Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I was working upstairs yesterday morning when Echo called me from the deck to come look. Sounded interesting.

When I got down to the deck door, by way of intro she told me that she had been just about to get her leg warmers off the laundry pole when she found that one of them was being used.

A savvy neighborhood frog had had the same idea regarding use of the garment during the chill of the night and early morning, and had co-opted use of the leg warmer by backing neatly into it under the big old clothespin. Snug as a frog, and no hovering hawk would ever spot him there. He was safe and the froglegs were toasty. He had a happy warm face on him, too-- bit of a pleasant frogchuckle hovered there somewhere.

He was so contented, in fact, that he wouldn't move no matter how paparazzi my camera got. He knew a good thing when he'd found one. Echo has to use another pair until Froggo has finished using this one, which may be a while; the green dude's pretty stylish looking in that leg warmer. This may get to be a frogleg fad...

Monday, June 29, 2009


Not just from the US public, but from the world public.

"If you look at the history of the Republic, from the Revolutionary War until about a year or two ago, it took us our entire history to accumulate $12 trillion in debt, and now, literally in a year and a half, we've bestowed the equivalent amount of money on the banks; it's literally like rounding up all the net equity left in the entire country and just transferring it to a small banking sector. That's why I call it a financial coup d'etat." --Catherine Austin Fitts

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4




Lewis contends that there may be more upheavals to come. He is also shocked that the Treasury, the SEC and other agencies haven’t really begun to investigate what happened in the subprime mess. He says that when he has interviewed numerous executives from financial institutions, such as AIG’s Financial Products division, they tell him that no one from a regulator has come to try to find out exactly what happened. That fact alone, is simply astonishing.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


A squad of foreign journalists comes to Japan for a ten-day exercise in journalism wearing suits and ties - during rainy season of all things (Japan-clueless journalists are sent to report on Japan?) - and at least one of them complains that the Tokyo office buildings are too hot. "Shuttling about the city, I thought I had discovered an epidemic of air-conditioning malfunction... We visited Koike in her (boiling) district office..."

This journodiscomfiture is found to be due to the Japanese government's Cool Biz program (started 2005, news to the J-journo!) (A major world government taking immediate personal-level steps to effect ecochange!? What will they think of next?), which encourages no-tie, short-sleeve office work in summer (opposite with Warm Biz in winter). I for one have been bitching and moaning for years about boiling trains and offices in winter and freezing same in summer. To me, Cool/Warm Biz is a welcome physical change, apart from the massive savings on resources and the handy carbon footprint ecospin. (News tip: in summer, hand-fans are also functional and convenient low-tech items much used in Japan.)

Likely the journalists' rushing around in suits and ties had much to do with it, but more likely it's their decades of working and living year-round in controlled air, which has screwed up their biothermostats. It's odd, though, that the journo makes no reference to the body's remarkable powers of temperature adjustment, because from out of history that very body got us all here, through all those way up and down temperatures, without relying on public utilities. A fact that Japanese office workers are perhaps on the way to relearning.

Try the body. It works. Now that might be news.

(Possible Full-Window Assault Ad -- click upper right)

Friday, June 26, 2009


Yesterday evening, in the deep silence that can grow beneath looming clouds after a heavy rain, the warbler who controls this territory - and who happened to be in either the chestnut tree or one of the cedars near my window - chose to perform his usual sunset medley of old Warbler favorites, which is basically a bar or two of one melody that loops back into itself over and over, but he does miracles with it, like 'Trane with a sax, occupying the air with splendor.

So he began, his honey-and-cream voice filling up the hungry silence with lyrical magnificence, the very same daDada, daDada, daDada, daDada, daDadaDadadada that Ludwig used to such joyous effect in his Pastorale, where it segues into that birdflight melody conveying the sweet and timeless serenity to be found in rural oases, but which in the actual warbler's case traditionally only curls back into its own beginning in repetitive loops, to which nothing much has been added over the eons.

As though the warbler had recognized this very fact, this lack of change since way long ago, all of a sudden the beauty stopped and a kind of sadness fell upon the silence as everything just hung there waiting for more, the warbler now and then doodling vocally as though trying to regain his chops while pondering something profound for a warbler... After about 30 seconds of this, a long duration in warbler time, he began to sing again, only now in what must be the Warblerian equivalent to - in our own time - Johnny Ray, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Elvis Presley et al.

He began right off with a riff I've never heard before, completely violating the Warblerian canon, going off completely on his own, winging it into tuneville, and it was quite a show for a minute or two, when he seemed to come to his senses, shake his head and return to himself and his ways, his culture, who he was up there in that tree and what his duties and obligations were to his kind, his task of declaring whatever it was he'd been declaring as an official representative of the Warblerians, and he picked up once more the tune Ludwig had made such wonderful human use of, resuming it perhaps with a tear in his eye at what might have been; but the seed had been planted in the young Warbler ears around.

As for me, I was suddenly nostalgic for the 50s...

Thursday, June 25, 2009


A somehow suitable conflation of ophthalmology and punk parameters-- who are we to impose prior restraints on unexamined possibilities?

There are certain times in life - and you don't know what they are until you get there - and there are certain states of being that require certain inexplicably ritual implements to be used in ineffable fashion - and you don't know what or how before you get there, either, but for some reason implicit in a muggily oppressive rainy season afternoon yesterday on the side of a mountain in Japan a stack of had-to-be-edited-right-now medical papers mysteriously generated a certain spiritmindsoul (SMS) warpfield that was of a certain shade, density, texture, flavor etc. and called precisely for a not immediately identifiable accompaniment, what was it, what could it be, the SMS asked in no certain terms: mint candy? chocolate? some lemonade? a cup of coffee? No, mundanity was the least of it, this was way out there-- a plangency was needed-- an evocation was called for-- some seminal nostalgia-- an artifact plucked from the depths of time that would somehow relate to... and be at home in... yet comfortably obviate, ocular surgical syntax and related matters, with volume2max... ah yes: Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Waitin' for My Man, Heroin, Sweet Jane, Pale Blue Eyes, Beginning to See the Light, perfect editing rhythm yet ophthalmologically appropriate.

Syntactic surgery performed in a keyboard flashdance, way outside the box.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Adopt a wolf pup.

For Only $15.00.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Thinking later about the mamushi experience I posted about a couple days ago, I remembered an early Spring morning a few years ago when, as I opened the front door heading out on my way to work in the big city, for some reason I looked down - I suppose attracted by the sort of glow there - and saw, where the bottom of the door had just been, a bright tiny being of some sort, body artistically arranged.

I hunkered down to get a closer look and observed that it was a young snake, a completely new snake in fact, probably just hatched, only a few inches long, splendid in that way only nature can be splendid in such miniature, with a luminescent silver-blue-gray body spotted at regular intervals along its back with dark brown.

It seemed to glow there in the shadow of the doorway, where it lay without reacting either to my removal of its protective roof or to my subsequent motion. It was less than six inches long but fully developed, having likely hatched into the new world late yesterday evening and crawled off randomly into the dimming light, winding up under our door for protection from the unfamiliar night, where it had gotten chilled and stiff. It was warming up, though.

I poked at it with a stick to get it to move and it reared its tiny head, ready to strike with tiny fangs, just like a big tough guy - looked a bit comical under the circs - but I knew then that it was indeed a baby mamushi, which are at home in bamboo groves, not in driveways leading to under doors. He was clearly a lost newbie who had just hatched and gotten lost. But I didn't want him to begin feeling at home anywhere around the house.

From my woodsy life in upstate NY I knew that you don't touch even newborn pit vipers (like the rattler), so I grabbed the lost newbie at the neck with a pair of long bamboo cooking chopsticks, carried him a good way down the road to the edge of the big wild bamboo grove and tossed the little fellow into paradise.

God should be so nice.

Monday, June 22, 2009

FROM MY IBIZA JOURNAL-- March 13, 1979

Just took a half-hour walk from Figueral home to Cala Boix -- full sunset at one end, full moonrise at the other.

The valley along was full of a golden mist, and when I had passed through the pines and climbed the hill forest past the old finca, the sea sky was gray tinged with pink over Tagomago, and out of this rose a pale-red ivory moon, from behind the silhouette of the Phoenician tower.

The full-moon night is like a silver day, everything is covered with moon rays. It's more silent than usual, if that's possible, as though everything were holding its breath and staring in amazement at that bright face.

Last night, too, when I went out at moon-noon there was no breeze; nothing stirred but my pulse and the sea. Somewhere within, we each are as clear and peaceful as such a night.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


A couple of days ago on a cloudy afternoon I went outside to see how much the lemongrass had grown. As I approached the place, I saw a young snake lazing on a board, getting what little sun there was.

There was something different about the snake though: it wasn’t the usual bright-striped, shiny garden snake, that coils perkily and disappears like a whiplash and all you see is the tail. As I drew nearer, this somewhat flattened, relaxed snake departed, but at his leisure-- not in the garden snake fright-hurry way at all, but with a fluid, casual, muscular self-assurance. Its color was mind-stirring as well, a choppy dark brown ringed here and there with a slightly lighter reddish-brown.

It was the unhurriedness that sent the message that first gave me pause, made me stand still to observe the manner, the fluidity, the weightiness, the snaky sauntering bravado-- what was it exactly, apart from the fact that I’d never seen such a snake around here before-- it seemed to exude power, it had an attitude of unafraid strength-- it knew something, it knew one big secret. It was not afraid, it was confidently cautious.

Late the next afternoon I went out on the deck, merely leaned over the railing to look at the spot and there the snake was again, like a puddle of clay. As soon as my head showed, the snake became alert, and made to move away; though I was downwind, it had sensed me; it must be a pit viper, sensing my heat even while dozing in the sun, and that brought it to alertness. That meant it must be a mamushi, Japan’s only poisonous snake. I looked it up on the net, and there it was. Up to 60cm in length.

In all the years here I've never seen one; they rarely move about in the daytime. It probably drifted here because of the paddy repair going on across the road. I suppose once I clear that overgrown area the snake will move elsewhere. It doesn't seem to care that I'm the "actual owner" of the land, or that it is keeping mice under control for me, maybe even monkeys too, for which I hope it senses my gratitude.

I probably won't see it again for another 15 years.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Yeah I know. The old margarine/butter controversy... Though there seem to be fewer clear arteries on the margarine side these days... Still, here's an excerpt from a great take on the oleaginopolemic:

Effects of Margarine on Health

  • Margarine triples the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Margarine increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol).
  • Margarine Increases the risk of cancers up to five fold.
  • Lowers quality of breast milk.
  • Decreases immune response.
  • Decreases insulin response.
  • Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC.
I like that last one.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The meaning we find in our lives depends on what we look for. Some look for onions, some look for potatoes, some seek to enjoy simple living on a mountainside, say, in a foreign country, with both onions and potatoes. Others look for things of little physical or spiritual nourishment, like money, fame, power etc., which contain no enzymes. For me during the past few years, the meaning of life on a mountainside in a foreign country has focused a little bit on potatoes, but more on onions, thanks to monkeys. This will all make sense one day.

Striving for simplicity can be complicated. I suppose I should be at least a little bit grateful to the unconscionable beasts for my onion focus; were it not for them, I'd probably have piles of mere money or be everywhere nanos deep on teevee, whoopee, and onions wouldn't be so simply symbolic of life's meaning for me - they'd be of no more particular interest than, say, pieces of paper bearing pictures of deceased officials - but having distant relatives of your species purloin the fruits of your labor is sort of like what's happening on Wall Street. This will all make sense one day.

One morning last week Echo was entertaining some visiting lady friends downstairs (I was working upstairs) when she took them outside to show them the garden and saw the dim shape of a beast moving off among the trees shaking some branches, that from her description of his slowness, vagueness, vocal silence and otherwise odd behavior sounded a lot like Littlefoot. When I later went out to the garden I found that he had come and stood right next to my purple onions, such as they are - they show above the ground and everything - but he ignored them completely! He stood there and TURNED HIS BACK on my onions and instead dug down into the ground, to get at my still minipotatoes! This will all make sense one day.

Later that morning I heard a truck stop briefly out front. When I went in for lunch I saw that the farmer who had earlier this year seen my attempt at making the earth say onions better than it did last year had brought us a basketful of just-harvested large, healthy, firm, strong-necked onions. Then the very next day the elder farmer we buy our organic rice from stopped by to deliver the bags of rice we ordered, and with them left us a basketful of just-harvested large, healthy, firm, strong-necked onions. Word of my wimpy onions was getting around. Next year I'll do better, like I did this year. Next year, by damn, I'm gonna grow onions that are worth stealing! This will all make sense one day.

Monday, June 15, 2009


At age 68, part of the fun is watching my mind to see how and what it's remembering, what it thinks is important at this stage of life. Often these days I find myself pausing in mid-thought-- wondering, for example, what I had come upstairs or downstairs for. The answer is there in the vicinity of course - and will present itself - but immediate answers are less important than they used to be, now that there's time to enjoy thinking.

Younger, less experienced folk might call this trait forgetfulness, but it isn't that at all; it's simply the mature recognition of higher priorities. While going up or down the stairs I'm often thinking other, more important thoughts, on subjects far more interesting than a quotidian objective. By this time in life, my mind is increasingly conscious of what matters.

In contrast, back in my student days when data volume was everything and thought itself was a new experience to a hungry mind, I was in such a rush to fill my head with anything that had even a hint of worthiness that I'd remember stuff for no particular reason; reasons are nebulous creatures when you're young. No surprise that I wound up with so much junk data in the long-term inventory, all just tossed in there unallocated. So what's happening now is logical enough: my mind is defragging.

In addition to doing the usual daily tasks, my new consciousness is busy screening input, checking the old algorithms, filing, discarding and rearranging, streamlining the operating system. My mind no longer wastes time trying to remember things it didn't used to know were best forgotten. It has a fast recycling function now; comes with the mature upgrade. It's running smarter and more systematically, and it's about time.

The focus is on the actual reality right at hand these days, as opposed to the received reality and fantasized future of youthful yore. My mind has learned to appreciate the difference. Now that I am at last who I've been becoming all these years, and am organized enough to appreciate the immediate scenery, I'm closer to now than I've ever been. I'm realizing that my greater interests are deeper and of longer duration. Like gardening.

So as I say, I'm not being forgetful when I don't remember where my glasses are, or have at my tonguetip the name of that actor who was in that movie based on what was the title of that bestseller by that author whatsername - it'll come to me, no hurry, unless it wasn't that important, which is mostly the case. No, this elderhead isn't losing anything, it's just getting wiser about what it holds dear.

When you get out of beta, you appreciate the clarity.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Now Out:

Available at a source of wisdom near you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

From the PLM archives, June 2002


I came to Japan from the old country over 20 years ago with no intention of being an immigrant; I was just a traveler who stopped. Like age, immigrancy was upon me before I knew it.

I am the first generation of my family to visit Japan, let alone live here. My wife, who is Japanese, is about the 900th generation of her family to live here. Our children therefore are second generation immigrants and about 901st generation natives, which makes them thoroughly indigenous nisei, and so extremely interesting in many respects. They are more Japanese than me, though less American, and less Japanese than my wife, though more American than her, and more international than either of us.

As for my own multiply grafted family tree, some of my great-great-grandparents were intentional immigrants from Ireland to their new country America, while other of my great-great-grandparents were scions of native Americans who had "immigrated" across the Aleutian chain from Asia 40,000 years and more ago, so maybe it was in my blood all the time to reconnect, and what I was really doing wasn't traveling, but continuing in my turn the journey my ancestors set out on, that began before the dawn and will go on beyond the sunset. Such transcendent concepts were likely common knowledge 40,000 years ago, before there were visas.

Needless to say, I am the most American person in my Japanese family. I speak my mind, just like that, nakedly right out there in the open, shockingly point-blank in front of everybody. I prefer good bread to good rice, though that balance has changed a great deal since I first became an alien. Certain of my native words (and with them, native ways of thinking) are fading also, as my native country becomes more and more of an old country and the new exerts its influence on my being. My mental America is in fact becoming archaic, as I become more Japanese than I ever thought possible. Still, I speak best the language of the old country, and remember the old country with fondness when in Japan I sit out on my mind's back porch. But of course that old country no longer exists except on the mind's back porch, where all old countries are.

Whenever I visit the country that's America now, I feel perhaps more a foreigner than I do in Japan; I am surprisingly surprised to be treated as an American, as though that state were still and fully native to me. When I'm in America, I wear shoes gingerly indoors; I can't take a bath with the soap in the water; people look me right in the eye as they talk to me; and everyone speaks English, which can be unsettling.

But being foreign really doesn't require another country; one can feel foreign just by changing neighborhoods, or growing old; my great grandmother, who was 16 when Lincoln was assassinated and who lived to hear of the atomic bomb, was about as foreign to the 1950s as possible. For her, Elvis was from a non-parallel universe, much the way golden-haired Japanese rappers on roller skates on tv are to me of the Elvis generation. I'm already a foreigner to teenagers of both my countries. I'm also more of a foreigner to who I used to be: I look at old photos of myself in the fully American days and remark how truly different was my ignorance then.

My children's Japanese school friends look upon me, I imagine, much as I used to look upon my immigrant friends' grandfathers back in New York when I was a kid: someone who looks and dresses and talks and acts--- well, foreign.

As to the biological bottom line of all this, the geneticists assure us that the differences between the 'races' are infinitessimal in genetic terms--- skin color, hair, eye shape etc. collectively comprising no more than an atom of a wisp of a drop in the global ocean of the human genome. At that level, the difference between me and the Japanese is about the same as the difference between me and I. Cultures too are thought to reside in that 'difference,' when in fact they are matters of time and place. To truly live in another country is to realize that prejudice is ignorance, and what a heavy and useless burden is enmity.

My grandchildren will be American sansei in Japan, unless one of them or their children has children with someone of yet another nationality and so carries on that grand wandering that is native to the human family. Perhaps even, one day, my great-grandchildren will emigrate back to my old country and find themselves a new continent there. Or they may stay here, and astound their friends by telling them that their great-grandfather was, believe it or not, of all things, an American.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Yesterday morning out in the garden, under some now-and-then brief slivers of sun that somehow managed to make it through the clouds, I was splitting firewood and stonewalling when, as a break from stonelifting I decided to harvest my slouchy garlic rather than just leave it unattended to hang out on street corners after dark and hero-worship the sullen tomatoes. I remember where that can lead. So in the full confidence of midday monkeylessness I dug the bulbs up, bunched them, tied them together with one of the stalks and laid them atop a high cord of firewood to pick up later when I went in for lunch after splitting some more wood.

But because when I went in for lunch I was pondering the deeper quantum relation of chronorelativity as pertains to the torque factors stemming from the interaction of meteorology and gravitation as manifested in the grain of cherry wood I forgot about the garlic, which maybe explains the slouchiness-- was I being too inattentive? Growing garlic is different from parenting: with parenting you get one long shot; with garlic you can try again next year.

Anyway I went in, had lunch, enjoyed a brief nap and came out again an hour or so later to get back to work, when I found that during my brief respite a solo simian had come and scored just one bulb of garlic from the bunch, without making a mess of the very messable mass, just left them where they lay, had taken the single bulb over to the stone steps and there sat quietly eating just half the cloves, then went away, all without making a sound (more proof that it was an individual)-- which surprised me greatly, since I have a carefully constructed, autopowered multifunctional internal monkey alarm that requires no maintenance and is sensitive to such microsounds as occur with garlic movement. The hairy pirates rarely pull off a successful heist while I am at home.

Whoever it was had eaten about half the cloves, then laid the stalk neatly atop the stairs together with the remnant cloves and fragments, arranged in rather an ikebana fashion, and simply departed, without even trying to get into the vegetable garden itself. This did not add up. This solitariness, this quietness, this relative consideration and artistic neatness did not ring any of the old monkey bells in the Brady tower; rather, this combination of factors seemed to me to indicate that I had had a visit from Littlefoot, that quiet, pensive creature. Maybe he just chewed up a bit of garlic to make a poultice for a sore belly.

I think tomorrow I'll leave some Jack Daniels out there with a garlic bulb.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Life sure has gnarly ways of getting us all where we’re going, don’t you think? How it gives us all such awesome rides in to the endless shore of ideas…

For example, isn’t it amazing that because a California scientificosurfer dude who after a long day on the waves was mindsurfing as he drove back home through the evening while his girlfriend slept on the car seat beside him, his mind hanging ten in the Big Tube, as a result we know for example where on earth we came from (with much more detail yet to come), that Thomas Jefferson had a long affair with his lady slave, and now thousands of guilty criminals are in jail while hundreds of innocent folks have been declared innocent or set free, we know more and more every day about our deep roots and about illnesses, as causes and personalized cures open up, our minds themselves rising up in this new flux of knowledge that’s towering within us as though we were oceans ourselves, bearing the Big Truth, the gnarliest wave of all…

What a ride.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


After another unseasonably chilly night my garden isn't at all surprised this morning at the blanket of clouds or the lack of a bright, warm orb in the sky. By now the young vegetables have some experience; they don't trust the weather. And I don't blame them. It has been like this for the past many weeks - uncharacteristically chilly, I mean, with a lot of clouds and fog and little sun. Even vegetables can run out of patience.

Normally I'm on reasonably good terms with tomatoes, in fact I get along well with produce in general, but these days in my garden I'm beginning to feel like a high school teacher. I'm not used to sullen tomatoes, grouchy garlic, slouchy onions. They're all healthy and vigorous, naturally ready to do their thing, but they're being restrained by some intransigent authority, like kids in high school: they can run the hundred meters in 10 seconds but they have to walk quietly; they could boogie all night but hey have to stay in and do homework. That's the look on my tomatoes. They want to let loose, let it all hang out, sky's the limit, but they're grounded by an ultraconservative sun. You should see the expression on my garlic.

Such is my current gardening lot in this weird weather, with almost no warm sunny days since that one we had last ... summer, I think it was. It's been chilly and cloudy, mostly March-like ever since March, and the vegetables, like myself, are puzzled-- insoucient, even. "Whatever happened to global warming?" imply my couchy potatoes. It's like a class full of grumpy teenagers out there. If it's not monkeys it's the weather. Coming up the road last night, about a couple hundred meters below my house I could feel my autothermal-layer gauge suddenly change from CSC (Comfortable Spring Chill) to SSS (Shivery Shades of Siberia).

To live on a mountainside is to invite edgy weather, but rows and rows of moody vegetables is another matter. I tell them it's out of my hands, but they don't want to hear it. I remember being like that myself when I was their age.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Koko Taylor: 1928-2009

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Spent a weekend day off wrangling with a more fully considered re-do of the two 20x4m nets I put up around the garden a few months ago, having during that earlier process come to more deeply understand the grasping nature and embrasive ambitions of finely meshed nets intended for monkeys and suchlike, into which category I unfortunately fall, especially when it gets windy like yesterday and the nets really like me and all my tools and boots and fingers and buttons and nose and teeth and hair, and for a few times there it was a distinct possibility that some passerby might have responded to dim muffled cries and found me wrapped up in my work and immobilized like a brigand simian should be, but I managed to beat the big wrap, since I'm still fast for my age. Given my lifestyle, in a decade or so I'll probably have to give up netting.

On a brighter note, I heard from Ronni Bennett a few days ago that she was having trouble with squirrels devouring her plants. In some ways, squirrels can be worse than monkeys, since the cute little puffytails can not only climb, they can chew through just about anything, like an attic wall, say, and would make short work of my new netting.

There's an old Japanese saying I just made up, that goes "Amidst a plague of monkeys, one envies a plague of squirrels." It might have had a shot at being an actual old saying, if squirrels were ever a topic here in Japan, but they aren't. It's just me rambling on the internet. I've never seen a squirrel around here, and I doubt if they'd get along with the monkeys any better than I do. Thus, in my unending state of abject monkification, I sneak some solace from the fact of Ronni Bennett and her squirrels. I thank the goodness of nature that I have no squirrels, as a gardener I delight in the fact. I am also glad that Ronni has no monkeys. We must find consolation and delight where we can amidst the horns of our dilemmas.

I look upon my netted garden and there are no cute little bushytails gnawing their way through my new hung nets! I smile.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009