May the splendor of true wealth
be yours in the Year of the Rooster.
Friday, December 31, 2004
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
BRIGHT YELLOW FRAGRANT
Despite the cold rain this morning - the snow line has not yet reached down to us; any day now – we went out for our morning walk with Kaya, who is a good walker for one who is nearly four, walks great distances without complaint, finding things of interest along the way; today it was cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus L.), which are at their peak of ripeness about now, at least at this elevation. Dressed in red, Kaya picked and ate a lot of those red fruits, they are even more delicious when bright and wet with rain.
The only actual purpose-y purpose for our walk (true walks eschew all purpose) was to visit the yuzu tree of one of our upmountain neighbors, who lives in Kyoto and visits his mountain house occasionally, but has little use for the wonderful yuzu his tree produces in prodigious quantity, so he says we can take as much as we want, which is one of the symptoms of paradise, so these days we stop by to pick only a few to use in lunch or dinner or to put in the bath.
And one of the things that delights any child is the sight of a tree full of ripe fruit freely pickable, so Kaya was looking forward to the yuzufull moment. When we got close to the spot, however, we could see that the tree was no longer largely yellow with ripe yuzu; it was entirely green! When we got up close, we couldn’t see a single fruit. As to culprit clues, the ground around was littered with scraps of yuzu peel bearing the unmistakably myriad marks of monkey teeth.
If you had asked me yesterday I would have said monkeys don't eat yuzu; they're too sour. which proves at least one thing: when it comes to monkeys, you're better off asking someone else. Not only do monkeys like the sour fruit, by the standards of a Manhattan price for one yuzu, the gourmet beasts had cleared about $1000 worth in one simian fandango. But way up on top of the tree (which had been bent with the weight of the fruit) we found two last yuzu; so Kaya could jump up and down as intended, with one bright yellow fragrant yuzu in each hand in the rain.
We’ll have one yuzu in our lunchtime nabe, and put one in the bath tonight.
WHAT IS IT, EXACTLY, THAT WE CANNOT SEE?
"Foremost among these misconceptions is that we must balance the environment against human needs. That reasoning is exactly upside-down. Human needs and a healthy environment are not opposing claims that must be balanced; instead, they are inexorably linked by chains of cause and effect. We need a healthy environment because we need clean water, clean air, wood, and food from the ocean, plus soil and sunlight to grow crops. We need functioning natural ecosystems, with their native species of earthworms, bees, plants, and microbes, to generate and aerate our soils, pollinate our crops, decompose our wastes, and produce our oxygen. We need to prevent toxic substances from accumulating in our water and air and soil. We need to prevent weeds, germs, and other pest species from becoming established in places where they aren't native and where they cause economic damage. Our strongest arguments for a healthy environment are selfish: we want it for ourselves, not for threatened species like snail darters, spotted owls, and Furbish louseworts.
Not all societies make fatal mistakes. There are parts of the world where societies have unfolded for thousands of years without any collapse, such as Java, Tonga, and (until 1945) Japan. Today, Germany and Japan are successfully managing their forests, which are even expanding in area rather than shrinking. The Alaskan salmon fishery and the Australian lobster fishery are being managed sustainably. The Dominican Republic, hardly a rich country, nevertheless has set aside a comprehensive system of protected areas encompassing most of the country's natural habitats."
The last Americans: environmental collapse and the end of civilization - Report
Great review of the book and reference to Oregon's touchstone Measure 37.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Just as Echo was getting Kaya ready for bed the clouds parted over the far shore and half the lake turned silver as a frosted glass, reminding me that the full moon was up there, and judging by the speed of those gray curtains would soon be making its appearance.
Knowing how Kaya loves the moon I asked if she wanted to see the full moon before she went to bed? She perked way up and of course said yes - what child would pass up a postponement of bed in any case, even with the good bedtime stories she gets to hear - so I picked her up in her lambfeet and carried her out onto the deck, it was still nearly night-dark out there, except for the reflected light from the lake through the barelimbed trees.
There was a cold stiff wind blowing down from the mountain, so I wrapped Kaya in the wings of my outer shirt and we snuggled together awaiting the grand appearance. While we waited I pointed out the one-two-three stars in a straight line up there that was Orion’s belt, just to plant that seed in her; she doesn’t know Orion from Archimedes, but now she’s heard the name and seen his stars.
As we fooled around out there dancing in the silver chill and saying silly stuff, the big slab of cloud slid slowly past until at last there was the big bright smiling moonlady, reflected in Kaya’s upturned face, lit in her eyes. We stayed long and looked, talked about that face so high, thought our own thoughts for a while, then back into the warm house and stories in bed, till came the moondreams...
The number of fatalities has been doubling every few hours since the massive tsunami struck tragically unprepared Indian Ocean shores; the death toll now stands at over 25,000, and will likely be much higher. Injuries must be many, many times that number, to say nothing of property, utility and treatment facility damage, necessitating emergency aid of every kind and description.
Here is a list of relief agencies where donations (online) and other aid can be sent.
Here is an excellent focus of all the ongoing news about this catastrophe.
A new ad hoc site on tsunami relief efforts with steady news updates here
Sunday, December 26, 2004
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Deep into Christmas eve, about 3 am if you must know, I was sound asleep, with visions of sugarplums - whatever they are - dancing in my head, when I was awakened by a sound outside. A large sound.
Not on the roof, but beside the house. A large animal, after blundering through the thicket in the dark, had come out into the cleared area and begun plowing slowly through the thick layer of leaves there, occasionally stopping to snap off a soft twig of hedge/Biwa/fig tree and chew it up. Rumination is very loud on a silent night.
The air was cold and I was warm and sleepy; nevertheless, in the spirit of Christmas I rushed to the window to see what was the matter, but of course it was as dark as it had been at my pillow. I went to get a flashlight, opened the window slowly and shined the light out into the dark: about 20 meters away I saw a big white heart: Blitzen was mooning me.
It definitely wasn't Rudolph; I'm not sure if it was really Blitzen or Donder or one of the others, but Santa was missing at least one reindeer. Actually, more likely they're all on vacation when they get to in Japan, since the Japanese don't have chimneys and Christmas here is 100% commercial. Kaya and the twins, on the other hand, have a genuine Yule experience at our house and enjoy the story of the deer on vacation.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
"4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that 'flying reindeer' (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim)would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force."
Friday, December 24, 2004
JAPAN'S GOT ROOTS
"The problems have been well publicized: The most rapidly aging society in the world, the highest public debt level in the industrialized world, a decade of falling land and stock prices, declining education standards, rising crime, divorce, suicide, youth delinquency and all-too-frequent scandals involving everyone from elite civil servants to doctors, not to mention politicians and their business associates with their snouts in the trough.
But while it's easy to throw your hands in the air and dismiss Japan as a country drowning in a tsunami of its own making--as many have done--it might be worth paying attention to Kingston's important finding: Something positive is happening here. It's just been happening so quietly, so incrementally, that we all missed it."
From review of Japan's Quiet Transformation: Social Change and Civil Society in the Twenty-First Century
By Jeff Kingston
Thursday, December 23, 2004
MY GOLDEN IN-LAW
For all you folks out there in the rest of the world who don't have an emperor, I thought I'd post a thought or two on what it's like to have one, especially one that's descended directly from the sun.
Before I came to reside in Japan I never had an emperor. I never really wanted one. When I was growing up in New York, I didn't feel the slightest need for anything imperial; it was quite enough to have a school principal and then an office supervisor. So I certainly didn't move here to get myself an emperor.
Strictly speaking, even though I reside here now, I still don't truly have an emperor, though my Japanese wife does of course, and our Japanese friends, whether they like it or not. Having an emperor isn't really a matter of choice if you're a direct descendant of the center of our solar system, as my wife is, which makes the sun my distant relation by marriage. My children are thus directly descended from the sun as well. Unlike me, they tan quite easily.
I joshingly bring all this up because today's a holiday, being the birthday of the current emperor Akihito, the Heisei Emperor of Japan. His father, Hirohito, reigned as the Showa Emperor from 1926 to 1989. His birthday was a holiday while he was alive. So there are definitely some advantages to having a solar in-law.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
What food for the heart, the majesty of those mountains up in the sky in the morning, clad in white with a sunlit rose-colored cape of cloudswirl sweeping outward with a cosmic gesture, suffusing the still graywhite predawn ground down where I am with that aura of eternity where now and then are one, and problems are as snowflakes on the tongue...
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Monday, December 20, 2004
ORIGINALLY ILLUSTRATED OTOGI ZOSHI IN ENGLISH
"Otogi Zoshi are tales for adults and children [to] enjoy alike. In the Muromachi Period and the Edo Period, people would have great fun thumbing through the pages by themselves or have someone read to them - there were many ways to enjoy the stories. The greatest pleasure of all though, must surely have been the beautiful painted color illustrations."
Sunday, December 19, 2004
"After all, the average Tokyo apartment is so small that it can make even a New Yorker feel like a caged animal. And only a cooking-averse undergraduate could love the typical Japanese kitchenette with its half-size refrigerator and an oven that can grill fish but not much more. To get around the lack of storage space, Tokyo shoppers shop more frequently than their American counterparts and tend to buy a lot of fresh food at local stores. The size of the classic Japanese meal - a few pieces of raw fish or a modest bowl of noodle soup - contrasts sharply with such American faves as the double bacon cheeseburger or the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
Thanks to an influx of American-style food, Japan is changing. In the 20 years from 1980 to 1999, Japanese spending on fresh produce dropped 10 percent, while expenditures on Western processed foods jumped 20 percent. Over the same two decades, obesity figures for Japanese males rose 40 percent. In the last 40 years, obesity in the population as a whole has more than tripled."
[Note the supersized attitude ("average Tokyo apartment so small that it can make even a New Yorker feel like a caged animal; only a cooking-averse undergraduate could love the typical Japanese kitchenette")... As a former New Yorker myself, I've lived for 30 years with the "typical Japanese kitchenette with its half-size refrigerator," (no buckets of ice cream or gallons of Coke) and found it no problem. I now prefer it to supersized kitchens and fridges. In food, volume is inimical to quality. I can prepare some fine (fresh) eats in a Japanese kitchen, and Etsuko can do even better. We still cook primarily on just one gas burner, a habit we got into when we lived in Spain. If Japan does supersize, though, it will start with kitchens and fridges, then spread to the young...]
BROWN RICE FROM MR. S.
This morning as we were taking our walk, regarding which there was nothing remarkable apart from the gold-and-lapis panorama of the sun rising over the lake, the lungfuls of rich air freshly expressed by the mountain forests and the food that is the feeling of your legs carrying you easily along a morning mountain road, we had gotten as far as the other side of the draw when, looking back at our house in the distance, we saw a white van pull up in the drive and knew at once that it must be Mr. S., come to deliver our organic genmai (brown rice) r-e-a-l-l-y early so we had to hurry back.
Since Mr. S. lives across the Lake, is a busy man and his delicious rice is increasingly in demand, he is not that easy to get hold of. When at last we did get reach him a few days ago, he had said he'd deliver our 60 kg before 10 a.m. on Sunday, but this was very before 10 am (folks who get up as early as we do tend to think everyone else’s day starts later) so we had to run all the way back while watching to see if Mr. S. might give up and drive away with our genmai. I had dallied earlier to take some photos, so Echo had a head start and got back just as he was turning around in the driveway to head back down the mountain.
Mr. S. is a tall, handsome, healthy, loquacious, elegantly dressed 80-year-old who moves like a much younger man. He is also a bonsai master; one of his black pine creations was in the back of his truck beside our 60 kg of genmai; he is selling some of his collection. The 60 kg he brought us will last the two of us about 5-6 months if we eat our usual amount of rice, but Kaya and the twins are coming, so this is more likely a 4-month supply.
Mr. S. grows organic rice using rice bran and a fermentation process in a method he has developed on his own and is trying to get patented, from which he produces fully organic genmai using no chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or othercides. This is especially important with brown rice, which is so much closer to the actual state of cultivation. But what is amazingly more, he charges about 1/3 less for it than other organic sources charge.
The rice he delivers is 100% brown rice; only the hulls have been removed. Our task now is to find a larger rice polisher; we like to occasionally have 80% ‘brown’ rice, or even 50% sometimes, depending on the recipe. We save the removed bran for baking bread, use it in soups or simply spread it on the garden. Mr. S.’s brown rice is definitely the best way to eat grains. Plus we're forced to run back to the house now and then. I’ll have to see about maybe getting one of his cherry bonsai...
Saturday, December 18, 2004
from shopping, daikon
in the Louis Vuitton
SOUNDS LIKE MY LUNCH AND DINNER
Methods: Data on the ingredients of the Polymeal were taken from the literature. The evidence based recipe included wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, garlic, and almonds. Data from the Framingham heart study and the Framingham offspring study were used to build life tables to model the benefits of the Polymeal in the general population from age 50, assuming multiplicative correlations.
Results: Combining the ingredients of the Polymeal would reduce cardiovascular disease events by 76%. For men, taking the Polymeal daily represented an increase in total life expectancy of 6.6 years, an increase in life expectancy free from cardiovascular disease of 9.0 years, and a decrease in life expectancy with cardiovascular disease of 2.4 years. The corresponding differences for women were 4.8, 8.1, and 3.3 years.
Study (requires free registration after Jan 7 2005)
Friday, December 17, 2004
"Triad is owned by a man named Tod Rapp, who has also donated money to both the Republican Party and the election campaign of George W. Bush. Triad manufactures punch-card voting systems, and also wrote the computer program that tallied the punch-card votes cast in 41 Ohio counties last November.
Given the ubiquity of the Triad voting systems in Ohio, the allegations that have been leveled against this company strike to the heart of the assumed result of the 2004 election.
Earlier this week, the allegations against triad were first raised by Green Party candidate David Cobb, who testified at a hearing held in Columbus, Ohio by Rep. John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee. In his testimony, Cobb stated:
Mr. Chairman, though our time is limited, I must bring to the committee's attention the most recent and perhaps most troubling incident that was related to my campaign on Sunday, December 12, about a shocking event that occurred last Friday, December 10..."
Thursday, December 16, 2004
One summer afternoon not long ago I was driving home from the larger village up the road, taking the way I always go when driving home from there (the back road from the turnoff at the stonemasons, curving on around the low hill and under the railway toward the new riverside park), and was just about halfway along that familiar road when all at once the car was a temple - something sacred was going on - because all the air was suddenly a beautiful sacred incense that was streaming through the car and me, and then the splendid scent was gone.
I slowed and looked all around to see if a there was a temple procession passing through the neighborhood, or maybe there was an incense competition (they still have incense competitions in Japan) going on nearby (the fragrance had been far too strong and intense to have been merely a local incense burner, or to have been wafted from afar), or maybe a distant incense factory was on fire, or maybe I was having an olfactory flashback...
I concluded that whatever it was, it was a one-time anomaly, and forgot all about it. But repetition is a function of heavenly things. One day not long after I was riding along the same road with Kaya in the car and the windows open, when Kaya smiled her big smile of random happiness and said “ii nioi!” (nice smell!) And there was the fragrance again, along the same stretch of road and as strong as last time, with no evidence anywhere as to the source.
Now, even in winter, when I drive along there day or night I open the windows for an uplift and the scent is always there, it's like driving through a strong, deep stream of sacred fragrance about 15 meters wide, right through that neighborhood that doesn't have a single incense factory in it. I still don't know where the scent is coming from, but it's always wonderfully welcome, a free gift put on the air by the spirits in charge of random happiness...
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
NANJING MASSACRE? WHAT NANJING MASSACRE?
Actual history can be SO inconvenient. Two days ago China honored the 67th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, right where Japan's history is obscured by some heavily applied whitewash.
"When inconvenient historical facts are conveniently denied and censored by power brokers in authoritarian regimes such as North Korea or Iran, we call it despotism, Orwellian, even evil. But what should we call it when such facts are denied by elected leaders and mainstream media in Japan...?
China's directly experienced perspective:
Nanjing rally commemorates Nanjing Massacre anniversary
Nanjing Marks 65th [sic] Anniversary of Japanese Massacre
"Honda is in a class of its own when it comes to producing clean cars and trucks," said David Friedman, Research Director of UCS's [Union of Concerned Scientists] Clean Vehicles Program and lead author of the report. "General Motors, on the other hand, is stuck in reverse. GM has spent countless dollars in advertising trying to create a green image, but as the only automaker to move backwards on both smog and carbon dioxide, its rhetoric doesn't match reality."
Full story at Common Dreams
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
MAN IN BLACK
Early this morning, getting sleepily on the commuter train without resorting to the usual full-spectrum seating strategy, I simply occupied the nearest aisle seat of a two-seater closest to the center of the car that would be nearest the exit of the arrival platform and soon realized that the plump young guy passenger sitting beside me had a loud, rhythmic clicking sound coming from his head, sort of like many small metallic doors opening covertly one by one, or maybe the gradual parting of bone.
If I turned to look I might see a long-necked extraterrestrial slug staring back at me from out of the unfolded skull, who knew these days, then the alien sound began to grow louder and more insistent, as though the beast were swelling to its true proportions, it must be pretty damn big, maybe I should change seats before it occupied him completely and had me for breakfast.
I turned to see how far the takeover had advanced, perhaps gauge the potential reach of the beast, when I beheld a gleaming pair of very hi-tech earphones bouncing on the guy's ears. That sound of bone cracking was in fact music! Music that was, if you're an absolute stickler for definition, meant to be listened to! And the listener was either sleeping through it (!), or it had rendered him unconscious. He was definitely alive, I could see him breathing. Alien takeovers keep their victims alive right till the end, then they discard them like a husk.
Judging by the creative nuance and thematic sensibilities of the sonic event, unconsciousness appeared to be the listening mode of choice. However, it's a sort of unwritten general principle of mine not to fall asleep to the sound of bone breaking. So not having brought along any of those earplugs explosive experts use (bad commuter planning), before the next stop I warped to a distant and therefore much quieter seat. In that newfound tranquility I pondered an addition to my commuter arsenal: hi-tech earphones, playing be-bop, top volume: that would keep the unearthly at bay.
Monday, December 13, 2004
WEB SWEET WEB
Out in the morning sweeping with a long broom up under the lower eaves of the housefront preparatory to the last bit of painting, as I reached up and swept I was surrounded by a rain of sleepy spider families - mothers, fathers, long gray strands of architecturally impressive residences, very artistic egg sacs – indeed, entire arachnoidal communities disrupted from complex pre-winter preparations, now abruptly eight-legged refugees with a thousand kids and no snowshoes, though thankfully it's still rather warm and snowless, so spinners with the wherewithal still have time to whip up a spider Hilton in a prime location.
I could almost hear them as they drifted past me: whooooooaaaa, what's happening - all that work for nothing - where are the kids - there goes my job - I'm not even out of the egg yet and already I've got problems - and such like, until all was ready for my own pre-winter nesting preparations. As a traveler who took a very long time getting to where I am, I know how they feel.
Friday, December 10, 2004
WE HAVE MET THE FUTURE AND IT ISN'T THERE,
MY COMPANION HAS 108 LED LIGHTS IN ITS HEAD
Its aging population makes Japan the testing ground for the future of the world's elderly. And here is a partial glimpse of that future, in the figure of ifbot. Looks like we should anticipate a day when the elderly will have no one to really talk to, no one to really spend time with but a factory-programmed robot featuring a full menu of expressions, that can perform such functions as conversation, calculation, puzzles, memory games, advice, medical check among its altogether 15 functions. It also has 108 LED lights built into its head so it can express emotion. It can ask: "How are you feeling today?" But I doubt it will ever really mean it. I think I'll go have a pack of cigarettes.
ifbot: "How are you feeling today?" Me: "Quite a bit worse, actually."
Me: "Quite a bit worse, actually."
For some reason unknown to me, as most reasons are, I woke up this morning with that universally accursed tune running through my head in kitschy madness from the moment I opened my eyes and realized once more who I was, or at least what name I am called, this bag of memories, this walking bio, but what do I know, I don't even program the background music.
The tune - you know it, definitely, everybody does, but doesn't want to, we don't have a choice in these matters, do we - is one of those frothy-bouncy things we all grow to hate sooner or later no matter what part of the world we're in if we don't lose our minds first, I'm sure you've hated it as well - no, I won't tell you what the tune is, you'll never forgive me - with its rhythmanic anchors that lock onto your medulla oblongata, relentless repetitions that hypnotize your serpent brain, sonic claws that hook onto your basic mental wiring and thematic cables that weld themselves to the walls of your consciousness so that whenever you relax your guard for just a moment it pops up out of the top of your head like the tune to a you-in-the-box and you're humming it again, whistling it again, tapping it again, dancing it again, pirhouetting again down the subway platform like Mary Poppins only I'm a guy, which makes it worse, and everyone is staring at you like you're a Mary Poppins kind of guy humming with a deep voice that tune everyone is trying so hard to forget and here you come along and ruin everything, it was the same when I pirhouetted into the office...
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Yesterday being one of those beautiful crisp October days that because of global warming now fall in December, we went across the Lake to take part in the Burning Dedicated Wood Festival at Agajinja (aka Tarobo-gu) on Sekishinzan (Red God Mountain). The shrine is in the nether region of lost travelers alluded to earlier in these humble chronicles, but despite the usual random arrangement of highways and signs along our way, through sheer accident we made it to the correct mountain with plenty of time to spare, even after parking at a distance and walking the rest of the way to the mountain.
As we ambled though the pleasant roadside gauntlet of smiling farmer ladies selling their vegetables, beans, konnyaku, country-style pickles etc., occasional glances upward showed why the mountain had become a focus of the sacred. Throughout the millennia (the shrine was finally built in the 7th century), this mountainside was clearly the place for anyone who wanted to be alone; any sanctity-directed soul in this neighborhood who sought natural solitude in proximity to heaven must have been drawn here like a magnet.
In elegant testimony to Japan's religious syncretism, right at the bottom of the long stairway up to Tarobo's Shinto complex, strung out above over the mountainside, sits a Buddhist temple, whose explanatory sign takes the usual pride of temples around here in having been burned to the ground by Oda Nobunaga, who apparently later had a change of heart and restored this place, at least. Seems you can't burn down temples all your life.
A general uplift comes over you as you draw near the mythic mountain, and in that ebullience I started up the long stairway taking two steps at a time, but after a couple hundred of those I felt my legs dangling in hell and had to pause at the first landing to get my breath, heart, lungs, legs, general existence etc. back onto the earthly plane. I then commenced to climb at a pace more befitting an elder who has learned to minimize ebullience, i.e., experience in .zip format.
Thence upward in suitably elder fashion along the trail through chants and bells, prayer handclaps and red carpets of leaves past platforms and copper-roofed shrines to all the gods, including me (above one altar is a Shinto mirror; just visit to be whom you worship) that are tilted out on stilts or jammed in caves and crevices and ravines...
When at last we reached the first level the big fire was going before mountained offerings of radishes, sake, mikan, watermelons, strawberries, rice and more; there was a sort of vicarious firewalking path set up, across which folks were walking, while elsewhere bunches of elder ladies linked their arms and edged backward laughing through the roiling smoke toward the giant orange firetongue that was roaring at the sky, to get the sacred heat on their sore backs or legs or heads or wherever, as the mountain priests handed out fire talismans to the crowd.
Further up along the stilted walk was my personal favorite, Benzaiten (goddess of the arts) above her cave, then on to and through the giant rock that was split by the gods way before even the first inkling of history; passing through the split at the end of your climb you are reborn onto that small platform also known as life, in front of the shrine of Tarobo, the timeless goblin of the mountain. Here in vast distances the eye swallows whole are tiny homes down there, and moving among them mere specks like yourself, going about life much as you do when you're not gasping for air way up here, where it is growing cold, the horizon is darkening, end of day is nearing, time to start down and begin another life...
She rubs the statue's hand
With all her need
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
JAPAN THREATENS HUGE DOLLAR SELL-OFF
"Japan is warning the White House that there will be 'enormous capital flight' from the dollar if the Bush administration maintains its laissez-faire approach to the mounting currency crisis. Tokyo fears that Japan's strongest economic recovery in a decade could be derailed by the sudden appreciation in the yen against the greenback.
The criticism of President Bush's inaction, by a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, will be taken as a veiled threat that Japan could start to sell off its multi-billion-dollar holdings of US Treasuries. 'The Japanese government is going to ask for a strong dollar policy; if it continues to fall, there would be enormous capital flight from the dollar,' said Kaoru Yosano, chairman of the LDP's policy council, adding that Japan would be calling on its fellow G7 governments to demand the US deal with the massive fiscal deficit that has helped to prompt the dollar's decline.
Yosano's remarks echoed a warning from a senior Japanese Ministry of Finance official that if the US does not push up interest rates to make the dollar more attractive, 'the one-way sentiment on the dollar will have a negative impact on the flow of capital into the US.' He added that Japan is urging its European counterparts to join a campaign of coordinated currency-market intervention, saying: 'If the dollar is depreciating, we should have coordinated action: that has already been communicated to my European counterparts.'
More on the dollar's dire dilemma at The New Yorker
Monday, December 06, 2004
MARRYING INTO A SAMURAI FAMILY
Yesterday evening as I was waiting for my train on the platform in Kyoto station I saw a pale American-looking fellow in his early twenties, well over six feet tall, sticking way out from the crowd in his surfer shades and a gaudy backpack, standing there amidst a small cluster of folks over whom he towered, holding a newborn baby.
With him was a Japanese woman, her head not reaching to his shoulder, apparently his wife; the small crowd comprised her parents and siblings and a lot of luggage, and it soon became clear that the husband and wife were visiting her home in Shiga for the first time together, probably met at college.
The parents, plain old country folk, were in a kind of culture shock daze at having suddenly thus - and with no alternative - to deal with a foreign husband who spoke no Japanese and had never even been in this country before, where he stuck out exactly like the tall foreigner he was, the parents looking sort of numb at what their daughter had wrought out there in the world and brought home, they were just local folks, courageously trying now to embrace these sharp new facts, but they didn’t seem to know how. They were still living in what they’d thought had been reality.
In them I beheld the tremendous shock it can be for a provincial person’s child to go to a foreign land and come back home with a foreign spouse; it added to my own insight and sympathy for what Echo and I had wrought upon her parents, who, though they were not exactly simple country folk, were small-mountain-town folk; the shock for these people before me was perhaps even greater. They had no choice whatsoever but to confront it, and the imminent reactions of their neighbors, the entire neighborhood, indeed the whole village; there would be many ‘tsks’ and head shakings in the rainbow of attitudes that would befall these stunned cultural pioneers even now learning how to greet what was to come, how to do what must be done... may all good come to them all...
How different it was nearly 30 years ago when Echo and I, having met in Tokyo (there were few foreign expats there then), were living together in Spain, and in the Japanese way Echo hinted at the fact to her mother by writing to ask that she send two sets of Ohashi (chopsticks); her mother wouldn't acknowledge the cryptic request, but sent three sets instead.
Then when our daughter Kasumi was born, Echo wrote of the fact to her mother; when the news reached Echo's father, he struck her name from the family book and threatened to kill us both with the family sword if we ever came to their house. But Echo's mother sent baby gifts on the sly, and over the next couple of years things were slowly acknowledged, but from a distance. When at our Shinto wedding ceremony in Kyoto four years later I first met Echo's father, he bowed before me, touching his head to the floor; from then on I was part of the family.
Now that I think of it, I never did get to see the family sword...
Sunday, December 05, 2004
THE RAPTURE INDEX AND YOU
"I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; of Thomas, age 10; of Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, 'Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.' And then I am stopped short by the thought: 'That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world.'"
Saturday, December 04, 2004
ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
There I was out and way up pruning the cedars this morning so as to get the task done before the rains that will drench the rest of this weekend, holding on for dear life as I stretched on tiptoe from the tiptop of the fully extended manymeterstall ladder, making a further ladder upward out of the pruned branches, thence further heavenward cutting away the shadows so as to let more winter light into the house (untended lower branches of a mass of cedars can get pretty funereal).
Yes, there I was; and in such a place it goes without saying that regarding the total absence of further shiitake harvests - if such had even crossed my mind amidst all that fragrant green - there would have been on my face that supremely confident look Donald Duck wore in that cartoon where he was certain he had just stopped his house from breaking in two, when the actual fact broke in on him; such as well was the latter look on my face when, from way up there my eyes, following the path of a falling branch, beheld on the sunward side of the stack of shiitake logs (where there had been even fewer shiitake than on the shady side at the absolutely final harvest a few weeks ago so I didn't even look anymore) several new shiitake of a size and pristinity that would cop a country fair blue ribbon easy, if there were any counties in Japan. Or fairs in them. With blue ribbons.
So when I was finished and had bigger shoulders from sawing first with the left and then with the right over and over again all morning, building an appetite to match the hour, I took those shiitake and sliced them thin as paper and sauted them in my home-made basil-flavored olive oil with a little garlic and broth and grated pecorino, then tossed in the al dente fettucine and ecstasized, the while admiring the cedars with their new shoulders.
Friday, December 03, 2004
SOME PERCHLORATE FOR THE KIDS
Almost exactly a year ago I posted about perchlorate, an explosive additive to rocket fuel that had been found in lettuce in the Colorado area; well now the EPA study is in. And to give you some idea of the true extent of this 'invisible' problem, the Environmental Protection Agency has a "Perchlorate Coordinator for the Southwest and Pacific Region." Because it's not just Colorado, the Southwest or the Pacific region.
"Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests released this week have confirmed the presence of perchlorate - an explosive additive in solid rocket fuel - in almost every sample of lettuce and milk taken in a nationwide investigation. Perchlorate, leaking from military bases and defense contractors' facilities, is known to cause regional water pollution, resulting in serious health effects.
BushGreenwatch reported last December on the stalling tactics of the Bush Administration and the Defense Department regarding a national standard for safe drinking water.  The EPA's preliminary risk assessment found that perchlorate should not exceed 1 part per billion (ppb) in drinking water for protecting developing fetuses, but industry and Defense Department scientists claim that as much as 200 ppb is safe for human consumption.
Problems associated with perchlorate include impaired thyroid function, tumors, cancer, and decreased learning capacity and developmental problems - such as loss of hearing and speech - in children."
And Japan wants rockets of its own...
Thursday, December 02, 2004
SACRED BAMBOO Nanten (Nandina domestica) is the plant that grows and spreads and grows again beside the big rock that pokes up through one end of our deck (geomanticotraditionally, nanten is always grown somewhere at the north end of a house) but even though I’ve been trimming our nanten back at least twice a year ever since we moved in and because nanten just has an aesthetic look about it (it’s also known as Sacred bamboo or Heavenly bamboo, though it’s not a bamboo) and is so hardy (the wood of the stems is strong and decay resistant, making it excellent for garden stakes) and the birds love the berries that come out in fall and stay all winter (for the wingless, the berries are used to treat sore throats and the like), nanten and I have a relationship that I value.
Even when I’m hunkered down in the summer heat with a handsaw trying to keep from swearing as I work my way in amidst the army of nanten stalks marching straight and tall to take over our front garden I have to love the stuff, it’s so spindly at bottom, yet hardy, everleaved, with its bright red berries and leaves that are living rainbows through the year-- and in winter it does this dark green dance in the falling snow--
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Speaking of Santa Barbara a couple of posts ago in re the Hisha antique auction, I mentioned my post on the auction to my brother, who lives in Santa Barbara, and he asked me to post about a house he owns in Desert Hot Springs (in Coachella Valley near Palm Springs) that he has just renovated and is putting up for rent. Take the tour (contact number inside).