Finally the right kind of cool sunny day comes along, so early in the morning I go up on the roof to do some roof spring cleaning, a lot of cedar debris, plus the view is great from there. Emerging from the skylight, I turn and walk right into a pearlescent heaven of snowbells (what a thoughtfully beautiful and observant name, like all the old names) and their perfume. The old Japanese snowbell (Styrax Japonicus) right behind the house is just now at the peak of its bloom, but it's so tall we don't notice from the windows; when walking beneath it we at last notice the falling blossoms and look up, but since it's growing amidst older oak and cedar most of its limbs are spread comfortably out over the roof where the sunlight is best, and where the slower oak and cedar can't go. So there I am, my face and shoulders immersed in the soft whitish blossoms mostly open like soft pale stars but some still looking like perfectly smooth oval ivory beads, at first I withdraw instinctively from this abrupt crowding but right away decide to stay like that for a while because what a wonderful accident, right up there in the tall tree blossoms like a bee could be, or a bird, or a wild tree animal. Up close and everywhere like this the blossoms are very different in their beautiful detail than when I look up at them from the ground way down there where they fall rather quickly. They're meant of course for bee close-ups and their perfume is very subtle, stays close in this yet cool air. Apparently there is some bee in me, that for some time doesn't even try to remember what the rest of me came up here for.
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Recent mornings, just at the cusp of dawn, there is this insane bird--sounds like he (must be a he, a female bird wouldn't waste the time) is screaming "What the hell? What the hell? What the hell?" harshly loudly and exactly in that frantically familiar rhythm, as though a hard disc just crashed or two tires just blew out or something equivalently imminent-achievement shattering, over and over dozens of times, and at sunrise, what could be the point, but he's not in a tree he's in the brush, so can't be seen and I wonder what such a frantic call must be meant to convey on a regular dawnly basis, particularly in Spring, is he some kind of avian asset management CEO? If and when I find out, I shall spread the word. Such things must not remain unknown, for all our sakes, in view of possible futures broadly pertaining, as is the natural tendency.
cat ate four today
Friday, May 23, 2003
JAPAN WANTS TO BE PRE-EMPTIVE TOO
Or at least Koizumi does. He wants to be at the very cutting edge of bellicose fashion and be able to attack whatever country might appear to be about to attack Japan or look at it cross-eyed or whatever the criteria may turn out to be constitutionally. And he wants to have an army that he can call an army; there are few things more frustrating and embarrassing for a top nation than having an army you can't call an army and be ready to strike pre-emptively with, anytime anyone acts--well, however Japan says. Just like the US does. So Koizumi is testing the water with his statements. The question is, will the Japanese now be as malleable as the American public has been?
NOW IT'S A SCIENTIFIC FACT! BUDDHISTS REALLY ARE HAPPIER AND CALMER THAN OTHER PEOPLE!!
Of course this isn't news to anyone who has lived in or traveled extensively through the Buddhist parts of the world, but it may come as welcome enlightenment to many who have not. There are several studies whose results all point to the same conclusion, in various ways. Paul Ekman of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, which carried out one of the studies, nutshelled it best: "The most reasonable hypothesis is that there is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek." The key is in the religious endorsement of self-awareness through meditation (which isn't exclusively Buddhist, but it's their study...). Much recommended for the current US administration.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
There is a majesty that is lost in cities, of day and night passing in full savor, of sun and moon and stars, cosmoses entire coming into one, the grand nurturing. I love it when the first cooler breath of evening slides down the mountain on its airy wings and nudges my body, so much older than I, to warm itself enough to stay outdoors, reminding it to savor what is coming of the night, the angelic mutual process that each darkening is in life (how well our practiced bodies know the night) as in the day, ancient familiar returning onward. Where you are should never matter more than who you are, what your history is, the story you carry in the blood and bone, that is told upon your eyes-- this entire world at any moment is but a tiny speck of home...
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Kasumi and Kaya are coming to stay with us for about 10 days starting this weekend, before they and husband/father Tatsuya move to their new abode across the Lake. While Kasumi gets an occasional bit of a rest from the unrelenting intensities of motherhood, I will get the chance to take a new Kaya (a quarter of her lifetime older!) out to make the rounds and visit all her old buddies from earlier childhood, the turtles and frogs and blueberries and little fishes and wildflowers, and maybe even some fireflies will be here, though it's a bit early, and then the long bamboos she likes to drag around on our slow and finely detailed walks (right down to the pebble) by her very big blue and wavey friend the Lake-- she may be too grown up for bamboo-dragging now, but I doubt it-- and of course she will still love to stand right at the very edge of daring and throw into the water the biggest stones possible, with very satisfactory results. And the manic warbler tends to hang around the house a lot while Kaya is here, not to mention the mama ferret, who may come by with her taffy babies, so much will be happening...
Happily, one of the few all-around great blogs has resurrected, returning the web to its deserved richness: Speckled Paint has returned under a new name, Solipsistic, with the same always-new quality. Here's hoping for the continued presence of this valued font of creativity and e-dimension... With many thanks to lil of esthet!
Monday, May 19, 2003
CAN THAI DRAGONS PROTECT MY TOMATOS?
Transplanted some yellow peppers and some paprika this evening, maybe for the monkeys, I planted them right where the onions were that the monkeys took a few weeks ago. I don't know whether those furry impecunious gourmands will go for these unusual pepper varieties as much as I do, so just in case I also interspersed some jalapenos, tabascos and Thai Dragons. The latter three are small plants compared to the former, and look absolutely innocent beside them: cute little dollhouse peppers. (I have a story that I will dredge up one of these days, about yours truly and an incident involving three peppers I suspect might have been Thai Dragons.) Later I'll add some taka-no-tsume (hawk's claws), the standard Japanese hot pepper that I use for my garlic-red pepper-olive oil pasta, a summer dish that makes August heat seem deliciously cool. If a very influential monkey bites into a Thai dragon, the whole clan may never return, is my hopeful idea.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
It's not what you're thinking. It's not that either. I have all those. However, if you're a gourmetish person residing in the gourmet hotbeds of the US like the Bay Area and New York, to name a few, you know all about yuzu (Citrus junos siebold), though nothing of why I don't have a tree thereof. If you are such a person, you know that yuzu, specifically the rind and the juice, is a very hot item, the hot item, in the gourmet world these days.
Used traditionally in Japan pretty much only for the peel, a bit of which imparts to akadashi (and boy do they have it perfected, akadashi) that unforgettable, indescribable completion that all great things achieve. Strangely, though, yuzu isn't used for much other than that modicum of flavor genius for that particular application, you don't here encounter yuzu much outside of that, but I've always loved to the depths that magic essence added most perfectly, as I've indicated, to akadashi (can you get akadashi in NY?), and with that you are already well on your way to gustatory bliss.
But only in akadashi season, generally winter, of which akadashi is the very heart. Anyway, yuzu is now the hot thing in the aforementioned hotbeds, its uniquely (and I do mean uniquely) flavored peel and juice is used in high-priced sauces and sine-qua-non dressings and beyond-the-horizon cocktails and superbeautifying facials, you name it. If you don't believe me, just Google yuzu.
Here in Japan, though, yuzu is still pretty much just yuzu. There is a point to this ramble. I went out looking for a yuzu tree for a conveniently empty space in my garden; I also wanted a few tea plants (Camellia sinensis), for another sunny spot just right in the way things tend to become just right if you wait long enough.
I went to the usual nurseries where I get all the plants I don't want to wait for, life is short, but growing seasons are shorter-- after seven years I 'm beginning to get a few plums and apricots and peaches-- so I welcome a shortcut when one is available, and I asked the lady if they had any yuzu plants. She looked at me long, the way service personnel in puzzlement have a way of doing. Was my request so strange, so exotic?
They had fig trees, apple trees, even granny apple trees, plum, peach, apricot, kiwi, grapes, loquat, natsume, persimmon, four varieties of blueberry, you name it. We looked at each other till the answer forthcame, and it was No. Why? I asked. Because there's no demand, she responded. No demand? Yes, no demand. Everybody has them. No one buys them. Everyone except me, I forebore to say.
So it appears that I'll just have to cozy up to someone who has an extra yuzu growing around, and while you're at it, could you throw in a couple of unwanted tea plants? Without sounding too strange. That's a bigger challenge than you might think, for the only guy around without a yuzu.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
As soon as my eyes opened this morning and I saw the early signs of daylong blueness in the inkling of dawn through the skylight I knew what day this was: it is Bean Day, I knew it was coming, the day I plant the snap beans I've been wanting to plant for a lifetime of rainy or officey days now, but it's not only Bean Day, it's also radish-thinning day and compost-stirring day and lettuce-picking day and ginger-tending day and transplanting day and woodstacking day and lots of other days, as is also clear from the songs of the birds and the shine of the flowers and the spread of the leaves, so many other days I can't count them, they simply have to be lived.
Friday, May 16, 2003
DOUBLE TAXATION WITHOUT DOUBLE REPRESENTATION IS DOUBLE TYRANNY
Loyal readers hereof will recall my erstwhile diatribe against Richard Nixon (BEYOND DESPISING NIXON), comparatively honest precursor to the nefarious Bush gang, his diabolical attempts at doubly taxing Americans working abroad and the ultimately pointless troubles this tax-rapine involves for those so fortunate as to live elsewhere than with the IRS amidst the NRA. Apparently more and more folks who have the wherewithal are leaving every year to live peacefully abroad, greatly peeving the IRA and the current administrative cartel. Well those grasping folks are at it again. In keeping with the basic GOP philosophy, they're trying to repeal the foreign earned-income exclusion to help pay for the big tax cut on corporate dividends! If this ploy succeeds (and who cares but we expats?), every American working abroad will be forced to pay US taxes on their foreign income, in addition to the local taxes they must pay. It sounds downright Republican to me.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
LOST SAVINGS, ANYONE?
The Japanese government is thinking about grabbing Japan's still massive postal savings and going to Vegas with it before any savers find out and withdraw their money, the decades-earned nest-egg of an assiduously saving, hard-working people. Without actually coming right out and saying so, the government wants to use it to rescue a stock market now suffering mightily from the effects of bad government. The same single-party-dominated government that has been talking about wanting to think about discussing the possibility of actually perhaps effecting responsible government for the past 40 years, instead of just putting up tariff barriers, enacting sales taxes and building bridges and dams and highways to nowhere, but in true gerontocratic fashion they just haven't gotten around to really governing yet, just preserving their fiefdoms. Maybe they'll increase the sales tax and build a highway away from, a bridge over or a dam to hold back the problem. I don't know about you, but I have ZERO yen in the Japanese post office.
On our way to the beiju, the railway wended through the narrow Kiso River valley and we had time so we got off and visited Narai-juku, one of the great old post towns along the Nakasendo (inland counterpart to the Tokkaido made famous by Hiroshige), the old inland road from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo). Hemmed in by the steep peaks that delimit the Kiso valley, the Kiso stretch of the old road is perhaps the best-preserved portion.
The Tokkaido long ago succumbed to coastal urban and transport development; little of it remains. Here, though, relative inland isolation plus a growing awareness of the historic importance of this area and its surviving artifacts has encouraged preservation of what remains, to the extent that walking the narrow road through Narai-juku is like walking through a museum where the townsfolk still really reside.
Thus the old lacquerware shops still sell the subtly beautiful old-style bento boxes, the old cosmetic store still sells the old sexy wooden hairpins and combs, other shops sell painted clay talismans, bells and masks, or traditional fast foods and bottled drinks cooled in wooden troughs, the shops and restaurants interspersed with ryokan and various entertainments for the weary traveler of yesterday in desperate need of a rest break before tackling tomorrow's mountain-walking stretch on the long journey. These architecturally preserved shops/houses were built to serve a slower time, and it is good to revisit that time and spend some modern time there for comparison, the better to see and appreciate what we have lost, and what we have gained.
No longer does a river of foot and horse travelers pass along the small town's narrow streets on their government missions, pilgrimages etc. as they did during the Edo centuries. Now it is a slower and differently discerning river of well-dressed folk from the cities, come to see the past of their own country, point and talk and enjoy the amazement, the ancestral nostalgia. To make the past less virtual, all the electric and telephone wires are buried; watering places at judicious intervals along the street still gurgle invitingly, ready to serve people and their horses, as though that weren't yet history; and the local folks still speak the dialect of old. It is quiet, it is nostalgic, it is special. It makes time all one, as all the best things do.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
THE DAY OF THE SUIT
The Day of the Suit arrived cool and cloudy. Together with the white shirt and the tie, the suit itself hung waiting in the country closet, empty arms and legs ready to be filled at any moment with yours truly, as the residents of the house and its visitors hustled and bustled through makeup and shaving and hair rituals in preparation for the big event, my father-in-law's beiju ('rice celebration' at being 88 years of age).
My mother-in-law, a relatively youthful 86, dressed smilingly in her traditional finery and pearls; her husband, long-time educator and woodcarver now carving out his 88th year, casually donned his own suit and tie as I experienced the long-ago familiar feeling of buttoning a white shirt tight up around my neck to that familiar point so reminiscent of thralldom before slipping my legs into pants that don't really work as I plumbed my memory trying to remember last-minute how to tie a double-Windsor; but it turned out that my hands hadn't forgotten, even if I couldn't find the instructions in that mess in the attic.
Then when the knot was tied and it too had been tightened around my neck as a steady reminder of some greater power whose name I did not know but had damn well better respect, and when I had slipped my arms into the arms of the utterly impractical double-breasted jacket with the particularly useless lapels, suddenly among these short elderly folk stood the magical transformation of an unsuited guy into: Suited Guy, a six-foot foreigner slightly elderly himself, but now looking like a mogul of questionable resources in a black double-breasted suit with white shirt and gold silk tie beneath standard face, long, very white ponytail and two gold earrings.
When after the blur of the ride-- with 2-year-old granddaughter Kaya cute as a bunch of beans in her flowery kimono in the back seat, my daughter Kasumi driving (!) and her husband Tatsuya by her side-- we arrived to join the others at the Hamanoyu, a very fancy Lake Suwa beach hotel with an indoor waterfall and varicolored carp gliding through the clear waters that coursed the lobby, heads turned at the bizarre sight of this distinctly foreign personage entering with this otherwise Japanese family. Were they together? Yes indeed.
In a layout like the banquets of the old daimyos, great foodly delicacies and diverse toasts followed in great profusion through great moments with great folks in a worthy celebration. A lot of photographs were also taken, so somewhere there must be a picture of Suited Guy from that memorable afternoon, but darned if I know where it is. Here's one image though: whenever I was in the men's room (the drinks were also great), one of the godfather's hip cronies kept suddenly being in the mirror, that each time I had to realize was me. It was that unusual. The suit and shirt and tie and I survived the encounter; they are now hanging quietly in the closet with all their implications intact while I run free and functional, nude of any implications but my own. Maybe I'll wear the suit again at my own beiju.
PEERING INTO THE ETHER
Sadly, one of the few all-around great blogs has shuffled off its ethereal coils, making the web a smaller place: Speckled Paint appears to be no more. Here's hoping for the resurrection of a valued font of creativity and e-dimension. Even the farewell...
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
You know those rare stretches of time when everything that should be as always completely random (even slightly negative) suddenly goes perfectly, like it did for me today when I punched out as chance would have it exactly at 5:30 from my office and reached the lobby just as the elevator was arriving at my floor so that I walked out the front door at precisely the right time to reach the corner just as the signal was turning green, the kind of flowing moments you know are not normal, when nothing can get in your way or slow you down you are in not just a groove but a major groove, you are the very Moses of rush hour, crowds parting before you so smoothly that you don't even have to break your thoroughbred stride as you reach the ticket machine the moment the very slow lady getting her ticket finishes and leaves it free and time is like cream in which you are the honey, flowing like a cosmic dancer up the steps to the train platform of course just as the train pulls in and you get on and there before only you is the last seat left and you sit down and say inwardly: "Okay, universe, what is it, why are you doing this, what's up your sleeve, was my car stolen, what? Don't be so nice, give me a break..." And the more these bizarrely pleasant things happen to you the more worried you get; well I had a really exceptional one of those days today, it went on for hours, and I'm still wondering what I'm in for...
Saturday, May 10, 2003
BRADY TO WEAR SUIT AND TIE FOR FIRST TIME THIS MILLENNIUM
I am departing this morning for the central Japanese countryside and computerless residence for three days to wear a suit and tie for reasons detailed sketchily below in Thoreau Never Had a Father-in-Law. In the meanwhile, please be so kind as to partake ad libitum of the humble offerings in the sidebar, and check out some of those great links. See you on Monday/Sunday, depending on your hemisphere.
Friday, May 09, 2003
Each Spring without fail
a tribe of rocks turns up
to admire my garden.
As I bend to my work
among them, all sit silently
soaking up sun
or rain and
every monk in the land.
Other rocks gather
round the fires I make
in the forest, where
rocks live peacefully
in great numbers.
Though nothing of me
is new to them
we share the fire--
I learn the great
dream of every rock
is to fly,
that children know this instinctively
and are adored by rocks,
who fill up their pockets
clamber into their shoes.
I've learned another thing
When I go hiking I take
a city rock with me, into the forest.
---poem from my Kyoto gardening days---
first published in Further on This Floating Bridge of Dreams, by Katydid Books
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Today is one of those Japanese rainy days when the unpracticed mind such as mine is (at least when it's not practicing, which is much of the time) simply cannot accept that the sky can rain so hard, even harder than in Rashomon, when going out into the garden just to get some radishes (and maybe thin the rows while you're at it, since you're out there and it doesn't look like you'll be coming out again for a while, and radishes do not like to be kept waiting), is a lot like being a fish. Being a fish doesn't require too much practice for the unpracticed mind, once you're out in it and have surrendered to the drench, to the power of the universal fluid; you revert pretty quickly to the ancient but familiarly womby days when you still had gills and swam for nine months to get from the end of that great time you were having in your previous life to the beginning of your latest life, that has led to this moment with your current body bent over trying to see underwater to pick radishes with your hair in your face dripping, conjuring memories of the long trip here to think in liquid anticipation: won't these radishes taste great?
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
TOKYO JOURNAL ENTRY, 1973
...the disfigured faces pressed against the doors of the jam-packed subway trains; young Japanese woman and I pressed chest-to-chest for two stops. She handled it by not looking at me. Getting off, one is assisted through the crowds by being pummeled and shoved, in a neighborly way, by the person behind. It is helpful under the circumstances, in propelling one, for then the choice between polite and speedy progress is taken off one's feet. I merely bounced along, shoving people aside, kicking ankles, stepping on toes, bumping heads; those receiving this treatment were helpfully implacable because they knew that I was being pushed from behind; it is very important that one convey this, whether or not it is true. Even as it was, I felt my 'propellor' was a little too zealous, giving me a few too many sharp poundings in the kidney area. When I was finally cast into an eddy in this sea, I found out why. My propellor was a very old and tiny woman, who could reach no higher.
PANAWAVE LABORATORY, THE CUTE CULT
I'm not sure yet why I think of this cult as cute; there just seems to be something sort of kawaii ("cute"; but only the Japanese word can capture the meaning I intend here) about them, at least so far; you never know with folks who surrender their brains to the ether without a second thought. But here I was, thinking that not too many folks in Japan were as doubtful as I am about electromagnetic fields (EMF)-- people all over the country blithely living below very-high-tension cables, building grade schools right beside intense transformer stations etc.-- when, since 1977, a woman guru (now terminally ill; where are miracles when you really need them?) has been creating an entire cult around EMF that now numbers over 1000 members!
And what a name! Panawave Laboratory devotees get to wear white headdresses like ancient Egyptians, dress up in white sheets (white protects them from electromagnetic waves), drive around slowly in long trains of all-white, sticker-covered, EMF-generating vans and camp here and there in the unfortunately green mountains of central Japan in their sacred quest to protect themselves and their guru from the insidious effects of pretty much everything, actually.
It's no surprise that the towns in their proximity and path do not want these ghostly flakes anywhere in the vicinity. A recent urgent pronouncement from the dying guru does not address any of these problems or issues; rather it calls for the protection of Tama-chan (kawaii!!), the celebrity bearded seal recently granted residency ahead of many humans in line. For our information, the cult also issued the un-kawaii statement that the "approach of the Nibiru star will be delayed nearly a week from Monday [missed a bus or something; those death-stars are never on time] and those who do not listen to this message will face death." It's not clear what those who are listening should do about the Nibiru star, but hey, it's not all that different from having an unpleasant president. Right now the ghostly EMF-evaders are up around my in-laws' neighborhood, but perforce they continue to roam the back roads of Tottori, Hyogo, Kyoto, Fukui, Gifu and Shiga Prefectures, so any day now I might look out my window and see dozens of white-robed pariah-pharaohs, basking in the uniquely EMF-less airs of Pure Land Mountain. I'll let you know if I do.
PURE PLACE REDUX
Decided to restore the Pure Place section in the sidebar 'cause I really appreciate those in-depth visits to vividly realized localities. It's like living there for a few moments now and then, taking a stroll with a neighbor, maybe, or listening to a resident chat over a cup of coffee in the local best place for coffee. Much deeper and truer experience than a blocked and scripted documentary, if you could find one thus specific. I've added a link for NCFocus, Anna's Nevada City blog, and one for a new and very interesting Vancouver/Bowen Island blog by designer Maria Bantjes. For the latter, thanks to Chris of Bowen Island Journal, who is showing some great writing chops there.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
THOREAU NEVER HAD A FATHER-IN-LAW
If you've known me since I came to Japan, then you have never even once seen me in a suit. If you've known me long enough before that, you know that the last suit I bought was a red velvet jacket with matching bellbottom pants, back before Woodstock.
Well, ok, I also bought a three-piece when I'd just gotten out of college madness and was going to work in the asylum, I wore that suit for four years in exchange for a monthly bundle of cash, but I've paid my dues; you can't hold my past against me, that's all tweed under the bridge.
Anyway it doesn't count since it was under college loan duress. Regarding suits at large I have always agreed with Thoreau, who said not so famously "You expect me to wear this?" in addition to the more famous saying that he put in writing, "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." Carlyle wasn't that far wrong in the suit regard either, though for the wrong reasons as far as I'm concerned, and he dressed terribly.
Suits have little to do with style. In any case, if you knew me well your mandible would have landed on your Guccis at seeing me actually entering a suit store the other day, actually trying on, and actually buying, a suit, like all the other guys who buy suits every day of the year all over the civilized world for whatever totally zongo reasons they may have.
As to that experience I cannot express how otherworldly strange it felt to enter a suit store for the first time in so many decades, and there behold with unsuited eyes the long racks of manly shoulders marching forthrightly on to wherever suits go eventually, in the silent strains of stylishness that used to matter a great deal to me when I was a teenager back in the dark ages of pegged pants.
There were long racks of hangerheads stretching far away in the fashionable maleness of this strange place, in which I also bought a -- white shirt -- and a -- tie. (I almost can't get the words out.) So why? Why? The astute reader will cry; what in the world possessed me, of all people, to do such a thing? What was my zongo reason for buying a suit after all these years in the sartorial wilderness?
Well if you must know it's for my father-in-law's beiju (88th birthday) celebration, 88 being a particularly auspicious number and age in the ancient orient, a once-in-a-lifetime event well worth buying a suit for. That's why I bought my first suit in 40 years, my first tie in 500 years, and my first white shirt in 5000 years, and I will wear them all at once. My father-in-law is a good man, and my new suit is in his honor.
If you also must know, I was married in kimono.
LINKS THAT MAKE THE NET A GREAT PLACE
Just browsing through the select delights on lennon2.com, Julia Lennon's after-hours version of her eclectic, arcane and superb Providence Journal (RI) weblog Subterranean Homepage News (click 'personal site' under Julia's photo to get to lennon2). Both sites are full of great stuff, well phrased. Many long-term thanks to Wood's Lot for the link.
GIBBERISH WITHOUT EFFORT
Odd they call it poetry. Evidences a hunger for news from the spirit, though (my definition of poetry). And of course those who care will keep trying for the real thing...we need it, fitted to our time. As do all times.
Monday, May 05, 2003
NIGHT ON FIRE
One of the many things I love about Japan is all the ancient festivals going on all the time all over the place. Shiga Prefecture seems to have more than its fair share. Last night we went across the Lake to Omihachiman to see the Hinomatsuri (Fire festival) at Shinoda Shrine, the event all the fireworks experts attend, so as to stay abreast of the neverending fireworks revolution.
Even though we headed there at night, we didn't need a map; we just consulted the frequent signposts in the sky, or turned toward the bangs that were bigger than the night. When it comes to fireworks, they do not fool around over there. On the narrow roads leading to the Shrine all was in darkness except for occasional paper lanterns hung in front of houses to light the way and not detract from the stars of the occasion, the fireworks.
At the Shrine itself as well, all was dark except for a dim lantern here and there. The precincts were packed, with crowds jammed in among the trees and standing on rocks for a view, but wherever you were, all you had to do was look up. This was indeed the art of fire. Before each launch they announced the list names of those who had sponsored the very special firework we were about to see. Then: WHUMP!! up it would spin atop a spiral tail of sparks above the tall old cedars, to a much lower height than conventional fireworks; this was done to achieve what firework specialists refer to technically as the "inyerface" effect. It certainly is: each unique design filled the entire sky at seemed like ten feet from my eyeballs. It was sort of like being in the firework, a new experience for me.
Those special shots went on for hours, out of total darkness into blinding fireflowers blossoming to night-shattering blasts. Then the fireworks folks (who are by nature full of big surprises) set off ground-level explosions, then a forest-sized pageant in colored fire that cascaded images on the night air for long minutes; that was followed by an amazing and very old Japanese technique of "painted" fireworks, that shimmered on and on with strangely moving lights and sparklings and colors. Then came the oldest part of the festival, when they brought two many-meter-tall constructions of rice straw out into the midst of the crowd, erected them and set them alight; they roared with flame higher and higher for some minutes till they toppled in plumes of sparks and fire, looked like right into the middle of the crowd. Those folks over there sure love what fireworks can do. Remarkably, after it all the old wooden shrine was still standing.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
MEETING THE MYSTERIOUS OLE
When we first moved out here I right away noticed under the railroad bridge, where it crosses the highway, a sign that pointed down to the lakeshore and said in big Roman letters "OLES," offering rental boats, fishing equipment and what not and I thought to myself hey great, some Swedish guy, or maybe Norwegian-- anyway Nordic-- moved out here a long time ago looks like, long enough to set up a business down by the Lake, successful by the look of the sign, I'll have to go visit him sometime.
And as the summer passed I asked folks I met here and there in the general way of things if any of them had ever met this Nordic guy Ole who has the boat place, maybe a marina and bar or something down by the water, but nobody I asked had ever met him, or even heard of him, which was a bit puzzling, but hey I was new here, all in good time, and time passed further, a lot further, the way it can out in the country where the seasons just tick by as pretty as a series of wildflower-russet-snowclad-greening meadows at sunrise-sunset and take your mind off a lot of things you might have somewhat low down there on the old list of to-dos, so getting to meet Ole kind of slipped my mind, though I had gone down to the Lake any number of times, just hadn't turned in that direction along the shore, as fate would have it.
Then one summer afternoon a couple of years later as I was driving northward home, I glanced to the right beyond some rice fields toward the Lake and noticed a boat-business building behind some trees by the shore that had painted on its roof "OLES." But this was too far away to be the original Ole's, I thought; he must have a chain of these things! Then I saw, at this end of the road that led to the place, a sign containing a word in katakana that was pronounced 'ooresu,' and the five-yen coin dropped. Ole wasn't a Norwegian guy at all; he wasn't Swedish either. He wasn't even human. 'Ooresu' was the Japanese phonetic pronunciation of the anciently used English term "oarless," which a couple of Japanese boathouses had simple-spelled in Roman lettering: "OLES." In other words, Ole was a powerboat, or maybe a jet-ski. This kind of thing happens to foreigners all the time in Japan, so let's just keep this between ourselves, ok?
The English word 'ginger' comes from the Latin zingiber, which comes from the ancient Indian Sanskrit word singabera, meaning 'antlers'; the roots very much resemble the early velvet antlers seen on deer in springtime. There is some mention of growing ginger indoors (and some other good related information) here.
This morning planted the koshoga (little ginger) and oshoga (big ginger) roots. Breaking up the very elegantly and metapractically designed roots into bud-containing segments made me hungry, what with the succulent sound of snap after snap after snap to the savory fragrance that right away filled the morning and thence the entire activity. All this succulent savoriness, however, apart from that redolent on my handwipe shirttail, was soon returned to the earth; buried in its prepared bed and thoroughly watered, the ginger is even now gathering its subterranean forces for the big push upward soon into splendid green ginger-perfumed leafhood. The sprouts at the bases of the new stalks are delicious as well, something like a gingery scallion; great and savory garnish. It occurs to me that ginger (ko or sho) would make an easy-growing, excellent and most beautiful potted plant, with its tall scented deep-green bamboo-like leaves and uniquely tasty reward at the terminus. That is, if you could buy the roots singly (for growing here you have to buy large quantities), though I never see ginger roots sold or used here for that purpose, and don't recall having seen them used thus elsewhere. I've heard that the roots sold in food shops can't be used for growing, having been treated in some way to prevent the sprouting that would 'mar' the goods. Might be worth buying a bag of plantable roots and sharing it. No, it would definitely be worth it.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
Ain't serendipity great? Thanks to a visit from Anna of NCFocus I visited back and found she's in Nevada City, one of the great places in my mental file of great places. Now I can keep up with what's happening in Nevada City. I wonder if she knows my friends Martha and Doug...
One morning in early Spring, out in the predawn dimness, in the still dark distance at the far end of the garden there's a visual vibration, a multiple pink shimmering, an eye-tickling glow that grows brighter, grows more multiple even as I look, as though there were a flock of large unblinking really fireflies out there hovering in the black, unmoving in the deeper shadows of the tall kinmokusei; I rub my eyes, I am reminded of...is there such a thing as a peyote flashback I wonder; this is before even my morning tea, but who knows what awaits in the golden years of the hallucinatory explorer of earlier times? The sun breaks the horizon; I see now: it is the first-opened blossoms of our wild mountain azaleas, than which there is no more fiery, surprising, or hallucinatory pink. Peyote sleeps.
Friday, May 02, 2003
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Judging by Blogdex, response to the "Dante's Inferno Test --Impurity, Sin, and Damnation" ("A heavy thunder breaks the deep lethargy within your head...."), from "the fine people who brought you the famous Personality Disorder Test," there seems to be hyperconcern among the digerati as to the perdition in their future: not in terms of yes or no, but of degree. Of course it's all just in fun. Or is it? "Which Tarot Card Are You?" never got this kind of response. Who would have expected such an overwhelming response to an "...Inferno Hell Test based on Dante's Divine Comedy, written in the early 1300s by Dante Alighieri"? Is morality the next big thing? If things go on this way, some folks might actually read Dante.