Friday, October 31, 2003



Funny how going to work in an office on beautiful days didn't used to bother me so much when I was younger and differently vigorous, working full time (for the few years I worked full time), but now that I've redirected and go to the office only three days a week, the continual series of four-day weekends I've at last lived up to has made me much more aware than month-long vacations ever did of how much I am giving up by closing myself in behind these well-constructed office doors. There's no "sense-of-growing-old" component to this feeling that I can discern, nor any "shortening future" overtones that are rumored to come with seniority (I don't feel that in any aspect of my life); rather, it's as though I've suddenly been granted heightened awareness of the true value of days like the one outside the tinted window, I'm being shown something that it's time for me to see...

Thursday, October 30, 2003



Very interesting perspectives on manufactured vs. handcrafted:
"With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, one of the qualities that allegedly makes a craft item superior became its demonstrable inferiority."

and transgenic vs. organic:
"Having failed to prove that "organic" produce was superior in any other way, its proponents have now turned to the argument that its superiority results from its being less well protected from competitors, which means that it is being produced in an agronomically inferior way."

and the shared origin of these distinctions, here at Butterflies and Wheels.


Now that Japan's Democratic party has gone to England and come back with its own political 'manifesto' (big to-do here over what that actually means as taken straight into Japanese), it looks like the white gloves might come off as the other parties board the bandwagon and hastily come up with their own manifestos, changing at least the mask of Japanese politics by requiring their own politicians henceforth to be "specific" about their electoral pledges; perhaps they'll even have to be "bound" by them. As fat a chance here as anywhere, I guess. Much more pleasing is the possibility that it might render warblers unnecessary, that perhaps the loudpeaker vans won't have to wander the neighborhoods anymore, being deafeningly non-specific. Dream on, Robert. This is politics you're talking about. The manifestos may change, but the astute eye will note that that's only paper they're written on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003



"Too much TV may impair kids' reading skills," says an exhaustive and expensive study, like no shit, Sherlock. Note the "may." They're still not sure they should commit themselves to a conclusion that could perhaps turn out to possibly be statistically imprecise, potentially resulting in termination of grants. These kids are our tomorrow. More than just reading skills are impaired, you can count on it. Mental skills, emotive skills, physical skills, social skills, physical growth, will power, family integrity, the list is longer than the tv guide. More not-so-astonishing revelations here.


Ginger, Tea May Fight Cancer, Studies Show

[Story after dumb popup]


There are we than other all shops aiming at the one step point. As for us, hair of ladies and gentleman will want to make up with technology power and a bright smile of high level yielding to anywhere. Please come to a salon of right or wrong one time of us. I look forward to it than staff all members feeling.

---Advertising postcard from a hair salon some distance up the road. The title is their slogan. Entirely sic.


Here's how much Social Security will pay you... And if you've still got a way to go before retirement, you'd better read this...

With many thanks to the highly recommended Gary North.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003



Scanning Google news now and then, my eye kept getting caught by the hooky headlines for some documentaries about rich kids (a concern right up there at the top for most of us) that for some reason seemed to be getting a lot of prominent mention so I finally clicked on a couple of the 246 possible stories and went to see, mainly because I couldn't believe that kids who never had to practically eat their own food would have any tips for the rest of us folks who actually LIVE our lives from birth, and it turned out I was right. If you seek the nadir of vapidity, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2003


Spent this afternoon quartering and stacking bucked locust and cherry wood from an up-mountain neighbor with too much unthinned forest on his land (locust, a very clean very white light wood, burns hot and fast and is great for burning in a wood stove before and after regular fires to clean the stovepipe; a lot of such useful info at Woodheat).

Just before dusk when I'd finished the last of the cherry wood (great fundamental cherryish fragrance), full of the pleasure a high stack of great-sounding red and white wood affords, I meandered across the road to where one farmer had trimmed his paddy slope to the smoothness of a golf green, and I laid there on one elbow looking at the Lake and mountains and the sky as the evening mountain air mixed with the setting sun poured down over me with a coolness just barely this side of water. What a pleasure.

The forest all along the mountain curve was spotted with dots of red, yellow, purple and gold, trees just beginning to turn with the season. Further off, two crows flew north, straight toward the pot of gold, disappearing right at the point where now turns into then.



I was in intelligence in the US Air Force back in the days leading up to the Vietnam war, so I know a fair bit about the "Code," the tight-knit spirit of the US intelligence community. In this regard I've been reading up on and thinking about the Valerie Plame affair and what it means, and I've come to the conclusion that it spells big trouble all around for the internal workings of the US, both domestically and internationally, and will bring down the Bush administration, starting right about now.

Think about it. Historically, clandestine operatives have only been ousted by enemy governments and their agents. When a clandestine operative is outed, his/her family, assets, worldwide contacts, contacts of contacts to several levels (both innocent and otherwise), cover companies, entire intelligence trail are at incalculable risk. Permanently.

Valerie Plame is the first US clandestine intelligence agent to have been betrayed by her own government. That is, by the administration currently heading the executive branch of the United States government, which violated the Code for political gain. This to the intelligence community is starkly and utterly unforgivable.

And no entity is collectively less forgiving, or more permanently in power, than the intelligence community, whose members KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE in an administration that has coldly and selfishly betrayed one of their own. Looks like Rumsfeld will be the first to go. Expect major and unrelenting revelations and crucial obstacles to Bush political and economic pathways at home and abroad in the coming year, as US intelligence secretly does whatever is necessary to get rid of what they see as the entire traitorous crowd.

Sunday, October 26, 2003



Of course you should never give it away in the first place, but if you have,

"TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is a nationwide initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment."

Be aware, however, that the people of the third world are going to be giving away their time for the next few decades, till they too realize that what they've given away is worth far more than what they've gotten in exchange...

Friday, October 24, 2003

Thursday, October 23, 2003


Cutting and stacking firewood the past few days, I'd take a break every once in a while to harvest air potatoes (mukago), now in season. They are impossible to pass by once you notice them, particularly against a deep blue sky in the calm of evening's fall, hanging golden and purplish on their curling strings threading the air between the stalks of wild bamboo, into which I plunged here and there, plucking the little bead-of-silver globes, that weighed down my pockets more and more.

One enters a sacred air of serenity when accepting nature's proffered gifts, hung out over the road in places as if saying "Won't you have some? Please help yourself! Enjoy!" Les pommes de aire have always been harvested by mountain monks and used in shojin ryori, my favorite type of cooking. If I had to choose only one kind of diet to eat for the rest of my life, I would choose shojin ryori, each meal of which comprises a series of small and exquisitely, imaginatively and artistically prepared servings of simple seasonal foods, many of them harvested in the wild. A series of food-poems. Gustatory linked verse. And healthy too. We had some aire frites for lunch, fried in oil and soy sauce, and I'm only 39 years old now.

Here I am working all Summer and Autumn in my garden to grow my few special vegetables, and all the while the untended earth is growing trees and weeds and flowers and air potatoes too. It would do a great deal for our lives to stand up from the focus of our names and look around, eat now and then at nature's table, and say thank you. So that what is wild can be clearly seen and minded to, given the honor it is due.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003



Was not found in my refrigerator.


Stark words from Jim Sinclair (emphasis mine):

"The U.S. will not divert from its course and the new US Bill of Rights - which due to the Patriot Act having replaced the US Constitution - is really about "survival from terrorism at any cost."

This administration is determined to hold the White House as a citadel against what they see as the "Barbarians at the Door" with every American paying a horrific price.

This administration will do whatever it takes to get re-elected using its main tool, the US Federal Reserve. The US legislature will do whatever is required for this administration to be reelected.

I do not blame any administration because all nations always get the leaders they deserve. Leadership always reflects what the nation is because the nation permits that leader to rule. The cost that is really on the line is the system itself which so many have given their lives for.

Nothing can be done to alter the course of history now. Gold is the answer. This is generational. I am glad I am not a kid. I suffer deeply for my children and their children because the glory of our forefathers will be trashed."

Full editorial here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003



And here's a great take by Steve Gilliard on the administration under which men like General Boykin thrive without reprimand. [Can't link directly to post; scroll down to "Our Damaged Child President."] Chilling. But clarifying.

[Thanks to Ron for the link.]


From the statement of General Boykin:

"I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men, to include nations, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated. Yes I believe that George Bush was placed in the White House by God as well as Bill Clinton and other presidents."

• "As a Christian I believe that there is a spiritual war that is continuous as articulated in the Bible. It is not confined to the war of terrorism."

• "The evidence that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is undeniable. We are a nation of many cultures and religions but the evidence of our foundation is historic."

This guy works in the Pentagon as a deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. To get that job, doesn't one have to live in the real world? And don't workers in the Pentagon have to at least be from this planet? I suppose the standards must have plummeted under the new administration; no one's sure of its provenance either. Nice to know our world is in such hands.

Oh, I see: he's a general in the army of God.

Monday, October 20, 2003



Maybe Toyosato across the Lake can't recall a Mayor all the way out of office, but we over here in Shiga-cho don't fool around. And though as an income tax and property tax payer and long-term non-felon permanent resident and property owner and responsible individual I'm not allowed to vote, I've been active, dammit, and we've ousted that lame excuse for a servant of the people and put a real Mayor-person in his place, who is going to rock the local boat and not bring in any enterenched cronies of the national political scene like Arnold did over in California, you can bet on that. This guy's real. It just got harder for the prefectural and national governments to build an incinerator in the mountainside forests above Lake Biwa, source of drinking water for 20 million people who don't yet seem particularly aware of the toxins that may be coming out of their taps if they don't wake up. Though they're more awake now, since this little recall is national news and hopefully a harbinger of what's to come in Japanese politics at all levels. Even though I can't vote. Did you get that, my faithful readers from the Japanese press?


Today is the third in a string of such unbearably blue days I don't know whether to run outside in the garden and whirl around with my hands in the air, or trot down to the Lake and sit there on the shore meditating on the deep meaning of blue, then whirl around with my hands in the air, or hike up to the mountaintop through forests of turning leaves until I'm utterly up in the bluest blue of the blatantly blue sky, then whirl around with my hands in the air. I love blue confusion.

Sunday, October 19, 2003



No, I'm not going mad at bill-paying time, I just happened to read an article in the US media about how to organize your finances. One of the precepts was to pay your bills as they come in, rather than wait till the end of the month, since that makes it less of an outgo shock, plus it spreads out the work involved in balancing your checkbook.

And then I went Oohh yeeaahh!! Checkbooks!! I remember them!! I remember I used to have a hell of a time balancing my checkbook, way back in the ancient history of my life: what an archaic system that was!! And then I thought: WHAT? Are they still using checkbooks in the US? Isn't that a bit primitive for allegedly the most advanced country in the world, where everything that can be done electronically is done electronically?

Who can explain it? As to that primitive paper-paying way, I haven't used a checkbook in 25 years!! In response to which, I know my checkbook-wielding American friends would say: WHAT? How do you survive in Japan without a checkbook? Do you have to run down to the village square and pay your bills in wads of cash to the headman or something? How horrible!!, in that patronizing way people from allegedly advanced countries have.

Then in that patronizing way expats from said allegedly advanced countries have, I would retort with a little expat-laugh: No, we use nothing so primitive as a checkbook over here in uniquely advanced Japan; it's all done electronically. We simply go once to the bank for each of our creditors and arrange to have the due payment automatically deducted from our account each month. The bill is sent to the bank, and a copy to us, and we never have to make out a check or deal with a creditor. Couldn't be simpler. Never an error, since professional accountants are in charge. Quite an elegant way to deal with a tasteless and often confusing chore, don't you allegedly advanced folks agree? Funny you haven't thought of doing it that way. Electronically, I mean.

Similarly, unlike my account-burdened working friends in America, I have NEVER filled out an income tax form here in Japan; the ENTIRE thing is done by the accountants at whatever company I work for, as it is for all salaried people here. If you as an American were to attempt to commiserate with a Japanese worker over the terrible hassles he or she must have to go through every year in April, when tax time comes around and they have to fill out those stacks of ridiculous tax forms, you would be terribly wrong; they would laugh politely in your face and admit they haven't a clue as to what in the world you are talking about. Income tax forms? What are income tax forms??

Yes, my allegedly advanced western friends, it is true. Each year in April, I and my Japanese friends figuratively twiddle our thumbs with nothing to do at all, taxwise. And no red-eyed hairpulling over check stubs at the end of each month, when 2 plus 2 no longer falls anywhere in the neighborhood of 4. What an advanced country Japan is. Of course in my case, being an American, and America being the rather less advanced country that it is in these regards, I am required each year to fill out my American tax form, to no effect whatsoever. As with all the checkbooks, I guess it's just that undying American penchant for paperwork.


"Thinking is neither coerced nor coercive,"... "It is exploratory, suggestive; it does not prove anything, or finally arrive anywhere. Thus, to say people are 'thoughtful' or 'thought-provoking' suggests that they are open-minded, reflective, challenging - more likely to question than to assert, inclined to listen to many sides, capable of making distinctions that hold differences in play rather than dividing in order to exclude, and desirous of persuading others rather than reducing them to silence by refuting them."

Excerpted from Rethinking Thinking, an excellent overview of actual thinking, as opposed to, say, getting your thoughts en bloc from the media. Which includes a few loud blogs I can think of.

Saturday, October 18, 2003



Today I edited a buncha stuff, repaired a broken stool, moved some books, wrote some haiku, wrote a ramble, packed some still very serviceable jeans for the homeless, cleared the deck for the firewood stacks, prepped the soil some more for winter greens, cut some tabasco and jalapeno to hang in the kitchen, picked the larger shiitake, cut a couple dozen tall straight bamboo stalks for use in the garden, moved several wheelbarrow loads of sectioned barrel staves to the firewood place on the deck, gathered the sawdust into a bucket for use in kindling (what a beautiful old word), picked a pocketful of mukago, watered the ginger, cut the opportunistic saplings out of the kinmokusei hedge, watered the shiitake logs, picked up a bunch of late chestnuts, set some new stones in the walkway, fine-tuned the small stone slab staircase and did not even think for one second about who is president of the US, or which is the dominant political party in Japan. Now that I consider a day well spent.

In the bamboo grove
I feel so


See Arnold in a box; see Arnold hefting aluminum tea pots; see Arnold slurping noodles, touting hyper-caffeine energy drinks, flogging beer, see the depths of Arnold. There's already talk of the Arnold presidency. California, what have you done?

Friday, October 17, 2003



All you intelligence targets out there can sprinkle some of these words in your blog entries, to give the acronyms at NRA and the other intelligence agencies something to do as they monitor you under the aegis of the Patriot Act. Redheads? Stephanie? Nerd? Amazing. DEVGRP.


"And I fully understand a competitive world is one that I think is positive..."

Words straight from the mind said to be in charge of the world's supreme economy, military and nuclear weaponry, on the occasion of his visit to Japan. The vastness of the travesty he represents has yet to become fully manifest.


He had fasted for many days as he wandered the prairie naked, far from his tribe, seeking the vision that would make him a shaman. But he had heard no voice, only the sky-wide sweep of the prairie grasses, shoulder-high, whispering the long word of the wind. Then one evening as he stood on a low hill overlooking a broad plain covered with buffalo as far as the eye could see, he suddenly was able to look further, and envisioned a great chain of hamburger stands, highlighting the shoulders of six-lane expressways through a great, rich city rising higher and higher into the sky where junior executives from renowned universities worked at keyboards in cubicles among the clouds from 9 to 5 above a howling metropolitan area surrounded by vast stockyards linked to key railway connections festooned with wire that led off to other great cities and international airports. He envisioned a Pontiac dealership with many perks, and returned at once to his tribe to share his vision with the elders, who when he told them could not stop laughing; for what could possibly be the value of such mad visions? He was definitely not shaman material, they concluded, and assigned him the task of picking berries with the old women, who tagged him with the nickname he bore till the end of his days.

Thursday, October 16, 2003



If you're one of the burdened millions who has always yearned to know the source of the original version of the mind-altering saying "A man without a woman is like a bicycle without a fish," which I first saw in the men's room of the Med in Berkeley CA in the early seventies, release is just a click away.


"After signing a release form and forking over $55 for 50 rounds, I hunkered down and took aim. With remarkably little effort, I obliterated the hubcap on a rusting car about 100 yards out. Alas, running through the 50-round belt took all of about four seconds. Before I knew it, the gun owner was smiling and shaking my hand. I was happy but wanted more.
This was a common lament. A guy next to me told me how he burned through $550 firing the MG42 last year.

'I just couldn't stop,' he said.

Neither could I. But not before watching 10-year-old Emily fire the Heckler & Koch MP5, the preferred weapon of counterterrorist units the world over. "

Gosh, talk about family fun. Guy's a reporter, seems to have an insecure hunger for power and no idea how sick this is. Full story at Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal, now strangely pandering to the gun crowd.

Pierre Choderlos De Laclos is number 8

If you like literary jokes, here's one. The hundred greatest novels of all time, includes Paul Auster and no Dickens? Pierre Choderlos De Laclos at number 8??? And this guy is from Britain!! What planet? Maybe it's a parody; it's definitely a joke.

[My apologies; presence of Dickens overshadowed by my umbrage. Thanks to bandiera for pointing out my error. RB (Dickens at #16?? Moby Dick at #21?? It's an outrage!!)]

"The fair and balanced folks at Fox, the survey concludes, were 'the news source whose viewers had the most misperceptions.'"

This comes as no surprise to anyone, except perhaps those who get their news from Faux. "We distort, you accede."

Fact-Free News

"It would be prudent to reduce the presence of semicarbazide in baby foods as swiftly as technological progress allows."

Don't you just love the priorities??

Cancer link found in baby food twist-top caps

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


A fantastic idea.


"US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops."

--Who of course have every right to be there, and are justly shocked at being targets of an unfairly resistant local populace. The jazz is a morbid Apocalypse Now touch.

"Informing US troops about the identity of their attackers would be extremely dangerous in Iraqi villages, where most people are related and everyone knows each other. The farmers who lost their fruit trees all belong to the Khazraji tribe and are unlikely to give information about fellow tribesmen if they are, in fact, attacking US troops.

Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: 'It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth.'"

At least they're not using agent orange. They aren't using napalm either; napalm is made with gasoline. They're using a not-napalm made with kerosene. Smells different; leaves good will behind.

[Story here, with thanks to Ron Andrews for the nudge.]

Monday, October 13, 2003



Throughout my life I have generally tried not to irritate the universe and its larger components, though there have been times, particularly in certain boneheaded regions of my youth, when I dared the big U to have at me one-on-one, but ever since my miraculous survival I have generally tried to stay on the good side of what can in effect squash me like a bug with any one of its infinite little fingers.

When you build your house high on a mountainside above a lake, though, with the nearest wind-breaking land formation some hundreds of kilometers away, you're in effect daring the universe to go ahead, see if you can blow me and my stuff off the mountain, just try it, which is not exactly what I had wished to say to anything so big at my age, or planned to seek to prevent when I decided to live here.

Which is what the universe was trying to do, using the much more it had at hand, this afternoon where I had earlier stacked my barrel staves out in the wind tunnel for easy chainsaw access, and foolishly desired to protect them from the elements with tarps held down by rocks and big barrels staves and logs, which items the big typhoon flicked off without even breathing hard.

This irked me. I rashly insisted that the staves remain covered no matter what the damn wind wanted, and for some reason the universe didn't like that. It didn't like that at all. Maybe it was my attitude, but as soon as those tarps blew off I was out there cussing and ready to go like at some bully bothering my kids. No I'm not backing down, no way; go ahead universe, hit me with your best shot. Not a good thing to say to a universe.

It is not commonly known that barrel staves take on new properties in a 120 mph gusting wind, as do rocks and logs, generally so morbidly passive in their addiction to gravity. But when propelled by tarps unfolded into flapping acreage by a sudden mini-typhoon that surprises even the weather man (it was only here for an hour, but what an hour), they take on a new and very ballistic grace, and become very target oriented.

As I held on to one or the other end, and then the one end again, of a tarp unfolding in all directions billowing and bucking like it was full of bulls trying to leap off the mountain while chucking rocks and logs and big oaken barrel staves at this foolish human trying to pin it all to the ground with those very items, I suddenly felt strangely mythological. Using my mythological wiles (not the smarmy ones I learned in school, the other ones), I finally managed to narrowly pull off a sort of quasi-victory.

Or so I thought. But the universe has always had a bigger perspective than even mythological egos can muster. And it does not forget. When I looked out the window later, I saw that the big wind had simply toppled the other woodpile out back and gone away, leaving rain pouring on it. I could swear I heard a distant whispery laughter in the leaves, but it must've been only the last of the wind. Universes can't laugh, can they?


"'Kill Bill' rife with fun, bloodshed" Is that an American entertainment headline or what? "Blood doesn't simply spurt. It erupts in geysers and rains down on dead bodies." Desensitivity training continues apace. Training to what end? The rest of the world wonders.

Sunday, October 12, 2003


orange brush stroke
upon the lake
rising moon

Saturday, October 11, 2003



"Clutter tolerance seems to run a fever cycle, much like the flu. Every so often, the cluttered household will become intolerable, sparking the home manager to brief, massive anti-clutter spasms. Piles will be shifted, boxes will be filled, stuff will be stashed--until the fever breaks. Then the clutter tide flows back in, confusion redoubled because of the flushed and furious attempts to get a grip in a hurry.

Just as clutter arises gradually, over time, so it must be fought gradually and over time. Beating clutter requires building new habits, applying new organizational methods, and creating new household routines. The clutter cure takes time, and can't be short-cut."

Excerpt from Declutter 101 at OrganizedHome

With clutterless thanks to Anita Rowland for the link.


Today I finally got a morning to harvest the several square meters of basil I was beginning to feel nervous about because I've been tenterhooked in the city the past two mornings as we near the time of the first frost, when the dawn air can suddenly take on a sharpness too sharp for what is basically a Mediterranean plant and one morning you go out to your green banners of basil and find a black brown shrivel. But I was on time this morning, maybe even a little early, so I just cut the large tops off (I love the way basil leaves curl so voluptuously in their green sheen, like they just can't contain the delicious beauty they embody), leaving thirds to perhaps grow out in the next few days if I'm frost lucky.

In previous years I've used much of my Genovese basil (I grow mainly Genovese and Spicy Globe) to make pesto (with pine nuts, garlic, walnuts, olive oil, parmeggiano and salt), and it is really prize-winningly deliciously soulfillingly fantastic when made with fresh Genovese basil, but it's so good it's gone in a week.

Last year I decided to try something new: I separately packed the Genovese leaves and Spicy Globe stems/leaves in olive oil. I pack the basil in and then fill the jar with oil. I can then use the basil for some months until it reduces to a kind of sludge that settles to the bottom, when the oil itself becomes darker and exquisitely fragrant with the essence of basil (just imagine that!); I use a small amount of that very flavored oil in salads or to flavor larger volumes of olive oil for cooking.

When I opened one small jar in the back of the cupboard that I'd forgotten about for 8 months or so, the top of the oil was covered with a fine pure-white mold like that on camembert or brie; when I lifted the mold off like a cm-thick white hockey puck, what shimmered beneath was the legendary Nectar of the Bob. The oil is very dark green, yet still clear. Needless to say I don't have much left, so this new batch will cure just in time to fulfill the deep nectarian needs of said Bob.

Friday, October 10, 2003


None of the great philosophers has ever directly addressed the cute; cuteness has never been the subject of virulent debate. Historically, discussions of cuteness have largely been confined to bubble-gum chewers and teen magazines, which fact has by default exposed modern Japanese society to infection by a pathogenic cuteness of such malignance as to put at risk all that is truly beautiful.

This terminal cuteness, even now eating at the vitals of the country, sapping its very lifeblood, is nothing like the vacant western cuteness of anguished clowns painted on velvet, or weeping ragamuffins with stylized cowlicks and eyes as big as dinner plates; it is even more relentless than the corrosively kitschy cuteness that is burying mad collectors in matching salt and pepper shakers; it supersedes the Disney cuteness of sexless animals yearning for their mothers, it is cute with a big C, a big U, a big T, a big E, in bold and throbbing hi-glo pink neon-ribboned letters underlined in red and gold, with heart-shaped fireworks going off behind it and a background medley of the cutest melodies of the decade...

It is The Cute that Has No Name; it is the neocute, the hypercute, the manic cute, the pathocute, the cute beyond belief and without cessation, the cute that knows no limits, it is everywhere and spreading; soon it will be coming for you, it is in this region now; in this very neighborhood, is there no defense, is there no escape as it comes bouncing smarmily up the stairs, oozing through the keyhole, treacling across the floor toward me; it is occupying my body, changing my shoes, my clothes, my hairstyle, my taste, my mind! And I believe: yes! It's happened! Now I'm cute too!




"We have attempted to grow as much of our own food as possible in the city... In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can--and will--overturn the corporate powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world--we change ourselves."

Path to Freedom.

Thursday, October 09, 2003



Hope you don't live and garden near this farm, or plan to eat anything that has corn in it.


Racial hatred being compounded of ignorance and self-loathing, this psychopathic Japanese grammar school teacher is apparently unaware of his anciently Korean-Polynesian ancestry and pathologically hateful of his own person, no doubt for solid reasons. Probably a rabid fan of Tokyo Governor Ishihara.


Thoughtful comments on my previous post got me to recalling the oh-so-many years ago when I lived in Tokyo in a big old rambly western style house in a temple garden (nowadays fergeddit). One of the come-and-go residents (there were many), a French-Algerian named Andre, had picked up an old pachinko machine from one of the peripatetic sellers of used discarded pachinko machines you can still see now and again along the roadside, with the big truck open and the pachinko machines spilling out, a few thousand yen apiece or so.

Andre put the machine in the big sun room and in that house full of visitors there was always someone playing it, day or night. To play it was mesmerizing in what I felt to be a gnawingly unpleasant way, like taking time and just flushing it down the toilet. Which in my youth I did quite often in various ways, but happily never at such length.

Nowadays, every time I pass a newly electronified pachinko parlor I remark the packed parking lot (out in the country) or look in through the windows (in the city) at the shoulder-to shoulder crowds, just to purge that itching sense of profound disbelief that rises every time at the imminent sight of all those people sitting there looking at little steel balls rising and falling in smoky thickness for hours and hours on end (they also have automatic machines, that you can just set, then sit back and watch), even leaving their young children in the car or in the parking lot while they do so (incidents of infants dying in overheated cars or disappearing from pachinko parking lots are numerous enough to comprise a distinct news genre).

Mornings as I'm on my way to the office in Osaka I sometimes pass by a big city pachinko parlor where there's always a crowd of futureless and virtually yenless young men, old men and old women gathered early out back in the garage to get the extra-ball coupons the parlor passes out before opening. The players-to-be then sit on the floor in maze formation, coupons in hand, awaiting the opening of the doors to be first at their favorite machines, looking forward to moments that are, sad to say, hopeful enough for them to call happiness.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003



Oh, how I hate to say this. The touchstone of modern Japanese culture is not the bold samurai spirit of bushido resurrecting in the nine iron; nor is it the exquisitely varied traditional architecture now being re-sided with imaginatively beige tile; nor yet the multiply subtle cooking now degenerating viscously into double cheeseburgers with max fries, pizzas and extra-large cokes. The true touchstone of modern Japanese culture is: (offtone cowbell, please) the pachinko parlor.

The reason I bring up this tasteless subject (apart from just having visited the Miho Museum) is that right up the road from the new, garish and madly popular pachinko parlor with the huge multilevel, always-mobbed parking lot in Katata, where Basho and Hiroshige used to hang out (not at the pachinko place; back then they had better things to do and better reasons to do them), which parlor is not far downroad from another equivalently garish parlor, and so on all the way north or south to Kyoto or the Japan Sea, or along any other well-traveled highway in Japan-- where was I?

Ah yes: right up the road from the old madly popular pachinko parlor, and right down the road from the new madly popular pachinko parlor: on a prime corner location some daring modern-day entrepreneurs have thrown business caution to the winds, boldly tossed conservatism onto the smoldering bonfire of change, and taken the radical step of opening, believe it or not, a pachinko parlor!!

Only this one is garishly multicolored, as opposed to plain old architectural-flash garish and bright-neon-light garish. Garishness is, as you may have concluded, is the primary characteristic of pachinko parlors, compounded by Niagara noise and unregulated-factory smoke levels.

You see them everywhere now, with more springing up overnight like day-glow mushrooms, these oases of low-grade Vegas (if you win more than, say, 10,000 steel balls you can trade them in for a dozen cigarette lighters or something; it is said that some make a living at it. I say it's sad to call that living.)

As I drove by the newly opening color-garish one, its employees stood outside beneath umbrellas in the pouring rain wearing their gambling establishment type uniforms, screaming at the top of their lungs perhaps the corporate philosophy, more likely invitations to the gambling-prone. When I went by an hour later, they were still screaming. Ah, the price of inventiveness and creative living!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003



Well the Miho Museum gets my vote as the most beautiful museum in the world. We went there over the weekend, along the long mountain road and then on foot through the magical tunnel, across the stunning cabled bridge through the trees to the mystical opening in the hillside [architect I. M. Pei based his design for the Miho on the legend of Momotaro (Peach Boy)] to see the temporary exhibition of Autumnal Japanese traditional arts, of which there is a superb selection, chosen and arranged as only the folks at the Miho seem able to do it.

At the Miho there is a deep respect for the things displayed, not in the conventional bureaucratic, city/institution-funded, haven't-we-got-a-treasure-here glass cases against the wall, with bad lighting and crowded arrangements ("space is expensive"); rather, all is selected with taste and arranged with respect that can only spring from deep and genuine appreciation, never from merely following a schedule or fulfilling a contract.

The subtleties of coloring that characterized what pleased the eye before aniline dyes and industrial pigments was so splendidly shown that you could almost taste the beauty so artfully arrayed. Plain to see what has been lost in the maelstrom of progress.

Nor did the permanent Asia/Middle East exhibition suffer by comparison, or from repeated visits. Each time I visit the Miho I am awed anew by the early Buddhas, who look like forthright, worldly leading men, not the idly pudgy esoterics that came after.

And the displays aren't crowded, but arranged in historical plays of darkness and light that bring out every nuance. Then there's the architecture, and the environs; Kaya loved the fairytale tunnel, the varied hand postures of the Buddhas, the life-sized statues from Egypt, the smooth, cool marble floors and the big wooden benches, ideal for holding her sketchpad while she drew pictures of Ampanman.

Nothing for it but to visit the Miho and see for yourself before the annual closing from mid-December to mid-March.


Sunday, October 05, 2003


Spent yesterday gathering a bucketful of chestnuts with Kaya, who stood and watched as I winkled the sleek brown throughbred beauties out of their porcupine husks with my boot toes, then she picked them up with the tongs and dropped them into the bucket with a very special quantity of satisfaction. When we were done she lugged the bucketful up to the house and gave it to Echo, filling the whole house with the pride of a task well accomplished. We then went to the park and tackled the long slide, after which Kaya napped while I sectioned the long whiskey barrel staves with the chainsaw, smelling fine whiskey all the while on the big snifter that is the air. At last when my right arm gave out (cutting stacked barrel staves with a chainsaw is basically a one-handed chainsaw operation) and I was wrapping it up, the wind was picking up to a good mountain howl when I spotted the mother lode of mukago revealed in the slant of evening sunlight. The lode was laced through the pulled-over tops of the bamboo just the other side of the cherry/pine firewood stack, upon which I climbed and stood teeter-hunched in the sunlit wind exploring the vast and deep fragrant tangle of green heart-leaved vines for the silvery air potatoes hidden here and there in the shadows like silver nuggets in the ground. When you harvest wild things that you suddenly find in abundance they just take you over, it's so much fun your self won't tell you when to stop; thank goodness pockets fill up and it gets dark, or I'd be out there yet.

Today we leave early for an overnight trip to Shigaraki and the Miho Museum.

Saturday, October 04, 2003


How do these types float to the top?

Friday, October 03, 2003



Given the abrupt tumescence in my email, I can't help but be surprised at all the male shortcomings in the world these days, and how everything from the environment to international relations appears to be rooted, so to speak, in the dimensional aspects of what until recently was by nature a rather reclusive organ.

But not any more: they're waving it all over the place now, and not just the men. I learn much more of all this, in all its disappointing brevity, from the dozens of dozens of emails I receive every day from Mindy Maneater, among others. I've also gotten quite a few from Leland Compton, who until just a little while ago had serious dimensional problems with his personal parameters, but thanks to his miracle drug they are all growing apace; soon he will be in the minority vis-a-vis his physical person, and good luck to him getting on the bus.

I had been living quite happily in ignorance of the fact that these obsessions, formerly wrapped in strictly plain brown paper and delivered to other mailboxes, are held by people we see every day, people who give lousy service, ticket our vehicles, audit our taxes or hold high office: real people, with names like Maggie Friedman, Bruno Gagne, Lucinda Lugo, Dina Soto, Michael Myers, Ashlee Fernandez, Kenny Clifton, Nannie Kirby, Lauri Stephenson, Jerrod Sneed-- the list gets longer, though the width stays about the same.

This means that everybody you see on the street or anywhere else (except maybe the cemetery) could be experiencing, from one direction or another, serious dimensional concerns. People of all sexes, all walks of life and from every dimensionally obsessed country in the world (excepting relatives of recently deceased Nigerian officals; must be something in the water) are every day emailing everyone else on all aspects of this admittedly key organ and what they want from it.

What they tacitly admit to in these plentiful but brief emissions seems to indicate a general dissatisfaction in regard to length, width, girth, endurance, and other qualities normally attributed to blue steel. Personally, I'm surprised that so many people suffer from such problems. I seem to be one of the rare exceptions, even though I've never been to Nigeria.

And all these people have what they obviously consider to be serious dimensional handicaps, some of which are small, so to speak, and some of which really loom right out there, as in the aforementioned pitiable case of Leland Compton, who will likely have to stay at home for the rest of his life or get a new doorway and special transport, if he can ever get a job with that miracle in the way.

Then on the other end of the very short spectrum there's the sad hunger of Nicole Yumyum, whose width and length requirements appear to rival the interstate highway system, so she keeps busy by sending millions of email organs into the world. Someone should introduce her to Leland.

Anyway, to unzip the fly, as it were, on all this formerly shadowy stuff, whose salespersons sprinkle their subject lines with such psychological come-ons, so to speak, as "manhood," "dysfunction," "enlarge," "dramatic," "self-esteem," "longer and stronger, "please her" and "enhancement" (the creativity, the creativity!!), maybe it's a form of projection they're engaging in, sadly assuming as they do that the rest of the world is just as deficient as they are, that we share their so to speak shortcomings, so maybe they can make some quick bucks off the suckers with the short attention spans.

But then again maybe it's only Bruno, Lucinda, Kenny and the rest of the metrically challenged crew who have to work so hard to forget the profound anguish integral to their lack of dimension, about which I'd know nothing, if they didn't keep telling me.


My newborn twin granddaughters, Mitsuki (Full Moon) and Miasa (Beautiful Hemp), have now grown into their own faces, and it has become pretty clear to me that they are not, in fact, identical.

I suspected as much earlier, based on the shapes of their ears and other factors, but since they had just been born and were as yet not really formed, I agreed with the identical school, since Mitsuki and Miasa were of the same sex and there had been only one placenta, with two umbilical cords.

Miki-san, the well-experienced midwife, who because of other slight differences in the twins had also initially suspected that they might be fraternal (from two original eggs, with two distinct placentas) had carefully examined the placenta and declared the twins to be identical (from one egg divided into two eggs, nourished from one placenta via two umbilical cords). I accepted her judgement, backed up by this quote from another professional source I found later:

"But fraternal twins are two babies from two ovulations and two fertilizations -- there must be two sacs and two placentas. So in summary, a set of identical twins may present with only one sac, or with doubling of everything; fraternal twins must have a doubling of everything."

This was further affirmed by a medical discovery I noted in the news some days later, in which it was announced that for the first time in medical history, fraternal twins had been born with a single placenta, which the researchers surmised must have originally been two placentas that had merged into one. They attributed this to its having been an in vitro fertilization, since this phenomenon had never been seen in natural fraternal twins.

But Mitsuki and Miasa had been born naturally. If they are fraternal, then theirs would be the first known natural single-placenta birth of fraternal twins in medical history. Not bad for a couple of cuties not yet two months old. My scientific inquiry continues...

Thursday, October 02, 2003



Kaya's snacks, like those of her mother when she was a child, have always been sweet potatos, rice crackers, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, natto straight out of the package if you can believe it, fruit, nuts, her "soft" drinks various herb teas and home-made fruit drinks. As a result, Kaya's palate remains unmutated by artificial flavor enhancements, to the extent that she enjoys subtleties I can only dream of (I got a late start on all this).

So when last night she and I walked through the new supermarket to check it out, as we passed along the aisles that were arranged to ambush the little kids, draw them screaming out of their carriages or away from their mothers, saying "I want these cookies!!" "Buy me this candy!" "Can I have some soda?", Kaya just walked quietly by my side, looking casually around at the bright packaging everywhere.

She didn't run toward the boxes of chocolate or reach for potato chips or scream for cookies or yell for Coke, because she didn't know what they were! When we got home she had a snack of gemmae mochi (brown rice paste) sprinkled with slightly sweetened soybean flour, and was happy as a kid with a double scoop of chocolate ice cream in a big glass of Pepsi with Oreos on the side. Healthier too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003



Study says antibiotics raise kids' allergy risk
Finds prescription before six months doubles chance of asthma by age 7

Doesn't that mean that all those kids were guinea pigs?