Sunday, November 29, 2009


Late last Wednesday afternoon, as the slant of sundown turned the brown stubble of the rice paddy terraces into spikes of gold, it was time for the spontaneous annual family reunion of all the local crows, and it is a big family.

Usually flying solo or in twos or maybe distantly arranged threes, on this occasion there were hundreds of crows gathered together on the ground, walking here and there like at a human reunion picnic, flying in brief bursts of excitement only at the uplifting experience of meeting old friends, and if they could have brought such potluck items as hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, beer, potato salad and deviled eggs, I bet they would have enjoyed those too.

For some reason, from among a whole mountainside of stepped paddies, as venue for the big event they chose only two paddies just across the road from our house (we couldn't help but notice), and until some time after sundown the place was filled with yawps of excitement, the young birds swaggering and chasing each other, the elders just hunkering on the edges of the paddies and gazing out into the air over the lake, much like at my own childhood family reunions long ago, when we kids would raise hell while the parents chatted and the old men sat and puffed their cigars, staring into the air at the memories there...

I couldn't help reading those things into the crows' actions, but they reminded me of my own memories... Maybe the big picture isn't all that different for crows, who seemed, at least on Wednesday, to have a sense of the past, a sentiment of destiny...

Friday, November 27, 2009


Meant to post on this later but in my yesterday hurry of busy, mistakenly published a brief memo and link for about 15 minutes before I realized it, unpublished but then got an appreciative note from Lisa who saw it on her RSS feed, so I'm putting it back up here unfinished just with the link, too busy at the moment to get satisfactorily back to this subject of "grass-eating/herbivore men" (soushoku danshi) and do it enough justice a la moi, in re some other perspectives I have on the matter that have been blending in my head, and other earlier related but untagged posts I have to search for rush rush rush so for the moment this is it...


"The six men on stage included a poet, a break dancer and a filmmaker. They pounded rhythms on the dhol drum, modeled fresh fashions, slathered whipped cream on bare skin and discussed their passion for community service.

This is the "Mr. Hyphen" contest, a faux pageant in the San Francisco Bay area aimed at redefining the image of Asian-American men beyond nerdy, sexless stereotypes."
--w/thanks to Lisa

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I was out on the sunny deck this morning drilling and inoculating the first of this year's new shiitake logs, and when I'd finished and was carrying the heavy logs two by two out back to lean against the stone wall where it's dimmer and damper than elsewhere, as I went about my work lugging and standing the logs where they'd stay for a couple of years or so till they began to fruit, an impressive committee of crows followed me back and forth, curious about my actions, cawcusing loudly overhead, observing and commenting the while on my behavior (crows are as judgmental as they are nosey).

Admittedly, my Crow is poor; I get to hear a lot of it up here where the native speakers hang out, and I've picked up a little over the years sort of by osmosis, so from all the ruckus I could piece together a few fragments, like “Look, the [featherless] creature has pieces of trees… it's moving [them] from one place to another place, why would it do that, when it could just leave the trees where they were? Besides, it just threw away some tasty [garbage]! Incomprehensible!”

Beneath the canopy of trees still bearing their leaves, the ruckus was aggressively loud, so I responded just as loudly (my spoken Crow is even poorer than my heard Crow, though, since I rarely get a chance to speak it in daily life; plus, I grew up hearing American Crow, which is pretty different, but I try. It is not commonly known that Japanese crow is one of the most difficult languages in the world): “And what the hell are you guys doing here, making so much noise, don't you have anything better to do? Besides, you hate mushrooms!”

The responses came racketing down: “What is it doing with pieces of trees? It must have to [work] like that for a [living]! Haw! Haw! Our [friends] tell us that it also goes off into the gray (philosophically, crows see everything in shades of black) city and works in [skyless] boxes up in the air, how does it stand that? What is a [salary]?” and so forth, all in the extremely limited Crow vocabulary-- basically one phonetic syllable with countless minute variations.

I asked why they didn't try to acquire an actual language like we humans have; they responded “Where did that get [your species]? Look at you, crawling around down there, never even come up here, working your life away for food when food is lying around [rotting] everywhere, and [for free]! Haw! Haw! You need a [house,] too! Our [house] is everything we see! You need a [wheeled vehicle] to go far! And you think we should change? You must be as crazy as you act!

I was way outnumbered, and this was going to be pretty much one-sided (crows never listen anyway), so when I finished up I went inside for lunch; the committee is still up there hanging around the house, laughing.

Bet they can’t blog, though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Since it's the first time it ever happened, I can't fully express the pleasure it gives me to see the Spending Review Committee sessions the new Minshuto government is holding as they investigate the worthiness of every last local regional and national spending program (as per the whaling program posted on below) and the public gets to watch the gravel-voiced bigwigs come in and try to defend their shadowy fiefdoms against young, intelligent and fully informed reps of the people asking pointed questions (How many amakudari do you have in your organization? How much did that highway cost? How many people a year visit your countryside tractor museum? How many equestrians use your village Horse Park?) It's a lot like I imagined actual democracy might be, if it's not an illusion after all. (Cynicism is a lot older than democracy.)

This is not the mocked lone wolf in the elected body trying to effect a smidgeon of democracy in the face of slavering jowls beside pork barrels; this is a new government actually trying to straighten things out, get things in the open, shed some light, identify the airheads, the conmen, the traitors to honesty, the black holes of integrity, guys who used to run the scams, put up bridges to nowhere, dam the valleys, pave the rivers, the guys who used to pull the strings, the guys with the daimyo houses and the limousines. Watching it in action, seeing public representatives peering into dark corners and asking hard questions in the public interest, is like scratching an itch so deep that it has never even been called an itch, let alone been scratched.

The Japanese people are historically used to an itch so chronic that it's more like a way of life, but now there are slimeballs actually sweating on TV, looking embarrassed at their now public dishonesty; there are godfathers grousing about fairness on camera in the lobbies. What a lesson this could be to other countries I could mention. Here's hoping the scratching doesn't end too soon; there's a lot more to this itch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coming home down the evening mountain, tired from heavy labors, in the dim light by the roadside I see a bareleafed persimmon tree, laden with bright orange globes like a year of morning suns-- Atop the toppest moves a silhouette of black crow, long beak dipping into soft orange lusciousness-- Ah, the food that colors are...

Saturday, November 21, 2009



As the new J government has been reviewing every budgetary nook and cranny for ingrained spending boondoggles, they have discovered that whaling is one of the doggliest, having basically been subsidized into zombie existence for decades now. Sordidly unsurprising details here.

"A major review of Japanese government spending could spell the end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Commissioned to cut wasteful programmes by Japan's new government, a review committee has proposed massive cuts in subsidies to a body which funds the so-called whaling research programme.

Without government subsidies, the whaling programme would be doomed."

A big hooray of that happens... Maybe they'll do it for tuna too, before they run out...

And all along the whalers have been saying that there was consumer demand...

Friday, November 20, 2009


"This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet the petroleum energy Humble supplies -- if converted into heat -- could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second!"
- From Life Magazine, Feb 2, 1962 -

Does that include stuff like the Exxon Valdez disaster?
(Humble + Standard = Exxon)

via Grist

"Overall, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels increased 29% between 2000 and 2008 and 41% from 1990-2008, and the current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now at its highest in at least 2 million years, according to a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


"When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of the parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn't too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."
--Great little essay on the joys, benefits and mysteries
of the glorious weed by, of all people, Carl Sagan - Mr. X

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


To fill in a bit about the previous post, in the everywhere photos of "The Bow," all you see is the low point, and from the worst perspective. When you see the entire 'performance,' from Obama's entrance to the finish, it happens quickly and gracefully, with details a blur. As mixed and awkward as it may be in its elements, however, it is elegantly executed overall, and there is no sense of submissiveness. Obama is in control (though spontaneously, not practicedly) of his part of the situation. America need not be upset, apart from the salaried media phobiacs.

Also, it should in fairness be noted that one can, in presumably less formal situations, shake hands while giving a shallow (20-30 degree) bow, though in the bowvideo I saw on tv here yesterday evening (the only one I've seen), as he approaches the Emperor Obama clearly intends to shake hands, then while doing so executes a deep, quick and rather unexpected bow, which is not as awkward looking as when frozen in the ubiquitous still shot.

In the press here, the main news point now, and primary reference to the whole affair, is the strange reaction of the conservative press in the US, that Obama has submitted to the Emperor and so on (Japanese Mortified by Obama's Bow, for example, when the reality is now more like the header of this post). Puzzled looks follow on the tv anchors' faces, as in Japan there is no commensurately gloating reaction to the bow; the general feeling is more like gratitude for the effort at cultural politeness, a characteristic alien to the mentally isolated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Americans, who lack general experience in bowing and curtsying, unlike folks who are subject to kings, emperors and whatnot, have a sort of ingrained antipathy toward self-humbling actions. Americans traditionally prefer the straightforward manly handshake, the ancient way of showing that one held no weapons, basically an expression of mutual distrust.

Thus the conservative outrage that Obama is bowing to the Japanese Emperor, on the imperial turf, no less, as though submitting to imperial authority. But it's clear that the outragers don't understand the true dimensions of bowing. Surprisingly, neither did Obama (who grew up in Hawaii where there is much Japanese tradition, or at least exposure to it), because in terms of bow language, the Obama effort - not being even in the bowing ballpark, so to speak - is essentially meaningless: a gibberbow.

Obama awkwardly bowing semi-deeply before the only slightly bowing emperor, while shaking the imperial hand in almost an upward direction, was seen on the news here but not too much; politely, it was not emphasized or dwelt upon. In other words, it was weird, but not offensive, as it might be if it were done by another Japanese or an Asian dignitary from a nation with a history of nobility. The Japanese, being such an intensely polite society, are old hands at forgiving the etiquette faults of foreigners (among the many cliches: soap in the bathwater, shoes in the house, chopsticks stuck in the rice, and on up the ladder of severity). Another mitigating factor is that the Japanese greatly admire Obama.

The unspoken puzzle that I'm sure is being privately pondered here, however, is why in the world Obama, a head of state who appears to be seriously fussy about the social niceties, didn't ask about and wasn't coached to the slightest extent on how to meet the Emperor: THAT is the big mystery. But from the Japanese perspective, it's part of the same big old mystery that the West has always been. Not to mention the vice-versaness of the situation.

What Obama should have done, if he wanted to bow, was to bow from the shoulders with hands held formally beside the thighs, as the Emperor is doing. Nixon, a practicing autoimperialist, got it right with Hirohito.

You have to admire Akihito though, who had clearly been expecting just a good old American handshake. He took the bizarre bowshake right in stride-- a real pro. When you’ve been bowed at as much as he has, you've seen it all.

w/thanks to Karen S. for the nudge...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


To be honest, I had never seen a happier mushroom. And that unexpectedly - as if anyone ever expected to see even a happy mushroom - but so it was. I hadn't been thinking of mushrooms at all, which is my normal state of mind, generally. I can go many days without thinking of mushrooms.

For example, I hadn't thought of mushrooms for about a week, I believe-- it's not easy to quantify mushroom-thoughtless durations-- then this morning I totally maxed out my mushroom thought quota by harvesting a few new shiitake that had emerged after the big rains of recent days (I tend to harvest them young before they grow too big and before monkeys, snails or other bugs can take advantage of my largesse). So much for mushroom mentation over the next few days, or so you'd think.

Then this afternoon I was just back from bucking some oak trees up mountain and was putting the chainsaw away, my lunch hunger growing by the minute, when I noticed an alien object atop the firewood stack nearest the tool shed. What could be forming that weird shape - in sort of an ET color - I went closer and saw that it was the biggest shiitake I have ever seen - though I expect there may be bigger ones down the line.

Last autumn I had spontaneously used one of the thinner Jumbo shiitake-inoculated logs I mentioned in an earlier post to hold down the plastic sheeting atop the firewood, and that one log had put its entire focus into sending up just one mushroom, which because of its odd location had not been noticed by insect, monkey or human, until I was the first to behold its magnificence. I ran off at once to get my camera to photograph this monster, since I had spazzed out on my previous Jumbo photo-op (as also indicated in said post), and as I was about to snap the photo I realized I had to put some object in there for scale, 'cause this thing was just too big, so I put in a cigarette lighter that I always carry for burning tree trimmings etc., but a bright red plastic cigarette lighter just seemed inappropriate, not to say garish and profane in the august presence of this Caesar of funguses, so I took off my glasses and put them on top of it, took the photograph and saw that the mushroom was quite handsome with my glasses on, they seemed to fit that noble countenance - in fact the mushroom seemed to be quite smiley now that he could see clearly.

His name is Max. He makes a peerless garlic-mushroom fettuccine.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Kyoto Journal #73 Now Out

Friday, November 13, 2009


Thursday, November 12, 2009


Hope is good, though not as good as potatoes. Anyway, I think I'm getting better at this. Yesterday morning I was doing something in the kitchen when I happened to look out the big window and saw, beyond the cord of firewood, the head of a monkey. In a familiar landscape, random monkey heads sort of jump out at you.

I instantly deduced that the monkey wasn't hanging out on the other side of the woodpile like a teenager at the mall, but was in the vegetable garden. I knew this because on the monkey head was a monkey face and on that face was a monkey mouth, and in that mouth was not a monkey potato, but a Brady potato. Monkeys are too dumb to grow potatoes.

At that point I ran out and threw a smartstone at the instantly distant monkeys. There were three I could see now, where they stopped to pause and look back upon their thieving past (to ponder and perhaps begin to repent their evil ways, turn upon a righteous path, now there's a laugh, though some of our species have allegedly managed to do it), two females and a troublesome youngster they were welcome to.

I went out to the garden to assess the damage and found that only one beast had gotten a potato; the others had been distracted by the leftover and finally reddened tomatoes I'd left hanging from the fence netting for just that purpose, and it had worked: two of the three brigands had opted for the right-there easy and old tomatoes, rather than the underground dirt-covered maybe potatoes, onions or carrots. That little margin of extra time and monkeybelly fullness, plus my increasingly acute sensitivity regarding simian proximity - I like to think of it as a sort of monkey radar - had enabled my prompt response in chasing them off.

As I watched them watching me from across the road, though, it occurred to me that although I might offhandedly think that monkeys are too stupid to grow potatoes, it may be that, since they can have my potatoes even when I'm home, they may in fact simply be not dumb enough to need to grow potatoes, and they know it. There's always that unsettling quality in their eyes, when they look back from a distance beyond reach of my mere stones, their cheeks stuffed with one of my big new potatoes.

The course of true evolution does not run smooth.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


U.S. Unemployment Rates (SGS: Shadow Govt Stats)

But why would the government lie? Aren't the people the government? Why would they lie to themselves? Either they're not the selves they think they are, or they're not the government they think they are... There seems to be a major fallacy in the framework, something the people don't want themselves to know... Wonder what it is...

In any case, now that Wall Street knows what it can get away with, better watch out below!


"Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), BP (BP), Total (TOT), Shell (RDS.A), Deutsche Bank (DB) and Societe Generale (SCGLY.PK) founded the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in 2000. ICE is an online commodities and futures marketplace. It is outside the US and operates free from the constraints of US laws. The exchange was set up to facilitate 'dark pool' trading in the commodities markets. Billions of dollars are being placed on oil futures contracts at the ICE and the beauty of this scam is that they NEVER take delivery, per se. They just ratchet up the price with leveraged speculation using your TARP money. This year alone they ratcheted up the global cost of oil from $40 to $80 per barrel."
--The Global Oil Scam


"I believe we have not begun to see a fraction of the damage inflicted on Western economies by the sociopathic, short-sited banksters and their control of government. Perhaps that is why we see so little rage. People really have no idea what is coming."
Richard B.


“Bloomberg reported: 'Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.' Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Living out here on a mountainside with a woodstove has taught me, among many other things, that firewood warms you not just twice, as the old saying goes, but a number of times: once for each day you work to earn the money to buy the land the wood grows on; once when you and at least five muscled friends carry the large cast-iron stove into the living room from the truck parked out on the road; once when you assemble and put up the intricate snake of stovepipe and link it way up there to the ceiling; once when you realize that creosote is running down the outside of the stovepipe because you assembled it upside-down; once when you take down the stovepipe, clean it off, reverse it and put it back up again; once when you come within a whisker of being mulched by a falling tree; once when you cut the tree into sections; once when you cut the sections into sections that fit the stove; once when you split the sections into firewood; once when you just miss your foot with the axe; once each time you learn that firewood knows where your toes are; once when you stack the firewood; once when you restack the firewood where it won't be buried under the next meter of snow; once each time you re-cover all the stacks every time the wind blows the covers off even with those huge rocks you put on them; once when you put those huge rocks on them; once when you finally build a woodshed; once when you carry an armful of wood through a howling snowstorm into the house at night without slipping on the ice or tripping over the cat; once when you at last burn the wood; once when with your clean pajamas on and holding a drawerful of ash you open the door into a high wind; once when you clean the stove at the end of the season; once when you take down and scrub out the stovepipe; once when you nearly fall off the roof while reaming the chimney soot down into a plastic bag taped to the bottom of the chimneypipe where it enters the living room ceiling; once when you go inside and find out that the plastic bag came off the chimney at the first ream; once when you clean up the soot all over the living room; once when you take the top of the stove off to replace the combustor because you've been burning green wood; once when you have a stovepipe fire; once when you have to pay for the new combustor; once when you finally pay for the stove; once when you see the spark burns in the carpet, and I'm sure there are lots more but before it gets dark I've got to go restack the firewood where the wind won't blow it over.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


A couple years ago I selected a number of good oak branches from among some fresh firewood oak trees I'd been given, and set them aside out in the garden under the chestnut tree until the annual late-autumn sale of shiitake spore. At spore time I went to the farm store where, in addition to standard shiitake spore, they were selling spore for a new shiitake I’d never heard of, called JUMBO shiitake. The photos looked impressive so I decided to give it a try; anyway I already had a lot of logs producing the standard shiitake.

By the time I got started, I had so many logs waiting under the chestnut tree it took me a while to get them all inoculated, plus the weather was on-and-offy, plus the old drill finally gave out after years of struggling against sheer oak and I had to get a new drill, then the spore-plug-sized drill bit broke and I had to go find another one right in the middle of log-drilling-bit-demand season, each delay extending the task (ideally, fresh cut logs should be inoculated asap, or at most within 6 weeks) while the logs waited on the ground. I finally wrapped up the JUMBO inoculation quite a bit over schedule.

Leaving the logs on the ground like that, like any old fallen-in-the-forest logs, was not a good idea - indeed in some mushroom quarters it would be considered log abuse - but I didn't know that at the time. In the next couple of years I learned, though, as I watched various fungal growths emerge from my now sullied logs. Despite the impressive fungal diversity, though, there were no signs of JUMBO shiitake-- not even minijumbo shiitake. I began to think that my mushroom ambitions had been crowded out by these fungal opportunists that do have their proper place in nature, which is anywhere far from the elite society of my select logs. I’m beginning to sound like the bad guy in a Capra movie.

In fact the fungal world put on quite a display using my logs - all at the speed of fungus - for my painful education: wild species of all descriptions I had not seen or noted before, that apparently were always lying in wait for innocent logs to come along; they were now partying big time. There were shelvy fungi and droopy fungi, hard liquescent ones and rubbery ones, even hairy fungi, some of them probably glowed in the dark too, even sang to each other in the evening… ah, but you get the drift of my mushrooming despair... Yes, not only would there be no JUMBO mushrooms for yours truly, there would be less than none, given the profusion of undesired species; what's more, it would take at least three years for me to find out for sure!

Thus it was on that early morning that I passed by without even wanting to look at the mongrel shiitake logs on my way to the compost heap - not that I was going to jump in or anything - things weren't that bad, I was just going to toss on some kitchen garbage - and I bumped into something at knee height that felt like the edge of a sofa. I looked down and saw that it wasn’t a sofa, it was a mushroom!

Altogether there were about 8 sofa edges in this first emergence. Apparently these babies, unlike their conventional relatives, are not much affected by mere intrusions of feral spore. Even only 8 of them was too much for us. We carried a couple over to some big-eating neighbors. I sliced a small one thin, as per one of my shroom recipes, and had it for a large lunch. Great flavor, pleasantly al dente as compared to the standard shiitake, plus did I say they're HUGE. Just picture the edge of a sofa. They were gone before I could get any photos, but next time...

So to get to my point, when I recently got some good Jumbo shiitake logs from my clearing work with Mr. H., while I'm waiting for the spore to get marketed I've stacked the logs carefully on the dry stone floor under the porch roof, off the ground and out of the rain.

Not that I've got anything against the wild side...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Letter from the grandgirls -
out from the paper tumble
tiny ice cream cone
tiny rose

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Life can turn an interesting corner when you least expect it. This morning I was getting dressed as usual when, for some reason only the deep mind could relate, from out of nowhere I began singing the old song "School Days," then at some point realized what I was singing - it was so chronically (to say nothing of locationally) out of place - and recalled during WWII, while my father was in the army in Europe, when my mother and I in our little apartment (me on the couch) sang ourselves to sleep at night by singing "School Days" together, and in those days (I was about 3 or 4) I just mimed the words. That was the only time I ever heard it, and where I learned it.

But here and now, after all these years, I paid attention, and looked the song up on Wikipedia (pretty sure it wouldn't have been in the old dead-tree Britannica) found out it had been written in 1907, before my mother was was born.

So although the song was known to her it must have been a hit in my great-grandmother's elderhood, because it was about an elderly couple recalling their school days, which must have been before the Civil War! (My G-G was born in 1852, so in 1907 she would have been about my age now). Things sure were different then:

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
[Only three subjects!]
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
[Liberal corporal punishment!
With a stick fashioned by the teacher!
Hickory! Heavy! Long-lasting!]
You were my queen in calico
[Calico was the standard for females!]
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
[No shoes was the standard for males!]
You wrote on my slate,
[No pencil or paper!]
"I Love You Joe"
[I always thought it was 'so']
When we were a couple o' kids.
[Back before the Civil War!]

So this elderly couple in 1907 are looking way back to their pre-Civil War childhood, when a bit of grade schooling was about it for most kids. And here I was now, at that elder age, in a room on a mountainside in Japan singing a song recollecting a time when Lincoln was just a lawyer and there were slaves, a song that my great-grandmother loved and probably taught to my mother as a child, who taught it to me as a child while we sang ourselves to sleep during another war...

And then, from about the same promontory of age as my great-grandmother when the song came out, from here on the other side of the world I hark back and segue effortlessly into the version of my own adolescence, School Days by Chuck Berry: "U-up in the mornin' and off to school..." No song to sing yourself to sleep with, but then we had transistor radios. Shoes and notebooks too, but love was still the same.

Monday, November 02, 2009


I love these autumny days of hingy weather when the sky puts on one cloud show after another, the whole big blue going all cumulo for a while, then getting horsetaily, then grayloomy then puffy again, and darkling as the winds rise and the rains go wild for a bit until the rainbow contests, when the leaves join in and start showing off too, all afternoon toward evening when the weather gets really ditzy, doesn't know which way to turn because its just so interesting being weather, you can do so much with heat and cold, watch this!, wind and calm, see that? rain and sun, whoa! which will it be, right to the minute so the wind is blowing now but it stopped raining - no wait, there's another rainbow - then it rains and is cloudy but no sunny and warm now cold and windy but calm at the moment and so on all the way into darkness but the sky doesn't sleep of course, for the sky it's 24 hours a day for eons