Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Ghostwriter

A couple of months ago a family moved into the long vacant house next door to where I live. They will be renting the place for just a few more months while their own home in the tony Beverly Hills (not the official name) section of Temple Valley is being renovated. 

When they first arrived in the neighborhood, everyone noticed that the man of the house (i.e. the father and husband) was nowhere to be seen. Rumor quickly spread up and down the sloping street that he was a writer of some note, holed up in a corner room, pounding out the  final chapter of his latest and perhaps greatest novel to date. He is reported to leave the house only late in the evening when he roams the empty lanes and peers contemplatively into the light of the moon through a thin veil of exhaled cigarette smoke.  

Last week I discovered something even more surprising about our neighborhood writer in residence via a mutual acquaintance. He in fact died over a decade ago - but the rumor lives on.

Related post: The Stranger

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sailor Suit

Eight American sailors have filed a lawsuit in US federal court against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), operator of the crippled nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture. The plaintiffs were among thousands of US servicemen and women sent to lend Japan a helping hand in the wake of the devastating March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The eight claim the public utility as well as its current owner, the Japanese government, "misrepresented radiation levels" and wittingly led them into harm's way. 

Some call the suit frivolous, but if TEPCO or its owner did in fact withhold vital safety information, I would think that would be enough to put the sailors on solid legal ground. If brought to court the case could also prove or disprove the swarm of circulating conspiracy theories that the US government has worked in the shadows with the Japanese government and nuclear industry to keep the dangers of the Fukushima nuclear disaster hidden from public view. A win for TEPCO might also result in putting a damper on any further similar litigation.

Although the health risks posed by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe may be a subject of debate, the financial impact is indisputable and growing. One thing for sure is that any monetary burden resulting from this lawsuit will fall mainly on the shoulders of those who call this archipelago home. Now while Japan may be an island, the global economy, of which it is an integral piece, is not. The economic strain the Fukushima nuclear disaster has put on Japan has in turn become a heavier weight on the world than anyone would like to bear. The truth is when it comes to navigating the problems of nuclear power, we are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Behind the Stamp

The inspiration for the background painted on The Temple Valley Time's finely crafted holiday greeting came from a Christmas stamp I found in my stationery draw. The creative process involved carefully measuring out the size of the stamp and painting a wintry scene around a blank rectangular space. I then scanned the final picture on my computer and printed out a dozen or so postcards addressed to the dozen or so people across the globe I hoped would be delighted to receive them. 

Grabbing the single stamp that served as the anchor for the whole project, I headed out to the biggest post office in town to get eleven or so more stamps. Standing on line, I imagined how clever all my friends and family would think I was after searching for and finally spying the stamp hidden in the postcard’s picture. The anticipation of getting the cards in the mail continued to mount as I approached the front of the line.

Finally standing face to face with the counter clerk I offered him the stamp in my hand and uttered, “I’d like twelve of these please.” As he perused the cute little postage sticker, a curious frown crawled across his lips. Slowly shaking his head he replied, “I’m sorry these are last year’s stamps. We have a new design this year.” 

The words fell like a sword cutting me off at the knees. “GEEZUS, what am I supposed to do now,” I cried out as I shot the bewildered clerk a dirty look. After all I had tailor-made the cards for that exact stamp no other would do. Panic-stricken, I fled the building as quick as I could in a desperate search for the last of last year's elusive Xmas stamps. 

I combed the streets, stopping at the bigger branch offices first but didn't have a lick of luck. At the end of my rope, I finally entered the tiny branch office serving Temple Valley and there, before my eyes, was an entire rack just full of last year’s stamps. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. It was miraculous.

Related post: In the Cards

A Further Note: Behind the Post Office Counter
                                                        (@ Japan Today)

Monday, December 24, 2012

In the Cards

This Xmas card was inspired by the efuto, or picture envelopes, of Shniya Nishida. The mail art created by Nishida all incorporate the stamp into the illustration penned on the envelope as does this postcard pictured here. Can you spot the stamp above (hint: it's the nicest part of the picture). 

While Christmas is getting bigger and bigger in Japan, the holiday hasn't yet been declared a national holiday. This year however it almost was. That's because the emperor's birthday, which is a national holiday, fell on Sunday, December 23. When a national holiday occurs on a Sunday, the following Monday is celebrated as a national holiday too (for no particular reason). That means this year Christmas Eve happens to be a national holiday. Here's to happy holidays for everyone - it's in the cards. 

Related posts: Behind the Stamp 
               Never Forget

Friday, December 21, 2012

Parfait Perfect

Photo by pinguino via Wikipedia

A conversation overheard:

A: I just remembered the world is going to end today, you know, according to the Mayan calendar.

B: That's right. I'm so glad I had that chocolate parfait this morning! 

Here was somebody living a life without regrets. It sounded like the perfect way to go, whether you're ending an era (that's a Baktun if your Mayan) or beginning a new one. 

Mario Iztep tells ABC news, that this December twenty first is both the end and the beginning. Director of the Guatamala City-based think-tank,Indigenous Observatory,Iztep says that "in the Mayan [view of the cosmos], there is no end of the world." As a matter of fact Iztep is looking forward to a bright new Baktun. He told ABC that he hopes the upcoming fourteenth Baktun will be "an era in which we eliminate poverty and racism." That's something nobody could regret.

Here's to a future that's parfait perfect!

Further reading: Bolivia's Morales Calls for New Era of Peace and Unity

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Take Back the Seat!"

Perhaps a pictogram of a blovated politico
should be added to JR East's priority seating sign 

Today is Election Day in Japan and many pundits here have predicted results that will put (insert adjective of your choice here) __________ conservative Liberal Democratic Party candidate Shinzo Abe at Japan's helm. Earlier this week Abe was spotted using the bullet train while out stumping the campaign trail. The candidate had East Japan Railway, the company that runs the train, hold a seat on an unreserved coach and not everybody was happy with the extra courtesy extended to the politician. 

One elderly passenger who boarded the train ahead of the candidate only to find the empty seat off limits was particularly maddened by the incident. When the rider voiced his dissatisfaction over the special treatment reserved for the politician, the candidate supposedly apologized for inconveniencing the man but remained basically unmoved in his position. 

During their journey together, the irate passenger persisted in complaining to Abe who was very much within earshot of the gentleman. In response, Abe was reported to have used his outside voice to clarify his apology, vehemently declaring, “I TOLD YOU I WAS SORRY!” The chance encounter with the citizenry obviously tuckered out the former and now once again would-be prime minister. After defending his seat, he promptly shut his eyes and fell into a deep (perhaps feigned)sleep, in a further indication of what kind of track the country may be on.

About the title: "Take Back the Seat!" is a take on the Liberal Democratic Party's current campaign slogan, "Take Back the Country." Abe's train incident has now given rise to a new "Take Back the Seat" Internet meme.