Tuesday, December 29, 2009


SUPERVISITATION


Heard an odd sound outside yesterday afternoon, like a small mob of elves sneaking over a field of pink and green marshmallows as quietly as they could while dragging bags full of giggles, hoping to surprise an unsuspecting grandfatherly person who lives in a house on the side of a mountain in an oriental countryside, so I did what any such elderperson would do in similar circumstances: I put my ear to the door, the better to grasp the situation and make counter-surprise preparations, when the bell rang serially just as the door was pulled wide open and the entire living room filled up with squeals as I was engulfed in fresh cold air filled with six arms of three granddaughters who varoomed in through the doorway like a sixlegged yellstorm and whirled around me in the cutest smiling vortex I ever saw, hugging me all over and yelling Bobu-san! and caroming off to bounce around the big room, looking up and down and around to see what had changed and what was still there, while I spun a moment in the vestibule trying to slow my whirl so I could see and walk, talk and so forth. Then we got down to the intense part of the visit, where things happen really fast.

Friday, December 25, 2009


CHRISTMAS CAKES


In Japan, the Yule season is symbolized by the "Christmas Cake," whose origin has escaped me (much like the flavor of the traditional Japanese Christmas Cake) mainly for want of interested pursuit, but these frothy strawberried constructions seem to have come a long way since the amazingly bland (not even vanilla!) cakes of the seventies, when the term "Christmas Cake" horrendously also referred to unmarried women 25 years of age (of no value after the 25th)... What a long, frosty distance we have traveled...

But flavorful as these cakes may have become, I can't help but think it's still just image. I also wonder briefly where the tradition came from, but that's way less important than the fact that Japanese women over 25 are now as valuable as any other. Happy holidays, all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


AZUMA-SAN


One afternoon over the weekend I was at home alone working in my upstairs zone of solitude when I heard what sounded like a truck pull up in front of the house and thought it must be a delivery of some kind, so started to get up to go to the door, when I heard a truck door slam and a loud voice talking, so I then thought it must be a couple of the propane guys come to check the tanks or something, but then the voice went around the front of the house instead of out back where the tanks are, then out in front of the deck I heard this loud conversation, no one from the road ever goes there, because there's a chain across the driveway and its just... private, and privacy is pretty much boilerplate around here, so I went downstairs and looked out front to see who was walking around on our property talking so loud about what, maybe someone from the water committee or something, assuming that we're not home because our car wasn't there (Echo was out doing some shopping and yogaing) but when I looked out front there was no one, the voice had moved elsewhere already, out among the firewood and into the garden, so I went to the big kitchen window and looked out at where the voice now was and saw an agile elderly fellow poking his head in among the stacks of firewood and saying something I couldn't hear, no one else around, he was talking to himself, went here and there looking and talking, then he turned and I recognized him, it was Azuma-san, the elderly expert who felled a few worrisome trees for us, climbs giant oaks like a 12 year old but with a chain saw, then stands way up there and trims the mighty tree to a new and more cooperative elegance, in a display of arboreal agility that would even be impressive in a 25-year-old - he's about 80 now - and there he was, poking around among the wood and talking to himself like a solo lumberjack, so I went outside and called his name, said good day, turned out he'd come to ask about our woodstove, was very curious about how much it cost, how it was made, how well it worked and so on, seems he wants to get one for himself. If anybody can make good use of a woodstove, it's Azuma-san. In a fair exchange, he gave me some good tips on my hiratake mushroom growing. Then he roared off in his big truck, on his way to the next big tree.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL

As earlier readers of these humble chronicles may recall - if they’re still coming back now and then after all this time - each year in Spring when the leaves open they close off my access to satellite television, leaving me only with standard J-tv, which I don't really watch, apart from quick news and weather, otherwise more like peer at and shake my head in amazement maybe an hour a month, just to see if anything has changed in 30 years.

Then in autumn, when the leaves fall in sufficient quantity they restore my satellite signal, which rises from zero over the days till it hits a nice clear high and I can see the bitter faces of Bull O’Really and friends once again. No doubt many of you share that pleasure year round. You have my sympathies. Yes, once again I can wade in the shallows of Samsara that tv seems to represent so well, compared to the mere "vast wasteland" it was back in the 60s.

I'm so old I remember original US tv back in the 50s, when there were actual plays on live at prime time, like Requiem for a Heavyweight, and individuals of deep integrity like Edward R Murrow, programs like the Firestone Classical Music hour, Hall-of-Fame stuff like The Twilight Zone and so on, back when the tv bigwigs were still trying to learn what people liked and hadn’t yet found the moneyed monsters in the basement.

This year, however, in a new act of mercy I cannot yet fathom, all the leaves have fallen but my signal from the sky remains at zero. Somebody up there is perhaps trying to spare me the rigors of the Dark Sea. All I'd have to do is tweak this or patch that, maybe reconnect a wire or two, to bring the basement back into my life, but at some point I became aware of a growing reluctance to lift a finger to resurrect the creatures that come in the day and the night to devour with their manic hunger all of my life they can get.

I know that may be a bit extreme, but when I go outside, the contrast between that dark window and the broad, bright reality of Pure Land Mountain is profound, rich with a joy that will never fit in a tube.

Friday, December 18, 2009


BUBBLE BEN


How have the mighty fallen...

100-dollar Ben (the most frugal of the founding fathers!) was once the go-to guy, the face in demand at every black market in Asia, but has now fallen in value to such an extent that he is not only less desired by back-alley street corner money changers, but has been turned by a Japanese toy company into a soapy parody, a currency bubble bath no less, as a 1000-dollar bill that is nothing but bubbles, popping all over the world...

I remember when a hundred-dollar bill was really worth a hundred real dollars, and reality in general was still pretty common...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


ZEN TARGET


On the train tonight a lovely young woman sat in front of me who appeared to be a Zen archer; she was carrying the long bamboo bow, its full length carefully wrapped in a fabric traditionally dyed a splendid rare orange that bore other bright colors, like the bingata of Okinawa, in a pattern that was also traditional, of anciently stylized flowers, birds and butterflies, the bow reaching from the floor to well above the luggage rack.

Affixed to the bow by a wide leather wrapping was the lady's quiver of arrows, basically a capped tube about half the length of the bow. It too was a gorgeous object, finished in a grayish, elegantly patterned cloth and set with silver fittings. Circled at intervals with bands of smooth gray leather, it had a shiny brown hard-leather cap at the top, held in place by finely braided strips of gray leather.

Seated atop the leather cap was a figure I took at first to be a netsuke of an ancient god or something spiritually similar; I leaned closer for a better look, without being intrusive - this was Zen, after all - and saw that it was a tiny figure of Goofy, wearing baggy blue pants.

The arrow and the target are one.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


JEFFREY IRISH, SONCHO


"Jeffrey Irish, a 48-year-old American, is the unlikely village chief [soncho] of Tsuchikure, a remote farming hamlet in Japan's southern Kyushu island. The tall, even-tempered Californian got the position because he satisfies the post's main requirements: He hears and sees well.

In Tsuchikure, where the average age is 77 (if you don't count him and his family), that makes Mr. Irish one of only three residents qualified for the job. He spends his days keeping track of the physical and mental decline of the 24 elderly longtime residents of this wilting Japanese village.

Tsuchikure -- a community of modest single-family houses on a hillside about the size of a football field -- is in many ways emblematic of Japan in the 21st century: an advanced economy that must cope with the depopulation of everything outside the urban centers.

It is one of thousands of withering Japanese villages."


Jeff is a contributing editor of the Kyoto Journal.




LOCAL LUNCH


Yesterday morning when I went out to empty the wood ash onto the fallowing part of the garden, on my way back I grabbed a good couple handfuls of big-leaf spinach and snagged a few large shiitake from the logs, then went inside and for lunch started sauteing some garlic in olive oil while I sliced the shiitake to translucent thinness, then I threw the slices in with the garlic, stirring now and then to softness and even greater translucency while I tore the spinach leaves into mouth-sized pieces, poured some broth into the pan with the garlic and mushrooms, turned the flame high and threw in the spinach, tossed with a spatula till the broth reduced then put it all in a nice local mingei bowl and ate it together with some local rice in another nice local mingei bowl. Boy was that locally delicious.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


KANJI AT KIYOMIZU


Each year there is a poll to select the kanji character that best describes the social situation for that year. The selected kanji for 2009, as calligraphed by the chief priest of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto despite the clouds of scandal over the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, is:

Shin (New)

You can sure write that again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


PLUM CAKE


Early Monday morning as I was waiting for the train I saw that the top of the highest mountain was dusted with a little bit of snow, like a holiday plum cake during sugar rationing, but today I notice that there is no plum cake at all, it's just a mountain again. Such are the vagaries of weather these days at the foot of Pure Land Mountain, which should all have been snowed under by now at least once or twice, but it's more like we're heading into Spring, which is unsettling since the body and the spirit are all prepared for what keeps on not coming.

It's like a constant disappointment you're not really aware of but can't spend much time thinking about, because after all there's living to be gotten on with, work to be done, errands to be run, folks stop by. But something isn't quite right, then you're standing there paused in some activity when the non-plum cakeness of the scene suddenly catches your eye and it all comes back, it's December again and you stand there just staring at the big fact hanging there in the air.

But such pauses don't last too long, because in some ways it's quite nice, this December springtime in snow country, where folks now get to do a lot more stuff than just shoveling snow the way they're usually doing about this time, or clearing roofs, hacking at the ice and walking gingerly when not indoors; instead, you see them out harrowing their land, cleaning up the brush, inoculating some mushroom logs, cleaning the rain gutters, trimming the shrubbery, small woodfires at home.

The made-up, blow-dried heads on tv point at the big red suns all over the country on their weather maps and talk about global warming, carbon footprints and suchlike terms they seem so fond of, and they may well be right, the world may be heading for a warm ending in a few years, decades, centuries, millennia, the terms are vague, but it's happened before, we all know about the ice ages and the weather cycles, the highs and lows that went on before history got going, and there very likely are more of those coming down the big pike, but folks around here aren't fretting too much; they're close to the land and the weather, they have a big sense of such things and are used to adapting, though it is a bit disappointing not to have a sky-high sugared plum cake for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


HIRATAKE


I now have enough inoculated shiitake logs to supply me with those exquisite fresh mushrooms for the foreseeable future, so I decided to try something a bit more difficult, the silvery Japanese mushroom hiratake (a variety of oyster mushroom - Pleurotus ostreatus). Like shiitake, hiratake goes well with just about everything, but it has different subtleties of flavor and texture. It is also a valued as a medicinal mushroom.

I've seen folks try to grow it on tv programs, and it appears to be rather fussy, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway-- I've got some nice rice straw to store the inoculated logs on and under, over there by the new cord of wood out of the wind and sun.

So over the weekend I got some hiratake spawn dowels and on Monday sectioned some 20 cm diameter oak logs I felled a few weeks ago into about 30 cm lengths, then today drilled them all over, inoculated them and stored them on a mat of rice straw over by the firewood, covered them with more rice straw and fallen leaves,and watered the pile with the hose for quite a while.

Will post again when there are results, however it goes...

Further info:

On Japanese mushrooms

International hiratake spawn source+instructions (looks like a slightly different variety than the one I just started)

Detailed info on hiratake as 'gourmet' mushroom

Helpful site on wild mushrooms of Japan

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


STARS ON THE GROUND


Interesting, watching western celebs get interviewed for Japanese tv by reporters who don't speak English or respond to English or its tonal, facial, manual gestures and intimations, but work through an interpreter on the side whom the audience does not see and the celeb does not address, so for the less manic celebs the general PR boilerplate is thereby minimized and the usual dross falls away so you hear only Japanese questions asked, with the celeb's English replies and subtitles edited in for the response, and as all the usual nuancing is no longer of value, the celebs become more neutral, culturally isolated, no longer rely on polemic manipulations etc., so are more personal, open and 'normal,' less guarded, like Michael Moore the other night, he wasn't 'on' the way he always is, thinkingagendathinking, he just chatted, no psychic drumrolls, no showmanship, seemed like a nice concerned guy you might have sat next to in a bar in Flint...

Friday, December 04, 2009


THE BLISS OF FERMENTATION


Katz mentions miso, tempeh and kombucha, among many other fermented foods we enjoy here, but not natto...

"Fermentation pre-digests foods, breaking down compound nutrients into more elemental forms and making them more available to us. Minerals in particular become dramatically more bio-available. Fermentation also produces unique micronutrients not found in the original ingredients but rather produced by the fermenting organisms. Some examples of these are anti-carcinogenic isothiocyanates in fermented vegetables, or dipicolinic acid in miso, which draws heavy metals out of our cells, binds with them, and removes them from our bodies. Ferments also detoxify certain foods. But the most profound benefit of fermentation is the live-cultures themselves, not present in all fermented foods but only those not subjected to heat after fermentation. The bacteria in these live-culture ferments replenish and diversify bacteria in our digestive tracts. These bacteria enable us to effectively digest food, assimilate nutrients, and create a competitive situation that helps protect us from pathogenic bacteria. Ferments have numerous benefits to our health."


Wednesday, December 02, 2009


KAKISHIBU


Because I wanted to refinish my deck before winter, am looking to avoid the ubertoxic commercial products and have tried the uberexpensive (and pretty much untereffective) wood treatment products available on the naturo-altermarkets, I've been looking for the traditional Japanese wood treatment known as kakishibu, which is made by naturally processing a certain type of persimmon to obtain the ultimate in shibui (astringency), as I think of it.

You'd think that "traditional" pretty much says it all, but I had no idea. Oozing the usual newbie optimism, I went to the wood treatment section of the nearest farm store, which is pretty traditional, to my mind - they sell handmade tools, baskets, cord and such like - and asked the elder man there (thinking it likely that no one under 40 would have ever heard of kakishibu) if he had any kakishibu.

He instantly acquired that Dealing-with-eccentric-foreigner look and said What? I repeated my question, he said Huh? I mouthed the identical phrase once more, when he began to realize that I was in fact using a Japanese term there, and a deep light began to come forth from long ago, as he shook his head and gave the kind of small laugh you give someone who says Look there's a flying elephant throwing money! And said Nooo, we don't have any kakishibu, without actually saying the Are you out of your mind part.

I also tried at the second-closest, more commercial, but larger and more broadly shelvy farm store. Got the same response, though this elder man had the amazed Foreigner-who-knows-about-unobtainable-traditional-substances look.

Then a few weeks later, when I was up in the woods sectioning a big oak log with an upmountain friend who resides in Kyoto and is the 8th generation of a traditional Kyoto bamboo craft family, during a rest break we naturally got to talking about wood, tradition, craft and bamboo, so I asked him offhandedly if he might know where I might be able to get some... kakishibu? He got a look on his face like I'd asked if he'd ever heard of a thing called 'water,' said Sure, there's a kakishibu store not far from my house.

My subsequent related research led me not only to a traditional kakishibu store in Hyogo Prefecture that deals online (not quite fully yet, it seems), there's also a kakishibu enterprise in the US! It also turns out that kakishibu has many uses.

Fascinating little mind journey, but too late to do the deck this winter, though that pain is eased a great deal by my new knowledge. Kakishibu really is miraculous stuff.

(Plus, there's a heavily bearing wild tree of that same variety of persimmon growing on the edge of the forest, just up the road...)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


TENNESSEE TRUFFLES?!


Hmmmm... wonder if I could grow truffles here in Shiga...



GO FIGURE


Here it is December 1 and there's no snow on the mountains! No frost yet, either! I'm wearing shorts! Most of the leaves have fallen and everything's waiting, but nothing's happening! Skiers are standing on grass, sweating in t-shirts! Ice skaters are swimming instead! Spring flowers are asking questions and birds are singing summer medleys! What is going on? While you figure it out, I'm gonna go lay on the beach.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


REUNION


Late last Wednesday afternoon, as the slant of sundown turned the brown stubble of the rice paddy terraces into spikes of gold, it was time for the spontaneous annual family reunion of all the local crows, and it is a big family.

Usually flying solo or in twos or maybe distantly arranged threes, on this occasion there were hundreds of crows gathered together on the ground, walking here and there like at a human reunion picnic, flying in brief bursts of excitement only at the uplifting experience of meeting old friends, and if they could have brought such potluck items as hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, beer, potato salad and deviled eggs, I bet they would have enjoyed those too.

For some reason, from among a whole mountainside of stepped paddies, as venue for the big event they chose only two paddies just across the road from our house (we couldn't help but notice), and until some time after sundown the place was filled with yawps of excitement, the young birds swaggering and chasing each other, the elders just hunkering on the edges of the paddies and gazing out into the air over the lake, much like at my own childhood family reunions long ago, when we kids would raise hell while the parents chatted and the old men sat and puffed their cigars, staring into the air at the memories there...

I couldn't help reading those things into the crows' actions, but they reminded me of my own memories... Maybe the big picture isn't all that different for crows, who seemed, at least on Wednesday, to have a sense of the past, a sentiment of destiny...

Friday, November 27, 2009


"IN JAPAN, 'HERBIVORE' BOYS SUBVERT IDEAS OF MANHOOD"

Meant to post on this later but in my yesterday hurry of busy, mistakenly published a brief memo and link for about 15 minutes before I realized it, unpublished but then got an appreciative note from Lisa who saw it on her RSS feed, so I'm putting it back up here unfinished just with the link, too busy at the moment to get satisfactorily back to this subject of "grass-eating/herbivore men" (soushoku danshi) and do it enough justice a la moi, in re some other perspectives I have on the matter that have been blending in my head, and other earlier related but untagged posts I have to search for rush rush rush so for the moment this is it...

+

"The six men on stage included a poet, a break dancer and a filmmaker. They pounded rhythms on the dhol drum, modeled fresh fashions, slathered whipped cream on bare skin and discussed their passion for community service.

This is the "Mr. Hyphen" contest, a faux pageant in the San Francisco Bay area aimed at redefining the image of Asian-American men beyond nerdy, sexless stereotypes."
--w/thanks to Lisa

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


CAWCUS


I was out on the sunny deck this morning drilling and inoculating the first of this year's new shiitake logs, and when I'd finished and was carrying the heavy logs two by two out back to lean against the stone wall where it's dimmer and damper than elsewhere, as I went about my work lugging and standing the logs where they'd stay for a couple of years or so till they began to fruit, an impressive committee of crows followed me back and forth, curious about my actions, cawcusing loudly overhead, observing and commenting the while on my behavior (crows are as judgmental as they are nosey).

Admittedly, my Crow is poor; I get to hear a lot of it up here where the native speakers hang out, and I've picked up a little over the years sort of by osmosis, so from all the ruckus I could piece together a few fragments, like “Look, the [featherless] creature has pieces of trees… it's moving [them] from one place to another place, why would it do that, when it could just leave the trees where they were? Besides, it just threw away some tasty [garbage]! Incomprehensible!”

Beneath the canopy of trees still bearing their leaves, the ruckus was aggressively loud, so I responded just as loudly (my spoken Crow is even poorer than my heard Crow, though, since I rarely get a chance to speak it in daily life; plus, I grew up hearing American Crow, which is pretty different, but I try. It is not commonly known that Japanese crow is one of the most difficult languages in the world): “And what the hell are you guys doing here, making so much noise, don't you have anything better to do? Besides, you hate mushrooms!”

The responses came racketing down: “What is it doing with pieces of trees? It must have to [work] like that for a [living]! Haw! Haw! Our [friends] tell us that it also goes off into the gray (philosophically, crows see everything in shades of black) city and works in [skyless] boxes up in the air, how does it stand that? What is a [salary]?” and so forth, all in the extremely limited Crow vocabulary-- basically one phonetic syllable with countless minute variations.

I asked why they didn't try to acquire an actual language like we humans have; they responded “Where did that get [your species]? Look at you, crawling around down there, never even come up here, working your life away for food when food is lying around [rotting] everywhere, and [for free]! Haw! Haw! You need a [house,] too! Our [house] is everything we see! You need a [wheeled vehicle] to go far! And you think we should change? You must be as crazy as you act!

I was way outnumbered, and this was going to be pretty much one-sided (crows never listen anyway), so when I finished up I went inside for lunch; the committee is still up there hanging around the house, laughing.

Bet they can’t blog, though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


DEEP ITCH


Since it's the first time it ever happened, I can't fully express the pleasure it gives me to see the Spending Review Committee sessions the new Minshuto government is holding as they investigate the worthiness of every last local regional and national spending program (as per the whaling program posted on below) and the public gets to watch the gravel-voiced bigwigs come in and try to defend their shadowy fiefdoms against young, intelligent and fully informed reps of the people asking pointed questions (How many amakudari do you have in your organization? How much did that highway cost? How many people a year visit your countryside tractor museum? How many equestrians use your village Horse Park?) It's a lot like I imagined actual democracy might be, if it's not an illusion after all. (Cynicism is a lot older than democracy.)

This is not the mocked lone wolf in the elected body trying to effect a smidgeon of democracy in the face of slavering jowls beside pork barrels; this is a new government actually trying to straighten things out, get things in the open, shed some light, identify the airheads, the conmen, the traitors to honesty, the black holes of integrity, guys who used to run the scams, put up bridges to nowhere, dam the valleys, pave the rivers, the guys who used to pull the strings, the guys with the daimyo houses and the limousines. Watching it in action, seeing public representatives peering into dark corners and asking hard questions in the public interest, is like scratching an itch so deep that it has never even been called an itch, let alone been scratched.

The Japanese people are historically used to an itch so chronic that it's more like a way of life, but now there are slimeballs actually sweating on TV, looking embarrassed at their now public dishonesty; there are godfathers grousing about fairness on camera in the lobbies. What a lesson this could be to other countries I could mention. Here's hoping the scratching doesn't end too soon; there's a lot more to this itch.

Monday, November 23, 2009



Coming home down the evening mountain, tired from heavy labors, in the dim light by the roadside I see a bareleafed persimmon tree, laden with bright orange globes like a year of morning suns-- Atop the toppest moves a silhouette of black crow, long beak dipping into soft orange lusciousness-- Ah, the food that colors are...

Saturday, November 21, 2009


THE END OF JAPANESE WHALING?

YIPPEEE!

As the new J government has been reviewing every budgetary nook and cranny for ingrained spending boondoggles, they have discovered that whaling is one of the doggliest, having basically been subsidized into zombie existence for decades now. Sordidly unsurprising details here.

"A major review of Japanese government spending could spell the end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Commissioned to cut wasteful programmes by Japan's new government, a review committee has proposed massive cuts in subsidies to a body which funds the so-called whaling research programme.

Without government subsidies, the whaling programme would be doomed."

A big hooray of that happens... Maybe they'll do it for tuna too, before they run out...

And all along the whalers have been saying that there was consumer demand...

Friday, November 20, 2009


THEY REALLY COULD SEE THE FUTURE!


"This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet the petroleum energy Humble supplies -- if converted into heat -- could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second!"
- From Life Magazine, Feb 2, 1962 -

Does that include stuff like the Exxon Valdez disaster?
(Humble + Standard = Exxon)

via Grist
+

"Overall, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels increased 29% between 2000 and 2008 and 41% from 1990-2008, and the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now at its highest in at least 2 million years, according to a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience."


Thursday, November 19, 2009


SONOFABITCH OF THE MORNING

"When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of the parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn't too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."
--Great little essay on the joys, benefits and mysteries
of the glorious weed by, of all people, Carl Sagan - Mr. X


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


JAPAN MORTIFIED BY US CONSERVATIVE REACTION TO OBAMA'S BOW


To fill in a bit about the previous post, in the everywhere photos of "The Bow," all you see is the low point, and from the worst perspective. When you see the entire 'performance,' from Obama's entrance to the finish, it happens quickly and gracefully, with details a blur. As mixed and awkward as it may be in its elements, however, it is elegantly executed overall, and there is no sense of submissiveness. Obama is in control (though spontaneously, not practicedly) of his part of the situation. America need not be upset, apart from the salaried media phobiacs.

Also, it should in fairness be noted that one can, in presumably less formal situations, shake hands while giving a shallow (20-30 degree) bow, though in the bowvideo I saw on tv here yesterday evening (the only one I've seen), as he approaches the Emperor Obama clearly intends to shake hands, then while doing so executes a deep, quick and rather unexpected bow, which is not as awkward looking as when frozen in the ubiquitous still shot.

In the press here, the main news point now, and primary reference to the whole affair, is the strange reaction of the conservative press in the US, that Obama has submitted to the Emperor and so on (Japanese Mortified by Obama's Bow, for example, when the reality is now more like the header of this post). Puzzled looks follow on the tv anchors' faces, as in Japan there is no commensurately gloating reaction to the bow; the general feeling is more like gratitude for the effort at cultural politeness, a characteristic alien to the mentally isolated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


NEVER THE TWAIN: THE BOWSHAKE


Americans, who lack general experience in bowing and curtsying, unlike folks who are subject to kings, emperors and whatnot, have a sort of ingrained antipathy toward self-humbling actions. Americans traditionally prefer the straightforward manly handshake, the ancient way of showing that one held no weapons, basically an expression of mutual distrust.

Thus the conservative outrage that Obama is bowing to the Japanese Emperor, on the imperial turf, no less, as though submitting to imperial authority. But it's clear that the outragers don't understand the true dimensions of bowing. Surprisingly, neither did Obama (who grew up in Hawaii where there is much Japanese tradition, or at least exposure to it), because in terms of bow language, the Obama effort - not being even in the bowing ballpark, so to speak - is essentially meaningless: a gibberbow.

Obama awkwardly bowing semi-deeply before the only slightly bowing emperor, while shaking the imperial hand in almost an upward direction, was seen on the news here but not too much; politely, it was not emphasized or dwelt upon. In other words, it was weird, but not offensive, as it might be if it were done by another Japanese or an Asian dignitary from a nation with a history of nobility. The Japanese, being such an intensely polite society, are old hands at forgiving the etiquette faults of foreigners (among the many cliches: soap in the bathwater, shoes in the house, chopsticks stuck in the rice, and on up the ladder of severity). Another mitigating factor is that the Japanese greatly admire Obama.

The unspoken puzzle that I'm sure is being privately pondered here, however, is why in the world Obama, a head of state who appears to be seriously fussy about the social niceties, didn't ask about and wasn't coached to the slightest extent on how to meet the Emperor: THAT is the big mystery. But from the Japanese perspective, it's part of the same big old mystery that the West has always been. Not to mention the vice-versaness of the situation.

What Obama should have done, if he wanted to bow, was to bow from the shoulders with hands held formally beside the thighs, as the Emperor is doing. Nixon, a practicing autoimperialist, got it right with Hirohito.

You have to admire Akihito though, who had clearly been expecting just a good old American handshake. He took the bizarre bowshake right in stride-- a real pro. When you’ve been bowed at as much as he has, you've seen it all.

w/thanks to Karen S. for the nudge...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


MAX


To be honest, I had never seen a happier mushroom. And that unexpectedly - as if anyone ever expected to see even a happy mushroom - but so it was. I hadn't been thinking of mushrooms at all, which is my normal state of mind, generally. I can go many days without thinking of mushrooms.

For example, I hadn't thought of mushrooms for about a week, I believe-- it's not easy to quantify mushroom-thoughtless durations-- then this morning I totally maxed out my mushroom thought quota by harvesting a few new shiitake that had emerged after the big rains of recent days (I tend to harvest them young before they grow too big and before monkeys, snails or other bugs can take advantage of my largesse). So much for mushroom mentation over the next few days, or so you'd think.

Then this afternoon I was just back from bucking some oak trees up mountain and was putting the chainsaw away, my lunch hunger growing by the minute, when I noticed an alien object atop the firewood stack nearest the tool shed. What could be forming that weird shape - in sort of an ET color - I went closer and saw that it was the biggest shiitake I have ever seen - though I expect there may be bigger ones down the line.

Last autumn I had spontaneously used one of the thinner Jumbo shiitake-inoculated logs I mentioned in an earlier post to hold down the plastic sheeting atop the firewood, and that one log had put its entire focus into sending up just one mushroom, which because of its odd location had not been noticed by insect, monkey or human, until I was the first to behold its magnificence. I ran off at once to get my camera to photograph this monster, since I had spazzed out on my previous Jumbo photo-op (as also indicated in said post), and as I was about to snap the photo I realized I had to put some object in there for scale, 'cause this thing was just too big, so I put in a cigarette lighter that I always carry for burning tree trimmings etc., but a bright red plastic cigarette lighter just seemed inappropriate, not to say garish and profane in the august presence of this Caesar of funguses, so I took off my glasses and put them on top of it, took the photograph and saw that the mushroom was quite handsome with my glasses on, they seemed to fit that noble countenance - in fact the mushroom seemed to be quite smiley now that he could see clearly.

His name is Max. He makes a peerless garlic-mushroom fettuccine.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


KYOTO JOURNAL - FALL 2009

Kyoto Journal #73 Now Out

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009


TRUE EVOLUTION


Hope is good, though not as good as potatoes. Anyway, I think I'm getting better at this. Yesterday morning I was doing something in the kitchen when I happened to look out the big window and saw, beyond the cord of firewood, the head of a monkey. In a familiar landscape, random monkey heads sort of jump out at you.

I instantly deduced that the monkey wasn't hanging out on the other side of the woodpile like a teenager at the mall, but was in the vegetable garden. I knew this because on the monkey head was a monkey face and on that face was a monkey mouth, and in that mouth was not a monkey potato, but a Brady potato. Monkeys are too dumb to grow potatoes.

At that point I ran out and threw a smartstone at the instantly distant monkeys. There were three I could see now, where they stopped to pause and look back upon their thieving past (to ponder and perhaps begin to repent their evil ways, turn upon a righteous path, now there's a laugh, though some of our species have allegedly managed to do it), two females and a troublesome youngster they were welcome to.

I went out to the garden to assess the damage and found that only one beast had gotten a potato; the others had been distracted by the leftover and finally reddened tomatoes I'd left hanging from the fence netting for just that purpose, and it had worked: two of the three brigands had opted for the right-there easy and old tomatoes, rather than the underground dirt-covered maybe potatoes, onions or carrots. That little margin of extra time and monkeybelly fullness, plus my increasingly acute sensitivity regarding simian proximity - I like to think of it as a sort of monkey radar - had enabled my prompt response in chasing them off.

As I watched them watching me from across the road, though, it occurred to me that although I might offhandedly think that monkeys are too stupid to grow potatoes, it may be that, since they can have my potatoes even when I'm home, they may in fact simply be not dumb enough to need to grow potatoes, and they know it. There's always that unsettling quality in their eyes, when they look back from a distance beyond reach of my mere stones, their cheeks stuffed with one of my big new potatoes.

The course of true evolution does not run smooth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


IS THERE TRUTH IN GOVERNMENT?


U.S. Unemployment Rates (SGS: Shadow Govt Stats)

But why would the government lie? Aren't the people the government? Why would they lie to themselves? Either they're not the selves they think they are, or they're not the government they think they are... There seems to be a major fallacy in the framework, something the people don't want themselves to know... Wonder what it is...

In any case, now that Wall Street knows what it can get away with, better watch out below!

+

"Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), BP (BP), Total (TOT), Shell (RDS.A), Deutsche Bank (DB) and Societe Generale (SCGLY.PK) founded the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in 2000. ICE is an online commodities and futures marketplace. It is outside the US and operates free from the constraints of US laws. The exchange was set up to facilitate 'dark pool' trading in the commodities markets. Billions of dollars are being placed on oil futures contracts at the ICE and the beauty of this scam is that they NEVER take delivery, per se. They just ratchet up the price with leveraged speculation using your TARP money. This year alone they ratcheted up the global cost of oil from $40 to $80 per barrel."
--The Global Oil Scam

+

"I believe we have not begun to see a fraction of the damage inflicted on Western economies by the sociopathic, short-sited banksters and their control of government. Perhaps that is why we see so little rage. People really have no idea what is coming."
Richard B.

+

“Bloomberg reported: 'Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.' Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


GETTING WARM


Living out here on a mountainside with a woodstove has taught me, among many other things, that firewood warms you not just twice, as the old saying goes, but a number of times: once for each day you work to earn the money to buy the land the wood grows on; once when you and at least five muscled friends carry the large cast-iron stove into the living room from the truck parked out on the road; once when you assemble and put up the intricate snake of stovepipe and link it way up there to the ceiling; once when you realize that creosote is running down the outside of the stovepipe because you assembled it upside-down; once when you take down the stovepipe, clean it off, reverse it and put it back up again; once when you come within a whisker of being mulched by a falling tree; once when you cut the tree into sections; once when you cut the sections into sections that fit the stove; once when you split the sections into firewood; once when you just miss your foot with the axe; once each time you learn that firewood knows where your toes are; once when you stack the firewood; once when you restack the firewood where it won't be buried under the next meter of snow; once each time you re-cover all the stacks every time the wind blows the covers off even with those huge rocks you put on them; once when you put those huge rocks on them; once when you finally build a woodshed; once when you carry an armful of wood through a howling snowstorm into the house at night without slipping on the ice or tripping over the cat; once when you at last burn the wood; once when with your clean pajamas on and holding a drawerful of ash you open the door into a high wind; once when you clean the stove at the end of the season; once when you take down and scrub out the stovepipe; once when you nearly fall off the roof while reaming the chimney soot down into a plastic bag taped to the bottom of the chimneypipe where it enters the living room ceiling; once when you go inside and find out that the plastic bag came off the chimney at the first ream; once when you clean up the soot all over the living room; once when you take the top of the stove off to replace the combustor because you've been burning green wood; once when you have a stovepipe fire; once when you have to pay for the new combustor; once when you finally pay for the stove; once when you see the spark burns in the carpet, and I'm sure there are lots more but before it gets dark I've got to go restack the firewood where the wind won't blow it over.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


THE SPEED OF FUNGUS


A couple years ago I selected a number of good oak branches from among some fresh firewood oak trees I'd been given, and set them aside out in the garden under the chestnut tree until the annual late-autumn sale of shiitake spore. At spore time I went to the farm store where, in addition to standard shiitake spore, they were selling spore for a new shiitake I’d never heard of, called JUMBO shiitake. The photos looked impressive so I decided to give it a try; anyway I already had a lot of logs producing the standard shiitake.

By the time I got started, I had so many logs waiting under the chestnut tree it took me a while to get them all inoculated, plus the weather was on-and-offy, plus the old drill finally gave out after years of struggling against sheer oak and I had to get a new drill, then the spore-plug-sized drill bit broke and I had to go find another one right in the middle of log-drilling-bit-demand season, each delay extending the task (ideally, fresh cut logs should be inoculated asap, or at most within 6 weeks) while the logs waited on the ground. I finally wrapped up the JUMBO inoculation quite a bit over schedule.

Leaving the logs on the ground like that, like any old fallen-in-the-forest logs, was not a good idea - indeed in some mushroom quarters it would be considered log abuse - but I didn't know that at the time. In the next couple of years I learned, though, as I watched various fungal growths emerge from my now sullied logs. Despite the impressive fungal diversity, though, there were no signs of JUMBO shiitake-- not even minijumbo shiitake. I began to think that my mushroom ambitions had been crowded out by these fungal opportunists that do have their proper place in nature, which is anywhere far from the elite society of my select logs. I’m beginning to sound like the bad guy in a Capra movie.

In fact the fungal world put on quite a display using my logs - all at the speed of fungus - for my painful education: wild species of all descriptions I had not seen or noted before, that apparently were always lying in wait for innocent logs to come along; they were now partying big time. There were shelvy fungi and droopy fungi, hard liquescent ones and rubbery ones, even hairy fungi, some of them probably glowed in the dark too, even sang to each other in the evening… ah, but you get the drift of my mushrooming despair... Yes, not only would there be no JUMBO mushrooms for yours truly, there would be less than none, given the profusion of undesired species; what's more, it would take at least three years for me to find out for sure!

Thus it was on that early morning that I passed by without even wanting to look at the mongrel shiitake logs on my way to the compost heap - not that I was going to jump in or anything - things weren't that bad, I was just going to toss on some kitchen garbage - and I bumped into something at knee height that felt like the edge of a sofa. I looked down and saw that it wasn’t a sofa, it was a mushroom!

Altogether there were about 8 sofa edges in this first emergence. Apparently these babies, unlike their conventional relatives, are not much affected by mere intrusions of feral spore. Even only 8 of them was too much for us. We carried a couple over to some big-eating neighbors. I sliced a small one thin, as per one of my shroom recipes, and had it for a large lunch. Great flavor, pleasantly al dente as compared to the standard shiitake, plus did I say they're HUGE. Just picture the edge of a sofa. They were gone before I could get any photos, but next time...

So to get to my point, when I recently got some good Jumbo shiitake logs from my clearing work with Mr. H., while I'm waiting for the spore to get marketed I've stacked the logs carefully on the dry stone floor under the porch roof, off the ground and out of the rain.

Not that I've got anything against the wild side...

Friday, November 06, 2009


Letter from the grandgirls -
out from the paper tumble
tiny ice cream cone
tiny rose

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


SCHOOL DAYS


Life can turn an interesting corner when you least expect it. This morning I was getting dressed as usual when, for some reason only the deep mind could relate, from out of nowhere I began singing the old song "School Days," then at some point realized what I was singing - it was so chronically (to say nothing of locationally) out of place - and recalled during WWII, while my father was in the army in Europe, when my mother and I in our little apartment (me on the couch) sang ourselves to sleep at night by singing "School Days" together, and in those days (I was about 3 or 4) I just mimed the words. That was the only time I ever heard it, and where I learned it.

But here and now, after all these years, I paid attention, and looked the song up on Wikipedia (pretty sure it wouldn't have been in the old dead-tree Britannica) found out it had been written in 1907, before my mother was was born.

So although the song was known to her it must have been a hit in my great-grandmother's elderhood, because it was about an elderly couple recalling their school days, which must have been before the Civil War! (My G-G was born in 1852, so in 1907 she would have been about my age now). Things sure were different then:

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
[Only three subjects!]
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
[Liberal corporal punishment!
With a stick fashioned by the teacher!
Hickory! Heavy! Long-lasting!]
You were my queen in calico
[Calico was the standard for females!]
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
[No shoes was the standard for males!]
You wrote on my slate,
[No pencil or paper!]
"I Love You Joe"
[I always thought it was 'so']
When we were a couple o' kids.
[Back before the Civil War!]

So this elderly couple in 1907 are looking way back to their pre-Civil War childhood, when a bit of grade schooling was about it for most kids. And here I was now, at that elder age, in a room on a mountainside in Japan singing a song recollecting a time when Lincoln was just a lawyer and there were slaves, a song that my great-grandmother loved and probably taught to my mother as a child, who taught it to me as a child while we sang ourselves to sleep during another war...

And then, from about the same promontory of age as my great-grandmother when the song came out, from here on the other side of the world I hark back and segue effortlessly into the version of my own adolescence, School Days by Chuck Berry: "U-up in the mornin' and off to school..." No song to sing yourself to sleep with, but then we had transistor radios. Shoes and notebooks too, but love was still the same.

Monday, November 02, 2009


RAINBOW CONTESTS


I love these autumny days of hingy weather when the sky puts on one cloud show after another, the whole big blue going all cumulo for a while, then getting horsetaily, then grayloomy then puffy again, and darkling as the winds rise and the rains go wild for a bit until the rainbow contests, when the leaves join in and start showing off too, all afternoon toward evening when the weather gets really ditzy, doesn't know which way to turn because its just so interesting being weather, you can do so much with heat and cold, watch this!, wind and calm, see that? rain and sun, whoa! which will it be, right to the minute so the wind is blowing now but it stopped raining - no wait, there's another rainbow - then it rains and is cloudy but no sunny and warm now cold and windy but calm at the moment and so on all the way into darkness but the sky doesn't sleep of course, for the sky it's 24 hours a day for eons

Saturday, October 31, 2009


THE BIG PICTURE


So there I was back at home this evening following a longlabor afternoon of sectioning oak logs (ones I'd felled on Wednesday with H-san), to get branches and upper trunk segments of the right size for my next batch of shiitake logs, the rest to go for firewood. Got home worn out, unloaded the shiitake logs from the car and stacked them on the stones of the porch, not on the ground, so they don't get alienly inoculated by wild soil spores while I wait for the jumbo shiitake spore to come on the seasonal market.

Then because it's going to rain heavily tomorrow, I covered the treeshrugged firewood I wrote about earlier (no time for restacking today, busy morning, Echo off up north this AM to visit family) and did some other essential dayend stuff till everything was done, after which I shuffled tiredly up to the deck to go into the house and have some tea, chill out before dinner, when I realized I had to go around to the front-- I'd locked the house before I went out, and had only the front door key.

As I was plodding tiredly back across the deck and down the stairs, grumping in the base human way about the camel-straw troubles I have to go through, my motorcycle (parked by the corner of the deck) rose up in my field of vision and I realized I had to cover that too-- that was why I hadn't gone full-wittedly straight to the front of the house: I wouldn't have seen the uncovered motorcycle!

I knew this from the dialog that was echoing in my head: clearly a little godplay had gone on in wherever heaven is, an elder god saying to what sounded like a teenage apprentice deity:
"Brady forgot to cover his motorcycle again; make him absentmindedly go up on the deck and try to get into house that way so he'll have to come around the other way and see his motorcyle; then he can cover it before dark so it won't get rained on," and the teenager said:
"Me? Why me? Why do I get all the nothing jobs?"
"Because if you want to become a full-fledged god you'll do what you're told, that's why! If you don't, you'll wind up human again; is that what you want?"
"No, no, ok, I'll do it. Sorry, I-- I don't know what came over me."

Thus it was that I did what I did and was now ungrumped. I was made to cover my motorcycle cause it's gonna rain hard tomorrow, and the gods didn't want me to forget. So as I went around to the front door with everything now done, I sent some waves of thankthought heavenward so as to maybe ungrump that teenager, told her to hang in there. It helps to see the big picture.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


TREE SHRUGS


And I thought I was so smart. Wealth can do that to you. By wealth I mean firewood, which, to the frugal, is the same as money. In fact, for some time now I have been the Scrooge McDuck of firewood, but with no room left in the vault. Because of my growing wealth, even as I did the backstroke through my firewood holdings I was running out of storage space; then I realized that in addition to stacking my woody ingots in the usual way, I could use the many cedars that edge my property as single support ends for stacks! When that space too was used up, I realized that I could stack wood between the trees themselves, using two trees as both end supports, which was a great idea and expanded my outdoor vaultage considerably; but at the time, even at my age, I was unaware that trees shrug their shoulders so close to the ground.

I would come out some mornings after a windy night and see a firewood stack now scattered all over like pickup sticks and think: I didn't stack that right, must've been tilted so much that it was a windy pushover. So I'd restack it as level as an oak floor, but a month later, one morning it would be spread all over the ground again, even getting rained on sometimes - weather loves to add insult to injury - and I thought there must have been a hell of a wind during the night, near hurricanes do sometimes blow stacks over.

Then the big wooden nickel dropped: these recidivist stacks were all between trees. High up, the trees were shrugging in the wind, and the nanoshrugs down near the ground were slowly nudging the firewood toward instability, until... So I started tending to the stacks with my big wooden maul; every once in a while I'd make the rounds and pound the intertree stacks back into alignment. One evening a couple of days ago I noticed that one of the later longish stacks was bowed out at the top and would topple at the next high wind, so I intended to get at it the next day, which was yesterday - there were no winds coming up.

It rained hard all day, though, due to a hurricane far off the coast, with no wind here, so I decided to wait for another day. But last night the tail of the hurricane lashed us briefly after dark and there must have been considerable arboreal shrugging, till around 11 o'clock at night as I was getting ready for bed I heard a big crash outside like the high-speed collision of two heavily loaded giant marimba trucks. I started to say what the hell was that, but only got to about wha- when I realized what it was. This morning, when I went out to head for work in the Big City, there in my garden lay the wreckage of dozens of giant marimbas.

Tomorrow I'll restack all those ingots somewhere beyond the reach of tree shrugs. Labor is the better part of wealth anyway.

Monday, October 26, 2009


HAPPY ONIONS


Yesterday after some early morning gardening, while I was busy editing the doorbell rang; it was Mr. H. from Uji, who has some land upmountain. He had stopped by to ask if I wanted any rice straw. He was taking a whole truckful from his home paddy up to use on his garden, and had more straw than he needed, so he stopped by.

I don't have a rice paddy, but I've always kept an eye out for any rice straw lying around that was clearly abandoned, which is the same thing as saying I've never had any rice straw. The rice stalks left over after threshing are an excellent groundwarmer and natural fertilizer, commonly used on the vegetable fields of rice farmers. You can buy it at the farm store in bags for about must be a dollar an ounce, but that's mainly for folks in apartments with patio gardens, where a few ounces is enough.

It was also good that Mr. H. had stopped by because, as he is a heavy duty power-shoveling big rock-moving kind of landscaper, and has let me have a lot of firewood from his lands, in small recompense I had mail-ordered a pair of steel-toed rubber boots for him from Gempler's, so now I could give them to him. He has a great smile.

After we'd unloaded and piled up some rice straw next to the garden, he said that today he was going to fill in a slope up there on some old residential land he'd just bought and was restoring, so needed some straggler trees cleared, and did I have time to get started today, I said sure, and so it was that instead of editing words I wound up editing the landscape, felling, bucking and loading firewood both morning and afternoon, a welcome change from raw syntax.

It's raining today, so I get to do some overdue editing, but looking out the window at the new cord of wood beside all the bales of rice straw, I just had the thought: that straw will sure make the onions happy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


WHERE IS MY MIND
?

I love it when, like last night after a long day in the office, on the train home I'm sitting among all the staid salarymen of mostly older years who live outside the city, and after listening to an elderhoodly interesting podcast on history or science I suddenly have a craving for some mindscouring tunerush so I dive into for example the Pixies' Surfer Rosa, one of my dozens of top 10 albums ever, with Bone Machine for starters, get down, and Where Is My Mind not long after, whoa, I crank it UP, let's wail, and all at once the nearer heads turn to see what that odd new tiny pounding and screaming noise is, and wonder why those little drumsounds and microriffs are squealing out of my silverhaired head as factoids of puzzlement begin crawling all over their faces: what is this casually dressed, ponytailed elder with two gold earrings listening to?

Other earphoners my age are mellowing out to classical music perhaps, or maybe golden oldies from the Heian era, some koto tunes, catchy J-pop items of the 1930s or kabuki music, who knows, I can't hear it, but you can bet your last guitar pick they ain't listening to anything like the Pixies, who rule this particular train.

"Where is my mind, where is my mind, wheeeeere is my mind...
Waaaaay out on the water, see it swimming..."

Total.
***

In which connection, a GenX take on this reality:
Why Our Parents Were Cooler Than We Are Now
When They Were Our Age


Friday, October 23, 2009


FILM ON DOLPHIN HUNT STIRS OUTRAGE IN JAPAN; TOKYO FILM FESTIVAL COPS OUT


"Despite the film’s enthusiastic reception at the festival — a round of applause broke out at the end of the film — it is unclear whether it will spark a wider public debate. Whale and dolphin hunting is considered an important part of Japan’s traditional livelihood and culinary culture, a practice to be defended against foreign interference — even though only a minority of Japanese eat whale meat, and even fewer eat dolphin.

The Tokyo Film Festival initially rejected 'The Cove' as too controversial, but reversed its decision at the last minute after lobbying from Hollywood heavyweights like Ben Stiller, who has taken a personal interest in it. The festival, however, screened a disclaimer stating it had nothing to do with the film’s production.

'The feeling here is that the world needs to respect cultural differences,” said Testsu [sic] Sato, a professor in environmental management at Nagano University. 'Why should there even be a debate on this issue?'" Full NY Times article

That's not the feeling everywhere. The same argument has long been used to preserve cultural traditions that are today widely acknowledged to be abominations. Some cultures abominate longer than others.

And "eco" is THE buzzword in Japan nowadays...! Even politicians use it!



Thursday, October 22, 2009


BIG RED LIPS


Today after lunch I came back to the office carrying a suspicious-looking bag with odd bulges in it that contained, if you must know, pairs of big red lips, big red-tipped noses, round red clown noses and a few masks.

They weren't for my own use - my Groucho glasses days are pretty much over, now that I look a lot like Groucho the elder as is - nor were the items for a bank job or anything, no anonymous escapade - though right off I can think of at least a dozen capers that would be cool and interesting, if societally questionable under the alien circs - fact is, I got these goodies for granddaughter Halloween chuckles. I'll add them to the EccentriCare package Echo is sending to the wee ones tomorrow.

I'm just doing my part to nurture the eccentric aspects of their individual natures, which will be severely challenged by their education. I made it through my education and was able to reassemble pretty well, and I hope they can too. It helps to have help when the other side is so vast and well agenda'd from way before your lifetime. I was going to say that it will be harder for them here in Japan, but I was educated in deep Catholic schools all the way through high school, so maybe it will be easier for them. Still, big red lips and a Groucho mask can go a long way toward restoring and maintaining the broad center that personal freedom stands strongest on.

I wasn't much tempted to put the goodies on and wear them into the office, though the thought did cross my mind, for thoughts do pretty much what they want in there, but anyway I've already done that stuff. After all, I have a reputation to uphold here, whatever it may be, I 'm not sure exactly, there are so many possibilities, this being a way foreign culture and all, but I suspect thick red lips or glasses and a eye-opening mustache would do little to enhance my reputation as a guy who frequently does that kind of stuff already.

Besides, I bought them for the granddaughters, who are still young enough to not know about somber office reps and suchlike. That breadth of freedom must be nourished early so it may survive the coming rigors, and the centers of themselves be made as large as they can make them before the balancing begins.

For that, you need your own fresh pair of big red lips, not ones your grandfather wore.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


THE LONG SURPRISE


From an unknown depth it rises, the delight it always is when the garlic first comes up, my surprise no doubt as ancient as the life the garlic holds, that just a week ago I planted in broken-up cloves and went on gardening day-to-day here and there, doing the little winter-readying tasks, until one afternoon I glance down at where there had been only earth, where now are small green tongues pushing up to sample anew this ancient reality, to speak of being, take some nourishment, gain some strength that in us is courage, to push further into days toward the wholeness each contains, every rising life a tiny measure of the long surprise.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Crow in cedar
beside open window
diggin' Stan Getz

Saturday, October 17, 2009


JAPAN ENVIRONMENTAL EXCHANGE

2010 ECO-CALENDAR NOW OUT


"J.E.E. stands for Japan Environmental Exchange. It is a citizens' non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. J.E.E. disseminates information on environmental issues and carries out international exchanges between people working for the environment. In addition to publishing our annual Eco-Calendar, J.E.E. also publishes and distributes High Moon's GOMIC, eco-cartoon book series, as well as his book of essays and cartoons about the environment, Picturecology.

We also put out a monthly information sheet, hold Green English classes and discussions, perform an original environmental puppet theater that stars the "Eco-neko".
J.E.E. carries a range of environmentally- friendly goods such as chopstick pouches , organic coffee from East Timor, fair trade handicrafts, and T-shirts and cloth shopping bags with delightful illustrations by High Moon on them. Please consider becoming a member or making a purchase to support our activities!"

Friday, October 16, 2009


SUCCESSFULLY NOT CLEANING THE STOVEPIPE


Managed for a whole nother weekend not to clean the stovepipe: not bad for a guy whose primary weekend mission for approximately the past month has been to clean the stovepipe.

That same steadfastness of purpose kept me from getting a full-time job for almost 20 years after college; it has served me well, and it's something I never learned in school. I feel that steadfastness to be something far more ancient than such contrivances as schools and jobs, and at least as primitive as humanity itself.

It is said that aboriginal man actually labors for subsistence only 1/3 of the time; the rest is spent in whatever manner in that culture is best suited, metaphorically speaking, to not cleaning the stovepipe.

However, it is getting colder, and we will need to use the stove pretty soon, plus there's a three-day weekend coming up, or so the ants in me keep telling the grasshopper in me; this might therefore be the ideal time to really push the envelope regarding not cleaning the stovepipe.

Me and aboriginal humans, we're like this (two fingers twisted together like DNA).

Thursday, October 15, 2009


YOU HAVEN'T BEEN LISTENING


When you're talking to yourself and you realize you haven't been listening, then one or both of you has to make an adjustment. Either you have to become more interesting, less of a mealy-mouthed drone and more of a discerning speaker with a spellbinding style that captivates you, or you have to learn how to pay considerate attention and listen intelligently, instead of mind-meandering all over the place while you're trying to make a point.

Conversely, you can maybe stop talking to yourself so much and start talking more to other distinctly individual persons, or you can just shut up for a while and see if you feel like you're really missing anything. Maybe in the meanwhile take some elocution classes, or join a listening-impaired focus group. Or both.

This realization came to me yesterday when I was soloing the usual drive along the Lake and got to speaking out loud on something I was thinking about, when at some point realized I wasn't listening to what I'd been saying (merely polite and distracted responses), like I was some obnoxious chatperson on the train I had to indulge-- and I was doing it all by myselves.

We truly do like solitude, but we can go too far.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


THE TORCH OF COOL


During the Inquisition that was my teenage days, now way back there in mythohistory along with Achilles, Thermopylae and all that other stuff I've forgotten about since high school, I remember being puzzled as to why the grownups, then perceived as the nearly dead, were so revolted by my super-slick D.A. haircut with a rattail in front, my cherry-red sweater-vest with the black-gray-and-white-striped border over my knockout black shirt with the gold front panel tucked into my ultracool slim-belted 14-inch-pegged white flannel slacks with rattail comb sticking out of the back pocket, the pantcuffs breaking perfectly on my high-sided ox-blood cordovan ducks with a diamond shine. I couldn't figure out the attitude of the nearly dead, in the microseconds I gave it any thought. But in the fundamental certainty that unites all teenagers I was sure that anyway the old was gone forever and the new was here to stay. This was it. The style was set in stone.

I'd be wearing pegged pants and cordovan ducks and a DA haircut when I was 80, and my kids and their kids would too, all the way to the end of time, because who would ever need more than life requires, which is to be the coolest of the cool for as long as possible? And when at last one light-years-distant day I had miraculously reached the ancient age of fifty, I wouldn't have to manifest the revulsion I saw every day on the faces of the nearly dead of the 1950s toward the hypercool duds of the new era.

But now I've reached that half-century mark that was once so far away, the hair's a bit thin for a DA and rat-tail, even if I had the desire, not to mention the time, the grease and the warped sense of history, to create them; 14-inch pegged pants, I'd have to let them out at the waist and thighs, probably even the ankles; and red sweater vest over black gold-panel shirt, forget it, I haven't got the body for that, let alone an interest in defending garments. What's more, I haven't seen a pair of cordovan ducks in a shoe store for over fifty years now; and anyway, why the hell would I want to look like a 50's teenager in my 60s? And who would know but other sixty-year-olds from Elm Street? Wherever they are now.

Besides, now that I've passed my Achilles-equivalency and had hands-on experience with the Thermopylae factor, and having realized all too clearly that I myself am now one of the nearly dead-- in other words, now that I perceive (as only the nearly dead can) the fingerpoppin' transience of things, especially teenagers and teenage fads, I stop and look at the teenagers grungeing along around me, the females dressed like Crazy Jane with their hair done to look like they've just been saved from drowning, the guys with hair like somebody ran their heads through wet concrete, their bodies layered in torn t-shirts hanging out of these at-the-knees pants you could catch a cow in one leg of that end cuffless above shoes my great grandfather would have thought the ultimate in style and I can't help it: I want to say something dissuasive to these little boys as they slag down the street like the ultimate rag men, I want to say something corrective to these little girls walking by like 14-year-old bag ladies, but what for? Teenagers can't hear, as I remember.

So instead, like King Lear I cry to the darkening sky, 'Whatever happened to sharpness?' To the rains and the winds I shout, 'Where is the cool of yesteryear?' But the weather does not answer, any more than it did for Lear or my father or his father before him, when they too stood stumped on the doorstep and watched the kids go beyond reach reach in some incomprehensible fashion, and it comes to me that each new group, in stepping out thus, flares then in its one bright moment of flaming (or smouldering) youth before growing into age, in its turn bearing the torch of the one true style into eternity; that maybe only great grandfathers in the great beyond can look at what kids wear nowadays and smile, smile at how it has all come round again, just like they always knew it would, to one the true style, the way it is in heaven.