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.

Monday, November 17, 2003



It's hard to keep politics from being onyermind these days, not just because the politicians seem to be dismally below average (I grew up in the shadow of what was the oldest political machine in the country, so I'm not much of an optimist in this regard anyway). Still, it's hard to ignore all that hot air and lie breath and bad vibes and horrible karma coming to roost atop the chicken coop of the world, it's unfair to all those who yearn to pause now and then and focus a good long gaze and remark upon, say, those tiny looklike violets coming out of the ground right there at this time of year, isn't that amazing, and the color of that gingko tree over there against the dark green of the cedars, what a sunbeam to the heart, and who'd like to keep on going just in that vein for a while, but sooner or later they see a headline or hear folks talking or walk by a blabbering tv or a smarmy radio and realize to their horror it's all true, and that there are people who actually love and honor and hang on every word of psychociphers, when wildflowers and gingko leaves and bright red berries in the forest and clouds gilded in red gold by the just-gone sun are so much more real, so straight from the same long ago as ourselves and with nothing but beauty to offer, our hallowed governing institutions have become so homely in comparison. Is that truly the best we can do?

Sunday, November 16, 2003



On the Bushies et al.


What was on the cover of Time

the week you were born?


"Thomson Financial reports that last month's ratio of insider sales to buys hit a record 59 to 1. That's 59 shares sold for every one purchased! And it surpasses the previous record of 41 to 1, set in May 2001, by a mile.

In May of 2001, by the way, the market completed its first official "sucker's rally", having gained more than 21% before plunging another 41% over the next 1-1/2 years. Today, insiders are selling stock at an even more frenzied pace!"



The fact that some ostensibly perceptive, capable, even professional journalist actually believed that Rumsfeld had lost his mojo-- in other words, that Rumsfeld had at one time had mojo, but had left it in the Lincoln bedroom or something-- just cracks me up whenever I think about it. Imagine genuine mojo coming anywhere near a life like that! Mojo is above all an entity of righteous discernment! It is never found in Washington.

Saturday, November 15, 2003


He's no longer
in this world-- but oh,
look at his roses!


About four times a year the bubbly mountain stream up in the forest whence we get our water plays its pranks on us, as nature in all its ways is wont to do to the straight-line plans we humans make, and following a heavy rainstorm or snowstorm or windstorm or leafstorm, as of the past few days (we're early up here compared to the flatlands), the stream chuckles as it carries leaf after leaf to the mesh pipe that drains into our cistern, blocking the mesh or in other times covering it with sand or pebbles or twigs, whatever it has at hand.

So we've been getting some pretty slow and aerated water the past few days, making our bath look like a genuine onsen (hot spring bath) and our tap water look like milk, though it settles clear in a minute or two, but still you can never be sure for that minute or two, which can be trying after a while, say when I am making tea, for which my standards are much more stringent than, for example, those at NASA.

This morning, since I finally wasn't going off to work in the city, and though there are about 27 other things that urgently need doing at last count, I put on my tool belt and high boots, grabbed a pick and shovel and headed on up the road into the forest, on the way checking out the nice new log house a young couple has just built in the woods above, and meeting another neighbor on the other side who had been laboring mightily moving a refrigerator-sized rock from the edge of his property into precisely the right place along his garden walk. He had just finished, so I could be no help.

Continued on up over carpets of acorns onto a mossy road to the stream up on the edge of a meadow surrounded by cedars, noting the good wild fruit and herb places for future reference (especially some nice wild persimmons and red berries), offroad into the sunlight along the stream to the pipe inlet, moved some rocks to improve inlet and outlet, cleaned off the mesh pipe, checked it all over for general rightness, then just stood there in the stream in the sunlight until I'd gathered about all the sunlight and stream I could take with me. Nothing like standing in forest sunlight, knee deep in endless laughter. The water from our tap is now clear and bright and soft as rain, thanks to all the laughing that goes on and on up there in the forest.


"...there are 189 countries Bush hasn't invaded. He should get to invade at least two or three more before anyone calls him an imperialist or war monger."

Friday, November 14, 2003



When Japanese farm ladies work outside they wear traditional big-brimmed sunbonnets with neck covers, and special forearm and wrist covers so that they can work all day in the sun and still look as pale as if they never spend any time outdoors (not to mention the tacit ancient awareness-wisdom as to the dangers of long-term exposure to sunlight). They live linked to the old tradition that a woman's beauty is at its best when pale and hidden away indoors but for rare showings. The young city office ladies, in contrast, who put their beauty on display every day on the train and in the office, go to tanning salons (where ancient awareness-wisdom is pretty much a non-starter), where they uncover themselves and lie in the pseudosun so that after a few sessions they're dark enough to look as though they never any spend time indoors. Countrypale women and citytan women. There must be a bunch of morals here somewhere, both light and dark.


Having read and heard all the praises for all the troops who have been sent to do the impossible in Afghanistan and Iraq, so many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, let's add our praise for all the sons and daughters of the Washington elite responsible for the war, we mustn't ignore the sacrifices they're making: let's say thanks to the Bush children and family relatives over there in Tikrit, who are putting their lives on the front line in service to their country just as did the President himself back when he was a man of courage, and then there's the Cheney grandkids in the bulletmarked humvees in Nasiriyah, the Rumsfeld nephews there in the alleys of Afghanistan, and all the soldiers from the Powell, Perle and Wolfowitz families now under fire in Baghdad, and so many others from the patriotic Washington uppercrust, sent straight into harm's way on the other side of the world-- who can thank them enough for their noble sacrifice?


"Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort who are making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These are people born without consciences. They know full well the pain their actions may cause others to feel but do not care. They cannot care. They came into this world with a screw loose, and now they're taking charge of everything. They appear to be great leaders because they are so decisive. Do this! Do that! What makes them so decisive is that they do not care and cannot care what happens next."

This is an exerpt from "excerpts from some of what I myself said onstage at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on the evening of September 22, 2003, as we touch off the last chunks and drops and whiffs of fossil fuels."

Kurt Vonnegut

Complete excerption at In These Times. Thanks, Ken.

Thursday, November 13, 2003



"Newborn babies whose mothers watched Neighbours during pregnancy have been seen to stop crying and become alert when they hear the theme tune after birth."

From Human development from conception to birth

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Beautiful moon
tonight you too
have to hurry


[Trans RB]

I love how, on bright shiny Autumn days like this one, when in the growing cold all the leaves are turning brown or have already been taken in the wind's big airy bag (and dumped on my spinach), the heart-shaped mukago vine leaves turn from a demure and indistinct green into the brightest showtime yellow strung along the bamboo like lights along Broadway, and hang on there flashing in the gusts for days and days, saying Here I am! Over here, you hungry birds! Like strawberries in Spring, tomatoes in summer, pumpkins in Autumn, persimmons in Winter, the mukago leaves too are bright signs of the big consideration given throughout every season to hungry birds and hungry non-birds, such as myself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003



Almost 60 years in power now, the LDP elephant got an annoying thorn stuck in its foot by the opposition at yesterday's elections, which won't slow the great grey eminence much; as the yelling gets louder around the pork barrels, don't expect anything to change except maybe the price of pork. And watch out for that highway.


Excellent and worthy focus. Soros has a pretty good sense of how the big deal goes down, what is genesis and what is nemesis. He has given $5 million to, and more is coming for worthy causes aimed at the defeat of Bush in 2004. Fascinating insights from an insightful man, and a great closing line in this WP article.

Monday, November 10, 2003



But I knew all along it was rock'n'roll!!


Yesterday afternoon the house was filled with the wonderful almondy fragrance of raw biwanotane, the kernels of the seeds of the biwa (loquat; Eriobotrya japonica). The fragrance was even more profound because I was smunching them juicily on an oak slab with a hammer
in preparation for making biwashu, a traditional home health remedy made by tincturing thus-prepared biwanotane in shochu (sort of a sake brandy) for a minimum of two months, the biwashu getting darker the longer it's aged. The intense fragrance, in a kind of serendipitherapy, lifted my thoughts to very sunshiny places, making me feel both hungry and satisfied, which I guess is about as close as you can get to the Tao and exist at the same time.

Matured biwashu can be used internally or topically in the mouth or on the skin. It's a panacea for small home emergencies: burns, bug bites, bruises, aches and pains, infections, gum problems, canker sores etc. We always carry a small bottle of it with us when we travel. It did wonders in abbreviating my sciatica, and I still think it played a miraculous role in making my one and only kidney stone disappear in a half hour.

Every temple has a biwa tree somewhere in its precincts for just such use; the sliced leaves thus tinctured make a superior topical medicine as well, excellent for, among many things, taking the itch out of mosquito bites. We used about a kilo of biwa kernels in about 2 liters of gemmae (brown rice) shochu, enough to share with friends.

Sunday, November 09, 2003



Upon reading that Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers had died (he was born the same year as I), I went immediately to my musical archives and put on Unchained Melody and let it just repeat. Like any classic, that performance never ages, just gets better as you grow enough to sense the nuances that were there all along.

I read an interview with Bobby in which he said that he'd liked the song so much and wanted to do his own version of it so much that he went into the studio to do it as a B-side and nailed it in one take.

To think at the age of 25 Bobby went into a major studio, with Phil Spector producing, and rendered that classic in just one take. As I listened to that amazing performance, one that I've loved and gone back to many times over the years since it first swelled from all the jukeboxes in 1965, it filled me as it always has, with the passion of its rendering and astonishment at the singer's instinctive understanding and fluid literacy regarding every technical and emotional nuance of the song, right from the very first "Woh..." (not merely "Oh").

Phil Spector's wall of sound is mere background to one of the most beautiful renderings by one of the most amazing voices in modern music. What a take that was. Thanks forever, Bobby.

[Also posted on BlogCritics.]

Saturday, November 08, 2003



Says the FT headline. They use metric here in Japan, though, so "centimeters towards meaningful democracy" would be more correct, but in reality the change is closer to micrometric. The trappings of Western democracy are newly seen in the stridently promissory campaigns (work of a US campaign management firm) and the more specific intimations of voter appeasement (The Manifesto!), but the end result of all these cosmetics will be the same old LDP face (longest single-party rule in the world) until Japan is changed fundamentally by globalization, which should take another lifetime or so to work its way through the tight-knit social fabric...
[Later addition: though this is the first time I've ever heard major Japanese candidates actually get promise-hoarse by the day before elections, as always happens to US presidents by November, so I at least that's a beginning; to what end remains open to question.]



What character she has, to feel so badly about being called a hero when she knows she wasn't a hero, and then to say it to the entire nation. What rooted integrity, compared to Dubya in his phony fighter pilot jumpsuit foto-op. What honesty she has, to say it was wrong of her higher-ups to film her rescue and use her to symbolize "all this stuff." What generosity she has, to call her lost companions, and those still in Iraq, the real heroes. What strength of spirit she has, to make it through all that pain with a winning smile, compared to Dubya who has attended not one single funeral of the hundreds of men and women he has sent over there to die. What an example Jessica is, of America's best. She's a hero's hero. May she never give Dubya that foto-op he craves.

Friday, November 07, 2003



Recently for some reason Pure Land Mountain, not renowned for its tie-tying references, or anything else actually, has gotten a number of visitors via the search query "How to tie a Double Windsor."

Now I've never prided myself on my factually deep knowledge of necktie lore, nor yet on the impressive breadth of my knot-related derring-do, but I guess I must have mentioned the Double Windsor in one of my abstracted moments in these humble pixelations.

So to accommodate the need of those searchers-- and the disappointment they no doubt feel upon pushing the search button for Double-Windsor-tying lessons only to emerge amidst pointers on growing shiitake mushrooms-- here, straight from my everflowing font of sartorial ruinations-- ruminations-- is How to Tie a Double Windsor Knot:

First, place a well-balanced bespoke tie around your neck (collar up), with the wider portion of the tie on the side of your dominant hand; then (assuming you're right-handed) take firmly in hand the right-hand length and pass it over the left-hand length, then continue passing the right-hand length around and under and up through and over the left-hand length, thence on around and under both left and right, over both again then under from the left and up, over and down through the last pass. Pull downward severally to firm; adjust knot.

There. The knot is perfect. But the larger side of the tie should be much longer. And in front. All this should of course be reversed if you're left-handed; and then again you're doing it in a mirror. And that shirt is all wrong. Could I interest you in a nice turtleneck?


I took the Political Compass Test a long time ago, when it first hit the Net, and wound up deep in the lower left quadrant, but never made a hard copy 'cause what the heck it was only a Net test and some of the questions made my head tilt sideways. But when I visited Tim Lambert's very interesting political spectrum compilation, I took the Test again, still with head tilts, and posted the results (me and the Dalai Lama are like this; actually I'm a tad more liberal) to his chart. A growing constellation of kindred souls linked together there, makes it extra worthwhile.


Great story from a Princeton grad trucking boxes, thanks to the booming American economy. Nobody needs big hearts and beautiful words anymore?

With thanks to Melissa of nipponDAZE.

Thursday, November 06, 2003



This time for Best Essays! Hooray for us!!


I first saw God high up in a glitzy vending machine not far from the main intersection down in one of Osaka's entertainment districts, but thought little of it since I was on my way from the office to greater pleasures at the time. A day or two later though, when in a more sober moment I remembered my vision, I thought: hey how cool would that be, to have God on my dashboard, desk, bookshelf, wherever! I could have more than one; I could have as many Gods as I wanted, at very little cost!

So one day not long after, when I was in that neighborhood again I walked up to that glitzy machine on that sleazy corner, raised my hand with the money ready, prepared to pay the price. But the space where God had been was empty; it appeared that God was being replaced. Deep, oh deep, was my disappointment. I sought God in other, more appropriately located vending machines, both sleazy and glitzy; I even checked out machines in high-class areas, near temples, shrines, all the convenience stores, supermarkets, gourmet marts, you name it, but God was gone, and could not be found. God had apparently been discontinued.

You know what they say, that God comes to you when you least expect it, just like on that night in the entertainment district. And sure enough, the next time I found God I least expected it, too. Having all but given up on my quest, one rainy night as I wandered past a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, out of sheer force of God-seeking habit I glanced up to check out a weather-beaten discount vending machine that was practically falling into the road. And there in the sputtering neon light, like a vision from a low-budget heaven, was God! At a discount! It was clear that God was being remaindered, and would soon no longer be available.

I didn't fall to my knees or anything, I just put in my hundred yen coin and pushed the button and God came out, hot, with change. But then the red light came on, indicating that there was no more God. This was it: I had gotten the last one, probably anywhere. Still, I had found God, hot, and for less than a hundred yen. God had never made it out of Osaka, let alone Japan. Might have been a hit in America.

My God sits now in dented humility on the shelf above my desk at home, unopened, the lamp light gleaming dully off the tall bronze letters. Think of it: the very last God. Might be black, might be white, may be sweet, maybe not; I don't care, I rarely drink coffee anymore, and never from a can. I just wanted it for the name.


The Product.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003



"The modern world is undergoing a fundamental transformation as the industrial society that marked the 20th century rapidly gives way to the information society of the 21st century. This dynamic process promises a fundamental change in all aspects of our lives, including knowledge dissemination, social interaction, economic and business practices, political engagement, media, education, health, leisure and entertainment. We are indeed in the midst of a revolution, perhaps the greatest that humanity has ever experienced. To benefit the world community, the successful and continued growth of this new dynamic requires global discussion."

First phase December 10-12 in Geneva. Details here

For ongoing alternative commentary visit




Tore myself from editing this morning and went out to thin the komatsuna, which is growing apace, but it turned out the sprouts are still too small for thinning. While I was out there though, subsequently pondering the oshoga (large ginger) in the next row, and whether to harvest it all or just leave it in the ground over winter, I glanced at the shiitake logs that I'd last checked thoroughly the day before yesterday (I also check frequently from the kitchen window), and saw that no mushrooms had emerged since yesterday's rain. (Shiitake may look slow, but they're not.) Then when I went up the new stone step to the small upper field to check on the koshoga (small ginger), I discovered that there is a higher intelligence to shiitake than I had surmised from their exquisite deliciousness alone. There were in fact about a dozen shiitake fruiting, one of them big as a small dinner plate, and one even bigger that had been fruiting for somewhat longer, till it was about the size and shape of a hand fan, but had been feasted on by birds and bugs and was now too bedraggled even to be called a leftover. The discovery I alluded to several clauses ago but immediately went on a tangent from lay in the fact that all of those mushrooms were growing in places where they could not be seen from the kitchen window or from the lower garden (a little x-files theme here, please...). The shiitake knew where I lived and they knew my recent habits of garden traversal, so grew accordingly. If I weren't so eclectic, habitwise, they might not have been lunch today; they might have gotten away with it. But I didn't want to penalize intelligence, so I left some of the higher IQ ones in place to grow and propagate, perhaps one day take over the world, maybe treat it right. The others were exquisitely delicious.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


Now that the cherry trees have lost their leaves in swirling crowds and clusters of color that I have to hand-pick off the baby spinach, and as the oaks toss their own gold all over the landscape and the chestnut reluctantly begins to shed in single swirling scarlet flashes, the widening access to open sky is rendering me increasingly vulnerable to the perturbations of satellite tv, the growing signal each day affording me more disquieting flashes of world events via CNN, glimpses of movies issuing from the seminal forge that is Hollywood, some benign documentaries, a couple of cooking/gardening shows, some sitcoms, gobbets of pixelfluff into my life, glimpses that leave me unhungry for more, though there is a bit of mental nourishment there for a hungry mind, tantalizing crumbs of how good a medium television could be if it were left to the devices of intelligence and wisdom, rather than to the claws of marketing; by and large, though, I'm grateful that Spring will bring the leaves back to the trees.


"Woman's Outlook specifically caters to the multi-faceted needs of today's NRA woman as she exercises her Second Amendment rights in pursuit and enjoyment of the American firearms lifestyle."

I wonder if they have any idea how grotesque this looks to non-violent societies like Japan... though I doubt if such niceties have any part in their outlook. I mean, mom hugging her kids and her guns? How emotionally discerning can you get?

Monday, November 03, 2003



It occurs to me that God must have a pretty damned high IQ, and a pretty broad spectrum of people to choose from, were she to have a hand in selecting the leader of America. The thought that she might select George W. is-- excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes-- a claim that could only be made by one who is grossly ignorant of higher planes. If God were thus operative in American politics, I think she'd at least pick someone who could pronounce "nuclear." The fact that George can't, yet has his finger on the red button and loves to play warrior offers strong indication that God wouldn't touch this fiasco with an infinitely long pole, leaving George free to claim her endorsement, though he can't get too complex about it, or make the claim in front of people who think and live beyond the limits of received ideas.

Sunday, November 02, 2003


At the tool store
all those
Japanese tools!!

Saturday, November 01, 2003



Now that I'm harvesting my hefty jalapenos, tiny tabascos and sensual Thai dragons (all of which successfully warded off the monkeys, haven't seen a monkey in the garden in quite a while), I'm figuring out what to do with them all, nice problem. The jalapenos I'll roast as per a great pepper-roasting page I just found, freeze the result and make salsa etc. as needed. The little toy-pepper tabascos (they undergo a beautiful change from pale green-ivory to yellow to fiery red) I'll mash up with some local sea salt and let them cure for a year or two (till I remember that I've got them upstairs in the closet, the longer the better) then stir in a suitable amount of fine clear multidistilled cider vinegar, roughly strain and consume (mmmmmwah!!). But the Thai dragons, which rank way up there on the Scoville scale with the jabaneros, I'll just let hang upside down on the kitchen wall in all their gorgeous long red curling flaminess and use them one at a time as torrid cuisinal ideas come to me or whenever in the shivers of winter I need some tropics at my equator.

THEIR SPIN, YOUR MONEY: "U.S. Economy: GDP Grows at Fastest Rate Since 1984"

They've even got Bloomberg spinning their recovery yarn!!

Hope you're not putting your money where their mouth is.

Here's an unspun, realistic perspective on this "growth":

"This economic recovery is the most expensive on record and has yet to produce material results for corporate investment, or employment. So far, the recovery has cost 13 interest rate cuts, 3 tax cuts, and, a war! In addition, it has created a real estate bubble (the likes of which the world has never seen before), a reflation of the stock market bubble, and a policy designed to have average citizens support both bubbles by taking unprecedented personal risks when investing. Indeed, never before has a central bank cut rates so many times, nor has a federal government spent so much money resulting in such a small economic improvement, other than boosting consumer spending.

Third quarter economic growth of 7.2% is impressive, yet this growth is a sign of gluttony fed by money borrowed by the US Treasury and the mortgage market. The spending is yet to be backed up by any growth in consumer wages and salaries. ... All of this "Stimu-Less" proves only that a few months of growth can be purchased if the authorities are willing to pay any price."

Read the rest of this article by Richard Benson of SFGroup

[Note: can't link directly to article: click Articles, then Economic Recovery or Stimu-Less?]