Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I just saw the academy award winner Okuribito, ("Departures" is the English title, although Okuribito literally means "Sender"). I cried my eyes out.

Please see it. It’s steeped with Japanese culture, including gnarly kinds of food set in a morbid, yet beautiful, wabi-sabi context.

For example, there is a scene (featured above) where the master invites the young apprentice up to his home and together they eat grilled shirako. Shirako,白子、 “white children,” is milt, or fish testicles filled with semen. You can find them at any sushi restauarnt or izakaya.

At the wedding party last weekend I was asked what Japanese foods I havn’t tried yet. I said shirako and this one girl sitting next to me asked why? What is it? Many Japanese people don't actually know, in the same way many westerners don't know what’s in hotdogs, but eat them anyway. I told her it was fish testicles and she laughed and said, “No it’s not! No way.” With the help of the bar tender and another girl next to me we softly broke the news to her. She was shocked.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Work In Progress

Here are a few paintings in my new series. They're not finished, but you get the idea. 

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Assam again

Amazing Beautiful Creatures Dancing Excites the Forest Glade, In my Heart how I do Jump like the Kudo Listening to the Music, so Nice the Organ Plays, Quietly Rests the Sleepy Tiger Under the Vine tree at the Water's side, and X marks the place 'neath the Yellow moon where the Zulu chief and I did hide.

Bobby McFerrin tells his students that the most important thing about improvisation is motion--just keep going. Start and then keep moving. That’s all.

And that means that anyone can do it. You don't need any theoretical knowledge.  Babies sing improve all the time. 

And entire dreams and universes are born and go and that’s just what they do.

The weather today was so fucking nice. I woke up to a warm, windy bedroom, next to two absolutely beautiful friends who slept over, and told myself that today I would paint, draw, and do the dishes. Instead I played with a 4 year old all afternoon, and then took my computer to Seattle’s Best to watch Bobby Mcferrin sing polyphonic with people blissed out of their minds on youtube.

As many of you know, I’m a singer. Been singing and dancing alone in my bedroom every since I was little--got the home videos to prove it. Thanks dad. It's one of my “gayest” sides:  singing and dancing and painting. And I’m not unique in this AT ALL.  Joyfully singing is universal, baby. When we sing and dance we get to express something, which is so satisfying for some reason, and it creates a kind explosion of bliss energy in our bodies.  Don't even get me started about harmony and collaboration and the nature of the We....this PLAY, this Lila, this Creativity and Music  and mixing of spontaneous improve is holy, holy, holy.

What’s really fun is to practice Mozart’s ABC song with the 13 year olds at 8:00 in the morning.  And sing it two times. First time you add a little, really simple harmony.  Then the second time ask the kids who know any harmony to sing it on top.  Some of these kids have been playing piano since they were in the womb, so trust me, they know a harmony, and are probably a little excited to get to try one out. Breaking away from unison is so exciting! 

Also, and this is very important. In order to copy my enlightened math teacher in high school (who made us rap the quadratic formula every morning) tell the kids to sing loud enough so that their friends all over the school can hear them. It’s fun.  And holy.

But seriously,  Bobby Mcferrin is a super-professor.  Imagine being a vocal student and having Bobby Mcferrin as you own, private teacher, who you can see whenever you want, and you can sing with whenever you want, and you can ask really difficult questions about the meaning of life and suffering and art.  That it what it was like having Robert Brawley as my painting teacher, my master. The last two years of collage were, artistically, enough miraculously good karma to justify at least the next twenty rebirths to be in the hell realms.  I am such a lucky asshole.  How did this happen?

That is also when I got to receive the bodhisattva vow from the Dalai Lama at his monastary in India, and when I got to make new love with my best friends.

It’s my mom’s fault.

The sad part of this story is that my last meeting with Robert Brawley was canceled because he had to go to the hospital, and soon after that, he died.  You may remember me crying in the rain. But also, one of the greatest days of my life was last year when I got to spend 6 hours with his wife, who then sold me the very first Robert Brawly painting I ever saw, the one with his self portrait right in the middle. That circular mirror. The symbolism of all this is very dreamy, yes?

Anyway, enough about me.  Let’s talk about my new niece and nephew!!!!!!!!!!!! My oldest sister is now a mommy!  It happened!!! And I am going to be the strangest, craziest, “gayest,” awesomest uncle in the world, I promise. When David and Margot turn 18, I'm taking them to Assam! 

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Lightning River

Last dinner. It was like a dream. 
We hiked up a mountain to the Tengu Penis Shrine. Japan. 

Shinboku in Nikko

We met Kei and Yasuchika outside a hookah bar in Tokyo. 
Yoshi took us to see Taro Okamoto's mural "Myth of Tomorrow" installed at Shibuya station.  This was a huge highlight of my trip. 

Satoru with Misa and her beautifully androgynous friends in front of the entrance to Meiji Jingu shrine. 

Nikko. This World Heritage site (because the woodwork and paintwork is un-fucking-believable) was packed with people (and thus, packed with angels). ridiculous. Golden Week is like that. 
Amazing woodwork, with shide hanging from a doorway. I am growing very fond of these symbols. and can you see the tiny shrine within of the big one?  "It's shrines all the way down." 
The circular mirror on the alter at Tengu Shrine. Man I love the symbolism in Japanese Shinto shrines. You climb up a mountain or a thousand stairs to finally reach the shrine at the top.  You peer inside the sacred room and see sitting on the alter a mirror. Which is to say, you see yourself.  Ah.  But you also can't really see yourself because it's dark and the mirror is dirty, so you see a circular disc representing a mirror.  Are you offering God a mirror? "Here you are, God. Look at yourself!"  Is it the mirror Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, used to look at herself in the Shinto story? Is the circular mirror a symbol for the sun goddess herself? Altars are not just where offerings are made; they are also sometimes where the symbolic God sits, like in Christianity and Buddhism. By putting a mirror on the altar in that context, it is pointing yet again to the God-presence Within, looking out through your very own eyes. Or at least the mirror is pointing to one important source of your world...You. Needless to say, circular mirrors contain many meanings and symbolic powers, and discovering one in a secret room on top of a holy mountain can rapidly unravel higher and deeper levels of mind, meaning, and symbolism, making the mirror a great object to have on the alter! (And it's also a core symbol used in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition (of which Dream Yoga is a part). In Buddhism, circular mirrors may be warn around the neck as well, so that when another person looks at your heart they see their own.  

 (Furthermore, the mirror-mind is also an analogy (along with the crystal ball) for how the nature of mind is always looking me right in the face but is missed.  I miss it by focusing on the objects arising within it.  How often are you conscious of the surface of the mirror--that unchanging reflecting pool of clear silver light allowing the objects to be seen in the first place? When you look the mirror, how often are you aware of the mirror surface, really?  And why would you be? The amazing, unending diversity of forms arising and passing within the mirror-mind is so hypnotizing, so breathtaking, and rightly's a miracle anything is happening at all.   

Meiji Jingu. This is a very important shine right next to Yoyogi park. We were lucky enough to get to see Kyogen and Noh theater there for free. People took pictures even though they were asked nicely not to. (Not me, though. I took these before the performance started.) During the Noh, which is a very intense kind of theater, a happy, beautiful wedding party walked by, attracting everyone's attention. It was a bit KY, but also a profound juxtaposition. 


Satoru Kikuchi I got David Titterington. He is sleeping in my room!!!!
Satoru Kikuchi David Titterington is on the way to his home. I miss him already! And I had to catch up Emily in Shinagawa station

Golden week, golden eyes, golden sunshine streaming in through the Shiokaze "salt wind" train windows and soul windows, golden pink sunlight making the blue silver mountains purple for my way back from Ibaraki Sunday evening. I clutched my iphone and sunk deep into my chair of missingness, with dazzlingly beautiful Japanese people sleeping all around me.  

Sad sad sad is leaving a place so full of love and light and pineapples!!!! Satoru must have remembered what my favorite foods are from when he was in America, and told his family because I had pineapple everyday and spinach salad... and Satoru has 3 cute, big,  funny dogs, and an awesome, beautiful sister, a hilarious, handsome older brother, and of course two glowing parents with a lightning river, belligerently blissed-out  grandmother living next door.  His parents reminded me of so many amazing parents I know, but they were most like the Johnsons, if you can imagine. Those of you who met Satoru might like to imagine what his family must have been like, and his best friend Yoshi...a lot like Eli. Yoshi and I drummed together for an hour under the hot sun at Yoyogi park, and were both happily sunburned for days afterward. hippies.  I thank their my type. 

But Satoru is not a hippy. He is not anything.  His name means "Enlightenment Itself." Traditionally we could start there for some sort of interpretation.   Whatever he is, Satoru is my teacher in Happiness, Playfulness, and Truthfulness. He told me one night that his religion is Honesty, and I believe him.   


May all beings be Free and in Love.

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