Tuesday, September 30, 2003



Poor Kaya. There she was, by birthright the eminently worthy center of her known universe, the absolute focus of all the love and affection there was in her growing world, the only world there was, right there at the center of the universe that had her name on it; then suddenly, out of nowhere, into the midst of this ideality plunge two completely useless tiny prunelike strangers who have not earned their place, yet effortlessly suck all the attention out of her universe and into theirs, and they do not even care about her, do not even know she is there, those two shapeless pinkish objects that, curse them, can cry at will and are utterly catered to in every way.

Compared to them, and to the way things just were, Kaya is ignored, told she is big, treated like she's grown up when she knows she's not, and doesn't want to be, and as if that weren't enough, to top it off she's going through the emotionally draining Terrible Twos, a time of life when she is called upon to test the parameters of her universe, what happens when she pours water on the floor or throws food, or spits whimsically? What ARE the limits to all this?

Then into this life-essential experimentation come not one, but two olympically infantile creatures and Kaya is abruptly sidelined with the alarming knowledge that she has lost the ability to cry at length, and at will, as these two minuscule party crashers do, not to mention the burden of her aforementioned universal concerns, and so at length she practices trying to cry as of yore (but failing in total frustration), the while working in one way or another (the two-year-old mind is a very fertile garden) to drag attention to herself kicking and screaming when it won't come willingly, moreover she does not like those two little pink pruny things, at all, she will show them.

Her mother Kasumi, being as fully occupied with nursing two newborn twins as a pair of infinitely hungry and helpless infants can suddenly make a mother, is now in a life place where grandparents are superheroes, bigtime. We come from other worlds and times, we caped crusaders, to not-all-that-tirelessly battle the dark forces of infancy, bringing welcome light and balance to burgeoning lives.

Up, up and awaaaaayyyy!!

Monday, September 29, 2003


Yesterday, under a fall morning sky that started out like God's big turquoise ring, Echo and Kaya and I drove around and up and through the string of tunnels, past the wild boar restaurant that's right over the mountaintop, then followed Route 367 along the valley of the Katsuragawa River (with lots of great shore picnic/swimming/fishing spots), which runs along the other side of Pure Land Mountain's range.

Once a narrow country single oxcart road, used in ancient times to transport fish to Kyoto from the Japan Sea, Route 367 has in the past decade been widened slightly to accommodate two lanes, opening the area's natural beauty to ecologically oriented entrepreneurs such as Soma-no-michi, an antique/recycling/craft/grocery store just over the mountain from us, that has for example a great natural honey selection as well as an array of shakuhachi, bean bags, ceramics, baskets, clothing and once you start looking... We stopped there to get some eggs and to chat about firewood while Kaya made monkey soup in the big stone grinder filled with leftover rain that stood outside; she added leaves and stones and flowers and straw and stirred and stirred until we were ready to leave and the soup was done, she left it for the monkeys.

We were on our way to Haruya, in the village of Machi-icho. Haruya, a thatched roof b&b, is also a vegetarian restaurant (used to be in Kyoto) that by previous arrangement serves delicious organic/wildcrafted Japanese and Indian food, cooked on a woodburning stove.

The proprietors Haru and Yumie, very hospitable folks who both speak good English and have lots of interesting visitors, send out notices to people on their mailing list announcing when they will be serving; you can then sign up (make reservations or join their list via this email: hal-yumi(at)mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp). It is a big experience to have a country gourmet lunch beneath the cedar-clad mountains beside the Katsuragawa, with many things to do and explore in the region before and afterward. The small but great town of Kutsukimura is just up the road (we went to the big spa there afterward), among the many other things.

On the way back we stopped at a roadside matsutake (pine mushroom) "store" near the riverside campsite and got a basketful of matsutake, fresh-picked in the forest that morning, for a bargain price since it was nearing the end of the day. Then back home as God's big ring changed to onyx.

Friday, September 26, 2003



Strongest in the world thus far this year; they felt it in Tokyo, but we didn't feel a thing.


That used to be true of so many great things, including Levis. But not any more. Like many American Classics, Levis too will soon be made in China. If you want to get some of the last actually Made-in-the-USA Levis, you better go get 'em before the last two Levi-Strauss plants in the US (in San Antonio) close for good. Good old 505s just won't have the same feel if they're finished in Guang Zhou...


The only real drawback of blogs is that in exploring the bloggy reaches one happens upon so many postings by folks who have clearly never actually tried to put mind to deep thought, or any thought into cogent wording, and just plop it right down there in front of everybody for some very painful reading. Perhaps the most painful are the attempts to soar in observations of 'encounters' with NATURE (as in old-fashioned hand-carved wooden letters covered with flaking green paint on the side of an oak of a size that no longer exists, just outside the kitchen window on the natural cookie box), most commonly as manifested in the real meaning of insect bites. With the always-implicit rush back to the comfies of civilization, where there are no insects and nature is a big smiling grannie with god in her apron pocket. I wonder what will happen to such wholesale supermarket perspectives when things get real, and natural thought is required.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


Traditional Japanese baby slings are better than baby carriages and framed baby carriers, for lots of mama/baby/economy/ecology reasons. In Spain, we used one we made out of an old furoshiki. I used to see baby slings all the time in Japan, years ago, but they faded away as too old fashioned. Now they're making a comeback, as do all things born of pure wisdom. Here's a good place to get them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003



Excerpts from this report:

"No study links intake of the chemicals from breastmilk with any problems in children."

Report back to me in seven generations.

"Any health effects probably take place while the children are still in the womb, the group said."

Most heartening.


"Brominated fire retardants impair attention, learning, memory, and behavior in laboratory animals at surprisingly low levels," the EWG report reads.

These neoproblems in children sound familiar?

"The most sensitive time for toxic effects is during periods of rapid brain development."

e. g., infancy.

"The average level of bromine-based fire retardants in the milk of 20 first-time [US] mothers was 75 times the average found in recent European studies,"

Now that's cutting edge.

In all the blinkered 'wisdom' of our jagganath 'progress,' we have no idea what we're really doing: not just to our world, but to our generations. We're not yet nearly wise enough to realize true progress; and if we're doing this to the infancy of our descendants, perhaps we never will be.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003



Locally scavenged firewood being rather scarce this year, since winter draws close in its cold white robes and no one has been giving away any hardwood trees (though I have my eye on a few that are scheduled for felling for various reasons), I scored 2 tons of old oak whiskey barrel staves, slightly charred on the inner side and time-silvered on the outer, as per their former use excellently redolent as well of the finest sipping whiskey, a scent to savor, as from a vast snifter, as I handle these nearly 2-yard-long staves for the next 6 months. The prospect of sawing these incense sticks into proper lengths for the stove reminds me of W. C. Fields' rejoinder to the criticism that he would die by drowning in a vat of whiskey: "Death, where is thy sting?" I am stimulated as well by their iron strength in bowed shape, to think of diverse uses for them: water bucket shoulder poles, swing seats, garden fencing, buckwagon shock absorbers-- any suggestions?


Because it links to this site, which, among various other stigmata, sells this item of religious passion. It goes without saying that all worthy deities have an infinite sense of humor.

[With thanks to Ron for the discerning research.]

Monday, September 22, 2003



Interesting editorial from Jim Sinclair:

"It's the Asians that have been financing our massive deficits with Japan and China now holding more than 41% of our outstanding debt. For the United States and its G-7 followers to point the finger at the Asians for the dollar decline and job losses in the United States is beyond outrageous. Nonetheless, the American public loves it.

As long as the equity market rises and volume moves higher, Americans will applaud these deceitful tactics. In any war the first causality is the truth and this seems to be the case in the economic war we are fighting as well.

All the Financial TV talking heads are heralding the upcoming economic boom. It's coming alright but not in the way those light-headed, self-indulgent fops think. Economic commentary in the United States is a Cecil B. DeMille production with a thousands actors spinning in one direction only."

Read in entirety here.


This time of year we usually have several typhoons of varying degrees of severity, but this year we haven't had any, including the one that hasn't been passing through for the last two days. Generally we know typhoons are coming and get ready, but you can't prepare for what isn't there. In the case of the current typhoon that isn't there, that didn't pass through two nights ago, all day yesterday and last night (there are no size or time constraints on non-present weather events) and isn't still gussying around in forest-sized windy snitfits, the caught-by-surprise landscape has been adjusted varying distances toward the south. The train was stopped from Omi-Imazu to Katata, a big cedar blew down right outside the window of our bathing room (fortunately parallel to the house), the deck and garden look like the floor of an ancient forest where for some odd reason peppers, ginger and basil formerly grew, and the firewood is all uncovered. The bicycle tarps were last sighted over Shanghai. Pretty good for a typhoon that wasn't there. I'm voting for an extant weather system.

Sunday, September 21, 2003



Very drowsy now because kept awake last night by the broadly sweeping skirts of the typhoon (typhoon #15, no Isabels or Andrews for Japan) that wasn't supposed to be here at all, but brought big eminently factual gusts of wind and torrents of rain, and in the dawn made arrows of the morning air, then rained and winded unpredictably all day long. Now it's late the next night and the big bluster is still hanging around. That never happens, two days of a typhoon, even a slow one like this wind turtle, but especially of a typhoon that isn't even supposed to be here, that no one was expecting really, it went straight over Okinawa and we thought that was it, it would head north a few hundred km off the east coast, give us some nice clouds and glowing sunsets, maybe, but instead got us all wet and took away our breath, umbrellas, hats, bicycle covers, poured on us all the way to the excellent Irish music concert by friends we went to see in Gulliver Hall, part of Gulliver Village up there in the small mountain town up North that has a special relationship with Ireland, Irish shops, Irish pubs, huge pair of Gulliver's glasses, shoes and other personal belongings of the great man. Clearly a lot of Swift fans up there. Surprise to see such a thing in such a place. Kaya loved it too, with its giant sliding boards and telescope tunnels, even in the dawdling typhoon.

Saturday, September 20, 2003


All this talk about "virtual" reality is increasingly unsettling, assuming as it does that what we call reality is not virtual. Reality has always been what the goggle-and-glove people call virtual, but with eyes and hands instead of goggles and gloves. When you enter your house or ski down a snowy slope or drive a golf ball down the fairway or do any of the thousands of other things you do every day, do you really think you're actually entering your house or skiing down a snowy slope or driving a golf ball or doing any of the thousand things you think you do every day? Hasn't anyone told you? All that is only a sensorial simulation! So why, in another virtual reality experience, should you want to walk through a "virtual" room as though you're walking through an "actual" room, and "virtually" pick "virtual" things up as though you're "actually" picking "actual" things up? Where is the amazement in this? Is there a dearth of amazement around here somewhere? From what we call reality, go one level down, or out, depending on the angle you're at, into the full spectrum of waves and the full width and depth of time, and ZOW, the actual actual is a plasma you're dealing with at the electromagnetic level where nothing is actually happening, per se, anyway, it's just a hyperdimensionometric continuity soup containing everything. What could be the point of taking it one step backward, going negative exponential to construct something that enables you to feel as though you're feeling as though? What's the charge in being at two removes, for heaven's sake? Speaking of which, heaven is one of the earliest virtual concepts; folks have historically gone to unbelievable lengths to get there, even though it's only negative virtual. Most of those folks have gone beyond the here and now, virtually speaking, which is where the modern version of virtual reality is leading us apace: further away from life itself, the truest and most wondrous illusion of all, so far.

Friday, September 19, 2003



With thanks to Andrew Willet for the helpfully detailed comment to my hasty post of a couple of days ago regarding the Bizarre Creationist Website, which Andrew and many others believe/think/hope is a parody/hoax: after surfing the trail Andrew so kindly provided I went back to the site with parody eyes in place, studied the site in detail and encountered the same blinkered avidity that I don't think can be truly imitated without actually stewing your brain cells in credoplasm.

I concluded, as before, that it is not a parody. But then I thought, if Andrew's hopes are not misplaced, and it is a parody, it has a very tough row to hoe; it can't be too real, it has to be 'fun' somewhere, it has to have a navel to actuality, a relief valve for genuine laughter; and how could one sustain a parody of this magnitude (the parodist's glee is the soul of the parody) without putting in a couple of guffaws, sort of self-pats on the back?

Looking through those eyes, I encountered things like: "If you ever need your taxes filed, come see Tim. He gives a 5% discount for all Christians and 10% discount for non-Christians willing to convert on the spot." Could that not be parody? Isn't that a navel to actuality?

And: "Jack also enjoys vexillology and can signal Bible passages from memory in fluent semaphore." Surely this is big tongue in big cheek.

And: "Though most of the Pastor's [Latino] flock are too poor to own computers, they are still a valuable asset for raising the awareness of more affluent Christians." I hear John Belushi saying this on Saturday night.

And: "She is also the regional head of the League of Women Boycotters, and was personally responsible for the removal of cursing Sesame Street dolls from toy stores nationwide in 1998." Rosanna Rosannadanna?

And: "His parents - being Jewish - were hesitant to accept his new found faith, but they do consider it better that Kyle is now following Jesus instead of Marilyn Manson." Woody Allen's rebel offspring?

So I concluded that it is a parody, by someone who used to be credoplasmed but has somehow since returned to the Big Actual Show, fully aware now that creationism parodies itself better than any neverbeliever ever could.

But then I checked the domains, followed the leads, clicked on the ads, chased the links, and it's all too big and diverse and involves too many parties/personas, all in on one big secret, for it to be a parody. So I concluded that it isn't a parody.

But I BELIEVE, and I believe it's a parody. There is no Fellowship University. Nor is there a League of Women Boycotters. But then again, as anyone in the Big Actual Show can see by now, belief can be a funny thing: at the bottom of the site's main page there's a link to Johnny the Baptist (com net org domains registered to Johnny Campbell, TN), an older Blues Brother who looks genuinely like a parody, but his email is @baptisthost.com, "webhosting for bible believers," and all the blatherfroth there echoes Johnny and the Creationists, so I guess I believe it's really not the parody that it's trying not to appear to be. It's all in the Bible somewhere, more or less; that should be proof enough, if triclavianism doesn't do it for you.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


snowy egret
flies off in horror--
my cool new shades

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


On Sunday I took Kaya a few kilometers north up the road to the nice little town of Kitakomatsu (one of the places we first considered building our house), site of Genkimura, the optimal free public playground in the forests up on the mountainside. There they have telescopes, binoculars, workshops, planetarium, observatory, a huge round trampoline, the longest rollersliding board I know of curling down the mountain, pulley rides, rope walks, lots of wooden play gyms, long grassy hills to roll down, tunnels of logs, climbing walls, climbing pyramids of cable rope, campsites, picnic sites, white water mountain stream with waterfalls, and on weekends lots of kids, and lots of parents more or less being kids.

I taught Kaya how to pick the best hill and then roll down it so as to achieve maximum spin, tumble, disorientation and general floposis. She caught on right away (though as yet unproven by science, floposis is likely genetic), went to higher and higher starting points, soon surpassing even a hillrolling veteran like myself who,though marginally less flexible than formerly, does not mess around when things get serious.

Then we went down the long rollerslide, she ahead; I, being heavier, had to brake myself to keep from scooping her up with my feet too often, which was fun, but being uncontrollable could get complicated, so I kept braking and drifting to the left as she threw her flipflops over the side because they slowed her down. Formidable grasp of physics, for such a new person.

I forgot I had the car keys in my hip pocket till they began to feel like an asteroid entering earth's atmosphere; then when we got back to the car for lunch the car key was missing from the ring (I pictured scouring the mountainside for the key, as in an old myth), but it had only been wrenched off the ring into the pocket by the force that ever pertains between an ass and a hard place.

Generally I followed Kaya for the afternoon, carrying her hat and sandals and other detritus-paraphernalia as she went where she wanted, visited the bronze gorilla, sat on the red mushroom seats, did some serious climbing and tumbling and all the other things 2 year-olds must do to fulfill child-time requirements. For a few hours, no adult agendas were allowed. Fascinating to be a true part of it and thus reinhabit my own two-year-oldness, which I was surprised to find was still there and fully accessible. Nice to know that in a very real way we stay two years old all our lives, and can go there again and play.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003



"2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"
Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker."

Who says the dinosaurs were wiped out? This is proof they're still alive!! This is one creepy site!!!



Monday, September 15, 2003



Tragedy struck the Lake late this afternoon when the wind picked up and around 6:30 pm apparently overturned a yacht with 12 people on it, about half of them children. It gets dark at about that time; one of the adults managed to swim to shore and alert authorities, who began searching with search boats and helicopters, but so far they've only found one other adult and one child, who was found far north of the accident site, even though the strong winds (now ceased) were blowing north-south. The Lake as we can see from here is bright with search boats and helicopters and the sky is red with news helicopters and a red moon rising. Hopefully everyone who was on the boats had life vests on; the water is still warm enough to allow long survival, but it seems that the helicopters are one by one giving up the search, leaving the boats cruising back and forth... an ambulance is just heading north, maybe they've found someone...

Later news: they've found 5 alive so far...

Next day: This morning the Lake was unusually calm and glassy, the search boats still searching and the helicopters back at work too; a clear and somber morning... Apparently the 6.4-meter sailing yacht, only certified to carry 8 people, was overturned at about 5 pm in the strongly gusting winds of yesterday afternoon and sank 2 km from shore; the youngest on board was 2 years old... The air got quite cold last night... Everyone on the lakeside train platform this morning was looking out at the Lake, instead of for the train...

Today is Keirou no Hi, or Respect-for-the-Aged Day in Japan, so rather than interrupt my intense physical and mental activity to celebrate my categorical decrepitude, I thought I'd just post this again from the archives.


All this folderol about youth being the peak and elderhood being the pits, I mean even Yeats ("But oh that I were young again...."; "a tattered coat upon a stick..."), that dissimulating fogy; he wrote his best stuff when he was nearing 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?

Sunday, September 14, 2003



The following is an excerpt from Congressman Ron Paul's Address to the U.S. House of Representatives on September 5, 2003.

"Liberty is virtually impossible to protect when the people allow their government to print money at will. Inevitably, the left will demand more economic interventionism, the right more militarism and empire building. Both sides, either inadvertently or deliberately, will foster corporatism. Those whose greatest interest is in liberty and self-reliance are lost in the shuffle. Though left and right have different goals and serve different special-interest groups, they are only too willing to compromise and support each other's programs.

If unchecked, the economic and political chaos that comes from currency destruction inevitably leads to tyranny-- a consequence of which the Founders were well aware. For 90 years we have lived with a central bank, with the last 32 years absent of any restraint on money creation. The longer the process lasts, the faster the printing presses have to run in an effort to maintain stability. They are currently running at record rate. It was predictable and is understandable that our national debt is now expanding at a record rate.

The panicky effort of the Fed to stimulate economic growth does produce what it considers favorable economic reports, recently citing second quarter growth this year at 3.1%. But in the footnotes, we find that military spending--almost all of which is overseas-- was up an astounding 46%. This, of course, represents deficit spending financed by the Federal Reserve's printing press. In the same quarter, after-tax corporate profits fell 3.4%. This is hardly a reassuring report on the health of our economy and merely reflects the bankruptcy of current economic policy.

Real economic growth won't return until confidence in the entire system is restored. And that is impossible as long as it depends on the politicians not spending too much money and the Federal Reserve limiting its propensity to inflate our way to prosperity. Only sound money and limited government can do that."

Saturday, September 13, 2003



Trimming arm-thick branches away from the roof with a hand saw up in a hinoki tree some 15 meters above the ground in a high wind is a lot like teaching English. You can't relax completely, even for a second. When I came down after monkeying and holding on for dear life for over an hour with legs, arms, hands, fingernails, back, feet, toes, teeth, hair, eyelashes, whatever I could muster to the cause while leaning far out and cutting for dear life, I could barely lift my cup of tea, let alone the pinky of refinement.

Friday, September 12, 2003



bringing relief to motorists, says the US headline. That's a lot of relief. Here in Japan gasoline is considered cheap at 92 yen per liter, which works out to about $3.00 a gallon, a great spur for the development of more energy-efficient vehicles in which to join traffic jams.


Yesterday Kaya and I went on an afternoon trip to the Lake Biwa Museum, a superb place filled with great and conscientious stuff for all ages. As a two-year-old, Kaya was intimidated by the walk-through ancient Japanese elephant diorama, and quailed at sight of the giant mammoth skeleton, with the loudspeakers replaying screeching mammoth field tapes recorded 300,000 years ago, but in the old farmhouse diorama she was fascinated at being unable to take the laundry out of the solid soapy-waterlike resin in the wash tub. Newness has its own rewards.

In the big map room we both got down on our hands and knees on the floor, Kaya mainly to find out why I was suddenly on my hands and knees: because the floor of that room is a detailed large-scale satellite photo map of Shiga Prefecture, and I could probably have found my house by Kaya's foot on the green mountainside above the big blue lake, if only I'd brought my glasses.

Kaya then had the best time of all in the Discovery Room, playing spontaneous rhythms on various folk instruments, getting her fill of frog puppetry and consolidating a wooden train empire before the final big adventure of the day, when she suddenly had to go to the bathroom, a new and recently required ability, and one that I had not foreseen. It has been decades since I had to foresee such things, and I'd forgotten how. It's not like riding a bicycle.

I didn't want to take her into the men's room to watch all the elderly men (coincidentally it was senior visitors day), and couldn't take her into the ladies room among all the elderly women since I was one of the elderly men, so I did the next best thing. Figuring Kaya must know what to do by now, I just sent her into the ladies room alone and waited outside, peeping in now and then anxiously for any signs of difficulty or untoward surprise, until some of the ladies walking by began to eye me suspiciously and seek another ladies room.

So I loitered nonchalantly over by the men's room, who cares what the men might think, and listened for sounds of struggle or unduly splashing water until a surprisingly dry Kaya at last came running out of the ladies room saying "I can't!! I can't!!" I asked: "Kaya, where are your shoes?" She was barefoot. I sent her back to get her shoes, didn't ask why she had taken them off. Even in museums, some things are better left unknown.

We found a convenient natural facility in the greenery outside and then went to the museum shop, where Kaya scattered a few colorful trinkets on the floor before falling in love with a soft-tusked wooly mammoth doll. Ten minutes later she was sound asleep in the car with a mammoth in her arms. A full afternoon, and we never even made it to the aquarium! Good, we have to go again.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


I have for some time now had an essay on the back burner, so to speak, regarding this very subject, working title Democracy and Flatulence, but I refer you to this posting by vincentvds of Achikochi, specifically to do with the surprising Japanese freedom of silent release on crowded trains (correlation of the snore factor with the olfactory factor indicates that it's probably because so many of them are asleep). That posting prompted me to recall an old and understandably anonymous senryu that perhaps offers additional insight:

letting rip a good one--
no one laughs
when you live alone

Wednesday, September 10, 2003



As I drove slowly up the mountain road last night with the car windows open to the late summer air, screaming harmoniously to BORN IN THE USA over and over, the towering crystal chords and pounding drums of Bruce's jewel blasting top-cranked out of the speakers into the always receptive mountain night as Bruce and I rose through lower darkness toward the greater dark of the looming mountains, I suddenly re-realized, as I screamed out BORN IN THE USA one more time with such feeling, that yes indeed, I had been: BORN IN THE USA.

"Born down in a dead man's town..." And yes, Bruce's mood in that throat-clenching anthem to the Vietnam era put me so much in mind of my own mood when I'd left the States way back then, gave it all up, left it all behind, went open-eyed off into the world to do something other than what all my friends and acquaintances, colleagues and fellow alumni were doing: becoming parents, lawyers, junkies, brokers, bureaucrats, diplomats, soldiers, movie moguls, theater directors, artists... and here I was dropping it all like an old uniform, dropping it cold and going off into the whole world forever, wearing my own clothes.

Back then when I'd been only physically young, living like a Roman candle, with time itself often too confining, I'd left not just for the wander-yearning I was feeling, but for my growing unease at the tightening strictures of America, with the war ongoing and crooks in office and violence growing day by day in a pushy atmosphere and often venomous reactions to simply different strokes... "Till you spend half your life just a-coverin' up, now..."

"Down in the shadow of the penitentiary... out by the gas fires of the refinery..."

BORN IN THE USA: and so off I went, no turning back, to see what and where and when else there was in the world, "They're still there, he's all gone..." to find perhaps one day a treasure I hoped existed. To my years-later amazement, it turned out that I was the only one of my crowd who did leave the homeland.

As a result of that rash and necessarily baseless decision I had seen and lived and felt the other side of many of the things Bruce and I were screaming about right now as we rose along a Japanese mountain named after a Buddhist paradise, on a road metaphoring life and its up-ahead paradises that are in fact here and now as we turn and turn through what appears to be darkness, upward toward the light. And now I was going home.

But home wasn't in the USA: it was here, on the other side of the world. "I'm a long-gone daddy in the USA, now..." As a result of my travels I've had the treasure of many homes and families, all over this one great home we've all got to learn to share, no matter where we were born.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003



The rice fields up here on Pure Land Mountain are now reaching their epitome of goldness, as the dull brown stubbly ranks of shaven fields draw ever closer up the mountainside. Here the fields in the afternoon sun are still the color of treasure, the rice heads spilling over like handfuls of tiny gold coins gleaming in the sun. Above that luxurious treasurehouse, at least the one across the road from us, the shimmering blue-gold air is filled with clouds of dragonflies, who apparently find this field, and the warm hazy sundriven updrafts from its goldness, the ideal place to congregate on glassine wings for a late summer afternoon drift and glide and random buzz, carry on the kind of airy zipzip conversation dragonflies simply live for.


If, as a thinking person, you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief many times daily, you are not alone.

Sunday, September 07, 2003



It's been a weird few days. For a while I, or rather Pure Land Mountain, was without a template altogether, then I got it back, then it was broken off in the middle as it is now but I'll post this anyway, maybe you can read it in someday, all as I was trying to rectify my RSS feed and do some other long awaited tweaking, that's when it always happens, it made for an interesting series of days, reminded me of the time I pulled that 50-meter coil of rope out of the toolshed, that over the two years intervening had somehow spontaneously generated on each meter at least triplicates of every knot in the universe and a few parallel ones never seen on this side of reality before, with a mathematical synergy on the order of 50 to the 50th power. It was enough to make a topologist weep with joy. As I weep with well maybe not joy upon beholding my broken template. But since I'm here (and to what effect I could ask), I might as well relate the anecdote of the combini (convenience store) this afternoon, where I was sitting in the car parked by the door passionately enjoying if you must know a HaaaaagenDazzzzsss maple nut ice cream wafer sandwich thingy, highly recommended, as Kaya slept from the exhaustion of our afternoon swimming in the Lake, gorgeous day, and up pulled about eight big fat Harleyish bikes carrying hardboiled Japanese bikers and their hardboiled biker gals with shades on and bugs in their teeth, the guys and gals wearing earrings and bandannas and jeans and belts and boots and whatnots, and the guys had these really nice-looking very top quality leather vests on, must be many man (hundreds of bucks) apiece, and one by one they passed through the swinging doors of the combini, and on the back of those great-looking vests, inside a large silver painted/stitched diamond shape for emphasis was spelled out, in large, garish letters, the word "Sausage." Through the door swaggered "Sausage." "Sausage." "Sausage." "Sausage." You tell me. East may be East, and West may be West, but Sausage is definitely Sausage.

in mountain shadow
egret wings
white, white

Saturday, September 06, 2003


Out there on the Lake, directly west across from us at the edge of evening lies Okijima, the Lake's largest island. Okijima is known locally as The Sleeping Buddha for its very close resemblance to the stretched out form of the Sleeping Buddha when viewed, for example, from our deck. There's Buddha's head to the right, then the neck, shoulder, waist, elbow, hip-- then the gown, tapering off into the lakebed.

There's a small village on the island, that bands the Buddha's neck and turns into a diamond necklace at night; there's another bright light just about where Buddha's third eye would be: a dock light that stays on well into the night in summer, to direct those still on the water in the dark when most of the necklace has gone out. People go to sleep early on the Sleeping Buddha. There's another notable light at Buddha's navel that is sometimes on all night. I like to think it's a temple, and not some forgetful person's garage light.

On clear Summer and Autumn evenings I sit and watch the sapphire phases of the Lake as the setting sun's light slides out across the water on the edge of the mountain shadow reaching toward the always sleeping figure, when the island seems to glow all the more as the darkness darkens around it until for the last few moments of the day, as the only bright object on the darkling horizon the island takes on a deep emerald light of its own; backed by the pearl gray vistas of the further and further mountains it glows with such eminence, almost from within, it's no wonder that so many centuries of lakeside eyes have seen there the radiant Buddha, deep in dreams of what we know as time.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


I've learned a lot of things from stones, both from building with them and from butting my head against their walls, the latter when I was mostly younger and stone walls were largely metaphorical. The main thing I've learned is that the process of building with stone is the process of the Socratic dialog, with me as student and the stones as Socrates. Stones do Socratics like they do granite; they have infinite patience, impeccable honesty, are untroubled by pride, and they know their stuff right down to the ground. You can trust a stone completely; a stone will never lie to you. So if you listen right, and don't mind a few of the pinched fingers and bruised toes that are the price of stone knowledge, the stones will show you in true Socratic fashion that you already know how to build a stone wall.

You seek to build it one way, and in learning you can't do it that way (the rocks will not stand for it, they have their scruples, after all; rocks aren't constrained by logic; they understand a much greater fundamental than we humans do), you learn some small thing that only rocks can teach: a kind of stony grammar, a petrosyntax. You focus on that and build... no, that won't do either; that's not the whole of the thing, only a portion. Rocks know it can't all be learned at once, and wisely don't crowd you with knowledge. But with that part you go on, and try again, and fail again. But when after a week away you come back to the task, you find you've learned another little bit, it too is now part of you, part of what you know about stones and stone walls, part of what the stones in their limitless patience embody. With that you go on again, begin to build, and fail, and learn another thing, and so it goes on, as bit-by-bit what you learn rises up like a stone wall. And when that learning wall is at last all learned, it will be but a slight step to build the wall itself.

If you want a wall that is a stone poem in stone syntax, you have to learn the bit-by-bit stones teach until at last you have a stone wall, not a book wall, not a you wall. The finest mortar for a stone wall, therefore, is patience in the builder, blended with integrity. No integrity in the builder, no integrity in the wall.

But the bigger lesson comes later, when the wall is standing at last and you go out into the world alight with the knowledge that this dialectic pertains to EVERYTHING you do: that any worthy activity is a dialog, that wisdom is a living thing, not frozen in time, not a doctrine or a dogma, not a monument, not a library, not a printed book, and that you are filled with wisdom, ready and waiting to be known to you.

What does living wisdom tell us? Among other things, that the solution is where the problem is: in ourselves. Loss of beauty, living beauty, within and without our lives, is the sign, the lesson, the marker, the measure, of our deviation from living wisdom. Lack of affinity with living wisdom lies at the heart of our problems, and if we continue this way we are ended: the real thing won't stand for it. Existence must be a dialog with the moment, as the living, thinking person is taught by any art, any worthy endeavor. You are instructed and guided by the very task, by the very ongoing. You are taught the true way most truly only by traveling it, not just by standing still and listening to others tell you about it, or by merely looking at an old map others have made. The way is vast, greater far than we, and it will prevail, no matter how we treat it or perceive it. We either go as it goes or the walls we have built will collapse upon us.

And as there is living wisdom, so there is dead wisdom. Dead wisdom obviates dialog by saying: "Do it this way because we have always done it this way." Dead wisdom says: "We know best." Dead wisdom souls a dead society, whose walls will not stand. Living wisdom, in contrast, like all ongoing, is endlessly learned, always and ever new. Living wisdom is green: the green of the grass, the green of the leaf, the green of that living layer beneath the bark of a tree. It is the green of youth and hope, of knowledge about to be known.

The legend of Narcissus is generally believed to refer merely to an individual's obsession with his own physical beauty-- a very convenient interpretation, given humanity's subsequent and ongoing history-- but as always, the ancient Greeks were looking much further than that. They weren't talking about mere good looks, which are after all very temporary, very local and clearly worthy in themselves. Rather, the Greeks were metaphoring the true and early recognized danger: humankind's tendency to become obsessed with itself and its reflection: its achievements, its power, progress, wealth, wisdom, nation, army, its many 'true' religions, its governments, mass production, art, technology, science; all in danger of divorce from balanced dialog with the world at large, an attitude aboriginal humans would classify as irresponsible, insane even, given its relation to reality. "What hubris!" Socrates would say; what narcissism!!

[My Ramble from the previous (Just Deeds) double issue of the Kyoto Journal]


from Apocalypse This Way Comes

"Our government today has become the most lethal criminal agency in the country. Criminality is defined as the violation of individual rights, and there is no entity in America today more destructive of basic rights than the Federal Government in Washington. It matters not whether it's Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield, or Clinton-Rubin-Talbot running the show. They're all Orwellian brothers of the New World Order.

They have decided to colonize Iraq through PREEMPTIVE WAR in order to promote what they call "benevolent global hegemony" which sadly the American sheep are prone to accepting as a legitimate goal of a nation's foreign policy.

"What is monumentally important about all this and completely ignored by the mainstream press," writes Richard Maybury, "is that the invasion of Iraq was the test case, a precedent. By attacking a country that had not attacked us, the [Bush administration] violated international agreements going all the way back to the 1555 Peace of Augsburg and the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. They got away with it, so they now intend to reconstruct the whole Mideast...in their own image and likeness, and not one American in a thousand understands enough about it to object." [Early Warning Report, July 2003]"

Entire editorial here.


The summer issue of Kyoto Journal is now out.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003



Down on the flatlands they're already beginning to harvest the rice! Slower than the sun moves, slower than the moon turns, the rice has been steadily turning from imperial jade toward a deeper gold as it ripens into the ancient riches, the refulgent golden riceheads in many places toppling the stalks in their heaviness, inviting the wild pigs to luscious banquets under starry skies.

Farmers stand by their fields in the dawn, thinking, thinking... And now down on the lakeshore amidst the rich gold fullness are the first bareshaven rectangular stretches of stubble, sure sign that an entire summer has passed. The riceheads up here on the mountain though are as usual a few days behind, still a bit green at the edges.

The Japanese have always taken great pride in being able to grow all the rice they need, but apart from this neighborhood, one of Japan's oldest rice-growing regions, it's been a bad year for rice throughout Japan because of the continued cool and rainy weather I've griped about at such length in these humble chronicles. The harvest is expected to be the worst in many years, necessitating considerable importation of foreign rice (GASP!!) for the Japanese table: foreign rice, that cooks differently, doesn't smell or taste or feel like homegrown Japanese rice, or act like homegrown Japanese rice, doesn't clump together nicely on the hashi (chopsticks)-- in short, it is simply not Japanese.

No one abroad truly understands the Japanese rice consumer. To everyone else, rice is just rice, for godsake. To the anciently subtle discernment of the Japanese, though, Japanese rice is about equal in importance to air. Japan is in for some big atmospheric adjustments this year.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


It's not exactly a vacuum, there's a fairly steady sheen of insect song that threads and laces the otherwise silent air like an infinitely voiced chorus. No longer competing with that, however, is the syncopated wailing of the twins, an astonishing phenomenon I'd never heard before, having never been protractedly around infant twins before; but Mitsuki and Miasa can really get a thing going with their wall-piercing wails, working together quite synergistically as though it's built in, as though they can sense the approaching syncopation, then they go for it, and as they max out in sync, riding it like hanging ten on a sound wave, an amazing thing happens: they take on the resonance of a flock of ducks hovering low over a herd of irritated cats for as long as they can hold it, then the caterwaul just fades with the syncopation, but it'll be back any minute and the twins seem to know it, will no doubt use it to their advantage as they grow in intelligence and interspiritual cunning. But right now you never heard such silence in your life. Kasumi left yesterday afternoon to live in the house across the Lake and try to get into the groove of handling three kids as the one-woman band every multiple mother is. Thus Kaya is gone with all her cute and endless questions, the twins now three weeks old are gone also, taking their syncopated medley with them. As a result, you never heard such a deafening absence of sound as there is around here. It would fill an empty heart easily, and overflow into the surrounding countryside.

Monday, September 01, 2003



Well the results of the Mayoral Recall are in, and the turnout was a remarkable 72% of eligible voters (usually, voter turnout in Japan is shockingly low, either causing or resulting from Japan's not really being a democracy). The ballot (as a long-term, tax-paying resident I couldn't vote, but I could see and hear) had all the logic of the ones that got Dubya elected in Florida. On one side it said "FOR," with an empty box below it in which the voter had to CORRECTLY hand-write the Mayor's name. On the other side, above another box it said "AGAINST." But the "FOR" didn't mean "for the Mayor," as the arrangement implied; it meant "for recall," which it didn't say; and AGAINST didn't mean against the mayor; it meant "against recall." Despite that confusion, and despite disqualification of any ballot with the Mayor's name written incorrectly, the vote was 6979 for recall and 5180 against. The Mayor has been recalled. Now he has to decide whether he will dissolve the City Council and call for new elections all around, or resign and run (or not) in a new mayoral election. Though 57.4% of the voters of Shiga Township voted to recall the Mayor, the Prefectural Governor immediately made a statement to the effect that even if the Mayor is ultimately voted out of office, that will not change the status of the incinerator plan (the reason the Mayor was recalled). Thus, as the battle enters a larger arena it appears more likely that Japan is not a democracy. I think a lot of political lowbrows all around the world got a new lease on life when they saw how even somebody like Dubya (who just got back from another month's vacation on his ranch) could get crowbarred into office.


"America's deficit is now financed mainly by foreign governments not by investors. The major purchasing influences that are now financing the US are the Asian/Islamic governments who remain the largest consumers of US Federal debt instruments. Yes, Japan holds the record as the largest single owner with 14% of the US Federal Debt.

But Asian/Islamic interests have recently become huge buyers too. That being the case, the supply of funds to finance this budget deficit could be shifted by the changing seas of politics.

There is a new and extremely disturbing change occurring right under our noses. The financial condition of Americans themselves has now shifted to a point of equilibrium whereby national savings are turning net negative.

So with the US Current Account Deficit growing in an uncontrolled manner, one could easily conclude that this country is now relying on Asian/Islamic governments rather than foreign investors or their fellow Americans to finance US consumer purchases and the US budget deficit.

This is a position of weakness never before experienced in American history since the industrial revolution. Add to these unique factors, the proposition that any drop in the value of homes will put the US consumer under water with respect to their home equity financings and presto: "Houston, we have a problem!"

In plain English, the US has become a beggar nation and the Asian/Islamic governments our only hope for an economic revival. Do you see anything wrong with that picture?"

[For the rest of this insightful essay, go here.]