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.

…nearly the end of 2009. Going by some of my previous ‘doom and gloom’ posts it must be a wonder we’re still around. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people in the world, with natural disasters duking it out with economic crises for creating havoc in civilization.

I must say I am pleasantly surprised to still be able to do this and not be scrounging the Japanese countryside for scraps of food. Maybe that will happen next year…?

When you really think about it, 2009 has been a year of great disappointment. At the end we’re still locked in a cycle of deep recession (depression) with no end in sight. Obama must have been a consistent let-down for those who truly believed he could make a difference. Heck, even Tiger Woods, the Golden Boy of golf has shown he is only, completely and thoroughly, nay, spectacularly, human.

The summit at Copenhagen is nearly done and with leaders from around the world jetting in for the final hob-nobbing (and with various media outlets savaging them for the emissions generated) it’s becoming clear that despite the rhetoric no one is clearly serious enough about doing what needs to be done to save human civilization from climate change. It may turn out for the best if they fail anyway.

I say ‘human civilization’ because, like George Carlin, I think the planet is going to be fine. ‘Saving The Planet’ really is just a euphemism for trying to save ourselves. As Carlin pointed out, the planet has had to endure much worse than us. Google ‘Permian Extinction’ if you want the event that came closest to wiping out all life on Earth – and yet life survived to multiply and diversify to become everything we see around us today.

The climate change ‘scandal’ didn’t help things along very much. It was immediately seized upon by skeptics on the Left and Right it’s been a rallying flag for all those who think we should somehow keep the status quo. Anyone who thinks that’s it’s still OK to pump pollution into our environment, regardless of its impact on the globe, is a criminal in my book.

I wonder if there’s anyone apart from the media who believes that Obama is going to be the Saviour of us all?
You should read this, and this, and this, this, this, and maybe this.

Really, if you think that anyone, ANYONE, on the real Left likes or trusts Obama then you should just read this and learn just how he is doing everything they predicted before he was elected.

Then there’s Tony Blair’s stunning admission that even if the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was shown to be false before the invasion of Iraq, that he would have found any excuse to go in anyway. It begs the question just who was leading who between him and Bush. When will Blair be indicted to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity? Continuing the myth that ousting Saddam has improved the situation in Iraq should be submitted as evidence that Blair doesn’t have a soul or a conscience. (You know who else didn’t have a soul or conscience??)

Don’t mention the continuing tragedy in Afghanistan – oh wait, I did. And again. And don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon.
Quietly, the North Koreans are getting restless.

Australia continues its quiet evolution into a police state with the previously mentioned Great Firewall Of Australia now approved for rollout and the police continuing to get the power to make life generally unpleasant for the general populace. Add to that the cost of a home is continuing to become more and more unaffordable and rents are going to continue to rise, putting a home out of reach of a younger generation (and myself).

This has become another rant of misery and woe. But at this time of year which is often given over to self-celebration and self-indulgence, it is important to remember that we are (maybe) all part of the same soul and the things we do DO affect others. If there’s one resolution we should be making for next year is for us to do (and to keep doing) something that makes life better for other people.

There are maybe some glimmers of hope… I like to think that hope exists and is not a completely futile quality to possess.

Take these parents for example. They won the right for their children not to have to do homework. They were able to show the court that endless study at home does nothing for their kids’ performance at school. If only Japan could get the idea, but it seems that we are dooming these kids to a never-ending cycle of exhaustion. (I am fully aware of the irony of me saying this, being in the educational field and responsible for some of this)

Anyway, whatever you do, have a great Christmas and enjoy it the best you can. I know I will.

Yay, I’m back for who-knows-how-long… For those who aren’t in the know; I have a bad back. To be precise I have two herniated disks in my L4 and L5 lumbar. So that means from time to time they go nuts on my spinal cord and I can’t do simple things like sit or walk. I had an operation once to fix this problem when I was 24 but the problem resurfaced a few years later. I could have another operation but the time needed for recovery is rather large so it’s just not an option at the moment.

So in practice what that meant was I had to spend a week in bed, which wasn’t as exciting or romantic as it sounds. Thank goodness I have a Macbook and an almost endless stream of movies to watch, not to mention the free wireless access through some kind neighbour’s unsecured network!

The funny/sad thing about all this is now I share my bed with a Macbook. Does that means I’m now cursed to never have a girlfriend ever again? At least I don’t live in my parents’ basement…

Another upshot is that the update I had in the works is now hopelessly out of date. But it’s refreshing to note that apart from a couple of celebrity deaths and a couple of aircrashes that nothing much has really changed in the news over the past few weeks – at least in the meta-stories that I follow…

I qualify for the free 12,000 yen from the Japanese Government! I have the form and will go down to the city office soon to stake my claim. No idea how I will choose to stimulate the economy… Any suggestions?

One interesting development in the Australian internet firewall fiasco is that iiNet has pulled out of testing the new system. They have cited the reason that the list clashes with their philosophy of supporting free speech and social responsibility. The list of banned sites was leaked onto Wikileaks and showed that the government was not just targetting child porn sites (the reason for the censorship) but also regular porn sites as well as some that discuss euthanasia, hate speech, even inocuous sites like that of a Queensland dentist. A big thimbs-up to iiNet for taking a stand, and hopefully if the other testers follow suit the government will have no choice but to abandon this ridiculous program.

You could also add the Australian government’s environmental program to the list of policies that need drastic overhauling. Rudd’s done a Howard and gone to ‘clean coal’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) instead of doing what the Europeans (and even Obama) are doing and that’s developing solar and wind energy.

Cracks are appearing in the mainstream media’s one-eyed hero-worship of Obama with a 60 Minutes interview taking the new President’s seeming callous attitude to the economic crisis to task. Public protests are also starting up across the country as it becomes clear that the bailout of the banks may well be doing more harm than good.

Obama’s empty rhetoric is justifyably getting an airing, and we need to keep supporting people researching what’s really going on behind the words of this charismatic man. Take closing Guantanamo for example. 200 or so of the prisoners (since they aren’t called ‘enemy combatants’ any more) are being moved to an expanded Bagram base in Afghanistan, where their situation won’t change. Another is the escalation in Afghanistan. Obama would do well to listen to the advice of the former Soviets – and that is, basically, don’t bother.

There was also the passing of legislation that could lead to the creation of a seven-million strong civilian “army” that could be drawn upon to keep the peace if the country goes to pot, or just become a default ‘draft’. This one can’t be blamed entirely on Obama as it’s been in the pipeline for ages, but it is happening on his watch, and with his approval.

One independent commentator is asking if Obama is really “dumber than a bag of hammers”. Another has declared that the USA has two solutions; either declare bankruptcy or start a war – a big one. That could well happen in Pakistan as the state looks to be very unstable at the moment – and they have nukes.

Regardless of the economic situation, Britain’s chief scientist has released a report claiming that due to food, water, energy and environmental problems getting out of hand, by 2030 the world is going to be in a desperate state, and people will respond by taking desperate actions.

With China and Russia calling for the world to abandon the US dollar as the default reserve currency, things are going to get very interesting indeed.

Meanwhile the top story in Australia the past couple of weeks has been over whether Pauline Hanson had nude pictures taken of her. No, I didn’t look, and I don’t think you should either (urrrgh!), but it gives you an idea of why I don’t read the mainstream press that much…

A few bits and pieces to clean out the browser and to share with you, dear reader.

This was a really inspiring story about some girls in Afghanistan who still go to school, despite the harrassment and assault by (supposed) Taleban. I hope these kids will be OK.

The Vietnamese government is rallying against official corruption by jailing anyone who reports or publicises it. Way to go Vietnam!

A sad and disturbing story about an Australian Christian charity taking government money to supposedly help  women with mental illnesses or drug problems, but actually just providing untrained counsellors and exorcisms. The government response? Nothing to see here, move along…

The strong yen in Japan is having an effect on the number of tourists coming here, as well as on the major exporters. Why is the Japanese government allowing this to happen – and when will they step in? This article goes some way to explaining why and when.

One of the latest fitness fads sweeping Japan is workouts with swords… I’m simultaneously turned on and a little scared.

A recent travel trend has been to visit obscure and rarely-visited train stations. That Seishin-18 Kippu may come in handy next holidays.

A bizarre commercial from Japan (is there any other kind?) of a crazy gaijin (foreigner) who braves the oceans to come to Japan and …. smoke.

A village in the countryside of Japan is providing cheap housing to its singles in the hope they’ll be fruitful and multiply.

Want to visit the new Tsujiki fish markets when they open? Don’t worry about the cancer-causing benzo(a)pyrene in the soil. Yeah, that stuff which the government has admitted withholding reports about. But don’t worry, there’s no official environmental standard for it, so it must be safe. Want some sushi?

I was trying to find this before when I was writing about how the youth of Japan-land are being encouraged to work in the fields. It’s otaku (geek) meets desperate marketing ploy to keep rice farmers in the cash. And it seems to be working…

International geeks can now get help in English when they visit Akihabara. I want to know if this campaign extends to the Maid Cafes….

An interesting read about black culture and hip hop.

Some really great pictures of the Earth, New York City, as well as Obama’s inauguration.

My buddy and occasional travelling companion, Sheree, sent these pictures of a cutaway Nikon D3. Her blog is a riot too.

I think I posted some of this guys pictures before, but I saw some here that I hadn’t seen before, so I’ll post them again!

An interesting idea: it’s possible to review a restaurant within the first seven seconds of arriving. It goes to show that at least in the hospitality industry, first impressions count for a lot.

More coffee good news: it can beat Alzheimer’s AND increase your chance of having hallucinations! Some people may say that the hallucinations may be a bad thing, but not I. I just just won’t try operating heavy machinery after consuming a double espresso, that’s all.

A great story about how rock and roll excess has fed thousands of hungry people.

So where did the Hokey Pokey come from anyway? Who knew I was teaching Japanese children all about the effects of cocaine use? Hard drugs were never so much (innocent) fun!

I always enjoy Helen Razer’s rants, and this one taking on the upcoming internet firewall surrounding Australia is a doozy.

Another reason why biofuels are bad – they congeal in cold weather.

Researchers have linked fat teenagers to a lack of Vitamin D. It’s also called a lack of OUTDOOR EXERCISE – or just a lack of exercise, period. Go for a walk. Me too.

Related to health – if you’re feeling sick, just go and drink some water from an Indian river. It’s likely to contain the medicine for whatever’s ailing you – as well as everything else imaginable. Then you’ll die.

The Monarto Zoo near Adelaide is set to expand, and they’ll be offering punters a chance to sleep under the stars WITH the animals! Excuse me if the idea of sleeping in the same field as lions, elephants and rhinoceros does not appeal…

And that does it for now. Sayonara!