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 But in the brief time since the label was composed the berries plum and all the rest seem to have been superseded by characters of ashtray, siphoned gas and earwax, which for some reason weren't there at the original tasting...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