Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas, Commercialism, Children - How I handle it.


I got a nice message from a good friend yesterday. It seems that he (and lots of thinking people today) have gotten so fed up with the crass commercialism of Christmas and the holiday seasons. Christmas is given lip service about being about the birth of Christ and sharing and loving; but it's actually about buying crap at sales nowadays.

Christmas today is given the same sort of lip service that "Freedom" is given in America today: "Freedom this or that, blah, blah." But the real story is police brutality 24/7, riots, mass media sensationalism selling fear, and killing, maiming and making into orphans dark skinned kids in Middle Eastern nations round the clock for these last few decades.

But I digress... This article isn't about the failings of modern society; it's about how I think Christmas could be handled for a young family with a small child.

My friend writes:

Hey, how do you handle material holidays with your boy? I'm all into Christmas as a family event but hate this hyper consumerism. Been thinking how I'm going to handle this. Some toys, but family time for introspective and charity work to help others? Like the thing that really tugs at my heart string is ORPHANS. That shit really gets me. I was reading an article about these poor little babies with no bonding, etc. Something like that. 

I answered:

Ah? Well, Christmas for small children (up until about 8 years old) is a magical thing, I think. If you have no TV, you won't see the consumerism stuff at all very much. We don't. 

Friend:

Lol! So we are back to the burn the TV! Btw, I got that TV addiction book you recommended (The Plug in Drug) - Frightening! I also did some other research. I'm minimizing all of this with my kid been explaining this to the wife -- not that she watches much, but kids are so susceptible.

I added: 

After 8-years-old or so, boys start getting to where they are not interested in toys anymore.... That's when you can begin to scale stuff back. This year, my son's birthday present? Robert Stinnet's - Day of Deceit. This year's Christmas present? He gets to go on a school trip to Hiroshima with his class mates (Hey! That's not cheap! It cost me a couple hundred bucks!)


A family tradition at my home, family gets together and puts up the tree together (OK. OK... Dad is a bit lazy and mostly watches...)

Of course we have a tree... A few gifts under it... But the big deal at Chrstmas now, he's 11, is putting the tree and decorations up with mom and dad and having family over for turkey. That's about it. The days of 20+ presents under the tree for the boy ended a few years ago when he was no longer interested in train sets and model cars.... Actually, at our home, we don't really do the gift thing anyway (like I said, did for the boy when he was little) but now, if you see something someone would like or need, we buy it then - doesn't matter the time of year. 

The big deal of the holidays is friends and family come over and we feast.... Kids do not expect junk anymore... Even the 11 year old... I ask him what he wants and he says, "Nothing, really." This will happen to your boy, I'm sure. But, I think, (for your wife too and photos and memories) definitely have great Christmases for your child's 1st Christmas to about his 7th or 8th, when he won't believe in Santa Claus anymore.... 

Of course, now my son has a iPad and a MacBook Pro, but and he does play games with friends (20 minutes a day maximum)... But I also got him into programming so he made his first computer game the other day at computer class at school.

I just asked my son if he remembers the time he had 28 presents under the tree (volume matters to a little kid)... He remembers that one well, he says. He was 5 at the time.

Friend:

I get it! I love the trips idea.... Get him experiences. 

Have you had to deal with him and video games? 

Me:

We have no TV so it seems to me that he isn't interested in that sort of thing like his fanatical friends. 

Friend:

Great advice. For me as a kid, I loved the family gathering at my grandmas and also "Santa" who would appear and make the rounds. That was when I believed but still a blast when I didn't btw, do you do Thanksgiving dinners? 

Me: 

Yes. Tomorrow we will have "Thanksgiving." Late December we will have a turkey. Tomorrow I will roast a 2.5 kilogram free range chicken (kind of expensive as chickens go).... Kids come over. Eat. Spend time together. That's it. It think this sort of family tradition is healthy for the kids.... When I was a kid, we were kind of poor... So I loved Thanksgiving the best.

Thanksgiving was best because there were no presents... I got real fed up with the Christmas commercialism by the time I was 17. Thanksgiving is the one holiday that I have actually always enjoyed: Just get together, eat and talk. No presents. Just enjoy the day... It's not good, though, when dad and uncle or big brother start fighting during the dumb football game during the day. That ruins it for everyone... 

Until they make up later in the week and then do it all over again next year!

Well, then the conversation went off in another direction. I guess the basic point is that, in spite of the commercialism, Christmas can be a magical time for a young family and their small children. I think it is good to build family traditions and create memories for mom and child. I also think that we need to mellow out our political rantings this season and allow them to have a quiet and peaceful time together making memories of the short time they have together as mom and infant/small child. (If you don't, mom may get a bit resentful later on.)

Just remember what we are here for and what this season is actually really for. Also remember that, if you handle it well, then ten ~ twenty ~ thirty years from now when you think, "Those were the good old days!" You'll be thinking about now.

Have a good holiday season.


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

Thanks to James Santagata

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 

This is a true story:

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. He is at the apex of his dream and career; the other musician is a singer with three records released but no real success to date.

By some miracle (for the singer), 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 famous guitarist and not famous singer. 

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. Making music is exciting! They will then find the time to meet; 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 in our story, there is, though, one big problem with this situation; the singer and musician live 8,000 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 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 singer's 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 in Canada makes the tracks and then sends them to the singer 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 written no original songs 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?

Is this a problem? I don't know. But the singer complains about it a lot and so does her manager. I wonder why they don't do something about it?

The singer complains that she doesn't have a computer that works properly so singer is 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 a top world-class musician(s). 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? It seems that way, but they will complain about it constantly.

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. 

If I had this chance nothing would prevent me from doing everything that is needed.

Now it is months later, and there are no songs yet and the management company is getting really upset and complaining.

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. 

Edward G Robinson, the Sexy Geisha and Me - A True Story!

Whenever I put some famous person's name in the title of my articles, the hits and access to those articles literally explodes. I like ...