Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Few things in the world make a rainbow you can wear, and a select collection of Biwa Pearls is one of them. When Mr. Tamura spilled the first bag of Biwa Pearls out across the gray-silk covered table in the pearl-showing place of his house in Katata, a rainbow filled the room.
I'd never heard of Biwa Pearls until a few years ago, when I saw in a Sundance catalog a string of small copper-colored baroque pearls that were described as "Biwa Pearls." I Googled the name to see if there was any connection to Lake Biwa (how many Biwas are there?) and found nearly 25,000 responses. I assumed then that it was an old and thriving industry here, and backburner-vowed to check it out one day.
Then when I was in the States, Liz, my beloved sister-in-law, who, though a college dean also makes jewelry, asked me if there was any way she could get hold of some Biwa Pearls, they were so hard to get in the States (quote from beadsbymail.com: "Never have we seen such a madhouse as at the pearl seller's tables when we were in Tucson. We were fortunate to be able to obtain the Biwa Pearls we show you here. Customers were scooping them up with both hands, not even looking at the individual strands! We've never seen such a pearl battle zone.") I had seen the Tamura Family Biwa Pearl sign on one of my favorite walks in Katata and promised Liz that when I got back to Japan I'd check, see what I could find out.
Thus it was that Echo and I were at the table when Mr Tamura created a rainbow, by appointment only. The Tamura family lives not far from the lakeside beds in which Mr. Tamura and his son create each of these unique beauties. A gracious man, he took the time to tell us the history of Biwa Pearls (it all began in the 1930s) and how in the heyday there were 70 or so families in the business, which he entered 45 years ago.
During the Tanaka era (1972-74), many Chinese came here on cultural exchange programs and were taught by Mr. Tamura and others how to create freshwater pearls. Since then, pollution (mainly from detergent influx, since outlawed) and heavily increasing competition from the Chinese (who with no shame market their product as "Biwa Pearls"!) have taken their toll on the local (but genuine) Biwa Pearl business. I'd thought that the Tamuras were one of maybe three or four families still growing Biwa Pearls in the eponymous Lake, but as he explained while laying out pearlescent strings and cascades of gold, copper, pink, blue, gray, black, round, oval and baroque pearls in a rainbow of colors before us: they are the last family in the business here...
He explained in detail how Biwa Pearls are grown and selected (individual top-pearl prices ranging from 50 to several hundred dollars) and if guys could wear pearls I would have bought one unique necklace worth... Here's hoping that Biwa pearls make the comeback they deserve. I'll talk to Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts, see if they'll wear a strand or two, three or four in Cannes; or to the Oscars, maybe...
The younger Tamura has made a good start, in registering biwapearl.com...
Off this afternoon across the bridge to visit by appointment one of the last few families that still culture Biwa pearls (named of course after Lake Biwa); the industry peaked here in 1981 and now there's only two or maybe three families left that produce the beautiful rainbow baroques, even though judging from the jewelry business, Biwa pearls are more in demand than ever for their unique shapes and colors.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
JAPAN: CANARY IN THE COAL MINE?
THE BIG CRAVING
"Ecopsychology is grounded in the idea that our innate craving for contact with nature is the result of millions of years of evolution in a natural environment. The problem, ecopsychologists argue, is that industrialisation and urbanisation have tossed those instincts aside. Our detachment from nature lies behind a host of modern psychological, emotional and physical problems, as well as our blasé attitude towards environmental change. Personal and planetary wellbeing, they say, feed into one another.
It may sound romantic and New Age, but the theory is gaining scientific credibility. In evolutionary terms, we are stalled in prehistory."
From Ecopsychology: The force of nature by Hugh Wilson
Monday, August 29, 2005
THE RURAL ACADEMY
Finally prepared to whack the rest of the profoundly unwhacked summer weeds that were so tall as to provide cover for tomato invaders of large size. The day after I got back from the States I’d done half, and left the whacker leaned against the side of the house to continue the next day, but it turned out that my efforts in the hot sun had approximately doubled my jet lag, so that was postponed; then Kaya and M&M were here on and off and what with naps and kiddy curiosity about noisy dangerous things I let the weeds go, but now the little two-leggeds are gone back north so I at once set out in today’s still cool sunny morning to address this rampant challenge of the wild. Got out the whacker, put new whacker cord on there, filled the tank, adjusted the choke, started her up and buh-buh-buh-die… again: buh-buh-buh-die…
Where had I heard exactly that muffled sound before? Somehow that struck me as a more important factor than maybe the spark plug or the choke…ah yes! Scooter Entomology. I looked at the exhaust, and sure enough, because I’d made the mistake of leaving the whacker outside, a hunter wasp had taken quick advantage of the ready-made hole and perfectly sealed the exhaust opening with quick-drying mud after depositing an egg or two inside. It was quality work. But I had quality work to do too. I cleaned the natural cement out with a sharp stick and whooom! Started right up. Live out in the country you learn things wasps teach. Several times.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Semi (cicada) are intriguing creatures. They spend up to 17 years underground as grubs fending in the dark as they grow, slowly changing into a more functional form that after so many years compels them to dig straight up - whatever that is - at one specific point in time, dig themselves up out of the ground one night and in the dark climb the nearest climbable object that their new forms can firmly clamp onto, then during that night they shrug out of that form into their new one, leaving hollow amber ghosts everywhere on the sides of trees and weeds and anything else rough enough to have clamped on to; then they hang there longer while their new form dries out enough to fly them off into daylight on awkward papery wings that blunder them into windows and screens and people, anything that happens to be in the way of their frantically busy unaimed flight, lumbering through the air to find a momentary perch from which they can screech the shrill staccato of their anciently new brief opera only so as to find a mate, trying here then trying there, trying anywhere; being mouthless for in this ephemeral full-time frenzy there is no time to eat, their only quest is to mate and so they sing and so they mate from the deepest hunger, then the eggs are quickly deposited in the ground and the semi die: in a matter of days their new ghosts litter the ground they rose from. Most of their life is spent passing through times and shapes in the dark of the earth getting ready for a mere flash of what we call life, which is the least part of theirs. Interesting perspective on the deep priorities of existence…
Friday, August 26, 2005
WHAT PAT REALLY MEANT
On his television program, Pat Robertson insisted that his words on Monday had been misinterpreted by The Associated Press and that he had never spoken of assassination regarding President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
"I said our Special Forces should 'take him out,' Mr. Robertson told his audience on The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. 'Take him out' could be a number of things, you know..."
Sure, Pat. You mean Special Forces should maybe date the guy.
Here's another prominent fellow who's losing it...
I've always pampered my tomatoes the best I can, given the poor soil I started with up here, and as a result of all this coddling the tomatoes never had the freedom to show me what they could do, their general purpose always being to provide me with tomatoes, not teach me about architecture. Thus it was that I remained ignorant of tomatoes’ many other purposes and skills, their vegetable craft, their sense of organization and structure, their zesty intelligence, their green wiles.
Thanks to my long vacation in the US and the subsequent jet lag, however, to say nothing of the vortex-visits of Kaya and M&M, my garden has been left pretty much on its own for nearly 2 months now. Unsightly as it mostly is (the bees and butterflies are having a ball), the neglect hasn't had much effect on the herbs, since they've always been pretty close to wild anyway, same with the ginger, wild pumpkins and what not; but the tomatoes surprised me.
I'd staked them small-plant minimally before leaving them on their own, expecting them in their unwatered, unnourished, uncoddled varietal eliteness to slowly wither away from vegetal ennui, but over the hot months the scarlet sovereigns have banded together and organized into a Roma-Mini-Beefsteak Republic whose flag is red orbs rampant on a field of green. They have carefully interwoven all their arms into a tall, fragrant, inwardly shady tomatodesic dome that is very impressive, completely resistant to even hurricane winds, preservative of moisture and serves eminently well as the capitol building of the Tomato Republic.
This morning, though, while visiting the capitol on some porkbarrel business I noticed that a crow lobbyist had left me a bright red flower, carefully fashioned of an empty tomato skin, right on top of a rock where I would be sure to see it. Then I noticed down in one corner of the Capitol Dome a crow-sized door... The crows have fashioned their own entry into the rotunda, inside which they walk around at their leisure while selecting the particular fruit that pleases them of a morning. Now I have to fashion some sort of crow barrier, as father of the Republic whose seeds I planted with my own hands, and whose fruits I now wish to enjoy. Such are the burdens of vegetable government.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT CRAZY
In one of my ongoing efforts toward advancing international relations and cultural interchange at the infantile level, and to satisfy my own curiosity on the matter, while babysitting the twins at our house yesterday I introduced them to This Little Piggy. I had never done this to twins, so had no idea what I was in for, but then grandfathers of twins are always in for more than they realize.
As the double dreadnoughts toddled madly around the living room in search of sharp and/or heavy objects with which to test vulnerable surroundings, I grabbed one of them (either Mitsuki or Miasa, I still don’t know which, if their mother isn’t there to verify my guess) put her into the big chair, legs sticking forward, and began the Little Piggy mantra, starting - as is conventional - with a big toe.
M or M had never experienced this before and was fascinated, wondering what I was up to. The other M drew near in the sudden absence of noise from her sister. The M in the chair looked questioningly from me to her feet and back again as I went though this strange adult ritual of mumbling in antique English while tweaking her individual toes. Then I got to the last little piggy, which as usual went “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the way up her leg, over her ribs and home under her arm, to such delight that M at once pointed to her other foot, as the other M climbed into the chair to get her share.
I was now confronted with twenty demanding little piggies, and of course their owners were delighted each time, at the end of each piggy episode pointing to their feet to indicate “Again. Now.” But they know math, and they work as a team, so after a while (10 seconds being an hour in their terms) as soon as I'd start on one M's little piggies the other M would grow impatient, knowing that she had ten entire little piggies to wait through before her turn would come again, so tried to get my attention by waving her own ten little piggies before my eyes. Soon and for the first time in my life I was This Little Piggying with both hands, never knew I could do that, and quite well actually. Not to mention that a chairful of squirmy-squealy baby twins is a sight to behold.
But with twins you get four feet, so before long the M's decided bilaterally not to waste time, and pointedly indicated that I should just forget about the other time-wasting little piggies at the market or home with their roast beef or whatever and get right to the last little piggy where all the fun was, of which they could not get enough, that being of course the point of the whole enterprise.
So there I was, intercultural ambassador to the future of our world, kneeling in front of the big chair conforming traditions by tweaking only the four littlest toes as the last little piggy cried ‘wee wee wee all the way home’ seemed like 500 times until at last their mother returned and rescued me from the endless loop that cultural exchange can become when two-year-old twins are involved.
Last night, I believe I slept as well as they did.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Yesterday evening we went across the Lake to Injoji temple at the foot of Mt. Suzuka, just below Hyakusaiji temple. Unlike Hyakusaiji, though, (which is one of the Koto Sanzan) Injoji seems to be unknown in the wider world.
Injoji is rather unprepossessing with its small gate and conventional entryway, but then on this special day when you go around the side and along the cobbled path toward the drums and chants sounding in the garden beyond, you turn a corner of the hedge and find hordes of saffroned Yamabushi young and old gathered around starting the Tendai bonfire of cedar, which all commences with one of the elder priests incanting and shooting bamboo arrows in the four directions (plus alpha) as the fire begins to smoke, the small glow slowly but fiercely turning into a monstrous coiling gray dragon of smoke that nearly asphyxiates the unmoving head monk who sits before it, until some energetic young priests come with huge paper fans and fan the smoke upward, gingerly managing the roiling body like a pet monster until the flame at last forces its way out upward through the thick wet cedar branches, the smoke and fire climbing into the sky like a whole nest of dragons as a squad of Yamabushi kids watch, anxiously eyeing the countless and sizeable embers that soon begin to fall from the darkening sky.Stretching up the slope behind all this are thousands of small stone monuments and Buddha engravings arranged among young and old pine trees, all of which soon disappears into darkness as the ceremony draws to an end and the fire dies down, when everyone sets out to light a candle before each monument.
What a picture that makes of a summer mountain night, when the big fire has burned out, the dragons are gone and all this candlelight is all the light there is but for the stars... And in that golden light, young and old wander among the stones lighting candles and saying prayers, the spiritual mood deepening every moment...
Until suddenly from a stage that had been hidden down in a corner behind the fire a Las Vegas brightness erases the dark at the same instant a cliche rhythm begins to blare, as a kimono clad enka singer starts belting out a live version of the opposite of silence, plunging the mood instantly from spiritual meditation into Coney Island peak hour.
From what we could find out, this is the first time Injoji has done the enka thing. Couldn't find out, though, why they've lost the distinction between spiritual inspiration and carnival sideshow, but maybe it was just us; I heard no irritated tsks, no words of disappointment, saw no one turn toward the stage in sudden disbelief, heard no one complaining.
It must be a new aspect of the Tendai ritual, depicting the ancient battle in which the mystical is utterly destroyed by the mundane, only to be briefly reborn on a next-year summer's night.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
TWINS BOUNCE EN ROUTE UPDATE
Stopped by Kasumi's August house in Moriyama to watch the twins bouce around for a while (boy are they hard to photograph!). We were on our way to Injoji up north across the Lake to see the famous Tendai bonfire and unique candle-lighting ceremony. Took many eyefuls of pictures but got home late and have to offer up Tuesday's existence on the altar of the big city tomorrow, so no time to get it all down here; will do it tomorrow time/brain permitting and post Wednesday with fotos...
Here's a foto of the twins... They both look exactly like this but I only have one typically smiling foto at the moment...
SCHLOCK vs. INTEGRITY, an old story
"This coming September 11, in Washington, a march will commence at ten in the morning near where the hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11. (Oddly enough for an event that celebrates freedom, you have to show up early to register.) The procession will file through Arlington National Cemetery (where there is currently a month-long backlog of American soldiers awaiting burial), cross the Potomac and end at the National Mall, near the reflecting pool in the long, thin shadow of the Washington Monument."
From "I Raq and Roll" vs. "We Can't Make It Here"
Two Houston-connected musicians offer up different takes on the war.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
"SO THE QUALITY OF LANGUAGE HAS OBVIOUSLY DEGENERATED..."
"My god, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, high culture. That was about quality. But the idea of quality has been divorced in the discussion of the arts in our universities because, “Oh it’s just a mask for ideology. There is no such thing as greatness. These are all completely subjective. For people who want to protect their own power elite—dead white European males.” This is the garbage that has come out. I can see the point of where the argument started, OK. But what’s the end result of it? We are now 30 years, almost 40 years down the line. What’s the end result? Are we getting better art? Better writing? Better educated people? More knowledgeable people?"
Great interview with fine arts disciplinarian Camille Paglia
Saturday, August 20, 2005
HORIEMON PULLS ANOTHER SURPRISE
"Livedoor Co. President Takafumi Horie confirmed Friday he will challenge Shizuka Kamei, one of the leading foes of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal privatization drive, in the Sept. 11 general election."
When things are about to change, they get interesting... Though in his last two 'surprises' Horie failed to create a baseball team and failed to take over a broadcasting company; not a very good record for surprise moves...
At just around dawn this morning the local crows convened their daily cawcus in the chestnut tree right outside my window. It was the usual noisy convention of CAW (Crows Against Work), in which members of the corvine grievance committee exchanged top-volume complaints on such subjects as the disappointing quality of gardens around here (where’s the endive? the capers?) and the extreme lack of snacks (the bread? the cookies?). Then toward the end of the event one of the louder members flew down to the small deck railing and yelled Kaya! Kaya! Kaya! into the room where Kaya sleeps when she’s here. (She’s a good source of snacks.) She isn’t here at the moment, though, so the cawcus broke up in black disappointment. Kaya will be here at 10:30 this morning however, and will stay the weekend, so there may be another dawn cawcus tomorrow, to greater effect.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
MY BOOTS RUNNETH OVER
Into the deeps of last night came thunder and lightning booming and flashing louder and brighter from the south, then from the west, then from all around, till at about 2 am the whole sky shebang was right over my head, brightening all with silver light, thunder following instantly like giant airy rocks rolling down a hollow mountain on the rain that arrowed to the ground, only incidentally filling my gardening boots that I'd forgotten on the deck as I discovered when, only half awake thanks to all the noise and light all night, I put them on in the morning.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
SOME GRANDFATHERS ARE JUST INSANE
Spent a long yesterday with the twins and Kaya; I'm much older now. When you get three little girls together, none of whom has reached the age of reason (the twins are about as far as you can get from reasons other than their own; reasoning with them over the number of cookies is like petting bobcats) and all of whom are dominant personalities, you get a combination of chemistry and polarity that would be very interesting to a physicist. A young physicist. I am neither. And I got no nap. Nor did the triumvirate.
For example, while snatching the woodstove door handle out of the honey-sticky grasp of one screaming twin who was testing the glass door with it, and clearing away the fragments of exploded balloons from before the other screaming twin who found them tasty, I had no luck in reasoning logically with screaming Kaya as to why she shouldn't retaliate by hitting the other screaming twin (there's often the illusion of more than two) with the toy train she had just grabbed back, nor should the other screaming twin (see?) strike Kaya about the person with whatever that large thing was she'd found in the toybox, nor was there any way to find out who had spilled the juice and scattered broken chiclets all over the floor. No time for the luxury of logic: reflexes must be hair-trigger at all times, don't play with the butter, dear, and give me the camera. This went on non-stop from 1:30 till some blurry hour, with an energy level that made IronMan look like turning over in bed. This is why young people have the kids.
Then we went out for a walk. Big mistake. Like scuba diving, taking a walk up a mountain road with free-ranging little twin girls and their slightly older sister is something you should never do alone (four or five assistants would be good). The perils are manifold and unforeseen; we all bear the childhood scars of such events. Having brand-new legs, all three fledglings love to walk, and always as far as they can go - refusing to turn back, there are so many exciting adventures ahead - advancing into all the newness until they abruptly reach their limit and do a kind of eel-like scrimmage around the bottom of big grandfather legs.
So all the way back it was one twin on each arm and Kaya piggyback, I'm just glad I've stayed in reasonable shape by chopping firewood for the past ten years. When we got back home I could only slump in a chair and watch as the triumvirate wars resumed...
The horror... the horror...
GREETINGS FROM THE TRANSPORT SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Found a card in my luggage while traveling by air in the States; it says, in part:
"If the TSA screener was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the screener may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary safety precaution."
It made me feel a lot more nationally secure than I'd felt before, knowing that someone was breaking luggage locks on an equitable basis. I'm just glad I used my ratty old duffel bag and not my Pradas, Guccis and Louis Vuittons...
Monday, August 15, 2005
Kerouac's Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
List of Essentials
* Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
* Submissive to everything, open, listening
* Try never get drunk outside yr own house
* Be in love with yr life
* Something that you feel will find its own form
* Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
* Blow as deep as you want to blow
* Write what you want bottomless from bottom of mind
* The unspeakable visions of the individual
* No time for poetry but exactly what is
* Visionary tics shivering in the chest
* In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
* Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
* Like Proust be an old teahead of time
* Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
* The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
* Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
* Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
* Accept loss forever
* Believe in the holy contour of life
* Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
* Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
* Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
* No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
* Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
* Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
* In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
* Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
* You're a Genius all the time
* Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Jack Kerouac "Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials" from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, in Heaven & Other Poems, copyright ? 1958, 1977, 1983. Grey Fox Press.
Sunday, August 14, 2005
KAYA TICKLES THE PLUM TREE
The twins Mitsuki and Miasa, whom I finally got to see when we all went to the beach the other day, are now 18 months old, even more indistinguishable and cute as a basket of buttons. They are presently being devoured by their other grandparents, while Kaya has been staying with us for the past few days. Nearing 5, she is quite grown up, makes her own necklaces and is passionate for pink. She also cleans up after herself, which is most remarkable. Surely she didn’t get that gene from me?
This morning when we were out on the deck, she reached over the railing in the new grownupness of her long arms and tickled the plum tree (beyond her reach not long ago, when she was small). It might have been a slight breeze, but I tell you the plum tree shivered with delight; never been tickled before, I'll bet.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
heron in the mist
Thunder and lightning are circling now through a blackening sky in preparation for the annual return of the ancestors to this world for their annual three-day visit, a period called Obon. During that time (on the 16th) Okuribi are lit on many of the mountains around Kyoto. One of the characters, Dai, has this history. Be sure to get there early if you want a good view.
Friday, August 12, 2005
This morning I was out on the deck watching the sun rise into more silence than two ears can hold when all at once it sounded like Chinese New Year over in the green mountainside of rice paddies, which are now filling with heading rice. I looked over and saw a big cloud of smoke; a solo farmer was going around in his truck inside the anti-wild pig/deer/monkey electric fence, setting off firecrackers to scare off the only things that can still get at the granary goodies: sparrows.
I couldn't see any sparrows taking flight, it was so far away, but nearby a small cloud of white herons rose from the lower paddies, slowly flapping high into the air to see what all the to-do was about; the farmer drove on, however, setting off more firecrackers, so the herons stayed up there, complaining in drowsy squawks.
Never saw a farmer do that before around here; maybe he got the idea from us; we use firecrackers now and then to scare off imminent monkeys. Speaking of which, haven't seen any of the spoliating simians since I came back (though I heard some in the trees one evening) and have gotten nearly all of my tomatoes so far (some had even turned fully red!). The monkeys must be slipping; more likely, though, they're just hunkering in the mountains at their training camp, getting better organized.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
On the morning train today, second day to the office, me only partially back in Japan, I quickly fell asleep and woke up an hour later on an unmoving train only about 5 stops from where I'd started.
If this were the Long Island Railroad, someone by now would have put a foot through a window or roughed up the conductor, but my many elbow-to-elbow fellow passengers merely tsk-tsked all about me in that Japanese always-on-time way as the conductor of the train, who (unlike the conductor in this post) must have been a very small, shy person with an even smaller voice.
Either that or he had his mike turned way down as he made tiny periodic announcements no one could make out exactly; seemed that part of the train ahead of us had disappeared into a black hole... or was it that the driver of our train had lost the entire vehicle on a bet... no, something had dropped a giant banana on the tracks... None of the passengers could be sure, what with so many calling loudly on their cell phones to say that they would be late because of the giant banana on the tracks or whatever.
I simply went back to sleep until I was awakened by the unusual effect of the train moving. As we slowly progressed I saw no traces of a giant banana and no debt collectors took over the train at Kyoto station, so I never did find out what the cause was -- I was late to the office, but I had an excuse slip from the railroad in my sweaty fist.
An hour and a half late: do I add that to my jet lag, or subtract it?
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
There are so many things I have yet to digest in regard to my recent trip to the US and the many contrasts involved in going/being here/there. Thus this quick note on one I have already digested, with difficulty: pizza. One night in Santa Barbara we ordered a standard-sized pizza from a pizza place not far away that my brother Mick and his wife Liz hadn’t yet tried; the pizza was delivered right out of the oven in 10 minutes (or so it seemed), cost 20 dollars (plus tip), was about 2 feet in diameter and perfectly made, crispy crust with carefully arranged sauce and cheese and black olives, and was delicious to the last slice.
Last night, while editing in an office in Kyoto I sent out for a medium-sized pizza from Dominos, the only reputable pizza chain in the city; it came about an hour later, was about a foot in diameter, cost 2000 yen (about 20 dollars, no tip) and had clearly been sitting around for a while, maybe since afternoon or even morning, who knows (seemed like it had been reheated); anyway, Japanese consumers very seldom complain. The Japanized pizza (sweeter sauce, indefinite crust, minimal garnish) was lukewarm, tough, a bit of wet cardboard flavor to it, the cheese had long ago melted all over the slice lines so it had to be torn apart etc. By halfway through it was cold and had the consistency of an eraser. Not too appetizing to one who only days before had enjoyed the genuine item.
Odd that service and business self-respect are degenerating apace here, while they're improving (from what I remember) in California…
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Monday, August 08, 2005
DID I MENTION PIE?
Here it is 4 pm for the me in America and the me in Japan is up typing at 2 am after a solid 4 hours' sleep, all the usual RB logography floating through my head but during the standard wherever daytime there's lots of other lifestuff going on that keeps me from doing this kind of running on at the keyboard, necessitating judicious extempore weeding and whatnot but it's 2 am, who's listening.
At the end of my immediately recent sojourn in the US, which naturally involved my historic quest for what I call American icons (most of which were food; exemplary exceptions: Corn Husker's Lotion, Burma Shave mug shaving soap etc.), such as various kinds of pies, (pies are not big in Japan, though they're not small either: a local scientific anomaly much like antimatter, they don't exist here in any measurable quantity), my brother Mick and I scarfed our way to an amazing scientific breakthrough, more on which below. (The fact is, I dragged him along on this extremely difficult and time- (not to say carb-) consuming diet, though not all that much against his will; he was, after all, my experienced guide to the savory depths of CarbWorldAmerica.)
In addition to pie, a truncated list of such icons would include donuts of all traditional descriptions. (“Donuts” in Japan are like “bagels” in Japan: a NY bagel-donut native chuckles longingly at the misapplication of those terms, when, with the addition or removal of a little gritty sugar, those objects as produced here could be marketed interchangeably. I could go on at length about the eternally iconic donuts of the 24-hour tippler Baker Bill of our childhood years, but I shall leave that to the mutual blog (The Blog Brothers) Mick and I decided to start, which is still in production, awaiting Hollywood contracts.) I had never had Krispy Kreme donuts and had heard much about them; as formerly renowned donut connoisseurs, Mick and I did a multimorning marathon glazed donut comparison between Krispy Kremes and Von's: Vons won) – ah yes, the list: other kinds of donuts (e. g., jelly, crème-filled, French, chocolate covered); chocolate chip (and other kinds of) cookies; donuts, several varieties of root beer, all kinds of pies, varieties of pizza bigger than my head (even bigger than a Cadillac hubcap!); donuts, more than vanilla ice cream (you could throw a football inside the ice cream freezer sections of American supermarkets, if you weren't busy reading all the ice cream titles), genuine (taste them!) fudgsicles, large pizzas, the full spectrum of breads and cheeses - which reminds me: cheezits - home-fried potatoes and genuine Mexican food, all in addition to (or ad hoc replacing) regular meals and donuts, as well as pizzas and root beer with ice cream and fudgsicles. Note that that's a truncated list, as mentioned so long ago.
At the end of a full-month of this lovingly programmed diet (scientific experimentation requires precision), my brother had lost 5 pounds and I had lost 2 kilos (4.5 pounds). Our new diet book, just in time to serve as the polar answer for those many frustrated Atkins dieters (all too often, the truth turns out to be what you've been disdaining all these years), will be called Stuff Your Way to Slim: The Brady Hi-Carb Diet. Tune in at 4 am tomorrow, when I may feverishly elaborate on the details.
(Part of the secret is in running around in pursuit of only the finest carbs...)
Sunday, August 07, 2005
"Fifty million U.S. Internet users, or about 30% of the U.S. Internet population, visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005, according to a just-released report by comScore Networks, and co-sponsors Six Apart and Gawker Media.
Compared to the average Internet user, blog readers are significantly more likely to live in wealthier households and be younger, and have high-speed access.
Blogspot.com had 19 million unique visitors in the first quarter, up from 7.6 million last year. Blogspot.com now reaches more visitors than the NYTimes.com, USAToday.com and WashingPost.com, which is 'clear evidence that consumer-generated media can draw an audience on par with traditional online publishers,' according to the report."
just back from the States
4 am I think:
Friday, August 05, 2005
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I just saw it again, I just saw it again, and I have had it up to here. I know we've all experienced it, we've all been through it, we've all sat wide-eyed how many times in our childhood and subsequent movie theaters, dug our fingernails into the chair arms and tried to disappear into the back of our seat as we gobbled our popcorn or Milk Duds faster and faster as the little girl - it's always a little girl for reasons I'll get into later if I have time - you always know, if you see a little girl early on in a scary movie that something terrible is going to try to happen to her and that if she's got a teddy bear, a dear cute mute little teddy bear that means everything in the world to her, by the time you're about 8 years old you know that the first time it really counts that little girl is gonna forget that sucker just as she's getting away from the monster/killer/fire/flood/tornado/avalanche--- and she has gotten away! She's saved! Hoor--- uh-oh.
She stops, wide-eyed, turns and looks back into the danger; and to help you along, in case you happen to be only 4 years old so far or have by some means forgotten either intentionally or otherwise or have some vast mental problem, the director shows you the teddy bear right there at the edge of the flames or the monster drool or whatever so you can start storing up this two-bit tension, this bargain-basement angst, and being subject to government we all deeply identify with the forgotten teddy bear - traitors to our theater-going psyches that we are - and sure enough, the little goody-two-shoes breaks free of the lovingly restraining arms of her deliverers no matter how many or how strong (Raisinettes Time), and dorky little airhead that she is goes back to get her precious little woo-woo that she'd rather die than leave behind that she so stupidly forgot in the first place in the burning house or the horror-filled attic or the monster-lurking dark forest or whatever mess this little high-salaried loser has gotten us into, and so all through our cinematically formative years we crunch and gobble and grip as she rushes back into flood or flame or when time is of the essence goes in-ex-plic-a-bly-slow-ly down the dark corridor with all the doors or into the owl-hooting forest or up the narrow creaking dimly lit stairway and it's her damn fault we have to suffer this again, and often as not right about here a cat comes yowling suddenly out of nowhere like no cat has ever done in the history of the world, or a cawing crow or something flapping or squeaking for more cheap shivers and we have her to thank for that too, but the little girl of course, as we all know, now that we are grownups and have seen the teddy bear gimmick as I say at least a thousand times, the little bonehead always gets the teddy bear anyway, so what's the point after all, apart from completely wasting our time and adrenalin, maybe it would do some good to at least once for history's sake have her precious teentsy-weentsy boo-boo go up in flames, or maybe better, have the bear get caught by the monster and ripped limb from limb before the little girl's horrified and our delighted eyes for a welcome switch, and we never hear from either the little blister or her accursed teddy bear again is one approach, and would be greatly appreciated by movie-goers, I believe.
Am I tilting at windmills here? Doesn't anybody want to do something about this little witch and her apprentice? This gimmick is more than cliché, I mean Shakespeare got the teddy bear thing from the Greeks, for godsake: Ophelia's wandering too close to the water? Definitely teddy bear territory, only Shakespeare in his genius left out the teddy bear and drowned Ophelia, to his lasting fame.
Hamlet's own long drawn-out waffle as well is stylistically, if not specifically, in the teddy bear camp, not to mention among others King Lear, who, despite his daughtery woes, which at their core you will note are very forgotten-teddybearish, in his sojourn on the moor never once resorts to the actual lost teddy bear he hints at so obliquely in all his stormy raging. Historically, one could go to great lengths tracing the teddy bear gimmick, from long before Oedipus to Waiting for Godot - to say nothing of Beowulf - but in Hollywood they do it the worst of all, reduce it to the skeleton crew of a little girl and a teddy bear.
I guess I have some time left, so to get back to that earlier point, little boys just aren't that predictably insanely hooked on teddy bears, it wouldn't work, we do not carry the certainty that a little boy would ever risk burning to death for a stuffed toy or he'd just hand it to the monster, check out that limb-from-limb stuff hey cool, just get another teddy bear, no make that a monster video game - it's obvious - so anyway the little girl forgets the little bear and there's another chunk of your life down the living color disposal. Something must be done about this, so please sign below and pass it on; the world will be a better place, for us and for our daughters.
OK, and for their teddy bears.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Back in Santa Barbara winding up a few last-minute quests, such as buying some clothes that fit my foreign body, a few pairs of genuine long-fingered work gloves at Home Depot, whose store could contain several local villages near my house... The gloves actually come in small, medium and large sizes, as actually indicated right there on the package! Judging by the generically sized work gloves in Japan, everyone there has the same size fingers and hands (which isn't true, but don't ask me why nobody asks for gloves that fit); my fingers quickly push through the ends. Got some running shoes that fit my alienly long and narrow feet, too.
I'll be heading back to Japan on Friday, where I'll have time to digest the deep flash of this whole experience. Haven't had much sit-down-solo-and-ponder time here, a blur of iconic quests.
Heard from Keech, now back in Seattle, who with his buddies spent some time in Yosemite on their way back.
And as it happens, the very day I will be leaving, my brother will be going into surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff caused by doing too much real estate fixing-upping. I leave the country for one minute...
Kasumi, Kaya and the twins M&M are now in Shiga; I look forward to seeing them when I return to other of integrities' many forms...