Tuesday, March 31, 2020


No rain,
But the clouds are daring you
To make plans.

On the turntable:  24-7 Spyz, "Harder than You"

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Stuff from an Old Notebook #1

- Sleeping in the sun is a spiritual experience.

-As I've nearly always been self-employed, I have plenty of time to explore the things that interest me.  I often feel that I am living a child’s life, with a salary.

-It is harder to unlearn than to learn.

-Is food related to language?

-Anger as ultimate expression of Ego; “I’m right, you must be wrong.”

-Assorted Teas / A Sordid Tease

-The Japanese are by nature sentimental, and I find myself quite at home with Japan’s sentimentality.

On the turntable: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, ":  A Night in Tunisia"

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stuff from an Old Notebook (Prologue)

Inspired I guess by Chatwin and Kerouac, I've been a carrying around a Moleskine notebook for 16 years or so.  I recently began to go through them, reminiscing as I looked over the entries.  Poems, travel fragments, random thoughts and ideas.  Notes from yoga seminars, Buddhist lectures, martial arts workshops. Addresses and phone numbers, recipes and lists, hand-drawn maps and directions.  Not to mention the names of books and albums, places and films, all presumably recommended by someone I was sitting across from at the time. There was even a signed 'receipt' from an former landlady.  

Although in more recent years I've 'upgraded' to the more convenient voice recorder on my iPhone, the old tattered Moleskines have been a true record of a large part of my life.  I appreciated this nostalgic walk through my own history.  

While a large majority of the entries have already found their way here to this blog, for a number of months I'll jot a few items down, as means of archiving.  Older poems will appear intermittently, beside the new.     

On the turntable:  The Dave Brubeck Quartet,  "At Carnegie Hall"

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Papers: Murakami Haruki

"Memory can give warmth to time."

 On the turntable:  Cal Tjader, "Bamboléate" 

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Trash bags lined up 
Along the streets like yellow chicks,
rain beading on their skin

On the turntable:  Enrico Caruso, "Artists of the Century"

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Reproductive Structures

Reproductive structure - the parts of a plant involved in its reproduction.

Ume -- foreplay
Full Spring -- orgasm

On the turntable: Marvin Gaye,  "Trouble Man"


Monday, March 16, 2020


Old man in a white mask
Covers his mouth
When he coughs.

On the turntable:  Bee Gees, "Mythology"

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday papers: Big Juice (& Yuriko Kotani)

"The queue for the bar is like human jazz. It’s unpredictable and hard to access."

On the turntable:  Grateful Dead, "Dead Set"

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Shonan Jinja (Singapore)

Thanks to the good folks at Green Shinto for excerpting from my Shonan Jinja piece, which can be found here.

On the turntable:Charles Aznavour,  ‎"Duos"

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Walking the Kumano Kodo

Thank you to Kyoto Journal for excerpting from my Kumano journals.  Follow the link here.   

On the turntable: The Allman Brothers, "1973.12.31, Cow Palace"

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Sunday Papers: Gary Snyder

"English became an international language only by virtue of British and American adventurism. (English is a rich midden-heap of semi-composted vocabularies further confused by the defeat at the hands of the Normans—a genuine creolized tongue that lucked out in becoming the second language to the world.)"

On the turntable: Level 42,  "World Machine"

Thursday, March 05, 2020



Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” 

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”'  

Maybe this virus will lead to some positive outcomes:
-Maybe the environment will improve, as the toxic air quality over China has already cleared with the slowing of industrial production;
-Maybe animal lives will improve, as China has already banned the consumption of live animals;
-Maybe people will reexamine unnecessary travel, as the banning of flights has already led to less fluorocarbons in the atmosphere;
-Maybe overall hygiene will improve, as people fearfully scrub and scrub;
-Maybe the bumbling Japanese government will be pressured to resign;
-Maybe American voters will oust Trump, whose reaction to this crisis will be ham-fisted and disastrous;
-Maybe this same lack of American medical preparedness will lead to better health-care overall;
-Maybe the growing distrust and unrest within China will lead to large-scale political changes;


The Groundhogs, "BBC Radio One Live"



Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Light of the South

The first thing I saw when I arrived at the MacRitchie carpark was a group of Falun Gong-sters trying to levitate a tree.  A half-dozen or so were walking clockwise around it in the heel-toe steps of the Bagua practitioner, right arms extended toward the trunk. 

At least this time energy was being projected upward.  On the day of our previous attempt at finding Shonan Jinja, it had poured rain, a dense tropical rain that in the old films spells disaster.  Prudence made us call the whole thing off.  But in the intervening few years, the old lost shrine had haunted us somehow, as if the spirits of the place wouldn't leave us alone. Chris sought out GPS coordinates, I followed bloggers who had either had or had not found the place.   Finally, we both happened to be in Singapore at the same time, and with the weather clear, we laced up our boots. 

I knew Chris from the Japan mountaineering community, and this excursion into dense jungle was a far cry from the rocky spires of Japan's middle reaches.  I joked to Chris that he could lead since I was anxious about cobras, he told me that was fine as he was more concerned with crocodiles.  Damn, I'd forgotten about those. 

MacRitchie Reservoir is one of Singapore's nicest green areas, out of the many that dot this garden-cum-city.  A well-groomed walking path led us around the reservoir's northern reaches, beneath a pleasant canopy that the signs told us was the lair of a vast number of birds as well as mischievous monkeys.  Just a few days after Chinese New Year, the trail was busy with walkers, mostly older couples doing their ablutions before the heat of the day found them.  In our boots and long trousers, we must have looked suspect among the T-shirt and running shorts crowd.

Luckily no one was around when we left the path and stepped into jungle.  It was a lot less dense than I'd expected, with the hint of a trail left behind by previous explorers.  That said, there were a fair number of fallen trees around which we had to navigate, not to mention vines thick with thorns that would have shredded clothing, not to mention skin.  One of the latter was an expressway for commuting ants, and the sight of thousands and thousands of them racing along brought out my inner Rider Haggard. 

As we'd read that some bloggers had needed a handful of visits to find the place, Chris and I had anticipated that we'd be in for some tricky navigation.  But surprisingly the route puzzled us only a few times, and happily both of us were too polite to step up and play alpha male.  We'd instead patiently confer over where our respective GPS routes contradicted one another. 

Finally, we found a power station, its floor having collapsed to form a little lagoon.  The concrete walls appeared to be covered in spiral graffiti, but closer examination had it proved to be mold and water damage.  Odd pieces of concrete spread along the trail led us to the old shrine's chōzubachi water basin. We had arrived. 

It was the Tiger of Malaya, Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who first conceived of Shonan Jinja, to be built in order to commemorate the Japanese soldiers who died in Malaya during the remarkable 70 day dash to take Singapore, hyperbolically called the "Gibraltar of the East" by the British defenders. The design of the shrine was based on Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, but expectations were even greater, as in time it would be second only to Tokyo's Meiji Jingu, the centerpiece for a new city that would arise over the subsequent 30 or 50 years.   

Nearly ten thousand British and Australian POWs from the nearby internment camps of Changi, Sime Road and Adam Park were forced into labor, clearing a large portion of heavy jungle to build not only the shrine complex, but also a lengthy bridge akin to that found at Ise, and a flight of 94-step granite steps that led upward toward the gods.  There was also apparently a Christian Cross adjacent to the shrine, erected for the souls of the Allies killed in the fall of Singapore. History differs on whether the impetus for its construction came from a Japanese Colonel, or from the POWs themselves who balked at the building of the Japanese shrine unless they were allowed to construct their own memorial as well.  In any event, Shonan Jinja had a grand opening nine months later, on 15 February 1943, a year after the fall of Singapore.

The water basin was the only intact part of the shrine.  A trio of stone "doughnuts" were at each corner, indicating that a small structure had been built to provide shade for those who purified themselves before the climb to the honden further up the adjacent stone stairs.  These we found covered in vines and debris, though the surrounding network of roots had yet to displace the massive set of stone work that supported this upper level.  We moved along the jungle here, but found no trace of the network of buildings that had stood here.  Remarkable, since they had once covered an area of 1.9 square kilometers.      

There is some debate about who destroyed the shrine upon the Japanese surrender, either the British in a frenzy of revenge for the brutalities out at the POW camps, or the Japanese themselves as a means of preventing the allies from doing just that sort of desecration.  What is certain was that the locals would have made off with the scattered materials as they attempted to rebuild their kampong communities after the war.   Much later, even after those same kampong were replaced by modern Singapore's trademark HBD flats, the ruins of Shonan Jinja were declared a historic site by the National Heritage Board, though nothing has been done with them in the eighteen years since.   

Today, all that was left was the tangle of trees, a far cry from the typical cypress and camphor that tower over shrines on the Japanese mainland.  We made our way past the chōzubachi again to descend the steps down to the water.  A long sandō causeway had once led to the low wooden bridge.  We followed a concrete drainage awhile, but never did find any remnants of the old sandō (which later Googling revealed to have been to our left).  We bashed through jungle to get to the edge of the reservoir, looking for the remnants of the old bridge, namely the support posts that poked their heads above water in the photographs I'd seen online.  The posts proved elusive, as the most recent photos were a decade old, and it was high tide anyway.  Admittedly, we didn't look too long, as my mind was ever on crocs, Chris graciously letting me advance to draw them out.  

We retraced our steps out, the difference in light now tricking us into a few wrong turns.  When we were within ten meters or so of the park's proper walking trails, we could hear the voices of other walkers, one group going suddenly quiet as they heard us bashing about.  Chris joked that we'd now get really lost, and he proved prescient.  I was leery of the lateral path we took, over ground better suited to snakes.  Then we were through.

I for one was a sopping mess, the high humidity on the return not only soaking my clothes, but causing the sole of one of my relatively new shoes to peel away like a proverbial banana.  And sure enough, the monkeys then began to appear.   Thankfully my shoe had waited until we were out of the actual jungle to do so. I tied the flapping sole to the upper, which caused me a rolling gait that drew stares, coupled as it was with the rest of our admittedly disheveled state. And we pressed on, into the rising heat brought about by the omnipresent glare of the light of the south.  

(Chris's own take on the day provides an even greater look into the history of the shrine, accompanied by a series of historical photographs. )

On the turntable: Hoagy Carmichael, "The Jazz Craftsman "

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Sunday Papers: Woody Allen

"Art is like the intellectual's Catholicism, it's the promise of an afterlife, but of course, it's fake -- you're only doing it because you want to do it."  

On the turntable: Depeche Mode, "Music for the Masses"