Thursday, September 30, 2004


'"It's disturbing to know this is in our bodies and it's being given to our children right off the bat.'
No studies have been done on the effects of PBDEs on humans, but lab tests on animals show the chemicals can harm learning and memory development.

The group says they chose to examine breast milk because it is high in the fats to which PCBs, dioxins, and PBDEs adhere. They call breast milk 'an early warning system for emerging toxic threats.'"

Which makes babies the canary in our coal mine.



The purveyors of Intelligent Design are evolving; perhaps one day they’ll rise to a level at which they can accept Darwinism. Unless of course they’re a sign that as a species we’ve peaked, evolutionarily, and are devolving to simpler forms...

Gravity is also a problem for these people.

For an intelligent assessment of the intellectual travesty that is Intelligent Design...



There we were this morning on the semi-open train platform in the throes of typhoon Meari, as it's known elsewhere (locally, it's typhoon #21), we bushido commuters waiting for the no-show train in the teeth of the storm, wind howling, microscopic raindrops from god's big atomizer traveling horizontally like a big flapping gray flag, then for occasional moments the air would clear and the green mountains appear out of nowhere then back again to gray...

In growing numbers we stood there in the wet howl, listening on tenterhooks to the elderly station announcer (they put the semi-retired ones out in the country at the small, quiet stations) fumbling with the mike and the dials and buttons then mumblestumbling over the loudspeaker with his cobbled announcements about the train upon which the swelling crowd depended: uuummm, uuuuhhhh, the train isn't coming yet uhhhhhhhh because........... uhhhhh the uuuuhhhh it hasn't left the ummmm because uhhhhhh...... and so on, we finally deciphering (it's hard to hear with rain in your ear) that the train was stopped somewhere up the line and nobody knew when it would start again, the dispatchers fearing that the strong gusts might blow the whole train right off the tracks, unlike we much lighter commuters standing right beside the same tracks just barely out of the same storm through which we'd traveled on foot and wheel to wait in the very teeth for the train...

Then, as if in a gift for our troubles, after a time the air cleared of the horizontal gray and the moisture took on an innocent wispiness and there before us against the mountains, looked like just about a meter in front of our eyes, was a thick and brilliant rainbow, full-fledged, framing a bright silver mist through which could be seen the green mountains fading and reappearing with the shadows of the passing clouds. It stretched from the stonemason's house all the way to the house of the fireman in the next village who has an antique American red 'bullseye' railroad lantern. That should pin it down quite precisely for you.

The rainbow just hung there like a deific marquee for as long as we waited, the schoolkids around me all looking into their cell phones. The future is virtual. When the train finally came, the rainbow followed us nearly all the way to Kyoto, but refused to go through any tunnels; it preferred to wait for us on the other side. It faded as we neared the city.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Well, here we are with our 22nd typhoon coming in, at least I think it's number 22, I lost track at around typhoon #18 or so. Mankind can only stand so much meteorology. The big round cloudy vortex took a 90 degree right turn at Taiwan and headed straight for my house, having just heard that I'd be off today and wanting to touch up the exterior with some paint before winter. That of course is from the solipsistic perspective typhoons tend to bring on when they head straight for you with huge graspy windfingers.

Haven't seen the sun in quite a while; actually the last time I saw it was in a movie made back in the late 20th century. Read about it too, not long ago, re-read actually, in a book called The Sun also Rises, which I now see as an extended Hemingway irony. A full moon is also said to be shining at night above the clouds, but I can find no trace of this in the literature at hand.

What the nearly two dozen typhoons have brought to this neighborhood is not only an extended lack of sun and moon, but a corresponding excess of rain, at least so far. You can only use so much rain, according to my spinach. My pale, wan onions as well are taking a beating and looking rather drowned. The typhoon-curbed monkeys will not be pleased.

*Later a very wet and windblown guy on tv said it was typhoon #21. Guess I was just thinking about tomorrow...


Tuesday, September 28, 2004


"I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be."

From: The Unfeeling President
By E.L. Doctorow

Monday, September 27, 2004


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This is a photo of the shiso bud relish made as described. Just sprinkle it atop your brown rice or use it to garnish any appropriate dish to secure supreme health, intelligence and beauty, longevity, success in love, top prize in any lottery, the election of all your favorite candidates and the same for your children unto seven generations. Tastes fantastic, too.


Sunday, September 26, 2004


In one of the frequent pauses enjoyed by laid-back gardeners everywhere, I was gazing this morning at the mass of wild greenery across the road when my unprepared eye was caught by a rhythmically undulating movement that proved to be the feathery white manes of small green horses, loping gently along the meadowside on their way into the forest.

Blinking back into what we generally agree is reality (with some political exceptions), I saw that that particular morning-angle of the sunshine had combined with the slight down-mountain breeze to transmogrify the tall elegant roadside ferns into the manes of cantering jade horses.

Ferns are fine enough, but how much finer are the lacy white manes of small green horses! In a welcome continuation of the pause for purposes of further musing on the matter, I pondered the deep connection pertaining between apparently disparate things, as for example the shape, movement and purpose of ferns and manes; not to mention the always available power of every element of our natural everyday lives, if we can but get out of the way for a moment, to engender endless streams of folk tales and myths and stories to tell the children, wherewith perhaps to free their eyes and make their minds all the more their own.


Yesterday I was out front moving old deck scraps toward the roadside and in the process gathering leaves of yomogi (mugwort; Artemisia vulgaris, a member of the wormwood family) for an experiment in making mogusa. I'll dry it and then try to make that frothy duff I've seen it be, in the long thick sticks of the mogusa Echo used on my sciatica some years ago, when it felt wonderful on that long, deep, ancient ache and was very healing, both in fact and feeling, since it alleviated the pain in a very authoritative way, as though that certain pain and that particular warmth had known each other very well from long before I came along.

That mogusa was packaged in sort of a well-packed-- but still soft-- stick form, a long punk about an inch in diameter. The end was lit to a steady glow and touched to a wet biwa (loquat) leaf laid upon the affected area. Odd as it seems, the heat generated by the mogusa stick is very kind, and doesn't burn or scald the skin through the leaf, since the glow burns back into the punk and away from the skin upon contact with the wet leaf, sending a mild burst of heat into the skin. Similarly, I also used pinches of mogusa duff atop slices of ginger or garlic. Nothing like a little ginger or garlic steam to let those aches know who's boss.

I don't need moxibustion at the moment, but like all beings who move through time I undoubtedly will, so it would be nice to know how to make mogusa. Anyway, I'm curious as to how that fine fluff is made, and the wherewithal is free, yomogi growing in tons up here on the mountain. Also a bag of the leaves is exceedingly great in a hot bath, as I am.


Saturday, September 25, 2004


Until November 3 there will be desperate 24-hour misdirectional prestidigitations of the US economy to ensure that, to the citizen audience, the Dow will appear to float just above their heads, with no strings attached, as the dollar hovers magically above a black hole; US deaths in Iraq will remain invisible, unattended and unphotographed; real estate prices will rise by no apparent means; the CPI will glide straight through the air like a ghost; jobs, though sawn in half, will disappear only to reappear at minimum wage in Walmarts everywhere and the staggering national deficit will be stacked up even higher as inflation appears to float just above the floor.

But behind the mirrors that reflect these illusions of an economically vibrant America and accordingly vibrant world, there will be no indication of the nation’s genuine ills, or of invading Iran or clamping down on basic US freedoms; then, when the Truly Incredible Dubya is elected for the first time, the show will be over; the curtains will close, the lights will come on, the gloves will come off; the Dow, the dollar and prices will go where they want and the Mayberry Machiavellians will have a free hand with the dearly paying audience as it shuffles out into stark unmirrored reality and the realization that the show ticket was a ripoff after all, except for the wealthy, who own the theater.

So as from your pre-election front-row seat you watch the Dow do its magic bounce and the dollar float in mid-air, keep an eye on your draft-age sons and daughters, watch your wallet, hide your money if you still have any, get out of the theater by a side exit if you can, don't breathe too deeply or drink the water, and forget about the world’s good graces for another 4 years, if not longer.



Out here in the country I just go lie under the cherry tree in the shade or on a sunny hillside among flowers in the breeze or beside the pond and gaze at the sky or stretch out on a big rock in the arms of the forest; naps are different in the zip-zip city...


Friday, September 24, 2004


If so, "The Utilikilt offers the Utility Patented Pleat System...which separates our product from any other Men's Unbifurcated Garment on the market today."

Can't imagine wearing one of these when hunkering down to work in a poorly shorn bamboo grove...


Thursday, September 23, 2004

reddening tomato
how you swell with seeds
is somewhere in these words



There is much to be said for aging roofs, the quaint old things-- atop rickety, silvering cabins; covering mossy manses-- so much to be said in fact that I'll shut up about it right now, except to say that I have an old roof. End of subject. Needless to say, therein lies an implicit ergo: I need a new roof, regarding which there is much more to be said.

There is so much more to be said about new roofs in fact, and so many roofing salesmen willing to say it, that from the roof-seeker's perspective there seems no end to information regarding new roofs, especially in this modern world where the choice is no longer simply slate or cedar, as it was in blessedly simpler times: now it's composite metal ceramic asphalt cement copper glazed unglazed red brown green orange gray black Mediterranean classic bisque European white chocolate American blend spatter stainless traditional Japanese new brand product revolutionary I'm out of breath so I'll stop here to choose from; and of course we're all new at this aren't we, this roof stuff; when an expert comes and says "XYZ" with all the roofing authority at his command, we believe him.

But then we've got a house, and anyone who has had a house for more than five years has learned to get a second opinion on everything, so we ask another roof expert and he cays "ABC; definitely not XYZ because of possible pinholes, not to mention the long list of other potential drawbacks," and once having heard that long list you're no longer ignorant, thank god, you're just completely lost in knowledge, so you get a third opinion and he says "ABC?", chuckles knowingly. "Absorbs water; no good in this climate, not to mention the long list of other potential drawbacks." And indeed it is such a list that you wonder how anyone with any intelligence could put such a ridiculous product on top of their house. Then he says "XYZ?" with eyebrows up, shakes his head, stares at the ground, says "You wanna have to get the roof treated every 5 years, in addition to the long list of other potential drawbacks?” a query followed by an impressively worrisome list that comes back to you at 3 am. After a long moment, he says "QRS. That's the way to go."

And so it is that your thoughts at last find a roof of their own as you realize that the experts know no more than you knew at the very beginning, they're just more expert about it, they shingle their ignorance in a very professional manner, but still you have not the wherewithal to decide among the many equally recommended, yet equally unrecommended alternatives, each of which is highly praised by experts, while being thoroughly proscribed by experts.

Given enough time, and a list of alternatives approaching infinity, having run the long gauntlet of unqualified recommendations with flaws the size of the Grand Canyon, you yourself become an expert on the nature of expertise; knowing so much more about all the less you know regarding roofing, you call an office somewhere that in the local phone book calls itself something like The Ultimate Authority on Roofing Endorsed by God, and ask them what they think. They will send a guy over right away. His too is the only true roof, the one roof over all. He convinces you. Now confidently dogppaddling in expertise, you hang the big roofing poster that shows all the alternatives and you get out your set of darts. Then you give the lucky winner all the money in your bank account. When at last the thing is done, you are at last certain of one thing: you've never been so roofed in all your life.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004


From abroad, the madness in the US media over the verity of documents detailing Dubya's de facto desertion during wartime appears to have sprung straight from the mind of Groucho ("So what if I'm a deserter? These love letters are a pack of lies!"), with Rather and CBS being crucified by the far-righteous, whose Fuzzy Fox, Wily Limbaugh et al., not to mention the Rove Sewage Squad, get away with strangling America's founding legacy.

All this noise and clamor is nothing more than misdirection of course, drawing the electorate's gaze away from what's really going on (tv, the great zombifier, is an excellent suppressor of skepticism and discernment), casting a pall of artificial smoke over the real and deepening travesty that is Iraq, a lengthening lie being drilled into the US electorate as a key component of the essential "war on terror" when in fact it's all about oil and hasn't laid a hand on terror, as is plain to the Iraqi people, over 12,000 men women and children of whom have died thus far in liberation.

Most senior US military officers now believe the war on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented scale

Sidney Blumenthal

'Bring them on!' President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is 'winning' in Iraq. 'Our strategy is succeeding,' he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.

But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: 'Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost.' He adds: 'Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends.'"

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


From 10 million light years outside the Milky Way to the quarks in a proton of the nucleus of a carbon atom of the DNA in the chromatin of the nucleus of the cell of an oak leaf in Florida.


Monday, September 20, 2004


Some latest stats on our little township, which, unlike most of the rest of Japan, increased in population across the board, though only slightly, to 22,965: 17 more men, 33 more women, 20 more families than last year. The oldest resident is a woman aged 103; the oldest male is 96. Four individuals in the township are centenarians; all are women; 170 folks are in their nineties. These numbers should change radically, especially downriver and downwind, once the prefecture at the vanguard of tomorrow has pioneered the future by advancing ever forward, holding high the triumphant banner of progress as manifested in the spanking new state-of-the-art industrial waste gasification incinerator that's scheduled for construction on the once-revered mountainside just above the formerly honored lake in the previously protected forest.


Sunday, September 19, 2004


Taking Off the Color Blinders
Geneticists and Historians Grapple With the Gray Areas of Race

By Joel Achenbach



"Most scientists involved in this research agree that the melting of the icebergs on Greenland and the Arctic ice pack, currently underway as a result of global warming, and the flushing of cold, fresh water down into the Greenland Sea from the north, could reduce salinity sufficiently to switch off the Great Conveyor Belt. When this critical threshold is reached, the climate could suddenly switch to an ice age that could last a few hundred years, or hundreds of thousands of years.

And when might that threshold be reached? Nobody knows-- the action of the Great Conveyor Belt in defining ice ages was discovered only in the last decade. Preliminary computer models and scientists willing to speculate suggest the switch could flip as early as next year, or it may be generations from now...

John Kerry has declared the need for America to become 'independent of Middle East Oil'-- a huge job, and a dramatic departure from George H.W. Bush's declaration that 'America's lifestyle is not negotiable,'and his son's pushing through a tax deduction for SUV owners.

While there is much we can all do in our own lives to reduce our oil consumption, on the larger level it's likely that true, systemic change will only come when we again have political leadership that sees the problem and addresses it clearly and unambiguously. And that sort of leadership comes to power only when you and I participate in the political process, take back America from the corporate special interests, and return it to We the People."

From: The End of Ancient Sunlight
by Thom Hartmann

Friday, September 17, 2004


Like most vegetable gardeners with an ounce of sense, I work the garden in the morning and evening when the sun is low in the sky and labor is cool. However, that arrangement does have a problem, like all approaches to paradise I've ever tried, in that this is precisely the MO of the mosquito.

The mosquitoes around here are not the big lumbering stratofortresses they used to have when I was a kid in NY that you could see and hear from yards away and feel when they crash landed on your arm as though you were a carrier on a tossing sea, giving you plenty of time to flatten them with a free hand, then pick them up and throw them some distance.

Our mosquitoes are tiny specks of ash that have taken billions of years of stealth training. Their motto, hung over the doorway of every mosquito barracks, is: "Fast in, Fast out." You can't hear them unless they're right in your ear, but they're not so dumb as to go for the ear; you can't see the little specks of darkness flying around in the dawn or dusk, you can't feel them land, since they're so tiny a NY mosquito could carry ten of them under one wing. Thus they alight (that word really describes it), thus they dine and thus they depart, so stealthily that modern armies study them for stealth secrets.

Their one weakness (apart from the supereffective sprays that also slowly eradicate the user unto seven generations) is the mosquito coil, an irritating incense made of plant material. With a lit coil around, the mosquitoes begin coughing and either stay away or soon die. (The sound of a mosquito cough is very satisfying; it's sort of the standard whine, only broken up into little chokes that get louder and louder till the gratifying last gasp.) However, if you use the coil in the garden you tend of course to move away from it as you weed or whatever, rendering the coil ineffective unless you keep moving it, which you forget to do because you're out there gardening, not moving a mosquito coil.

You can get a special container that lets you clip the smoking coil to your belt, but as I say the smoke is not pleasant. So I went for a bit of high-tech I saw in the store the other day (the day I bought the Imperial Walker Garlic, concerning which I posted earlier): a little plastic unit about half the size of a credit card that when you turn it on emits a sound practically inaudible to humans, but that to mosquitoes is like high-volume Sex Pistols to Queen Elizabeth. Or so it implied, without actual reference to sex or queens, on the back of the bubble pack.

Thus it was that, in all the high-tech confidence that neogizmos afford I clipped the presumptuous-looking little square of plastic to my belt and set off to do one-sided battle with billions of years of stealth technology. Needless to say, it was astonishing to learn that Queen Elizabeth just can't get enough of the Sex Pistols.



"Morissette says she is 'obsessed' with Japan and loves playing here.

'I just like to walk the streets and eat the food. There is a humility... I mean I know there is always an underbelly to every culture, but there is a sense of generosity and humility and respect that I just really appreciate,' she says. 'Especially having spent a lot of time in North America. It's just really refreshing.'"




Thursday, September 16, 2004


I guess it was the onions. My sudden and impassioned impulse to throw caution on the compost pile and plant those piquant members of the lily family amidst this rare dearth of monkeys I guess subconsciously got me thinking of maybe planting some garlic, nothing else can explain it, anyway it's nice to be encouraged by onions.

So when I went into town to get the ideally shaped and sized whatever it was that they didn't have (ideal shapes and sizes seem to be unavailable to me here in Japan, as impressively evidenced by the garlic itself), in passing my eyes were drawn to where the onion bulbs used to be, and there in the bin were a couple of remaining bags of... garlic... hmmmm... the last ones... only five very large cloves in each bag, priced at 1000 yen: what the... 2 dollars a clove, these must be some kind of super garlic, it said in big readable Japanese letters BIOTECHNOLOGY at the top, I didn't have my glasses for the small print, but that was all the garlic they had and the onion bulbs are all gone so now's the time, be decisive (that attitude usually gets me in trouble) and I went for it, though to maintain at least a modicum of indecisiveness I got one bag.

Later, around sunset, as I was out in the garden generously feeding the mosquitoes while dabbling in biotechnology by planting the humungus cloves-- for good company among the now widely spaced red peppers that had been closely planted among the just-harvested ginger, I hope you can follow this back-and-forth timeline, the red peppers apparently at last accepting the fact that they're not anywhere near Cuba or Mexico-- I noticed that someone had been fiddling around with the spinach, but it wasn't a monkey, monkeys don't like spinach and would have taken a test bite or two out of my still green (and whole) Roma tomatoes.

Anyway monkeys don't like biotechnological garlic do they, I wondered and had to admit that I didn't know... nevertheless in the true gardener's pioneering spirit I forged on. Caught up in garlic fever I hunkered in the dirt with these as I say huge cloves, digging big holes to put them in whence they might one day take over the world, and in the dimming light and impressive heft of technogarlic I began to feel the same kind of madly mysterious feeling I used to feel as a kid, when all was possible and I heard and vicariously lived the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and when these magic cloves during the night reached the clouds with the stalks I'd discover in the morning, what garlic-breath biogiant would be asleep up there, at 2 dollars a clove he'd better have some gold in that castle. Unless monkeys acquire a taste for biotechnology.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004


"Given the immense scale of debts: Government, State, Municipal, Corporate and Personal, and rising liabilities in such essential services as medical care and education as inflation starts to make a serious impact, it would be prudent to expect cash-strapped governments and states to raise taxes. Some idea of the real rate of inflation may be gained from a perusal of top executives pay awards in such countries as the US and UK where these have been averaging between 11% and 13%, and by looking at increases in utility prices. Of course, to control the ignorant masses at the bottom or even middle pay scales, industry and government cynically wave around the "doctored" CPI, claiming that wage rises must be kept in line with inflation. This piece of amazing claptrap is perpetuated by the syndicated media in order to successively reduce labor costs whilst maximizing profits. Many people realize that they are being duped, but scarcely understand the full extent and pernicious nature of this complicated little game. The inevitable outcome of inflation and reduced real wages will be to further impoverish the middle and lower wage and salaried employees, whilst their liabilities increase in line with real inflation, interest rates and additional debt servicing costs. Any serious correction to the world economy will result in an increase in unemployment particularly in service related industries. Many of those affected will most probably lose their homes.

The world's largest economy, comprising more than 25% of the global economy, is now utterly dependent upon Chinese and Japanese support for the very first time in its history."

[Emphasis mine: RB]

From: Tulips of Stone
by Nigel H. Maund



"The ratio of women among those who completed higher education in Japan was the lowest in the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2003, according to the organization's survey..."

When I first came to Japan I was teaching English at a world-renowned company in Tokyo; one of my classes there comprised a few of the female workers, who unlike the men all wore cutesy-sexy uniforms. I remember asking one of the women what she thought about her work, and she said she hated having to serve tea to all the men and to replace the flowers on the managers' desks very morning, which was pretty much all she did; I asked if she had any higher education, thinking to perhaps encourage her in that direction; she said "Yes, I have a master's degree in higher mathematics." Women here know the future. Most of the women I know who have higher degrees have left the country.

[Article followed by many interesting comments on the subject from those in the know. RB]


Tuesday, September 14, 2004


"Three federal agencies regulate genetically engineered crops and foods in the U.S.: the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The heads of all three agencies are on record with speeches that make them sound remarkably like cheerleaders for genetic engineering, rather than impartial judges of a novel and powerful technology. All three agencies have set policies that no public records need be kept of which farms are using genetically engineered seeds, nor does anyone need to label any crops or any food products with information about their genetically engineered origins. In the U.S., every food carries a label listing its important ingredients, with the remarkable exception of genetically engineered ingredients.

These policies have two main effects: They keep the public in the dark about the rapid spread of genetically engineered foods onto the family dinner table; and they will prevent epidemiologists from tracing health effects, should any appear, because no one knows who has been exposed to novel gene products." [Emphasis mine: RB]

From: Against the grain by Peter Montague

See also: Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops:Why We Need A Global Moratorium



At Umeda Station in Osaka, whenever I go by in the morning on my way to the office I see the same homeless guy standing over on the side of the way so as not to interfere with the traffic flow or with the business of the other merchants around there, he stands quietly for hours, not shouting out like the other merchants can (he has to be unobtrusive to be accepted there), neatly dressed, holding up copies of the Homeless Magazines he sells and rarely selling one. The vast crowds flowing by at that hour hardly even notice him; as we all stop and wait for the green light to cross, I watch the crowd to see if anyone is looking at him or notices him or is thinking about buying a copy. They aren't. At that hour of the morning, Japan seems a particularly heartless place to be homeless.

Yesterday I was at home having lunch when I turned on the tv and there in a documentary was the Homeless Guy himself, close up, being interviewed at length. One of the networks was doing a whole segment on Homelessness, and he was the star! They followed him around with the camera through his day and week, asking him questions, interviewing him (he looked very good on tv, quite photogenic and personable) went with him to his location by the street crossing and filmed him selling (the cameras attracted a lot of customers), they went to the office of Homeless Magazine and to the kind of meetings all the sellers go to and talk about the business, the Homeless Guy eating lunch, the Homeless Guy speaking on the economy, the Homeless Guy was a tv star!

This morning when I got to Osaka, there he was in his usual obscure place beside the crowd waiting for the green light, but every head in the crowd was turned to look at the Homeless Guy! He was famous! He was a media star! He had a new charisma! There was an aura of renown about him! He'd been on tv! Fame is a fickle lady. Folks were coming up to him and bowing and buying the mag one after another. On the tv program, they said he sold an average of 30 copies a day, but he would sell a lot more than that from now on. If things keep on this way, he could be in real danger of becoming homeful; then what will he do for a living? TV's a big possibility.


Monday, September 13, 2004


Heart... heart... heart... should be right around here somewhere...



Star charts generated in real-time and customized for your location and time zone.

At Heavens Above



"There are boom times ahead at the Christian Soldier gun shop"...



"We do find essays about the Slow Food and (I am not making this up) Slow Sex movements, as well as work, leisure, children and alternative medicine. We learn slow is chic in Japan (home of the Sloth Club), where advertisers now use the world 'slow' spelled out in English to sell everything from cigarettes to apartment blocks. The Japanese are studying the 'Dutch model' of employment, where one person in three works part-time. The world, likewise, is studying the 'Finnish model' of education, where 'slow-learning' students outperform those in other OECD countries. "

From YES! review of IN PRAISE OF SLOWNESS: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré

With thanks to goddess mystic for the link.


Sunday, September 12, 2004


"Gadfly launched as a print publication in January '98 and moved to the web in the summer of 2001. The online version shut down a year later. Gadfly is revived here."




Saturday, September 11, 2004


Last night as I was driving down the mountain in the rain for reasons utterly irrelevant to this post, my headlights shone upon a very puzzled young inoshishi (wild pig). Judging by his size he was just a teenager, standing by the farm cooperative’s new rice fence in the downpour, doing his porkiest to figure out why he couldn’t get to the fragrantly ripened rice that was right there before his nose. He’d been seeking a way to fine dining through whatever was standing in his way in the dark, then I came along and shed light on his dilemma; he once was blind, but now he saw: there was a very big new fence between him and the rice.

As I say, he was only a teenager, and he was alone, so his blunder was understandable. The odd thing was, he didn’t panic at sight and approach of the blinding machine I was driving; he just sort of stood there staring at the fence for a while in this new light, he was in no particular hurry as the cold suns of my car edged closer and closer (I was slowing down); then he decided: no, there is no way in to the rice at this point; nor is there any escape uphill, whence this monster is approaching; escape downward is too far; I’d better leap into the bamboo on the other side of the road! He abruptly turned and did that very thing, with all the agility and power a teenager can command.

But I guess being so young the teen porker lacked some important local information, most notably the fact that this particular section of the other side of the road is owned by the power company; so, behind a thin border of wild bamboo and vinings, it is surrounded by a strong cyclone fence.

Now anyone who knows pigs (I used to work on a pig farm) knows that a pig’s snout is its Achilles heel. So that must have hurt in a mythic way. But then again, this was a teenager, and anyone who’s been around a teenager for more than half an hour knows that they are strangely immune to accidents that appear extremely painful to the adult observer. So the pig just sort of staggered around in the road (I was fully stopped by now, lest the pig in his beastly stupor mistake the van for an attacker) until he regained operative consciousness, when he aimed for another spot of safety in the thicket and WHANG! hit the fence again. His IQ was plummeting at each attempt, so to keep him from reaching zero I slowly edged by as he bumbled around on the roadside readying for another go.

When I returned about an hour later, there was no sign of the young porker; I imagine when he got home the first thing he said, when everypig looked at his nose, was “Don’t ask.”



I remember the old food pyramid posters (actually back then, The Four Food Groups: the milk group, the meat group, the bread and cereals group and the vegetable and fruit group, arranged in order of lobbyist clout) that used to hang in the grammar school classrooms for our mental nutrition, big quart bottles and tall glasses of milk, thick fat-edged steaks and roasts, cascades of thickly sliced white bread informing us new and always hungry minds as to what we should eat (and in what order and quantity) for the rest of our lives, if we wanted to be like so many of the older folks with huge belts.

"Eat meat at every meal! Drink at least a quart of milk a day!” Fifty years later, meat and dairy are still prominent in the new USDA pyramid, just below where god's eye is on the dollar bill. Processed carbohydrates now, according to the USDA, should comprise the major part of the US diet. Interesting contrast with the whole grain distinction in the Harvard pyramid, in which supplements are now recommended by the same profession that so stridently mocked them 40 years ago! Seems not all wisdom comes from the top down; it often rises upward from the bottom of the social pyramid...




Friday, September 10, 2004


Dedicated To One Simple Question:

*As of this writing, there is a $1149.21 bounty to the first person to ask George W. Bush this question in a public forum. Make a donation via PayPal! Maybe we'll actually find out about the US President's jail time!



"Your calculated health span is 96.3 years. Below, please find the reasoning behind the questions, which you answered that made your score less than it should be:

As a guy, you have your work cut out for you. Women have about a ten-year advantage over men. To catch up, you need to be extra-diligent about healthy habits.


Whatever your reason for not drinking coffee, it definitely has you on the right track. Don't start because it is much harder to stop the habit once you pick it up.

Facts: Excessive coffee can be a sign of increased stress. Stress can lead to a hormonal imbalance, which can physically stress and age numerous organs. In addition, coffee predisposes the stomach to chronic inflammation of the stomach and ulcers. Such chronic inflammation leads to release of substances that raise the risk of heart disease. Tea, and especially green tea, on the other hand, has been noted for its significant antioxidant content, and tea drinkers in general appear to be healthier.


Good for you. A vegetarian, or at least a meatless diet is a healthy diet. Less meat in the diet is conducive to less heart disease and risk for heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, there are nutritional sources of antioxidants in foods that replace meat in a person's diet especially the polyphenols present in certain vegetables and fruits and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish that help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.

Facts: Weighing meat against vegetables and fish or skinless poultry, meat definitely loses out when it comes to your health. The American Heart Association recommends a diet that minimizes meat in the diet and emphasizes these alternatives. Vegetarian dishes, in addition to being an alterative to meat, also have antioxidants that protect the heart and brain. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help a person raise their good cholesterol (HDL) and lower their bad cholesterol (LDL) thus decreasing their risk for heart attack and stroke."

Useful information and heartening advice. I don't know about that lifespan of 96.3 years, though; think of my wine bill!



"There is pending legislation in the house and senate (twinbills: S89 and HR
163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin as
early as spring, 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election. The
administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the
public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed
immediately. Details and links follow.

This plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a shelter and
includes women in the draft. Also, crossing into Canada has already been
made very difficult."

Mandatory draft for boys and girls
At: US Labor Against the War



"Comparison of life in Piscataway, New Jersey; Kochi, Japan; and Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, China"


Thursday, September 09, 2004



Now that all the once-green rice fields have turned again to gold, they've also become individual stages for the ancient key event in Japanese society, as the whole families of each field come out to join in the harvesting of it, from the bouncy little kids to the bent grandparents, the grandmas cutting the stalks at the field edges to make room for the turns of the harvesters they use (the grandmas in mompei moving in expert fashion, having done this dozens of times over the years), the little kids jumping up and down with the rhythm of the starting harvester, then staying involved by keeping carefully out of the way (one little boy with a yellow baseball cap walked in awe through the ready field, his head barely showing above the tall golden stalks), the grandfather steering the harvester slowly and carefully around, the grandmother and the younger women following behind cutting corner-angle stalks and stacking them on the side for separate threshing, the father and the younger men lugging the big white bags of rice from harvester to truck, then at the end of another season tossing the chaff here and there onto the shorn field as the women form the rice straw into bundles, tied with rice-straw, for use in the kitchen garden...

It is clear to see how the rice field not only feeds the whole family, it is a force that holds them together, young and old, that plot of land embodying the common task whose harvest nourishes them collectively, all having a direct hand in creating the family sustenance. It is a source of pride for each one at every meal they take together...

And clear to see how great a loss it is when such true, shared values are absent from our lives.


Want some sociopolitical clout? Like to opt out of social security? Love to be tax exempt? Start your own church!


Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Speaking of children and the treasures they are, I just now was watching some news coverage of film taken by the Beslan terrorists during their herding of children into the school gym with the blood-streaked floor, and close-ups of dynamite bundles wired near little white-stockinged feet, 8-year-old kids in their school clothes forced to sit there for two days, hands behind their heads (so they couldn't get at the grenades and rifles they brought to school?), little ones kept thus at gunpoint behind lines formed of mines and dynamite and grenades wired together throughout the crowd of tiny bodies--- the picture of it--- all done for an as-yet unknown cause that had best remain unknown, for those non-humans have done their cause irreparable damage, they have lost any iota of the respect even murderers may retain in the eyes of the world's law: they have forsaken all honor and nobility of purpose in exchange for the trappings of utter cowardice and shame.

The closest thing I have seen to this insult to the human race is the nazis (they don't deserve a capital letter) rounding up fear-eyed little children with their hands in the air for transport to the ovens. This is not the incidental murder of children by opposing forces as is now happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, among so many agonizing instances in history: this is specifically and purposefully and idealistically targeting children, threatening to blow sheer innocents to pieces, in fact shooting hundreds of children in the back as they tried to flee; what courage this shows! What nobility! What honor! Any ideology that enabled this is worth less than zero.



Dawn walk through cascades of birdsong and crickets trilling the last of the dark, saw the heavy riceheads drooping awaiting harvest and far beyond them in the ukiyoe mist, across the lake the long swath of shore severed from its purple mountains, Mikamiyama floating there above the thin line of clouds more stirringly beautiful than on any ancient folding screen, in air graced by perfumes of morning borne on the remnant breath of night-- mingled scents of wild herbs, wet earth, moist grain, rich sweetgrape fragrance of flowering kuzu-- and along the way, there by a rust-red tree stump in the forest atmosphere a silent dance of two large feathery insects whirling before and against each other spinning, palping, swirling just and only there, ephemera of passion as real as our own, spelled just this way in sunrise


Tuesday, September 07, 2004


"A five-year study run by Indiana University's Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction proves what many in the scientific community have always suspected: having children significantly lowers the IQ of both male and female parents."

What the researchers are necessarily overlooking, of course, because it can't be quantified, so isn't scientific, is the fact that in a very intuitive way, having a child COMPLETELY transforms your view of the world: it's no longer me versus all those possibilities, it's parent-with-child, a much diluted self, a psyche vastly transformed by this life stage evolution.

The new parent's mental metabolism is altered in its very nature; in such a state, who really gives a damn about acing some IQ test? Before you had a child, and were supremely interested in your OWN self, your OWN prospects, your OWN parameters, your SELF-value and its assessment by the world at large, you focused like a laser on that IQ test, as you had on all the other tests you took in your FORMER life.

Now in your NEW life, with a child in the background waiting for you, utterly dependent on you, scientifically 'quantifiable' ephemera fade to minor significance, a phenomenon that these researchers, in the umbra that science casts on all spiritual things, perceive as "lost intelligence." Perhaps it's because the researchers themselves have no children, a state that delimits their perceptions of the world. I'd call parenthood the acquisition of transcendant intelligence, an acute sense of the greater time (rather than the mere now that formerly pertained), a state likely assessable only by intuition, a concept that drives scientists crazy.


Monday, September 06, 2004


We were sitting at the table after dinner last night, chatting about I forget what, I think Echo was putting something in the fridge, when suddenly through my feet and ears I could tell without thinking about it that the house was having a seizure; the light over the table began to sway, I looked up and the ceiling fan was swinging in widening arcs, glass in the doors and windows was chattering, the joists and logs and cantilevers were creaking as the house shook; it does a very odd thing to your mind when your house goes into convulsions-- when your very shelter, your safe haven, begins to show its frailty, when the very roof over your head becomes a thing of danger-- it's a big deal to distrust the ground you walk on.

You're on tenterhooks the while, waiting for the completely irrational shimmy to intensify to THE BIG ONE, as with irrhythmic feints it threatens to do; but this one went away at last, after a minute or so, then later that night as we were falling asleep it came back stronger, or so it seems with tremors in the dark; I ran out of the bedroom and looked out the high living room window: all the lights were going on across the Lake because (you realize, standing there nightbound) not only is the house shaking, not only is the entire mountain and its forest shaking, the whole prefecture is shaking, like a rattle in a baby's hand.

I've experienced a number of earthquakes in Japan since my first one in Tokyo in 1972 or 3; I felt the sharp rush of the 1995 Kobe quake thrust through my house in Kyoto that January morning like a giant invisible knife. The one last night was pretty mild, and mountains pulsate less than alluvial land (which is relatively gelatin to a tremor of the earth), but no matter how many times you're shaken, you never get used to quakes.



Just now browsing the local health-food co-op brochure we get every week, that has pictures of all the goodies on offer, and on the fruit page a picture among others of a group of health-conscious apple farmers boasting the healthy goodness of their shonoyaku (less 'sprayed') apples, saying that conventional store-bought apples are sprayed 30 times or more,whereas our healthy apples are only sprayed 15-20 times! And they charge almost twice as much for apples that are only half as indefinably toxic!

Shocked by my sheer ignorance I looked up the kind of stuff that gets sprayed on apples, and I still don't find half the amount of, say Ferbam, Permethrin or Esfenvalerate at all appealing, not to mention Thiodan, Imidan, Kelthane, Sevin, Captan, Thiophanate, Immunox, Dragon Systemic Fungicide 3336 WP or Ortho Bug-B-Gon Multi-purpose insect killer and that's only 12, 18 more to go, for conventional apples...

Talk about driven from the Garden of Eden...


Sunday, September 05, 2004

crow grins from the roof
something red in his beak--
my tomato!



Get out the blender and put in a goodly amount of olive oil, then add a big handful of pine nuts/walnuts, three (+, -) cloves of fresh garlic and some lemon/yuzu juice, blend that well, then add an eminently satisfying amount of grated parmesan cheese and a big pinch of salt, blend that in; then go out into the garden, get three big tight handfuls of freshly picked Genovese and spicy globe basil leaves (about 9:1, my style) with the dew still on and, adding more oil if needed, gradually blend the lot into an almost surreally glowing green paste that, when at lunchtime dolloped onto the al dente pasta and stirred in, hones to a very sharp edge that particular appetite pesto generates, the way it did in me this morning and still does, even now. It's definitely on the menu in heaven, the source of all appetites and satisfactions.


Saturday, September 04, 2004


Amish Paste tomato

"Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

Our organization is saving the world's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity. Few gardeners comprehend the true scope of their garden heritage or how much is in immediate danger of being lost forever."

[With thanks to Barbara for the nudge.]


Friday, September 03, 2004


On my way to bed tonight, for some odd reason I suddenly had the urge to post some of my favorite lines from Walt Whitman, I suppose it was a side effect of reading about the Republican Convention, all that righteousness oozing from patriotic shirkers... anyway, it took me a lot longer than I'd expected, because when I went to do a quick search for the lines on Google, almost every site I could find had whitebreaded Walt's words to just this morsel:

I think I could turn and live with animals,
they are so placid and self - contain'd,

A very few sites continued to this line:

I stand and look at them long and long.

It took me a while to find the tacitly censored rest of it, the passion of it, the point of it, the Walt of it:

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt would never have been a Republican.




"Repot houseplants now to give them a fresh start before they return indoors. I use a mixture of commercial potting mix and compost with extra additions of perlite, bonemeal, and poultry grit. If you tend to have root rot or other drainage problems in your houseplants, take a tip from the bonsai masters of Japan, and use a sieve or a window screen to remove all of the smallest particles from your soil mix. Some of your garden veggies can also be potted up if you would like to try to over winter them. Tomatoes and peppers are actually perennials in their native habitats and will produce all winter given the right conditions. The right conditions aren't always that easy to create indoors, most of my veggies succumb to lack of sunlight. But there's no harm in trying. This year I plan to supplement peppers with bottom heat in order to coddle them more.

Take cuttings of tender perennials and annuals that you want to overwinter. There are dozens of theories as to which methods give the best results, but the general idea is this: cut a 6 to 8 inch piece of the plant, remove most of the leaves and pot it in a well drained mix (such as peat and sand), and keep moist. Most species will root in four weeks. Rooting hormones are not necessary; the difference in the success rate is negligible. Humans have been cloning plants like this for thousands of years; your grandmother called clones "slips".

Keep sowing fall crops every two weeks until about the end of the month. This will keep you in greens and radishes until frost. Some cool weather crops, such as carrots and parsnips, actually taste better after frost. You can't buy frost-sweetened carrots at any store.

Empty your compost bin and start anew. Garden and kitchen waste for starting your new pile are abundant. Don't bother to add compost starter. Unless you are trying to make two-week compost, it's a waste of money. There are plenty of bacteria, fungi, and other critters in a shovelful of soil or finished compost to get things cooking. Fast compost is possible, but labor-intensive, because all ingredients must be shredded and well mixed, with attention paid to carbon-to-nitrogen ratios. Check out the Rodale Book of Composting for various compost techniques.

Slugs will take advantage of cool, moist conditions to ravage your plantings. So go slug hunting! The West coast may have us beat with their seven-inch banana slugs, but here in the Midwest we have some doozies too. I can go out on a moist night and collect nearly one hundred five-inchers in my yard. Let me elaborate on some slug hunting ground rules. Wear shoes. There is no experience quite like crushing a great slimy monster with your bare feet. Wear gloves. Trying to pick up slugs with anything but your fingers is an immense waste of time. You could snip them with scissors, but why would you want to ruin your tools like that? Go out after dark when they are on the move, and hand pick them into a bucket of soapy water. The soap in the water prevents them from crawling out, and they drown. When you are tending your beds you may also notice slug eggs, which look like a cluster of clear, quarter-inch ovals. Dispatch these by covering them with a little Epsom salts.

Bulbs are available everywhere right now, even at the chain stores, but I get mine at a local garden center where I can inspect each bulb, buy in bulk, and mix and match. Ask about varieties for naturalizing (some hybrids need to be dug and replanted every few years to maintain vigor). After trying several gimmicky bulb-planting tools, I have found the perfect one... a plain old spade. I plant bulbs at the recommended depth or an inch deeper, loosening the soil beneath and adding some Espoma Garden tone and bonemeal. Once they are planted, I cover the area with chicken wire to keep the squirrels out. Garlic falls into the bulb category, and should be planted soon. Frankly, the best garlic comes from mail-order retailers; as grocery store garlic is usually a variety better suited to warmer climates. has a nice selection.

Stock up now on supplies you will need during winter and early spring, such as potting soil and seed starting equipment. They tend to be on sale now because many garden centers need to reduce their inventory, or will be closing for the season sooner rather than later. I know from experience how hard it is to find sphagnum moss in January. It's also your last chance to mail order anything and receive it before frost, so place those orders for plants soon. Before you send a payment, you can check out a mail order establishment at This is a great site where you can rate your experience with a retailer and read the comments of others. They have rated thousands of retailers and you can even search by category."

[This excellent advice from The Organic Gardening Almanac Newsletter
Free email subscription at]


Thursday, September 02, 2004


"Election results can be changed in a matter of seconds. Part of the program we examined appears to be designed with election tampering in mind."



Journalistic Conundrum

Many of America's political pundits are mightily puzzled as to why anyone in their right mind would vote for George Bush for president even once, let alone again. To an intelligent individual, this is a reasonable question. And to an intelligent individual, it can be reasonably answered: intelligence will get you nowhere in this election. Let's look instead at the Bell Curve, as a distraction from factual horrors.

Correlation between IQ and Voting Patterns

The Bell Curve, a statistical analysis tool that over the decades has proven nearly 100% effective at putting college students to sleep in droves, has other uses as well, the bell-like shape for which it is named accurately depicting the distribution functions for all sorts of stochastic processes, for example the number of members who pass out at a frat party, as I recall. In a statistically valid group it can depict IQ, income, height or just about any countable aspect you can think of, which also makes it perfect for looking at likely voter intelligence in the US.

The Upper 5%: the Intellectual Elite

The upper end of the Bell Curve, that little flare that is the right lip of the bell, comprises the 5% of the American population that has a very high IQ. This includes all of my readers. Also included are many of the political pundits aforementioned, as well as US presidents like Jefferson and Lincoln, US Nobel prize winners and others with quick minds. All will vote for Kerry with the exception of Jefferson and Lincoln, who no longer vote.

The Above-Average Joes

Now the 45% of voters who are just below the upper 5%, and who make up most of the 'undecided' voters that serve to throw elections into apparent doubt, are generally uncertain whom to vote for because they engage in thought, though less successfully than the top 5%. Many of them are well off, even rich, by virtue of their above-average intelligence; on the other hand, many of them put their money in Enron. Those of this percentile who see wealth as the focus of their lives will go for Bush all the way to the bank, through clouds of industrial pollution and treeless landscapes littered with dead wildlife; the rest in this group will vote maybe by flipping a coin, if, after four years of Bush they still have access to coins. Overall, statistically this group is a toss-up.

The Average Joe

Nobody knows who he is.

The Below-Average Joes

Now we get to The Above-Average Joes' counterparts, the 45% who though below average in IQ, are still mostly way smarter than the lowest 5% of the Bell Curve. Like their counterparts, these people cover a pretty wide range of cerebral luminescence, all the way down to very near darkness. They are currently exerting a great deal of mental effort looking for signs of character in the candidates, trying to decide if a man who volunteered for combat and was decorated five times would be a more effective war leader than a guy with a lot of lost weekends who finally went AWOL. It's a tough choice. These are the folks whose jobs and pensions are the first to go, but they are nothing if not loyal: the majority of those who don't pull the wrong lever or punch the wrong chad will pull or punch for Bush, who in gratitude will save money for the rich by cutting jobs and pensions.

The Living Nadir

Below The Below-Average Joes, at the extreme lower end of the Bell Curve, are the folks who have very small vocabularies, speak in very short, very simple sentences about very short, very simple topics, live by brute force and vote for anything that loves guns and lives in the dark. Bush has these voters in his back pocket; in some uncanny way, he knows these people.

What Does The Bell Curve Bode for the Coming Presidential Election?

So, starting at the top, we have 5%/0% for Kerry/Bush, 22.5%/22.5% Kerry/Bush, 5%/40% Kerry/Bush and 0%/5% Kerry/Bush. For those of the Living Nadir, that adds up to 32.5% for Kerry and 67.5% for Bush. This statistical pattern has been called the "Dumbing Down of America." The fact is, though, America has always been structured pretty much this way; it's just that the peak has never been a trough before.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004


In the course of any normal person's life, miracles happen roughly once a month.




"The document reports that global warming in the first half of the 20th century, estimated at 0.2C above pre-industrial temperatures, 'was likely due to natural climate variation', including increased solar activity.

But the approximate 0.5C rise over the second half of the century, most pronounced in the last 30 years, can only be explained when factors related to human activity, such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, are taken into account."

Wonder if Bush reads this stuff...