Monday, August 30, 2004


The rain clouds had been threatening for a couple of days already, riding the slowest-moving typhoon I've ever awaited, but nothing can stand in the way of our pursuit of the finest taiko. So Saturday morning, despite the proud confidence of the weatherman who was predicting 5 straight days of heavy rains, not to mention winds, with the slowly approaching typhoon just over our shoulders Echo and I set off across the Lake to attend the 2004 Taiko Festival in the small town of Koka.

We had called the Festival organizers to ask whether, if it rained on the night of the performance (to be held as always in an outdoor amphitheater in the forested hills outside the small town), the concert would be postponed to the following day or what. They said no, if it rains the concert will be cancelled completely, with no refund once it has started. These country festival folk don't fool around.

But even though there would be no refunds if the looming rains fell, when we arrived early at the site and took our seats on one of the grassy terraces (the concert time was 5-9: a lot of drumming), the large amphitheater was already nearly full, with everyone sitting there right out in the open beneath clouds so lowering that it looked like it was already raining-- but at that point it was just bluster.

There were a dozen or so groups set to perform, huge drums sitting out backstage, and hundreds of performers, from local school kids to drum teams from all over Japan, bused here and fed and hoteled at great expense and even greater disappointment to them and the growing audience if at the appointed time the drummers couldn't perform (wet drums and drumskins don't fare well). But as the moody skies teemed with ripped and swirling silverpurple clouds scudding over the full moon on accelerating winds, and the audience of many thousands from near and far filled the amphitheater, the drums began to sound-- the little kid teams first-- so with all this and the booms of the drums and speed of the clouds, right from the beginning the tension began to build between stage and sky, the kind of tension Shakespeare et al. have always shot for but seldom bullseyed like this; if only King Lear could have been there...

Even he would have enjoyed seeing kids under ten years old (one impressive performer was eight!) drum together at length, through complex routines (and no sheet music) in great and stylish discipline; then came the older kids, audience amazement building at the skills they were seeing as the sky darkened steadily, the moon glowing like a veiled ghost through a heavy mist that began to fall through the spotlight beams...

My audience favorites were the stout grandmas clustering here and there on the ground in the moon-and-spotlit dark with but handkerchiefs on their heads, clapping in rhythm to the drummers on the stage, all the while the bigger clouds looming and falling and looming again, riding over the stage, adding to the tension: will these little performers be rained out? Will these?

And what about Aska-gumi, the renowned professional group that was to close the show? At one point the rain began to fall in earnest and the umbrellas came out, then the falling slowed and stopped and the sky silvered again and so it went, on and off, throughout the performance as the moon watched through breaks in the clouds, everyone thinking the drums must at least be getting wet from the mist; then there was a great young group from Nara, Sakigakekai, and at last Aska-gumi came on and gave the finest taiko performance I have ever seen or heard or felt.

The great thing about such a concert is that the acts leading up to the finale (at the end all the young drummers gathered in the wings to watch Aska-gumi perform) gave the audience a gauge against which to compare each succeeding team. A top pro team that has performed all over the world, Aska-gumi is as great as it gets. Through percussion syncopations of galactic complexity, speed, dance/athletics and other variables, they didn't miss or overlap a single beat. Breathtaking. They were perfect.

It was as though they were all one person, they performed in such heart-pounding unison (the big drums competed with every heartbeat in the audience) then toward the end the rains came down at last and the clouds fell to the ground, floating wisps of mist-intermingled drops in big white horses' tails swept across the stage as Aska-gumi played to the end and it was wild, it was wild, great galleons of clouds swirling by in natural concert and the moon as spotlight, the like will never be seen again.

[If you're going to be in the Kansai region in October and want a musical experience you won't forget, Aska-gumi will be performing in Nara on October 9. Anyone wants details they can't get via the Aska-gumi website, email me, I'll find out for you if I can.]


Sunday, August 29, 2004


"In 2000, McCain had George W. on the ropes and South Carolina was the do-or-die state. Flyers appeared from thin air alleging that McCain had a black child (he and his wife had adopted a Bangladeshi daughter from an orphanage there). Other fliers said McCain was the "fag candidate." Rumors swirled that McCain's time in a North Vietnamese prison camp had left him unstable and downright crazy - again, hitting at the opponent's greatest strength. Other rumors were that his wife was a drug addict. Nice stuff, and none of it had Bush's inky fingerprints on it."

From: Dirty Tricks, Patrician Style
by Dick Meyer

And from Garrison Keillor:

"Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy-- the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president's personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good."


Saturday, August 28, 2004


What a world what a world, where 49 or so percent of Americans deem an AWOL, macho-posturing warmonger "presidential," preferring him over a genuinely thoughtful (though sleazily tarnished) war hero, perhaps in November choosing the half-thought Texan to represent America (and all the greatness it still represents) to the world, seemingly oblivious to the embarrassment of it, as though, say, France or England were led by-- who's a valid Dubya-equivalent in another large country? A world in which, viewed from here in the Land of Wa, Japanese women (and soon women abroad, the marketing folks say) are lining up around the cho to buy the Boyfriend Arm Pillow, which replaces the least procreative aspects of a boyfriend (sort of like a Dubya president), Japan concurrently giving birth instead to another social phenomenon (somewhere deep in the social psyche, pillow and phenomenon go hand-in-hand), that of the hikikomori, defined as a person who hasn't interacted with anyone outside their family for more than 6 months, three-quarters of such individuals being male (many having been replaced by pillows), numbering over a million so far and no doubt increasing by the day, if the lengthening boyfriend pillow lines are any indication, and if Bush is elected in November (are you listening, God?) probably a lot more people around the world will stay home, particularly in America, where the US hikikomori will grow in large numbers out of embarrassment at what the world must think, except among Bush voters, who are either smart and will then be richer than ever (and by then will have fled to their offshore bank accounts and pied-a-terres in Costa Rica-Provence-Cancun-Panama-Nicaragua to escape the results) or haven't had much in the way of thought in a long time. But fewer births is way better than fewer thoughts, don't you think?


Friday, August 27, 2004


That the Nanjing Massacre was really only the Nanjing Incident? That Japan's invasion of Asia resulted not in the deaths and untold sufferings of millions of Asians at the hands of the Japanese, but more importantly, it resulted in the region's independence from colonial powers? That's Japanese history for you, as taught in the new history textbook written by a nationalist group for use at a new junior high school in Tokyo. I guess if you look at it that way, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in Japan's independence from the Japanese Nationalists... for a while, anyway.


Thursday, August 26, 2004


I for one never thought it would happen; never again, I intimated in A FAREWELL TO ONIONS. I'd thought the break with the me I used to be, who tried to grow onions on Pure Land Mountain, was permanent. Not because onions and I don't get along-- we go way back-- but because of simian brigandage, as first recounted here in MONKEYS AND ONIONS.

As it happened, however, kismet found me walking into the big gardening store the other afternoon to get some seeds for fall lettuce and other greens that monkeys abhor (deer are another matter), when I heard my name called out in a kind of onionskin whisper. I looked around but there was no one there; I thought it must be the curry I'd just enjoyed, and went on in and got my seeds.

But then as later I passed the same place, heading for the cashier, I heard my name called in many layers, as it were, louder and louder as I turned and approached the source, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, and there under some sacks of seed potatoes beheld remnant bags of orphaned onion bulbs, looking for a home, a home I had; and there began the onionspiel: to hell with the monkeys, the onions said, don't let them rule your life! We need you, you need us, let's give it a try, what do you say, you and us, can't you just picture it, the onions intimated in that sibilant goldenness we all know so well, the while inspiring visions of sliced onions on sandwiches or chopped onion browning in first-pressing extra-virgin olive oil for a thousand varied dishes, not to mention fried onion rings it was too much I bought a bagful and planted them this afternoon quick before I regained my senses.

I have no onionish expectations though, I swear. Nor have I gotten any multilayered hopes up, like proud green stems rising into bright blue air; I know the monkeys will probably get most of the onions before they reach maturity, unless I put up an onion fortress. I just felt so sorry for those little abandoned-looking, yet richly golden bulbs with no place to grow, no one to tend them, and maybe I felt a bit sorry for my onionless self as well; who is to say? Who in all our world has ever reached the innermost layer of the heart?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


To give a bit more detail on the Shiga Window foto at left-- Charm, amulet, talisman, call it what you will, the Omamori is an especially beautiful (but sometimes tacky) bit of Japanese spiritual culture. On one side of the bag is embroidered the name of the shrine that 'issues' it (each shrine has its own design); on the other side are words relating to the blessing. Inside is a folded piece of paper or a small tablet of wood that has been blessed and purified by a priest of the shrine for various generalized and specialized purposes-- good health, driving safety, success on exam, profitable business, find a mate etc.-- just about any striving can be accommodated. In the photo below, Mizuki Noguchi wears an Omamori sewn to her running shorts; it worked, she got the gold.

Mizuki Noguchi with Omamori



Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Monday, August 23, 2004


Japan has always had a reputation as a world center of special eroticism. One thing I used to do when I lived in Tokyo as a gladiator in the singles arena was to wander now and then into the small and seedy erotica stores that dotted the back alleys of the entertainment districts in those days, places usually run by old men with whom the goods were reasonably safe.

I'd usually have my Japanese date with me as we scanned the latest and oldest apparatuses and devices "This was invented by the last empress of China, who used to wear her silver one all the time; now you can also get it in stainless steel," the old man would say, leering at my companion (rare back then, a woman in those shops) as we asked questions about the all-natural, traditional apparatuses, substances and depictions that decorated the walls and shelves, ever deepening my erotic education. "This is what knowledgeable men used to do with pearls..." the old man would say huskily, pointing to an arresting display.

This was back in the 70s, when the US was still undergoing the sexual liberation that has yet to reach its climax. Japan, though, has always known there's no need to liberate sex, which is by nature free; what you have to do is freely explore it in situ, where it belongs and is native. Japanese love hotels, for example, are museums of eroticism.

Still, you could have knocked me over with an inflatable sex doll when I saw the current thrusting edge of the business.





"The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies operate in secrecy, and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines to be used by nearly one in three voters in November.

Despite concerns over whether the so-called touchscreen machines can be trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly if they have encountered shoddy workmanship.

They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting machines' makers - even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the machines.

'I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing,' Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The system for 'testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent,' Shamos added.

Although up to 50 million Americans are expected to vote on touchscreen machines on Nov. 2, federal regulators have virtually no oversight over testing of the technology. The certification process, in part because the voting machine companies pay for it, is described as obsolete by those charged with overseeing it."

Those voting machine companies--are they Republican, by any chance?


Saturday, August 21, 2004


There's the honorable way, but Dubya has always had other approaches.

And unlike the rich-Texan-funded slick boat vets, 99.9% of those who actually served remain men of honor. I pray that most Americans still know sleaze when they see it. When Kerry was in Vietnam, Dubya was AWOL in Alabama.



While a member of the teeming crowd waiting at the redlight in front of Umeda station in Osaka yesterday morning I noticed the big posters all over for the movie Seabiscuit, and in a redlight reverie I entered the inviting green pasture background of the posters, where I recalled reading the superbly written book on my last visit to the States, especially the part about the race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti (owned by Bing Crosby), one of the big national-attention-grabbing races Seabiscuit ran. Charles Howard, Seabiscuit's owner, first set eyes on the ungainly colt at a claims race in Saratoga, and I remembered my mother proudly telling me, when I was a little boy, in one of those extended and aimless conversations mothers and their kids used to have back in the days before television, the staggering fact that she had once seen Bing Crosby himself in person, at a horse race in Saratoga, and I realized in Osaka that she must have gone there to see the great Seabiscuit in those lifetime-ago racing days, now in all their glory showing here in Osaka as well, and that somewhere in those Saratoga crowds is my mother as an awestruck teenager, then the light changed.


He'd throw them all out of the temple and start over.


Friday, August 20, 2004


Spielberg is backing the 'blockbuster' Memoirs of a Geisha, and much in the way the book was a stereotypically Western take on the Geisha world (the result deeply offended the subject Geisha, to whom interviewer Golden had made certain promises he allegedly did not honor, for which she is presently sueing him), the movie version, amazingly, will have as the leads two Chinese actresses! Now why would that be, I wonder. Are there no Japanese actresses capable of playing geisha? (So much for Spielberg as a stickler for 'authenticity.') Or is Hollywood aiming to continue that tradition of genuinely inauthentic oriental flavor in exchange for money, most recently exhibited in Lost in Translation? And so far, to my ear, not a peep in Japan about this extreme thespian insult!

Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Geisha



"We stand for things."

---America's spokesman.

Things like this. (Found among random acts of alex)


"This is not an oversight, this is an inherent part of our contemporary civilization. A Gizmo is the classic form of our society's material culture at this point in time...

So this will require me to get kind of cosmic on you here. But this is California. The Governor here is a cyborg. You remember that movie where Schwarzenegger was a cyborg robot, with big shotguns, and he beat up a blobject? That big, formless, digital, silvery, supervillain guy? Somebody in your enterprise made a lot of money from faking up that big silvery guy and putting him on a movie screen. That was some SIGGRAPH-style industry dude hard at work there, making that silvery blobject guy in TERMINATOR 3. And now that actor, Arnold, he is signing the state budget of California."

From: When Blobjects Rule the Earth
a metaseminal speech by Bruce Sterling
SIGGRAPH 2004 Keynote Address


Thursday, August 19, 2004


Families used to swim near the Mihama Reactor. (APphoto)



French research shows that living near a gas station may quadruple the risk of childhood leukemia.



Think of it: for perhaps a thousand years now, maybe more, the wild pigs who have always lived in the forests on these mountains have each year just around late August-early September begun to drift in hoggy anticipation toward the big pigout, the ripening rice that has been faithfully planted on this rice-ideal mountainside precisely for the nighttime dining enjoyment of wild pigs (in occasional tacit exchange for the wherewithal of wild pig stew), but now things have changed in ways unforeseen by porky oracles.

For example, few around here eat wild pig stew anymore; there's a MacDonald's down the road moving closer, and the rest of the big globalization truck-plane-supertanker caravan is just careering around the corner, so the ancient pig-rice-stew tradition is heading for the cultural trash heap, along with so many other aspects of human/nature relations, here as everywhere. The old farmers hereabouts have tired of chasing pigs away in person all night every night for a month every year, and the young farmers in their radically diminishing numbers aren't all that interested in stalking wild pigs through the dense forest and killing them for gamy-flavored food in preference to a Big Mac with everything.

So as of a couple days ago there is a high electrified (mildly) fence surrounding those ancient rice fields, and I'm not sleeping well these nights, I think the relentless pig frustration is affecting my dreams. I picture them out there moving through the darkness with those old harvest-time hogsmiles on their faces, bearing historically tantalizing ripe-rice images in their timeless hearts as they and their ancestors have always done, nosing through the bamboo thickets toward the rich fatgrain scent that has been their dark dominion, their percentage of the take, salivating as they head toward the finest in dining, delicately sensitive noses outstretched in porcine anticipation and Z-Z-Z-AP!! The shock and porcine puzzlement must be profound.

They stop and think piggy thoughts: let's try over here: Z-Z-Z-AP!! Maybe down here then: Z-Z-Z-AP!! And so it goes unheard through the night, all wrapped in the scent of ready-to-eat rice, as the historic rulers of darkness are informed in no uncertain terms that history has unilaterally changed forever, that henceforth there will be, unthinkably, NO MORE NIGHT RICE. And the mama pig, who brings her two little piglets for the taste time of their brand-new lives: what will she tell them? Just think what this will do to their culture!



Haven't been posting photos here for some time because, as I just found out via a complex (and self-initiated) labyrinth, Blogger no longer serves FTP clients that support "Active" FTP mode, it only goes with "Passive" FTP mode. I guess Blogger would rather be fully in charge. Anyway, once I've pushed some buttons and downloaded some stuff... Till then it'll be words only, as they happen...


Wednesday, August 18, 2004


ALBANY, New York (AP) -- "The State University of New York at Albany returned to No. 1 on the list of party schools

The Princeton Review's report ranked Albany seventh in the use of hard liquor and marijuana, ninth in beer drinking and first in 'students (almost) never study.'
The annual 'Best 357 Colleges' survey, conducted since 1992, is based on responses from more than 110,000 students at campuses around the country...

It is the ninth time the University at Albany -- a state-run school with an undergraduate enrollment of 12,000 students -- has been on the party school list. It was No. 1 in 1998 and No. 14 last year. The University of Colorado at Boulder ranked No. 1 last year."

And to think it all began on Myrtle Avenue...



"Much of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists who have examined some of these machines' programming code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The public will have to take the result on faith."

From Saving the Vote


"In less than 20 minutes, Ishihara whipped her hair into a massive sculpture of double wings, the masterpiece held in place with human hair extensions, stiff wax, silk ribbons, felt and inner bindings of rope made out of absorbent Japanese paper.

'Teacher,' said Hisacho, a Tokyo junior high school graduate who debuted last March as a maiko after one year of intensive training, 'the head of my geisha house said the sides of my hair should be slightly larger today.' Her head mistress now wanted her to look more mature.
'You shouldn't rush to look older; you'll look too old soon enough!' he taunted.
She gasped in mock horror.
'Now, this won't hurt a bit,' he said wryly, raising his handmade, $300 comb designed specifically for geisha hair. He dragged it roughly through the remaining bits of wax in her tumbling locks. She had shampooed the night before in preparation for her session with Ishihara, who once a week sculpts the coiffure she will wear for six nights straight.
'Teacher,' she said, comically over-wincing as he tugged at her hair, 'with you, it never hurts!'"

From: The Geisha Stylist Who Let His Hair Down (subscription)

By Anthony Faiola


Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Bobby Fischer announced his intention to marry Miyoko Watai, 59-year-old former Japan women's chess champion and current acting president of the Japan Chess Association. Fischer's overall strategy is to renounce his US citizenship and remain in Japan; marriage to a Japanese would definitely improve his endgame.





Just added Pure Land Mountain to multimap.


Monday, August 16, 2004


Sitting here on the deck at sunset watching the still sunbright egrets circle above the green paddies on their long elegant wings, chests stuck out with special pride, and thinking for a moment how wonderful it would be to be an egret apart from the fact that I'd have to eat raw bugs, frogs and lizards-- yeah I know I know, they'd probably taste like ambrosia to me if I was an egret but I'm doing the imagining here if you don't mind, so butt out. Man, you can be annoying with your interpolations, addenda, corrigenda, interregna, whatever. Yeah I know what it means, I just gave it a new plural twist, if you must know, like I'll do your nose if you stick it in again.

Yes, the egrets, spelling their slow white calligraphies on the blue air as they ride the sunset downmountain breezes in ancient expertise, settling at last on their long legs at the paddy edges, like the finest ivory being inlaid in jade, there to walk nobly among the tall green stalks with all the slow care they bear so well, now and then selecting a raw bug, frog or lizard and gulping it down without even chewing, I'd prefer maybe an occasional saute with olive oil and why not some garlic, which is probably one big reason why species don't intermingle, then they take off again and glide, as if riding the notes of the execrable Edelweiss the village loudspeakers play every evening at about this time.

Blue rude brood crude mood, must be Monday.


Sunday, August 15, 2004


"Who are some of the big name insiders who are taking millions upon millions of dollars out of the market as CNBC keeps telling small fry investors to keep pumping their 401-K money into stocks? I see Bill Gates has taken close to $200 million out in the last few days. Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. has been pulling tens of millions out day after day. Top bigwigs from Dex Media have pulled upward to $1 billion out over the past few weeks. Many more hotshots have not only been taking a few chips off the table but have been running like mad out of the market. I wonder where their money is going? Gold perhaps? That you won't find out until gold has its run to well over $1,000 per ounce. But no doubt these guys are also getting much of their wealth offshore so that when the fecal matter (the dollar) hits the rotary oscillator here in the U.S. when most Americans have seen their dreams of a comfortable retirement washed down the drain, the ruling elite will no doubt have their wealth already safely squirreled away in a Swiss account, quite beyond the reach of armed tax bureaucrats."


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Hawks circling
on the high winds
as souls do

[These are the days of Obon]


Was awakened at dawn this morning by the teenage crow who wants to be a frog. He was practicing up in the cherry tree. He's only a year or so old, judging by his size, but he does a damn good imitation of a very large frog if you ask me, though I must admit that crow-as-frog criteria are practically nonexistent.

I first heard him trying to be a frog one morning when I was out early working in the garden and heard a very bass-voiced frog rapping an odd beat way up in a cedar tree, and I thought boy that frog is high up, that's unusual for what is clearly a major frog, which, now that I think of it, couldn't be a frog, it would have to weigh at least fifty pounds to get a bass that deep. What could be doing that? And crow didn't move or fly off at the time, which would have given the game away; he was just watching to see if his imitation was working. This was all later deduction on my part of course, when I came to know the guy so well.

Not long after that, one morning I heard then saw him way up there in a tall cypress, confidently pretending to be the same 50-pound frog, so I knew who it was. The why of it all I have no idea, how can a crow want to be something other than a crow? That's a matter for the avian shrinks. There are few human references on such aspects of corvine psychology. Teenage human ambitions in these regards are a matter of record.

This morning though, it all took a new turn. Apparently the crow is beginning to lose faith in his quest for froghood; now he wants to be a warbler. At dawn he was sitting low in the cherry tree, starting out as the frog, when as if in despair at ever realizing frogginess (much as I gave up on my rockstar ambitions), he suddenly lapsed into a deep and raw-croaking lilt, as of a laryngitic warbler the size of a hog filled with despair.

I gotta give him that, he really tried. And he was good, as far as he could take it. He went for the rhythm and the pacing, the tonal variation and the lyric fluidity, the optimism and swelling hope of dawn, he'd clearly heard it all before and been enthralled to the point of really wanting to be a warbler, which might be a lot better than being a frog, since a warbler is another bird after all, but let's face it, optimism is not a big part of the crow character, which tends heavily toward the dark side.

So when I looked out the window and saw the big black lunk hunkered on the cherry branch, awk-squawking for all the tiny delicate warbler finesse and swelling hope that were nowhere to be found in either voice or body, I could only wish that sooner or later he'd grow up and try to be a crow, he'll be damned good at it and find a fulfilling career in the field, though I'll definitely miss the only 50-pound frog and hog-sized warbler I've ever heard.


Friday, August 13, 2004


This morning I saw an interesting flash of where society as we know it may be headed apace. A group of three got on the train, a young man and two young women. The two women, office ladies, were clearly husband hunting (an older man can tell these things), and the young man (new salaryman) was clearly (judging by the women's attitude toward him) a very eligible bachelor.

The two women started chatting the fellow up right there, cornered in the corner by the door, apparently for the duration of the ride. He carried on gamely for a while, not really interested for whatever unbelievable reason, and soon whipped out his sleek silver cell phone, flicked it open between the women with a swordlike click and commenced looking absorbedly into the screen, mumbling some vague and dismissive response to the conversation.

The women were thus forced to talk to each other, which they did half-heartedly for a while-- neither fulfilling the other's dreams, exactly-- as the young man gazed deeply into his miniscreen the way I recall men used to look into women's eyes. The conversational spirit had clearly departed, and soon one of the young women whipped out her own cell phone and merged with it, her presence virtually disappearing, leaving the third woman virtually alone, with no one to talk to but her cell phone, which promptly flashed into the light to rescue a damsel in distress.

We now have a ubiquitous personal and immediate substitute for present company. What an insult to ourselves. Given the circumstances of this little drama, I couldn't help but wonder what effect the cell phone will have on Japan's already plummeting birthrate. Must a woman (or a man) now be more appealing than a cell phone? Will the cell phone replace marriage? I don't and never will own a cell phone-- I can't imagine being 'reachable' everywhere I go-- nor can I imagine using a cell phone to replace female company. Not to mention the very real danger of having one's spirit stolen, en masse, nationwide.




Thursday, August 12, 2004


U.S. to launch National Preparedness Month on September 9, not quite a full three years after 9/11.

September 9~October 8? (Or maybe early Novemmmmber?) Oddly delayed timing for an extremely orange, perhaps even reddening emergency...

Kids! See the National Preparedness Month Calendar of Events! (pdf) Fear can be fun! goes online September 4!
take the Preparedness Quiz!! Flunk and you're a target!

In-school Ready Deputy Contest launches September 2, from! Report your friends!

Or in the midst of the imminent pan-national catastrophe that will affect all voters individually, you can wrap yourself in vinyl and then duct tape it all up, you'll be safe from everything... Flag up in the corner, in case you were doubting...

w/Thanks to This Modern World



Democrats Abroad Japan will conduct voter registration at the Garden Cinema in Umeda,Osaka on Sat, Aug. 21. Start time: between 4:30 and 6:30 (still unable to confirm starting time, but this is the slot aimed for.)
Location: Garden Cinema, Umeda Sky Building, Osaka (English map)
1500 yen reserve ticket, otherwise 1800 yen
Voter registration in the lobby before and after the showing. Japanese media will be present and want to see Americans applying for their absentee ballots!
A post-movie discussion is also planned.
Inquiries to:

[With thanks to Ron Andrews]

[NOTE: see important additional info from Ron in comments, below]


Tuesday, August 10, 2004


"Bush also said high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy because 'the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway.'"

Paid any taxes lately?


The Mihama reactor, only a few dozen kilometers northeast of Pure Land Mountain, was under at least the same degree of governmentally monitored professional care that will go into ensuring the safety of the Plasma Incinerator planned for the local neighborhood by the same type of people, i.e., who live elsewhere:


MIHAMA, Fukui -- "A ruptured pipe responsible for a nuclear power plant accident here that killed four people and left seven with burns had not been inspected for 28 years despite being an important part, it has been learned.
Even though the plant's operator, Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), was notified in November last year that the part needed to be inspected, it failed to implement safety measures ahead of tests scheduled for Aug. 14.
Inspections carried out after the accident showed that the thickness of the pipe had worn down from 10 millimeters to just 1.4 millimeters at the thinnest section. The minimum thickness to maintain proper safety was reportedly 4.7 millimeters..."



This morning before setting off to take the train into the city to go into a building and sit at a desk all day for money so I can feed high quality tomatoes to the local monkeys, I was heading out onto the deck to move the ladder so I could put up the sudare (reed screen) to keep the hot morning sun out of the living room when a flurry of green movement down around foot level caught my eye: inside the screen door was a frog, repeatedly leaping at the screen beyond which gleamed the dawning sun.

The frog was leaping in the green amphibian certainty that such a course would take him toward the light (much in the way we embrace one creed or another). He'd jump and bounce back, recover, jump and bounce back, again and again as I watched, his effort not diminishing one bit; he looked like he might continue until he ran out of jumps without ever considering a possible alternative, so I opened the door and let him hop out. (I don't mind being a miracle, when I get the chance.) He hopped a prodigious distance, having built up quite a charge, then assumed a forthright stance and simply squatted in place, turning his head as though admiring the new and panoramic vista his very own energy had earned for him; then he chose a new destination and set out for it in obviously satisfying leaps and bounds, the irony of it all being that none of this progress was costing him a dime. And we humans call ourselves sapient.

Still, it's nice to be a miracle now and again.


Monday, August 09, 2004


"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Walden was published 150 years ago today.

"It is remarkable the rapidity with which the grass grows."

See The Blog of Henry David Thoreau! With thanks to Sage


Sunday, August 08, 2004


Last night as at dusk we were heading down the mountain on our way to the Katata Fireworks Festival (described a couple of posts ago) we disturbed what appeared to be a large male inoshishi (wild pig) who had been about to depredate the lusciously heading rice stalks in one of the paddies on the north side of the road. (The wild pig-preventive electric fence mentioned previously stands uselessly incomplete.) As we came around the curve, our headlights caught rice-fattened hindquarters just disappearing into the thick bamboo undergrowth on the south side.

[Splendid fireworks.]

As we were returning home, we'd gotten up near the house when we saw the same wild pig guy standing very large on skinny legs, ready to maraud the paddies on the upper north side across the road from us, when at the sound and then sight of our car he vacillated a moment whether to continue with his supremely delicious intentions or go for the better part of valor, which as we drew near he did, diving into the bamboo thicket below our house.

This morning I walked down to where he had stood deciding, and sure enough, he had come back during the night. I'd expected to see a visibly ravaged rice field, as though a dozen or so sumo wrestlers had rolled around and flattened everything, but judging by the traces of his rice-ravaging technique Mr. Pork, like all the porcines, is very smart.

Instead of just pigging out right there visibly at the tempting verge, where all the succulently drooping rice stalks invited big piggy bites, Porco had restrained himself, first delicately and almost invisibly entering the rice field itself, thereby disappearing from view; he then-- as I could make out from his thin walking track through the tall stalks-- gorged randomly around the paddy in the dark (for him no doubt a form of heaven), scarfing the rice heads as they presented themselves to him at just about jaw height. He'd wandered a dithery path at his leisure; then when replete with only the finest food in a wild pig's world, he'd exited the field on another side away from the road, where no one would see.

Right now in a cool copse somewhere in the hot day sleeps a wild pig stuffed with rice and a certain knowledge of heaven.



"In the first successful species swap experiment of its kind, Japanese scientists have created a strain of salmon that spawns baby rainbow trout. [?!]

The technique could cut the time, cost, rearing space and intensive labour that were normally necessary for fish production, Dr Takeuchi said. [!?]

Primordial germ cells of endangered species could be frozen and converted into live fish, even after they were extinct in the wild, he added."[?!]

Is anyone else weirded out by this?



We have forest problems around here, but nothing as high-level unscrupulous as this.

"Bush's policy advisers don't see the benefits we've received from our investments in America's environmental infrastructure. All they see is the cost of compliance to their campaign contributors - a group led by the nation's most egregious polluters....

In summer 2003, my cousin Maria Shriver's husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, approached me out on Cape Cod. He was determined, he said, to be 'the best environmental governor in California history....'"

From: The Forest For the Trees
By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.



Last night after a day of extreme thunderstorms crisscrossing our location, in the evening the Lake was still ringed with a noble procession of tall pink thunderheads waiting their turns to perform as we went to cap it all off in Katata (the lakeside town south of us, where Ukimido is) at the Katata Fireworks Festival, held conveniently between the rains with the calm Lake as foreground and backed by the sleek silver/gray/black dynamic cloud shapes beyond which distant lightning flashed in the layered darkness.

The fireworks as always were eyefilling and heartstopping, the Japanese really know their stuff when it comes to skyblossoms, but the special thing was the way they introduced each major fire"work": "And now, a firework that was first 'performed' last year at the Lake Suwa Firework Exhibition, and the firework was shot off, spiraled upward to invisibility and then did its amazing stuff with light and fire and color and motion and trajectory up there in front of the lightning, and everyone went "AWE..." You had to see it.

Then, "And now a special performance of 'The Peacock:'" and from across the Lake a series of fireworks was set off on the ground that when at last finished was cheered by the many thousands of onlookers on both shores, many of them bright in their own summer kimono. All of this amidst a long variety of firework performances with all kinds of work-of-art names. With lightning as backup, it was a one-of-a-kind performance. Free, too. They do it every year.

Tonight is the BIG fireworks festival at the south end of the Lake in Otsu, the old capital of Japan, where Shikibu wrote some chapters of The Tale of Genji.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

still pond



These summer nights as we sit talking after dinner at the kitchen table and have forgotten to turn off the light over the sink in front of the big window on the garden, our post-dinner conversation is punctuated with big B-O-N-N-G-G-GS as the zany cicadas and other large bugs zooming around out there looking for a big date in what should be darkness are thrown off-track by the sudden Las Vegas that is our kitchen, certainly the flashiest thing in this neck of the woods.

Not surprisingly, they turn and head straight for the bright lights and hit the window B-O-N-N-G-G-G, which leads to big buglife headaches and major changes in fortune, like a very fast night at the slots; every other sentence there's a B-O-N-N-G-G-G and some poor love-hungry bug staggerwings off into the darkness shaking its head, until one of us realizes the light is on and goes and turns it off so the poor things can fly about their actual business, perhaps find true love in the native darkness and we can have a naturally punctuated conversation. The bugs don't miss the bright lights; not one of them insists at the dark window, or says: Hey, where'd Vegas go?


Friday, August 06, 2004


"Have you any idea what would happen if al-Qaeda lights up any of the 300,000 miles of mostly unprotected oil pipeline that supplies the world appetite for fossil fuel? Do you really believe that shipping routes are free from challenge? Oil is unprotected, and a sitting duck for plunder, should the opposition decide to move on it. What a mess has been spread over the world by the removal of Saddam Hussein. He was the only stop-gap between Iran and the rest of the oil-rich countries. He was removed, thanks likely to misinformation whispered into the eager ears of Washington by Mr. Chalabi, a man described as an Iranian agent of sorts.

We have not yet seen the worst of this unfolding drama. Iraq is headed into the hands of Iran. Iran is headed towards becoming, or may already be, a nuclear power. The West is going to be starved of oil. Markets will be vandalized by the event. Currencies will go into turmoil that cannot be stopped by more lies, and any or all central bank interventions. Derivatives will surface as the total frauds they are. Emergency loans in the hundreds of millions of dollars will be made to major brokerage firms and international investment banks to hold up a crumbling system. Price and monetary inflation must go wild as the big-wigs maneuver to save their bacon. The West simply cannot rule Islam, if only on the major criterion of size. At no time in history has anyone had the gall to believe they could (in a military sense) occupy such a vast territory in the name of bringing Democracy to the Muslim world -- a place where Dr. Benner has said there are no democrats to be found. Neither Attila The Hun, nor any other world conqueror, has ever undertaken a quest of the magnitude inherent in the stated second purpose of the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing.

Societies have been crippled by winning wars in the past, but this war now has no borders and covers an area greater than any war on the planet. It has sucked the U.S. dry and soon will suck the dollar dry. Now the opposition senses the hemorrhage of the system and plans to starve it of its lifeblood, oil. In the red fog of combat, leadership may not realize that in victory lies total defeat. It is never too late to cut your losses, but politics is the madness that often drives men and nations to their destruction. It is that bad. I have seen the future and it is not pretty."

Jim Sinclair Tuesday, August 03, 2004



"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

You can say that again.


Thursday, August 05, 2004


My responses (plain text) to comments (posted on my anti-whaling post) by Japan's Whaling Commissioner Minoru Morimoto (bold)

so what is the precise definition of a 'cultural right'?

'Cultural right' is one of those button-pushing but meaningless concepts (like 'racial purity') that are often used to justify dishonorable aims. Things change; times change; awarenesses change; cultures change; the killing of whales is not a 'cultural right' of Japan. It has been more reasonably argued that whales are a traditional dietary component of North American coastal indian tribes, but even that is being questioned in this day and age, and minimized as ritual to the point of disappearance.

why do you snigger about horse meat ice cream, but get so excited about whale meat? minke whales aren't in danger of becoming extinct. (basashi ice cream is amusing, to be sure -- but the creators of it probably were aware of that.)

I wasn't 'sniggering' about horsemeat, but about horsemeat-flavored ice cream. I'm surprised that the fact doesn't strike you (I'm sure it does, but facts often don't fit commercial agendas) that beef, pigs and horses are raised commercially; nobody ever has or ever will raise whales for food. Personally, I'm against the consumption of meat as a major food group, both dietarily and ecologically. (If one is starving, this is all another matter.) Someone will always want to eat meat, but they'll raise it, if they have the land, the time and the 'heart' for personal slaughter, as they do with beef, pigs and horses. There will never be a whale ranch.

no, no japanese is starving because of a lack of whale in their diet. but if pork or beef eating were banned, they wouldn't be going hungry either. the point is that whale is part of japan's traditional cuisine, and it has a distinct taste. why do the japanese need to stop eating it if whales aren't in danger of becoming extinct (unless too many of them are hunted, but that seems unlikely, world opinion being what it is...)?

World opinion being of some validity, I should think. Personally, I'd have no argument with a ban on pork and beef. Nor, if things keep going the way they are (with mad cow etc.), will anyone else, perhaps, a century from now. 100 years ago, NO whales were in danger of becoming extinct. Minke are still extant in relatively large numbers only because all the others (more profitable, more abundant, easier to catch etc.) have been hunted to near extinction. This is not a matter of gourmet lust for minke whales. I don't see this as only Japan's effort; Iceland, Norway et al. make similarly selfish claims; it's just that I live on this planet too, and the whales belong to no one. Whale eaters should bite the harpoon and move on, as the mammoth eaters did perforce. Hopefully earlier, so our descendants can actually see whales in the ocean and thank us for what we've left them, not curse us for what we've stolen to ourselves.

Email the Japan Whaling Commission at:



Searchable source of accredited health information worldwide. Health information you can trust. Try a search.



Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, REM, Bruce Springsteen and Dixie Chicks, have announced the Vote For Change Tour.

"I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been on stage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last 25 years and not take part in this particular election."
--Bruce Springsteen

"A vote for change is a vote for a stronger, safer, healthier America. A vote for Bush is a vote for a divided, unstable, paranoid America."
--Dave Matthews

More from Bruce about the reasons...


Wednesday, August 04, 2004


"Bush administration officials acknowledged yesterday that the latest terrorism alert was based primarily on information that is three to four years old, but they aggressively defended the decision to warn financial sectors in Washington, New York and Newark because of the continuing threat posed by al Qaeda."

Alert, Alert! November draws near...



Well, we have the new cedar boards nailed in place on the deck, which is thereby according to strict definition a deck again and can be walked upon and trafficked over, were one to seriously desire to do so, though I might have to stop one, since the boards haven't yet been weather treated, to which end we have the new section tarped over in wait for the boards to cure a bit during, say, a 72-hour duration of no moisture cascading from the sky, which these days seems about as likely as winning the Jumbo Lottery, so no, according to an even more personally stringent definition it's not a deck. Does that answer your question?



"The Public Management Ministry notified three ministries Tuesday that the quality of water in 10 lakes and ponds was still below expected standards.
The ministry's first evaluation of policies related to the conservation of the quality of lake water was delivered to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the Construction and Transport Ministry and the Environment Ministry.
The ministries also were sent advisory statements that called for them to review their plans to conserve water quality as well as consider new policies to regulate the discharge of waste water.
The ministry conducted chemical oxygen demand tests to assess the level of pollution in water samples taken from 10 designated lakes and ponds that had not met the requirements set by the Environment Ministry. Public Management Ministry officials also talked to local government officials regarding water conservation.
The ministry determined that none of the designated lakes and ponds met its standards. It also concluded that the water quality at four of the lakes, including Lake Biwa and Lake Nakaumi, was worsening."

I would suggest, offhand, for a start, that they CANCEL THE INDUSTRIAL WASTE PYROLYTIC INCINERATOR PLANNED FOR THE WESTERN SHORE OF LAKE BIWA (DRINKING WATER FOR 25 MILLION PEOPLE). Otherwise, scrap these purposeless ministries and start over with meaning.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004


"... you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet... I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, 'but not this time.'...

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power?"

"The son of the fortieth president of the United States takes a hard look at the son of the forty-first and does not like what he sees"


Monday, August 02, 2004


I hear the city is hotly calling for closed windows, blinds and air conditioning; at our house, in contrast, everything is open, cool and filled with vistas; got up this morning and the Lake was centered with a band of brilliant orange-gold from the sun behind some purple clouds over all that was silent but for the early semi, all that was unmoving but for an orange-headed, golden-eyed white cattle egret, gliding through the intense jade feathers of richening rice stalks, long-black-legged slow, as though doing all that need be done in the world, and carefully. Made for the job, as one might suppose we were too, until we go into the city.



The lifelong-celibate male leader of an exclusively male celibate priesthood (recently charged with shuffling child molesters from parish to parish worldwide for decades), advises women to get back into their absolutely non-priestly places as passive vessels of darkness, wear hats in church and otherwise do as they are told, as god (also definitely male) intended, it says so right here in this book, if you need proof.


Sunday, August 01, 2004


"There are those - and it looks suspiciously like George W Bush is one of them - who will take decisions that are counter productive to the welfare of Society as a whole in order to ensure a maintenance of the vested interests of a small subset of greater Society. They rationalise that these people have superior capabilities and that they therefore 'need' to be protected so that they can 'get on with the job' of 'saving the world'. There is a word that describes such a rationalisation, and that word is 'arrogance'."

From Managed Markets
By Brian Bloom

This reminded me of a passage I read a few weeks ago in Some More Thoughts on Moore, by Joyce Marcel:

"For me, the most troublesome scene in the film [Farenheit 9/11] comes when Bush is speaking to a group of wealthy supporters at a formal dinner. With a smirk, he says that while some might call these people 'the elite,' he calls them 'my base.' The well-tailored men and diamond-bedecked women smiled, preened and applauded; my heart dropped.

That was the moment I realized that these people know George Bush very well. They know he's a charming idiot, a wealthy, well-connected ne'er do well. They know that he's run every business opportunity he's ever had into the ground. They know he's not qualified to be president of a local garbage-hauling business, much less of the United States. And they don't care. They flat-out don't care.

The point is that he is one of them. They can trust him and his handlers to protect their privileges and increase their wealth. They'll fill Bush's coffers for this election and vote for Jeb Bush in the next one. The rest of the country can go to hell for all they care."



"Thermal waste treatment technologies fall into two broad categories: 1) those in which wastes are combusted. burned in the presence of oxygen, i.e., incineration technologies; and 2) those in which wastes are heated in the presence of little or no oxygen so that there is no direct combustion , i.e., pyrolysis (sometimes referred to as thermolysis) and gasification.

When oxygen levels in an incinerator are reduced to levels below the optimum for combustion, the incinerator is said to operate in a 'starved air', or 'pyrolytic' mode. Pyrolysis, also sometimes referred to as thermolysis, is defined as the thermal degradation of a substance in the absence or with a limited supply of oxygen. However, with medical wastes and similar materials a complete absence of oxygen is unachievable. As a result, some oxidation will occur during pyrolysis so that dioxins and related products of incomplete combustion are formed."

From Health Care Without Harm

For a broader picture visit GAIA (Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance)