Life In Japan: Arthur the Celebrity Cat

As a novelist, satirist, essayist, political blogger, and someone who has not gotten beyond the I-want-my-oompa-loompa stage of human development, to say I crave attention is a vast understatement.

Of course I live in Japan, so while I continue my lifelong efforts to become a household name in America, I consider recognition here an important part of building my legend. Plus I’ve long been a believer that any press is good press, anywhere on the planet.

I can’t say I’m making much headway.  I’ve tried countless ways to breach the media firewall that keeps me hidden from the Japanese public eye.  A while ago I tried burning down the largest wooden Buddha in Japan.  I couldn’t get the damn thing lit.  Once I tried dressing up as a geisha.  All that happened was I got a lot of very strange looks and one comment from a young school boy in a baseball uniform — その醜い女性を見てください。– which my wife, Masumi, said basically translates as: “Look at that ugly woman.”

I even entered an octopus eating contest and came in last!  But not before I started to hallucinate giant sea cucumbers dancing across the stage like an entire chorus line of Rockettes had turned into wart-infested pickles.

Yes, I’ve tried everything except running through the center of town dressed as a samurai, carrying a bamboo pole wrapped with flaming kelp leaves, while yelling, ‘The Emperor has no oompa-loompa.’  I ruled that out when I found out he doesn’t.

My most recent humiliation occurred the other day, early one morning. 

We still get a newspaper delivered to our house every day — can you believe it? made of paper no less? — which mentions one or two major news stories but mostly focuses on news from around our prefecture — which is the equivalent of a state in the U.S.  Many human interest stories, local sports teams, city and school district events.

But . . .

There it was!  A brief mention to be sure, but no less humbling. 

My cat upstaged me by getting in the news!

Now I love Arthur to pieces.  And I have no doubt he deserves any and all the great press he can get.  But let’s be honest.  He didn’t do a thing to deserve this.  He’s just so cute, an old guy like me, regardless of how many books I write, web sites I put up, despite how funny I am, or “politically aware”, how can I compete?  Let’s be blunt:  I don’t stand a canary’s chance in a cat cafe.

Okay.  Okay.  I sound like I’m bitter.  I’m not.  I’m so proud of Arthur!  If anything, I’m wondering why they didn’t put him on the front page and do an exclusive feature story on the little guy, including an interview and a link to video footage of him being so darn cute!

At the same time . . .

That still leaves me in a quandary.  What do I have to do to get some press around here?  Dress up like an American soldier and fly an Osprey into the Tokyo Tower?

Posted in Creativity, Japan, Living On The Edge, Satire, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life In Japan: Bicycle Theft

This is your basic girls bike here in Japan.

Yes, they sell Schwinn, an “American” bicycle, manufactured of course in China.  But there is quite a selection based on this standard model.  They cost between $50 and $150.  The pictured one is pretty fancy.  Pink adds at least $50 to the sale price.

I’m going to talk about something which recently happened here, not that far from where I live, maybe within four hours driving.  I seriously doubt if the bike involved was anywhere near as high-end as the pink beauty pictured.  But it certainly looked something like this, being a basic boilerplate ride-to-school-and-back bike.  They’re ubiquitous here.

It’s EXTREMELY rare.  But a girl who lived in Shikoku had her bike stolen.

She reported it to the police.  Seriously . . . she did!  That’s what you do in Japan.

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.  All bikes must have a registration tag.  A couple years back, I was riding my bike back from the grocery store and a young police officer on a motor scooter stopped me, looked at my tag, thanked me, and drove merrily away.

Anyway, a month later, the school girl got a call from a police department northeast of Osaka.  They had found her bike, and wanted to get it back to her.  The young lady was understandably very happy!  She told the police that she had an aunt who lived in Akashi.  If they could arrange to bring the bike there, she could pick it up.

The police welcomed the suggestion.  They were much closer to Akashi than the little town the girl lived in on Shikoku Island.

Next day, they personally delivered the bike to the girl’s aunt in Akashi, a trip which took nearly two hours each way, a total of almost four hours of their valuable police time.

I want to put this in perspective, especially the distances involved.  Here’s a map.

Mind you, while Shikoku is sparsely populated, the entire area around Osaka is quite congested.  Two hours is not excessive, considering traffic, having to locate the aunt’s residence, etc.  And to return it to the girl’s home town would have been close to four hours each way.

The most significant point is that the bike turned up 219 km (136 miles by car) from where it was stolen.  The police officers at this distant location tracked down the owner via the ID tag, and personally made sure the bike got back to her.

I don’t know if this is blowing your mind or not.  I’ve lived here on and off for over ten years and this type of thing still leaves me slack-jawed.

Granted, in a small town like Elizaville, Indiana or Wanblee, South Dakota, I can imagine someone telling the sheriff about a stolen bike.  But for most Americans — over 80% live in urban areas — the thought of going to the police about a stolen bike seems absurd.

“You want to report a what?  Listen, buster.  While you’ve been standing here teary-eyed, telling me about your $50 bike, we’ve had two shootings, three car jackings, some bozo dressed like Michael Jackson jumped off a bridge singing ‘Beat It’, and there’s a 152-car traffic pile-up on the freeway because some idiot at the Department of Transportation posted a warning on all the traffic advisory signs that there was a missile carrying a hydrogen bomb incoming from North Korea.  Get a job and buy a new bike, loser!”

It’s obvious, priorities are different here in Japan.  We’re not in a constant frenzy, in a constant state of paranoia, convinced there are terrorists lurking in every doorway and child molesters hanging out by the monkey bars at every city park, suspicious of every individual who isn’t suspicious of everyone else because obviously this person is out of touch with reality and a clear danger to the community.  People here aren’t armed to the teeth, such that everyone’s worried about a mass shooting, or that a minor disagreement about a parking space will result in the barrel of an AR-15 being shoved down our throat.

But it goes even deeper than that.  There’s an innocence here, and a sense of honor and courtesy, a respect for the possessions of others.  So much so that a bicycle theft is truly out-of-the-ordinary.  And thus it warrants extraordinary response by the authorities.

No country is perfect.  Japan has many issues as well.  There is still a difficult struggle with its past, its military aggression and savagery.  There is racism.  There is a bit of arrogance, a condescending attitude toward other Asian countries.  There is — in my opinion — a mindless, unnecessary obeisance to the U.S. in military and diplomatic matters, and a puzzling infatuation with Western culture, especially American pop culture.

No country is perfect.  But some are certainly far superior than others.

I take great comfort in knowing . . . I don’t have to worry about my bike.

Posted in Altruism, Japan, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life In Japan: New Years

It hasn’t been that long. 

Of course I remember the typical New Years holiday celebrations in the U.S.!

The shots of Buttery Nipples, Afterburners, and White Gummy Bears, the beer chugging contests, DUIs, the streaking of police patrol cars, mooning at McDonald’s drive-thru, the totaled rental cars, 72-hour hangovers, the arrest warrants, getting herpes from kissing some stranger at midnight, the Rose Parade, lying in the den in a puke-soaked Kurt Cobain sweat shirt through 12 hours of football — Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Tangerine Bowl, Toilet Bowl, Oxycontin Bowl.

It’s impossible to overstate how different New Years is for me here in Japan.

Granted, there might be some revelry in the big cities like Osaka and Tokyo.  Compared to what typically goes on in America, even these are more like Thursday afternoon bingo in Butte, Montana or octogenarian shuffleboard in Sun City, Florida.

Fasten your seat belts, people, to keep from falling off your chair when you nod off reading this.  A pot of hearty espresso is recommended if you’re serious about making it to the end.

New Years Eve day, Masumi, her daughter Azusa, and I, climbed a mountain I’ve written about twice before.  It looks like a mountain but it’s really not that high.  It has steps and trails, so we left the GPS, emergency flares, ropes, and rappelling gear at home.  What I like about it, besides offering a decent work out, a couple hours in nature, and splendid views of the valley which contains most of my home town, Sasayama, is that by bike it’s only about five minutes from my house.  It couldn’t be more convenient.

This time, we also brought Azusa’s Black Labrador puppy too.  We all headed over — Azusa on foot, Masumi and I on our bikes — to the trail head, which is situated right in front of a small shrine.  Of course!  Shrines are as ubiquitous here as fire hydrants are in the States.   Anyway, about 45 minutes later, we were on top the small mountain, had a picnic lunch, then returned via the same trail.

01 Azusa Jiji Masumi
« 1 of 14 »

It was cool but comfortable, perfect for this relatively easy hike.  However, as we made our way back down, the temperature started quickly dropping.  And continued dropping right into the evening.

Masumi and I had the option of visiting the grounds of a local temple to “ring in the New Year”.  They have a No Theater performance, a bonfire, and serve free non-alcoholic sake.  This is a real family affair for all ages.

But we decided it was just too damn cold!

So we stayed home, falling asleep before midnight.  We missed the tofu cannons, whale juggling, sky diving ninjas, and laser holograms of Godzilla eating the Moon.  This was prudent.  We needed to rest up for the next wild and dazzling phase of our extended weekend, Land of the Rising Sun New Years extravaganza, set for next morning.

That would be at べんてん神社 (Benten Shrine), the Shinto shrine which belongs to our village.  We live on the very east end of Sasayama proper, in a village called Noma.  Each village of several in our city of 50,000 or so typically has its own shrine and community center.  Living in Japan is about community life and getting to know your neighbors.

The motif at the shrine was similar to what we missed at the big temple downtown the previous evening.  There was a small bonfire, free kelp and squid snacks, and sake.  This sake was the real stuff but only dispensed in thimblefuls, so no one exactly got rowdy.

01 Shrine View
« 1 of 7 »

This being a shrine and to the rather meager extent that Japanese indulge in religious services, there was singing.  Mind you, this bore no resemblance to Handel’s Hallelujah chorus or a medley of tent revival spirituals.  In fact, what we apparently were singing was the national anthem, which is why my lovely, principled wife was not singing along.  She is categorically and staunchly opposed to nationalism, even superficial celebrations of what has not served humankind very well over its blood-soaked history.  Which explains why I had to burn all of my American flag Hanes boxer shorts right after we got married.

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I am joking.  All of my American flag undies were long gone decades ago.  I believe they were used as rags to stuff Molotov cocktails at some street protests in Berkeley back in the late 60s.  I can’t say for sure.  It’s difficult to track where things end up after you drop them in a Salvation Army collection box.

Let me add that Masumi thought the idea of singing the national anthem on this special occasion was very strange, a total anomaly.  Somebody certainly made a very odd choice.  Personally, I found it to be a rather doleful affair, not the stuff of conquest and plunder.

Anyway, here’s a very short video clip of my neighbors singing at the shrine.

Okay . . .

Enough is never enough, especially when it comes to wild abandon and revelry.  Sure, we were exhausted from all the whoopee.  But driven by relentless surges of hedonism and the insatiable urge to party like its 2099, as soon as we got home we decided to go to Kaibara, the town both near to where Masumi grew up and where we officially got married.

柏原八幡宮 (Hachiman Shrine) is a beautiful place at the top of a hill.  It maybe takes ten minutes to walk up the stairs.

People step to the front of a shrine, make a contribution, sometimes light incense, ring a very dissonant, clanking bell to get the attention of whoever up there might be listening, then make an appeal for some desired improvement in their lives — new husband, better job, health, long life, happiness, money — the usual things.  They also write these requests on pieces of paper and tie them to a tree on the grounds. 

001 JD Masumi Entrance
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Whew!  Wild and crazy times here in Japan, eh?  We know how to party!

Personally, I find this all very calming, informal, charming, especially since I mercilessly was subjected to the tortures of the Catholic Mass for way too many years.  What can I say?  Buddhism and Shintoism rock!

I’ll end this account on what I find an interesting note.  While there is some god, a spirit entity, associated with each shrine — our local shrine described above is in dedicated to Benten, goddess of art, music, literature, especially appropriate for Masumi and I — the Japanese, and most Asian people, especially Buddhists, don’t pray to a specific god, saint, angel, virgin.  At least not the way Christians do.  The Catholic Church has a precise org chart for all of its holy representatives.  St. Christopher was assigned assuring safe travel, St. Anthony unobstructed breathing passages.  Then there was the Virgin Mary, who had what could only be called a cult following of her own, rivaling that of Jesus, who of course was the Savior, source of salvation.  Asians just send their prayers out there, as Masumi quite patiently tries to explain to me.  Buddhists are very much into flooding outer space with prayers.

You may find this interesting.  When you visit Buddhist monasteries, you see prayer wheels, hundreds of them, all different sizes, from ones which could fit in a bowling bag to ones that are taller than a human.  Each prayer wheel contains hundreds — sometimes even thousands! — of sacred inscriptions from holy Buddhist texts.  Again we have appeals for peace, harmony, long life, etc.  Spinning a prayer wheel, it is claimed, sends these good messages out into the universe, inundating it with the highest spiritual content and aspirations. 

While from what I can tell, it’s not working, it’s most certainly an admirable enterprise, and so different from the Western framework of a person’s relationship with God and his heavenly ecclesiastical staff.  Take a moment and picture those televangelists, furrowed brows sweating, faces bulging with the power of the Lord, yelling:  “You want that new car?  You want your bills paid?  You want that ugly goiter to disappear?  To be able to sing along with Mariah Carey and slam dunk like the Shaq?  Well, just put your hands on your television screen!  I say, put ’em both right here on my face, and FEEL THE POWER OF THE LORD FILL YOUR LIFE with money, success, happiness!  Ask and ye shall receive!  PRAISE GOD!”

Just something to think about next year during half-time of the Rose Bowl.

 

Posted in Japan, Social Commentary, Spiritual, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Simple Straight-Forward Message for a Complex Convoluted Time

I think there should be eleven Commandments.

The existing ten should all slide down a notch to make room for a new, necessary First Commandment.

1st Commandment:  When it comes to others who embrace beliefs different than yours, thou shalt shut up and mind your own business.

I was raised strict Catholic from the late 1940s until July 1961.  I attended Catholic school for six years.  The indoctrination was mind-boggling — literally!  I’m not sure where things stand now.  Allegedly the Catholic Church has made some giant leaps forward.  I find the word ‘leap’ a little hard to swallow.  After all, it took them over 300 years to pardon that wildly insane heretic Galileo for declaring that the sun was at the center of the solar system.  It’s too late for his family to sue.

What I was taught, with no room for interpretation or even the slightest bending of the rules, was that Catholics were true believers, everyone else was a pagan and would burn mercilessly in Hell for it.  This obviously included jungle-dwelling savages with the bones through their noses, anyone with slanted eyes, hairy-chested men on horses who raped and pillaged without pause, witches, witch-doctors, probably acupuncturists.  But it also referred to — brace yourselves — all Jews and Protestants! 

Talk about being exclusive.  The Catholic Church didn’t mess around!

I left that all behind.  I remember the moment well.  Both of my parents were dead.  I was attending a Catholic mass, summer of 1961.  I tried to listen to what the priest was saying.  I looked around.  People were staring at the altar.  The priest droned on, something about the Holy Spirit.  I was 15 and scared to death by a fear of eternal damnation — something which was pounded into my head day-after-day, year-after-year by both priests and nuns — afraid as only a thoroughly brainwashed young man can be, to do anything at odds with the Church or God or the Commandments.  But then suddenly, like that perennial bolt of lightning, it hit me:  None of this made any sense to me anymore.  I walked out and never looked back.  To this day, I’ve never again attended a Catholic mass or Catholic service of any kind, for over 56 years.

I now can look at religion the way someone might look at photos in their high school year book.  Hmm . . . French Club . . . Junior Varsity Football Team . . . Mr. Hunter, chemistry.

When three years ago I wrote the song posted at the head of this rambling monograph, I tried to include Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on.  But it’s just a song.  There’s only so much room without turning the whole thing into a random game of Scrabble.  So . . .

I settled on Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and then gave a nod to atheism in one line.

I hear we’re now in the throes of a new “Clash of Civilizations”.  This refers to a war for hearts, minds, and oil fields, mainly between the Christian West and the Muslim Middle East.  The Jews are in there, since they are allegedly under siege by the Muslims, and they now have a marriage of convenience with the Christians — which is about as convenient as a marriage between a crocodile and a chicken, and makes about as much sense.

First of all, there’s nothing “new” about this epic showdown.  Haven’t any of these idiotic champions of chaos and carnage shilling for this conflict ever heard of the Crusades?

Second, while I can buy “clash”, which seems to be the operating word in just about every interaction between the Western powers and everyone else on the planet, “civilizations” somehow makes me think about “civil” and “civilized”.  Neither apply to those participants who have by choice, with full knowledge, by design, with clear intention, have brought the human species and every other living thing on the planet to the brink of extinction.

One has to ask:  Is this the best we as a product of twisted fibers of DNA and RNA can do?  Are we doomed by some kamikaze gene?  Do we periodically have to self-destruct, tear it all down?  Why do we bother with claiming it’s about ideologies or religions or politics?

Because it’s not.  It’s about hatred.  It’s about selfishness.  It’s about evil, either inherent or manufactured evil.

It’s about either the evil we are, the evil we’ve become, or the evil that we allow to exist in our hearts and our minds.

What’s my song about?  It’s so simple, so naive, so straightforward, so easy to understand.  Maybe that’s what makes it so difficult to take into our hearts, try to weave it in with those strands of DNA and RNA, let it become an antidote to the madness that drives us to reject and demonize others, that allows us to dehumanize those who are different, that feeds our inflated sense of importance, our “exceptionalism”, our grandiosity and rabid delusions of superiority, our ultimately self-destructive rejection of our shared humanity.

Happy New Year!  Yes, we’re starting a new cycle.  365 days to do what?

Yes.  What?

Maybe the whole New Year thing is just silly.

Peace be with us . . .

Hmm.

I’ve got it!  You decide for yourself.  That actually was the idea in the first place.

But I’ve given you a little push in the right direction.

Assuming you’ve gotten this far, here are the lyrics to my song, performed in the video by my extremely talented wife and myself, a simple straightforward message for a complex convoluted time.

It’s a very special time of year
For family and friends holiday cheer
For those no longer with us
We shed a tear
A time to share
A time of feast
A time to care
And pray for peace
A time to give to those
Who have the least

(Chorus)
Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Peace be with us
Happy New Year!

This is the time to start anew
Atheist Christian Muslim Jew
To reach within
And find the love inside of you
Discard the old seek out the new
Reject the false embrace the true
To look ahead decide
To bring out the best in you

(Chorus)
Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Peace be with us
Happy New Year!

(Chorus – Japanese)
Akemashite
Omedetoo
Peace be with you
Happy New Year!

(Chorus)
Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Peace be with you
Happy New Year!

Posted in Creativity, Philosophy, Religion, Social Commentary, Spiritual, Video Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion – Part 2

To put it mildly, with all of the hyperbolic hype, million dollar advertising, sensationalized news, wars, political machinations, terrorist attacks, celebrity scandals, hyperventilating talking heads, and widespread anonymous screaming going on out there these days, it’s very difficult to get anyone’s attention.

Let me be candid . . .

My last shameless self-promotion fell flat on its face.  No one was moved by my lugubrious plea to give my personal Gross Happiness Quotient a much needed boost by buying dozens of my brilliantly entertaining novel as holiday gift.  Indeed, I got up every single morning, faithfully checked the New York Times Bestseller List, and frankly was day-after-day quite shocked to not see it debuting in the Top Ten.  Just yesterday I finally called the Times to suggest there must be some mistake, but for technical reasons got disconnected.  My line must have been crossed with another call because I distinctly heard laughing before the connection went dead.

Anyway . . .

The only conclusion I could draw — since my Shameless Self-Promotion – Part 1 is without any question so persuasive it probably should be registered as a WMD with the NSA and Department of Homeland Security — is that no one saw it.  Like thousands — more like millions! — of extremely vital and noteworthy announcements, it was brutishly swept up and swallowed by the tsunami of nonsensical infotainment being upchucked in copious excess in our world of digital delirium.

So . . .

What can I do?  How can I cut through the cacophonous roar and have my message heard?

I sat for hours pondering this.  I was so totally absorbed by this conundrum, my new cat, Arthur, used me as a scratching post and I had to throw my sweater away.

Then I remembered a phenomenally effective promotion I used back in L.A. one summer to get my indifferent, drug addled, me-generation friends to attend a pool party!

Back in those wild and crazy Hollywood days, I had put together a invitation mailer with a pic just like the one at the top of this page.  In bold letters was this message:

Attend my party or I’ll shoot this dog!

The turnout was spectacular!  I felt loved and respected, people ate all the food and drank all the beer, wine and mixed drinks I provided, and the life of the dog was spared.  What a smashing success!  I assure you, everyone was talking about my Encino pool party bash for weeks afterwards — well, at least a couple days or until their hangovers abated, whichever came first.

So!

The ball is in your court, readers.  You’re all incredibly brilliant people, or you wouldn’t be here at this website.  Just finish this sentence and know deep in your heart where it truly counts, that you stepped up, stood tall, felt the love, and did the right thing:

Buy my book or . . .

And we’re not just talking dogs here, folks.  It’s not just about the whole messy business of dog brains and fragments of canine cranium scattered all over the yard.

We’re also talking $$$!  Meaning, saving $$$ big time!  And what timing!  This excellent bargain arrives just when your out-of-control holiday extravagance has the limits on those credit cards being bludgeoned like Conor McGregor’s sparring partner!

Dig this!

Just for the holidays, ebooks of The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago are specially priced at only $2.99!  Does it get better than that, my loyal and gullible chums?

This adventure in credulity and shock wave to literary sensibilities is available from all of the usual suspects.  You can even walk into your favorite local book store, and after giving you an enigmatic smile, the clerk can order a copy — if it’s not already right there behind the counter with the nudie magazines.


The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago

Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1tyIRiw
Amazon (Paperback) . . . amzn.to/1z8F8aD
Apple iBooks . . . apple.co/1nkebQx

Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/ZDnQVO
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1Og3q8g
Kobo (US) . . . bit.ly/2qSmc0J
Powell’s Books . . . bit.ly/1mxVXtS
Tower Books . . . bit.ly/1oyzU7T
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1w62HOX
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1r6qWYQ

Poor Billy Green! When he was just turning four, his father tried to throw him in the trash.  He was a smart kid but that just seemed to create enemies.  His darling mom did everything to protect him.  But this was Detroit, armpit of the wasteland!  Catholic school didn’t help much, except the time he got his first kiss from an atheist nun.  Home life was dismal.  Was his father capable of anything but drinking beer and farting?  And what was with that neighbor who made puppets and tried to molest Billy?  Golly!  Detroit was sucking the life out of him.  At such a young age.  Then adolescence swirled around him.  Like water in a toilet bowl.  High school was a B movie.  Only without a plot.  So finally he did something about it.  Billy ran away … to college.  Cornell University.  That was a good move for sure!  He studied hard, lost his virginity, met the love of his life.  Things were definitely looking up!  What could possibly go wrong?

Posted in Books, Creativity, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shameless Self-Promotion – Part 1

We all know what GDP is, right?

Ever heard of GNH?

GNH stands for Gross National Happiness.  It’s how in Bhutan they measure the progress and well-being of their country.  Meaning they measure happiness by how much happiness there is.

Is that STUPID or what?

Happiness = Happiness?  How ridiculous!

We all know here in the West the only valid way to measure happiness.

Happiness = $$$$!

I’ve been looking at my book sales and it’s clear that I couldn’t possibly be a happy person.  Sales are slumping, meaning the $$$$s just aren’t pouring in.  How can I be happy?

But wait!  Aha!  Eureka!  Voilà!

Christmas is coming!  And yes, that means people are buying gifts and that means they’re going crazy spending $$$$s.  If I can get those $$$$s to come my way, I’ll be very happy!

Now let me be completely candid with you.

I sincerely believe my happiness should be sufficient reason for the tens of thousands of people reading this posting, to each order at least one of my books. 

But which one?

I’m going to focus all of the excitement, all of that highly charged, irrepressible hankering to put $$$$s in my personal banking account by focusing attention — at least for now — on one particular book.

Wondering what to get that special someone for Christmas?

Fret no more!  Just watch this!

Seeing that highly persuasive sales pitch, how could you possibly resist?

But just in case you’re still tottering on the fence, not entirely sure yet, how about a parade to put you in the holiday spirit? 

[ As an aside, I have to be blunt with you.  I’m really wondering why these excellent book trailers weren’t even shortlisted for the annual Clio awardsCronyism! ]

There you have it!  An irresistible force has overwhelmed your better judgement.

The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago is available from all of the usual suspects.  You can even walk into your favorite local book store, and after giving you an enigmatic smile, the clerk can order a copy — if it’s not already right there behind the counter with the nudie magazines.


The Man Who Loved Too Much – Book 1: Archipelago

Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1tyIRiw
Amazon (Paperback) . . . amzn.to/1z8F8aD
Apple iBooks . . . apple.co/1nkebQx

Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/ZDnQVO
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1Og3q8g
Kobo (US) . . . bit.ly/2qSmc0J
Powell’s Books . . . bit.ly/1mxVXtS
Tower Books . . . bit.ly/1oyzU7T
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1w62HOX
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1r6qWYQ

Poor Billy Green! When he was just turning four, his father tried to throw him in the trash.  He was a smart kid but that just seemed to create enemies.  His darling mom did everything to protect him.  But this was Detroit, armpit of the wasteland!  Catholic school didn’t help much, except the time he got his first kiss from an atheist nun.  Home life was dismal.  Was his father capable of anything but drinking beer and farting?  And what was with that neighbor who made puppets and tried to molest Billy?  Golly!  Detroit was sucking the life out of him.  At such a young age.  Then adolescence swirled around him.  Like water in a toilet bowl.  High school was a B movie.  Only without a plot.  So finally he did something about it.  Billy ran away … to college.  Cornell University.  That was a good move for sure!  He studied hard, lost his virginity, met the love of his life.  Things were definitely looking up!  What could possibly go wrong?

Posted in Books, Creativity, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lizard Brain Has Imposed a No-Fly Zone Over the Cerebral Cortex

What does the title mean?

Who knows?  Great title, though!

I’ve been thinking about Christmas gifts.

Mind you, this occurs despite the fact that here in Japan we have no equivalent to Black Friday, though unfortunately I’m afraid it’s coming.  Japan loves to imitate the U.S. and is about as materialistic and consumer-oriented a society possible.  I keep hearing about the “lagging economy” and give it much thought as I’m on a shuttle bus from a remote parking lot at the mall; because there are so many shoppers, they have to rent distant fields to find parking spaces for those of us who arrived late — that would be anytime more than five minutes after the stores have opened for business.

Last year, I went out on a limb in making a recommendation of a gift for the “person who has everything” — which is just about everybody with a credit card.  To put it mildly, what I personally thought was a great find — the Deluxe Home Lobotomy Kit from Black & Decker — drew a firestorm of criticism.

This stemmed not per se from the calming effects of the lobotomy itself, but from some of the side effects — the uncontrollable, steady drooling and the shameless fixation on genital areas, both those of the lobotomized and anyone in visual range.

Frankly, I recall seeing both of these annoying symptoms almost everywhere I went when I lived in America, and while I’m just ballparking it here, I’d say they afflict way beyond 50% of the population over 25.  It seems unlikely that all of these folks have been lobotomized, not surgically anyway.

But I can take criticism without getting all weepy.  So this year, while my recommendation is somewhat along the same lines, I’m confident that while still tuned into the needs of “people who have everything”, I’m  considerably more sensitive to the need to avoid embarrassing and unattractive side effects.

Along the same lines as a lobotomy?

Quite honestly, considering the abundance of entertainment, diversions, computer games, movies, music, videos, social sites, live shows, virtual shows, virtual reality, reality shows, and every conceivable form of spectacle, stimulation, illusion, fantasy, recreation, getaway, escape, meditation, discovery, rediscovery, relaxation, rejuvenation, regeneration, reboot, invention, reinvention, on and on, I’m genuinely astounded by how much disorientation, distemper, disorder, dismay, dysfunction, anxiety, and fitful frenzy appears to overwhelm the average person, just trying to make it from one end of the day to the other.

We’re talking . . . MAJOR STRESS!

I guess it could be that very abundance of so many ways to bludgeon the brain into being delighted which is the source of the problem.

That’s neither here nor there.  The result is the same.

People are desperate to deal with it and will go to great lengths to do so.  Just look at the opioid epidemic which the U.S. is now confronting.  It’s obvious all these addicts are not popping pills because of tennis elbow.

Which brings me to what I think may be the most ingenious gift anyone could buy for that someone “who has everything” — everything but peace of mind.

Mind you, it’s not available yet.  But it will be in time for Christmas.

So get out those smart phones, that credit card that isn’t over limit yet, and get ready to pre-order this amazing gift, because they’ll be going fast.

This year’s “boy-will-they-be-surprised!” gift recommendation from John Rachel . . .

THE DELUXE HOME ELECTRO-SHOCK THERAPY KIT!

And offering another clue why Jeff Bezos is now personally worth $100 billion, this unique and assuredly invaluable addition to the array of modern home appliances that every family simply must have is exclusively available from Amazon.

Posted in Health Care, Nihilism, Satire, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

P is for popular . . . S is for stupid!

I don’t really know if I’m popular.  I’d like to think so.

But now I feel obligated to let everyone who reads my stuff know how stupid I am!

For over four years running, my article The ‘P’ Word has been drawing in readers from across the globe.

Sometimes when I publish a truly dazzling bit of satire like Putin’s War on America’s Christmas, the hyperbolic U.S. Blames Northern Lights on Russia, Imposes Sanctions, the ridiculous Exploding Hockey Pucks Intercepted at Canadian Border, the surreal Deep-State Doppelgängers, the jeering Trump Makes Russian the Official Language of the U.S. or even the weird, controversial Dachau World — a real solid performer in its own right — The ‘P’ Word gets bumped from the top spot.  But in terms of rock-steady service over the long haul, there’s no contest.  This bit of writing delivers a steady stream of adoring fans.

Or so I thought.

Just looking superficially at the numbers would suggest that.

I have an analytic tool installed here on my website.  It tells me a lot of things:  How many visitors I get, how many are returning, how many are new, what part of the world they hail from, and so on.  Here is a typical daily readout on the most popular of my articles.

Being the ego-inflated person I am, I just assumed that it was the sheer brilliance of my writing, especially apparent in The ‘P’ Word — written back in 2013 when my brain was still functioning optimally — which accounted for the popularity of the article and the resulting spectacular increase in my fan base across all continents.

Then one day recently I made a shocking discovery.  Hope you’re sitting down for this.

I found out that the phrase ‘the P word’ is a euphemism for ‘pussy’.  In other words, the strict rules of contemporary journalism — which as we all know as a profession holds itself to the highest standards of respect for readers, accuracy in reporting, integrity in offering the best the human mind is capable of — based on some arcane but nevertheless ironclad internal protocols, require this substitution.

Yes, the officially sanctioned way to refer to ‘pussy’ is to substitute the phrase ‘the P word’.

I was devastated!

And do I feel stupid!

All this time, I thought it was the poetic wisdom, the graceful prose, the wit, the profundity and humor, the finely-crafted language, which drew so many flocking to my site to read The ‘P’ Word.

But no!  These people are just cat lovers!

Posted in Creativity, Human Sexuality, Nihilism, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

John Rachel poet? Is this a joke?

I’ve made no secret of my lack of understanding of poetry, nor my thus to be expected zero talent for writing poetry. 

I’m not sure why I write poems.  I guess a poem has some vague resemblance to a song at a very superficial level — meaning the way it looks on a page — and I haven’t been writing songs lately.  Let’s call it reverse sublimation, a clumsy surrogation.  My writing poems is like a ping pong player playing tennis blindfolded on a quicksand court.

I even did a tongue-in-cheek piece about the process of creating a poem, one which I’ve tastelessly shared with some serious poets, and made even more enemies than I thought one human could make, with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Now, really strange things are happening.  I just got four poems published!

Apparently I’ve submitted some poems lately.  I say “apparently” because I frankly don’t remember submitting two of them.  But one called Messenger Deranged just appeared in a poetry magazine called Lone Stars, based in San Antonio, Texas.  They even requested more and I submitted two more, One Life and Light and Dark, which my lovely wife then translated into Japanese.  Lone Star will publish both English and Japanese versions in their December issue, the English under my name, the Japanese as poetic works by Masumi Nishida.

Then just today, I got a congratulatory letter from VerbalArt, A Global Journal Devoted to Poets and Poetry.  They are including my poem Tapioca Cyber Trails in their upcoming issue, appropriately splattered across all seven continents like a Cardassian tanker of jellied starch blasted out of the sky by a orbiting rail gun.

Mind you, I barely remember writing this poem, so it was quite a surprise when I read it. They sent me a proof of the coming issue for my approval.  There it was, right on page 17. 

What a pleasant surprise!  It’s actually pretty darn good, i.e. not terribly terrible.  Not to inflate expectations, I actually think this almost qualifies as a credible work.

I’ll let you be the judge.

TAPIOCA CYBER TRAILS

A sweet jest broke water
Birthing artificial intelligence
As if the clusters of CPUs
Marked the non-event event
We reeled and rollicked
In childish mirth-driven panic
Salivating porn-addicted cherubs
Lost in the heavy-breathing fog
Flying the vaporous trails
Of evaporating illusion
We wept but didn’t

You are no more
I’ve remade you
In my image
In your image
I fear meeting you again
I fear disappointment
Shattered expectations
Revulsion and despair
A binary epitaph
Suicide is in our DNA
Zero one zero one

[ DO NOT ask me what it means . . . I haven’t got a clue. ]

They always say when warning against getting too excited or overly optimistic:

“Don’t quit your day job.”

Since I don’t have a day job, night job, weekend job, or any job, I think this is advice I can follow without any risk of failure.

Moreover, I certainly don’t want to let any opportunities for fabulous riches and universal renown slip through my gnarly, hangnail afflicted fingers.  And the poetry track has proven to be a straight shot to the top.  Maybe I should finally call that number on the ad I posted in that article on writing poetry I mentioned.

If all works out as I expect, instead of signing all my letters . . .

John Rachel, Bipolar Humanist

. . . very soon I can proudly — and profitably — stake my claim to untold wealth, fame and adulation as . . .

John Rachel, Poet

 

Posted in Creativity, Nihilism, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

John Rachel Is A Tedious Bore!

I just looked at my last five posts and they are all about the same topic.

Listen, folks.  I truly get it.  A lot of people think I’m becoming a tedious bore.

But they’re wrong!  I’ve always been a tedious bore.  Sometimes I’m able to disguise it better than others, dress up my dull, monotonous discursives a bit with some clever photo — like the pandering one to the right.

But I can hear the recent cries of anguish from my readers.

“Jesus H. Christ!  Yet another article on candidate contracts?  Is this guy a one-trick pony?”

Actually, the last time I checked I had thousands of tricks.  The thing is, two in particular stand out spectacularly from the rest.  So maybe I’m a two-trick pony?

These particular two stand out, because as far as I can see, both of them offer necessary tactics and solutions to the existential threat ripping our nation apart.  It’s one huge, ugly monster with two heads:  Autocratic rule by a rich and powerful elite and psychotic levels of militarism and imperial aggression.

It’s been a real interesting ride these last five years trying to promote candidate contracts and the Peace Dividend refund concept, both targeting the oligarchy’s sinister, iron-fisted authoritarian grip on our politics — and just about everything else — and the creation of a military/security state to further tighten and reinforce that grip on the American citizenry and any other country which holds valuable resources ripe for plunder.

I’ve made my case in three books, and literally hundreds of articles.  With this much time invested, and a firm belief that despite a lack of much encouragement I’m onto something of value and positive potential, I’m not giving up.  Sometimes you go with your gut.

Both the candidate contract strategy and Peace Dividend concept have had more than their share of detractors.  Yet I forge on like a punch-drunk old boxer because no one — NO ONE — has come up with anything resembling a coherent, decisive reason why either of these detailed battle plans is not viable, why they’re dead ends, why they’re lost causes, why I should pack it in and live in a Yurt with some nomadic tribe in Mongolia.

I’m serious!  Any criticism dances around them like they’re made of depleted uranium.

I get self-assured quips like:  “It’ll never happen.”  Wow!  That crushed five years of hard work in a single blow.

Or:  “I don’t like contracts.”  Which is a semi-literate version of, “Your idea sucks, dude!”

One very famous activist — I won’t name him because everyone who would bother to read this knows this guy — ripped my book, Candidate Contracts: Taking Back Our Democracy to shreds.  I’ll give him credit for putting a lot of time into his demolition project.  He sent me a long email listing in great detail seven flaws in my approach.  The only problem was, not one of the seven things he targeted were even in my book!  I am dead serious.  Not a single one of the seven gaping holes in my plan were in my plan.  As I suspect happens a lot, he saw ‘candidate contracts’, then proceeded to dissect what he thought a candidate contract strategy would be about.  Talk about arrogant posturing.  And this guy is very famous!  Progressives from all over flock to his side for his sage advice.  God help us!

I beg people to give me constructive criticism, any kind of criticism, a bombshell that takes my ideas out like they’d just been hit by a MOABHey, put me out of my misery!  I’ve got four novels I’d much rather be working on.  PLEASE!  Give me your best shot.  Deliver me from all this yelling in an anechoic chamber at ghosts who are hologram doppelgangers for activists in a coma.

I’m still waiting.  How many articles have I written here, at OpEdNews, The Greanville Post?  Hundreds!  Now go through the comments.  A lot of the real critical stuff is self-aggrandizing bloviating, the rest irrefutable evidence that either they didn’t read the article, or they must have put their brains in a fruit blender before they tried to read it, because obviously they didn’t understand anything of what I was saying.

Often I’ve thought:  Maybe it’s you, John.  Maybe you’re not expressing yourself very clearly and that’s why people don’t get it.  (I spend a lot of time alone, so it’s not that unusual for me to talk to myself, though usually it’s a little more upbeat than this.)

The result has been the vast output of a variety of articles, each coming from a slightly different place, offering a different pitch, trying to find that magic winning formula for getting the ideas across.  I’ve even resorted to doing videos, despite the fact that if I had the money, the first thing I’d do is hire an actor with a great voice and reality show-host good looks to deliver a more seductive version of the message.

Mind you, I have a phenomenal life here in Japan.  Except for the gnawing aggravation and frustration associated with my long-distance dedication to activism, I live a fairy tale life in a beautiful, traditional, rural community situated between Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto — each one of those comes with its own distinct personality and host of urban attractions.  My beautiful, talented Japanese wife and I travel extensively, with her showing me the splendors of this fascinating country which I now embrace as my home.

But when I look back at the “homeland”, I want to scream!  What has happened to the U.S. is a nightmare of a nightmare of a nervous breakdown.  In my worst moments, I see the whole world — including my charming town — being plunged into a nuclear holocaust, a war driven by pride, hubris, arrogance, ignorance, insensitivity, delusion, demagoguery, pathological levels of disregard for decency and human life.  In my better moments — fewer and farther between these days — I just see America being consigned to the septic tank of history, plunged into the dank, degrading stink hole of a Dark Ages Redux.

But there’s three compelling reason why I’ll continue pushing — at least for a while — my two apparently incomprehensible strategies.

  1. There’s a pivotal election coming up.  Forget about 2020.  We might not even make it to 2020.  A lot depends on whether the accelerating implosion of our country and the decline of the fortunes of everyday people continues, or it finally meets its Waterloo.  It’s up to each of us to try to fix the mess and that’s why I keep fighting.
  2. Very recently I’ve had some encouraging breakthroughs.  One gentleman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania bought 20 print copies of my Peace Dividend book, handed them out to all of his friends and fell0w-activists.  Now they regularly discuss the strategy in their peace planning sessions.
  3. I am now on the board of a activist organization called Citizens Against Plutocracy.  This small group of dedicated progressives and its sister organization, Revolt Against Plutocracy, are actively promoting my candidate contract strategy, under the rubric CFAR, which stands for Contract For American Renewal.

[Author stops, spots a frog stuck to the window next to his chair, prompting him to reflect:  Is this as tedious as I think it is?  Maybe I should wrap this up.  Ah!  I’ll throw in the old non-sequitur.  That always gets them where the rubber meets the cerebellum!]

1st Rule of Fight Club:  Don’t talk about fight club.

1st Rule of Propaganda:  Repeat lies so often people eventually believe them.

1st Rule of Activism:  Repeat truth so often people start paying attention.

Alright, enough.  My mind spilleth over . . . and it’s a mess.

Having said all of the foregoing — are you still with me? . . . doubtful but as a tedious bore, I’m used to rejection — I’m going to take a short break.  The next two or three articles will not be hard-core political ravings . . . but instead, family-friendly fluff.

Just because I can.

Or is it by popular demand?

Posted in Deconstruction, Democracy, Peace Dividend, Political Analysis, Political Rant, Revolution, Social Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments