Friday, August 24, 2007

Send In The Clowns

At the bottom of this page, you'll find a link to Pink's song ''A Long Way To Happy.'' I may change that in the future, but for now, it's appropriate to my mood, or I should say my condition, which is, like the song says, something that's going to take a long time to get back on track. This is, pardon the pun, a depressing situation. I am usually preternaturally happy, meaning I can find something to lift me out of even the most crappy situations, or at least I could until this one.

I understand that there is some technique by which we can stimulate the left prefontal lobe of our brains (up on the left side of the forehead) to trigger release of whatever chemical is responsible for the feeling of happiness. People with brain problems in the parts of the brain that control such emotions as the nurturing instinct, feelings of elation and depression, and so on, often have to take drugs that do the same thing chemically to counter periodic depression or other conditions that make the brain sort-of cramp up.

I don't know the technique, apart from having read some research on it in science magazines. What I do know is that we could all do with whatever technique it takes to be happier. I wish I could have been able to give my partner my personal sense of happiness. Perhaps I did in some small way, but I certainly did enough else to erase whatever good I might have done beforehand. Still, there are some things we can do to help get those happiness juices flowing. Do good for others. Help people. Be nice to people. Smile at people. Speak softly. No, better yet, don't speak so much. Think first about whether what you say will cause more harm than good.

I know that people in the wealthiest (economically advanced) countries are supposed to be the happiest in general. However, I am sitting now in the capital city of the world's second-largest economy, surrounded by some of the most unhappy damned people I've ever seen. If you've followed my other Blogs, you'll know I wrote a lot about bipolarism, and the "frustrating mess" Jimi Hendrix described in Manic Depression (We're not supposed to call it that anymore). And what I know is that not everybody appreciates the effort to be happy or to make others feel happy. From where I sit, that's pretty depressing itself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Self-Control vs. Birth Control

I'm certain that I have not gotten anyone pregnant in the past three months. I will warn you now that this entry is about something some people find offensive, or at least controversial. But Blogs are supposed to be about free expression, so that's why you get a chance to express your opinion too.

This is sort-of about birth control. Many people who like sex (and that covers a lot of people) are somewhat careless about who they have sex with and when or how frequently they have sex and what kind of sex they have. These lapses are responsible for many sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are more awful than others, and, of course, a great many unwanted pregnancies.

Unfortunately, in all the years people have been having sex, there are not very many ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies except to abstain from vaginal intercourse. Homosexuals are pretty safe in this regard, and those who engage exclusively in oral sex are also fairly assured they won't get or make anyone else pregnant. The other kinds, however, are risky, and unprotected vaginal sex, especially frequent, as in three, four, five times a day unprotected vaginal sex, is higher risk. The numbers naturally increase the risk.

Condoms are not insurance against pregnancy. Guys who use condoms do their partners a big favor, however, by minimizing the risk of spreading or contracting STDs. Condoms are also a help, but no guarantee, against pregnancy. Birth-control pills are not foolproof, and there are sometimes dangerous side-effects, depending upon the kind of pill, the dosage, and whether the pill has contraindications with other medications. Women with certain medical conditions should not use birth-control pills without consulting an experienced gynecologist who knows the patient well enough to understand her hormonal balances. Spermicides are not foolproof. The so-called morning-after pill doesn't prevent pregnancy, but does seem fairly effective at inducing what amounts to a spontaneous abortion. For guys, even the pipe-cut route is not absolutely fool-proof, I am told, if the guy has a high sperm count and motility and is a member of the frequent-flyer program. Abstaining from intercourse when the lady is most likely to be pregnant (calendars and thermometers can help here.)

As a guy, I am probably gonna be criticized for pointing out that it takes two people to make a pregnancy. In fact there are only a few living things (people not included) that can procreate without a partner. So when we say ''unwanted pregnancy,'' we need to point out that both the giver and the receiver need to be on the same page when it comes to how far they are willing to go with each other. So-called casual sex takes on a whole new meaning when the condom pops, or when there isn't one in the first place. The guy who is considerate enough of his partner to use a condom should be able to feel that his partner is also smart enough to know her own body well enough to know when her biological factors are least likely to be in the condition to make babies. Alas, many guys are not that considerate, and all to few ladies are sensitive enough about their own menstrual cycles and subtle but important changes that occur between periods to know if they're likely to get pregnant. Although there are arguably too many humans chasing too few resources already, humans are still built with things that make us (men and women alike) want to have sex the most when we are most likely to have that sex result in more humans.

So we have to be more careful. Guys have to be subtly careful about their partners and ladies have to insist--yes, dammit, insist, that their partners at least wear condoms, and maybe also insist that they agree in advance to pull out before crossing the finish line, so to speak (although again, that's not foolproof either).

I say these things because I am a father. I am very proud to be a father, and I love my child for having come into my life after heart-wrenching traumas with partners who could not carry babies to term. Abortion to save the mother, or to avoid having her bear a child with deforming birth defects, is, I think, a necessary medical procedure. I don't think it is fair or moral to criticize doctors who perform abortions nor the parents who agree to abortion in those circumstances, to be punished or subject to abuse for their decisions.
As a guy, I can't completely know the physical and emotional pain that a woman goes through in having an abortion. It's not only the surgical process (D&C is the most common procedure, involving dilating the birth canal, scraping away fetal tissue from the lining of the uterus and flushing out the tissue.) This is, make no mistake, killing an unborn human. For the father of that unborn human, it is the same as being an accomplice. Being involved in taking the life of another, especially your own child, is not something anyone can do easily. And months -- years -- decades --after, recollection of having been the accomplice, even for the best of reasons, still haunts me.

So I plead with anyone and everyone contemplating sex with the opposite sex to be careful. Sex, as wonderful as it is, is just like any other investment. There are rewards and there are risks. Know your body. Know your partner. Know in your heart whether the reward is worth the consequences.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Barber Poll

It was time for a haircut, so I went down to my favorite little barber shop in Sunamachi Ginza. I digress for a moment to tell you about Sunamachi Ginza. It's what city folks call Shitamachi, which literally means downtown, but more accurately is sort of a nostalgic throwback to the sleek malls and all-in-one department store/supermarkets that have all but taken over retailing in Japan. These are the little mom-and-pop stores that sell nuts and bolts, bread, silk, underwear, yakitori, sake, vegetables, fish... everything. And this one is about to go, because a new mall and high-rise housing complex is under constrcution just across the street. When it opens, I fear mom and pop are going to have to find another livelihood.
Anyway, the barbershop is a three-chair affair, and the barbers are ladies. I am too old to call them older women, but they are older than 40, in any case. Imagine the conversation was in English (It was in Japanese). It went like this:
Barber Lady: Welcome. Haven't seen you in a while.
Me: I'm sorry to be away so long.
Barber Lady: What happened to the young lady?
Me: She left me.
Barber Lady: She what? Goodness me. And you two seemed so happy together.
Me: Yes, we were, but that's over now. I'm alone.
Barber Lady: Well, don't you worry. You'll get a nicer one.
Me: I hope you're right. I think I won't be in a hurry for that.
Barber Lady: That's the best. The good ones come to you. Just remember that!

So, even the barbershop lady tells me I should just get on with it and have a life. So, I'm getting on with it. I got a good haircut and some sound advice, with the reminder that it's no good feeling sorry for yourself when things go wrong. Things often go wrong. Just keep trying. There'll be a better one. That's the consensus. I'll work with that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Many Happy Returns

I have just received (well, an hour ago, to be honest) my second birthday greeting. It was from a nice young lady who works with autistic children. She is a very unselfish and happy-minded woman, and I am proud to know her.

My first birthday greeting was automatically generated from an astrology site. Now, I am not particularly astrology-minded, but I don't dump on the idea, because it helps explain some things that are awfully darned hard to explain by other means, scientific or spiritual or otherwise.

And one thing I learned from that little birthday greeting that I didn't learn from my friend, is that there is something called the Solar Return, which means that on your birthday, the sun returns to the same relative position in the universe that it was in when you were born. Did you know that? I didn't. I'm not even sure if it's true, but it could also explain some things, because I am not in the same place I was in when I was born, and that apparently screws with the wa, astrologically speaking.

I'll take that as a way of explaining how this birthday has so far not been exactly the great whooping mound of happiness I hoped it would be so far. Of course it is only an hour and 28 minutes into the program, but I am still awaiting the fiery sunny part of my rising stars to do their stuff.

I'm a Leo, and Leos are supposed to be all sorts of good things. A little rundown I got is that they love to host parties and events. And I have invited another very nice young lady, in fact, to come over for dinner to help mark this birthday. But it also says Leos are rarely found alone, and that has not been the case for a couple of months now. I guess that is why the less-nice things about Leos are also appropriate. My horoscope says I am loving, fun and very giving to those in my personal life, and very forthright about my affection for my partner. In matters of sex, I am adventurous, fun and highly energetic. Hmmm. Well, it says mates are chosen for their willingness to allow the Leo to take the lead, and look for lovers who are uninhibited and not self-conscious. My mate must be my intellectual equal. Hmm again. I like to think so. There is more. Like my strongest compatibility is with Aires. I thought so too, but that didn't work out. So, I await the coming of my ruling planet, the Sun, and hope that the things that are supposed to apply to us Leos will shine on me today. I hope they shine on you too, whether or not it is your birthday. To help it along, here's a little music from two of my favorites, George Harrison and Paul Simon:

Many happy solar returns.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tupelo Honey

"A little less conversation, a little more action please. All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me. A little more bite and a little less bark. A little less fight and a little more spark. Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me. Satisfy me baby.’’
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building… Even so, he is still very much a presence to people of all shapes and sizes, cultures and even musical tastes. I was pleasantly surprised the other day when a young lady shared her headphone with me to hear a bit of Elvis’s ‘’Milk Cow Blues Boogie,`` one of the first songs he recorded with Scotty and Bill for Sun Records. The song knocked me out of a reverie of time and place as I was having a solo picnic lunch in the grass of the Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace grounds in central Tokyo.
The thoughtful Japanese woman who shared the bit of Elvis music with me said she loves Elvis. I asked how she knew of his music, and she said her grandmother had been a big Elvis fan, and she listened to the records as a little girl on visits to Granny’s home. This, I think, is what being immortal really means: Someone can so affect the thoughts of another and those influences pass from generation to generation.
So Elvis is still with us, and his musical influence brought back other memories of my disrupted reflections of a beautiful young woman who has also been greatly influenced by her grandmother’s musical tastes. She’s the person who shared a picnic with me on that same spot just two years ago.
So I made a quiet little toast to the health and happiness of that lady, wherever she may be, and said a little prayer that her life will be better. And later that day, I went to the nearest HMV and found a new Elvis compilation – yet another, but a very good one, both in the choice of songs in the anthology and the quality of the remastering. It’s called The Sun Sessions, and it’s another tribute to the durability of Elvis’s influence on music and musical tastes.
Elvis was not just another white guy ripping off songs by black musicians. Even the great John Lee Hooker paid tribute to fellow Tupelo, Mississippi, homeboy Elvis in his powerful ‘’Tupelo,’’ a blues song recalling the ‘’Great Flood’’ of 1934 that I think still stands as the worst tornado in U.S. history.
Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, a victim of various excesses. He left behind more than 600 fan clubs and the vigorous Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc., which runs his estate, Graceland, and keeps the Elvis mystique primed with memorabilia like Elvis spoons, plates, mouse pads and teddy bears. (Yes, Elvis and I and the lady I can’t stop loving shared a fondness for teddy bears.) There are, I am told, Elvis-memorial Reese Cups filled with peanut butter and banana cream.
As it happens, that little musical interlude in the grass was not only just a week ahead of the anniversary of one of the sweetest moments in my life, but also a week before the anniversary of Elvis’s death, and the start of a week of observances related to it. And thinking about that was a big help in getting me out of a state of depression and putting my head in what I hope is the right direction. I recommend that to everyone.

To vicariously join in some of the Elvis recollection, see the everything-Elvis site at
And to see where Elvis made that first 1954 recording of ‘’That’s All Right’’ that started the fuss, go to the Sun Records site, at*Yp5fV2&product=Elvis%20Presley