List of Previous Titles

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Damn Cam Bank!

The Bank has lost it's shine

As a customer of the banking system I am not a very happy person. In that, I believe that I have no shortage of company as people have lots of reasons to hate their banks, and the bankers who run them. This has not been a good decade for banks around the world.

It had always been my perception that I should take my savings to my banker who would protect my money, and who would advise me how best to make my money grow safely. If I wanted to chance more than ordinary growth, I expected my banker to advise me on the degree of risk I was contemplating. In other words, my banker was a professional in whom I could place absolute faith and trust.

I came to Spain in 1999 and I found that houses had walls around them, and the windows and doors were protected by iron bars, much like a prison. I thought that people here went to extraordinary lengths to protect their furnishings, but I was told that it was about protecting their money which was kept under the mattress because they didn't trust the banks. How right they were!

In the decade since, my bank in Bermuda has very nearly fallen over the edge into bankruptcy. I hold an account with Banco de Valencia, which now finds itself under protection of Banco de España because its accounts have a hole nearly one billion euros deep.How does a bank lose one billion euros? I continue to trade with them and my funds have been liquid to me, and they are guaranteed by Banco de España, but I am wary and keep a low balance in that institution.  However, I also opened an account with the Cam Bank because it is located closer to my home, and the image of The Cam was bright, trustworthy and convenient.

I was approached by a senior officer of the bank who was on a mission to convince me that I should seriously consider cementing my relationship with Cam by investing in Cam's products. He didn't mention specifics, but I assumed he meant I should buy Cam shares. The main point is that it was not very long after that encounter that the shit hit the fan, and it is now emerging that thousands of Cam's clients have lost all of their money because of what Cam did with the money entrusted to them.

In a newspaper article written and published by The Costa Blanca News, the spokeman for Cam Bank, Juan Valdés Castelló is reported to have said the following which I am quoting out of context: " Once the restructing planned is carried out, the entity is today amongst the most solvent in the Spanish financial system."  That may be so, but if we look in the distance we will see the horse running over the hill. It is a bit late to be bolting the barn door.

A lawyer and financial expert, Francisco Iniesta, in a public speech, is reported to have stated that " investors have not lost their money- they just cannot get at it." No, investors cannot use this money in anyway at all, and I think that they never will. That to me is as clear a definition of loss as I think you will find anywhere.

He went on to say that banks should not expect their clients to be financial experts, but he says that the former Cam directors appear to have chosen elderly, long-term clients who trusted in the advice of managers whom they knew. So, my question is, what's the difference between such directors/managers and the mafia?

Apparently, the crime that was committed involved three forms of investments, all of which are described as being highly complex and risky, so much so that knowledgeable investment managers would avoid putting any money into them. These are open-ended contracts that the investor can only get out of if the bank redeems the investment, or if the investor can get a greater fool to buy them from him. The bank apparently put their client's money into these contracts calling them "Combined Savings Deposits."

A protest group made of Cam clients, called Plataforma CAM alleges that managers declared that clients knew very well the products they acquired and that they, (the clients) were properly informed.They allege that they have found clauses in certain contracts that state that investors may lose the investment made; and that the entity (bank) is not obliged to evaluate the suitability of the investment; and even that the client was informed that the requested investment is not suitable for them, but insisted on making the investment anyway.  If Plataforma CAM are right about any of these allegations it defies common sense and logic that anyone with the capability to think for himself would place even a penny in any of the investments. I didn't!

Such actions on behalf of directors and staff seem to me to be unfeeling, uncaring, and darn right theft. During the time of Franco many people were simply made to disappear for reasons less than the behaviour I have noted. Fortunately the country has moved on, but I hope that prision authorities are making ready as many cells as are necessary for very long stays, as there are a number of people heading that way who should draw their last breath of freedom. Once they are sent to jail we never want to see them again.

Now you know what I mean by The Damn CAM Bank!

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Music by Mr. Lang Lang

Perfection Personafied

Sometimes things turn out to be just perfect. We tend to all have a favourite entertainer, someone, or a group that we admire above all, and so, should we actually get the opportunity to be in the same room as the performer we might feel that a dream has come true. For me, that performer is Lang Lang, the pianist's pianist.

I live in Valencia, so it was that I regarded the news that he would perform in Valencia with great disbelief. If  he were performing in any other part of Spain I would have caught a train or plane and gone to be there, but the news was that he would be at The Palau de la Musica, less than an hour away. On the day tickets went on sale I had to wait for many hours to place an order, and when I did there was very little in the way of options of where we could sit. The seats we chose could not have been improved upon as we were on the second level, behind him to his left, and therefore we could see what his hands were doing.

On the night of April 19th, we arrived at our seats at exactly 8pm, because of a variety of things that retarded our progress, and the performance began at 8:02. Every seat was occupied, including the extra seating that was created in the choir's section. This, within itself was an amazing thing, because there are so many things that can frustrate a patron's committment to be there. The performer himself, was in fine form, another lucky thing for us, and for the next two hours both performer and audience were enjoined in the music. There were only two mistakes from the audience where someone thought the piece had come to an end and they started to clap but were immediately stopped.

Lang Lang played works by J. Sebastian Bach; by Franz Schubert, and 12 studies, opus 25 by Frédéric Chopin.

 In my opinion, what makes Lang Lang such an extraordinary artist is the very thing I find difficult, if not impossible to explain.  It was the thing that bonded over 1500 people to one single man and his music. A good classical pianist will play the masters literally and correctly, and at the end the audience will walk away saying, there was nothing wrong with that.  But Lang Lang adds something that I want to call "soul" to the notes on the page. He is a classical pianist with soul! By that I mean that he is animated in his interpretation of what the music is meant to portray to the audience. (Some people don't like this.)

The easiest way to compare that would be with an actor on stage bringing anger to the script, or pathos, or romance, or any other emotion to make the words live. Lang Lang feels the music and he expresses how he feels through his arms and his body language. I am sure that he cries when playing certain passages, but he is most likely to confine those moments to private times.

I no longer play the piano because I too felt the music, to the extent that it frightened me away because I was losing control. But, I think I understand him and I am a kindred spirit, so now you will see why for me, he is my absolute altar ego.

He is a young man and a genius who appears to have his life under control. I wish him well and further success in all that he wishes to do. For me, to have been in the same concert hall as he performed was the most important item on my "bucket list." I'm now ready for whatever life has in store for me.

As a mark of how wonderful his performance was, there was no need for anyone to express to anyone else how they felt. We all knew. I just wanted to hug my wife, and myself. That's how good I felt.

Copyright (c)  2012    Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Hardest working woman in the World

A One-Person Army

My wife and I paid a visit to an area just outside the city limits of Barcelona called Alella, where we stayed for a short while in a lovely four-star hotel that is run by a young woman and her husband. The two of them do all that is fundamentally required, except that they have a maintenance man as well on staff. I was so impressed by the multi-tasking of this young woman that I simply must sit here and record her for posterity as The Hardest working woman on the Planet.

We first encountered her when we checked in at five o'clock in the afternoon. We then encountered her again at dinner as she served us our evening meal. She does the accounts for the business, then she changes her hat into that of chambermaid, and behind the scenes she assumes the responsibilities of housekeeper, among other things that means getting the laundry cleaned, which I hope she does by outsourcing it.

As the accountant she will have to deal with the bank and insurance companies, and the government;  any one of these things will tax the patience and resolve of even a person who has nothing else to do.

But, she does have other things that need to be done to maintain the hotel's four star rating, and they will keep her well occupied. However, there she is at breakfast time, ensuring that we are well taken care of, before going off to the office to help us check out.  And so the routine goes, and she maintains a really good sense of humour in spite of the pressures. We should also keep in mind that she is a young woman married to her hard working husband who is primarily the chef.

Did I mention that untill five months ago she was pregant, and now has a lovely little girl to provide care and undivided attention.

I have a new respect. Any man, including her husband would have collapsed long ago!

Copyright (c)  2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Can money buy Happiness?

The first thing I have to say on this subject is that those who say that it can't are usually people like me, people who don't have any money. So, having declared my interest, let us continue.

This is perhaps one of the most complex of all subjects, if not the most complex, and because it is complex it has so many sides. I will reduce it to the most simple example I can think of, and I will use myself as a example in my imagination. I will take the example of where a young man is born into wealth. We used to call that being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

If I was such a person my upbringing would have been privileged, and I would have attended a rich parents school, and I would have come to expect everyone to do things my way. I would earn a living running the family business, or part of it, and of course I would have the finest of everything at my fingertips.

The danger to me is that should I grow bored and delve into drugs and the underworld, I would have the resources to drive myself straight to hell in a hurry. However, apart from the drug of alcohol, I have never engaged in the use of any other form of drugs.

If I choose to stay on the straight and narrow and to maintain control in my life, I could do a lot of good with my wealth. The question is, what would I consider to consitute personal happiness?  If I am a member of the rich class, I suppose I would look for a young lady of the same class to be my wife. If I could find someone ideal, and it worked, than I would have the best of all possible worlds. There are, I'm sure happy marriages between wealthy individuals, but the temptations to stray from normal behaviour must be overwhelming when you can afford whatever you want.

I think that the answer to the question must be that money, per se, cannot buy happiness, but it can buy a lot of accessories to happiness. True personal happiness is a hit or miss thing, and the rich man, or woman is as much at the mercy of the gods when pursuing their own brass ring as the common man. There can be so much more to lose when things go wrong, although relatively speaking, it can seem like the same thing to both a rich person, or a poor one. 

In conclusion, would I prefer to be rich or poor?  I have been relatively poor for so long, I wouldn't mind trying being rich for a change. Any suggestions, anyone?

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Winning the argument with a Woman

Rodan's Thinker.
Take his lead and think about it.

Does anyone have any proof that a man has definitively ever won an argument with a womann, going back to the dawn of time?

I have read much advice on the topic of how a man should "handle" arguments with his woman, and I'm happy to accept that the advice is well intentioned, but there is only one bit of advice that I take, and it is my own counsel, and that is don't argue with her. It seems to be part of a female's DNA that to lose an argument with a man is not an option. I'm talking about a full blown, screaming, shouting argument. That is not the same thing as a civilized debate where rules are in place, and courtesies are extended that result simply in the exchange of thoughts and ideas.

An argument, by its very nature is an emotional confrontation, which is bad enough, and dangerous between two men,  whose forte generally is not emotion. But women, bless 'em, whose strong point is the ability to feel things in their soul, excel at the art of the argument. The other thing that women have going for them are their memories, that make an elephant scratch their heads and admit even they can't remember back that far.

I have had my fair share of arguments with women. You get sucked in so easily and quickly, and the escalation takes place so fast that before you know it, you are hopelessly lost at sea. Things get said in the heat of the moment that are hurtful and spiteful, and very damaging to the relationship. When either of you try to apologize for what you said in the quiet times that follow, your mate is left wondering if you didn't mean it, why did you say it?

Even the man can't end the screaming match. You can try, but it will not be over until she completely runs out of steam, or until he knocks her out. I am not suggesting that he do this, but all too often it does move to violence, which is another reason why you should avoid getting into this situation in the first place.

The reason why arguing with a woman is unwinnable is that the man is using rationale against her strongly held emotions and that is a no-brainer. You cannot win as a man, so don't even go there. When he is actually making ground she simply changes the subject. If he introduces a thought, she can recall something he said or did with absolute clarity that happened so many years ago that contradicts, and he doesn't know if he did the offending thing or not.

The other question is: Men, would you actually want to win the argument?

Its never happened so we don't really know what it would look like, but imagine if you did win. You put her firmly in her place and you walked away the declared winner, leaving her the way she leaves you. She will probably never speak to you again, until you apologize convincingly for her embarrassment, and her hurt feelings. I think you can also damn well forget about that sex thing for probably a year, or until you buy her some really nice jewellery. (Sorry ladies if I seem to be trivializing.) We just don't know what we would do.

I am an older gentleman who has learned a lot through pain and suffering, so listen up you young guys: Get to recognize the signs of when she is on the warpath. Every time she tries to start an argument keep your big mouth shut, because any word that comes from your open mouth she will use as the fire starter. When she starts in without your help, stay calm and let her argue with herself. She will easily get frustrated and take out her feelings on the dog, but as long as you don't let yourself get drawn into something no man has ever won, you win. Remember, she can always deliver the coup de grace to your winning argument by saying : Whatever !!!!

I'll repeat that: the only way to win an argument with a woman is not to get into the argument in the first place!

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael