I watched a great documentary about Motown the other night, so please excuse the Marvin Gay reference. There is a lot going on at the moment. Let’s go through some things. Bear with me.

I recently read James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency“, and I’d thoroughly recommend you do too. It’s affecting my long-term goals and aspirations in a big way. To summarize, it’s about the passing of Peak Oil and what is likely to unfold. It makes for some scary reading, but it’s also serving to be inspirational. I might have to expand on this at some point… but not at the moment. More thinking and reading to do.

The USA’s Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden – in Pakistan. That’s a sovereign nation where the US military is not supposed to be operating. According to a spokesman, the US Special Forces currently operate in 75 countries, and that number is set to increase over the next year – to 120. It’s one thing to have a diplomatic presence in a country, but it’s something else to have an active military one – especially when you don’t notify the host government about what you’re up to. Will there be more operations? You betcha. Will that only serve to increase anti-American sentiment, when they should be considering pulling out of these sorts of situations? You can definitely count on that. For example, the USA recently signed a secret pact to stay in Afghanistan until 2024.

The US really should do something about its own record on human rights before tramping around the world telling everyone else they should enact their own human rights laws. But hey, when in the past 60 years hasn’t the US been tramping the world, telling people how they should live?

The unnofficial case against the Western protagonists of the Iraq War continues to build, with MI5 coming out saying they told Tony Blair Iraq was no threat to the West. Also Dick Cheney’s memoirs are out in which he continues to unapologetically defend his actions and policies. Can someone arrest these scumbags ASAP, please? There are more and more officials who would be willing to testify against them. Let’s do it! Oh, wait. Americans are now too distracted, too conditioned and too afraid to do anything. Also, the conservatives are busy setting up a gerrymander to keep as many potential Democrat voters out of the voting booth as they can. Looks like the real terrorists have won…

Alternet is becoming a go-to place for effective analysis of the American Republican Party’s policies and personalities as the 2012 election starts to gear up. Essentially, they’re all lying scumbags, but at least one can have a solid intellectual foundation for explaining why. Obama isn’t any better by the way. Ron Paul isn’t a viable option out of the crazies. If ever there was a time for a solid ‘third-way’ candidate to make a difference, this would be the time. I don’t expect it to happen though.

The new economic reality of America is changing the way people live and work. For example, here is a piece about Workampers. Nothing new, you might say, but it’s happening more and more as the US economy stalls big time. Here’s something else about how car washes are turning into sweatshops, along with chocolate factories, or how students in trouble are turning to that old standby, sex work.

The Eurozone is slowly moving towards a major existential crisis…

The Australian government tried to pass a law enabling them to send refugees arriving by boat to Malaysia for processing. That was shot down by the High Court. This article goes through the situation and some of the implications very nicely. Personally I’m very disappointed that the supposed left-wing Labour Party have ended up following the policies of the deposed conservative Liberal Party, in particular its 90s poster-boy, John Howard. Very disappointed indeed. Looks like the current PM could be headed to the chopping block since her criticisms of the decision have made her looking bitter, or in the words of the High Court, “‘irresponsible … extraordinary, unfair and curious”.

Woolworths and Coles are essentially the Walmart of Australia, with the recent price wars highlighting their dirty campaign to remove other brands from their shelves and replace them with their own ‘home brands’.

They’re talking the high-speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne again, again.

Oh, and quietly, Australia’s internet is now censored.

Moving back home is going to be quite interesting. It’s been ten yen years since I lived in Australia. Australia has always been a culture of haves and have nots – and the haves seem to become a bunch of over-indulged, whiny douchebags. It’ll be entertaining, at least…

But they are doing one thing right though. The Australian Government may soon pass laws that will, in effect, bankrupt the Scientologists. By legally defining the meaning of ‘charity’, they may be able to force the ‘church’ to back pay its workers millions of dollars, as well as the taxes owed on those wages.

An interesting look at the benefits of ‘lazy parenting’. I know it’s ironic that I’m a part of the industry responsible for the over-scheduling of children, depriving them of creative free time and the chance to enjoy their childhoods. However, I do believe that learning English is going to be become indispensable as global communication becomes a key for survival and prosperity in this current world. You can take your abacus-learning, flower-arranging and calligraphy clubs, along with your cram-schools and drown them in the sea for all I care about what good they’ll bring. (They reinforce a lot of negative attitudes that the Japanese have; namely Japanese exceptionalism, the culture of overwork, as well as teaching useless skills.)

With all the media’s attention focussed recently on the riots in London, someone or some group of people have been engaged in a campaign of torching luxury cars across Germany for some time now. Are there still areas of Paris that are set alight every summer, where the police fear to tread? The cities are becoming war zones…

Some more climate changey type things going on. The ice sheet on Greenland is starting to break up, with massive ice islands being calved and glaciers shrinking.

People in Japan always seem surprised when I tell them I hate Disney and everything about the Disney company. This article (and subsequent book) go a along way to explaining why. Essentially, Disney’s business model is based on targetting children – as young as six months old – in order to condition them to a certain world view, based on conformity to stereotypical roles and bland consumerism. If I ever have children, I will actively ban them from exposure to the Disney company, and if any friends give me anything for them from the Disney company, it will be burnt. Joyfully. Sorry.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has had a $1 million challenge for a number of years now. It’s getting pushed again since they’ve challenged some prominent media ‘psychics’ to prove their ‘ powers’ are real. One has made overtures, but we’ll see if any actually take on the skeptics. In her words, she’s the ‘real thing’ so she doesn’t have to worry about taking scientific tests to prove her abilities are real. Huh? I guess we just have to take her words for it. PLEASE don’t give these sorts of scumbags any money!!

As the military are always looking to get their mitts on the latest technology, you can be sure that invisibility cloaks will soon be coming to an army near you.

Lebowski.

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High ho, high ho. It’s weekend time again, thankfully.

The weather’s just starting to come good and the cherry trees are starting to blossom, so it won’t be long before every open space near a sakura will be populated by people sitting on blue plastic tarps, drinking and eating themselves into oblivion. It’s a great time of year. It looks like I’ll be catching up with some ex-Nova buddies next Sunday for the annual Himeji Castle pilgrimage.

It’ll be the same day as the Tatsuno Spring festival but after I went last year with my mother, I don’t think this year will live up to the good time had last time. It is interesting though, with people parading through the old town dressed up in samurai costume – even with warriors on horses. It’s a good chance to take heaps of pix, as I did last year.

There’s also the crowning of the new Miss Tatsuno which has got to be one of the lamest beauty pageants in the world. For the record, there are TWO Miss Tatsunos for some reason… safety in numbers? Maybe it’s so they can go to the bathroom together – who knows. What a year is promised to the winners though, with the chance to appear at every local community event as the eye-candy! I wonder if the girls really get many opportunities arising from the role…

I’ll be in a secret location for a few days from April 1 to 4. All I can tell you is that it will be sunny!

I’ve been going on some dates recently but it’s proving to be quite frustrating at times. I prefer women who are interesting and are good to talk to but it’s hard to break through the Japanese shyness barrier. I’m sure Japanese women are interesting and brainy – as well as sexy – as I’ve met quite a few, but when you’re going on a date with one there’s often this coyness that descends, making conversation a real minefield. Coyness can be sweet (as Morrissey sang, “Coyness is nice…”) but say the wrong thing, or be too assertive and it’s game over man.

I’ve been trying to go out with one woman but it’s been a chore just to get some free time. Also she won’t go out of the house unless she’s 100% healthy, so a couple of snuffles and she cancels. We’re up to three or four aborted dates versus one actual date so I’m thinking of just not bothering. Her English is OK and she’s a cutie but she’s shyyyyyyy….

I have also been on a couple of dates with a woman who speaks absolutely no English, so that’s been an extra challenge. Dictionaries have come in very handy! She’s a sweetheart but I honestly can’t see us being more than dinner friends. The language barrier really is so hard to traverse. It is an interesting experience to try to develop a relationship of sorts in a language completely not your own. I hope she’s enjoying the adventure as much as I am.

Many foreigners in Japan have dated and developed relationship with Japanese women and have sometimes gone on to marry them and live long and happy lives with them. I’m glad I’m friends with some of them as they give me hope! Others (like me) have been burned by the experience and have often been left wondering just what is this creature known as the Japanese female. This article may shed some light on the subject and it brings to the fore that Japanese women can fall into two distinct categories, which for the sake of argument I’ll term as outward and inward thinkers. The outward thinkers tend to have travelled or lived in other countries and have taken on a more international way of thinking. They are certainly more assertive and opinionated and probably more widely read. They are also more likely to settle on a partner who complements their personality. The inward thinkers tend to have not travelled much and if they have they’ve probably only been on tours with other Japanese people, and for short periods of time (ie. less than a week). Their expectations are fuelled by their parents, fashion magazines and (in short) society. They tend to want to marry a rich man who will give them what they want. There’s no thought given to love: marriage is the goal, the means to an end.

As the man in the article says, “You see, you have it backwards. So many Japanese women put the cart before the horse: you think that if you get married you’ll finally be happy, if only, if only you could just wear the dress and walk down the aisle, then you could truly find bliss. But guess what, marriage is not the path to happiness, it’s exactly the opposite. Happiness is the path that leads to marriage. Only when you are truly happy with someone and you love them to the core of your being can you even broach the idea of marrying that person. Tough concept, I know.”

Good words.

Japan’s rice farmers are doing it tough, and things aren’t getting much better. They can’t make much of a living and as most of them are currently over 60, before too long rice farming will become a thing of the past.

According to the Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Australian economy ‘can’ emerge from the current economic downturn in good shape. The newspaper has changed that into ‘will’ in the first paragraph of the story, and the headline also makes it clear that prosperity is a certainty. Memo to the editors, there’s a world of difference between ‘can’ and ‘will’!

Kevin Rudd went to Washington, met Obama and like Obama he come back with ideas that have left us wondering if we really just got an extension of the previous regime. I went on about his not-so-green environmental policies before, but now Rudd’s doing a Howard on Afghanistan. My sentiments on the invasion and occupation of the Middle East are quite clear, but you really have to wonder exactly what Obama said to Rudd to get him to be such a lapdog as this. This is going down as Obama looks to expand the war into Pakistan, more Australians are dying there and the Afghan people are proving to be more than a match for the invaders.

With Obama continuing the American Project and betraying the faith placed in him by the American people, with continued economic collapse threatening our civilization and people already living in tent cities, it’s interesting to note how people are responding. Some are going back to gardening, with a vengeance.  It’ll be very interesting if the collapse of the global network fuels a resurgeance in local community activism.

One problem with this is that the seeds people buy are only sold through a few massive agri-business corporations. This article looks at how something as seemingly important as the Doomsday Seed Vault on the Norewegian island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle is a front for guaranteeing a seed supply in the event of biological warfare based on the very seeds used to grow our food. If you think it’s just conspiracy, these companies have already developed vaccines that induce abortions as well as corn that renders men infertile. Genetics is scary… and don’t mention population control.

Rolling Stone has put out an article which attempts to place the economic crisis into the context of a massive takeover – of the government by a few extraordinarily rich people. It makes a convincing case. It does get a bit wordy for the financially illiterate like myself, but it’s worth persisting. The final paragraph sums things up pretty clearly though; “These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.”

The U.N. wants to re-organise the world economy around a green-energy model, which they (naturally) will oversee. I can’t see that happening at all, to be honest…

I gave the Russians and Chinese proposals for a new world currency an airing before and it looks like the Americans are seriously considering it, which stunned the world markets, forcing an immediate retraction. Horse. Barn door.

North Korea’s said it’s going to fire an experimental communications satellite into orbit so Japan’s going on full alert in case it self distructs and rains debris over the countryside. Things are a little tense. For the record, the last time the North Koreans fired this kind of rocket they did it without warning and launched it across Japan before it landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Another cog in the incredibly complex climate machine has been identified and quantified: atmospheric dust.

Not much wacky stuff here. Apologies.

Tom Ellard has posted a bunch of Severed Heads videos online though, so please enjoy.

See you under a cherry tree with a bottle of sake and some onigiri!

No, I don’t want to live, work or study in the USA… (no air traffic controllers, for a start)

Hey ho, back for the first rant for 2009. It’s taken a while to settle back into Japan and get back into the swing of things. That and it’s been so amazingly cold… we had a couple of flurries yesterday.

Which brings up an interesting point. The last two winters have now been the coldest for years, and an increasing amount of scientists are taking up the position that this could be the start of the next Ice Age. We’re due for one, as periods of global warmth usually last for 20,000 years or so, which fits this current period we’re in now. The scary fact is that Ice Ages tend to last for 100,000 years. That’s without the glaciers, woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers in your backyard – or nipple rings causing frostbite…

Hey, if that doesn’t depress you, then how about this? The Milky Way is heavier and moving faster than previously thought, so we’re going to crash into the next galaxy even sooner!

Even in retirement, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is still a bonehead.

George W. Bush… How many of us are counting the days? The worst president in American history is busy trying to create his own version of history right up to the moment he leaves. It’s certainly leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those he has victimised, whether they be from New Orleans or Baghdad. The thing about the term “legacy”, is that it’s not just what you try to leave behind after you’ve gone, but what people remember about you. Bush’s 20% approval rating and litany of disasters (84% more people are unemployed are at the end of 2008 than in 2001, or that One in every two Iraqis is dead, wounded, a refugee, or starving.”) that will prevail long after he has gone will prove to be his legacy, no matter how he and his followers try to spin it. It looks like Obama won’t be pursuing his crimes either – so that’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card right there.

Worth more than a cursory glance: a look at the state of Latin America in 2008.

Japan has come up with a errrmmm… novel way to end the rise in unemployment amongst a general sagging in the economy, as well as provide a solution to the aging of the rural towns: send young unemployed people to work in the countryside. Sounds great except for a) most Japanese young people are so urbanised they’d rather starve than go into the countryside, except from the confines of a tour bus, b) this program is for only 800 people to go on trip of 10 days a piece, c) only 50 positions are being provided for full-time workers, and d) (related to point ‘a’ ) agricultural work is highly labour intensive with low financial reward – hardly appetising. The Japanese government thinks it could work two ways though. Apart from the oldies teaching the youngies a thing or two about farming and fishing, the youngies could open the oldies to the wide world of teh internets and blogging. Yes, elderly people blogging will save Japan… but if society does collapse, then these younger people will stand a chance of being able to provide food for themselves.

The Japanese government is also calling for high school English lessons to be taught in English in order to raise students’ ability with the language. Interesting idea, but the teachers may not be so willing…

An interesting story about a couple of Americans who saved a Japanese man who fell onto some train tracks. The final paragraph says a lot about people who never travel or read much about the world, and those who see a lot of it.

NASA has blamed Australia for “destruction of much of the life on the planet”. What are you going to do about that, Mr. Rudd? (Ridiculous assertion, I know…)

Even good old Listerine is now on the list of things that could give you cancer… Joe Jackson got it right – and it sounds much better when he sings it.

The privatisation of utilities is fundamentally wrong. Case in point: Australia has drought (bad), government urges people to use less water (good), people use less water (great!), water company cries over falling profits and raises prices (asinine). Once again this illustrates my point, utilities such as water, electricity, sewage, public transportation, roads, and so on are basic services that a society needs to exist. They are the foundation that companies and businesses are built on. They are not for-profit businesses. The government is not in the business of making profits – it’s in the business (if you have to call it that) of keeping society running smoothly. Taxes pay for that. Get over it. Don’t sell these important services off, pay your taxes and reap the benefits.

In February, it looks like we’ll be up for a spot of comet watching. Sweet!

Looks like the Apollo Landing conspiracy theorists are going to have to come up with some new ideas. The Indian lunar satellite has mapped the sites of the lunar landings.

Note to anyone who wants to go country driving in Australia: if the sign says “Road Closed Due To Flooding”, don’t ignore it and continue driving like these twits did.

There’s no way James Bond would be caught dead wearing this.

Best name for a soft drink. Ever.

That’s enough for now. More later.