Thursday, January 29, 2015

Legal Age for Sex to 13 Years Old?


A female British barrister says that the law should be changed so that sex is legal at 13. The reason for this is so that older men will stop being sent to prison for sex with a minor.

Allow legal sex at 13 to stop 'old men abuse persecutions', says barrister 

The age of consent for sex should be lowered to 13 years-old to end the ''persecution of old men'' in the wake of the Savile sex abuse scandal, a leading barrister has claimed.

In a controversial intervention, Barbara Hewson, a senior barrister at Hardwicke chambers in London, also called for the end of anonymity for complainants. The lawyer, who specialises in reproductive rights also claimed crimes committed by disgraced broadcaster Stuart Hall were ''low level misdemeanours''.

Campaigners today criticised the ''outdated and simply ill-informed'' views, which it said ''beggars belief'' from a highly-experienced barrister. Her article also provoked an internal row within her chambers, which launched an "investigation" into the claims. 

But amid the storm of condemnation, she stood by her comments today as she quoted François-Marie Arouet, the 18th century philosopher, in her bid to defend her "opinion". Her comments come as Scotland Yard operates Operation Yewtree, an investigation split into three inquiries into allegations involving deceased presenter Jimmy Savile, involving Savile and others and those involving just others.

This article got several remarks from my well respected friends. Some of their remarks puzzled me as they were quite negative and suggesting that lowering the legal age for sex was akin to  "making murder legal," or something like "Satan worshipping."

I think my good friends, while well-meaning, are confused on the real issue here. I think the real issue is a question of personal freedom and self-responsibility. Now, I won't go too much into the fact (and a bit off issue) that there are untold numbers of young girls (and boys) who are prostitutes at very young ages. I would venture to guess that there are some as young as 10 or even younger.

I wrote to my friends concerning the question of the government deciding the legal age of marriage:

I wish you'd consider this. Why does the government have the right to decide this? For several millennia things like were decided by families and religions and religious beliefs. What makes the government (guffaw!) any more of a credible judge in matters like this? 

Why is it the government says, in the USA for example, that a young man or woman can get married at 18, join the army and go kill people or get killed overseas, drive a car, have an abortion, but they cannot go to the store to buy a beer? It's arbitrary and it's absurd. 

The problem is that when we allow the government to decide these things, it opens a can of worms about other rights that they decide arbitrarily. 

It isn't my business what another family wants to do... Only my family is my business.... There might be special circumstances whereby marriage at a early age is considered "OK" by some people. I don't know what's best for other people; just as they do not know what's best for me. 

I then linked to a History of legal age of marriage on Wikipedia:

Historically, the age of consent for a sexual union was determined by tribal custom or was a matter for families to decide. In most cases, this coincided with signs of puberty: menstruation for a girl and pubic hair for a boy. 

In Ancient Rome, it was very common for girls to marry and have children shortly after the onset of puberty. Roman law required brides to be at least 12 years old. In Roman law, first marriages to brides aged 12 through 24 required the consent of the bride and her father; but, by the late antique period, Roman law permitted women over 25 to marry without parental consent. The Catholic canon law followed the Roman law. 

In the 12th century, the Catholic Church drastically changed legal standards for marital consent by allowing daughters over 12 and sons over 14 to marry without their parents' approval, even if their marriage was made clandestinely. Parish studies have confirmed that late medieval women did sometimes marry against their parents' approval. The Catholic Church's policy of considering clandestine marriages and marriages made without parental consent to be valid was controversial, and in the 16th century both the French monarchy and the Lutheran church sought to end these practices, with limited success. 

In western Europe, the rise of Christianity and manorialism had both created incentives to keep families nuclear and thus the age of marriage increased; the Western Church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, the Church discouraged any practice that enlarged the family, like adoption,[citation needed] polygamy, taking concubines, divorce, and remarriage.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying here; I do not approve of what these young people are doing; I also do not approve of their life situation. But it isn't my life; it's theirs. It is sad that these young people feel they have to prostitute themselves or they live in a situation - perhaps a desperately poor country torn by war or they have no parents - that they do what they do to survive. 

Of course we are talking about children here, but what is an adult? It is not up to the government to take care of children, it is up to the parents. The fact is that today, there are untold numbers of young people prostituting themselves; it is a crime and it is against the law in most places, but guess what? In spite of being a crime, it's still going on. It's going on right now not only in the most desperate parts of Africa, but it is going on in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and most big cities. Yet, it is certainly against the law.

To think that it is not is foolishly naive. 

I added:

By the way, 1950s rock super star Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra. Is he a nut? Maybe he is (but in those days, in the South, things like that happened all the time - so what? Who am I to judge what they do?) Is it any of our business? No, it's not (I still think he is a rock & roll hero in spite of that). It isn't our business and it most certainly isn't the business of the central government. Oh, and another thing, am I confused or do we sometimes rail on some people for believing in a "god" yet, here, we talk about Satan? If we don't believe in god, we can't believe in Satan... I think..... Someone check me out on my logic there, willya?

Ignore the comments about Satan. Many of my friends seem to be atheists, yet they mention Satan like it/he/she is a fact? That seems a contradiction, no?

My point in this issue is not that this matter of 13-year-olds having sex is in any way morally right or to be condoned or not condoned. Personally, I do not condone it for me or my family. But my issue is, as I said, one of personal freedom and self-responsibility; if the parents or the church or their religion does not dictate behavior, then who are the government to do it? I think it's the government that is messing things up so that, in many cases, the kids have to do things like prostitution just to survive. For just one view on that read this: How the West is Responsible for all the Problems in the Middle East(Even Socialists who fail to see that since government is the cause of the problem, a different government is not the solution... But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Please refer to: The politics of famine.)

I can guarantee you that I took care of my own kids as best I could in my household and did my best to raise my children; my kids did not prostitute themselves at 13 or 16 or 25. Why? Even though they lived in a broken home, I made sure they had what they needed and felt loved and had a high self worth and some government wasn't bombing us and killing their father and mother.

I can't speak for other households. You and I have zero control over what other people do.

It is sad that these other children do these things; but the fact remains that they do so in spite of the government passing laws over and over to try to "fix" these problems. These poor people live in a situation, in many ways not of their own making, where they do these things to live.* The government has made child-prostitution a heavy crime for ... Yet it continues to this day. One can do a simple Google search and find a plethora of articles stating that child prostitution and trafficking are increasing... Is this not evidence that the policy isn't working and we need to rethink what we are doing? 

Wasn't it Einstein who said, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity"?

Ultimately, what I want to say is that the way we have been doing things (concerning government laws dictating what you can and cannot do; put into your body, eat or drink... Whether you can gamble or take drugs, etc...) Hasn't worked. The old way isn't working. We need to think about a new way of doing things. 

Like I said, proof of that claim comes from the fact that, say in the case of drugs, the Drug War is a miserable failure; also, in spite of the fact that prostitution and gambling is illegal, you can go to any big city in America, any time of the day and find an underaged prostitute, gamble or buy drugs.

If that isn't a failed policy, I don't know what is.

I don't know what the age for sex should be. I don't think the government does either. That's the issue here. Hate to harp on it, but "underaged sex" has been going on for the last 50 years (Ha! Last 5000 years) and laws haven't stopped it. I only know that we as individuals have to take care of our children; the government can't do that.

Government can't fix these things. If the government could fix our problems, don't you think they would have done so long ago? The only thing the government can do is to get out of the way and try to create an environment where everyone can be and do their best; perhaps then, young children might have opportunities to get jobs and create money without having to risk their lives by prostituting themselves.

What else can we do but to hope and work for that goal? 


*In Yuko Mihara Weisser's 1998 book Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: The Sex Films, Weisser related that of 30 Japanese porn actresses interviewed, all of them came from broken homes; some didn't even live with a parent in childhood.



Thanks to my friend, James Santagata

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The New Year's Party and the Japanese Rock & Roll Ghost Story



"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it." - William Arthur Ward 



The "Shinenkai" (New Year's Party) for "What the Funday" on InterFM, was held on Monday was a smash success. I thank everyone involved so very much from the bottom of my heart. The event and everything else involved with the event came out better than I ever dreamed of.

The bands were great. The crowd was fantastic. In fact, the manager of the venue told me afterward that it was the record for attendance at his club since it was established 5 years ago.  


Poster for Shinnenkai. I designed this poster modeled after the old 
Motown posters I so loved.

Not only was the New Year's Party a party, but it was also a movie shoot: we used the party to shoot parts of the trailer for a movie we are making. The movie is called, "A Japanese Rock & Roll Ghost Story." (ロックンロール亡霊?) Well, I think that's what we are going to call it. Fact of the matter is that this is the working title and we've been trying for over three months to find a better title but haven't been able too.I think a movie title should be a good description of the movie (well, duh!) and, while it is a little long as titles go, "A Japanese Rock & Roll Ghost Story" is exactly what this movie is about.

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It is a story about a struggling Japanese "Sixties Retro-Music" musician who finds the spirit of a long dead Blues musician living in his studio and he and that spirit make fantastic music together, unlike the rock musicians band in real life. The problem is that no one else can hear that music nor can they see the spirit. Only our protagonist can see and talk with the ghost.

Over time, our hero becomes only happy when he plays music with the spirit. He stops working, stops practicing with his band and spends all his time locked up in the studio with a ghost no one else can see or hear. 


His band members and his family begin to think he is having a nervous breakdown or is going insane.


Finally, the musician gives up everything to go and be with the ghost all the time and making heavenly music.


Has he completely gone insane? Or has he really died and gone to heaven?



(Left) Loren Fykes (ghost) & Mr. Pan (rocker)


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I have assembled an excellent team to tackle this film project. For the director of the movie, I asked Enrico Ciccu who has written and directed for some very fine cult movie productions in Italy. Enrico can be a difficult person to work with; but that’s the way I like it. Great artists are never easy people to deal with. Enrico wrote the screenplay and had a large hand in the making for this short film which was accepted at the Sapporo Film Festival: “Julie – Johnny Guitar.” Enrico also recently directed this: The Erotik Monkey.



Proper and mood lighting is so critically important to the look and feel of any movie. For Lighting Director, I asked my old friend Yuji Wada. Yuji is a famous Hollywood lighting director. And, amongst other works, Yuji does the lighting for all of Sofia Cappola's movies including the smash hit "Lost in Translation." 


Scene from "Lost in Translation"

For camera, I recruited Ken Nishikawa. Ken Nishikawa is a former BBC (speaks beautiful Queen's English) director as well as having donw films and TV productions for every major TV broadcasting company in Tokyo. Ken and I have made MANY TV productions and music videos (Shonen Knife, Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols original bassist) and many other famous Japanese bands). Here the trailer for one of our next productions that I expect to start in spring 2015: Matsuchiyo - Life of a Geisha



Of course, all good films need good acting. I also need people who can act AND play some mean music. I found them. The actors in our film are from several famous Japanese bands and they are all eager to perform. 

The main actor will be Mr. Pan (Lead vocalist of Neatbeats - sitting on the right on the sofa in the photo below). Mr. Pan will be main actor in movie. He can act and has been on TV and radio many times and has also acted in one small part in a movie before. Plus he is the epitome of a cool Japanese Rock and Roll band. The Neatbeats, by the way, just returned from a tour of Europe!



Other bands who have agreed to appear: The Privates and The 50 Kaitenz. 

Here are some videos from these great bands:

50 Kaitenz: Killer (This is hilarious. You don't need to understand Japanese to get this!)

The Neatbeats (Campy sixties style Rock and Roll with a hot sexy girl, of course!) 

The Privates (Excellent Rock and Roll!)   

So far we have had two shooting sessions for the film. The first was on Jan. 23, 2015. It went fantastic and everything was perfect. Here is a still from that shoot:


(Left to Right): Me, Mike Rogers - Producer (bottom left), Enrico Ciccu - Director (standing left), Ken Nishikawa - Cinematographer (Kneeling middle), Mr. Pan - Protagonist (sitting on sofa). 

I hope you can see merely by the lighting of this photo that we are going for a style and quality that is a compliment to my inspiration for this particular film, Quentin Tarantino.

Finally, we come full circle. The second shooting session for the film was at our New Year's party. I needed to shoot scenes at a nightclub of our hero's band doing well and doing terribly. We got both. Here is a still from that photo shoot:


On stage are the killer Japanese rock band, "The Privates." Sitting in front with red cap is famous Japanese radio dee-jay and comedian, Furukawa Taro. The beautiful woman at the same table is Tomomi Hiraiwa. Behind them both, the guy sleeping (or acting dead?) is me, Mike Rogers (I must say, I do a mighty fabulous job of acting dead). On camera is director Enrico Ciccu.


Everything, as I wrote, was just perfect for both shoots. The editing starts next week and we expect the trailer to be ready by end of Feb. 

Shooting this film is one of my dreams come true and I have decided that if we are going to do this, then we are going to do it right and we are going to make something that is world-class quality.

I think that is a good goal for everyone, all of us, even dear reader, for our lives and our goals for 2015: "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it." 

I am going to make my dreams come true this year. I am cheering for you all to do the same. 

Let's make all our dreams come true, together in 2015!


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Random Thoughts on Monday Morning: Toilet Paper, McDonald's, Coffee, David Bowie - Can You Find the Correlation?....


Thought #1: Toilet paper. 

It's strange, but I often think about toilet paper. I think many Japanese people might. I know people in Greece and Venezuela are thinking about it all the time, especially right now.

Did you know that, even today, many Japanese people are hoarding toilet paper? My evidence is anecdotal, for sure, but I know three families who have a few months of toilet paper stored up. 

We are one of them. There must be many many more.

Remember when I told you that Japanese people hoard toilet paper because there have been several times in modern history when it was completely gone for months on end? Yes, in 1979, when there was an oil shock, I have heard many stories from Japanese people that toilet paper was a commodity that could not be found anywhere. And that situation lasted for months. People were using old newspapers for the duties.

How could one of the world's top economies not have toilet paper? (Well, we have a problem with butter, so that may be a clue.... See: Economic Illiteracy and How Japan is Responsible for the Destruction of the Western Economies

Well, now, here is that "No Toilet Paper" threat in Greece (of all places). From Keep Talking Greece: "ND-candidate “sees” even toilet paper shortage, if SYRIZA wins the elections" 

"If SYRIZA wins the elections and forms a government on Monday Greeks will run will run out of toilet paper. This is what ND-candidate Sofia Voultepsi implied just 48 hours before the elections.

“Bank run” vs “toilet paper run”?"

Well, it looks like Syriza won the elections.  I figure that there is a toilet paper shortage coming all over Europe as EU bureaucrats are about to start shitting their pants because they are going to all be out of jobs soon enough. 

Good.

I mentioned this toilet paper shortage stuff to my friend Jeff Berwick and he tells me the exact same thing is going on in Venezuela; no toilet paper.

I suspect that this toilet paper problem is representative of a larger problem (of course) that has something to do with distribution, corruption (maybe) and government interference with the free market (of course). I mean, it's not like toilet paper is perishable, is it? How could there be a shortage (excepting that all of a sudden there are more people shitting their pants? There certainly is no sudden increase in the number of assholes....)

I think it is even weirder to have a toilet paper shortage in Japan because, as the Japanese are world famous for high-tech toilets, lots of people have toilets with washlets built in. We do. 

Why my wife wants to buy tons of toilet paper? We have a 1/2 year supply downstairs... No kidding. 

Thought #2: McDonald's. 

McDonald's is doing very badly in Japan: Plastics in food. human teeth in french fries... And it's not just Japan, in the UK a woman found "A worm in Chicken McNuggets."

That's disgusting, but the story is funny and shows how stupid people are. The woman was quoted as saying, "'I'm very fussy about what I eat and when I saw what was in the McNugget I went white."

She's fussy about what she eats, yet she was eating at McDonald's????

We live in a world with LOTS of stupid people.

Thought #3: Coffee

I used to eat McDonald's many years ago.... But stopped for my health about 15 years ago. I do like McDonald's coffee though. In fact, my favorite coffee is 7-11 coffee at ¥100 or McDonald's coffee at ¥120. I refuse to pay Starbucks ¥500 (about $5.00) for a cup of hot water and crushed coffee beans! 

7-11 is the best deal. But with McDonald's I can sit down inside. So that's good. I never eat the other McDonald's stuff.

But I no longer eat any fast food at all anymore. 

Thought #4: What Do These Things Have in Common?

Well, this is a stretch, but here goes....

Did you know that, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Japan came in third on total medal count and gold medals after the USA and the Soviet Union? That's right; Japanese used to be an Olympic powerhouse.

No more. 

As the years went by, though, Japan became more and more inept at sports and fewer and fewer medals were to be had. Nowadays, if a Japanese athlete comes in fifth, it's big news. If they get a bronze or silver, they are superstars for life.

Well, as the medal count has consistently dropped over the years, in the early 90s (I think it was) a right wing commentator said something to the effect of, "The Japanese athletes no longer win as many medals today because Japan now has sit down western toilets instead of traditional squat toilets. Thus, Japanese kids no longer do squats at home so their athletic ability has declined." 

No kidding. (If anyone can remember the name of the guy who said this, remind me, will you, please?)

"But, Mike, what does that have to do with McDonald's?" 

Hold on, I'm getting there....

In 1971 when McDonald's first came to Japan, it was founded by a guy named Den Fujita. He opened his first McDonald's in a ritzy Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, an upscale district in Tokyo, Japan. It was a smash success. 

At that time, Den Fujita was quoted as saying, "Americans are much bigger and stronger than the Japanese and the USA wins much more Olympic medals than Japan does because they eat things like McDonald's." 

He really did say that, and he was dead serious. 

I'm not making this stuff up.


You might remember when John Belushi set the world record in winning 8 Gold Medals at the 1975 Olympics?... He attributed his success to "Little Chocolate Donuts" being at his training table every morning. Can't argue with success.


So you see, I guess we can deduce from this that, because the Japanese no longer use squat toilets, they have lost lower body strength because they no longer do squats; in spite of the fact that they gained strength because they started eating more McDonald's.... 

Just like Americans and American athletes do.

So, now you know what the relationship between toilet paper and McDonald's in Japan is...

Sort of.

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Silly joke I thought of when I was contemplating coffee yesterday in a coffee shop with my friend...

Question: "What do you call David Bowie when he is sitting in a coffee shop?"

Answer: "Ziggy Starbucks."*


* Apologies to Ziggy Starbux of "Roxy Suicide."

Thanks to Jeff Berwick and James Santagata

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Independent Artists From USA, UK and the West, Cannot Get a Recording Deal in Japan


Again, recently, I've had several people writing to me telling me to introduce them to a Japanese record label because they are "absolutely sure" they can break big in Japan. So I'm going to go over this subject again....

But before I go into why you, independent artist in the west, will never get a contract with a Japanese label (until you have a contract with a western record label first - and why bother? You can become big without either label because of the internet)... Let me give you some reality about Japan. From Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Other Western Artists are Minor in Japan 

This column is about Japanese Rock stars versus Western Rock Stars in Japan... The premise is that, in spite of the hype and hoopla in the western press, USA and UK artists have seriously fallen out of their position of "Most Favored" in Japan (and China and elsewhere in Asia). That's what this post is about.

But, over these last fifteen years, sales of albums from US and UK artists, and in turn their popularity, have dropped off a cliff. Western artists are just not the draw or as popular as they were a few decades ago. 

The last big western artist who could come to Japan and quickly sell out a few nights at Tokyo Dome was Michael Jackson at the height of his popularity in the early nineties. 

But that was a long time ago. Very few western artists can come to Japan anymore and sell out the dome even for one night. Most today don't even try. Coldplay certainly couldn't do it. 

In fact, I don't think there are any bands in the entire world (excepting, perhaps a Rolling Stones reunion) that could sell out a few days at Tokyo Dome these days. Aerosmith is playing there next week, for one night, but they are having a hard time selling tickets and will be lucky to sell out the arena seats on the first floor.

Read more here: http://modernmarketingjapan.blogspot.jp/2011/11/lady-gaga-coldplay-and-other-western.html


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In the last month, I've had three different artists' managers and agents from the USA, Ireland and Britain ask me for help in getting them a release deal or a music publishing deal in Japan. These people ask me because I play a lot of new and independent music on the FM radio. Perhaps they also know I used to run one of Japan's most successful Indies labels (in the late 80s & early 90s) and I have been involved with alternative music and the promotion of that kind of music since the late 70s.




Today, I'd like to write a short post about why it is next to impossible for an unsigned independent artist in the west to get a record or publishing deal in Japan in the year 2015. I do this to help people and I do this to help myself because I've written this explanation more times than I care to and don't want to do it anymore. 

This example though, I'm sure, is not just limited to the music industry. I think this example is a microcosm for all industries across the board in Japan when it comes to subsidiaries and licensing product across international boundaries.

Let me give you specifics.

I can think of three artists that I really like and have been playing on our weekly FM radio show. (I guess I shouldn't name them. You can see our playlist here: https://www.interfm.co.jp/wtf/)

Because of this support and these efforts to bring new music to Japan, I have earned the reputation for being the guy who finds these new artists and plays them years before they break even in the west. May I pat myself on the back? Recent examples were Amy Winehouse who we began playing heavily in 2006, a full two years before she she broke big and, more recently, Adele who was introduced to me by Rodney Bingenheimer. I was the first one to play these artists in Japan years before they got popular even in the west. Over the years there were hundreds. Guns and Roses was another notable one way back when. 

Like I said, this is an example, a microcosm, of how other businesses in Japan work also. If there is a parent company and a subsidiary involved you can be sure that politics play a big part in all decisions that are made... This point is obvious but many artists fail to grasp this.

In the past, I have also introduced independent artists to Japanese record labels and music publishers and have gotten them contracts. But that was well before the year 2000. Japanese labels and music publishers today are not interested in signing new western acts for the Japanese market and here's why...

Let's take the example of a world-wide label like Warner music. Warner in the USA releases hundreds of albums annually. Of those hundreds of albums, only a handful get released in Japan. It is unclear how the process for deciding which artists' albums get released in Japan is made. Ostensibly, it would be a decision founded on which artists' album the local label people believe would be most popular and sell the best, but I would be a fool to tell you that is exactly how it is done. I have been in Japan long enough to know that politics and favors are quite important in the decision room. I know that sometimes the good of the company is sacrificed in order to placate some employees' desires and wishes. 

I have witnessed, more than five times in my life, adult Japanese men over 40-years-old of age, actually crying or pouting like little children at business meetings because they didn't get their way. I've seen this in the last month, actually! Grown men crying like children! It was astounding. 

So remember that, perhaps, sometimes an album is released just because Mr. Tanaka is a fan of that artist even though the rest of the staff don't feel that it will sell well... And when it doesn't sell well? Does Mr. Tanaka suffer any penalty? Not immediately and perhaps never. In a few years he might be transferred to another section.

Ever heard of the Peter Principle? If you haven't you should. The Peter Principle says that, "In a hierarchy, every employee will rise to their highest level of incompetence." That, in a nutshell is one of the biggest reasons I can see why business is bad in today's Japan.

But I digress.

The western arm of the label releases hundreds of artists a year. In Japan, only a few of those are released. Politics play a big part. Now, when hundreds are not released, what would happen if the Japanese side arbitrarily picked up an artist from, say, London who wasn't signed to the sister or parent label and released that artist in Japan? Well, you can bet that the sister or parent company would soon find out about it and they would be very pissed off. It would become a major political problem for the western label (destroy their credibility in the local market) and it would then become a major political problem for the Japanese side too.

The western arm of the label would say (of course), "Hey! We have all these other artists that we released. Why don't you release one of those? Why don't you help us promote our artists?" A big row would ensue. And people would be angry and relationships frayed or destroyed.

The Japanese, not being ones to want to make trouble, would rather decline unilaterally signing an artist from the west - one that, by the way, doesn't even have management that the Japanese side has a relation with - so if there is trouble, they have no one to blame. 

The Japanese just won't do it.

In the west, you have the Billboard charts. In Japan, we have the Oricon charts. They are both corrupted by payola but they are what we use. To see the most recent Oricon charts, we have to subscribe and pay money. There's no way I'm going to pay money for that so here's the most recent Oricon Chart Top 30 chart that we can see for free. It's from Nov. 11, 2011. See if you recognize any names on the Top 30:



See any Adele? Lady Gaga? Katy Perry or Flo Rida? No? Neither do I and you will rarely, if ever, see them on any Japanese charts. Like I said, sales of western artists have dropped off a cliff in Japan. 

There won't be any recovery of those sales anytime soon, either.

Understanding these things, then you can see why your band, unsigned in the west, has a basically zero chance of getting signed here in Japan. I hate to break this news to you good folks and great musicians but it is what it is. Don't take it personally at all if a Japanese label or publisher doesn't answer your inquiries about your music. It's not about the music anymore.

Imagine if there were a time slip and your band were the Beatles, as yet undiscovered in 2015 and unsigned to a label in the west, there's no way a Japanese label will sign you for release in Japan. It has nothing to do with your music and your talent and gift; it has everything to do with intra-company politics.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, if they were 18 years old today, would have a major problem. 

And that's why the major music industry is dying.

Good riddance?


For Linda, Margaret, Jp and Allison, and all the others...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Amazon Marketplace is Really a Hit or Miss


I like Amazon. I love being able to order what I want from the comfort of my home and having it delivered to my house. It is easy and quick. Usually.

I have read many articles that talk of the future demise of Amazon. Most of these I've read from Karl Denninger. Here's an example: "Amazon: A Look At The Sheet" I've read where Amazon works on a paper-thin margin so now that many US states are now charging sales tax, their paper thin profit margin has disappeared. Some writers say that spells disaster for Amazon.

I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon did start losing lots of money and had to raise prices heavily, which will allow competitors to cut deeply into their market share (good! competition lowers prices!), but I think Amazon has a good enough reputation that that won't happen too soon... 

Amazon makes my life easier... Well, sometimes....

Ordering directly from Amazon has always been a good experience for me. I can't remember even once having something delivered that wasn't what I ordered or as advertised....

Amazon Marketplace, on the other hand, can be a real "hit or miss" proposition... It can even be a major pain in the ass if something is wrong and you have to return an item.

In the case of books or music on CD or DVDs, I can not complain about Amazon Marketplace. Sure, sometimes they are slow as hell, and things are pretty beat up, er, I mean, "very used" but, the prices are cheaper and I'm usually willing to wait and don't care about condition as long as the CDs play or DVDs don't skip. 

But when it comes to ordering many other things on Amazon Marketplace, I have to give warning.

Case in point: Kitchen Blenders.

In the last 5 days, I have ordered three blenders from Amazon Marketplace vendors, and then finally, paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. (I need a blender because it's the easiest way to get raw veggies: I make Green Smoothies for breakfast everyday religiously.)

In the case of the two from Amazon Marketplace vendors, I ordered brand new blenders that cost between $100 ~ $200 (You'd think that the more expensive the item is, the better the unit or service - usually true, but in my experience, not at Amazon Marketplace). Both I immediately returned because when I opened the boxes, it was obvious that these units were not "new," they were refurbished or returned items.


I like Oster products. I always buy new ones if I do. Sorry, this doesn't look like a new model from the factory, does it?


In both cases, the packaging was obviously (poorly) redone and in one case, it looked as if a repairman had written "low" with a marker pen on the face of the blender's control panel (the kanji for "hikui" - low) as if there was some sort of problem with the power switch and it was in the repair shop.

Now, call me anal-retentive, but if the packaging is all bent and torn in places and/or the unit has writing on it, then that is not a "new" unit; it is a unit that has been returned defective and repaired (therefore, "refurbished" or "repaired") in the case where the box is all messed up, it might be considered "new" by some people but not me. 



The blade holder at the bottom of the glass wasn't screwed onto the unit correctly (it was crooked) and look at those tears and wrinkles on the cardboard. This looks like it was returned and then repackaged by chimpanzees. How did the bottom blade attachment get on there crooked? It certainly didn't come from the factory that way.


As consumers and customers, we should never tolerate bad service or being sold something that is different than advertised. If service is bad at a restaurant, quietly get up and walk out and never come back; if you order an item and get something different than you ordered, you must complain and return it.

In the mid-1970s, I worked in the camera section at a department store in the USA. That department store often had sales on cameras and accessories. I do remember a particular camera model that came in one day. It was super cheap. It was super cheap because it was a piece of junk; both the other guy who worked there and I thought it was a cheap-assed piece of shit. That camera sold for $8. It was flimsy, they broke constantly, and at least 30~40% of them seemed to ship from manufacturer as defective. 

If we sold one, it was sure as the sun rises in the East, the customer was going to return it. That made lots of work for us because then we had to listen to someone get mad at us and then fill out all sorts of forms and we'd lose a customer (also lose our 3% commissions!) 

Nope. I stopped selling those real fast. Anytime anyone asked me about it, I up sold them the $19.99 Vivitar with glass lenses and case and extras and said, "Look at the cheap $8 model. It is completely plastic, with plastic lenses even... When do these things break? They break at the wedding, or family get-together or barbecue party... You don't want to risk that, for a few dollars more, you can get quality that will last for years." Then I'd let them hold the Vivitar and compare: that was a good little camera that was built well. 

So instead of selling the $8 piece of crap (with $0.24 cent commission) that would probably get returned and cause me to do lots of paperwork (we didn't get commission on returns or paperwork - Duh!) I'd sell people a camera, case, film, a few batteries, etc. for about $29.. And have a happy customer walk out of the store and I got about a $0.90 commission! Easy math.  



That's me about the time I worked at the department store. 
I sold cameras. I sold lots of cameras. I was 17.


But I digress.... 

Even though both the other guy and I told our department manager that this camera was a piece of crap and we didn't want them, she went and ordered a couple hundred of them anyway, because the department store chain was going to run nationwide ads for this piece of trash. She ordered them. The people came in in droves. I tried to up sell everyone, but some wouldn't do it. Lots of people bought those things. Of course, lots of people returned them.

We had one hundred of those pieces of crap returned as broken or defective and then we had to send them to repair. Oh, the minutiae of redundant paperwork!

Guess what happened when those cameras came back from repairs? Come on, guess!

Because my boss realized that she had ordered too many of these dogs and that the returns and repairs come out of the bottom line for the camera department, she tried to insist to us that we sell those cameras as "new." 

I ask you dear reader, would you consider those cameras as "new"? I wouldn't.

I got in trouble because I basically refused to sell those. They were "used" or "repaired" or "refurbished" or something, but there is no way in the world those were "new" cameras.

I won't mention the name of the department store because they are doing poorly. 

.....I will say that I hear that Sears Roebuck and Company was once a fine organization. It doesn't surprise me the fortunes of Sears over these last 25 years have gone so poorly.... Hijinks like that went on all the time. 

Oh, but I digress again...

Tell me dear reader, what do you think of this blender? This is actually, the second model that came last night. Should I consider this a "new" model? I wonder what my friends would think if I ordered this and sent it as a wedding or housewarming present or something? 


You're kidding, right?


Anyway, going to give those two vendors bad scores and complain. Finally, I paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. That unit is supposed to come today. If that one is messed up, I'll got to the local electronics store and pick one up.

Buying a blender shouldn't be such a big hassle... It's not rocket science, is it? (I mean, a blender that is new and works and is sold as advertised?) I'm embarrassed to say that I went through almost the exact same experience with Amazon Marketplace vendors 2 years ago when I bought my previous blender that just died.

Live and learn... Some of us (like me) aren't very fast learners.

Amazon Marketplace is fine for used books, music, DVDs, forget it for clothes or home appliances.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What Does a Piano Competition Have to Do With Raising Children?


The Semi-Finals and the Finals for the 16th Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia were just held at Showa University of Music in Shinyurigaoka. My just-turned 11-year-old son was in the competition.

The Chopin International Piano Competition in Asia is one of the highest level and most prestigious competitions all of Asia. Just to be able to compete means that these children have made it to the top level of their class. Some of those kids are simply amazing!

In October the finals were held for Tokyo and, in his first attempt, we were pleasantly surprised when our son won a Bronze Medal and made it to the semi-finals. He is in the 11-year-old to 13-year-old category so we did not expect to win a medal (some of those 13-year-olds are incredibly awesome and there is a big difference in growth and body strength between a 11-year-old and a 13-year-old!) So we were extremely happy that he even made it to the semi-finals in his first year trying. Most 11-year-olds didn't pass the earlier competitions.



If you have a child and they are involved in any sort of competition like this, then you know it is not just a competition for the child; it becomes a group effort involving the parents, siblings, an instructor (or two or three) and, perhaps, even some family friends. My contribution? I make breakfast and dinner almost everyday, do the grocery shopping, and am chauffeur and delivery boy so that my classical-piano-trained-wife can focus on working with our son in honing his skill and talent. Thanks to this group effort, and the extra effort of his instructors, he fared well.

A few days before the semi-finals, we had the chance for our son to practice on a real Steinway grand piano for a few hours so I decided to make a video of his practice. It's not often that one can get to where a real Steinway is located and be allowed to video tape and have a run of the stage! So, I just had to make this video! When it was finished, I just knew I wanted you, dear reader, to see it.

This was a live performance, in a private seating, on Jan. 8, 2015 at Shiodome Hall in Tokyo of Chopin Impromptu. If the link doesn't work, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGg9FEXgqTY


(If you enjoyed the performance and the video by Mike Rogers and Ken Nishikawa, please go to the Youtube link and give us a "Thumbs up!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGg9FEXgqTY)


Trust folks, that when kids get to this level of skill (the top level in their peer group) in anything; be it any musical instrument, ballet dancing, classical violin, soccer, baseball, swimming, painting; heck, anything involved with art, skill or talent, that they have gotten to the point that it is almost 100% completely up to the child as to whether or not they can succeed. Only if the child really wants to do this and they have the inner talent, hunger and desire to succeed in their hearts and minds, can they take their "game" up to the level they need. The parents can push and push and push forever, but it won't matter (in fact, pushing too much is detrimental); the child must feel and desire to succeed in their goal in their entire being in order to, well, hate to be corny but to "Feel the Force." A flower cannot be forced to grow.

Well, as it turns out, our son didn't make it to the finals. He was a bit disappointed but... at the semi-finals, he played the best he's ever played, so we are more than proud, pleased and satisfied. We couldn't have asked for more! In his first try he made it to the semi-finals so we are not disappointed at all. 

If he didn't play well; we might have been disappointed. But, he played his heart out and played wonderfully. At this level of competition, winners and kids who didn't win (because win or lose, all these kids are winners), are all decided by the tastes and whims of the judges. 

One of my sons instructors was at the competition and witnessed his performance and praised him greatly; she believes he can win. Maybe he can win, but not this year. My son says he wants to try again next year. 

So, we get to go through it all again… Next year. What a wonderful experience and great memories for parents and their children.

As my friend Ken always says; "Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow." 

As my friend Jyoti reminded me;

"What day is it?" asked Pooh.

"It is today." squeaked Piglet.

"Oh? My favorite day!" said Pooh.

Life is fun. We are happy. Hope you are happy too. 


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NOTES: I have harped on this subject relentlessly and will until the day I die: I am a professional in broadcasting so I like to think I know what I am talking about concerning the subject of TV. There is no way my son (or any of these other children who were in the Chopin Competition in Asia (or anywhere else) could ever be in this sort of competition or at this sort of level of skill had they been watching TV. Do your children a favor; throw away your TV set. For more, please refer to: The Plug-in Drug www.lewrockwell.com/2008/02/mike-in-tokyo-rogers/the-plug-in-drug/

School is, of course, extremely important. I choose my son's school for a variety of reasons and, soon, I will post about that. But for now I'd like to recommend St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. I know many graduates of that school who are leaders in business (presidents and high ranking executives of big companies in Japan) as well as well known musicians and athletes. In fact, in the music department, St. Mary's Boys Choir is internationally famous and has won many awards over the years... You don't get that way without skilled and talented professional instructors. I know that St. Mary's is tops in this country in these fields. I cannot count the number of times, in my capacity as a guy who did marketing for huge corporations in Tokyo that I have met big shots who were graduates of St. Mary's in Tokyo. http://www.smis.ac.jp/ 

The world is getting more and more difficult. It's getting harder to succeed, and even to survive in. I think this is because of the economy; and it's going to get much tougher from here on out. School is to teach math, reading and writing, but also needs to teach our kids how to think and get a meaningful job, a dream in life and how to prosper in our society. 

Get rid of the TV; get them into a top level private school (or even home school?) Our kids need all the advantages they can get.

THANKS: To my best friend Ken Nishikawa. Without Ken, none of these video productions could be possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Astounded by Average American Attitudes Toward North Korea


The North Korea and Sony Pictures and Obama Administration nonsense just amazes me. Because of this recent episode, the US mass media has decided to distract the easily distracted American public away from the issues that actually do matter to them again.... For the umpteenth millionth time.

Instead of looking at things that really matter to the US population, the mass media has Americans back to bashing Kim Dim Son again. It gets tiring.



What astounds me the most about this is that average Americans seem to take some sort of bizarre pleasure in ridiculing North Korea; it's as if they make themselves feel better by bashing North Korea and its "leadership." Sorry, folks, Americans don't have a leg to stand on when making fun of North Korea; especially in the area of political leadership and criminal behavior. 

Both countries are run by psychopathic megalomaniacs that do not differ in kind but in degree only. Yes. Degree only. 



North Korea doesn't run a worldwide empire. North Korea didn't carpet bomb US cities in the 1950s killing massive numbers of civilians, women and children, like the USA did when the USA bombed hospitals, dams and schools in North Korea; North Korea hasn't started wars of aggression or invaded bombed or attempted to overthrow more than 60 nations since 1945; North Korea is not bombing, maiming, orphaning and killing brown skinned children in 7 nations in the Middle East 24/7, like the USA does today... 

There is one area though where the USA and North Korea do greatly resemble each other though: Both are lead by family dynasties who control the political arena: North Korea has the Kim family; the USA has the Bushes and the Clintons.... 



Yeah, all a barrel of laughs!

You never make yourself look better by ridiculing someone else.... How Americans are so ignorant and arrogant that they can make themselves feel better by ridiculing a basket case like North Korea is simply amazing. Of course North Korean leader Kim Jung Un is a criminal and a clown... But America making fun of this guy is like a 900-pound gorilla bullying and beating up a skinny, scrawny, asthmatic 90 pound weakling.

Immaturity and propaganda of North Korea or the USA? Which is funnier or more ironic? I'm not sure.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's in Japan: Sushi Skyscrapers, Hamburger Sushi, Bizarre Underground Temples, Resolutions...


It is now Jan. 2, 2015. My New Year's Holiday is officially over. I've been doing work all day today and getting ready for the New Year work start which begins day after tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at 5 am) for me.

A few things I decided and thought about over New Years....

First off, I haven't really made any New Year's resolutions except to lose weight. And that isn't much of a resolution as it is under doctor's orders. As I wrote in Near Death at the Hospital, Last Month! - Back in Humor, This Month! I almost kicked the bucket in September of 2014, so the doctor told me that I needed to quit drinking and to stop smoking cigarettes... Those two aren't that hard to do, really! (Funny thing! Easy way to quit smoking is to have some sort of heart disease or cancer and, wallah! You no longer want to smoke! Try it sometime! ) The doctor told me that my heart wasn't working at full speed so to accommodate for that, he said that I needed to lose weight so my heart didn't have to pump so hard for a larger body. Makes sense.

Easy to say, hard to do. I've lost almost 25 pounds (about 10 kilograms) and yet, when I went to see the doctor on Dec. 29, he told me that I still needed to lose another 7 or 8 kilograms (about 16 pounds or so!) Yikes!

Other real New Year's resolutions I made were to stop doing work that isn't fun and to stop working with people who are, well, assholes. I mentioned this before in The Internet, the Handicapped and the Future of Production. But let me repeat: 

Over these last 7 years or so, I have been working with many start-up companies. I have come to the conclusion that there is a fundamental problem with the way many of the people who start up companies think: They all state the goal is IPO. Then they work solely for that purpose: the purpose of making lots of money in order to go public. 

Making lots of money is good. But it shouldn't be the primary goal of your life or even your company. The primary goal of life is happiness (I think); the primary goal of the company should be something like; to make people happy. Or; to make society a better place; or to create a better life. You see, if the goals are to make people happy or to make society a better place, etc., and then if the company succeeds at doing so; THEN THE MONEY WILL NATURALLY FOLLOW! 

It also is impossible to gauge the value of doing a job that makes one happy and contented; jobs that cause stress, worry and unhappiness are everywhere and a dime a dozen. To make the primary goal of "Making money" isn't good because we can make money cheating people, taking advantage of them or just plain treating them like shit.... Which lots of people in management do.

Lots of people who will do anything for money seem to also be idiots or assholes too (funny that!) 

There is another thing that dawned on me: The more idiots or assholes you work with, the more stress you have. The doctor says one of the big reasons I got sick in September was probably stress. I believe that, I was working with some people who were total idiots (and assholes) and that was really stressing me out! So I quit.

Thank God I left that place.

Anyway, the big New Year's Resolution for 2015 is to have fun! I hope you have fun too!


IDIOT/ASSHOLE = STRESS
IDIOTS/ASSHOLES = STRESSES

Don't do it. LIfe is short. Have fun. Make everyday count!


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

Here's some photos I took of stuff I did/saw at the end of 2014 and this morning. There's no particular order, but just things that struck me as interesting:


New Year's in Japan? Well that calls for sushi, and lots of it! As is tradition in the Rogers family, we went to our favorite sushi restaurant. There I saw the skyline view of plates stacked up. Take a look, doesn't that look like Hong Kong from the Kowloon side? Or am I too high on sake?

No way! This sushi is not from our favorite sushi place. It is from the Robot Sushi place I wrote about that is totally fun for kids and a great deal! I saw the cheeseburger sushi and decided that I just had to eat one just to be able to say that I did.... And I survived! It tasted like, well, cheeseburger sushi! (For more on the robot sushi, click: Gaijin Gourmet: My Favorite Robot (Sushi) - Hamazushi)

On the 29th of December, we had a get together at my house and roasted a chicken because turkey is too much trouble. Ken and Ayumi came over (it's annual and they are like family). My daughter Sheena came over and of course my wife and son (and dog) were there. Our special guest for the day was Enrico Ciccu who is here from Italy and living alone in Tokyo (which, even though it is very crowded, can be a very lonely place.)

This shrine is right by my house. It is the Seta Tamagawa Shrine. I walked by there today and spent ¥300 (about $3.60) on a "Lucky Charm." I asked the girl if she had any lucky charms for health or success at work.  She showed me what they had... But those charms were too large to fit in my wallet. I asked her about the tiny cheap ones and she said, "Those aren't for work or health, they are just for luck!" I said, "Luck!? That's good enough for me! I'll take one!" It's currently in my wallet.

This is the underground passageways at Tamagawa Shrine. This is a bizarre place. There are hundreds of these stone Buddha down, underground, in this temple. This temple represents a shrine for Buddhist priests who traveled alone throughout Japan before the Meiji Restoration. This place is very cool... Kinda scary.

Seriously, these statues must weigh 100 kgs... Some are huge and must weigh as much as a car. How the heck did those skinny priests get this stuff down into the underground caverns? The entrance and exit to this place is tiny!

Enrico ringing the bell and making a wish.

This is the shrine at Isehara we visited on New Year's day. There is a funny story about this shrine. Inside the shrine is a huge bell. During the war, when raw materials were scarce, the Japanese military tried to get the priests running this shrine to give up this massive bell for scrap metal to be
melted down and made into armaments. You know, for the good of the country and all that. Well, as you can guess, the priests said, "No!" so the Japanese military took to trying to steal the bell out from under the noses of these priests at night when they were sleeping. Oh, come now! Everyone who has seen the Kung Fu TV show knows these priest guys sleep really lightly and even the sound of one tiny branch crackling under the feet of someone sneaking around at night is going to wake these guys up.... And, if you do wake them up at night, trying to steal their bell, they are bringing along an ass whipping to greet you.... Legend has it that the military tried many times to steal the bell.... Guess what? It's still there to this day!


The dog guarding the entrance to the shrine.

The entire family at Isehara Shrine. We wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015! God bless, er, I mean Buddha, no! Amaterasu bless you and your loved ones with health!