Sunday, December 5, 2021
Thursday, November 25, 2021
This Thanksgiving I want to send a shout out to the one guy in a city of 13 million who was willing to give me a shot.
If writing a book is like climbing a mountain, then marketing one is like taking on Everest. Marketing one in a country where hardly anyone speaks or reads your language is like taking on Everest with no oxygen. And no clothes. Hungover.
The goal was to convince one of the bigger booksellers in Tokyo to let me hold a book signing in one of their stores. So I started calling around.
“Sorry, we don’t do that kind of thing,” said the first person I spoke to once they’d deciphered my Japanese. “We don’t have many foreign customers,” said another. Someone from one of Japan’s largest and best-known chains told me to call back once I was famous – assuring that I wouldn’t.
I put down the phone. This shit was going nowhere.
Monday, November 15, 2021
I heard once that the French don't care what you do as long as you pronounce it correctly. I don't know how far one can push that idea without garnering some major embarrassment if not a night in Jail du Nord. I do know that my French sucks, so they probably don't want me saying much of anything. After a certain episode in Nice in 1992 they haven't really wanted me there at all.
The Japanese have words for things that in other languages take half a day to explain. But I'm not sure they have a word for what I've been up to recently. Until the other day I didn't think anyone had a word for it. Then I discovered the Swedish term "plogging".
Monday, May 3, 2021
Mark Twain's aversion to describing anything in simple terms seems to have been so severe one might be forgiven for believing the simple act of writing a trite phrase on a piece of paper would cause him to break out in hives.
Consider this line from "Roughing It", a 500-page account of his time in the American west during the mid-nineteenth-century Gold Rush:
“The men who murdered Virginia's original twenty-six cemetery-occupants were never punished."
Cemetery occupants?! If I ever find opportunity to use a phrase of Twain's in conversation I totally want it to be that one. I may get my teeth knocked out for it but I'm absolutely sure it will be worth it.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Shinto, Japan’s ancient indigenous religion, is wrapped in mystery. There are no sacred scriptures or writings. There exists no central authority. There is little, if any, evidence of the origins of their rituals and beliefs. No one knows for sure how many kami there are in the Shinto pantheon; gods inhabit all manner of Nature, from rocks and trees to mountains and oceans. The Shinto priests recite age-old prayers in a language barely resembling Japanese. I don't think they even know what they are saying.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Sunday, December 15, 2019
|Shiojiri, north of the Kiso Valley.
|The Kiso Valley
Monday, May 27, 2019
Online Job-Hunting in Japan
Monday, February 8, 2016
and snacks on a pile of ancient dirt.
It's usually just a few minutes' walk from the creek where we park and through the tree-covered slopes up to the top of this oversized hill. On this day it took a bit longer with all the snow that still prevails on the northern side but for the kids, who already have little sense of time, how long it takes is irrelevant. Only the fun factor matters. At least until the frostbite sets in.
We'd been here before, in the spring, when the west-facing half of the hill becomes a pink and white blanket of cherry blossoms. Then too I'd tried to impress my kids with the fact that the top of this big hill is actually a burial mound dating back to the 3rd Century. They didn't care then, and they didn't care now - particularly my daughter, who thinks anything that happened anytime in her four years of existence was 'yesterday'. That none of us will be here in another century is equally unimpressive.
And that's cool.
I'm just happy they like it out here enough to forget all about the kitchen table.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Answer: Tell them you want to spend $5 billion on a train that goes really fast.
Indonesia, as the fourth most populous nation in the world, is bound to have a few clever characters hanging around. And one of them, we find, has been stringing China and Japan along for months with talk of wanting to build a high-speed railway linking Jakarta and Bandung. China and Japan, blinded by the amount of cash to be made - mainly by the politicians bucking for the deal - have been going totally ga-ga over the idea.
It's a scientific fact that you can't think straight when you are going totally ga-ga.