Sunday, October 30, 2005


Well the only major nation in the world without a standing army just couldn't stand it anymore, being so solitarily peaceful (it's boring and unmanly; what good is power if you can't wield it however you want to, like other bastions of freedom?) and wants to have armed forces that can legally invade other countries and stuff at the whim of some fraudulently elected incompetent, like the big guys are doing… not that they will, of course, they say, nothing of the kind, that's the furthest thing from our minds they say, until one cannot but think they protest too much...

But the LDP – I mean Japan, the one-party democracy – clearly wants to do more than just some inyerface war shrine visiting once a year, more than just refuse compensation to comfort women, more than just deny in high school history books that the Nanjing Massacre ever happened with the last army Japan had, and all that stuff you're reduced to doing when you've had no army for so long you can't even remember what war is like, so they've come up with a draft of a new constitution that drops the famous 'no war' clause in favor of what must logically be a 'yes war' clause, so if the draft is approved by the still largely group-think populace, in a few years the politicos can just import a few of those handy Diebold voting machines and Japan too can elect some cryptovicious undergrowth who just loves having an army with other people's children it it; who knows where that will take the world?

I'm so old I can still remember when "We the people" used to mean something...

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Hello Friends,

Doris Granny D Haddock would like us all to do what we can to help the reform community in Connecticut get some traction on their effort to pass a Clean Elections bill this coming week. There is a critical window of opportunity. If you live in Connecticut, please see the link at the bottom of (Granny's new project). If you can send this message (or that link) along to any friends in Connecticut (including students!), please, please do!

Your friends may have friends in Connecticut, so please send this out as widely as possible.

Very sincerely,

Dennis Burke
Cobb Meadow Road
Dublin, NH 03444

"Students! Maybe you should take over the world a little early
---while there's still some ice at the North Pole and some fish in the sea..."

Granny D on NPR


Election-related matter:

"The latest critical confirmation of key indicators that the election of 2004 was stolen comes in an extremely powerful, penetrating report from the General Accounting Office that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage."

Friday, October 28, 2005


I don’t know about you, but I’ve always gotten along very well without an emperor. Just sort of a personal quirk I have. Of course living here in Japan I am covered, I suppose, by the imperial umbrella, but somehow I don’t really feel that it’s raining.

There are frequent signs of quotidian imperial activity in the newspapers and on tv, some member of the imperial family waving stiffly through a limo window at an emperor-dependent crowd or giving an archaic speech and cutting a ribbon to open a canning plant, but personally I don’t see the need for an emperor in my own life.

Still it is of curious interest that the long male imperial line (which goes back only a few thousand years to some fairly recent gods, in comparison to everyone else’s genealogy, which stretches much further back, to the first humans) has reached a royal cul-de-sac: the next kids in line are all female. So the unthinkable has been proposed by a committee: let the Crown Prince’s little girl (gasp!) become emperor after him! She’s three years old at the moment, which gives all the stodges time to seek an alternative.

In a kind of imperial desperation, one scholarly panel has already suggested a way to avoid having a female on the Crysanthemum throne, but something tells me that the Japanese people themselves, comprising a majority of women, would welcome such a change after a millennia of male monotony, though the issue is not as simple as people without emperors might think.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


According to the McDonald's PR, out of sheer integrity (we can't stand keeping the consumer in the dark even one second longer than 50 years!) the burgermonger is at last going to tell its customers exactly what they're eating, right on the wrapper. I kind of doubt it, though.

Surely they're not going to say that this very quarter-pounder you're about to add to your body comes from cattle raised on factory farms where the animals have been weaned on cow blood, injected or medicated with antibiotics and growth and other hormones and fed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton seeds laced with slaughterhouse waste and tainted animal fats while standing and sleeping in their own waste for two years?

I don't think that'll wrap the Mac. The wrapper will say in tiny letters (that no hungry scarfer will ever pause to read) scientific-sounding stuff like: Big Mac Calories: 560, Carbohydrate: 47g, Total fat: 30g, Saturated fat: 10g, Salt: 1.3g...

What the labels should say in big red letters all over the place is simply "Believe us, you don't want to know."


Tuesday, October 25, 2005



Alphabetical listing of those who gave everything


As I was ambling off the train into the city this morning, zoning through the train station rush madhouse thinking about the predictably disastrous appointment of Bernanke to head the private money-making machine that is the Fed (can things get worse? yes indeed!) vis-a-vis Japan's 723 trillion yen public debt (with annual tax revenue of less than 50 trillion yen), my mind was gratifyingly but bizarrely distracted by the young woman escalating in front of me who wore, starting at the top, reddishly bleached hair in the latest just-saved-from-drowning look, which hair straggled down to a clipped white fur bellhop jacket, below which a pink satin belly band trimmed with white lace, like the lowest ten inches of a slip, edged over green camouflage multipocketed army pants tied around the ankles and bottomed out by chartreuse high heels trimmed with green ribbon over slightly higher white socks, when I realized that fashions are reflecting the state of the world to an alarming degree.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005


I don’t know about you, but I haven't seen any monkeys lately. By 'monkeys' I don’t mean those manic creatures in the zoo, but groups, tribes, hordes of wild monkeys, as it was in the monkeyful days when I first moved up here to the mountain. Why, there were times back then when a brown simian cloud would flow through here, as I saw with my own eyes when I was present and could fight for my vegetables, or as I judged from the onionic and other debris when I returned, as recounted here in varying degrees of dudgeon. At least the furry brigands don't need garden tools, so far.

Lately, though, there's been an ominously refreshing absence of the scurrilous creatures, which though on the one hand is delightful, on the other hand what the hell is going on? I know that Japanese humans are tending to postpone marriage and having fewer children, to the extent that one day a single struggling youngster will have to fund the pensions of ten elders who live to be 150, but that's tomorrow; by then I'll have taken my pension and will be purring along the genuinely highways in my heavenly red Ferrari with Nefertiti riding shotgun...

Oh yes, the monkeys. I've begun to wonder whether they too are undertaking radical social change similar to that of their human cohabitants because my last three monkey sightings, weeks apart, have been of solitary individuals. It would seem that they no longer travel in groups, but are exploring the vagaries of existentialism, beginning to question their surroundings, the meaning of existence and so forth. We all know where that can lead. Hence my recent experience with the monkey at the end of the tunnel, in which we looked each other over pretty good, as though he were studying my style, such as it is, for future reference. I was half expecting him to come right out and ask my thoughts on religion. I suspect things might be getting serious.

Another sighting was a solo monkey sitting thoughtfully in front of a very old 'library' we pass on one of our favorite walks over the ridge. The place was a big knowledge center around here way back during the Edo era. It's pretty much unused now, but I suppose researcher monkeys have to begin somewhere; I doubt if they could get a card to the Kyoto U. library. On another mountain walk we saw a solo simian loping along the edge of a rice paddy where the view of the Lake was excellent. The monkey wasn't going out on a date or hurrying home to the family or community, he was just enjoying himself in the wild, the way college students do, as I recall vividly even today. So I began to wonder about monkey careers after college and so on, which led to this undisciplined protoessay and me with no time right now...

One thing's for sure, though: if those monkeys ever do learn enough to start using gardening tools, I'll find out where their gardens are, and when they go to the office.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


The actual Internal Affairs and Communications Minister of Japan, Taro Aso, actually said the other day that Japan was "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race. It is nowhere else in other nations." Despite his high office and apparently accredited education, the guy ostensibly in charge of Japanese communication ignored the far more ancient presence of the Ainu, to say nothing of the Chinese, Koreans, Mongols, Polynesians et al., whence derived all aspects of the folks who historically only recently began calling themselves Japanese on the strength of being here last, and for just a couple thousand years. When government officials start talking about the ridiculous concept of race, minorities should maybe check their passports...

One wonders, though: where in the dims of the world do they uncover these people, and how do they vet them for office?

Related matters from the intrepid Debito

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I can’t exactly say that my wife thinks the sun shines out of my shorts, but apart from my slightly substandard neatness parameters, now that the kids have gone into their lives and I am redirected (not ‘retired’; I despise that word) the household situation hasn’t worsened appreciably, so I think I’m doing better than a lot of these fellows. So far. Love to say more but I gotta go do the dishes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


As I was driving home through the narrow village streets, the sun just about to set beyond the mountain saving its best for the very end of day, the cooling autumn air taking its large place in lives and memories, I passed a bunch of preteen kidguys on their bicycles, racing with all the rush of youth through the last of the light in their desperate afterschool yearning to have some freeforall fun before dinner, the sight and sound of them sending me instantly all the way back to my own boyhood at that age in upstate NY, when the same fire had filled me after school on autumn days with my friends on our bicycles speeding down the tree-arched streets in search of any adventure that would match the life that swelled our hearts amid the fragrance of air turning chill, leaves making crisp new sounds in the slightly harsher breeze, all my turnings thence leading to me here now, passing through a Japanese village over half a century later, filling me with exactly the same excitement and yearning as I felt then - though now I wear it differently - but what a wonderful moment it was, back then - a moment is all it was - speeding toward the future with my boyhood friends, where are they now, down all the roads they’ve followed…

Monday, October 17, 2005


Koizumi again visits Yasukuni, memorial to 2.5 million war dead and and 14 convicted Class A war criminals; former members of the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere are understandably miffed.

I thought Koizumi was seeking Japanese membership on the UN Security Council. If so, insulting China is not a good idea, apart from other historical and diplomatic considerations...

Later, but integral: Japan-China Friction to Keep Shaking Asia

Even later (some things never die): Bad Memory in Japan, A Very Lonely Japan


Sunday, October 16, 2005


Yesterday went to a coffee shop in the small town south of us to see an exhibition of pottery that, judging from the photo on the invitation postcard, looked very much like Okinawan pottery, one of my favorites, but when we got to the venue we saw from the poster outside that we’d mixed things up; the show date on the postcard was next week; the current show was a series of Buddhist sculptures, so we went in to see that. Never mess with serendipity.

Turned out the friendly young sculptor, originally from Hiroshima, trained as a Busshu (Buddhist sculptor) under a master in Kyoto and now resides in the next village up the road from us. We frequently pass near his house on our walks, and he invited us to visit his studio next time.

There were a number of needless-to-say impressive sculptures on exhibit, a couple of them large sacred-style Buddha statues destined for various temples around Japan after being sent off for gilding (he doesn’t do the gilding or finishing, only the sculpting), but the sculptures I liked the most were his own personal depictions of the rakan (arhats, or Buddhist ‘saints’), particularly the laughing one (all were carved out of camphor wood!).

I asked if he needed any camphor wood, since I still have a few sections left and I’d rather see them as nice sculptures than as objects of my firewood-splitting curses; he said camphor was pretty easy to get since it wasn’t much use for anything practical (tell me about it) like furniture making or carpentry, since it warped so easily. But he had put it to magnificent use. If I’d had some money in my shoe I’d have bought that laughing rakan, to look at while I split firewood.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


A brief but seminal interview with John Peterson, organic farmer and star of The Real Dirt on Farmer John, an award-winning documentary film about the challenges confronting small farmers in the United States. His Angelic Farms is now one of the most successful Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the country. Wish they had the equivalent in Japan.

More about Biodynamic Agriculture



w/thanks to Anna at SelfWinding

Friday, October 14, 2005


Download the European Union's

GREEN PAPER on Energy Efficiency or Doing More With Less

At least some folks in authority are paying genuine attention.


Democrats Abroad Japan will screen The Atomic Cafe on Monday, October 24 at the Blarney Stone Irish pub in Umeda, Osaka, along with some related video clips on recent nuclear developments and revelations.

Thursday, October 13, 2005



"Where authority and power flow down from above, from heaven to the White House to husbands and ayatollahs, the free and joyful living of people can be quite the enemy. If you will remember the free spirit of those flower children who grew up in the 1960s, for example, you will also remember the harsh attitude that attended to their joys from the more traditional, often more rural, elements of our society. Those political leaders who rose from this time, who lived in this more open and free way--less constrained by the rules of authority--were especially vilified by the authority clan. You need only to think of the special treatment given to the Clintons, who were of this generation and climate, to know the truth of this. And it fits the international pattern, of course, that the woman, Mrs. Clinton, would be singled out for the cruelest stones.

What attracted such hatred? It was their freedom, their sense of equality, and their joys.

Here it is: those in the clan of authority are not given the privilege--the natural right--of living their own lives. They do as they are told, say and think what they are told. Smothered is their curiosity and their healthy skepticism, and also their imagination, joy, freedom, and lust for life itself. When they see others actually living lives, they react with anger, as if someone had cut to the front of a line that, for them, never moves.

What is the proof of this theory? Those in thrall to authority, cowering under it, lose sight of their own lives. They will venerate above all else the symbol of the yet unruined potential of life: the curled-up unborn. The authority clan will have the image of an unborn baby as its flag, and they will claim to honor and defend innocent life, but that will be a great lie to themselves. For they will not be the ones to demand DNA testing of all prisoners on death row; they will not be the ones to demand health insurance for all children, or better nutrition in all schools, or peaceful alternatives to international conflicts. They will be the ones to rail against these things, for the authority clan parades itself as pro-life while it is truly more like a cult of death. Having died themselves, strangled by authority and fear, they cannot wish happy lives for others--they cling only to that magic symbol of what might have been. They relate to the unborn baby selfishly; it is themselves: unborn, unlived, still hoping for a life."

Excerpted from We Are Resolved to Follow Our National Dream, a speech given by Doris 'Granny D' Haddock at Orchard House, Home of the Alcotts, in Concord, Massachusetts on October 6, 2005.

Read the full speech

Granny D on NPRadio

w/thanks to Ken


There's not all that much to love about really really rainy days unless you're a droughty farmer or rainmaker, but we're neither, yet we love rainy days, get lots of them and we're not ducks. One of the things we love about double-r rainy days is that they afford the ideal opportunity to visit one of the big temples around here that are at their very best in the wetness and light of rainfall, not least because there are far fewer rainy day visitors to venues that generally can be more of a massive sardine experience.

That's what we did on Saturday, when it was raining so hard that walking down the street was like spalshing through water, pants wet up to the knees. I'd just planted winter spinach on Wednesday, so I was happy on that account too (gardening gives you a lot of extra things to be happy about, which fact can also come in handy on double-r rainy days).

So we went over the mountain to visit historic Sanzen-in, the anciently renowned and moss-gardened temple in Ohara, just outside Kyoto. The fact that it was on a Saturday and the visitor count was about 20% of usual made the whole experience even more of a miracle.

Walking up to the temple in the rain that brings out all the green in the leaves and the many colors in the stone walls - with all the pathside shops and their wares glowing into the outer dimness - climbing the stone steps and entering the incense fragrance of the temple building where golden Buddhas glow in dim recesses, while out on the long veranda, where all the shutters are lifted, gleam the many shades of emerald that are the garden beyond the pond, the moss, pines and maples, the stones and stone lanterns, all hissing softly in the rain like a faraway chanting, all you can do is fall silent, be seated on the straw mats and meditate on living the link between beauty and sanctity.

The little Buddha I photographed in his secret place in the greater garden knows this too; his face says so.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Early this morning I headed down the road to near where the wild pigs have their doorway in the new bamboo, left the sunlight and plunged into the spiky shadows to cut a bunch of tall stalks for arching over the new spinach and covering with netting to keep crows off the sprouts and deer off the full leaves.

I had cut about a dozen stalks and was carrying them on my shoulder in a long clacking bundle when a red dragonfly, redness dimmed to near rust now that he was in the waning portion of his courting days, began hovering along the bamboo I was carrying. Male red dragonflies live to position themselves prominently (especially atop bamboo, around here) so as to best display their extremely seductive redness to best advantage among the flitting dragonfly ladies, and here was the only bamboo in the road, so he had elected to land and pose upon it.

Trouble was, for the first time in his entire summer life, the very spot he sought to claim was not swaying in the wind, as he was used to. Though it was bamboo, it was horizontal and moving steadily along in one direction. These new phenomena in his universe, however, gave no pause to his desire. He had his eye on that courting spot, and would not give it up.

Thus it was that I walked up the long road toward the house with a big red dragonfly beside me, he floating along in a fixed place, aiming the while at the point of his desire, that stayed just out of reach despite his obedience to history.

As to my own desires, I can’t count the times in my life I’ve done exactly the same thing, without bamboo.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

You Call That Organic?

In response to a question posed by Tabor in a comment to an earlier post of mine, here are the basic principles of the Japanese standard for organic agricultural products, as of 2001:

“(1) To sustain and enhance the natural recycling in agriculture, the productivity of
the farmland derived from the soil properties shall be generated by avoiding the
usage of the chemical synthetic fertilizer and agricultural chemicals, and the
organic agricultural products shall be produced in fields adopting such
cultivation management method as reducing the load derived from the
agricultural production on the environment as much as possible.

(2) In collection fields (meaning the field for collecting the agricultural products
growing spontaneously; being the same hereafter), to collect the agricultural
products by such methods as affecting no damage for preserving the ecosystem
of the collection fields.”

The major loophole here of course, which you could drive an agribusiness chemical plant through, is “as much as possible.” Though it would be exceedingly difficult, maybe impossible, to derive an organic standard that's fully satisfactory to all parties, surely Japan can do better than this. It is a start at least, but a poor one.

Here is the pdf for the full Japanese Organic Standard. (9 pages)

Free downloadable reference book containing 6 international organic standards (US, European, Japanese, Quebec, Swiss, and IFOAM)

Monday, October 10, 2005


I don’t have a dog, and am not thinking of getting one, but many folks around here have dogs - the dogs are happy in the mountains - and in my walks I see dogs here and there in the towns, most recently on a walk we took in Ohara over the mountain, where we passed a middle-aged Labrador retriever lying stoneskull bored on the concrete doorstep of his owner’s home, his leash tied to the veranda post.

He watched us walk by coming and going (some action at last!) and each time raised his head to look as we spoke to him - and he listened - his attentive eyes showing no hostility, no threat to bark or lunge, he was an especially intelligent dog, bred to run in wild fields and plunge into waters to retrieve hunted birds softly in his mouth, pleased to help, action and knowledge bred into every cell and sinew of his body, and he just laid there bored to death, getting fat, most probably never retrieved a bird in his life, never did at all what he was bred to do…

Seeing him I was reminded of a born-to-run Irish setter near where we used to live in Kyoto, that spent all his each and every dismal day in a cage not much bigger than he was, barely enough to turn around in, and when we’d walk by he wouldn’t even raise his majestic red head, just roll his eyes up to us as if to say shoot me now, his hunting life and marathon breeding more unfulfilled than a samurai salariman in charge of rubber stamps.

We’d stop and talk to the setter and pet him, but it was painful to kneel there and reach through the bars imagining all that beauty running free. When I saw that Lab retriever tied to the post where he was spending all his waking (and likely sleeping) life, it occurred to me that dog owners should be strictly licensed to own certain breeds of dogs, and be required to use the dogs only in the activities (or suitable equivalents) for which they were bred.

As a corollary it occurred to me that maybe a new breed is advisable, a dog bred solely for lying in cages or tied to the veranda post all day doing nothing whatsoever, that I would name the Sandbagger, a full-fledged canine with no ambition other than eating and repose, his life fulfilled to the utmost by complete inactivity, carefully bred for the cage and any form of strict confinement his lifeless masters could think up: he’d just love it, maybe on rare occasions wag his tail at very low frequency to indicate that he was still alive, which would be about all such owners need in their pet.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Finally I can get a word in edgewise here, and relate our last-Saturday visit to Engyoji temple complex on Shoshazan (Mt. Shosha) in Himeji. Our specific reason for going was to enjoy a shojinryori meal at Myoko-in, a small old building in the complex that serves the traditional meal in a formal setting. There are also places where visitors can stay overnight in the temple buildings, but we only went for the day. It was a longer trip than I’d expected from where we live. Took a few train hours to get there, then a bus ride to the mountain, then a brief cable car ride.

Shoshazan is the western counterpart of Hieizan (Mt. Hiei, our neighbor mountain), which guards Kyoto to the north and is home to the temple complex Enryakuji).

The temple complex and pathways were soulfood as always, but the point of this post is a visual of the meal, which was served at individual tables in a large garden-sided tatami room, some in a basket and some on a very large lotus leaf. Eat your heart out, Michelin...

Friday, October 07, 2005


In re the previous post, I should point out - so as to forestall any unexpected monkey-human hostility - that in monkey society (at least Japanese macaque society) it is impolite to stare directly, particularly at alpha males, to whom staring is a direct challenge sometimes requiring physical resolution, much as in certain sectors of human society (we’re not all THAT far apart). Thus monkeys don’t really stare, in the human sense, nor was I staring at the monkey in the human sense. We were staring at each other in the monkey sense, comprising quick glimpses and quick lookaways, which, though quite natural when staring at monkeys, oddly enough is considered shifty-eyed in human society. Thus when I got on the train I had to remember immediately to stop staring like a monkey.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Setting out early this sunny morning to freewheel down the mountain to the train station on my motorcycle, I’d gotten up to a good speed as I approached the tunnel under the road when I spotted at the other end of the tunnel a middle-aged monkey just sitting there solo in the middle of my road doing nothing, not scratching, not even eating somebody’s onion, just staring nonchalantly at that big hole with the dark speck inside, increasing in size and noise, that was me.

I revved my engine. He stared. Beeped my horn. He stared. Then I emerged from the dark of the tunnel and he realized I wasn’t part of the big hole, leaped for a utility pole support cable by the roadside and hung there staring, suspended as comfortably as we sit in armchairs watching tv. I wasn’t in an actual hurry myself, really, just one of those artificial hurries I get into when taking advantage of the free gravity, so I pulled to a stop beside him and sat there idling. We stared at each other for a while and thought about things, like a couple of reasonable simians.

He hung there staring casually at my chromy bike, my boots and jeans, my brown shirt and black baseball hat, my orange knapsack and surfer shades, the tilt of his head reflecting a remote wonder at why I needed all this parpaphernalia compared to his trim and time-tested fur coat, low unhatted brow, bright red face, unshaded auburn eyes, all you need for living a good life on no salary. The one trait we had fully in common was the lack of a tail, for some reason to do with shared evolutionary fashion.

He’d obviously been doing well in the forage department, his heft likely due in no small part to some of my missing Roma tomatoes. After I left for my office in the city he’d no doubt get back to work himself, visit my garden for a few fresh homegrowns, then climb into the trees and nibble on a variety of wild fruit and nuts, wash it all down with fresh sparkling mountain water like we can buy in the convenience store, before finding a nice tall breeze-rocked oak to take a nap in.

Just about then my full-time office appeal index fell below zero; but I’m nothing, if not human, so I broke off our little interspecies exchange, left him hanging there and rolled on down to catch the train. In his own way, I'll bet the monkey did the same.

As to the ultimate value of human intelligence, the jury’s still out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


In the 3-plus years I've been doing PLM so far, I've posted a lot of my photos in text and sidebar. I've now begun slowly compiling them into a publicly accessible file on Flickr (hence that untowardly throbbing badge over there on the left). But I have a problem with it that maybe one of you CSS experts out there can help me resolve. If I put the badge where I want it, i.e., below the regular Shiga Window photo, everything between it and the photo of me at the top disappears and the badge is where you see it now, but with all that should be above it no longer visible; any way to resolve this? Till resolution, I'll keep it where it is now so that all else remains visible and folks can access the photos if they so desire. Hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005



Monday, October 03, 2005


Early this morning Echo and I went down to the village rice polisher to polish 30kg of organic rice from Moriyama to send to Kasumi (Kaya and M&M go through rice like sumo wrestlers). When we got there a rice farmer was just opening the shed and was about to polish some of his own rice, but graciously allowed us to go first. As we were chatting, another farmer came to polish his rice, then another. Even at that hour the rice polisher was action central, all the rice having just been harvested.

At any rate, we finally got started, pouring the rice into the hopper, setting the polisher for pretty fairly darkly brown rice, making sure to catch the bran for use on the garden. As we and the farmers then stood there tweaking the polisher and waiting, Echo happened to mention that we were polishing completely organic rice from Moriyama, which was sort of like bringing out a handful of Hope diamonds at a gem convention.

All the farmers, multi-generation rice experts to a man, clustered up to the machine to eye the rice, grab a handful of grains from the hopper and take it out into the sun, where, under the farmer’s light they shifted and turned the grains in their brown farmerhands, eying the kernels as if they were holding handfuls of diamondseed, talking to and among themselves, looking for something, then saying to us that if this is organic, where are the signs of insects? There are always signs of insects with organic rice, but there are no signs of insects in this rice, are you sure it's organic? They showed us handfuls of their own rice, as if we too were experts.

We assured them that the grower had a special technique involving some natural material he had developed that bugs didn’t like, and avowed it to be 100% organic; the farmers collectively agreed that it must be true then, since no rice farmer would ever lie about his rice, a rice farmer would have too much integrity to do such a thing, it’s unthinkable, how much do you pay for it and when Echo told them they all fainted slightly, the price being about double what they get for their non-organic rice, and I’m sure it got them thinking further along positive lines...

But seeing that collective trust for a nameless stranger who wasn’t even present was every bit as nourishing as the brown rice will be...

Sunday, October 02, 2005


reminded me of an essay by Richard Dawkins:

"I was prompted to write this article by the smiling face of a very happy man in Bali... He was ecstatically greeting the news that he was to be executed by firing squad for the brutal murder of large numbers of innocent holidaymakers whom he had never met. Some people in the court were shocked at his lack of remorse. But far from remorseful, his mood was one of obvious exhilaration. He punched the air, delirious with joy that he was to be "martyred," to use the jargon of his particular sub-culture of Gerin oil substance-abusers. For, make no mistake about it, this beatific smile, looking forward with unalloyed pleasure to the firing squad, is the smile of a junkie. Here we have the archetypal mainliner, doped up with hard, unrefined, unadulterated, high-octane Gerin oil."

From Opiate of the masses
"It is a highly addictive drug, but governments everywhere encourage its use"

Richard Dawkins

Saturday, October 01, 2005


We all know how insensitive big business can be, especially when it comes to beauty in public. That seems to be particularly true in Japan, where the taste of bureaucrats and executives who can't even choose their own neckties determines how whole cities look. Take for example what they're doing to once elegant Kyoto, whose new train station has acquired the nickname “Stalin’s Headquarters.” Beautiful.

Speaking of beauty, Osaka had a lot less going for it in the looks department than Kyoto, having been almost completely destroyed in the war, and postwar cram-rebuilt by businessmen and bureaucrats into the ugly duckling of Japan's large cities, so you'd think they'd be sensitive about that at every turn, and do something in keeping with all their PR-brochure-chatter about “advancing into the future” and “making the city more attractive to tourists and residents.”

Now word comes that one of the few last bits of architectural splendor to survive the war, the Hankyu Concourse, a long high-ceilinged (in Japan!) arcade built in 1929, with chandeliers, mosaics, stained glass windows (all rarities in Japan, especially from nearly a century ago), the only oasis of genuine ambient beauty amid all the warrens of Osaka's Umeda station (the hub station of the city), is to be destroyed by Hankyu Department Store and Densha businessmen, and replaced with an inexpensive imitation of what profiteers think is beauty, perhaps a la Disney, maybe a double-layered mall of minishops selling Hello Kitty and lesser items behind plasterboard facades with a little recycling fountain that plays relentless songs about the magic of new possessions...

As to the public who in that high, cool, elegant concourse can yet find some aesthetic relief from the general tawdry scrunch, who cares what you want?

(Website dedicated to saving the Hankyu Umeda concourse)(Japanese)
With thanks to Ron Andrews