Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two Musicians - A Modern Story



"Penny wise and pound foolish" - Old English proverb


"Some people will be stumbling over a quarter to pick up a penny" - Unknown 

Two musicians have gotten together to make a recording. One of the musicians is in a world famous rock band and sometimes performs headlining at festivals in front of 200,000 people; the other one is a singer with three records released but no real success to date.

By some miracle, these two have found themselves working together to make the singer's next album. Also for that next album, there are a line up of several famous musicians who have agreed to help out on that recording; some famous musicians will co-write songs with the singer; some will perform on the album for the singer; some will do whatever they can; all to make a fun project and to create "magic" in the studio for what could be the singer's big break.

Our team consists of the singer and a guitarist. 

I'd like to refer to the guitarist as musician as this musician is multi-talented and can play many different instruments. The singer, well, the singer is just a supposedly talented singer. 

The singer and the musician are supposed to get together and write the songs for this new album.

Usually, when two musicians get together in this sort of case, they meet and get excited about making music. They find the time; one brings a guitar, and the other a notebook, and they begin the process of singing back and forth to each other and playing different things; they begin to create together. They begin to have fun making music. They begin the magic of making music by communicating their thoughts, ideas, and dreams all turning them all into songs. They love music and love what they do so much that you couldn't keep them apart!

But, with our singer and musician, there is, though, one big problem with this situation; the singer and musician live 10,000 kilometers apart! They live on opposite sides of the world. This makes it impossible for the two to "meet" everyday and spend time together and share ideas and sing together to make songs and music.

Is it impossible to make music together for these two? Not in this day and age! Today, people can use SKYPE to talk to other people on the other side of the world for nearly free! 

Isn't that wonderful? Free! Technology saves the day! Hooray!

Our singer and our musician can talk together everyday and make music; they can dream together and cry and laugh together to make our singers record. In fact, there are several good examples of musicians who are making fantastic music this way, yet they live on opposite corners of the world! 

One of my favorites is Lola Dutronic. The singer lives in Germany; the musician lives in Canada. I have spoken with both of them by SKYPE before too as I am a big fan of theirs and I play their music on the radio in Japan. The musician and the singer told me they "meet" on SKYPE (sometimes several times a week) and share their song ideas and laugh and have fun (of course, writing music with someone else is fun, isn't it?). The musician is living in Canada and they make the tracks and then sends them to the singer, who lives in Germany. 

It's MAGIC! The ideas become songs! Beautiful and wonderful songs too! And these two never meet. They never go to the studio. They even make videos for their songs "together."

Here is my favorite song from Lola Dutronic. It's called, "Everybody Loves You When You're Dead."



Isn't that fantastic? I love this song. Amazing, when you think about it that two people who did not meet directly could make such wonderful music...

But I digress... This blog post isn't about Lola Dutronic; it's about our singer and musician.

Our singer and musician have been "working" on their record now for about three months. As far as I know, they have no songs written together yet. Nope. None. Zero. Nada. Why? In that time, the singer has spoken on SKYPE to the musician, probably, at most 5 or 6 times. How could this be?

The singer didn't have a computer that worked properly so singer was unable to SKYPE with musician!!! What????

Now, think about that for a moment... 



This singer is not famous nor successful. Yet this singer gets the chance to work with world-class musicians. This is singer's once in a lifetime chance. Chances like this do not come - ever - for most people; but singer gets the chance all musicians only dream of. 

Alas, singer is unwilling to spend $600 ~ $800 dollars on a used computer that will allow singer to talk to musician on SKYPE everyday, if they wish. 

Perhaps this singer is not hungry or smart enough to be successful?

The singer also has a management company that is spending a lot of money on the studio, etc., in the tens of thousands of dollars, on this new record for singer. 

Wonderful management company. 

But management company won't spend a relatively small $600 ~ $800 dollars on a used computer that will allow singer to talk to musician on SKYPE everyday, if they wish. 

Wonderfully short sighted management company.

Perhaps this singer's management company is not hungry or smart enough to help their talent become successful?

The chance of a lifetime yet neither the singer or the management company will spend the $600 ~ $800 dollars on a used computer that will allow singer to talk to musician on SKYPE everyday, if they wish. 

Now it is months later, and there are no songs yet.

Who is crazier in this situation? The singer or the management company? I'm not too sure...

But I do know that this situation is ridiculous.

If I were the singer, this would never happen. I'd do anything to get my chance. I'd even steal a computer. Yes. I would. And I wouldn't get caught either.

The obvious choice here is if I were the management company, this would never happen; I'd make damned sure that my singer had the basic tools to get the job done and get it done right. That should be obvious.

I don't know. Penny wise. Pound foolish.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Everything is Simple to Understand. Just Follow These Guidelines.


You know, with everything you see/hear on TV and from the media, it's pretty simple. Just follow these simple guidelines: 

1) 90% of everything on TV is bullshit, the other 10% are commercials (Global Warming, Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, etc. etc.) 

2) If the government says that there is a problem and they need to tax us more to fix the problem, turn around and run as fast as you can the other way.

Today is November 20, 2014. Yesterday, entire USA went under 32F freezing. That includes Hawaii. 

Today the entire East Coast of the USA is under several feet of snow. 

Last year was the coldest winter in Japan in 40 years. The year before that was the coldest in 24 years... 

The way this winter is going so far, I think it is is year is gonna blow them both away.... In 30 years, I don't remember it being this cold in November. It's so cold, I wouldn't be surprised if it started to snow. 

Of course, the mass media and the government will say this is all caused by Global Warming.

Please refer to my simple rules above.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Minimum Wage is Not the Problem!


My recent article making a mockery of the raising of the Minimum Wage to $15 an hour: Minimum Wages Should Be $50 an Hour? Minimum Wage to the Moon, I Say! did get me some "good" mails. I won’t print them because they were so crazy or profane they were basically worthless… But I did get one that seemed to be pretty, well, calm, and seems to encapsulate the argument for the pro-raising the Minimum Wage crowd.

Anonymous writes:

"And who is going to buy all these products that robots are making when minimum wage never gets raised and the only thing people can afford are rent and food?"

Why complain to me? I was all for raising the Minimum Wage to $10,000 an hour, wasn’t I? If an arbitrarily selected number like $15 an hour is good, then let’s all become rich and make it $10,000 an hour, right?

Of course, that is total nonsense.

This reader's comment either intentionally ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room or they are ignorant of what is really going on.  

How about asking the correct question? That is, 

“Who is ruining the purchasing power of our money? Why does the US dollar buy less than 4% of what it did 100 years ago? Why does the US dollar buy less than 25% of what it did in the mid-eighties? Why is the government ruining the purchasing power of our money?”

Dear reader totally misses the real issue here when they think that, because of automation, people won't have jobs. Let me ask, “And who bought the products when machines started picking the cotton and taking away the jobs from millions of slave laborers? Who bought Japanese automobiles when robots replaced 85% of the human workers in Japanese auto factories? Who did the shopping for your mother when she no longer had to hand wash the clothes and dishes or clean the house on her hands and knees?”

The Minimum Wage is not the problem. The problem is the government destroying your money.



What was the Federal Minimum Wage in 1964? $1.25 an hour. 

Five USA quarters minted in 1964 (and prior) were worth $1.25; the Minimum Wage. 

Today's Minimum Wage? $15.00? 

What is the value of those five 1964 silver quarters today? About $20.25. 

Like I said, it's not the value of the Minimum Wage, it is the US government intentionally destroying the value of your currency. Minimum Wage is a side show.

Until folks get educated on what Fiat Currencies are, and the value of real money, then there's no helping them.


The government loves it when people don't talk about the real issue here: destruction of the purchasing power of the dollar (This is quite simplistic, but how do you think they pay for these foreign wars and military bases all over the world?) 

The Minimum Wage is not the problem. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

Minimum Wages Should Be $50 an Hour? Minimum Wage to the Moon, I Say!


I laugh at this minimum wage nonsense in the USA. 

It seems that in many areas in the USA, voters approved of a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. 

I won't go into the many arguments for this because they are all nonsense. But I will say that if government interfering with voluntary contracts in private businesses is the answer to fixing the economy, why don't they just raise the minimum wage to $500 dollars and hour? Hell, why stop at $500? Let's go to $10,000 an hour and we can all be paid like big company CEOs.

We'll be rich!

Well, the one argument that pro-minimum wage hike proponents like to make is that "they did studies and found that (for example) McDonald's could raise their prices on hamburgers (say) $0.30 a piece and it wouldn't hurt sales." Now that is interesting! McDonald's is a for profit company run by some pretty smart business people (I think). I'd reckon that if they could have raised prices $0.30 a piece, thereby increasing profits, they would have done that long ago... 

Ya think?

Now that they have raised the minimum wage, many establishments are following Japan's lead in employing robots. Japan uses robots because Japan has a labor shortage. The USA industries will do this because, well, putting pickles on a burger isn't exactly skilled labor.


Hi! May I take your order, please!

Now, people stateside are complaining about the robots. I read one comment on Facebook where a guy wrote, "What happens if the robots make humans obsolete?"

I laughed. He is joking, right? I hope he was joking! Hasn't this joke been told for over 100 years? Hasn't everyone seen Chaplin's "Modern Times"?



Alas, in today's USA, I suspect the guy who thinks "robots will make humans obsolete" is was dead serious.

People worrying about robots and technology making humans obsolete is an old story that's been going on since the start of the Industrial Revolution. 

Hilarious. Japan leads the world in robot technology and instituting robots at the workplace to do jobs better, cheaper, faster and more reliably than humans. Are humans obsolete in Japan? Are robots taking human jobs? Well, in the last figures released, unemployment in Japan was virtually non-existent at 3.6%. Please refer to: Japan Unemployment Rate 

Unemployment Rate in Japan increased to 3.60 percent in September of 2014 from 3.50 percent in August of 2014. 

So much for robots putting us out of work, eh? I wrote on Facebook and asked the guy if he hadn't heard that cotton used to be picked by hand.

Here's a comic I made (well, I added the text is all) just to rabble-rouse and laugh at the "human versus robot counter revolution" that's coming! 



Imagine all these minimum wage workers fighting back against high technology taking their jobs!

Think Arnie Schwartzneggar can get the lead role as the unemployed revolutionary leader in the Hollywood film? Ha! Ha! Ha!

---------------

There's a robot sushi near my house. The place is super clean, super cheap and great for the price.... The only humans there are cleaning tables and sitting people. I hear there are a couple in the kitchen putting sliced fish on robot made rice balls... I'll take photos next time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Got the Newest Model of TV? You Have No Privacy Anymore! Your Data is Being Sent to Third Parties With Your Permission!


Been telling people for years to trash their TV sets. Few listen. First wrote about it in Lew Rockwell in an article entitled: "The Plug-in Drug."

My favorite dig at parents who, they themselves say they think TV is bad (but do nothing about it):

"People always say that they love their children and that they will do anything for them. But, for the most part, and from what I’ve seen, it’s not true. There is one thing that they will not do for their children: They haven’t the courage to throw the TV out."

Yep! Parents, often more than children, need the TV because they use it as a baby-sitter or - even though they won't admit it - they are hooked themselves (sports, etc.)


Now, today, here's something I picked up from Karl Denninger (I've paraphrased it for you):


"....I just bought a new TV.  

I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which delivers streaming, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too.

The only problem is that I’m afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs and records everything you do with the unit. It can even turn on while the set is off and record what's going on in your living room.

The unit comes with a warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” 


Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV."

I don't have a TV in my home and have no intention of ever allowing one in the home... 

Ever wonder why digital TV was/is touted to be such a great thing? 

1) They can sell you more crap you don't need (to watch the very same crap that was on your analogue TV; 

2) You can be tracked and spied upon.

And, no, this isn't illegal. A third party can turn on your microphone and record you from outside. Why? Because it is stated in the Users Agreement and the moment you turned on the set, you approved of it. You approved of this invasion of your privacy, so it isn't illegal.

Whose fault is it if you didn't read the Users Agreement? 

Enjoying your time at home now, in front of the TV?

I sure hope so.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Near Death at the Hospital, Last Month! - Back in Humor, This Month!


A regular reader sent me a nice letter asking where I've been. OK, here is the story...

On the night of Sept 5, 2014, I suddenly had a hard time breathing and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I say "suddenly" but that's not exactly true. Actually, I had been sick for two months with a stomach ailment that just wouldn't go away. Also, being an idiot, I am one of these people who won't go to the doctor unless something is just about killing me. So, I had been suffering some symptoms for several weeks, if not months. And, as an idiot is wont to do, when I felt bad at night, I'd smoke a few cigarettes and drink to excess so I could ease the pain at night and, come sleep time, just pass out ... 

So, I've actually been sick since end of July or early August, that's why I haven't felt up to writing - well, at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Was my stomach ailment Ebola? Nah, nothing that cool. Just a messed up stomach. Lots of people at work had it for a few weeks too.  

Anyway, at the hospital, after some tests and X-Rays, they deemed me as not being bad enough for admission so they sent me home. Much later than night, though, on the morning of Sept. 6, I was in an ambulance again and, this time, to Tamagawa Nissan Hospital (a much larger hospital with a heart specialists center not 5 minutes walk from my house), where I was admitted to the hospital.

That's bad.... No, that's good. 

While there I had told the doctors about my stomach problems and also told them that I had just come back from visiting the Philippines. So, just to be cautious, the doctors put me in a high-falutin' - expensive as hell - private room because they were worried that I might have something like Ebola or Dengue Fever.... Or, even worse, the dreaded "Dengbola Fever!" (That's a joke, folks.) And, because it was a precaution that the doctors ordered because they feared I might be contagious, I didn't have to pay extra for the private room. 

It was really a nice quiet room with a great view. So if you ever want to be upgraded to a private room for free in Japan, just tell the doctors you just came back from a sub-Saharan jungle expedition.... They'll isolate you, no problem!

Kind of like the time in 2005 when I had a cold and went to the doctor and there were a hundred people in line before me. I gave an Academy Award performance and told the nurses that I thought I had SARS. The nurses eyes grew large and they freaked out. Boom! Into see the doctor immediately and back home in bed before lunchtime! Wheeeee!

But I digress...


See? Nice view!

I stayed in the hospital for the next 17 days or so (I kind of don't remember well.) One of the doctors told me that I was almost critical upon my arrival. I had a stomach infection that lead to water accumulation in my lungs which lead to my heart suddenly going into a sort of failure and the doctor said my heart was running at 1/2 so my lungs filled up with water suddenly (hence the long time in the hospital). He also said, that it was just because my heart was probably "Just tired."

Maybe so. I've done lots of drinking, drugs, smoking and all sorts of stuff over the years. My claim to fame is that just about everybody from the late 1970s Punk Heyday in Los Angeles are dead excepting me and just a few others so I am, really, one of the lucky survivors...

I should have died long ago anyway, but that's another story....


Private room just like some rich movie star!

Actually, I just got released from the hospital on Monday night (Sept. 22). I was in the hospital for a total of about 16 days and do not remember anything at all about the first 10 or 12 days or so. The first week or so was hell because I had so much water in my lungs that I couldn't breathe if I laid down so I had to sit up 24 hours a day. That meant I couldn't really sleep. So, I think I was hallucinating from chemicals and lack of sleep the first week or so... Thank god for that!

I've been out of the hospital now for five weeks. I'm OK now, sort of, but was told to cut out stress and take it easy, so I quit most all my jobs and have kept only the low stress ones (TV & radio). I go for a 15 minute walk twice a day and, of course, absolutely no salt, sweets, oils, only healthy food and no drinking or smoking. 

So, I need to take it easy. I have left working and am taking a break from most things until at least New Year's. 

The good news is that I went back to the hospital on Oct 20, 21, 22 for more tests on my heart and was given a clean bill of health; no other heart complications like hardening of the arteries or Angina... 

That Angina test hurts like hell, by the way. They cut a hole in your wrist, insert a small straw, then run a camera in through your vein in your wrist, past your elbow, around your shoulder, and down into your heart. It's weird laying on a table and being able to watch your own heart beat on a TV above your head... (Wasn't there anything better on TV, I wondered?)

Damn, though if that didn't hurt like hell where they cut a hole in my wrist. Hurt for days, actually.

I'll be OK as long as I chill out for a few 2 (maybe 3) months. The doctor says my condition is 100% curable - I doubt that, but it's kind of nice not having to go to work and get stressed out by idiots.

I have realized something too: the more idiots you work with, the more stress you get. Funny how that works.

Now, I am working on having another free concert with some REALLY famous bands in January and I wrote the synopsis for a short film that we will begin making soon. I will announce that later. If you did wonder or worry about me, thanks. I'm doing fine... Hope you are too. 

Hug your wife and kids.


-----------

But, I don't want to leave you with a downer, so here's a joke for you about being sick... 

A guy goes to the doctor for his regular monthly check up. The doctor sees him and grimaces. He says, "I have some bad news and some really terrible news."

The guy gets really scared and says, "OK, Doc. Give me the bad news first."


The doctor pauses, gathers his breath, and grimly announces, "I am sorry to inform you that tests show that your cancer has rapidly spread over your entire body. There's nothing we can do. It's over for you. Finished. You are as good as dead.... You only have two days to live."


The guy says, "Shit! What news could possibly be worse than that?"


The doctor replies, "Sorry. I forgot to call you yesterday."



------------

See you soon. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 20, 2014... What the Friday? Secret Live!


I have organized another free concert for people to enjoy. 



I think these big summer festivals whereby people spend $500 to $1000 (more?) to go to a festival to see bands with crappy sound, bad food, and stand in long lines to go to the toilet are way over priced. 


On August 20, 2014, I have set up another killer show that is "invitation only" limited to 250 guests. The show features "The Man";  Also Japanese band, "Taffy" (who garnered 8 out of 10 stars from Britian's NME Magazine (an new band getting 8 out of 10 stars? Never heard of it!)  "The Twenties" and "Good Warp."  Also DJ'ing that night is the eclectic and infectious sound of "Amducias." 


I think it will be one of the best and most memorable shows of summer 2014.



The show is by invitation only and drinks are a mere ¥500 (at the door) So, I hope to see you there!


It's going to be one of the most happening parties in Tokyo summer of 2014.

Amducias

Be there!

If you wanna go, send an email to: wtf@interfm.jp

TV as a Mirror of Society


I met one of the bosses of one of the biggest international television networks in the world the other day. He is a Canadian. He travels all over the world and, because he is in the TV business, he told me that one of his favorite things to do in every country was to judge by TV commercials what things were important to that particular society. 



Japan's TV commercials? Insurance for this or that; home sales; automobiles; financial instruments and plans; candy, cosmetics, fast food... Companies like Zurich, Sekisui, Kanebo.... Japanese commercials that soft sell and are emotive commercials.

I think that's right. 

He also told me that he was "astounded" by just how many over the counter drug and prescription medication commercials there were on US TV all the time. US TV commercials? Drugs, Cholesterol, Machismo ("my ding-a-ling is bigger than yours" commercials); fast food; commercials to make your dick hard, make it soft, put you to sleep, keep you awake, lower blood pressure, lose weight; not to mention commercials galore for people with extreme anxiety and panic attacks.

Oh, and don't forget the side effects disclaimers! 

Very sick society?

Maybe so.

Why is the USA this way? It wasn't that way 50 years ago, was it? 

Here's one piece of anecdotal evidence: Japan has its problems too, but here is something that will drop the jaws of all Americans... Did you know that in Japan, on any given day, you can get on a train or subway and see unaccompanied 5 and 6 year old kids going to and from school?

Little 5 and 6-year-old kids riding the trains by themselves in no fear of danger... And the other passengers think nothing of it. Why? Because that is normal in Japan. 

Think about that. 

I don't really have any conclusions to point out (I've made mine). Dear reader, please think of the ramifications of what I have written here and come to your own conclusion.


--------------

Here's a compilation of Japanese commercials, 2014, weeks 10 + 11, I just scanned quickly, but we have a candy commercial (Lotte), a Softbank mobile commercial, an AU mobile commercial, a band promo, Playstation ad, Iberico Pork Donburi commercial, and a real gem at 4:40 -- A Boat Race commercial:


------------

Thanks to my good friend, James Santagata for co-writing this article with me! James, you are tops!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Being an Idiot AND Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time? Bad Combination!


I've been very lucky in my life. I've done many idiotic things and I'm still here. I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time and I'm still here.

I have had the unfortunate (?) experience whereby I was an idiot, and in the wrong place at the wrong time, at the same time, but still somehow, I got lucky and escaped.

I got an email from a good friend about this sort of thing that I'd like to share with you. You might laugh or you might be horrified.

My friend works at some sort of automotive business. Here is what he wrote:


Mike, 

So once upon a time, I get to take cars home just randomly under the pretense of evaluation. Sometimes I actually need the cars for work and other times I just want to drive cool shit like the Alfa Romeo. There are others just like me at the company who have the same privileges.

So, one day, this dumbfuck intern at the company thought it would be a good idea to take home a cop car (this is where the "idiot" part comes in - Mike). 

He thought it would be smart to turn on the lights on a freeway and yell at some guy, "Pull over IMMEDIATELY!" and the guy actually did. Problem is a real cop witnessed this and was quickly on the scene. Well, the intern and all three of his friends in the car got arrested. So they all got fired from the company (of course) and now our organization is blacklisted from (Name of Major US Automobile manufacturer here) recruiting for a while. 

The kicker is, the parents of the kids who weren't driving and riding in the passenger seats are now suing both the company and the driver of the car for defamation since they weren't driving nor did they tell him to turn on the lights (You know, it's a "He said, she said, situation.") and the kids who were passengers were basically blacklisted (for life?) from auto since HR talks to each other. To make the situation even more of a clusterfuck, the driver's parents are countersuing, and the company is countersuing them all.  

Here's the thing; I was pretty close with those four people and was considering going with them that very night since they said they were going to a house party and thought it would be cool to take a police car there. The only reason I didn't go along was because I had to stay in late at the office because I had a presentation due the next day so I'm luckier than the guy who didn't get on MH370. 

Holy SHIT!!!!!! IDIOTS!!!!! 

I wrote back:

Really. Holy Shit. God smiles on you! I've had many close calls like that in my life... 

He continued:

It is hilarious in retrospect. But when I first heard about what had transpired, I was shitting bricks at how close that was. 

I replied:

Forty years ago, when I was in High School, my friends and I would do the typical stupid things that high schools kids did back in those days. One of the dumbest things we did with regularity was to drink and drive all the time; it was our weekend idiot ritual. We took turns driving our cars. John (not his real name) had a small truck. Rick (not his real name) had a small Japanese car. Me, Mike (Yes, my real name) had a German sports car. I am amazed that I was never stopped even once by the police (but we did live in what was a small town at the time with many rural roads.) 

The small truck that John had that could only ride two in the cab up front and the third had to ride in the back on the bed of the truck (back in the days when that, as well as many other things, wasn't illegal). The three of us would drink a fifth of JD straight and be so drunk we couldn't see the divider lines in the road without covering one eye. (If we didn't drive one handed and cover one eye with our other hand, we'd see the divider lines on the road doubled!).... 

We did that insanity months (idiot youth!) 

One night, as usual, my friends called me and asked me to go drinking with them. I had never refused before, but that night, for some reason, I did. I stayed home that night.. I'd find out the next day that they rolled the truck that evening. 

God! How lucky I was. If I had gone with those two that night, then one of us, either me or Rick would have died. Who ever would have been riding in the back would have surely died as the truck took a sharp turn and rolled over a few times on a downhill asphalt curve... 

Since I didn't go, those two could ride relatively safely in the cab. The two of them only suffered concussions and a few broken bones (and a completely totaled truck).... And, of course, being arrested for DUI. 

I was extremely fortunate. To this day, I often wonder why I didn't go that night. I've dodged that kind of bullet many times...

Consider yourself fortunate, my friend... It is a good omen for your future... Always get in tune with your inner feelings and when you feel something "isn't right" then don't do it. 

This isn't John's truck. John's truck was much worse than this. John's truck had the cabin flattened like a pancake. It's a miracle those two guys didn't break their necks.

The moral of the story: Everyone does idiotic things in their life at one time or another. I think most people have been in the wrong place at the wrong time at something during their life too... Try not to be an idiot and in the wrong place at the wrong time at the same time; that can be a devastating combination.

I concluded my note to my young friend: 

"Some people just wind up doing stupid things and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.... You weren't one of them this time.

Do your best not to be one of them the next time also."

-----------------

NOTES: Folks, never drink and drive and always drive defensively; slow down. Speeding to get where you want to go is only going to save you a few minutes (that won't matter anyway) and it greatly increases your chances of a life changing accident.  

I have been lucky all my life even when I did stupid things. Today? When I drive, I never speed and always stop at stop signs and traffic lights and haven't gotten stopped by police for any traffic violations in 27 years! So anytime I see the cops with roadside blocks checking for seat belts or traffic violations, I laugh as, since I do not break the law, they can't stop me; It's my own little revolution against the taxation system. 

To get slightly off the subject, and to read how these traffic violations and the following fines are actually a form of taxation, read: Driver's Licenses Have Zero to Do With Safe Driving: They Are a Back-door Tax! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Philippines for Vacation? No.

"A cheap holiday in other people's misery..." Sex Pistols from the song, "Holidays in the Sun"


One of my favorite writers, Fred Reed, says, "Write drunk. Edit sober." We'll I'm writing drunk and am not in the mood to wait until tomorrow to edit sober; especially since this is my first post in months. I want to write about what I saw recently.

I just came back from the Philippines. It's a depressingly destitute country.

We went to Cebu Island. Cebu Island is supposed to be some sort of island oasis. It is if you want to stay within the compounds of your hotel; the minute you leave the hotel, it is hell.

We stayed in one of the best hotels in all of Cebu... I took lots of video but no photos (that's how unimpressed I was with the place and also a sign of how derelict I am as I never felt the need to bring a proper camera).

We arrived at midnight or so and took a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. When we entered the hotel by taxi, they searched the car for bombs and drugs. You know, just like in TV shows? They had a mirror on a long stick to look under the car for bombs, a god-damned doberman sniffing our car, luggage, and us for drugs (or bombs) and everything else... There I was looking irritated like your typical anarchist dumb foreign tourist with my Japanese wife and ten-year-old son in the back of the car and the guard man asks me to roll open my window. He looks at me and says,

"Are you staying at this hotel?"

With my Los Angeles Dodgers hat and dorky Captain America T-shirt and looking most likely like Joe-dumbfuck-tourist, I replied, "Are you kidding me? It's the middle of the night. Do I look like I live around here?"

They waved us through...

The $100 million dollar hotel was just like any other $100 million dollar hotel at any beach resort anywhere in the world: You could wake up one morning alongside the pool and not have any idea whether or not you are in a ritsy-shitsy hotel in Hawaii, Thailand, Guam, Saipan, Mexico, Malaysia or where ever (But I will admit that they didn't have canned "Tropical Birds singing" coming over the loudspeakers like they did at another tourist trap from hell that we stayed at before.)

I guess I should admit right here that when I go overseas, I do want to see how the local people live; I wanna go to where the local people shop and where they go to eat...

I mean, why not? What's the point of going to a foreign country if all you are going to do is stay inside the safe and sanitary confines of the local hotel Ritz? They all look the same whether you are staying in this country or that.... What's the point of visiting a foreign country if you aren't willing to venture out to see how they actually live and not from within the confines of an international chain hotel?

The second day there, I took a 200 meter (200 yard) walk outside of the guarded hotel gates (Like I said, I like to see how people really live). When I was venturing out of the guarded gates at the hotel, the guardsmen said to me,

"You going out? OK. But be careful and don't go too far away. Be back by dark."

I was surprised, but not shocked, as these were the same people who were using mirrors to check the under carriage of my taxi for bombs just a day earlier.

As I walked out the gate, it was like walking into another world. It was total poverty and filth. Men were shouting at me for taxis, prostitutes, gambling and all sorts of guilty pleasures. I waved them off. Immediately I was surrounded by 8 kids (maybe 6 ~ 9 years old) trying to sell me junk and telling me they we hungry (Really! These kids had learned to beg in English!)

One kid, I'd guess he was about 9-years-old, told me he hadn't eaten in a day (I believed him, they were all so skinny!) They kept trying to sell me junk and they pestered me by following me around wherever I went.

After a while, one kid (probably the youngest at 7 or so) said,

"Mister, I'm hungry, please give me three pesos so I can buy some fried chicken." (you know, kinda like KFC, only home made)... Three pesos is about 9 cents (USD) so I said to all the kids,

"OK, I'll buy one of your trinkets from all of you and buy you guys some chicken if you promise to leave me alone..."

So I spent about $2 ($3?) and bought all of them 3 pieces of chicken and told them to sit down and eat it and I walked away.... Poor kids.

The next day, when I walked out of the hotel gates into the living hell again, they saw me from a distance and they all yelled out "Mister!" and bowed to me and, as promised, they left me alone.

They kept their promise. I wonder how many broken promises the people endured over the years from their government overlords? Here we were staying in a $100 million dollar hotel and right across the street there lived the median population of the country existing on a dollar a day...

Here I am eating more food at one dinner sitting than many kids in Cebu eat in a week or two.

Here I was staying in what is one of the hot tourist spots in Asia and the local people, across the street from some palace hotel (most likely built by some company with inside government connections... Wink, wink...), and just 20 meters outside the gates of that palace hotel, are living in stark poverty and filth.

Don't believe me? Well, OK, will you believe the Philippine government's own data?

"While poverty rates in Cebu are not quite as high as on the Mindanao or Samar islands (where poverty rates were as high as 52.9% according to the report), rates of poverty in Cebu averaged 33.6%. That means that despite Cebu City being one of the leading ports of commerce and being named one of the best island destinations for tourism in the area by magazines like Condé Nast Traveler Magazine, 1/3 of the population lives below the poverty threshold."

What a clusterfuck! The government is corrupt and totally fucked up. In many ways, I thought the Philippines were much worse off than even Mexico!

You know, you'd think that if someone built a huge assed million dollar hotel, they want to do something about the surrounding area... But, no.

You see, that's not how corrupt government cronyism works; the buddies of the people in power get the no bids contracts, the politicians get the kick backs, and the people bend over and take it in the ass....

Make no mistake about it, I am railing on the Philippine government here, but I am also criticizing all government here: ALL governments tax the people to spend on pork barrel projects rather than let the people keep their money themselves and spend it the way they see fit....

There's no way out for those poor kids in Cebu, Philippines.... Really. Of course I haven't seen all of the Philippines, but the only places I have seen that were worse were India and Bangladesh....

At least the downtrodden middle class in Philippines had crumbling shanty homes to live in and a rooster or two running around.... The middle class in India and Bangladesh don't even have that....

It surprised me that the Philippines were so bad off.... And I was in Cebu fer chrissakes; a supposed world class resort island! That's supposed to be a better part of the country....

What a shit-hole and testament to government corruption....Not to mention getting searched before entering Department stores for weapons and drugs....

Shoplifting and crime must be out of control in the Philippines....

There was one last little piece of anecdotal evidence that I'd like to share with dear reader. One day, as I was riding through the shanty town in front of the hotel in a taxi that I noticed; there were these god awful looking little red concrete boxes that were eyesores lining the sides of the roads. I'd say about half of them were as I imagined they were intended: red concrete boxes with the lettering, "Lupa Lupa City Government" painted on them and a small tree growing out of them. The other half of them were broken and in disrepair and had no tree growing or were busted up and being used for trash containers. I imagined that these containers were the local corrupt government's efforts at beautifying the local area.

In my imagination I could see some government wonks thinking up a way to make the city "greener" (It's out in the country, how much "greener" could they possibly get anyway?) I figured some government clown went on a trip to some other country and saw beautiful planters along the road with lush, well-cared for vegetation growing out of them so they thought this was a good idea to beautify the local area... But beautiful Grecian style planters (urns?) are pretty expensive, so how to do it? No problem. Great Idea government wonk's brother Carlos owns a cement factory so why not use public funds and pay his company to make the planters? Sure they aren't round and beautiful, but we gotta think of costs so they make ugly, square, painted red cement boxes. And to make sure the locals know their tax money is well-spent, they make them even uglier by painting, "Lupa Lupa City Government" on the sides. Grand idea! The locals get planters they don't need and brother Carlos gets his wheels greased by his government connection so that he donates to his favorite political group in the next election.  Everyone wins! Everyone is happy, right?

Well, no. A few years later, the people in power change and the new folks in power decide that these red planters are an eyesore and upkeep is a waste of money (they don't have) and they fail into disrepair and the project is dropped; many planters are busted up and in need of replacement and the trees need watering and maintenance. What to do? Kill the project and let the planters go to hell.

I'm sure the planters that still had healthy trees in them were adopted by the poor folks whose houses these things were dropped in front of them and those folks started to take care of the trees. The rest just lie there, cracked, shattered, lifeless and full of trash. Your tax dollars well spent.

Like I said, just another in a long line of pork barrel projects that puts money into the hands of the politically well-connected rather than let the people keep their money themselves and spend it the way they see fit....

Marvelous! Simply marvelous!

Great, eh? A supposed Catholic nation... A Christian nation. How does this crime situation and social disorder and government corruption that stack up against an Islamic and Buddhist nation? Read: ‘I Went to an Islamic and a Fascist Country…’