Monday, February 28, 2005



Japanese voters make major mistakes too.
Guess he's not from Hiroshima...


"According to semen brokers (semen brokers?), cloned animals will begin to enter the U.S. food supply in less than eight months. Thousands of units of semen from cloned bulls have been exchanging hands among ranchers. Ranchers say it's eerie how similar the cloned animals are to the originals.Every wrinkle--everything about them, even the disposition and character--are the same," said Larry Coleman, a cattle rancher who sells semen from clones of his prize bull for $700 a vial."

Eerie indeed.

Want fries with that?

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Headed north today into the falling snow, looking for the apparently famous pond we’ve never seen that is said to be prominently up the road apiece, it’s on all the maps, right there. Or right here, depending on which map you look at. If you use this tour map, for example, the renowned pond is right in this general area here: longitude, latitude, you name it, you can’t miss it if you take this road, a slight left and you’ll be in the pond.

But I was puzzled, because I’ve been driving that very road for 10 years now and I haven’t seen a pond there, maybe it’s only there on Tuesdays or something, or could be there’s another reality plane involved: that can get tricky. Whereas if you look at the big billboard map posted in the famous shrine along the way - which map appears to be of the local area but who knows for sure, it may be more of a spirit map - the pond is approximately right about there on that side roughly (for some reason, shrines do not feel the need to be precise, I suppose since we’re all here for such a brief span anyway), by the mountains between the railroad tracks and the road, it even says, right there, in large black characters on top of the blue pond-shape: Otomegaike pond.

But as I say (I keep saying this) I’ve been driving this very road for 10 years now and I haven’t seen a pond anywhere near there, though I can’t say for sure whether I’ve ever driven the road on a Tuesday…

So anyway this being Sunday we took a chance and went to find the pond but the pond still wasn’t there - its renowned bridge wasn’t there either - in the process we wandered a bit before hitting one of the local hot springs and found a nice old restaurant with great food and then a very nice old hidden-away local shrine, the precincts unvisited and perfectly still but for the rattle of corn snow snowing on the tall bamboo with snow already in its green hair -- inside the shrine precincts was a superb rock garden climbing up the mountainside, with pond and waterfalls and tall stone lanterns capped with their own clouds of snow.

As to the curious incident of the pond in the daytime, the pond has been seen, there is evidence, there is an alleged photograph of it, which I’ll post herebeside, that I found together with other interesting scenes in the vicinity, if you care to take a look at some scenic places of still doubtful existence as far as I’m concerned…

Saturday, February 26, 2005


"An odd aspect of modern dentistry is [that] the very material placed in the patients' mouths, when removed is considered a toxic waste. The dentist must store removed amalgam under water, in a special container, and cannot dispose of it in the garbage. The material must be sent to a designated toxic waste dump site. You will not find carpeting where a dentist sees patients. If mercury amalgam spills on carpeting, it is hard to clean up and could contaminate the entire office. Therefore it is not legal to have carpeting around the dental chair."

Bigger picture


Yesterday in the office, slaving over slabs of hot words, my nethermind was running through all the so many etc. things I'd do today, like finish splitting and stacking the firewood, some extensive subsurface compost-mulching where I'll be planting soonest, pruning the crowdy trees, rearranging needy stones and ill-positioned logs and so it went on the train home, over dinner, in my dreams and then this morning it was snowing heavily so I guess what I'll do is maybe cover the firewood and the motorcycle and shovel some snow, then get more firewood and shovel some more snow, then get warm in the house. Bet a lot of mouse plans changed, too.

Friday, February 25, 2005


"THE AGE OF PLUNDER is nearly at an end.
The Age of Healing is ready to be born.
And whether it arrives or not depends upon two people: you and me."


Even in the face of declining population and birth rate...

"Government data do show that the chances of gaining asylum in Japan are dismal. Between 1982 and 2003, 3,118 people applied. In more than 20 years, only 315 have been accepted as refugees; 10 out of 300 in the past year. It's by far the lowest count among all members of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries. The odds are even worse for the Dogans, who had nearly exhausted all avenues for appeal. Japan has rejected all of nearly 500 (483 as of last August) Turkish Kurds who have applied for asylum since 1996. Like many others, the Dogans now fear that a routine check-in with immigration will end in sudden detention and deportation. This has also happened to others. "


Thursday, February 24, 2005


I spent late yesterday afternoon splitting the summer hurricane-fall oak E and I scavenged over the weekend, leftovers from our last excursion into the woods on the far side, the violent ends of the oak trunks apparent in the way they had been literally twisted into splinters and torn down by the force of the locomotive air.

Generally I love splitting oak, but this wood posed an interesting problem. You can't stand the bucked sections on the splintered end of course, so you have to stand them on the cut end and strike the splintered end with the axe. The splintered end then just absorbs the axe like a government absorbs money. It took much more work to finally turn the oak into firewood, but as always it was worth the effort to see that scented pile of gold just stacking up, to gain interest with each passing day.

At the end I sat on the chopping stump beside the golden stack for my usual post-task gaze at the Lake, and there was the full golden moon, just a light-whisper out of the haze as it rose into the silence of the stars. There’s a whole lotta magic about being in a naturally tired body, watching the moonrise...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


On our walk this sunny morning, Echo as usual surging ahead dancing her exercise walk as I sauntered along looking here and there at the scene, stopping now and then maybe to take a photograph, Echo waited for me to catch up at one point and asked me why I, generally a fast walker, walked so slow went we went for our morning walks. I replied: “I'm not going anywhere; I have no destination, no appointment, no schedule, no deadline; why in the world should I walk fast? I'm walking at the pace of thought.” Hadn't really pondered that before - the mind does a lot of our thinking for us - that's a pretty good answer, seems to me. Amazing sometimes, the things we're not aware we're aware of, then there we are, just spouting them out right on the spot like that, listening as we speak...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


You know that kind of day when the laws of probability as they pertain to you specifically are just thrown out some cosmic window while all around you everyone else is carrying on normally in their normal world, talking, living, laughing normally, completely unaware of the presence of a Twilight Zone resident in their midst, i. e., you - a certified Zone citizen since you got out of bed this morning (cue TZ theme song) - well I had one of those days yesterday and it was a long one, longer even than the current US administration, so I'll spare you the gruesome details and just cut to the long closer...

I’d been reading a favorite Chandler mystery amidst the big city rush-hour crowd jostle while waiting for the train home in my usual pole position on the train platform at the big station and hadn't really been paying attention to the time, when a fuzzy announcement came over the speaker to the effect that the train I happened to be waiting for – no other train, just that train – would be delayed for an indefinite time in a black hole or something at which point everyone in line on the jammed platform streaked for the jammed train on the other side that was just about to close its doors and since I had been first in line I was now last - just as in that old Dylan song - but I've had some wrestling experience so I managed to push my way into the variously clothed flesh that bulged out of the door nearest me. Sort of like entering The Matrix.

The doors then attempted to close, but my rucksack and my left leg were still outside, so the doors popped open briefly and I pulled everything in, or so I thought, and the doors closed. I couldn’t move anyway, since this train now held double the usual number of passengers (formula: packed x 2), so it wasn’t until the first stop and the release of a bit of the pressure, via the doors on the other side, that I attempted to move and found that I couldn't. I was trapped in: The Twilight Zone...

Elbowing some space, I slipped off my rucksack and found that the carabiners and compass I have attached to the zipper tags were outside the train, along with a good deal of the rucksack, caught in the godzilla grip of the doors; I tried to pull twist pry snatch jerk, but it was unmovable. The rucksack was attached to the train, and I was the owner of the rucksack; ergo I was attached to the train. I pondered my future in The Zone...

The only practical solution was to simply hold on to the rucksack and wait till the train reached a platform on my side. That would be... not the first stop, or the second, or the third... by the time we reached Kyoto it might be on my side! Half an hour later the train pulled into Kyoto and the doors opened on the other side, the side that is never in... The Twilight Zone...

Ok, Yamashina then: at Yamashina station (Yamashina-Kyoto was the setting for the movie Rashomon) I could still catch the train that travels along my side of Lake Biwa. At Yamashina the doors opened on the other side, then closed and on the train went, into you know what...

So I was heading over to the other side of the Lake with my rucksack stuck in the door with my money and identification, people were beginning to wonder why that foreigner was just standing there so oddly when there were seats becoming available, why doesn't he take his rucksack and sit down and relax, instead of just leaning against the door in that unusual posture, unsuited to one so tall, never moving, as though he were in some kind of other Zone or something...

From there to the end of the line was about dozen more stops, surely one of them... but no, every single one - one--by---one, with five minutes in between - exited on the non-Zone side, the doors opening with a taunting fluidity and ease that tended to mock anyone whose rucksack happened to be stuck in the opposite doors, people breezing through the open ones as though there weren't a single stuck rucksack anywhere in the universe, I had never felt envy upon seeing doors open before and people walk through them so blithely... but that’s the way things are in The Zone...

At the last stop I was going to have to abandon my rucksack, leave the car and go find a station attendant or someone who could open all the doors on the Zone side of the train, thereby enabling me to... "free my rucksack back there in the train," I could hear myself explaining to a skeptically tilted head in a tilted cap, my words elevating the reputation of foreign visitors to this distant Asian nation... I would be a conductor' s legend... and maybe while I was looking for someone the train doors would close and the deadhead train would pull out into the darkness and leave me rucksackless, moneyless and without identity, in you know where...

I was pondering these increasingly likely eventualities when the train pulled into the last stop, the doors opened and I fell out onto the platform with my unchanged rucksack. Take another hour to get home, on another train, perhaps ever deeper into...

Monday, February 21, 2005


His ice-pick voice of mad intelligence will be greatly missed.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."


"The next time I saw Hunter was in June of 1976 at the Aspen Design Conference in Aspen, Colo. By now Hunter had bought a large farm near Aspen where he seemed to raise mainly vicious dogs and deadly weapons, such as the .357 magnum. He publicized them constantly as a warning to those, Hell's Angels presumably, who had been sending him death threats. I invited him to dinner at a swell restaurant in Aspen and a performance at the Big Tent, where the conference was held. My soon-to-be wife, Sheila, and I gave the waitress our dinner orders. Hunter ordered two banana daiquiris and two banana splits. Once he had finished them off, he summoned the waitress, looped his forefinger in the air and said, "Do it again." Without a moment's hesitation he downed his third and fourth banana daiquiris and his third and fourth banana splits, and departed with a glass of Wild Turkey bourbon in his hand."

Tom Wolfe recollection

Sunday, February 20, 2005

the sun
is for all, the moon
for each


NHL and Players Association Resume Labor Talks in New York
NHL resuscitation attempts continue
NHL season not totally dead yet WTNH
MSNBC - - CBC Montreal - SLAM! Sports - all 1,594 related

Britney Spears Upset At 'US' Magazine Over Honeymoon Snaps
Britney Spears had strong words for US Weekly Thursday
Domestic Bliss for Britney Xtra News
Private honeymoon photos sold to Us Weekly magazine by resort...
CBBC newsround - Arizona Republic - Xinhua - ABC News - all 211 related

Why global warming is not natural
New global warming evidence presented... San Francisco Chronicle
Global warming real, say new studies Financial Times
Reuters - Science Now - - Mail & Guardian - all 86 related

Saturday, February 19, 2005


"Japanese warning signs are very different than warning signs in other parts of the world, because they usually contain a visual and easy to understand reason why something is dangerous or not allowed."

Japan being the most different place on earth, its warning signs are no exception....

Although among his very interesting collection of nearly 200 warning signs, the photographer doesn't seem to have a photo of the legendary sign that used to hang in Arashiyama that said, in helpful English: "Please do not show your nuts to monkeys!" It was extremely effective; in all my visits to that renowned area, I never once saw anyone show his or her nuts to monkeys.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Passing along this Valentine's Day wish from Kaya:

She helped make the cookies, too!

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Speak for yourselves, scientists.

Well, those busy scientists over in Ethiopia just found out that we're all 35,000 years older than we thought we were yesterday. Surprise, surprise. Actually I’ve thought all along that they were underestimating our age quite a bit, the way some folks do their own age, I know I’ve been feeling pretty close to 35,000 years older since Kaya and the twins came to visit last month, but who am I to quibble with the precision of science, where dates get moved around on a regular basis?

About 40 years ago - a mere tick of the big clock - they found a couple of skull fragments over there, and doubted that they were over 100,000 years old (no grandkids hanging off their scientific elbows, expanding their time horizons). They had to do some argon/argon radiometric dating (a procedure based on results having nothing to do with enclosing twin grandchildren and a male grandparent together and measuring half-lives).

This new 'birthday' is for modern man, of course; actually we go all the way back, In an unbroken line, to the very first inkling of a cell, so this is small potatoes, really, just one of those local things scientists like to bounce on their trampolines about.

Now if only they could get half-life in a bottle...


Just a few days ago, somewhere in my ridiculously eclectic reading spectrum I read that Japan had had several successive improving whatevers (pick any economic unit) and so the sunlit nation had turned the corner economically into a newdawn future that was rosy and bright, blah blah blah, not fraught with any imminence of economic chaos or social anarchy whatsoever, blah blah blah (I'm paraphrasing here)... I think it was a government official, so it didn’t make me feel better, because unlike a government official, there is a reality around me; I can see the faces, hear the conversations, check the price tags...

Then this morning, only a couple of days later, I read this in the paper: “the nation’s [Japan’s] gross domestic product fell for the third straight quarter... this is the first time in three years that the economy shrank for more than three consecutive quarters.” And “...the GDP deflator for the quarter dropped 0.3 percent, showing that the economy has not overcome deflation.”

Much simpler than the GDP deflator is just for those guys to put down their Blackberries once in a while and get out of the office, just drive out of the city and visit the farm store. Shiitake logs that were 1000 yen last year are less than 500 yen this year... 0.3%, huh? I think that deflator is inflated.

Mind you, as one who is in the market for shiitake logs, I'm not complaining...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


If you flew out of Heathrow not too long ago, somewhere near Stonehenge you saw this 60M-diameter Hello Kitty crop circle, its sudden presence indicating either that ETs have been infected by terrestrial fast culture or that Sanrio commissioned Circlemakers and New York artists surface2air to celebrate Kitty's 30th birthday - a likely story!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Down at the station at around 7 am this finger-freezing morning, while waiting for the train I heard the first warbler shiver briefly into song, going B-r-r-r-r-TWEET! B-r-r-r-r-CHIRP-b-r-r-r--- and that was all. It was enough, though.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Looks to me like Christo

must have visited

Kyoto's famed (and truly beautiful)
Fushimi Inari

at one time or another...

But I could find no such reference...

Odd that he doesn't mention it at all...


"Consumer, farmer, and environmental organizations across the globe are mobilizing to stop the legalization and commercialization of the controversial Terminator Gene Technology, whereby seeds are genetically engineered to become sterile or commit suicide after one growing season.

The Monsanto corporation and the biotech industry support the Terminator Technology, because it will force many of the 1.4 billion farmers around the world to stop saving their seeds and instead to purchase patented seed varieties from the Gene Giants. In addition, scientists are concerned that genetic pollution from Terminator crops will lead to killing off a wide range of crops and plants, as Terminator pollen and seeds are spread by the wind, insect pollinators, and commercial seed co-mingling and transportation.

After a massive international campaign in 1998, Monsanto Corporation announced they were shelving plans to commercialize the Terminator, while the United Nations (UN) called for a global ban. But today (2/11/2005), renewed efforts to overturn the worldwide ban were launched at a UN conference in Bangkok."

Learn more and sign OCA's petition to the UN to terminate the Terminator Gene

OCA home page

Saturday, February 12, 2005


"St. John's wort is at least as effective in treating depression as a widely-prescribed antidepressant drug, according to research published today.

A study by researchers in Germany compared the effectiveness of extract from the herb with the drug paroxetine -- also known as seroxat -- in treating patients with moderate or severe depression.

The team concluded that the herb was just as effective -- if not better -- than paroxetine, and patients experienced fewer side-effects."

[Posted with the usual proviso against uninformed self-medication]

Friday, February 11, 2005


Persistent organic pollutants, also called POPs, are among the most dangerous chemicals ever created by humans. POPs chemicals include many pesticides, industrial chemicals and chemical byproducts. Despite their different uses and origins, all POPs share basic characteristics that make them an urgent global environmental health problem:

* POPs break down very slowly in soil, air, water and living organisms, and persist in the environment for long periods of time.
* POPs concentrate in the food chain, building up to high levels in the tissues of all living creatures, including humans.
* POPs travel long distances in global air and water currents, and concentrate in high-latitude, low-temperature regions of the globe.
* POPs are linked with serious health effects in humans and other species, including reproductive and developmental illnesses, immune suppression, nervous system disorders, cancers and hormone disruption.

In a few short decades, POPs have spread throughout the environment to threaten human health and damage land and water ecosystems all over the world. Every living organism on earth now carries measurable levels of POPs chemicals in its tissues.

Read and Take Action

PANNA home page


Just now again I heard one of the pundits say: “You're either part of the steamroller or you're part of the road,” an industrial-age bromide that, like any other, can be swallowed whole no problem if you like to think in terms of infrastructure-relational dichotomies, whereas if you're not into strictly-by-the-book behavior like paving maintenance or construction safety, but are capable of actions better suited to a more extensively evolved cosmic existence, you might say screw the expressway altogether and jam the heavy machinery too: slow lane, fast lane, you can have 'em all: I'm headin' off on foot into my ancestral jungle, where I'll pluck me some high-hangin' fruit, then lay down on spiritual ground by the timeless river and daydream about all the choices there are beyond being mindlessly mechanical or getting monodimensional in the passing lane...

Thursday, February 10, 2005


High Court Bolsters Japan's Anti-Immigrant Image

"Japan's highest court has upheld the Tokyo metro government's decision that a South Korean woman - with a Korean father and Japanese mother - is barred from taking a civil service examination for a management post. The ruling comes as the birthrate is falling and the population is aging in an insular nation that desperately will need talented foreigners.

'Japan is a difficult country for foreigners to navigate through the legal system,' said Stanford University Japan scholar Daniel Okimoto. 'From a political standpoint,' the Supreme Court's decision 'just reinforces negative stereotypes about Japan.'"

Asia Times story

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


"Olive oils are a lot like wines. The olives that spawn them come in many
varieties and reflect qualities determined by the land, sun and water where
they grow...

Olive oil labels contain quite a bit of information, but not necessarily one of the most important pieces -- the age of the oil. The government does not require that olive oils state when the oil was pressed or bottled. Those that do include that information tend to be boutique brands.

What are the specific differences among olive oils, and how do the
differences affect their use? Are expensive oils worth the money? How much
can the consumer tell about an olive oil simply by reading the label on the
bottle? To answer these questions, we arranged an informal tasting of --
three high-priced, three midrange and three relatively inexpensive oils..."

Washington Post
via CR

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


"Baggett had sued thirty companies and the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now called the American Chemistry Council) for conspiracy, arguing that they had concealed evidence of disease and death related to vinyl chloride. He had received hundreds of thousands of documents in response to his discovery motions. Apparently the chemical companies had flooded him with material in the belief that he would be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity, and that as a result nothing would happen.

The question about the chemical companies and the health risks of vinyl chloride is the classic one: What did they know, and when did they know it? Rosner and Markowitz used the Baggett materials to show that in 1973 the industry learned that vinyl chloride monomer caused cancer in animals--even at low levels of exposure. Since vinyl chloride was the basis for hairspray, Saran Wrap, car upholstery, shower curtains, floor coverings and hundreds of other consumer products, the implications for public health were massive. Yet the companies failed to disclose that information about cancer to the public and to the federal regulatory agencies."

Cancer, Chemicals and History
by Jon Wiener

via Don Weiss


Take for example what happened this morning. I was walking through the subterranean city on my way to work when, as always on that route, I passed by the main entrance of Yodobashi Camera, the nationally renowned and humungus emporium of electronic products that towers aboveground, its familiar theme song blasting out the underground front doors as cute girls in skimpy outfits handed out sales brochures on everything from rice cookers to massage chairs, when I found myself singing the words to the Yodobashi melody, just as I used to back in grade school history class- What? Grade school? History?

Believe me, I was as surprised as you are when I found myself thinking of memory chips and plasma displays, Honest Abe and Harper's Ferry while mouthing the words that fit the tune blasting out of the speakers: “John Brown’s body lies a-moldrin' in the grave, John Brown’s body lies a-moldrin' in the grave, John Brown’s body lies a-moldrin' in the grave, how about a digital camera ”…no… that’s not how it used to go… it’ll come to me, soon as I get my history untwisted…

Monday, February 07, 2005


Home had been a large gray, rambling wooden house that rattled pleasantly during earthquakes. Built in the Western style in the heart of Tokyo, it wasn't far from the road along which the 47 ronin had carried the head of Kira on that winter morning in 1702. When I'd moved there in the early 1970s on my first trip to Japan the house was already old, somehow miraculously having survived the 1923 earthquake and the Tokyo firebombing maelstroms. I lived there on and off for five years, leaving it for the last time in 1977 and moving on.

Now again on another leg of that long journey the traveler's life becomes, at the tail end of a trip north I was getting off the train at the old station on an evening nearly 30 years later, just to walk the old streets and see if the house was still there.

At the station itself, I couldn't recognize a thing but the name. Back then practically a third-world train station, it now had an Irish Pub, a Bucks coffee shop, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant...

It would be getting dark soon; I had to move on.

Out on the street I couldn't find the way home. Used to be a small alleyway right there... Canyons of mirrored glass now rose over streets that had once been person-level byways lined with small shops tended by their owners, who lived in the back and who knew you for walking by every day, stopping in now and then to buy and chat. Blundering around the new expensively flashing corners I came upon a narrow canyon that looked like it might have been the way I used to go, but I still couldn't recognize a thing; there was nothing left but the narrowness. As I walked, now and then I paused and closed my eyes to see if I could still see what had been here, a street that meant something to me, to replace what I did not want to behold, the violation done to what had been secretly mine, to the open simplicity of a past that no one wanted anymore...

What used to be here? I could close my eyes, see it as it used to be and know the way; then I'd open them and be lost again. I should have come another time, I thought - when I had more daylight, was less tired, more eager, less vulnerable to these feelings - I’d been hiking since dawn; these moments deserved more than this, more than I could bring to bear from the past of a single aging life... But those moments were mine; if they were to flow this far and perhaps beyond, they had to flow through me: no one else could do this. You have to take the past as you find it. How correctly we remember doesn't seem to matter all that much, only that we remember, or at least that we try...

And each step brought me nearer...

For millennia now Heraclitus has been telling us, and more recently Thomas Wolfe, among others, that we can't go home again, yet still we try; return is the child of departure. But I wasn't trying to step into the same river twice, or to go home again. I was simply trying to go back to where once I had lived — where I had spent some of the highlight years of my life — simply to see what had become of the place where it had all happened. It had seemed like just an idea, only a couple of hours at the tag end of another of my travels.

But even when we step into that always different river of the same name, or go again to what is no longer home, there are hidden currents that can carry us away, different streets and other rooms habited with familiar spirits, that beckon yet...

Right about here, I remember there used to be an old madwoman who every evening at about dusk leaned out of the upper windows and screamed her madness into the street, then closed the windows and went about her life. She and the house were gone now. And I don't remember what used to be over there, but it wasn't a parking lot. This corner was where one afternoon I’d been wearing an indigo kendo jacket as a fashion item right here on the street and an old man, shocked by the concept, had walked into that telephone pole.

As to the house, built of thin, unpainted wood it had looked like it would take only about ten minutes to burn to ash. Surely it was gone by now: another 30 years! There were the steps into the temple; it was closed! But no, only because the stone walk was being reconstructed. I went around, up the side road, the way we used to go when things were tipsy. I reached the priest’s parking lot — and there, as it had always been, stood the house, grayer and more fragile than I'd remembered.

Built in several stages, the house had early on had a number of additions, it was two storied, the portion I'd lived in had a very small kitchen with a bath beyond, two large rooms upstairs, downstairs the same, with a large sunporch and sunroom, all looking out on the piece de resistance, the garden and its pond, backed by a small forested slope leading up to the road that was home to a few small oil-rich embassies.

The house had originally been the residence of the temple priest, whose forebears had been quite progressive. I was told when I first moved in that Sun Yat-sen had lived in the house during his time in Tokyo, though I could not confirm this. The new priest, son of the former priest, had built a new modern house in another corner of the grounds and lived there with his family, renting the old house out, primarily to foreigners. Japanese wouldn't live there, it was said, because the temple cemetery was right out front.

The house had also engaged one of the earliest telephones in Tokyo: the number on the big old clanky chunk-a-chunk iron thing ended with 0084. Other separate apartments in the large old place at the time were home to a ronin law student, a radical young designer couple and an ever-changing stream of foreigners.

As I stood there watching now, looking at the house in the way I'd never really done while I lived there, I saw all those I'd known back then come visiting, come walking down these very stones along that path to that doorway 30 years ago, and right here in the rain... all those people I had never seen again, so many there were, what has become of them all, I wondered, standing in time's river...

No matter what you think you know, to bring together the real and the remembered is to mingle tears and ashes. For what is remembered is not real, and cannot be brought before you. Only when you have traveled long enough to have a distant past do you feel the desire to return, see where it happened, see how it was, but of course it is all gone now, the ratios have changed, what happened has changed, what was is no longer, and so it is that you come to stand on the very spot in the wisdom of your new confusion and let the loss wash over you.

As I stood there looking I went back, far back along the river that led to that moment, where I saw my past as the parting of a veil: so many times over so many years I and my loves and friends of those days and nights had walked this path, turned this corner, entered these doors, gazed out those old windows upon our long futures, and I have never seen those loves and friends again; yet so brief it had seemed our partings would be!

How trifling tomorrow appears to those who have so many of them, so many tomorrows to spare for other things, knowing nothing as yet of long times gone, or of the vast abyss time holds in each tick; there were too many final partings in this place. Such roads of life are not easy or joyous to retrace, and when you do you find that they are for other feet than yours now, the paths you knew are no longer there, they have gone to where old roads go, to the inner valleys of the heart, where eternity resides...

And if we can't go back, then what are memories for?

As in your dreams everything you dream is you, so in your memories everything you remember is you. When in the real world you return to a place of memory, it is like looking into a mirror and seeing no one there. In the past, you are invisible. All that remains is you now, looking: what you have found is the one you have become.

[Originally published in slightly different form in Kyoto Journal #56]

Sunday, February 06, 2005

one stillness high
in the snowstorm - hawk
riding the howl

Friday, February 04, 2005


As a long-term veteran of the ceaseless human struggle that is Japanese commuting, I have endured many years of broken-field trainchasing in the heat of competition, tasting both the sweet savor of seated victory and the bitter bile of standing defeat. But it wasn't until the Battle of Yesterday Morning that the Big Truth finally hit me, like the shoulder of a commuting sumo wrestler: commuters are either Turtles or Weasels.

Perhaps more importantly, I also realized that there is another, much smaller subdivision: me. Because like everyone else, I myself am neither a Turtle nor a Weasel; I am that most rare of straphanging creatures: an honorable commuter. Yes, I abhor the use of dirty tricks, sneaky wiles, illicit cunning, subterfuge, camouflage, misdirection and even darker arts: I walk at a normal pace, weaponless, hands open, nothing up either sleeve, seeking only what I deserve for my modest efforts; I take no heads, seek no glory.

I admit, though, that when what I deserve is stolen from me by a scurrilous Turtle or a sleazy Weasel there are exceptions to this behavioral ideal, when I sort of black out for a few seconds, but that’s not today’s subject, is it. You want that seat?

Turtles rely primarily on craft and hardware to get to the head of the boarding line. They work in packs. One of them gets in front of you and slows you down by walking along while swinging an umbrella, say, or a cane, or stopping to inspect a fingernail as if this were a stroll through the park, not a matter of life or death (ie train or wait, sit or stand). Another Turtle might be carrying a shopping bag full of bricks or suchlike commuter battlegear, and will not hesitate to use it to get what they want; they are implacable, hard-shelled, unembarrassable. Turtle eyes look always ahead, at the objective; all else is beside the point.

The Weasels, in contrast, rely on stealth, speed and cunning, but are not above a dirty trick or two or more to achieve their ruthless ends. Eyes shifting here and there ceaselessly in search of illicit opportunities, gaps and shorter lines, they will trot the last three meters to slip in front of you before you take your deserved place in line; they will run flat out to beat you to that seat toward which you, the honorable commuter, are merely loping at a fair speed as determined by the Geneva Convention.

As indicated above, it goes without saying that even the honorable commuter suffers ethical lapses now and then; one is human. And there is a great degree of yeehaa glee and highfiving joy in sticking it to a Turtle in no uncertain terms, or inyerfacing a Weasel right in front of the horde, as I did yesterday morning. For all honorable commuters (ie each of us alone in our own hearts) know who the Turtles and Weasels are, and understandably wish to trump them, which makes occasional Turtles, even Weasels, of us all.

Which is why righteous inyerfacing is permitted under the Geneva Convention.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


I was idly surfing the net today, just hangin' ten in the cybertube, not thinking of monkeys in even the slightest degree, when this article came up at me out of the depths:

Japan identified as hotspot in need of intense conservation work

Thursday, February 3, 2005 at 07:36 JST
TOKYO — “The world's largest conservationist group has identified the Japanese archipelago as a region where intense effort is needed to protect endangered species, the group said Wednesday.”

Well, ok, I’ll listen, but this better be good.

“Conservation International recognized Japan as one of the 34 'biodiversity hotspots' abundant in 'endemic species and several endemic genera of plants and animals,' and urged Japan to improve its conservation measures in a report on a research project involving some 400 scientists.”

Apparently there are no endangered scientists. The article went on:

“In Japan's case, the conservation group cited endemic plants and animals in places such as the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific, Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, Yaku Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, the Kushiro wetland in Hokkaido and forests on the Kii Peninsula.”

Ok I’ll go along with that, but don’t forget the Shiraho Reef… (No need to mention my house and garden, the wildlife refuge.)

"About one-quarter of the vertebrate species occurring in this hotspot are endemic, including the critically endangered Okinawa woodpecker [Precious avian treasure!] and the Japanese macaque [WHAT!?], the famous 'snow monkeys' [WHAT!?] that are the most northerly living nonhuman primates in the world," the group reported."

Famous? Well sure. Look at the treacly photos! Endangered? Not as long I attempt to maintain a mountain garden. No mention of the fact that the monkeys survive on my onions and tomatoes. I’d read enough. I went to the monkeycam to see how the poor, endangered creatures are doing. That fat one in front stole my pumpkins.

Actual article itself, which is mostly correct, except for a simian oversight.


TerraCycle, Inc., the first company to make and package a product entirely out of waste...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


So there I was up in the loft doing some editing on this winter night, while Echo was downstairs talking on the phone, when I heard a rapid and rhythmic clicking - like that made by the piezoelectric igniters that light our kerosene heater and our gas stove burner - but Echo was right there and would certainly notice the kerosene heater trying unsuccessfully to start, ditto the burner, but there was indeed a message being conveyed of an urgent impasse down there somewhere, so I went to investigate.

When I got downstairs, I noticed immediately that the ticking was coming not from over by the heater and burner, but from the woodstove. I went over there. It wasn't the woodstove. Beside the woodstove. The kindling board, with kindling on it. The rhythmic clicking continued. I picked up the pieces of kindling one by one. When I picked up the small quarter-round of cherry wood, the clicking faltered.

Must be a bug on the other side. I turned it over. No. It was coming from the other other side. Right there. On the bark. But there was nothing on the bark. I carefully pried up an edge. As long as I didn’t move the wood too abruptly, the clicking went on. I lifted off a section of the bark. Underneath was a cambium layer-munching wood beetle larvae, white, about a half-inch long and with a brown head, now going Huh…? Wha…? Where…? When...? As he (?) looked dazedly around for the cause and reason for this inappropriate light… as the clicking sound continued.

So, that piece gone, I pried up the bark directly above the very spot. There beneath the bark was a now half-revealed and much larger larva of the same family line, who had been knocking her (?) hard brown head firmly against the dry-leather-like cherry bark, making that very sharp staccato click I had been hearing. Apparently the wood, lying next to the stove, had gotten too warm, so the larva had begun to sound that frantic alarm. She went on banging her head against nothing now, not at all stymied by the fact that the noise and the shock to her head had abruptly ceased.

As I watched, the why of it puzzled me. To whom had she been communicating? Evolutionarily speaking, surely she hadn’t expected some puzzled human being to come along and move her away from the non-evolutionary woodstove? (Though it worked this time, for the nonce of curiosity…) For what ear was that click intended? The only thing I can think of is a surely not: a woodpecker…?


Tomorrow being (according to the old 24-division (Setsu) Japanese calendar) the first day of Spring (after Daikan, the great cold), our big plan today was to drive across the mountain to Rozanji, the temple we used to go to when we lived in Kyoto, to watch the famous Setsubun Oni (demons) dance. We used to take the kids there every year when we lived in Kyoto; the famously fat and multicolored demons would dance grotesquely along platforms in the temple courtyard while mobs of visitors jostled for a glimpse between compressed photographers. The kids got a great view from our shoulders.

But you know how todays are. This morning we opened the curtains and found that the very essence of Siberia had visited most of Japan last night, turning our house into a thickly frosted cake and making a drive over the mountain a task best avoided until things get a bit more equatorial.

So we’ll stay at home and do the Setsubun thing we do every year, which is to throw dried soybeans all over the house, then open the doors and throw more beans outside, all the while yelling the magical phrase that drives out last year's demons and brings in good fortune. It used to be more fun with the kids, though, when I got to put on the Oni mask and run around being scary while the kids threw beans at me. Excellent for parent/child demons as well.

Interesting Western traditional perspectives on this winter/spring day at Moonmeadow Farm...