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Fukuoka meets fusion–“lasagna gardening”

13 Jun

In the US, a woman named Patricia Lanza has made popular Fukuoka Masanobu’s techniques of “do-nothing” farming–she followed, in turn, the earlier work of a woman named Ruth Stout.

Her concept selects and adapts particular features of FM’s work, and is known as “lasagna gardening.” It’s called this because it starts off with sheet mulching and wild mulching–laying sheets of cardboard over grass to tame it and get rid of weeds, and using plant matter on the spot for compost, letting it have its unruly way, rather than putting it in a tidy (“”) pile in a corner to gestate. It’s a kind of translated version of do-nothing farming that still involves some of the processes (sheet mulching, notably, and lack of interest in tilling). But it also drops some key features, such as the compelling autobio, the relation to a general critique of modernity, and questions about the role of the local vis-à-vis spiritual/mystical/Romantic/poetic histories.

Cover of Lanza's Fukuoka adaptation/localization

See what you think, by paging through it at Amazon

Is anything added? Anything lost? How does she imagine the task of adapting, localizing, translating? And what does “culture” (i.e. from cultivare, the word meaning ‘to grow’) mean to her, do you think?

Giants and Toys contexts–handout for Nov 9

8 Nov

I will pass this out, but here is a copy, for reference. (Some of the graphics have been lost.)

Page numbers refer to Michael Raine’s article.

Giants and Toys contexts Handout for Nov 9

1955    both the US and Soviet Union announce plans to get spacecraft launched @ 1957-8
1957    Sputnik is launched by the Soviet Union
1958    Giants and Toys
1961    Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
JFK proposes Apollo space program (runs through 1975)
1969    Men on moon


Satō Tadao
the “dean” of postwar film critics. Same era as Donald Richie. A leftist humanist.
Library:     Kenji Mizoguchi and the Art of Japanese Cinema, in Cinema/TV library, PN1998.3.M58S2813 2008
Online:    “An Introduction to Early Japanese Cinema,” in on-line journal Screening the Past:
review of “Masterpieces of Silent Japanese Cinema,” supervised by Satō:

Ozu Yasujirō
postwar (mostly) director beloved by art critics and cinephiles for his “quiet” family dramas. Is seen to break the stranglehold of Hollywood cinematic codes while remaining lyrical and poetic. Early silent films are quite funny.
LibraryGood Morning, EA collection @ Doheny, JDVD 0116
Online: Midnight Eye review of Good Morning:       


Giants and Toys contexts

Dazai & reading questions

19 Oct

iconic New Directions cover of The Setting Sun

Please read to 78 for Thursday, and the 4pp essay on decadence, and finish Dazai for Tuesday. As you read, consider:

1) why is the sun “setting”?

2) in his essay on decadence, SAKAGUCHI Ango (referred to as Ango) is disenchanted with the aristocracy, and with samurai. Why? What is becoming decadent, and why is it inevitable?

2) the narrator of The Setting Sun says that Mother is “one of the last of that kind of lady” (7). What kind of lady, and how does food figure in?

3) we move from food to drink–and lots of it–in this book. Some tea, but mostly booze. Is Naoji decadent in Ango’s sense?


Class prep for October 14–Thursday

12 Oct

We will watch the Momotarō film in class. As you watch, and as you read, think about:

?: what elements seem to vary, between versions? What elements are a constant–and seem to resemble a structure, something fixed?

?: like Ryuji, Momotarō is a young peach. How do the qualities people usually look for in a child help him in his cause as a warrior?

Note: the NDL (national diet library) book is much better when viewed on line here.

Don’t forget to watch the Momotarō jazz opera [search for Momotarō in the blog search box]

No blog entry–blog entry is due on a “mythic or propagandistic food” on Tuesday, October 19.

Reader/course pack update

2 Sep

So the reader is now available at Magic Machines, at the UV. It runs about $17 for part 1; part 2 is slightly longer, but not much.

I had a long conversation with the owner, when I turned it in. He basically was reluctant to print it at all, if the whole class does not use it. (He is familiar with ARLT courses & sizes.) Apparently he loses a bunch of money and gets lots of random orders at random times, when people get sick of printing and want to buy the reader at sporadic times during the semester. This makes him unhappy. The upshot is that we’re just going to do it with the reader–I did split it into two, though, to make it easier to handle. Pick it up and read the Fukuoka and Shimazono for next Thursday.

Readings update

28 Aug

The reader is assembled; it took more time to save money than I had thought. It is quite large, and going to the copy shop Monday, as they are closed for the day. You won’t need it until the week after next, but here is the next batch of readings, and a final syllabus, with more specific due dates. I swapped a couple of readings out, after reading the info you all wrote on Thursday, to incorporate things people were curious about.

Syllabus:* for current syllabus please see page titled”Exciting soba news–and new syllabus!”

Fukuoka reading: 2_fukuoka

Shimazono reading (new): on food and new religions/philosophies as AKMs, or “alternative knowledge movements”: 3_shimazono

Questions to think about: how does Fukuoka resemble kinds of counter-culture you may be familiar with? Why does he term his movement a “revolution”? And what is alternative about the kinds of knowledge Shimazono talks about?

Printed copy of course pack, or on-line materials?

24 Aug

This is useful to know, so I can tell the guy at University Village how many to make. Thanks!

If you mark “other,” please fill in the adjacent blank, or leave a comment, so one can imagine what this alternative might be.

Reading ?s for Thursday, August 26

24 Aug

1.  MAFF video: I recommend watching the video first. When you watch it, it is much clearer why issues of the everyday person’s food and diet are  connected to  huge, national issues. Yoshikawa’s article assumes that people and large policy issues are connected, but her explicit connection is more about farmland (which may be for food, but may be for something else).

Here are the “viewing questions” posted with the YouTube link.

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?

2.  YOSHIKAWA: A question to think about when reading Yoshikawa’s article: why is it a problem, in the writer’s mind, to have a “low food self-sufficiency rate”? Also, how does this compare to what you eat everyday?

3.  FOUCAULT: If you have not read much social theory, this one might be a bit dense. Foucault is a well-known (now deceased) French historian. He starts out by talking about periodization–the past was time, the present is space. He next introduces the idea of a utopia. And then he coins–invents–a new word, the “heterotopia.” The big question is what do his examples have in common, in terms of the special relation they have with the rest of the world? For a concrete example, you might think of the cemetery or the garden…

4.  POTTS: I picked this because it’s fun, and because it deals with how people might transform an overlooked urban space–a garden, not unlike our garden–into something more personal and satisfying. Potts makes a distinction between 2 kinds of creativity, one she calls “cool,” and one less cowed by taste, a heterotopic kind. When all is said and done, would you enjoy having the gnomes in your garden?

5.  BROMBERG (optional): Bromberg tells the story of a case study–a “space of possibility” (a more everyday way of saying heterotopia, with a few differences) from Chicago, Mess Hall. She starts with a basic observation about cities–that it’s hard to find spaces to just BE, without spending money–what she calls “existing spaces for non-market interactions” (215). Her piece describes how the bunch of people who run MH construct an “economy of generosity.” What kinds of benefits does she say this stance has for its participants?

Readings for Thursday, August 26

24 Aug

This Thursday, we will speak of a tension between two ways of seeing Japanese food:

–the prevailing tone of doom or crisis we hear from policy-makers in Japan and eco-critics who point to large-scale changes in the food supply, including the coming demise of bluefin tuna;

–in contrast, the celebratory tone of foodies, entrepreneurs, urban gardeners, and other people who revel in the variety, quality, and scope of foods available, in Japan and in LA.

We will speak of some provisional ways of making connections between these two scales–the macro and the micro. Key terms, and the articles that discuss them are:

CRISIS: Yukie Yoshikawa, “Can Japanese Agriculture Overcome Dependence and Decline?” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 26-3-10, June 28, 201.

MAFF video, “Ensuring the Future of Food.”

–VERNACULAR CREATIVITY: potts_gnomes: Tracey Potts, “Creative Destruction and Critical Creativity: Recent Episodes in the Social Life of Gnomes,” in Spaces of Vernacular Creativity: Rethinking the Cultural Economy, eds. Tim Edensor et al. (London: Routledge, 2010), 154-169

–HETEROTOPIAS-foucault_heterotopias: Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces.” Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986): 22-27.

OPTIONAL: POSSIBILITY SPACE: bromberg_creativity unbound: Ava Bromberg, “Creativity Unbound: Cultivating the Generative Power of Non-Economic Neighbourhood Spaces,” in Spaces of Vernacular Creativity: Rethinking the Cultural Economy, ed. Tim Edensor et al. (London: Routledge, 2010), 214-225. Note: the biblio is quite long…it is the biblio for the entire book, not just this essay.