Wednesday, December 31, 2003



At least nominally in the US, though the first day of the Chinese New Year in the US actually falls on January 21st, the new moon day that marks the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar System; whereas under the Chinese Fortune-Telling Calendar system, New Year begins on February 4th, 2004, the first day of Tiger month, the first month of the Fortune-Telling Calendar year. If this all leaves you wondering what day it is, follow these links for:

Details of your birth year on the Chinese calendar

Heavenly stem and earthly branch details

Table of the Five elements 1900-2005


"Japan's 2003 currency intervention hits record 20.06 tril. yen"

With Koizumi printing yen as fast as Greenspan is printing dollars, I guess the dollar/yen illusion could go on indefinitely, as both currencies sink out of sight together. Got gold or silver?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003



Better hold it right side up so Bush can't read it.

Monday, December 29, 2003



Kaya, fresh arrived this evening on a solo visit for the holidays, after washing her hands in the bathroom sink and pulling the plug, when asked where the water was going, answered "It's going home."


From out there in the ether somewhere I just got a piece of email from Abe Lincoln, not addressed to me by name since he wouldn't know me from Bush, but to webmaster@ (but then how would he know that either, the net is full of such mysteries). Since I actually do own the domain (I won't say which domain, that would make me rich) it came by catchall forwarding.

Probably some kind of inter/intraplanar service glitch that was soon rectified, since the email disappeared after about 10 minutes. Abe's address, or at least the one he mailed from, which I wrote down right away on an actual piece of paper I have on my desk, using an actual pencil I have there too, and I can prove it, was, which sounds a lot like an MLM operation though I just checked whois and the domain isn't registered, at least on this plane, which makes sense given the overall circumstances, no credit cards or paypal service in the great beyond, not even for Honest Abe.

That also makes it hard to figure how he mailed it and what site he mailed it from (if he has email he must have his own ethereal website, I mean look who he, or who his host might be, though I imagine either way the bandwidth must be pretty much unlimited, Abe said by way of ebanter that they "have laptops but no laps." Even in the hereafter he has that folksy frontier sense of humor in the face of adversity.

Then right about where the email broke off it began to mention mortgage refinancing, though that could have been an ad by the portal Abe used (definitely wasn't yahoo); I don't think Abe himself would be into spam, even posthumously (is there spam after death?), though as we all know he was well aware you can fool all/some of the people some/all of the time, which a certain president is still doing and which is enough to make a good living if you have no scruples, which lets Abe off the hook, spamwise. Anyway he's no longer into living either. Wonder if he'll start a blog. I asked in my quick return email, but it was rejected as spam. Must have a helluva filter.

MAD COW NEWS: About that Bath by Candlelight...

"Cow Parts Used in Candles, Soaps Recalled"

"Cow parts-- including hooves, bones, fat and innards-- are used in everything from hand cream and antifreeze, to poultry feed and gardening soils...

Los Angeles-based Baker Commodities, Inc., announced Friday it has voluntarily withheld 800 tons of cow byproduct processed in its Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., plants, said company spokesman Ray Kelly. The company, like other 'renderers,' takes what is left of the cow after it is slaughtered and boils it down into tallow, used for candles, lubricants and soaps, and bone meal used in fertilizer and animal feed."

There's way more to this than hamburger.

From the excellent Buzzflash

Sunday, December 28, 2003



"If it's Japanese, the world wants it. Japan is hot."


I didn't know that the Grand Canyon was caused by a Biblical catastrophe, did you? As a result of excessive education, I had no idea of the true depth and nature of my ignorance. I guess I should have read the unintelligible print. Yosemite too, I'll bet, and Mt. Fuji and all those other Biblically recorded or at least ambiguously confirmed wannabe facts, as in astrology. It's amazing how much can be explained by just a few unlimited gaps in logic. Well those gaps are being greatly augmented by that guy on a mission who's currently (Biblical catastrophe?) running the United States, who is also seeing to it that the national parks are getting religion and marketing creationist explanations of it all (Custer too?), to alleviate the irrational being's greatest fear, that pure intelligence might prevail. This motivation also greatly clarifies the lack of rationale behind the invasion of Iraq.

Saturday, December 27, 2003



Just added this excellent site to the Writes section of my sidebar.


Bush administration gives Alaska's Tongass Forest to loggers.

"Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council... said it would open to development 'the most valuable habitat from one of our most important forests and one of the most ancient forests worldwide. The trees they want to log are the biggest and oldest.'"

[With thanks for the link to Seeing the Forest, where there are further relevant comments. Later addition: also new excellent op-ed on this at NYT]


And now the world itself is white, as the snow builds and builds on the trees and the ground, steadily deepening the clear white silence that big snow begets, till the very air is poised: then somewhere at the heart there's a big loudening whisper then a large soft thump; you look out the window and a tree is dancing in a big cloud of white that's thicker and whiter than the flakesnow falling all around, as one by one the cedars shed their old burden to take on the new, all day and all night lowering the snow all the way to earth on their big green shoulders.


As we approach the end of the year, like everyone else the weather isn't too sure which way it wants to go, as if we have a choice in the matter. Still, the big guy wishywashes. From the heavy snow this morning, with visibility about one meter in any direction and nearly half a meter of snow drifting on the ground, ten minutes later it's blindingly bright and you need snow goggles to open your eyes for more than five seconds, then back to Siberia as a calm settles, the steel-gray returns and big fat ultimate-design snowflakes are falling thick and slow, like abstract thoughts before the wood fire...

Friday, December 26, 2003




More reason to go vegan. Mad cows, mad ribs, mad roast, mad hamburger, where will it all end, except on the meat eater's table? The USDA, moving as swiftly as the Washington Monument to head off Mad Cow in the US, is now really moving swiftly to minimize the tip of the iceberg. The brain-wasting disease is usually transmitted through contaminated feed and has an incubation period of four to five years.

Thursday, December 25, 2003



This morning the predawn air made that magic sky it makes with the Lake on cold clear dawnings after sunny yesterdays, creating nothing all the way from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the sky but a sheer gray curtain slowly brightening to a silken silver, that in the strength of the growing light divided into lapis air above and silver vapor below, when out of the straight line between them gradually rose a rounding, glowing ruby you could look right into as everywhere became its own color under the sun.

Christmas dawn
from every mountain cedar
sun dangles

Wednesday, December 24, 2003



Well it's always good to get that immigration hassle off your chest, and here it is Christmas eve and no notable sign thereof out here in the countryside, other than some colored lights on the bushes outside the village hairdresser's, and then when I was returning from my return trip to the town hall (with the essential piece of paper I'd found at last in somewhere other than the essential pieces of paper file), there were a few agile, beardless and very baggy Santas out in front of a store up the road flogging surprise shopping bags to the tune of what sounded like xmas carols from the store speakers, in the customer lulls the Santas checking whether their ultracool sneakers were visible below the cuffs of their big red pants...


Must be genetic. I seem to have some ancestral propensity to expect logic in bureaucratic situations, particularly those involving Japanese bureaucracy. With some 300 years of closeted feudal practice of a depth and intensity unequaled in history, Japanese bureaucrats have perfected the fine and detailed art of dovetailing an essentially pointless box within a basically pointless box within a fundamentally pointless box within an utterly... you get the picture.

Anyhow, despite my having been here for decades thus far, this common-sense gene I have keeps popping up, causing me to expect straight lines to have generated spontaneously in the bureaucratic universe since my last visit; I can't seem to help myself. I'm a man of positive expectations, what can I say. As a result, I keep employing logic and asserting common sense where such things are alien and have no place.

As the most recent example, this morning I had to go to the immigration office at the local town hall to receive my new alien registration card. I'd gone there a couple of weeks ago with the postcard they'd sent me, bringing also my personal seal and some passport quality photos, my old alien registration card, passport and other required stuff. Filled out some forms several times with several variations of signature (don't ask) and applied, the lady said we'll call you in a couple weeks when the new card is ready, and she did, so today I set aside my morning and drove all the way over there, walked in and went up to the desk, old card at the ready to exchange for my new one.

The lady who had waited on me before, and who called my house, using the number I'd given her on my last visit, recognized me and went over to a big box by the wall and took out a smaller box inside which was a large envelope inside which was a smaller envelope, inside of which was my new card. New card in hand, she came over to me and said: "Do you have the-- right at that point that pesky common-sense gene kicked in and I whipped out my old card with my photo on it and my address and various other unmistakable details (needless to say, I am the only guy within 500 hundred miles of here who looks anything like me) -- absolutely essential piece of paper I gave you?"

And there I was again, suddenly spinning wild-eyed, limbs flailing as I whirled helplessly toward the black hole at the dark heart of the violently striped vortex of immigration procedure gone awry, with the off-key theremin wailing in the background, in midspin of which I wanted to say to the static, stuffy office air: hey, you know-- and I know-- who I am, and that I was here two weeks ago and filled out all the forms in triplicate and signed them each several times variously in various places, and that this card that I hold with my picture on it matches identically that card that you hold with my picture on it, who cares about some mickeymouse piece of paper-- and by the way (there it was again, the common-sense gene looking for some simple A to B in a universe of dark matter), it makes a LOT of sense for you to slip me a piece of paper to take home for a couple of weeks to forget completely about and then require that I bring back to you; why not just keep the damn thing on your desk for the duration, or better yet, just throw it in the waste basket and forget all about it forever, but I didn't.

Because from this old familiar vortexy vantage point I could now detect in the clerklady's eyes what I should have noticed right away, given my decades of hard-earned nitty-gritty immigration tooth-and-nail scrimmaging from which I still have the scars: it was not the look one sees in human eyes in the normal course of social interaction: it was the elusively opaque Veil of Bureaucracy, which foolishly I'd thought had become irrelevant, since she knew who I was ha ha, and we had even bantered a bit on my last visit ha ha, and were to all logical intents and purposes members of the same species on a shared planet, but suddenly the veil had descended with a vengeance, and I realized yet again that in The Bureau, all roads are dead ends.

Thus there was a deeper purpose in giving mere-mortal me a form that I was pointedly encouraged to forget, deeper than getting me to acknowledge the dead-end nature of my own behavior in this place: it was to prove the importance of the piece of paper, and by extension the importance of The Bureau. So I said, with all the autobureaucratic authority I could muster: "I shall return."

And so I shall.

As soon as I find that piece of paper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003



How much is it costing you?


"Put it this way: Suppose that you actually liked a caste society, and you were seeking ways to use your control of the government to further entrench the advantages of the haves against the have-nots. What would you do?

One thing you would definitely do is get rid of the estate tax, so that large fortunes can be passed on to the next generation. More broadly, you would seek to reduce tax rates both on corporate profits and on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains, so that those with large accumulated or inherited wealth could more easily accumulate even more. You'd also try to create tax shelters mainly useful for the rich. And more broadly still, you'd try to reduce tax rates on people with high incomes, shifting the burden to the payroll tax and other revenue sources that bear most heavily on people with lower incomes.

Meanwhile, on the spending side, you'd cut back on healthcare for the poor, on the quality of public education and on state aid for higher education. This would make it more difficult for people with low incomes to climb out of their difficulties and acquire the education essential to upward mobility in the modern economy.

And just to close off as many routes to upward mobility as possible, you'd do everything possible to break the power of unions, and you'd privatize government functions so that well-paid civil servants could be replaced with poorly paid private employees.

It all sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it?

Where is this taking us? Thomas Piketty, whose work with Saez has transformed our understanding of income distribution, warns that current policies will eventually create "a class of rentiers in the U.S., whereby a small group of wealthy but untalented children controls vast segments of the US economy and penniless, talented children simply can't compete." If he's right--and I fear that he is--we will end up suffering not only from injustice, but from a vast waste of human potential

From The Death of Horatio Alger
by Paul Krugman

Tough luck, Tiny Tim.

Monday, December 22, 2003



"Ho-Ho-Ho!!" he's loud, he's big, he's red-faced, probably has a multi-entry entertainer's visa since he operates on a seasonal basis, but no permanent residency, so can't own property or get a mortgage; voting rights, forget it-- ask any expat-- and rides a sled for godsake, pulled by reindeer no less. An elderly guy who operates by night dressed in fire engine red with high black boots? Whooaa. Outfit trimmed with white fur? Big whooaa: definitely a foreigner.

Also he has a chimney-centered modus operandi in a country with no chimneys and where the home is an extremely private place in which few speak English-- or want to-- particularly to a noisy overweight big-bearded guy in a red suit drops into the house like that in the middle of the night with a name so hard to pronounce: not very appealing to your average Japanese even if it is Christ/Xmas, whatever that really means here.

So Santa E. Claus, as his passport has it, isn't really all that popular in Japan at the personal level, though the mallkeepers love him, or at least they love the sleigh concept and the reindeer, especially Rudolph, a latecomer who was invented in the latter 1940s by Gene Autry.

Fact is you don't see all that much of Santa in public here. Sure, you see him now and then in a Coke ad or something, maybe scarfing a Big Mac or getting down with some scantily clad North Pole babes in a tv commercial, a little bit of international tokenism, but nah. The Santa tradition is new to the Land of Wa.

And alien. Nobody leaves out coffee and donuts for the guy, donuts aren't too good here anyway-- and judging by his alien girth he's definitely a donut connoisseur-- or cookies or pie and milk. Cookies, pies, by and large forget them too, alien concepts. And most Japanese are lactose intolerant.

Personally, I used to like the guy Santa used to be, back when I was a kid, before he was demonized by his own obsessively commercial behavior, which is becoming international in his old age. There was much appeal in the Santa who used to embody just the basic overweight spirit of Christ/Xmas, a time for the general resurgence of basic humanity and brotherhood and celebration of community yaggeda yaggeda, albeit necessarily Christian, but back in those postwar days you took what you could get.

Things have changed since then, but Christ/Xmas in Japan doesn't mean all the same things it means in the West. Christ/Xmas here is pretty veneery, a name to call the season, a time when the demand for bulky red-faced elder male models reaches its crescendo. It also means major shopping of course, the biggest thing it means now in the West. Here in nowadays Japan, though, Christ/Xmas has become just that: a season of foreign old-timey nostalgia, bigtiming it purely on a commercial basis, without the spiritual overtones.

There are Christ/Xmas lights on houses here and there, or what you could call Christ/Xmas lights, since they're put up at around this time and they light up, but it's not the same thing. There are no big decorative candy canes by the front door-- way too unsubtle-- no reindeers, no sleighs, no Rudolphs on the eaves, no Santas on the roofs looking for the chimneys. And as you can imagine, a candycaneless, deerless, sledless, chimneyless Shinto/Buddhist-blend Santa just doesn't ring the old sleighbells.

Anyway, foreigner that he is, Santa will be leaving at the end of the month as per the standard visa requirement, with his re-entry permit for next year, if he doesn't forget to go to immigration before leaving. I've known that to happen, and it doesn't matter who you are; those guys at immigration are way colder than the North Pole.

Saturday, December 20, 2003



The depth and intensity of relation between heart and flame-- the heart with its flickers, its towering flames, its warmth of friendship and fires of love, its embers, its sparks-- who can say we and fire are not siblings of one family?

That relation is kindled anew for me each winter morning when I arise from a warm bed to a cold house and return in humility to the hearth, the heart of the home, and there proceed to rekindle the fire that has burned for so long, much as one builds and nurtures other essential relations.

Soon there is a bright warming flame growing, in a kinship I acknowledge at once by drawing near and raising my hands to the glow, watching it grow with the appreciation that attends all nurturing brightness, that needs from me only a nourishing now and again as I do for myself, and before too long the entire air is warm once more and thus the entire house, every room where the door is open, and life can resume its course in all fullness.

How long we all have been such friends with fire, how far we have come together, we ourselves getting thus far all thanks to the warmth and brightness of the flame that has tended and lighted our way, and how much of what we call our own brightness and warmth and passion we have derived from our millennia of kindling fire and staring into its depths as if into the eyes of god... Such thoughts stared into the flames in the morning before sunrise soon take me back to before there was thinking...

all down here
in black and white
first big snow

Friday, December 19, 2003



Everybody knows that Jesus is buried in a number of places around Japan, the ultimate destination for one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, but who knew that the Ark of the Covenant, that prototypical Omikoshi (portable shrine), was here too? And only a couple of hours from Pure Land Mountain...that must be Indiana on the phone...

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Agricultural biotech giant Monsanto has sued Oakhurst Dairy, a small dairy in Maine, saying Oakhurst's label ("Our farmers' pledge: no artificial growth hormones.") implies that the dairy's milk is somehow better than milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, a hormone sold by the company under the brand name Posilac.

All the kids say a glass of recombinant bovine somatotropin goes down pretty good, with some cookies. About 17 percent of dairy farmers use rBST, injecting 32 percent of all cows in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you find yourself suddenly mooing now and then, this may be the cause.

The hormone is made of an isolated gene from the growth hormone that cows produce when they lactate. Injections of the product make cows lactate longer and produce more milk. Most cows injected with rBST produce about 25 percent more milk than they would normally. Then it's passed on to the kids with the cookies.

[Dec 21 addendum: Further jaw-dropping info on all this and unappetizingly more, particularly as it pertains to UK and EU, at Vegan Society; thanks to Colin for the link.]



Exhibition of superb examples of all-time Japanese pottery. Click on each for a larger image. Ahhhh...

With a deep bow of thanks to the evergreen plep.


That was typed into the search window and BAM! There was Pure Land Mountain, right there at the top of the search results. Some interesting soul had been to PLM and looked around quite a while ago, remembered some clues, wanted to visit again. Welcome. Glad to have you back. Like some lemon verbena tea?


In the blurry hither-thitherness of our everyconvenience modern lives, with food made for us, thoughts thought for us and opinions spun for us, as we plunge our heads into the Big Media Toilet Bowl we can lose sight of the things that count, the real things out there beyond the Big Bowl that give meaning to our own actual everyminute lives, and that definitely includes ginger.

A couple of afternoons ago I was out in the blue cool, my mind still digesting the news wherein Captain Justice had captured the unparalleled ogre Saddam like a rat in a trap, the rest of me tenting the winter greens in anticipation of the weatherman-predicted heavy snow that would be falling that evening-- which snow it turns out (surprise) was not all that forthcoming (having more reputable plans than mere conformity to human forecasting), though we did get a bit of a bully north wind and very brief sleet-- as I was positioning the bamboo framework, at the edge of what remained of my consciousness I kept having to avoid the Oshoga (big ginger) roots bulging up out of the ground like tuberous elbows, nudging me for some reason that didn't register until at last, thank ginger, I pulled my head completely out of the Big Media Toilet: the ginger doesn't want to spend the winter in the ground under the snow and in the damp cold, it wants to be pickled in warm rice vinegar right now! Of course! It will turn pink with delight!

What a relief. I'd been feeling like the world was going to the dogs of war and the Big Media Toilet Bowl was where things really mattered, but as the ginger has since so fragrantly proven, the truly important things are going on all over everywhere, well outside the Big Bowl.

Here's a good recipe for Japanese pickled ginger.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003



But I'll put it right here
where it will slowly slip out of sight; laughably shameless, but it's the least I can do...

(Mentioned in ARTIFICIAL HISTORY below)


"Perchlorate, a rocket fuel additive, has been found to accumulate in leafy greens irrigated from the Colorado River -- as nearly all the nation's winter lettuce is.

Drinking water from the Colorado River and at least 22 states is contaminated with the rocket fuel ingredient, a toxin that can impair thyroid function and cause tumors, cancer and decreased learning ability in children. The toxin has shown up in milk too, from cows that drink perchlorate-tainted water.

Since the rocket fuel chemical comes largely from military sites, cleaning it up could cost the Defense Department billions. So the Pentagon has launched an attack on a national drinking water standard proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which would require cleanup of drinking water tainted with more than 1 part per billion of perchlorate. The Pentagon argues it's a matter of national security."

The Pentagon isn't myopic, it's cyclopic.

Full story at the excellent BushGreenwatch.

[Thanks to Ron for the tip.]


During our 30-minute sojourn in the 60-years-ago train station where we spent a half hour looking at the past (as chronicled in CHICHIBU YOMATSURI III below), I took a picture of one of the things in the station that fascinated me most: a framed replica of a kiseru (brass-and-bamboo smoking pipe), prominently featured in a severe admonition to the train-riding public to cease committing an egregious and chronic violation of the long-suffering railway system. But first a little explanation...

When we got our tickets for the train and went through the wicket the ticketwicketer, as I said, actually took each ticket in his hand and just like 50 years ago punched it with a puncher that made a notch unique to that station, so that when we handed it in at the other end the wicketer there would know where we had entered the line and could tell that we had paid the full fare, an antique way of trying to thwart the folks who have always tried to fool the train system by various means, such as by handing in a ticket much closer to their destination than where they actually came from, in a traditional Japanese scam perpetrated by the public on the railway system since its inception.

The fact that this scam is historical and has been perped for a long time is reflected in the name it's called, that comes from way back when folks still smoked those edo-style pipes, in the same vein of folk-irreverence that attends so many things in Japan, an irreverence reflected in the folk-terms for those things, an acknowledgment that Yes, we do pull such things off; collectively that is, not individually.

As represented by certain unidentified members of the public, we do work to get a free ride when we can, and here is what we call that process so we can talk about it, all anonymously of course, for I myself, like all my relatives and friends (this said with an inward smile) would never do such a dishonest thing. This railroad station sign is not speaking to me, it's speaking to the others, to the unscrupulous folks who still try to get through life's journey a bit more cheaply, the dastardly anonymous warriors in the fight to keep prices down where they belong... and so we call this process kiseru... after the old brass smoking pipes with bowl and mouthpiece of shiny (and expensive) brass, and the length between them of cheap bamboo, so poetically like the free ride in the middle... There is so much depth of metaphor there, so much collectively anonymous artisanship, so much transcendant wisdom and humor...

As to result in an old finger-wagging sign in the station to that very effect, basically showing folks how it's done while asking them not to do it, not to commit this heinous practice in this way demonstrated right here, that cuts heavily into the railroad porkbarrel; which just goes to show that even the railroad folks are tacitly in on the big collective joke being played on no one in particular, and this is their token way of doing something about this lamentable travesty...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003



All history is artificial, in the sense that it's written by the victors. In the old days, that used to be exclusively true; nowadays though, in our new and enlightened world, the vanquished also get to put their spin on the way things were; and now that the USSR is gone, it seems nobody spins history like the Japanese government, perpetually in a state of denial about the country's past history and the uncounted atrocities committed in the name of the Rising Sun: the Nanjing Massacre still never happened in history textbooks here, same way Unit 731 never existed: all those photos are doctored, despite what the perpetrators and victims themselves say, with their bodies and their bones; and the wartime brothels of "comfort women" were organized by private individuals, the government had nothing to do with them.

But regarding the latter, at least, history has just said otherwise, in a recently declassified 36-page report issued by General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, in November 1945. The report, based on statements of Japanese prisoners and documents confiscated by the US military during and after the war, says that brothel operators received licenses from the Japanese military and worked under its direct supervision, and that the Japanese Government was directly involved in developing and operating military brothels where hundreds of thousands of Asian girls and women were forced to work as sex slaves during the war. That report was issued in English on December 5; it reached the English newspaper here a very long 7 days later in this age of instant communication, in the form of an article written for the LA Times.

Guess it's not as important here in Japan as it is everywhere else, like the recent boneheaded Japanese businessmen's historically insensitive sexual orgy in China, which also doesn't make the papers much. Some things never change, do they. That would include the Japanese government, as well as its version of history.

1,848 vegan recipes

Monday, December 15, 2003


As attentive readers of this humbly and quotidianly eclectic endeavor will recall, I have long been on the lookout for a good yuzu tree, sapling, seedling, scion, whatever, as long as I know it is the genuine real true thing. I've heard many tales, especially from the States, about buying yuzu seedlings whose fruit some years later turns out to be of an inedible variety, an issue of big importance where yuzu is now a very marketable item of supreme cuisinal art, not to mention yuzu martinis, margaritas and cosmetics, making yuzu a fruit with major wazoo potential.

All I want genuine yuzu for, though, is cooking (and of course for rinds to sprinkle in the hot bath of a winter evening), and was conversationally lamenting as much to one of my upmountain neighbors, decrying the chronic deficiency of yuzu in my garden, when he turned and cut three scions from his own classic yuzu tree and gave them to me. The scions of those scions are now propagating in the kitchen window.

Those "subscions" should yield about a dozen rooted treelings by spring, from which I will choose one or two to grow to full size. My kindly neighbor also gave me a couple of late yuzu fruits from the very tree, and they are the real thing; peeled some into the bath last night and grated some into the miso shiru for lunch.

I haven't yet heard much from the three-star kitchens of the West about the other two zesty members of Japan's cuisinal citrus triumvirate, i. e., the pine-y, tart kabosu and the tangy, lime-like sudachi, but I expect I will before long. I will be posting about those two as their tasty occasions arise in my kitchen.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


Coursing at the base of every cultural history is the spirit of water, tireless master of the Tao. And sure enough, as after the Festival we walked from the station to the inn in the night (and from the windows of the inn itself), we heard the white whisper of a river close by. It was the Arakawa.

The next morning, when we woke up early in the blue arms of a beautiful day, the way days can be out in the country where they are most at home, we headed straight for that soul-inviting sound, that came drifting to us through the gold and scarlet crowns of trees stretched out along the high riverbanks.

Down we waded through deep spangles of fallen leaves to the fast-moving jade river flecked with white, legendary as the river to which, a millennium ago, the battle-weary Taira clan came after terrible defeat to wash themselves of blood-- perhaps historically true, perhaps an apocryphal tale arising like old ghosts in earlier minds from the abundance of red jasper found along the river, whose banks are renowned among geologists worldwide for their lithic diversity.

That diversity is apparent to any casual stroller on the trail that winds along the river shore, wending through fields of rocks you wish you could take home and put in your garden or maybe just cluster on your desk until your pockets are full and you rattle past a long high rock formation known locally as Iwadatami (Tatami Rocks), and over sinewy surges of what they locally call tiger stone, for the lithe and savage forms it has derived from the violent birth of the earth and eons of service as riverbed.

After the lively festivities of the previous night, the muscular river of sleek green flowing silently along the bottom of the morning was a wellspring of meditation. My own mundane thoughts were driven from my head and filed away under "Relevant?" by the unspoken majesty of the place.

Echo right away found the perfect spot for her morning yoga on a low cliff opposite a much higher cliff across the river, known locally as "The Red Wall," while my busy body wandered me from a herd of tiger rocks hunched beside the flexing water up to a clifftop, to a tiny shrine up on the forest ledge and back down again to glowing tarns, rivulets, waterfalls, fields of rocks strewn at beautiful random among the riverside reeds, the only other person around an early morning photographer, with all his gear, running like a fullback to catch the perfect shotspots always elsewhere in the sun.

It's that kind of place. Your mind has found the stillness that centers the river, but a body is made to move. This was the ideal locus for what I call moving meditation, wandering as though standing in the river wind, looking down into the deep-green water gliding by as one body on its long winding way to the sea... as, in our ways, are we.



Some kind and generous soul has nominated Pure Land Mountain in the Best Japanese Blog category at FlyingChair! On behalf of the Muses, thank you, whoever you are.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Remarks to the Commonwealth Club

"I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance."

Read the rest of this insightful speech by Michael Crichton


"The following statement by the Humane Society of the United States was e-mailed to on Tuesday afternoon:

Monday's hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape." Rest of article...

This is the guy who's pulling the strings behind the Bush, the guy second in line for the Presidency of the United States!! Seems there's no bottom to some people...


"Cockerels dole out more sperm to new lovers," the scientists at New Science tell us. Which discovery leads inferentially to some very interesting insights, one of the most amazing for me being that there are people out there who spend their days quantifying cockerel sperm.


Last night while we were asleep the air from the south reached with long warm fingers in among the cold mountains, bringing us a sunrise worthy of a very populous pantheon and covering all with a fine warm morning mist that played magic with the still green, and on my way down to the station I realized through my squint that I was rolling down a long and gleaming golden road, moistened by the night's mist and lit up by the rising sun: it was the long golden road that runs through every myth, that leads the mythy protagonist on to victory, fame and fortune, or sometimes, as in my case, the train station. But hell, I'll take any golden road I can get.

Thursday, December 11, 2003



"Dear Mr President,

Another day, another stunt. Not a plastic turkey this time, but a star studded event at the Kennedy Center, featuring the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra, who have been flown in by the State Department for a' healing' event after the illegal invasion and destruction of their country.

Michael Kaiser, Cultural Ambassador for the State Department thought the event would be: "a wonderful way for Americans to learn about Iraqis and for Iraqis to learn about Americans." The Ambassador apparently is unaware that Iraqis know all about Americans, Iraq was, after all, the country which brought the world all we call civilized, writing, mathematics, the first written records, the first laws, the wheel. Baghdad (formerly Dar Es Salaam - City of Peace) was dubbed 'the Paris of the ninth century.' Iraq and Palestine have the highest number of Ph.Ds, per capita, on earth. Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, is 'the cradle of civilization.'" More...

[With thanks to Ken for the pointer.]


Finally a dust of white upon the mountains beneath their caps of cloud; very late in the year. Mt. Ibuki across the blue mirror of the Lake has been wearing formal white for some time now. As a direct result of all this frosting going on apace all around us, yesterday we started the first fire in our woodstove this year. This is the furthest into the year we've ever gotten without needing a fire in the stove; usually we make it only to latter November, so the weather has let us save almost a month's supply of firewood!! Thank you, large entity!

And let me say right off and unqualifiedly that whiskey barrel staves make excellent firewood, need minimal kindling, burn hot, long and even, stack great, coal excellently, resulting in minimal ash, minimal smoke, minimal creosote and maximum general pleasedness, though a lot of sawing to size, which enables the sawyer to regularly burn off chocolate fuel.

When the ice crystals form on the ground outside and breath turns directly into clouds as crystally fingers creep up the windows and the entire landscape is frozen for the following year, there's nothing quite like the heat from a good woodstove-- ours is a DutchWest large Federal (Vermont Castings) catalytic-- it gives off heat like like the heat you get to your bones when you slip into one of Japan's finest sento (hot-spring bath). Before going to bed on a wintry night, there's nothing quite like stretching out in front of the radiant woodstove and deliciously turning your body into a life-sized bedwarmer. Eat your heart out, central heating.

And wood is replenishable. Lots of expert wood-burning info at


Just posted this bit of cheek with tongue in it at the superforum Blogcritics, a great site for the eclecticism of opinion we all need in our lives. Be nice of you to please be so kind as to vote for Blogcritics as Best Group Blog...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003



"Halliburton is charging [the US] $2.64 for a gallon of fuel it imports from Kuwait and $1.24 per gallon for fuel from Turkey."

The ripoff doesn't end there.

[Cheney left Halliburton with a $34 million retirement package when he became the GOP's vice-presidential candidate]


As one who has ever tried to honor the divinely bestowed hedonistic aspects of my nature-- morality, safety, occasion and various other yaggeda-yaggeda appropriatenesses allowing-- I yesterday overindulged in a fine batch of chocolate-covered roasted almonds, and later that evening began to pay the premium in the form of a complaining gall bladder with its accompanying gang of niggling sledge-hammery symptoms.

Paradoxically, bodily factors often stand in the way of physical pleasures. So there I was feeling that old aching shoulder, headache and waning appetite, so familiar from the times when I imposed less stringent licensing on my Formula One travels in the fast lane, which upon slowing down in later life (below Ferrari level) I kept well in check by taking 800 units of vitamin e a day, among other things.

This practice however, has become less regular, I recently forgetting sometimes for weeks at a stretch to take my "e"; hence this reaction to the otherwise no-problem chocolate almond divinities. So this morning when I woke up stiff and fuzzy, the nickel dropped and I took my vitamin e. Within an hour, all symptoms had faded away, leaving me pretty much in my former state but with a higher IQ. So I guess it's not really a paradox, so much as a matter of forgetting to be wise...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003



"But these statistical figures do not tell the human impact of such a catastrophic collapse of a country's monetary system. In his book, Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s (1972), Otto Friedrich writes that 'By the middle of 1923, the whole of Germany had become delirious. Whoever had a job got paid every day, usually at noon, and then ran to the nearest store, with a sack full of banknotes, to buy anything that he could get, at any price. In their frenzy, people paid millions and even billions of marks for cuckoo clocks, shoes that didn't fit, anything that could be traded for anything else.' The price of a cup of coffee would double in the time that a customer took to drink it in a cafe.

Food supplies became both an obsession and a currency. The breakdown of the medium of exchange meant that the rural farmers became increasingly reluctant to sell their agricultural goods for worthless paper money in the cities. Urban dwellers streamed back to the countryside to live with relatives in order to have something to eat. Anything and everything was offered and traded directly for food to stave off the pangs of hunger."

From The Great German Inflation by Richard M. Ebeling


Because every hotel and inn and ryokan and minshuku within a very large radius was fully booked for the two nights of the festival, Echo and I had booked a room in Nagatoro, about a half-dozen stops away on the old country line railroad. When we'd walked enough (starting when we walked down the mountain early that morning to catch the train), seen all that we could hold and it had gotten night-cold enough that we were looking very forward to a nice warm futon, we set off in the dark that was booming with the flash of fireworks, a multihour climactic demonstration of very big, very loud, very decorative colorblasts in the shapes of flowers, stars, fish, cartoon characters etc., and when with fireworks-divided attention we found the station it was the wrong one so we set out again through the mobs, finally finding the smaller station we were looking for.

After getting old-fashioned, thick cardboard tickets of the kind I haven't seen for 30 years we got in line and went through the wicket as the guy actually took the ticket of each person into his hand and just like in a diorama punched it slowly and efficiently with a puncher and gave it back, every single ticket, one by one! As a result we missed the train, but didn't really mind because we got to watch the fireworks finale from the well-positioned train platform.

Since this was Festival Night, another train came along fairly soon and we got on with the crowd and got seats, though not together, had about 20 minutes to travel without falling asleep, couldn't see out the steamy windows what the stations were in the dark, listened for each announcement, but an anemic announcer with a high voice, a fuzzy mike and worn out speakers amid loud conversations yielded only the occasional wisp of a na (fuzzy interval) or was that a ra (fuzzy interval) maybe a ga (fuzzy interval)did he say ro (fuzzy interval) or was it a ran, randomly audible syllables that as we rocked along reminded me as of all the old railroad announcement jokes I used to hear from my grandfather (a conductor on the New York Central) and his buddies around the kitchen table as I sat here/there in a far-off land smiling from the distant past in a zoned-out dreamlike state in the swaying warmth of the delightful train when suddenly Echo's voice said this is our station as she scrambled through her part of the crowd toward the door nearest her and I did the same toward my door but when I got there it didn't open so I turned and plowed back through the long knotty crowd toward Echo's door, but so few had gotten off that by the time she'd gotten to it her door had closed too and we were on our way once more, further into country darkness.

Needless to say we didn't miss the next stop, whence however it was too far to walk back in too deep a dark without a suitable map, and since we were pretty low on energy we just went into the station as into 60 years ago and asked the formally efficient station attendant, straight out of one of those old Japanese black-and-white movies but in living color, when the next train would be going in the opposite direction, explaining why/complaining that we had missed the train, he said Yes, the new train is too long for some of these old platforms, so the doors at the ends don't open. Thanks for the news, we said.

The next train would be going our way in just a country minute (half an hour), so we spent the next 30 minutes 60 years ago, looking at all the stuff in the station, an edifice built entirely of wood for the much smaller people who lived back then. A long time later, as train time approached we went out and walked across the tracks to the other platform. When you're cold because you're tired because you've been walking and traveling and walking since very early that day and you're standing going nowhere late that night on the dark and windy open platform of a countryside train station whose name you haven't noticed, you might not be aware that you're having one of those great experiences that travel affords: the chance to confront face to face whichever of your weaknesses may even now be gaining strength in you, as when in ice climbing you're hanging from the edge of the frozen waterfall by one hand and you don't let go, you just shift from mind to mind and whistle and converse and shiveringly dredge up warm thoughts to think until at last the train comes along and you're on your way.

We got off at the right station this time since we'd had so much practice, plus it was the next one and the train was empty so we were waiting at the real doors to pounce upon the elusive platform before it could get away again. We then walked through the quiet old station and the quiet empty night village looking for our inn in the dark and finding what maybe looked like it was the one, went inside to find three men and an elderly woman sitting around a warm stove, they were expecting us, that was the place, and from the big cauldron on the stovetop they served us big hot country soup that was a pleasure to hold, first on the outside and then on the inside. Thence to sleep under thick warm covers, I slept like the perfect piece of toast at the very bottom of the deepest point of sleep on the planet...


Monday, December 08, 2003



"I seriously doubt that anybody who publicly uses the word "contretemps" can ever be elected president."

Sad, that this could still be true of America.


Country folks are always friendly since they work in tandem and harmony with the big things, like earth and sky, so at festival time in the country it's like one big re-united family. Chichibu has been doing this festival for many centuries now, so the spirits are high in a town that on Festival Night is lit mostly with the golden light from all the stands and lanterns more than street lights, it's very like going back into the past, where the floats are all lit with candles and stand out all the more in the dimness, take on appropriate mystery amid the sound of taiko drums from the dark.

Because of our peripatetic approach, we saw one float go by across the railroad tracks, two set out from the shrine, one streak down a narrow street architectured from way back-- want to visit again just to see that in several lights-- floats wending past people on their roofs, one float pulled up to the crowd and started "bowing" with several float attendants on the teetering float roof talking nonchalantly via cell phone to attendants on the other float roofs, or maybe their girlfriends.

We happened to be in the crowd that one float was "bowing" to, and folks started flocking toward it from along the already crowded street; the pressure soon grew too great and we were squeezed out via an ingeniously arranged crowd pressure-release valve into a narrow alley that led to another great little street, lined with stalls offering every kind of food and pickle and snack between the doors to shops, intriguing old restaurants of every traditional description and bistros old and new (one called "Snob"), and the oldest functioning pachinko parlor I've ever seen (part of its sign in the Shiga Window at left).

It was getting cold so we went into one of the shops to buy some handwarmers, and while there spotted some "red pepper" sox, made of wool blended with silk and somehow incorporating the "hot" constituent of red pepper (capsaicin)!! (Anyone who's ever read Jethro Kloss (Back to Eden) knows how red pepper can warm the feet, so we got some of those too. And they work. (I'm wearing a pair right now. Who needs a stove? I've got a whole kitchen wall full of drying tabascos and thai dragons, so my feet are set for the winter.) Never knew such things existed. Small country towns take you in new directions.

Deep into the night we'd been walking for hours, it was getting colder and colder, then the fireworks began, whole streets full of people looking up at the skies going aaaahhhhh... The beauty of old festivals is as much in the moment as in all the time they bring to bear on the very now with all these new young folks in it that have such ancient things to learn afresh, and how better than a big street-and-sky party with all the heft and boom of the past, all the ardor of being a culture, here it is from us to you, carry on... be noble, be true, have fun, be generous with your gifts and pass it all on, so they do and so they will...


Sunday, December 07, 2003


from anarchy of night
Tokyo graffiti sprays
have a nice day

Saturday, December 06, 2003


Where to begin, so many high points, but since that's where I left off I'll start with the train pulling in, adding to the mobs already thronging the small town of Chichibu on the second day of the festival, which would climax several hours later that evening, so we wandered the old narrow streets as the day darkened. The stands were already filling around the big circle ringed with tall flags topped with sakaki branches, where all the floats would wind up after coursing and 'bowing' through the neighborhoods well into the night.

The town was like a honeycomb already all lit up, folks coming in from everywhere, with song-and-dance acts at the station; halls and streets in front of stores (like this old-time geta store with the tall black-lacquered high-class geisha geta in the window) and houses full of food stalls (everything from squid to crepes to chocolate bananas and candy apples), game stalls (everything from shoot it to ring it to guess it), novelty stalls (got me an Atom Boy button), sweet stalls (whose star attraction among the taiyaki and the hot-sugar craftsmen was definitely the Korean troupe who were making "Dragonhair" sweets with white sugar 'dragonhair,' and something tasty-looking like treacle spun into the middle, their own hair dragonhair white from the sugar dust and in all their blur they couldn't make the sweets fast enough to sell hand over fist the way the growing crowds wanted). We wandered on.

At first we tried to figure out where might be best to stand to view the floats when they started rolling from in front of the shrine full of screaming children, but there were so many good places maybe it would be best choose one and stay there before it got too crowded, we tried that a few times but started to get pinned in place and couldn't stand not seeing all the great stuff that was going on everywhere else-- there was only one night to take it all in, and at times like that you have to make your move-- so we wound up seeing the whole thing from everywhere, there are lots of cheering and drum-flute-song noisy floats wandering the streets and country folks are great folks to watch festivals with...




Kyoto Journal's special issue "Street" has just been published, and is a work of art. Readers, writers, publishers, photographers, designers... something for everyone. And if I do say so myself, they did a beautiful job with my 'Street' poem inside the front cover... Kyoto Journal is available at discerning venues around the world. It's easy to spot: just look for the really gorgeous magazine.

Friday, December 05, 2003


Delight the way the trains from Tokyo travel straight through the lives of the people in their path taking only the road they need, zipping past kitchen, bedroom, bookstore, office, country avenues deep in leaves of gold, ivied walls of Meiji time, roofs and roofs and roofs stretching, reaching away to Chichibu...

Glimpses down arms-wide alleys of countless untold stories in the slant of afternoon sunlight on the scarlet of fallen leaves, a woman stands still and is gone to an old woman in blue squatting on another street, chatting...

It is bright, there are ceremonies, a man on a bicycle rolls out of the sun, offices full of others, quiet empty lots, old folks in the shady park, small rivers bridged along the ways that are of silver amid the green of grass and gray of stone, in small parks are ducks on springs waiting for the kids...

Laundry in the sun, broad tracts of actual trees, big white blocks of former graffiti, new houses going up like soldiers marching out of the city, local folks on bicycles waiting for our train to pass, now and then a station center with its mirrored buildings like eyes of crazy giant dragonflies...

Schools, middens, houses in valleys, black trees with orange leaves fired by the sun, roads under roads under railroads under roads across rivers even out here it's all getting modern, now rice fields now 'burbs, yet still there are long deep forests with no one in them not far from millions and millions in rooms, but then this is Wednesday...

Mushrooming sports clubs, parking lots, rising slopes of houses, little girl in braids and yellow hat at the bottom of canyons of balconies, then sun through curving slopes of trees and shady cemeteries, flashing glimpses of lives once lived, glimmers of narrow waters then broad, smooth and blinding beneath the bridge to row upon row of harvest-rounded tea trees, all the tiny country streets conforming to random zig-zag of original paddy pathways argued over centuries, madness to drive if you don't know the way...

Stations get more and more country, less and less hurry, with less and less English, more and more museum, going from never-saw-so-many bicycles or stacked-up elevated highways to fading old houses tucked in shrinking corners throwing nothing away, stacking it up outside beside the daikon rows reaching green in the curve of the widening road...

Mobs are waiting to board the train to Chichibu they stream on, arms full, eyes full, ready ready ready to festival...

The leaves are reaching that rusty color now beneath the half-moon sky full of galloping clouds, horsetails curved at their silvery ends like the curl of the pale moon...

A single board bridges the fast stream before the tunnel, things get sleepy...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003



Before leaving the next morning: For those current and future grandparents who might be interested, I've started a new section in the sidebar, "GRANDFATHERING", in which I'll be listing relevant posts chronologically as I have time...

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Tomorrow morning Echo and I are Shinkansenning to Saitama to see the Chichibu Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival), one of the three great float festivals of Japan. And a wild one. On the way back here the day after, I'll spend an afternoon visiting my old Mita neighborhood in Tokyo for the first time in over 25 years. I'll be back here after that with words and photos to spell out over the following days...



Well, Forbes magazine doesn't seem uncertain: "Surge at U.S. factories has Q4 GDP looking strong," says its Dubious Administration-sounding headline, bolstered by these upbeat comments:

"All the indications are that the dramatic surge in economic growth in the third quarter, to 8.2 percent, took business executives and factory owners by surprise..."

"Overall economic growth is looking like at least a solid 4.0 percent pace for the October-December period, confirming that the recovery is on a sustainable footing."

"'Q4 is off to a good start,' said Lehman Brothers financial economist Drew Matus, who has revised up his forecasts for growth next year."

"On balance, the data is extremely encouraging and consistent with the view that the economy is gathering momentum and poised for ongoing strength beyond the surge in GDP in the third quarter."

Boy, sure sounds pretty rosy, unless you happen to know that most of that surge is from military spending, which is basically like taking the biggest earth mover in the world and using it to shove your tax money into a bottomless hole 24 hours a day for as long as you allow it to.

Then there's the more realistic appraisal of Jay Taylor:

"The U.S. is already for all practical purposes a bankrupt country. I say that because we are already--even before the baby boomers retire--relying on borrowings of $1.5 to $2 billion per day from foreigners, not to build our infrastructure or plant and equipment that will enhance wealth over the longer term, but rather to continue consumption well over the limits of any other country on the face of the earth. As a nation, we are hopelessly addicted to consumption and it is every bit as pathological as the alcoholic husband that drinks all his paycheck up before he buys groceries and pays the rent for his family. We are living on borrowed time. We are so far gone that we can no longer compete effectively with other nations. Why would foreign countries continue to invest in America? Already we are seeing a huge drop-off from foreign private sector investment in the United States. Central banks are buying U.S. paper, but that is part of the beggar-thy-neighbor currency devaluation pathology that is seeping back into the world for the first time since the 1930s.

Bear in mind that foreign countries don't have to withdraw the money they have already put in the U.S. to cause the U.S. to collapse. All they have to do is stop sending us $1.5 to $2 billion per day and the dollar will tank, big time. As Richard Duncan said in his book, The Dollar Crisis, 'The dollar is destined to collapse because the U.S. economy will soon no longer be able to generate a supply of secure U.S. dollar-denominated investment vehicles sufficiently large to enable the rest of the world to recycle its annual half a trillion dollar current account surplus.' And if that is the case, then why would the Chinese and Japanese continue to send us real tangible consumer goods if all they get back in return are pieces of paper that are without value and in fact continue to lose value against say the yen, the euro, and gold?"

Gosh, that doesn't sound too good; surely it can't be true? Why would the Dubious Administration lie to us? There's more truth to be found in an article in the New York Times, which says in part:

"In other words, the government has cooked the books. It has been a more subtle manipulation than the one during the Reagan administration, when people serving in the military were reclassified from "not in the labor force" to "employed" in order to reduce the unemployment rate."

So who are you going to believe? The Dubious Administration and its increasingly rich friends as upbeat economy floggers, or your own financial future? Maybe it would be best to get ready for hard times, unless you work for Halliburton...


Woke up at dawn this morning and the big ole wind was still gusting the leaves around as it ambled west, kickin aimlessly through all those piles of gold along its way, yet the air as balmy as a spring day, a bit of incredible-as-it-may-seem actual sun getting a beam in edgewise and glowing the whole mountainside like a living rainbow, harbinging some maybe even blue sky today, and at the center of it all a very confused uguisu (warbler), clearly questioning his calendar yet singing uncertainly, is this mike on, not the usual ooooooboy, isntthisgreat? oooooboy, thisisreallygreat!, but a very halting and querulous whatisgoingon... whatis... what... whatisgoing... whatisgoingonherehuh... anybodyknow... whatmonthisthis... testing... He was the only uguisu around, which made it kind of pointless to be ad libbing so confusedly with such a superb voice, but he kept it up, pausing now and then to recheck his organizer to see if this was really December, no way. Couldn't be. I understand how he feels.

Monday, December 01, 2003



The big December typhoon slowly slides over the landscape, earlier today beneath pink mother-of-pearl clouds turning the Lake into a gray and black silk shawl some angel threw carelessly on the ground for all the ooohs and ahhhs, the same wind carefully flipping all the covers off my firewood with its wind pinky and flinging the last of the leaves to the ground then kicking them around with its clumsy invisible feet what a big lunky monster it is bigger than the landscape and tireless, three days now it hasn't slept, looking for firewood to uncover, surely the blustery lug has better things to do, like speed sailboats and birds along, crank those wind generators, make itself useful I'm beginning to sound like the wind should do what I want but conversely thank you wind for teaching me patience in the face of your relentless peskiness in blowing over my motorcycle and my bicycles and sending my tarps down the mountain I hope you had fun sounds like you still are, out there in the dark, was that my toolshed


ROCK ON!! Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy!

Sunday, November 30, 2003



[As a veteran who put in all his time without one minute AWOL, I am truly disgusted at what this turkey is doing to veterans (shedding tears in the turkey scene!), including the men he's serving turkey big time (see below) and sending into the jaws of death. (All emphasis mine)]

"President Bush, having surprised the nation with his Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, asked Americans on Saturday to volunteer to help military personnel and their families. [Are military personnel and their families that hard up?]

'I'm pleased to report back from the front lines that our troops are strong, morale is high and our military is confident we will prevail,' the president said in his weekly radio address."
Full article here.

[Talk about staged!! Air Force One touched down at Baghdad International Airport at 5:20 AM Baghdad time. Bush was on the ground for two and a half hours serving turkey and stuffing for BREAKFAST to soldiers no doubt surprised to be awakened at that hour for thanksgiving "dinner," as the carefully selected press in attendance played it up, never letting on to the American people that it was all as staged as the Oscars. Bush zipped unannounced into a totally secure-on-base 6 am turkey breakfast for two hours before zipping out again in the dark in a blacked out airplane (same way he zipped in). He had to get there before Hillary Clinton began walking around actual Baghdad in the open on her pre-announced trip the next day.]


"Bush administration slashes veterans' benefits"

"Even more than his father, and Ronald Reagan before him, Bush is cutting budgets for myriad programs intended to protect or improve the lives of veterans and active-duty soldiers. Bush's handlers have worked hard, through the use of snappy salutes and fly-boy stunts, to present the service-ducking former National Guardsman as the soldiers' friend. But though Republicans enjoy widespread military support, Bill Clinton was the only president of the last four to cut weapons programs instead of veteran benefits.

Consider the following:

With 130,000 soldiers still in the heat of battle in Iraq and more fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the Bush administration sought this year to cut $75 a month from the "imminent danger" pay added to soldiers' paychecks when in battle zones. The administration sought to cut by $150 a month the family separation allowance offered to those same soldiers and others who serve overseas away from their families. Although they were termed "wasteful and unnecessary" by the White House, Congress blocked those cuts this year, largely because of Democratic votes."

Incredible. For more disgusting details of the total turkey Bush is handing to veterans, see In These Times...

Following a long spell of rainy cloudy weather we get a bit of no surprise whatsoever in three more days of rain and warm weather, caught up as we are in a battle of the titans as an implacable (late November!) typhoon pushes in from the Pacific, going head-to-head against a muscular cold front trying to push down from Siberia into what is traditionally called Snow Country, bringing us strong winds and warm rain that should be quiet snow up to here.

But there's nothing I like better on a rainy day than a little serendip, and Echo finds the greatest stuff on her vast grapevine. Off we went into the mist up Route 367 along the narrow valley of the Katsura River on the other side of the mountain (chronicled earlier here), in search of Suzume-no-oyado (Sparrows' Inn) a natural-food restaurant out on the now brightly forested riverbank. We drove and drove through tiny villages, through vibrant autumn colors in the rolling mist and slanting rain, I had to get out and take some misted pictures, till at last we arrived at the restaurant, in an old thatched-roof farmhouse that was moved here piece by piece from Aomori Prefecture.

What nice people! What great food! What a picturesque place in the Autumn rain! (And can be rented for large events.) Big old black-beamed farmhouse with irori (traditional firepit); lots of etegami (picture-letters) on the walls, and natural products for sale. The meal consisted of as much brown rice as we wanted, black and white sesame, broccoli, daikon radish, mushrooms, pumpkin, carrot, wild pickles, honey-salted plum, hijiki and misoshiru , but these are just the names; think perfect shojin ryori served all at once. Perfectly filling, too, and for only 850 yen. You can get there by local bus from Kyoto.

Friday, November 28, 2003


The apparatchiks who are assigned to think of such things tend generally to think of imagination the same way they thought of ketchup as a vegetable: just another box to be ticked on the form, another quotidian quota to be filled, one more lesson to be learned on Wednesdays in fourth grade, another certificate on the way to graduation, when you can get on with your REAL life.

In other words, to the disimagined, imagination is not essential to living or to life, may even be detrimental if practiced in excess. We have Hollywood to do it for us. That's like saying if you pay us to breathe, you don't have to. Never before in history has imagination been so threatened in the young.

We lament the loss of the rainforests and the whales, bemoan the disappearance of the wild, but say nothing about the loss of imagination, which may be the greater loss, for it has made all the other losses possible; who could kill a thousand whales or cut down a rainforest but a person without imagination? The disimagined children of today will own the world tomorrow. To be without imagination is to be without intrinsic power, and powerlessness worships powerful things. The future begins right now.

Imagination is not greatly encouraged by human systems of organization because it is by nature free; it is beyond established control, inimical to chains, can't be enslaved, organized or taxed, depends upon no institution. It is the source of change, pure and simple, of new ideas. Imagining is anarchic; it is not at home in classrooms or file cabinets. And though wild, it is inherently benevolent. Imagination is the habitat of the spirit. Those who have been deprived of imagination will hunger for that freedom all their lives. What food it is and limitless, when you are the source!

Every consciously and responsibly caring parent and grandparent has seen the light that lights up in the eyes of still new children at the slightest spark of their own mind's imagining. One recent rainy day while Kaya (nearly 3 years old) was visiting us and looking imagination hungry, I took a tiny ceramic owl I have, the size of a pinky tip, put it in a tablespoon and called it the owl's magic airplane, and began to fly the magic airplane way up high in the big blue sky that was now above the kitchen table, and then all at once the magic airplane became the magic boat, floating the tiny owl perilously upon the vast and turbulent ocean a kitchen table can so swiftly become, and Kaya's eyes lit up like christmas trees at the spark that took fire in her mind.

The whole idea of imagining was perfectly at home in her, as native in her as the seeds of myth have always been in ourselves: she saw how it all worked, how to tell her own stories and it was ok, it was a part of her, that big doorway in her mind that she could open anytime to anywhere, and so she did and passed on through and back again, all that rainy day.

I will do everything I can to ensure that she never loses that spark, or the key to that door. And so we should with all our children. This fire of the spirit that is the imagination, that can so warm and quicken our lives and lead us to new places, should be praised and nurtured, made the key to every entire life so as to enrich us all, not taken away, homogenized and sold back to us as cookie-cutter commodities that stifle all imagining and leave us hungry and incomplete; else tomorrow will have no dream of its own.

Thursday, November 27, 2003



I love mountains. I have a special love for the Sierras, the Rockies, the Sangre de Christos...
Here is the finest mountain-lover's book I have seen in many years.

Amidst these evocative prints by woodblock master Tom Killion, an artist rooted in the great early woodblock masters of Japan, are timeless word-vistas by John Muir, that early great lover of these mountains, and poems and journal exerpts by Gary Snyder, who later followed the same trails to new places. All shared here in exquisite vintage from Heyday Books. Enjoy. Climb. Summits await.


Which makes me wonder: is he maybe just a low quality GOP graphic?

Understandably, there is very little coverage of this in Japan. Every year during Japan's traditional dolphin-hunting season from September to March, the ocean runs red before the villages where fishermen still practice the so-called "Drive Fishery." One of those villages, earlier also notorious for its annual dolphin slaughters, has learned another, wiser approach.
Here are some details on the continuing dolphin hunts and what you can do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


After Kaya left a few evenings ago, as I was emptying my pockets before going to bed I found a leaf that she had picked up on our afternoon walk that day, from among all the other leaves lying on the ground. I suppose she had picked it out because of its unusualness in being half crimson and half bright yellow, the colors divided right down the middle of the leaf, had picked it up and given it to me, I had looked at it, and remarked upon it, and thought and I suppose said, in the brief instant of attention young children allow for such things, how special it was that she had seen the very beauty in that particular leaf among all the others. Then I had put the leaf in my pocket and forgotten about it as we continued on our walk. When I found it in my pocket that night, I put it on the table beside my bed. Now for the days since, each time I go to bed at night and each time I rise in the morning the beauty of that leaf, at first so bright and attention-grabbing, has begun to fade a little bit as the red weakens toward brown and the yellow does too. Soon it will be the one color all the other leaves have become, so is grabbing my attention in a different way. It is a little record, there, of the life of all things, once in their greenness, thence to their fullest beauty, that falls in time to the beginning children give to us.




This bizarre story sank without a major media trace, which is unbelievable, given America's tabloid appetite; can't imagine such a thing happening during the Clinton administration. No wonder though, why it was buried so completely...

Tuesday, November 25, 2003



Nothing makes you start thinking about time like the shockingly peaceful aftermath of a dervish young granddaughter, when you find gingko leaves on the desk, acorns in the corners, beanbags behind the stove, weeds in the vase, persimmons on the chair, interesting seeds and twigs everywhere.

Took that thinking with me on the train to the city this morning and realized looking out the window into the mist of the rainy day swirling by how much time has passed in my own life, born before WWII and the bomb, when Japan became the enemy; milk and bread were delivered by horse cart when I was a boy (many tales there), and all us young kids had jobs of our own: delivering papers before dawn in howling winters of upstate NY (many tales there too) or sweeping leaves off sidewalks or shoveling snow or delivering groceries or stacking mom & pop store shelves---we had no tv till I was 12 or so, we listened to radio and what a thrill it was---

Remembered that in high school I studied Latin and Spanish, then Mandarin Chinese in the military, later Russian and Japanese and smatterings of other languages as I made my ways around the world (Americans today are pretty much monolingual and mononational), yet in college I remember being amazed at seeing a Xerox machine on tv, and now computers and cell phones, practically constant progress---we have advanced so far in so many ways, yet fallen behind in so many others---

Remembered my own great grandmother, a tiny white-haired lady sitting in the sun on the porch with me at her feet when I was about 7 and she was 100, talking about before there were automobiles. She had been born before the Civil War, was sixteen when Lincoln was assassinated, lived through the two big 20th-century wars, heard of the A-bomb, and reaches all the way to me here today. How I wish I could talk to her now!


"We desperately need to understand other countries and other cultures--friend and
foe alike. We are unnecessarily putting ourselves at risk because of our stubborn
monolingualism and ignorance of the world."

---The Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad



"On September 11, 2001, an international threat of which Americans were largely ignorant did more serious damage to the homeland than any foreign power had managed to inflict since the attack on Pearl Harbor. No one who lived through that terrible day will soon forget the anguished, confused questions that we all had to process: Where did this come from? How could anyone want to do this to us? We all recall the tickers rolling across the bottom of our television screens asking speakers of Arabic, Farsi, and Pashto to come forward. It was a very painful and public admission of how little we knew about the Arab and Muslim worlds.
It is not just the Middle East of which we are ignorant. As a nation we suffer from a pervasive lack of knowledge about the world. There have been periods, indeed entire eras, in our history where Americans have relished their isolation from the world. Some have made speaking only English a point of national pride instead of a disgrace. Never mind that the schools of most countries, rich or poor, teach at least two languages to their children. In the most prosperous nation on the planet, with the most extensive system of higher education, we are notoriously inept at imparting languages to our youth."

Full Report [PDF file]

Sunday, November 23, 2003



The beehive itself is here. Spread the word.

I haven't raked this much

since I was-z-z-z-z...


Tadasu Yamada, curator at Tokyo's National Science Museum and no doubt recipient of large research grants from it would be interesting to know where, says "The results from research whaling supported our research." "Knowing how many different whale species exist would aid in their conservation," he adds, like the US general in Vietnam who destroyed that village to save it.

Commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986, but a special provision lets Japan catch whales for "scientific projects," such as finding whales to count, by killing up to 400 a year. Yamada wants a bigger number; thousands and thousands would be good.

Environmentalists and anti-whaling nations have criticized the absolutely not hunts as commercial whaling in disguise. But that is patently untrue, since most of the whale meat completely coincidentally resulting from Japan's absolutely crucial research is eventually sold to restaurants to help cover the program's costs until they run out of whales. When that happens at least we'll know the names of all the cetaceans that no longer exist, so our descendants can put them in alphabetical order or something.

Saturday, November 22, 2003



Senate sees Bush Energy Bill for the kickback it is, rejects multibillion dollar subsidies for big oil and gas interests. How about a tenth of that to the growing penniless elderly and homeless populations of America?

[In her comment hereto, M Sinclair Stevens of WordsIntoBytes correctly points out (at interesting length) that the bill wasn't rejected, but stalled; still, democracy isn't flatlining yet.]


Kaya (whose bed is covered with acorns), just back from her walk with Echo, came to me at the computer, held out her closed hand and proudly placed into mine four crumpled bright-yellow gingko leaves. Naturally, I was effusely thankful one, two, three and four times. Not long after I heard myself saying to her "No Kaya , don't bite the keyboard..."


Superb essay on splendor and loss in the state of America by one of America's greatest novelists in any genre, James Lee Burke. If you haven't read him, start with The Lost Get-Back Boogie, then move on to The Neon Rain, where the wondrous Dave Robicheaux makes his first appearance, and continue from there. You'll be glad you did. Check out the rest of James Lee's site, too.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Kaya is back with us again for a couple of days. Before her bath, took her out onto the deck to see the big bright starworks in the clear night sky, turning round and round up there. Unexpectedly, she laughed and laughed at how wonderful it was, and I had to agree with her.


Bobby Kennedy Jr. at Salon, trying to save for tomorrow's children what Bush is selling out to his pals.

Also see this interview with Kennedy for more on the environmental travesty now under way, whose price will be paid by our children.

Thursday, November 20, 2003



This morning at breakfast I asked Kaya why she'd awakened in the middle of the night, did she have a bad dream, she said yes, so I asked what the dream had been about (I'm supercurious about the dreams of very young children). She answered: "The sun was crying."


It's all in the name of scientific research, not to mention big bucks per kilo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003



Came home from the big city last night and found upon entering the doorway that Kaya was visiting, she'd heard my motorcycle coming up the mountain and was already yelling my name to come and sit down and eat, I asked her how were her newborn twin sisters Mitsuki and Miasa, she answered: "crying." Soon to be 3 years old Western style, but already 3 years old Oriental style, she'd been brought (with her hair all nicely trimmed from Shichigosan) to visit by her other grandmother, whose hometown is just at the southern end of the Lake. Kaya would be spending a couple of days with us. Excellent reason to go out on some new walks today, take Kaya to my newfound berry patch, gather some wild persimmons, pull down some wild gourds for decorating, delight in how a child delights in everything, refresh myself in the wonderful ability to find evernew in the familiar. I pointed to some leaves that were now the bright yellow she'd never seen them being, she recognized them anyway, from our last walks when they were green: "mukago," she said, and began looking for some to put in her pockets already bulging with acorns and acorn 'hats.' But we'd gotten all the mukago the last time. No end to acorns, though, like there's no end to the new; all you have to do is keep your eyes open while they're open, the way we're born to do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003



As you rollercoaster up and down along this fascinating adventure of years we call a life, there are some adjustments that involve nothing more than simply getting out of the way of the big old fait accompli rolling right at you like it's a big stone ball and you're Indiana Jones. To take one small but deep recent example, every time I turn the corner on the stair landing to go upstairs I'm still not used to seeing the raccoon hugging the bannister with his (her?) big tail hanging down.

Now I know that many of you alert and finely discerning readers will note the considerable semanticorhetorical disparity between "Big Stone Ball" and "raccoon hugging the bannister"; that is my admittedly awkward attempt to represent the breadth and bizarrity of the class of adjustments to which I refer. To be more precise yet general, you've got kids. You love them. They grow up in about an hour and move away, start families of their own in the major human ongoing.

Thereafter time goes collectively faster for you, but particularly slower. Then one day some time after the kids have moved out you're clearing the old shelves upstairs, you open one of the largish boxes you find there and suddenly behold some of the stuffed toys the kids used to love, many of which toys you so carefully purchased (would she prefer this rabbit with glasses, he this goggle-eyed penguin?) after much consideration all those--yes, in fact, decades ago now-- and here comes the Big Stone Ball rolling toward you and you're wearing a fedora.

That happened to me the other day for the first time, the stuffed-animals-in-the-box scenario. There in the box as I stood on the chair was suddenly Officer Dawg in all his glory, with his badge and blue police hat still on, though a bit squashed, there was the cinnamon teddy bear that had caused such commotion one Christmas morning 20 years ago, there was the Nekobasu (cat bus) from Tottoro, with the little red-eyed gray mice for running lights, there was the baby raccoon with the grabby arms that held onto things, and don't look at me that way, I just couldn't put them back in that box; they deserved better, and so did I.

What else could I do but put the nekobasu beside the computer where every once in a while I can look over and see those bright golden eyes and that insanely optimistic smile and remember stuff that happened back then, and cinnamon bear had to go beside the door to the bedroom for when the grandkids visit, and who could deny Officer Dawg the right to resume his official position looking out of the big bowl at the top of the stairs for a laugh at bedtime, and raccoon of course had to hold on to the bannister sliding down head first as always, so that every time I go upstairs I am freshly and startlingly reminded of how near I really am to what can sometimes seem so far away.

That's what the Big Stone Ball is for.