Friday, August 31, 2012


Traditionally, defining a blue moon can drive a conversation crazy. I remember a heavy-dictionary definition I read years ago: "Blue moon: the length of time between recurrences of an exceedingly rare phenomenon" (dictionaries really used to talk like that). The latest and simplest definition is that a blue moon is a second full moon within one month, which means that the next Blue Moon will be tonight (just about while this is posted; been a busy day), since there was a full moon on August 1. But his definition is controversial because it's just too simple and easy to remember for something heavenly. Those in etherea seem to think should be more like the definition of Easter or Thanksgiving, which were set up back when everybody knew all about the moon and the stars, which played a big part in their nightly lives.

As so often happens therefore, if you go back in history you spoil it, which I will now do. Because historically there are multiple definitions that by the time you try to figure them out the blue moon has long gone and you couldn't care less if the moon was blue or where the name came from, just give me a single malt and make it quick. 

An earlier definition holds that a blue moon is the fourth full moon in a season, when normally there would be only three, but you can see that this is pretty much the same as the two full moons in one month, which that older blue moon would have to be anyway so why not boil it down, I can't see why some spoilsport from back before there was electricity would have to muck everything up like that, when at night there was only familiar starlight and old friend moonlight, no harsh streetlights or crass neon and lots of old-fashioned time, with "up there" so important and a simple blue-moon definition right at hand; what's more, my glass is suddenly empty. 

Just to liven things up a bit, here's some more confusing moon data:  
Seven times in 19 years there are 13 full moons in a year. 

Anyway, tonight be sure to enjoy the blue moon that isn’t blue; how did that get here? 

Monday, August 27, 2012


I must say, I am impressed by  the Tromboncino, having had mixed success with pattypans, sunbursts, regular zukes, acorn, crookneck and other squashes (the monkey-resistant hard-skinned butternuts were good).

I was nonplussed by the among-others fact that the sunbursts and friends would just take off cross-country with no sign of vining, just plunge on through the garden undergrowth, loving travel but not stopping to produce and properly nourish their cute little vegefruits.

The butternut was a spreader and as climber, so it could get up there and use a lot of space, and it produced quietly all over the garden. I especially appreciated the fact that the squash was so hard Monkeys couldn't bite it so gave up on it, there were a lot of monkey bitemarks on our butternuts. The implicit frustration added to the savor.

Also, being the only planter of such things up here, I suspect there are bugs up in the treetops singing my location to their buddies flying by overhead, "Hey, there's non-sprayed peppers down here, cukes too, and tomatoes, zukes, you name it-- bring your family and friends!" So this is action central, especially since I'm doing it all organically, meaning the wildlife gets its varied vigs.

So upon learning that the Tromboncino stem was resistant to borers, I sent for some seeds and in my ignorance planted 2 hills, 4 to a hill, envisioning cute little Italianate tromboney squashes here and there, pretty much in fixed locations. Going was slow in the beginning, this not being the Mediterranean, but somehow it had escaped me that the Tromboncino is a climber; it showed no such inclination at first. It seemed rather to be a timid life form, plus it had heavy competition from all the sprouting (100%, seemed like) pumpkin seeds from the kitchen compost.

Before too long, though, the Big-T had overgrown and overshadowed the other paltry vegetative life forms with its huge, dark, milk-dotted leaves. With its cablevines and KingKong climbing power, its presentation of blossoms one after another in the first few weeks (but all male-- I was beginning to wonder if plants can be gay), I questioned whether all this splendor was going anywhere; but now in their nobility putting out female blossoms too, being perhaps a bit more laggard in this than other squash, but quickly catching up, and what growing power! They're already reaching out beyond the top of the 2-meter-high net fence where they're winding among the goya and outclassing the pumpkins; elsewhere they're snaking along among the netted cukes and staked tomatoes with their majestic leaves...

Now, the female blossoms are growing into long fruits that after a few days are already bigger than the standard zuke and seem to double every day or so; if they are allowed to hang down, they don't curl a la the archaic trombone; these noble creatures can grow to over a yard long, most of which length is seedless! I’m speechless in my garden, and in my kitchen, where the pale green beauties saute to a beautiful jade, they are delicious in taste and texture as well.

I bow to my noble nourishers, vowing to grow them again next year, yes. Definitely.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


How easy it is to let the time slip by as though you're 18 and have little to do with it. The older you get, the faster it glides, but with age comes perspective. So that if you've been paying some attention all these years, you can ignore the pace of time and focus more on its depths, where so many treasures are. 

Unless of course that all becomes moot because at the moment one happens to have a house full of preteen granddaughters, which pretty much lifts one out of time's inviting deeps into the broad and shining shallows of ultrayouth, which is where I've recently been spending time like a senior kid with the Trio of Brio, while their mother is visiting the US. Thus, I've been doing physical labor at a child's pace, which goes so sloooowly to me, but still sweatful, and going thence to Little Pine Beach to spend days or was it hours in the cool blue waters, or frolicking under the garden hose, spraying water up among the overhead leaves of the chestnut tree, or making a jacuzzi out of the wheelbarrow for entire afternoons and so forth, which is why I haven't thought too deeply about the rice harvest.

Then this morning as I was freewheeling down the mountain through the dawning sunlight, no breeze but that caused by my gliding quietly through the broad fields of nodding rice now almost a meter high, the tall, heavying rice heads now leaning over the tops of the string fences as though peeking into the road... My mind went freewheeling too, realizing that soon all this vigorous beauty will be cut to the ground and harvested, winnowed into big bags and sold or stored away for winter, as it has always been. But none of that mattered today, these green summer lives had been waiting all night for the morning sun and now it was here, and in the gift of that golden warmth the whole mountainside of rice grains began to live its day.

Thus into the warmed air issued a fragrance as rich as butter, rich as oils, the perfume of true wealth, essence worth more than all the rest: the fragrance of life itself living, a joy that filled the ready morning air with the contented sigh of an entire amber mountainside of rice being fully morningly alive; it was a joy that we alive are all familiar with: it was the joy of a fine occasion. It was a big mountain morning party, and I was a welcome guest.

Got me to the station, got me to the train, got me to the office, got me to work, but mainly stayed at the party. The lucky Brio Trio spent the whole day right in the middle of it. Maybe when they're older they’ll remember that day back then, when they were kids one summer and the morning air...

Friday, August 17, 2012


It's because I'm generally not lackadaisical that my experience with wild pigs is limited. However, because I've only seen one monkey in the last few months, my LI (Lackadaisicality Index) has plunged. You see at once how this all fits together. Monkeys keep me on my toes, LI-wise, and if you're on your toes in regard to monkeys, you're on stilts when it comes to wild pigs. If you're not thus on your toes, then you are a welcome mat for the porkers. That's my deep philosophical lesson of the week.

To begin not too long after the beginning: while making my breakfast tea this morning I looked out the big window in the kitchen and noticed that out in the garden, inside the high net fence, the large bucket of bokashi juice had fallen over. I knew I had not been so careless as to place it in such a way that it could be toppled by a strong wind. Anyway it was ¾ full, and heavy.  I also knew that monkeys would not have toppled it, because there was no reward in doing so, and monkeys do not do anything for nothing; they're almost as bad as Wall Street. I couldn't see any other signs of destruction out there, which also mitigated against monkeys. In rural shamus fashion I would check it out after breakfast, on my way to work.

As to my LI, I've been leaving the garden gate open lately because as I say I'd only seen one monkey in a long while, that one cowering behind a rice paddy downmountain; anyway the thieving beasts don't need gates unless they're infirm, and there aren't many infirm monkeys. A mother with clinging infant might opt for a gate rather than climb the high net, but that's another time of year. You can see I've got this all figured out. The deer take advantage of the open gate when there's Spring spinach to be had, but there's so much fresh wild food everywhere for deer to eat now that we don't even see deer any more, they haven't come into the garden in quite a while; no need for them to leave the forest. Couldn't be Littlefoot, he never leaves a mess. My LI was pretty well justified, if you ask me. So what had happened? What had I overlooked? Were my tromboncino now under threat? My cukes? My peppers and pumpkins? Tomatoes? Nobody bothers hot peppers or goyas, thank goodness...

When I got out there for a quick check it appeared that all was well, oddly enough; then when I reached the far end I saw that the soil of one entire corner, perhaps 6 square meters, had been deeply and violently ripped up. I'd seen this before, elsewhere: wild pigs after earthworms. Also, I had planted potatoes there last year. An irresistible combination to wild pigs deprived of the fresh rice growing all around them but out of reach behind electric fences - you can imagine the frustration - but fortunately Mr. Nice Guy of the declining LI was living nearby. The snouty beasts work at night, quietly, so I hadn't heard a sound. Didn't touch the nearby tomatoes and just missed some goya and cuke vines, though one cuke vine had to be listed as collateral damage; nothing else. Those big porky bodies had no problem shouldering that heavy bucket out of the way of fine dining.

This is the first time I've ever been invaded by wild pigs, but only because of my gradual LI reversal. There's a big lesson for the world somewhere in there, but there's no point in throwing pearls before politicians. For their part, the porkos probably broke up their garden party at dawn, but I bet they'll be back for more: tonight one garden corner, tomorrow you know what. My gate, for one, will be closed.

You've been warned. Metaphorically too.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


It's easy to forget a thing that isn't a book. Especially something that pretends to be a book. The other night I put my Kindle Fire - my large-paperback-sized notbook containing Joyce, Chekhov, Thoreau, Vonnegut, Tolstoy, Dick, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Fitzgerald, Hardy, Hemingway, you name them, and many other favorite authors' books - down beside the bathroom sink, and when I'd finished brushing my teeth beside all those literary icons I turned off the light and went upstairs to bed, where I was going to read, and forgot to take a whole library with me. We have much to get used to in the world that is coming.

I forgot my Kindle Fire because as I say it's not a book; my mind doesn't love it the way it loves a book, doesn't heft it or revere it like a book, and never will. My realback books, on the other hand, I have always guarded like my own skin and never left behind. I'd leave my bag behind sometimes, or even my wallet or glasses or car keys, but never my book. The book was always in my hand, where it was held dear. There was an umbilical aspect to our relationship.

When I use my notbook, even after several months I still can't fully digest the fact that there are hundreds of volumes in there, largely public domainers I used to have to pay for nonetheless, because they'd been "published" in hefty paperbacks that were in themselves an accomplishment of manufacture, but back then their cost gave them worldly value. In the notbook, a big thick book is the same as a little thin book; all you get is one silently sliding page at a time, though out of lifelong habit as my eye reads down the page my dutiful forefinger creeps up toward the corner to get ready to turn the page that - is not there - the finger nonetheless searching in space on its own, like an inchworm. Even after several months, my faithful finger refuses to abandon this lifelong occupation and slides up to the corner, to - oh, this isn't a real book, is it - the forlorn digit (big etymology there...) reminds me with its sudden unemployment. Moreover, I don't close the device, I turn it off. You don't turn a book off! And how do you console an unemployed finger?

Nothing like book2notbook has ever happened to humans before. When we went from scroll to Gutenberg we didn't have any trouble remembering the book; we didn't forget the book because it wasn't a scroll. Nor did early scrollers-to-booksters try to unroll their book to open it, or try to roll it up when they finished, they just closed it. They slipped easily into the book groove, their forefingers happy with their new job; there were none of the surprises that await me at every nonturn with my notbook, unlearning things I never thought I knew, like my forefinger, or the entire me, unnecessarily rolling over in bed to comfortably read the next page.

Now I can read in complete darkness! Or turn up/down the page brightness! These are not book inherencies. The digital book has brought with it a whole new set of concepts I've had to open up to for the first time: how, for example, take possessive delight in a masterpiece in digital form? I still can't. A file is not a book, insists my old mind, even as I read; I don't feel the visceral connection of true possession. When it's only numbers, there's just something digital about it.

The bookmind has other problems, some of which may fade as I advance into this new and deweydecimalless life, carrying my library in one hand. For example, Great Gatsby and War and Peace now have the same heft. Also, the fact that I am devouring Ulysses is unobservable by others. How can I impress an interesting lady at the cafe by browsing an invisible Tropic of Cancer? Scorsese's cinema masterpiece After Hours could never have developed if the main character had been reading a Kindle. That feeling of weighty accomplishment under way is gone too, as is that deep sense of reward implicit in the heft of what is being portioned deliciously into my mind, of feeling how much has been read and how much remains to be read by the relative volumes of pages; priceless measures of effort and gain to the veteran reader. But no more.

So what happens from here? Digitally, so much is now out of the question. Terabytes of zeros and ones just ain't got it. Spacial and voluminous reality will always matter, at least until we ourselves become digital; but in my present form, how backbreakingly heavy are the many hundreds if not thousands of actual books on my shelves and in boxes stacked upstairs that I dare not open or I'll be absorbed for hours, dare not move or I'll be in pain. Fact is, they're getting to be a burden by comparison: how crude, to be lifting and moving those chunks of increasingly dead weight around for the rest of my life...

Yet I can't forget them, unlike the entire canon by the bathroom sink.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


submitted  ago by grooviekenn
Background: I grew up in Japan and have been living in the US for the past 15+ years. My grandmother passed away in May and so I returned to Japan after being away for many years. Here is a quick list I compiled of things that I will miss about Japan when I go back to the States tomorrow.

Monday, August 06, 2012


Soon I will be another grandfather, when my daughter Kasumi brings her second baby into the world, a brother or sister for Kaya. In the same way that one is a new father for each of one's own children, one is a new grandfather for each new grandchild.  Another grandfather is a remarkable thing to be, as anyone knows who's ever been one; it's a special experience never twice the same, like being an elephant now and then, or a giant redwood, or a choo-choo train, mountain, horsey or pogo stick, as required, and on through the endless list you now have time for.

It's not being full-time responsibly busy on all fronts, the way parenting was; now is when you get your chance at being that more flexible ancient continuous one we all are, layered over with being whatever you can muster up right now from the mythology: sort of post-graduate parenting. Being another grandfather is a newer thing than I expected. (And what if it's a boy?)

Still, it's not as though you have to learn how to be another grandfather; if you've managed to remain genuine, and still contain the magical savor of your own childhood and parenthood (you find that out with your first grandchild), then every subsequent grandfathering should come as naturally as holding a new hand.  One is already familiar with grandfathering, and whatever you give in that capacity is returned in more than full measure.

One evening recently I was walking with 2-year-old Kaya in the light of sunset, when she pointed to the western sky and shouted: "Pink!" while jumping up and down. I hadn't looked at the sunset in that full-eyed, amazing-discovery way for 60 years and there it was again, fresh as the first time, because I was holding a new hand.


[Wrote this way back then (2003) but never posted it, because Kasumi had twins(!) girls(!) and it got lost in the ensument... Came across it putting the book (Monkeys & Onions) together... RB]

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Why genetically engineered food is dangerous:
New report by genetic engineers

One of the report's authors, Dr Michael Antoniou of King's College London School of Medicine in the UK, uses genetic engineering for medical applications but warns against its use in developing crops for human food and animal feed.
Dr Antoniou said: "GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger.
I felt what was needed was a collation of the evidence that addresses the technology from a scientific point of view.
Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world’s food needs."

Another author of the report, Dr John Fagan, is a former genetic engineer who in 1994 returned to the National Institutes of Health $614,000 in grant money due to concerns about the safety and ethics of the technology. He subsequently founded a GMO testing company.
Dr Fagan said: "Crop genetic engineering as practiced today is a crude, imprecise, and outmoded technology. It can create unexpected toxins or allergens in foods and affect their nutritional value. Recent advances point to better ways of using our knowledge of genomics to improve food crops, that do not involve GM.
Over 75% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide. This has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant superweeds and has resulted in massively increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Epidemiological studies suggest a link between herbicide use and birth defects and cancer.
These findings fundamentally challenge the utility and safety of GM crops, but the biotech industry uses its influence to block research by independent scientists and uses its powerful PR machine to discredit independent scientists whose findings challenge this approach."

The third author of the report, Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source, said, "The GM industry is trying to change our food supply in far-reaching and potentially dangerous ways. We all need to inform ourselves about what is going on and ensure that we – not biotechnology companies – keep control of our food system and crop seeds.
We hope our report will contribute to a broader understanding of GM crops and the sustainable alternatives that are already working successfully for farmers and communities."
Full article and links at Earth Open Source