Sunday, December 30, 2007


Kids can fill minutes with anything, like when Kaya came for the holidays and one of her big wants was to play in some leaves, as she always does in autumns at our house - which was still possible since there's been no snow - so I took her out into the garden to where all the late-fallen oak and cherry leaves had been gathered by the rake-assisted wind.

She gathered bunches of leaves in her arms, threw them high in the air and ran through them squealing, storing up days worth of wish-fulfillment in no time at all, then I suggested that since it was growing dark we should get busy on another big want of hers and use a bunch of these leaves to roast some potatoes, so we got lots of leaves together in a pile and Kaya lit them like a little priestess at an altar; then we got some oak twigs and threw them on, then more leaves and in very short order the heat was ready for potatoes, which in 20 minutes of additional leaf-cavorting were perfect for eating with some salt while sitting on warm rocks by the embers in the falling dark.

Then yesterday we went out to trim the plum tree (Kaya always has some house and garden tasks when she comes to stay) and I got the ladder and saws and pruning shears and of course the wheelbarrow-- Kaya loves the wheelbarrow, so she was in charge of that. The plan as we initially set it up was, as I trimmed the branches from the plum tree, Kaya would take them, clip them down to size and put them in the wheelbarrow; then when it was full, she would wheel the twigs over to the garden, where she would dump them onto the compost pile.

So there we were, I up on the ladder among the bare plum branches and Kaya standing next to the wheelbarrow with everything -- ready to go, but something wasn't quite right, some essential was missing... after a moment's thought, Kaya realized what it was, ran into the house and came back out a few seconds later carrying her toy mouse, which she placed just where it belonged in the wheelbarrow. Now everything was ready.

But with all plans, we must be prepared for change. As Kaya was doing her part, she suddenly had an even better idea than our original one: she began to use the ideally sized twigs to build a fine house in the wheelbarrow for her mouse to live in, using the larger twigs for the frame and the smaller ones for the roof, with some nice roundish green leaves for shingles against the rain and snow, and who was I to object from way up in a plum tree with such a godly perspective? Indeed, from my point of view the new architecture looked attractive and functional. By the time the structure was completed the plum tree had been trimmed, the mouse was snug in the newly named Wheelbarrow Mousehouse and it was time for tea.

Though the new plan took quite a bit more time to carry out than the old plan, we're always asking heaven for more time, aren't we-- and there it is right in front of us, all along.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


"KJ #68 starts out literally in the backyard of one of our editors — amidst frogs, bees, butterflies and mantises — leading into a passionate exploration of environmental aesthetics by Brian Williams, a leading Shiga landscape painter, and an investigation of Natural Agriculture by writer/photographer Lisa Hamilton. Other rambles, poems and profiles take us as far afield as back-country India and rural Cambodia; we meet multi-ethnic students in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a comedian family in Mandalay, Burma, and two women doctors from Iraq as they visit Japan.

This issue's In Translation feature looks at how publishers present Japanese children's books in English, with the bonus of a delightful modern fable by Awa Naoko, translated by Toshiya Kamei. Fiction is set in the mountains of Vietnam, as well as a mikan-growing village in on Japan's Pacific coast. Blogology introduces vital links for anyone interested in homesteading in Japan.

Finally, we return to Kyoto, strolling the contemplative Philosopher's Walk."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


From as far back as I can remember, I have always been hungry for knowledge about the infinite aspects of this universe, starting with the earliest queries of my infancy: Where the hell am I? and Why are women so fascinating? and growing on from there, ever hungry.

One bit of knowledge I've recently felt the need to acquire is how to clean rain gutters only when the sun is shining. This desire only arises whenever I'm cleaning the rain gutters with rain cascading in my face, running up my sleeves, down my neck and into my boots as I stretch out to full length and height there on the wobbly ladder in the multidirectional wind-driven downpour, my wife affirming my knowledge-hunger by stepping gingerly out into the skytorrent -- while I have one leg on the top rung, the other leg on the slick deck railing, one hand on a slippery roof tile and the only remaining hand scooping leaves and cedar needles out of the icewater-filled rain gutter -- and asking from beneath her umbrella: Why do you always clean the rain gutters when it's raining?

Somebody must have asked Socrates that question. They didn't teach rain gutter in college, and I never had a house to learn from until this one; we always rented and moved a lot when I was a kid, so all you guys whose fathers made you clean the rain gutters all those autumns while I was gloating at football or baseball, go ahead, you can gloat now.

The thing is, every time I'm out in the sun I'm not looking at any rain gutters, I'm looking at the light from the blue sky or the dark nourishing earth or the vital seeds I'm planting or the shiitake logs I'm drilling or the firewood I'm splitting or the monkeys I'm chasing or the delicate sprouts that need weeding, mulching or support, I'm not gonna drop everything that needs doing right now, as the sun slides nonstop down the sky and time is wasting, to go and get the ladder and lug it around the house and set it up here and there and climb up and check to see IF the rain gutters need cleaning, are you nuts? As soon as it rains I'll know whether or not the rain gutters need cleaning.

So that's the answer, it comes to me like a face full of rain, just as it must have for Socrates: as there is a time for all things, so there is a time for knowledge, and some things are just not worth knowing until it's time to know them. And so it is with rain gutters. But how can I possibly explain that to my knowledge-hungry wife under her umbrella as I hang there in the rain grasping a handful of wet leaves?

Socrates is silent; he seems to have something under one of his fingernails...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Geol!

Monday, December 24, 2007


via Celsias
But don't despair, home nuking is just around the corner... [link fixed]

Sunday, December 23, 2007


How much of your lifetime have you spent closely examining oak bark? Not too many minutes, I'll wager. Scanning even small areas of oak bark is not a general habit among humans of my acquaintance. Until a few years after I moved here it wasn't a habit of mine either; out of the first 60 years of my life, I don't think I spent more than 30 seconds carefully examining oak bark. I can't imagine why I might even have done it for 30 seconds, but you never know, we were all kids once, with hungry minds, nothing to do and an oak nearby.

But then one day you're grown up and having lunch, say, in your house on a mountain in a completely other country like Japan at just about winter solstice, when all self-respecting insects are dead or asleep - you still with me on this? - and a kamemushi (lit: turtle insect, i.e., stinkbug) suddenly comes bungling headlong through the air the way they do and decides on a spontaneous crash landing, also the way they do, but this time right into your fried noodles, soup or salad. At that point, you are likely to ask the air-at-large that timeless question that so often issues from the depths of the human heart: Where in the hell did that come from? And as timelessly usual, there is no answer from the air-at-large.

But as the evolutionary process chugs along, after this has happened a few times and you've tossed out a few soups or salads or cups of tea or glasses of wine you'd been just about to enjoy, and that question is still cooking on your brain's back burner, one day you're out in a cold afternoon loading firewood into the firewood bag and you notice what looks like several bits of oak bark moving around on the oak bark. Thanks to evolutionary experience, you know that this is strange. So you look more closely, this time with your glasses on. Those moving bits of oak bark are in fact kamemushi, staggering groggily in disturbed hibernation.

If they weren't staggering you never would have noticed them until you unwittingly brought them indoors and into your nice fresh cup of tea, for they have developed over the - what is it, 500 million years? - of their evolution the ability to mimic oak bark, ultimately ruining salad and other enjoyables by crawling together in the bark crevices as the weather cools, when they go into hibernation, their combined oaky carapaces then looking precisely like part of the bark-- as if any creature living is going to bother with stink bugs anyway, this is defensive overkill if you ask me.

What gets me (note considerately avoided bug pun) is that the innocent two-legged, fire-using newcomer, having evolved into a woodstove user less than 300 years ago, in all innocence totes the noxious insects into his warm home, where the stinkers wake up thinking it is Spring at last and bungle through the air as is their giddy Springtime wont, spontaneously crash landing here and there on your computer screen, your tv screen, in your hair, ear, soup, salad etc.; it would all be very entertaining as a video I'll never make.

So having evolved to this advanced point through my relentless pursuit of knowledge and non-malodorous lunch, and a preference for nothing crawling over my WORD text, I have learned to scan oak bark in great detail when filling my firewood bag, so I won't have to throw away another glass of pineapple juice.

Evolutionarily speaking, I have thus far managed to slash my kamemushi experience by up to 95%. I'm aiming for 100% and I'm getting there, but as most humans must be aware by now, you can't evolve overnight. Want the rest of my salad?

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I received a link in my email the other day, via my account at Classmates, to some fotos of my high school class reunion that had been posted by a classmate whom I remember as a very cool guy. I went to see, and was gutrocked to realize that it's been nearly 50 years since we all graduated.

The fotos were ones he'd taken at the Cardinal McCloskey Memorial High School Class of 1958 reunion, held somewhere back in the old home town that I haven't visited in over 15 years, and only a couple of times in the last 40 years. I left and never went back, essentially, though I took a mindful of fond memories with me.

The Class of '58 had had 132 grads in it as I recall-- a few straight arrows, but mostly troublemakers in one way or another - that was the '50s after all - and we were all rebels with or without causes, the oh-so-hot chicks with the tight skirts, come-hither makeup and wannatouch hairdos, and the cool guys with the greased-up rat tail hair, pegged pants and cordovan ducks, movin' and shakin' to Little Richard, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, the Coasters, among dozens of others there in the background on the way to our own places in the big world out there, where the bond of all we'd we shared would link us always, no matter what...

But at the near 50th reunion, according to the fotos only a few of those rebels showed up, about a dozen of each sex, and the hot chicks are grandmas now, with comfortable slacks, little makeup and practical hairdos, a new kind of 'hot' we teens hadn't foreseen at all, and the rat-tailed guys are grandpas now, bald or wearing hats and soft shoes in a new kind of cool...

Amazing though, how the mind remembers faces and the memories associated with them, even after 50 years and countless worlds, the pranks we played, the trouble we got into, the juvenilities we talked about with such earnestness, we bubbling cauldrons of adolescence-- and then to realize that all the things that were so heartfully important back then turned out to be mere wisps of dreams of ephemera relative to what the future was actually made of and actually spelled out for us after all, that got us here to what it all became, as it always does in its ceaseless ways, and if we had known back then what our futures would be, would we have been willing to go there?

In my case, the answer is a resounding YES! And judging by the smiling faces in those fotos, the answer was the same for my classmates... It turned out to be true: that bond we shared was still there and holding, even after nearly 50 years of future, traveled in our separate ways.

The Class of '58 for life. Cool.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Depressing news from America today: Britney Spears has a younger sister.

Who's pregnant.

Those facts in themselves aren't depressing, lots of folks have younger sisters, even pregnant ones, pregnancy being a perfectly natural state for a 16-year-old, just as nature designed it.

What's depressing is that the many unintriguing facets of Britney Spears’ 16-year-old sister's pregnancy topped the news all over America, e.g., "Jamie Lynn Spears' Pregnancy: Is It Legal? - all 1,917 news articles »," drowning out such tiny whispers as House Approves 70 Billion for Wars (Reality TV anyone?) while taxpayers were helpfully distracted by the mesmerizing epiphany of Britney's pregnant sibling, all in keeping with the ongoing general trend toward the Bread and Circuses that historically attend imperial declines.

I wonder who the barbarians will be this time…

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Not sure honking will help.
I'd say let the new immigrants in,
but make the schools better than they were for the earlier immigrants.


In re my earlier rant about Japan driving and licenses, due to time, space and wannadoo restraints I never got around to saying that during the boring lecture the bored lecturer said one unboring thing that made me perk up in my seat: henceforth, all drivers 70 years or older must be tested on a simulated driving device.

Looking around, he added that, given this young audience, the requirement clearly wouldn't be a problem for us for a while, which was flattering, since I'm 67 and look weeks younger, but the law knows nothing of flattery, I've tried it on arresting officers any number of times.

The fact is, in three years I shall be required to stand in line at the police station with the other newly doubtful folk waiting to take an electronic drive like at the game arcade, though in this case to test our reaction skills they'll presumably toss virtual grandmothers, dogs and schoolchildren out in front of the virtual car and check how quickly we hit the brakes or, if worst comes to worst, the gas. I'll be virtually ready to wheelie my way out of trouble, lay some virtual rubber on the virtual road.

On the other hand, both hands on the wheel, I read yesterday about a 100-year-old recidivist cruiser in Japan who was arrested for the second time for driving without a license - after it had been revoked following a hit-and-run accident a few months previously - when the car he was driving struck the umbrella of a schoolkid standing on the side of the road. The elderpunk's excuse was that "Driving helps me from going senile because it keeps me alert." He was clearly suffering from illusions of dementia. Alarmingly, however, the article also stated that "Starting in 2009, drivers over age 75 in Japan will be required to get checkups for dementia when they renew their licenses."

For my part, all I can say is good thing they're not checking earlier...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The kid in the grade school uniform gets on the train in the mornings as part of the crowd and maneuvers expertly to be the first to stand beside the only guy in the car who will be getting off at the next stop, making the seat available. This is commuting 101, but somehow every day the kid beats all the experienced grownups.

At first I thought: that kid is on the ball for his age, he's figured out the Game already, he bests all the professional commuters who get on at the same station and who, despite the fact that they take the train every day, don't seem to be paying attention, never seem to become aware that this guy in the seat next to me always gets off at the next stop after they get on, so they could quickly have a seat all the way to BigCity.

The kid runs sometimes to beat others to the spot, or just gets to the station early so he can be at the head of the boarding line, but even then he runs to stand beside the seat to be certain to get it first as soon as it's vacated, and if for some reason he isn't first he slowly maneuvers until he is; he's small, and none of the big people notice him wedging his way in there. He's only eight or nine, but he's already an ace at the game, the big folks standing all the way while he gets the seat next to me and plays a video game, reads a comic book until it's time for him to get off and go to school.

At first I had to admire him for his skill at the game at his age, how that skill would stand him in good stead as he commuted through life, but the more I thought about it the darker it got. This is no way for a kid to live, these are not the things a kid should strive for and weave the fabric of his being from, no way for a kid to learn or to grow up, already getting good at the Game among all these dour faces.

But maybe it's me, maybe it's just because I never liked the Game. When I was a kid, I disliked just about every aspect of the Game, from uniforms and schedules, rules and rote manners, upward to suits and ties and getting ahead, rungs up the ladder to higher income before I outgo; making connections, getting in the right places, knowing the right people, making the right career moves and so on, keeping my true opinions to myself so that the "prizes" would be mine, but for some reason they never appealed to me, those prizes, any more than the whole endeavor did; so, beyond getting into and out of college for the sake of the knowledge - not the career path - I never played the Game, never got wrapped up in it at any stage. So I suppose that colors my thoughts.

This kid is trapped though. He is deep in the Game already, so deep in it and so good at it that as he grows into the Big Who of himself he'll be one of the best around, may never have an inkling that there is a profound and genuinely meaningful alternative, let alone find the ability to break away into a world where he can fully exist - he'll learn nothing of that from school or dogma, peers or society... He may well spend his life on such demeaning tasks as being first in one line or another, on weighing the worth of his life in mean scales...

In time, he will perhaps acquire a professional command of mediocrity, like so many of today's politicians. He may look back over his life and passively wonder what it is that's missing from that perfectly straight line he has traced with his being-- unless somehow he finds the power to take his own direction, follow his own lead, though that gets less likely every day he notches up a small, dark victory. Perhaps video games will be his doorway...

Later I came across this article in the Chicago Times that had this subtitle: "Defying the group is a noble, necessary American tradition." In it was this line: "Once upon a time, each American's objective was to become an individual."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This is fascinating. If this were you or me asking for money on these terms we'd be laughed out of the bank.

Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorganChase, holders of major quantities of derivatives in which, one way or another, your bank account/pension fund may be invested, and who are losing big time as a result (right now we're only feeling the spray of the tsunami), are calling upon other banks around the world to put money into a fund to rescue whichever poor banks that in their mastery of financial acumen threw big money (i.e., yours) onto these mountains of derivatives and then sold them on, all the way to the last fool, just ahead.

Now they want everybody to chip in and rescue them. Though the proposed fund would comprise but one droplet in the tsunami of derivative-linked debt that is now looming over the world, you gotta admire the chutzpah, the sheer, imitation brass of it. The biggest holders of derivatives? Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorganChase. ("Today, more than ever before in the short history of derivatives, one leading United States institution effectively IS the derivatives market. This company, as we will explore in this essay, is the American giant superbank JPMorganChase ("

But for reasons to do with the economic vision and loss-avoidance generally associated with financial institutions, big Japanese banks are saying: do we really want to throw this much more money out the window?

The coming collapse of the modern banking system

"The banks don't have the reserves to cover their downgraded assets and the Federal Reserve cannot simply monetize their bad bets. There's no way out."

Dec 22 update: Banks Decide Not to Go Ahead With Super-SIV Fund, WSJ Reports...
They'll make the Scrooge announcement on Christmas eve, to take advantage of extended holiday amnesia... Mortgage holders, fund investors and pensioners should be this crafty...

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"The fashion show opened with a Buddhist prayer set to a hip-hop beat at the centuries-old Tsukiji Honganji temple, where nearly 40 monks and nuns from eight major Buddhist sects showed off elaborate robes in an effort to win back believers.

'Many of us priests share the sense of crisis, and a need to do something to reach out to people,' said priest Kosuke Kikkawa, 37, one of the organizers of Saturday's event. 'We won't change Buddha's teachings, but perhaps we need a different presentation that can touch the feelings of the people today.'"

I've done a few fashion shows in my time, and I have to say, each one was definitely a religious experience.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


2008 J.E.E. Eco-Calendar

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I like a religion where anybody can walk right in to the establishment and in a good, open, non-infidel spirit buy one of the talismans-- in this case a "Victory" (in whatever may be your endeavor) omamori.

I could in this instance have bought instead a Hello Kitty general purpose talisman (photo a few posts below), butI don't really have any cartoonish aims, or objectives whose achievement could reasonably hinge on minimalist cat depictions.

I saw the Victory ones and I thought yeah, this red one on white is for me, this fits how I trust in the basic premise that religious hierarchy has coopted over the millennia, the original spiritual understanding that if you will it and keep it in mind it will come to pass, the automystery "magic," that is your own, that is born in you and that you should never surrender to another...

If you have with you at all times something to constantly and subtly remind you, preferably in a beautiful way, of your wish to be, for example, victorious in your honorable endeavors (forget about taking the thing to Vegas or winning the lottery with it, these things work from the inside, not from the outside) then keep this on or about you at all times, let it interrupt you, let get in your way, let it redirect your wandering thoughts, let it re-mind you of the summit of yourself, until one day you arrive there...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


The other day I went to the police station around the corner down the road, finally getting around to renewing my driver's license between my birthday and a month later as per the cryptic instructions on the postcard they sent me, one of those secret postcards, that said that between the aforementioned dates I had to go either to this large police station between 2 and 4 on these afternoons with these exceptions, that large police station between 9 and 11 on those mornings with these exceptions, or this other smaller police station on my side of the big toll bridge at one time a week only but since that possibility was so remote it didn't say when so I had to call the microprint number to find out the secret information, all because I drove south on a one-block street between 2 and 4 pm on a Wednesday (see Smiling Bob's Extra-Special Police Adventure). Go figure.

In a room filled with guys in uniform sitting at desks where they arm wrestle with sheets of paper, now and then going outside to hassle law-abiding citizens taking their usual Wednesday afternoon shortcuts, the polite lady clerk took my personal seal and a bunch of money, stamped the back of my old and now disgraced license about 42 times with various sizes of red-, blue- and black-inked rubber stamps so as to eradicate all semblance of validity while yet verifying to future generations of clerks and policepersons that I had indeed been here to a confirmable degree on this day and date long ago with fees in hand, bearing my personal seal, at this official desk in this official building, town, county, country, in person, with the correct face and what not - imagination is in short supply amid the nitgrit of bureaucracy - then she blinded me with an eye test and stopped me from putting my shades back on so she could take my picture without warning in a corner with a flash that made me look like Julius Caesar falling off his horse on my driver's license.

After that I had to watch beige walls for 45 minutes made up of those widely spaced ticks and monotonous tocks that drip like cold molasses out of bureaucratic clocks that hang above steel-legged benches upholstered in cold gray prison vinyl decorated with little triangular rips and old cigarette burns until as a hard-driving criminal locked into the police data base I could sit for a week-long lecture compressed into less than two hours by an about-to-retire police officer who also would rather have been just about anywhere else in the country than here now repeating this lecture to an audience of tired eyes for what looked and sounded like the thousandth time about the meaning of red lights and stop signs and the paragraph on page 66 and so many other priceless memories, e.g., about how going 60 is like your car falling off a building I forget how many stories high, like that will ever happen, all because last year I drove in one direction.

Wonder if I could erase my record if I drove backward...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


"With just a few clicks you can help save Mister Splashy Pants and his friends: sign our petition calling upon the Japanese Fisheries Agency to promise not to kill Mister Splashy Pants.

"For the people who voted for a name other than Mister Splashy Pants, take heart. The scientists involved in the Great Whale Trail tagged 20 humpback whales in the South Pacific. The top 7 names will be used to name whales with a further 5 whales being named by our Whale Defenders.

"In the coming days we will post photos of Splashy taken earlier this year in the Pacific. To keep up to date with all the latest news about Mister Splashy Pants and his friends, sign up for your free Whale Mail newsletter."


And be sure to get your Mister Splashy Pants t-shirt before the JFA agents traditionally winch his corpse up onto the deck for scientific mincing, then stand amid the bits of former whale and say "We now know Mister Splashy Pants better than when he was merely alive."

Maybe there should be a Japanese Imagination Agency.

Monday, December 10, 2007

R. I. P.

Otis Redding died 40 years ago today, age 26.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Yesterday morning out in the waning mist clearing some more oak limbs, then out along the road stripping vines from where they riff along the tops of the tall kinmokusei in a beautiful autumn arrangement of golden hearts while working to strangle the trunk and limbs below, I hailed an upmountain neighbor, Mr. U., doing much the same thing out on his section of the road, and we got talking abut the goings on of the trees and land, life up here in general.

As we talked I gazed uproad into the demistifying scenery and saw there the wild persimmon trees I know are there but had forgotten about (the mind has its rooms and cupboards), what with all the outdoor and indoor stuff that has been filling my head as I know it.

The persimmons, conducting their own business not far from the roadside, were leafless now and in full display, hung with bright orange globes lit by the slant of morning sun like this was somewhere in the mind of Hieronymus Bosch, or even better, Le Douanier... I resolved to enter that depiction beyond price and grab a bunch of those goldies before the other monkeys got there, the red-faced yet conscienceless ones...

When I finally got up there I took my hand scythe from a cargo pocket of the skateboarder pants I use for gardening (lots of gussets, grommets, big+little pockets, superseams, fabric backup in the right places, built to last), so I could reach higher than pedestrian passersby (mainly mountain hikers and wild fooders) had been reaching; crowded as the trees were, all the low-hanging fruit was already gone. I used the scythe to hook the higher branches down to arm's reach and soon had a bag full of the large and small varieties of bright orange worlds (I also always have a big plastic shopping bag folded up in one of my cargo pockets for wildfooding).

One thing you can say about wild persimmons is that as hieronymous as they may appear from a distance, up close they can be really ugly. But don't let that fool you, it doesn't affect the flavor, seems to enhance it in fact. Wildness is like that; it brings to everything edible that certain flavor edge that is lost in the strictures of domestication. When wild persimmons ripen to softness, especially the tiny ones, there's not much there once you get the peel off, but what there is is really wild.

Flavor you just can't get in a painting.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Tarobo Shrine, from a distance

A distance, from Tarobo Shrine
(Taken from well beyond the small building
to the left in the upper photo)

Thursday, December 06, 2007



Yea, and in ye game of hoope, seek not so much to honor ye rules of ye game as to perfect ye undetected personall fowles, wherein thy points count even while jamming ye defense; yet avoid like ye plague ye airballes thereof.

Forsooth, though ye three-pointe swishers be most worthy in ye eyes of ye benche, yet flashey slamme dunkes are not to be foresworne as expressing ye attitude whilst sticking it in goodly measure to thy opponent, which is, let us countenance it, ye point of ye game.

Also, leap not, except it be higher than thy opponent, who will otherwise swatte ye ball away quicker than ye committer of maternal inceste.

And be it said that in ye hardeballe, if ye pitcher seeketh to syke thee out, to set thee back on thy heeles, to cowe thy spiritt with ye duster, be thou not afeared, but rather raise up thy batte and gallope toward ye mound in righteous haste, ye while casting loude imprecations toward ye pitcher regarding ye species of his mother; that thou wilt as well rippe his armes off and aroint ye bat up his nether parts and suchlike threatenings, which if thou dost catch ye fiende, thou shalt in facte assay to do, thereby to maintain thy sporting integrity, that in future all pitchers shall think two times before assaying to duste thee back.

And if thou art at bowles, or yet at golfe, as thy opponent addresseth ye pinnes or ye tee shotte, give thou tongue at that moment to a lusty cry, such as "Watch out behind thee!" or "Hark ye goodies on yon damsel, wilt thou!" so as to keep thy score in ratio more suited to ye wager.

Lest the aforesaid be an insufficiency, see that it is thou that keepeth score, for at bottome lyne ye pen is mightier than ye balle, for damme shure.

Lo, regarding any game whatever, heed not the sayers that it is better to playe than to winne; for thou can verily bet thy fundamente that thou art giving eare to losers.

And forsooth, forget thee not that ye final tally is ye point of ye entyre emeffynge endeavore.

Ye Coache

R. Brady

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Even though commuting involves the highest degrees of skill, grace, finesse, endurance and discipline, it is not officially recognized as an Olympic event, for reasons I'll get into in a moment.

No doubt the Olympic Committee, in its top-secret meetings, has considered commuting as perhaps a decathlon-like event, given the multiplicity of skills involved, but they've continued to leave it out of the Olympics not only because of the transient and mobile nature of commuting, but primarily because the Japanese commuter squad would take the gold every time, so what would be the point? Olympic events must at least be competitive.

Having been a twig on the torrent of commuter Olympics here in Japan for some 30 years now, I thought I'd just share with you some of the amazing highlights from over the decades, limited only to my own experience, of course. You other commuters can start your own Commuter Olympic blogs.

This morning, for example, I saw the best Speedslip I have ever seen, the epitome of graceful headlong haste under pressure, while we were stopped briefly at a busy station along the line. From my expertly obtained window seat near the middle of the car, I could see a blurry young man broken-field-running his way through a tightly organized crowd up above, along the walkway leading to the crowded stairs down to the crowded platform we were stopped at: he was attempting to reach this train before the doors closed.

He was a good 30 or 40 yards away as the crow flies, with thousands of world-class defense players and a jammed stairway in between, with but a few seconds left before the doors would close, the train would leave the station without him and the next train would make him late for work (a small death in Japan), so he went for it full-out, running the field with briefcase through a rush hour crowd of defenders with their own briefcases, some of them even had those deadly pull suitcases on wheels that trail invisibly behind the apparently unencumbered player; he was moving fast, against the stream, the buzzer sounded, he was dodging, he was whirling, briefcase swinging, his body was turning, a couple of awesome feints, a record-breaking leap and then he was bounding down the upward disgruntled passenger-filled stairs, the doors were already closing would he make it, a fullbody bound across the platform, a mid-air turn sideways, he Speedslips between the foot-apart-and-closing doors that swish shut behind him - without messing his tie or moving a hair on his head - and takes his rightful place in the carjam. He's good for the gold , if you ask me; I haven't seen that much commuting skill, all in one person, in quite a while.

A couple of other Commuter Olympic highlights:

Most people fit into a 250 passenger car: Sept 14, 1973, Tokyo Station. The white-gloved pushers were working overtime, it was evening rush hour, I was on that train, a lovely young woman and I were pressed chest to chest, she looking over my right shoulder, I looking over hers, she smelled real good. Though the results were unofficial, being mine, I estimated that that 250 passenger capacity car held about 75,000 passengers for the requisite five or more stops; a standing record, I believe.

Other Olympic qualifiers and personal aspects in this unsung nationwide competition:

Complete makeup application dash

Eldest gold medalist

Righteous Inyerfacing

Becoming a Train Legend

Monday, December 03, 2007


Hello Kitty is now a Shinto deity.

Spotted these Hello Kitty general-purpose omamori at Tarobo (one of Japan's top 10 most beautiful shrines, especially on a day like yesterday; will post of it anon) and they were selling like treacle-covered hotcakes for about twice the price of omamori bearing the conventional blessings of the standard old gods of no brand name, who never made it in show biz or hung around Cameron Diaz...

As I took some pictures in light of my disbelief, one of the shrine clerks said Look! The foreigner is taking pictures of the Hello Kitty omamori! (No one takes pictures of such everyday items as omamori.) Another clerk responded Of course! Because Hello Kitty is so cute! Little did they know my true reason or my opinion of Hello Kitty, the embodiment of cuteness as vapor in a desert. To say nothing of sacrosanctity.

Is nothing sacred? I mean is everything sacred? Sure, you could say, after a few hits of whatever, that everything is sacred, but... EVERYTHING? Then nothing is. The older gods, with millennia of experience under their obi, must be very upset. Look for problems ahead in Japan-- big problems, of oddly indefinite origin, emanating - sort of - from a sacred mountain... If anything is sacred...

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Salt offering
after removal of dying tree

Friday, November 30, 2007


Speaking of Mr. Splashy Pants, even though his name isn't yet official (the voting has been extended another week, partly out of early anxiety that "Mr. Splashy Pants" would be chosen, but good luck on stemming that tsunami) I just ordered some Mr. Splashy Pants buttons from Green Peace's spontaneous Mr. Splashy Pants store (click on buttons at left) and will give one button to each of the granddaughters to wear (with a suitably kiddy explanation), then I'm gonna wear a Mr. Splashy Pants button myself everywhere I go, except maybe to bath and bed, and get Japanese folks from all walks of life - to say nothing of the many treadmills - interested in the life and times of Mr. Splashy Pants in his blue worldwide home.

I will inform my buttonholed listeners as well regarding what their whale-hunting countrymen are deviously doing to Mr. Splashy Pants and his family, the lovely Mrs. Pants and all the bright Pants children, along with aunts and uncles in greatly diminished numbers compared to a century ago as the Japanese harpoons fly for the sake of Pants research, Pants autopsies and Pants family steaks in school cafeterias, while touching in no small way on overall genocidal doom.

On second thought, Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa will do a much better job of it, with their cute smiles and irrefutable dimples; I'm beginning to look and sound too much like Ahab wearing a Mr. Splashy Pants button.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Speaking of hunting, I just read an article in the Japan Times-- to which I would link, but the paper's website contains only yesterday's issue, as dead trees continue to fall unheard in forests of electrons, so I'll just refer to the article and you'll have to trust me until the JT gets off its duff and onto the edge where news is and you can see their words instantaneously wherever in the world you are, though that will be yesterday compared to the nanopinpoint of the neonow-- anyway, where was I before I had to struggle against the undertow of ago?

Oh yes, speaking of hunting... Japan is going whale hunting again, maintaining its recent tradition while rejecting the ancient tradition argument put forth by the Ainu, who wish to hunt salmon in what is a genuine tradition (Genuine tradition requisite #42: "A genuine tradition cannot be made up by politicians.")

This fresh round of traditional whale killing, like the hidden dolphin slaughter of last week, will be in the face of world opposition, and this time will also include the explosive harpooning of humpback whales, there is such a craving among Japanese politicians for whale autopsy results. Mr. Splashy Pants will perhaps be among the slain (see post below).

In response to strong criticism from the rest of the world regarding the hunt, Joji Morishita, Director of what are not laughingly described as 'international negotiations,' says "When we hear that the rest of the world is against Japan, we say: 'Wait, wait. What is the rest of the world?'" Some folks still miss the Dark Ages.

Dinosaur hunting, anyone?

[Update: The Significance of Mr. Splashy Pants]

[Another update: Turns out this was my 3000th post!]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


But I voted for Mr. Splashy Pants!


In re my earlier post about city/country drinking water, the unthinkable is happening faster than I expected:

"But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water —...

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world's largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth."
From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking
(NY Times, subscription required, I think)

That "projected growth" may not be as growy as they expect...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Amigos de Internet, hoy cumplo 95 años. Me llamo María Amelia y nací en Muxía (A Coruña) el 23 de Diciembre de 1911. Hoy es mi cumpleaños y mi nieto como es muy cutre me regalo un blog. -- (My friends on the Internet, today I am 95 years old. My name is Amelia and I was born in Muxía (A Coruña - Spain) on December the 23rd of 1911. Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog.)
(Articles in English linked in the sidebar)

Monday, November 26, 2007


This is not to imply in even the slightest way that I personally am grossly -- or even head-over-heels -- in favor of this proposal, despite the obvious fact of my early winter morning love embrace of thick down comforters that so tenderly hold in all this hard-earned warmth, priceless here at the icy heart of winter, when if you stick your neck out you can see your breath ask what the hell for, when every non-rabid wild animal is nowhere to be seen out in the stark icyness, but rather is cuddled wisely and warmly, in the ancient tradition of major drowsing, deep in nest and burrow throughout the land, and if you wish to insist upon insisting to me, as I lie here trying to get back to sleep, that we shirted, slacked, belted, shoed, tied, suited, coiffed and officed humans are not wild animals, just back away slowly and raise your arms in order to look as big as possible.

From here in the warm depths of blanket mountain where no job is required, I suggest that you leave me to ponder the idea over the winter - closing the door quietly on your way out - and further that you let it run through your own protracted hibernian dreams - saving greatly on food and fuel - and then in Spring, as experts in the matter we'll go outside and see if the grass is growing...

Sunday, November 25, 2007


One of the imposed privileges in splitting the oak sections stacked up in the far corner of the garden by the gate is that because of the temporary logistics I have to walk from the splitting stump (under the plum tree in front of the deck) to the big pile of sectioned oak laying there amid the big mess of leaves and branches, and one-by-one carry the sections back to the stump where I split and stack them.

Then I get to walk back over the garden ground again, empty armed in the fresh exhilaration of moment-ago labor, and on this perfect blue cool fall day enjoy the heft of the light on the goldening grasses, all laid out like in a world-sized museum with exhibits of fallen leaves gleaming in the bright, from the shiny ribbed red-tan of the chestnut parchments just starting to fall, to the big oak leaves now pieces of golden buckskin, and the changing leaf-hearts of the dokudami still rising from the ground, putting on that mottled rainbow show they do each year at this time; and never are the lily leaves so beautifully themselves as when the low wintering sun shines right through them from the side, turning them into blades of imperial jade swaying in the slightness of the breeze, when on the same breeze come drifting the first of the day-glow leaves from over in the other corner of the garden where the momiji reaches for more, scattering its handspans of red and gold here and there among the buckskin on the ground, what a show it all is, then I arrive at the pile, pick up a big chunk of trunk to carry back to the splitting stump, and then when that's done I get another new walking show, all the blue morning.

Just the sound of the leaves beneath my feet carries me back to childhood days when rainbows of maples covered everything in kid-made mounds of leaves, that walking-through-them sound linked forever with the fun of being the child who centers me like the oldest ring in a tall oak tree.

All the mysteries there are...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mountain sunset -
birds move down the wire
remain in light

Friday, November 23, 2007


One week's food
Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City

Photo 1 of 16 from WHAT THE WORLD EATS

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Hope your equity is out of the system and there's not a fan near you...

The worldwide deception that has created this mass and propelled it toward the revolving blades may set a new world record for venality.

[Update: Global Derivatives Market Expands to $516 Trillion]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


There I was the other day - a fine day - with 40 beautiful, fresh shiitake oak logs tapping their feet waiting to be inoculated with that fine megashiitake spore I'd copped at the farmer store along with a special shiitake-inoculating drill bit, but by the time I got home from the store it was too dark.

Then after a next day in the office doing one-after-another-after-another of just a few of all the things that are distinctly unrelated to the task of inoculating shiitake logs (there are approximately 10 trillion such things), early the next morning I stacked up the already ongoing shiitake logs for the winter, then did some editing of mere words, saving the late afternoon hours to inoculate about 10 logs.

Then a little more than an hour before dusk I plugged in the long extension cord for the old 100W drill and began, got about 6 logs drilled and inoculated, when on the seventh log the tired little drill said Nope, no more, Bob; this is it pal, see ya in heaven, then darkness fell exactly the way it does after your drill gives up. Then I was in the office again among the 10 trillion things.

In time I managed to reach the shore of another weekend and went off to the farm store once more, this time in search of a bigger, better, more powerful drill, and found one I wanted, a Japanese brand-name 400-Watter, for about 120 dollars-- and then another I wanted more: a 430-Watter with an extra sidebar handle for about 160 dollars, but I didn't want to spend that much, since I'll mainly be using it just to drill shiitake logs once or twice a year as the old logs get used up and become great compost.

As I stood there pondering a solution to my econoshiitake dilemma I noticed some other, differently colored drills lower down on the tool display shelf-- way down there, in fact, sort of pushed to the way back of the way bottom. Their price was too low for the kind of drill I was after, but I hunkered down there anyway, since I wasn't going anywhere at the moment, reached in and pulled out one of the boxes, noticed that it was in fact the same kind of drill, except that it was a 480-Watter, had one of those great sidebars, and cost about 30 dollars! And was made in China-- probably using fine, Japanese-made electric parts.

One-fourth the price of the higher-up drills of less power and more costly utility, Japanese drills that only a moment ago had gleamed in my mind's eye as equipment of the highest standard, prestigious and priced out of reach; they now looked a bit forlorn, their luster dimmed, their true price now apparent (approx. 80% markup over labor cost, since they too were assembled in China, I'll bet).

So of course I bought a bright and shining miracle Chinese drill, took it home, plugged it in and finished five logs like a dream, in a tenth of the time. It was the Ferrari of drills, as far as I was concerned. And as I drilled on efficiently into the dusk I suddenly saw first hand what China was really about to do to (and at the expense of) the developed world and its laborers, apart from vastly increasing my shiitake crop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Paris: 64 Guide Michelin stars

New York City: 42 Guide Michelin stars

Tokyo: 191 Guide Michelin stars!!

Has Le Guide lost its mind? Sacre bleu! Traitre! Doesn't being French mean what it used to? Not to put down Tokyo's food quality in the slightest; shojin ryori, for example, can hold its own with any cuisine in the world, to say nothing of my personally select ramen restaurants, but Japanese food just doesn't have any of that je ne sais quoi you get in Paris from arguing with the waiter. And three times as many stars as Paris! Scandale!

Michelin sprinkles stars on Tokyo

Monday, November 19, 2007


Only trouble is, computers just can't lie,
or even bend the truth very well.

via reddit

Sunday, November 18, 2007


The godly part of our soul that enables us to perceive beauty - not the artificial, localized kind, but the natural, unrestrained kind – is perhaps the greatest gift we are given. The beauty of the lake is telling me this at the moment, in the silent monologue of all its dusky shades and laminations.

We strive, in our mortal ways, to express even a pixel of that exquisiteness the lake shows always, and knows to its depths. The masters paint their efforts on a canvas or scribe them on a page and are perhaps renowned for centuries; the lake lies there for another 100 eons under sun, moon, stars, wind, rain and snow as though there is no moment but this…

That's the secret in all beauty...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007


In looking at some of the electoids currently holding high office here and there in the world under the rubric of democracy, it's often difficult to credit the contention that a presumably educated, presumably discerning, presumably informed electorate actually searched among themselves, looked into their souls, culled out certain especially able individuals, carefully assessed them, then voted to elect them - over others of equivalent caliber - to serve as the governmental representatives of all.

I sense I'm giving far too much credit to the electorate concept, but what the hell. Even so, that such a process could result in certain of the leaders currently bulling in the world china shop is quite a distance beyond comprehension. Could any first-world polity truly be that uneducated, that undiscerning, that uninformed? (Or that misled?)

Of course, since strictly local representatives reflect their local electorate, it's understandable that some local officials could be far below par; such examples come easily to mind when considering the US congress, for example. As Honest Abe was aware, there are some people you can fool all of the time. But If Darwin's evolution really works, those folks would never grow to comprise a national majority, so how can the basement floor become the ceiling? If Abe and Chuck are wrong about this, the world is in big trouble.

But even though the world as we know it may be ending, let me pause here to point out how nonetheless astonishing it is that, once elected to congresses, senates, parliaments and whatnot, these electoids further select from among themselves some of their number to serve in even higher positions of important public trust, such as speaker of the house, minister of justice, minister of defense etc., who in fact are no such things. This phenomenon goes by the name democracy, but surely it must be something else. Cryptosomnolence, perhaps?

On the other hand, if every cycle must have a bottom, and if the present depth determines the subsequent peak, then the world has a few Everests in the offing, so maybe we should appreciate this current crop of electoids for the breathtaking heights (tsunamis?) they're about to beget.

So if history is any guide, I think I'll just leave this beaten path and head on up into these sparsely inhabited mountains for an unspecified duration...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Driving down the mountain last night in the 5:30 darkness I had to wend my way through hundreds of junior-high kids in their Russo-Japanese war military uniforms mobbing the road from their school, and as I was wending my mind wended too, wondering if these kids ever connected with the short-lived military victory implied in their 100-year-old uniforms, and then it said: these kids are getting out of school at 5:30? After dark? Then it remembered that that never happened when I was a kid; back in those days (how can only yesterday be history?), school events happened strictly in school time, never in life time (apart from some pleasurable activities like sports games and dances); anyway, I bet these kids can really read and write and do math and know history (such as their government chooses to teach it) and geography, and they sure didn't look grumbly or complainy about the long hours they'd just put in, they didn't look down-in-the-life like their fathers do heading home from an office at 11 pm, they were having a good time, brief as it might be, things are gonna get harder for them, in Japan it gets pretty dog-eat-dog in high school and beyond, but they're up for it, looks like; then down at the station the guys, now out of sight of school, precisely lowered their pants to mid-hip so as to look like US rapper wannabee imitations of ghetto kids imitating beltless high security prisoner icons of multiple felony coolness, so cultures aren't all that separate anymore, or as discerning as we like to think, bet these kids can't read or write as well as their parents, then this morning I saw a couple of older kids by the art college spraying each others' spiked hair red before going to class and I thought that maybe from now on kids will do what they want with their lives and it's gonna get dark a lot earlier than anyone expected, though that view may just be an increasingly functionless byproduct of my antique education, like my fountain pen...

Monday, November 12, 2007


Let's say for the sake of extreme fantasy that you have an eminently capable government (stop laughing hysterically, it's just a fantasy), and in that government there is an appointed official with the title of Minister of Justice, who has just fully approved a new immigration system for fingerprinting and photographing visitors from abroad as a way of preventing terrorism and stigmatizing foreigners, even though your country depends a great deal on tourism and is trying to encourage more, and even though during the past 60 years the only terrorist acts in your country have been committed by fellow citizens.

If such a bizarre situation were to occur, you, as a responsible citizen of an honorable nation, would at once demand an explanation for this incompetence. Imagine further that this oxymoronic minister, in response to a question put to him only by a foreign reporter at a foreign press conference, further justifies his foreigner-stigmatizing system by saying: "A friend of a friend of mine is a member of al-Qaeda, and has entered Japan numerous times using false passports and disguises." He then adds: "This particular person was actually involved in the bombings in the center of Bali. Although he is a friend of my friend, I was advised not to go close to the center of Bali because it would be bombed."

As a loyal citizen you would rush to your nearest Center for Responsible Government (stop laughing, this is serious) and demand that this patently incompetent official be tried for treason, having knowingly allowed a terrorist to enter the country repeatedly under false pretenses, and for multiple manslaughter by omission in not passing along that tidbit about the bombing to Balinese officials, who might thereby have saved hundreds of foreigners' lives, one of whom was a fellow citizen.

But as I say, that's an extreme fantasy. Except for the quotes. And the oxymoron is still in office, in charge of the foreigner stigmatization program.

In most of the world, we're all foreigners. Try not to look too alien.

[Update Nov 13:

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Apart from the addition of chlorine, fluorine etc., these are some of the potential contaminants tested for in treated city water:

Total Coliform Bacteria Fecal Coliform and E.Coli
P-Isopropyltoluene Chloromethane Dichlorodifluoromethane
Bromomethane Chloroethane Trichlorofluoromethane
Hexachlorobutadiene Naphthalene Methyl-tert-butyl-eth 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene
cis-1,2-dichloroethylene Dibromomethane 1,1-Dichloropropene 1,3-Dichloropropane
1,3-Dichloropropene 1,2,3-Trichloropropane 2,2-Dichloropropane 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene
1,2,3-Trichlorobenzene N-Butylbenzene Bromoform 1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene
Tert-Butylbenzene Sec-Butylbenzene Xylenes-Total Bromochloromethane
1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane Ethylene Dibromide (DEB) p-Xylene Methylene Chloride
o-Chlorotoluene p-Chlorotoluene m-Dichlorobenzene o-Dichlorobenzene
p-Dichlorobenzene trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene Vinyl Chloride 1,1-Dichloroethylene
1,2-Dichloroethane 1,1,1-Trichloroethane 1,2-Dichloropropane Carbon Tetrachloride
Trichloroethylene 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane Benzene 1,1,2-Trichloroethane
Tetrachloroethylene Monochlorobenzene Toluene Ethylbenzene
Bromobenzene Isopropylbenzene m-Xylene Styrene
o-Xylene n-Propylbenzene Endrin BHC-Gamma (Lindane)
Methoxychlor Di (2-ethylhexyl)Adipate Toxaphene Carbaryl
Methomyl Oxamyl (Vydate) Simazine Picloram
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene Aldicarb Sulfoxide Dinoseb Aldicarb Sulfone
Metolachlor Diazinon (Spectracide) Carbofuran Aldicarb
Atrazine Alachlor (Lasso) Dursban Heptachlor
3-Hydroxycarbofuran Heptachlor epoxide Dieldrin Butachlor (Machete)
Propachlor (Ramrod) 2,4-D 2,4,5-TP (Silvex) 2,4,5-T
Benzo (a) pyrene Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) Aldrin Pentachlorophenol
Metribuzin (Sencor) Decachlorobiphenyl Dicamba Ethylene Dibromide (EDB)
Chlordane 1,2-Dibromo-3-Chloropropane Arsenic Cadmium
Chromium Cyanide Nickel Nitrate
Selenium Beryllium Thallium Gross Alpha Emitters

And all have MCL (maximum contaminant level allowed)...

I'll have some wine, thanks...

Friday, November 09, 2007


Thursday, November 08, 2007


Thinly Sliced Tomatoes

Ingredients: tomatoes
Slice thinly.
Stare at slices until satisfied.


Onions comme ça

Ingredients: onions
Do whatever you want,
they're your onions.


Fresh Green Beans

Ingredients: green beans, fresh.
Serve while fresh.
Discard immediately.


Carrots aux Terre

Ingredients: carrots
Pull carrots from ground;
eat with dirt still on.


Green Peppers In Situ

Ingredients: green peppers
Kneel on ground;
eat peppers from plant.


Okra a la Gravité

Ingredients: okra plant
Lie on ground beneath plant
until desired okra pod falls into open mouth.
Change position for additional servings.


Corn on the Cob

Ingredients: corn; cobs
Just make sure the corn stays on the cob.
Nothing more is required of you.


Aubergines a la Idée Fixe

Ingredients: none
Think of nothing but eggplants.


Zucchini sans souci

Ingredients: none
Don't even think about it.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


"Bill Gross, the chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management, said US mortgage delinquencies and defaults would rise in 2008. 'There are $1 trillion worth of sub-primes, Alt-As [self-certified] and basically garbage loans,' he said, adding that he expects some $250bn in defaults. 'We've only begun to see the pain from rising mortgage payments,' he added. Brian Gendreau, an investment strategist at ING, commented: 'Financials are 20 per cent of the S&P 500 and if that sector doesn't do well all bets are off. People just don't know what’s on the balance sheets.'"

Of course they don't mention the other 99% of the iceberg, as those at the top get their money out. Sub-prime is the buzz word at the moment, but next comes the $20-40 trillion in credit default OTC derivatives (now beginning to hit the fan) - nobody knows how much, really - and teetering above them, high over the global economy, maybe another 300 trillion in further derivatives... (the annual world production is valued at ca. 65 trillion once-upon-a-time dollars.)

And to think those garbage derivative AAA raters and marketers to the public are not (yet) being prosecuted for the biggest fraud in history! And who will pay? The public, as always.

Advice from Jim Sinclair, as of November 6: "How Can You Be so Complacent?"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I remember, back when I was a kid in the 40s, how the advertisers of the time were tirelessly educating the public as to the horrible new social scourge that was Body Odor (and the advertisers had just the chemicals to hide the terrible affliction), then by the 50s they had body odor locked and needed a new blight, so they crammed the public ear and eye with the suddenly embarrassing condition of dandruff (and they had just the stuff to conceal the problem), then came frizzy hair and they had just the stuff etc., the public accepting all those received embarrassments one after another as though they were genuine afflictions and always had been, needed "fixing" right away, and weren't merely created by advertisers.

And that's the way it's been ever since, with by now so many other natural processes transformed into devastating personal plagues that the social remedy section of the supermarket/pharmacy is a mile long, but the advertisers are running out of shticks (living room odor??), so something had to give, and it's always the consumer.

These social lab experiments often happen first here in Japan, where the media audience is an advertiser’s dream: you repeat the repetitive jingle often and monotonously enough and you've got a loyal market, even for stuff like chewing gum that "enlarges breasts." They've pretty much used up the scourges of youth, though (pimples, dull hair, skin etc., largely caused by the junk food they also flog), and they need a new source of scourges.

So they've locked onto boomers now, and the aging society, and brought ageism into the equation as a source of new social afflictions, starting with the looming horror they've named kareishu (aging odor), for which they're flogging "over 40 soap" at over 20 dollars a cake, for the magic bubbles that will remove that nasty miasma of over-40ness that floats about you wherever you go. There's also a chewing gum that makes you smell like you're under 40! (I. e., a mobile vat of variously toxic deodorizing chemicals).

Anyway, I've been over 40 for nearly 27 years now, and smell as sweet as a baby, except after I've been splitting firewood for a few hours, when I smell like Achilles. As far as I'm concerned, those marketeers can stuff the fragrance of age. But then I'm not and never have been your typical consumer, who not only won't object to this ageist travesty, they will dutifully buy the brand new discovery that gets rid of their brand new problem and protects them from the curse of aging just like in the commercial.

Watch soon for over 50, 60, 70 soap, shampoo, conditioner, with zeolite, titanium, magic crystals, metaquantumnanoplasmaultra whatever, it's a list longer than a lifetime.

If consumers and voters are the same people, no wonder the world is a mess.

Monday, November 05, 2007


I've lived here the last dozen years on a Permanent Resident visa. I own property here, I own the house I live in here, I've paid taxes here for over 30 years, I have children (one born here) who are citizens here, yet I have never been able to vote here, being irredeemably foreign, and now, under a new law that hardliners have been yearning to pass for years, every time I re-enter Japan I will be fingerprinted and photographed.

This will be done to all alien visitors/tourists/terrorists, so as to "greatly contribute to preventing international terrorist activities on our soil," to use the bureaucratic boilerplating of Naoto Nikai, an immigration official, who appears to be unaware of the fact that there have been no terrorist acts on Japanese soil in the past 25 years, other than those committed by the Japanese citizens of Aum Shinrikyo.

In Mr. Nikai's case, as with Japanese government officials in general it seems, international PR skills are not a resume requirement. But on the other hand, non-Japanese don't appear to be all that important. Returning Japanese will not be fingerprinted (that would be illegal); this is only for the questionable people, i. e., foreigners.

Folks from the rest of the world who have spent some time here know full well that they are noticed everywhere they go. It would be hard to imagine a foreign criminal of any consequence remaining unfound for any length of time in this country. We're covered by alien registration cards, 'family books,’ residence registration with the police etc., and have always been subject to random public police checks as to whether we are carrying our papers, as required. We're easy to spot.

What troubles me about all this is not just the added airport delays or the ink on the fingers or the implied presumption of guilt to augment the taint of foreignness and add tacit support to the Japanese myth of national purity (which echoes back to some terror-filled times of its own), but that nationalist factions in Japan are seeing, in the populace-controlling and freedom-restricting antiterrorist activities being so easily perpetrated in the US - that former bastion of untouchable freedoms - a fresh chance to resume old powers here in Japan, where obedience is a tradition.

Nothing much about it in the native news media, though; maybe if all the tourists were to stay away, rather than be treated like imminent terrorists...