Thursday, August 31, 2006


A HANDFUL OF BROADWAYS


While I was going through the routine of making tea early this morning I noticed a couple of leaves falling from the cherry tree in the garden as a bird rummaged one of the branches, and I thought: it isn’t even September yet, and already the leaves are getting ready to fall... some indefinite time later I abruptly returned from an unforgettable autumn day in the Bois de Boulogne some time back in the 20th century, and thought: uh-oh…what did I just do... did I dump the tea down the drain or - no - I was on morning autopilot, so that's ok...

Amid the lingering ambience of the Bois, this bit of gentle confusion brought to mind something I hear a lot from and about folks my age after they wind up doing just this sort of thing: that their memory is slipping-- "absent-minded" is the old-fashioned term for it, idiomatically associated with a professor, which used to give it an intellectual cachet it doesn't have anymore.

My feeling, though, is that this isn't absence of mind at all. The fact is, that in this portion of a well-lived life the mind is by now so rich, so diverse in rewarding avenues of thought, the very Champs-Elysees of consciousness, indeed several Champs-Elysees, plus you can throw in some Ginzas and Ramblas and Unter den Lindens, a handful of Broadways and Route 66s for starters (and whatever else pertains in your particular case) while you're at it, and don’t get me going on the neighborhoods (let alone the wilds or the wildlife, rivers, mountains, forests) I carry in me and that render me subject to enthrallment by a priceless recollection or perception at any moment's turn in the everyday, it should be no surprise that now and then, like a little kid at a carnival I stop and gaze, meditating in natural delight until my return. If this is absent-mindedness, then Einstein was an idiot.

It's the opposite of when I was younger and my filling mind was always busy absorbing all the new things there were, sauntering the new avenues of thought and life I was mapping and experiencing - when focus was the essential point - in the midst of each new and newly fascinating experience I really had no lifeplace of my own yet for my mind to wander far off to, the way it does now. To give Gertrude Stein a friendly tweak, as yet there was no there there.

So if you've been enjoying a well-lived life, by the time you reach my age you have a lot of there there. With so many lives in you to live, re-live and be mentally active in, it should be no surprise if you're often in more than one life at a time (especially when in one of them what you're doing has become routine...). So you might as well admit it: you're not absent-minded, you're extra-minded.

If you don't believe me, just visit your Louvre.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


TEARJERKS


It's odd. Very odd. The Japanese are so polite, maintain such carefully measured distances in their various levels of social discourse that, for example, close acquaintances can go years without even knowing each other's first names. And even long-term social acquaintances (these Japanese hierarchic levels are hard to delineate in English) never refer to each other in conversation - even directly - except via their family names + honorific. For example, in English, if you were talking to Bill Smith, your friendly neighbor of 25 years, you’d say, "Hey Bill, where're you going on vacation this year?" In Japanese, you'd say: "Where is Mr. Smith going on vacation this year?" To address your friendly neighbor by his first name would be intrusive and presumptuous.

That carefully maintained social distance makes it all the more shocking whenever I see the common sight, on Japanese tv news, of reportermobs trying to emotionally break down the relatives of tragedy victims on screen, as in their prodding of the father of a young businessman who was killed in the Kentucky jet crash yesterday. The sharky reporters rang the father's doorbell, knocked on his door, called out his family name (+ honorific), until at last he came out wearily but politely, still in shock, hadn't yet apprehended the full tragedy of his situation.

The mediamob moved in close, stuck their mikes in his face and began asking questions like: "Did you expect this to happen?" "Was your son a good person?" “Did he have any children?” (They knew he had no children.) "Were you looking forward to having grandchildren?" Each question digging a bit deeper emotionally until I'm cringing just watching, waiting for the next and even crueler question as the camera edges closer and closer, hoping for a quiver, a tear, a flood or, best of all, an emotional breakdown right on camera (what a news coup!) until I have to turn it off, I just can't watch. And I'm from New York! Yet the extremely polite Japanese public seems to love this grossly intrusive stuff!

The father (and every other tragic victim in such circumstances) replies politely, without a hint that he perceives the inanity of the questions, let alone their cruelty and intrusiveness or the extreme sharkiness of the reporters: "No I did not expect this." "My son was a good person." "No he had no children." "Yes, I was looking forward to having grandchildren." He was still too much in shock. They did their best with the questions though, prodding deeper and deeper, but he didn't break. Oh well, maybe the next victim will make some reporter's career as a tearjerk.

I know that paparazzi do this kind of thing photographically just about everywhere, and are well paid for it (and everywhere reviled), but this particular kind of intrusion into personal tragedy I find cruel and repulsive, too painful to watch. Some Japanese do as well, apparently; there are letters written to editors now and then, and editorial comments here and there, but the general public seems to eat it up. Why is that? The explanation that it evokes sympathy in the viewer just begs the question. If I were to call any one of those viewers by their first name they'd be offended at my presumption! But as victims they seem to have no rights in this regard.

After all these years, it still stumps me.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Not moving all day
oaks flex in the evening breeze--
that's gotta feel good

PLUTO DESPONDENT AFTER DOWNGRADE, SAYS SPACE SHRINK

Rejected planet Pluto appears to be growing more despondent since its summary dismissal by a world scientific body; "May even be considering planetary suicide," says astropsychologist...

Imagine how you'd feel if you'd been nothing special all those billions of years since the beginning of the universe, just an unrecognized blob with no special status in space, then all at once in what is for some reason called 1930 you're a planet, named after the Greek god of wealth, or death, depending - whatever 'Greek, ' 'god,' 'wealth' or 'death' mean, but still - and your picture is in all the science books on that little blue blur of a planet where for 75 years or so you're everybody's little planet-friend out there on the edge of their solar system, your image there on all the sky charts and zooming around in all the planetariums, right up there among the stars, and then one day in what is called 2006, after a meeting of academics BAM, you're nobody-- even worse, you never were anybody, just a mistake, a wannabe, the laughingstock of a solar system... You might just drift off in search of a more hospitable solar system, one that respects the efforts of its members...

"Being abruptly stripped of your astronomic status that way by a scientific body on a blue dot of a planet much closer to the sun can actually be quite traumatic, even for a fringe body in solar orbit," says astrological psychologist Stella Parseck. "And then on top of that to be called a dwarf-- that could easily push a small, unwanted planet over the edge. Though no one knows about these things, really, I'm definitely getting far-out vibrations that Pluto could, in the shock of rejection, do the unthinkable and seek another orbit, which as we all know would be tantamount to planetary suicide-- heading for the great beyond, in earthly terms. Pluto might be much happier afterward, perhaps orbiting a distant sun surrounded by more friendly planets populated by more amenable academicians, but of course when we speak of the stars we can never be certain, can we..."

Sunday, August 27, 2006


TODDLER EPICS


Well, I ripped open my shirt and got there at the speed of light, immediately concealing my true identity in the guise of Robert Brady, mild-mannered grandfather (lower-case-g, unlike the big red letter on my blue spandex top). Kasumi and Kaya set off at once for Pinocchio, as expected. Soon after, however, Echo said she was going to her favorite rotenburo in the area for a quick hot bath. Suddenly it was all up to SuperG again, one twin climbing each mighty leg.

A while after Echo had left, and the home interior limitations had been exhausted, I said (betraying no desperation) "Let's go to the park!" The front door slammed twice and I was alone. I trotted after the two tiny figures in the distance, toddling hastily along the sidewalk in a parkish direction. When we got there under the blazing 2pm sun, you could have cooked eggs, bacon and a side order of home fries on the sliding board, so Miasa took one of the swings and Mitsuki the other, and I began to push them.

And then the most amazing thing happened: after they'd swung back and forth for a while and had picked up the rhythm, they began singing together. Rather Miasa started, simply repeating a variety of three-syllable rhythm markers, loudly but in a very affecting four-beat melody; then Mitsuki syncopated in with both note and rhythm, and began singing about the events of the day, starting from early morning and working on toward the present, with bits of their overall greater (three-year!) history interjected here and there, in what can only be called a spontaneous toddler epic in the oral tradition.

After a while of listening, as an irrepressible whistler I just had to join in as rhythmomelodic backup, so we went on like that, I pushing and whistling, the occasional passersby stopping to stand and watch, as these little twin girls sang their beautiful spontaneously made-up melody with entertaining lyrics, for over an hour!

There was even a sly joke in there, that went like this (my translation):
na-na-KYU-u/Mama is gone and that's ok (swing)
na-na-KYU-u/Kaya is gone and that's ok (swing)
na-na-KYU-u/Echo is gone and that's ok (swing)
na-na-KYU-u/Bob is here and that's not good (swing)
(with sidelong glance at me to see if I got it)

I wish I'd had a tape recorder, but contrary to common belief, SuperG can't think of everything. Besides, twins are a lot like kryptonite.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


GEARING UP


Echo and I are now preparing mentally and physically, double-checking our gear in preparation for our double-time journey to the house across the lake, where the mere two of us will totally mind the entirety of both identical twins throughout their vast active range, while Kasumi takes Kaya to see the Pinocchio play.

We're in pretty good shape overall, so are confident we can hold out for the estimated objective duration of three hours until we are relieved, and that we can complete all aspects of the mission successfully. We will be all the stronger for it, all the more twinlike, and all the closer to those little beauties.

Will submit the required debriefing report following our return to base and subsequent recovery. Over and out.

Friday, August 25, 2006


LAND OF THE RISING LITIGATION


When I first came to Japan, I had just come from perhaps the most litigious nation on earth, where people are sued for icy sidewalks and for causing injury to burglars of their houses; where litigants win many millions for spilling hot coffee in their own laps, and where when I became a driver I was advised by those in the know that, in the event of an accident I should never apologize, for that would be interpreted in court as an admission of fault and I would be all the more liable.

So you can imagine my surprise when, on my way into Tokyo from the airport back in 1972 I was informed that the two men I'd just seen standing by the roadside, bowing to each other in deep formality, had just had an auto accident and were trying to out-apologize each other. I can still see them now, it was that much of a surprise.

From a fellow-boarder in the big old house we lived in then - a young man who was a ronin law student studying completely on his own and taking the bar exam every year - I learned that there were only a few thousand lawyers in Japan, lawsuits being exceedingly rare and in bad taste in a land where businessmen even shunned contracts, since one's word was one's bond; so only about 5% of those taking the bar exam ever passed. Fighting a very uphill battle, my friend failed the test every year, for finally too many years; he eventually gave up and became a night security guard.

That was one of my first inklings of how different Japan was. But things have been changing ever since and that includes the legal system, with more and more of the public now taking their cases to the courts, so universities are opening up Law Departments to crank out lawyers to handle the load. Under Japan's legal system reform they're going to introduce juries too(!) which should be interesting, though doubts will remain about Japan's penal justice system and alleged human rights violations...

Thursday, August 24, 2006


AT KODOMONOKUNI


Finally all looking toward the camera at the same time...
The trio, L2R: Miasa, Kaya, Mitsuki

Kasumi and Kaya

***
If you have kids and live anywhere near Shiga,
Kodomonokuni (Kid Country) is the place to go.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


THE TREES, THE TREES


The trees, the trees at August evening, the way they fall calm beneath the shadow of the mountain-- leaves curling around all the sunlight they can hold, quieting down-- the insects sing for them as catkins droop amid the cooling air sliding toward the lake-- all the world's religions fall pale beside these living books, that have grown into flowers and become the seeds of now for eons before we even opened our eyes-- and here they are yet, in groves of old, calmly settling in for the same mid-August night, their choruses resounding with ancient song for the sun still red in the windows of the village on the far shore, conjuring reasons for tomorrows that come unbidden, unbounded by our mere desires, as it is with the trees...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


'CAUSE WE'RE THE PEOPLE


Last night I watched The Grapes of Wrath again, and took great heart from Ma Joad's closing lines, which now had an uncannily apt resonance:

"Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."

BOB LACKS THE MAMA CHOPS


In the previous post I focused a bit on the hissy fits, the better to convey the time confusion and full-strength energy drainage a grandparent experiences simply by being in the time warp generated by a toddler. Actually, the trio were mostly smiles and giggles, it was just the occasional screeching whirligig that was so salient for me because I am not the general arbiter or refuge they require at that age. In the one big tussle, when I tried but could not console the loser Mitsuki (I lack the requisite mama chops), she would have none of my blandishments.

As Mitsuki neared the earsplitting crescendo at the absence of her mother while her nemesis Miasa was victoriously enjoying her solo self on the desired toy, Kaya all at once stopped what she was doing in another part of the room, came over and knelt beside Mitsuki, saying in an adult way I'd never observed in her before, "It's ok, it's ok, come on over there and play with me," and took her abruptly only sniffly little sister over there where she made up a game involving chairs that soon had them both laughing, while I just sat on the floor stunned with admiration. Five-year-old Kaya had quickly and simply resolved a situation that had stumped me, despite my impressive curriculum vitae.

Kaya has clearly known how to perform this miracle for some time now, but only does so when it becomes absolutely necessary-- as when their mother is absent, events have come to a head and the onsite adult is short of miracles. The hidden breadth in little children never ceases to amaze me. What genuine hope for the world is there!

Monday, August 21, 2006


THE RAW NATIVITY OF TIME


There in the Kids' Playroom in the big hotel across the lake (Echo and Kasumi having quietly gone off to look at the shops), from out of the strange unawareness that can creep up on grandfathers I suddenly realized that I was alone with three small granddaughters - two of them twins, no less - in a large and richly toyous room where the only drawback was a major one: there was only one of each toy.

As a result of that experience, I am more aware than ever of the strong correlation between age and the speed of time. Toddlers live in time's deepest regions, where an hour from now is a rumor in another world. It came to me, as I watched the pinching and hairpulling events roiling around me in a cloud of hypotime that I'm generally at time's other extreme, where years are mere fragments of all that has gone before.

This time differential can create problems for green grandparents abruptly plunged into the depths of toddlertime without practice or protective gear, but I've had front line experience: I have taken the twins to the big toy store, alone. I have beheld time in its raw nativity, its strobelike diversity, its exhausting richness and sharp-cornered velocity, where each second is a day of experience, the frozen clocks only adding to the confusion, and I have returned, only slightly misshapen.

Still, I'm not going back to that Kids Playroom alone with them until I get a lot younger.

Saturday, August 19, 2006



Big grandfather
little granddaughter
seesaw anyway

Friday, August 18, 2006


PATCHWORK


The morning train to the big city rolls slowly in and out of little stations, past all the post-village, pre-city patchwork gardens fitted into every little cul-de-sac between tracks and fences, walls, houses, rivers and roads along the way, many of the little plots apparently held by squatter’s rights - no one lives on them - a long crazy quilt of no-man's land gardens the random shape and size of large carpet scraps, on which at this time of year are growing every temperate vegetable you can think of and every one a work of love, for are all are lush with care (there are no monkeys or deer down here).

But this early in the morning it's often hard to spot the creators of these fine vegetable arts, since theirs are away-from-home plots on which they work when they can and all are special extracurricular activities, but now and then I spot, usually dressed in vegetable colors and almost one with the vegetables, a gardener working or seated as unobtrusively as cabbage amidst the green and brown of their personal ongoing opus, it's usually an elder in straw hat and old gardening clothes taking a breather in the shade of tomato plants or carefully turning an edge of the plot into another neat brown row along which to arrange orderly processions of green, this amidst the rice paddies or edging the streets of the pre-city too as the train draws through the outskirts into the full-blown urb, where realty and reality get expensive and there is no room even for carpet scraps...

Thursday, August 17, 2006


ARACHNIDAL UPDATE


Checked again this morning and found that long-legged Madame Argiope had elected to move her web elsewhere; she just ate up her entire work for later and moved on. Talk about efficiency. I think I saw her out the window early this morning, slowly descending from the wild cherry tree in front of the house, that's a much better location; rich pickings there, I expect, and it's not a pathway for any large creatures, even on motorcyles.

Here's a good site about spiders; in fact it's the arachnology home page. And another good one demonstrating the stages of web weaving.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


OF SPIDERS AND MEN


Coming out into this bright summer morning to jump on my motorcycle and head down to the station, I was stopped in my tracks by a silvery artwork on display in the sunrise. A composition more mysterious than any of the plastic arts we enshrine in museums, it was a Garden Orb spider web, freshly woven from the finest silk thread in the world. Beaded with dew, it shimmered in the blue morning air. The sculptress herself was not in attendance, since she works at night; she would return this evening. In the meanwhile, her web was at work.

I now and then see such mastery in other well-chosen sites around here, that I leave alone for their own endeavors, but also for their incidental function of catching bitebugs. They are woven during the night in the wide spaces, where they are strung from tree to tree, deck, house or bush. The present case was a tough one though, for the hardworking arachnid had strung her bridge threads right about chest level, from some low branches of the weeping cherry to the nanten bush by the road, effectively fencing in my motorcycle with strands of silk.

The spider and I had our own agendas. Hers was aesthetic in its simplicity; mine, in the chronically complex human way, involved catching a train. (Though it's there at our roots, I wonder if things were ever spider-simple for us humans.) We clearly had to come to some arrangement (the spider did have some silken say in this). Since the urgency was all mine, at first I thought that if I flattend myself while on the motorcycle I could maybe just get under the lower bridge thread, but then coming back tonight braindrained I'd forgetfully take the entire web down with my face in the dark, a result less preferable for both parties hereto. I was still pondering the possibility when I saw that one of her anchor threads was attached to the rear of the motorcycle. Sorry, Ma'am; I have my own web to take care of.

Architecturally, the best thing was to break the lower bridge and anchor threads, and let the thus-informed spider recreate her web tonight, higher up, as did a spider of earlier acquaintance. So with tacit apologies I broke the anchor to my bike first, and that part of the web went slack; then I broke the lower bridge thread (how strong it was!) and the entire web shrank toward the upper bridge thread. Amazing architecture, straight out of DNA and so simply arrayed...

Like a good merchant, she'd found a good location. If she can build higher up, I'll try to keep my head down.

I hope I've built my own web in a good high place...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


SOUL GOO


Australian Foreign Minister ALEXANDER Downer said, regarding Junichiro Koizumi's pilgrimage to Yasukuni shrine which, in addition to soldiers who died in the second world war, enshrines the remains of several Class A war criminals:

"He (Koizumi) told me, he understood that point of view but that in Japan it wasn't possible to separate souls in a way we might understand in our own culture."

I will be the first to admit the truth of the fact that we in the West do not experience any difficulty in separating one soul from another; we do it all the time, it's like sorting onions. (If any occidental reading this has encountered inseparable souls in their soul-separating activities, please let me know.)

In fact, if you ask me, we in the West are getting a bit cavalier in the ease with which we separate souls. Koizumi has me thinking maybe we should take a more serious look at our approach to this whole psyche-partitioning business, maybe we've been doing it wrong all these millennia (which would explain a lot), and should show a little more respect for what we might call soul cohesion, even soul blending.

On the other hand, further study may reveal cultural differences in the quality and nature of Japanese and Western soul stuff. We'll need some specifics, ideally obtained at the Ministerial level, regarding Japan's soul-separation difficulties: do Japan's prana problems involve some kind of ubergooeyness, like a bag of hard candies left open for a month? Or is it more like a cosmic blender kind of thing? As an obstacle to real-world diplomatic resolution, it would definitely be worthwhile looking into this. Maybe just a little soul sugarcoating, a metempsychotic crowbar, maybe we could even jointly develop some kind of spirit separator...

Koizumi's explanation that Japanese souls can't be separated like souls in the West also seems to indicate his awareness of some fundamental differences between Japanese and Western souls that we of other cultures have never known about, and that we should look into. For example, is this anything like the sticky white rice of Japan vs. our non-sticky long-grain rice that the Japanese will simply not import? And can diet affect soul adhesion?

On the other hand, the souls of the class A war criminals that were sneaked into Yasukuni must have been separate at the time of sneaking (the inseparable is not sneakable); do they have an ubercuisinart there or something? (Once you blend something, it is tough to unblend it.) These are clearly questions of international import. Maybe the UN could take up the subject; they seem to handle the ethereal pretty well.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006


THE FUTAGO SUPREMACY


The last few days of the last three years have brought home to me one of the big problems in grandparenting identical futago (twins; literally “two-child”), which is that you can't tell them apart without using a magic marker or something, and the older and more experienced and more familiar they get with this inadequacy of yours, the more they take advantage of it.

This is a problem because in order to assert full command with crafty toddlers you have to act fast, use names fast and accurately. Saying "Miasa, stop that!" to Mitsuki is not commanding at all, in fact it is downright wimpy and comical, and Mitsuki knows it. Or is that really Miasa.

Needless to say, both take advantage of it, whichever either one is, as is always the case in an intensely evolutionary situation such as grandparenting. So the way it goes is, you're wrong half the time with one twin and half the time with the other, which in Twin Mathematics, a special field I'm developing, adds up to 100%.

For example, I see Kaya and one twin downstairs and suddenly water starts dripping from the ceiling. I have to act fast, they don't carry IDs, I have to take a shot. Mitsuki! Stop pouring water on the floor! Mitsuki looks at me out of the corner of one eye and grins knowingly as she continues letting the air out of something I just put air into. I run upstairs to snatch the water bottle from the one who is in fact Miasa, at least for now, and with the delay has succeeded in getting all the water out. She is wearing the same subtle, non-provoking grin as her sister.

Young as they are (an ominous three this month) they know their world and its inhabitants. They could never pull this stuff on their mother, who can tell them apart faster than they can misbehave. So they enjoy being around me. I enjoy being around them too, but not for the same reason. Every time I finally figure out which is which without depending merely on who's wearing what - which is only good for a day anyway - they head back home up north, and when next I see them they're a few months older and have morphed to a confusing extent into each other's physiognomies. If I didn't know better, I'd say they planned it.

Their names have changed as well: "No, this is Mitsuki. That's Miasa." Or vice-versa. I've thought maybe of different sounding bells or something while they're here, because crucial time is lost when you say "Mitsuki, don't write on the window" and Miasa doesn't even react, apart from the twitch about the lips indicating that you've named the grinning twin who's trying the scissors on something over there, and you know you've lost again.

Yet won at the same time, somehow.

Friday, August 11, 2006


THE COSMOLOGICAL LITHIUM CRISIS: A LAYMAN'S APPRAISAL


Like yourself - like many people nowadays, I suppose - at least most eccentrically curious and cosmically perplexed expats from the US east coast who live on a mountainside in central Japan and have a few moments free on a weekday such as today when the truly grandkids are elsewhere - I too have been puzzling for decades over what happened to all the lithium there used to be in the cosmos. Why, when I was a boy...

It's like my socks. Every time I hunt for a fresh pair in the dim-morning drawer I find myself asking the same old unresponsive universe: "Where did all the socks go? There used to be two of each!" (Right about here I'd like to add, as an aside, that many are the nights I've awakened with a start, crying "Where did all the lithium go?" But that's not true. We try to deal only in truth here. The missing lithium has not affected my sleep in any way that I'm aware of. Still, you never really know, do you, when it comes to the absence of lithium in the cosmos; just ask a scientist.)

So where did all the lithium go, I'd ask now and again, in vain. It isn't easy carrying a burden like that around, with only the big bang to turn to... and all that emits is a universal hum of cosmic radiation; might as well try talking to an iPoded teenager. It's always bothered me, though (often without my even being aware of the fact), the discrepancy between the amount of lithium the scientists estimated was created at the big bang, and the little bit of it they can find now.

Of course they're looking. Turns out they just haven't been looking in the right place all these years. Needless to say, the lost lithium was nowhere near my missing socks, wherever they are; cosmically speaking, it was down behind the sofa cushions. Turns out - according to scientists from the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory in Sweden, the same type of folks who brought the whole thing up in the first place – that all the lithium was consumed by the stars. No, not that lithium. No, not those stars.

Yes, the scientists have come to our aid once again, as they have so often in the past, for example when they found out that laughter was good for you, that monkeys steal when no one's looking, or that "the percentage of unpopped kernels ranged from 4 percent in premium brands to 47 percent in the cheaper ones," all as chronicled in timely fashion here at PLM. It's comforting to know they're there, the folks in the white coats, breathing all those volatile chemicals day after day and spacing out on our behalf while at least theoretically resolving the cosmological lithium crisis, whose answer was all along right over our heads.

So if you're still looking for that lithium, go outdoors on a clear night, look upward and say "thank you..."

Thursday, August 10, 2006


NAGASAKI

From Nagasaki Journey--
the photographs of Yosuke Yamahata
[Warning: strong images]

"It was perhaps unforgiveable, but in fact at the time,
I was completely calm and composed.
In other words, perhaps it was just too much,
too enormous to absorb."
via the priceless Plep
*
Atomic Coverup Redux: 61 Years After the First Bombs Fell
Now comes word of a forthcoming book that compiles the long-suppressed dispatches written by famed reporter George Weller, the first American to arrive in Nagasaki after the bombing.

*
And Japanese scientists' WWII lab notes on atomic bomb research have just been found, which gives rise to the question: if the kamikaze-capable wartime leaders of Japan had managed to develop atomic bombs, would they have used them to maximum effect, or would they have refused, for humanitarian reasons?
*
In 1995, having been in Japan for less than a year, I attended the 50th anniversary ceremonies marking the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...
I decided to publish it here, in two parts...
Notes from the 'Nog

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


WILD ALBACORE TUNA! MINIMAL MERCURY!


'Wild' tuna? (Yes, tuna is now farmed...)

Advertisers are really fine-tuning the phraseology these days, aren't they.

Kindly note as well that we have come to a place in our history, and that of our world, where "minimal mercury" is a strong selling point, a distinct marketing advantage, a definite plus over the maximally toxic alternative...

"Of course, the minimal mercury is the icing on the cake--we all want health benefits from the food we eat," says 'reviewer' 'honeybee'...

I'll pass on that minimal mercury, though; I'm old enough to remember zero...

I think we've turned a corner I'd hoped we'd never get near...

What is the nearest habitable planet, anyway?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


BLUEBERRY HOURS


Yesterday the irresistible triple-threat came over for the afternoon and did their best to consume all the energy in the neighborhood, ours first. During that time we had them all to ourselves for an intense hour or so of peak drainage while Kasumi went off downlake to get a nice massage.

I singlehandedly took the minimarauders out to pick some blueberries to have for dessert later, after dinner, but few of the many ready berries made it into the bowl we brought along, the twins in particular having difficulty with the concept 'later' when it comes to sweet and juicy ready-to-eat blueberries right there in your hand. What are you crazy, they'd look at me while popping one plump blue tasty after another into their perfectly capable of eating-ripe-blueberries-right-now-mouths as I said 'Save some for later' over and over in Japanese and English, might as well have been Martian.

Kaya the responsible elder sister managed to get a few berries into the bowl, but they didn't last much beyond the doorway. After dinner, since there were no blueberries, we went outside to do some fireworks, the first since half a life ago for the twins, and the first time 'on their own,' so they were a bit leery of the dark and then the fiery stuff and the sudden sparks and the flashy bangs in the dark air, but they did alright with Kaya showing them how. No injuries, greater familiarity with darkness and fire, exhausted elders, lots of blueberries, couple of fights, lots of screams and running around in circles: what more could you ask of a family get together, except perhaps how in the world does Kasumi do it?

Monday, August 07, 2006


THE FUTURE BEYOND THE PERSONAL FORCE FIELD


When I was a kid the open playground, like the open world, was fun, but it was a tough place. Bullies hung out there, where there were no parents, only bigger and smaller kids. Kids got hit by swings. Fell off of sliding boards, were injured one way or another almost every day. No doubt some of them were afraid they'd never make it.

But somebody had to go out there, somebody had to swing to the very highest height possible, then walk across the cross bar without holding on to anything; someone had to do the fastest, the highest and/or bounciest seesaw possible; that was what life was all about, wasn't it?

So what if you had to jump up in the air to punch a bully on the jaw. In figuring it all out, taking it all on and handling it all ourselves every day, we got bumped and scraped on heads, knees and elbows, with spit for antiseptic. We got poison ivy, slivers, pinched fingers, lumps on our lumps, lost baby teeth, chipped new teeth, sprained everything and (rarely) broke something (usually playground equipment).

That was the nature and the price of play in those days. We'd never have done it any other way, and we never arrived home in the condition we'd gone out in. That was what fun was all about, it was adventure, the very nature of going out to play.

And then there was school, which was much the same: it was tough, it was hardnosed; in my case with nuns wielding pointers and rulers for prodding and whacking, chalk and erasers for throwing, as the disciplinary sisters worked to shape us living expressions of freedom. But we survived it all, all the stronger for it (not that I'd recommend that approach, exactly), and were ready for whatever the inevitable drill sergeants and pointy-haired bosses waiting in the future might try to lay on us.

So what happened? They still call it play? And school? And life?

"No one doubts that there are significant economic forces pushing parents to invest so heavily in their children's outcome from an early age. But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we're on our way to creating a nation of wimps."

Sorry kids, the real world is nothing like you expected...

Sunday, August 06, 2006


THE GIFT OF THE DAY


This afternoon we went a bit north along the lake to buy some excellent natural cakes from the organic bakery there, then overlake to the Triad's HQ because the twins are 3 years old today. Those who've been following this blog (now in its fifth year!) might remember the surprise of the twins' arrival; the uniqueness of it was midwife internet headline news at the time.

We stuck 3 candles in each of the twins' cakes but they didn't want candles, they wanted cakes, so after some convincing they blew out the candles and dove in. They looked cute as an armful of puppies in their new dresses. They themselves were the gift of the day, though.

Friday, August 04, 2006



Just posted The Island on The Blog Brothers...

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I HAVE MET THE TODDLERS, AND I AM THEIRS

When I arrived at Toddler Squad Headquarters across the lake the twins seemed not to remember me, although at the time one of them was fully occupied with yelling into the electric fan, as the other handled the task of walking in diminishing circles while holding a furry blue doggie up in the air with one hand; some things just have to be done right now. Kaya very impressively showed us how she could write all our names, and no longer pinches her upstart little sisters much.

Kaya of course is my little buddy, but the last time the twins laid eyes on me was a quarter of their lives ago. Who is this big guy in shades and what is he doing in our headquarters, they ask out of the corners of their eyes, the expert little actors. But they let slip that they remember me, especially when tickled or subjected to one of my many other sudden tricks, but then they soon pretend to forget again (anyway, each twins' world is in one way or another occupied largely by the other twin), so finally we went off to the park where they could fight over the swings. Kaya has no great need to be empress of the world anymore, and is mostly a kind big sister now, pushing one swinging twin while I push the other. She only becomes imperial out of necessity, as when one or the other of the twins, after a reasonable ride, refuses to give up the swing she's on when Kaya wants it, essence of the conflict that lies at the heart of all imperial relations.

Yesterday being a day of actual sunshine, we mobbed to our favorite beach and had a picnic, making only the one mistake of bringing but two ring floats, a yellow one with two leg holes inside for little kids and a conventional pink one open in the center; Kaya immediately grabbed the 'adult' one; Mitsuki grabbed the other, put it on and wouldn't take it off for the rest of the day, knowing what would happen if she did, as Miasa followed her closely and with great dedication, like a toy vulture. Mitsuki wore the tube like a dress all afternoon; sat down in it, ate in it, ran in it, dug in the sand in it and on occasion swam in it, until she finally surrendered it upon getting in the car to return home. Quite impressive, the ruthlessness of toddlerhood.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


EVERY SINGLE DAY/BERNANKE TAKES MY PAY

Every breath you take
Every change of rate
Jobs you don't create
While we still stagflate...

Finest economic rock video ever made

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


DON’T BREATHE IT, JUST EAT IT.


If you love microwave popcorn at home, or buttered popcorn at the movies, you may not be aware that you’re a big diacetyl fan, and likely have been for years. In popcorn workers, who breathe the popcorn-flavoring stuff in vaporized form, diacetyl causes a serious lung disease descriptively called bronchiolitis obliterans, colloquially known as "popcorn workers' lung."

This is only one minipixel of the vast picture of collective public ignorance regarding what goes on around us in our foods and our environment, to say nothing of government. Diacetyl in our favorite entertainment snack is just one of the many thousands of things we're all ignorant of, because corporoments and governations don't reveal anything they're not half-heartedly required to by laws they have a great part in shaping, and then it comes out in tiny print somewhere on the back, or well after the fact in the form of class action law suits brought by those still living who had no idea all these years.

The fact is, we're each on our own at the bottom line, and can't count on corporogovercratic integrity to look out for our well being in the more important marketplace. Even if they try they'll likely bury it under paper or stretch it into oblivion:

"Both unions have requested an 'emergency temporary standard' to limit worker exposure to diacetyl, but Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said that such a request could take up to two years to evaluate...

There was no word from the scientists, OSHA, or the unions as to what exposure to diacetyl may do to consumers of products that contain the harmful chemical, but consumer health advocate Mike Adams had this to say: 'If this chemical is causing serious harm to the workers who handle it, what's it doing to the millions of consumers who eat it?'"

This is of course a bigger problem than popcorn. Shouldn't our lives be in our charge? Who took that away from us? Why did we let them do it? Why are we still letting them do it? Is it our choice, after all, to be led by the nose into darkness? Do we really have a general preference to be guinea pigs?