Friday, November 30, 2007


THE AHAB CACHET


Speaking of Mr. Splashy Pants, even though his name isn't yet official (the voting has been extended another week, partly out of early anxiety that "Mr. Splashy Pants" would be chosen, but good luck on stemming that tsunami) I just ordered some Mr. Splashy Pants buttons from Green Peace's spontaneous Mr. Splashy Pants store (click on buttons at left) and will give one button to each of the granddaughters to wear (with a suitably kiddy explanation), then I'm gonna wear a Mr. Splashy Pants button myself everywhere I go, except maybe to bath and bed, and get Japanese folks from all walks of life - to say nothing of the many treadmills - interested in the life and times of Mr. Splashy Pants in his blue worldwide home.

I will inform my buttonholed listeners as well regarding what their whale-hunting countrymen are deviously doing to Mr. Splashy Pants and his family, the lovely Mrs. Pants and all the bright Pants children, along with aunts and uncles in greatly diminished numbers compared to a century ago as the Japanese harpoons fly for the sake of Pants research, Pants autopsies and Pants family steaks in school cafeterias, while touching in no small way on overall genocidal doom.

On second thought, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa will do a much better job of it, with their cute smiles and irrefutable dimples; I'm beginning to look and sound too much like Ahab wearing a Mr. Splashy Pants button.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


WHAT IS THE REST OF THE WORLD?


Speaking of hunting, I just read an article in the Japan Times-- to which I would link, but the paper's website contains only yesterday's issue, as dead trees continue to fall unheard in forests of electrons, so I'll just refer to the article and you'll have to trust me until the JT gets off its duff and onto the edge where news is and you can see their words instantaneously wherever in the world you are, though that will be yesterday compared to the nanopinpoint of the neonow-- anyway, where was I before I had to struggle against the undertow of ago?

Oh yes, speaking of hunting... Japan is going whale hunting again, maintaining its recent tradition while rejecting the ancient tradition argument put forth by the Ainu, who wish to hunt salmon in what is a genuine tradition (Genuine tradition requisite #42: "A genuine tradition cannot be made up by politicians.")

This fresh round of traditional whale killing, like the hidden dolphin slaughter of last week, will be in the face of world opposition, and this time will also include the explosive harpooning of humpback whales, there is such a craving among Japanese politicians for whale autopsy results. Mr. Splashy Pants will perhaps be among the slain (see post below).

In response to strong criticism from the rest of the world regarding the hunt, Joji Morishita, Director of what are not laughingly described as 'international negotiations,' says "When we hear that the rest of the world is against Japan, we say: 'Wait, wait. What is the rest of the world?'" Some folks still miss the Dark Ages.

Dinosaur hunting, anyone?


[Update: The Significance of Mr. Splashy Pants]

[Another update: Turns out this was my 3000th post!]


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU,

But I voted for Mr. Splashy Pants!




HOLD THE BACKWASH...


In re my earlier post about city/country drinking water, the unthinkable is happening faster than I expected:

"But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water —...

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world's largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth."
From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking
(NY Times, subscription required, I think)

That "projected growth" may not be as growy as they expect...


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


ESTA EN ESPANOL, PERO...

Amigos de Internet, hoy cumplo 95 años. Me llamo María Amelia y nací en Muxía (A Coruña) el 23 de Diciembre de 1911. Hoy es mi cumpleaños y mi nieto como es muy cutre me regalo un blog. -- (My friends on the Internet, today I am 95 years old. My name is Amelia and I was born in Muxía (A Coruña - Spain) on December the 23rd of 1911. Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog.)
(Articles in English linked in the sidebar)

Monday, November 26, 2007


AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS-- NEVER LEFT ME, ACTUALLY...


This is not to imply in even the slightest way that I personally am grossly -- or even head-over-heels -- in favor of this proposal, despite the obvious fact of my early winter morning love embrace of thick down comforters that so tenderly hold in all this hard-earned warmth, priceless here at the icy heart of winter, when if you stick your neck out you can see your breath ask what the hell for, when every non-rabid wild animal is nowhere to be seen out in the stark icyness, but rather is cuddled wisely and warmly, in the ancient tradition of major drowsing, deep in nest and burrow throughout the land, and if you wish to insist upon insisting to me, as I lie here trying to get back to sleep, that we shirted, slacked, belted, shoed, tied, suited, coiffed and officed humans are not wild animals, just back away slowly and raise your arms in order to look as big as possible.

From here in the warm depths of blanket mountain where no job is required, I suggest that you leave me to ponder the idea over the winter - closing the door quietly on your way out - and further that you let it run through your own protracted hibernian dreams - saving greatly on food and fuel - and then in Spring, as experts in the matter we'll go outside and see if the grass is growing...


Sunday, November 25, 2007


GROWTH RINGS


One of the imposed privileges in splitting the oak sections stacked up in the far corner of the garden by the gate is that because of the temporary logistics I have to walk from the splitting stump (under the plum tree in front of the deck) to the big pile of sectioned oak laying there amid the big mess of leaves and branches, and one-by-one carry the sections back to the stump where I split and stack them.

Then I get to walk back over the garden ground again, empty armed in the fresh exhilaration of moment-ago labor, and on this perfect blue cool fall day enjoy the heft of the light on the goldening grasses, all laid out like in a world-sized museum with exhibits of fallen leaves gleaming in the bright, from the shiny ribbed red-tan of the chestnut parchments just starting to fall, to the big oak leaves now pieces of golden buckskin, and the changing leaf-hearts of the dokudami still rising from the ground, putting on that mottled rainbow show they do each year at this time; and never are the lily leaves so beautifully themselves as when the low wintering sun shines right through them from the side, turning them into blades of imperial jade swaying in the slightness of the breeze, when on the same breeze come drifting the first of the day-glow leaves from over in the other corner of the garden where the momiji reaches for more, scattering its handspans of red and gold here and there among the buckskin on the ground, what a show it all is, then I arrive at the pile, pick up a big chunk of trunk to carry back to the splitting stump, and then when that's done I get another new walking show, all the blue morning.

Just the sound of the leaves beneath my feet carries me back to childhood days when rainbows of maples covered everything in kid-made mounds of leaves, that walking-through-them sound linked forever with the fun of being the child who centers me like the oldest ring in a tall oak tree.

All the mysteries there are...

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Mountain sunset -
birds move down the wire
remain in light


Friday, November 23, 2007


THOUGHT FOR THANKSGIVING...


One week's food
Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City

Photo 1 of 16 from WHAT THE WORLD EATS




Thursday, November 22, 2007


THE STUFF IS NOW HITTING FANS EVERYWHERE...


Hope your equity is out of the system and there's not a fan near you...

The worldwide deception that has created this mass and propelled it toward the revolving blades may set a new world record for venality.

[Update: Global Derivatives Market Expands to $516 Trillion]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


THE MUSHROOMS OF UNDERSTANDING CHINA


There I was the other day - a fine day - with 40 beautiful, fresh shiitake oak logs tapping their feet waiting to be inoculated with that fine megashiitake spore I'd copped at the farmer store along with a special shiitake-inoculating drill bit, but by the time I got home from the store it was too dark.

Then after a next day in the office doing one-after-another-after-another of just a few of all the things that are distinctly unrelated to the task of inoculating shiitake logs (there are approximately 10 trillion such things), early the next morning I stacked up the already ongoing shiitake logs for the winter, then did some editing of mere words, saving the late afternoon hours to inoculate about 10 logs.

Then a little more than an hour before dusk I plugged in the long extension cord for the old 100W drill and began, got about 6 logs drilled and inoculated, when on the seventh log the tired little drill said Nope, no more, Bob; this is it pal, see ya in heaven, then darkness fell exactly the way it does after your drill gives up. Then I was in the office again among the 10 trillion things.

In time I managed to reach the shore of another weekend and went off to the farm store once more, this time in search of a bigger, better, more powerful drill, and found one I wanted, a Japanese brand-name 400-Watter, for about 120 dollars-- and then another I wanted more: a 430-Watter with an extra sidebar handle for about 160 dollars, but I didn't want to spend that much, since I'll mainly be using it just to drill shiitake logs once or twice a year as the old logs get used up and become great compost.

As I stood there pondering a solution to my econoshiitake dilemma I noticed some other, differently colored drills lower down on the tool display shelf-- way down there, in fact, sort of pushed to the way back of the way bottom. Their price was too low for the kind of drill I was after, but I hunkered down there anyway, since I wasn't going anywhere at the moment, reached in and pulled out one of the boxes, noticed that it was in fact the same kind of drill, except that it was a 480-Watter, had one of those great sidebars, and cost about 30 dollars! And was made in China-- probably using fine, Japanese-made electric parts.

One-fourth the price of the higher-up drills of less power and more costly utility, Japanese drills that only a moment ago had gleamed in my mind's eye as equipment of the highest standard, prestigious and priced out of reach; they now looked a bit forlorn, their luster dimmed, their true price now apparent (approx. 80% markup over labor cost, since they too were assembled in China, I'll bet).

So of course I bought a bright and shining miracle Chinese drill, took it home, plugged it in and finished five logs like a dream, in a tenth of the time. It was the Ferrari of drills, as far as I was concerned. And as I drilled on efficiently into the dusk I suddenly saw first hand what China was really about to do to (and at the expense of) the developed world and its laborers, apart from vastly increasing my shiitake crop.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007


WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS...
YEAH, SURE.


Paris: 64 Guide Michelin stars

New York City: 42 Guide Michelin stars

Tokyo: 191 Guide Michelin stars!!

Has Le Guide lost its mind? Sacre bleu! Traitre! Doesn't being French mean what it used to? Not to put down Tokyo's food quality in the slightest; shojin ryori, for example, can hold its own with any cuisine in the world, to say nothing of my personally select ramen restaurants, but Japanese food just doesn't have any of that je ne sais quoi you get in Paris from arguing with the waiter. And three times as many stars as Paris! Scandale!

Michelin sprinkles stars on Tokyo





Monday, November 19, 2007


THE MODERN ECONOMY IS UPON US.

Only trouble is, computers just can't lie,
or even bend the truth very well.
Yet.

via reddit


Sunday, November 18, 2007


SECRET


The godly part of our soul that enables us to perceive beauty - not the artificial, localized kind, but the natural, unrestrained kind – is perhaps the greatest gift we are given. The beauty of the lake is telling me this at the moment, in the silent monologue of all its dusky shades and laminations.

We strive, in our mortal ways, to express even a pixel of that exquisiteness the lake shows always, and knows to its depths. The masters paint their efforts on a canvas or scribe them on a page and are perhaps renowned for centuries; the lake lies there for another 100 eons under sun, moon, stars, wind, rain and snow as though there is no moment but this…

That's the secret in all beauty...



Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007


THE DEPTHS OF HIGH OFFICE,
or
EVERYTHING MUST HAVE A BOTTOM


In looking at some of the electoids currently holding high office here and there in the world under the rubric of democracy, it's often difficult to credit the contention that a presumably educated, presumably discerning, presumably informed electorate actually searched among themselves, looked into their souls, culled out certain especially able individuals, carefully assessed them, then voted to elect them - over others of equivalent caliber - to serve as the governmental representatives of all.

I sense I'm giving far too much credit to the electorate concept, but what the hell. Even so, that such a process could result in certain of the leaders currently bulling in the world china shop is quite a distance beyond comprehension. Could any first-world polity truly be that uneducated, that undiscerning, that uninformed? (Or that misled?)

Of course, since strictly local representatives reflect their local electorate, it's understandable that some local officials could be far below par; such examples come easily to mind when considering the US congress, for example. As Honest Abe was aware, there are some people you can fool all of the time. But If Darwin's evolution really works, those folks would never grow to comprise a national majority, so how can the basement floor become the ceiling? If Abe and Chuck are wrong about this, the world is in big trouble.

But even though the world as we know it may be ending, let me pause here to point out how nonetheless astonishing it is that, once elected to congresses, senates, parliaments and whatnot, these electoids further select from among themselves some of their number to serve in even higher positions of important public trust, such as speaker of the house, minister of justice, minister of defense etc., who in fact are no such things. This phenomenon goes by the name democracy, but surely it must be something else. Cryptosomnolence, perhaps?

On the other hand, if every cycle must have a bottom, and if the present depth determines the subsequent peak, then the world has a few Everests in the offing, so maybe we should appreciate this current crop of electoids for the breathtaking heights (tsunamis?) they're about to beget.

So if history is any guide, I think I'll just leave this beaten path and head on up into these sparsely inhabited mountains for an unspecified duration...



Thursday, November 15, 2007


MINDWEND


Driving down the mountain last night in the 5:30 darkness I had to wend my way through hundreds of junior-high kids in their Russo-Japanese war military uniforms mobbing the road from their school, and as I was wending my mind wended too, wondering if these kids ever connected with the short-lived military victory implied in their 100-year-old uniforms, and then it said: these kids are getting out of school at 5:30? After dark? Then it remembered that that never happened when I was a kid; back in those days (how can only yesterday be history?), school events happened strictly in school time, never in life time (apart from some pleasurable activities like sports games and dances); anyway, I bet these kids can really read and write and do math and know history (such as their government chooses to teach it) and geography, and they sure didn't look grumbly or complainy about the long hours they'd just put in, they didn't look down-in-the-life like their fathers do heading home from an office at 11 pm, they were having a good time, brief as it might be, things are gonna get harder for them, in Japan it gets pretty dog-eat-dog in high school and beyond, but they're up for it, looks like; then down at the station the guys, now out of sight of school, precisely lowered their pants to mid-hip so as to look like US rapper wannabee imitations of ghetto kids imitating beltless high security prisoner icons of multiple felony coolness, so cultures aren't all that separate anymore, or as discerning as we like to think, bet these kids can't read or write as well as their parents, then this morning I saw a couple of older kids by the art college spraying each others' spiked hair red before going to class and I thought that maybe from now on kids will do what they want with their lives and it's gonna get dark a lot earlier than anyone expected, though that view may just be an increasingly functionless byproduct of my antique education, like my fountain pen...



Monday, November 12, 2007


IMAGINE


Let's say for the sake of extreme fantasy that you have an eminently capable government (stop laughing hysterically, it's just a fantasy), and in that government there is an appointed official with the title of Minister of Justice, who has just fully approved a new immigration system for fingerprinting and photographing visitors from abroad as a way of preventing terrorism and stigmatizing foreigners, even though your country depends a great deal on tourism and is trying to encourage more, and even though during the past 60 years the only terrorist acts in your country have been committed by fellow citizens.

If such a bizarre situation were to occur, you, as a responsible citizen of an honorable nation, would at once demand an explanation for this incompetence. Imagine further that this oxymoronic minister, in response to a question put to him only by a foreign reporter at a foreign press conference, further justifies his foreigner-stigmatizing system by saying: "A friend of a friend of mine is a member of al-Qaeda, and has entered Japan numerous times using false passports and disguises." He then adds: "This particular person was actually involved in the bombings in the center of Bali. Although he is a friend of my friend, I was advised not to go close to the center of Bali because it would be bombed."

As a loyal citizen you would rush to your nearest Center for Responsible Government (stop laughing, this is serious) and demand that this patently incompetent official be tried for treason, having knowingly allowed a terrorist to enter the country repeatedly under false pretenses, and for multiple manslaughter by omission in not passing along that tidbit about the bombing to Balinese officials, who might thereby have saved hundreds of foreigners' lives, one of whom was a fellow citizen.

But as I say, that's an extreme fantasy. Except for the quotes. And the oxymoron is still in office, in charge of the foreigner stigmatization program.

In most of the world, we're all foreigners. Try not to look too alien.

+
[Update Nov 13:

Sunday, November 11, 2007


MOUNTAIN WATER, TREATED WATER


Apart from the addition of chlorine, fluorine etc., these are some of the potential contaminants tested for in treated city water:

Total Coliform Bacteria Fecal Coliform and E.Coli
P-Isopropyltoluene Chloromethane Dichlorodifluoromethane
Bromomethane Chloroethane Trichlorofluoromethane
Hexachlorobutadiene Naphthalene Methyl-tert-butyl-eth 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene
cis-1,2-dichloroethylene Dibromomethane 1,1-Dichloropropene 1,3-Dichloropropane
1,3-Dichloropropene 1,2,3-Trichloropropane 2,2-Dichloropropane 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene
1,2,3-Trichlorobenzene N-Butylbenzene Bromoform 1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene
Tert-Butylbenzene Sec-Butylbenzene Xylenes-Total Bromochloromethane
1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane Ethylene Dibromide (DEB) p-Xylene Methylene Chloride
o-Chlorotoluene p-Chlorotoluene m-Dichlorobenzene o-Dichlorobenzene
p-Dichlorobenzene trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene Vinyl Chloride 1,1-Dichloroethylene
1,2-Dichloroethane 1,1,1-Trichloroethane 1,2-Dichloropropane Carbon Tetrachloride
Trichloroethylene 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane Benzene 1,1,2-Trichloroethane
Tetrachloroethylene Monochlorobenzene Toluene Ethylbenzene
Bromobenzene Isopropylbenzene m-Xylene Styrene
o-Xylene n-Propylbenzene Endrin BHC-Gamma (Lindane)
Methoxychlor Di (2-ethylhexyl)Adipate Toxaphene Carbaryl
Methomyl Oxamyl (Vydate) Simazine Picloram
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene Aldicarb Sulfoxide Dinoseb Aldicarb Sulfone
Metolachlor Diazinon (Spectracide) Carbofuran Aldicarb
Atrazine Alachlor (Lasso) Dursban Heptachlor
3-Hydroxycarbofuran Heptachlor epoxide Dieldrin Butachlor (Machete)
Propachlor (Ramrod) 2,4-D 2,4,5-TP (Silvex) 2,4,5-T
Benzo (a) pyrene Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) Aldrin Pentachlorophenol
Metribuzin (Sencor) Decachlorobiphenyl Dicamba Ethylene Dibromide (EDB)
Chlordane 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane Arsenic Cadmium
Chromium Cyanide Nickel Nitrate
Selenium Beryllium Thallium Gross Alpha Emitters
Antimony

And all have MCL (maximum contaminant level allowed)...

I'll have some wine, thanks...



Saturday, November 10, 2007


TAKING CARE OF THE STREAM


Today was our day to take care of the mountain stream that we all get our water from up here. Not clean the stream itself, which runs mostly over stones and isn't muddy, it's a clear, perky, bubbly flow of water from far up on top of the mountain, an onrushing gift of clouds and gravity, but there's a special spot along its banks (a few hundred meters above our house), where it bounces merrily through the forest like a water child getting all hyperoxygenated, and where we have our diversion apparatus that leads some of the stream into the water co-op pipe while the rest of the stream (by far most of it) freshets its way down the mountain and into the lake where it tries to be vapor so it can get to do the whole great ride all over again.

That apparatus, with its screens and filters to keep out leaves and twigs (and fend off rolling rocks when heavy rain swells the stream and things get rough), has to be cleaned once a week, so the members of the water co-op take turns. This week it was our turn, so we went up there with the co-op's new stream-care manual, got out the boots and tools and did all the steps, starting with step one (close the main valve).

The big screen right at the mouth of the diversion was matted with leaves now that fall has commenced to live up to its name; removing them and letting the water flow free and fast again was like scratching the back of a big liquid beast; very satisfying to all parties concerned. Then step two, open the sluice to lower the water level; then one-by-one through the other steps to the inner filter of stainless steel, which I scrubbed clean with a big tawashi scrub brush. Then I reassembled the filter, raised the water level to wash all the cleansing detritus away, opened the secondary valve to run the piped water back into the stream until all piped was clear again, closed that valve, then did step nine, the final step: re-open the main valve one turn.

Satisfying on a deep level, to take care of a stream/human interface, and get cold, clear skywater in return...

Reminded me of an experience somewhere, long before my own life...



Friday, November 09, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007


SIMPLE VEGETARIAN RECIPES


Thinly Sliced Tomatoes

Ingredients: tomatoes
Slice thinly.
Stare at slices until satisfied.

**

Onions comme ça

Ingredients: onions
Do whatever you want,
they're your onions.

**

Fresh Green Beans

Ingredients: green beans, fresh.
Serve while fresh.
Discard immediately.

**

Carrots aux Terre

Ingredients: carrots
Pull carrots from ground;
eat with dirt still on.

**

Green Peppers In Situ

Ingredients: green peppers
Kneel on ground;
eat peppers from plant.

**

Okra a la Gravité

Ingredients: okra plant
Lie on ground beneath plant
until desired okra pod falls into open mouth.
Change position for additional servings.

**

Corn on the Cob

Ingredients: corn; cobs
Just make sure the corn stays on the cob.
Nothing more is required of you.

**

Aubergines a la Idée Fixe

Ingredients: none
Think of nothing but eggplants.

**

Zucchini sans souci

Ingredients: none
Don't even think about it.

**



Wednesday, November 07, 2007


DARK AGES


"Bill Gross, the chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management, said US mortgage delinquencies and defaults would rise in 2008. 'There are $1 trillion worth of sub-primes, Alt-As [self-certified] and basically garbage loans,' he said, adding that he expects some $250bn in defaults. 'We've only begun to see the pain from rising mortgage payments,' he added. Brian Gendreau, an investment strategist at ING, commented: 'Financials are 20 per cent of the S&P 500 and if that sector doesn't do well all bets are off. People just don't know what’s on the balance sheets.'"

Of course they don't mention the other 99% of the iceberg, as those at the top get their money out. Sub-prime is the buzz word at the moment, but next comes the $20-40 trillion in credit default OTC derivatives (now beginning to hit the fan) - nobody knows how much, really - and teetering above them, high over the global economy, maybe another 300 trillion in further derivatives... (the annual world production is valued at ca. 65 trillion once-upon-a-time dollars.)

And to think those garbage derivative AAA raters and marketers to the public are not (yet) being prosecuted for the biggest fraud in history! And who will pay? The public, as always.

Advice from Jim Sinclair, as of November 6: "How Can You Be so Complacent?"



Tuesday, November 06, 2007


NO WONDER THE WORLD IS A MESS


I remember, back when I was a kid in the 40s, how the advertisers of the time were tirelessly educating the public as to the horrible new social scourge that was Body Odor (and the advertisers had just the chemicals to hide the terrible affliction), then by the 50s they had body odor locked and needed a new blight, so they crammed the public ear and eye with the suddenly embarrassing condition of dandruff (and they had just the stuff to conceal the problem), then came frizzy hair and they had just the stuff etc., the public accepting all those received embarrassments one after another as though they were genuine afflictions and always had been, needed "fixing" right away, and weren't merely created by advertisers.

And that's the way it's been ever since, with by now so many other natural processes transformed into devastating personal plagues that the social remedy section of the supermarket/pharmacy is a mile long, but the advertisers are running out of shticks (living room odor??), so something had to give, and it's always the consumer.

These social lab experiments often happen first here in Japan, where the media audience is an advertiser’s dream: you repeat the repetitive jingle often and monotonously enough and you've got a loyal market, even for stuff like chewing gum that "enlarges breasts." They've pretty much used up the scourges of youth, though (pimples, dull hair, skin etc., largely caused by the junk food they also flog), and they need a new source of scourges.

So they've locked onto boomers now, and the aging society, and brought ageism into the equation as a source of new social afflictions, starting with the looming horror they've named kareishu (aging odor), for which they're flogging "over 40 soap" at over 20 dollars a cake, for the magic bubbles that will remove that nasty miasma of over-40ness that floats about you wherever you go. There's also a chewing gum that makes you smell like you're under 40! (I. e., a mobile vat of variously toxic deodorizing chemicals).

Anyway, I've been over 40 for nearly 27 years now, and smell as sweet as a baby, except after I've been splitting firewood for a few hours, when I smell like Achilles. As far as I'm concerned, those marketeers can stuff the fragrance of age. But then I'm not and never have been your typical consumer, who not only won't object to this ageist travesty, they will dutifully buy the brand new discovery that gets rid of their brand new problem and protects them from the curse of aging just like in the commercial.

Watch soon for over 50, 60, 70 soap, shampoo, conditioner, with zeolite, titanium, magic crystals, metaquantumnanoplasmaultra whatever, it's a list longer than a lifetime.

If consumers and voters are the same people, no wonder the world is a mess.



Monday, November 05, 2007


WELCOME TO JAPAN, TERRORIST FOREIGNERS!


I've lived here the last dozen years on a Permanent Resident visa. I own property here, I own the house I live in here, I've paid taxes here for over 30 years, I have children (one born here) who are citizens here, yet I have never been able to vote here, being irredeemably foreign, and now, under a new law that hardliners have been yearning to pass for years, every time I re-enter Japan I will be fingerprinted and photographed.

This will be done to all alien visitors/tourists/terrorists, so as to "greatly contribute to preventing international terrorist activities on our soil," to use the bureaucratic boilerplating of Naoto Nikai, an immigration official, who appears to be unaware of the fact that there have been no terrorist acts on Japanese soil in the past 25 years, other than those committed by the Japanese citizens of Aum Shinrikyo.

In Mr. Nikai's case, as with Japanese government officials in general it seems, international PR skills are not a resume requirement. But on the other hand, non-Japanese don't appear to be all that important. Returning Japanese will not be fingerprinted (that would be illegal); this is only for the questionable people, i. e., foreigners.

Folks from the rest of the world who have spent some time here know full well that they are noticed everywhere they go. It would be hard to imagine a foreign criminal of any consequence remaining unfound for any length of time in this country. We're covered by alien registration cards, 'family books,’ residence registration with the police etc., and have always been subject to random public police checks as to whether we are carrying our papers, as required. We're easy to spot.

What troubles me about all this is not just the added airport delays or the ink on the fingers or the implied presumption of guilt to augment the taint of foreignness and add tacit support to the Japanese myth of national purity (which echoes back to some terror-filled times of its own), but that nationalist factions in Japan are seeing, in the populace-controlling and freedom-restricting antiterrorist activities being so easily perpetrated in the US - that former bastion of untouchable freedoms - a fresh chance to resume old powers here in Japan, where obedience is a tradition.

Nothing much about it in the native news media, though; maybe if all the tourists were to stay away, rather than be treated like imminent terrorists...



Friday, November 02, 2007


SOMETHING TO DO WHILE NOT WRITING: The Art of Pen Spinning

Over the years in Japan, in the various offices where I've worked I've seen a number of guys (it's usually guys) do some amazing pen-spins, and it's always seemed to me an impressive way to pass non-writing time (best learned in school), but the pen moves so fast it's always too hard to see how they do it. I don't remember ever seeing pen-spinning in America. It's an art that will likely fade away with pens and pencils. These pen spinners, though, are in a class all their own. Pen spinning Olympics, just for old times' sake? Like the marathon, from when people used to run from place to place?


If this gets you all fired up, here's a pen-spinning instructional video.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


SHIITAKE SOUP


Echo has been visiting her folks up north since Tuesday so I am here on my own for a few days, chainsawing and stacking sugi and hinoki in the wake of Azuma-san, working up a natural appetite by hefting trees and logs in the perfectly blue morning (interesting to manipulate logs bigger than I am), in the process also keeping monkeys away by my active presence.

Speaking of the sneaky simians, I have been alert for them because the shiitake are just now beginning to emerge, and are right at the dense meaty stage the hairy marauders love to steal most. I harvested a basketful the other day, after a good rain, thereby thwarting the simians from the very first (so far, Brady 100, Mangy Marauders ZERO). Today I went over to the shiitake corner to look closely again, and found a lot of fresh new shrooms curling into the dark on the undersides of the logs, so I took a bunch for lunch.

As to that, as to that (that phrase always reminds me of Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon), for my organic lunch I sauteed in olive oil a chopped big clove of garlic together with a thinly sliced, de-seeded taka-no-tsume ('hawk's talon,' the standard Japanese hot red pepper), then added diced onions, then a couple of sliced, nitrate-free, highly flavored sausages, then some chopped green peppers, Roma tomatoes and sliced okra we got from an uplake neighbor, some diced acorn squash from the farm store, pre-cooked brown rice and cannelloni beans, then added the soup broth, with a dash of shikuwasa (a cuisinary miracle soon to be discovered by world chefs) and a high double handful of big shiitake sliced as thin as paper, then let it all simmer until the okra did that thing that okra does.

Then I had myself a couple bowls of lunch, smiling now and then at thought of the monkeys' red faces when they come and find their mushrooms missing.