Saturday, March 31, 2007


I don't feel my age bodily so as much as I do virtually, every time I use a drop-down menu to designate my birth year on a website signup and the black bar scrolls down into the last century for godsake, like a time machine traveling back past most of the folks now living, plunging through the just-now nineties (when today's teenagers were born), the yesterday eighties, the last-week seventies, the spectacular sixties (was all that immediacy really half a century ago?), the seminal fifties (Elvis, Chuck, Jerry Lee, Fats, Little Richard!), mygod the forties, right to 1940 the year I was born, teetering now on the cusp of antiquity, and by the time I finally click my birth year it feels like I was born in the dark ages it was so different then, when I pause and remember-- I'm a pre-boomer, born before WWII, before Strontium-90, before household television, when there were still horse-drawn deliveries and icemen and radio at night, and now the boomers are reaching this age back home, a social phenomenon that will result in serious economic problems because like the government itself, many of them have been living only in the here and now, so a dark time looms, but here in Japan, the developed world's coal mine canary, it's going to be a lot more folks and a lot sooner, for by 2025, less than 20 years from now, nearly 50% of Japan's population will be 60 years of age or more. But they are dedicated savers, so the impact will be more social than economic. I feel grateful for having gotten to this age first, but even moreso for having gotten here at all.

Friday, March 30, 2007


"Dinosaurs, Rothschild notes, had joints whose movements were highly constricted; they could swing back and forth on a very narrow track. Human knee joints have much more rotational maneuverability. 'The problem is that nature's design for humans didn't include exuberances of youth, like football and sports, that stretch out and damage ligaments; these don't repair, so muscles have to take over,' he says. 'As we get older and aren't as active, we slowly lose the muscles that sustain that stability.' Because older ligaments are no longer strong enough to do that work, we contract osteoarthritis." CSI: Jurassic

The implication, as I see it, is that elders can come to resemble dinosaurs only if they don't learn from them. Personally, I think that one of the best ways to counterbalance the results of youthful exuberance (which in my case hasn't really ended, though my exuberance is much more balanced than it was before my chronic judiciousness set in) while staying as active as our young selves and maintaining those "muscles that sustain that stability" is to garden on a mountain...

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I have spoken here before of the advantages of a mountainside residence in regard to rising sea levels, which may one day turn Lake Biwa into an ocean inlet and transform my remote domain into beachfront property. By then, diehard major cities will be using submarines instead of subways. But of the more than 30 millions of those seacoast folks, what about the ones who don't have SCUBA licenses and prefer a landish lifestyle? Where will they go in their small boats?

The International Institute for Environment and Development lists Japan as the country with the sixth-largest number of people living within 10 meters of the average sea level. That of course includes including Tokyo and Osaka, which average a couple of meters above sea level right now. The subways are below sea level already.

They say that Japan should start shifting things around in the near future; wonder if they include politics in that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Since rightists dwell in the past, perhaps it's not so strange that with all that's going on in Asia and the world, all the opportunities for mutual growth and betterment presented by China's economic successes,

"Among other signs of strength this week, retail sales in the first two months rose 14.7 percent from a year earlier. China churned out 29 percent more cars in the first two months of the year compared with a year earlier, the industrial production report showed.

Gao Shanwen, chief analyst at Everbright Securities in Shanghai, said the raft of indicators pointed to a gross domestic product growth rate of 10.5 percent for the first quarter and for 2007 as a whole. That would be the fifth straight year of double-digit expansion."

Prime Minister Abe isn't busy affirming Japan's future place in a new Asia, he's busy implying that 200,000 (predominantly) Asian comfort women are meretricious prostitutes.

"Unfortunately, Abe isn't focused on the economic outlook even as China grabs more and more of the spotlight. Instead, he's quibbling with long-accepted historical facts, such as Japan's culpability in setting up wartime brothels. He's also splitting semantic hairs at the expense of Japan's future role in the world's most vibrant region."

This retroperspective focus will beget a very costly future for Japan, cost that will not be paid by Abe et al., but by innocents who come after.


March 29 Update: Canada gets into the Act

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Out on the deck savoring the deliciously complex bouquet of a vintage called "Mountain Spring Evening of Light Rain," I walk to the rail for a deeper draught and find a different course of air there, a downmountain current bearing the fragrance of the Daphne bush from where it sits blooming quietly like a fragrant firework... Knowing so much more about the pinpoint of Spring than I with my chronic intellect, the Daphne has once again caught me by surprise, whispering to me its ancient spell of beauty, pouring its cream and honey fragrance upon the air for any living creature, and I am one of the lucky ones.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring rain
first frog sings
the only song


Is to soak up the beauty of Hikone Castle beside the Lake, perhaps the most beautiful castle in Japan, and its neighboring Genkyu-en garden, one of Japan's finest and most diversely interesting gardens (both conveniently mentioned earlier in one post).

This year commemorates the 400th anniversary of completion of the Castle's main tower, so Hikone City is holding a 250-day festival (!), from March 21 to Nov. 25, to celebrate.

Here's an excellently detailed article on the long festival. If you see a long-white-haired foreigner walking around taking pictures, it's probably me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Sometime during the day yesterday I remember hearing Dr. Crow making some weird sounds from atop a cedar. He wasn't calling or conversing with his colleagues, he wasn't practicing being a frog or just carrying on with his general mumbling at the state of crow politics or whatever, he was making a sound I hadn't heard before: sort of a long drawn out gravelly complaint-sounding sound, that went on for quite a while. I later recalled this because of the shiitake log-related stuff.

Yesterday morning, on my way out to restack some wood and thereby clear a space for my next raised bed (greens, herbs), I stopped at my bunch of oak shiitake-logs-to-be, stacked near the stone stairway. I selected one, drilled the holes, got the bag of spore-impregnated oaken plugs and hammered them into the holes. I usually do one log in the morning and one in the evening. Then I put the bag of plugs down beneath the hammer and went off to do my tasks.

Later when I was going in at evening I stopped to do another log, got the drill and... looked everywhere for the bag of plugs. I was sure I... It wasn't in any of my pockets. Maybe over there. I must have left it on the kitchen table. By the sink? In my workroom? Toolshed? Out by the mailbox? On one of the woodpiles? The splitting stump? I checked everywhere I'd been, but couldn't find it. Then while I thinking where else I might have been, I looked out into the far part of the garden and there the bag was, lying on the ground. I couldn't have dropped it; I would never carry it out there in my hand, I thought as I went to get it.

When I got there I saw that it had a big beak hole right in the middle (the unmistakable beakmark), that scimitared expertly downward, corvinically splitting the bag to get at the contents. There were a couple of plugs nearby. The good doctor had been anticipating maybe beak-watering shrimp senbei, or even chocolate almonds if god be kind, or potato chips the bag looked like it might hold some high quality potato chips-- he had broken it open and found... pieces of raw, fungoid oak! Yuk! Ptah! Ptah!! That must be when he flew to the treetop and croaked to the black-feathered god that long lamentation about his troubles with these people who live for him in this house they built for the purpose, yet treat him in this manner.


Go to EarthAlbumJapan. Go in one level. Just below the blue-and-white shield for highway 8, now visible down at the left, is Lake Biwa. Center on that, then go in about 4 levels and find the bridge across the southerly narrow neck of the Lake (Biwako [Lake Biwa] Ohashi [bridge]). Just an inch or two above that, in the mountains on the western shore, if you have infinite resolution, you'll see a pixel waving up at you; that's me. You're God.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


According to the results of this study, you women can go look at photos of flowers or faces or something because what we're looking at here is of no particular interest to you, but you guys: was it any surprise to be told that if you look at any living creature or photo thereof your eyes arrow in to check out the crotches? Not you, your eyes. Who told you you were in charge?

Science, as here embodied in one male and one female researcher, implies - unfairly in my opinion, you guys speak for yourselves - that guys are but pawns in the big game as all our lives we scrutinize any bifurcations in the vicinity, an additional implication being that we're all mere tools when it comes to a scan of our surroundings, that we're just fully dressed slabs of turgidifying meat with eyes on the front: hungry eyes, searching eyes, probing eyes poking everywhere so what should we care, we're not in command here anyway, until things reach a certain stage of repletion and our feeble form of native consciousness returns.

But by the same token, the scientist guy was distracted by all those subject crotches, and the woman scientist, like the women subjects, when she looks at something she doesn't look at all the key elements. Which makes their results questionable, to say the least.

They should have asked us, we could have told them. According to reality, for guys, it's a matter of competition; for women, it's a matter of surfeit. On the other hand, all the subjects were living in NYC, so that's a big "Aha!" right there. As for me, I'm not buying any product advertised on any major leaguer's pants. Unless of course they start accepting female players...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I remember back in the eighties when the Japan that used to be was rolling in wealth and the government gave back to each township in Japan a tax rebate of ichi oku en (a million dollars or so, whatever the exchange rate was back then) to do with as they wished. The towns used the windfall in various ways: to build new facilities, augment their schools, spruce up the parks and what not; one town however, apparently with no further need for practical amenities, had a solid gold carp made and put on prominent display in a 'theft-proof' showcase in an unguarded town building.

Not too long after, needless to say to any expat from New York, somebody smashed the showcase with a hammer and made off with the golden carp and you can't trace gold, so it was never recovered and the thieves were never caught. At the time, it was such a prominent story that I figured its like would never occur again. However, I underestimated the old Japanese public safety mindset.

Turns out that the Ohashi Collection Kan museum in Takayama, in central Japan, was displaying a 100 kilo block of gold (225 lbs., worth about 2 million dollars) that, being so dense and heavy, was left publicly accessible so that visitors could actually touch it (mindset: now who in Japan would stoop so low as to try to steal 100 kilos of someone else's gold, that the general public enjoys so much?). In keeping with this naivete, the gold was also unguarded and unsecured. Doubly needless to say, on Sunday three thieves walked in and carted the block off into history.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, that's about as old as ownership. Wonder how those museum folks missed it.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Outsider Horiemon gets 21/2 years in prison, an unusually harsh sentence in a country where crooked insiders get fined 5% of their graft; but the most remarkable statement in this article [emphasis mine] is that "Horie had repeatedly asserted his innocence during his intensely watched trial that began last September — a risky endeavor in a nation where 99 percent of criminal trials end in guilty verdicts, and a show of remorse can help win lenience."

Innocent until accused?


March 22 update: "Japan has been abuzz with the unusually harsh prison term handed to former Internet mogul Takafumi Horie -- and the slap on the wrist given to scandal-tainted brokerage Nikko Cordial in another high-profile case of accounting fraud that, in monetary terms, was some eight times greater than Horie's firm."

"'What's happening is unfair,' said Koetsu Aizawa, economics professor at Saitama University. 'Slamming the little guy who stands out while letting big names go is what's so despicable about Japan.'"


March 24 update: "In the past, executives charged with tampering with earnings reports, even at companies far bigger than Livedoor, had generally avoided prison terms and got suspended sentences." Livedoor slapped with largest-ever Japan corporate fine

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I woke during the night a couple of times because it was so quiet; no deer horns rattling the bamboo, no wild pigs rooting where I used to plant potatoes, no monkey garden-squads gathering in the neighboring oaks for a dawn strike, no wind in the cedars, no tip-toeing pheasants, not even a croak from Dr. Crow. This morning I looked out the window and realized why: everything was white.

The snow had finally remembered what it was supposed to be doing, but it's a little late. It would have been welcome a month ago, when I was psychologically hunkered in for winter and laden with firewood; now I'm itching to get at the soil with my bare hands, so these flakes in my face are a noisome anomaly, as I point out to the sky in no uncertain terms. But as life has repeatedly indicated, the sky is not in the habit of listening to one R. Brady (SkyFile 12573086), although the Sky Manager is clearly aware of my intentions and my schedule. Still, we get along well together, the sky doing its thing while I do mine.

Planting seeds in snow might be pushing it, though. Even so, I hope it will be summer tomorrow, what with the spike in North Pole property values and the increasing popularity of Antarctic beach resorts...


A post of mine from a few years ago, Monkeys and Onions, has been nicely reposted at Tokyonodoko [roughly: "Where in Tokyo?"].

"Tokyo is a great city to live in, but it's also really big. With your help we hope to find the best Tokyo has to offer and bring it to you so that you can enjoy this incredible city to its fullest."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Takarazuka Revue Poster

in Umeda Station, Osaka

Friday, March 16, 2007


According to the results of a sex survey of 2713 randomly selected individuals between the ages of 16-49 -- which survey of course took time away from whatever sex the respondents might have been on the verge of, thank you very much -- an unbelievable 39.7% of Japanese people between the ages of 16-49 (up 5% from 2 years ago!) have unbelievably not had sex unbelievably for over an unbelievable month. The survey was taken by the Japan Family Planning Association, which has a direct stake in the outcome.

As a member of the general public one must react to such stories largely from the perspective of one's own life history; thus it is that I stand in complete shock before such stark stats; indeed, in regard to sex I have never been so aghast in my life. Why, when I was 16-49-- on second thought, let's not get into that flagrante area (NSFW). But I have to ask a Japanese or two: if you're between the ages of 16-49 and haven't had sex for a month ("My research shows that if you don't have sex for a month, you probably won't for a year" Dr. Kunio Kitamura, Association director), what the hell are you doing (besides filling out this survey) that's more important, let alone more delightful? (An interesting side note is that this unnatural state of affairs and the resulting irritability and irrationality may go a long way, on an individual level, toward explaining Prime Minister Abe's irritable yo-yo-ing on the "comfort women" question, and the rightists' irrational refusal to even acknowledge the question.)

As to the scientific validity of this study, it must be pointed out that any 16-49 year-old who hasn't had sex in the eternity that is a celibate month is much more likely to have the time, to say nothing of the inclination, to drop whatever is the wan substitute and respond to a survey, wouldn't you say? Such folks are much more easily distracted than those who tend toward intense physical relations and are probably occupied at the moment.

On the other hand I must also mention that I recently saw, a few villages down the road, two classic love hotels being demolished that are not to be replaced. I take this neochasm to be even more ominous for the future of Japan than this survey, for I have never seen a love hotel demolished that was not replaced as quickly as possible with a larger, gaudier, more diversely erotic love hotel, in response to ardent demand. Those two lost love hotels, apart from locally manifesting a profound decline in national urgency, are likely to be replaced by gaudy establishments of the type where the dispassionate 40% of the populace can spend their vacant time playing pachinko.

In any case, less sex means a lowering population, which means many positive changes, from less crowded trains to more job opportunities, but as for me, I'd rather have sex than whatever less sex means.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Decades ago I remember seeing, only very occasionally in Tokyo - and only once during the eighties in Kyoto – the amezaiku street artists/vendors (even then rare) who, in front of the growing crowd would take hot taffylike sugar, handle it like rhythmic lightning with tongs now and then in flame like a glass blower, color the shapeless blob, twist it, mold it and cut it with well-worn shears until it was fashioned into a Doraemon on a stick, or dragon, pig, bunny rabbit, monkey, phoenix, whatever fanciful creature came to mind as the candyman cracked jokes, did tricks, told stories while teasing the sweet creature of his story out of the melting sugar before all those wide-eyed faces... or working as per customer order for one of the noisy crowd of mostly kids around his stand... I don't even see amezaiku at big festivals anymore...

There are a few young amezaiku-nin taking the art up again, but back then when an amezaiku artist had been at his craft for 60 years or more and was cracking up the crowd while crafting faster than the eye could follow, the results were breathtaking. Unfortunately, all those splendid works were purchased for just a few yen, then happily licked into oblivion...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

So why
the big bang
and what
banged big?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mick has just posted
Instant Karma Nearly Got Me, Part 2
The Blog Brothers

Monday, March 12, 2007


From early morning today I was up to my scalp in editing deadlines, one eye now and then glimpsing out the window at all those logs still lying there waiting to be sectioned and split and stacked to catch the southerly winds, and a freshly tilled row in the garden waiting to receive the various seeds I have in mind, until at about two this afternoon enough was enough, so I put on my work clothes and got the tools from the shed and went out into the spring snowstorm to get some real work done, and for a couple hours lost myself in the all there is, remotely reveling in the absence of self, and among other things learned, upon splitting sections of oak and finding the familiar woodboring grub hole (you always find them in these wild oaks up here), my axe informing me via the handle, that those holes perforce make the oak much stronger, much closer to iron as the grain compensates for the central weakness and girds against it, much as we are made stronger by weaknesses we've overcome…

Then later, after splitting a half-log into quarters, I saw that in one of the woodborer cul de sacs angling off into the grain of the wood, the inner reach of the hole had been stuffed with a variety of moss that, though long dried, was still green. Whatever insect had made its home there had gone out and from the deep knowledge selected that particular variety of moss, clipped off right-sized pieces of it and dragged them back along the dark hole into the depths of the tree to make itself some very comfy quarters, well aerated yet well shielded by the moss, in a home of solid, living oak. Savvy really has no limits, does it. And some hours later, around dinnertime, how I enjoy that real-work weariness in my shoulders, back and thighs, that well-earned wealth of tiredness that has more genuine value than money, that says my body and spirit have spent some deep time working together.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


You know how it is when you saw some hungry monkeys along the road while you were going down the mountain a few mornings ago, the day after seeing the new mushroom buds emerging from your shiitake logs, even harvesting a couple of the bigger ones before the monkeys got them, then looking at the same logs on your next morning off and seeing every single bud (and the surrounding bark) bitten away by obviously monkey teeth: you get a little anxious about your mushrooms.

So it is that each morning thereafter you look out the big kitchen window at around sunrise to check if any new mushrooms are emerging and each time you do, you see a big mushroom or two, but when later you go out to get them there aren't any, and you find out that it was only blendings of light, shadow and coloration that your hungry mind had eagerly transformed into what it desired. At which point you realize that your yearnings have always played such tricks on your mind, yearnings of whatever kind. You see what you desire, more than you see what is there. Each specific instance has its own particulars so you can't generalize much, other than to say that, transcendently speaking, yearning eyes are not reliable guides.

Damn I learn a lot from those monkeys.


A useful FREE app...

Saturday, March 10, 2007


While gardening today I was pondering a sentence I'd come across describing a Japanese garden at an exhibition: "This garden gives visitors the experience of a day in the forest, an experience nearly forgotten." I never thought I would hear such a phrase in my own lifetime.

It sounds as though we have given up already, and believe soon we will have only videos of forests, photos from back when there were trees, even groves of trees. Before long, people will come to believe that there are no forests left (and by then it may be true, or nearly true) except for the few in forest zoos, i.e., parks - as it is with the endangered fauna - and so it will all come to pass by default.

Later, encountering one of those damply religious people who search for higher truth in the lower regions, seeking the source everywhere but in themselves, I reflect that each and every one of the cells and elements and ethers that comprise me (and him) are linked unbroken to the birth of the universe, and have a familial history beyond the boundaries of faith. What need have I to look elsewhere after reasons for my life, let alone in words written mere millennia ago? A hair follicle embodies more knowledge than all the creeds and holy books ever devised; think of the wisdom in eyes! Holier-than-thou is in fact a matter of astigmatism.

The more I am out here in the woods on the mountain in the cold and silent air amid living and imminent plants, birds on the wind and animal eyes in the night, the lonelier I get, and the more opens up to me of the secrets that are lost in the crowd. It is the kind of loneliness that leads to oneliness; it is an essential food, that nourishes the bones of the spirit for the long journey.

Friday, March 09, 2007


A Yoga comic from The Yoga Institute in Mumbai

View individual pages at Flickr

"As this century is stepping into its twilight years there is a growing awareness that the family is the bedrock of personal growth. Members of a family, be they parents or children draw inspiration, strength and faith from the family as a whole. Yoga at Home will help to have light perception..."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just posted

My Part in the Greatest Election Upset in American History

on The Blog Brothers

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


One of life's mini-supreme pleasures (MSP) is to emerge in fragments from the dreamy depths on a cold morning and, as the who-you-are falls slowly into place enough to realize at the very edge of consciousness that you don't have to go to work today - that this is one of your days off - the corpus thereof, eyes unopened and smiling contentedly at the delightful syrupyness of reality, pulls the covers about the toasty neck and begins to emit a soft, dozing sound, much like the one that issues from the moss-lined den of a bear beneath virgin mounds of snow.

I got to partake of this particular MSP myself this morning, having during the night's deep sleep forgotten completely who I was until the sergeant we all carry in the barracks suddenly gave the order to hit the deck and get to work, but the sergeant is unaware of actual realities, so as soon as the individual known in the waking world as yours truly had reassembled to a sufficient level from the self-y bits and pieces scattered like crumbs along the trail of dreams, as Commander of this operation I countermanded the order and, smiling contentedly at the syrupyness of reality, resumed my mission.

Dedication is the price of victory.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


The devil is in the details. I've taught English here for years (though I ceased as soon as possible), as have so many other English-natives (and non-natives) here; the article linked to below excellently captures the problems and frustrations involved. My favorite anecdote is "When I visited an English class in Japan, I was advised to bring along an interpreter. That puzzled me initially but once I sat in the class, I understood why."

My son Keech, who went to Japanese schools from mid-grammar school to junior high, after which he finished up in the US, was always getting in trouble for correcting his Japanese English teachers' pronunciation, and frustrated by the fact that the English was being taught in Japanese!

How English is taught in Japan


Growing collection of Classic children's stories, novels, poetry, history...

Listen, read or download...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Kaya in rain, with smiling cat

Sunday, March 04, 2007

When I go out
to ask the night
it takes my question away

Saturday, March 03, 2007


No one's ever accused the LDP [Liberal Democratic machine Party] of being high on humanitarianism, but even that dim rep went down a notch when Prime Minister Abe said there was no proof that so-called "comfort women" had been forced into prostitution during the war-- in other words that they were all in fact whores, and all their complaints lies. The LDP is more like a party in big denial, running a country that claims to be democratic.

Abe asserted his wishfully gossamer belief before addressing an LDP group of about 120 rightist lawmakers who were meeting to plan a retraction of Japan's 1993 apology to the comfort women. The group's position was clarified by its chairman Nariaki Nakayama, another LDP master of tact, who clarified the wartime government's involvement in the brothels by comparing it to a kind of simple business situation, say like when a school hires a company to run its cafeteria, no big deal.

"Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs, and set prices," he said, probably smiling and jingling the change in his pocket. Interesting reference to 'foodstuffs'.

"Where there's demand, businesses crop up... but to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark," he said [that "into service" says a lot more]. "This issue must be reconsidered, based on truth... for the sake of Japanese honor."

What type of honor is he talking about? What type of honor is blind to base wrongdoing? Ah yes: honor among thieves.

This all flies in the faces of the hundreds of thousands of women who, even in their old age, often bringing shame on themselves and their families through their public quests for justice, nevertheless go to court in Japan year after year for decades, are turned away unacknowledged and now are even scorned by alleged lawmakers in quest of the same dark honor under which those unrepented crimes were perpetrated.



Boy do the medication spinners love this dubious news fragment! They're all over it like green on a dollar. I haven't seen this much coverage since Thalidomide. In obviating the need for pharmaceutics, vitamin supplements (when used intelligently) must've cost the medical industry a fortune in potential patients over the years. Not to imply that there aren't big scams going on in the supplement business, but that's another (and newer) story, in a similar vein.

However, I must admit that, even when taken wisely, supplements can be dangerous; as a 66-year-old who lives and moves like a much younger person (and hasn't been in a hospital for 61 years), I am put at greater risk in a way by such things as lumberjacking, partying and motorcycle speed, thanks largely to judicious vitamin supplement use blended with only occasionally extreme dietary and otherwise hedonistic behavior.

On the other hand, I doubt if I'd be this way if I'd taken just about any prescription drug every day for the past 40 years. As to the ardent anti-vite spin on this, note these new headlines from among the over 400 today, with another take at the end (all emphases mine):

Research questions vitamins' usefulness

Vitamins 'could shorten lifespan'

Antioxidants Don't Help You Live Longer

Antioxidant Vitamins May Not Prolong Life

Antioxidants Flunk Big Test

Use Of Some Antioxidant Supplements May Increase Mortality Risk

Caution urged in use of antioxidant supplements

Vitamins could increase risk of death, study says

Antioxidant supplements tied to death risk

Study says antioxidant pills can kill

JAMA Says Antioxidant Supplements May Increase Mortality

Researchers Say Some Vitamin Supplements Increase Risk of Death

Docs Warn on Vitamins A and E

But there were some rays of skeptically clear light:

Antioxidant study ignores scientific evidence

Researchers water down vitamin fear


And as a little actual-factual sidelight to all this maybe, could and death:

"A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million. Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics.

"The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251."

Death by Medicine, Part I
(this free newsletter - by an MD -
well worth subscribing to,
via only an email address.)

Friday, March 02, 2007


I know, right off the bat you're wondering whatever could be the connection between peach blossoms and sciatica, well, I'm getting around to it, just give me a minute to gather my thoughts, get a word in here, put these tools away...

It all started about 10 ten years ago I'd say, back when I planted a peach tree over by the inner road and not long after got sciatica, or maybe before, I don't remember which. I could go find out, but then you'd just be left sitting here waiting in this age of instant media; anyway whatever else may or may not be true, the sciatica had nothing to do with the peach tree. Bet those are words you never heard before.

Speaking of which, because unfortunately at the time I was a newbie at planting trees I didn't pick the right planting spot or prep the peachling properly-- global warming may have been a factor too, depending on whether you endorse the scripturally enlightened Jerry Falwell or the scientifically endarkened Al Gore.

In any case, the tree wound up undernourished, at least because of poor prep and overshadowment by the big old oak that wanted to spread overhead, forcing the peach to reach for whatever sun it could, so it grew fast and sideways like a ghetto kid (been there, done that), in time bending to force its way through the hedge to the road, making an unpleasant sight, gardenically speaking, and though it produced delicious peaches (I actually got to taste one the monkeys missed!) that deliciousness also made it a popular simian hangout and, being spindly, the tree did not react well to all the ruthless vandalism, which bent it even more and bedraggled its few skinny branches. Old before its time, ravaged every Summer, after a few years the peach began to give up what little ghost it had, hunching up even more when monkeys came by.

So a couple of weeks ago, while we were pre-Spring clearing away the under and overgrowth on that roadside and around the kinmokuse hedge I cut the peach tree down, ending its misery (though we may get new shoots from the trunk, which I'll treat right). We stacked the wood and trimmings on the kindling pile next to the firewood splitting block.

Then the other day while splitting some wild cherry I noticed that all the new branches of the peach had plump furry buds on them, like mini-pussywillows, and were clearly viable, lying there right in front of me where they kept on forlornly yearning sideways until I couldn't stand it any longer. I'm a sucker for grandkids and peach buds. So I clipped off all the new growth I could find, a good armful - some of the cuttings up to a meter long - took them into the house, put them all in a wide-mouthed vase, filled it with water, added two aspirin and placed the vase in the big kitchen window right above the sink where it was light and warm.

Now if you've ever spent enough time in Japan to need an aspirin, you'll think right away: God what a waste of aspirin that is... aspirin are ridiculously expensive in Japan! Well it just so happens that because of the eponymous sciatica and the attendant need for aspirin, I wrote a ramble on sciatica and the cost of aspirin in Japan, which ramble was published in Kyoto Journal, where it was read by my best friend Marty back home in NY, who immediately went out and bought half a dozen megabottles of aspirin dirt-cheap at the local drugstore and airmailed them to me, thereby saving me a bunch of unnecessary physicoeconomic pain and anguish, for which I and my lumbar vertebrae shall be forever grateful. However, because there was enough aspirin for a hundred cases of sciatica and I had only one, I got over my singular symptoms before I'd used up even one of those giant bottles. The result is, that as an aspirin nouveau riche I can now share my largesse with one and all, so I do. And aspirin is a very effective plant booster.

The other morning I woke up, went downstairs to make tea and there beheld a frosty kitchen window full of pink peach blossoms, thanks to my sciatica.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The first scent of Spring, that blended earth-perfume so pleasantly borne on a chill wind, of imminent buddings and primal seed-stirrings, always wistfully reminds me that it's time to get out my marbles and dig a hole in the ground. Correlatively it reminds me that I lost my marbles years ago-- but anyway each Spring I get to recall them with fondness.

As a marble substitute I get out the tools and start prepping the earth of my garden, in good time venturing to the farm store to buy some seeds of whatever monkeys hate, which is an odd way to plan one's garden, but in Japan means lots of exotic greens, and anyway adaptability is an indication that marbles of some kind are still operative. This year it will be a couple kinds of spinach, radishes, various of those greens, hot peppers and herbs.

I'm doing it this way because I just can't (yet) get myself to put up a stalag out there around my vegetables, but one day I'll have to, if I want to grow tomatoes, carrots, onions, pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers watermelons—well, whatever I'm not growing this year, and didn't grow last year. But as I dig and plant, I am as always rewarded. Surrounded by that heady scent, I realize that I haven't lost my marbles at all, they were just one bright talisman in the steady parade of delights that is a growing life, an early excuse to dig in the constant earth and learn where beauty can always be found.