The Bunster

The Bun is 3 months old today. Wow, what a blur. I was told that this time will fly by, and it did. So many nights of little sleep, wondering if we are doing everything right, never quite sure what the Bun will do next, and then throw in the corona anxiety, and by now I could sleep for a week. I would not change a thing though – it has been a magical time. Bunster for Prez !!!

Here are 7 Bun pics – one for each day of the week. Everyday for the past 3 months has been Bunday.

Wishing everyone a peaceful new year. May 2021 bring some calm to the world, and more laughter. Laughter will always be the best medicine.

This has not been an easy year at all. Phew !

Thank you to anyone who is reading this and who supported me this past year … to my family and friends. And most importantly, a le chaim for the Bun’s mom, who I love to bits.

The Bun in October

I remember those last few years of high school. I remember driving my mom a bit mad sometimes. When you are a teenager you know everything. And now, I know that I know very little. The arrival of the Bun has highlighted this for me.

If you had told me a month ago that this little creature is going to fill me with love I would have heard you, but not understood. It is like a switch has been turned on, and can never be turned off again. I believe this is mother nature at play. It is a sensation so primal that it has nothing to do with intelligence and all to do with biology. These are God given powers that awakened when the Bun entered the picture.

I look at the Bun and I see this innocent and vulnerable little being that just needs love and care. And this is what I suddenly seem to have in abundance. I have amazed myself in the past month.

It has been an intense time, and all the usual experiences I have been told about are there. Little sleep, nappy changes in the small hours, crying when he wants to eat, and when he needs his bum cleaned, etc. I have had many nights recently thinking about this innocent little man. As a storyteller I wonder about this innocence. When does he lose it? I hope never.

If you put a bunch of kids on a patch of lawn and give them a soccer ball they can play all day. And it doesn’t matter what culture or colour the kids are. Kids are innocent. When then do they get told “You can’t play with those other kids.” Who tells them this? I don’t want the Bun anywhere near those kinds of people. I don’t want people telling the Bun who he can and can’t play with. I want the Bun to embrace all people, and let kindness be the thing he cares about most. To be kind, and to find others that are kind too. Kind people are good people.

Yes, the late nights of little sleep have given me a lot of time to think, and wonder. I think about how lucky we are. And I thank God every day for what we have. Food in the fridge, a warm bed, clean clothes, a comfortable home. This Bun is blessed. He certainly won the ovarian lottery.

I think about something I heard many years ago. Some dialogue from a film where a man and a woman are talking. He is showing her a picture of his two kids from a photo in his wallet. And she says to him, “Are your kids special?” He answers her with passion, “They are very very special.” She looks at him and goes, “Everyone’s kids are special. So how come with all these special kids in the world we have so many ordinary adults.”

My mind is still ticking over. I now start thinking of the extraordinary situation the world is in this year with the corona virus pandemic, and the fact that we are with the Bun all day and night. There is hardly any social activity at present and going out to the shops or a restaurant is not happening. We buy what we need online more and more, and the Bun is under our wing just about every minute of the day. It is intense, for sure, but it is also magical and surreal.

I have lived a very unusual life, and I have done so much. I have won and I have lost. And I never stop trying. This year has been particularly hard, I reckon for most people. And then came the Bun and even with minimal sleep, and maximum tiredness, things feel much better. The Bun represents hope. The chance to nurture a kind soul. I think about kindness all the time – it is what the world needs a lot more of. I hope and pray the Bun will be as kind as can be.

When you are young you lack confidence and you are way more insecure. I am at a point in my life where I don’t worry about anything as much as I did 30 years ago. And also, I know there is nothing out there that I missing out on. I have had a very full life and have had a lot of joy and a lot of pain. This gives me perspective, and when I look at the Bun I know that there is nothing more magical that is what is right in front of me. Talk about wonder.

You can read about being a parent, and you can listen to other parents, and your own mom and dad, but there is nothing that truly prepares you. In the past month my life is totally different. Things went from theory to practice in a flash. It is like going from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye. It is surreal. And the time goes by so fast. One month with the Bun was a blur.

I never thought I would be so excited to see runny kaka. When the Bun cuts one, I light up. But I have a view that one only feels this way about their own baby. Like when you own a car. If you have to clean it, that can be relaxing. But no one wants to clean their friend’s car. And if you scratch your car, it can drive you mad, but no one else notices the scratch, or cares. Yes, the Bun is a very personal experience, and it is biological and natural. This is how it is meant to be. This is how we all got here.

You don’t always have to win. But you always have to be kind. That is my closing message here. I want the Bun to be as kind as possible. Kind is beautiful.

The Bun in September

The Bun came into the world one week ago, on Tuesday the 29th of September 2020 at 11:45 am. That week we played Earth Wind and Fire’s classic song September a few times to add to the magic. So yeah, at the time of the crazy corona, along came the Bun. I wonder if the Bun will recognize me one day without a face mask (just kidding – I only wear a face mask when I leave the house, which is not often this year).

The Bun has hypnotized us, and I am crying a lot, for no reason I can explain, other than sheer joy. I love magic and this is true wonder. The bun is real magic.

I am 53 years old and I became a dad. Yes, I have some backache and other ailments (nothing serious – just wear and tear), but I also have wisdom and confidence. Sure, I am way busier than I was 20 years ago, but, I am busy with things I love, and I love this little Bun.

Wisdom comes from age, and so does perspective. I can appreciate the magic more now than if I was in my 30’s, say.

I have had a helluva journey through life and I have seen and done a lot of shit. I have had highs and I have had lows. But I ain’t seen or experienced anything like this Bun. I have never wanted to be hypnotized before, but this is a whole new ballgame.

When I was younger I was trying to climb so many mountains. And I reached a few summits and it was glorious. There were also many many falls along the way, and they were painful. The pain never leaves you, but it does give you experience and perspective, and this translates into a good and valuable view of what is important.

We are still busy climbing some mountains. We have a very important film project on the go this year. Our first documentary project, “57”, and the stakes are high.

There has been little sleep in this first week, and there has been some stress. But it’s all good – the view from Bun mountain is totally captivating.

Burning Man

The stimulus checks they have kept the system from exploding are now in limbo, as the senate is out of town on a 3 day weekend. We have to believe they know how urgent and volatile this – of course they do.

Turns out the Democrats and the Republicans cannot reach an agreement. And surely a halfwit could have seen this train smash coming. Looks like politics is the order of the day, with both parties playing high stakes games with each other. They knew this deadline was coming, and I can imagine there are now millions of Americans more anxious than ever. And make no mistake, the rest of the world is going to feel it too. If America burns we will all suffer.

Sustaining the entire US economy is currently about unemployment checks and putting money in the hands of Americans, so they can spend. This is what the news keeps telling us.

The word “desperation” is something else that comes to mind, and it is bad for everyone, including you and me. Leadership in America is lacking.

Simply extending the stimulus is not a sustainable solution but right now, as you read this, they need to do something. Too many Americans are out of work, and the job market is bad bad bad. The number of job applicants for each job available is accelerating. There are more people looking for jobs then there are jobs on offer. People are typically not lazy and waiting for their stimulus checks. They are trying to survive and right now millions could be evicted and very soon without money for food. And the government leaders have gone away and we are all left wondering. What about the urgency. Again, they must know this. So, WTF?!

We are in the middle of a pandemic, and we are in the thick of things. The economy is getting hammered. Where is the vision, and long term view. This is not about people waiting for unemployment benefits. Sure, there will be some tales of people who are  getting more than their actual previous salaries, but that is not the story here. The story is that the GDP dropped more in the last quarter than ever before in America’s history, and tens of millions of Americans may soon have no money for food. Big shit is coming. To everyone.

Stay light on the parasites

I recently posted a new article on Medium : https://medium.com/@ronnieapteker/imagine-if-these-guys-all-left-the-planet-20dd9b0d1b0f

I got a bunch of feedback. Some positive, some negative.

That new piece of text is my perspective. Perhaps I am onto something, or perhaps I am talking shit. It is the way I see things. I am not saying that all financial folk and money managers are full of shit. As I point out in the article, I know some good money people. But in general, in my experience, most of these money managers are parasites.

I would be keen to hear your views on this. Please email me if you want to share your perspective. You can email me on ronnie@prettyapt.com

This year is like none other. I think it is safe to say that 2020 is exposing so much of the rot in the world. The corona virus is not nearly as destructive as greed. The biggest disease in the world today, in my view, is greed.

I have been writing a bit these past few months. You can check out the articles on Medium. The subject of “greed” is one of things I have been discussing. And also, I have been writing about “purpose”. To me, these two subjects need to be explored together. When someone lives their purpose and puts their heart into something, then the universe often rewards them for their efforts. But if someone is just a parasite, then this has nothing to do with purpose. When it comes to simply trying to take as much money off the table, without adding anything of value of to the world, then this is about being a parasite. Hedge fund managers, in my view, are a prime example.

One of the other articles I wrote was about Uber. Yesterday I saw this news item : https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/21/tech/uber-uk-court-case-blm/index.html

“I think all Uber cares about is money. The way the [business] model is set, it’s all about mass-recruiting drivers. It’s all about exploiting the workforce,” he told CNN Business in an interview.

The party continues. Keep dancing. But make sure you are dancing very close to the door.

All stock market losses are now socialized in America. The Fed recently announced they would start buying individual stocks to prevent a crash. It’s seems literally impossible to lose money on stocks until the entire government collapses. As long as Trump is in power, the party is going to continue. The money printing frenzy is now a race to the bottom. All ponzi schemes eventually collapse, and so will the US.

By every indication, current stock prices have pretty much “priced in” an almost perfect recovery, whether it is from a genuine increase in economic activity or from more stimulus via the US government. So if the market is anticipating a base case scenario, what can possible drive it any higher? If profits magically recover as quickly as the market seems to hope, or if the government injects more stimulus, the market is pretty much priced for that seeing that it is almost at a record high. So what is the incentive to buy in now? Are you buying in with the anticipation that the recovery will go well, because then the stock market will go up even higher in response, and just permanently maintain this disconnect between price and earnings?

This is the lunacy of the house of cards that sustains itself solely by money created out of thin air. The stock market no longer has any correlation to the real economy. Wait until the unemployment benefits dry up at the of July. History always repeats itself.

Wall Street was once the vehicle to invest in great companies that were the bedrock of the American economy – it is now a casino. A fantasy land dominated by a few monopolies, like companies that don’t even employ a lot of people. And are actually changing American society and politics, in some cases for the worse.

It has been a fake market since 2008. One has to be very very careful now when it comes to the stock market – perhaps selling some shares to buy gold is not a bad idea. Not losing money is more important than missing out.

Six stocks are now worth over 7 trillion dollars, which is 25% of the entire share market value, and bigger than all of stocks in Europe. What could possible go wrong … ?

NASDAQ is now bigger than the entire world’s market caps. And let’s not forget the 40 million unemployed, and over 200 million unemployed globally. The US is looking to end of this year with around 30 trillion in debt, and that’s with a collectable tax base of just around 3.2 trillion. Corporate debt is around 17 trillion. Personal debts are over 20 trillion.

The Fed has already blown about 4 trillion trying to keep billionaires from having any losses. Its high time for the Fed to let them eat each other. As it is, the tax payers are eating their losses and getting zero from their gains.

Nothing is normal in these markets, despite the market’s impressive performance. The markets are trading at a multiple that represents a peak. What is going on is nothing short of market manipulation. The US debt is off the scale, and consumer spending is now coming to a halt – the fundamentals are out of the window. And instead of the debt being issued to fund infrastructure projects and enhance productivity, it went to buy back stock.

Be careful when you boast about the strong job market that existed before the pandemic. We are finding out that the nonessential part of the economy had to shut down, but who knew until it was shut down that the nonessential part of the US economy was 80% of the GDP. Now there are people who are unemployed but are making more money, and are not doing any work. Yes, jobs like Uber are not helping anyone I am sad to say. The US needs to start making things again – they need to start manufacturing. And they need to ship their products to the world, using US shipping, and not foreign flag renegade operators.

Covid-19 is now being used as a cover for the bigger, fundamental problems. There is a famous saying on Wall Street, “Do not fight the Fed, and the trend is your friend.”

Right now, the stock market is running on pure speculation. Earnings reports are generally down, and stocks were already pricey at this point even before. The economy is shrinking. And the national debt is growing and growing.

Why is it called “stimulus’ when it is free money for the fat cat CEOs and executives who bankrupted their own companies, but a “hand out” when it is a couple of hundred backs to the workers. Everything is being arranged for the rich to get richer, and masses to get the shaft. There simply seems to be no rule of law at the top anymore. We have to stop pretending that there is some intelligence behind it all – there isn’t. It is simply about greed and power.

The Fed money is mostly going to stock buy-backs because it is a short term quick fix. Corporate executives calculate that this is the best way to keep their major shareholders happy, with rising share prices, and dividends, thus ensuring their own inflated compensation packages.

What is going to happen when 10 of millions of people stop paying their rents, their mortgages, their car loans, etc. The banks will get bailed out again. When the stimulus payments end in August and the moratorium on evictions is then lifted, there is going to be intense unrest. The community spirit is fast eroding to everyone for himself. A civil war is coming to America. Believing we live in democracy just because we can vote … what a sham.

There will be no V shape recovery. Yes, some stocks may go up and some may go up and down a bit, but ultimately, it is all going to come crashing down. The biggest problem is the debt. The 2008/2009 subprime crises was all about debt, and what did they do – they printed a ton of money. Debt is the problem now again. Most people have no savings. So what have they done – made loans available to anyone and everyone. Governments have learned nothing. We are just delaying the inevitable. Our Minsky moment is coming. And it will all be blamed on the corona virus, but the truth is, greed is the real disease.

There can be no recovery until the debt is either paid off or forgiven. Debt is slavery.

Capitalism without sex appeal

The American Dream

I love capitalism, I think. It is a great system and it works, I think. It supports innovation and progress and it allows us to dream. Well, it seems that way. There are many interesting people online in these corona times saying that we need a new way. Perhaps. I know we need something. We need kindness.

I am all for hard work and taking a risk – it is what entrepreneurs do. But when the system has been perverted to the point it is now, then something’s gotta give. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and this is exactly where this current crony capitalism has led us to, a system that is properly broken. The poor have no chance, and the middle class have almost all disappeared. The world is largely binary: rich and poor.

What has happened to the American dream?! The middle class used to be everything. But they are almost gone. Debt is the trap that they all fell into. And I don’t think that this was an accident.

I am not good with financial speak, and I am not good with money. Yes, I don’t quite understand all the mumbo jumbo you read about in the news about government bonds, and the printing of dollars in the US. But I do know bullshit when I see it. You can’t cheat nature forever. This printing of money magic trick can only be done so many times before the illusion is exposed. I have studied magic for about eight years now – it is a wonderful passion. But no trick I have learned comes close to what America is trying to pull off here. Even Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” has no place for a deception this big. Money printing like this is an illusion that not even Merlin will be able to explain.

Big business isn’t going to “learn their lesson” because they don’t have to. One can think of a spoilt rich kid who crashes his latest sports car – they know they will get another one soon, and that someone else will pay for it. Remember, he who gets bailed out first gets bailed out best.

I am all for entrepreneurs creating things that we need or love, and things that capture our imaginations. And if they do a good job, the world will reward them over and over. When someone succeeds out of passion, hard work, and risk taking, people love to celebrate a new hero. But when it is about a CEO fat cat, that never started anything, never took any risk, and lays off people, then no one is inspired to hear about their massive salaries and unbelievable share options and bonuses. Take take take … yes, they don’t make money, they take it. There is a big difference. Who allows them to do this … we do. This is what the system has evolved into.

Purpose

Twenty years ago we told a motion picture story on purpose. Well, it was a story called “Purpose” and it was about, um, purpose. The film turned out good, but not brilliant. It was our first attempt at visual storytelling, and many lessons were learned. It was an innocent and inspired affair, and there were some great scenes in the film, with dialogue like this, “You talk about purpose. Making money is our purpose here.” This speaks to the subject of greed, which is the biggest disease in the world today. Way bigger than the corona virus, in my view. And way more devastating.

I have been thinking about the purpose of it all for more than two decades. Why do these corporations needs to keep on making more and more money. How much do these fat cat CEOs have to keep taking off the table. When is it enough. And what of the hundreds of billions of dollars that America is now going to magically inject into the system – how much of this money will land up in the hands of those who really needed. My guess: very little.

We should be bailing out people, not companies.

The history of the world has shown us that this is going to end badly, but clearly, we never seem to learn. When history does kick in and repeat itself, no one should be surprised.

The question that I want to ask: what is the purpose of all this wealth accumulation? So you have a 100 million dollars, or a billion dollars, or more … what are you doing with all that money. If you were distributing it back to the poor, then all the more power to you. And if you are giving it back by creating jobs and building things, then carry on. But if you are just sitting on this money, and investing it in tech stocks or gold or art works or your own private island, then how does this help anyone. If you spend the money, then the theory goes that it trickles down, but most of this money never sees the light of day. Hoarding cash does not help anyone.

I don’t understand the passion or the purpose of accumulating money. What is the end goal? I know I am naïve and often pretty stupid when it comes to financial things, but this thing I do understand. It is all about greed. Ego is what is driving this – everyone is trying to be richer than the next guy, like it is some kind of contest. And it is a competition where the losers are all of those in need. Because they are getting squeezed to death in this game, and the rich who are the contestants, could care less. The corona is exposing this in a big way.

Power and control is another aspect, but that I will save for another day. Just keep in mind, they only have power if you give it to them. Learn to say no more. No to the new mobile phone, no to the overpriced bag from France, no to the 5th holiday home, no to all the bullshit … you don’t need it. In fact, one of the things that you keep hearing during this corona crises is that we actually need very little to live. As my one mate said to me the other day, “You will never have enough of the stuff you don’t need.”

The values we have all learned to embrace make many of us feel disgusting. What has happened to the fundamentals?

The role model of the world

America is meant to be the role model of the Western world, setting the pace, but what a circus America appears to be. Everyone on the planet has a relationship with America, through movies, brands, tech, etc. And as that old saying goes, “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” So yeah, the world is anxious. And whether it is correct or not, to lockdown the world like this, the train has left the station and it is gaining momentum, and will only stop when it comes off the rails. I think the massive unemployment which hit America now, for example, will get worse, and will only stop when things are at rock bottom. Yes, it is scary as I believe that this is just the beginning. The corona is not the main problem. The economic fallout is the bigger problem. It is hard to understand, but it is happening … and we can’t stop it. It is like a runaway train.

A pandemic like this is more than enough of a struggle, but then you have this mass unemployment, and also, this narcissistic, egomaniac of an incompetent American president, and it is a recipe for the perfect storm. Just one of these problems is more than America should be having to deal with, but all three at once … phew. America normally shows the world what to do – America leads. But right now, every country seems to be doing their own thing. Some countries, like South Korea, for example, seem to have a good handle of things. Why can’t we learn and copy? This is all beyond me.

I don’t want to go off on too much of a detour, but that bar bet that went wrong and landed up with Trump in office, is just mind boggling. Talk about Chauncey Gardiner. I am just waiting for Trump to go “Shit, the joke is over – I was just kidding. Bye.” But no chance – the guy is stark raving mad. Would not surprise me if he starts a war soon.

If you look on Google a startling statistic says that half of America has less than 500 $ in savings. The vulnerability of the US is just incredible. It is supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world but more than half of America can’t be out of work for more than a month. This extreme vulnerability is raising many hard questions. Now throw in that gun sales in America are a record high, and the war that Trump may spark may just be on his backyard.

A country like America that consumes much more than it produces, financed by the ongoing printing of money, and now with struggling supply chains, and with more money now chasing fewer goods, will lead to serious inflation. Get ready to pay much more for groceries. A food crises is looming.

Money, money, money

I can’t offer any advice or solution, but I can comment on the bigger problem: greed. America is all about money. I have lived in America, and their values are money first, people second. That was my experience. This is going to come bite us all in the ass.

Let’s see now what the super-rich are going to do to help the poor. America, don’t try save the world. Start off at home, and help your poor fellow Americans. Let’s see if they can do that. If they can, then perhaps it will inspire the rest of the world to follow suit.

Before you shake your head and poke holes in this text, answer one question: how much money have you given away to help those in need?