Saturday, December 30, 2006


How proud she is of that cute new gap in her smile that each time breaks my heart a little bit as the Kaya I know and love fades visibly into this new person she is ever becoming...

In the Japanese tradition, when kids lose a baby tooth, if it's a lower tooth they throw it onto the roof, to induce the following tooth to grow healthily upward; accordingly, an upper tooth is thrown under the house. There is no tooth fairy and the untoothed kids don't get any money, just the comfort of knowing that they are important members of the household and that their elders care about their future.

But now that so many people in Japan live in big-city apartments where there is no under the house, and the roof - way up there, forget it - the tooth fairy is making rapid inroads, as in Kaya's case: the tooth fairy left her a 100-yen coin that she carries in her pocket and shows off whenever anyone asks about her new smile, absent the front tooth that took a few days to fully detach and drove her little twin sisters to distraction.

So Kaya is becoming new as she has always been doing, but physical signs like this are more of a twinge to me than my ongoing background awareness of the fact. In counterbalance, her smile is every bit as newly sweet now, despite that little pain of passing it generates in me somewhere, and I trust, as I do in all honest and natural things, that this pang is a small price to pay for the beauty that follows.

Friday, December 29, 2006


When Kaya and the twins come to visit, I'll tell ya: there is no 'pause,' as it is called in the twinless world. No, there is no hiatus, no time for extended reflection. Nor is there any way you can say "I think I'll go upstairs and take a nap" and then actually go upstairs, lay down and attempt to doze off, because even if you were crazy enough to try, you'd only lay there wondering if that was the stove door opening or isn't that the sound of running water and I do I smell smoke, what is that pounding, or the best-case scenario: gee, it's quiet down there...

And you know this, deeply, so you don't go upstairs, and downstairs as I say there is no pause, you just carry on through all the day, learning to hitch your exhaustion to that boundless energy like harnessing a fully loaded beer wagon to a herd of Clydesdales, it is a rush I must say, hair streaming behind you as your eyelids droop, to take the trio to the library where Kaya, now of an age, sits quietly and reads book after book while the twins rearrange and count all the chairs, stack the books, race through the aisles and hide under the tables, all without shoes on - they love to go shoeless so no one can catch them (and no one can) and not getting caught is one of life's big thrills, as we all know.

Then it's streaking back home for dinner and now that I've already put all the split firewood up on the deck the twins offer to help me carry it - one piece each - the three feet to the wood rack, as long as they can wear one of my high rubber boots on one wrong foot and one of my low work boots on the other wrong foot while hopping, and later watch me turn a satisfying purple when they throw some firewood over the deck railing as a sort of work-reversal bonus they've earned through all their hard effort.

Later at last I'm making the fire I'm going to unobtrusively lie down and toast in front of while they eat, but they keep jumping on my horsey back as I try to light the kindling, leaving me no choice but to tickle them senseless so as to gain 30 seconds or so in which to handle live flame…

Then when they're about to go home they run to me with open arms and smiling faces, say "Bobu-chan suki!" ("I like [you,] Bob!") and there's a big sweet click in this part of the universe.

Followed by an unmatched night's rest.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


“On December 26, 2006, the director of food products for the Okuwa Supermarket Corporation, Mr. Yasunari, banned the sale of all dolphin meat in all of their stores.
[The first random sample of dolphin meat (iruka niku) sold at the Shingu Central Okuwa Supermarket tested for total mercury at 1.77 ppm, over 4 times the Koseisho's advisory level of 0.4 ppm. The second sample gave a readout of 5.40 ppm--14 times the advisory level.]

Now that the largest supermarket chain in Japan has banned the sale of dolphin meat, it's going to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for other markets in Japan to continue selling any dolphin meat.”

For further information on the effort to end the Japan dolphin slaughter: Save Japan Dolphins

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


-A Spontaneous Study-

I've been mentioning firewood so much these days because in every scrap of good weather remaining I'm trying to get all the logs cut and split, stacked and covered before the snow comes, if it ever comes again, though they say the weather will turn much colder tomorrow, so perhaps the snowline fast approaches. Thus it was that I was out there late this morning, having just finished chainsawing and splitting, standing amidst the resulting chaos when a big vanful of Kasumi, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa pulled up for a day of general hanging out at the old homestead.

With a chunk of split oak in each hand I walked up to the van just as the kids were emerging and Kaya was off into the house like a shot, while the twins were piqued with all this mess of sawdust and sectioned logs lying around and an axe in the stump, me all dusty and sweaty, leather gloved and wood-handed, I explained to them about the chain saw and turned to point out all the sections I'd just cut with the chainsaw from these very logs, this is all oak except this, this is beech, and this big stack is the split wood I'm going to start carrying up to the deck right now to use in the stove this afternoon and tonight to keep us all warm and when I turned back around the twins were gone...

They had abruptly and silently followed Kaya into the house, even in their extreme youth having instinctively experienced negative interest at right about the time my explanation began to sound like the recruitment of young slave labor for transport of firewood, which it sort of was, if the truth be known; but only with a purely pedagogical motive you understand, nothing distantly ulterior, but how the hell did they know, they've only just turned three, their wiles couldn't be as deep as mine, could they? Kaya of course is an old hand at the firewood craft and has been recruited before, so as I indicated she was upon arrival into the house like a shot.

None of the three yet know how to transform such moments into salary-generating opportunities the way Mick and I used to, by standing there forthrightly pondering the task at hand with narrowing eyes, emanating the consideration whether or not this sizeable assignment could in fact be worth our while, maybe even saying "Well..." just long enough to elicit the "I'll give you a nickel, dime, quarter," depending...

It was a stirring in some deep place, though, to see the task-avoidance skill so highly polished in two wee ones who haven't yet performed an actual task in all their three-year lives, yet they knew the first few bars of the spiel as soon as they heard it, and in English, no less! That aspect of human history must run deep indeed.

Our studies of genetics have only begun to scratch the surface.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


One thing I used to enjoy back in my younger, more existential days was that general sense of the frenetic that seemed to whitewater through just about everything. One is flexibly equipped for such torrents at that age, and the frenetic seemed always ready to oblige by occurring randomly at all hours, especially to guys living the kind of lifestyle Mick and I lived back in the days when time was entirely different in nature than it is now.

One of the big pluses of the eventually (but not too soon, God) conscientiously lived life is that you can at last congratulate yourself not only on having made it through all that, but on having actually paid some attention as you rushed along a mere twig in the blur, thereby earning the time, as now, to sit back on the deck with your wine in the vast solitude of evening and ponder such things at your selected leisure...

Still, you do miss it sometimes, that mad Niagara of moments over the edge of being, you're sure you could still handle it, even though you no longer need to-- but it would be fun to try it again-- with more experience now of course, just to see how far you can still advance into the frenzy and emerge in one piece, all the wiser for it...

That's another of the many wonderful reasons there are grandchildren.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Let me tell you, there are easier things in life than getting presents for three-year old twin girls who have just (presumably) departed the terrible twos. I knew that if I gave one thing to Mitsuki and a different thing to Miasa, there was a good chance that each would covet what the other had; and much as I was loathe to treat identical twins identically, I wasn't ready to pull them apart over Christmas presents. (Even now looms the vivid memory of the Teddy Bear Fiasco.) Very likely I was exaggerating the problem, but it was my problem: so I asked Kasumi what I should get them. Kaya's gift would be easy, she being the eminently solo and broadly pleasable big sister.

So it was that, a couple days before Christmas, on my way home I went into the big toy store near my office in the big city and shouldered my way through the hordes of wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and girlfriends (for some reason there weren't many male Christmas gift shoppers) to find an employee to ask if they had any scissors for little kids.

She went to the phone and called another employee who took me to another employee who took me to the shockingly diverse little kids' scissors section way in the back there. Among the headachey number of choices, I could get Hello Kitty scissors, Miffy scissors, Pooh scissors, Disney scissors and the many other newly essential scissory creatures there are that I've never heard of. I had found a brand new existential conflict.

I seemed to recall that the twins liked Kitty and Miffy or was it Kitty OR Miffy, or Kitty NOT Miffy, or triple vice-versa, it seems that there is no permanent region in my mind for such information... If I got each twin a different kind of scissors, for example one a Kitty and one a Miffy, much long-term rancor could ensue, so I should get two of one, since there was a little name tag on there by which the scissors could be individualized, much as the twins themselves were, by name only. So basically, Kitty and Miffy comprised the horns of my dilemma.

Never in my earlier, serious days had I foreseen myself on the other side of the world before a visual cascade of kiddy scissors pink and yellow and red and white with kitties and bunnies and mousies and teddies and what not on them (how narrow our scope, in the shallows of youth), trying to make one of life's key choices as I stood there stroking my chin and pondering deeply, much as in my younger days I had pondered less imminent matters like the meaning of life and the purposes of humankind.

In my elder wisdom, which under the surreal circumstances took some time to arrive at with the clerk standing there waiting, I figured that what would please the twins the most was whatever pleased me the least, so I sprung for two - gasp - Hello Kitty scissors. And - with commensurate gasps - two sets of Hello Kitty pencils and two pink Hello Kitty pencil sharpeners, so the girls can shorten their pencils after cutting up all the paper they've written on.

Life is wrought of purpose, and the tools therefor.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Even though every single moment of our lives we are seeing something we have never seen before, you'll never guess what today I never saw before, after a morning and afternoon of splitting oak which, after a time, particularly extensively solo up on a mountainside in an oriental country not ones birthplace can leave one somewhat hallucinatory, especially as compounded by a fine late afternoon with an ex post facto Chardonnay or two out on the deck where I saw what I saw but actually didn't see what I saw, if you see what I mean. Needless to say, if you know me, this is going somewhere.

To get to the point it was across the big cleared piece of land the vast tribe of monkeys had stampeded over upmountain as posted a few weeks ago. At first it was just a shadowy movement that caught the corner of my eye as eyes are anciently meant to be caught, over there where I knew no one was distantly home and they have no dog, but nevertheless there was a large dark dog weaving back and forth behind their fence yet no it wasn't a dog my eyes told me somehow that they knew. I got the binoculars and looked, it was an inoshishi (talk about coopted google links) trapped inside the fence, which borders the ravine of one of the mountain streams up here.

The creature was tall for an inoshishi though, and much darker, black in fact, had longer, hairier legs - life gets complicated at such moments - and a brown face, plus it didn't walk like a pig, it walked like a goat (differences I hadn't known I knew)! It was this creature. Never saw or heard of one around here. I thought they were rare, or nearly extinct even.

Guess later it found its way beyond the fence, the way I hope we do...

Friday, December 22, 2006


As implied in the previous post and the sake one a while before that, Japan is undergoing deep and profound changes, changes that will accelerate as the roots of tradition are perceived less like sources of ancient nourishment and more like stone anchors to a hydrogen lifestyle.

It was in that frame of transience that I gazed from the train window this morning while it was stopped at a small station up the line - this is out in the country, mind you, where the pace of change is factored somewhat by distance from the big city - and there beheld an attractive young woman seated alone on a bench on the platform, waiting for her train and scarfing a large and messy pastry.

When I say 'scarfing' I mean it in the Western sense-- the only sense there is, really. Japan has never really had a native form of scarfing, perhaps the closest thing being the always astonishing inhalation of searing-hot ramen noodles by truck drivers in a hurry to get back on the road, but that's more like econo-utility vacuuming than consumptive lust.

When I first came to Japan in 1972, nobody in Tokyo scarfed on the street but me, for a while, and maybe a couple other foreigners. After I'd been here quite a while and no longer scarfed in public I would occasionally be offended upon seeing some recently arrived foreigner walking down the street nakedly devouring food, right out there in the open, in plain view of all those offended natives walking by and standing around who were not eating in public and would never do so-- it was an egregious public offense and embarrassing to me, a foreigner who might thereby be lumped together with this lascivious consumer, this public masticator, this gustatorial miscreant.

But now, a mere 25 years later, there before my veteran eyes sat a stylish young Japanese woman (formerly the class of individual least likely to scarf even in private, let alone in public), right there out in the open - before an audience train packed with bored commuters - scarfing like there never had been any feminine delicacy toward public sensibilities in all this country's long and extremely polite history. I had a ringside window seat, so I enjoyed the show.

The pert young lady didn't scarf in a tentative, ladylike, experimental, culturally uncertain sampling sort of way: she went for the gold, she scarfed like a pro. The kind of scarfing I mean was best depicted - in my recent reference - in that superb movie The Commitments, in the scene where the loutish but golden-voiced lead singer is scarfing what looks like a generous potato salad sandwich on a large hot dog roll, practically jamming it into his mouth in consumptive eagerness, getting stuff all over his nose and face in the process, while the backup singers (the long dark-haired one is a special heart-throb) watch in disgust. So what was offensive even in formerly third-world Dublin was occurring - slightly more fastidiously, it should be noted for the record - right there on a Japanese countryside train platform in this very Heisei era.

Folks out there in the elsewheres of the world may not immediately perceive what this means. This is the end of Japan as it was once known! A stylish young woman, member of the social group that only yesterday was the eternal repository of Japanese decorum, was unself-consciously scarfing at the Olympic level in front of hundreds of non-eating, mostly male watchers-- unthinkable!

In terms of the changes it portends, imagine traditional Japan as a scrumptious pastry about to be jammed into a wide-open mouth...

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The last time I visited Tokyo it seemed to be undergoing the same population explosion as my commuter train, but according to a survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research for the Ministry of Health in Tokyo, in 2005 the Japanese population declined for the first time since World War II, though I didn't notice any gaps in the crowd.

The report went on to say that by 2055, when I'll be 115 and considering giving up a cigar with every brandy or vice-versa, the population of Japan (which already enjoys the highest number of elderly and the lowest number of youtherly as a percentage of its population) will have fallen 30% from the current 127 million persons mostly with no seat on the commuter train to some 90 million who will all have window seats.

By then things will be comparatively sparse, peoplewise, assuming that the birth rate stays at the amazing current low of 1.26 children per average Japanese woman, who, though extremely good looking, is marrying later in life and having fewer offspring. This choice is understandable if you've ever watched the young ladies making themselves up on the crowded commuter train, to say nothing of the physical danger with all those tools in all that jostling, when in contrast it takes an entire nine months, day-and-night, to have a baby and after that you can pretty much forget about makeup.

Like, that's a choice? They're saying in translation. These young women don't want that. Well, they do, in the ancient genetically directed way, but right now they prefer shopping, makeup, fashion, small faces and free time. After all, they've seen the future as embodied in their harried parents and are not pleased at the prospect. If I were their age, I too would be tempted to slap some pancake on reality. But the population plunge isn't all their fault, it's also the fault of the other half of the equation, the increasingly epicene young men who, in pursuing the new smooth male aesthetic, are going for makeup and eye shadow themselves. There's also the government's traditional xenophobia regarding immigration.

Prime Minister Abe has pledged to introduce new policies to reverse this procreational indifference among Japanese citizens of childbearing age (outlaw makeup?)... Where his efforts will all lead, who knows. But one great thing, if this all stays on track, is that by my 116th birthday (big party, you're invited, bring some booze and cigars, quality preferred, venue to be announced), 41% of Japan's population will be over 65 (let's rock!) and only 8% will be under 14, so we'll be able to hear our own music!

Another neat aspect of all this is that my daughter Kasumi and her husband Tatsuya, in having three offspring in as many years, are well ahead of their peers in this national quest to restore the nation to its former birthright, but they are rare; their old friends generally have no kids, or maybe one. So a couple thousand years from now, when I'll likely have graduated to using a walker, Japan may have to deal with Brady genes bigtime.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Back in the days before the declared truth of global warming was asserted to be a falsehood created by scientists who just want to get money for climate studies (as opposed to the anti-global warming scientists, who use their own money?), we here on the mountain used to experience our first frost some time in late October and our first snowy mountaintops some time in late November. As I indicated in a previous post, however, despite the patent truth and self-evident falsity of global warming, just a couple days ago in mid-December I had to wear a t-shirt while splitting firewood because it was too hot.

This morning, in the midst of all that controversial expenditure of time and money on global warming research and counter-research, I stepped out on the deck and to my surprise, slipped on the first frost of this year! Only a couple of months late! Clear data that in fact affirm the stance of the global warmers. Then I looked up and saw the mountaintops dusted with the first snow this year! Only a month late! Just a one-shot quirk in weather that is in fact on the side of the anti-global warmers.

Compared to the climate, we humans have only been here for a few seconds or less, so the weather spends no time listening to our squabbles. It is fully occupied with following the chaotic path that it always has, factoring in our heated input to whatever end. And if there's any burden to be borne, that will of course be the task of the newcomers.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I really don't know what to say, Time, this is all so unexpected, I was just putting on my socks this morning as my computer booted up when I saw I'd been honored by your cover as Person of the Year. It was a bit of a shock, let me tell you.

It's the first time for me, and needless to say I certainly never expected to be in the same company as Hitler and Khomeini, or to this year beat out candidates like Ahmadinejad, Hu, Kim, James Baker and all those other individuals I'd rather not be lumped together with, if the truth be known. As I say, I hadn't expected this at all, ever since I decided I'd much rather hit the road than aspire to be CEO of a major corporation or run for the US presidency, so I can't really convey to you how unexpected this is... I've been blogging for nearly five years now, and youtubing for a while, though myspace never really did it for me...

To tell you the truth, I've never thought of myself as "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse," let alone "seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game..." Fact is, I've just been putting one foot ahead of the other in a journey of general delight and discovery, with an eye always on the horizon, though of course no one conveys my own perceptions as well as I can, and the same goes for everyone, except perhaps salaried journalists. As a veteran traveler I've always known that distant news of local areas is sketchy at best, especially when you want to charge for it. I understand your difficulty.

I owe so much to so many. First of all, I'd like to thank my motherboard; my keyboard and server too, of course, and how could I not mention silicon, I couldn't have done it without them and Farnsworth, Einstein, Edison, those guys, Maxwell, Newton as well, all the way back to Aristotle and his students, the inventor of the wheel for getting it all rolling, the woman who mastered fire, I'm standing on the shoulders of so many giants it's pathetic, I really don't deserve this, but then again it's only a dead-tree weekly cover, so I won't let it go to my head... thank you anyway, thank you, it's an honor, now if all you reporters and cameramen will stand back a bit so I can find my other sock...

Friday, December 15, 2006


Just happened to read these two items one after the other and felt a sharp pang of sympathy for the little guy, being squeezed from every economic direction, to the point where he's even thinking of melting pennies...

"Such collusive practices between government and private industry are precisely where the Mussolini Fascist Business Model profits for the connected insiders, apart from any public participation. Expect more compromises which sell out the USEconomy, the US workers, and future financial health of our nation, so that Wall Street can continue to earn billion$ which ordinary people cannot earn. And Paulson is revered as a genius. He is one bright successful man, whose 2005 income at Goldman Sachs was a hefty $38.8 million... Paulson leads the pack in top income for 2005. The current CEO Lloyd Blankfein ranked #4 in the wage & bonus earnings parade at $30.8 million. The bank royalty has profited well during the rampant inflationary period, when the USEconomy has faltered, when the trade gap has magnified, when US workers have lost jobs in droves, when US companies have been squeezed to the point of establishing operations in China & India. Merrill Lynch earned $5 billion in 2005 profit. In all, 50 GoldSax executives earned $25 million yearend bonuses, while 12 Morgan Stanley executives did, and 12 Merrill Lynch executives did. It was a good year for Wall Street, and a miserable year for Main Street. Personally, no objections to success for individuals, but here one can find much to object to on the methods and cut deals. A cool $4.1 trillion has found its way in capital inflows to the US financial markets since March 2003. Wall Street firms have been first in line to grab their fair share, and most of your share."
Then I read this:

"U.S. Mint officials said Wednesday they were putting into place rules prohibiting the melting down of 1-cent and 5-cent coins. The rules also limit the number of coins that can be shipped out of the country.

'We are taking this action because the nation needs its coinage for commerce. We don't want to see our pennies and nickels melted down so a few individuals can take advantage of the American taxpayer,' Mint Director Edmund Moy said in a statement.

Officials said they had received a number of inquiries from the public in recent months concerning the value of the metal in the coins and whether it was legal to melt them.

The new regulations prohibit the melting of 1-cent and 5-cent coins, with a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for people convicted of violating the rule."
U.S. Mint bans melting pennies, nickels

[What about the dollar (and personal savings) being inflated (i.e., devalued) by Fed overprinting to pay soaring governmental bills with nothing but paper? Isn't THAT taking advantage pf the American taxpayer? What hypocrisy!]


(The true US Federal deficit for 2005 isn't the 'official' 318.5 billion,
but $3.5 TRILLION...)
"It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."
-Henry Ford

Thursday, December 14, 2006


As a long-term lover of sake and all its trappings, from the overall extreme finesse required to make the ancient drink in those big wooden vats in the old sake brewery buildings - and the traditional advertising - all the way to when at last the noble result is poured into handcrafted sake jars where in winter it is warmed and then poured into regionally handmade ceramic cups, or in summer when the sake is poured cold into masu, square fragrant cedar cups with a pinch of salt on the corner...

But like so much else of tradition here, the truly national drink of Japan is currently going the way of spare time. Advertising is everything these days, and upon sake has fallen the curse of the old-fashioned cachet, while elsewhere around the world fine sake are served to accompany all sorts of gourmet meals...

It has long amazed me that the single- or double-distilled grain liquor shochu, with its more obscure ‘under-the-bridge’ cachet (“In general, its flavour is often described as ‘nutty’ or ‘earthy.’”) ever won out over sake, the master-crafted rice drink that has all the diversity and savor of wine, with none of the general liniment qualities to be found in shochu-- though the latter is of course cheaper...

I have had some truly superb sake here; there's nothing like a quality hot sake in the dead of winter, if we ever have another dead of winter, with a quality sake to be found...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


"Devil food is turning our kids into homosexuals!"

I'm usually loathe to publicize any lifestyle preachments by gun fondlers who believe in the literality of books ghost-written by god, but these people are knocking soybeans and recommending hormone-laden bovine milk to wash down hearty meals of charred chemical-laced, not-yet-mad cow, while blaming early sexual development on tofu! (i. e., Asian men have all been gay for 5000 years or so. That explains the tiny population of China, and those wimpy samurai.)

And elsewhere in that foggy realm, self-conversations like "Just How Much Soy Did Asians Eat? In short, not that much, and contrary to what the industry may claim, soy has never been a staple in Asia," which might sound convincing to a credulous individual who has never left Peoria, lead me to doubt that these people have ever gone anywhere near a real heathen Asian supermarket.


"These are serious allegations, because soy is often consumed precisely for its considerable protein levels. In my view, there is a kernel of truth behind these charges, though one that Fallon and Enig[*] greatly overstate. It is true that the protein in cooked soybeans is slightly less digestible than that found in most animal foods [as is true of all beans...RB]. However, when soybeans are made into soymilk, tofu, tempeh, and the other common forms of soyfoods, their protein digestibility is enhanced and becomes similar to animal foods. Any negative impact on protein digestibility due to the presence of the enzyme inhibitors found in soybeans is rendered nearly irrelevant in such foods. And even simple soybeans, with their reduced digestibility, are so high in protein and in all the essential amino acids that they could still easily serve as the sole source of protein in a person's diet if that was necessary for some reason."
What about Soy?
by John Robbins

*Fallon and Enig are associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation, a "nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price's research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats."[Aha! emphasis mine]

Best comment I saw on HuffPuff's reference to the article (where you can trace back to the original if you really want to read a strident rant about the devil's dietary machinations):
"I notice that the author fails to cite any of the 'research' he mentions. You would think that he would want to bolster claims such as 'soy formula is the equal of 5 birth control pills a day' with a link. Funny how conservatives will latch onto any wacky scientist if it can be twisted to fit their agenda, but refuse the findings of the many who demonstrate climate change or evolution...
I did notice, however, after consuming some hot-sour soup that contained some tofu, that the drapes in our livingroom really highlight the burgundy in the throw pillows. Hmmmm."

As for me, I've been eating tofu, soybeans, soybean sprouts, tempeh, natto in quantity for about 40 years now, and there's still nothing on earth more beautiful than a woman.

Additional great commentary on this zany zealotry at Pandagon... (read the entertaining comments too!)


If you were born in the first half of the previous century, there are some surprises you weren't expecting. Take the arctic, for example. Here I was, confidently looking forward to another century of polar ice, and now they say it'll all be melted away well before I'm 150, meaning that just about the time I have to begin cutting back on my wine, single-malt scotch, cigars, chocolate etc., the ocean levels will be several meters higher, the poles will be retirement havens, Florida will be a sliver; Manhattan, London, Tokyo et al. will be submarine business centers, California will be an Oceanside promenade along the western Rockies, Japan will be a thousand small islands, Lake Biwa will be saltwater, my mountain property will be beachfront, and Tahiti, the Bahamas and other currently tropical islands will be but memories.

That exotic bird I heard outside my window the other dawn might have been a puzzled migrant from the Amazon rain forest... we seem to be having warmer and warmer winters, each of these seasons they still wistfully call Winter, when my winter clothes are too warm to wear. Today is like April, an unusual lot of rain lately.

A couple days ago I just harvested another basketful of oregano, another of my plants that thought it must be spring again already and started producing rich green leaves; the Echinacea are still sending up blooms, the nasturtiums are all perky, reaching for the hot Wintry sun. Will I really need all this firewood, I wonder... and should we really bother with snow tires?

Some folks say there's no global warming, about the same number that say there's no evolution, with that odd glaze of confidence in their eyes. Then again this might be just one of those 1,000,000-year anomalies no one knows much about other than as deluvian mythology, but lack of knowledge has never done much to forestall the inevitable. I've already done about as much greening as I can, so the only thing left is to put that well-stocked canoe up on the roof.

Monday, December 11, 2006


This will be the twelfth winter I've spent up here on the mountain, and this morning I was awakened just at dawn by the song of a bird I've never heard before, that had a melodic richness that brought me to careful attention, with ears never sharper than in the silence of a mountain dawn.

The brief melody was as ornately trilly as that of the warbler, but it was bigger, deeper, richer, in a thick-honey sort of way. (Birdsongs are notoriously difficult to describe.) And whereas the warbler song is splendidly ornate, it is only one-dimensional: a single note, bent and trilled along a single line of sound through time. This song, in contrast, had a deep, multidimensional resonance, more like a chord of notes sounded and intertwined together; I've never heard its like before. And as though its richness were were a factor of its length, it sounded twice, very briefly - just a course of several multilevel notes - then was heard no more.

It was 12 years before I heard it, then in only two brief melodic cascades it was done; when will I hear it again? What bird was it? I love the way life keeps creating us with fresh mysteries, planting enigmas where they best take seed, where we are most awed and nourished onward in new alertness...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Found out too late
where everything was...

Found out too late
when and where it all

Learned too late
what the kids hate;
learned not to ask
what they wanted.

all the weaponish things;
looked long, long
at every ceiling.

Shrinking toward nightfall
fell thankful into bed thinking
at least tomorrow will be better;
night after night
after night--
found out right where Mama
has always hidden the scream.

[Blast from the past
out of Bridge of Dreams,
sold out but a few still available;
amazing how well it's rated,
after all these years...]

Friday, December 08, 2006


Here comes old frost-bearded Winter any day now, to toss that thick white blanket of tiny stars randomly all over the mountains and here I am, sitting in a weatherless office in the distant city fiddling with alphabetical strings on a computer, words that don't exist but as lifeless subliminal pixels rooted in virtual 1s and 0s abstractly representing some electrodichotomy or other, while those actual fat golden slices of oak I sectioned last weekend are just sitting there up on the mountain, yearning in that oaken way beside the splitting stump beneath the leafless, wind-shivering plum tree, the oaklings casting their forlorn multi-ringed gaze (like giant woody puppy eyes) up at the imminently snowy sky and saying with that silent but effective oaken voice: "Where is Bob? Doesn't he have roots? Aren't there any leaves on that head of his? Doesn't he know we should be split into golden ingots by now and stacked up like genuine wealth so we can begin acquiring interest as soon as oakenly possible and be of optimal worth by next winter? These momentary humans can't be expected to understand time like we do, but doesn't he at least think in seasons? Doesn't he grasp true value, the way our roots and limbs do? What's the point of fiddling with a plastic keyboard in a walled office in return for some scraps of pulverized trees, while the real thing just sits here right on the ground like this, in complete violation of tree behavior? Doesn't he know there's a season going on? Is he going to burn that handful of earned paper in that stove of his when the weather gets tough? If we're not split and stacked into at least a couple of fat cords - worth more than gold to a freezing human, by the way - what's the point of his tapping out all that office-y stuff that wouldn't warm an acorn? That sky is looking more and more like snow... The priorities of these flimsy humans are nothing like oak. Why, when I was just a sapling in the strengthening wind...

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Ronni Bennett of Time Goes By, an early ultrafavorite blogger of mine who focuses on (among many other valued topics) one of life's objectives, the art of aging worthily, wisely and gracefully - despite the societal obstacles perversely confounding that endeavor - has posted Mick Brady of The Blog Brothers, a movingly perceptive 'review' of my brother Mick's recent blowaway post Instant Karma Nearly Got Me (first in a series) on The Blog Brothers.

Partly in thanks for the eminent Ronni's graciousness, and partly because Ronni is one of his ultrafavorites too, Mick posted an excellent bio of Ronni, When We Was Fab, on his site Dancing in Tongues. Mick and Ronni are both worthily right there at the forefront of what all is all about. Big-time kudos and fond embraces to them both.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Each year at about the time winter begins to frost the mornings I dutifully resume my annual dark chocolate consumption, as a prelude to vestigial hibernation. However, soon after I begin to satisfy that patently primal need in the necessarily gluttonous fashion (time is short!), for some reason I get a cold.

The trouble is, when I get these colds they interfere with my chocolate consumption, because nothing is delicious when you have a cold, it all tastes like outer space. And as every chocolateer can attest, there's nothing worse than eating outer space that you know is the finest dark chocolate.

Once my cold is over, though, I staunchly resume my chocolativity at a natural level until Spring, when my love of chocolate melts away like the snows of winter and I get no colds for the rest of the year, until the return of chocolate in the annual cycle that we know as life.

Some would imply that certain aspects of my clockwork colds are due to chocolate, that last year it was the M&Ms, the year before that, the After Eights, and so on back through the years; but I cannot honor such implications. I know the standard arguments, and I know that I could do 'better' on some nitpicky healtho-ethical level -- I could move to the tropics, I could pointlessly eat less chocolate, or even, insanely, no chocolate at all; or if I were really 'good' (an iffy existential category I've never really been comfortable with), I could chew on some tofu instead, or gnaw some roasted soybeans... but selflessly I prefer to remain an ongoing viral experiment on behalf of all humanity.

Yes, as an evolutionary pioneer at the vanguard of our chronic battle with insidious cold viruses I must continue my work, regardless of the personal cost to myself. One day, humankind will thank me; until then, all the dark chocolate I can eat must be my sacrifice.

[Two days later: yesterday, Mick thoughtfully hit upon just the solution for my altruistic dilemma, as a result of his BlogBrothers NYC memory sojourn: egg creams! I can get milk and I can get something resembling seltzer (though with none of the spritzy fun), but has u-bet chocolate syrup been found anywhere in Japan since since Commodore Perry's arrival? Can a genuine egg cream be made in Japan? How can I explain to my fellow residents why it is called an egg cream when it contains neither?]

Egg Cream Key Update--
I quote Mick: "for all those ex-New Yorkers floating around out there, just a-hankerin' for a real egg cream... a 24 oz. plastic squeeze bottle of the legendary U-Bet chocolate syrup can be ordered online, at" Fingers, don't fail me now!

Key Downdate--
"Presently, can only fill orders within the United States of America. We look forward to filling international orders in the future."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


This evening after finishing some raking and clearing in the garden I suddenly had an itchy ear and was poking around in there in the standard absently attentive way when my faithful earpick (the blunt end of a toothpick) suddenly rubbed across something that sounded very unlike the delicate softness of the ear canal that we all know from as soon after birth as we explore it. It was a most alien sound to be hearing as close to me as sound can be.

It sounded something like what you might hear if you dragged a sledgehammer along a concrete driveway in your ear. I had never before sensed so little difference between hearing and being. Conventionally, when earily poking around as occasion required, I'd always heard the usual soft, gentle sounds, matters of delicacy and concentration, quiet, smooth meanderings-- no sledgehammers, no concrete.

Whatever it was, though, it was small; not only because it was in my ear, but also because once I'd heard it I had a tough time finding it again, even in so small a space. As this aural adventure indicates, however, and as Einstein intimated in a non-auricular context, all space is relative. So I stood there miniaturized by the sonically and physically fascinating adventure that was going on right in my head's own backyard-- I was nowhere but there in my own ear, experiencing the eclectic excitement of archaeology, rather like a blindfolded Howard Carter in the tunnel at the door to King Tut's tomb.

Though I was working blind, I wasn't deaf -- so with my simple tool I managed to find the sound again, then to pinpoint it, then to work at moving it - it now seemed moveable - what was it? I seldom explore by sound alone, so this was a special expedition, but I've never had the patience Carter had, sealing the opening and waiting a season or two. This is the seldom-addressed point at which ears and ancient tombs diverge.

And so I wrestled the sacred object out into the light, whatever it was (a golden anubis?) and there observed that it was but a wild seed, a renegade that had occupied me while I was busy in the garden leveling its kind. It was trying to make a meadow of me.

Hope is made of Spring...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

While I was sleeping
the wind and the trees
filled my boots with leaves

Friday, December 01, 2006


Another in the infinite number of unforeseen pleasures found in growing to what is called a “ripe” age (i. e., full fruition, as opposed to obdurate greenness) is the spicy delight of re-reading all the classics and other books that were monolithic turning points in the formative stages of your life, the pleasure of seeing those writings from the new perspective you enjoy, now that you're so much taller in time. By the same occasion you also get a look at your former self from your new promontory, seeing how you used to see these things, and learning how little you really knew, back when you knew it all.

It would seem that there are certain ages in life when it is best to read certain books, as for example I suppose that The Catcher in the Rye is best read at about the age I was when I read it - Holden's age or thereabouts - when you see Holden as a stalwart ally in the fight against the fogey oppressions of antiquity; for when you skim the book at a golden age - as I did not long ago - with all your life's thus-far accomplishments satisfactorily arranged on your mind's mantelpiece above a bright, warming fire, Caulfield the snot-nosed whiner should be taught what's what in no uncertain terms, and soon will be, if my own life is any example, though he looks like he won't amount to much, if experience is any guide. I wouldn't want him in my foxhole. And On the Road: no dawdling to my destinations now!

What imposed this particular museum-quality frame of mind was my current re-reading of Bleak House. I came across a dusty old paperback copy in one of my upstairs bookboxes, so right away started re-reading it to see how much Dickens had changed in the past 40 years. I'd first read the book during or right after college, when I was still wrapped in the tentacles of academe, English professors were as gods and Dickens was a member of that pantheon whose every page was scripture, every line immutably embodying the sacred spirit of the written arts.

Now I was re-reading Bleak House and I wasn't sure I'd actually read the paperweight before. When I'd read my way through the metaphorical foggy Chancery that everybody knows about, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. As I skimmed the treacly beginning chapters I found myself tapping my foot and muttering "Come on, Chuck, drop the saccharine and get with it!" (Me, talking to Charles Dickens that way! Whence the new cheek?!) "Yo, Chuck, let's cut the teary-eyed, goody-goody crap, it just doesn't travel; nobody buys that anymore. Chaplin made the same mistake, thinking HE was the one folks came to see. Where's the little tramp? Where's the Chuck I know?" Then I reached Mrs. Jellyby, which was when Dickens regained his true authorial stride, and I HAD read Bleak House before. The real Dickens hadn't changed: over time, I had simply decraniated the unworthy parts.

Upon reflection, I realized that I'm no longer as hungry (i.e. empty, tabula rasa-wise) as I was during my first-reading phase, when in my yearning-to-be I was open to all winds, and psychologically closer to breaking away from the Victorian era than from the Britney-Paris era.

Another pleasure is finding that you've been honed to such a fine critical edge by the relentless winds of experience...

Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Hungry"? "Malnourished"? "Emaciated"? "Skeletal"? "Starving"? "Nearly dead"? These are just a few of the many “scientifically unquantifiable” terms that could be used to describe some of the 4.4 million US citizens now collectively categorized under the chilling phrase “Very low food security.” Leave it to a homeland bureaucracy of unfailingly salaried and well-fed officials to come up with words carved out of mental ice.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


"But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as 'these are not one-dimensional abilities' apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

"I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn't the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?"

It's not impossible; Hitler tried it, no doubt others are trying it even now; and to some extent it has always been done through arranged marriages, sectarian marriages and the like; but even then, as historically and incestuously among animals, precision was left to fate and defectives were rife.

But now that precision is coming more and more into our own hands, that is where the problem lies: who will decide? Who can be trusted with forever? Who has not only the technical knowledge and the moral integrity, but also the transcendental perspective?

And how crass would it be to purposely 'breed' a child who was a prodigious talent? What personal pride and integrity would that individual enjoy, when everyone knew their talent was 'artificial'? Here you are toying with things beyond science, where dangers reach far beyond grotesquerie...

Nature will always know more than we can know, and will always do more than we can comprehend; no matter the narcissistic pride we take in our new technologies, our tamperings will always be crude and darkling, relative to all the light. In this regard I'm reminded of the opinion of the native American when asked about the quality of the new salmon his people had been catching, that had been scientifically restored at last to the northwest rivers through artificial insemination and release as fingerlings. The new salmon were small, stupid and less tasty. This was because, as a species, they had been deprived of natural selection, comprehensive ecochallenge and unbroken species experience. Science can never replace these elements, for they are not replicate in the DNA. Imagine the equivalent picture for humans, a picture we have only begun to see...

But when has imagination ever stopped science?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


After our long hiatus, Mick has just posted Instant Karma Nearly Got Me, a look into the latter 1960s et seq. on The Blog Brothers, to be continued.

Monday, November 27, 2006


For some reason I cannot fully understand - maybe because I don't actually live in the country - this cruel countdown calendar is a runaway best seller all over America, where citizens of every stripe are climbing over one another, clamoring and clawing for even just one copy of this tasteless commercial venture to hang prominently on home or office wall and cross off each and every day like a stitch in an open wound until the end of a singular era, however grotesque they may believe that era to be, in a sickening display of gross and flagrant disrespect for the highest office in the land! Surely, as members of a representative democracy we have been taught to respect our duly elected officials, however alleged, and no matter the extent to which they are said to have sullied their office? They represent us, one and all! What is civic responsibility coming to? Anywhere I can get one of these in Japan?

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Life can sure be bizarrely interesting all of a sudden smack in the middle of your own existence, as it was for me on a recent evening.

Echo had just gotten home and I had arrived from work earlier than usual, so she was in the midst of cooking a quick dinner of okonomiyaki, at which I sat down to begin eating while she cooked the last of them (it's like making pancakes at home, you cook them all in one go).

I was hungry and the food was very tasty, a perfect pre-winter evening quick meal, so in the gusto of my savory enthusiasm it took me a while to pay much attention to an increasingly gnawing reality, i. e., my tongue and its general environs, including me generally.

At first I thought that that wonderful organ was just reacting a bit sensitively for some reason (e. g., I'd had some excellent but strong cherry gumdrops a few hours earlier), and that it would settle down, as tongues do. This was a minor level of discomfort in any case, and the okonomiyaki was delicious, so I persisted, thinking that the discomfort would either remain at this acceptable level or taper off. But it didn't: it got worse. I went and looked in the mirror to see if I had what felt like an accelerating number of microcanker sores, or maybe a thousand nanoswords sticking out of my tongue. Nope: normal-looking tongue, no cankers, no swords, no nothing.

Nevertheless I went back and continued eating because hunger has little intelligence. I was famished, the okonomiyaki was delicious and my tongue would anyway do its own thing as it always has, I thought, conflating this instance with those occasions in my past when I'd had a sore mouth/tongue for one reason or another.

Soon, though, it became impossible for me to continue eating. I'd consumed about ¾ of the okonomiyaki when I had to sit back in my chair with my mouth open and breathe cool air that did not extinguish the flame that now was my tongue or the new furnace that was burgeoning in my mouth and throat. I would wait it out, I thought, this personal idiosyncracy, then finish my meal. Few are as stubborn as a hungry Irishman.

Echo sat down to eat. In just a few bites, she said: "Something's strange... what did I put..." She dashed to the fridge and took out the dark jinenjo variety of yamaimo (Dioscorea japonica) root she'd grated into the okonomiyaki, opened the paper wrapped around it (on which there was some rather serious-looking writing) and said "Arrraaaaaa!" (The Japanese equivalent of "OOHHMMYYGGOODD!") "This isn't jinenjo!!"

I stared at her, mouth already conveniently agape, awaiting the details of my imminent death. "This is konnyaku root!" Konnyaku root, you see, from the plant we in the West ominously call Devil's Tongue (Amorphophallus konjac or rivieri), is supposed to be grated, boiled all to hell in order to COMPLETELY REMOVE THE EXTREMELY HIGH CONCENTRATION OF OXALIC ACID THEREIN, then mashed and mixed with limestone to coagulate the result, which is then formed into a substance that is carefully parboiled before being finally served as konnyaku, a neutral-tasting, rubbery food item I'd never really cared for all that much during my brief but interesting life.

In my remaining moments I hastened to the computer to google oxalic acid and found, as viewed through now upper-case eyeballs: "CAN BE FATAL IF SWALLOWED... DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING..." Oxalic acid does its damage by absorbing large amounts of calcium from the blood... can cause kidney and digestive tract damage... can be fatal... but only in large quantities of the raw chemical... My mind was still clear, since on my behalf it quickly calculated that I had swallowed only a relatively small amount from a modicum of root in a large amount of okonomiyaki batter, only a single portion of which I had not even finished eating.

So I was now a living experiment. I ate some yogurt and honey. I drank some of a special concentrated calcium drink we have. I took some calcium tablets. The tongue, mouth and throat pain didn't keep me from sleeping as deeply as if it were my last sleep. The thousand nanoswords had waned to a few tinglefeathers by the next day. The day after that I had a remotely dull ache in my right kidney for a couple hours.

Folks commonly say the plant is called Devil's Tongue because the flower perhaps looks maybe like a devil's tongue might possibly look if there were an actual devil's tongue around to compare it with, but they only believe that because they've never eaten the raw root, which puts the devil's tongue right in your own mouth.

These few days later, now that the devil's tongue has departed my mouth and I've got my own tongue back (a different set of problems), I can't swear any more effectively than I did before, but some things have changed as a result of my satanic experience. For example, the rest of my life looks richer now that I haven't died. And we no longer cook in haste.

Also, I have inexplicable sudden cravings for fresh konnyaku...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We, the Undersigned, endorse the following petition:

End Dolphin Slaughter in Japan

Target: Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister, Government of Japan
Sponsor: The Ocean Project

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Today before our walk we went to buy our eggs at our egg-buying place, a farm up in the foothills north of here where they give the chickens fresh well water and natural food and the shells are strong, the yolks are golden, the eggs are reasonably priced and the chickens are so happy they laugh all day. They only stop laughing to lay eggs.

While we were there (the monkeys had just been through and the persimmons were lying in bright orange chunks all over the ground, I'm not the only one who has monkey trouble) we decided to take our walk up toward the mountains along the tree-tunneled road golden and red with the glow of the leaves from the sun shining through. We had never walked that road before, and new roads are the stuff of promises.

We saw some pretty fancy but unattended old graves way in the woods as we went up the road, and no houses anywhere along it, just forest. After a time, as it began to get cloudy we came to a long - and in places high - stone wall on the left, with nothing visible atop it, just the sound of water. I climbed to the top and saw a vast pavement of stones, large stones, some of them as large as a car, an arrangement of stones unlike anything I had ever seen before, just a long platform expanse of stones laid out in no particular design, right in the middle of the forest. It wasn't a foundation, but had been carefully made, the naturally shaped stones arranged to fit together but not tightly, and without cement, so it was old, but it was clearly not an aesthetic endeavor, so what was it?

There was a waterfall off in the forest beyond, and a small manmade self-contained pond just above it, that was clearly now used to collect and direct water for use lower down, but that had nothing to do with the stone structure. Out in the middle of the stony expanse was a wooden sign, painted in the old style, with a writing brush in sumi ink. We walked out to it.

The sign said (rough translation) that this arrangement of stones had been built in 1852 after an unusually long and heavy rain had caused a landslide from the mountain above us, that had killed many in the village below. (It was a landslide dam!) To build this wall , thousands of local people worked for 5 years and 8 months. Male workers received 10 cups of rice per day, female workers received 5 cups of rice per day.

And there it stood, just as it had been built using nothing but human and animal power in the middle of otherwise nowhere, a sort of historic edifice to tragedy, collective endeavor and sexual inequality on an untraveled byway, no signs pointing to the structure, you just have to find it by chance like we did, and there hasn't been a single landslide since they built it, over 150 years ago. So in a way, it really worked.

And that road sure kept its promise.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Live in the limitless place!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Three ducks flying south
fourteen crows flying north--
evolution in there somewhere

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The Willamette Valley Soil Quality Guide was designed with farmers in mind, but can be used by gardeners in most zones across the country. "The general principles of the test are applicable anywhere, but the specifics will differ."

Saturday, November 18, 2006


As I split some oak on a calm, clear afternoon with winter chilling closer each day, a warbler watches from behind the bright red berries of the heavenly bamboo. He is at this altitude for the brief time that the lowering temperatures are just right, and will follow the temperature to the lowlands.

Bouncing this way and that, he turns his tiny head in every direction he can with his eye on me, the better to gain some varied perspective on the bizarre behavior exhibited by this other two-legged creature and the mystery he represents to birdhood.

As I work my axe and maul and wedges, lifting and splitting pieces of trees, I wonder what warbly thoughts there might be in that bright feathered head about what I'm doing-- perhaps he is puzzled by my lack of wings or my knees that oddly bend forward, or maybe my pitiful attempts at warblerlike whistling, that falls so far short of the silky glissandos of his own glorious songs— perhaps my featherless need for firewood intrigues him, or my constant manipulation of tools, to the great detriment of bug and berry harvesting— why not just move to more hospitable places, eating as I go, as he does—

Enough pondering the imponderable-- he flies off, a wisp of me flies with him...

Friday, November 17, 2006


They say its for 'research,' for example into such subjects as how much political support can be obtained from the remnant whaling industry, but their killing of whales in order to save them (where have I heard that before?) includes fin whales, which the World Conservation Union has included on its list of endangered species. To say nothing of 850 11-meter Minke whales, which like all other creatures on earth are here for deeper reasons than we can ever scientize.

Surprisingly, this predation has been criticized by the US, whose current administration has been about as eco-conscious as a cluster bomb (btw, the annual buffalo-slaughter-to-save-the-cattle began November 15).

We don't have to kill to live.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


From razors, axes and knives to handscythes, chisels, planes and chainsaws, if you can't sharpen your tools, they ain't worth much.

All at the excellent Museum of Woodworking Tools.
They sell quality tools, too, including Japanese tools.
via Metafilter


Research at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute shows that a mother's diet during pregnancy not only affects her child, but also the child's future offspring.

"This message is urgent. If we do not make significant efforts to boost the nutrition and dietary habits of young couples who are about to conceive a child, we are creating a multi-generational health burden that will impact individuals, families and entire nations for a hundred years or more."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


If you are as 20 years of age as I once was and may for example one day be an elder American male traveler of widely mixed ancestrage who has achieved 66 years of age in a foreign country where you are inaccurately rumored to be a reclusive hermit, how is all this dispelled? It is dispelled in the far best way by the visit of a granddaughter named Kaya, soon to be 6 years old, of whose birth you have been a part, who visits you now, rocketing from the car with a smile even wider than you hoped for, arms open, anticipating an embrace that you are after all this life worthy of, all you now 20-year-old travelers. Look forward with all that you have, for all that will one day look forward to you.


"Many Japanese are living to a ripe old age, and more than 20,000 of them are over 100 years old.
Life expectancy in Japan, for both men and women, is the highest in the world. What are some of the conditions that made this possible?"
The Secret to Longevity in Japan

Wise words on aging from Hinohara Shigeaki, a practicing M.D. 92 years of age.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Got a phone call the other evening that that affected our slow and calm and measured pre-winter preparations a little bit like that meteor affected the dinosaurs. As it happened, our son-in-law's grandmother (whom we've never met) had suddenly passed away at the age of 96; the wake was to be held on Monday and the funeral on Tuesday in Otsu, the city at the south end of the lake.

Since Kasumi, Tatsuya and family would be coming, and the boisterous, yakky 3-year-old twins could not comfortably be taken to a somber wake by any stretch of anybody's imagination, they were to be placed in our charge for a whole afternoon and evening on Monday which, since Monday is Echo's day teaching yoga in Kyoto, meant my charge, right out of the blue like that. Not that I sought one, but there was no escape.

When the young family got here yesterday, Kaya was asleep in the front seat (being old enough, she would be going to the wake, in her new school uniform) and the twins were just two cute little blobs of doze in the back; but when they were unloaded into the house they firmed up, regained their normal dimensions and slowly looked around, realized where they were and took over as Kasumi said goodbye and drove off, leaving me alone in a house on a mountainside with two speedy embodiments of hunger, thirst and curiosity.

They wanted to know what everything was that had not been here before, what could be eaten and what could be drunk, item by item, for example that red-topped jar with what looks like very tasty walnuts in it, and these interesting multicolored tea bag packets is the woodstove hot, what's that up there can I climb this I want to watch a video I like these chairs we can't open the bathroom door I'm going upstairs and look around can I open this box what happens if I put this on my head

I made the mistake of trying to distract them from the world at large and get them into seats by offering them some fresh persimmons and a cup of blueberry tea that disappeared in Guinness Book time, after which I have never seen anyone want to go to the bathroom so often. They do have tiny bladders, but every 20 minutes? (With twins, that's every 10 minutes.) It was a clock-racing relay marathon.

One of them has acquired a strong fondness for running, so I played the starter pistol while she ran back and forth across the long living room a few dozen times, with bathroom breaks. The other one, who had a bit of a cold, just walked. With bathroom breaks. I still can't tell quickly and confidently which one is Miasa and which is Mitsuki, so for example when one of them was doing something suspicious while I was going to open the bathroom door for the other, I tried the overall shorthand of just saying “Mi-chan! Don't do that!” ("-chan" is the diminutive) And they'd both look at me with that touch of puzzlement they frequently use in my presence.

I've mentioned before that the twins have their own language. Every once in a while one of them would sidle up to me, clearly after some kind of indulgence, and say in that tiny indulgineering voice, something like "bion papete..." I'd say What? "bion papete..." I'd say What does that mean? And so it would go back and forth in more and more of their words, the other twin slowly drifting over, when we'd get into a Joycean-Wonderland conversation about I couldn't imagine what; they couldn't see why I couldn't understand - I seemed in other matters to be sufficiently intelligent for their requirements - until for example they'd lead me by the hands to some sunflower seeds they'd found deep in a cupboard and wanted to relate to as locusts relate to regions of Africa.

Fortunately I'd been firewooding for a couple of hours when the dauntless duo arrived, so I was full of energy too and could handle it all, plus the lifting and carrying involved. Nothing like working with oak to prepare you for a visit from the twins.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Standing out in the strong wind last night getting a good soft buffeting, listening to the air itself roar the way it does when seasons change, in the castoff light from the house windows I watched the same bamboo I always see as a wall of vegetation in the light of day when I look out the window or glance up from gardening or firewooding-- but now in the light upon the dark and as a figure in the picture myself I saw the bamboo as if on a stage, saw how it lived and moved in ancient understanding of the roar of an autumn night, it was a different beast, clearly alive now, collective in its singularity, truer to its nature there in the night world, where seeing is of no point and being is all--

I'd always thought of the bamboo in itself as individual stalks; this is the variety they make fishing rods out of, mountain bamboo, grows taller than a man but is slender and crowded, too densely for any but wild pigs, ferrets and snakes to get comfortably through, maybe a fox now and then (the bamboo and the animals share a primordial alliance of noses and shapes) but now in the hurry of the night each light-paled stalk was on its own, yet one with all the others, like a school of bright fish in the sea they were together, shifting and swerving, shining and turning as one golden mass in the roiling ocean of the air, that ocean moving with and around them, 'together' in its deepest meaning, wind and stalk, air and plant in one vast thought swaying, vibrating; both surrendering, both prevailing, the air moving on, the bamboo letting it go, holding fast to the earth, each stalk reaching even in the night for the light of the day to come, in ancient and undying trust.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


My initial reaction to the news was delight in the exposure of a dogmatically righteous hypocrite; then I read my brother's insightful take on the fall of Ted Haggard.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Crow wings go hwuSHH---hwuSHH---hwuSHH
Duck wings go skwee-skwee-skwee-skwee
Hawk wings go -----------


Diagram via Inhabitat

Friday, November 10, 2006


As faithful readers of these meandering accounts are well aware, I have an ongoing problematic interspecial relationship with the local Macaca fuscata ("Japanese monkeys," as most folks call them - or "snow monkeys" - I call them hairy marauders, onion pirates, pumpkin purloiners, tomato pilferers, the list is long), who keep acting as though this entire mountainside and everything on it, except maybe my firewood (until they find out its value), belongs to them. Hard to believe that in some places in the world - as with the Trojans and their gift horse - people are trying to give these ruthless brigands fundamental human rights!

As a result of these increasingly adept behind-the-scenes maneuverings and strategic psychomanipulations on the part of the shifty simians, particularly the way they are beginning to use their "cuteness" and "humanness" to direct society at large - which I must point out has no onion patches high on forested mountainsides - it has become clear, as previously and frequently intimated herein, that the red-faced beasts are extremely crafty-- even extremelier than I thought.

As it turns out, their implicit (though carefully concealed from human eyes) use of timing devices, calculators, organizers and maps (and who knows what else they have up there in the forest) is only touching the surface. I have often mused about how soon the suitless simians would be wearing ties and commuting with the rest of us, taking away our jobs, entering government etc. Little did I know how close my musings were to imminent reality-- that there is in fact a simian plot afoot to take over not only my mountainside, but the entire world!

Naked apes beware.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


How sweet it is, on an autumn day as clear as a baby's eyes, to be out there working with oak logs in the cool of the afternoon, following like a hungry scholar the noble nature of this wood that is the very heft and fragrance of integrity, savoring the sound like tiny crackling flames when at last the sections split into two, four, eight and then the music of oak when the splits are stacked like ingots of cloudy gold, how rich they look, how rich I feel, how warmly they tell of future comfort, tomorrows given to other pleasures, and at sunset the wealth of aching muscles that have served to surround me with gold, then to come indoors and find that on the other side of the world the Dems have taken the House and likely the Senate, that America is still the government of the people, insisting on a Democracy with an honest voice for all! A day immersed in integrity: how sweet it is!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Like the French with their Bordeaux and the Italians with their Parmesan, the Japanese are getting proprietary about Japanese cuisine. And rightly so, I say. There are no standards outside of Japan; restaurateurs in other countries can call anything Japanese, and do, for a premium price.

I remember when the kids were little, on one of our trips to the US they wanted to have some Japanese food, so we went into a Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn Heights where we ordered the tempura and were served our bowls of misoshiru with a spoon(!). We sat there staring at the soup and at each other, waiting for the rest of the meal (the misoshiru is eaten together with the meal in Japan), until the American part of my brain noticed that the waiter was standing at a discreet distance waiting for us to 'finish the soup,' which in the West is the first course.

So we finished the misoshiru solo, which was odd to me, but completely bizarre to the kids. Then the tempura came, in a huge four-compartment lacquered box of American portion size, with giant, heavily over-fried tempura in one corner, non-sticky rice(!) in the opposite corner and vinaigrette salad in the other two corners! The kids and I looked at each other in amazement: salad with tempura?? We ate as much as we could of this odd meal, all part of the learning curve, but I avoided Japanese dining in the US for years after that, until Keech and I took my brother and his wife to a 'Japanese' restaurant in Palm Springs.

So at last, the Japanese have taken heed of this widening unscrupled tide of soggy makizushi, too-thick sashimi, excess wasabi, zarusoba on a plate and non-sticky rice: Japan's Agriculture Ministry will now certify authentic Japanese restaurants in foreign countries so as not to have their "brand" diluted, and so that folks in foreign lands can be assured that they're actually eating the Japanese-style food they're paying for. Which is the way it should be, since the real thing is exquisite and worth the price.

However, as a long-term resident in Japan and inveterate seeker here of such renowned foreign cuisine as genuine New York pizza, an authentic range of ice cream flavors and true American pies, I ask: Where, then, are the Pizza Police? I see no Ice Cream Commandos! Whence shall come the Pie Enforcers?

Cuisinal justice wields a two-edged sword.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive 'No' vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome."

"Meanwhile, America's image in the world, its capacity to persuade others that its interests are common interests, is lower than it has been in memory."

"There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country's reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7."

Excerpts from The GOP Must Go
in The American Conservative(!!)

Monday, November 06, 2006


Today the long brown road led to village shops and walnut cakes, yakimono galleries, mailing a package to mother- and father-in-law way up north in Shinshu (old name for Nagano), then on to other mountainsides, egg farm, forests, acorns, persimmons, gathering firestarter pinecones on the pine beach beside the big blue lake with little white sailboats beneath a big blue sky with little white clouds, a farmer in the distance walking slowly along the road behind his tiller, nodding at his neighbors as he goes, farm market vegetables, turnips, long white radishes, spinach, ginger, onions, gourds and the smiling faces that grew them, sliced funazushi laid out like pisces atop fresh rice, a new house behind the old fence up the road, straight the rows in the fallow fields, armfuls of kindling satisfactorily stacked by the door to the stove, crows calling in the autumn haze, sips of the taste of Merlot-- all wrapped in the slow cooling turning together into fall; tomorrow, logs to buck and split for next winter...