Saturday, July 31, 2004


"The fact is that new technologies and new government policies are eroding our personal privacy and creating a 24-hour total surveillance society," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "We need to reach people on a basic level and show them how this massive erosion of privacy could have a real impact on their daily lives, even in their late-night pizza deliveries."

"Astonishingly, if he deemed it necessary, Attorney General Ashcroft could get authorization from a secret court to place wiretaps on your phones without probable cause," said the ACLU's Romero. "He can demand records of your reading habits from bookstores and libraries. He can even make and keep a copy of the key to your house."

Pizza with everything from the ACLU.



I mean, look at it. Here we are at the center of the Japanese archipelago with, as you can see by the satellite image of the weather pattern above, some 2000-3000 miles of pure sky-high blue and sunshine in all directions, EXCEPT right at the center of all that meteorological voluptuousness, where a redding blip of a typhoon is settling looks like right above my house.

Why, you might reasonably ask. Such a question would not be amiss under the circumstances, especially if you had come from a thousand miles in any direction out of the sun to stand in the heavy rain and wind to ask it. I am not surprised that you prefer to remain uninquisitively basking in the vast and dry warmth of your azure goldenness.

But if, like some gods I know, you could just reach up on that weather map and slide that typhoon aside you'd find me underneath, standing by the door to the new deck, paintbrush in hand and fading hope in heart that, upon arising on this at-last day off with no other events calling me away, I might at last have a chance to treat the newly added deck boards, but the typhoon has gone out of its way to ensure that no decks are painted today for a radius of about a thousand miles. Why, you might reasonably ask as well. But a typhoon is all wind and rain, without the slightest gust of explanation.



Front table seats at Jittoku can't be beat, when Michelle is playing. Wow. Beautiful, slender, gracious, and every centimeter packed with musical energy. She didn't play Memories of East Texas, but you can't have everything. Nearly everything is ample. Wish I had the soundtrack to share. Photos herewith of Michelle and crew

and, after it all, me (foto thanks to Ian) reading a few selections from my stacks (one was How Golden Arches Got His Name) and some poems from an old book of mine (one was Rocks and I).

Imagine trying to follow Michelle's act with words alone. I could've used an orchestra or two. But it was a privilege.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Michelle Shocked is doing an impromptu performance at Jittoku tonight, 7-9 pm; I'll be reading an eclectic selection from my writings during intermission. Busy day.



"People need to include moderate amounts of fat with their uncooked vegetables in order to absorb the beneficial nutrients, new research shows.

Fat is part of a healthy diet. The key is moderation."

They had to research this? They should have just checked out Aristotle.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004


                       A very neat idea.


Monday, July 26, 2004

the cedar boards
ancient friends
with the rain


Try some Basashi Aisu! (Raw Horsemeat Ice Cream)

But if that doesn't hit the spot, put some chocolate syrup on one of these:


Sunday, July 25, 2004


"First in the queue was a young man who had been waiting since 8:30 p.m. on Friday evening and perhaps had not anticipated the media attention that being at the head of the line would bring. 'I've been here since 8:30 yesterday evening, that's all I'm saying,' he was heard repeating each time he was asked by reporters for his name or where he had come from."



Saturday, July 24, 2004


Yesterday afternoon Echo and I crossed the big bridge to the eastern shore of the Lake and threaded some back roads north through quiet villages that are so much older and wiser in many ways than the upstart cities, more deeply inventive in their history, as for example in the case of a certain little garden of ancient renown, called Ohmi Myoren Koen.

Local history records that some 40 generations ago a local gentleman by the name of Tanaka received (likely from a Japanese monk returning from Buddhist studies in China--the Lake was a highway for such travelers) a piece of the root of a very special variety of lotus known as Myoren.

Tanaka was so successful in propagating it that his country village endeavor was mentioned in the Nihonshoki, and has attracted visitors for well over a thousand years since. And there it is today, right where he started it (his descendants still live in the vicinity), an unprepossessing turn from a narrow road into a narrower one, then on a bit, another turn and right there in what is unmistakably a neighborhood, between some houses, is the lotus garden.

Some of the blossoms were just beginning to open when we visited; it seems that this variety carries so many petals all the way to its core (some 5-6 thousand) it doesn't produce a seed pod at the flower center, as 'standard' lotuses do, so it doesn't reproduce from seeds, only from roots.

I liked the buds best, in all their phases and geometries, from tiny pale-green flame to just-about-to-burst crystal of white and blood red-- and the leaves, initially rolled up tight at their edges like the curled rice-straw hats worn during the grueling Sennichi-kaiho-gyo, the full leaves in their open cosmic simplicity doing their tasks in thorough and ancient familiarity with all the elements, the way they nodded and chatted in the wind while carrying on showing me a thing or two about the humbling art of blossoming. A few hours of an afternoon among lotuses in their dance with the air and the light, it's easy to see why Buddha was such a big fan.


Friday, July 23, 2004

"Those who seek to deny the legitimate cultural right of nations to resume harvesting of abundant whales for food only provide the incentive for us to look outside the IWC to achieve our goals," said Japan's whaling commissioner Minoru Morimoto, who is confused as to the precise meaning of "cultural right" and deeply concerned for all the Japanese people who are wasting away without whale meat, their number at last count being ZERO.



"The difference between artists and the rest of us is that we go through life looking in the rearview mirror and artists go through life looking through the windshield," while Dubya bankrupts the gas station.

---Marshall McLuhan and Me


"Retired Navy Capt. John Byron, in the July issue of Proceedings of the Naval Institute, writes: 'The war in Iraq is wrecking the Army and the Marine Corps. Troop rotations are in shambles and the all-volunteer force is starting to crumble as we extend combat tours and struggle to get enough boots on the ground.

'We have broken our social contract with the members of the National Guard and the reserve forces, misusing them as substitutes for active forces in an open-ended operation in Iraq that is well short of national emergency. These backup forces are demoralized and headed for the door.'

"This administration cannot admit that mistakes have been made. Not even one mistake. If they do the whole house of cards might tumble. But if you won't admit a mistake, how do you go about correcting it? When you find you're in a hole, stop digging."


Thursday, July 22, 2004


Saw just now on the evening news that the Japanese government has added some new characters to the jimme kanji list, the characters that can be used in naming children.  The fact that there was such a list blew me away back when we named our firstborn Kasumi (mist) and found out that the character was not allowed!! We were required either to give her another name or use the kana phonetic form.  We wanted that name, so we chose the latter.

Then some years later the character kasumi was added to the list and we went to court to change the name to what we had wanted it to be before there were bureaucrats in our faces.  The fact that in Japan even in this day and age (globalization! I fall off my chair laughing) you are not free to name your child as you wish shows how feudal still are the very roots of this society. 

But signs of the irrational are creeping in; someone in the bureaucratic maze must be going mad from the meaningless weight of it all.  Mere decades ago we couldn't use Kasumi; now they've added to the characters that can  be used, among others, the characters for "curse," "shit," "cancer" "hemorrhoid" and "corpse."   Demand must be heavy, varied and twisted.  Nevertheless I do not look forward to one day shaking hands with a Corpse.

[Update: Due to a tsunami of negative public response, many of these additions are being reconsidered, so don't get your hopes up if you're planning to call your child Hemorrhoid.]  



Kyoto Journal #57 is now out. Available at the source of finest things nearest you.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004




Like any regular visitor to these humble pages hangs out in Vegas-- but still, feels good to say it...



The piece of land just below us that is covered with mountain bamboo has been put up for sale by the owner, so there is a crew from the big city there now, clearing it of bamboo and scrub trees, leaving an island of older wild growth between that and the road below. That natural "island" will likely be next for sale and cleared, affording us a full 180 degree panorama of the Lake but depriving the wild pigs, racoons, ferrets and foxes of a protected path to the paddy fields and the forests beyond. The fields anyway are soon to be electric fenced, as what the earth says naturally becomes less and less important than the artifice we want to hear...


Tuesday, July 20, 2004


"The Grand Canyon is an awesome display of God's creation and a place to find and explore the wonders of His creation. If we visit the Canyon, or read the prevailing interpretive literature about it, we will find that the views presented are predominantly based on evolutionary theories. These theories tend to deny God's involvement and often His very existence. When viewed from a biblical perspective, however, the Canyon has "God" written all over it. Not only is the Canyon a testimony to creation but it also presents evidence of God's judgment of a world broken by the sin of man, known as "the Fall," as told in the book of Genesis.

Based on the lineages laid out in the Bible, God created the heavens and earth and everything in them in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. Contrary to what is widely believed, radioactive dating has not proven the rocks of the Grand Canyon to be millions of years old. The vast majority of the sedimentary layers in the Grand Canyon were deposited as the result of a global flood that occurred after and as a result of the initial sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. "

From articles in Grand Canyon: a Different View

. . .

"Last summer the US National Park Service approved the book, which presents a creationist view of the formation of the Grand Canyon, for sale in park bookstores and gift shops. In July three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses were reinstated to public viewing areas on the Canyon's South Rim, despite advice from the Interior Department that such religious displays violate the First Amendment. Last fall the National Park Service blocked the publication of a memo for park rangers noting that creationism lacked any scientific basis."

All from God Rocks!

                                                  What's your Japanese name?



During these summer mountain nights it is so silkenly silent in the so dark that only when an occasional animal-- for example the deer on his way to eat my biwa tree-- disturbs a sleeping insect is there a chirpy harrumph of complaint; then all falls once again to a silence perhaps broken only softly by the rhythmic crunch of biwa leaves.

But comes first light, and even Wagner is way outclassed. Forget every chorus you ever heard. Each dawn at this time of year (rich summer days) and in this type of locale (i. e. where nature resides), as soon as there's enough light for life at large to realize that the light has returned, it is a moment of big celebration (I'm still here!).

It is as though a big baton is raised into the deepest part of the silence, then with the downstroke about 30 million frogs and insects open their throats as one in a chorus of infinite parts, from the pipsqueaks to the basso profundos, all a cappella and all without a score, creating what I would describe as a soundsheen of organically cacophonic anarchy replete with every sonic extreme that is shrill and sheer.

It elevates your eyelids even more effectively than a rooster olympics, yet isn't irritating, because you know it will last only until it gets bright enough that everybody's embarrassed at having carried on so raucously and openly right next to their also normally staid neighbors, who were as well unabashedly belting out the big notes, everyone so chagrined that they sound off only now and then during the rest of the day.

The brief but intense chorale-blast is really quite invigorating, like a soundshower for sleepy ears.



"Whales and dolphins are not depleting the world's fish stocks despite the sea mammals' enormous appetites, according to a scientific study unveiled at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference on Monday.

The study, partly funded by U.S.-based group Humane Society International, counters arguments put forward by pro-whaling nations that whales, protected under international law, devour valuable fish stocks that could be used to feed humans.
The research found that whales and other species were mainly feeding either in seas where there was little human fishing, such as Arctic and Antarctic zones, or the whales were eating organisms humans do not catch, such as tiny plankton and organisms that live out of reach of trawl nets."

July 20 update:  "Japan lost the first battle in a war to turn back years of anti-hunting agreements at the International Whaling Commission on Monday when countries rejected its motion to hold votes in secret."   More on Japan's whaling integrity here.  Noble tradition my foot.


Monday, July 19, 2004


"For instance, Frank C. Carlucci, a Reagan secretary of defense who as much as anyone is responsible for Carlyle's success, said he met in February with his old college classmate Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, and Vice President Dick Cheney, himself a defense secretary under former President Bush, to talk about military matters — at a time when Carlyle has several billion-dollar defense projects under consideration.... 'Carlyle is as deeply wired into the current administration as they can possibly be,' said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit public interest group based in Washington. 'George Bush is getting money from private interests that have business before the government, while his son is president. And, in a really peculiar way, George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his own administration's decisions, through his father's investments. The average American doesn't know that and, to me, that's a jaw-dropper.'

"It is difficult to determine exactly how much money the senior Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker have made. Mr. Baker is a Carlyle partner, and Mr. Bush has the title senior adviser to its Asian activities. With a current market value of about $3.5 billion on Carlyle's equity and with the firm owned by 18 partners and one outside investor, Mr. Baker's Carlyle stake would be worth about $180 million if each partner held an equal stake. It is not known whether he has more or less than the other partners. Unlike Mr. Baker, Mr. Bush has no ownership stake in Carlyle; he is an adviser and an investor and is compensated by obtaining stakes in Carlyle investments. Carlyle executives cited, for example, Mr. Bush's being allowed to put money he earns giving speeches for Carlyle into its investment funds. Mr. Bush generally receives $80,000 to $100,000 for a speech. He sits on no corporate boards other than Carlyle's. Carlyle also gave the Bush family a hand in 1990 by putting George W. Bush, who was then struggling to find a career, on the board of a Carlyle subsidiary, Caterair, an airline-catering company...."

And so much more that should be read by any voter who has to struggle to make ends meet...

                                               From BUSH WATCH...BUSH MONEY

For even newer nadirs of disgust, read Notes on a Native Son

                                                           With thanks for the link to Nils, of AliveInKyoto



Here in Japan the Jenkins story is as a big as the Asahara story was a few years ago, press helicopters following every foot of progress of the chartered bus carrying the family from the airport to the hospital, where throngs of reporters stand waiting, microphones erect: a female Japanese abductee married in a rogue nation to an American deserter-- it too has all the ingredients of impossibility.  Big press vacuum for Koizumi, which I suspect is one reason he as Prime Minister of one of the world's great powers wasted big chits asking the US for clemency for Jenkins and practically prostrated himself before the portly leader of a sinister basket-case nation for the release of a US military deserter so he could be in Japan with his wife, formerly abducted by North Korea, when nothing at all had been done about the abductees themselves for decades; the sudden empathic interest is interesting...


Sunday, July 18, 2004


Back at the very beginning of time, when nostalgia was still a thing of the future, no one ever talked about the past, since there was none worth speaking of. Another result of having no ago was that tenses and adverbs were radically unfamiliar: no one knew how to use them yet (there wasn't even any "yet" yet), so folks avoided dealing with those parts of speech, initially. "Initially" wasn't a word yet then, either; that took a while-- "a while" is another one.

Also, lack of the "just now" concept tended to put a crimp in conversation, as did the many other time concepts that accumulated, until conversation got kind of warped. "Accumulated," "until": how casually we throw our time wisdom around now.

The very first chronowords spoken were probably something along the lines of "your shirts will be ready the day after tomorrow," since as yet there was no way anyone could say anything about a few moments ago, there not being many of those yet, so it wasn't avery familiar concept, and conversation was limited, as was creativity. Indeed, the song Yesterday could not have been written, since it takes a pretty good string of tomorrows before you get a decent yesterday, one that's got enough emotional heft to make it worth writing a by-now classic song about, so if Paul McCartney had been born back then, he would've just had to stand there tapping his foot until a reasonable past rolled around and who knows what he would have written by then, which would be ok by me, I never liked Yesterday all that much anyhow.

Probably few of us realize how fortunate we are in having been born in the midst of time, rather than at the beginning, when people didn't even have a use for personal names yet, since they'd never met before and had no idea they'd meet again, for example. Back when nothing had happened yet (when "a moment ago" was a meaningless phrase), at the very first minute, or whatever they called it-- we have no idea what they called it because no one was keeping any records, a ludicrous idea at the time-- but whatever the minute was called, when the first one had ticked by, so to speak, no one even knew it had happened! Because clocks were way in the future, along with starting pistols, the future itself being a brand new thing no one yet knew how to talk about currently.

"Currently" is another word they couldn't yet use back at the beginning of before; there were also no such concepts as reporters, schedules, rainchecks, time cards, dental appointments, reservations, no just-in-time, the list goes on. Thanks to those early time pioneers, we can now have lists that go on. What's more, we can speak of them. We have tenses and adverbs now, too. We are fortunate in these regards, and should take the time now and then to be thankful, to express our gratitude for calendars, annuities, insurance, accounting, taxes, interest and last week, among the many other things before has made possible. Though I'm not particularly thankful for last week.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

No longer searching for Bobby Fischer.
"Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me."
--George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., May 27, 2004
"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein."
--George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004

 "It's been a fabulous year for Laura and me."
-- George W. Bush, three months after the World Trade Center towers went down.


Friday, July 16, 2004

       [Update to Dr. Strangelove's Solution]
Sailing Toward a Storm in China: U.S. maneuvers could spark a war.  
"Quietly and with minimal coverage in the U.S. press, the Navy announced that from mid-July through August it would hold exercises dubbed Operation Summer Pulse '04 in waters off the China coast near Taiwan.
This will be the first time in U.S. naval history that seven of our 12 carrier strike groups deploy in one place at the same time [With an avowed first-strike right]. It will look like the peacetime equivalent of the Normandy landings and may well end in a disaster.
At a minimum, a single carrier strike group includes the aircraft carrier itself (usually with nine or 10 squadrons and a total of about 85 aircraft), a guided missile cruiser, two guided missile destroyers, an attack submarine and a combination ammunition, oiler and supply ship.
Normally, the United States uses only one or at the most two carrier strike groups to show the flag in a trouble spot. In a combat situation it might deploy three or four, as it did for both wars with Iraq. Seven in one place is unheard of.
Operation Summer Pulse '04 was almost surely dreamed up at the Pearl Harbor headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command and its commander, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, and endorsed by neocons in the Pentagon. It is doubtful that Congress was consulted. This only goes to show that our foreign policy is increasingly made by the Pentagon.
According to Chinese reports, Taiwanese ships will join the seven carriers being assembled in this modern rerun of 19th century gunboat diplomacy. The ostensible reason given by the Navy for this exercise is to demonstrate the ability to concentrate massive forces in an emergency, but the focus on China in a U.S. election year sounds like a last hurrah of the neocons.
Needless to say, the Chinese are not amused. They say that their naval and air forces, plus their land-based rockets, are capable of taking on one or two carrier strike groups but that combat with seven would overwhelm them. So even before a carrier reaches the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has announced it will embark on a crash project that will enable it to meet and defeat seven U.S. carrier strike groups within a decade. There's every chance the Chinese will succeed if they are not overtaken by war first.
China is easily the fastest-growing big economy in the world, with a growth rate of 9.1% last year. On June 28, the BBC reported that China had passed the U.S. as the world's biggest recipient of foreign direct investment. China attracted $53 billion worth of new factories in 2003, whereas the U.S. took in only $40 billion; India, $4 billion; and Russia, a measly $1 billion.
If left alone by U.S. militarists, China will almost surely, over time, become a democracy on the same pattern as that of South Korea and Taiwan (both of which had U.S.-sponsored military dictatorships until the late 1980s). But a strong mainland makes the anti-China lobby in the United States very nervous. It won't give up its decades-old animosity toward Beijing and jumps at any opportunity to stir up trouble -- "defending Taiwan" is just a convenient cover story.
These ideologues appear to be trying to precipitate a confrontation with China while they still have the chance. Today, they happen to have rabidly anti-Chinese governments in Taipei and Tokyo as allies, but these governments don't have the popular support of their own citizens.
If American militarists are successful in sparking a war, the results are all too predictable: We will halt China's march away from communism and militarize its leadership, bankrupt ourselves, split Japan over whether to renew aggression against China and lose the war. We also will earn the lasting enmity of the most populous nation on Earth."

From Sailing Toward a Storm in China   By Chalmers Johnson


Thursday, July 15, 2004


"The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and 'Library' projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to todays 'faster/cheaper' mind set and promote 'slower/better' thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."

LNF Seminar downloads


Wednesday, July 14, 2004


When I first tasted shiso (perilla, beefsteak plant; Perilla frutescens) in a Tokyo sushi bar way back not long after I'd just arrived in Japan, my tongue said to me what is that taste, I know that taste but I can't place it, I've tasted that taste before... of course I hadn't, I grew up in upstate New York when it was a lot more parochial than it is now (I think), but shiso does that old flavor trick wherever you're from, with its startlingly familiar yet completely new hint of clove + X + Y flavor...

When we moved here to the mountain there was some wild shiso growing on our land, but we added some of our own shiso seeds in an 'organized' plot; then the mix took over and went its own way, now we plant it no more, just leave some to seed itself and so it does, big succulent clouds of shiso leaves shifting year to year around the garden in the places that are best for it. Shiso harvests even better than basil, you pick off the top tender leaf cluster for your sushi lunch and two more clusters grow back in a day or two, hardy as weeds (and very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids).

Now with the yellow beans beaning and the lettuce bolting, as the sun rises more and more into the sky the shiso is reaching its apex, its inviting flags dotting the garden at random like freckles. There is purple shiso and green shiso... wrapped around sushi, shredded atop soba, blended with water and honey for a cool drink, mixed in to color and help flavor umeboshi, pickled flower stalks, leaves dried, crumbled and mixed with salt for a rice garnish... the shiso recipe list is a very long one.


But 37 cents?




Tuesday, July 13, 2004


And right here in Osaka, too.

"The rights and wrongs of RFID-chipping human beings have been debated since the tracking tags reached the technological mainstream. Now, school authorities in the Japanese city of Osaka have decided the benefits outweigh the disadvantages and will now be chipping children in one primary school.

The tags will be read by readers installed in school gates and other key locations to track the kids' movements."

Note the newspeak phrase: "chipping children."



"One example, in a memo written by John Moody, senior vice-president at Fox News in April, at the height of the insurgency in Fallujah, said: 'Do not fall into the easy trap of mourning the loss of US lives and asking out loud why we are there?'"



"I am writing to you and a few other bloggers asking for help. My name is Tom Mauser and my son Daniel was killed at Columbine High School. If we don't stand up to President Bush and the NRA right now, the assault weapons ban will expire and AK47s and Uzis will be back on our streets."

Here is what you can do to help:


Monday, July 12, 2004


Now that they've got the Patriot Act locked in place thanks to the weak-kneed House members who caved to the shameless Republicans, something told me the Department of Homeland Security would be talking about postponing the elections; the deep polls must look pretty bad. Koizumi just took one in the chops, which can't be a good sign, as the Coalition of the Willing becomes the Coalition of the Failing.

"American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call 'alarming' intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack...

Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots..."

Better hurry up then!!


Sunday, July 11, 2004


This morning while Echo was teaching yoga downstairs I was upstairs going through some books to give away/trade/sell/keep, a very slow, excessively distracting, frequently impossible process.

"Wow! I still have this? Haven't read this in years, love to read it again, especially the part where... I didn't know I had this, this looks interesting...", thus sorting maybe a dozen books an hour, with frequent breaks in which I gazed out the window into the tauntingly sunny day, and so saw the barn swallows (Hirunda rustica), who hang out on our power lines (particularly at sunset), do something I didn't know they could do.

We all know how wonderfully swallows all day catch their buggy meals in the air with a grace that is kin to all arts-- I never knew they could do the same thing on water. Across the road is a paddy that was left partly unplanted because of the peripheral fencework going on, so the quarter of one paddy nearest us is just a six-inch-deep pond.

Out of the corner of my book-bent eye I noticed a splash out there, which drew my attention immediately, largely because by now I was ready to welcome having my attention elsewhere, but also because I knew that in paddies there are no fish big enough to make such a splash, nor do the frogs splash like that.

Then SPLASH and a tiny feathery body was hurtling upward. I watched as a swallow (weighing about half an ounce) whirred and circled low over the water, spotted a bug and instantly hit the water with her beak (for some reason all the swallows I refer to in this story are female) to grab the bug, making a splash much bigger than herself and getting drenched, but getting lunch. The impact nearly halted the little aeronaut, who whirred harder and circled again and again, each time hitting the water WHAM!

Soon other swallows joined in, also nearly coming to a halt from the impact, then shooting upward again on those tiny and awesomely manipulable wedgewings, circling the still water like tiny concentrations of downy electricity, till all the surface bugs were gone. Then the flock returned exclusively to their airy realm, where they went on working sheer miracles of flight.

If only I could sort my books with such natural elegance... maybe I'll take a walk with that idea...

Illustration from Yankee Gardener



Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey


Saturday, July 10, 2004


Late this afternoon I was hovering around the big pot of cantaloupe-orange nasturtiums that's sitting on the deck railing (while the deck is under repair), very conveniently positioned for gathering the new pale-green nasturtium seeds to use in my salad; sliced like micro-onions, they add a crispy zing, sort of a cross between watercress-horseradish and something completely unknown. The flowers and buds, small leaves (or thin-sliced large leaves) are eminently saladable too, for that same taste, though without the crunch.

If you just let the seeds do their natural thing they quickly fall and change to the unpalatable beige you see in nasturtium seeds for planting, at which point I must swear I was going somewhere with this, I wasn't planning to ramble on thusly about nasturtiums-- which is not to say they're not worth rambling on about, but-- oh yeah: as I was hovering here and there around the pot like a giant whatever, right in close so I wouldn't miss any of those devilishly clever bud-mimicking seeds, I noted in my cranial travels an awful lot of extremely tiny frogs, more like nanofrogs, who were living very comfortably in the vast paradise they'd found among the green tendrils, enjoying the protective umbrella of the scalloped green leaves, the flowers to which many bugs were attracted bringing deliciousness to the nanofrogs as well, but the tiny green beasties kept thinking I was hunting for them.

Needless to say (following which phrase whatever it is is always nonetheless said, as here), the nanofrogs had never in their couple-days-so-far lives seen a human head swinging here and there just inches away from their tiny bodies, patently hunting for something and why not them; nor did their genetic data base have any specific info on such an occurrence.

Thus it was that every time I moved my head, the pot positively rained tiny green frogs, leaping for their very lives out of paradise and into the non-pot abyss. By the time I'd extracted all the nasturtium seeds from that green-and-orange tangle, I'd chased all the nanofrogs out too. I hadn't meant to drive them out of paradise, but life often imitates the Bible, sometimes with us as God. I thought of all the nanofrogs just now, seeking dominion in their new world, as I savored the paradise in my salad.

Here are some good nasturtium blossom/bud/seed recipes

Another excellent source on edible flowers



The kawadoko over the Kibune River are now open.

Dine on one of these mountain river platforms at sunset on a summer evening, for the experience of a lifetime.

The kawadoko will be open until about September 30
More info on various related Kyoto summer events


Friday, July 09, 2004


"Bush Military Service Files Were Destroyed

The destroyed files cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question, the newspaper said. No back-up paper copies of the records could be found, the Pentagon said in notices dated June 25, according to the Times."

Lost Bush Records

Bet they have Kerry's complete military file right down to the last dotted i.



The next monthly DAJ Kansai Political Movie Night will
feature the 2003 film

"Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War"
"The story of how truth became the first American
casualty in Iraq.

Movie website:

When: Thursday, July 22, film starts at 7 p.m.
Film info: 56 min / English only
Where: Tocca a Te, in Umeda (opens at 6 p.m.)
Address & map:
(or follow the links at

Admission: 1000 yen (includes one free drink & free
homemade popcorn--voted Best in Kansai!)

Voter registration 6 to 7 p.m. and after the film.
Open discussion after the film, too.

For more info, contact:

Democrats Abroad Japan Kansai (DAJK)
With thanks to Ron Andrews.


Thursday, July 08, 2004


With happy thanks for the reminder from the always nourishing SelfWinding.

For info on the forthcoming and critically acclaimed documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides... (Thanks to M. Sinclair Stevens)


[Some months ago, in a bird-shooting enterprise somewhere near Washington DC]

Vice- president: The polls look bad. We need something. Give us something, Dr. Strangelove.
President: Yeah. Bring it on!
Vice-president: Calm down, Mr. President, and stay away from those pretzels.
President: Have you seen our ratings? And what that maniac Michael Moore is doing to dirty even my blacked-out files? Making fun of my golf drive? Calling me a desertee? Ok if I have some popcorn then?
Dr. Strangelove: Please, Mr. President. This is serious.
President: Ok. Watch this drive.
Dr. Strangelove: Mr. Vice-president, I have a plan that is ideal for your...agenda. To create sufficient misdirection in the months before the election I propose a potential war with China. That might create sufficient diversion to get the president re-elected in the face of even the nearly universal revulsion he is now evoking.
Vice-president: Tell me more.
Dr. Strangelove: I propose that President...form a navy nuclear task force of historically unprecedented proportions and send it to do "exercises" within easy striking distance of China. Ostensibly it will be "about" Taiwan; but as we all know, who gives a strudel about Taiwan except Taiwan.
President: I sure as hell don't. What's a strudel?
Vice-president: I'm listening. Mind if I shoot caged ducks while you talk?
President: Can I shoot too?
Vice-president: Be better if you just shoot some golf balls, Mr. President.
President: Ok, but somebody else better retrieve 'em; no way I'm goin' in there.
Dr. Strangelove: As I was saying, Mr. Vice-president, a nice major task force stationed off the coast of China: accidents can happen, and soon we may very well be embroiled in a war of such proportions that---Heil!! I'm sorry mein--Mr. Vice-president-- the past comes back sometimes...
President: Tell me about it.
Dr. Strangelove: Anyway, Mr. Vice-president, I propose that we give this giant nuclear task force a sweetly innocuous name, like...Operation Summer Pulse. How does that sound?
Vice-president: I like it. Sounds like a surf movie.
President: But what about the Iraqians? And the Afghanistian thing we had going over there? I've got Saddam's pistol, you know. Wanna see it?
Dr. Strangelove: Perhaps later, Mr. President. Mr. Vice-president, the presence of this highly automated nuclear task force within minutes of China will not only offer us the possible diversion of war, it will position us in a major way in Asia and, should we survive as a nation (I have an earlier plan for that), the task force will afford us a measure of control over oil and gas deposits recently discovered in the East China Sea.
Vice-president: Oil and gas? Sounds downright Halliburtonish! Set things in motion, Strangelove.
Dr. Strangelove: Right away, mein Vice-president!!
President: Hey, when does that surf movie start?


Wednesday, July 07, 2004


This morning brought me a millipede, about 2 cm long, slowly making its way across our floor on a journey that looked like it would take the entire summer, and lead but to the opposite wall.

In a certain degree of affinity with that progress I looked more closely, and from above, against the light oak flooring I could clearly see the way the creature's 'thousand' legs were working; it was a revelation. The picture was much bigger than my habitually remote view of such things: amber legs, each slightly larger than a human hair in diameter, rippled smoothly in regular waves resembling all other waves-- from water to the kinds we've all seen in science class-- streaming forward along the body as the insect moved ahead, the forward pulsing waves somehow creating opposite propulsion, or so it appeared.

The thing was, that here moved a creature of very simple purpose, if 'simple' can be used so complexly, the millipede living mostly in the senses it received from its slow antennae, yet with a leg-motive pattern so complex as to be philosophically startling; not just the pattern, but the fact of it; that this complexity had evolved all on its own to serve as motive force for this 'simple' entity, that itself had had no part in the genesis or operation of the process that was carrying it along in such effortless complexion. It was all automatic, autonomic, reflexive from birth; it arose from the same vastly deep understandings (in the true sense of the word) that understand us, that power our thoughts and our bodies, our entire lives.

On the 'waves' of my own legs, I took the millipede up on a piece of paper and placed it outside among the floorless ferns, where there were no walls.

Our roots are as rich as our heavens.


Monday, July 05, 2004




In the West they're called "I" beams. The Japanese call them "H" beams.



Yesterday, while working upstairs I glanced out the southern window into the meadow across the inner road and saw, rising up from the tall golden grass, the many-pronged antlers of the buck that claims that area as his territory, the buck who ate my fig buds and biwa leaves at the end of winter.

He was lying there casually in the sunshine, safe in the tall grass, only his antlers visible, the antlers turning this way and that as his attention was called to a sound or a scent or an itch on his body, but the effect of it was quite stately, regally casual as he lay there in invisible majesty.

When later I went out to work in the garden knowing he was just a few dozen meters away, he no doubt even more aware of my presence and proximity, very close and human-smelling, every time I heard a noise that was not the wind or other naturally incidental sound I turned to see if he was visible there in the kuzu and reeds and broken trees that thrust antlers of their own out over the grasses, but I never saw him, time and time again. I could feel him there though, sensing me, moving cautiously, the way I was moving. We were two parts of a very old equation.


Sunday, July 04, 2004



Saturday, July 03, 2004

frog complains
about the jackhammer


Friday, July 02, 2004


"'Western' diets consisting of red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets and desserts may be associated with a greater risk of stroke, according to a study published in this week's rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association."



I know if I'd pulled the same thing during my military service I'd have done major time in Leavenworth and received a Bad Conduct Discharge. Dubya recieved an Honorable Discharge. Here's hoping in November he gets the BCD he deserves.

"George W. Bush was considered a deserter by the United States Air Force.

ARPC thus had to order Bush to get a physical examination, for which Bush did not show up. ARPC then designated Bush as AWOL and a "non-locatee" (i.e. a deserter) who had failed to satisfactorily participate in TXANG, and certified him for immediate induction through his local draft board. Once the Houston draft board got wind of the situation, strings were pulled; and documents were generated which directly contradict Air Force policy, and which were inconsistent with the rest of the records released by the White House." [Emphasis mine]


(This is pretty sleazy reading when you think where Dubya is now, calling thousands of patriotic reservists to active duty. Wonder if the above FACTS will show up on Faux, or in the Fudge-Sludge at Drudge...)


Thursday, July 01, 2004


Hooray!! Things are looking up! As you may know, I don't get tv during the months when leaves are on the trees; but even if leaves were absent from trees forever, I wouldn't subscribe to the Fox News Channel. I was nevertheless elated to hear that Faux News will no longer be constipating the airwaves here, because even though I would never subscribe to that 24/365 mental splinter under the fingernail, it was sad to think that the Japanese people were as credulous as so many Americans seem to be. Turns out the Japanese are judicious, after all; there's just no viable market here for the unfair and unbalanced.



This morning on the ricky-rocky country train I got a close-up view of a new phenomenon I never would have seen in Japan only a few years ago: a young office lady putting on her makeup on the train to work.

The whole cosmetic ritual is edgy under the best of circumstances, but when it's on a train, let alone a country train that really gets bouncing and torqueing the way only those old-fashioned trains can, it's painful to behold. For many of the morning crowd, though, it became unbearable when the young woman arrived at the worst part: putting on her mascara. At that point the more squeamish turned away, unable to watch, like when that famous scene flashes in Un Chien Andalou and everybody gasps as they avert their eyes.

Squeezed in her seat, all the while chatting with her friend beside her, the young lady draws from its sheath the long narrow spiky brush crusted with dark goo, braces the tiny compact mirror against her cheek up close to the target eye and, swaying and bouncing in sync with the train, right there in midst of the off-balance morning crowd brings the jaggedly bristling thing closer and closer to her tender, wide-open eye, then at the right moment, her body rocking and jerking, she suddenly looks up as if in abject terror and blindly, purely by feel, strokes the brush along her short straight lashes in precise micromovements over and over just a hair's breadth from the naked helpless squirming eyeball until each lash is longer and darker and curled and separate and perfect. Then she moves in on the other eye; by then all eyes but mine have turned away, unable to bear the sight of this happening to one of their own...

Thanks to Dali and Bunuel, I was able to watch the whole thing. It too was a surreal work of art.