Wednesday, November 30, 2005


You are now looking at a guy who has no gallstones. See him dance and click his heels, arms in the air. Not that the gallstones were removed or anything.

I had been picturing large angular boulders grinding against each other down there in the dark of my GB, thinking maybe that if the stones were surgically removed I could get a nice 5-karat ring made or something - maybe with a matching bracelet - and when I went early this morning for an ultrasound check of the GB and general vicinity, the good doctor, who has an admirable sense of drama, when he neared the spot, said "Ah:--" (with a sharp uprising tone, the Japanese equivalent of "Well, well, well…")

I was awaiting some further professional comment, like "In all my years as a physician I've never seen the likes of this!" or "How did stones that size ever get in a space so small?" or "Nurse, hand me that hammer and chisel at once!" You could have cut the drama with a scalpel. But after a significantly extended pause of the type Shakespeare uses a lot, he said: "There are no stones in your gall bladder."

After dancing my way home like Gene Kelly without the rain, I now suspect that the whole GB episode was due to an extreme chocolate deficiency, aggravated by prolonged lack of pizza. I'm having another big slice of medicine right now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


"'According to this film, geisha dance in a bizarre fashion, as if they were in a Los Angeles strip show,' one Japanese film fan complained on a Web log, or blog, adding that the lights and special effects were more reminiscent of modern Las Vegas than old Kyoto.'

'In Kyoto, the centre of Japan's traditional arts, the reaction was more circumspect, in keeping with the western Japanese city's customary discretion.'

'It's a Hollywood movie. It's just entertainment, so what can we do?' said an official at the Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation, which promotes the music, dance and other arts of old Japan. 'Hollywood has always done things like ignoring history.' [The Chinese actresses trained in the geisha arts for all of six weeks!]

'Complaining about it will just focus attention on it, so we plan to ignore it,' he added, saying that the Foundation had turned down requests to take part in promotional events connected with the premiere.'"

Maybe that's another reason they held it in Tokyo (box office first, cultural integrity whenever).

The West in general remains pretty ignorant of Japan and China and their similarities and differences, and could care less, by and large... so that shouldn't get in the way with the movie, any more than it did with the book...

[Later: 'Memoirs of a Geisha' film kicks up storm in Japan and China]


Last night when I was rummaging around in the fridge looking for the leftover makings for one of my many spontaneous Sauce Bobaises for the unique pasta dish I had in mind as dinner, way in back behind the big miso container I came across two tomatoes that I could have sworn I'd used a couple of weeks ago, but apparently hadn't, so by now they were archaeologically quite aged for tomatoes (which tend not to be used in our house once it gets chilly and our tastes turn to more warming vegetables).

Despite their factual age, they still looked like an artist’s rendering of ideal tomatoes: plump, bright red, jewel-like in their integrity, until I picked one of them up and realized that the only integrity it had was its skin, and barely that: it was basically liquid in the ideal tomato container (a marketer's dream). When I placed the tomato on the cutting board and squeezed it lightly, the skin slipped away as though the tomato had been dipped in boiling water, and the innards began to slump rapidly as the liquid spilled away. I wondered: what miraculous chemical advance, what technological marvel has made such a thing possible? I hadn't heard about this one yet: was it a new universal pest eradicator like paraquat used to be? A cutting edge botanical hormone, sort of a stilbestrol for tomatoes? A superspecial preservative derived from Egyptian mummies? A stunning genetic modification like the spinach pig? What?

Without further human intervention, I suspect that those tomatoes would have remained spuriously intact for a long, long time, just the way they are able to do in the world’s supermarkets even today, and no one the wiser.

This morning I saw those very same tomatoes in a photograph that accompanied this article in the newspaper (tomatoless on the net, but just picture a tremulously perfect tomato).


"These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important...

NTU is thinking of a pyjama suit for children, which would use the Internet to adjust changes in pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged. Parents wearing a similar suit could be 'hugged' back by their children, the paper said."

It's not that we're getting our priorities screwed up, it's more like we lost the list.


"All the crap they tell you about... getting joy and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years - it's all tripe," said [Woody] Allen, who turns 70 on 1 December.

"I've gained no insight, no mellowing. I would make the same mistakes again."

So where was he all that time?

Maybe he just wasn't paying deep attention...


"A REPUBLICAN congressman [Duke Cunningham] pleaded guilty last night to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering lucrative military contracts to business associates — the latest scandal to hit President [XXXX]'s party."

War on terror means big bucks to hawk insiders! Surprise! Surprise!

"Around the same time, MZM, based in Washington, began getting large government contracts..."

So that's what defending your country means!

"As chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on Terrorism and Human Intelligence he had substantial links to the defence industry."

This is the elected official who suggested that the liberal leadership of the House should be "lined up and shot."

How do they make crooks look electable to the very folks they're going to steal from?

(This is just the tip of the iceberg)

But America's not unique in certifying the unscrupled; Japan's an old hand at it, too:

DPJ lawmaker Nishimura arrested
(He's a hawk too, the one who not long ago voiced his personal conviction that punishment is the only reason men don't become rapists.)

An Architect Cuts Corners, and Shakes Japan's Faith

When you start looking, the darkness has no end...


Interesting twist on Nazi Germany, where it was the indoctrinated youth who turned in the freethinking elders... Talk about knowing your children...

Monday, November 28, 2005


On our walk through the woods today, after I'd picked and inadequately peeled some genuinely wild persimmons and as a result had my mouth pucker as though I'd used an alum mouthwash (those really wild persimmons are so astringent you have to peel ¼ inch off to be able to eat the little that's left, as I now know). My mouth was so astringified that it was difficult to carry on a fluid conversation, so it was something of a convenient miracle to come upon the perfect forest antidote for extreme hyperpersimmonosis: a whole stone outcropping covered in the dark green leaves and gleaming red berries of fully ripe ki-ichigo (cloudberries; lit: tree strawberries). My mouth trying vainly to water at the sight, I broke off some long sections of the thin, berry-laden vines and carried them along like a fistful of ruby necklaces as I slowly picked off and ate the rubies, thereby restoring the liquidity of my loquacity.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

winter clouds edge
over the mountains
arms full of firewood


Yesterday afternoon, after I had eaten a fully ripe wild persimmon (very messy) over the kitchen sink while admiring the brilliant crimson-haloed yellow-orange coloring of the momiji (Japanese maple) at the end of our garden, I switched to my second fruit snack, half a French pear that was lying there ready at hand. That's when I entered a new multireality.

My mind's mind was lost in the beauty of the maple as my mouth's mind was dwelling on the lingering deliciousness of wild persimmon, while my hand's mind was grasping what felt exactly like the usual piece of apple it was bringing to my unattended, persimmon-flavored mouth, which was now expecting (via hand-message) the taste of an apple that (according to nose-message) bore the distinct scent of pear as my mind's mind remained on vacation, drifting through the sunlit cloud of momiji leaves and sliding down the color rainbow as corporeal me took a bite of persimmonapplepearmomiji and there was confusion among the tangy leaves and dayglo flavors, an odd and inexplicable discord among abruptly dissociated senses, a surreal medley of mind that had to do with the taste of crimson to the eyes - or maybe the mouthfeel of momiji leaves to the hand- or was it the peary scent of apple with the heft of yellow, all tangled up together in a what, a body is it, of some sort, wait - let me (who's that?) get this sensual knot undone –

It's not maple, well it is, but that's only eyes. This is hand, eyes turn to hand, let mouth sort things out. Not apple, not momiji. Hurry-tasting mouth plunges off cliff of persimmon sweetness, seeking radically different flavor level so as to enable resumption of standard existence oddly called Bob, finally stopping at new sharp tartness, broadening out, parsing… ahhh: pear! I know pear! Delicious! Pear and tongue old friends! Like eye and momiji leaf!

Then came the momiji-watching pearmouth party, with reassembled me in full attendance.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


"Counting calories isn’t the best way to lose weight, according to a new Brigham Young University study that suggests that an approach toward food called 'intuitive eating' is better at producing lower cholesterol levels, body mass index scores and cardiovascular disease risk.

'The basic premise of intuitive eating is, rather than manipulate what we eat in terms of prescribed diets -- how many calories a food has, how many grams of fat, specific food combinations or anything like that -- we should take internal cues, try to recognize what our body wants and then regulate how much we eat based on hunger and satiety,' said lead researcher Steven Hawks, a BYU professor of health science, who adopted an intuitive eating lifestyle several years ago and lost 50 pounds as a result."


Another chocolate loophole...

Friday, November 25, 2005


According to recent scientific studies, which are the best kind, the sea level rise has doubled in 150 years, and I suspect will get to be a problem by about the time I reach 160 or so, when seacoasts are predicted to be hundreds of meters inland from where they are now, which means, among other things, that Coney Island is in trouble. Similar recent studies have also revealed that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest they've been in 650,000 years, which goes back to before I was born.

So with the globe warming around us and the seas already lapping at our toes, it looks like mountainsides like this one are the place to be, in preference to nearly all the world's big cities, just-about-sea-level places that will all too soon resemble Venice without the beauty, tradition or tourism. But the Venetians did their city on purpose; what are our great-grandchildren going to tell their children?


A few nights ago I was upstairs editing when suddenly there was a terrible racket from downstairs that pierced the country silence like a herd of screaming icepicks. The icepicks were shrieking out the melody to Jingle Bells, then seguing into a chilling Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and on into bonegrating versions of other formerly beloved holiday songs in a long, looped medley from hell.

Echo had opened the holiday card she had bought for the grandkids and was writing in it. When she closed it and a blessed peace had once more descended upon our home - apart from the ringing in my ears - Echo asked me to write something in the card when I had time.

That duration stretched out quite a bit, though, because every time I opened the card it began playing, if that is the word. At close range. I tested the card to see just how far I could open it before it went off, but the holiday device had been devilishly designed. I couldn't keep it open long enough to write anything spontaneous that must also be coherent.

At first I thought maybe I'd just speedwrite MCAHNY2TKKMAM, the acronym for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Tatsuya, Kasumi, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miyasa, then email Kasumi the key to the code, but then why be a coward at holiday time? As I edged the card open slowly, there at the very heart of the soft and mortal silence that surrounds us in our normal hours, keeping a careful eye on the sliding tab at the card hinge, with pen at the ready to write as much as I could before the thing went off, I felt like a demolition expert. But you can only write sideways for so long in a half-open holiday card. So as my ears were once more shrapneled with seasonal cheer I decided to go for it: gritting my teeth, I wrote out the rest of the message - raggedly, but in full - and slammed the card shut. Echo sent it off.

This morning we got an email from Kasumi saying thanks so much for the wonderful holiday card, the twins love it, they sit there opening it and listening to it all day, enraptured. And if one or both of the twins starts crying, all Kasumi has to do is open the card and M and/or M falls into a calm silence to listen. Kasumi says the card is very convenient and she hopes the battery will last a very long time.

Interesting, how heaven changes as we age...

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Well not really not. Yesterday was Labor Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday here in Japan, when everybody... um... gives thanks for labor? Today, however, the fourth Thursday in November here as it will be tomorrow in the US (the US gets all our yesterdays), is not Thanksgiving Day here.

Not that there isn't anything to give thanks for - the tv is off, for example - but nobody around here is eating turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and all the fixings and then collapsing on the couch with half a pumpkin pie on their chest in a heap of protodigestion; here, it's a small bowl of rice as always, with some other stuff that somehow to me just doesn't seem to taste as good as usual, on what used to be Thanksgiving Day, but I'm not complaining, this isn't Complaintsgiving Day, after all... that's the fifth Thursday in February.


The 2006 Japan Environmental Exchange Eco-Calendar
"Healthy Food, Healthy Planet"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Today as I was enjoying my lunch I couldn't help but feel sorry for all the many people around the world who have never tasted a perfectly made umeboshi in all its royal pink soft savoriness. What a vast and unknown gap that lack leaves in a life, when filling it might resolve so many of the world's problems; for who, while experiencing the perfection of a homemade umeboshi, could feel anything but nearness to paradise?

This brought me naturally to thoughts of heavenly umezu, the fine yet unsung umeboshi vinegar, made from the pickled plums themselves (actually apricots, so sue me) which takes on the hue and perfume of the umeboshi, stratospherically commingled with the essence of that cosmic tartness that does so well and goes so good in making pickled ginger, for example, or when poured on salads, one could go on forever, as umeboshi and umezu will... though the latter nectar is as yet unknown in solo form even to Google, hence the untoward lack of links...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005



In what appears to be influences from global warming, abnormal fruits, such as grapes not turning red and peaches with their flesh turning brown, are being reported throughout [Japan], forcing producers to try to find effective countermeasures."


There's something about the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which sanctions such world-consuming events as Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest and the Krystal Square Off World Hamburger Eating Championship, that gives me an unsettling gut feeling, sort of like swallowing a few dozen hamburgers after dipping them in water so I can swallow them faster to win an eating competition.

Maybe it's just the idea of competitive eating itself, which makes literally gross mockery of worthy human endeavor, balanced living and altruistic behavior, like cutting 700 million dollars off of food stamps while giving Bill Gates a billion-dollar tax cut. But of course, Takeru Kobayashi isn't a Republican.

The news that Kobayashi, who hails from Echo's Nagano Prefecture - and who has held the Nathan’s Hot Dog-scarfing crown for several years now - has won the Krystal Hamburger crown for the second year in a row (by eating 67 water-dipped hamburgers), just doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing you'd want to wave a flag about, but I suppose they will, up in Nagano...

Perhaps I'm just being a bit oversane...


"Researchers at Australia’s national research organisation took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people.

But the team found that when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. They think this structural change could be to blame for the unexpected immune effects seen in mice."

Now all we need is a good genetically modified hambone...

Monday, November 21, 2005


Out on my early mountain walk this crisp and clear blue morning, I looked up and saw the silver cat's eye of the moon just about to set behind the mountains and was instantly transported back in time 30 years to when we lived in Cala Boix, a then undeveloped but very historic point of land on Ibiza (I recognized it clearly in one of Patrick O'Brian's early Aubrey-Maturin books).

There, on one autumn morning like this one, I set out carrying under my arm a freshly planed motor head to carry over the mountain to San Carlos and thence all the way to the countryside garage yard in Santa Eulalia where my SEAT was sitting disassembled.

And with that memory came the broader recollection of how self-reliant we had been back then, even after Kasumi was born, when we did everything we could do ourselves, needed almost no money, had no electricity, no utilities, showered with rain water (much of the year, when a nice looking rainstorm came along we'd run outside naked with the soap), rose and set with the sun, ate a lot of wild vegetables and mushrooms, traded with the local farmers for eggs and cheeses and almonds, made an excellent coffee out of roasted wild chicory roots, fashioned our furniture out of driftwood... I had even gotten the motor out of the SEAT using only my own muscle power, no hoist - rocking it out onto a stack of tires - then when I'd bolted the head back on, I rocked the motor back into place and bolted it down, turned the key and Vrooom! A very satisfying sound indeed.

To get back to that Ibiza morning: just as I'd started up the mountain - rather a steep climb, especially carrying a motor head - I looked up and saw the same moon, in the same shape, at about the same place above the peak, and was filled with the same strong and enduring sense of companionship I had first felt one day as a child in New York, 30 years before, upon seeing the moon in just the same way...

(And that bottom-line knowledge of self-reliance is better than a pension.)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Last weekend we drove up the other side of the Lake to visit beautiful Taga shrine, coincidentally at the time of Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3), which is officially on the Nov 15th, but parents bring their children who are 7, 5 and 3 years old to the big local shrines all over Japan at around that date, on a day convenient for them.

Thus it happened that an hour or two before sunset in a clear sky we walked into the beautiful gingko-leaf-gilded precincts of the shrine when its grounds were busy with grandparents and parents in kimono together ushering formally unruly little humans in full kimono regalia into the sacred sanctums and trying to photograph them before banks of blossoms there, the children making every face and pose but their very own…

One little girl in red insisted on a two handed, three-fingered victory sign in every photo, one little boy scrunched up his face for all the future, even using his hands to achieve the maximum scrunch...

Brought back memories from only yesterday of all the times we'd taken Kasumi and Kitaya to their 7-5-3's... How quickly those precious times go by, leaving the you of now standing there amid the new festivities remembering, wishing somehow you could do it just once more...

Of course now we have Kaya and M&M...

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Dr. Crow does his dawn song and dance in the chestnut tree outside my window every morning, always the old crow standard that goes "CAAAWWW! CAAAAWWWW!! CAAAAAWWWWW!!!" in decibel increments, urging the sun to hurry up while declaring his own eminently worthy presence to the morning at large and calling for all the other crows everywhere else to shut their big fat beaks so he can be heard.

This morning, though, in stark violation of this corvine ritual, he was saying something I've never heard him say before, it sounded like a subdued, terse, angry, very personal "kew, kew, kew," like he was really pissed at his teenager over a cell phone in a crowded waiting room, or just saying 'damn that tax office' as he kicked a branch, or something other crowfully disturbing, whatever that might be. He was so quiet that it was difficult to hear what he was saying with any certainty.

But crow teenagers are generally very raucously behaved and cause no trouble for their parents, unlike so many human teenagers, and crows in their sublime craftiness have never paid taxes and simply wouldn't tolerate the illogic of waiting rooms, so I can't accurately imagine what he was complaining about.

But whatever the reason for his black bitterness, it must have passed, for within an hour or so I heard him telling the other crows to shut up again.


"It is hard to overstate the degree of change and turmoil in Japan's Imperial Household. Consider in the past year alone the Crown Prince has publicly apologised for standing up for his wife; Princess Nori just married a commoner; and the government is preparing legislation to allow female succession to the throne. As elsewhere in Japan, women are threatening patriarchy. The repercussions, actual and potential, are enormous, stirring a predictable backlash while pointing to how much more needs to be done in a nation that stands at 69 in the global ranking of women's status."

The Imperial women of Japan by Jeff Kingston

Friday, November 18, 2005


"It sounds like science fiction: simply swallowing a pill, or eating a specific food supplement, could permanently change your behaviour for the better, or reverse diseases such as schizophrenia, Huntington's or cancer.

Yet such treatments are looking increasingly plausible..."


The book Memoirs of a Geisha is inauthentic, geisha-wise (the subject geisha filed suit against the author), and the movie Memoirs of a Geisha is inauthentic ethnic-wise (most of the actors are Chinese), but here's the frosting that tells you the kind of cake it all really is: the pale, blue-eyed geisha poster for the movie, as promoted by SONY Pictures, no less! Whatever happened to cultural pride (to say nothing of audience reality awareness)? Did Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks really permit this?

More opinions (and links) on the geisha fiasco at Japundit.


"If we don't change the world, it's going to change us.''

---Duncan Hunter (R, Xenophobe) Chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee

Thursday, November 17, 2005


"Are you bored silly with the brain-numbing drivel coming out of Hollywood these days? Do you love to watch movies but struggle to find what you want at the local theater or video store? The OCA is teaming up with Ironweed Film Club to provide our supporters with an affordable opportunity to recieve a thought-provoking progressive DVD in the mail every month that contains an award-winning independent feature film, a short film, and free extras. The club also provides resources to help members build and strengthen the progressive movement at the local level -- a critical step in rebuilding a progressive majority. Learn more and subscribe here."

Wish I could get this in Japan.


As he later related on the news in Japanese, the head monk of Kinkakuji, when his temple was visited by the alleged president of the US, said to the professional vacationer “The world needs peace.” To which Bartcop's Worst President Ever gave the deeply considered one-word response: “Exactly.” Just as news about the use of white phosphorus on human beings in Iraq was boiling over in the world news. Exactly?


[Update from Ken Rodgers, at KJ: News reports claimed Bush received a "warm" welcome in Kyoto. Downtown on Tuesday evening, at least 800 protestors in several groups, fired up by Iraq, Okinawa, and global warming, marched the main streets, watched closely by many of the 5,600 police mobilized for the occasion. Best placard: "Kyoto Rejects You, Too." No mainstream coverage. Photos: via Kyoto Journal's news page.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Public comments are now being accepted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its newly proposed federal regulation regarding the testing of chemicals and pesticides on human subjects. For some reason, though, people keep objecting. According to its newly proposed rule, human subjects could include:
  • Children who "cannot be reasonably consulted," such as those that are mentally handicapped or orphaned newborns may be tested on. With permission from the institution or guardian in charge of the individual, the child may be exposed to chemicals for the sake of research.
  • Parental consent forms are not necessary for testing on children who have been neglected or abused.
  • Chemical studies on any children outside of the U.S. are acceptable.
Words that would have further chilled the icicles of Himmler's heart. Number 2, seeking approval for further abuse of abused children, is particularly heartwarming. Number 3 means that my children and grandchildren would be acceptable for chemical and pesticide testing. The EPA folks better not come anywhere near those kids, or they'll be minus a few researchers.


We have a small local wrought-iron firewood holder next to the woodstove, holds about a day’s wood supply, but during the winter we’ve been roughly stacking firewood against the wall out on the deck beside the door, where it wasn't too comfortable and wasn't solidly stackable.

But now we've got an outside firewood holder, and the best part is, it was scavenged! Some formerly firewooding person in a village down the road who has reverted to electric or gas heat kindly disassembled their large firewood holder and bundled it neatly together with a note on it to say what it was, then left it beside the road where Echo just happened to be taking a walk, so she went back with the van and got it.

When assembled, it's about 3 meters long and a meter or so high at the ends, and comfortably holds about half a cord of wood. Off the floor. Away from the wall. Near the door. Without the wood stack collapsing at the ends. No more twice a week or more shlepping out into the blizzard and staggering back in the teeth of the wind bearing a mere armload of wood; now I can slide open the door, step outside in my slippers and grab just enough wood for immediate needs, faster and easier than going to Harrods in the Bentley.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Princess Nori, the only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito, wed a commoner in a private ceremony at a Tokyo hotel today and became Sayako Kuroda, in the process abandoning her privileged status as a member of the imperial family, now that she has been inseparably linked to commonness.

This unlike Sayako’s mother, who was mystically elevated from the taint of commonality to the throne of imperiality upon marriage to her husband, then crown prince. Also unlike her brothers, Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, who upon marrying commoners did not have to give up their royal titles and generous taxpayer-funded royal allowances and move from the moat-ringed palace to Tokyo apartments.

Apparently, though, the sudden disappearance of nobility under the one-way rule is no big loss to Sayako, who will now live in a regular manshon and be privileged, for the first time, to drive her own car, do her own shopping and put out the garbage like everyone else.

Pay taxes and vote, too!

Later: Fast action on unbearable royal inequality, in contrast to the common type of inequality


The alleged President of the United States, who in a sterling performance all round has thus far spent 46 days in Europe and nearly a year in Crawford but only 13 days in Asia - where the next few centuries of world hegemony have been forming while he cut brush - is in Japan now; Crawford no longer provides sufficient distance from reality. Kyoto, just over the mountain, is the only Japan stop on his package tour of Asia, whose purpose is to demonstrate the region’s prominence on his agenda, whatever that might be.

In Kyoto he will visit Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), which visit could be taken as a subtle hint by the Japanese government (who are beginning to see things as the rest of the world does), since the original pavilion was built in 1387 by Retired Shogun (hint, hint) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Kinkakuji can be accessed by direct bus number 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station, though it might be quicker and less complicated for the Prez and Pickles to take the Karasuma Subway Line to Kitaoji Station, whence the temple can be reached by a short bus ride, though I doubt if the Prez, who is so unfamiliar with Asia, will have change in yen, or know how to buy tickets.

Monday, November 14, 2005


On Saturday I took Destiny into my hands: I planted cabbage. I know, I know: given my gardening history up here on this mountain that is home to unscrupulous monkeys, devious crows, tiptoeing deer and ruthless wild pigs, all of whom worship reverently at the altar of cabbage and the other vegetables I don’t plant, this is a kind of madness. Still, there are times when one must at least try to take up the reins of Destiny. On the other hand, though, he who forgets the past is condemned to hear that Santayana quote up the wazoo.

It was only a few cabbages, so I’m not that mad, maybe .001 on the King Lear index, not really tempting Destiny, just sort of a minitest to see if the Big D has relaxed at all, maybe has more important things on its humungous agenda than merely sending varmints into my small garden or snatching onions and cabbages from before only my eyes.

In consequence I was immediately reminded that I’m not the only one with a share in Destiny, and who did I think I was, anyway. On Sunday, crow took Destiny into his beak and savaged one of my cabbages, pulled it right out and ate all the good leaves, nipped it right in the bud and looked like stomped on it, no doubt cackling with a dark glee in the dawn hours. It appears his intent is to take one plant at a time, the better to teach me Destiny’s lesson. Tweak Destiny off track, will you, mere mortal?

So today I went out and put some netting over Destiny’s cabbages. And if you think that’s mad, I also planted some Brussels sprouts, to up the index. Sometimes a man's gotta do what a gardener's gotta do.


"On March 23, 2006, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate. The Board will also cease publishing the following components: large-denomination time deposits, repurchase agreements (RPs), and Eurodollars."

M3 being the amount of money the Fed is injecting into the US (and world) economy, why would these unelected but altruistic officials, whose only thought is for the little people, want to keep secret how many, many, many billions in fiat money they're injecting into the US (i.e., world) economy? (Japan publicly injected a few hundred billion dollars last year.)

Get ready for the world inflation war, folks.

For a broader take on this very important subject vis-a-vis your money

To say nothing of The fiscal hurricane on the horizon

Later (Nov. 18): More info on this and its effect on your pocketbook

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Just saw on tv morning news a discussion with Shintaro (“If Japanese hadn't fought the white people, we would still be slaves of the white people.”) Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, ardent devotee of Yasukuni Shrine, who is currently being groomed as successor to Japan’s Prime Ministership, a fact reflective of the depth of democracy here.

The pair were talking about the 15~20% sales tax the government plans to impose in a couple of years, the LDP amazingly even less perceptive than 17 years ago, when they imposed a 3% sales tax and the economy fell apart. As to the burden of a 20% sales tax at this juncture, Ishihara offered this sage judgement: “If people don’t want to buy something, they don’t have to buy it.” Tourism will, of course, will be as rain in the Sahara. But Ishihara’s cross-eyed views are honored and Abe will succeed to the office of Prime Minister, as in any democratically cloaked aristocracy. That’s what really counts in this picture, as always.

The LDP prints money till banks offer negative interest on savings, property values plunge, income drops and taxes decline, so they add a higher sales tax. Anybody seen a lost IQ around here? Well at least the rivers are paved, and all those bridges and overpasses may lead somewhere one day, with the ciphers that built them still in power…

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Ever since the M&M-gall bladder fiasco I've been reading up on the latest health advisory gurus, looking for loopholes vis-à-vis chocolate consumption, but the most flexible advice I can find is priestly statements like "consume dark chocolate in moderation."

Who are these people? Where do they find their joy? Gazing at a picture of a hot fudge sundae must for them be like a week in Vegas. Aristotle was the granddaddy of the moderation pushers, he set the turtle's pace for pleasures of the appetite, but needless to say he had never in his life tasted chocolate, which to my mind leaves him out of the running on this matter.

To get back to eating chocolate, eating chocolate in moderation is like Tantalus getting one grape every other week. He's worse off than when the whole bunch was always just about within reach. Life is not to tantalize with biweekly grapes, life is to gorge! Judiciously of course. If you disagree because you're one of those pro-moderation people, please go back to your gravel tea.

Then there's the logical approach. Chocolate and moderation simply do not go together; they’re a contradiction in terms, like "national intelligence." They're not even in the same ballpark! Chocolate is a ballpark. Moderation is the inside of a ping-pong ball. "Chocolate in moderation" is therefore meaningless.

There's my loophole.


Back to the genuine world. This morning it's raining (it's Saturday), which is good though because it's keeping the monkeys away from my shiitake, which rain I am shortly going into this morning to harvest a few of those round brown beauties, then spend some time choosing a new ideal recipe for really fresh rain-succulent mushrooms.

Maybe slice them thin as paper and sauté in olive oil with a touch of garlic and lime basil, then a splash of broth and stir in the fettuccini?

Or just cut them in chunks and stew them together with a generous variety of Oden, so delicious with really hot mustard and steaming rice on a damp, chilly autumn day?

There are a lot of shiitake recipes to choose from, but then I have a lot of mushrooms.

If you lived in the neighborhood I'd bring some over...

Friday, November 11, 2005


It seems that some days, sex is just everywhere you turn! I had no idea that Scooter Libby had written a novel set in Japan whose focus is a girl who is kept in a cage and raped by a bear to train her to become a prostitute. Who would have thought the US vice presidential advisor and sub-traitor knew so very little about Japan, and had such a big dark side?

Perhaps the book was inspired by his own experiences at Bohemian Grove. The Apprentice, a thriller that includes references to bestiality, pedophilia and rape, shows Scooter to be eminently qualified to serve under Cheney in the house where Jeff Gannon hung out. It also shows he’s not very good at keeping secrets, even about his own fantasies. World leaders and advisors indeed. We need a lot fewer of these people in positions of power.

It seems, however, that Libby's infamy is creating new demand for the book, whose publishers are calling for a reprint, proving once again that culture has no bottom.

And now, one hopes, a return to spirit-worthy subjects.


You sure couldn't prove it by me or anyone I know here in Japan, the land of eros unsurpassed in the realms of subtlety, but according to the annual nosy survey that condom maker Durex conducts every year (pardon us for interrupting at just this moment, but…), the Japanese have the least active sex life in the world, for two years in a row. Preposterous.

This in contrast to the Greeks, who according to the survey seem to have time for little else at pole position number 1, several lengths ahead of the staidly randy British, who nevertheless slightly outstroked the understandably fading Americans, who even so tower at more than double the DIP (Demographic Intercourse Proportion) of the Japanese.

That would perhaps explain the declining birth rate in Japan, but not the surge in profits from the tumescent growth of love hotels, which are often hidden away in discreet locations in keeping with the Japanese desire for privacy regarding the wanton expression of untameable passion when, for example, sequestered behind the folding screens atop the rocking motorcycle in the velvet room of the Candy Box hotel down that long road on the mountain…

I think it’s more likely, given the Japanese penchant for privacy, that the Durex folks, not being from around here, just didn’t know where to look.

Lowest DIP in the world? No way.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


"Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are materialists with no experience of the Spirit. Regardless of what the New Testament says, most Christians are individualists with no real experience of community." He paused for a moment and then continued: "Let's pretend that you were all Christians. If you were Christians, you would no longer accumulate. You would share everything you had. You would actually love one another. And you would treat each other as if you were family." His eyes were piercing as he asked, "Why don’t you do that? Why don't you live that way?"

Betraying Jesus at SOMA


If a lack of ethics can get an incompetent elected to the White House (where it has become apparent even to the alleged president that simply blundering along unethically for five years isn't working), then a lack of intelligent discernment in a state board of education should come as no surprise.

Voting 6 to 4 (see below) to pass that mental vaccum on to their children, whose minds might otherwise be taken up with intelligent inquiry, the Kansas Board of Education has voted to minimize the troublesome childhood trait of seeking intelligent answers to rational questions, making their offspring eligible to one day sit with the majority on the Kansas Board of Education.

They're treating science the way Japan treats history.

Voted for 'intelligent' design:
Kathy Martin
Kenneth Willard
John W. Bacon
Iris Van Meter
Connie Morris
Steve Abrams

Voted for intelligence:
Janet Waugh
Sue Gamble
Carol Rupe
Bill Wagnon

Panda's Thumb
Scientific American


Pennsylvania shines some light in the darkness


Perils of the Unconscious Mind:
Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath


"The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert."

From: Greetings from Idiot America
by Charles Pierce


"When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt."
-- Robert T. Pirsig

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Can't get enough Pokemon? Suffering Hello Kitty withdrawal? Craving more Sailor Moon? Take heart, then: US newspapers, scrambling for readership increasingly lost to the net and to the general decline in reading (writing too; I saw a net forum member ask the other keyboarding participants "Can anybody here write cursive?"), are turning to manga, which will soon grace the comics pages in US newspapers. "Come January, the Sunday funnies of several major North American newspapers will have doe-eyed women in frilly outfits, effeminate long-haired heroes and other trademark images of the Japanese comic style."

Whether that will go well with coffee and donuts or inspire breakfast changes to raw egg over white rice with seaweed remains to be seen.

Analysis of Japanese reading habits

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


As opposed to eating a chunk of whale whenever you feel like thumbing your nose at world opinion, two servings a day of uncooked soy protein as found in tofu, soy milk or soy powder can lower your cholesterol levels by as much as 9 percent. And tofu's a lot cheaper, tastier, more nutritious and versatile than drugs that do the same thing with side effects. Way cheaper than whale meat, too. Ecologically, it's no contest.

I read somewhere once that if all the land devoted to cattle were turned instead to growing soybeans, everyone in the world could be fed.

And have time left over to go whale-watching.


The meat is only a "by-product" of the nation's "scientific" whaling, but according to a 2002 survey, only 4% regularly ate whale meat, 53% had not touched it since school and 33% had never tasted it.

"Whaling is simply not important to the Japanese public."

Monday, November 07, 2005


Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica), Japanese wild parsley, is a wonderful wild herb not only because of its delicate parsley-y, celery-y, faintly lemony fragrance, which goes so good on sushi, in misoshiru and other dishes, and not only because it grows from early spring throughout the summer and into autumn, but also because when you go to gather it you have to walk around bent right over staring carefully at the ground in search of those three shy, irregular leaves down there under all the higher plants, thereby causing you to notice everything that is going on underfoot of your otherwise generally look-straight-ahead daily life.

For lunch we were having both sushi and misoshiru, so I went out into yesterday morning's rain with a double sense of purpose. Needless to say, everything down there was wet, but now the ferns are curling up, as are most of the other plants, but from here and there in the multicoloring undergrowth peeped the bright shining rainwet leaves of the mitsuba, saying "pick me!" "Pick me!" It didn't take much wandering to gather a large handful of the tiny light green leaves; just a sniff of them honed my hunger.

On the way back to the house I stopped at the oak logs stacked under the cherry tree and harvested a handful of just-emerging shiitake to round off the meal.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

One cricket left -
chanting to the last
the only mantra

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Someone googled the timeless phrase "genealogically identified as the Grandmaternal Unit (GU) with respects" and got two results, of which Pure Land Mountain was the first! Don't look at me, I've never posted anything about the Grandmaternal Unit, much as I may have thought about it. What the searcher should have typed was "genealogically identified as the Grandmaternal Unit (GU) with respects to LRRH," which makes a lot more sense as being a quote from Little Red Riding Hood and unrelated to PLM. Who could have thought otherwise? Except maybe Google.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Yesterday was Culture Day, a national holiday, when everyone presumably does cultural things, but we made our monthly trip to our secret spring high up in the mountain forest to get some of that really good water where it comes pouring out of a cliffside.

On our way up there along the road that curves through the cedar forest, while slowly edging by two pickup trucks parked halfway out in the road I spotted three men up the steep slope in the forest to one side of the road, not lumbering or anything, couldn’t tell what they were doing.

We got to the spring, and had filled all our jugs and bottles and watered the plants we’d bought at a farmer’s roadside stand on the way there, then headed back. Passing the two trucks again, I saw that two of the three men had come down to the road; the third, halfway down the slope, was dressed in what looked like some kind of space suit and was carrying a well-laden bag.

We stopped to look. The two men on the road were grinning from ear to ear, each holding a two-armful load of large slabs of dull brown comb, speckled with white bumps. The spacesuited one was dressed, I could see now, to ward off stings. They had just raided a nest of Osuzumebachi (suzume: sparrow; hachi: bee, wasp, hornet). Osuzumebachi (Vespa mandarinia), very fierce-looking hornets that are quite aggressive in the fall when stocking their underground nests. They get their 'sparrow' name from their size, which can reach up to two inches long. They also have very long stingers. I got stung in the foot by one of them a few years ago, in slow motion, as I recall, and it put me in the hospital--but that's another story.

Osuzumebachi larvae are a highly prized delicacy and reputedly magic tonic, so are very valuable, given the risk one undertakes in harvesting them. One of the tree-tending fellows had probably noted the nest site during his labors and waited till the larvae would be just right (they were the white bumps on the comb) - about the size of small shrimp - and came up to harvest them.

Another trick hornet hunters use to find Osuzumebachi nests is to bait a stick with the hornet’s preferred insect prey, then while the hornet is busy eating they tie a long strip of white cloth around its thorax and follow its flight (often a very long way) back to the nest.

The surviving hornet hunters then take out all the larvae and soak them in sake and do other secret tonic things with them I haven’t been able to find out yet.

Related article added later:
Killer wasps threaten farmers in Shaanxi


Veteran travelers have known about the melatonin/light solution to jet lag for at least a decade (I myself prefer the hallucinatory qualities of jet lag, late into the night!). I can't understand why it took The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism so long to find out about it, though. "Both bright light and melatonin have successfully been used in laboratory and field settings to 'phase advance' (resetting the circadian clock earlier in time so that all the circadian rhythms of the body occur earlier) thereby helping people adapt to night shift work or to a new time zone following rapid transmeridian jet travel." But then travelers move at jet speed, while science prefers to plod.


I got my new low-tech passport a few months ago, so I'm good for the next ten years. But if you're about to get one of those RFID'd ones, or have even bought an RFID'd item using a credit card, here are some things you should know about this intrusive technology.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


This morning on our usual mountainside walk we came across a yellow-leafed niche of mukago, which surprised us because this seems to be a bad year for them - I guess we found the mother lode. We picked a good handful to have with lunch.

A kilometer or so later we came across a couple of very heavily bearing wild kaki (persimmon) trees of the kind whose fruit, being small and very sweet, is usually dried for winter eating; so since these were wild and there was clearly too much for the birds and the monkeys before it all spoiled, and being myself of ancient simian lineage I just stood beneath that golden cascade of heavy-bent branches and plucked and began eating the ones at the summit of ripeness, golden orbs that were almost translucent, like the kaki in that famous old painting Six Persimmons by Mu Ch’i (above), as though a light were shining from within them…

Eating those persimmons beneath their tree, surrounded by its pendant branches, was like eating the way you eat in a dream, the way you do anything wonderful in a dream, your being filled to the breath with every reach of the experience, in this case the taste and texture and sweetness and lifeglow of a wild persimmon just plucked from its tree, its orange parchment skin peeled away to reveal amber flesh like solidified honey, and as I was ecstasizing over the savor of each bite, Echo found some ripe akebi just hanging there on their vine in the forest shadows, voluptuously open, revealing their pale white fruit ready to eat and so we dined al fresco the rest of the way on handfuls of fruit, our mouths reveling, when we found the last of the blueberries, swollen to their essence... what a magical breakfast, and all on nature's tab...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


No doubt the blogosphere is on tenterhooks (interesting word, that) regarding how at my age I am so quickly overcoming the insidious attack of the giant gall bladder without resorting to physicians or hospitals, surgery or conventional drugs.

My progress toward normalcy is thanks in no small part to a strict M&Mless diet (no Snickers either, though I still steal a cookie or two when Echo isn't looking) along with the usual vitamin/antioxidant supplements, but the main factor in my turnaround is the big gun that Echo dragged out of her cornucopia of alternative therapies, an ancient Chinese panacea: a horse-pill-sized ball covered in genuine gold leaf that costs 30 dollars a pop and consists largely of cow gallstone. Did you know that only one in 2000 cows has a gallstone? You learn something new every illness.

On the first day of the attack of the bladder from another galaxy, Echo took one of these golden cherry bombs out of its special box and wrapper and cut it into four pieces; I was to take one piece after each meal (she has a supply of them for medical emergencies). It looks and tastes like a chewy gold-plated caramel containing licorice, ginseng, powdered deerhorn etc., with the scent-flavor of exquisite temple incense, a bizarrely sensual combo that right away takes your mind off of any illness you might have had in what just a moment ago was your entire body, and has your very existence puzzled in your mouth.

After taking it I couldn't exactly pitch 100mph fastballs while rehearsing Riverdance, but why quibble? It was close enough for someone my age. Soon I'll be 25 years old again. On second thought, I think I'll just go back to when I could still eat M&Ms.


Looking through the LL Bean winter catalog this morning (I'm a big fan of LL Bean boots and moccasins, used to visit the old store in Freeport Maine every time I went camping up around there back in the 60s and early 70s) I came across a photo of a toboggan, of which there are none in Japan and that I had tried to describe to Echo at some point in the past (it's not easy to describe a toboggan to one of a tobogganless culture) so pointed this one out to her in detail.

This naturally segued into various tobogganing tales of my youth on the snowy hills of upper New York State, back when there was no tv and every decent slope for miles around was full of children in squealing bunches sliding down and climbing up, steaming hot in the freezing cold, and how what a big hit was a toboggan, a long toboggan, when ten kids could go down at once in a roiling scream of instant camaraderie that tumbled all together at the end, those vivid memories leading inevitably to the final derring-do toboggan ride of my brother and myself and our friends Marty and Mac during our college days when we went to New Hampshire for a long winter party weekend and at some point one evening decided to toboggan down the empty ski slope before the sun set.

We'd had a few beers and a lot of tobogganing experience under our belts, so we scrambled way up the empty icy slope, arranged ourselves on the toboggan and started off, very quickly reaching about 400 miles an hour – my memory recalls something about the sound barrier, but that may be spurious – at which speed we couldn't turn or stop as the big building at the bottom with all its concrete stanchions loomed closer and closer in the dimming light, so in desperation we leeaaannnneeeeeddddd as far as we could but despite all our expertise we hit one of those concrete stanchions in mental slow motion like live crash test dummies.

Actually, the back of my left thigh hit the stanchion, and my knee broke one of my brother's ribs; the other two guys went on tumbling for some time. My brother got taped up and I had to use a cane for weeks as I hobbled from class to class. We were young, we were insane, what can I say; that’s part of what college is for. But tobogganing remains golden in memory, since we survived. Even now, we survive. The toboggan, though, was not notably damaged. They made things to last, in those days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Lately I've been a bit short-tempered gruff brusque moody edgy sarcastic churlish testy cynical surly grumpy scathing etc. what have you and whatever pick a word, use your thesaurus, don't interrupt, it's not my natural inclination certainly which is kind and gentle, indeed often basely altruistic, to the point where I am perfectly willing to give an arm and a leg to a friend if need be. Ask me later.

Anyway, it's not really me it's not my fault it's all those M&Ms. The candy kind not my granddaughters (Mitsuki and Miasa, aka M&M). Because of all those M&Ms my gall bladder hurts, though not directly; nature moves in many devious ways but one of the most devious is called 'referred pain.' Which in the present case is not justly referred to the gall bladder lying sinisterly there beneath the liver, whence one might get a clue as to an appropriate rate and volume of M&M consumption but noooo, instead this bizarre right shoulder/back pain shows up one day out of nowhere and radiates thobbingly down my right arm like the leggy sciatica, thereby rendering me unfit for coherent gardening firewooding typing shaving toothbrushing punctuation M&M consumption you name it.

Maybe those Snickers bars had a hand in it too who knows, the scientists tell us nothing specific about the things that really matter at the personal level, it's all DNA and string theory, statistics and generalizations. But this sciatica of the arm (I’m sure there’s a proper scientific term for it you can look it up if you want to I’m gonna let my arm just hang here for a while) also makes my thought processes kind of rough, like this choppy effort - to say nothing of spelling with a game arm - since I can only effectively think between throbs which makes for rough creative seas in such a small boat as mine is.

You see already the metaphors are flying all over the place out of control (can creativity be wanton?) and all I can do is watch and wait for the current nerve-as-firehose to pass then leap one-armed back into the tempestuous text from a newly vacuous perspective, who has time for editing when you have to write a sort of desperate morse code as it is? Enough. I’m going to lay my arm on the desk.

Needless to say I've had my last ten bags of M&Ms. Maybe if I ate just one M&M at a time...