Wednesday, July 30, 2003
THE MYSTERY OF RAYMOND CHANDLER
Recently, it seems that nearly every review I read about Raymond Chandler contains a crypto-apologia for Chandler's continuing appeal. What is the reason, they don't exactly ask: it couldn't be the plots, not even the prose, as unique as it is; he was a hack, is the implication, he's a mystery they can't stop talking about.
But all true art is mystery, won't let you put your finger on it, take its pulse, declare it dead, send it to the morgue. The critics would love to do that with Chandler, escape the low-life, hard-boiled paradox and return to the hard-wired academic safety of Faulkner, James, Melville, Hawthorne et al., the 'legitimate' American canon (wherever he is, Chandler chortles up his sleeve).
I have read many times practically every story Chandler ever wrote; for decades I have been Marlowe's silent sidekick as we traveled those dim noir corridors, those scented forests, those starlit lakesides and sunburned streets, those twisting mountain roads and empty cabins among the evergreens, and I still want to go there again.
Chandler's books are spells that spin gold from the mundane and pour it into your lap: the lobby of the perfume corporation, the foyer of the magnate's mansion, the stairway to the gin joint above the street, the kitchen of the empty cabin out by the lake, before the screen door on the booze-loving woman's front porch, the long stairway from the beach to the house of the seeker of the jade necklace, the darkness of night roads, the carpeted stairs leading down to silence in the deathly empty house up in the hills, the boat from the pier to the floating casino-- each of these image-moments is etched into the reader's mind because he has been there, back then, times past, with Marlowe.
This is the magic of Chandler, plain and unprecedented, with quirks in his words and tricks in his moods that can't and won't be found in any other American writer: not Hammet, not MacDonald, not Spillane, not Leonard, not Ellroy, not even Burke. The only other writer who can claim anything like this mystery-magic is Conan Doyle, for whom the mystery is the key, with the special ambience of Victorian London.
But Chandler will always have pre-war southern California. What he gives us in our own time is more than another time, another place; he gives us a gift that transcends plot and whodunnit parameters, he gives us the adventure we are on, Marlowe and I: we are alone as ever a human can be on scorching afternoons in that shabby, seldom-visited office (with the bottle of rye in the desk), until the knockout blonde comes in and lights up. We are still and always alone in those places the soul knows well, where the unexpected must always be expected, through long stretched-out moments in the tautness of light slanting toward dusk, casting sinister shadows over landscapes of treachery and danger on the edge of unspoken despair, in silences scented with gin and gunpowder, rye and pine resin, car exhaust, ocean air, linoleum and old carpet, sounded with the creak of wood, lit in sunbeams filled with motes of dust or following the quest of headlights swerving up mountain roads deep into evergreens, where secrets will be revealed that have nothing to do with such unrealities as plot and story, but everything to do with why hearts beat, hands tremble and sweat, minds puzzle, eyes turn and look back, bodies seek rest, and fall at last.
Alone in the silent heat-wave air of the naked sun out by the mountain lake, break into one of the empty cabins and look around. Open a kitchen cabinet, take down the box of flour and pour it out, find what has been hidden there with all its unspoken realizations, move alone in the same searing silence out to the lakeshore and onto the dock, happen to look down from the sizzling air into the cool, shimmering watery depths so like your very own: run back to shore, find a big stone, lug it out onto the dock and heave it into the rocking calm of the water to bring up, in the bubbling and hissing roil, whatever is down there; follow where it points…
You are in the thrall of Chandler, and are grateful...unless you're one of the canon flunkies, mystified by the guy's immortal popularity.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
the telephone wire
Monday, July 28, 2003
BAMBOO DOESN'T FOOL AROUND
We have dialogued, bamboo and I.
Since I moved here the bamboo (the 3 meter tall 2 cm thick mountainside kind that creates an impenetrable green wall traversable only by wild pigs, foxes, pheasants, ferrets and snakes), I've learned much about bamboo relentlessness and singleness of purpose.
Don't let that subtle yet elegant demeanor, that Asian inwardness, that quietly sophisticated, golden segmented curvature fool you. Don't be deceived by that slender, arching tallness, that timeless sheen. Bamboo works 24 hours a day.
Just because it's made into delicate cages for crickets, or into hair-thick wickets for catching tiny freshwater fishes, or shaved into feathery whisks for ceremoniously stirring green tea into an inviting froth, don't conclude therefore that bamboo is a delicate, effete, lily-wristed wisp of a plant. It is not. It is rooted with cables of steel.
You know this when you live with it growing on the land beside your garden, into which the bamboo subterraneously insinuates itself day and night, sending its long cableroots silently across in the dark a foot or two beneath the so innocently clear-looking soil; then one day when at last you are naively priding yourself on having won your battle with that puny weakling of a plant, your golden nemesis sends up here and there all over your garden its many silent green flags of conquest, which it then proceeds to celebrate with practically visible growth upward. Some species grow a meter a day.
Bamboo is in fact a single-minded, deep-rooted rocket of a plant, with a patience much older than our own; it is so patient that some species bloom only once in a century or so. No need for hurry, when such power is yours. I am temporary; bamboo prevails. And strong? Ask me, who have tried to cut its stalks and root out its roots for years now. It is stronger than earthquakes, let alone me.
It is so strong that in Japan it is traditionally grown like big living mats on hillsides, so that its deep tangle of steel-cable underpinning holds the whole hillside in place while the earth roils and rolls like a just-caught eel. Such strength must be honored.
So although I know that one day my vegetable garden may very well be a flourishing mountain bamboo thicket once again, in the blessing of the meanwhile the green army and I do battle of an ancient and honorable kind, that I learn much from, and do not really want to win.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Nothing bears more beauty than the white egret, gliding through young green rice leaves on an early summer evening, in air as clear as the clearest thought, in quiet as quiet as the coming of a dream...
way up in the sky
Friday, July 25, 2003
EXCERPT FROM "THIS IS IT!!"
"... the American economy is on the ropes as it has never been before in its history. The US economy has been completely gauged out by criminals and opportunists for many years now. The country is wracked by terminally ruinous debts, its manufacturing capacity has been largely destroyed - exported to more competitive lands and it now exists in a fools paradise of a service economy - utterly dependant on the largesse of other countries who are very quickly beginning to see the light. These awkward facts, combined with a formidable military capability, go a long way towards explaining the current colonialist adventurism.
Ominously, the bond market topped out over the past few weeks, with yields rising dramatically - the end game is upon us. The administration had been hoping to keep the whole rotten structure limping along by means of a campaign of propaganda and market manipulation until election time, but that's too far away - they won't get away with it. The writing is on the wall; with the bond market topping out interest rates are set to rise again, probably this coming winter. The real estate market and stockmarket will plunge. The broad swathe of the US middle class, most of whom have no idea what is bearing down on them, and are therefore ill-prepared, will suffer devastating financial losses and consequent privations, many will be caught in an intractable debt trap, especially those who have been seduced into cashing in the capital of their homes. They are also in for a very rude awakening when they discover that the current administration has no more respect for them than it does for the working class (what's left of them) or the underclass - i.e. zero."
Read the whole article here.
I lived in my '64 classic blue-and-white VW van for over a year back in the early 70's as I traveled the United States, stopping in splendorous places (Mt. Desert Island, Big Sur, Zion, Yosemite, Olympia, you name it) to spend the nights in my snug traveling home, so I needless to say I fell in love with vans. Yesterday we received delivery of our new van, a spiffy little candy apple red number by Honda. The old van, a sturdy Daihatsu, had done much and valiant duty hauling family and groceries and wood and soil and rocks and what not, and had done it very well with no complaint, started every time, winter or summer for 8 years, but its differential was beginning to universalize. Mountain driving will do that. We probably would have gotten another Daihatsu, but Honda was willing to give us on trade-in three times what Daihatsu would (for their own vehicle!) so we went with Honda. But my point here (I do have a point) is that this van (and the previous one) is what they call in Japan a K car, it has a 660 cc engine, size of a mid-range motorcycle, yet it's built and geared strong enough to handle the abovementioned chores, has lots of headroom, 4WD, is big enough for two of me (what a thought) to sleep in. It gets great mileage too, has excellent visibility etc. and the license tax and insurance is very low. I asked the salesman if K cars were sold in America or anywhere else, he said no, the laws in most countries don't allow auto motors less than 1000 cc. But I believe that will change soon, likely first in China. This type of car is ideal for singles, couples, new families, travelers, elderly folks (just about anybody except the 8-member Wide family), especially when fuel prices go up, as they will any time now; then the laws will change, and folks anywhere will be able to get one of these easy-to-drive, easy-to-park, easy-to-insure, easy-to-fuel, easy-on-the-pocketbook, easy-on-the-atmosphere little vans. You folks in the rest of the world, lobby your Honda dealer today!
[Despite the aforegoing, I do not own Daihatsu or Honda, or any part of said companies other than this vehicle; news re new car forthcoming as and when such may occur, beauty marks, warts and all. RB]
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Have I mentioned the rain? It's raining right now, has been all day, same rain that flooded China last week, but yesterday afternoon there was an extremely odd turn in the weather and the sun came out, so Keech said he was going fishing over at our secret mountain pond, we dug some really plump, very talented worms and I figured Keech would be gone for quite a while, you know how long fishing can take, so I got busy finishing up some overdue work of my own, and a half hour later was just getting into the groove when he returned lugging his fishing bucket filled with just one largemouth bass. At nearly half a meter long (48 cm) and 3-4 kilos, it yielded some fine pure white fillets, grown naturally in clean cool mountain water. Not bad for a half hour of fun by the shores of a pristine pond. An additional advantage is that my work is still overdue.
O, WOE IS CROW
This morning in the early dawn drowse (did I mention the rain?) I heard right outside my window on a branch of the cherry tree - and then looked out and saw - a solo kid crow (think Baby Huey in black) grumbling and griping and murmuring about the cruel fate of his life, how poor and hungry, destitute, helpless and orphaned he was, boohoo sobsob mumblereumble, and how unfair this world was to such a worthily beautiful and deserving yet innocent unfortunate as he, abandoned, starving, unfed, moangroan, oh so hungry sobwail, all in a roiling guttural lament that went on and on until his much smaller, clearly undernourished mother came flying out of the rain with a big beakful of gourmet quality crow breakfast and shoved it down Huey's suddenly silent wide-open throat, he the while gurgling "mmm-mmm-boy that's good, delish, smack, chomp, slurp, more, more" and so on until Mama had given him all she had, when she flew off into the downpour to get more food for her very special, wonderfully helpless Baby Huey, who after preening his Ferrari body to a suitable sleekness returned to his endless rumble-bumbling lament, not going so far as to actually pull his feathers out in anguish, or fix up a nice strong noose on a higher branch, yet despairing at length over his foodless fate, chokesob, and how he could be abandoned here so very -gasp- hungry, while keeping a careful dark eye out for his chow-laden Mama, who would be back any minute with the next delicious serving he so eminently deserved. Adolescents don't differ all that much among the species.
JUST A THOUGHT
Everybody talks about longevity; nobody ever talks about deepevity.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
THE RISK MAY BE LOW, BUT IT AIN'T ZERO AND IT WON'T GO AWAY--
PANDORA'S BOX IS NO LONGER A MYTH
Back in their millennium, the ancient Greeks didn't precisely understand the vast implications of the Pandora's box myth; back then it was generically magic. But the myth is always long before the matter. And now the box is open; what was inside is now out, and can never be put back. The "atom" box was child's play, compared to this. Be prepared for changes on levels that only mythology can comprehend.
Monday, July 21, 2003
YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN, BUT DON'T TALK WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL
Researchers in the US, through years of careful study, have made the very heavy discovery that obesity is due to the size of the portions served in US homes schools and restaurants, though why they had to do so much research to find that out is beyond me. All they had to do was go to a restaurant, recall their school days, check out their own waistlines, stroll around a supermarket, or simply leave the lab and go home for dinner. As a last resort they could have called me long distance and saved millions in research costs.
Here in Japan, traditional mealtime portions of the various food components would together fill one American soup bowl, comprising no meat, no dairy, lots of vegetables, grains, beans, tofu, miso and other delicious enzyme-rich foods, eaten with the proviso: Stay hungry. When I visit the States, "the land of the bucket of Coke", my recollection of meal size is always shockingly smaller than the actual portions I am served. In a Seattle diner (they had great pies there) where on my last trip I had a nostalgia breakfast (scrambled eggs, home fries, ham and toast with coffee refills), the plate was half-a-yard wide, with the food falling off the edges. Like a sort of living museum exhibit I ate it all, no problem.
In Japan (where I drink no coffee) that quantity would feed me for at least two days. At no US restaurant I visited were there ever portions small enough to enable me to retain my Japanese dietary compass. Even Japanese restaurants! And in the US' truly very supermarkets, the snack aisles resemble airport wings, where for example one can buy industrial-sized bags of Oreos that must be carried under one arm, and have to be eaten quickly once opened (as compared with Japan where the biggest Oreo bag contains perhaps 16 cookies, individually packaged in pairs within, so as to stretch out over weeks, if necessary).
In less than a month in the US I gained ten pounds of nostalgia, and upon my return to Japan had to restore my dietary compass to my natural settings. So although this may all be surprising news to those wide researchers, it's no news at all to long-term American expats.
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Saturday, July 19, 2003
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU READ
Tom Tomorrow personally experiences the first frightening taste of what the US may be like for every free thinker before long.
GRADE SCHOOL MEMORIES
Coming up the mountain on my motorcycle yesterday evening, the forest on my left and the jade mid-grown rice stalks spreading out to my right like a soft green carpet in the dimness, the whole scene dusted with that silvery powderlight that settles on landscapes at dusk for a time after the equinox, my thoughts drifting as thoughts tend to do in paradisiacal moments, just a day-end mind curving, rolling, smoothly back and forth along a mountain road toward home and dinner, when out in the dark broad swath of jade a darker shape stirred, a large shape, much larger than a farmer, that moved, that moved reluctantly, that tore itself from the deliciously tender young rice grains, turned unwillingly, then much more willingly, then began to move fast and faster, urgently toward the road, the shadow resolving into a very big female inoshishi (wild pig) who in perfect timing managed to cross at an angle just in front of my rumbling motorcycle and reach safety by forcing her way, snapping and cracking, deeper into the forest. She was a very big inoshishi. I hadn't seen haunches like that since Miss Winkle dropped her chalk, back in third grade.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Kasumi + X (or Y)
HOLDING NEW HANDS
Any day now I will be a second grandfather, when my daughter Kasumi brings her second baby into the world, a brother or sister for Kaya. Children and grandchildren do a wonderful thing, without even trying: they keep you looking forward, they make you new. In the same way one is a new father for each of one's children, one is a new grandfather for each new grandchild. And a grandfather is a remarkable and very satisfying person to be, as anyone knows who's ever been one. If you're about to be one, congratulations, get ready for the ride.
It's a special experience never twice the same, like being an elephant now and then, a giant redwood or an a propos choo-choo on occasion, a spontaneous horse, a momentary mountain, an essential giraffe, a sudden pogo stick or just a walking companion, whatever the moment requires, and on through the endless list that generations generate. It's not in the same familiar vein as being a parent, or the older vein of being who you are, exactly (whoever that may be); it's being that more ancient, continuous one we all are, layered over with being whatever you can be right now: sort of post-graduate parenting with an ongoing twist.
Yet, being a second grandfather is a newer thing than I expected. (What if it's a boy?) Still, it's not as though you have to learn how to be a second grandfather; if you've managed to remain genuine, and still contain the magical savor of your own childhood (you find that out with your first grandfatherhood), then every subsequent grandfathering should come just about as naturally as holding a new hand. One is already familiar with that part.
When you are a grandfather, whichever grandfather you are, whatever you give is returned in more than full measure. One evening recently I was walking with 2-year-old Kaya in the light of sunset when she pointed to the western sky above the darkling mountains and shouted: "Pink!" while jumping up and down. I hadn't looked or jumped at the sunset in precisely that full-eyed, amazing-discovery way for about 60 years, and there it was again, fresh as the first time, especially holding a new hand.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
EXCERPT FROM AN OPEN LETTER FROM SAM HAMILL
"We have drawn our line in the sand. Our tools are everyone's tools: the simple words we use almost thoughtlessly every day, but use in our art with scrupulous honesty and precision. I am Confucian enough to believe that "All wisdom is rooted in learning to call things by the right name." And we poets understand why Dante put the defilers of language into the seventh circle of his Hell. Our liberties are defined by a few clear, simple words.
The history of poetry is filled with advocacy, private and public. It is our privilege to draw on that history and to educate our friends and neighbors -- and ourselves -- to extend the vast pleasures and wisdom of poetry as we explore ideas, working to make a peaceful world together. In telling the story, in singing the song, there is always the poetry behind the words, both the beautiful and the deceitful. The more people learn to see clearly through the deliberately warped language of this administration, the sooner we shall understand the consequences of our actions. The better our poetry, the better we come to understand the terrible damage done by inappropriate metaphor and deliberately deceptive misnomer.
Only a few well-chosen words can make peace. And even then, only when we are willing to fully inhabit those words. To live by them. By August 1st, poetsagainstthewar.org will once again begin publishing new poetry on our web site. May we all find those few right words we can live by."
[See full text at poetsagainstthewar.org]
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND
Everyone knows that the mind becomes extremely mountainous only a few steps in from the coast. The creatures that reside in this uncharted area on our mental maps are seldom seen by others, yet are common to us all; still, they can be a hazard to the solitary explorer who is not prepared to confront the unbelievable in his hinterland as he wends his way into the nether regions, from which few return unchanged.
Hermits, poets and other explorers of these fastnesses are well acquainted with the species of the inward realms, and are even known on occasion to have them eating out of their hands. But these nether fauna can never be completely tamed; and what would the outer reaches be, without their inner complement of native wildlife?
Between ourselves, however, we can only use metaphoric nomenclature to speak of these denizens we harbor in common, the names we call them imparting no description of their morphology, coloring or way of life. These are not crude and dispensable beings, but highly developed and specialized life forms essential to our spiritual ecology (psychological and religious taxonomy notwithstanding).
And there are many more such beings that have no names; yet we all know very well in ourselves of at least the presence of these creatures, who have at times poked their heads out of the thick undergrowth that adorns the verge of each of us; they are all part of the vastness of the experience when, in the world outside, we see a mountain and its wilds, that call to us as like to like; to climb such a peak and view the world from its summit is to do so as well within ourselves, to view at one remove the panoramas that we are.
And in so ascending we metaphorically surmount the wilderness within, survive vicarious passage to the summits of ourselves, to a clearer light, a cleaner wind. And we take this knowledge with us on our return to the narrow lowlands where we spend our daily lives as habitants of seeming mountainous islands, surrounded by seas of intercourse teeming with creatures that thrive in the depths of the apparent distance between us, those sometimes stormy, sometimes tranquil seas of relation that are as much illusion as the real world; for as each mountain is aware, at the foundation we are all connected.
[Oddly enough, a book titled Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane was recently published, reminding me of this old essay, herewith presented from the dusty stacks. First published in Kyoto Journal The Sacred Mountains of Asia issue, 1993; entire issue republished as a book of the same title by Shambala Press, 1995, ed. John Einarsen.]
It's the end of tsuyu (rainy season) but the one-track sky keeps trying, bringing on the clouds and marching them overhead. It really, really wanted to rain yesterday and did its very best to pour, it really tried, it was darkening and threatening and rumbling and lowering all over the place, shouldering the mountains, steely-eyed with resolve. It managed to work up a brief drizzle, but that was more pitiful than convincing. It isn't often one gets to feel sorry for the sky. You know how frustrating it can be when you can't get something you want so desperately, we've all seen kids crying their hearts out in the toy store, well imagine something as wild and free and unfettered, and as young (yet old) as the sky, right there above the very earth it wants to rain all over, and at the verge being refused its heart's desire; that's a potent blend of emotions right there, and it was painful to watch. Even today, the cloud-laden gargantua continues to utter halfhearted imprecations over its many shoulders as it grudgingly makes way for a determined patch of sunlit blue moving implacably in from China. Japan imports most of its weather from China, so that might be part of the problem.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Today Keech and I did a goodly bit of lumberjacking, thinning and bucking trees in back of the house and on our good new neighbor's property, he was most glad to have that much more space so quickly. And though I'll be 63 this year, I still go at things as though I'm 25, which in certain areas of life is wonderful if you can still swing it, I can cut a mean dance to a good rock band, but felling and lugging 5 or 6 multi-ton trees is not the ideal task for the back that has suffered the slings and arrows of youthful profligacy so many times over. Swinging a partner and swinging a 30-meter cedar tree differ to a considerable extent. So it was great to have Keech's young muscle there to climb way up into and otherwise handle the heavy stuff, which his muscling body clearly enjoyed, as being in its time, and which mine still fondly recalled, but being no longer in that time has learned that such is no longer the way to go at things, so I go at them that way for a littler while less each year. With age, among the other graces comes a certain well-earned wisdom in which one increasingly forbears and observes, lifts a few branches with muscled pinky raised, the well-earned privilege of time's accumulation. Yet from my old groundskeeping days (now there's a few stories) I still know how to get a tree to fall not where the tree alone wants to fall, where the branches will catch on the neighboring trees and kickback the severed trunk right into the midsection of the inexperienced, or break a roof; rather, the trees fell right where trees and I agreed, after lengthy mutual consideration. It was good. And now at eve I sit on the deck with a tall cold beer, great sounds on the box and a back that is still carefully strong, watching the clouds slide over the mountains in beauty like a whole skyfull of women in gorgeous raiment, on their way to a heavenly ball.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
LIFE IN THE CLOUDS
Was it only yesterday that I, swathed as I was in my prototypical human ignorance of the greater plans and objectives of the cosmos, looked upon all this water in the air and called it "rain"? (Cue inward manic laughter.)
Indeed, I used that term with all objectivity in this very venue, but a few days ago. How fleeting is the bliss of ignorance! I should have suspected something was up. Turns out it's us.
Having just returned from a few moonless yet full-moon night moments on the deck to see whether it was still "raining," (more fool I!) and there being struck with the Great Mallet of Enlightenment, I now realize that as of some time in the past we here actually live in the clouds: the sky has fallen (the world has risen?), and it now rains below us.
Up here in our new world, where the rain is sort of paused as it shuffles in place and gets in line awaiting its turn to fall in torrents upon the lower, broader world of the flatlands, living is more like being softly underwater, a semifishy kind of existence.
Perhaps soon we will experience a strange sensation along the sides of our bodies as we begin reverting to our ontological form and once again take to breathing with gills.
Judging by the still-resounding impact of the Great Mallet, the primordial is never very far away.
THE OTHER COSTS OF WAR
Lost lives, broken families, shattered homes are horrible enough, but there's more. And more. And more. Here's what the war in Iraq is taking away from Americans and their children, every minute.
[Thanks to Ron Andrews for the tip.]
Saturday, July 12, 2003
way up there
MONKEYS GET UP EARLY
I'd thought that monkeys generally slept in at least until dawn, living the kind of treetop party life that they do. As for me, no longer living the party life I usually wake up around dawn and see no monkeys, but times are harder for us all, I guess. This morning I was up when it was still dark, and just in the first predawn light was making tea when I glanced out the window and saw a young simian strolling into my garden as though he owned the place, pointedly avoiding the Thai Dragons, jalapenos and tabascos and heading straight for the green beans. Apparently at least one monkey has developed a taste for them. At once I ran to the arsenal of ASBM (Anti-Simian Ballistic Missiles) stones I keep lined up along the rail of the deck, and launched one with a not very accurate throw. I missed (the vector factor is still under development), but the young simian was more amazed that I was up at this ungodly hour. His fellows were calling from the trees regarding his reconnaissance ("Any beans yet?" and suchlike), a lot of their calls very eerily sounding like "Bob," albeit in the very primitive pre-Bob form we ourselves used to use; still it's unsettling to hear one's name hooted out before five in the morning, mixed in with whoops and hollers from the depths of the forest. Anyway, with a steadily bettering aim I drove the monkey out of my garden, then went out and harvested what beans there were while the monkeys dissed me and discussed this odd turn of events among themselves. Then back to my tea. So aphorists take note: Early to bed and early to rise not only makes a man healthy wealthy and wise, it also keeps monkeys from his greenbeans.
Friday, July 11, 2003
"Score One for Smog," says the city paper headline, "to trees it brings an air of health"
Yet another sign of the increasing desperation to see something, anything, positive in polluted urban living, a sign of how asphyxiating our time has become. The fact that the trees studied grew three times larger in the city than in the suburbs is not seen as Frankensteinian; rather, the spin makes pollution sound nourishing, something to be perversely proud of. In fact, it's just that all those pollutants caused by heedlessly wasteful lifestyles are protecting the city trees from damage by the ozone resulting from sunlight action on polluting gases generated by those very same heedlessly wasteful lifestyles. The great cycle of toxicity wraps us in its dark embrace. The ozone then flows toward the 'burbs, where it adversely affects the poor trees, nakedly unprotected by the benificence of urban pollution. "City-grown pollution - and ozone in particular - is tougher on country trees that happen to be living in the pollution plume that flows from the city," says one of the ecologists. Pollution plume. I like that. Good thing the USA has a president who cares deeply about pollution and isn't richly funded by the pollution plumers. Something to consider in voting, and in selecting real estate near a city if you want bigger trees. One wonders about the difference in children, who are growing too. But like they say, we all live downstream now.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
All this folderol about youth being the peak and elderhood being the pits; I mean, even Yeats, that dissimulating fogey ("But oh that I were young again...."; "a tattered coat upon a stick...") he wrote his best stuff when he was near eighty. I say it's a lot of youth-media-generated horsefeathers. I've been young and I'm becoming elder, and I'll take elder any day of the maturely ejaculating week.
Like all else that grows, life gets where it's going in stages, so youth is not yet life, since the youth has never been any older. Elderhood, by contrast, is very definitely life, for the elder has indeed been young, and what's more has survived and grown thence, and is cored with the experience. Only the span of both ages in one individual comprises what can truly be called a life.
So when the young say 'get a life,' this is what they really mean, despite themselves: they mean get like the elders; they mean GET ENTIRE. They don't know this of course, for in youth nowadays it seems the gardens of the spirit often yield little more than a few stunted facts amid a weedy tangle of ideas randomly received from sources only the inexperienced would patronize, such as age-segregated schools, Hollywood, television, video games and other kids. So forget it if you're looking for major revelations in that quarter.
I'm not talking book smarts or street smarts or any of those five-and-dime kind of smarts anybody can get if they can breathe long enough; I'm talking SMARTS, all gilded bold caps, as conferred only by time deeply spent. And I don't mean in meditation. I mean in ACTIVE QUEST. That too is gilded bold caps, but this time generously embellished with precious stones, mainly emeralds and rubies, because diamonds are way overrated, as any multifaceted elder knows.
Anyway, that's why genuine elders aren't enticed by the culture of youth: because they see right through it, how short-lived and time-blind it necessarily is. They know the portals one must pass through to get beyond that stage of life and, if one is truly alive and not asleep or otherwise spiritually sightless or habituated, the lessons that await and must be learned at each stage. That, in its totality, is life; it is not life if one somnambulates through the whole thing, or tries to stay young forever, or mature quickly. A life thus true is all the more a life the closer it approaches its entirety.
And in contrast, as there is the closed and therefore dead youth, who has learned nothing at all from his few years trapped within the senses, so there is the closed and therefore dead elder, who has sprung unchanged from said youth. The latter, though, is the greater tragedy, for the point of life is that toward which we age: toward becoming a living cornucopia of worthy experiences, toward becoming wise at the cost and the pace that wisdom requires, toward acquiring, gestating and dispensing that wisdom, at its pace and in its place, to the experientially challenged young, who, were it not for the wisdom of those in full elderhood, would rush pell-mell here and there doing even more to kill the time they have in excess and make days play dead so they don't have to live them exactly, more like zombie through them in a stylish pattern that can tend to remain for the rest of the life, until one day they wake up in maybe the suburbs or maybe a shooting gallery and wonder how they got to a place where there's nowhere else, and now are too old for youth and too unlived for elderhood; and when youth is not young and old is not elder, that is the end of the world.
And to hell with Swift, who said: "Every man desires to live long, but no man would be old." I for one can't wait to start using a cane. Somebody has to get the world going the way it should; who better than the experientially advantaged?
THE PROMISE OF SHADOWS
I don't know how to say this, exactly, but-- out the window of my office I can see, there above the dark and looming clouds, an entire (albeit narrow) swath of blueness of sky, sort of a reverse doppelganger of a water mirage in Death Valley-- dare I trust it? Dare I put my last hope on the line and bet the farm? Dare I believe that the unthinkable is about to occur: that we, collectively, the entire sun-flagged nation, including the emperor and his vaunted solarian forebears, are on the cusp of having a-- SUNNY AFTERNOON? Well, there are shadows out there, believe it or not. In fact when I went out into it just now, I had a shadow myself. Quite unnerving it was, since I've been traveling the byways unaccompanied for months now.
RETURNED FROM 13 DAYS IN ETHEREAL LIMBO (THINGS SURE HAPPEN FAST IN THE HI-TECH WORLD!!)
[These entries that follow in a cluster are lifted from Pure Land Mountain pro tem, my alter-blog when Blogger's cranky hardware acts up... RB]
[ Wed Jul 09, 08:29:56 PM | Robert Brady]
KIND OF BLUE RIFF
This evening I take advantage of the suppression afforded by the very low-hanging mountain clouds to realize a special resonance, within which the notes of Kind of Blue enjoy a special temper, the timbre resonating from the plum leaves as from the sky, the bamboo grove serving as a sturdy green harmonic to Miles' evocation of the essence of the blue days of childhood walking along a country road in sunshine and tranquility, moments of life that are the root and sky of culture, as it seeks always to be...
[ Wed Jul 09, 10:06:18 AM | Robert Brady]
Raining again today, to no one's surprise, though yesterday afternoon (of the paler darkness we call the daytime) I saw amidst the clouds a small patch of the blue sky I recall from childhood. Through that small patch, for a brief moment, beamed a kind of feeble light, that felt warm upon my arm. This was the sun, as we know from the ancient texts. Well, it's day 12 of no postings on Pure Land Mountain, things sure do happen fast in the tech world too. My unpaid blogs, like this one, are working fine. Seems the folks at Blogger may have to sort of reverse their priorities, if they care to stay in business. Though now that they're all salaried Googlers, maybe who cares about profit? They have an ad up there on the Blogger home page calling for client relations employees to come on in and take part in the wonderful client relations they've established thus far. What they need are client relations instructors.
[ Tue Jul 08, 04:08:55 PM | Robert Brady]
MOSSY MANSE IMAGE MISLEADING, SAYS BRADY
Just found out that because all the trees (cedar, snowbell, chestnut) overhang much of the roof, keeping it from fully drying out after rain (as though we have dry weather), moss is growing apace (too bad; I otherwise love moss) on the lower north side roof, and tree debris has been accumulating under the shingles here and there, or abrading them and enabling water penetration and freezing in winter, slowly chipping the shingles away in a vicious, ever-worsening roofy death spiral right down into the bottom of the old bankbook. So as soon as the rain ends later this century we're going to have to reshingle. By 'we' I of course mean paid professionals. No way will I entrust the task to the very same self that, when planning the house, didn't know a thing about shingles, other than that they went on the roof. Turns out that composite shingles, although much less expensive, are much more expensive. How little we knew, we well-intentioned and frugal innocents, with now wide-open wallets....
[ Tue Jul 08, 11:06:41 AM | Robert Brady]
MOVING AT THE SPEED OF LEAD
Finally, after 11 days, a little itsy-bitsy notice, way back there hidden away where you really have to hunt for it, an admission from blogger that blogspot blogs can't be published because of a hardware error and that they will fix it. At the same speed, I wonder?
[ Tue Jul 08, 11:02:13 AM | Robert Brady]
TIGER TORNADO CONTINUES
The incredible Hanshin Tigers now have a 14 game lock on first place in the Central League, and an average of .716, with no other team in either league above .600!! (Even the dynamo Atlanta Braves only have .640!) The excellent Daiei Hawks, who hold first place in the Pacific league, are only a game and a half in first, with a .595 average. The perennial first-place (big-money) Tokyo Giants, now way back in second place behind the Tigers, have an average of but .526! Great to see Osaka putting it to Tokyo, but good.
[ Tue Jul 08, 10:53:54 AM | Robert Brady]
LAND OF THE RISING SUN MY FOOT
Woke up this morning and it was--of all things--raining, right down from the sky to the ground, making this 4829 straight days of rain if my calculations are correct, over a hundred times worse than the measly 40 days Noah had to endure, and that was enough to get him into a holy book. I wonder what sacred text our deluge will get us into. Anyway, we've left the lucky Noah way back in our dust, as it were. That's just a figure of speech, left over from the old days of course; there is no dust anymore, it's all wet, and is mud now. But one remembers from the ancient records that the sun did at one time shine on these regions, and local folk could enjoy the dust, certainly at some point during the Edo period. Regarding the liquescent present, the weatherfolks on tv don't have much to say that we don't already know from the squish in our shoes; listlessly the weathermenschen monotonize: "Today our satellite picture shows us that there will be you-know-what all day and night, and tomorrow there will be more you-know-what, in fact the entire week will be--oh, forget it, let's go to the weather map," and there we behold a very small and soggy Japan surrounded by huge red blobs that are low pressure centers getting in line, waiting their turn to empty themselves all over the coming week. Down in the south of the Pacific map, just as a sort of cosmic taunt, is a round yellow spiky thing that my history books tell me is the symbol for the sun, as it was called. In fact the sun is used as the symbol on the Japanese national flag, albeit with an oriental sense of deep irony. To drive that irony even deeper, the emperor of Japan, a direct descendant of the sun god, appears to have no pull whatever with his bright ancestor. And as if the irony weren't already deep enough, Japan even calls itself the Land of the Rising Sun, though everyone nowadays seems to have forgotten why; they look at each other in puzzlement at my mention of this fact. The scientists insist, however, that the sun does actually rise each day above the permanent clouds that comprise our sky; they say it is the sun that imparts to certain segments of the 24 hour rainy cycle that paler bleakness, in which we all go off to work with our umbrellas and raincoats, shouldering our way through the curtains of you-know-what, there to earn the livelihood that will eventually enable us to have our day in the you-know-what...
[ Mon Jul 07, 09:51:57 AM | Robert Brady]
THE WIZARDS OF BLOG, or FEEDING THE HAND THAT BITES ME
I'm compiling this lengthening essay as I wait to post to my old site on the 'new' Blogger; and wait, and wait, and wait...
As visitors hereto may have observed for the past few weeks, the advancing technology and radical software upgradings and innovations, whizbangs, whistles and bells being crowbarred into place at Blogger.com to enhance the blogging experience, elevate it to new heights, make blogging a simple pleasure, have in fact pretty effectively challenged Dante with a new level of hell, while erasing the several qualities that characterize blogs: spontaneity, regularity, responsiveness, immediacy, ad blogeam.
After a tantalizing interlude of blogability, I went to open Pure Land Mountain a couple of nights ago and for the second major chunk of time in a month found I had no template: "error 001" it said implacably, "template not found." Nowhere in all the database was an error 001. This is 'new'? For days I posted records about my plight on the Blogger/villein interface, and my queries just sat there, gathering pixeldust. I could have rowed across the Pacific, bicycled up the coast to the Blogger/Google Imperium and knocked on the gate faster than they responded online to my queries, conveniently marked Day 1, Day 2 etc. Then one day they responded: RESOLVED, across the board. I went to my control panel, at last! And: Voila!! Even more no template. What word do they use when something actually is resolved?
Now we're approaching Day 10 for the second time, heading for a new record (7 days, set 2 weeks ago). Nice folks still come and visit Pure Land Mountain, but it's getting to be more like a museum that I can visit too, though I can't touch my own artifacts, a privilege for which I must pay cash.
Since communication is the name of the game for the avid blogger, one would think the same was true for Blogger.com as an early pioneer provider of the service, but apparently the Wizards of Blog are more into tinkering and tweaking merrily in their new and luxurious cyberpalace than in keeping we merely paying customers informed as to why we cannot use their PAID service to blog today, or yesterday, or the day before, or tomorrow or who knows?
And even when they say they've fix it, it's not fixed. Through their assiduous efforts the Wizards of Blog have made at least my blog more closely resemble a cemetery of cogitation. This may augur something, I'm not sure what, maybe happier servers or somesuch, but the merely living human user certainly is not happier. Can it be considered an improvement to be pretty much erased for a week or more at a time (10 days so far) without a warning, without a word, without a sign, without a clue, even though there is a control board, where such postings are ignored daily, a status board that details a problem resolved last month? There's also email, and telephones, even telegrams, what the hell. More like Hades 9b. Sitting Bull got his info faster than I've heard anything from the Wizzes. I've been checking out MT et al., but are they any more communicative if you disappear? Right now I think I'll just go spend some time in the poppy field...