Monday, April 30, 2012

How Disco Music and Van McCoy and "The Hustle" Saved My Life

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." - Mark Twain

In the mid-1970s, disco music boomed onto the scene. It was everywhere and everyone liked it. That is, everyone, excepting for me and a few of my dork friends. We hated disco music and everything that had to do with disco music with a passion. I hated the music, lyrics, fashion, dance steps and cliques. Still do.

That being said, though, that disco boom of the mid-seventies and, especially, the massive 1975 group dance hit by Van McCoy, "The Hustle," saved my life... 

If you are over 40 or so, you probably know that disco hit called, "The Hustle." Not only was this a smash hit on radio, it brought back a group dance boom that the United States hadn't seen since the mid 1960s with dances like "the Twist" and "the Madison." I'll bet that there are very many people reading this right now who have never heard of "the Madison" or the smash hit "Madison Time," but they know "the Hustle." Even in the boom days of "the Hustle," I hadn't realized that most people didn't know that the dance was a throw back to the group "line dance" craze of the late 1950s to mid-1960s! I thought that everyone knew. But it seems they didn't! 

Here's a clip of line dancing called "Madison Time" from the movie "Hairspray." This is very much like "the Hustle" style line dancing that would come along just a decade or so later.

(This would be me and my reaction if I were sitting in front of this watching 
and these people were facing me and dancing like this)

But this post isn't about dance steps. It's about how a dance changed my life... Not like how dance changed John Travolta's life in Saturday Night Fever... But how a dance changed my life and I never even danced that dance - not even once in my life! 

I never really understood why I hated disco so much (besides the banal lyrics like Donna Summer's, "There's gonna be some hot stuff baby this evening! Hot stuff baby tonight!" or today's dance number, Van McCoy's "the Hustle" which featured brilliant prose like "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, .... Do it!" - as well as the drum machine repetitive drone). I've disliked lots of things, but one could ignore them. Disco was a different story. Disco was everywhere. You couldn't avoid it; you couldn't ignore it. Like a crazy stalker girlfriend, disco was everywhere you went. Maybe that's why I hated it so much; it was everywhere all the time.  Disco music and disco dancing even turned normal people into fashion zombie drones.

"Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.... Do it!" 

Maybe, though, that's not the only reason I hated it so much. Maybe a psychologist would say I hated it so much because of my past history, my insecurities and repressed emotions. That my life's history of failing to conform and win friends (no matter how hard I tried) and repeated failures at becoming popular probably made me hate the conformity that disco music taught and the group-think mentality it promoted... Especially with the group dance boom that it brought along in its wake. 

Hard to believe but, after disco, and again because 
of John Travolta, it did get even worse!

As an aside, one girl I knew, who is still a friend, once asked me why I wouldn't take her dancing at the disco and I told her that I hated that kind of music and didn't want to dress up and comb my hair like that. I just wanted to wear jeans and T-shirts and not try to look like John Travolta. She snarled, "You just don't like to have fun!" 

"That's odd!" I thought... "Until now, I had the notion that I very much enjoyed having fun!" I didn't say anything back to her. Maybe I was the only person in the world who thought "having fun" wasn't "having fun!" 

God! I didn't want to have fun! I never realized it. I had never really thought about it before. 

What could I say? How can anyone argue with brilliant logic like that? 

But I didn't think disco was "fun." Nope. For some reason, it felt like narcissism (not that I wasn't guilty of that) and it was the ultimate in crass consumerism. I felt that if "having fun" meant like dressing like everyone else in expensive designer clothes (I hate spending tons of money on clothes); if it meant dressing like a store mannequin and styling my hair like Dorthy Hammill (like everyone else was doing), then I didn't want to do it.

Dorthy Hamill won some medals at the Olympics and then many girls (and guys!!!) 
started styling their hair in a wedge like she did. Just goes to show how 
much influence the mass media has on an unthinking and gullible public...

I hated disco so much because it represented being a part of the crowd and a cog. Maybe I was one of those people who were "part of the crowd" but it felt good being someone who at least posed like they were against the "group-think."

And that's what is so odd. I had tried so hard to be popular and to be a "part of the crowd" all my life! But I never succeeded. I was always a loner, an outcast with few friends... Maybe that's the real reason why I hated disco and didn't want to participate. Why participate in something when I'm just going to wind up being outcast and disappointed anyway? 

But besides the philosophical slant (how can one be philosophical about disco music?) I cannot say that there is a single disco song that I like. I think that so-called "black music" and "soul music" went to hell in a hand basket because of the disco boom. Early seventies so-called black music like Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions" or Al Green's "I'm Still in Love With You" were, in my opinion, the pinnacle of great black music in the seventies (though the Spinners had some great records too!) And, because of disco, with it's cheap assembly line production, we were to never have another Golden Music boom like what Motown gave us in the sixties...  

But I digress... Let me get back to telling you how a music I hated so much saved my life...

All my life I had been a very insecure kid. My father was in the US marines and we moved constantly when I was a small boy. I always had trouble in school and, like I said, don't really remember having that many friends. I had always wanted to be a part of the group and tried anything to be accepted by my peers. That's why I often got in trouble; I'd try to be funny to gain popularity with the other kids and that would be just when the teacher would catch me in the act and send me to the principal's office.

Because of this moving all the time, I had no self-confidence. The symptoms of this lack of confidence are too numerous to name, but one example that sticks out is that I had always felt like I was the shortest kid in class and had a serious inferiority complex to the other kids. I wrote about I overcame that in The Best Teacher in High School I Ever Had Wasn't a School Teacher - She Was an Extremely Beautiful Girl Who Was My Classmate.

As a small boy, my first dash with getting a serious inferiority complex was at my very first school that I remember in San Diego. I must have been five-years-old and in the madhouse that is California public schooling. 

One day, at school (and the only day I do remember - that shows how much of a mark this experience left on me), I really had to take a, well, as kids would say, "a dump." Even in the elementary school boys toilet, the stalls didn't have doors! Can you imagine how embarrassing that is to a little kid who is going poo outside without mommy for probably the first time in his life? No doors? No privacy? No mommy!? WTF?

Of course, mommy isn't at school... But why were there no doors on the stalls? Were elementary school kids doing drugs in California public school restrooms in the early 1960s so that the school had to remove the doors?! 

I didn't want to sit on a toilet without a door. I wanted to at least have some minimum level of privacy. But no! Nature called very loudly so I had no choice. I pulled my pants down in a stall and sat on the stool hoping that no one would come along and see me. Of course, though, not one minute later, two kids came along and started mocking me. Even at five years old, a kid can know severe embarrassment. I immediately pulled my pants up, without finishing my business, and ran out of the bathroom and back to class.

Even 5-year-olds have a sense of what is embarrassing or not

What kind of education is the school system setting these children up for? A five-year-old kid in a California public school can't even have a public bathroom with a door on it to take a dump in private - he has to be embarrassed and ridiculed as a part of his public education? Why?...

Later, back in class, I did my best to hold it in, but couldn't and then, all of a sudden, it all came out as I sat at my desk. The smell wafted through the classroom and the teacher noticed it and stood up and said something about it. She told us not to be embarrassed if we needed help (Jeez! The school should have thought about not embarrassing us by putting doors on the stalls!) 

As the teacher walked around the class trying to sniff out the culprit, I tried my best to look nonchalant. I think she knew it was me but, bless her heart, she didn't say anything and the bell finally rang and school was out.

I ran home crying and when I got home I told my mom that I never wanted to go to school again. Seems to me that she didn't make me go to that school again. A few weeks later, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee anyway.

But what an embarrassing experience. That happened about 50 years ago... This is the first time I've told anyone about that (I just told my wife for the first time)... Think that sort of experience leaves a lasting impression on a young mind? Fifty years ago and I still remember it like yesterday...

After that, my school days all become a blur. My family moved to Tennessee and a few other states and then moved to Minnesota where I attended four different schools in five years or so because we moved all around Minnesota too! Living in Minnesota, though, added another dimension to the "kid who doesn't fit in nor have any friends" story for me; not only was I a new and extremely self-conscious kid with zero confidence that had no friends, I was a half-Japanese and half-white kid living in places that were full of people with Germanic and Danish backgrounds. You know, tall, blond hair, blue eyes... And sprechen sie Deutsch? 

The only other Japanese people around - hell the only other Asians around - were my mom and my half-Japanese brothers. This made me, and my brothers (it was a definite mind-f*ck), embrace a decidedly "I'm white" attitude at school in order to try to gain some acceptance. 

So the point that I am getting at is that, in a nutshell, when I was a kid, I moved around a lot and was always an "outsider" with few friends... Whether I was on the "white-side" of the fence or the "Japanese-side" of the fence.

All my youth years, I had always longed to be accepted and popular and "one of the group." I probably would have longed for that acceptance all my life... But, one day, I realized that I didn't want it anymore. And, had it not been for disco music and "the Hustle" - things I despise - I would have never realized that I don't want to be accepted. I don't want to be a part of the group. I don't want to be a part of the so-called, "in-crowd."

It was 1977 or so and I was dating a Japanese / American girl named Lucy (not her real name). Lucy was a nice girl and she lived in the town next to where I lived. I met her while working at a department store.

Lucy was friends with all the kids in the Japanese / American community. I liked that. I thought that I had found people that I could relate to. I wanted to be a part of them. I wanted to be a friend with all of them; to be accepted as one of them and "fit in." I had some weird idea that they all shared the same kind of background and upbringing as I did. 

How totally wrong I was! They were as different from me as the good German folks were in Minnesota!

I've already told you about my upbringing, so let me make gross, and sometimes wildly off the mark, generalizations about theirs. They grew up as a minority community in Southern California. Even though the Japanese / American community was small, they still had a community and friends in school whose parents were friends of their parents. They had brothers and sisters and cousins who were friends of their brothers and sisters and cousins. They had each other. I'm not criticizing them at all for that. I envied them for that. I still do.

They had a brotherhood - a sisterhood - that I had always wanted, but never could have... How lucky they are! It is these kinds of relationships that make up the fabric of a strong society and culture...

There is something, though, that I don't envy those people at the time at all for. And, as I got to know them better, I grew to despise it. I could see it in the words and actions of some of the kids in that group; It was a cliquishness and a snobbery... And, because of my past, I didn't like cliques. Probably because I was never able to be in one. 

I really don't know if this snobbery extended to me (I never felt it), but I saw them extending it to each other, amongst themselves. Simply put, the children of the wealthier parents of the Japanese / American community were snobs to the children of the not-so-wealthy in that community.

Being a half-Japanese half-white person (and looking white), as well as coming from a relatively poor family, it struck me as incredibly odd that these kids were snobbish to each other over money. Kids! After all, they did nothing to earn this status and money by themselves. It was their parents who provided them with lots of new clothes and expensive cars... They shouldn't be snobbish. If anything, they should be humble! It was their parents who gave them everything! They didn't earn those things themselves. So why should they act so conceited? What had they accomplished? Like that Stevie Wonder song, "You haven't done nothing! Doo de wop!" 

Those young people - my peers - and those days really remind me of the saying by Will Rogers about how the children of the rich become poor; "It's one generation from a pick-axe to a putter and the next generation from a tuxedo to a tramp."

Now you know about me. Now you know about them. Now, how could these things and disco music mix together to change my thinking so much?

One day, Lucy, invited me to one of the parties being held by some of the wealthier kids in that Japanese / American community and I really didn't want to go. I had already been to a few of their parties before and the more I attended, the more I didn't like going. Once again, even with these people who I had at first felt like they were "kin" I found that I was just as much an outsider to them as I had ever been to anyone anywhere else.

I began to feel uncomfortable going to these parties that were filled with Japanese / American kids and I told Lucy so. These parties didn't seem fun to me. I really feel ashamed to sound like I am criticizing, but this is my blog so I want to write what I really felt - even if I sound childish and hypocritical. Most all of the kids at these parties seemed like they, too, weren't having fun. It seemed like the party's were full of frustrated people - including me! Everyone was going to these parties to try to outdo each other. The parties seemed like exercises in getting a bunch of people together (that you don't really like) and trying to impress each other (for reasons you don't really understand)... That included me too! Why was I going to these parties to impress people that didn't like me and I didn't like them?

Talk about the stupid stuff we do when we are in our late teens and early twenties!  

For me, it was like putting on a mask and going to a party to impress people by acting like someone that I was not.... It wasn't fun at all!

Of course, not all the kids were that way... There were 5 girls at these parties who were the most charming and gracious people you could ever hope to meet... There must have been others... Maybe I was too snobbish, too, to meet them.

Anyway, Lucy wouldn't have it and insisted that we go to the party "just for a little while." I reluctantly agreed (actually, I just wanted to go have a nice quiet dinner and maybe a movie somewhere) but insisted that I wasn't going to dress up in nice clothes and was just going to wear my usual black leather jacket, blue jeans and T-shirt. She said, "Ok!" So to the party we went.

The party was, as I said, at some kid with wealthy parent's house. I walked in to the party and knew immediately that I was in somewhere where I shouldn't be. All the guys were dressed up in designer clothes with polo shirts and had the requisite wedge haircut. I groaned. Lucy told me that there was food on the table so I grumbled "Hi!" to a few people (just the girls) and walked over to the table and started stuffing sandwiches and beer into my pockets.

Boy, did I ever feel like a fox in the henhouse. Here I was looking like a slob in this house full of Japanese / American kids and everyone looked like they just stepped out of a Yves St. Laurent sales catalogue. Me? I looked like the used clothes depot at the Salvation Army!

Lucy saw me cramming sandwiches into my pockets and ran over and started getting mad at me. Boy, was I ever acting like a brat! I think about it now and wonder why in the world she ever put up with me! She told me to sit down on the sofa in this very large room and try not to embarrass her too much. Then she went back to chat with her posh friends.

It was there, in that large room, that disco music and "the Hustle" changed my life all within 3 minutes!

When I first went into that large room to sit, there was no one in there but me. The tables had all been moved out so it was a an especially spacious room that easily 40 people could dance in. As I sat on the sofa eating sandwiches and drinking beer, curiously, one by one, different people entered the room and stood in a line facing towards me and the sofa I was sitting on. I had no idea what these people were doing.

First there were two people. Then four. Then eight... A few minutes later there were ten, then fifteen... Twenty... Twenty five. Thirty.... I began to get nervous. 

"Why are all these people in a line and facing me?" I thought. Nervousness turned into paranoia. There they stood, in military line; a sort of regimentation, all facing me. What was their purpose? Were they all finally sick and tired of my bullsh*t and had decided to get together and tell me off and kick my a*s out of the party? Did the guys know Karate or Judo? Had they joined forces to work up the courage to finally say, "Rogers! Your kind ain't welcomed here, cowboy! Get out now!" 

What were they about to do?

I stared at them, mouth wide open when, the lights were turned down... I didn't know what to expect then.... The music started! 

They began doing "the Hustle" right in front of me. I thought I had slipped into some TV-hell time warp and fallen onto the set of the Soul Train TV show and these kids were doing the Hustle - just for me! 

Click this and imagine that you are me watching this occurring right in front of my face! I watched this and my jaw dropped to my knees. It was like a bad acid trip. I totally freaked out!

Brilliantly devious!!! Of course they did hate me! Why didn't I think of it sooner? They didn't want me at their parties either but if they told me not to come anymore, then that would be rude. What better way to get me to stay away from their parties than by dancing "the Hustle" right in front of my face - giving me a bad "trip" - thereby motivating me to never want to step in their homes again! Genius!

All joking aside. I couldn't believe it. Maybe that sort of dancing thing is fun. Maybe I was (am) screwed up and don't like having fun. But I just couldn't handle it anymore.... I felt like I was freaking out! 

I watched the kids dancing and then quietly stood up and trying to not draw too much attention to myself, I quietly took a few sidesteps towards the door. Within a second, I was outside the room. I had escaped from the mad house. I found Lucy and told her that I was leaving and never going to one of these parties again. I went outside and waited for her in my car.

I told her that I was going to wait for her for thirty minutes at the most and, if she didn't come out, then I was going to leave...

When she came out to my car, Lucy and I had another, of many, big fights. 

But it was OK. For the first time in my life I realized that I wasn't a part of the crowd... She was right and I was totally wrong. I wasn't a part of the crowd, nor, did I even want to be...

I couldn't be!

That shows how dumb and dense I must be. It makes sense to me now, so many years later. It took so long before it finally sunk in; I hate big parties; I hate crowded department stores. I hate tourist places; I like nature and I like quiet places and, perhaps, dinner and drinking with one or two friends... I don't like crowds and crowded places!

From that day and that moment, I didn't want to be a popular person anymore. I didn't want to be fashionable (not that I could be). 

I don't know why I had tried so hard all those years trying to be accepted! Why was I trying to force the square peg into the round hole? I didn't fit! And I finally realized it! It finally took something that I absolutely despised to get me to realize it.

I now thank God for disco music and the Hustle.... And all I can say now is, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, .... Do it!"... Or, in my case, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, .... Don't do it!"... Yep! It doesn't matter if you do it or not, the only thing that matters is what makes you feel better!

As for me, I "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, .... Don't it!" That makes me feel better and and I don't really care how it makes you feel!

You can decide for yourself your own life's course. Don't worry about other people... Just do or don't do it!

Thanks to my outsider friends, Grace, Yuri, Emily, Sharon and Irene. Wonderful days, weren't they? If only I could turn back time and give you back those moments to all of you! You will never know how much you meant to a small town boy like me. I love you all!

Morgan Stanley Reports: Japan's Total Debt, Public, Private and Household, is More Than 600% of GDP

At least we're not the UK... And at least Greece isn't the USA.

Zerohedge reports in "We Are Number One!", Or Why At Least Broke Greece Is Not America 

The article talks about public debt then continues...

When one adds private financial and household debt, things get truly hilarious, as seen on the following chart also from Morgan Stanley (which unfortunately excludes such critical components of public debt as contingent and NPV of pension and healthcare) which shows why the UK, with its 950% global consolidated debt/GDP, is quite fond of infinite rehypothecation, or the iterational “fractional reserve” creation of credit money from one asset (most likely robo-signed away to someone, unclear quite who: just ask Jon Corzine how fiat money can evaporate when one tries to match it with the “asset” that spawned it), as many times as necessary to pay those record banker bonuses.

It's as I mentioned so many times in the past, folks... In Japan's case, like the rest of the world, our problems of public debt stem from uncontrolled government spending... They can raise taxes to the moon and it won't matter if they do not cut spending.

If you have a can with ten marbles in it, you cannot take out eleven marbles. We need to cut government spending immediately...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Groupie Accidentally Sleeps With Bass Player! Shocking But True Story! Mistakes Bassist for "Someone important!

The headlines read:

Groupie Accidentally Sleeps With Bass Player! Shocking But True Story! Mistakes Bassist for "Someone important!"

Ha! Ha! Ha! Trust me folks, the most troublesome (and disposable) members of any rock band are the bassist and/or drummer. I'm not sure which is worse. 

Sure there have been freaks of nature like Keith Moon (drummer for the Who) and guys who idiots who like rock music think are good bassists like John Paul Jones (I mean, how difficult could it be to play the bass anyway? There's only four strings!), but actually, bass players and drummers all suck and are as expendable as nail clippers on a one-night stand... Guitarists and singers... Do yourselves a favor and get a machine... Lots less trouble!

Not exactly "Miss Suzie Homemaker"... What a waste of good steak for a bass player!

To prove my point, here's an article that I just came across from Louisville, Kentucky: Groupie Accidentally Sleeps With Bass Player.... God! And I thought bass players were low life. This just proves it!

Caveat Emptor! Ladies, one of these guys in the photo below is a lowly bassist... One other is a drummer... It's a 40% chance you could come up Snake Eyes and a BIG loser! But then again, is the keyboardist any better?

Me thinkest not!

(The guy on the far left is the bassist - of course. 
He's the short, stupid-looking f*cker!)

My Very Own Rock & Roll Swindle! How I Scammed the Music Business in Japan!

Alternative title: "How to use lessons of the Sex Pistols to sell records."

"Hype is always better than reality" - Me

In the early nineties, I ran one of the best-selling independent record labels in Japan. It was called "Samson Records." We were based in Shinjuku, Tokyo and I started the label with a guy from Osaka named Suzuki who owned a radio program recording studio named "Sam." Hence the name of the record label, "Samson Records." 

"Of course you do...."

The company was set up so that I would split 1/2 with Suzuki everything we made. He provided the studios and staff and engineers. I would set up the music and branding and marketing... Later I would be given shares in "Sam" on a stock option (an option that I was never able to exercise). 
The former president of Tower Records Asia, Keith Cahoon, once told me that Samson was the number one selling Indies label in Japan.
This is a brief story about how that label began and how I scammed the Japan music industry.
The beginnings of Samson Label:
We wanted to make a cool indies label that had a policy of very stylish and sophisticated music. J-Wave FM radio station in Tokyo was booming and they had a very chic and stylish image. I wanted to sell music that they would air for us (I also had my own late night show on that station).

I was trying to license music from Europe (mostly France) but was having lots of trouble with conceited artists (what's new?) who wanted huge advances (like $25,000 ~ $50,000)... We didn't have any money to pay advances like that!

It was funny dealing with artists from around the world. If you were interested in music from an American artist and inquired with them, they'd normally say, "OK. Let's have our lawyers get in contact with each other." 

If you were interested in music from a Canadian or Australian artist, they'd normally say, "Great! We'll even pay for our own airfare to come play in Japan!"

If you told a European - or especially a British artist - that you liked their music, they'd take a drag on their cigarette and in a very aloof manner say, "Of course you do."

It was very difficult licensing music from Europeans and Americans. So I decided that we'd make our own stylish music. That first project became known as "Nadege" in Japan and was a smash Indies success that was later sold to a major label. 

Besides problems with licensing foreign artists for Japan, for Indies labels, there was (still are) problems with the music publishers in Japan. Mostly the problems are with the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).

At that time, JSRAC extorted money, er I mean, "arranged payment" from all small labels by a silly "sticker on album" system. JASRAC used to charge indies labels ¥90 per sticker to be placed on CDs (about $1.10) whether they sell or not - just for manufacture of product. JASRAC would make you buy these little stickers at ¥90 a pop to place on all CDs made. It seemed ridiculous to me.

No, you couldn't just print these on the CDs jackets either. They had to be the actual stickers!

A new label can't afford these types of charges up front. If our Indies label was going to fly, I had to figure a way out of these problems. But how?
Well, as I wrote about the other day in I Was a Teenage Punk Rocker - Why Dedication Beats Fanaticism Any Day! Even for Punk Rock or Success in Any Field!... I had a punk rock band background so I got to thinking.
First off, I went to Korea and made a deal to press CDs over there (I think I was one of the first, if not thee first, to go make a deal like that)... 

We got around massive import duties by having them ship the CDs as "unfinished product" (parts). The Korean manufacturer would ship the boxes, discs, wrappers all separately and then we'd assemble them into finished product by hand in Japan (that was a tough job!) We printed the sleeves, etc. locally in Japan.
Then I knew a half-French / Japanese girl named Vivi. Vivi was a Deejay at Bay-FM (a Chiba Japan FM radio station) and so was I. Vivi was an excellent singer. She also spoke perfect French (well, at least good enough for the Japanese). We put her and the engineer and the producer in the studio and played some music for them and told them to write songs like some examples that I had brought along for them to hear... You know, smooth jazzy lounge music (like Bossa Nova style, Sergio Mendez, etc....) They did a good job writing songs. They went to work on making the music and I would check it out every once in a while and add comments or advice...

Some advice they took; some they didn't. It was okay with me, I figured. If I already knew what 17-year-olds wanted to buy, I would have already been rich! And anyway, I was in charge of sales and marketing and branding anyhow....
In Japan, at that time, if a CD said, "Made in Korea" or "Made in Japan" on the jacket then there were 3 problems: One, JASRAC will demand payment and two, Japanese radio station directors won't play it... Nor would store buyers at places like Tower Records, HMV, Virgin Mega-Stores buy them - that was the third problem... 

This was at the very start of the boom in foreign music stores in Japan and I desperately needed these stores to carry our product... I needed the local radio stations to play the songs... I didn't want to pay JASRAC unless I sold a record....

Malcolm McLaren

So, how to fool all these people? I thought about it for a long time and then it dawned on me like a bolt of lightening! I asked myself, "How would Malcolm McLaren or the Sex Pistols do it?" I soon had my answer. 
I forbade my staff from putting any Japanese writing on the CD at all. None. Zero. Verboten! Then in large letters on the back of the CD backing sleeve, I ordered the designer to write, "Made in France." 
When the JASRAC people saw that they thought, "Oh? Not manufactured in Japan? You don't have to pay publishing royalties!" And, since the sleeves were printed in Japan and parts shipped from Korea, I didn't pay import duties for finished product! (Smirk, smirk!) 

We finally finished the CD, put it all together and started selling it. We offered a really good price to stores for quality product that the stores believed was imported. Even though it looked like an import, we gave the stores excellent product for about half the price of a regular import. We even gave them 100% return rights. The CDs sold like hotcakes!
Soon after, I took some CDs to J-Wave (the big radio station in Tokyo that plays that kind of music) to promote the CD. 

There I met a director named Ishii san. Ishii san was a very arrogant and conceited little piece o' sh*t... er, I mean politically powerful radio director and producer. He was director of what was probably the most famous J-Wave radio program (I can't remember the name). I walked in with the CD to hand to him and he laughed at me (in a very condescending manner) and said, "I already have that CD. I bought it at the store yesterday!" (As if to say, "I'm always way ahead of you Rogers, you are always behind a cool trend setter like me!") 

I saw the CD he was proudly holding in his hand and had a hard time not laughing, but I bowed my head to him and said something like, "Yes. Of course. You are an expert on French pop music. It figures you'd have it first, Ishii san!"
That CD sold well over 20,000 copies in the first month. Considering that we were an Indies label, we made about $10.00 (USD) profit for every album we sold.

Later on we sold all the past released albums for that artist known as "Nadege" to Victor Records for about $600,000 (USD)... Hilarious, huh? We sold to Victor Records a "French pop group" that didn't really exist except that it consisted of one half-French / Japanese girl and two Japanese in studio dorks for over a half million dollars.  

Man, did we have a massive party the night that deal was signed!

I think they released several albums on Victor but never had any more hits... Major labels always have a way of making something cool quite the opposite.
We never were able to repeat the wild success we had with Nadege with other artists but we were able to still have several artist's albums that sold well over 15,000 ~ 20,000 each. 

It was a great time to be running an Indies label in Japan and it was a wonderful memory! It was my very own "Rock and Roll Swindle!"
The music was good, for sure... But the entire concept and selling and marketing was all a scam! It was a lesson that I will never forget: Hype truly is always better than reality!

The Incredible Power of Two Little Words: Sometimes Listening & Telling Someone "I'm Sorry" is the Best Thing You Can Do!

"Silence is the true friend that never betrays" - Confucius

Sometimes just having someone listen and say, "I'm sorry!" is worth so much to our lives.... How powerful two little words can be is simply amazing.

A dear friend of mine asked me about a past experience in the music business in Japan that happened to me long ago. I can't really explain in much detail what happened because if I do, it will hurt too many people today.

What happened made me very angry and still does, or did, to this very day. The actions of one person damaged the love and the art of artists and the families and children of those artists and so many people associated. It made me so very angry at the time that I saw red. I still do if I dwell upon it.

When my friend asked about it, I did something that I had never done before, I told someone outside my family what had happened. I became furious again as I was explaining what had happened...

My friend read my comments and answered;

"Sometimes it's hard not to fight back but still best to hold your tongue. I made a few enemies in the movie business and the less I said the better but sometimes I'd get sarcastic…. I'm sorry that it hurt you with others. "

It was nice that my friend could relate... But then, at the end of what my friend wrote, "I'm sorry that it hurt you with others." That was like a window opening in a dark room and letting the sun shine and fresh air in. It was the first time that anyone has ever said, "I'm sorry" to me for that incident. Something that happened nearly 20 years ago.

"I'm sorry..." Wow! Thank you. It means so much to me. It makes me want to cry, actually.

Amazingly, that was so soothing and mollifying to me... Suddenly I don't feel mad anymore.... And all because a friend of mine said, "I'm sorry" to me... A friend who had nothing to do with the incident sincerely said "I'm sorry." 

It matters to me that this friend told me that because I know that this friend can relate to the same type of problem...

What a wonderful day!

I don't really have any snappy or funny comments for the end of this post except I think this teaches me a good lesson. First, that everyone needs someone to talk to who will listen to them. People have two ears and one mouth but they seem to want to use their mouths twice as much as their ears. And two, having and showing sincere empathy for people is priceless. It amazes me that after all these years, two little words can make the anger go away so easily.

I'm going to work on being a better listener and saying "I'm sorry" more. I hope you do too!

And to help you work on your listening skills, here's delightful video that I have found from an artist named the Frankfurt Schoolgirls. The song is entitled, "Song Without Love" and I think it is fab. Japan's most famous and top Deejay/VJ George Williams says this is the "...Best love song I've heard in ten years... Better than anything the Bangles ever did." 

I think so too...


Frankfurt Schoolgirls - Song Without Love 2011

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Japanese Government Guilty of Negligence in Deaths of Children in March 11 Tsunami - Guilty of Future Negligence too

Here we go again with government double-talk and obfuscation...

One day, the government says we don't have money so they need to raise sales taxes, the next day they give away billions of taxpayer dollars to their crony friends in other countries...

This is just a lesson in reading between the lines and knowing that whatever the government does or says there has to be some hidden ulterior motive. The government pronouncements that go along with their often scatological actions often mean the exact opposite of what they say... The government doesn't really do anything, except for finding ways to spend tax monies and posing like they are doing something.

You know, "War is peace. Freedom is slavery..." type of stuff... Orwell....

Don't believe me? Here's proof today. The government spent millions of dollars making a video to ostensibly protect children in the case of a natural disaster but when it comes to actually doing something concrete towards those ends, well, um... Not so much... They'll need to have decussions to decide if they need to decide to have further discussions.

That's how the government "works" folks. Today the government has announced that they have a plan but, if you read carefully, their plan isn't a plan at all.

The Yomiuri reports in Government adopts safety plan for children (as I often do, I'll comment between the articles paragraphs and point out the nonsense):

The government on Friday adopted a basic policy on safety education at schools for the next five years, with the goal of minimizing harm to children in the event of natural disasters and other situations.
So, far so good. The government "adopted a basic policy on safety?" Great. (One has to wonder where they were all this time in a country that has thousands of earthquakes annually and many natural disasters?)... Carry on....

The move was prompted by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region last year.
The basic policy urged schools to make time to teach children how to protect themselves in the event of a disaster. It also called for a study on the possibility of creating a new school subject focusing on safety education.
Wait a minute, here! "The basic policy urged schools to make time to teach children how to protect themselves!?" "Urged?" Not "ordered?" Also, a "study on the possibility?" What's that mean? 

So what they are saying here is that the "basic policy" isn't really a policy at all. What they are saying is that this is a request or advice to schools to teach something. How is that policy? I find the definition of policy at Merriam Webster Dictionary to say:

Policy: a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions

"Urging" someone and a "definite course of action" sounds like two different things to me, folks. Then the article adds this gem that always proves the old adage and oft-repeated mantra of this blog; " is the goal of government, every government; to use any excuse, emergency or crisis to expand upon itself. It doesn't matter if that government is democratic, communist, socialist, fascist, or green. No matter the reason the government solution will be to grow itself."

This next sentence is so cynical that made me laugh out loud:

The basic policy underlined the necessity of safety education at schools, pointing out that students who had received thorough education on tsunami at their schools evacuated to safety on their own in the March 2011 disaster.
"Students who had received thorough education... evacuated to safety..."? Yes. Excellent. 

And whose responsibility is it that many who died did not receive a "thorough education" so that they could have "evacuated to safety" at a government run school? 

Consider: If you were head for the fire department in some town and a bunch of houses burnt down on your watch, you'd lose your job. On the other hand, if you are in charge of policy for government run public schools and a bunch of kids die, you get to make new policies and print textbooks and things like that.

Remember that post I wrote the other day about there being two rules in society? One rule for the ruling class and another rule for us peasants? Here it is, in action, again.

This begs the question again... I forwarded above about asking where the government was before the March 11, 2011 disaster? Why did just some schools teach their students (and teachers) proper evacuation procedures and others didn't? Could it be that government policy was nonexistent? Could it be that so many kids died in the tsunami because the government did not have strict guideline and policy (policy!? Oh there goes that word again!) to teach this policy and rules to all children and all school faculty? This is pretty damning, folks. This smacks of incompetence and criminal negligence once again. These people didn't do their jobs and so a bunch of kids died needlessly, yet these same people, these government bureaucrats don't lose their jobs? 

As the current safety education offered during gym classes is insufficient, a systematic method of training should be considered, it said.
And, who, pray tell, decided that safety education should be taught during gym classes? The government, that's who. Who sets curriculum? The government does.

But then there is another huge red flag in this sentence too.... "a... systematic method of training should be considered?" Considered by whom, may I ask? Should a twenty-five year old first grade teacher just out of college with her first job at some school decide or should this be decided by government officials consulting experts and be made official policy? "Should be considered?" Morons.

Ultimately, what this says is that the central government has decided that the children of the nation need to be protected. Hooray! So, in their eternal wisdom, they decided to make it a policy to urge schools to teach children something and to study the feasibility of starting a study to see if it is feasible to make some books.

Trust, folks, that the government will make these books and this cirrriculum. Why not? It increases their duties (to justify budgets) and is just another expansion of the government (read: your taxes)... This by the very same government whose inept "policies" led to no policy being in effect at many schools at the time of the tsunami so so many children died.

Why do I know they will create these items and this curriculum? They've already made one. Here is a report about one that was created by the Japan Meteorological Association:

Well, I'm sure they mean well, but, like most government run things, I'm sure this was poorly thought out. Now they have a video, super. But where are they going to show it? Most Japanese elementary school classrooms don't have TVs or DVD set ups. They say they are making copies to give to schools but I wonder how well this will sink into the head of a 6-year-old who is in a fit of panic...

Showing this to kids might help a bit.... But setting a policy for teachers and administrators is what is really needed... Nah, but that's too much work. It's much easier for some fat bureaucrats to sit on his ass and spend taxpayers money. 

I also bet you a half a donut they spent several million dollars making this video (the Japanese government has done that before many times). Wonderful! Millions spent making a video no one will see.... (Trust, that privately run TV stations in Japan, no matter how inept, aren't wont to broadcast government created productions without getting paid big money - so where will these productions be shown?)

If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a video that costs millions to be made is seen by no one, does it really cost anything?

Being paid millions to do something that no one sees? Great work, if you can get it... 

Almost as good as working for the government deciding "policy."