Journal Musings


As of this writing 55,000 people have been confirmed dead from the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and other countries by the Indian Ocean. The number seems likely to climb to 100,000. But 55,000 is hard to imagine. 55,000. It is all happening out there in the Asian night, millions of people in pain, waiting, in grief over their lost ones, or in terrible anxiety over whether their loved ones lost to the sea will return. And among them perhaps some of my Indonesian and Sri Lankan friends. I hope not. I dearly hope not.

CNN shows the news about it all, as does, intermittently, Japan’s national television station NHK. But the news is flippant, the CNN newscasters speaking as if the whole event is some exciting head rush, the questions about the dead glossed over with little time to actually feel anything. NHK has been giving the required time to air the information, but aside from announcing the number of Japanese dead, it is right back to regular programs. It was show interrupting news when the earthquake hit the Niigata area last month and the news carried the scenes for days. But this, perhaps the worst calamity in human history, receives the cold shoulder. In comparison the news played and played, all over the world, the inconsequential New York tragedy as if it was the end of the world, over and over again until the images can never be cleared from our minds. But this tsunami disaster seems to move few people in the same way. They are only poor people in a “faraway” place, after all. They don’t deserve 24 hour news coverage by every television station.

I’ve been racking my brains over what to do. I’ve contacted some of my Indonesia and Sir Lankan friends and asked if there was something I could do from my end. I’ve proposed setting up a Yahoo! discussion group for people seeking family and friends lost in the tsunami. I’ve donated to several relief groups. ANd I’ve thought of proposing to bloggers to think of going on vacation to the affected areas next year and instead of doing the usual vacation stuff, actively participating in some volunteer relief help. I’m sure the whole area is going to need massive amounts of help and resources in rebuilding all the settlements and infrastructure. Many of the people are too poor to get back what they lost.

But this is just not enough. There must be something more we can do. I was thinking of going hiking today, but I may just sit here at home and brainstorm. I don’t want to feel helpless again like after the New York tragedy or the attack on Iraq. This is something we can all actually do something about.

Art & Design Journal

Foiled Again

The Tree of Life
Pieces from the pen and ink on etching paper composition called “The Life Tree”, by Miguel Arboleda, 1992

It’s the morning of the 26th and I’ve been up all night, unable to sleep. After lying in the dark listening to the voices in my head I finally decided to just get up and battle the demons with the light of my desk lamp and the reach of the computer screen, where at least I can talk back. I was hoping to get through this holiday season with some measure of stillness in my heart, but I guess the holidays always shake loose some of the frayed ends.

Aside from the usual wrestling with relationships, one particular incident from the last three weeks kept surfacing: the exchange I had with someone who had been in charge of an art exhibition I did 12 years ago, but whom I hadn’t heard from since the exhibition. Suddenly, out of the blue, he contacted me three weeks ago, informing me of the final showing of my pieces that I had left at the hosting hall, a reception for all the artists, and the upcoming auction of my artwork. I was furious; though I had left the artwork there, I had never been informed about the necessity to remove them or they would become the property of the art house. Now they were going to be sold, for money, even though they had never been purchased from me or even approved for ownership.

I wrote to the guy in charge and told him that I would not allow my artwork to be sold. He sent back this (excerpt) note:

“Regarding the images called life-tree I have to inform you that they are
the property of the OAG. One of my request 11 years ago was to clean them
out of the OAG, you and also A. did not responded to that request, later
they have been technically disposed.

“Regarding collections, internationally their is no need to inform artist if
you have an in-house show, the OAG exhibition space is the property of the
OAG and we can present our collection whenever we like.

“Don’t waste time, be happy that we did not destroyed your work, and I hope
to see you at the auction on the 16th of March 2005 at the OAG.”

I would understand if I had been contacted about the possibility of clearing the artwork out, but since I had never received any notice from him I don’t see how, legally, he can claim that my artwork belongs to the art house. What makes me even more angry is that the whole art exhibition was not an officially sponsored event; it was just a friendly showing between the man in question and another friend. He had offered the space for free.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a buffoon for letting myself get duped two times in one year, but I’m tired of feeling helpless while work that I did gets used for profit by others. Then again, since the work was hurriedly done in the first place and I wasn’t very happy with it, maybe if I did the entire composition again, but this time with more detail and care, I might come out of the whole disappointment in so-called “friends” with a feeling of accomplishment.

Would any artists are there have any legal advice on this?

So ironic… the art piece is about the destruction of the earth and about the loneliness of human beings in their commercialized world. Seems no one ever gets the point.

Humor Journal People

Christmas Joy and the Sales Representative from Hell

Susuki sunset
A last tuft of Plume Grass encircling the late autumn sun

And there I was, like a good little elf, sitting at my great, big studio desk, humming to myself and thinking, “Okay, this year I’m going to make an effort to show people I care and let them know that things are quite as bad as they’ve been imagining, and perhaps undermining Santa’s insidious Black List of Bad Little Boys and Girls… maybe I’ll buy myself some Skype online telephony credit and give a few lonely people out there a call.” Stll humming verily, merrily to myself, I skipped on over to the Skype homepage and checked out the deals. “Sounds pretty good!” I chimed to myself (as elves are wont to do), and went ahead to the Skypeout credit purchasing page, clicked the button for $10.00, and, still humming along, coming to the “Billing and Address” page. “No problem!” I fluted (as elves are ever fond of doing), “Just fill out my personal information.” Everything went well until I had to fill out my address form. No doing. The text field only accepted a very truncated version of my rather long address (as elves like doing things the hard way), which would never do, what with the stern admonishments of the credit card company. Again and again I tried different ways of getting the address in there, but no doing.

So I clicked on the LiveSupport link and waited for the Skype representative to appear in the chat window. Here is the transaction:

Please wait for a site operator to respond. We are experiencing high volume of chats. Your wait time may be longer than anticipated

Paula: Hello, my name is ‘Paula’, how may I assist you today
butuki: Hi Paula,I am thinking of purchasing some skypeout credit, but when I try to input my Japan address in the order form, the address line does not permit long addresses.
butuki: Is there something I am doing wrong?
Paula: May I know what is the error message that you are getting?
butuki: Hmmm, there is no error message. I start writing the address and then the window just stops allowing extra letters. Everything else in the order form seems to work fine.
Paula: Please provide me with your Skype user name
butuki: butuki
Paula: Please wait one moment while I check that for you
butuki: Thanks very much

Ten minutes go by in which I resume humming to myself (as elves cannot help themselves doing) and fiddling around with my other computer, trying to get a scratchboard drawing right.

Paula: Presently we accept payments using major credit cards (Visa / Dinners / JCB/ master card ). We also accept payments using, and are currently in the process of adding more payment options 🙂

I smile with uncontrolled glee (as elves forever find themselves doing) at the cute little smiley emoticon. Such friendly service!

butuki: ??? Er, I’m not sure why you are quoting the credit cards… I have to get through the “billing name and address” form first before I can get to the credit card form. My guess is that an extra text field line needs to be put into the order form before people with longer address can fill it out.
Paula: We have recently added a new payment method called which is now available in your account page. You will get this option towards the end of your Credit purchase process where other credit card options are also listed. Please try using this method if your credit card purchases are not going through.
butuki: I think we are misunderstanding one another… Let’s see.. When I click the ten pound button for enteriing the credit purchase process the first page I am presented with is the address page. This is the page I cannot get through. I can’t even get to the credit card page yet.

I pause a long time, during which my elvish earnestness takes a severe beating.

Paula: May I know which country is your credit card registered in,
butuki: Japan. But, I am not referring to the credit card page right now. I’m not sure if you understand what I mean.
butuki: or maybe I’m not understanding what you mean…? (I add this hastily for courtesy’s sake. as elves are notorious for good manners)
Paula: Please try to buy with money bookers

Another very long pause on my end. (Elves don’t handle anger very well). So I decide to bow out gracefully

butuki: Okay. Do I just go straight to their home page, instead of going through the Skypeout credit purchasing process?
Paula: Please try with money bookers to buy credit
butuki: Okay, thanks. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks again. And Merry Christmas!
Paula: Thank you for using our live support chat! Should you have any questions feel free to contact us. Please do rate my support after ending this chat session. Bye!

The elf sat for a long time afterwards contemplating the definition of intelligence and communication. Luckily, to the elf’s salvation, the sky had opened with a cape of stars, sprinkled upon it like scattered gems. Time seemed to lose all meaning and the words “skype” and “sky” became one. This is the age-old secret to elvish peacefulness and cheer. Ignorance surely is bliss.

Humor Journal

Suiting Up

Laughing BeastSometimes no mere mortal can prevent the scourge of the Mothers of All Evil! When that torrent comes falling and you’re at work and you remember that your bed sheet is flapping in the wind…. When those cute little Lady Bugs that scuttle like little red buttons up your raspberry vines suddenly multiply into hordes of ferocious, scarlet, winter-woods carpets, when the antenna on your roof breaks loose and threatens to make contact with the antenna of that loathsome Mr. Pinkley next door, when, Lordy no!, Mrs. Igglefleur’s paper grocery bag loses its bottom and her oranges go bouncing down the hill straight toward Mr. Dorpermeyer driving his Cooper Mini while ogling Miss Lukeshins waddling up the street, not watching where he is going…

Who do you call!? Why….Wa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Never fear! The Laughing Beast, of course! None other! Other than none! None the other! The none of other! Neither none, nor other! Other or none! An other none!? Or none too other? Other when none? None for other? Other, then none? Ohhhh… give me that!

Wah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah (more “h’s” have more effect). It is I, Laughing Beast! The Master of Darkness, when no light there be, but shadows form where there be no light! And among the shadows be I not other than when I am! Me, the Laughing Beast! Hah-Hah! Take that! And That! And that! That-that!

Via Rana, using The Hero Machine. This was a lot of fun to make, but I’m afraid I’m more of a Japanese hero fan. I grew up with Gatcha-Man, Casshern, Ogon-Batto, Tetsuwan Atomu (Atom Boy), Testujin 28 (Gigantor), Ultraman, Eito Man (Eighth Man), Mahha Go Go (Speed Racer), Cutie Honey, and Captain Harlock.

I’ll (try to) be back! Wah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!

Nature Stewardship

Here We Go Again

This is what it takes to get people’s attention: virtual total destruction of your habitat…

Over 80% of the forest that covered almost the entire archipelago of the Philippines has been decimated. I remember as a boy in 1971 visiting the Pagsanjan river south of Manila and being overwhelmed by the heavy lushness of the rain forest overhanging the banks of the river, the trees filled the calls of birds and monkeys, and then visiting again in 1992 and finding the water flushed brown with mud, floating with garbage so thick that you could barely see the river water, carcasses of pigs and dogs in various states of decomposition bobbing past the dugout canoes being punted upriver while the river guides, in between demanding “Pipty dollars, you hab?, and with banks bare and dusty from clear-cut forest cover and the silence of birds and monkeys long gone. This has happened throughout the Philippines and the soft, volcanic mountainsides have given way to treacherous erosion that now contribute to the disaster of the four ferocious typhoons this week.

Flowering dogwood getting ready for winter

People can complain that they are helpless to do anything; that the problem of environmental destruction is beyond our individual abilities to change, but that is merely an excuse to continue with the way of life we are all so used to. As long as we don’t seriously act the world will continue its gathering momentum of decline until we will truly be helpless in the throes of planetary reaction: worldwide monster storms, coastal lands drowned by huge seas, massive starvation, wars and mass migration that make Iraq look like mites at play. Exactly what will it take for the whole world to finally take heed?

Ten years ago I saw a tiny article at the back of the Japan Times announcing the death of the last wild Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).
It was such an uncaring side note to such a magnificent bird (a full grown Philippine Eagle stands about 1 meter (3 ft) tall, with a wingspan of about 2 meters (almost eight feet) ) that I broke down weeping alone in my apartment. And the sad thing was that it was something I could not share and find solace with anyone I knew who would truly comprehending why I was crying. I mentioned the article to one colleague I was working with and his reaction was, “So, it’s just a bird. There are a lot of poor people in the Philippines.”

That’s just it… we think of ourselves as more important than anything else. We are “above” nature and woe to anyone who would seriously suggest that we are anything but. Constantly we seek confirmation of our superiority; the television stations airing animal shows are constantly revealing “amazement” at the intelligence and versatility of other fellow creatures, as if it is merely an aberration that an animal might exhibit the same characteristics that we humans seem to consider our moral claim. Yes, there are a lot of poor people in the Philippines. I’ve met them, eaten with them, even stayed in some of their homes. But if we cannot empathize with and feel the desolation of the disappearance of our living home and the fellow creatures in it, we can feel nothing.

Clearcut Philippines

Philippine EagleThis blind disdain will be our undoing. No creature that thinks of itself beyond dependence on its habitat can long survive. As long as we think of ourselves as independent of the natural world… call it the mother of all egos… the imbalance will continue to grow, until one day it all comes crashing down.

But there is hope. Some of us are waking and taking the first steps toward re-harmonizing. In April this year, Kabayan (“countryman”) became the first captive bred Philippine Eagle to be released into the wild. All indications (the Philippine Eagle Foundation) say that Kabayan is doing quite well. These are the kind of efforts that we, as individuals, can definitely do. Bring us all together and we have a worldwide turnaround.

This is our home. All of us.

America: Society Journal Musings

A New Step

Gingko leaves on ground
Gingko leaves piled up along the edge of a bridge. A de-saturated photo, in real life the yellow of gingko leaves is brilliant

Ever since the avalanche of disappointment following the defeat of Kerry in the U.S. elections I have been pondering what it is that so disappointed all of us and what exactly it was that we expected. For the hope seemed to include more than the sum of American voters themselves; there was a worldwide investment in the expectation of a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous future for the planet as a whole, and the defeat of Kerry let down a lot of pent up frustrations.

Rana, over at Frogs and Ravens, in her usual eloquent and challenging way, asks what direction the blues might take in the dealing with the many social questions and problems that America and the world face. Her post approaches the question from a mainly internal American point of view, and focuses on how the American governing system might be changed. The comments that follow attempt to answer her with various analyses of American history and government structure. Rana herself questions the wisdom of continuing with the present government system and suggests working with a new group of progressives who might reform the system.

In my own reading of articles on the internet, blog posts, listening to discussions, watching the news, and going over the whole shebang in my head, more and more I return to the cause of the great disappointment people all over the world felt. Why was it that the path America, a separate nation, chose to take meant so much to so many billions of people? The most common and immediate answer invariably is that, with America on a rampage around the world and with Bush manning the guns, self-preservation and altruistic concerns for countries like Iraq would be the motivating factors behind everyone’s wishes. And rightly so. In just four years, Bush has managed to upset nearly everyone and seriously undermine worldwide peace.

But I’d also like to suggest another motivation behind people’s bated breath before the elections: The world is ready for a great reformation. Countries all over the world are beginning to let down their guards and talk about opening borders. Europe has already taken the first step with the formation of the E.U., overcoming millennia of enmities and cultural differences to attempt to work together and seek a common vision. South America seems to be taking the first steps toward pulling themselves out of poverty and corruption, toward a continental unity that could well put America’s rhetoric to shame.

Perhaps what most infuriated people around the world, including a huge portion of the American people themselves, was America’s blatant refusal to bide by the world community’s carefully established and hard-won rules of communal governing. Humanity’s first honest attempts at tackling such huge global problems as environmental destruction (the Kyoto Treaty), human rights (the World Court), and nuclear disarmament (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) were simply brushed aside by the American government, constantly putting itself above the common rules. America wants to impose its standards and desires, but will not respect those of any one else.

I’m wondering, though, if what so many people want is a better way to deal with things like terrorism and environmental destruction, instead of feeling helpless all the time. It is time that some kind of system was enacted which allowed people all around the world to, on a grassroots level, have a say in what goes on in the world. The election of Bush, for instance, is a decision that deeply and directly affects all people around the world and, as many have suggested, solely leaving his election to the American electorate is unfair to the rest of the world, to say the least.

With the internet vastly improving transfer of information around the globe participation by people around the world has, for the first time, become a growing reality. Would it not be possible to form a global network of citizens, each acting locally, but participating at different levels of global involvement, that would allow all people around the world to have a direct say in what happens to their world? For international issues such as one country attacking another, putting it forth to the entire population of the world and allowing their votes to determine what ought to be done or prevented? Isn’t it time we stop thinking in terms of petty borders and think of the world population as one, with every man, woman, child, non-human, and element of the Earth carrying an equal share of the rights American espouse so much?

I believe that the reason no one can find solutions to the dilemma of such dinosaurs as the American or Russian or Chinese governments right now stems from a deep satisfaction with inbred ways of thinking. We have become a global community, whether we like it or not. It is antediluvian for us to still think in terms of “us against them”. While local cultures and government surely must continue to deal with the day-to-day workings of local communities, and national governments must still maintain a coherent order according to cultural realms, global problems like global warming and war cannot be left in the hands of unilateral decisions. The world is too close-knit for such sensitive and potentially disastrous decisions to be left to a few, self-interested individuals. This world belongs to all of us.

I am not suggesting revolution or violent action. I am suggesting a parallel, worldwide civic movement and, hopefully, eventually, citizenship of an organization that works mainly on information and keeping citizens informed. If the vote is truly as effective as it was meant to be then setting up a system whereby people around the world can vote for worldwide matters might stop people like Bush from regaining or gaining power.

Simply protesting is not enough. People all around the world need to have a say in all the matters that affect us all. And peacefully saying no and affecting worldwide decisions with methods similar to those employed by Gandhi to motivate the Indian populace against the British might possibly bring about a reformation in global politics and stewardship.

Blogging Journal Technology

Be Nice To Spammers Day

Scary moonI came across this article while browsing for more enlightened content. All I could think of was that my level of tolerance for spammers has reached zero porosity… it seems the laws are working to make life viable for these blood-sucking vermin (all apologies to mosquitoes, tick, leeches, and vampire bats being in order), while all the rest of us must continue to endure them. But really, who truly CARES if spammers’ sites were overwhelmed by traffic or if their sites were shut down? It’s not like their lives were threatened. Anyone who inundates my site with garbage and makes no apologies, while providing me with little means of preventing them from using my bandwidth, ought to have their own sites shut down. Or better yet, their access to the internet denied altogether.

Am I being too harsh here? People aren’t allowed to walk unannounced into my house and using my appliances without my permission… why is it allowed on the internet?