Tuesday, March 31, 2009
THE SECOND MONKEY
So there it was, the big net cube, with snakes inside. Perhaps you recall that netting label photo that I posted in Part 1 (third post below), where, above the monkey on the net is a dark word-balloon that says "Pita!"? That's the Japanese onomatopoetic sound sort of for stoppage of an action (I say 'sort of' because like so much about Japan, it's hard to define; Japanese is full of such bizarrely subtle onomatopoeias, subject of another post). Something about the net that I could not identify would stop the monkey cold: a simian stickiness, an irritation, a scent-- something, there was something about this net that repelled furry red-faced beasts. Would it work? Now all I needed was a monkey.
One morning I was at the kitchen sink looking out over the garden, when down one of the big cedars came the solitary monkey I'd been waiting for. With a look of simian curiosity on his face, he ambled over to the netted garden containing some of his preferred vegetables, sat there at the side for a few moments sussing out the situation. He examined the bottom of the netting carefully, then scanned the top of the netting and did some advanced calculations. (Monkeys live in total adherence to an obscure economic principle that lies at the very heart of money, and that Krugman doesn't even talk about: "The greater the effort, the lower the value." You can't get much frugaler than a monkey.)
Algorithms completed, the beast then ambled over to the side of the garden away from the house and sat there peering through the net, seeing what was here and there: coupla fake yellow snakes, coupla fake orange snakes, monkey's onions, bob's garlic, chard and cabbage, monkey's carrots, bob's parsley, monkey's potatoes etc.
Then he made his move: ZAM! Straight to the top of the pole, in direct contact with the net, without the slightest sign of Pita! I, a rather solid skeptic, had fallen for-- monkey-trouble advertising, of all things. I had trusted a label! Just because it had a monkey beneath a little onomatopoetic stoppage sound on it! It had shown me what I wanted to see and I had fallen for it... I should have looked more closely at the second monkey on the label as I'm doing now, observing that the fellow beast is not only enjoying himself, he is inside the net! In fact, perhaps they both are! Or not. That's so the net makers can't be sued for false advertising. So I ran out and chased the real monkey away in person as usual.
Nevertheless, as one-sided as this ongoing struggle may appear, I don't let it get to me, because I'm a monkey too - a more advanced monkey, even - so I must have a pretty good shot at enjoying my own onions, right? I can be as devious as the next beast, right?
All I have to do is emulate Wall Street.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Yesterday afternoon Echo and I went down mountain a bit to scavenge some wild cherry logs (I'm going to try making some cherrywood cutting boards out of some of them) that had been piled there by the landowner, a landscaper who is creating/cleaning up a garden or scaping someones land somewhere. I chainsawed and we carried and stacked sectioned logs amid the bamboo forest for a couple of hours until it would soon be getting too dark, so we called it quits; Echo drove the loaded car back home and I walked up.
Coming out of the tunnel under the highway as I have a few thousand times, thinking about something other than where I was, I was surprised once more by the way the mountains suddenly appear, spread out up there in a high horizon, the whole long chain of darkling snow-capped peaks textured with their spring robes, rising into the Prussian-blue sky that comes at dusk this time of year when the sky is clear, and as my eyes savored the sight, my lungs savored the air, the very cream of air, that comes sliding down from those forested slopes toward the Lake at evening, washing and filling me with the ki of mountainsides...
I just stopped and stood, seeing and breathing, exalting at this privilege, that I could walk here, breathe here, simply open my eyes to view these mountains, merely turn to see the Lake spread out like cooling silver in a dark surround...
And then go up home.
Friday, March 27, 2009
THE NETTY BEAST
So as per the ongoing Cube Noir affair, I went to big farm store and headed for the section where they had all the various kinds of nets farmers use around here to keep away every animal that wants their onions or whatever, and of course was looking in my case specifically for monkey nets. There were lots of dog nets, bird nets, deer nets, pig nets, politician nets, financier nets, you name it, but only one kind showed cartoon monkeys cartoon-freaking-out at the mere touch of the cartoonily miraculous product and I said that's for me. The label said 20 x 4 meters, so I got two of them.
Interesting thing about nets, especially large, fine nets, like I found out mine was when I unpacked it: they love buttons, hatbrims, fingers, collars, heels, toes, tools, whatever you have on, and they can be unexpectedly frisky, plus they're fast - especially if there's a wind - and threaten to capture you right there in your own garden. Another interesting net characteristic is their shapeshifting capabilities. For example, a 20 x 4 meter net can easily acquire a length of 40 or even 50 meters!
Which I was most pleased to discover, as I stretched my new net so conveniently and easily (apart from the playful button grabbing) around my 8 x 7-meter perimeter, moving the ladder a meter or two at a time (nets also love ladders to no end) until at last I stepped down and sought to fasten the bottom of my net to the ground, when I realized that it was now about 50 x 1. So I put myself in reverse and undid the whoooooole thing (with button and ladderplay), then sat at a safe distance from the seething netty beast and pondered the actuality of the situation.
I realized as darkness fell that there are certain instances, such as when putting up a large garden net for the first time in your life, in which forethought is a vain undertaking.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
FOUND IN TRANSLATION
The drug used in the present study was a micronized type synthesized by the research department of our pharmaceutical division, which is practically insoluble in water.
That great civilizations once flourished and declined in man's history is indicated by the large relics still remaining in desserts.
If yellow turns into orange, the pocket heater will be fired.
We have prepared these programs just mentioned to present you with as many problems as possible, which we assume will help enhance your understanding of Japan.
Of these symptoms, three cases showed only slight scream.
If it is impossible for you to attend the meeting, could you send a dupty?
Assistance will be provided in making arrangements for visits or appointments with people that you desire.
Now, let's insert a thermometer in the first place.
Please meet in the lobby of the hotel to go to the dinner hosted by the deputy mayor. The bus to the site will be served.
Successful voyages made by Europeans during this period proved that the earth is a glove.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Kneeling to the garden with a handful of seeds, you can't help but grow, to realize the vastness there is to a seed, each one as linked with all eternity as we ourselves.
Timeless it is, to place one seed into the ground - then another - and so on down the row you've made of your portion of time’s garden, holding an endless secret in the palm of your hand, your hand itself a part of the secret, moving from seed to seed as your forebears have done, as eternity has done, until now here you are, doing as eternity does. There is much to a seed.
Monday, March 23, 2009
That mystic scent is in the air, that primal provocation from out of the earth itself, that tells me even at my age to dig out the bag of marbles from wherever I put it last year and, with that intense ardor native to childhood, polish up the catseyes and immies, puries and steelies, then go out and dig my heel into some springsoft earth for potsies - next to a sidewalk is good - or take a stick and engrave a circle on a flat piece of ground and rustle up some serious play-for-keeps ringsies, with no dropsies, or stompsies-- or I could dust off my silver and gold yo-yo and practice Sleeping and Rock the Cradle and Walk the Dog, essential skills every one, because soon the Philippine yo-yo champs will be coming for their spring visit to the candy but yo-yo store over by school, where they'll stand outside for an afternoon and chat with the bouncy crowd of yo-yo fans who'll come from all over the neighborhood, the champs will do some new tricks, teach some old tricks, amaze us all with the yo-yo possibilities of life, maybe even carve some palm trees into the sides of my yo-yo, impart some tropical magic for doing those new tricks, what excitement, Spring is here...
Friday, March 20, 2009
BRADY DECIDES TO GIVE HIMSELF A BONUS
Cracking me up at the moment is the the sight of the American public and its elected officials - who in accordance with the new trickle-up theory have been giving away their descendants' economy - getting rabid over the fact that on the way out of the public bank with their arms full of billions of taxpayer dollars, one of the thieves bent down and picked up a penny off the floor as a bonus. What an outrage! ($165 million / $1.1 trillion = .015%)
So after a long spell of reading all the mind-numbing economic news from the USA, and following deep and responsible consideration - one doesn't approach such issues lightly - I've decided to give myself a bonus, like the guys at the Big Trough in Washington.
I haven't decided yet how big my bonus will be; it's tricky in my case because, unlike the Wall Streeters, I deserve a bonus more than they do, since I'm not rewarding myself for losing other people's money and haven't committed possible malfeasance, plus I care about appearing too greedy. Integrity can hold you back in this kind of situation.
On the other hand, I don't want my bonus to be too small, because once the job withers and after the foreclosure my pension dries up just as medical care blows away in the economic duststorm that's coming - thanks to the unceasing hand-over-fist work of all those folks at the top of the pyramid - I'm gonna need some long-term partytime backup, so I figure a modest 10 million rapidly shrinking dollars should cover the tab till the next bubble.
First, though, I have to incorporate myself as a failing but needy financial entity that has avoided paying taxes for decades. How does CitiBrady, Morgan, Lynch, Gold, Merrill and Sachsman sound? Mind you, this is not a bailout, it's just humble greed. But at least I'm being honest.
The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — 'our partners in the government,' as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.
The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers."
"When a bank says an asset is worth 60 cents and the market says it's worth 30 cents, someone has to cover that spread. The genius of Geithner's plan is that it pawns most of the cost (and most of the risk) off on the taxpayer without the taxpayer noticing.
But unless the taxpayer gets stuck with the entire spread, which is probably what Geithner is hoping, banks that sell assets will have to take massive writedowns. This will start the whole cycle of violence again."
Thursday, March 19, 2009
FAKE SNAKE FIASCO
Last week, you remember, I posted about my fake snake project, the next ramp-up in my ongoing efforts on behalf of humanity to keep the monkeys away from my onions. The original idea was that the jibbering beasts would take one look at my expertly snakish arrangement and run screaming onionlessly for the hills. Well today, the results are in. Talk about tenterhooks!
According to the data, you can mothball your tenterhooks, folks. Once more the monkeys turned out to be smarter than this particular so-called homo sapiens gave them credit for. They didn't exactly point at my fake snakes and laugh, or anything like that, they didn't hold their bellies and roll on the ground or slap their thighs while gasping for air at sight of the so-called realistic serpentry, like I probably would have if the shoe was off the other foot and these were monkey onions spread out before me.
However, it's not as though the hairy marauders were gracious and forebore; to monkeys, graciousness and forebearance are just a couple of the many incredible ways in which humans simply throw time right out the window, even when there are onions at hand! However, the fake snake incident will no doubt be featured on the local simian news, in addition to serving as a standup comedy theme in hot monkey night clubs and on popular hairy late shows.
According to my detailed onion forensics, the monkeys were not hindered in the slightest by my slinky arrangement; the snakes were left mockingly in situ atop my onion nets, right where the monkeys could smirk at them while munching pawfuls of you know what. Monkeys have their ways of giving humans the old elbow.
Thus I have been driven to the next extremity (is there no end to extremities?), upon which I will report as it wraps me in its folds. Needless to day it will be another acute arc on the learning curve.
Be sure to keep your tenterhooks handy.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sometimes when I'm up in the loft and I turn to look at the Lake lying silver blue in the brown of the mountains' cradle, its far face hazed by a silent wind not yet arrived here, its near face clear as the blue air - the mask of drama removed - I am reminded of the many faces I have seen and places I have been, and it seems as though life is but a storing up of visitations for enjoyment in the elder years, even more than the events themselves were enjoyed at the time, for full enjoyment is a matter of distance, and of depths, that one does not have in youth; for the elder years are when joy is at last in its prime, when youth is at last enjoyed and fulfilled. How sad it is then, if one has done little, and so finds little to look back on. As I turn and look back on the Lake, it is like a looking glass into the past, where sleep all the things that ever were, as though I need only reach out and stir to hide all, or fall to stillness to see all revealed, which is what happens as you grow still with years, and learn that time takes nothing away.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
GARDENS TELL THE TRUTH
Way back when I first started looking more closely at food and nutrition, investigating vegetarianism and discovering terms like 'organic,' I read and heard that organic food was more nutritious and safer to eat than agrobiz produce.
Some years later in Kyoto I met an agricultural engineer who was here from the US lecturing, who assured me profoundly that crops grown organically were nutritionally indistinguishable from non-organic. He was earnest and forthright, and he was an expert, being friendly. I didn't see how I could disbelieve him.
Still, I always bought organic when I could, since that's mere money in exchange for no exposure to pesticides/herbicides etc. I just can't accept that we know more than the big system and our bodies do, that we can outfox Mama Nature. To say nothing of the possibility of big expenditures for medical bills after years of eating Roundup et al., manifesting in illness can never be directly linked to that tomato you ate 20 years ago.
Then this morning, now that the subject of organic food prices is becoming a consideration on the verge of the greatest economic depression ever, I saw this:
"The $4.99 tomatoes are a good illustration.
That's how much one pound of organic tomatoes cost during a recent visit to a supermarket near Michelle Jones' Atlanta home. The founder of the consumer site BetterBudgeting.com said 'there's no way' she would pay such a price. Instead, she searched the produce section and eventually found a non-organic variety that cost $1.69 per pound....From a nutritional standpoint, organic vegetables have no measurable differences than (sic) those grown with conventional methods, according to Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association."
"Organic Foods – a Far More Nutritious Choice
The simplest way back toward health is to focus on whole, organic foods, grown or raised as nature intended. Meaning, it’s grown using sustainable farming practices, and without the use of chemical additives, pesticides and fertilizers.
Food grown in healthier soil, with natural fertilizers and no chemicals, simply has to be more nutritious. It is common knowledge -- though knowledge that is greatly suppressed in the United States.
A 2003 study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, for example, found that organic foods are better for fighting cancer. And in 2005, scientists found that, compared to rats that ate conventional diets, organically fed rats experienced various health benefits. Rats that ate organic or minimally fertilized diets had:
- Improved immune system status
- Better sleeping habits
- Less weight and were slimmer than rats fed other diets
- Higher vitamin E content in their blood (for organically fed rats)
But perhaps one of the best studies out there on the benefits of organic versus conventionally-grown foods is the 2007 QualityLowInputFood Project -- a $25-million study into organic food -- the largest of its kind to date.
The researchers grew fruit and vegetables, and raised cattle, on adjacent organic and non-organic sites, and discovered that: The results were so impressive they stated that eating organic foods can even help to increase the nutrient intake of people who don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day."
The researchers grew fruit and vegetables, and raised cattle, on adjacent organic and non-organic sites, and discovered that:
The results were so impressive they stated that eating organic foods can even help to increase the nutrient intake of people who don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day."
My garden tells me the truth. Use your compost, grow your own. Cheaper than agrobiz cheap, and gives you natural exercise. Tastes better, anyway. Like those just-dug-up organic potatoes in that quiche I had for lunch today.
Friday, March 13, 2009
THIS COULD BE THE START OF SOMETHIN' WEIRD
Hey, I love cute as much as the next guy. Well, maybe not THAT guy, he's registered, but you know what I mean. Cute has its place. Mainly in little kids, teddy bears, baby animals, tiny birdies and - in a tempered way - rational young men and women of higher school age. Cute is fine and good as long as it doesn't become manic, or malignant, or require exorcism. This seems as though it might be all three.
Internationally speaking, things could hardly get any weirder right now, but Japan is going to give it a try, in the ancient Japanese tradition of East-meets-Westness. There's no danger of things getting any shallower.
I doubt if there's a country in the world that hasn't had an ambassadorial embarrassment now and then - to say nothing of electoral disaster - but I don't recall any country actually risking so much on the face of it, other than when Japan tried Doraemon as its anime ambassador at about this time last year, or when a couple months later Hello Kitty gave it a treacly try, efforts that cutely vortexed into ambassadorial black holes from which no later information escaped, a blessing of sorts.
But now, in a continuing advance into whichever cultural depression we're entering at the moment, the Land of the [insert desired verb here] Sun is sending out as its envoys of cuteness three young women who patently do not wish to be other than obsessively formuletically derivativo-permutations of notness regarding whoever they actually are, or might once have been going to be... this gets confusing... Is, like, really cute Japan going, like, anywhere cute?
"We want people abroad to know these kinds of people exist in Japan and to feel close to them."
Damn. I'm beginning to feel cute again. I thought I was over that.
of female beauty in Japanese art
(w/thanks to Delwyn)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
TWO SNAKES SHOULD BE PLENTY
You could say we have a rather eccentric household, what with occasions like the white horse event, the instance of the flying frog, or any number of other accounts buried in these steadily lengthening chronicles that I don't really feel like searching for and linking to so as to emphasize my point beyond refutation, but I suppose now that I at least have two snakes out on the onions and potatoes, that should be enough. Actually the snakes are atop the nets, where unfortunately they're likely to surprise any neighbors or hikers who happen to be strolling by and see a long yellow snake with brown stripes and a long orange snake with black-and-white rings, but what can you do.
I believe these snakes are from somewhere in South America, though I can't swear to that, it didn't occur to me to remember what it said on the packaging since I didn't expect to be writing about the snakes here, but with gardening you never really know, do you. Anyway, monkeys can't read - yet - and South America means nothing to them, as far as I can tell.
I'd been on the lookout for a good rubber snake ever since I saw an article on British gardening that mentioned just dropping a realistic rubber serpent somewhere in your garden to keep cats away, and I thought whoa why not monkeys, they are terrified of snakes and I'll try anything that simple, especially if it terrifies monkeys. But you know how it is, the minute you start looking, there's not a rubber snake within a thousand miles.
As far as I could tell, there were no rubber snakes at all on this side of the Pacific, at least that cost pretty close to zero, my preferred price. Then a surprising number of years later, rubber snakewise, I found some good ones in a 100 yen store and bought them all, then Echo found some more in another store, and before we knew it we were up to our ankles in rubber snakes. When it rains it pours. And they work, too; at least they did the job on a lady acquaintance of ours, who wouldn't even come near our doorway again after she'd seen one of the twins in the living room playing with a long orange snake, even though we assured the gasping lady it was made of rubber. (For some reason the kids are non-terrified; in fact they love our rubber snakes like they were pets.)
So when the season came round the other day I put two of the snakes out. I only put out two because I can't find the others, I suspect the girls hid them here and there for our guests or wandering neighbors to find. Anyway, if the snakes work as well on the monkeys, two will be plenty.
Now if only I can stay awake until the monkeys come.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Late yesterday, after wheeling back and forth with barrows full of split wood from the chopping stump to the new stack - a routine that gets pretty monospective - I finally noticed that all along I'd been being careful about the cluster of ivory and gold daffodils beside the big rock in the shadow of the old oak. All day I'd been edging carefully between them and the wheelbarrow without really thinking about it, and now that I'd stopped my routine I looked at them with eyes I could use for new things and saw that the blossoms actually glowed in the slanting light from the clouded setting sun.
There were a couple dozen flowers on the cluster, but the stalks of half of them had been crimped and toppled by the strong winds. And though those blossoms themselves were down in the dirt, they glowed just as though they still stood unbowed. I could not but be moved by that kind of character, so I rescued them rather than have the wind keep rubbing them in the dirt until they were rags. I cut the bent stalks just above the crimps so that they could stand, then brought them inside to put in a vase in the kitchen where they could shine in the window. As if in thanks, they filled the room with that fragrance that every spring takes me somewhere I know so well and love so strongly, yet have never visited but by the grace of flowers.
Monday, March 09, 2009
THE MONSTER OF PURE LAND MOUNTAIN
You hear them now and then up here, the footsteps coming toward you out of the forest... Let me move this lantern a bit closer--
As I was digging up some dinner potatoes in that countryside silence I was just talking about - it was getting quieter by the minute as the wind died down - I thought I heard what sounded like a large footstep on dry leaves-- then, after a long pause, another footstep; I turned my gaze from the dark depths of the soil and peered around through the darkening air, but there was nothing moving anywhere. I must be imagining things.
Country monsters are like that. They have to leave more to the imagination, there's so much more ground they have to cover to do their jobs. So they're more psychological than city monsters: a rustle here, a footprint there, some long golden hairs there, a legend over the mountain, a blurry photo, a yowl in the night-- pushing those secret buttons we all have.
Most of the big-time monsters - the famous ones like King Kong, Godzilla, Mothra and those guys - that get starring roles in movies and become international icons of monstrosity, are city monsters. Because of their size they need a lot of manipulable artifacts to keep them busy, which they can get in the big cities, with the tall buildings, elevated trains, power stations and so forth, so you couldn't get more obvious than they do in going about their business. They like the city because that's where all the people and peoplestuff is, all the goodies worth destroying, that city monsters can step on, crunch up and rampage though, throw around and roar at.
Roars and hugeness work well in the city, because they're right at home. Hugeness gets small pretty quick in the country though, where there's not much added value to destroy, and mountains plus other major largenesses can make King Kong et al. look embarrassingly toylike. Roars don't really work out here either; the natural silence just soaks them up like a sponge, with no concrete smotherage around for reverberation. As a result of their necessarily repetitive urban habits, you can read city monsters like a book. They're so predictable; no need or desire for subtlety. You want subtlety in a monster, you gotta go to the country.
The countryside calls for subtlety in terms of the frisson because, although fear is cheap in the city, it's rare and imaginative in the country, which is is the home of genuine silence, universal hugeness and mythical darkness, so country monsters don't need to be so pushy and destructive to make their point; they go for the mythos, like Kappa and Sasquatch. Frankenstein was a country boy too. City monsters are as obvious as Broadway and go directly for the PR aspect, whereas country monsters by and large prefer to remain unseen, aim for the shivery subtlety, like big footprints, Kappa rumors, crop circles and so on, a lot of nice stuff that smiley country folks can sell to smiley city folks from roadside stands along with the summer corn. Favorite old folk tales, like the headless horseman, always come from the country.
Country monsters don't need the crude oversized gargantuan approach, the bulk rampages and random devastation; all they require is a sliver of moon, a hooting owl, a rustle of wind or could be a fox through dry leaves, maybe the creak of a door, a fluttering curtain, footsteps on an old wooden floor, or just some innocent out digging up a few potatoes on a darkling afternoon in March after the wind's died down to the silence at the bottom of the mind - Stephen King lives in the country, you know - and the darkness is reaching the point that's perfect for footsteps approaching from the upmountain forest when the waning light plays tricks on the eyes - Edgar Allan Poe had a house in the country also, as perhaps you were aware - out in the country there's a different shiver system. The result is Bigfoot, Nessie, Yeti, goblins, the Honey Island Swamp Monster, Kappa, they've never even been seen, but we have a good idea what they look like, and they're there alright, usually just behind us, rustling leaves out in the dark, just beyond the mind's reach. Like now...
After staring carefully into the forest for a while I returned to digging and before too long I'd swear I heard it again, another footstep... it was coming from behind me, as country monsters do, and it was getting closer-- I must be imagining things, there was nothing there! Back to digging, found a nice potato and--there it was, from right over there behind the old cedar! I saw some leaves shoot out from behind the big trunk as the creature slid to a hiding stop-- then silence, complete country stillness... Whatever was hiding there knew I had seen it, there are bears around here you know, and wild pigs and stags, snakes too-- it was now or never: I knew I'd been right - I got a good grip on my pitchfork - there and then it made its move, showed itself at last as it moved relentlessly toward me, leaves flying this way and that: it was... it was... The Monster of Pure Land Mountain...
Friday, March 06, 2009
THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING...
It's not their money...
I notice that the word
isn't on there anywhere...
What's Dead (Short Answer: All of It)...
Fed payouts to OTC derivative winners via their brokers
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
THE SIZE OF HUNGER
From the archives, March 2003
And as to fast food, for my money there is none better than the ancient but always fresh onigiri, which takes about ten seconds to make from the cooked rice that's always around in the Japanese household, and takes its shape from the hands that made it, usually those of a loving wife or grandma (self-made onigiri just don't taste as good as that kind).