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small yellow square One night in Japan I spent in the shrine village of Nikko at a little hotel called the "Pension Turtle". It had a small bath heated with naturally hot spring-water and the most delicious fruit <1> with breakfast the next morning, when it was raining. But the sun eventually came out, and I walked among the lavish temples & shrines clustered in an ancient cedar forest at the edge of Nikko. The major structure is the Toshugu Shrine, the mausoleum where Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried - the first Shogun. Words fail.

small purple square Just back from a short evening bike-ride, up el Camino <2> to Tower Records. Only mission, to acquire this week's free 'rag' for the showtimes - around these parts it's the "Metro". (I always turn to the very back first, to read "Life In Hell" and "The Straight Dope".) Riding along through the golden glow of the summer California sunset, I pass office buildings and small strip malls, while two lanes of traffic slide along beside me. Three observations:

  • This store nearby specializes in Grandfather clocks. Instead of riding by this time I went up & peered in, beyond the "Closed" sign. Mohr wall clocks. Seiko grandfather clocks. Pendula all slowly swinging. What an odd, archaic piece of useless, frivolous furniture. Still there's a market... I recall streets full of cuckoo-clock shops in the Black Forest. These are two strange clock-forms which persist - and the clever mechanism can be mesmerizing.
  • As I unlocked my bike from the tree I use at Tower, putting on my trouser clips and attaching the magazine to the rack, one of those indeterminate beige sedans pulled in to the empty parking space adjacent. And then just sat there, and sat there - and I could here the driver belch every few moments, through the open window. As I mounted my machine and rode away, I looked back and could see only rolls of flab shoved up against the car's steering wheel.
  • A policeman with a german shepherd, two bulky black youths with their arms outstretched, standing very still, and another patrolcar pulling into the Big & Tall Men's Shop parking lot.

small gray square from "The Week/The Spin" in today's Slate:

Afghanistan's Muslim government announced that police will destroy all televisions and VCRs within 15 days. The government has also banned audiotapes and other entertainment media. An official explained that television and video are "the cause of corruption." Human rights activists called it the world's harshest ban on information. The good news: The government hasn't banned Internet access. The bad news: That's because nobody in Afghanistan has it.
I subscribe to the White Dot 'zine and am generally anti-television, but this action seems a little severe to me. Still, don't be surprised by the sudden Afghani intellectual renaissance.

small red square Also from Slate, the end of a letter in response to themes discussed back in late June:

I believe a Haitian proverb properly sums up the entire work/welfare debate:

"If work were good for you, the rich would leave none for the poor."

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<1>I think it was "kaki", a kind of persimmon

<2> the boulevard a block from my apartment