August 27, 2009

He had that sweet country sound
but they stole every note in his head
they treated him like he had died
and that was long before he was dead

Dick Waterman, Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James, Newport Folk Festival, 1964

* Frank Partnoy on investment bankers in Tokyo in the 1990s, and the sex trade that catered to that industry's excesses (from his recently published book FIASCO):

"It didn't take me long to discover that the social life of American investment bankers in Tokyo is just as bizarre as the derivatives transactions they sell. At night one square block in an area called Roppongi is constantly filled with American expatriates. No one seems to go anywhere else. In a city filled with twenty million people, the few hundred American bankers stick together.

"Occasionally the locals take an American out for a good time at one of the notoriously expensive hostess bars, but a couple of nights in Roppongi was enough for me. I was working long hours, trying to learn about the Japanese deals everyone was pitching. By the time I returned to the Imperial Hotel, I was ready for sleep.

"Americans in Tokyo expend enormous energy exploiting the bizarre sexual culture, which is cleanly bifurcated between really soft core and really hard core. Just having sex with a prostitute is of no interest to anyone and costs only about three dollars. But getting a hostess to serve you a beer and talk to you costs about three hundred dollars. And whipping a teenage girl with a sharply studded leather belt costs about thirty thousand dollars.

"I met people who had done all three. Only the native Japanese salesmen could visit the bargain-basement prostitutes, although they did it often enough for everyone. The Japanese are deathly afraid of AIDS, and they exclude non-Japanese from the local 'soap lands,' where a good 'soaping' was quite reasonably priced. The more expensive hostess bars were available to Americans. The hostesses at these bars typically were non-Japanese and did not offer soaping. One salesman said he had tired of spending his entire salary on hostesses and saved a fortune by paying two of them to quit their jobs and simply follow him around the one square block in Roppongi.

"The most surprising side of Tokyo was the whip-and-chain dark side. Hard-core Japanese brothels made New York's Eighth Avenue look like Candyland. One Tokyo salesman told me about a Korean client who visited Tokyo just so he could go to an underground club where he would beat up a teenage Japanese girl. The cost, millions of yen for about twenty minutes, was more than made up for in transaction fees.

"I obviously wasn't in Kansas anymore, and I stayed close to my hotel room."

* Route 36, the ever-relocating cocaine bar in Bolivia.

* 100 poetry sites.

* "Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." -- Margaret J. Wheatley


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