When the economics go bad, we become vulnerable to bad ideas.
After the 2007-2008 financial crisis (from which Europe never recovered, just look at the stock performance of their banks) the idea of diversity took root and is spreading throughout the corporate world.
The premise of it can be summarized as follows: nobody would possibly say that young girls and boys differ only in some physical attributes; there is clearly way more to it.
Nevertheless, the theory goes, as they enter adult life they become exactly that - same.
In a broader sense, we are moving from women and men complementing each other, to competing with each other.
Christine Lagarde, ex-IMF boss, currently running the European Central Bank, went as far as saying that the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which collapsed during the financial crisis, would perhaps be still around if it was “Lehman Sisters”.
No Lady, it wouldn’t – spike in repo rates killed Lehman, as it killed another giant investment bank, Bear Stearns.
For me diversity is one of the great fruits of liberalism. The trouble is, that we’re now trying to make the fruits the foundation of it.
Then there are trends that look promising, but the issue is how to handle the outcome. Take AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is basically software that writes itself. An example of how it works was a chess match between Gari Kasparow and IBM’s Deep Blue machine.
Kasparow won the first game, but the machine learned, reprogramed itself and won the second one (IBM didn’t allow Kasparow a re-match after.)
Problem with AI as it advances is that it will replace human work. This is what Elon Musk had to say about it:
There will certainly be a lot of job disruption because what’s going to happed is robots will be able to do everything better than us. Something like 12% of all jobs are in transportation. Transport will be one of the first things to go fully autonomous.
This dilemma led to the invention of Universal Basic Income (UBI), and that is a bad idea, basically giving people money for staying at home. It’s diminishing and demoralizing.
Fortunately, some bad ideas fade away before they manage to absorb too much of our energy. One example is Blockchain. It came into being as the backbone of Bitcoin, and it was touted as the beginning of a new era, a breakthrough comparable to industrial revolution or the internet. To borrow Eddie Murphy’s line from “Trading places” – unbelievable, first Moses and now this!
Blockchain is basically a distributed ledger that updates all records simultaneously, coding any volume of information into defined length of characters called hash, just as with document files that can be “zipped”. An obvious application would be keeping municipal records for example, and so some cities on the US East Coast tried for about a year and finally dropped it frustrated, in a “life is too short for this” kind of attitude.
If Blockchain was not useful for such a basic application, then it’s really not worth thinking about.
Let’s finish with a good idea.
As we’re moving towards Worldwide Income and Wealth tax, it is useful to know that most developed countries signed the CRS (Common Reporting Standard), allowing them to see and tax your assets worldwide, with two notable exceptions: USA and Thailand. US will not snitch on its citizens, and Thailand wants to be a nice place for retirement.
For Europeans concerned about the staying power of the Euro, and the Eurozone itself, and for people who simply don’t like being followed, moving some of the liquid assets to the US seems like a good idea.
Simply put, the US is the best place to have a bank account now.
* Note: Literary website NFReads posted an interview with me about my book "The Traveler". Below is the link:
A famous play written by Tennessee Williams, with the action set in New Orleans, in the French Quarter.
It was Marlon Brando’s big break as an actor, when it opened on Broadway in 1947.
In the play he was Stanley Kowalski, a Polish character. One of the critics wrote this about him: "a tiger on the loose, a sexual terrorist … Brando was a brute who bore the truth."
The fascinating female character was Blanche DuBois, a former teacher who fell on hard times. In the end Blanche suffers a mental breakdown and collapses to the floor. When the doctor helps her up she goes willingly with him delivering the famous line: "Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
As for the streetcar, Desire is the name of the street where the route ended; crisscrossing New Orleans it represents Blanche's own vagrancy and her inability to adjust and settle down.
A few years back I had my own Southern experience and it was a memorable one.
I was running a construction project down there, flying into Atlanta and then driving west to Chattanooga across the Smokey Mountains on the East Coast of the US.
The difference between these two states is that Georgia is mostly arid and Tennessee is green, so it’s more than just crossing the mountains, sometimes in heavy rain, it’s a different reality.
Tennessee is South pure, laid back and relaxed. One summer evening I was sitting on a restaurant patio sipping beer and looking at the row of big Harleys parked in front. At one point a shiny big fire truck with a crew passed me just cruising casually down the street, windows down and elbows out.
“Well,” I thought, “shouldn’t these guys be at the station on constant alert?”
It’s different here.
Several bloody battles took place in this area during the Civil War, which was the high conflict point for a split nation, and it took a lot of violence to sort out.
Not the last conflict of course - during 1967 Detroit riots, the US army 82th Airborne Division was called into the city to restore order. Over 40 people died.
So, the split today in American politics is nothing new, just different in intensity.
There is media frenzy now, criticizing president Trump for allowing Turkey to invade the Kurds.
Apparently there is still little understanding of which way the world is moving – as the Americans are reducing their presence in the Middle East, Turkey becomes the dominant power in the region. The Turks were a loyal ally to the USA since 1945; but in the recent years they’re pulling apart and tying their relationship with Russia.
It is crucial for the US to keep the relationship going, and so president Trump looks the other way as the Turkish army crushes the Kurds.
It’s not nice, but it’s geopolitics, and as the president he has to make decisions.
Brutal as it sounds, he is making the right one.
In those Chattanooga years, on the way back to Toronto I would stop in Atlanta in a club called “Cheetah” for a dinner, some drinks and entertainment.
The men’s room attendant was of Jamaican origin, impeccably dressed.
His name was Stanley.
“How do you like it here?” I asked after I put my tip in the jar.
“Let me put it that way,” he said with creole accent – “if I close tomorrow a lot of people would suffer. “
Coming back to the Streetcar Named Desire, it could be that Blanche DuBois’ character was based on Tennessee Williams himself, with his inability to adjust and settle.
He found an audience.
I’ve lived through a few coups. They’re insane and terrifying, like watching sports, except your future depends on the score.
In 1981, when I was a kid in Eastern Europe I woke up on one frigid December Sunday and there was no television, no radio but tanks on the street.
The army took control of the nation and they didn’t let it go ever since.
The military is always the most powerful force in any nation, a good thing to remember – these are the guys with heavy weapons.
Back then schools were closed for weeks and a curfew was imposed. Anyway, I was never a TV fan and we had only two channels at the time, the second one being a bit fuzzy.
These were happening times. Just over the border, in Russia, when the KGB in 1991 tried to reassume control of the crumbling Soviet Union by placing Mikhail Gorbachev under arrest and attempting to seize Moscow, logistics ruled. Boris Yeltsin’s crew drove to the Russian White House in ordinary cars beating KGB coup plotters who were trying to reach the seat of Russian government in armored vehicles. Then Yeltsin realized that he needed a strong man to rule.
His name is Putin and he is in charge ever since, following the greatest rule of them all: if you want to beat a Grand Master at chess never let them make the first move.
Back to current happenings - the problem as I see is that democracy is truly dead, people are no longer willing to accept it.
Recently pro-Brexit British MPs had to be escorted to Parliament by police to protect them from violence.
If you think that our society is progressing – it is reversing. We’re witnessing plain intolerance rising on a massive scale.
The very purpose of civilization is when everyone comes together to produce a society that is greater than the sum of individuals. We have lost that purpose for now.
The Canadians voted in national elections October 21.
The vote breakdown is not encouraging - the Liberals lost every seat they previously held in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Canadian system is splitting along provincial, economic, demographic and ideological lines, and there is no one in the Trump administration who likes Justin Trudeau personally, ideologically or politically.
Alberta has the means and motive to destroy Canada. Washington has the means and motive to destroy Canada. And the likely format of the new Trudeau government is providing the opportunity.
Back home, on a lighter subject, I was driving the BMW the other day and it is insanely fast, a pleasure. I was looking through the back window and thought: “is there a Mercedes G-Class behind me, or am I dragging a garden shed?”
“You’re good”, said my younger son, “its just the square Mercedes”.
“They call it ‘folded paper school of design’ for a reason.”
Then I was staying in Warsaw over a sunny weekend, in a Sofitel hotel just across the big plaza from the imposing presidential palace. The hotel used to be called “Victoria” back in the day, and I still like the old name better. It’s possibly the best place to stay in town, if you want my recommendation.
I walked into the posh reception and the girl behind the counter spoke English with better accent that I can ever do.There was delicate music around and I knew right away what it was: Jealousy Tango with Katica Illenyi playing the violin.
"I love tango," I said to the young woman.
"There are no mistakes in tango," she said. "If you're tangled up, you just tango on."
"This is a great advice, young lady."
A topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, is the demographics of nations.
In a "normal" economy there's a set balance of roughly four children to three young adults to two mature adults to one revered elder.
So long as that proportion held the economic system had stable characteristics: young workers spend and borrow, mature workers invest, retirees shift their financial holdings into something less volatile, like government bonds. But it doesn’t look like this anymore – the population is aging in most developed world except the US.
Which is why you can buy a 30-year US treasury bond with a yield of about 2.5%. Try to get that in Japan or Germany.
Moreover, the replacement level is 2.1 children per family. Look for countries that miss the target big time. Russia is one, China another. Their demographics simply collapsed, which means that if they want to realize their ambitions, they need to do it now.
In Europe, the risk is that there is no true rule of law. On the one hand, there is this policy of no bailouts for that would mean money crossing borders north to south. Then there is the rising wave of nationalism and socialism and hatred of the rich. These two possibly feed each other.
One thing is certain – Europe will do whatever it has to do, shy of doing the right thing.
Take Great Britain as an example of dysfunctionality, the country doesn’t really have a constitution, which makes Brexit negotiations such a protracted mess.
Meanwhile, they’re the biggest market for German cars in Europe and should have the upper hand in any negotiations. The Germans are totally dependent on their customers.
Still, the real action of our times is in the Middle East.
From 2003 until 2018 the region’s powers were non-functional: Iraq and Syria had civil wars, while Turkey was gun-shy. The fact that ISIS Caliphate lasted as long as it did was a testament to how abnormal the region had become. Well, Turkey is now invading and it will burn everything to the ground.
President Trump tweeted recently that he is considering putting economic sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member. This piece of news takes some effort to unpack, Turkey and the US have been pulling apart for three decades now. The Turks have interests in the Balkans, Persia, and the Levant that have nothing to do with American interests. Turkey is reasserting itself as a major regional power, and since the American military position in northern Iraq and Syria are largely dependent upon supply routes through Turkey, there is no long-term American strategy without Turkish assistance. That assistance now has been removed, so the Americans have no choice but to leave, upset anyway, hence the tweet.
To be clear - with the exception of the French, no European power has the capacity of independent power projection to the region and the US just doesn’t care what happens there the way it used to.
Closer to home, on a sunny Tuesday morning I went to the garage, took the cover off my big black motorcycle and rolled it down the driveway.
Took the tiger dust off the fuel tank with my right arm.
It started at the first touch of the button with a deep staccato that scared birds off the trees.
The big engine shook when I kicked it down in the first gear, and I said: “we’re going North.”
I need a dose of normal, otherwise all the words are going to bleed from me and I will think no more.
There is a development in the markets that will ultimately impact all of us - the rates charged by commercial banks on items like car loans and credit cards carry a huge spread to the official rates targeted by the central banks (at least times 10, for good borrowers).
Interest rates were always free market, and now the central banks are trapped. About 30% of the bonds issued by governments and companies worldwide are trading at negative yields, which is about $17tn of outstanding debt. This means you loose money if you hold them to maturity.
The scheme works like this: say you hold a $100 bond, maturing in one year with a coupon payment (interest) of 3%. At the end of that year you will be paid $103 by the issuer. But the bond is trading in the market for $110. This means that whoever holds it, needs to get rid of it before it matures, or he will loose money.
Trading these bonds is a game of musical chairs and nobody thinks twice as long as the rates decline. This is possible as central banks buy government debt, if they stop and even slow down, where is the bid going to come from? The rates in the real world show that there is a shortage of liquidity, which makes perfect sense – with low interest rates you need to spend less and save more for retirement.
The European Central Bank is in the 10th year of Quantitative Easing, meaning pumping fresh money into the economies, and they have failed to reach their inflation targets. They are not even close.
One more thought to close the topic – in many countries pension funds must invest into the negative yielding government bonds (the proportions vary). Which means a guaranteed loss – it simply just became another tax.
Now, to the good side of life. I had a nice lunch with a friend of mine, who looks like the actor John Goodman who just skipped a meal.
Rumor has it that he owns the legendary dress Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang that famous “Happy Birthday” to JFK.
Actually I just made it up, but I think it may be true.
He held up his glass of red wine at the end, looking at the great river and said:
“if this is not nice, I don’t know what is.”
In an unrelated thought he said: "I enjoy fake science. If a piece of news starts with the sentence “according to a recent study...” I am listening to the whole nonsense with enthusiasm."
That was after he finished the wine, putting him in philosophical mood.
“Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind – the race is long, and in end it’s only with yourself.”
“What do you think?” he leaned over the table.
“About the nature of this conversation or the nature of you?”
“Take your pick.”
“There is only one rule in this jungle – if the lion is hungry, he eats.
It’s called life.”
“Exactly”, he said, “we’re all in it. Working hard to eat, not to be eaten.”
“Women make it right”, I said.
“Life wouldn’t be bearable without them, hell if I understand how they do it.”
There was a good story about a flight to New York when lighting hit the plane in the air. Bono, the one of U2 fame, got up and walked to Claudia Cardinale, who was sitting not far.
“God just took a picture of you,” he said.
And he was right, because it was so worth it.
CC is a great actress and a beautiful woman; she was in 142 movies so far.
Truly Italian in looks, character and temperament, still sweet after all these years (she started her career in 1958).
I have a weak spot as a man and as an art lover.
Now to the movie from the title of this essay.
“When you hear a strange sound,” Charles Bronson said to her in the scene by the well, “you drop to the ground.”
“Like how,” she asked.
“Like that” he dropped a cup of cold water.
And after the ordeal was over, she realized – “he can not only play the harmonica, he can shoot too.”
And she was the only woman in the movie full of rough men and she made an impression on everyone.
Here is another great line from this movie:
“Your friends have a high mortality rate, Frank.”
He looked and the Harmonica man, finally starting to be afraid.
It took him a while to say it:
“And you’re making the appointments…”
Charles Bronson was a Lithuanian-American actor, born Charles Dennis Buchinsky, and he learned to speak English when he was a teenager; before that, he spoke Lithuanian and Russian, which are close languages, and as a Polish guy I can understand them both pretty well. Small world.
When Bronson was 10 years old, his father died and he went to work in the coal mines.
He said later that his life was tougher than the characters he played.
My move to the wild West happened a long time ago and I consider Toronto home ever since. It’s a great place to be, North America - land of the free. Nothing beats it.
So much different than Europe.
Which is why Sergio Leone went to America to deliver his life performance, as did Roman Polanski with “Chinatown”.
Milos Forman came here too, to make his “Amadeus”.
For a while I was not sure how my European affair is going to play out, but sitting on a fence it’s a dangerous course, you could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force (Dire Straits song).
So, I am going to take a 777 across the ocean and ride my big motorcycle there until the snow stops me. I’ll be in the big wide North typing my next essay.
Man’s got to know his limitations, but they appear in the body, not in the mind.
The mind is stronger - I went to hell and back lately, but I am back, so it appears that the devil loves his children. One of them is me.
I may be around for a while longer, writing more essays.
Let’s get back to thinking about women - they make the life worth living.
Screw the recent diversity theme in the press, like, were we all just born yesterday?
Who just woke up?
Don’t teach me what I already know.
Women are sweet, and loving and smart and I don’t need a policy, official Communiqué,
to tell me that.
It’s in my blood, I am not a lonely man.
Claudia C. and Catherine Deneuve are charming women from times gone by.
I may be old fashioned and I enjoy a great old wine too, plus a vintage Ford Mustang, all done up. And I like my music slow and strong.
Take that from an Eastern man.
In order to be able to think originally, you have to risk being offensive, I am rather sure of that.
And this is an important thing for me, because I bounce my ideas off people hoping for their feedback, risking me being imposing and offending, but if you can take me as I come, we’ll have a meaningful exchange. I am good, have a dinner with me, you will not regret it – it will make both our minds richer.
The opposite of original thinking is political correctness, which is the elevation of sensitivity over truth - it’s when something irrational is forced to become normal. The good part is – it never lasts long. Bad part - it tends to happen every day.
Sad thing all this, but part of life.
I was reading Bloomberg news in the Le Café du Marché when the waitress dropped a bottle of water and I caught it in mid air. She looked at me and said: “you should relax”.
“No, I don’t. I feel better tense.”
And they had absolutely nothing interesting to say about the world, the Bloomberg staff. A bunch of people with no sense of harmony and no sense of time.
I was sitting there eating my Fish and Chips and thinking what Benjamin Franklin once said: there are three kinds of people in the world. The immovable, they are stuck in their ways. The movable, who can be excited by ideas and they follow, and then there are the ones who make things move. Take your choice who you are, its not an easy one.
Now to the current world, and how the levee is breaking.
Repo rates have gone through the roof hitting 10% last week forcing the Fed to intervene. As a note, overnight financing (REPO rate) is a basic function, which holds the economy together.
Now, what does that mean? REPO stands for repurchasing rate and this is how it works – say you hold a $100K in government bonds, and now you’re willing to let it go for $90K, just to get back the cold hard cash.
This simply means the shortage of money, lack of trust in the government paper too.
Interest rate shows the demand for credit, the repo rate shows the demand for cash.
The intervention of the Federal Reserve into the REPO market is the result of a global dollar shortage on a monumental scale. We have a liquidity crisis unfolding because of massive uncertainty.
About 70% of physical paper dollars are now circulating outside the USA. There are more $100 bills in circulations than $1.
And most of Swiss 1000 franc bills are held at homes (highest value paper currency there is in the world).
If you pay attention, you should see a pattern.
There is a shortage of understanding what money really is, but only in the media - people on the street seem to get it right away. When money was gold based, you had in your hand a weight of metal with defined value, no matter where you went in the world.
With the introduction of paper (fiat) money, which is really just computer strokes, two risk factors were introduced.
First is the confidence in governments backing it up, second is the confidence in banks not failing.
Both weak arguments, so people hoard cash in times of uncertainty.
The coming boss of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde thinks that the solution to Europe’s problem is a cashless society – everything will be electronic, visible and taxable.
Good luck with this idea, lady.
What will happen when the levee breaks?
I believe in a brave new world, which I am actually looking forward to.
For all the world improvers out there, hear me out - sometimes you meet your destiny on a road you chose to avoid.
“Sono Otto, sono Otto di Catania”, or I was trying to be him for the long September weekend after I landed at the Catania airport, the steaming mount Etna visible from the airplane miles ahead.
The city once built a castle strategically located on the seashore. Then the Etna erupted and the lava filled up the bay.
Now the castle is about one kilometer inland.
All this strategic work for nothing, huh? The castle still looks great but clearly there is a zero chance of us against the Mother Nature. At the end we, humans, only occupy about 3% of the planet.
Let me switch to my best Italian to start:
“Cari spettatori”, dear spectators,
“amitci del variete”cabaret lovers,
“calorosissimo pubblico buana sera gia stella matto”, it’s a wild world, but you’re in for a good time.
“Come on in,” said the dark haired guide from the EtnaTribe agency as she opened the door of the van, “get ready for the adventure of your lifetime”. She was Italian in the best quality, Sicilian, she would say. The smile, the temperament, the sense of humor and the body. As a man, I can only say this – the moment you stop looking, you’re dead.
We drove as far up the mountain as we could. We took the teleferico (line car) up and then a custom-made off-road bus, which showed that the rough volcano business worked out swell for Mercedes. And then it was only walking, the “Mama” exploding from time to time creating tension, older craters still fumanti with smoke.
Etna lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate and it explodes easily. The lava from an eruption 17 years ago was still warm if you dig into the ground as I did going up. Imagine all that.
Mount Etna is in a constant state of activity, her name is derived from a Greek word that means "I burn".
Or, as Bruce Springsteen would sing it “I am on fire”, as if “I can take you higher”
which is the premise of the song. A guy promising something to a girl.
The next day, driving south down the coast I stopped in Syracuse, a city founded by ancient Greek Corinthians, a place that became a very powerful state on it’s own. Described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all” it equaled Athens in size. It has a Cathedral built around the old Athena temple from five centuries before Jesus. All of the sudden He becomes the new guy, as I realized sitting on the patio in a restaurant in front of the spectacular church.
Like “who? Say that name again. Jesus, yeah, John the Baptist’s cousin. ”
Which is true, by the way.
I went inside, looking at the bright interior, ancient columns, dark top in a combination of honey and brown. The cathedral is dedicated to Santa Lucia, the patron of Syracuse. I was looking at her figurine thinking – “ pay attention to what I say. I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I hope you will mention me when the time comes, but no pressure.”
Now imagine this - the cities on the coast are built of a soft stone, which assumes a honey tonality under sunlight. Have a meal and a glass of local wine in the middle of that and see how you feel.
Later, I was eating dinner in the fishing village of Marzamemi, on the Ionian Sea cost, an Arab settlement from ancient times and the September night came fast.
Then it was time to leave, early in the morning the next day. The smoke from Etna was red in color, but she was quiet that day.
“Amici grazie, grazie per venire”, thanks for reading.
“E' molto special,sono arrivato di mia iniziativa”I am in the place I always wanted to be.
It is good here.
Note: “Otto di Catania” is a song by the long running Swiss duo Yello. The Italian lyrics are from the song. Give it a listen, you will not be disappointed.
As legend has it, Japan was founded around 660BC by a direct descendent of the Sun Goddes, hence the name “Land of the Rising Sun”.
Now, I don’t get excited about China taking over the world; it’s Japan that is important. As I see it, most of us are following the wrong show. While the media was focused on secretary’s Xi’s celebrations, Japanese voters granted Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe an overwhelming parliament majority. Sure, Xi Jinping is disrupting and reshaping Chinese political corruption to better suit him, but Shinzo Abe was able to get his anti-war, Buddhist coalition partners to support his efforts to expand the role of Japan’s military forces. It is Japan, not China that boasts the world’s second most formidable navy, second only to the United States in the number of aircraft carriers floated (Japan claims those carriers are only for helicopters but if you believe it, I have the Eifel tower to sell to you).
Abe is the first Prime Minister who seems likely to become the longest-serving leader in modern times. But perhaps most important is the shift in Japanese society toward a more nationalistic, assertive position both regionally and globally.
Japan is a vibrant democracy with no minorities to speak of that has relocated most of its industrial base to the territories of its foreign customers and boasts a leader who is genuinely popular likely because of his militant stances. What do you make out of that?
Add to the issue the festering hatred of Japan throughout Asia for World War II that simply will not go away. It is even hard to find a Japanese restaurant in anywhere in South East Asia.
The Japanese recently slapped South Korean with export restrictions that will cause delays for materials that are critical to the advanced Korean semiconductor manufactures. And this is unusual, as a trade war is generally initiated by a deficit country, which simply means there is more to it here.
In retaliation Korean boycotts of Japanese goods have sprung up. Both sides have since withdrawn the other from their respective “white lists” – a classification that enables trade in sensitive technologies without the need for time-consuming and cost-intensive permitting. The Koreans are threatening to cease intelligence sharing (the agreement expires in November), and from their side Japanese said that they would not renew it anyway. In the old days the US would told them to cut the nonsense out the day it surfaced, but the days of global US management are going away.
Now, the Indian Summer topic.
Last weekend I drove to Annecy, which is town in southeastern France, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. It’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses.
Overlooking the city is the medieval Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva.
I was staring at the sun sitting on a patio by the river with an espresso cup in my hand, which is a bad habit of mine, the staring part I mean. I never wear sunglasses and sometimes I can no longer tell the difference between things I say and things that I just have in my mind.
Some people call it a gift, but it’s a brain reflection just the same.
“Where are you from?” asked the waitress. She was a dark haired handsome French woman with tasteful tattoos on her arm.
“Toronto, and don’t pronounce the second T, that’s how the city is known to the locals.”
“Got it”, she smiled.
"But by now I am as Swiss as the Pellegrin white wine."
“Do you miss what you’ve left behind?” she asked.
It took me w while to come up with the answer.
“I am trying.”
I rode my motorcycle to Gstaad lately, and it was a beautiful drive through the Alps - take the highway 9 to the end of the Leman Lake and then cross the Alps going east.
The views are fantastic, nothing compares for me and I’ve been around.
Driving in the mountains, I learned to lay low on the motorcycle to take the curves faster. Sounds like a small thing, but it's not, it took me a year to learn.
On the way there I stopped in Vevey for a coffee, which is the city where Charlie Chaplin lived up his retirement, but others had too in this area.
David Bowie was my favorite.
He drove this 262C Bertone Coupe Volvo, which is one of the finest designs in the car business. I think that this is the car he meant singing “it gets me to the church on time”.
And his “Let’s dance” is possibly my all time favorite song.
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues, shall we?
And it doesn’t end there - at some point I was a neighbor with Phil Collins in a village in the hills, I don’t think I ever mentioned that.
Some interesting people live on the Swiss Riviera.
Back home later that weekend I was checking the news, which is a weakness of mine, but also a quest to understand the world. Not much I can do about it.
I am convinced that the Middle East is changing right in front of our eyes, and this is an important region – the energy to run the world is there.
It concerns me a bit, but it could be just a natural progression.
Iran's foreign minister visited China at the end of August to finalize the strategic partnership, of which central pillar is that China will invest $280bn in Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors. And another $120bn in upgrading Iran's infrastructure. They will send up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel on the ground in Iran to protect Chinese projects, and there will be additional personnel and material available to protect the eventual transit of oil, gas and supply, where necessary.
Anew world is shaping up in Asia too - Hong Kong was under a serious threat lately. Chinese military vehicles had gathered in Shenzhen, a city in Mainland China bordering Hong Kong. But they never went ahead with the invasion, which would be a simple operation for trained troops. I think one needs to appreciate the restraint and willingness to play along.
Let me end with a great scene from a movie coming out this November. It's called "The Irishman".
They were sitting on a patio of a lakeside restaurant having lunch on a nice afternoon.
“Do you believe in God?” she asked.
“I don’t” he said, and she wouldn't let him go with her eyes knowing that this is not the whole story.
“But I am afraid of him.”
“You talk to him sometimes?”
“I talk to someone. Last he said was this – you might be demonstrating the failure to show appreciation”
She laughed quietly.
“What are you saying?” she asked eventually.
“If someone isn’t seen for what they truly are, it could be dangerous.”
“What don’t I know?”
“This life isn’t for me, but now it’s a bit late for that.”
They were leaving the restaurant when the waiter said behind their backs – guy likes to talk, don’t he?
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler