Not too much over here. I read this Time Magazine article yesterday about a business practice in Spain where debt collection agencies have been sending out people in costumes to follow around people who have fallen behind on their debts and who aren't making payments (sort of relying on people's sense of embarrassment to shame them into paying). The Spanish parliament is apparently currently considering legislation which might regulate the debt collection industry more tightly, possibly putting an end to costumed debt collecting (which sprang up in the first place, apparently, because Spain's debt collection rules are somewhat favorable to debtors and didn't leave creditors with many options), but I think that ending the practice could be a shame. As a matter of fact, I think that this particular manner of debt collection should probably be exported to the United States. Americans, on the whole, have some pretty ridiculous borrowing habits, typically live well above their actual means, and when they default on their debts, tending to become embroiled in long, protracted legal battles which only amplify the expenses involved in collecting on the bad loans that they got involved in in the first place. Lawsuits and debt collection calls sort of suck, but if you really want to make people think twice before they spend a bunch of money on credit or take out loans they can't afford then I think it makes a terrific amount of sense to send people dressed in leprechaun outfits or giant pink bunny suits to offices or homes in order to remind them that they've fallen behind on their payments. The whole thing is bound to make people act a little more sensibly, and even more importantly, it's just hilarious. People might give a moment's pause when they consider the possible effects of a bad loan on their credit report, but I think people might be a lot more careful about their spending habits if they new that Zorro or a sumo wrestler or a giant Pikachu might be quietly following them around for an hour or two during their workday if they were to fall behind in repaying their debts.
Of course, this is America. We're a sort of shameless people (look at all of the people crawling all over one another for a chance to be portrayed as idiots on nationally broadcast reality television programs). Also, we're in the middle of a pretty bad recession. If we kicked this costumed debt collection thing into high gear anytime soon, our downtown business centers might start to look like something out a Tex Avery cartoon. The way things work in the U.S., people might just sort of embrace the whole thing, and pretty soon you might start seeing businessmen walking arm in arm down Wall Street with wookies and clowns.
Whatever. It would be entertaining.
More importantly, since our chronically overextended culture has already pretty much erased the traditional sense of shame that people used to feel at borrowing large sums of money from people without having any real plan for paying it back, at least the costumed characters might serve as a visual reminder that a person isn't living up to their obligations. Something needs to slow down the reckless borrowing (the current economic crisis has slowed things down for the moment because banks have tightened up on their lending practices, but we'll see whether or not this trend holds up over the long run).
And has anyone noticed the uptick in violence in Iraq over the last couple of days? Yesterday there were at least 80 people killed and 120 injured in a series of three suicide bombings, and today it sounds like 60 more have died in attacks in Baghdad with 125 wounded. There are worries that Baathist and jihadi insugents are trying to reexert some control over the country as U.S. troops begin to draw down in advance of the scheduled 2011 troop withdrawal.
It's almost as if these insurgents don't want us to leave. I sort of don't get it.
At any rate, I really do think that we need to extricate ourselves from Iraq. We need to get Iraqi security forces trained and equipped and in shape to take care of their own country, but then we need to get out. Maybe leave a small, strike force to help quell uprisings (which sounds like it's going to be part of Obama's plan- although he may want to leave more troops in place than what I would consider a small strike force), but get most of our troops out. I think that if we stay there en masse the Iraqis are just going to incorporate American troops into their overall strategy for stabilization, and we just can't (and shouldn't) be the basis for that kind of support over the long term.
Anyhoo, I don't have a whole lot more to report. I hung out a bit with my friend Eric from the Mono Ensemble last night, and he gave me a copy of some recordings (mostly live) that he's made with his new group, Venus Fixer. The new stuff sounds good. It's interesting to listen to. Venus Fixer is definitely more of a straight up "rock band" than The Mono Ensemble, and their songs are fast, pretty powerful, and have sort of an aggressive vibe that can almost border on sounding nasty and raucous. In other words, good music for a wild party.
All of this being said, Eric writes just about all of the music for Venus Fixer, and most of the music for Mono Ensemble, and both bands really reflect his personal musical style, although I think each represents a different side of his personality (Mono Ensemble can be pretty rockin', too, but we tend to spread out a bit more, pulling from different styles and genres, and we definitely have songs that are slower and a little more quiet than most of Venus Fixer's stuff.). Venus Fixer is pretty much about getting the juices flowing and getting the audience fired up, and I think they're pretty good at it. You should definitely click on the link and check out a few of their songs off the MySpace site if you have a minute or two. If you like what you hear, go check them out live.
Well, that's it.
Hope everyone has a good weekend!