Thursday, June 30, 2005
IT'S GOT MY NAME ON IT
During lunch hour yesterday, after getting frisked for guns, knives, explosives and being specifically asked if I was carrying a: cellphone (the guard pointing at a chart depicting various hazardous items, a cellphone most prominent among them), I was given my new passport by the very helpful personnel at the US Consulate.
The new Patriot Act passport, though not yet directly employing my own DNA, is a very impressive piece of work and not easily forged, what with the quasiholographic laminations of Ben Franklin, the US eagle and other printing tracery trickery (visible only at certain angles) guarding the passport holder’s countenance.
Such that when outside I first looked at my new passport I thought they’d got the issue date wrong - it looked like 2006 - but when I held it at a sufficient angle it finally said 2005, which anomaly I do not see as a good thing in the hands of harried airport immigration officials in uncertain light confronted by an eccentric traveler in a hurry.
As to seeing the passport photo fully and clearly (as per the very stringent passport photo instructions), what with all the shiny hololamination and the eagle on my face, to say nothing of the blue wavy lines running across my features and the blue cloud of USA sitting atop my head or the red stars along my right ear, it’s hard to tell who that very faint, unwrinkled android is, exactly. But it’s all very patriotic, so I must be in there somewhere.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
THE LOST LIBERTY HOTEL
"On Monday June 27, Freestar Media, LLC informed the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire that it wants to begin the permit process to build a hotel on the land owned by Justice David H. Souter. [Supreme Court] Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner."
The hotel will feature the Just Desserts Cafe! A copy of Atlas Shrugged in every room! A place to stay when your home is confiscated! Sign up and plan your vacation now!
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
BUDDHA IMAGE WILL NOT BE SOLD TO ONLINE GAMING ENTERPRISE, BRADY VOWS
Yesterday as I was eating lunch, during a meditative lull in my ruminations I turned and looked out the door to check the garden (I'd earlier seen a solo scout-monkey nonchalantly strolling the roofridge of the house across the road, covertly ogling my reddening tomatoes) when my eye was caught by Buddha waving at me from within the chestnut tree - the tree that is even now sending out its ivory catkins and blessing the air with chestnut perfume.
I had to blink to see if it was maybe my aging eyes, or a seldom overactive religious imagination, but no, it was Buddha alright, perfectly framed in the deck railing, Buddha as depicted in the ancient way in the dark grotto, right down to the soul patch. I'd recognize him anywhere, and though I certainly wouldn't expect to see him in a grilled cheese sandwich or a highway oil slick or anything - like some decorum-deficient icons I know - he was perfectly at home amidst the moss on the side of the flowering chestnut tree.
This cannot but be a good omen, I felt, before getting the camera; perhaps the monkeys will leave me more of my tomatoes and plums this year? Or perhaps the graceful wave of that five-fingered lichen hand was assurance of other good fortune pending for us all, like a sudden administration change in my home country. Or the wise one might be sagely saying: “Don't get your hopes up.”
Closer up, Buddha was found to consist of an impressive blend of lichen, bark, moss and illumination, but truth resides as much in the distant view as in the near. Thank god Buddha wasn't one of those miracle-wielding gurus, so there won't be any reverent mobs climbing the mountain to trample my garden while clutching freshly bought lottery tickets.
Despite numerous suggestions, the tree will not be offered on eBay; and when said online gaming enterprise calls and offers me 50,000 dollars or so for just that section of the trunk to put in their redeemer museum alongside the grilled cheese and French toast, I shall tell them that Buddha is not for sale.
Nature will be nature, though, so I suspect that when the delayed seasonal rains finally come pouring down the side of that tree, we may well be favored with the apparition of Jimi Hendrix, another of Buddha's many forms.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Sunday, June 26, 2005
DECROWDING THE MOTLEY BLOOBS
This morning before the sun got too overbearing I stole some time away from the heavier tasks of firewooding and raised-bed prepping to take care of something that had been tugging at my psychic elbow for some days now: clear out the insidious bamboo, vines, yomogi and other invaders crowding in underneath, around, over and among the motley collection of high- and low-bush blueberry varieties I planted there in a test some years ago, to see which I liked and which liked the southerly location on the roadside between kinmokuse and natsume trees.
The bloobs that liked it quickly took deep root and soon became untransplantable without harm (I tried transplanting one and broke the very long taproot; within a couple of months it went to blueberry heaven) so the leftalone lot have since intergrown into a very pleasant green and varied tangle that at manifold heights produces berries of multiple sizes and flavors, whose original names I wrote down at planting time in a book somewhere that's in a box somewhere in the house somewhere.
The leaves were covered in webs and stuck cherry leaves and cedar branches like burrs on a dog, which I cleared off, then I scythed the bamboo and other plants growing up among them like slivers in a sock, and the tall ones hogging the sun, then I trimmed back/restrained the neighboring trees that were shouldering into the bloobs' righteous venue.
Now the bloobs can stretch their green arms full length, their feet are cleared for action and their leaves are a lot greener, their arms bouncing in the sunny breeze as their berries turn purple, visibly swelling with savors of delight.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
"I'd expected the ingenious, but this is ingenuous!!"
It was an oddly strong shock for me to hear this bit of dialog in an old Sherlock Holmes movie I watched the other evening, the line written and crisply delivered in confidence that a movie audience of that day (ca. 60 years ago) would have sufficient vocabular agility to grasp and appreciate the precision and aptness of that complex bit of wordplay flashing by. (And the movie producer agreed!) A pretty far cry from the monosyllabic movie dialogs uzi-ing out now, and in a B movie no less. Two subtly nuanced four-syllable words counterposed in one sentence of a movie script of today? No way.
Friday, June 24, 2005
THE BAGGAGE STATE OF MIND
As an inveterate traveler in my younger days, I early became accustomed to minimal possessions: nothing large, heavy, fragile or valuable. In keeping with this baggage state of mind, my luggage has always been strong, simple, dependable and unsightly: a duffelbag. That's why in all my travels my luggage has ever been stolen, nor has anything ever been stolen from it. There it comes sliding down the luggage ramp: flattened, tattered, stained, wonderfully unappealing.
As well, by the time I'd reached my teenage years my family had moved house a dozen times, greatly lessening any early love I might have had regarding heavy furniture, monolithic appliances, carpets, lamps, artwork and other unwieldy acquisitions. The resulting minimalist trait was very useful to me as a long-term duffelbagger, but when I had to stop traveling (my daughter was born) we settled down and began to acquire the familially essential things, at which point I realized that my former attitude had an unexpected side to it. Give me a duffelbagful of possessions and I'm fine with organizing that. Give me more than that and my organizing mind turns off; I have better things to do. Gypsy ways are hard to change.
Since in my formative experience excess itemage was always temporary (and, in residence, largely the property of others), I now can't take comprehensive interest in anything beyond that minimum, since I somehow feel that it doesn't really pertain to me (even though I might have bought it). Though I'm now possessed by too much more than a duffelbagful of whatever it may be, beyond that quantity I still tend to just stash the whatever anywhere and not look at it again for years or more, maybe ever. I only use what I use, after all. On my upcoming trip to the States, I'll take one duffelbag and live it up in the old style.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
LOST NAGASAKI DISPATCHES FOUND
"The reporter was George Weller, the distinguished correspondent for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News. His startling dispatches from Nagasaki, which could have affected public opinion on the future of the bomb, never emerged from General Douglas MacArthur's censorship office in Tokyo. Carbon copies were found just two years ago when his son, who talked to E&P from Italy today, discovered them after the reporter's death.
The articles published in Japan today reveal a remarkable and wrenching turn in Weller's view of the aftermath of the bombing, which anticipates the profound unease in our nuclear experience ever since. 'It was remarkable to see that shifting perspective,' Anthony Weller says."
The story of the dispatches - SPECIAL REPORT: A Great Nuclear-Age Mystery Solved
The George Weller dispatches: A Nagasaki Report
GET 'EM WHILE THEY LAST!
"A Japanese hamburger chain will today start selling whale-meat burgers, hours after the International Whaling Commission condemned Tokyo's plans to double the number of whales it kills during so-called research hunts."
Should we hunt whales?
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Yesterday in our morning walk we turned a sharp bend in the road and walked into a cloud of fledgling barn swallows and their proud parents. The road passed beneath a highway bridge over one of the mountain's many small rivers, and up beneath the ferroconcrete and I-beam abutments were dozens of new clay nests that had been built upon the old ones.
On many of the nest edges teetered fledgling swallows who were just barely beginning to think of daring to enter the big mystery out there that they'd been only glimpsing over the nest edge these past months; now here they were standing uncertainly on the nest edge itself, preparing to leap into the mystery at the loud urging of their parents and all the fledglings who were already out there, suspended on nothing!
The wind vortex formed by this funneling of the down-mountain morning breezes was filled with formally dressed elder swallows urging the young ones to enter the air. And who thus built to receive it could resist such an invitation? Imagine being that tiny - a mere whisper of nerves and feathers - and looking out upon that unfamiliar vastness: what a world of trust they had to summon, in order to leap! The excitement filled the air.
From where they stood teetering - gripping the thin nest edges with uncertain feet - one by one, to the cheering of their parents and fellow flyers, they leaped free in elemental confidence and found themselves not falling, but flying! What delight quivered then in those tiny bodies!
We who stood below on earthbound feet could nevertheless share in the sheer natural glee that swirled up there in those newly airborne creatures realizing their powers: how they loved it; what a change this was for them! After being cooped up in those constricting nests for months, here they were climbing, diving, spiraling and chattering feverishly, becoming better aeronauts by the minute.
Their still-new flying muscles, though, were not yet strong; they had to rest for a few seconds now and then. They did their resting not on the stodgy flat places their parents used but on the most fun places: the slanting areas of concrete, where gravity slid them slowly to the edge and forced them fearfully to fly again - much like people kids on steep sliding boards.
Among the fledglings, the parents were discernable not so much for their size (they weren't that much larger) but for their aerodynamic expertise, stamina and practicality of flight, as well as their comparative lack of jubilation at the astonishing act they were performing. But they sure did enjoy watching the kids earn their wings.
ALL YOUR WHALES ARE BELONG TO US
Japan wanted a secret ballot at the IWC meeting so that countries it has allegedly paid off (e. g. by lopsided foreign investment) to vote pro-whaling ("the west African nations of Cameroon, Togo and Gambia, along with the Pacific island of Nauru, suddenly joined the IWC at the weekend") could do so while maintaining their anti-whaling cover, but the idea was voted down, so Japan simply declared that it would
Whatever could be causing the steady demise of the tasty, profitable creatures? Cut another one open and let’s see. At what
Here's the Japan whale 'research' programs FAQ, absolutely non-strident, non-defensive, clearly upstanding.
Anti-whaling states aim to condemn Japan program
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I found out today that in my blog entry of yesterday I wasn't being entirely truthful in maligning the caterpillars. Based upon irrefutable forensic evidence obtained just after dawn this morning, the caterpillars are consuming only 80-90% of the spinach and lettuce that I don't get to before they do.
The fresh evidence, obtained amicroscopically in situ, clearly demonstrates the involvement of another party in this greenleaf travesty, evidence in the form of sizable absences from spinach and lettuce leaves bearing the unmistakable shape of a large black beak, proof acceptable in any gardening court in the land that Dr. Crow has been doing his share of the marauding.
Even as I write this, he sits on the limb of the big oak above the garden, where he sat moments ago watching me split firewood and is now cawing low, slowly and rhythmically like a big frog with one eye on my greens, getting hungry but knowing that I am inside that large square construction I just went into after doing whatever it was I was endlessly doing with those lateral trees, and that I am awake, as he can tell by the unceasing sounds of my keyboard through the open window.
Maybe I'll snore loudly for a while and then run out into the garden with some lit firecrackers...
RACING WITH CATERPILLARS
It's impossible to express the delight with which the caterpillars are devouring my spinach. They lick the green plate clean. Experience has taught me to plant a few random spinach seeds here and there among the lettuce, the spinach growing higher and faster, so all the caterpillars go straight to the easy pickings for their first Spring course, leaving tall naked green stems where once there were rich green leaves, and we get the early lettuce. Later lettuce is another matter.
The caterpillars are no slouches, and they have bigger jaws now. The spinach ran out a few days ago, so the caterpillagers quickly moved on to the lettuce course, where they're working overtime. Now it’s a lettuce-eating race between us and the enlarging larvae. So we're all eating a lot of lettuce these days, the caterpillars - who are in a natural hurry - preferring theirs in situ and au naturel, whereas we who have no metamorphosis pending have the time to prefer vinaigrette and the like on our lettuce, in a bowl also containing tomatoes, not to mention slices of lush purple onions bestowed upon us by the onion philanthropists Ken and Yuri who live over the mountain in the unmonkeyed regions of northern Kyoto, whence they took pity on our abject onionlessness.
So for the next week or so, at three mealtimes a day before lettuce-bolting time you'll find me out in the garden rapidly plucking lettuce leaves amid the hearty sounds of tiny mass crunching, as I and the caterpillars race to a crisp green finish.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Friday, June 17, 2005
Photographic Views of Meiji: A Portrait of Old Japan
I was about to jadedly say "What a day!" this morning, after some comparatively minor cataclysm of the sort that occurs in any office/official environs on a daily basis, when, thanks to the day before yesterday, I realized that today couldn't possibly qualify as a what-a-day day, compared to said pre-yesterday or even yesterday.
Those days are way up on my top 100 list of what-a-day days, maybe even up in the top 10 in the non-travel category (traveling what-a-day days stand alone, like a hitch-hiker on a street corner for 24 hours); I'd even venture to say that the day before yesterday might have a shot at the number two position (that workday commute back in the autumn of 1967 will never be beaten in my lifetime, the parameter whence I speak).
It is a great comfort, as one advances through later life, to have those formidable banners of earlier what-a-day experience to bear aloft in times of apparent strife, that shrink to minor molehills in the face of such deep history.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
I TOLD YOU I WAS ORGANIZED
I hope you can't really imagine my double-whammy of massive chagrin, potentially leading to general ulceration, arterial meltdown and possible brain explosion, when my deadline-serving US foreign resident's tax return - also known as "The Curse of Nixon" - (to be postmarked no later than June 15 under penalty of the IRS version of Al Ghraib), mailed on the 14th 'for a little postmark elbow room,' was found in my own mailbox the next day, marked undeliverable. I had forgotten to put a stamp on the envelope. My subconscious had signed off on it as very official-looking, hence as-is deliverable. I don't recall where my conscious was at the time, if it was even in the neighborhood.
This realization was realized, in the state elaborated above, at about 6pm on the 15th itself; I therefore instantly jumped into the car with IRS envelope in teeth and drove to the far-off but last closing post office (6:30) at a speed that would get me pole position at Indianapolis, had I a passport to go there. I arrived figuratively breathless (I was driving, after all) at 6:28 and asked the remarkably angelic looking lady at the counter to please make sure that the envelope was postmarked today, June 15, which she accomplished right before my very eyes and I was happy. Until I returned home.
For home is where, in preparation for my US trip, I then began to plan the tight schedule for confirming my ticket with a copy of my passport; for using my passport to obtain my multiple re-entry permit, so that upon departure I am not erased from Japan's delicate xenomemory banks and can return with my visa intact; and for using my passport to obtain my international driver's license. I glanced at my passport and found that it had expired a year ago last April.
Thus, for nearly a year and a half I had been - and am, even as I write this - a man without a country. If I hadn't casually checked my passport and had attempted to go anywhere by plane, I'd still be circling the North Pole. Likely using the same thought processes that had put no stamp on the most legally important envelope of the year, I had thought my passport expired in 2010; but as my brother used to have frequent occasion to say, "See what happens when you think?"
So today in the big city I lunch-hour rushed to the US consulate, made it through the gauntlet of detectors, wands etc. without being called aside for lengthy questioning by men in shades and black suits and applied for a new passport with full-color Cheney, Rice and their boss smirking over my shoulder. Given my organizational powers, soon as I get my passport maybe I'll run for president.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
J-CULTURE 2 A-CULTURE
I'm planning a trip to the States from July 9 to Aug 5, to visit relatives and friends - in Santa Barbara, renowned venue of my brother's residence and the recently concluded Michael Jackson trial; and Santa Fe, a beautiful and artistic town of dear friends where nothing much of prime-time newsy note has happened recently, if you except nearby Los Alamos.
Time and computer access allowing I shall be blogging as I go, noting the inevitable cultural shocks both good and bad. I haven't been back to the A-culture in 3 years, so I've pretty near fully reverted to the J-culture groove; e.g., I stare at westerners. America will be full of westerners and I shall pass among them unremarked, which will be refreshing.
Already there's been a surprise: when I went into the city to buy my ticket I found that there was now, for the first time, a "fuel charge" of about 10% of ticket cost. I'd heard about the oil price increase, of course, but hayseed that I am I'd thought that that was already ongoingly factored into the advertised ticket price. With the fuel charge plus Sales tax, Osaka airport tax, LA airport tax, Sky tax, Wing tax, Walking tax, Breathing tax, Taxation tax and various other VA surcharges, I'm paying nearly 15% above the advertised ticket price. The ticket was a lot cheaper before I bought it. Looks like oil has peaked; 20 years from now it may cost a million yen to fly the ocean on the few carriers that may remain...
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Scientists working in labs with male prairie voles have recently discovered that at least certain aspects of social behavior (i.e. possibly all of it) are due to the vagaries of "junk" DNA (DNA whose function is unknown to scientists). They have not yet gone so far as to designate such behavior 'junk behavior' (scientists tend to be rather shy in their claims), but I figure it's an inevitable offshoot of DNA research, so I've gone ahead and named it just so we can move forward with the concept.
We laymen know junk behavior when we see it, and we see it all the time: on streetcorners, in supermarkets, on the freeways, you name it, it's a long list. We know junk behavior like we know junk food and junk tv. But now science has found a seminal DNA basis for it all – admittedly only in male prairie voles, but it's a beginning - and given it a very colloquial name. It's about time there was a scientific foundation for this vast concept, mere seed though it may be at the moment.
But what does this imminent revelation portend for society at large? We all engage in junk behavior at some point in our lives – mostly in our earlier years, thank goodness - and if we're paying attention, we learn the difference and aim for quality behavior later in life; that's what education and personal development are all about. However, the older we get the more apparent it becomes that there are large cadres of people in society who don't make the transition; their entire lives seem to comprise junk behavior. Many of the most prominent are in media, business and politics, fields that, given the nature of power, offer little incentive toward quality behavior development.
And knowing that it might be DNA that's at fault - and not a personal lack of scruples or integrity - could tend to aggravate junk DNA-rooted societal problems down the line. Entire populaces might begin serially electing junk leaders, for example. Other parts of our junk DNA may yet evolve to save us, but the final results are not yet in; so for our own good, let's keep an eye on those prairie voles.
Monday, June 13, 2005
WILDFLOWERS AND SCHEDULE SE
Each year as Spring rolls into Summer on its golden wheel and I find myself gazing out the window into sunlight falling with June largesse from a broad blue sky upon meadows of wildflowers - within the full embrace of which I would infinitely rather be walking, or better yet, lying - I am sitting at a table facing the annual deadline, filling out my US tax phonebook “Forms and Instructions for Overseas Filers” (Drop-in-the-ocean excerpt: “If you are the spouse who carried on the business, you must include on line 3, Schedule SE, the net profit or (loss) reported on the other spouse’s Schedule C, C-EZ, or F (except income not included in net earnings from self-employment as explained on page SE-3, “Community Income Taxed to Spouse” and the amount of any net profit or (loss) allocated to your spouse as community income.” The further I blunder through the pages that sorely need an editor and forms that sorely need an accountant (I suspect I have a defective accounting gene) the more I realize I’ve always been on the side of the wildflowers.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
THE BIG RAIN
Today began the tsuyu (rainy season), two days later than usual according to the weather bureau, which last week forecast that the tsuyu would begin three days ago, so I guess I'd rather believe the weather, it honors its own time.
This morning I woke to the familiar voice of the tsuyu, that steady tenor the sky sings this time of year and loudest in the mornings, long thin streams of water falling in the calm, filling the air with silver, gathering down the mountain in the waiting rice paddies. And so it goes on steadily downfalling all day, misting the hours with all the perfumes the forest has spent the night concocting...
The big rain is also wondrous to walk in, generously inspiring of those with wide umbrellas and no destination in mind...
Friday, June 10, 2005
THE ART OF DISASSEMBLY
“Referring to an Amnesty International report harshly criticizing U.S. detention facilities, B--- [elision mine] sought to dismiss its credibility, stating during a May 31 press conference, ‘It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of—and the allegations—by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble—that means not tell the truth.’”
Such verbal gaffes from the voice of America have grated for years now on the ear of any English speaker whose norm is coherence, but the amazing thing here is the newly implicit belief that our vocabularies are even more limited than his own, that we need those big words defined, that we need his help to understand the heady concepts he takes such pride in verbalizing so successfully.
That level of 'disassembly' requires a very high degree of self-delusion.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
NOT MY ROCK
I was out on the deck in the beauty of yesterday afternoon to survey the overall scene of my firewooding and gardening labors - and lay further plans - when, leaning on the rail I glanced at one of the hefty rocks I keep there to hold down the large flat bamboo basket I use to keep the heavy mountain snow off the satellite dish, when I noticed something odd: the rock had a small green nose.
Bending low and getting close in for a better view, I found myself eye-to-eye with a very flat green frog indeed, an otherwise normally dimensioned amphibian who had carefully jiggered and hunkered his way backwards into the very low-ceilinged space beneath the rock, there to stay damp and cool and utterly safe from hawks and crows, while yet maintaining access to the rich bug life passing by within tongue reach on the local air and rail thoroughfares.
His dark eye paid little attention to my massive temporary intrusion, he simply continued doing nothing very comfortably, thank you; he was sitting about as pretty as possible, frogwise. I'd had it in mind to move the rock, now that winter is over and anyway the oak leaves have cut off my satellite signal so who cares about snow on a satellite dish, but if the frog has such an inventive architectural use for the rock, who am I to interfere? It's not really MY rock, anyway.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
When I visited Basho, in the little museum there - where they have some personal effects like Basho’s cane of tsubaki (a little spindly thing it is!) - I bought as a souvenir a cotton tenugui with Basho’s image imprinted on it, after a famous ink painting of the poet. In Japan, at least traditionally, whenever you set out to do a task that will call for stamina and generate sweat, you tie a tenugui around your head. So early this morning, before I started firewooding I did just that, then spent all morning splitting oak with Basho tied around my head. We had a great time, got a lot of firewood split and stacked in the poetry way.
As the wedge splits the oak
out oozes juice
that looks - smells -- tastes
like premium whiskey
aged at least 50 years
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
What is made in Japan, has a woman's face, is built for dancing, can move in all directions on three wheels hidden underneath an evening gown, comes in two colors, has ears like Mickey Mouse, wears classic attire, has a plastic exterior in shiny blue or bright red, has a male version under development and is eventually intended to care for the elderly?
Monday, June 06, 2005
WHALE MEAT AND IQ
"WHILE Australia is fighting to save endangered humpbacks from Japanese whalers, women in Tokyo were learning how to cook the mammals yesterday...
'Eating a whale is the same thing as killing and eating a cow.'"
Doesn't seem to do much for the IQ, though. Ever seen a whale ranch?
Sunday, June 05, 2005
TEMPTATION: LECTURE TO A ONE-YEAR-OLD
As I look out the window
of my forty-fourth year
at a rainbow
stretching from the mountain-curve of heaven
to the foot of Shinyodo pagoda
I sense a struggle of spirit beside me.
Looking down I see
my son, in infant conflict
with a vice like all others:
the tissue box
(pull up one,
up pops another).
He looks up to me, as if for advice,
his eyes full of
the big question,
that rainbows all our lives...
What should I answer?
What do I know?
Should I be silent,
let him find his own way
without the wealth of my experience?
Or should I say simply:
"Don't do it!"
and stop him before he begins,
leave the struggle for later
till one day he decides
to get even?
When in doubt,
So at last I tell him: "That, son, is temptation.
And it has no end.
It will mess up your life
if you don't gain control:
I don't mean be rigidly good, but don't be
thoroughly bad; don' t let it net you either way.
You stay in charge.
And it's better you start young,
to be carefully human,
selective of your vices;
one needs a few for balance, but carefully chosen.
Choose your virtues, too;
it's not in you to be god-like,
unless you want only distant admirers
and no friends.
And this: when you resist,
do so with a will.
When you surrender
surrender carefully, to the max.
Balance the best of your moments
so that your life will be live,
so when it comes to its end, you will find
that you have not died, but come to live
with others like yourself
and can regale the group
with tales of true humanity.
I leave him;
find him later, asleep
in a heaven of tissues.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
FROM AMONG THE THUNDER
This afternoon after a thunderstorm-threat picnic out on the beach we came back and I did one of my favorite things during thunderstorms other than run around in them – brings back a memory: in Spain where we lived on another mountainside above the Mediterranean, in an old finca without running water, whenever a thunderstorm was headed our way we'd take off all our clothes, run into the almond orchard with soap and there take the finest shower there is – ah yes, where was I – as the thunderstorm circled I was lying down with a good book (Changes in the Land, by William Cronon) when I started hearing these very strange sounds from within the rain and thunder, oddly misplaced metallic sounds; then the wind picked up and suddenly rain was blowing on me from the open window three meters away as the surroundsound grew louder, so I got up to close the window and couldn't see outside well, the air was all a gray vagueness like in a wet train window, all was moving sideways and I realized the wind was that strong, but what was that sound, that metallic pinging, like falling bits of sheet metal crescendoing now – I ran downstairs and the deck was already all white with what it was: quail-egg-sized hail, streaking, bouncing flying everywhere. Nothing to do but watch and wait and hope the stones didn’t get any bigger, smash our new roof tiles, on which it was ringing, as violent as nature can be when suddenly freed of restraint - it had clearly been wanting to rain for a couple hours and had been juggling those raindrops into hailstones all the meanwhile - the wind and the ice globs fast-ripped small branches off the trees, not too good for the car finish either, or for the new spinach, lettuce and tomatoes... on the other hand maybe the monkeys got caught in it but I doubt it, nature isn't partial to favors when it lets loose... then it all waned and passed and the sky was a calm blue around the mountains, no sound but of water roiling down toward the Lake, and a few thousand stunned frogs ribbeting warily... now an hour later as I ponder firewooding the storm is circling again to the south, hasn't had enough...
Friday, June 03, 2005
JARED DIAMOND, CHEVRON OIL AND THE WWF
"Not only was oil company property home to far more birds than found in Papua New Guinea as a whole, it was also a place where indigenous peoples could be 'better off with us there than if we were gone,' according to a Chevron executive. For Chevron, having Jared Diamond and the World Wildlife Fund (on whose board he sits) on their side amounts to a public relations coup. In a massive ad campaign throughout the 1990s, they exploited their partnership with the WWF and other mainstream environmentalist groups."
Full story at Counterpunch
Thursday, June 02, 2005
CHERRY RED AND BANANA YELLOW MELLOW
On the train this morning pondering last night's quick post about tielessness, I did a quick eyeball to see if the naked necks of Koizumi and Toyota had had any effect on the general populace and, using a very complex formula I made up myself from some old Fast-Fourier Transformations I had laying around, I calculated that the tied/tieless ratio was on the order of 50,000:1 (I never wear a tie). So much for revolution of the kind that happened more than a century ago now, when Japanese men and women threw off their kimonos en masse (what a sight!) and donned suits and dresses, mostly respectively.
This trainframe of mind (very history-evoking are trainrides, metaphoring the flow of time as we just sit there passing through) also dredged up my own singular Japan office tie experience, way back when I first began working here after coming from three years of rural freefaring in Spain and ten years of world vagabonding before that, starting from Berkeley in the early 70s, after selling my VW van/house to buy a ticket to the rest of the world.
The first day I came to the office, as I was not dealing with the public, but was working in a back office editing, I’d concluded that I didn’t need a suit or tie - which was one reason I’d chosen the job. I was dressed in my standard vagabonding garb: good boots, sturdy pants, rad but sensible shirt with strong pockets etc. Within a few days, when the folks in the office began to realize I would ALWAYS be coming in like that, the manager took me aside and as if speaking to a social radical (he was a good judge of people; unfortunately he was not such a good judge of himself and was fired a couple of years later) informed me that, as I was now a formal employee of the firm, I would be required to wear a jacket and tie to work.
But by then I’d been around the block a few times, so when I went home I dug into the lower layers of my sartorial history and came up with an heirloom I’d been unable to sell at the Alameda flea market ten years before and subsequently couldn’t part with because of the history it embodied as a relic of freer, less hung-up times: a cherry-red-and-banana-yellow paisley necktie, only eight inches wide at the bottom though it appeared to be much, much wider.
The next day to the office I wore that in a wide double-windsor over my pink shirt under my nicely faded denim jacket that had only a small hole in one elbow from that bike accident in Amsterdam, and with various hallucinogenic shirts for several days thereafter, until the manager took me aside and, cringing before my neckwear, said the only thing his dazzled mind could think of: “Do you make your own ties?”
I left the tie off from the next day on, and nobody ever mentioned the subject again.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
THE SEED OF REVOLUTION
When the chairman of Toyota said "This summer I will not allow anybody with tie or jacket into my office," I fell off my zabuton (as luck would have it I was sitting on the floor at the time). In Japan? Salarimen with no suits? What is the world coming to? No ties? What is the solar system coming to? Isn't that impossible? How will those hardy minions survive the summer blasts of arctic air conditioning in between the bouts of broiling street heat beneath searing serge?
It was all so... informal, so... radical, so... anarchic! As a long-time proponent of suit-and-tielessness I didn’t know what to think: how would suitless salarimen behave, having to function all naked like that in public? But then it was only confined to Toyota (one of the eco PR champions of the world) so I figured I’d never get to see any of this extremely radical social experiment involving tieless men rampant in offices in their shirtsleeves, since as you may have surmised I don’t live in Toyota City.
Then Prime Minister Koizumi had a brilliant idea: he would not wear a suit and tie to work! (Those edgy politicians are always so first off the mark.) This time my luck didn't hold: I was sitting on a chair. No suits, and no ties, in the very government offices of a country that for decades now has almost singlehandedly supported the world necktie industry! To say nothing of the suit stores on every other corner, which will now be pretty much reduced to flogging shirts and slacks, maybe a handkerchief. How will Japan function? This could cause a revolution! One day there could be no ties everywhere! Shirts as far as the eye can see! Maybe the bureaucracy will improve. Tieless Immigration would be interesting. More room on the trains...
How radical is this change, really?
Imagine the French eating American cheese.