Wednesday, February 28, 2007


THE NIXON PHONE BOOK


I just received my annual Nixon Phone Book, the insidiously helpful 2006-1040, Forms and Instructions for Overseas Filers (it's not something I admit to just anyone, but the fact is, I'm... I'm... an Overseas Filer), its officious thickness crammed with goodies like A Message from the Commissioner, Mark W. Everson: "Paying taxes is a pain in more than one place unifying experience … each year two hundred million people waste humungous amounts of time and resources carry out this vital obligation by filing their return.”

It's nice of the Commissioner to spew niceties upon us from the other side of the world, but the fact is that I and many thousands of other US citizens in Japan will now have to spend big chunks of time - time we could have spent on actual living - getting all the forms together, then figuring out and filling out this monster, only to end up paying no taxes because we didn't earn a penny in the US. Is that Nixonian or what?

To say nothing of the billions of man/woman hours expended by those 200 million taxpayers in America, in terms of designing, creating, printing, mailing and processing the Nixon Phone Book, for zero return, the cost to the US taxpayer must be quite a bundle, but Mark never mentions anything about all that.

Then the "I am not a crook" Phone Book sets me pondering pointlessly whether as an expat I can maybe (as the cover so governmentally invites me to do) snag the credit for Federal Telephone Excise tax ("See the instructions for line 71 on page 60."), whether I should use the Alternative Minimum Tax Exemption Amount (can I pay less than zero?) and similar non-zen ponderings...

Anyway, it was in that taxing state of mind that I came across Your Real Tax Rate, an interesting article about what the already burdened US taxpayer actually pays:

"Politicians rarely talk about what real people experience: the true maze of taxes and government benefits. If someone put them all together, we could see what our actual tax burden was. We could see who pays at the highest or lowest rates. Discussions of tax policy wouldn't be a waste of time.

"Well, two researchers did it...

"As a consequence, a 30-year-old couple earning only $20,000 a year has a marginal tax rate of 42.5%, while a 45-year-old couple earning $500,000 pays at 43.2%.”

Sounds fair.

As in that general mood of fairness I slog along through this stack of forms I can't help but contrast it with the tax system in Japan, where no company employee ever fills out a tax form. I've worked full-time here for 20 years and part-time for 7 years, and have never filled out a Japanese tax form; the company accountants take care of it. So for me I guess it all balances out. But I wonder if American voters will elect any politicians at all in 2008.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


DETIAL


"Hello, Headquarters?
I'd like to speak to 1754,
the person in charge of details, please...
"
(Sweater on sale at huge local department store.)

Monday, February 26, 2007


SAMPLINGS


What a day what a magnificent day… Went out just now into the sunshine, into the still wintry tang of afternoon at the bottom of a high blue sky and breathed deeply, again and again, savoring the early Spring memories, all that those fragrant elements have meant throughout my years… Realizing anew one reason I live here, in this air...

Here is the air of life-- pure, sky-high, diamond-blue air, washed clear by countless ocean waves and polished to a blue sheen by meadows, trees and mountaintops, air carried here in endless currents driven by the very same forces that beat in this heart, that shaped these eyes, that formed these hands...

And there at the top of the air, at the peak of that blue arc: the shining half-moon, bright gateway...

Sunday, February 25, 2007


WINDCOOKIES


The wind can be pretty playful, especially when it travels in a herd as it did before dawn this morning, when I could hear one windbeast after another (picture Tottoro x 10,000) approach the house on very loud but indistinct feet, closer and closer, then house and environs would be at the bottom of a sea of white noise (well-scrubbed air, though) for a minute or so till the beast and its long, spiraling whiplash tail had passed, when all would fall at last to calm and quiet, except... except... the next beast was coming. It was a wind stampede. Here it comes...

The vast wind herd was still passing at dawn, when, after a wildly windblown dream I got up and went down to make my tea by the big kitchen window. Looking out I saw, wrapped neatly around a bamboo fencepost, the shiny silver sleeping mat I'd taken out of the van (on the other side of the house) yesterday afternoon because some kerosene had spilled on it that I'd thought the night air would take away.

So during the night one of the big old windmonsters had hunkered its front quarters down, grabbed that mat like a dog grabs a toy, hadn't thrown it up and over the mountain as it could have, or down and into the lake; no, it had harried it like a big bone all along the walkway behind the house, turned a sharp left past the toolshed, on around the big cedar and down the stone stairs sharply to the right, then wrapped the mat neatly around the post, precisely where I'd be sure to see it shining in the morning sun when I got up and headed for tea.

Later when Echo and I were going up mountain to score some more of that firewood I've been speaking so lavishly of-- I mean how often does somebody ask you if you want part of their forest, to say nothing of all that cherry-- oh. Where was I... When we were going out I went and got the mat and put it back where I'd left it by the front door, pinning it down real good so it would air and still be there when we got back.

A short while later, after we had gotten back and unloaded the wood, I was going in at the front door when I noticed that the mat wasn't where I'd put it. I searched around the house and finally found the mat neatly rolled up by the opposite door, the door to the garden. I asked Echo if she had put it there. "Yes," she said, "after we unloaded the wood, I found the mat wrapped around the bamboo fencepost." So I decided the hell with it and put the mat back in the car.

Not long after I did that, the wind pointedly blew the heavily weighted cover off a stack of firewood it had never touched before (and only that cover; the less important ones that it sometimes blows off were left in place), so out in the edgy wind I've been wondering: does wind ever get really angry if you take away its toys? Maybe I should put that mat back out there by the front door, next to a big kite full of windcookies...?

Saturday, February 24, 2007


"THE SPIRIT OF MY INVENTIONS IS LOVE."


A lavishly illustrated interview with the amazing (and controversial) Dr. Nakamatsu, the world's 'greatest' (and most diverse!) inventor, with 3218 patents to his name (floppy disc, hard disc, fax, synthesizer, flying shoes etc.) "It's very dangerous. I get that Flash just 0.5 sec before death."

I just bought two of those very handy and practical hand pumps (that I used also when I first came to Japan, for pumping kerosene into my heater), for 98 yen (less than a dollar) each, one for precisely pumping fuel into my chainsaw and one for pumping mountain spring water from the big containers we collect it in. Perfect utility. I learned here that the pump had been invented long before by... the good Doctor himself!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

TEA BREAK
Shiga country roadside

For our walk on beautiful Wednesday afternoon, we decided to amble along a bit of Lakeside backroad between here and Katata, famed as the place to which the geese are returning in that beautiful evening woodcut by Hiroshige, in which, out over the water by the lakeshore you can even see Ukimido, another treasure of Katata. Ours was just a meander along a narrow road among shorn rice fields, farms getting ready for Spring, Summer homes currently empty of owners from the city, with frequent turnings to a quiet lakeshore of ducks and reeds, and on our way past one large well-tended estate - also empty for whatever reason - there had but a moment ago been a caretaker tending the fallen pine needles and leaves along the lengthy wall...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


PAPER OF RECORD


"PaperofRecord.com is a Global pioneer of searchable newspaper image documents presented in their original published form...

Imagine the world's daily history presented for the past 500 years in a single, freely accessible database.

With 21 million images in our collection so far, PaperofRecord.com is looking to a multi-billion-newspaper page universe to create a resource that will be used by scholars, students and individuals of all walks of life, for generations to come."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


STONEHENGE RAMBLE


Reading the recent news coverage about the great uncoverage at Stonehenge, how the archaeologists have discovered where the folks lived (or at least hung out) who partied among the stones in the old days, I noted that various articles here and there mentioned that the Stonehenge we now know was begun at around the same time as the pyramids, that Stonehenge was a cemetery monument and that they partied bigtime there, at least during the winter; but the articles never addressed what really got me thinking in regard to all this, a question I have never seen properly addressed, to wit: what happened in the world that suddenly caused completely different groups of people on several distant sides of the globe to go gaga for vast stone monuments of uncertain function?

In Egypt they had a pharaoh and slaves, so a series of wiggy pharaohs with many thousands of free laborers goes a long way toward explaining the pyramids and other mega-items (though it doesn't answer the question that kick-started this ramble). But in the case of Stonehenge, all you've got is a bunch of farmers, herders and warriors - there weren't many career alternatives available in those days - doing their farming, herding and warring, when suddenly one of their number jumps up and says: I've got a fantastic idea, let's do more than just dig a huge circular ditch for a thousand years—why don't a bunch of us just drop whatever it is we're doing and trek as far as 240 miles, to what will one day be called Wales, chip out a four-ton slab of rock over X number of years, using our stone tools - or your bronze tools, if you want to ruin them - then for a few more years roll the big rock slab back here, all at no salary. Waddaya think: sound like fun, or what?

And not only is he not killed on the spot, or run out of the community on a rail, or at least marked forever as a wastrel of everybody's time-- a large number of locals (and their descendants) actually take him (and his descendants) up on it, for 500 years or more! Nobody says 'Sorry Beowulf, I’ve got a wife and kids to support,' or 'My back just went out,' or 'I’m getting married next week,' or 'spring break will be over soon,' or just 'Sorry, Beo baby, but I'm completely sane.'

Instead, several hundred or thousand of them say OK, Big B, I'm in. Let's do it. See you some decades hence, wife and kids, mom and dad. And off they go and do it, chip out the slab for a big chunk of their productive lives, roll and float and roll the monster 240 miles back home on a fleet of logs, precisely dig a big hole, finally drop the stone in so it stands upright, then all fall flat on the ground gasping from exhaustion, when Beowulf jumps up and says: Let's go get another one! And they DO it!! 80 times, give or take, 43 times to Wales, till the whole Stonething was completed or a majority ran out of overtime, whichever came first.

One has the feeling that people were different then. Incomprehensibly different. Imagine trying such a thing now, when you can't even get a plumber. If you tried to talk a bunch of your neighbors into doing such a thing nowadays, What the hell for, would be the first response-- if they ever tried to speak to you rationally again, once they realized you were insane. What did those ancestors have that we don't have, apart from short longevities of free time? Whatever it was, I say we don't look for it. I ran out of overtime years ago; anyway I've got firewood to split and weeds to pull. Plus, I'm completely sane.


Sunday, February 18, 2007


THE LOST SHEEP

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? --Luke 15:4

I just have one sheep, which for my needs is a good as a hundred. His name is Sheepspeare. He wears a wool sweater. One of the stars from Wallace and Gromit's famed short A Close Shave, he lives atop the speaker next to my computer screen, up in the loft. Sheepspeare is an alias (his real name is Shaun). Nevertheless he's very helpful and cooperative, with sheepish patience holding papers I'm editing so I can retype them when necessary. He requires no upkeep other than occasional sweater spiffing and general dusting.

One day over the year-end holidays, one of the twins (pick either one) spotted Sheepspeare while I was showing her some neat kidstuff on the computer. Quicker than you can yell "Mine!" she snatched Sheepspeare and held him so close to her toddler heart in such an endearing way that it melted my own heart to behold so keen a display of affection from one so young, yet already so capable of emotional attachment to vulnerable furry animal objects of no familiar history other than belonging to grandpa.

We then had our Christmas party, and through the many holiday events I forgot about Sheepspeare, until I was editing one day and, reaching to hand Sheepspeare a paper to hold, found that he wasn't there. Where did he go? I never-- then I remembered a twin grabbing him and loving him dearly. She must have carried him around close to her precious heart all the while she was here, and at some point put him down while distracted by something that had to be monumental, then she fell asleep or something; it wouldn't have been easy to break that tender bond she'd had with Sheepspeare.

Since he must be somewhere in the house, I asked Echo if she had seen Sheepspeare. She said Who? I said Sheepspeare, the little sheep in the sweater who sits next to my computer and holds papers I'm editing so I can retype them when necessary. She said I haven't seen him. If Echo hasn't seen him, that means he isn't in the house. The little booger had taken him away! Such is love.

I right away emailed Kasumi (mother of the twin), providing the details of the disappearance. She said there was no such animal in their menagerie. Sheepspeare was neither here nor there. He had fallen out a car window or something. I held a little mental funeral for him. His place went unfilled, since in the fickle ways of commerce they don't sell sheep dolls around here anymore.

Then one day a month or so later, still in mourning, I was upstairs typing unassisted with difficulty, jerrypropping up the papers on my own with postits, pins and gimcracks, when Echo called me from downstairs. What, I said. Come downstairs, she replied in an odd voice, I have to show you something. I went downstairs, where she stood in the living room, pointing upward. I looked.

There atop one of the support logs that bridge the living room lay Sheepspeare, where he'd fallen, lying on his side, staring forlornly into the upper reaches. He had been lying there since the twin had taken him not to her heart, but to the loft railing and thrown him over when no one was looking, then forgot about him completely. So much for heartwarming.

It appears to be a common error in grandparents to assume total cuteness and altruism in the grandkids, and to overlook that remnant smidgen of Attila the Hun. Fact is, each of us at birth is a culmination of all human history; if raised with care, in time we improve. Which I guess is the point.

The victim in situ
















Just before rescue











Grandfatherly sketch
of possible perpetrator

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Fast art in Osaka,


now painted over.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


OUTSOURCED


Yesterday it rained not cats and dogs, but many another beast. While up on the ladder clearing the rain gutters (the need for which is best perceived during heavy rain), I turned around and saw in the winterflattened meadow across the road a slow swarm of sopping wet monkeys of all ages, nearly the same color and texture as the ground, moving upmountain (as I had seen them do in the fall) only unlike that occasion, this time they were in no hurry, since there was nothing special up ahead, or even where they were, it being so early and not springtime yet.

I don't know why they were moving, unless it was because the monkids were driving them crazy so they were just ambling along slowly while the wee ones burned themselves out bouncing all over the place in the manner of little kids of all species, the adults foraging for maybe some super-early sprouts, or old acorns the deer overlooked. More likely though, they were after just a quiet moment or two at some distance from the furry toddlers.

With nothing much else going on, while ruminating over their serendipitous snacks they took quite an interest in me (much as I was calmly watching them, since as yet I have nothing in my garden). I was after all a prime exhibit in their mountain zoo: "See that creature way up in the air in the rain, little one? Dressed in some kind of fur substitute? Obviously a throwback, for even though he's furless he's standing high up in the rain like that, right outside his permanent dwelling place! Can you imagine the need for such a thing, an artificial structure one lives in perforce? And given that dreadful lack of fur, when outside he has to compensate by draping himself in odd scraps so that he can madly stand up high in heavy weather to no genuine purpose whatever! At the very least, we have some tasty dirt... Bizarre creatures aren't they... Mind you little ones don't go the way those humans went..."

But then on the other hand a couple of adult monkeys maundered into the garden, where they spotted the shiitake logs all symmetrically arranged and went over to look, It's too early for shiitake, but there are several new logs I've drilled and plugged from the recent windfall of firewood, so the two monkeys, obviously accountants, had to check the fresh inventory, assign serial numbers and input the new data to the massive simian mushroom database for future maraudal reference.

Which they did. But despite their degrees, just looking at the logs disturbed their monkeyness. Anything neatly arranged like that, particularly by humans, disturbs a monkey, just as it disturbs a human toddler, though in growing up, most humans recapitulate the advances of evolution (as humans see it) and overcome their revulsion at the sight of order (this does not apply in my workroom). Chaos is the natural preference of the base native, however. Monkeys despise symmetrical order, which is so unnatural; they prefer, when they can, to restore human efforts to a more pleasing natural chaos. In this case, they tossed a couple of the useless logs here and there to do their part on behalf of entropy, but it seemed as though their hearts weren't really in it.

Like I say, I've never seen monkeys out in heavy rain before - working overtime, as it were - not dozing warmly up in an evergreen, but moving about in the cold, scavenging for sprouts or old acorns on the wet ground, unlike all the earlier years I've been here, and nothing growing yet in that field across the road. But perhaps even more importantly, I've never before seen monkeys go half-heartedly at my shiitake logs, as though it were a waste of valuable time. Could it be they're feeling the first stirrings of what we humans know as ambition?

Having me grow their mushrooms is a form of outsourcing...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007



Mountain fog comes in
there is no far away -
we are the horizon

NEW TRADITIONS


Omikuji vending machine
at a shrine up the road,
as compared to the
traditional omikuji dispenser

When your fortune
was in your own hands...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


DEFINITELY NOT SPANISH SCIENTISTS


Definitely non-Spanish scientists have finally 'discovered' what has never been concealed -- in fact that practically everybody in Spain, even those doing lab research, have known for the past few thousand years -- to wit, that a nap is good for you: "In countries where mortality from coronary diseases is low, siesta is quite prevalent." Some researchers who managed to stay awake found that people who took long, frequent naps (my favorite kind) had a 34% lower risk of dying from heart disease, which is a plus, than those who pointlessly stayed awake.

When I was in college I didn't need naps most of the time because I was already asleep anyway, since being a creature of the night I slept well beyond nap time, which was only a minor disappointment. Still, I remained an interested amateur. So I didn't realize my full siesta potential until I lived in Spain, where my soporific exercises helped me rise to the Olympian level of afternoon somnolence that I now enjoy on pretty close to a daily basis. When the whole country is filled with Zs and even the labs are closed for siesta, the tendency is to go lie down and close your eyes.

By contrast, here in Japan at the office in the big city, salaried sleep is frowned upon, so I have these wide-open eyes I stick on my glasses for PLS (Post-Lunch Syndrome), which works fine until somebody addresses me personally or I fall out of my chair, which is rare. Otherwise I resort to the less satisfying but more popular Japanese nanonap, in which you fall deeply asleep for less than the blink of an eye several dozen times a day. This is easy at a desk, but sometimes poses problems while driving, though nanonap recovery times are generally quick. As far as world-class napping goes however, like most professionals I prefer to work at home.

It took those scientists so long to find this out, though, that I suspect they might have cots in the lab corners...

Monday, February 12, 2007


THE LOGIC OF THE UNTERMENSCH

It's surreal, but not surprising, to read that some untermensch tried to strongarm Elie Wiesel into admitting that Jews had never been strongarmed by gangs of earlier, starkly ruthless untermenschen.

That's typical of what I call untermensch logic, which is manifested in individuals whose sphere of thought is dwarfed by a received idea, or to whom objective reality is rendered invisible by a mental scotoma. For the untermensch, aggression is validation.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


SHIMIZU UICHI


Tea Bowl
Celadon

Shimizu Uichi was a potter and Living National Treasure who lived in our village. He died in 2004. These are two of his tea bowls. More Shimizu Uichi works here and here.

Tea Bowl
Stoneware with Horai-type Iron Glaze
Chinese Character Design "Wind"


In 1985, Shimizu Uichi (1926-2004) was designated a Living National Treasure. Born into a family of ceramic wholesalers in Gojo-zaka, Kyoto, Shimizu later decided to become a potter. In 1970 he moved to Shiga Town in Shiga Prefecture, where he gathered clays and glazing materials from the Hira Mountains and built the noborigama (climbing kiln) he named Horai-yo (Horai kiln), in which he fired the works for which he is famed.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


NORTH KOREANS PRETEND TO BE DISGUSTABLE:
Kidnappers 'disgusted' at victims' behavior


You can imagine how irritating it must be, after you've openly admitted to kidnapping Japan's citizens in the dead of night for decades so you could train spies to do Japan further harm, when just as you're busy trying to extort the international community with threats of nuclear holocaust, that same nitpicky Japan, who for some reason won't take your word for anything, keeps pestering you about where the hell the rest of its kidnapped citizens are, while you're busy trying your damndest to appear sane and scam the best possible deal for not making WMDs you're gonna make anyway... it's... it's gotta be way worse than a stone in the shoes of the People of the Democratic Republic, if only they had shoes.

"It is ridiculous and disgusting that Japan, which is not even qualified to attend the talks, keeps saying that the abduction issue is a basic agenda [when our own ravenous desires are always the basic agenda]," said the North's official Korean Central News Agency with cellophane credibility.

"The international community will never tolerate Japanese politicians' behavior if the nuclear talks become complicated [how simple they've been thus far!] and fail to produce substantial fruit [big change!] due to Japan's wrong maneuver," they babbled on between the bars of their self-constructed cage, as righteously as anyone who believes he's Napoleon.

No one in the civilized world has ever thought that the leadership of North Korea is playing with a full deck, but this puts the cherry atop the dungheap.

Friday, February 09, 2007


TRAVELER


Some say that the first half of life is spent acquiring things, and the last half is spent letting them go. That's generally true, I suppose, but it's different for travelers, who from the start of their journey begin to let things go. One of the unsung benefits of travel is learning how to do this, how not to invest too much of your presence in static physical things.

If you're a traveler, you know the deepest meaning of goodbye. As to physical things, you never accumulate more than you wish to carry, and from your first day of wander you work to pare even that down, to give yourself maximum mileage; you therefore reduce all that matters to practicals, minimals, symbols, essences, thoughts, memories, things you can take with you when you go-- as you always do, or at least always think of doing.

If in your latter travels you physically settle down somewhere, in spirit you still treat time like a traveler, still live like a traveler, consider like a traveler, eye your surrounds like a traveler, always thinking maybe next month, maybe next year, viewing all your possessions with a jaundiced eye, plotting what to do with them at departure, who might need them, enjoy them, buy them... for you know what anchors they are to passage on the endless river - known only to travelers - that runs through the world and has carried you here, the marvelous river you've never really left, that runs now inside you, calling to the boat of your soul...

The traveler spends his life letting go and going onward, and at death it is the same.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


THE HEARTBREAK THAT IS BOB'S HOLIDAY SCHEDULE, Part II:

The Man without a Holiday

Oh, the paranoid naivete of a visitor from a foreign land! Here I was thinking (if I may so label it) that the universe was colluding against me vis-à-vis the home/office space-time continuum, when in fact I and the Japanese government were to blame! I, for not knowing what the Japanese government was up to, and the Japanese government for being up to it.

Turns out that in the very year I retired, the government initiated, starting with the first holiday of my retirement, what is known as the 'Happy Monday System,' under which several randomly arranged holidays were moved to Monday, and no one said a word to me about it. And as if that weren't enough holiday excision, "A provision of the law establishes that when a national holiday lands on a Sunday, that holiday is moved to the next day." They circumlocute, but that means My Monday.

Moving through the year like a clockwork orange, the new system works like a charm, ensuring that all national holidays in January, February, March and April fall on Mondays, rendering me a man without a holiday. Then we dance flower-garlanded into the month of May where, in a bizarre departure from the crush-Bob's-retirement-vacation-dreams norm, two of the three May holidays fall on a Thursday and Friday, though they may well be moved in some fashion before I arrive at them. Just to keep the sinister hand in, the other holiday falls on a Saturday.

Then in June we get right back into the groove with no holidays whatsoever. Flowing on into July on time's big trackless roller coaster, we see that the single solitary July holiday falls on a-- Monday! I get this one doubly off!

Then we come to the vacation desert month, August, where there are no holidays except those that full-time workers get, which leaves Bob over there by the dried-up oasis, tongue hanging out before a mirage of shimmering days off until we get to September, with its two holidays where, in stark contrast to the aforegoing monotony, both fall not on Fridays... not on Thursdays... not on Tuesdays, or any combination thereof, for both fall on the extremely over-vacated Monday!

Then in October, the sole holiday, in another shocking surprise, falls on a Monday! This brings us to November, when the single holiday falls on a Friday-- though I understand the government is working to have this corrected. December holiday? A Monday: 'When else,' the calendar says, 'You were expecting maybe a Christmas present?'

So if probability operated alone in my holiday-deficient world, of the 13 Japanese national holidays, 8 would fall like manna on my workdays, but only 3 do. I never thought I'd be saying anything like this one day, but if I want to have more days off, I'll have to work on Mondays.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


THE HEARTBREAK THAT IS BOB'S HOLIDAY SCHEDULE FOR THE COMING YEAR


I know this is way less than a pixel in the big picture, it's purely a personal thing like a chipped molar you just can't keep your tongue away from and who else even knows or cares. Well this year is the chipped molar and I'm the tongue. Ok maybe another metaphor would be better but you get enough of the picture, which isn't a pretty one as I stand here head bowed over a Japanese calendar, fully aware that this is of no interest to anybody other than myself but I've got to put this microgripe somewhere so why not as graffiti on my cyberwall, like I say I can't keep my mind's tongue away from this chipped molar of a year, metaphors run amok, get as out of control as... as... my Japanese holidays. Life after all is a balance of panorama and pixel count.

You've heard of Job, the troubles he had - such as they were - well that was several thousand years ago if a day, but I know just how he felt, though I can safely say his vacation problems paled in comparison to mine, probability-wise. Let's talk about my holidays, and how the universe can get really nasty with small stuff like me.

Now that I've retired, I only work in the Big City on three days a week: on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. That's: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I'm off on two weekdays, Monday and Wednesday. That's: Monday and Wednesday. So the odds are 3 to 2, better than a coin toss, that any given Japanese national holiday (there are 13) will not fall useless and forlorn as a Daliesque clock on one of my days off, but will settle graciously and delightfully as a butterfly on one of my workdays. So out of 13 holidays, if probability has any meaning in this holiday-deficient world, 8 of them will fall on my workdays and give me more than an extra week off!

Visit again tomorrow for Part II of the engrossing, probability-violating heartbreak that is Bob's Holiday schedule! Right now I have to work.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


REMINDERS OF HOME...


Health Minister Yanagisawa vows
to minister to the health of both men
and child-bearing machines and devices.


Just another day in the life of the LDP, whose recent resignees include Tax Commission Chairman Masaaki Honma, who was found to be "living with his mistress in a government-subsidized condominium in Tokyo despite advocating that such properties be sold off," and administrative reform minister Genichiro Sata, who "resigned after admitting accounting irregularities by one of his political support organizations."

Then there's Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki, Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka and LDP policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa, who declared "enormous 'office expenses' in their political funding reports while using rent-free government offices."

This is all rather nostalgic to me, since I grew up with the old Albany Machine...

Monday, February 05, 2007


SHINZO ABE'S MUG


This is a good indicator of the LDP's dinosaurial perspective on reality. Graft? Birth-giving devices? Plunging popularity ratings? Let's erase all that by selling coffee mugs bearing the Prime Minister's image! That should undo the disaster!

And not just mugs; you can get Shinzo Abe phone straps, Shinzo Abe bookmarks, Shinzo Abe ballpoints, note pads and other politiko-kool stuff now on sale at the LDP party headquarters' souvenir shop.

Before too long we'll see Shinzo Abe truckers' caps, tees, sweats and hoodies, as the PM's ratings plunge to a new lows following ministerial money scandals and political gaffes amid the general populace disaffection miasma that comes with the removal of wool from public eyes.

"We hope the goods can help his support ratings to recover," said LDP spokesman Yoshiaki Ishige, without even a hint of a snicker.

Maybe the Prime Minister should do a rap album.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I just posted
The Big Wind Chill
at
The Blog Brothers.

THE GROWING VALUE OF GRANDFATHERS


A fascinating story posted by Gordon Coale... how what we do in the present can stir up voices, images from the past...

"I've done a website on my Grandfather, Griffith Baily Coale. He was a mural painter in New York City in the 1930s and started the Naval Combat Artist program during WWII. He published a couple of books and I have them up on the web site with some additional writings...

Several months ago I received an email from a storage facility in Connecticut. They had a painting done by Griff and wanted to know if I would be interested..."

Friday, February 02, 2007


SO THERE I WAS, SNUG IN THE TOASTY LOFT

So there I was, snug in the toasty loft on a cold snowy winter evening just a moment ago, when the peaceful air was suddenly rent from here to there by a woman screaming at the top of her voice: "ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI!" Lifted me right out of my chair. It was Echo, who definitely has a stage voice, doing Setsubun.

She had bought the necessary roasted soybeans, which come with a scary mask for extra terror to scare the poor general-purpose demons with, but Setsubun had slipped her mind (though much less than it had slipped mine, we're talking continental differentials here), what with the big snowstorm today and the grandkids aren't visiting at this time like they were last year - with little kids around you sort of automatically remember Setsubun, since the littlies keep you well minded of devilishness - but like I say it was peaceful here till Echo opened an email from Kasumi that had as an attachment a Setsubun mask Kaya had made in kindergarten, being worn by Mitsuki in the photo-op, for whom it is a bit too big as you can see, so shortly after that came the aforementioned celebratory screams and the ratatat of soybeans everywhere outside as demons were sent packing and good fortune was invited indoors. First via the door toward the south, then the east, then the north, then the west, Echo (who has a powerful stage voice), screaming each time far loud enough to scare the demons out of probably the village down below, but certainly any of them so unfortunate as to be lurking in the dark vicinity, and getting hit in the eye with a roasted soybean is no fun either, you can bet.


WHO'S YER DADDY, PROFESSOR?


I don't know about you, but I've always trusted the big oil companies. I always knew that, like any massive, faceless juridical body, from Halliburton and Philip Morris all the way to Dupont, Enron and beyond, every corporation had my best interests at heart at all times, that public concerns were always at the very top of their agenda, well above concern for profits; I knew in my heart that, despite frequent and disastrous mistakes, unfortunate oversights, devastating errors, regrettable miscalculations, unfortunate outcomes, what have you, that such things were only due to loveable human fallibility, that capitalism was every bit as trustworthy as socialism was untrustworthy, it's all down there in black and white, so this story must be a lie. They couldn't be so stupid as to put it in writing!

"Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered."

Maybe all that integrity got locked in the safe or something...

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Kyoto Journal #65 is Now out.

Available wherever the finest magazines are sold.

(It contains, beautifully illustrated and arranged,
a ramble and a poem of mine, first published here on PLM.)