The Word from Japan

April 16, 2014

I got confirmation this week that I’ll be signing a contract soon for a Japanese edition of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. The book will be published by a company called Tsukiji Shokan. It will be my first overseas edition. The job of translating the book hasn’t been started yet, so it will be some time before the book comes out. This is a most welcome development. I needed some good news. Judy and I are hoping that we can interest someone in broadcasting the film, which, oddly enough, already has Japanese subtitles. Several years ago, a Japanese woman living in the United States who loves the film wanted her brother to see it, but he speaks no English. She volunteered to do the work of creating subtitles so that he could watch it. Unfortunately, we’ve never been able to interest any Japanese broadcaster in showing it. Maybe we can now. It would certainly help book sales.

In other news: Judy and I had houseguests this week from Japan, Shoji Kihara and his daughter Akiko. Shoji is an anti-nuclear activist whom Judy met 35 years ago when she was working on a film about the survivors of the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Nagasaki Journey). Shoji’s parents were survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, and Shoji has made a lifelong commitment to ending nuclear power. While he was here, Shoji showed us a DVD that a Japanese photographer made of the dead zone around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. It was genuinely haunting. All that’s left of Fukushima is abandoned homes and businesses and sickly-looking animals—cows, dogs, pigs, cats, and chickens—wandering around looking for food. No one should be able to discuss the merits or demerits of nuclear energy without seeing something like this. It’s a large area of the planet that’s permanently off-limits, like Chernobyl. The reality that the photographs document gives the abstract debate over nuclear power some badly needed perspective. It’s quite likely that there are going to be more areas like this in the future given the number of power plants in the world.

Finally, I’ve decided that I’m going to start studying Japanese. I like learning languages, and I’ve always wanted to learn one of the Asian languages. But I’ve never been able to decide between Japanese and Chinese. It can’t be an intense study, not while I’m working on Street Song. But I’ve already ordered a book and I’m going to at least make a start.

Progress Report #93

April 8, 2014

For the last six months or so I’ve been working on a package for my agent to submit to publishers. The package includes a detailed description of the book, an analysis of who my audience will be, an outline, bio, illustrations, and sample chapters. I had a deadline, which I met. Near the end it got rather intense. The day before I was too finish, my head started spinning as I was staring at the monitor and trying to finish typing a sentence. This was attributable in large part to the nature of computers. I find myself disliking them more and more. It’s like watching television all day long. But enough of that…for now. I’m taking some time off (not a lot) and then getting back to writing the book in sequence. (The sample chapters were all over the map, which makes them somewhat artificial, to my mind.)

At this point, my agent looks at what I’ve written and then gets back to me if anything needs to be buffed up further. If it’s okay, it gets paraded through the marketplace, where it is mocked and vilified by the postmodernists, but catches the eye of the right person—I hope.

Strange trip, writing a book.

Who Can Keep Up?

April 3, 2014

I’m often weighing in my mind various topics to write about here. Lately, most ideas tend to revolve around the insanity of the times we live in. The work on my book makes it difficult to get to most of my ideas. Every now and then I’ll come up with something that I actually do want to write about—some stunning new absurdity—and just as I’m all set to sit down and get to work, something even weirder and more appalling comes along. This happens constantly. I can’t keep up. Is there anybody who believes that things are actually going quite well? I’d like to hear from you. I’m not really pessimistic, not for the long haul, at least. But for the short term, my observation is that this society is losing its mind, and at an ever accelerating pace. It’s all about ego and money. An egotist can never be satisfied. He can never have enough money or enough power.

We Don’t Want to Know

March 20, 2014

Yesterday I was returning home on my bicycle from an anti-growth rally, rolling quickly downhill, when a runner suddenly burst out into the street from between two parked cars. She was simultaneously running and talking on her cell phone and didn’t see me. I came very close to hitting her. It strikes me as a near perfect image of something I see happening.

I believe we’re heading for catastrophe. Not just America, but this whole global system that we’ve promulgated — insisted upon, really. Everyone’s hooked now. They talk about revolutions in communication, finance, energy, education, entertainment, and blah blah blah. Everything is happening very, very quickly. We’re making all these changes without carefully considering them. Anyone who would suggest that we slow it down and think it over first is a Luddite. It’s inevitable that one of these so-called revolutions is going to get us. You can’t keep running forward blindly, obsessed with your gadget, and not have a big accident at some point. For example, if cell phones do cause brain cancer, it’s not something most users — let alone manufacturers — want to know. Most people dismiss any evidence that suggests this is happening without even looking at it. This is what always happens before a catastrophe: People become deaf to warnings. This is happening with climate change, the weirdness of the financial world, energy usage, as well as our addiction to technology. I don’t know where it will come from, but something is going to get us.

How Dark Can It Get?

March 11, 2014

I saw this startling comment attached to an article about America’s secret courts and the “War On Terror” in today’s New York Times.

First, frighten the population into thinking that another attack is imminent.
Formalize the process, calling it The War On Terror. This ensures that it’s a never ending open ended conflict, as it’s a war not against an enemy, but against an idea. You can’t destroy an idea, and so the war can go on forever.
Then, tell the people you need more power and control to keep them safe. Reassure them with the lie that it’s temporary.
Issue secret orders allowing spy agencies specifically forbidden to operate on domestic soil to operate on domestic soil.
Sign into a law a decree allowing the leader to have citizens suspected of terrorism to be arrested and detained forever without benefit of counsel, or failing that, to be assassinated.
If they complain, point out that if they haven’t done anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about.
Set up secret courts that make secret laws that make the illegal things you’re doing legal.
Stonewall any attempts to rein in the military/spy axis. Give them all the money they want with weak or no oversight. Let them grow sufficiently powerful that they answer to no one.
I grew up under a totalitarian Eastern European regime, and can see very little difference between how that was run, and where we’re headed. Very little.
This was not the America, the beacon of freedom, I signed up for when I studied to become a citizen. As soon as I retire, I’m gone. There will be blood in the streets here in less than a decade.

Progress Report #92

March 1, 2014

There’s been a big change in my book project—one that’s been a long time coming.

I’ve always described  Street Song as the story of my fifteen years living on the street. I thought that sounded intriguing. And it really did happen. But my actual work has always pushed, on its own, in a slightly different direction. The focus has been on the chain of events that led me to the street and then my first year and a half there. That was the most eventful period. Those last thirteen and a half years would read more like Waiting for Godot. Because of my persistent description of the story as those fifteen years, I’ve been struggling to figure out how the hell I was going to compress events enough to write this book without it taking up the rest of my life. A week ago, the solution finally stepped forward: Stop after that first year and a half on the street and cover the other thirteen years and a half in a single chapter. There was no struggle. It was clearly the correct solution. The change lightens my load considerably and it makes the book much tighter. I’ve done all the research, so if Street Song did well enough that there was real interest in those thirteen years of quiet observation and waiting, I could still write that book. But not now.

I’m still putting together the package (sample chapters, outline, and other material) that my agent will be taking around to publishers in search of a contract. I’m two-thirds of the way through the outline and have one more sample chapter to finish. Deadline: April 1st. I’m quite exhausted, dreadfully exhausted, but I see what needs to be done. And it will get done.

“140 Syllables” by Kenneth Rexroth

February 21, 2014

All my life I have wondered,
Why doesn’t somebody write
A terrible poem that says
In so many words, this world
Is a fraud, the people who
Run it are murderous fools,
Everything ever printed
Is a lie, all their damn art
And literature is a fake,
Behind their gods and laws, and
Pee hole bandits, their science
Is just a fancy way to kill
Us and our girls and kids.
What I want to know is why
Somebody doesn’t write it
All down in about twenty
Lines of seven syllables
Once and for all, and scare the shit
Out of all the dirty squares.

The Wild Coyote of Telegraph Hill

February 20, 2014

For several years now, Judy and I have been hearing about a coyote on the hill. There have probably been several. Coyotes are being seen in different parts of the city. We’ve been wanting to catch a glimpse of him, and Judy has spent time tracking down the neighborhood residents who know the coyote’s routine. A couple of nights ago, after receiving some tips from one of them, we found him immediately. He was hard to miss. Someone was standing on the sidewalk  shining a flashlight on him. The coyote is a bit of a celebrity among the condo dwellers at the bottom of the hill. Small groups gather to watch him and compare notes. The coyote has a special interest in small dogs. Before leaving, I was able to get one barely usable shot, which is below, first as a wide shot and then blown-up and cropped.

Telegraph HIll Coyote

The Wild Coyote of Telegraph Hill

Coyote Close-up

Coyote Close-up

It’s interesting that Coyote should show his face at this particular time when greedy developers, ambitious politicians, jaded techies, and unprincipled government agencies are all working in tandem to exploit and destroy what’s left of the beauty of San Francisco. It’s happening at a feverish pace. I can’t think of it as anything other than an attempted gang rape. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it more in the future. It often makes me want to leave the city.

Some Advice from the Land of the Free

February 7, 2014

When The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was first published I braced myself for an onslaught of negativity. I was mostly concerned about how people would respond to the way I lived. Surprisingly, I’ve encountered very little of that. Reader reviews have been generally quite positive. So this recent Amazon review from “Durgi” under the title A disturbing read didn’t bug me all that much. I’m posting it so that people can see what you face potentially when you try to open up in public (and also because I find it vaguely humorous):

The author of this book has severe mental problems that need to be addressed. But his observations of a feral California flock are why I read thru it. I also saw the DVD, which better gives you a picture of the filth and squalor he’s accustomed to living in, and subjected birds to live in as well. He took way too many liberties with flock behavior and individuals within. Truthfully I wish he would have left his personal life completely out if it, as it was depressing and frankly, insane. I hope he gets the help he desperately needs.

Strangely, the reader posted her review on the film’s Amazon page rather than the book’s page. I considered ignoring it, but ultimately decided to post a reply:

Geez, Durgi. It’s difficult to know how to respond to such vitriol. Inaccurate vitriol at that. I’m fine. I was fine then, too. I wasn’t living in filth and squalor. I’m not insane. But I have never led a conventional life. I don’t understand why, in the “land of the free,” anybody should have a tough time with that. As far as taking liberties with the parrots goes, the only liberties I ever took were the kind that good friends take with one another.

As I say, it happens so seldom that it didn’t bother me too much. But I doubt I’ll get off so easily with Street Song. We’ll see.

Left Out of the Debate

February 5, 2014

A little over two years ago I posted a three-part series which I called The Three Views of Existence. (This is a link to the first part of the series. To read the other two parts keep advancing to the right with the links at the top of the post.) My point was that there are three views of existence, but that only two of them are ever acknowledged in modern Western-style societies. One is the “Creator God” point of view, another is the “There is Only the Material Plane” point of view, and finally  the “Everything is God” or Pantheistic, point of view. As I wrote then, the last one is never discussed and seldom acknowledged, as if it were beyond the pale or too silly to be taken seriously. In any case, just a note to point out that Pantheism was once again left out of the recent “celebrity” debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and the creationist, Ken Ham. This happens all the time and in many different ways. I constantly notice it. Funny thing, too, because they’re leaving out the truth.


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