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religion and politics

Heading out now to Liz's birthday lunch in Kyoto...lovely day for it. Tonight I play a few songs at The Cellar in the Folk Jamboree thing.

Tuesday I went down to the Osaka Peace Center in Osakajo-koen. Very sobering exhibits about the air raids on Osaka in WWII and about the Japanese invasions and atrocities in Manchuria, Korea, and elsewhere in Asia. Also small exhibits on the atomic bombings and on the Auschwitz camp. They also have more exhibits on nuclear disarmament, the ecological crisis, and the work of Unicef (though this was one was all in Nihongo so I didn't really get it).

Kaz talked a little bit about how Shinto was misused leading up to the war. The whole "Emperor as a living kami who must be obeyed" thing was a creation of the Meiji restoration (which, ironically, pretty much occurred at the demand of the United States), later used in the early 20th century to ramp up nationalist fervor. Shinto shrines were built in occupied territories in Asia and the conquered people made to pay homage at them.

Zen, too, was abused, the bushido ideal twisted to the point of Zen priests cheering on kamikaze attacks.

The dangers of mixing religion and politics. There's a bumper sticker slogan, "The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake", but it's much worse than that. Despite legends of "The Burning Times", not all that many people were murdered in witch-hunts, while mixing religion with politics in Japan gave us millions dead in the Pacific theater of Word War II.

And ethical teachers, religious leaders have always had to become involved in the politics of the day. Buddha tried to get local kings to be nicer (and was almost assassinated for his trouble). Jesus might have talked about rendering on to Caesar, but once he became a threat to the power structure, bam!, crucify him. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were great spiritual leaders who led political movements - using a tactic of civil disobedience put forth by that Transcendentalist proto-pagan Thoreau.

karaoke, Japanese style

Word trivia for the day: "karaoke" means "empty orchestra", and is
written with the same kanji "kara" as "karate", "empty hand".

Going out on the town in Japan means making a decision: to head back
early, or to miss the last train (which runs around 11:30pm) and either
walk, take an expensive cab, or stay out until the trains start up again
about 5:30am (many places stay open all night to take your money while
you're waiting).

Last night I decided to stay for the end of Eric's gig, which meant
missing last train. I thought I might shell out for a cab, but somehow I
got talking with a few local musicians who were going out for karaoke, and
got invited to tag along.

ukuleles in Osaka

At The Cellar, a pub Shinsaibashi. Eric is playing later with "The Tardy Boys". I came down early, to find a ukulele recital.

Drinking Guiness on St. Particks Day (yes, I'm wearing green, as are several Nihonjin here) in a pub in Osaka, listening to ukulele recital, with songs sung in English and Japanese. Am I a world citizen yet?

Let's self medication!

Yes, let's self medication! Seems I've picked up a bit of a cold, so yesterday I was off to Universal City in search of a drug store where I might be able to understand what I was buying, and where I found this delightful sign.

But let me back up a bit. Saturday, I met up with Liz in Osakajo-koen, Osaka Castle Park. Lovely day!

We wondered about the park a bit, then headed down to Shinsaibashi. Our orginal plan was to meet up with a friend of hers to go to New Age healing fair, which sounded like it might be interesting, but that didn't work out.

Instead we got dinner at Slices (yes, I was able to order up vegan style pizza), met up with Eric later on. I ended the evening with a few drinks at Mojo Bar, a little walk-down place in America Mura. Not a gaijin-bar, but enough English about that I could talk a bit. The nihonjin present were tickled that I was a karate teacher and a shiatsu practitioner.

have a Load of Fun with Tom Swiss, February 2

Will the poet/singer/songwriter see his shadow and be frightened back into his hole, signifying a long winter? Will he be stuck living the same day over and over again? Will Brigid, muse of the poets, visit him on this old Celtic holy day of Imbolc?

Probably not, but come find out at a night of music and poetry - A Load of Poetry, in fact, from the fine folks at, on Friday February 2nd, 8 pm, at:

Load of Fun Gallerie
120 W. North Avenue (in the Station North arts district)

featuring words and tunes by yours truly, Tom Swiss. Open mic follows.

note to a friend

Note to a friend who asks, "you seem so centered and peaceful. everything about you... you have a very deep color about you. it's crazy. in fact, it drives me crazy because i would like to be as calm but thus far it has eluded me. what's your secret?"

Oh, the irony...I've been feeling anything but calm and centered the last week - ended up dateless at the last minute on New Years, got my car window busted out by some random punk, have been dealing with idiots at the body shop trying to get that fixed. GRRRRRRR!!!!! Today it was an accomplishment to have not punched anyone in the nose. (Well, the day's not over yet...)

OMFG! Telesma and the Senators!! Jan 20th 8x10!!!!!

Ok, I'm excited. It's the booty shakin' funk of longtime local superheroes The All Mighty Senators meets the primal futuristic "electro-acoustic psychedelic world dance music" of new B'more phenom

Oh. Yes. Thank you Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Apollo, whoever, for the musical bounty we are about to receive, Jan 20th, doors open 8, showtime 9pm, at the 8x10.

just journaling: post-Starwood

A week after Starwood...still adusting to hot, sapping energy, haven't finished unpacking yet...

Trying to cultivate yin, get my house in order, catch up on paperwork and house
projects after two months of travel, Saiten, FSG, Chicago/Milwakee for the AOBTA convention, Starwood...and spend some quality time with the dogs, especially after Picollo getting sick while I was in Chicago. And back to Zelda's after a few weeks away.

Language, animals, and music

A few interesting bits regarding language that came before my eyes recently:

First a new study reveals that the "Putty-nosed monkey" (Cercopithecus nictitans) monkeys can combine simple primitive calls into more meaningful sequences. The evolution of grammar?

Second, studies of prairie dogs show that they have "the most sophisticated communication system that anyone has shown in animals", including a capability to create new terms for things they've never seen before.

Finally, this article discusses the theories of Steven Mithen, professor of early prehistory at the University of Reading, that early hominids ancestors had a musical culture that strongly influenced the development of language.

Chris Chandler at the New Deal Cafe, March 24

I've been a huge fan of the "folken word" of Chris Chandler since I saw him perform at College Park's "Planet X" coffeehouse back in the early 1990s. Chris has traveled the nation and worked with musicans and poets from Allen Ginsberg to Ani DiFranco and Pete Seeger to Mojo Nixon. (For those of you who know the work of Billy Jonas - Chris is credited as co-writer of Billy's wonderful song "God is In")

Chris now lives in Tacoma Park, and I'm happy to have helped introduce him to Greenbelt's fine fine venue, The New Deal Cafe. Chris will be playing there March 24 - you do NOT want to miss this! Spread the word!


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