Saturday, April 28, 2007


Thank you, Dennis Kucinich, for beginning the movement to Impeach Cheney (First). That's thinking ahead about the possibility of Bush actually being impeached, which could become a disaster if Cheney mobilized his brownshirts. Is there anyone in American politics more positive and optimistic than Dennis? To those who joke at his low poll ratings, have a little imagination. Actually, it doesn't even take imagination, but just a memory or knowledge of history. I remember when Bill Clinton was at approximately 3% in the polls, still in January of 1992. Prior to that, in the year perhaps most like the anti-establishment election year to come, "Jimmy Who" came out of nowhere to take the presidency. On the flip side, look how some candidates who were once far out in front, like Hollerin' Howard Dean, did.

Rudolf Guiliani has hinted darkly that he will orchestrate another 9-11 attack if the Democrats win. Clever idea, Rudi. But we know that you are more likely to do it if you win, following the lead of Putin and Bush.

I can't hear the name "McCain" without a little soundtrack starting up playing in my head. McCain's theme song, compliments of Eric Clapton(?), would go something like this:

If you wanna hang out, you've got to take him out, McCain
If you wanna get down, get more troops on the ground, McCain
She don't like, he don't like, we don't like, McCain
With his Bullshit Express, he's gonna make a mess, McCain
Though his day is done, he's still gotta run, McCain
He's on fire, won't retire, he's for hire, McCain
When the Bushies are gone, he wants their war to go on, McCain
With the microphones on, he sings "bomb, bomb Iran", McCain
He gets high, he gets fly, he gets by, McCain

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Your personal magnetism and attractiveness (to the mentally ill)

There are dozens of bloggable moments every day, but I haven't had the time to read the news or even use the internet much lately. Here is something from notes that I scribbled down on a paper around April 3 or so, I don't exactly remember. The recent events have changed the sense of the spring-is-when-the-crazies-come-out meme. Here is what I was going to write, anyway.

Instead of taking a subway, I prefer to walk the last stretch of my commute, and spend less time standing underground and more time walking through the city. One day I decided to take JR to Ueno and walk past Shinobazu Pond and through Tokyo University, eliminating the subway fare entirely. It turned out to be a good decision. There was a small bazaar set up along the south side of Shinobazu pond, where little tented booths were selling things like printed matter, magazines and the like, from the 1940s to 1970s, little religious objects such as small Buddhas that looked like they might have come from southeast Asia, unidentifiable knickknacks from the 1800s or whenever. The pond is a broad stretch of dessicated lotus blossoms, except where they have been cleared away, and attractive to birds. Cherry blossoms were emerging for the first time that day, just 5 or 10% out. I saw what looked like two Korean university students looking in a confused way at a map, as I got closer I could see that it was in Hangul and my guess was right. There are camps of homeless people under the trees, living there as discreetly as they can. Their address suddenly attracts thousands of people at this time of year, becoming prime real estate for cherry blossom viewing. I notice a trippy-looking fellow with wild wavy white hair strolling along very quickly in my direction, and I tried not to look at him as my built-in nutcase-detector glowed red somewhere inside my skull.

Suddenly he veers right and is in my face, gesturing wildly with both hands pointing stereophonically toward his ears and shouting about "LOS ANGELES" and "INPUT". That's a bit odd since I happen to be listening to Harry Shearer's Le Show from KCRW in Santa Monica, and he is in Los Angeles for this podcast, not in New Orleans or London where several of his recent shows have been recorded.

He goes on gesturing wildly and talking about Easy Rider, Peter Fonda, Robert Redford, Los Angeles, input, asking me about my religion, not accepting no religion, asking about my parent's religion, talking wildly in Japanese but not making alot of sense. I am listening thoughtfully, actually trying to follow what he is saying and give him one or two minutes of my time. His finger is a little too close to my face. Finally he says in Japanese something like, "Aw, I'm drunk!" and smiles a big crazy smile, which I return. We say "Gambatte" to each other and wave goodbye.

Later, that night, I tell my wife about it and she deadpans, "It's Spring." As if the emergence of lunatics at spring equinox were as natural as birds flying north, as if it explained everything. The unspoken assumption being that crazy people emerge from their concrete caves every year at this time. Apparently her office experiences the annual arrival of crazies off the street at this time, too.

I'm a magnet for crazy people. It doesn't matter if it is Los Angeles, Beijing, Varanasi, Songkhla. They will zoom in on me right away and start talking to me. I can also sense them coming. Takes one to know one? Maybe. Could be that opposites attract. I don't try to avoid them. It seems to be my fate to have to talk with them. Maybe I can do some good.

I am also not the only one to notice that crazy people are more likely than others to pick up on your thoughts. I read somewhere that it is common for people who work with mentally ill and institutionalized people to hear them shout out thoughts that are running through your head, words used in an argument at breakfast that morning, and other things, as if they are hearing voices in their heads -- from your head, like radios tuning in other people's thoughts. You can imagine why a person who has access to such a stream of thought might go crazy. The brain could not handle a stream of other people's real thoughts, often very ugly and disturbing, and in such quantities, any more than your digestive system could handle being force-fed foie gras, or your brain could handle having your eyelids taped open to watch A Clockwork Orange repeatedly. Or could it be the other way around, that the mental door that shuts out future memories and collective thoughts is thrown open when the person's mind begins to decline? It seems important to be able to shut out or turn off psychic sensitivity.

I think of a late afternoon, years ago, sitting down on a park bench in Beijing. A man who is already sitting at the next park bench proceeds to tell me every place I have been to all day. I conclude that this is the capital of China, I have done some unusual things with people who I have met while traveling, like borrowing bicycles and visiting the front gate of the palace at TienAnMen square at three o'clock in the morning (this was one year before the TienAnMen massacre) and gathering wild herbs, and there are enough people in China to assign one to follow around each tourist and see if they are really tourists or foreign agents, radioing ahead to the next government informer about what the foreigner has been up to. That was how I explained that incident to myself, but is the idea that the person just vibed what I had been doing a simpler explanation?

I had similar experiences in India, where strangers suddenly begin talking to me as if we had been talking all along. "Oh, you shouldn't feel that way about it. They had to do it, you know." I know the person is talking about the Gulf War, but feign ignorance. "What are you talking about?" They ignore what I say and go on. "They really had no choice, you know." I also want to know why the sadhus always looked happy to see me and wanted to share their charas with me. They can't do that with everyone, right? I wasn't in India long enough to figure that one out.

Japanese people are more aware of ki and spirits than are many other people, including Chinese, who should be qi masters, but the ability is distributed widely and evenly in Japan but concentrated in a few in China, as most don't believe and ignore it as the materialist Marxist philosophy has displaced traditional metaphysical belief structures. Look at the back of someone's head at the opposite end of a crowded train and see how many seconds it takes them to notice the ki if you want to test their sensitivity.

I also have had the experience of leaving a person's apartment, and several minutes later, as I walked down the street, sensing, almost hearing a whooshing sound at one point. I looked around to see what had happened. Had a streetlight suddenly burned out? Had a noisy machine, maybe a vending machine, suddenly stopped making noise? No. I took a few steps backwards and could see back in the distance, my friend on the balcony, watching me. The sudden cutoff of energy had been the loss of ki focus as I passed out of visual range.

Quantum entanglement is beginning to provide a theoretical framework that could explain some of these psychic synchronicities. Being unable to explain phenomena should not deter us from observing them and recording them. Phenomena such as lightning and auroras have only been explainable for a brief segment of human history, yet they were observed and noted, and hypotheses (myths) were put forth to attempt explanation.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Museums & other diversions

Some time ago I had opportunities to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the National Science Museum in Ueno, and to take a day trip to Choshi. I had never been to the National Science Museum here before, figuring Japan had more local history and culture to offer than universal science, but realize now that I was taking science for granted until an anti-science government came to power in the United States.

Here is a scene at B2 - the best floor of the National Science Museum. There is Lucy, some black guy strolling out of Africa to kick Lucy's australopithecine ass, looks like a homo sapiens to me, and a classic European caveman, maybe a Cro-Mag before he got dressed up for the ice age? Cellphone photography was very bad in the spotlight-lit exhibits of the museum. Halfway through touring exciting B2 I realized that this would be controversial in at least some parts of the United States. Like maybe Kansas, but let's not pin everything on them. Some prudish North American communities might not even allow the freely exhibited genitalia if the local Jesus militia outnumbers or outguns the museum supporters.

Since their beginnings some four billion years ago, life forms have become increasingly diverse due to the ongoing process of environmental adaptation. Evolution involves an endless cycle of emergence and extinction of different species. Human beings, part of the mammal group which flourished following the demise of the dinosaurs, have acquired highly developed adaptive capabilities, thanks to superior dexterity and powers of reasoning. This adaptive capacity has enabled humans to extend their reach to all corners of the Earth. In this exhibit, you can trace the evolutionary path and learn how plants and animals have adapted to the changing environment.
Yup, them there's fightin' words.

Seeing many dozens of extinct mammals there makes me feel we are all the same organism, increases my recent vegetarian tendencies, and makes it seem much more likely that humans are heading for the extinction file along with 99% of all species that have ever lived.

Speaking of museums, for some reason I found the blog Watashi to Tokyo, which also had an intense post about museums which are less suitable for elementary schoolchildren, such as the "International Hihokan Erotic Museum in Japan". Photos on Mari's flickr site here. Mari seems to have gotten a tattoo of her blog name -- but isn't Tokyo misspelled "Toko"? Should somebody tell her? Does she care? Is it worth being unable to enter Japanese hot springs? Or maybe a little makeup or something could work around that eventuality. Whatever. Fun blog, anyway.

April Chomsky Essay

Noam Chomsky wonders what Americans might think and do if Mexico and Canada had been invaded and occupied by a nuclear-armed superpower. I have conducted the same thought-experiment but I use China rather than Iran as the alternate history superpower since it is easier to imagine a timeline where China was able to invade. Chomsky wants Americans to put themselves in Iran's place and see the world (and American/Israeli threats) as it appears to them, in which acquiring nuclear defenses is a no-brainer. He manages to get in a plug for Failed States, which seems to have a lot of different covers, more overtly anti-American, outside of North America. That one looks almost like a rip-off of something I once did, but maybe theirs was first, or, if not, it's all open-source for a good cause.

Read What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico? at these sources:

Jesusland-Exxonmobil-GE-GM News on your iPod

Turned on CNN-J this morning and just like yesterday, the program was "What would Jesus do?" or something like that, if he were to walk the streets of Houston or Chicago today. It sounded uninteresting, but the host began asking if he would be a Republican supporter. That got my interest, and I listened for a minute or two more before I got terminally bored and switched to a more interesting broadcast on the weather channel. It reminds me that today is Easter, the day that Jesus allegedly rose from the dead, according to eyewitless reports filed within a few centuries after the event. It is pretty normal in Japan to see and talk with dead people at least once after they die, so that alone doesn't make much of an impression, I thought. Some other scattered reports have the Zombie Jesus then running off with former girlfriend Mary Magdelene to father a bloodline that includes European royalty. I haven't got the exact details on hand, offhand. Happy Easter, Christofascist Zombie Brigadiers. Have fun in the bunny costumes hunting for those eggs!

I recently subscribed to the various mainstream cashstream news media, that have finally discovered podcasting. For the first time in years, decades even, I have access to more than the CBS news, which has been on TBS, but which I rarely watch, and CNN and BBC of the satellite realm. I now download NBC and ABC news as well, although I haven't really watched these much, so it is probably a waste of bandwidth. Before deleting them I thought it would be useful to observe, examine, or inspect them a bit.

One immediate observation is that after these 30-minute programs are stripped of their advertisements, they are 17 to 21 minutes in length. In some cases, such as CNN Student News, the web/podcast edition is not based on any TV standard time slotting. In other cases, even after the commercials are removed, commercial messages remain irremovably embedded in the corporate news intro and outro video sequences. I include some examples of those here.

First, the NBC news video sequence at the end of the program features a shot of the Statue of Liberty, that national treasure which, like liberty itself, citizens and tourists are not permitted to enter. (I say let everybody in; if terrorists blow off her head, we make a new one, what's the big deal? The principle of liberty is being sacrificed in favor of the symbol of liberty. Since they closed it, the terrorists have won.) Anyway, as the camera slowly circles Lady Liberty she fades and is replaced by a shot of the GE headquarters in Manhattan. General Electric owns 80% of NBC Universal. (A nuclear power in its own rite, GE donated 1.1 million US$ to the George Bush election campaign while MSNBC partner Microsoft donated 2.4 million).

NBC news also has a GM Chevy ad that they couldn't get out for the podcast. It has one of those flashy subliminal things which causes a rippling effect on some words in the background, that occurs too quickly to be registered consciously, and if you freeze the frame, only a few letters of a word are visible at one time. It is such obvious mindjacking of the visual cortex that you cannot really call it subliminal, but although you know your head is being messed with, you can't quite make out the words they are imprinting.

Well, apparently the marketing department over at GM is concerned that the public perceives GM as lazy, ignorant, unreflective, stupid losers who are following the Japanese lead too slowly, because some of the words that they impose on us are HERO, CHAMPION, AMBITIOUS, VALIANT, REFLECTIVE, KNOWLEDGEABLE, LEAD, and IDOL. I don't really understand why they want to use the word IDOL to create a positive impression but what do I know about telehypnosis? I'm just an amateur. GM is my idol, though, my heroes. Wait, why did I say that? Shit, my fingers can't reach the delete key. WTF? But… I can still type! Buy Japanese! Toyota! Honda! Mazda! Anything! While you still have some free will left.

Another example is the CBS Evening News, owned by Westinghouse, yet another nuclear power. Don't be surprised if you begin to hear and see an increasing number of news reports espousing the wonders of nuclear energy as a carbon-free energy source. They must be closely tied up with ExxonMobil at the moment. You will be happy to know that Exxonmobil is "Taking on the world's toughest energy challenges". You should also know that that phrase is a copyrighted trademark and no one else is allowed to use that particular sequence of English words without permission or licensing.

One advantage of these podcasts is that some of them, ABC, for example, are broken into chapters so you can easily jump to the next chapter. When they do a quick montage of fast cuts, you can easily go back and try to see what they were throwing at you. (There, I said something positive.)

Still, I think I will stick with Democracy Now and a scattering splattering tattered smattering of other media a bit less mainstream and more independent than the TV news syndicates. One podcast I will continue to check out for educational purposes is the CNN Student News. They haven't had any Jesus segments yet, that I know of, but that's probably because I don't watch it, but they have had Christina Park on at least once. CNN-Time-Warner-AOL-whatever never looked better.

In another Jesusland-Talibanistan related story:
Wonkette-Time, Wonkette-Newsweek, Huffington Post, Mother Jones.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Safest Country in the World to be Murdered in

A British woman who lived in my city has been brutally murdered. Lindsay Ann Hawker lived in Funabashi with a Canadian and an Australian roommate. She worked at the private English-language school/syndicate Nova in neighboring Ichikawa. Her killer escaped police, and remains free. Japan Probe is reporting and aggregating the news reports of the case, including embedded videos of Japanese TV news reports, good for as long as the copyright holders don't pull the YouTube files. The case has some similarities to the Lucie Blackman tragedy of a few years ago, although Lucie was working illegally as a hostess and Lindsay was working legally as a teacher.

Some reports:
Times Online, March 27
Japan Today, March 28
Times Online, March 28 story
Times Online, March 29
Daily Mail, March 30
Japan Today, April 1
Japan Today, April 3
Daily Yomiuri, April 3

My condolences go out to her family. Lindsay was entirely innocent, and did nothing wrong and nothing more dangerous than most of us do in any year of our lives or trips abroad. By the way, despite living in Funabashi, I did not know her personally, never met her beyond possibly seeing her on a train, and haven't spent much time in Nishifuna other that once or twice in the past few years.

Although I have commented on the remarkable fact that trainloads of young women can safely walk home alone after midnight, nobody should think Japan is 100% safe. Extremely sick and increasingly bizarre crimes are reported at least weekly or monthly, quite often against children. For example, in the Lucie Blackman case, her murderer, Joji Obara, had videotaped himself raping around 200 women whom he had lured to his apartment; Lucie may have died under sedation.

It seems reasonable and practical in our everyday lives to assume that most people are basically benign. If we didn't think so, it would be difficult to even ride an elevator with a stranger. However, as a conservative assumption, one person out of a hundred is bad, evil, or criminally insane. Seeing a beautiful face, they fantasize about smashing it with a hammer. A lovely child will elicit thoughts of rape and murder. The pleasure most people derive from friends, lovers, conversation, books, food, wine, and other joys of life, some derive from sadistically incomprehensible cruelties. Why? They may have been deprived of love. They may feel powerless, and need to prove to themselves that they exist, by imparting pain to others, or taking others' lives. They may be a small but inescapable percentile of defectively formed psyches, or may be formed by some historical echoes of past suffering. I don't know the cause, but anyone who lives in a city or encounters more than 100 people a day can assume that they pass a sadistic sociopath, of the likes of the BTK killer or Dick Cheney, on a daily basis. Japan has its share of mental cases, even if rampant violent crime is kept down by the general prosperity, relative equality of income, values of social harmony and self-control, and unavailability of push-button-simple death-dispensers such as firearms.

Being a foreign woman in Japan will necessarily be a different experience that being a foreign man, although in both cases, being highly visible will draw attention, including the unwanted attention of crazies. Most people feel safer here than in the United States, although a few western women discussing this case have said that they feel safer in central London than in Japan.

There is no perfect defense against the criminally insane person who runs into a kindergarten or daycare and stabs as many children as possible because he wants to show the parents how absurd the world is where that is possible. You can't reason with the person, and begging for your life is as likely to turn him on or encourage him as it is to discourage him. Being a racial minority makes you a target for the unhinged person who may have internalized racist attitudes or paranoia. Also, the English language has too many irregular verbs. It's a strange cause to die for--but what isn't?

Postscript: International Murder Comparison: Japan shamed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
These stats would obviously often be different for expats than the local bumiputra population. An American has to be safer in Minnesota than in Saudi Arabia. Race and gender would interact with local racism and sexism, etc.

Update! 2007-04-04
Jason Gray has an amazing post on this topic, based on a personal experience!
Another blogger on the story: whereischristopher.

Another related story:
English school syndicate NOVA (employer of Lindsay Ann Hawker as mentioned above) has been ordered to refund the money they make by cheating customers. NOVA is well-known for exploiting the demand for English-language instruction in a business model that cheats students.

Top court rules Nova policy illegal
School must fully refund cancelers
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that major English school Nova Corp.'s method of settling early cancellations of its courses by using a higher unit price than when the contract was signed is illegal and violated the Specified Commercial Transaction Law.

The ruling followed a case brought by a 39-year-old man from Kita Ward, Tokyo, who tried to cancel a contract and demanded the company refund the 310,000 yen he said he was owed for classes he had not taken.

Presiding Justice Kohei Nasu ruled it is illegal to settle a contract by charging more for each unit taken than was agreed on when the contract was signed. He dismissed the appeal by Nova, and upheld and finalized the first and second rulings ordering the return of all the money demanded.

Monday, April 02, 2007

NYC streets paved, potholes filled with 9-11 victims' remains

According to a Reuters news story reported March 24, ashes and bone matter of victims of 9-11 were recycled into the streets of the city.

9/11 remains possibly used to pave roads
By Edith Honan
Sat Mar 24, 1:14 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Debris that may have contained bits of bone from victims of the World Trade Center attacks was used to fill potholes and pave city roads, according to court papers filed on Friday.
The charge was made in an affidavit filed in Manhattan federal court in an ongoing case filed in 2005 by family members of those killed in the attacks against the city. They say the city did not do enough to search for remains, denying victims a proper burial.
Eric Beck, a construction worker employed at the Fresh Kills landfill in the borough of Staten Island, where the rubble was taken after the Twin Towers fell, said in his affidavit that the process of sifting through the debris was rushed.
Beck said he saw sanitation workers removing small pieces of debris containing possible bone fragments and loading them "onto tractors, and using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts."
The WTC Families for Proper Burial, the group that filed the suit, has also battled the city over how to honor the 2,749 people who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers.
Some relatives of victims have opposed any effort to rebuild on Ground Zero, calling it sacred ground and saying it would disrespect those who perished there.
Construction of the planned memorial and skyscraper has repeatedly been delayed, in part due to concerns expressed by victims' families.
The remains of about 40 percent of the victims were never recovered, and hundreds of bone fragments have been discovered in and around Ground Zero in the last six months, the lawsuit says.
Great news for the Rudy "Adolf" Giuliani campaign. Amerika's mayor, a man who knows how to get things done. Rudey can't fail.