Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Was an English Teacher in a Japanese Insane Asylum - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 2 (Life in D-40)

I should have entitled this blog post, "I was a Teenage Monster English Teacher in a Japanese Insane Asylum..." But, nah. That would have sounded like I was teaching at public school.

Lots of good folks teach English in Japan. I did too many years ago. I did it during the heyday of the bubble when English teachers were earning $50,000 (USD) a year doing that job.

Not only have I taught English to kids, businessmen and office workers. I have taught English at insane asylums. There's not too many English teachers in Japan who can make that claim. 

This is a continuation of: Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 1 (Life in the Cooler) Upon Arrival to Rehab Everyone Must Detox in the Feared Cooler


Maybe thirty minutes or an hour or so after the doctors left my padded cell, three males nurses came in to see me. Two of them were carrying hard rubber batons and standing. Even though they towered over me, they were not in a threatening position or stance at all. The one in the middle crouched down to me and said very kindly, 

"Mike san! We are going to take you to D-40 now; the ward with the other patients. Now, like the doctor told you, if you fight or cause trouble, we'll have to put you back in here. Do you understand?"

"Yes. I understand. I won't cause any trouble."

The two male nurses with the rubber batons helped me up from my seated position as it was difficult to stand since my legs were numb form all that  sitting or laying down the entire time I was there in the cooler. Then, arms under both my shoulders, they helped me stagger out of the cooler. My wife would tell me later on that I was in the cooler for a total of four days. I have repeated in this blog every recollection of my time there.

We exited the cooler and I could see that there were two other coolers next to mine. I could see into them but couldn't see any other patients. 

Well cooked. On a cage. Not going anywhere.

The walk to D-40 was a very short one. In fact, it was just up the hallway, perhaps not 10 meters. There was a glass sliding door like you'd see in front of a shower room and there we stopped for a second. The nurse repeated, "Now, don't cause trouble or we'll have to take you back to the cooler. You don't want to go back to the cooler, do you?"

"No!" I mumbled.

They opened the door. After days in the cooler, it was like a window into another world. I was standing in a black and white world and, across the threshold was a world in color. There I saw several people walking around and talking. There was a TV set on in the distance and several men were watching it. A group of other men were huddled by the window smoking cigarettes. A cleaning lady was mopping the floor. I took it all in. Humanity! Civilization!

THX exited the tunnel and came out into the natural world above ground

Have you ever seen that movie, THX1138 when, at the end of the movie, THX1138 escapes from the underground city and exits through a massive tunnel up to the surface world? Underground, There is no emotion; the civilization created by man is cold and everything is white and black. It is a suffocating environment. But when THX exits the tunnel, the bright sun is there and all the colors of nature. Birds fly by. You get the feeling that THX is Adam of the Old Testament's Genesis.

That's how I felt. I had just come from a place that was completely white and deadly silent with no life at all and just on the opposite side of a door not a skip from where I being held, life was buzzing. I was awestruck how these two seemingly totally opposite places could be so close together. When they told me that I'd go a ward called D-40, I expected a ten minute walk, through several locked gates and up and down stairs, more hallways and through guard posts. But no! It wasn't an 8 second walk.

I was back with normal people and others like me who had a drug or alcohol problem. I was back with people who I thought I could talk to and relate to.... 

Normal people, right? Normal people...or so I thought.

Soon after, my doctor and some nurses came to see me and they gave me orientation. They explained everything about Matsuzawa hospital and the ward, D-40, that was to be my home for the foreseeable future. They told me the rules for eating, socializing, cleaning up duty, everything. I was totally blown away when the doctor mentioned that "drug and alcohol rehabilitation patients are here together with patients who are suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders." I made a double-take. "What, doctor?" He confirmed what I thought I had heard. 

Now that scared me to death. I was thinking of that Stanley Kubrick movie the  Shining where Jack Nicholson chops his way through the door and yells, "Here's Johnny!" I almost peed my pants.

"Schizophrenic people? Crazy people*? Doc, you're kidding, right?" I knew lots of crazy people back home in Los Angeles, some of them were my friends and they were the scariest people you could know. But the doctor reassured me that it was alright. (*I was probably the craziest one there.)

"There are no violent people in this ward. Don't worry. Just mind your own business and follow the rules and everything will be fine." He said as he wrote something down on a clipboard.

I was relieved, sort of. It was better than the worst case scenario that I had envisioned. In my mind I had feared something like you see in American prison movies. You know, the new guy comes into the prison and every single prisoner suddenly stops what they are doing and silently stare at the new prisoner. Some want to kick the new boys a*s, others want him to be their sex toy; still some others want him to join their skinhead gang... But first, of course, he has to prove his worth by killing somebody. You know how in America different gangs are always joining up with each other to fight it out for territory, even in prison? That's what I feared. But it was nothing like that. No one seemed to care that the door had opened and someone new came in. They were all preoccupied with whatever it was they were doing.  

Besides the sound of the TV and people talking and smoking in the distance the only other movement was the cleaning lady. I surveyed the scene and thought, "Oh? This looks alright." Then, I looked to my right and there he was. Standing there was the guy who was going to make my life miserable in D-40. I would find out later that his name was Tanaka (not his real name). 

Tanaka wasn't a particularly big guy. He just looked like your typical Japanese salaryman. He didn't wear any glasses and he didn't smile. Actually, he looked like he was scowling all the time or that he was unhappy. I thought I could tell by his face that he was plotting something. But what?... Or was I being paranoid?
"Kill! Kill! Kill!"

Tanaka stood there, expressionless and stared at me. He didn't move. He just stared. I tried to act like I didn't see him and, looked right through him. As the nurses were taking me to the shower area, I sneaked a look back over my shoulder and saw Tanaka following us and staring straight at me, stone faced and not blinking. 

My heart and mood sank. Tanaka took a great interest in what I was doing. "I knew it! I just knew it!" I thought. What it was that I knew wasn't too clear to me at the time, but I was convinced that this Tanaka guy was going to make me very uncomfortable. Hell, he was making me extremely uncomfortable just by staring at me. I decided that I'd best ignore the guy... If I could.

D-40 wasn't an especially large area. There were about 40 inmates there, er, I mean 40 patients. It was a dormitory type of setup; the was a central nurse's station where patients were given roll call and daily drugs were administered to the patients. There was also a large living room area that could comfortably seat 25 men with a TV (that was constantly on) and that the patients sometimes fought over which channels to watch. If there ever was a Tokyo Giants baseball game on then the two 66-year-old guys got to watch that and no one argued with them.

That was a funny side note about those two old guys; they were like brothers. In the mornings or afternoon, they'd be fighting like little kids (they were like little kids as they had been interned since they were sixteen so they had no chance to grow mentally). Nearly everyday we could hear them fighting about this or that and really getting seemingly angry (well, as angry as old Japanese people do). But by the time the game was on air at night time, they'd be sitting side by side in front of the TV watching their favorite team, the Giants, play baseball... Just like kids. Just like brothers.

Besides the TV area there was a smoking area. This might strike westerners as unusual but, in Japan it is not. Whereas in the west, rehabilitation services might try to replace and addiction to alcohol or drugs with an addiction to god, Japan, a non-Christian nation, had no qualms about replacing drugs abuse with, well, drug abuse; namely tobacco.

I asked a doctor about this seeming contradiction once and he said to me, "Well, both smoking cigarettes and doing drugs are bad for your health. But smoking cigarettes won't land you in prison." Most definitely. "Can't argue with that logic," I thought.

Aside from the smoking areas and the living room was a small cafeteria. It was just like a school cafeteria excepting each patient had an assigned seat and it was forbidden for them to move their chairs. I had the scariest looking Yakuza guy sitting in front of me. I called him "Mr. Halloween." He terrified me. He had tattoos all over him and was extremely tall and lanky like a human skeleton. The other patients seemed to be afraid of him too. He'd bark out someone's name and they'd immediately hand him all their bread every morning and he'd take it all back to his room and eat it. By the end of breakfast, Mr. Halloween would have a mountain of white bread on his tray. It seemed strange that this guy could be eating a whole loaf of bread everyday yet be skinnier than a rail! He was even more frightening when he smiled as he had lost all of his teeth excepting two and I guess that was from huffing paint thinner.

He looked at me and then looked at my bread and smiled and gave out a grunt. "Oh, sure. Here you go!" I handed my two slices of bread to him too. Like I said, for one, he scared the hell out of me and; for two, I hate white bread. It wasn't even toasted! Yeech! 

The guy wouldn't say much. Just bark out people's names. I never saw him hold a conversation but when he opened his mouth, I saw the terror of paint huffing. Huffing paint thinner will cause all your teeth to fall out. Even though everyone seemed afraid of him, he was very kind to me as, it has been my experience, that Yakuza in Japan are generally kind to foreigners. It might be the brotherly love of being an outsider in society. I was happy withe the situation and one time, when someone made a disparaging comment about foreigners at breakfast, he angrily turned around and barked at them and then he turned to me and smiled and, waving his hand, he said to me, 

"Ok! Don't mind! Don't mind!" I could see those crevices and holes in his teeth. Couple that along with his brightly colored tattoos and entire bizarre atmosphere of the place and this guy looked like he just steeped out of the set of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas  

Mr. Halloween really was a nice guy I'd find out later. But I'd wager a half a donut that the doctor's put me in front of him and asked him if he'd look out for me. I was too dopey and incoherent to understand what he said to the others, but he laid down the law and, when he did, the chickens ruffling in their coops suddenly grew silent. I was saved. No one was going to bully me. Thank god.

And, now, back to Tanaka. Like in real life, in this blog post too, I've been trying to avoid this guy, but, I can't. He is always hovering around somehere where you least expect him. After I had entered D-40 and quickly was allowed to shower and shave I went back out to D-40. There the nurses showed me my room. I didn't see Tanaka and felt a bit relieved. 

The rooms were like a university dorm set-up. Four guys were in one room and there were all sorts of rules that we had to follow: Lights on at 6 am and everyone out of bed and to the cafeteria for breakfast. Lights out and everyone in bed at 8 pm (I had no problem with that!) Also, no one could enter someone else's room unless they were invited. There were many others rules but those were the three most important. 

I put my stuff in my room and then laid down on the cot for a few moments. I tried to sleep but couldn't. I got up and decided that I'd explore D-40. That was a mistake. Because as soon as I walked into the public area, there was Tanaka waiting for me. He was upon on me like flies on a pile of sh*t. 

I saw him as he hurredly came towards me. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a business card. He then bowed to me and handed me the card and said, "I am Tanaka something-or-other." He then went on to tell me that he had graduated from Meiji University a very prestigious university and he "proved" it to my by showing me where that was written on his card. Confused, I accepted the card and acted like I was checking my pajama pockets for business cards and said, "Uh? I don't have any cards." He assured me that this was quite alright.

This business card exchange business really had me wondering. "Who is this guy? Does he work here or something? Is he a doctor or a doctor's assistant?"

Tanaka then invited me over to the living room where there was a table to play chess. "Would you like to pass the time by playing chess?" He asked me. I didn't really want to play chess. I didn't want to do anything. I just wanted to sit and vegetate but here was this guy trying to be nice to me so I said I'd play.

He was a terrible chess player. It wasn't even a contest. I beat him within 15 moves or so. After I said, "Checkmate!" He sat there for a good several minutes motionless and studying the board. With suddenness and abruptness he wiped the pieces off the board and proclaimed. "Okay. You won that time. We will play again. And, after the next game, you will teach me English."

"What!?" I thought. "No, man. I can't teach english Mr. Tanaka. I have no energy for that." I said.

"Why can't you teach me English?" he demanded, "I played chess with you." 

"Okay," I said in a flippant manner, "Here's today's English. Repeat after me: I don't want to teach English because I'm too f'ing tired."

Tanaka scowled at me and didn't repeat the sentence. Instead he said, "Why don't you teach me proper English?" 

"Look," I said, "We're in a hospital, I'm sick. You're sick. I haven't the energy to teach you anything and we have no materials or anything. I'm not going to teach English. I am here to recover not get stressed out." 

Tanaka would have none of it. He became more and more demanding. "I played chess with you and now you are not going to teach me English? You are an unfair person!"

This sort of conversation went over and over. For days he kept trying this tack. I wanted to say, "OK, Tanaka san, here's today's lesson: "Why don't you get stuffed?" and left it at that. But this guy was insistent that I teach him English and he even mentioned that he was going to complain to the nurses about me. He said he was going to complain that I took advantage of him.

Finally after going back and forth for about ten minutes with this nonsense, I said, "Look, Tanaka san, I taught English for a few years in Japan. I hate teaching English. I just got out of the cooler. The last thing I want to do is to teach English to people in drug rehab at an insane asylum! Forget about it."

That didn't work either. He scowled more and became more demanding. This guy was nuts! He said, "Teach me English and I will pay you!"

"How are you going to pay me? You don't have any money!"

I can pay you after I get out of this hospital. You have my business card, don't you?"

Arrrggghhhhh! It was like arguing with a wall. I got up and said, "Sorry" and then raced back to the safety of my room. Tanaka was hot on my heels but, as soon as I got to the room, he knew the rules: No entering unless you are invited. 

This sort of thing went on my entire time in D-40 for the five days I was there. Tanaka was as persistent as hell! He just wouldn't leave me alone. Every third sentence out of his mouth was, "Please teach me English." Tanaka kept trying to get me to teach him and I kept saying, "No!" 

I must have said, "No!" 50 times a day everyday.

He would pester me in the mornings, then give up for a few minutes but be right back at it soon after. He'd try all sorts of different ways to trick me (?) In the mornings he'd ask me if I wanted to play cards or watch TV or share a snack. I'd say, "You promise you are not going to ask me about teaching you English, right?" He'd promise.

But sure as the sun would rise in east every morning, as soon as what it was that we were doing was over, he'd turn to me and say, "Please teach me English" or "If you teach me English, I will give you my white bread at breakfast" or "Okay. I won't ask you to teach me English after we play chess. So why don't you teach me English first and then we'll play chess after that."

The guy was nuts and he was driving me nuts. It figured. I was in a mental hospital. I guess it comes with the territory.

Like I said, this went on a hundred times in the short week I was in D-40. I often got so frustrated and almost angry that I wanted to complain to the doctors or the nurses but judged against it. I figured that the doctors and nurses were watching us (they were) and judging to see how we handle ourselves. That I was able to put up with Tanaka asking me the same dumb question hundreds of times without strangling him or raising my voice probably showed them that I was okay to be transferred to another ward.

On the fifth day in D-40, I woke up and all the other patients were complaining to the doctors. Word gets around fast; I was being transferred and I didn't even know about it. The other patients complained and wanted to know why they had to stay in D-40 while the new gaijin was getting transferred out so soon. They thought it was unfair!

I was happy to be away from Tanaka and English Lessons for Lunatics Book One as soon as possible.

I was told that I was to be transferred to D-41. That was a much better ward because, get this, I was told that there were "Women there!"

Jeez! What good is that going to do me? I'm a drug addict trying to recover in an insane asylum and I should be happy that there are women in my new ward!? Well, whoop-de-doo... I could imagine it then: Wild Sex Party and Japanese Insane Asylum!

Sounds like classic Japanese cinema!  

Part three of this series: Female Nurses, Schizophrenics and Jail Breaks! - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 3  

To read the first part, please refer to: Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 1 (Life in the Cooler) Upon Arrival to Rehab Everyone Must Detox in the Feared Cooler.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sexy Japanese Female Nurses? Schizophrenics and Jail Breaks! - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 3

(Part two of this series is here: I Was an English Teacher in a Japanese Insane Asylum - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 2 (Life in D-40))

I was transferred to D-41 early in the morning and made it there just before breakfast. The orientation for D-41 was very short as most of the rules were the same as D-40. I was so relieved to be away from Tanaka and his incessant pestering me about teaching him English.

I walked into D-41 with the purpose of getting a feel for the layout of the joint. That sounds like I was cool and tough, but it was more like I was a nervously shaking and shivering with fear chihuahua dog frightened out of half his piss  looking for a place where he could stand where people wouldn't kick him so much. D-41 was much larger that D-40 and had many more patients than D-40 did. I looked for the hot chicks that I was told about and found them. They were two very plump middle-aged women in their late fifties. They looked like someone's kind old grandma. You know, the kind that likes to look at old photos of when we were little and bake stuff for us kids? These two ladies were very sweet to me during my stay at D-41 so you won't hear me saying anything bad about them. They were real sweethearts. As opposed to the white uniform worn by the males nurses, the female nurses wore pink with the typical nurses cap on top. They were cute... I mean, as far as old ladies go.

I took my clothes and personal belongings into my room where I was introduced to my three room-mates who didn't even bother to look up from their slumber. Nice guys. After that, I heard my name being called,

"Rogers san! Rogers san! Please report to the nurses station." I walked over to the nurses station past a couple of guys who were dancing in the hallway and one guy who, everyday, from morning until night-time, would march back and forth up the halls in a sort of military precision. He looked angry. I always tried to stay out of his way when he came by. He looked like he rather punch you than say "Hello!"

There was a group of twenty or so patients at the nurses station and they were all getting their daily dose of medicine. I got in line. When I walked to the front the nurse looked at me and, said, "Mr. Rogers? Right. Here is your medicine." She handed me a small paper cup with a few pills in it. I grabbed it and started walking off. One of the males nurses barked at me, "No! You have to take your medicine right here where we can see you!" I was taken aback. It wasn't necessary to be yelling at me like that! "Of course," I thought. I took the medicine and drank it down and then chased it with a cup of water.

If you don't cooperate, we may have to do a very 
thorough rectal examination, Mr. Rogers... Your call!

"Stick out your tongue!" The male nurse grumbled. I stuck my tongue out and got the feeling that, while D-41 might be better than D-40, this was not going to be a picnic. In D-40 there were some very sick individuals. Of course, there were sick folks in D-41 too but they weren't as bad as D-40. I also gathered that the male nurses were more sympathetic to the mental patients than the druggies. It made sense. The mental patients couldn't help being in the hospital, but the folks in drug rehab? They were total f*ckups. Completely and totally useless. And I was one of them. 

They were such washouts that they didn't deserve to be treated nicely or even with one iota of respect.

And you know what? That's right. They don't. Here's a hospital full of mentally ill people who should and would probably love to lead normal everyday lives but they can't. And, on the other side, guys like me, who had all they could possibly want going for them and they throw it away with chemical or alcohol abuse! Think about that! What a bunch of losers! Talk about spoiled brats in a consumerist society! What low-life scum! 

I realized this and pondered about it often. I also realized that I wasn't getting out of this place in the next few week, hell, next few months? I didn't know for how long I would be there, and I became depressed. I slumped over to sit by myself on the sofa and wondered how it was that my life had come to this? 

Me? I had everything. A great job, a wonderful family, I made lots of money... What a worthless piece of sh*t I was! Think about it! My baby daughter had just spent nearly two years of her life in the hospital for incurable diseases and she  defeated a rare and deadly childhood cancer. You wouldn't know it to look at her. She was the happiest most positive kid you could ever hope to meet and was always smiling and bright. Me? Look at me. In pajamas and unkempt and unshaven in a mental asylum. I was in drug rehab and felt that I didn't have a friend in the world who would even talk to me... Excepting Tanaka in D-40, of course. He'd talk to me all I wanted as long as I traded him English lessons for it.

I was the lowest of the low. What a waste of a human life. Dejectedly, I sat on the sofa in the communal area. Just then a tall lanky Japanese kid of about 25 came up and stood next to me. He benevolently smiled at me for what seemed like 30 seconds. Then he leaned over and said,

"Excuse me, Are you a gaijin (foreigner)?"

"What?! Duh! Do I look like a foreigner?" I thought. But not wanting to make a fuss or bad feelings, I answered very politely. I smiled and said, "Yes, I am a foreigner." He smiled back and then looked down to his feet. He paused for a few seconds again, seemingly like he was collecting his thoughts, then he looked up to me again. He said,

"Excuse me, are you a gaijin?"

Author's self image at D-41

"Yes. I am a gaijin." I answered again. I looked down and my eyes grew wide. He stopped and pondered. I stopped and pondered. He shuffled his feet then he looked at me and said, 

"I was wondering if you are a gai-gai-gaijin?"

"Yes. Yes, I am a foreigner." I nervously responded. Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead. Was this guy the psychotic Japanese slasher who hated all foreigners and wanted them to die? Is this the guy who thinks, 'The only good foreigner is a dead foreigner?' He continued with urgency and panic became apparent in his voice; the volume growing by the second,

"Are you a ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-gai-gai-jin?" His stuttering became uncontrollable.  As he was trying to fight the stutter, he did it by raising his voice and made his face into grotesque twisted contortions. I didn't like that one bit because all the people around were dropping what they were doing and started staring right at us; and all I wanted to do was keep a low profile while I was in D-41. I didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention towards myself. His voice grew louder and louder... The stuttering became a scream!

"Are you a ga-ga-ga-GA-GA-GA- gainjin?"

"Yes!" I sqeeked like a little mouse.

The trumpets in my head were blaring! I put both hands over my ears and to cover my head! 

"Ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-GA-GA-GA-GA-GA-GAIJIN?" He warped his face into comical but frightening contortions (kind of like the singer of a punk band would do - they're all crazy too) as he nearly screamed at me. His fingers were pointing towards me yet they were all twisted up in every which direction like a sort of disheveled and broken Japanese Edward Scissorshands. 

I was trapped in a madhouse with insane people!!! I jumped from my chair and said as calmly as I could, without showing fear or panic on my face, "Excuse me, won't you? I'm not feeling well. I think I should go and have a lay down in my room. Pardon me, won't you?" not waiting for an answer I shot from that place and into the mad safety of my cot in my cubicle protected by the invisible walls of rules constructed by male nurses in white suits and ladies in pink suits and caps.

I had definitely fallen into a sort of Twilight Zone. I was an extra, with no escape, on the set of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Oh the pain! I pulled the covers over my head and hid from the monsters lurking outside. I knew it! This time I had finally done it. I had f*cked up REALLY big time this time and there would be no mommy or daddy or anyone to save my ass. I was doomed. 

Later on, I'd ask my doctor about what had happened and he told me not to worry. He said there were a very many schizophrenic patients there and that most of them couldn't remember what had just transpired a few seconds before hand. He told me not to worry about seeming like I was rude because that guy probably doesn't remember it all all. Wow! A forgiving guy!

Oh, if only supposed sane people could be so forgiving about minor transgressions within a few seconds in the outside world!

It was about this time that I think my body had basically flushed out all the chemicals and drugs that caused me to have bizarre delusions of grandeur and wild ideas. I could tell that I was getting back to normal.... Well, almost back to normal. Why? Because I started having a very wild imagination again.

In my mind, I kept seeing myself and this entire situation as a movie. Or perhaps, that was a survival mechanism for saving my sanity? I thought it best if I viewed this entire mess as some sort of twisted cinema that would someday win me the Academy Award for Best Script of the Year award. Here I was, the hero of the film, trapped in an insane asylum with a bunch of crazy people. Why was I here? Well, of course, it was all a mistake. I shouldn't have been put here in the first place. Just a little misunderstanding, you see. It would all become clearer and clearer why I shouldn't be there as time passed.... In the end, I get the girl....

Unfortunately, my imagination didn't matter to the masters of this sick experiment. They wanted torture and I knew that I had to get out of there before it was too late. "The evil ones are never satisfied," I thought.

I knew that I had to get free before, before... Well, before I became one of them! A few days before, one of the patients in D-40 had pulled me aside to whisper to me that the doctors of the entire hospital were completely insane. Of course, I didn't believe him at the time. But, when he told me the reasons for his thinking, I thought about it and it made sense. I couldn't argue with the logic.

He told me that all the doctors at the hospital were insane because all the patients were insane too and, it follows reason that it is impossible to stay sane when you are working with insane people all day. Even Nietzsche wrote:

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I knew that if I stayed there too long, I'd become like 
my captors.... I'd become one of them!

Now, for me, the seed had been planted. I was beginning to suspect everyone's sanity at D-41; the patients, the doctors, the nurses (excepting the two nice grandma types); I even began suspecting the ladies in the cafeteria. Everyone was possibly stark raving mad at this place and, before I became like them, I had to escape. I had to plan a Great Escape.

Soon the theme song from the sixties cinema thriller starring Steve McQueen started running over and over in my head. And, it kept getting louder and louder as the hours went on. For the first four days in D-41 all I did was plan and consider different methods of escape. But how?

I kid you not! Planning my escape engulfed my first four days there. Sometimes the theme song of Great Escape would be playing so loud in my head I began to worry that other people might hear the music bleeding through my ears! And, if they heard me, they'd ruin my plans. Or I'd worry that I might be humming the tune so loud that a patient might recognize the song and report me to gestapo, er, I mean, nurse station.

This is where this particular episode really gets out there, folks. I investigated every way of escape: I sat and watched the delivery and cleaning people. I looked at what time and when these chores were performed. I had checked out where the deliveries came in, where the cleaning lady opened the door to take in and out her cleaning supplies. Could I have jumped in and hidden in the trash dumpster and been dumped out with the trash outside of the hospital? Or how about strapping myself to the underside of a delivery truck that would be driving out of the compound? Those seemed pretty tough to me. I also considered the possibility of a mad dash out the door... You know, fastest distance between two points and all that. 

I decided that the mad dash idea was no good because I found out that the nurses remove the shoelaces from every one's shoes. So, even if you got your shoes on and you got outside of the door, it's pretty hard to run a 100 meter  mad dash with no shoelaces on. Try it sometime and you'll see.

I also figured that idea was no good because if I were running around on the hospital grounds like a lost chicken asking for the exit, some doctors or nurses might see me and ask, "Excuse me, Mr. Rogers? Where do you think you're going?" And, if that happened, I know that would mean another week or two back into the cooler. No! I needed a better idea! I needed to use my American cunning! After all we did win the war against the Krauts and the Japs, right? I figured that I'd escape by outsmarting these guys.

That was it! Genius! I knew there was a reason that the theme song from Great Escape was playing over and over in my head! I decided that the best way out of D-41 was to dig a tunnel through the concrete floor, under my bed and out across the hospital grounds and into safety! Brilliant! 

I could see myself and the other patients chuckling as we lifted the escape on the other end of tunnel and dozens of us fleeing into the night on a daring midnight escape. Why, my picture would even be on the front page of every major newspaper and network in Japan. I'd be famous! My first's wife's parent's would see that and certainly say to my first wife, "See? I told you you shouldn't have married that crazy foreigner!"

I would be a star. Like Jessie James or Ronald Biggs....

"Last one out is a rotten egg!"

To make my plan work, I knew that I would need some dependable accomplishes and decided that I would start to ask around at the "talent pool." I decided that I needed to talk to just about everyone just to see if I could find out which ones were in the proper mental condition to want to break out of this joint with me.

I figured we could do it just like the in the movie: We'd set up some sort of pulley that would lift up my cot. Under the cot, would be the tunnel, covered by some well placed stuff. The tunnel would be dug during the afternoons when most of the nurses weren't around. Two guys would dig. One guy would be on lookout at the door of the room and two guys on lookout all up and down the hall.

Finding five guys who would be dependable and keep their mouths shut while we tunneled out of a mental hospital? No problem! There was also the problem of what t do about having dirt all over you when you were only allowed baths 3 times a week, but I figured we'd worry about that later.

Being a guy who is quite able to multi-task, I also decided that I would start to accumulate the tools we would need to dig out of the ward. I stomped on the floor of the hospital and it seemed pretty clear to me that the floors were your typical, tile covering one ~ two feet of concrete reinforced with steel mesh. It would take a lot to dig through that! I figured I'd need at least 4 or 5 teaspoons.

I'm not kidding. I really thought that.

At breakfast, lunch and dinner, the cafeteria gave each patient one spoon, one fork, one butter knife and one tray. When you were done with your food, you had to return the tray and utensils and the cafeteria ladies would check to make sure that there was nothing missing. 

From watching Hollywood movies you'd think they wouldn't give out butter knives but, at this hospital, they did. Though they were very strict with the utensils. It was simple; you were given the set, you were expected to return the full set. I knew that I would have to be sly in order to steal the tools that we'd need to tunnel through 2 feet of solid concrete: I knew I'd have to have quick hands if I were to steal the teaspoons we'd need for that back breaking job.

I knew that if I took the teaspoons from my tray, they'd notice them missing and then they'd probably call me to the nurse station for a debriefing. I could see it now, the gestapo nurse would be blaring a bright light into my face and demanding "Ze location of ze allied teaspoons!"

"I don't know! I don't know! And even if I did know, I'd never tell you!" I reply in exhaustion....

Come to think of it. Don't want that! Nope. I didn't want to draw attention to me, so I decided that I'd steal the teaspoons from other people's trays so the nurses would think they were the ones planning something. Pretty smart, eh?

So for the next three days, I stole five teaspoons from other patients trays. I overheard the cafeteria people talking with the nurses about the missing spoons and began to get nervous.

What if the doctors or nurses were to call a sudden inspection to locate the missing spoons? What if the doctors were to call a meeting with all the patients and demand that the person who stole the spoons give them back? What if some of the other patients saw me stealing the spoons?

Suddenly, I realized I had dangerous contraband hidden in my cot. If there were an unannounced inspection of our rooms and cots, then they would surely find the spoons and then I'd get grilled on the reasons for having the spoons.

I was in a now in a no-win situation. If I told them that I was planning on digging out of the hospital through underground tunnel using teaspoons instead of shovels, they'd surely think I was nuts and want to keep me there longer. If I didn't tell them about my plan, they'd think I was a Kleptomaniac with a teaspoon fetish and that would probably add another six months to a year on my internment.

No matter what, I told them, I knew that I was doomed. I had to do something to get rid of those spoons as soon as possible. 

The next part is here: Mr. Cool, Chocolate Addictions and a Paradox of Insanity in Today's World - Drug Rehab at Asia's Most Famous Hospital - Part 4 http://modernmarketingjapan.blogspot.com/2012/02/mr-cool-chocolate-addictions-and.html

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why Facebook Will Go Bankrupt?

I getting a lot of feedback from Japanese friends that they are getting "burned out" on Facebook and that they are beginning to think it is a waste of time and boring (that was fast!) 

Many are complaining about boring posts from friends like photos of what people had for lunch or their desserts... Or pictures of their kids...

It gets tiring. Like I said, I'm sensing a loss of excitement in Japan over Facebook. When the average Joe-Suzuki loses interest so fast, then that spells problems in Japan.

Besides that, Facebook can't make any money on their website. Their big plan to save the company rests solely upon the notion that their mobile platform will generate enough revenues to pay of the party.

Sorry, folks. No way. No one has figured out a way to make mobile advertising work. Facebook isn't going to be able to do so, either.

Facebook finishes the week down (and another drop after hours)

I don't really mind ads on my PC or Facebook (I never click them, either) but, on my iPhone, with the small screen, the last thing I want on there is advertising. Space is a premium on a mobile phone screen and I can't imagine that anyone wants to see advertising on that small space cluttering up the view.

It's hard enough to see what's on the screen as it is without pop up ads and more noise.

Facebook is not going to be able to figure out how to make mobile advertising work... I doubt that anyone will for a long time, if ever.

Nevertheless, people are still hoping for better results from Facebook.

Despite the chatter that the social-networking website is fading in popularity, having a whopping 955 million monthly active users is a 29% increase over the past year. And despite concerns about mobile and monetization in general, revenue growth at a 32% clip shows that the company is making more money per user.

Right! Never mind the fact that research shows 40% of all Facebook users are Spammers. From 40% of Facebook's Supposed 900 Million Users Don't Exist:

“Social spam can be a lot more effective than e-mail spam,” says Mark Risher, chief executive officer of Impermium, which sells anti-spam software. “The bad guys are taking to this with great abandon.”

Spammers create as many as 40 percent of the accounts on social-media sites, according to Risher. About 8 percent of messages sent via social pages are spam, approximately twice the volume of six months ago, he says. Spammers use the sharing features on social sites to spread their messages. Click on a spammer’s link on Facebook, and it may ask you to “like” or “share” a page, or to allow an app to gain access to your profile."

I also added:

"Woo-boy! Did I say "Facebook shares in the mid-20s by December?" I did. Good. But I was wrong. Look for the mid-10s!" 

OK. I was wrong. I said mid-20s by December. It's not even August yet and they are in the low-20s. Mid 10s? Quite possibly. I like this prediction for 2012.

Facebook since IPO: Down 38% in three months. Down 47% since IPO.

But what about Facebook's other success stories, you say? OK. How about Zynga, the Facebook game that many said was one of the high points for Facebook? Yeah. That's a Cinderella story. From Reuters:

Zynga shares have fallen 70% since its December 2011 Initial Public Offering. The investigation stems from concerns that Zynga misrepresented and/or failed to disclose materially adverse facts about its business and financial condition. Furthermore, certain Zynga executive officers sold a combined 43 million shares of Company stock during the second quarter of 2012, shortly before Zynga reported poor financial results. 

"As for my price target on the company I will simply note that there is very strong technical support at $0."

For 2013 and beyond, look for Facebook to drop out of existence (or do their best Myspace imitation) by 2015.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bread and Circuses: Olympic Games are a Scam to Take Yours and Your Children's Money Away!

"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."

They say the Olympics are a massive money making opportunity. They are for land developers, real estate agents, advertising agencies, the IOC, etc. For you? They stick you with a massive tax bill. For example, the Vancouver Olympics was such a massive burden and loss of public monies that the citizens of Vancouver and their children will be paying the bill for the next 30 years. 

Great deal, eh? 

Now do you feel proud when "your country" wins a medal?

Thanks to Aaron Egon Moser

Guest Post: The Benefits of Positive Volunteering for Your Business

(Note: Today's post is is a guest post written about something that is close to my heart: Volunteering and actually doing something, rather than just talking, about making our world a better place to live. Enjoy! - Mike)

The Benefits of Positive Volunteering for Your Business 
by Heather Smith

Volunteering is fun and exciting for people of all ages. It gets people in new social situations. They explore new career options. They love the feeling of being part of something larger than themselves. Volunteering can provide individuals with a great opportunity to get to know the inner workings of your company, experience a fun event and help your business thrive at the same time. If your company is thinking about collaborating with volunteers for a charity event or business event, then here are some reasons you should consider working with volunteers.

1. Boost the enthusiasm for your brand.

Your business will boost the enthusiasm that people have for your brand. Volunteers are often thrilled to help promote a product for a major brand because of the free products they receive. Your business can work out an arrangement with volunteers where they receive a free hotel room, meals and other surprises for working with your company. Volunteers will feel more committed in encouraging others to sign up for your company's event or trying out your company's product because of this. You will see them smiling, laughing and having a great time with others who can be potential customers for your business in the future.

2. Give others a purpose.

Volunteers often have some extra time on their hands and enjoy finding fun ways to spend their time. Perhaps your company is hosting a charity event that will help boost funds for breast cancer. Maybe your company is hosting a cookout and needs some people to act as servers or hosts for a silent auction. Your company can reach out to community members to find individuals who want to serve as volunteers for this charity event. Community members feel empowered when they know that they are working for a goal that is greater than themselves. They will have a greater sense of purpose, and that is a gift that your company can provide to individuals.

3. Help a great cause.

Your business and volunteers will ultimately benefit by helping a great cause. Whether your business is hosting an AIDS awareness event or charity ball that is dedicated to raising funds for the local children's hospital, everyone benefits from donating time for furthering these causes. Your business will be able to build stronger ties with the community, a better reputation and may even find new business opportunities by participating in these types of community events.

4. Have fun.

Volunteers have a blast when they help with a company promotion, golf course event or charity ball. They love being able to witness the socialites that attend these events and contributing their time to a great cause. They can also meet with other volunteers who have similar interests as them.

Your business benefits when it decides to collaborate with volunteers for events. Volunteers add an extra boost of energy to any event that your company decides to host. Your company can take itself to the next level of success by collaborating with enthusiastic volunteers.

Author Bio
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Groupon, Facebook Hit All-Time Lows; Why Groupon Can't Win in Japan; Zynga Implodes!

Even though Facebook met expectations for revenues today, their shares slumped to an all-time low after-hours trading.

Facebook hit Wall Street's bullseye on earnings and revenue was a slight beat but the stock fell below its all-time low of $25.52 a share in after-hours trading as worries about its future growth persist.

During regular-hours trading, Facebook shares fell 8 percent. After the earnings announcement, the company's shares initially rose then pulled back, falling below that all-time low. 

The company posted second-quarter earnings excluding items of 12 cents per share on revenue of $1.18 billion.

Facebook posted a net loss of $157 million, or 8 cents a share in the second quarter, due to hefty stock compensation charges related to its IPO, compared to net income of $240 million, or 11 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

July 26, 2012

The fall in Facebook shares might be a bit of a surprise (not really when you understand that the shares were grossly overvalued at its IPO price of $38 a share; they should have been about $9). And, still, today's price at $26.95 is about 300% overvalued; also, let's not forget that recent data shows that 40% of all Facebook users are Spammers.

The one slump that shoudn't be a surprise, but still is, is Groupon. Why? when the Dow skyrockets $211 (1.67%) on flimsy "news" that Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, says he will "Do what's necessary to maintain the Euro".... (Ahem... Where have we heard that before?) Yet still drops 8.7%, now that is a jaw-dropper.

It's only end July and Groupon hit its all-time low at $6.61. At this rate, when I seemed grossly pessimistic and said, "Groupon will hit $5 by December 2012" way back in November 2011 (when the shares were at $23.32) it seems those predictions are grossly over optimistic today.

Will Groupon hit penny stock status soon? I think in the next 12 months, that is highly likely if they don't go bankrupt first. 

Why Groupon in Japan Can't Win

There is another company doing the same business as Groupon in Japan but they make it work.... Well, let's say it works better than Groupon does. That company is Recruit with their Pomparade coupon service. 

Why can Recruit make Pomparade work (or, at least not lose millions of dollars)? Simple. Groupon sells one product: a Spam mail based coupon service. Recruit sales people sell at least a good two dozen services (along with their Spam-based coupon service). 

Groupon cannot afford to place 600 boots on the ground and sell just one service. The costs of running a sales force like that are way too high. Recruit corporation, on the other hand, already has a high and very well respected market profile in Japan. Recruit already has as 30,000 sales people running around selling ads in free magazines (of which Recruit dominates the market) like Hot Pepper, R25 (and a bunch others). Recruit also has Pompare, Keiko and Manabu, ATND and the list goes on and on...

The kicker for Groupon? Recruit has a "subscription" service that only costs business establishments a mere ¥80,000 a month (about $1000) to advertise across the board in several Recruit publications (and that includes coupons, etc.) If you are, say, a restauranteur, you have your hands full trying to make your business work; you haven't time to deal with new people and, especially, new internet "stuff."

The Recruit salesman already has an excuse to see and visit businesses that have the where-with-all and capacity to spend on advertising. The Recuit salesman already has a relationship with the store owners and managers. The Recruit salesman has an arsenal of products and services that he can offer to various businesses... They already have a good name and reputation. 

The name "Recruit" is a door opener.

So when a new sales person comes in on a cold-call and says "Groupon," I'd venture to say that a very many people say, "No thanks!" or, "Recruit handles all my stuff." Or even worse, "Grop-what?!"

That's not to say that Groupon's service can't work or cut out a market share, it can. But not the way it's set up in Japan now.

I mean, think about it: How can Groupon afford to put all those boots on the ground and compete with Recruit when they sell only one product and the Recruit sales people offer two dozen? They can't.

Groupon's only hope is to be bought out by another company in Japan that offers other services. The logical choice is Recruit. But, as  said, Recruit already has Pompare... And, I'm not too sure Pompare is doing great guns either.. Maybe the Korean company G-Market?

Perhaps if Groupon had enough market share to seem a threat to Pompare, Recruit would consider buying it.... But, it seems, that Groupon in Japan has dropped off the map...

Maybe Groupon itself, world wide, is about to do the same.

Zynga, the Facebook game is also doing VERY poorly and this might bode ill for Facebook too: In Play: Virtual Farm-Backstopped Default Delay Securities Launched After Zynga Implodes - UPDATE: ZNGA is down 40% now, trading with a $2 handle:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Banzai 7 Goes to the Fraud-Lympics in London

From Zerohedge, William Banzai has a true to form, realistic take on the scam the Olympics have become. The day where "Olympic athletes sacrifice and dedicate to their sport" is long gone (it it ever really existed  and has been replaced by policial, social, and nationalist goals (as well as crass consumerism and glorification of the state) and, ahem, big money. (Psst! Those athletes winning anything is not for you or "your country" it is for advertising revenues! pass it on!) 

Nah! Don't believe me, please refer to "Olympic Games Scandals and Controversies" where the sneaky business has been going on since, oh, 1908....

William Banzai, though, has a great take (as always) and a bunch of very well done and funny cartoons over at ZeroHedge. This is my favorite:

Go to Zerohedge to see all the rest of the images in their full Banzai 7 glory!!!! 

EXTRA POINTS! Fun Olympic quiz!

Question: When that athlete crosses the finish line first for Olympic gold what is the first thing that come into their mind?

Answer (pick one):

A: "I did it for my country and people who I don't even know and will never ever meet."


B: "Alright! Now I get that juicy sports sponsor contract and millions of dollars... I'm rich!"