On Thursday, the Senate came to an agreement on an issue which had become unnecessarily partisan in the past four years: the state of American public service. I don’t know whether this signals a change in bipartisan communication in the Senate as a result of the Obama Administration’s motions towards including the Republican minority or more concrete evidence that the late economic unpleasantness is finally getting Democrats and Republicans to have a concerted dialogue. Continue reading
On the Boy Scout Trail, in the Redwood National Forest, 12 miles from coastal Crescent City, California, and 27 from the Oregon border, an informational sign at the 6 meter wide base of a fallen tree explains that the Redwoods are gregarious trees. Their shallow root system, relative to their massive hundred meter heights, requires them to live in groves. Their long roots grow shallow but reach out to neighboring roots, wrapping and coiling, and eventually growing together in order to support the upright weight of a community of trees which average 600 years old. In May, when Emmett and I crossed the country to meet these trees, I imagined them holding hands underground, fully aware of their reliance on each other.
Yes, that’s right, there is a swirling vortex out there and it is definitely of doom. Currently making a massive galaxy-like rotation in the North Pacific is a vortex of trash somwhere between 700,000 km2 and 15 million km2, most of it plastic. Because of the intense confluence of ocean currents in the North Pacific, trash from all over the world is sucked into this central location. Continue reading
There were some stirrings in the news this week about Michelle Obama planting a vegetable garden in the White House grounds. According to the Huffington Post, she broke ground on it today. Arguing that the White House’s main ambition in gardening is a public stunt to illustrate their commitment to all things “green” is perhaps the first inclination of the critic, yet there is a whole lot more going on here. Continue reading
Homelessness in Japan looks a bit different. I remember our first night in Tokyo, walking around Shinjuku and seeing tidily maintained groups of elderly homeless men under a bridge, each with all of their belongings neatly stowed in plastic containers and lashed to push carts, ready to move. Each had a recent haircut and many had cats leashed to the carts. Just last month, Melissa and I came upon a shanty town underneath a bridge in Kyoto and it looked like a small city: each person had his own organized space, cabinets and drawers neatly converted to small rooms. They, too, had cats.
In February, Japanese fiction luminary Haruki Murakami traveled to Israel to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Murakami had doubts about accepting the award, which honors the freedom of the individual in society, for good reasons. Israel had recently launched its overpowered offensive on the Gaza strip; he rightly felt ambivalent about the implications of being the new literary son of Israel. Continue reading
The highest-ranking sumo wrestler in Japan, 330-pound Asashōryū Akinori,took to the runway at a fashion show in Tokyo for the Shibuya Girls Collection. Asashoryu, the Mongolian-born badboy of sumo, was dressed inexplicably in a boy’s school uniform as he strode down the runway.