Saturday, December 31, 2005


WINE REVIEW


Just having some wine, from which nation and year I shall not say, nor shall I mention the variety, let alone the label, which in the neofashion intimated hints of ripe blackberry, raspberry and sweet plum, with spicy pepper, vanilla and oak characters, and I must admit I do taste an element of oak bark in there when I swill it around orally in the accepted way, (though it must have been a long time since I chewed an oak to see what it tasted like - and I still remember! - remarkable). But in the brief time since the label was composed the berries plum and all the rest seem to have been superseded by characters of ashtray, siphoned gas and earwax, which for some reason weren't there at the original tasting... Maybe it's my organic tastebuds

FOR YOUR NEW YEAR: A WORLD'S BEST RADIO PROGRAM


Morning Becomes Eclectic

Thursday, December 29, 2005


JAPAN RATED WORLD’S BEST PLACE TO GET NAKED


Among other (generally clad) attractions, of course. The Lonely Planet’s Bluelist, based largely on a "series of great picks by well-traveled people," lists Japan at number 4 among the top 10 travel destinations, after Australia, India and the US.

"Japan is seen by travelers from Europe, the U.S. and Australia as being about as different as you can get on Earth..."

You can say that again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


LOWER THAN A SHELLACKED CINNAMON BUN

Is there anything... of a lesser spiritual nature, shall we say, than getting your PR fix out of purchasing and displaying the image of the alleged mother of the alleged Jesus grilled into an extant grilled cheese sandwich, or the alleged Jesus himself burned into a factive piece of toast, or an actual shellacked cinnamon bun that's a dead ringer for Mother Theresa?

Yes there is something lesser: on Christmas Day you can steal the shellacked cinnamon bun that's a dead ringer for Mother Theresa.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


THE HEAVENS
ARE A PROBLEM

Yes, Virginia, believe it or not, there is an International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service. How do I know this? I know this because the astronomers and the clock community are at each other's throats again. Some modern things just never change. Sorry Virginia, I don't really know what the "clock community" is, though it seems to include everyone who isn't an astronomer.

Anyway, believe it or not the big argument has to do with whether humanity should abolish the leap second, which is defined as 1/86,400th of a "mean solar day," the average time between two consecutive noons - during a lot of which we're all asleep anyway - as opposed to the atomic second, the time it takes for an atom of cesium 133 to tick through 9,192,631,770 cycles or, more roughly, for a running person to miss the train to work.

It seems that the atom does its thing, whatever that is, with amazing regularity: you watch that clock for 20 million years and it won't lose even half a second, though your pension is loooong gone. The heavens, however, are kind of sloppy in that regard, thank God, who is more like us, allowing for anomalies to creep in and then disappear, like species, fashions, puppy love, the need for a leap second and so on.

The folks in charge of time started adding leap seconds in 1972, the year after I took to the road in my own anomaly, and they’ve added seven leap seconds since then, which frankly, as a transient member of the clock community I didn't even notice. But now that I'm a Silver Surfer and the clock really flies, if only those tick-timers at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service - whose salaries are paid by our taxes - would get off their chronically challenged duffs and add a leap year every couple of months, that might be worth all the fuss.

Monday, December 26, 2005


slow arrows -
cedar trees
pierce the falling snow


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005


CHAMPAGNE SNOW


As I was out walking in the latest blizzard this morning, mind pretty much filled with the usual blizzardy white non-thoughts falling from top to bottom with occasional windblown asides, my feet began talking to me of old times and the archives of unused knowledge there.

At first I wasn't listening, being preoccupied with the non-doing through which all is done, but slowly information began to break through from the past, my past, when this was big news my feet were telling me: this is more than good packing. This is more than great packing. This is packing perfection! Hello? Are you there? Yes, I'm here; why? Why? Because this is the epitome of packing, it said (though it never would have used 'epitome' when I was a kid): just listen to that ever-so-slight crunch when you take a step, that's one of the old languages you know in your very bones, telling you this snow is perfect for snowballs: not too light, not too heavy, not too dry, not too wet, sticks together with no work at all, it's the champagne of packing; what are you waiting for? Make a snowball!

So I did - perfection is hard to ignore - and my supposedly 'retired' hands still knew how to make all the various shapes I used to employ for the various nefarious purposes of childhood, then the old truth came back like a hammer: when you've got a perfect snowball in your hand there's only one genuine alternative. (Sure, you could just drop it on the ground, but where would the world be if everyone was that weird?)

I wasn't about to shoot Echo in the back, so I just threw the admirably crafted snowball at a tin shed a few meters away. Fortunately, no one was watching because it fell short. I had a thick coat on, alright? So I made another perfect champagne snowball, hand-grenade style this time, and slung it at the shed wall. Fortunately, no one was watching because I missed. It's been decades, ok? So I made another perfect champagne snowball, a sleek iceball this time, for optimal aerodynamics and maximum noisy impact against the wall of the shed, and threw it. Fortunately, no one was watching because it hit the edge of the wooden roof without a sound.

But I had not been a child in vain. I stayed there and worked on my ancient craft and from out of the snows of yesteryear it came back to me in great measure, as Echo disappeared into the blizzard. Slowly my 'arm' returned as best it could (I'd "thrown it out" at a young age in a multiwinter blizzard of snowball fights, which is why the Yankees never scouted me) and before too long I was hammering the side of that shed with satisfying regularity till figured I better make tracks before the farmer came along and caught me. Just like old times.

Friday, December 23, 2005


HELLO KITTY TO QUELL CHINA MENACE
?

Taro Aso, Japan's foreign minister, is absent the buttoned lip generally required of diplomatic positions. He's calling China a threat, but it's always been a "threat," though probably less so now than at any time in recent history. North Korea is much more problematic. I suspect that the fuss is all really because Japan's old-boy powers-that-be do not at all relish the prospect of China taking over the world's number two economic position, and in time the number 1 spot. This must rankle deeply in the craw of the heritors who still breathe the heady air of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, like Aso, Ishihara et al. Aso's professional diplomat subordinates soon buttonlipped his statement, however [see above link].

But all will be well: the Foreign Ministry has a remarkable solution for improving its tarnished image in re the historic Sphere, Yasukuni, Aso, Ishihara etc. : they plan to start a new program aimed at spreading Japanese animations and J-pop in China! I'll bet Sailor Moon will simply enthrall the cadres, as Kitty eases memories of the Long March. But better them than Aso.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


WHOA! THE WHOLE COUNTRY IS TILTING!


You couldn't tell by me, the trains seem just as crowded with just as many folks of all ages - though now that I think of it there seem to be fewer infants around than there were 20 years ago, which on a crowded train is definitely not a bad thing...

Don't look now, but at any minute, for the first time in a century, fewer people in Japan are being born than are dying. These days there just seems to be less general interest in those two types of experience. Which brings us to the aging society, with Japan once again the world's canary in a coal mine, entering a new realm before anyone else, and with yours truly pretty much up there in the local silver vanguard, looking for the champagne bar.

I have been a senior citizen for some time now, having climbed from the slough of mere youth to the promontory of age, step by hard-won step. I have done and have been doing my part, but others younger than myself clearly have not. As a result, just about now Japan's population is officially declining, but believe me, I'm not complaining. I rode Tokyo's Yamanote line at rush hour in the 1970s.

As to said decline, I myself may be declining, but nevertheless it seems to me that Japanese society could do a lot better with wisdom at the helm than some upstart knowitall whippersnappers fresh out of the classroom who can't even add to the population. Life experience is what we need, clear-eyed, reading glass-wearing folks up there in positions of party leadership who have experienced life, who know how to bring fine wines to the masses, create a department of rock and roll, swear in a secretary of sexuality, break down a few fences, change quite a few stodgy rules and eliminate even more others that get in the way of a good time to be had by all 24/7 nationwide.

It's called the Silver Surfer Party. Bring a date.

THE BILLIONAIRE THAT NEVER WAS


A long time ago I read an interview of Daisuke Inoue (Osakan inventor of the karaoke machine, which he failed to patent), in which when asked if he regretted the loss of all the billions that never came to him as a result, he replied that it was better he never had all that money, because he would have lost it for sure, and that would have been worse. Can't find that interview, but here's a good take on a very interesting character (who, in my opinion, did not deserve the Ig Nobel Prize, though characteristically he enjoyed receiving it).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


ONE OF THE WORLD'S BEST FLEAMARKETS


As a veteran scavenger I love fleamarkets, and today we visited one of the best fleamarkets in the world, the one held on the 21st of every month at Toji temple in southwest Kyoto, that stands beside what was once site of the famous Rashomon. (Another of the world's best fleamarkets is the one held on the 25th of each month at Kitano temple.)

I haven't been to Toji since we moved from Kyoto, and what a wonderful madhouse it still is. Since we had other errands to do in Kyoto, we went by car, which is not a good idea if you want to find parking within several kilometers of Toji at the same time as most of the population (when we lived in Kyoto, we went everywhere by bicycle).

We drove around for quite a while until we got smart and got in line at a nearby parking lot, then had 2 hours to wander among the stalls that were selling antiques and (make a list of every thing you can think of other than appliances and vehicles): among the many other things, full-grown trees, huge garden rocks and bonsai. Old saxophone? Hot dog? Used kimono? Coffee-coated almonds? Seven spice mix? Hair nets? Woodblock prints? Bronze dragons? Amber? Jade? Old coins? Massage? Palmistry? Edo toys? Tools?

The arrangement is now very different in nature from way I remember it back in the 80s-90s, when most of the sellers offered their goods on cloths on the ground. Now many more have fancy setups. And back then it was almost all Japanese antiques, both high and low, amidst sundry goods and cheap clothing, in addition to a lot of very appealing junk in which there were good scavenger "finds."

Foreign items were few. Now there are goods from all over Asia, cheap imitation Chinese antiques and the like. Still, if you're looking for some old oriental item you had no idea you loved so much, this is the place to go. So if you're coming to Kyoto, see if you can include the 21st and the 25th in your time frame: great experiences and a great education that you don't have to spend a yen to enjoy, unless you're all too human.

GENUINE INTELLIGENCE PREVAILS

Nature abhors wilful ignorance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


THE LONG NOW FOUNDATION



Foundation seminars are now available free (optional donation) as podcasts or for listening on line.

Sample Seminar titles and authors:

The Long Now - Brian Eno

Progress on the 10,000-year Clock - Danny Hillis

Cities & Time - Stewart Brand

How Societies Fail-And Sometimes Succeed - Jared Diamond


viz: The Clock of the Long Now

GROWING ORCHIDS

Out in the country, where folks are naturally balanced by the weather all year round, in winter we city-goers go down the mountain on icy roads to the basic train station where we climb the windhowling stairs to stand familiarly atop the ice beside the snowfilled plastic seatbenches on the open train platform, playground of genuine country mountain winds we can lean on till the train comes, when, with ice in our strong country teeth and snow in our thick country hair we board the short country train for the long ride to the city and stops in between.

As the train gets nearer the city the stations and their comforts get a little cushier; at first you see platform windbreaks, then as the houses get fancier, closer together and higher the station platforms acquire escalators and feature enclosed cubicles of increasing size and fanciness; soon they have cushioned chairs, then elevators and heated cubicles, till near the city itself - which is one big heated, cushioned cubicle, more or less - the cubicles (such as at the Shinkansen station) look like they'll soon have stewards and stewardesses serving tea, coffee, brandy and cigars...

Arrived in the city we country folk detrain dressed for the weather, but there isn't any to speak of. In the greenhouse office I have to take off my sweater, you could grow orchids in here.

Monday, December 19, 2005


SNOW DEVILS

Out this morning in yesterday's snow, walking cross-mountain at the edge of the new blizzard moving in from the northwest, we saw the snow devils come whirling down the slopes, leading the front that approached like a high gray wall in the sky, the mountains quickly disappearing behind higher mountains of snow roiling down ragged and dark with snowflakes, dropping their delicate steams, the sun a weak silver disk - like a light behind thick gray silk - then it too was gone and all was swirls of snow into which footprints disappeared ahead and behind--

On the fading lake the distant whitening islands disappeared first, then the dark water, as the falling snow hid all; up here the air was now still and close, the earth rising slowly into the calm and steady whiteness of the full snowfall.

In all that whispering action the loudest sound was our footsteps...

Sunday, December 18, 2005



silver leaf
on winter willow
high moon

EVADING THE SOCIAL ROLE


What? You don't want to wear a designer tie
beneath a starched collar beneath
one of twelve suits and commute with a briefcase
from a pabulum home in the cuisinart suburbs
to an airless space on the 43rd floor
of a nondescript building surrounded by smog
and the windows of other buildings for 16 hour days
on the telephone and eat terrible meals in a hurry
from cardboard containers and get zapped
by workstations with electromagnetic waves
of unknown effect so you can retire after 40 years
with strange symptoms and go live with old folks
of similar vagueness somewhere down south?
What are you, crazy?

Saturday, December 17, 2005


MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH IMPUNITY!


This evening we're off across the Lake to a Celtic Christmas event in Ritto, where with impunity they'll say Merry Christmas!, Season's Greetings!, Happy Holidays!, whatever they like, just the way they used to in the Land of the Free.

BXXH ADMITS TO IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE

of course he didn't know it was wrong... more or less... anyway the 'major' media will 'miss' it...

Friday, December 16, 2005


NINE PERCENT DISGUSTED??


Folks here in Japan are culturally just as enthralled as folks anywhere else, if not moreso, by the enigmatic smile on Mona Lisa behind bullet-proof glass in the Louvre.

The long lines of folks that flock to her every day come to see that smile and wonder what it means. What was on Mona's mind as she sat posing for Leonardo 500 years ago? Did she just meet a new a boyfriend? Was she going to pick up those new shoes? Did she just get revenge? Or was it a wonderful secret that Leonardo may even have been privy to? There are as many thoughts about that famous smile as there are visitors to it.

Well the white steed of science has once again galloped to to our collective aid by analyzing Mona's smile, using emotion recognition software. Scientific researchers from here and there who had a few moments to spare have used them to determine that Mona was 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry, which opens up a whole new can of worms, aesthetically speaking.

The scientists add that there was no evidence of surprise in Mona's demeanor, which is no surprise. There was no sadness either, which conclusion I personally would disagree with, but then I'm using different emotional recognition software. Of course science can do nothing to deduce the actual causes of Mona's emotions, which is the fun part, so we're all still in the game and can continue to visit Mona with abandon.

Mona 83% happy? Well, yeah. Mona 9% Disgusted? Why? Maybe Leonardo or his studio weren't so... pleasant? Mona 6% Fearful? Of what? Was Leonardo maybe a little edgy around that time? Mona 2% angry? Surely Leonardo didn't... Maybe the modeling fee was a bit too low?

I wonder if Leonardo knew that as she sat for him, Mona was nearly 20% disgusted, fearful and angry, a statistically siginificant difference from the masterpiece norm. Would he have tweaked her smile? Or was it, after all, meant for all humankind?

Thursday, December 15, 2005


GUY'S ALL HEART.


"I would say 30,000, more or less" (human individuals with souls, histories, names and families)

Love that 'more or less.'

CORN STOVES SOLD OUT


In the US, folks of all income levels are burning corn for fuel...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


SAILING WITH O'BRIAN


Fascinating remeniscence of meeting and sailing with Patrick O'Brian, author of the classic Aubrey-Maturin novels.

Cruising with Patrick O'Brian -
The Man and the Myth

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


THE BLOG BROTHERS


My brother Mick and I (he's a year and a half younger), born in Albany NY where we grew up as though twins, childhooded through the war and postwar 1940s, teenaged through the rockin 1950s, colleged through the psycho 1960s and absorbed all the aftermaths, are now - as life's travels would have it - living on opposite sides of the Pacific (he in Santa Barbara and I on this mountainside in Japan). On my last visit to the States we were remeniscing so much that we decided to make it continuous, and so started a blog where we can spontaneously and serendipitously remenisce much as we do when we're together. And now that it can stand in its own special place on its own four feet, without any further ado I present to you: The Blog Brothers.

THE McGEISHA FROM RODEO DRIVE


I've seen a few tv teasers for the blue-eyed geisha film (it's called Sayuri in Japan; they dare not use the term 'geisha' here in its relation), and it was apparent from the first frame that somehow Hollywood has once again overlooked the Japan in Japan. Below are excerpts from a discerning review at the Financial Times [link following]. For those interested in what Hollywood does with history and culture, the article is worth reading in its entirety.

"Early on in the production of the film it was decided that the traditional white-face make-up of the geisha would be offputting for American audiences. Instead we are presented with a toned-down, westernised geisha – Sayuri even has blue eyes. Geisha hairstyles are lost too, and replaced with long loose hair and styles that are more reminiscent of those seen in Chinese films also starring Zhang, Li and Yeoh.

In one of the central scenes of the film, a dance starring Zhang, any pretensions to cultural accuracy go right out of the window. It was obviously decided that geisha dances – which in reality are slow, graceful affairs – were not visually interesting enough for audiences used to seeing Zhang flying among the bamboo. So what we end up with is a mish-mash of imagery, as the filmmakers opt to mix theatrical kabuki-style dancing with Hollywood razzamatazz. Wearing a wig of long, flowing black hair reminiscent of women in Chinese ghost stories, Zhang dances dramatically while balancing on eight-inch platform shoes and holding an umbrella in a blizzard of fake snow. A spotlight shines down and koto drummers dictate the frenetic beat – the effect is much closer to Chicago than anything in the geisha world. To make matters worse, the costume designer has dressed Zhang in shoes worn by a tayu [licensed prostitute of old] for her coming-out ceremony, which will surely upset many geisha aficionados."

From Japan through Hollywood's Distorting Lens

Wonder what culture Hollywood's gonna produce next.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


POPMAP


Countries sized by population. Asia is so way bigger than Texas!

Legibly full-sized (unlinkable) + orderable map at odt.org (via wholelottanothing)

WEBSTATS4U = POPUPS4U


Been getting complaints from here and there for a couple of months about popups from visits to PLM, though I never got any myself - that's part of the scam - but after getting some info I figured out a simple way to find out what addition was causing the popups: I began googling the names of the most recent sidebar additions "+popups." The second search, "webstats4u+popups" got 83,500 responses. And I remembered they'd changed to a new and improved version in October or so, about when the popup complaints began. PLM should now be free of popups. Please let me know if it isn't: the cyberguillotine is waiting.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


COLD BLUE AIR


Out today in the cold blue air down from the white mountains, shifting armfuls of chunks of oak firewood from here to there in aged stages closer to the house, raking chestnut leaves in a pile that covers the garden hose, dipping into my vast stone inventory for multi-kilo rocks with which to really pin down the netting over the greens so as to stop even mighty winter winds from blowing the netting off and letting snow crunch everything down, or more immediately making the greens available to crow beaks - even though the local crows have no taste for spinach, they are irritated by my patent and repeated refusal to let them have any whatsoever: this type of refusal from pale beakless beings does not go down a fat black beak very well at all, gets stuck in the craw.

Thus, as I was rocking everything down, the Crow Committee caucus in the garden cedars and on poles nearby, harrumphing Look! What! He's! Doing!, black silhouettes against the ice-colored wind even then beginning its heavy horizontal rehearsals, building up the strength required to carry all that snow up there further down the mountain. But now the firewood is a lot closer at hand and I've worked up a good sweat. No need for a stove till the sun goes down. I stand at the big window, watching the crows tilt their heads this way and that in the wind, analyzing those new rocks.

JOURNEY IN PEACE, BOB


I've just heard that Robert Sheckley has passed away. He and I had many an interesting talk during my time in Ibiza. Out of wine at the moment, I toasted him on the deck at sunset with some Glenlivet. He was a good friend and a genuine person.

SOMEHOW YOU CAN TELL HE NEVER FOUGHT FOR IT.


"'GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

'I don't give a goddamn,' Bush retorted. 'I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.'

'Mr. President,' one aide in the meeting said. 'There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.'

'Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,' Bush screamed back. 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper!'"

Source

DAWN OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD


"Ten years later, he has come out with 'The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.' The 480-page illustrated book was published by Simon & Schuster's Free Press in October. It has a lengthy foreword by the band's principal lyricist, Robert Hunter, who came out of seclusion long enough to pay Dodd the ultimate compliment: He said the researcher got it right.

'It's a lovely book,' Hunter remarked from his home in Northern California. 'I thumb through it and find it actually of interest.... I had no idea that all of these things he found had affected my songs.'"

L.A. Librarian Deciphers Grateful Dead Lyrics

Friday, December 09, 2005


INCOMPETENT DESIGN


"So is there intelligence in the design?

...No, no there isn't. The thing that perhaps is closest to all of us is our own skeleton, and there are certainly all kinds of stupidity in our design. No self-respecting engineering student would make the kinds of dumb mistakes that are built into us. All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-dragging, like all the other great apes. And the only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your spine, which is either evolution's way of modifying something or else it's just a design that would flunk a first-year engineering student."

The Other ID

And what could be more ridiculously designed than the gall bladder?

EXCELLENT ARTICLE ON SHIITAKE


with gourmet and medicinal recipes.

For more detailed advice on growing your own...[warning: popups!]

INTERESTING ARTICLE ON YASUKUNI SHRINE HISTORY


Though the writer's credibility takes a hit when he calls Soka Gakkai "the Buddhist church in Japan."

Article

Thursday, December 08, 2005


ONCE UPON A FUTON


I see these ads on western websites for thick, heavy and expensive bioengineered mattresses atop thick, heavy and expensive bioengineered boxsprings and my mind does the same thing it does when I think of central heating: Waitaminute! You've got it backwards! You don't want to heat the house, you want to heat the occupant! But in the case of mattress/boxspring (and frame to support them) it's: You don't want to coddle the body, you want to strengthen the body! To say nothing of the pocketbook.

I suppose it's because of my lifelong hiking, camping and lengthier travels that I came to prefer a couple of blankets on the floor to a western style bed. Now that I'm older, although I do have a bed to keep me off the floor so I can be warmer, the bed is more like a hard wood pallet topped with only a thin cotton futon, just thick enough to afford a shallow "hip-hole." Then on sunny days I just lay the futon over the deck railing to air out.

When I visit the States, I always wind up sinking variously into the mattresses and have to re-establish my posture each morning, a process that gets creakier and takes longer as time goes by. For me, at least, time goes by much more naturally on a futon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


THINK GALACTICALLY, ACT GLOBALLY


When I go out on the deck at night to look at the stars and remember how small yet a part of them I am, I always butt heads with the stellar realization that these mythic constellations are just the momentary arrangement of galaxies here in the neighborhood. The countless galaxies I cannot see are the big picture, as corollaried in my own life. There are always bigger pictures.

In comparison to even the local stars, our earthly polities are smaller than eyebrow mites. I stand there appropriately humbled as always, which is the point of my entering the dark after all; untended and overilluminated, one can get too big for whatever clothing may pertain. Gazing upward we are like the stars themselves, cradled in the hands of space.

IMPERIAL LEADERS 'IMMORAL'

Pearl Harbor was mistake: attack vet, 89

"To Zenji Abe, 89, a former dive-bomber pilot, Pearl Harbor was a place where he headed to risk his life to defend his country. But more than 60 years later, it has turned into a place where he can nurture ties with American friends who had once been his foes.

During the war, we Japanese did not know about Americans, and they also did not know about us. We just conducted our mission as soldiers and there was no hatred there, though the government tried to teach us to have such feelings."

More...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


SOUL STROLL Part 2:

Gio's House and Omamori

From Mukai’s persimmon place we followed the narrow road beneath the long nave, lit now and then by distant gleams of scarlet and yellow flashing through the tall gold, green and silver bamboo that creaked and crackled overhead, swaying high in the autumn wind that whispered all the way to Gio’s house. At right is a picture of Gio’s house, with Gio and her mother inside, taken from this ancient story of Gio.

At left below is the way Gio's house looked on a Wednesday afternoon about 900 years later.

Along the winding way back, we visited a moss-famed shrine that long ago was the sanctum (the Sagano Hills seem to be rife with sanctums of one kind or another) where young virgin women of Heian times were prepared for sacred service at Ise shrine. Now the place is a little shrine where young folk come to pray for good fortune in finding the ideal spouse, for traffic safety, success in the arts and related matters, not necessarily in that order of importance, and buy the respective omamori (talisman). I’m already married and have had no auto accidents, so I bought an omamori for the Arts…

50 HISTORIANS NAIL IT, 338 ARE CLOSE, 77 SHOULD GET ANOTHER JOB


Monday, December 05, 2005


SOUL STROLL
part 1: Bright Leaves, Falling Persimmons


Last Wednesday we went into Kyoto - for the first time in a surprisingly long time - to see the brilliant tapestry of autumn leaves at Arashiyama. Specifically, Tenryuji (with its famed dragon ceiling), which because of the brilliant leaves in its precincts and gardens was thronged even on a Wednesday so we didn't throng around, but went to have a splendid lunch of stone-ground soba noodles at a fine riverside restaurant (that had purses in the shop below for $500) where the view was fine upstairs as we ate overlooking the famous bridge, the boats and the passing throngs.

After lunch we went on a soul stroll north along the river and thence through the park of golden and scarlet leaves to the thatch-roofed House of the Falling Persimmons, the residence of Basho's disciple Mukai Kyorai, where on one famed night during Basho's brief visit in 1691 - when reality was still everywhere, day and night - a remarkable 40 persimmons fell to the ground. There Basho wrote the Saga Diary and worked on The Monkey's Raincoat anthology, which was published in the same year.

We then strolled on through the arches of Basho's beloved tall bamboo, with hot-sweet-potato and roasted chestnut sellers here and there in the high green tunnels, steam issuing from the cookers in the dim light, amid the long streams of people heading to where I'll write about next.


ELDER BLOGGER HITS THE BIG TIME


Well, yours truly and this humble blog have made the Older Bloggers List on the AARP Bulletin, as kindly communicated to me by Ronni Bennett, who calls herself Crabby Old Lady even though she's a Silver Fox. She's also on the list.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


SEQUIN-LINED FIREWOOD BAG


Fired up the woodstove for the first time today, enjoyed anew how wonderfully it takes that edge off the mountain cold, right from the first flicker. Then when it warms up and fills the house with the scent of camphor (I put a slab of camphor wood on top this time, to warm up), if you stand near the stove the heat is like slipping into a hot bath, for woodstove heat has body and power, warms right through you, unlike the drifty-wafty derivative kind of heat from something that wimps out of a vent somewhere and dries out your eyes, doesn't even know you're there.

There are other delights involved. When I went out to get the old canvas firewood bag and fill it up with golden chunks of last year's oak to bring inside (good muscle work all round), I opened the bag and found that it had been unanimously chosen as venue for what looked like the ladybug Woodstock. The entire bag was lined with red-dotted black sequins all huddled together, shimmering with news of summer experiences.

I've never seen so fashionable a firewood bag. But no way I could fill a bag of ladybugs with a bag of firewood, and it was that time. So I gently redirected all the sequins onto a nice fernbed we have beside the deck, where they can party on, under, in and beneath the curling leaves. Pretty interesting the sound, a large steady stream of ladybugs on a dried-up bed of ferns. According to the local folkery, so many ladybugs means it will be a warm winter. Especially likely now that the stove is warm.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


ONE ROCK TIED WITH ROPE


The first time I ever saw one of these was when I was wandering through the gardens of Katsura Rikyu and was about to turn down an inviting path when I noticed, perked in the center of the first walkstone off the path I was on, a small, well-shaped rock tied with black hemp rope. I stood staring at it, wondering what the... why was it there, this rock, it was out of place, irrational, just put there, right where I would place my foot, who ties a rope around a rock and puts it in the way, but it was there. The act is pointless, to bind something to nothing: but there it was.

Then a gate opened in what is I guess the universal part of my mind, the part we too seldom inhabit but that is the general habitat of gardeners and other grand communicators. It was clear that, through this rope-wrapped stone, someone was requesting as gently and respectfully as the garden itself had been created - with the same minimal intrusion, both upon garden and visitor - that you not pass this point, please.

I hadn't known what the rock meant, but it stopped me cold, as it was meant to do. A tacit knowledge I hadn't known I shared. There is so much that understands us.

The stone is called a tome-ishi (stop stone).

Thursday, December 01, 2005


PLIERS AND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT


I can’t tell you what a relief it was to read that the US Transportation Security Administration will announce later this week that passengers will again be able to carry small tools and scissors aboard commercial airplanes. It was always very frustrating to me not to be able to carry my pliers, wrench sets, ball peen hammer and what not when I flew overseas.

At the last minute, I'd always find those everyday tools in my bag in the taxi on the way to the airport and have to just give them to the driver or maybe some homeless guy along the road (Hey, buddy, need some socket wrenches? A set of hacksaw blades?) rather than have the government confiscate them and put them in that big warehouse along with the Ark of the Covenenant.

And the money adds up you know, buying new tools every time I fly wherever, lose my tools, then come back newly toolless. And how boring those flights, without a hex wrench! But that's all over, now that terrorism's nearly fixed, and anyway terrorists no longer have to bolt things together on board, or cut things out of newspapers. So now on commercial flights I can take my scissors too! So long as I don't run with them.

WHAT IF YOU'RE 74 AND BROKE?


Letter from a 74-year-old woman named Kerry who is the epitome of spunk and grit: the real kind, not the virtual kind. Hope they're still making them like they used to...

Read this issue of Bartcop to see what came of this. Scroll down 4/5 to "Bart's Bono Impression" (not linkable). I'd like to get in touch with Kerry myself, but Bart gives no address or link...

Later update

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


STONELESS IN SHIGA

You are now looking at a guy who has no gallstones. See him dance and click his heels, arms in the air. Not that the gallstones were removed or anything.

I had been picturing large angular boulders grinding against each other down there in the dark of my GB, thinking maybe that if the stones were surgically removed I could get a nice 5-karat ring made or something - maybe with a matching bracelet - and when I went early this morning for an ultrasound check of the GB and general vicinity, the good doctor, who has an admirable sense of drama, when he neared the spot, said "Ah:--" (with a sharp uprising tone, the Japanese equivalent of "Well, well, well…")

I was awaiting some further professional comment, like "In all my years as a physician I've never seen the likes of this!" or "How did stones that size ever get in a space so small?" or "Nurse, hand me that hammer and chisel at once!" You could have cut the drama with a scalpel. But after a significantly extended pause of the type Shakespeare uses a lot, he said: "There are no stones in your gall bladder."

After dancing my way home like Gene Kelly without the rain, I now suspect that the whole GB episode was due to an extreme chocolate deficiency, aggravated by prolonged lack of pizza. I'm having another big slice of medicine right now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


BLUE-EYED GEISHA DOESN'T PREMIERE IN KYOTO


"'According to this film, geisha dance in a bizarre fashion, as if they were in a Los Angeles strip show,' one Japanese film fan complained on a Web log, or blog, adding that the lights and special effects were more reminiscent of modern Las Vegas than old Kyoto.'

'In Kyoto, the centre of Japan's traditional arts, the reaction was more circumspect, in keeping with the western Japanese city's customary discretion.'

'It's a Hollywood movie. It's just entertainment, so what can we do?' said an official at the Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation, which promotes the music, dance and other arts of old Japan. 'Hollywood has always done things like ignoring history.' [The Chinese actresses trained in the geisha arts for all of six weeks!]

'Complaining about it will just focus attention on it, so we plan to ignore it,' he added, saying that the Foundation had turned down requests to take part in promotional events connected with the premiere.'"

Maybe that's another reason they held it in Tokyo (box office first, cultural integrity whenever).

The West in general remains pretty ignorant of Japan and China and their similarities and differences, and could care less, by and large... so that shouldn't get in the way with the movie, any more than it did with the book...

[Later: 'Memoirs of a Geisha' film kicks up storm in Japan and China]


HOLD THE SAUCE


Last night when I was rummaging around in the fridge looking for the leftover makings for one of my many spontaneous Sauce Bobaises for the unique pasta dish I had in mind as dinner, way in back behind the big miso container I came across two tomatoes that I could have sworn I'd used a couple of weeks ago, but apparently hadn't, so by now they were archaeologically quite aged for tomatoes (which tend not to be used in our house once it gets chilly and our tastes turn to more warming vegetables).

Despite their factual age, they still looked like an artist’s rendering of ideal tomatoes: plump, bright red, jewel-like in their integrity, until I picked one of them up and realized that the only integrity it had was its skin, and barely that: it was basically liquid in the ideal tomato container (a marketer's dream). When I placed the tomato on the cutting board and squeezed it lightly, the skin slipped away as though the tomato had been dipped in boiling water, and the innards began to slump rapidly as the liquid spilled away. I wondered: what miraculous chemical advance, what technological marvel has made such a thing possible? I hadn't heard about this one yet: was it a new universal pest eradicator like paraquat used to be? A cutting edge botanical hormone, sort of a stilbestrol for tomatoes? A superspecial preservative derived from Egyptian mummies? A stunning genetic modification like the spinach pig? What?

Without further human intervention, I suspect that those tomatoes would have remained spuriously intact for a long, long time, just the way they are able to do in the world’s supermarkets even today, and no one the wiser.

This morning I saw those very same tomatoes in a photograph that accompanied this article in the newspaper (tomatoless on the net, but just picture a tremulously perfect tomato).

LET ME JUST RUN OUTSIDE AND CHECK WHICH PLANET I'M ON...

"These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important...

NTU is thinking of a pyjama suit for children, which would use the Internet to adjust changes in pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged. Parents wearing a similar suit could be 'hugged' back by their children, the paper said."

It's not that we're getting our priorities screwed up, it's more like we lost the list.

TURNS OUT "SLEEPER" WAS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL...

"All the crap they tell you about... getting joy and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years - it's all tripe," said [Woody] Allen, who turns 70 on 1 December.

"I've gained no insight, no mellowing. I would make the same mistakes again."

So where was he all that time?

Maybe he just wasn't paying deep attention...

A GOP HAWK ON THE TAKE? WHO'DA THOUGHT?


"A REPUBLICAN congressman [Duke Cunningham] pleaded guilty last night to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering lucrative military contracts to business associates — the latest scandal to hit President [XXXX]'s party."

War on terror means big bucks to hawk insiders! Surprise! Surprise!

"Around the same time, MZM, based in Washington, began getting large government contracts..."

So that's what defending your country means!

"As chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on Terrorism and Human Intelligence he had substantial links to the defence industry."

This is the elected official who suggested that the liberal leadership of the House should be "lined up and shot."

How do they make crooks look electable to the very folks they're going to steal from?

(This is just the tip of the iceberg)

But America's not unique in certifying the unscrupled; Japan's an old hand at it, too:

DPJ lawmaker Nishimura arrested
(He's a hawk too, the one who not long ago voiced his personal conviction that punishment is the only reason men don't become rapists.)

An Architect Cuts Corners, and Shakes Japan's Faith

When you start looking, the darkness has no end...

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL


Interesting twist on Nazi Germany, where it was the indoctrinated youth who turned in the freethinking elders... Talk about knowing your children...

Monday, November 28, 2005


HYPERPERSIMMONOSIS


On our walk through the woods today, after I'd picked and inadequately peeled some genuinely wild persimmons and as a result had my mouth pucker as though I'd used an alum mouthwash (those really wild persimmons are so astringent you have to peel ¼ inch off to be able to eat the little that's left, as I now know). My mouth was so astringified that it was difficult to carry on a fluid conversation, so it was something of a convenient miracle to come upon the perfect forest antidote for extreme hyperpersimmonosis: a whole stone outcropping covered in the dark green leaves and gleaming red berries of fully ripe ki-ichigo (cloudberries; lit: tree strawberries). My mouth trying vainly to water at the sight, I broke off some long sections of the thin, berry-laden vines and carried them along like a fistful of ruby necklaces as I slowly picked off and ate the rubies, thereby restoring the liquidity of my loquacity.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


winter clouds edge
over the mountains
arms full of firewood

THE TASTE OF CRIMSON TO THE EYES


Yesterday afternoon, after I had eaten a fully ripe wild persimmon (very messy) over the kitchen sink while admiring the brilliant crimson-haloed yellow-orange coloring of the momiji (Japanese maple) at the end of our garden, I switched to my second fruit snack, half a French pear that was lying there ready at hand. That's when I entered a new multireality.

My mind's mind was lost in the beauty of the maple as my mouth's mind was dwelling on the lingering deliciousness of wild persimmon, while my hand's mind was grasping what felt exactly like the usual piece of apple it was bringing to my unattended, persimmon-flavored mouth, which was now expecting (via hand-message) the taste of an apple that (according to nose-message) bore the distinct scent of pear as my mind's mind remained on vacation, drifting through the sunlit cloud of momiji leaves and sliding down the color rainbow as corporeal me took a bite of persimmonapplepearmomiji and there was confusion among the tangy leaves and dayglo flavors, an odd and inexplicable discord among abruptly dissociated senses, a surreal medley of mind that had to do with the taste of crimson to the eyes - or maybe the mouthfeel of momiji leaves to the hand- or was it the peary scent of apple with the heft of yellow, all tangled up together in a what, a body is it, of some sort, wait - let me (who's that?) get this sensual knot undone –

It's not maple, well it is, but that's only eyes. This is hand, eyes turn to hand, let mouth sort things out. Not apple, not momiji. Hurry-tasting mouth plunges off cliff of persimmon sweetness, seeking radically different flavor level so as to enable resumption of standard existence oddly called Bob, finally stopping at new sharp tartness, broadening out, parsing… ahhh: pear! I know pear! Delicious! Pear and tongue old friends! Like eye and momiji leaf!

Then came the momiji-watching pearmouth party, with reassembled me in full attendance.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


ANOTHER CHOCOLATE LOOPHOLE!


"Counting calories isn’t the best way to lose weight, according to a new Brigham Young University study that suggests that an approach toward food called 'intuitive eating' is better at producing lower cholesterol levels, body mass index scores and cardiovascular disease risk.

'The basic premise of intuitive eating is, rather than manipulate what we eat in terms of prescribed diets -- how many calories a food has, how many grams of fat, specific food combinations or anything like that -- we should take internal cues, try to recognize what our body wants and then regulate how much we eat based on hunger and satiety,' said lead researcher Steven Hawks, a BYU professor of health science, who adopted an intuitive eating lifestyle several years ago and lost 50 pounds as a result."

Source

Another chocolate loophole...

Friday, November 25, 2005


GOOD THING I LIVE ON A MOUNTAIN


According to recent scientific studies, which are the best kind, the sea level rise has doubled in 150 years, and I suspect will get to be a problem by about the time I reach 160 or so, when seacoasts are predicted to be hundreds of meters inland from where they are now, which means, among other things, that Coney Island is in trouble. Similar recent studies have also revealed that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest they've been in 650,000 years, which goes back to before I was born.

So with the globe warming around us and the seas already lapping at our toes, it looks like mountainsides like this one are the place to be, in preference to nearly all the world's big cities, just-about-sea-level places that will all too soon resemble Venice without the beauty, tradition or tourism. But the Venetians did their city on purpose; what are our great-grandchildren going to tell their children?

HOW HEAVEN CHANGES


A few nights ago I was upstairs editing when suddenly there was a terrible racket from downstairs that pierced the country silence like a herd of screaming icepicks. The icepicks were shrieking out the melody to Jingle Bells, then seguing into a chilling Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and on into bonegrating versions of other formerly beloved holiday songs in a long, looped medley from hell.

Echo had opened the holiday card she had bought for the grandkids and was writing in it. When she closed it and a blessed peace had once more descended upon our home - apart from the ringing in my ears - Echo asked me to write something in the card when I had time.

That duration stretched out quite a bit, though, because every time I opened the card it began playing, if that is the word. At close range. I tested the card to see just how far I could open it before it went off, but the holiday device had been devilishly designed. I couldn't keep it open long enough to write anything spontaneous that must also be coherent.

At first I thought maybe I'd just speedwrite MCAHNY2TKKMAM, the acronym for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Tatsuya, Kasumi, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miyasa, then email Kasumi the key to the code, but then why be a coward at holiday time? As I edged the card open slowly, there at the very heart of the soft and mortal silence that surrounds us in our normal hours, keeping a careful eye on the sliding tab at the card hinge, with pen at the ready to write as much as I could before the thing went off, I felt like a demolition expert. But you can only write sideways for so long in a half-open holiday card. So as my ears were once more shrapneled with seasonal cheer I decided to go for it: gritting my teeth, I wrote out the rest of the message - raggedly, but in full - and slammed the card shut. Echo sent it off.

This morning we got an email from Kasumi saying thanks so much for the wonderful holiday card, the twins love it, they sit there opening it and listening to it all day, enraptured. And if one or both of the twins starts crying, all Kasumi has to do is open the card and M and/or M falls into a calm silence to listen. Kasumi says the card is very convenient and she hopes the battery will last a very long time.

Interesting, how heaven changes as we age...

Thursday, November 24, 2005



THANKSGIVING NOT


Well not really not. Yesterday was Labor Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday here in Japan, when everybody... um... gives thanks for labor? Today, however, the fourth Thursday in November here as it will be tomorrow in the US (the US gets all our yesterdays), is not Thanksgiving Day here.

Not that there isn't anything to give thanks for - the tv is off, for example - but nobody around here is eating turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and all the fixings and then collapsing on the couch with half a pumpkin pie on their chest in a heap of protodigestion; here, it's a small bowl of rice as always, with some other stuff that somehow to me just doesn't seem to taste as good as usual, on what used to be Thanksgiving Day, but I'm not complaining, this isn't Complaintsgiving Day, after all... that's the fifth Thursday in February.

JEE CALENDAR 2006



The 2006 Japan Environmental Exchange Eco-Calendar
"Healthy Food, Healthy Planet"
NOW ON SALE!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

AMAZING UMEZU

Today as I was enjoying my lunch I couldn't help but feel sorry for all the many people around the world who have never tasted a perfectly made umeboshi in all its royal pink soft savoriness. What a vast and unknown gap that lack leaves in a life, when filling it might resolve so many of the world's problems; for who, while experiencing the perfection of a homemade umeboshi, could feel anything but nearness to paradise?

This brought me naturally to thoughts of heavenly umezu, the fine yet unsung umeboshi vinegar, made from the pickled plums themselves (actually apricots, so sue me) which takes on the hue and perfume of the umeboshi, stratospherically commingled with the essence of that cosmic tartness that does so well and goes so good in making pickled ginger, for example, or when poured on salads, one could go on forever, as umeboshi and umezu will... though the latter nectar is as yet unknown in solo form even to Google, hence the untoward lack of links...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


AND NOT JUST PEAS ARE PROBLEMATIC

"ABNORMAL FRUITS REPORTED EVERYWHERE


In what appears to be influences from global warming, abnormal fruits, such as grapes not turning red and peaches with their flesh turning brown, are being reported throughout [Japan], forcing producers to try to find effective countermeasures."

THE VOMITORIUM, PLEASE...


There's something about the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which sanctions such world-consuming events as Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest and the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship, that gives me an unsettling gut feeling, sort of like swallowing a few dozen hamburgers after dipping them in water so I can swallow them faster to win an eating competition.

Maybe it's just the idea of competitive eating itself, which makes literally gross mockery of worthy human endeavor, balanced living and altruistic behavior, like cutting 700 million dollars off of food stamps while giving Bill Gates a billion-dollar tax cut. But of course, Takeru Kobayashi isn't a Republican.

The news that Kobayashi, who hails from Echo's Nagano Prefecture - and who has held the Nathan’s Hot Dog-scarfing crown for several years now - has won the Krystal Hamburger crown for the second year in a row (by eating 67 water-dipped hamburgers), just doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing you'd want to wave a flag about, but I suppose they will, up in Nagano...

Perhaps I'm just being a bit oversane...

ABOUT THE PEA SOUP OF THE FUTURE...


"Researchers at Australia’s national research organisation took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people.

But the team found that when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. They think this structural change could be to blame for the unexpected immune effects seen in mice."

Now all we need is a good genetically modified hambone...

Monday, November 21, 2005


MOON COMPANION


Out on my early mountain walk this crisp and clear blue morning, I looked up and saw the silver cat's eye of the moon just about to set behind the mountains and was instantly transported back in time 30 years to when we lived in Cala Boix, a then undeveloped but very historic point of land on Ibiza (I recognized it clearly in one of Patrick O'Brian's early Aubrey-Maturin books).

There, on one autumn morning like this one, I set out carrying under my arm a freshly planed motor head to carry over the mountain to San Carlos and thence all the way to the countryside garage yard in Santa Eulalia where my SEAT was sitting disassembled.

And with that memory came the broader recollection of how self-reliant we had been back then, even after Kasumi was born, when we did everything we could do ourselves, needed almost no money, had no electricity, no utilities, showered with rain water (much of the year, when a nice looking rainstorm came along we'd run outside naked with the soap), rose and set with the sun, ate a lot of wild vegetables and mushrooms, traded with the local farmers for eggs and cheeses and almonds, made an excellent coffee out of roasted wild chicory roots, fashioned our furniture out of driftwood... I had even gotten the motor out of the SEAT using only my own muscle power, no hoist - rocking it out onto a stack of tires - then when I'd bolted the head back on, I rocked the motor back into place and bolted it down, turned the key and Vrooom! A very satisfying sound indeed.

To get back to that Ibiza morning: just as I'd started up the mountain - rather a steep climb, especially carrying a motor head - I looked up and saw the same moon, in the same shape, at about the same place above the peak, and was filled with the same strong and enduring sense of companionship I had first felt one day as a child in New York, 30 years before, upon seeing the moon in just the same way...

(And that bottom-line knowledge of self-reliance is better than a pension.)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


SHICHI-GO-SAN


Last weekend we drove up the other side of the Lake to visit beautiful Taga shrine, coincidentally at the time of Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3), which is officially on the Nov 15th, but parents bring their children who are 7, 5 and 3 years old to the big local shrines all over Japan at around that date, on a day convenient for them.

Thus it happened that an hour or two before sunset in a clear sky we walked into the beautiful gingko-leaf-gilded precincts of the shrine when its grounds were busy with grandparents and parents in kimono together ushering formally unruly little humans in full kimono regalia into the sacred sanctums and trying to photograph them before banks of blossoms there, the children making every face and pose but their very own…

One little girl in red insisted on a two handed, three-fingered victory sign in every photo, one little boy scrunched up his face for all the future, even using his hands to achieve the maximum scrunch...

Brought back memories from only yesterday of all the times we'd taken Kasumi and Kitaya to their 7-5-3's... How quickly those precious times go by, leaving the you of now standing there amid the new festivities remembering, wishing somehow you could do it just once more...

Of course now we have Kaya and M&M...

Saturday, November 19, 2005


CROW SEES RED

Dr. Crow does his dawn song and dance in the chestnut tree outside my window every morning, always the old crow standard that goes "CAAAWWW! CAAAAWWWW!! CAAAAAWWWWW!!!" in decibel increments, urging the sun to hurry up while declaring his own eminently worthy presence to the morning at large and calling for all the other crows everywhere else to shut their big fat beaks so he can be heard.

This morning, though, in stark violation of this corvine ritual, he was saying something I've never heard him say before, it sounded like a subdued, terse, angry, very personal "kew, kew, kew," like he was really pissed at his teenager over a cell phone in a crowded waiting room, or just saying 'damn that tax office' as he kicked a branch, or something other crowfully disturbing, whatever that might be. He was so quiet that it was difficult to hear what he was saying with any certainty.

But crow teenagers are generally very raucously behaved and cause no trouble for their parents, unlike so many human teenagers, and crows in their sublime craftiness have never paid taxes and simply wouldn't tolerate the illogic of waiting rooms, so I can't accurately imagine what he was complaining about.

But whatever the reason for his black bitterness, it must have passed, for within an hour or so I heard him telling the other crows to shut up again.


THE GROWING POWER OF WOMEN IN JAPAN

"It is hard to overstate the degree of change and turmoil in Japan's Imperial Household. Consider in the past year alone the Crown Prince has publicly apologised for standing up for his wife; Princess Nori just married a commoner; and the government is preparing legislation to allow female succession to the throne. As elsewhere in Japan, women are threatening patriarchy. The repercussions, actual and potential, are enormous, stirring a predictable backlash while pointing to how much more needs to be done in a nation that stands at 69 in the global ranking of women's status."

The Imperial women of Japan by Jeff Kingston

Friday, November 18, 2005


RNA-DIRECTED DNA METHYLATION'S LOOKIN' PRETTY GOOD...


"It sounds like science fiction: simply swallowing a pill, or eating a specific food supplement, could permanently change your behaviour for the better, or reverse diseases such as schizophrenia, Huntington's or cancer.

Yet such treatments are looking increasingly plausible..."

MEMOIRS OF A PALE, BLUE-EYED GEISHA




The book Memoirs of a Geisha is inauthentic, geisha-wise (the subject geisha filed suit against the author), and the movie Memoirs of a Geisha is inauthentic ethnic-wise (most of the actors are Chinese), but here's the frosting that tells you the kind of cake it all really is: the pale, blue-eyed geisha poster for the movie, as promoted by SONY Pictures, no less! Whatever happened to cultural pride (to say nothing of audience reality awareness)? Did Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks really permit this?

More opinions (and links) on the geisha fiasco at Japundit.

HEAVEN FORBID!


"If we don't change the world, it's going to change us.''

---Duncan Hunter (R, Xenophobe) Chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee

Thursday, November 17, 2005


PROGRESSIVE FILM CLUB


"Are you bored silly with the brain-numbing drivel coming out of Hollywood these days? Do you love to watch movies but struggle to find what you want at the local theater or video store? The OCA is teaming up with Ironweed Film Club to provide our supporters with an affordable opportunity to recieve a thought-provoking progressive DVD in the mail every month that contains an award-winning independent feature film, a short film, and free extras. The club also provides resources to help members build and strengthen the progressive movement at the local level -- a critical step in rebuilding a progressive majority. Learn more and subscribe here."

Wish I could get this in Japan.

WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ONE MAN MISSING THE POINT?


As he later related on the news in Japanese, the head monk of Kinkakuji, when his temple was visited by the alleged president of the US, said to the professional vacationer “The world needs peace.” To which Bartcop's Worst President Ever gave the deeply considered one-word response: “Exactly.” Just as news about the use of white phosphorus on human beings in Iraq was boiling over in the world news. Exactly?

+

[Update from Ken Rodgers, at KJ: News reports claimed Bush received a "warm" welcome in Kyoto. Downtown on Tuesday evening, at least 800 protestors in several groups, fired up by Iraq, Okinawa, and global warming, marched the main streets, watched closely by many of the 5,600 police mobilized for the occasion. Best placard: "Kyoto Rejects You, Too." No mainstream coverage. Photos: via Kyoto Journal's news page.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


YOUR EPA, WORKING HARD TO FIND HUMAN SUBJECTS AROUND THE WORLD


Public comments are now being accepted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its newly proposed federal regulation regarding the testing of chemicals and pesticides on human subjects. For some reason, though, people keep objecting. According to its newly proposed rule, human subjects could include:
  • Children who "cannot be reasonably consulted," such as those that are mentally handicapped or orphaned newborns may be tested on. With permission from the institution or guardian in charge of the individual, the child may be exposed to chemicals for the sake of research.
  • Parental consent forms are not necessary for testing on children who have been neglected or abused.
  • Chemical studies on any children outside of the U.S. are acceptable.
Words that would have further chilled the icicles of Himmler's heart. Number 2, seeking approval for further abuse of abused children, is particularly heartwarming. Number 3 means that my children and grandchildren would be acceptable for chemical and pesticide testing. The EPA folks better not come anywhere near those kids, or they'll be minus a few researchers.

FORGET ABOUT HARRODS IN THE BENTLEY, JEEVES


We have a small local wrought-iron firewood holder next to the woodstove, holds about a day’s wood supply, but during the winter we’ve been roughly stacking firewood against the wall out on the deck beside the door, where it wasn't too comfortable and wasn't solidly stackable.

But now we've got an outside firewood holder, and the best part is, it was scavenged! Some formerly firewooding person in a village down the road who has reverted to electric or gas heat kindly disassembled their large firewood holder and bundled it neatly together with a note on it to say what it was, then left it beside the road where Echo just happened to be taking a walk, so she went back with the van and got it.

When assembled, it's about 3 meters long and a meter or so high at the ends, and comfortably holds about half a cord of wood. Off the floor. Away from the wall. Near the door. Without the wood stack collapsing at the ends. No more twice a week or more shlepping out into the blizzard and staggering back in the teeth of the wind bearing a mere armload of wood; now I can slide open the door, step outside in my slippers and grab just enough wood for immediate needs, faster and easier than going to Harrods in the Bentley.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


AS COMMON AS YOU AND I


Princess Nori, the only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito, wed a commoner in a private ceremony at a Tokyo hotel today and became Sayako Kuroda, in the process abandoning her privileged status as a member of the imperial family, now that she has been inseparably linked to commonness.

This unlike Sayako’s mother, who was mystically elevated from the taint of commonality to the throne of imperiality upon marriage to her husband, then crown prince. Also unlike her brothers, Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, who upon marrying commoners did not have to give up their royal titles and generous taxpayer-funded royal allowances and move from the moat-ringed palace to Tokyo apartments.

Apparently, though, the sudden disappearance of nobility under the one-way rule is no big loss to Sayako, who will now live in a regular manshon and be privileged, for the first time, to drive her own car, do her own shopping and put out the garbage like everyone else.

Pay taxes and vote, too!

Later: Fast action on unbearable royal inequality, in contrast to the common type of inequality


HAS HE GOT CHANGE IN YEN?


The alleged President of the United States, who in a sterling performance all round has thus far spent 46 days in Europe and nearly a year in Crawford but only 13 days in Asia - where the next few centuries of world hegemony have been forming while he cut brush - is in Japan now; Crawford no longer provides sufficient distance from reality. Kyoto, just over the mountain, is the only Japan stop on his package tour of Asia, whose purpose is to demonstrate the region’s prominence on his agenda, whatever that might be.

In Kyoto he will visit Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), which visit could be taken as a subtle hint by the Japanese government (who are beginning to see things as the rest of the world does), since the original pavilion was built in 1387 by Retired Shogun (hint, hint) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Kinkakuji can be accessed by direct bus number 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station, though it might be quicker and less complicated for the Prez and Pickles to take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station, whence the temple can be reached by a short bus ride, though I doubt if the Prez, who is so unfamiliar with Asia, will have change in yen, or know how to buy tickets.

Monday, November 14, 2005


OF CABBAGES AND DESTINY


On Saturday I took Destiny into my hands: I planted cabbage. I know, I know: given my gardening history up here on this mountain that is home to unscrupulous monkeys, devious crows, tiptoeing deer and ruthless wild pigs, all of whom worship reverently at the altar of cabbage and the other vegetables I don’t plant, this is a kind of madness. Still, there are times when one must at least try to take up the reins of Destiny. On the other hand, though, he who forgets the past is condemned to hear that Santayana quote up the wazoo.

It was only a few cabbages, so I’m not that mad, maybe .001 on the King Lear index, not really tempting Destiny, just sort of a minitest to see if the Big D has relaxed at all, maybe has more important things on its humungous agenda than merely sending varmints into my small garden or snatching onions and cabbages from before only my eyes.

In consequence I was immediately reminded that I’m not the only one with a share in Destiny, and who did I think I was, anyway. On Sunday, crow took Destiny into his beak and savaged one of my cabbages, pulled it right out and ate all the good leaves, nipped it right in the bud and looked like stomped on it, no doubt cackling with a dark glee in the dawn hours. It appears his intent is to take one plant at a time, the better to teach me Destiny’s lesson. Tweak Destiny off track, will you, mere mortal?

So today I went out and put some netting over Destiny’s cabbages. And if you think that’s mad, I also planted some Brussels sprouts, to up the index. Sometimes a man's gotta do what a gardener's gotta do.

SOMETHING FISHY (WHAT'S NEW?) GOING ON AT THE FED


"On March 23, 2006, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate. The Board will also cease publishing the following components: large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements (RPs), and Eurodollars."

M3 being the amount of money the Fed is injecting into the US (and world) economy, why would these unelected but altruistic officials, whose only thought is for the little people, want to keep secret how many, many, many billions in fiat money they're injecting into the US (i.e., world) economy? (Japan publicly injected a few hundred billion dollars last year.)

Get ready for the world inflation war, folks.

For a broader take on this very important subject vis-a-vis your money

To say nothing of The fiscal hurricane on the horizon

Later (Nov. 18): More info on this and its effect on your pocketbook

Sunday, November 13, 2005


NO INTELLIGENT DESIGN IN POLITICS


Just saw on tv morning news a discussion with Shintaro (“If Japanese hadn't fought the white people, we would still be slaves of the white people.”) Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, ardent devotee of Yasukuni Shrine, who is currently being groomed as successor to Japan’s Prime Ministership, a fact reflective of the depth of democracy here.

The pair were talking about the 15~20% sales tax the government plans to impose in a couple of years, the LDP amazingly even less perceptive than 17 years ago, when they imposed a 3% sales tax and the economy fell apart. As to the burden of a 20% sales tax at this juncture, Ishihara offered this sage judgement: “If people don’t want to buy something, they don’t have to buy it.” Tourism will, of course, will be as rain in the Sahara. But Ishihara’s cross-eyed views are honored and Abe will succeed to the office of Prime Minister, as in any democratically cloaked aristocracy. That’s what really counts in this picture, as always.

The LDP prints money till banks offer negative interest on savings, property values plunge, income drops and taxes decline, so they add a higher sales tax. Anybody seen a lost IQ around here? Well at least the rivers are paved, and all those bridges and overpasses may lead somewhere one day, with the ciphers that built them still in power…

Saturday, November 12, 2005


THE FALLACY OF MODERATION


Ever since the M&M-gall bladder fiasco I've been reading up on the latest health advisory gurus, looking for loopholes vis-à-vis chocolate consumption, but the most flexible advice I can find is priestly statements like "consume dark chocolate in moderation."

Who are these people? Where do they find their joy? Gazing at a picture of a hot fudge sundae must for them be like a week in Vegas. Aristotle was the granddaddy of the moderation pushers, he set the turtle's pace for pleasures of the appetite, but needless to say he had never in his life tasted chocolate, which to my mind leaves him out of the running on this matter.

To get back to eating chocolate, eating chocolate in moderation is like Tantalus getting one grape every other week. He's worse off than when the whole bunch was always just about within reach. Life is not to tantalize with biweekly grapes, life is to gorge! Judiciously of course. If you disagree because you're one of those pro-moderation people, please go back to your gravel tea.

Then there's the logical approach. Chocolate and moderation simply do not go together; they’re a contradiction in terms, like "national intelligence." They're not even in the same ballpark! Chocolate is a ballpark. Moderation is the inside of a ping-pong ball. "Chocolate in moderation" is therefore meaningless.

There's my loophole.

SHIITAKE
AND THE GENUINE WORLD


Back to the genuine world. This morning it's raining (it's Saturday), which is good though because it's keeping the monkeys away from my shiitake, which rain I am shortly going into this morning to harvest a few of those round brown beauties, then spend some time choosing a new ideal recipe for really fresh rain-succulent mushrooms.

Maybe slice them thin as paper and sauté in olive oil with a touch of garlic and lime basil, then a splash of broth and stir in the fettuccini?

Or just cut them in chunks and stew them together with a generous variety of Oden, so delicious with really hot mustard and steaming rice on a damp, chilly autumn day?

There are a lot of shiitake recipes to choose from, but then I have a lot of mushrooms.

If you lived in the neighborhood I'd bring some over...