On June 18 Keiko closed on the purchase of our 3 bedroom mansion in the Adachi Kurihara district of Tokyo. To celebrate we dined at the Bistro Uehara, a nearby small neighborhood French country style restaurant.
The 6 course meal was fabulous –– well prepared dishes using fresh high quality ingredients, friendly and efficient service in an inviting atmosphere, and reasonably priced.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Like people everywhere I have been trying to find ways to keep safe, healthy and fit, stay productive, and also entertain myself during this period of self isolation and limited contact with the outside world due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In general, I have kept my attitude positive by adhering to the golf/life maxim to “play them as they lie!” I now treat every day as a gift, a new adventure in living my very unexpected life.
In the search to find things to do however I unfortunately got caught in the great “binge” trap. Without much thought I was soon over eating and drinking, gaining weight and finding ways to “relax.” With some effort, I was able to course correct and get back to a better place.
Being extremely curious but easily bored I decided to focus on reading books as my preferred entertainment and learning activity for the duration of the virus crisis. In the past six months, I have read an eclectic mix of 55 fictional and non-fiction books, my daily newspaper subscriptions to the English-language Japan Times and the international edition of the New York Times, and a host of online newsletters and other interesting and helpful information sources.
One of my favorite literature genres is mysteries, particularly those involving interesting detectives and I decided to embark upon a “binge” reading project involving the books of two of my favorite mystery authors that involve fictional detective characters –– Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Georges Simenon’s Inspector Jules Maigret. [Note: I have previously done this with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Ian Fleming’s 007 James Bond series as well as a number of other authors with interesting fictional characters.]
Poirot is a Belgian private detective best known for his iconic mustaches and using his “little grey cells” to solve the most puzzling cases often accompanied by Captain Arthur Hastings, who acts as the Watson to his Holmes.
Maigret is a gruff, but patient and fair, French police detective who serves as a commissaire of the Police Judiciaire de Paris.
Christie wrote 37 Poirot book titles plus a collection of 50 short stories. Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series includes 75 book titles and 28 short stories. My goal is to read every Kindle edition of these books in the order of publication (including re-reading a number I had previously purchased as paperback or Kindle editions).
To date, I have read 19 Poirot books and 8 with Maigret and completed nearly all the short stories.
While I have tried to manage my binge reading, I take naps during the day to makeup for the loss of sleep due to reading at night.
Over the year I have enjoyed drinking very good Japanese whiskey both in the United States and in Japan. With increasing popularity I had noticed significantly higher prices. In fact, since moving to Tokyo last fall I have purchased my preferred premium brands of imported single-malt scotch finding them a far better value than the Japanese product. I was also uncertain of the many varieties of Japanese whiskies available here since even with Keiko’s translation assistance, the bottles didn’t offer much information about the product.
Happy with the reasonably priced availability of my long-time favorites I didn’t give much thought to the local market and planned to but a top Japanese product for a future birthday gift.
You can imagine my surprise when I came across an article in the New York Times International Edition that claimed there was a serious problem with Japanese whiskies. The article cites authoritative sources saying “There are a lot of situations where you call it Japanese whisky, but they’re using imported Scotch or Canadian whisky.”
Lacking any regulatory regimen, there are few rules for what those bottles should contain. In fact, apparently some companies buy spirits in bulk from abroad, bottle and label it “Japanese whisky” both for sale in the local market and re-export to the United States and other countries.
“To sin by silence, when we should protest makes cowards out of men.”
The opening lines of a piercing poem titled “Protest” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850–October 30, 1919), from her 1914 book Poems of Problems written at the peak of the Women’s Suffrage movement and just as WWI was about to erupt.
PROTEST To sin by silence, when we should protest, Makes cowards out of men. The human race Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised Against injustice, ignorance, and lust, The inquisition yet would serve the law, And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God, No vested power in this great day and land Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry Loud disapproval of existing ills; May criticise oppression and condemn The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws That let the children and childbearers toil To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore I do protest against the boast Of independence in this mighty land. Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link. Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave. Until the manacled slim wrists of babes Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee, Until the mother bears no burden, save The precious one beneath her heart, until God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed And given back to labor, let no man Call this the land of freedom.
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