Friday, May 27, 2016

Payday loans. All these sports gadgets. College grad and no good job? Yup, more oil. iRobots etc. Internet privacy whatever. Generation Squeeze. Go to your psychotherapist instead of eHarmony. Chinese automakers?

PAYDAY loans—the short-term, high-cost credit that can mire borrowers in debt. Some banks offer the loans tied to checking accounts, with the understanding that the lender can automatically withdraw the loan amount, plus the origination fee, when it is due. Now, federal regulators are cracking down on them, but instead of taking aim at the big fish, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are gunning at storefront payday lenders. Bigger players like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank are left unscathed. What else is new? The regulators are expected to impose more stringent requirements on the loans. Before making a loan, for example, banks will have to assess a consumer’s ability to repay the money. Of course, they can—but squeezing their guts more... Wells Fargo charges $1.50 for every $20 borrowed. Add other fees on ATM withdrawals etcetera etcetera...

ALL these sports gadgets, life's gizmos that we are so fond of spending hard-earned money on... Like goggles. Example: Oakley, the eyewear company, makes a $600 ski goggle that comes with a warning in the package: Do not operate product while skiing. But of course, the digital goggles are meant for skiing and snowboarding... However, safety advocates say the concept of high-tech displays for goggles — and for other sports eyewear — is information overload run amok, particularly when people are using them at high speeds. Surely, Oakley, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., argue such warnings. Meantime, Google is expected to introduce soon its computerized glasses, called Google Glass, which will perform many of the same functions as smartphones. Jeez...

A LOT of young people these days are like Pearl Brady: a stable job with good benefits, holds two degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s. But despite her best efforts, she has no savings, and worries that it will be years before she manages to start putting away money for a house, children and eventually retirement. “I’m in that extremely nervous category,” Ms. Brady, 28, a Brooklynite who works for a union, told New York Times. “I know how much money I’m going to be making for the near term. I hope in my 30s and 40s to be able to save, but I have no idea how. It’s scary.” A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Ms. Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last quarter-century. Inequality? Let's look at life, per se. More millionaires, yes. Yet there a lot more food-to-mouth wage earners.

MIDWAY-Sunset oil field near Fellows in California has been producing crude for more than a century since Socal's oil boom. Midway-Sunset is tapping crude directly from what is called the Monterey Shale, which could represent the future of California’s oil industry — and a potential arena for conflict between drillers and the state’s powerful environmental interests. Comprising two-thirds of the US’ total estimated shale oil reserves and covering 1,750 square miles from Southern to Central California, the Monterey Shale could turn California into the nation’s top oil-producing state and yield the kind of riches that far smaller shale oil deposits have showered on North Dakota and Texas. Good news? Lesser dependence on OPEC oil? That is not the question that I'd like to answer. Do we really need more oil?

SINCE Roomba, the iRobot, has been doing my daily floor vacuuming job lately—no complaints here, so far. But then, wait... Robots actually want our job, not just the housework. According to professors at Cambridge University, robots also want our life and our little dog, too. But then, such android anxiety has a long history. John Maynard Keynes wrote about “technological unemployment” during the Great Depression.
In the Industrial Revolution, disgruntled laborers smashed automated looms and threshing machines that “stole” their jobs. In the 15th century, scribes protested the printing press, with a futile zeal rivaled perhaps only by that of modern journalists. Well, I also lost writing jobs due to the internet's instant “blog journalism.” In hindsight, historical fears of technological change look foolish, given that automation has increased living standards and rendered our workweeks both safer and shorter. In 1900, when nearly half the American labor force was employed in backbreaking agriculture, the typical worker logged 2,300 hours a year, according to Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University. Today that number is 1,800. By year 2062, we’ll be working only two hours a week. Good? Bad. Imagine Roomba doing all the housekeeping work in a motel chain? More unemployment. In fact, I am very wary that Georgia and Chloe—the lovable babedawgs under my care—might be so enamored with Roomba that they'd eventually ignore me when asking for food (1 click, here comes Roomba with a bowl of Purina!) Then, I will just be a lifeless, useless human being in the batcave...

ONCE the monster is unleashed, there's no way that it can be stopped. Or is there really a way? I am talking about the internet and the loss of human privacy (willingness in disguise?) Yet, over the years, the United States and Europe have taken different approaches toward protecting people’s personal information. Here, Congress has enacted a patchwork quilt of privacy laws that separately limit the use of Americans’ medical records, credit reports, video rental records and so on. Meantime, the European Union has instituted more of a blanket regulatory system; it has a common directive that gives its citizens certain fundamental rights — like the right to obtain copies of records held about them by companies and institutions — that Americans now lack. “Yes, we share the basic idea of privacy,” says Peter Hustinx, Europe’s data protection supervisor. “But there is a huge deficit on the US side.” With a dizzying array of new e-baubles flooding the market, expect more ways to reveal or invade privacies.

WHO are most hit by the hard times? Young graduates are in debt, out of work and on their parents’ couches. People in their 30s and 40s can’t afford to buy homes or have children. Retirees are earning near-zero interest on their savings. The most hit, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company, are Americans in their 50s and early 60s. The elderly do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago. Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname “Generation Squeeze.”

IF you are in psychotherapy, there’s a good chance your therapist knows more about your inner thoughts and secret desires than anyone else. Hence, he/she's better be the person to match you up with your soulmate lovey-dovey, you reckon? Chuck eHarmony and and other sites that rely on impersonal algorithms, and chuck your BFF's super-zealous analysis that, anyways—simply mirrors his/her angst. An NY Times article by Richard A. Friedman, himself a shrink, goes: “Psychotherapy, especially insight-oriented therapy, is designed to conjure intense feelings — on the part of the patient and therapist. Much of what patients feel toward their therapists, the so-called transference, are unconscious feelings that are redirected from important early figures in their lives — parents, family members and teachers. Your therapist mirrors this phenomenon with his own countertransference.” Go get a psychotherapist, pronto!

CHINA may not be manufacturing pencil holders and back scratchers anymore. The next boom in China, according to the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based research group, are college graduates... China's youths have highly specific ambition: to work some day for a Chinese automaker and provide the cultural insights and English fluency the company needs to supply the next generation of fuel-efficient taxis that New York City plans to choose in 2021. China is making a $250 billion-a-year investment in what economists call human capital. Just as the United States helped build a white-collar middle class in the late 1940s and early 1950s by using the G.I. Bill to help educate millions of World War II veterans, the Chinese government is using large subsidies to educate tens of millions of young people as they move from farms to cities. Good for China's vaunted working class economy? Let's wait and see. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lesser drivers. Moms and dads and their kids' internet life. Morbid futuristic movie on buyouts. Our electronic life. Rising suicide rate.

FOR six decades, Americans have tended to drive more every year. But in the middle of the last decade, the number of miles driven — both over all and per capita — began to drop, notes a report by U.S. Pirg, a nonprofit advocacy organization. People tend to drive less during recessions, since fewer people are working (and commuting), and most are looking for ways to save money. But Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst for U.S. Pirg, said the changes preceded the recent recession and appeared to be part of a structural shift that is largely rooted in changing demographics, especially the rise of so-called millennials — today’s teenagers and twentysomethings. Younger people are less likely to drive — or even to have driver’s licenses — than past generations for whom driving was a birthright and the open road a symbol of freedom. Research by the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan suggests that online life might have something to do with the change: “A higher proportion of Internet users was associated with a lower licensure rate. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that access to virtual contact reduces the need for actual contact among young people.”

DO we really want to be privy with your kids' stuff these days? Today, parents are just one click away from their 14-year olds' shenanigans: buddied up on Facebook, logging on to Tumblr, peering over cryptic text messages and trying to get a glimpse of Snapchat images before they dissolve into the ether. Freely see them guzzle beer, flirt with a girl who squeezes her bosom in every “selfie” she posts on Instagram, and describe a fellow ninth grader in language saltier than any you ever used at that age. Maybe you are a parent who never even heard your kid swear. Yet you had no idea where they went after they slammed the door behind you.
According to a study of 802 parents of teenagers by the Pew Internet Project, 59 percent of parents of teenagers on social-networking sites have talked to their child because they were concerned about something posted to their profile or account, and 42 percent have searched for their child’s name online to see what info is out there. Tough! That is why parenting is always an individual matter. But talking to them remains the key—just don't do it via texting or Facebook posts.

A GROUP of investors from Mountain View, California, partners of Y Combinator, an organization that can be likened to a sleep-away camp for start-up companies, are doing what could be the trend in future “buy out” economics. These energetic bunch of wizards check out cool ideas from entrepreneurs desperately wanting “start up” capital, sink their own money in exchange for, of course, stake in the company. Among more prominent start-ups that graduated from Y.C.’s class were the social-news site Reddit, the web-site builder Infogami, file-sharing service Dropbox, and online market for vacation rentals Airbnb... I am seeing a future where all companies in the world are owned by maybe only five huge corporations—splintered via “small” investors ready to sink moolah into your brainstorm for a considerable percentage of your profit, then buy you out later. Like a morbid futuristic movie. Or the future is happening now.

LISTEN up, environmentalists who believe newsprints have to be dissed in favor of electronic devices: Americans replace their cellphones every 22 months, junking some 150 million old phones in 2010 alone. Ever wondered what happens to all these old phones? In far-flung, mostly impoverished places like Agbogbloshie, Ghana; Delhi, India; and Guiyu, China, children pile e-waste into giant mountains and burn it so they can extract the metals — copper wires, gold and silver threads — inside, which they sell to recycling merchants for only a few dollars. In India, young boys smash computer batteries with mallets to recover cadmium, toxic flecks of which cover their hands and feet as they work. Women spend their days bent over baths of hot lead, “cooking” circuit boards so they can remove slivers of gold inside. Greenpeace, the Basel Action Network and others have posted YouTube videos of young children inhaling the smoke that rises from burned phone casings as they identify and separate different kinds of plastics for recyclers.

MORE Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides. Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly. But recent studies say that suicide rate among middle-aged people have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm. “There may be something about that group (baby boomers), and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference,” says C.D.C.’s deputy director, Ileana Arias. The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said. Another factor may be the widespread availability of opioid drugs like OxyContin and oxycodone, which can be particularly deadly in large doses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What is Spermine? Be famous and get a PhD too. Detoxification. Sex merch pitch on glossy mags. And other stuff and things that Pasckie choose to rant about.

SPERMINE TREATMENT. Heard of this one? Now, I know what my Norwegian buddy (in NY), Rik, was rambling about one time I hanged with him. Spermine is a powerful anti-oxidant in human sperm. It is considered great in diminishing and reducing wrinkles. It also makes the skin smooth. Townhouse Spa, based in Manhattan (where Rik's wife worked), offers spermine treatment in which the cream is applied over skin and then ultrasound and infrared light is used to help the product penetrate the lipid barrier. The treatment costs $250 for 10 minutes! Yes, two-hundred-freakin'-fifty-dollars! In fact, a Norwegian company called Bioforskning sells sperm based products in the market. As Jenny The Lomey says, “Seriously?” Yes, seriously.

HOW TO EARN A COLLEGE DEGREE (without passing grades or residency): Examples. Jeff Daniels dropped out of Central Michigan University, pursued an acting career, got famous somehow. So CMU gave him an Honorary Doctorate. More prominently, Robert De Niro was awarded an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts at Bates College in Maine, plus he also had another one, a Doctor of Fine Arts from New York University in 1996. Many other famous people went through that route—from the Beatles and Yoko Ono to Meryl Streep and Muhammad Ali. J.K Rowling got SIX! In fact, even Kermit The Frog received a Doctorate of Amphibious Letters in 1996 from Southampton College in New York. Yes, seriously. But, nah—Beavis and Butt-head haven't got one yet. Meantime, Stefani Joanne Germanotta, before she mutated into Lady Gaga, enrolled at NYU's Collaborative Arts Project 21 at Tisch School of the Arts but dropped out on her second year. Now, she's famous. Maybe NYU will give her an Honorary Doctorate, as well? Big Bird will protest!

DETOXICATION is an approach that claims to rid the body of "toxins" – accumulated harmful substances that are alleged to exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. Detoxification usually includes one or more of: dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively or avoiding specific foods (such as fats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, chelation therapy, or the removal of dental fillings. It's also called or includes “body cleansing.” Many celebs are into this—ie Gwyneth Paltrow (but of course!) Kate Hudson, Christy Turlington, Molly Sims, Sophia Bush etc. Some don't, like Carey Mulligan (“Oh, no, no, no. I couldn't even start”). Some also tried but had a different experience, like Julianne Moore. Her response is classic: “It went well, and I enjoyed it, but I think I lost all of my weight in my brain. I couldn't think at all.” (Me, I am no celeb but I won't/don't detox or cleanse because if I do, there'd be nothing left of my 5'3” and 112 lbs. Or my tiny brain. Just my huge ego—which is bad. Ah!)

HOW much accessories budget a wealthy person—or a moneyed lady—usually “modestly” maintains? According to Self magazine: A sequined Cooper Penny bag, $48 (super-cheap!) Courtney Lee earrings, $265; Aperlais Paris party shoes, $896; Coach watch, $348; BCBGMaxAzria belt, $58. I don't need to total that... That's excluding clothes and undergarments, of course... For the bag dough ($48), you'd most likely complete a full get up by shopping at Goodwill, and a few dollars for gasoline money.

SEX SELLS. Sample articles: 5 Seconds to Better Sex (Glamour), 99 Sex Questions (Cosmopolitan), The Best Sex Positions Ever (Women's Health Magazine), 10 Best Sex Tips From Men's Magazines (Woman's Day). [WHEN Helen Gurley Brown became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in 1965, she reversed the magazine's trend of "high quality" and "cultured" content into an advocate of women's sexual freedom. Ms Gurley Brown claimed that women could have it all, "love, sex, and money.”]
Considering that “sex in glossy magazines” (as commodified discussion, in case we veer away from accepting it as reality) takes root from the sexual revolution of the 60s by way of Cosmo's Helen Gurley Brown, it's kind hard to accept that its “sexism.” We can even define it as feminist aggressiveness, a declaration/celebration of sexual opennness in an otherwise constrained, “stone age” psyche that women shouldn't talk about sex publicly. Take note that Playboy, Penthouse, and FHM are conceived by men, modeled by women but marketed to men; Cosmo etc are conceived by women, modeled by women and marketed to women, essentially. Those are two different market demographics. We can call Playboy et al as sexist, but will Ms Gurley Brown call her magazine or legacy “sexist,” or feminist?
And Ms Gurley Brown's brainstorm didn't actually stop. From TV to music/Hollywood, what is the common denominator? Sex or sexiness, power and positioning. The Kardashian sisters, Beyonce, J-Lo, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, 50 Shades of Grey, True Blood, Weeds. Even in popular cable series/shows, “Breaking Bad,” “The Killing,” and “Game of Thrones,” the power are women (eg Walter White's wife decides for him, basically; in “The Killing,” the lady leads, the dude is the assistant). Sex and power by way of women... I see it as more upfrontness, independence and grit. “Love, sex and money.” How can we call these sexist when it serves the purpose of power enhancement? Sex in women's magazines is just a fragment of such power-driven independence, I believe... Sex sells because sex is power.

NEWS: Though the house brand at Whole Foods is called “365 Everyday Value,” many consumers say they’d go broke if they shopped at the upscale natural foods store 24/7. The Austin, Texas-based chain offers a menagerie of organic, gourmet, artisanal food products, and is battling the public perception that has led to the store's nickname "Whole Paycheck." MY TAKE: One of the biggest paradoxes of an affluent nation: Health food (so they say) can only be afforded by the moneyed people. Hence, so-called “correct eating” has become elitist. I still believe, accessibility to food is a basic human right... And the assurance that food is safeguarded for people's health and safety and made easily available to each and everyone—is humanity's most utmost, gut responsibility to life.

HEARD of Teething Rings made out of plant-derived plastic resin? Organic, yes. I don't know how much these cost—but sells a 30-pack Gardman 7915 Twisty Plant Rings for $8.39. Obviously, these little thingies are meant to eliminate our “plastic” little lives. So don't be surprised to receive a non-plastic AmEx card soon. It'll be made of banana leaves, spring rolls wraps or tortillas. Yes, you may also eat them.

WHAT do super-rich fans spend their money on? Examples: Britney Spears' discarded gum—went as high as $14,000 on eBay; Justin Timberlake's leftover French Toast, $1,025; Lady Gaga's fake fingernail, auctioned off at $13,000; Elvis Presley's underwear, $11,000+; and, check this out, Justin Bieber's hair trimming, $40,000+. One day, when I become really famous, my ramen noodles leftover will be auctioned off, starting at $50,000. Okay, let's start the bidding--$50,000, now 60, now 62, will you give me 65? Sixty-five, now 70, 71, now give me 76? Going... going.

NEWS: “Michael Bloomberg's advice for success: Don't take bathroom breaks.” Makes sense. I mean, how many of you—or us, internet hounds—delay or hold trips to the bathroom, anyways? (Huge difference though is—Mayor Bloomberg is a 27 billion dollar dude, the 13th richest human being, and we are not. Maybe he made those moolah alongside a “No Bathroom Break” policy?)

“HACKING” is a “legit” service advertised in the internet via AdChoices—in between articles on Yahoo's front page. Read again: “Want to Run a Background Check on Someone? Get detailed information about anyone in the US including their Public Records, Pictures, and contact information? Go visit Instant Checkmate.” Etc etcetera. While we fight for privacy, some dude is actually peddling service how to invade yours.

NEWS: “Scent From My iPhone: New technology could send smells from one smartphone to another.” Lead of same Daily Beast article: “Let's say we’re talking on the phone. I’m having dinner by the Mediterranean. You’re in your office in a landlocked American city. `Can you smell the sea?' I ask. `Yes,' you say. `It’s almost like being there.'” Yup, a new project from Le Laboratoire, a Paris-based center of art, design, and science is developing what’s called the OPHONE. Just a reminder: Don't call if you are a cheater calling from a secret rendezvous or don't dial while you're in a toilet, or something. Of course...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spaces Between Us

THE internet and the outer-net. Humanity is a mystifying evolution. An expostulating progression of reflex and response, action and reaction. Yet do we know what's going on? Are we going forward or sliding backward? Or maybe immobile and stationary within our four-walled caves? Our transformation from earth-fed creatures of fire, wind and air to a convergence of names and tags in an electronic universe has been quick and sure yet seemingly unnoticed and, well, embraced. We found so many ways to extract us away from what we perceive as the growing evil in people's chest as well as the continued degradation of the environment, which can only be blamed on us.

          So how do we connect? How do we talk? We don't. We simply send both cryptic lines and colorful symbolisms of what we decide to reveal about us, one-click. Then we hide the rest. Yet we also share so much of ourselves that we don't know anymore which is fact from fiction, and vice versa. It's a Reality TV world we are enmeshed in. Like drugs or pills, we are okay—as long as we are takin' them in. It's essentially free.
          I can post maybe 2,000 words a day, replete with cute visuals and other images that say something about me. But do you really know me? I can send out and share poetry like I am serenading muses with the deepest of my heart. But am I connecting? And since we already created a web of precautionary tales, red flags and warning signals in our respective batcaves—as brought about by unmitigated hard life of a continually demanding existence—it has become weirder and “stupider” (sic!) to extend a heart. We need to protect us from ourselves. Everything is an object of fear, doubt, suspicion. Even an enfeigned smile could be too good to be true, or an invite to watch birds on Beaver Lake is a disguised pass to a quickie? It's sad. Everybody's scared yet everybody's “exposed.”
          We want to know people but it is not that easy or spontaneous anymore. Even a choice of food, the way we choose our words, or the manner we look at our hair color are cause/s to build more barriers, more reasons to be frightened. Organization isn't easy anymore although we always mouth the words community, universe and Namaste! How do we know us if we don't see eye to eye? See us maybe once in four weeks or maybe once in three months—we can email, text, share posts and “visit” us on Facebook anyway.
          I long for the good old days. But the good old days are gone. We all gravitate to our comfortable, well-equipped armour that is the internet. We have 5,000 “friends.” We even tracked down people we haven't seen since high school, long lost kin as well. And we all meet in here—likes and shares and forwards and follows. Then it's time to sleep. And then, we wake up with cheerful trees and insistent squirrels and noisy crows outside the window. As our finger, by reflex, clicks on the iPhone or the laptop, and check things out. Check on the world—in that tiny gadget.
          Where is humanity? Where are they? Maybe the person beside you is even clicked on that blinking little universe—same as you, consumed. And then the trees outside beckon, call. Oh well. I wish I could bring my heart out there, get washed by rain and pummeled by storm. The blood, the brokenness make me human. I breathe, I gasp, I live. I long for that pain in the same way that I long for that joy. Hurt that I could feel and joy that I could touch. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More stuff to rant about

THE total worth of the top 400 wealthiest Americans is $2 trillion, on top of the heap is Bill Gates ($72 billion)--that is the entire economic output of Russia. Meantime, UNICEF proposes to its memberto $10,000. Also, let me ask: To date, how many more dictators and drug lords hide dubious moolah in Switzerland and Luxembourg and remain unconvicted and stay freer than a parrot?

IT's not like I am all-out disgusted by it, just perplexed. And mystified what moneyed people spend their money to accentuate vanity. Ah, my skeptic butt! Do you know that an ideal ingredient for anti-wrinkle cream or injectable serum—surefire replacement for botox—are injections of baby foreskin? Many companies including Skinmedica and Vavelta use baby foreskin removed after circumcision in their anti aging and anti wrinkle creams. According to Skinmedica, their products have used one single foreskin, and that it hasn’t acquired any new foreskin in over 20 years as 1 piece of foreskin is capable of producing 4 acres of fresh and new skin. The cells on the inside of the foreskin are rich in human dermal fibroblasts (HDF), which create collagen. Why don't some people simply enjoy the natural progression of their life-given skin?-nations an institutional 4-year budget of $2,094.5 million (2014-2017). Mr Gates can actually fund UNICEF by himself, with lots more spare change for Dom Perignons and caviars on breaktime.

TIPPING MILLIONAIRES. I do appreciate the tip, the gesture—albeit bombastic and spectacular and internet-savvy. Are you a millionaire? What is $5,000 or even $10,000 to you? A pro athlete can easily hand needy people $10,000 for each made shot, or $100,000 to a cancer patient for a homerun. Am I moved by a $1,000 tip to a waitstaff. I am amused with a smirk. Why not offer the monetary generosity to the entire overworked, underpaid staff instead—maybe 20 of them? If one waiter or waitress deserves the dough, then the whole workforce deserve it, too.

BABY BUDGET. Doting moms and dads are good, I guess. I used to pamper my kids when they were infants and toddlers. But I don't think I'd spend a $48 “baby carrier,” that piece of textile that you wrap around your body like a sash to sling your baby on? I kinda carried my infant that way, too—but with a blanket... Meantime, you know what a “car seat canopy” is? Again, it's a piece of flimsy textile that you cover a baby car seat with--$49.95. I recommend using the same blanket cum baby carrier. Save the dough for the rainy or snowy days.

NEWS (NY Times): “A Lab-Grown Burger Gets a Taste Test.” The taste of the burger made of cow muscle grown in a laboratory was nothing special, but the feat itself is expected to make the case for in vitro meat. MY TAKE: Worse than inorganic and gluten, GMO and shit. What's next? Prozac and Glazed Salmon as a Pill, Gatorade and Hummus as Syrup?

A PITCH by Digestive Architects say: “If you think organic food is expensive, have you priced cancer lately?” A bad pitch, so bad. I don't argue that most “non-organic” foods cause cancer, but to instill fear and paranoia on people in the name of a merchandise or service is almost tantamount to telling them, “Screw you for not buying my good shit, now you are going to die!” Why don't these smart advertising geeks instead work ways to lower the price of “healthy” foods so majority of consumers could afford them—and so we all live happily ever after?

TY Warner, the Beanie Babies founder, faced up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion for hiding millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account. (Don't know if he's prosecuted at all though.) He was also ordered to pay a civil penalty of $53 million. The dude is worth $2.7 billion. Meantime, the range of punishment for food stamp fraud in most states--is from 6 months to two years in a state jail and a fine up 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Losing your religion?

THE moment I utter, “Yes, I do read the Bible, and I have one beside my bed,” I know I'd easily invite a weirded-out gaze from a number of my “enlightened” acquaintances. “So are you going to preach to me now?” But then, what would they say if they see a Gardnerian Wiccan pendant co-existing with a Christian crucifix and Hare Krishna beads on my writing desk; beside are LPs of Ozzie Osbourne's “No Rest for the Wicked” and Led Zeppelin's “Houses of the Holy” and cozily lounging among stacks of secondhand books are Mao Zedong's “The Red Book,” Anais Nin's “Delta of Venus,” and a Sanskrit version of Kama Sutra. I also have a Che Guevara-styled beret and the obligatory pop culturized t-shirt of his Benicio del Toro profile (sic). And so on and so forth...

          According to a Pew Research report, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with any religion is on the rise, a third of Americans under 30. Not hard to believe that. We have grown doubtful and wary and suspicious of so many things—yet it is very convenient to google a certain data or info and adhere to it. For me, Biblical words, such as (Matthew 9:21): “If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole,” or (1 Corinthians 13.4): “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud,” are sublime words that inspire us to do good—same as a Lakota elderly's espousals of the spirit of the buffalo or what Ayn Rand probably inferred in her objectivist epistemology. Of course, it depends on how you/we paraphrase certain pronouncements. Words, teachings, beliefs, truths, wisdom. We pick up or harvest the good stuff, we reject what we deem as evil.
          The human mind, I believe, has the ability to filter these stimuli and just retain what works for him/her as an individual—in pursuing good deeds for one's self and the humanity at large. We criticize Christianity and other traditional faiths and say we are atheists and pagans—but aren't these sets of beliefs and behaviors, as well? In the northern mountains of the Philippines, they pray to wooden gods called anitos—in parallel wavelength as how the Tsimshian in British Columbia and native Alaskans pay homage to the totem pole. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, Socialism, Paganism. Beliefs, sets of adherence and surrender that draw patterns of our life and living. I condemn Spanish Catholic friars who grabbed lands in colonial Philippines, in probably the same disenchantments that former devotees question their faith at their time (ie Martin Luther and Robert Cochrane vis-a-vis Christianity and Neo-paganism, respectively).
Personalities as imperfect entities, human reflex and response question the spiritual validity of a faith. It is embedded in humanity. Many so-called spiritual leaders are amassing millions with their “churches,” but if a person's faith is deeply embedded in him, he will look at these dalliances as individuals, not as a whole. For, I don't believe in accepting payments for sharing spiritual thoughts; capitalism then enters the “church.” But many of us these days condemn Catholicism etc as instruments of manipulation and control—as though other sets of beliefs aren't prone to such things as well. I covered a “spiritual gathering” in Orange County CA that charges $85/head for a 4-hour lecture with healthy snacks; attended a 2-hour “wellness and love” seminar in upstate New York, presided by a dude with an assumed Tsalagi/Cherokee name, that “imposed” a $25 minimum “love donation” to step in; and so on and so forth. Bottomline, we have to read and experience more before we criticize or ridicule other people's system of obedience and discipline. A good person is a good person; it is all about practice, not what he/she preaches or says.
         So I read the Bible, Bhagavad Gita and I read “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight”--only the first books though—and I time and again revisit “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Fountainhead,” Sun Tzu's “The Art of War,” Paulo Freire's “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Alvin Toffler's “Future Shock,” George Orwell's “Animal Farm,” Aldous Huxley's “Brave New World,” and “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Muddy Waters, Maurice Ravel's “Bolero,” and Sufi whirling dervish trance swing by. The world is beautiful in its transcendent diversity. I'd like to enjoy differences and savor moments, than continue building and fortifying barriers up front. Now, do I hear, “You are so fucked up, dude! Here, have some joint!” Oh well.

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Life as a Movie

I USED to critique movies for Manila's biggest newspaper and freelanced elsewhere in the US. All movie talk. I say a movie sucks based on artistic merits, technical craftiness, human values, political correctness whatever but when I ask the everyday person what is a “good” movie, I know what I'm gonna get. Check out all-time box office earners and movies that made huge money overseas. 

          These are movies that were seen and enjoyed by the general public for what it's worth—plain and simple entertainment. Movies that calm down a poor wage-earner, the lowly winning over the powerful, Cinderellas and Rambos and Rockys and Jack Sparrows, and recluse weirdos like Bruce Wayne mutating into Batman to save a city in turmoil—and then throw in some laughter, tears falling, obligatory sex, and some dancing and sappy love songs under a starry, starry night.
          The people of the universe want to relate and define with what they see on the silver screen yet they are aware it's just a 1 and half hour recreational activity. An easy respite. So why would a bills-harassed, impoverished person spend hard-earned money to ponder the torments of living in a show of artistic marvel or shrewd storytelling that make them wiggle their brains out? Deliberate the logic of plot points, the sense of well-structured scripts? If these cinematic stimuli move them to laughter or tears, hurrahs and oompphhs and back—then it's working. It's not that they are lazy or stupid, they just don't have much time to ponder or ruminate heavy stuff. It's just a movie...     
I believe that as artists, we feel the sublime need to awaken humanity from stupor and so whatever we write or craft mirror such admirable resolve. But how do we cut in and through people's psyche—so we may be heard? Are we being too intellectual, blurry, oblique and profound—or are we superficial, shallow, cheap and accessible? We don't know, we just do it—to please us first. And if the person who partook of our art likes it or was “awakened” by it, well and good. But we just create because the act itself makes us feel good or better... There are many movies that I enjoyed for what they were intended to, “cheap” and insane fun yet I felt better. And there were movies that I agree were artistically outstanding yet they made me yawn or felt a heaviness in my heart. And vice versa. I can tell if a movie works for me because I know it did. It doesn't have to be a Kurosawa or a Spielberg, Oscar winner or 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
         We can always discourse “Star Wars” as this and that. “Rambo” and “The Terminator” as this and that. Even connect Washington's foreign policy or Beijing's current mercantilism to these movies, or maybe a sinister plot is behind Hollywood or Bollywood? We can do that, it's our personal take. But I also believe that the general public don't really care much about the technical stuff or whatever that earns Meryl Streep most Oscars in acting. They simply like a movie that works for them on a given moment and it so happened that she's on it. Entertainment. Movies are just maybe a mere 15 percent of stuff and things that help mold people's paradigms or politics or individual themness.
          Bottomline, when you watch a movie—make sure you are enjoying it, and it's okay if the next person doesn't. Click out and click in your own choice. It's just a movie. But we can never make a person believe in whatever message or truth that we deem need to be believed if we fail in catching his/her attention first. How do we that and then make the individual pay attention? Entertain, teach, advocate, awaken. But entertain first. That's what art or cinema is all about. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

It is indeed a new morning!

IT IS INDEED A NEW MORNING! I am sure I had at least seven hours of sleep. The nebulizer is still beside me—super handy in case this allergy-induced asthma irks me again. No, I ain't going to get irksome. Not this morning. The tall trees right in front of my bed, separated only by the huge glass window, are like amiable Titans reassuring me that my spoiled-brat spirits are forever protected and served. Pollens are falling off their arrogant throne of doom! LOL! Yup, I am BFFs with the trees in The Batcave's grounds!

          It is a New Morning. I don't care if I keep on saying, “It is a new morning” each time I wake up before 11 AM, uh huh. Because it is. The Present bestows me with a work checklist where the highlights include watering the front porch hanging plants and walking Georgia The Babedawg and Cyd The Koolcat. When “solving the problems of humanity” with a free peace concert at the park isn't my day-accomplished anymore (or for now) but simple pleasures are. Such as a day with sunshine and rain, waters and fire and air. A new morning.
         Last night, I exchanged sweet text messages with my Rock Star (or as she insists, Rock Moon) TFF or “twin friends forever!” (her word) that culminated with her asking me to send her a recording of my upcoming reading “so I can listen to your voice.” How sweet was that! I am not kidding. She is a rock music personality and just concluded two concerts/shows. And she's also sending me seeds to plant this summer. “Seeds” may as well be metaphorical, inspirational. You reckon?
         Yes, it's a New Morning. When most that matter are your (grown up) daughters and son reassuring you that you are the greatest Papa as you sometimes (well, intermittently) feel sorry for yourself that you are not the President of a country yet at age 55, LOL! or you feel such a whiny failure because you haven't written them a will to your $5 million estate yet, ha! A new morning—that'd be me feeling so good when news that my kids' love-life are doing fine yet not perfect, their kids are sweet and happy, their work and art are continually blossoming, and my lawyer daughter Donna ranting her usual Donna-rants (which means she's more than alright!) I mean she just rested the Sepultura grimness (goth rock) posts with Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 (“Mas que nada!”) bossanova transcendence. All new morning sweetness!

         But it's all good. It's a New Morning when those little words that I post could make a widow feel good on her waking hours, an older man (fan?) inspired to write his own memoir, a child dreams of “being a pasckie” and oh well the framed poem that I gave my BFF bosschief Cindyrella few Christmasses ago hangs on the kitchen wall, that is cool “It is a new morning” sweetness reminder everyday of my Batcave life, isn't it?
         It is a new morning always. A great day. My soul sister Marta The Nicer took a break from work yesterday and we so did the usual errands, culminating with “Thanks doode! Next time dude!” that we've been saying to each other in the last 15 years of our friendship--as she heads back to her sweetheart. It is a new morning, indeed! Asheville, my city, keeps on changing but I always feel new when as I savor her mountain comfort—like the woman that you love, laying in bed with you, and you softly crawl your hand on her face as she sleeps. Love. I love this city. If only she's a woman right beside me at this moment, then my hands wouldn't be on this laptop—but on some places warm. LOL!
        It is a New Morning. I am sure when I walk back in downtown with my characteristic “lost boy” walk or sit on my favorite deep end corner of a cafe or bar, a random soul will approach me with a smile, “You are Pasckie! The dude who writes the poems!” Yes I am. These make my day, my mornings and nighttimes. My Rock Star days! In between, it's all blessings and gifts and Bee Gees and Cyd and Georgia. And I am still writing love poems in the aftermidnight... Leading to a new new new morning. 
       A NEW MORNING! Good, great Thursday, superhomeys!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Traditional Politics and Japanese Theater

WHEN I watch politicos/cas take the stage and spew the “good” words, I can't help but see Kabuki actors and actresses or I feel like I am afront a Noh theater. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by its performers. Kabuki is sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing." Noh (or Nogaku, derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent") integrates masks, costumes and various props in a dance-based performance. Emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized conventional gestures while the iconic masks represent the roles such as ghosts, women, children, and old people. In Kabuki and Noh, emotions are “canned” or pre-programmed, sort of. 

          LIKE highly-skilled politicians who sweetly “mouth” espousals to effectively convey or deliver messages based on partyline standards while they boogie on giant platforms. Left or right, conservative or liberal. Like emotional extremes in Japanese traditional theater. The public (a.k.a. voters) are enjoined or enthused to choose a leader on the basis of those overlying modes. You are Right if you think like this and vice versa. Bottomline, it's pretty much the 1 percenter's way of reassessing the market demographics—since they fund both sides on the campaign trail.
         WE are consumers of politics, consumers of goods. It's like it doesn't really matter if you are gluten-free, anti-GMO or you dig antibiotics on lamb chops. The 1 percent Masters of the Universe is selling you both. Win win, dig? But the political stage's conventional wisdom says, you vote by way of polar ends. But who decides the outcome? Of course, you know that already—you just don't want to say because who wants to be stereotyped as this and that? Bottomline, enjoy the show! You don't need to fight with your friend just because he is GOP and you aren't. Or why diss a candidate just because her roots is India and his lineage is Kenyan? It's all theater. They are playing as per opposite roles to serve a central theme. Dig? 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

My Little Life as a Pasckie

HOW do you live your life on a daily basis? I am kinda bored right now so let me ramble about myself, as usual.
     [1] I usually get up before 12 noon (yes late since I usually sleep around 2 or 3 AM). Fix coffee (just one cup, extra sweet). I don't eat breakfast or brunch as a ritual. Let the babedawgs out for few minutes, feed them. Check emails/news and Facebook on my coffee time. Do housework (I am very OCD), mop, sweep, vacuum, laundry etc (music, 70s rock and soul, Flamenco guitar, Schubert/classics). I start writing/editing around 1 PM (my job and my madness). I'm a self-imposed “distracted” mind so I also do other things at the same time., Multitasking? Read, surf the net, poke around the house, try to sketch and paint, Facebook, eat leftovers and bad food as in ramen soups and Oreos and soda, do Traveling Bonfires paper planning/communication etc, blogs, play with pets. No, I don't make phonecalls. I text only three people—just little how are you's.

      [2] That daytime routine slides through late afternoon or early evening. On spring/summer, I devote two hours doing yard work, gardening, lawmowing etc. I also play basketball on the driveway and/or at Courier Park in West Asheville--I like to sweat when I could. On good weather out, the babedawgs also get the chance to walk by the river. At around 6 PM, I cook, watch local news on TV, and wait for Jeopardy! to come on (the only TV show that I try my best not to miss). After walking Georgia and Cyd for 15 minutes. I just chill after dinner, watch movies or TV series on DVD, monitor NBA games online (Charlotte Hornets is my team), read a book (I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's “Sputnik Sweetheart” and Margaret Atwood poetry), check out global affairs mostly in the internet (Time, NYTimes, Utne Reader, Yahoo News). At around 11 PM, I again go back to writing/fiddling mode, sometimes chat with my kids in Manila and many friends abroad or out of state (with different time zones)—until around 4 AM (sleep time, mostly). For someone who admits to being a recluse and so aloof, I have so many friends in so many places... I usually start a movie via Netflix, Hulu or a DVD on my laptop before I close my eyes and sleep.
      [3] I do hang out (or with bosom buddy/”sister” Marta The Nicer) at West End Bakery or Westville Pub, but mostly alone—wings, coffee, Highland Gaelic, play pool, read print publications (mostly NY Times, The Economist and Rolling Stone). In downtown, I can be seen most times at World Coffee Cafe on Battery Park. I don't make it a practice to eat out--but when I do, I dine at Asiana in Hendersonville Road, Yao in Patton Av or Doc Chey's in downtown. On summer time, especially when I am supervising "Bonfires for Peace" events at Pritchard Park, I play chess with random people or "homeless" dudes out there. Despite these, I am selcom seen with a group or with anyone in particular (except with two or three different people, separately, who are exceptionally close to me). I am not an organization/group meeting guy (or not anymore), I just prefer to do work out there, real deadlines and goals. But when caught with one person/friend, I talk a lot so you get the drift... Yet I am not good at obligatory “Wassup, bro?” greetings while in public, I just deposit myself in a corner where I will not be bothered. But when I sit with anyone (just one person), I like talking.
     [4] On Wednesday nights, if I feel like it—I read poems in an open mic in town, usually hosted by good friend Caleb Beissert. I also read as featured poet in my town and elsewhere (usually once a month) and then organize/supervise Traveling Bonfires shows and events in Asheville and elsewhere.
     [5] I DON'T hang out idly. I only “hang out” if it's related to community events or when I am in a romantic relationship. I spend most of my time alone. Although I do offer to cook for friends.
     [6] I also intermittently travel. Or just drive around the mountains with a friend. I don't shop. I just go to Goodwill (secondhand store) or at several used books/stuff stores in town. I am not picky with food ingredients when I cook. I smell and pinch the stuff, that's it—ready to go. I seldom watch movies in moviehouses, when I do—I go to (if I have extra money) Fine Arts Theater in downtown or at the $2 Cinebarre (which closed long time ago).
     [7] So that's it. It is 10 PM past as I write this, still battling asthma due to pollen allergy.

The Politics of our Lives

IT is always tempting to say something about presidential elections (both here in the US and in the Philippines, the country of my birth). I'd be excited to say one or two “contrapuntos” in regards matters back home but I'm not as exposed to current events there than before—and I don't like to say something sans documented facts (apart from historical info). I've been reading Facebook posts and comments related to elections—and I must say, I am astounded by the degree of cluelessness that some people spew, especially those that pertain to America's global relationships.

          Some glimpses...
          One, the oil producing universe is controlled by essentially Muslim nations. What if they bonded and insist on solely dictating crude oil prices irrelevant of the West's pressures? Are we going to invade another country for oil? I bet the Koch brothers will accede to that. Not counting that those anti-Muslim darts are endangering Americans scattered all over the globe. Two, China controls factories (eg Foxconn) that supply our electronic lives, not counting almost 90 percent of retail shelves in the heartland. Computer companies' R and D budget totals beyond $5 billion each fiscal year. Also, take note South China Sea—which is currently an object of maneuverings between Beijing and US-allied countries in the region. This sealane is an important trade route east to west, teeming with natural oil, and America's security bulwark (that is why US bases in the Philippines that were evicted in early 1990s are back). Three, Mexico isn't an “illegal immigration” rostrum bait. Mexico is a next-door neighbor of the US, and historically—an important trade buddy. The country has the fifteenth largest nominal GDP and the eleventh largest GDP by purchasing power parity. The Mexican economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, especially the US. By 2050, Mexico could become the world's fifth or seventh largest economy.
          Voters should look beyond partyline partisanship and study political platforms and campaign promises vis a vis what's going on. President Obama isn't ridiculing so-called spike in auto industry's growth. He is telling us a stark truth. Spare parts that are assembled (at least partly) in Detroit are procured by China, Brazil, Russia and India—countries that boast of humongous workforce. Enough of one-line potshots and see within. And then vote sensibly, sensitively—but with utmost practical sense. People should not just believe and share political memes on social media. We must keep on reading, educating ourselves—beyond the internet.