Thursday, March 17, 2011

My mind is cluttered, disturbed, boggled, full of sloshing debris like the tsunami wash. Many thoughts, observations just flooding through, eddying around.

I might attribute this condition to the anticipated SUPERMOON. Seems like every time a month goes by, there's another lunar anomaly to worry about. Closest in 18 years! But 18 years is nothing in the large scheme of things. I can remember 18 years ago, and I don't remember that moon.

Or it may be from watching news because there's so much of it right now, but never enough of the right kind. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him? Once in the evening was enough to calm us during the Cold War. But CNN, as sloshy as my mind, where newsmen not only report the news, but make it, interviews the husband of a New York Times reporter among four missing in Libya. He is, according to the CNN reporter, a "Reuter" bureau chief in New Delhi. Reuter? It's Reuters, people. (Although someone named Reuter did found the company.)

Anyway, that bureau chief says of his wife, who has been indulging in some sort of humanitarian aid in Libya, "She has to come home, we've got to have kids." In times of nuclear ambiguity, overwhelming natural disaster and war on several fronts, that's the first thing I always think of!

And then, later, a beautiful woman, not Mr. Reuter's wife, loses the feed to a correspondent and says, "I hate when that happens." Would Cronkite ever have said that? Or something like another reporter, somewhat ditzy, the kind that used to be an excuse for why women should NOT report the news, "The tension so palpable you can almost feel it." I suppose there are excuses for all this, but it seems to me standards have deteriorated.

Or maybe it's the Chantix ad, a drug commercial that I wasn't sure what it was for at first, mostly endlessly listing horrible side effects from skin rashes to suicidal urges while a middle-aged couple chat in their kitchen. Chantix is an enchanting "stop smoking" drug. If the side effects aren't scary enough to make you quit, continuing to smoke might be the better alternative. And who names this stuff? Drug naming and Google account visual word verification seem to use the same algorithms.

So one half hour of TV news makes me crazy. I'm going to go back to watching DVDs of Eagle Shooting Heroes tonight where the subtitles offer better entertainment and edification. In the last episode, the endearingly cute kung fu mistress is kidding with her goofy sidekick. "Would the Emperor like some flesh fruit?" For all I know, that's exactly how the Chinese script reads. Once finished with their dallying over kiwis and pomegranates, they go to seek the magical coveted manual of "splendiferous" kung fu. That sounded a little too Akbar and Jeff to me to take seriously...until the Wizard said, "No, that's a real word. Look it up."

And indeed it is. Although, according to my American Heritage dictionary, best used ironically. And not recognized by the Google blog spellchecker which wants me to change it to "splenderous." I expect to hear some CNN reporter use it tomorrow.

"In a splendiferous effort by Japan's National Defense Force, with the assistance of Gamera, nuclear disaster has been narrowly averted. Flesh fruit has been delivered to all affected. Here to speak with us, is that Giant Turtle...oops, sorry we lost the feed. I hate it when that happens."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not to make light of a serious event -- well maybe a little -- but, where is Gamera when we need him? Or her?

In 1989, on a flight back from Tokyo on JAL, I was privileged to have a window seat in business class on the 747. My aisle-seat companion was a very tall attractive young Japanese man who was on his way to a conference on rocket propulsion in Waikiki. Really. During the flight he was studying a Japanese-English dictionary of rocket science terms. Sometimes it IS rocket science. We got to talking after comparing notes about some curious tropical and Asian fruits on offer in the in-flight magazine/catalog. (Who would send their friends a durian?)

The gentleman offered his business card to me. I still have it somewhere, and until this moment I could remember his name, very lyrical. He was with Mitsubishi Aerospace. Like a stupid person, I said, "How interesting, I just bought a new Mitsubishi car." (It turned out to be a piece of junk.)

He turned in his seat, hands clasped, and bowed to me. "Thank you for buying our product," he said. I can't imagine a Chrysler space systems employee ever doing that to a Japanese person proud of his new Dodge RAM. (If there was such a person.) In the course of 89,000 miles, I always thought of Mr. Matsuzaki (or maybe that was his first name) when I drove past Pearl Harbor in that car.

He went on to talk about Star "Tlek." Who was my favorite character? He liked Dr. McCoy. I would have thought Scotty would have been his idol. (I was personally in a Kirk place at the time, not an Ohura.) "Do you like Godzirra movies?" he asked. Sure, I liked Godzilla, and Gamera. All those Japanese monster movies parodied on MST3K.

Then, very serious, he said, "I wonder about Godzirra. Was he a boy or a girl? He had a child. But I wonder. How could he have a baby?" This was one of the strangest encounters I have ever had on an airplane. At first I thought maybe he was hitting on me, but not. He was seriously interested in sci-fi and the reproductive nature of Godzilla.

Today, I wonder how he's doing. Did Mr. Matsuzaki get a family? Is he a salaryman with Mitsubishi? A scientist working on programs and products? Have any friendly creepy monsters come to rescue him and his friends during tidal wave/earthquake/nuclear failures? The images of the first surge over Honshu sure looked like "toy boats" being hurled around in a Godzilla vs. Gamera movie.

Where are the saving monsters to clean up the mess, pick up these toy boats?

UPDATE (3/20): After a futile search looking for the business card of Mr. Matsuzaki, the name magically comes to my mind: Nobuaki. Nobuaki Matsuzaki. What a lovely, poetic name to remember over more than 20 years.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Managed to make it in time to Ash Wednesday Mass, though cutting off someone in the right lane to enter the church parking lot, free and conveniently located across the street from our tax accountant, where I had to deliver papers following the service, rendering what is his to Caesar. I was a little distracted on the drive in after a meeting I thought would never end, listening to a Teaching Company "Philosophy, Religion and the Meaning of Life" lecture about Elie Wiesel and his father during the Holocaust, painted as a tragic modern saint figure as a complementary bookend to Abraham and Isaac. Well, that put me in a perfect mood for the imposition of ashes.

I composed myself for proper cathedral behavior, and managed to follow along nicely in the service. I haven't been to a proper Anglican mass for a while. Maybe five or six years. I was charmed when the Bishop's homily referred to Saint Francis of Assisi, recalling to me the movie I watched recently where I perceived Taoist themes of yin and yang, nature and compassion. The Bishop told a story, almost as mood-altering as Elie Weisel's, about a woman with terrible face cancer (like St. Francis's lepers) in a nursing home he had to visit while a seminary student. Depressing, these ashy stories.

Which lead to the "Prayer over the Ashes." All solemn and pious, quietly settling in for a little meditation, surreptitiously experimenting with Taoist mudras while kneeling...and then my phone went off. My friendly reliable mechanic was calling. The ring tone I have assigned to his number is..."Start Me Up." Mick Jagger in the Cathedral. OMG. (At least it wasn't "Sympathy for the Devil.") Fortunately the phone was readily accessible in my bag, so I silenced it. Which was fine, until the voice message alert went off a minute later. Ring tone: "Like a Rolling Stone." Bob Dylan in the Cathedral. "Once upon a time, dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime, in your prime...didn't you.?" Silence! At the next convenient moment I retrieved the phone to turn it off. I do this for the opera; why didn't I think to do it for a mass?

When passing the peace, I apologized to those around me. No one seemed to care. I think I was forgiven.

A dash to the accountant. "If you have questions, don't call me, call my husband, I don't want to know." Back to the church parking lot. I'd left a sizable offering in the plate, but I didn't want to over-exploit my stay in the garden. I did take a moment to contemplate the fountain in front of the Cathedral. A big bronze image of St. Andrew and his fish, but the pond was empty of water, full of writhing snaky cables and copper wire. A couple of workers were standing around, doing something to the display. They thought it was funny when I took a photo.

"Spirituality is a work in progress, "I said. They laughed.

One more stop while I was in the neighborhood. My Chinese DVD vendor called me last week about the big sale she had on Tai Seng DVD sets.

She was talking to an older retired Japanese woman when I arrived, and we all started to chat about the DVDs. The retiree likes Taiwanese and Korean dramas and the historical epics I like too. "Those guys are all so handsome," she said. She assured me that retirement was great, she was busy and only regretted not retiring even sooner so she could take classes and watch DVDs. I wonder what her cellphone ringtones are.

I took her energy to heart as wise Ash Wednesday advice. Emily the vendor asked what happened to my head, there was black stuff on my forehead. "I've been to church," I said. "Oh, I thought you'd bumped into something." In a way, I did; spirituality is a work in progress.
I made my selection, buying enough for a free movie, increasing my backlog of DVD series that will carry me well through Lent, to say nothing of probably all the way to Advent. In 2012.

I want to go to China in May, but my plans are a bit tentative. This may be the closest I get. After all these videos, I should be able to speak Mandarin. Language -- like spirituality, also a work in progress.