A while back, I was walking through downtown Bangkok and I found myself in McDonalds (it was my fault, I wasn’t looking where I was going) so I ordered a McSomething and chips and when it arrived, there was a yellow ping-pong ball in it.

Now I’ve had little bits of plastic crap with McDonalds meals before, but they generally come in plastic packets and resemble some sort of toy. But this was just a plain ping-pong ball. I looked at the girl behind the counter, wondering if she wanted to play table-tennis with me.

But no. Seeing I was puzzled, she pointed towards a display, which had two perspex tubes – one with a smiley face – the other, grumpy. Above these, was a notice – “If you have enjoyed our service…” The smiley tube looked to have about 500 balls in it – the grumpy tube was… EMPTY!

Ridiculous! Unrealistic! So what did I do? You guessed it.

I quickly explained to the girl that I am an INDIVIDUALIST. I was PERFECTLY happy with their service. It was just…

Needless to say, I won’t be going in THERE again!

This American woman gave birth to eight boys – and decided to give them classic British names.

So having looked up the players in a number of English football teams, she called them Marcos, Juan, Zlatan, Pedro, César, Diego, Jan, Paolo…

…and Steve.

And provided some dopey new cleaner at YouTube doesn’t unplug the mainframe to plug in their hoover, in twenty years time I should pass the milliard (the proper name for an American billion) mark.

Here is a quick breakdown of the numbers…

First come the 1,620 audio-visual uploads. Most, inevitably, are on the dreaded YouTube; but 98 of them are on Dailymotion (a French version of YouTube – not a laxative) Metacafe and Vimeo.

So, 29 YT channels and 11 others.

Then there are the WRITTEN pieces (MY creative output – rather than my DJ/VJ presentation of others’ work, on the unofficial Universal Archive) which consist of 1,053 monographs (including this one) over my three columns – plus a book and two short stories.

Oh, and 58 IMDb film and TV critiques – and 1,365 Tweets (although IMDb and Twitter don’t DO hits as such).

These have produced 204,607,762 hits in total – of which 200,996 were for the written pieces (no-one READS anymore).

Which is the population of BRAZIL.

Although as an ex-pat BRIT, MY perspective on it is to draw a line around the UK – which is (currently) England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland the UK islands (the Orkneys, Shetlands, Arran, Skye, the Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Isle of Sheppey, Isle of Dogs, Canvey Island, whatever) and the Irish Republic.

Then stretch it out to take in France, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands [Holland] and Luxembourg) and Switzerland. Next, loop in Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland) and the Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) and finally, hook in Iceland for good measure.

Either way, that is a LOT of people.

To PICTURE them, consider that helicopter-shot of the massive throng at Woodstock – then multiply it by SIX HUNDRED.

Or if sport’s your bag, try TWO THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR capacity crowds at the new Wembley stadium. Every Saturday for over forty years.

If you’re American, that would be 3,334 capacity crowds at Shea (60).

Then again, given that most of my hits are for pieces of entertainment, how about a full house at the Hammersmith Apollo – every night for A HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT YEARS? (America: ninety-two years plus, at the Radio City Music Hall).

Every DAY, around A HUNDRED THOUSAND people hit something I put up into the public domain. And better than every SECOND, twenty-four hours a day, somewhere in this World, a person clicks on one of my uploads. In fact, during the time you have been READING this – I have had at least another hundred hits.

The Universal Archive is GIGANTIC – the collected works of excellence in entertainment for the last (in my case) one hundred and twenty-two years. Of course, I’m not alone in having compiled it – there are many of us (all treated like CRAP by YouTube, of course).

But at two hundred million-plus hits, I think I can claim that my chunk of it is SIGNIFICANT. In fact, when it comes to “making a difference in the World” – it is easily the biggest thing what I have ever done.

So how did it come about? (The picture shimmers, accompanied by a harpy – sorry, harpIST – running glissandi across her instrument).

It all began when I was nine (you might want to bugger off and read something else now – still with me? – okay, I’ll try to snap it up).

My Mum and Dad presented me with their record collection – 150 78s – and a 78s-only gramophone.

At first, I garnered more 78s from junk-shops, jumble sales, boot fairs and so on – then I modified the record player to play vinyl, so I could enjoy the SIXTIES – then I acquired an open-reel portable tape-recorder, various hi-fi systems, VCRs and a jukebox – then I went digital.

So cutting a VERY long story short: after fifty-five years, I now have 5,285 records, tapes (audio- and video-) and disks.

But in 2008, as I began sneaking up on sixty, this became a WORRY. I had seen how, when people PEGGED OUT, their painstakingly-acquired, lovingly-cared-for, neatly-catalogued Collection – could end up in a damned LAND-FILL.

My solution to this came from an unexpected direction: a few years after I retired to the Orient, the essential communications I had with people back home become ridiculously UNRELIABLE.

It began with the Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami – a few hours after it hit, I began getting texts from friends, wondering if I was still ALIVE (had it hit about two weeks earlier, the answer might very well have been NO, but luckily that was ANOTHER Life Bullet dodged).

And after a few messages, it became apparent that NONE of them had received the Christmas texts I had sent them just two days earlier – despite them having been CONFIRMED delivered – and CHARGED for.

Then the snail-mail began getting silly – up to HALF of it going AWOL, if not sent TRACKED (I sent all MY outgoing mail tracked – it was CHEAP here – but miserable UK companies and organisations refused to do likewise to ME).

And so I eventually did what I had steadfastly REFUSED to do, during the Eighties, Nineties and first half of the Oughts – went out and bought a sodding COMPUTER.

At first, having had NO training, I bought a computing-for-idiots book and slowly worked out how to e-mail. But as time went by, I discovered that during the previous couple of years – the Interweb had finally become INTERESTING.

And one aspect was my ability to acquire (mostly through Ebay) items that had evaded me during my years of collecting. But every now and then, an item would turn out to be available on YOUTUBE.

Now I had always assumed that this service was exclusively for young jackasses who wished to view OTHER young jackasses jumping off garage rooves into bushes, to see if they could break a bone – filmed by yet MORE jackasses, on their toy cameras. And for the most part, I was right.

However, the service also turned out to be being used by COLLECTORS, who would upload snatches from their collections to attract other collectors, with whom they could SWAP stuff.

But as time went by, YouTube increasingly began to feature material uploaded by PHILANTHROPIC collectors who merely wished to SHARE their collections with others.

So within a few weeks, I had downloaded pretty much ALL the remaining items on my “wish-list” (which included stuff I would NEVER have found here) and being a generous chap, I figured it was time to GIVE BACK.

Initially, I planned on just setting up ONE channel, with say fifty or so of my gems. But then it suddenly occurred that here was my CHANCE – I could finally achieve REDEMPTION for those many THOUSANDS of hours spent recording and acquiring The Collection.

Having previously BEEN a semi-pro DJ, the dissemination/presentation of musical “discoveries” had always been a part of my DNA.

So one channel quickly became two – then three – until finally, TWO YEARS later, I had built up FORTY channels, with the best (about 100 hours – 3%, in all) of my “classic” pieces on them.

Then there was my writing. I came LATE to that particular party.

At FORTY-TWO, I joined Mensa – and began creative writing, when I (initially reluctantly) took over editorship of one of their publications.

But when I moved out here, continuing that pastime became impractical – so for several years I just STOPPED.

However, once I got online, a friend steered me towards WordPress. The idea of BLOGGING made me CRINGE – but running a column was okay.

And I could put my book up too. And do short stories. And MODIFY them at will.

Again, one column quickly became… three. And this is the latest piece on just one of them. What do you think of it so far? (Rubbish!)

Well, if you’re still with me – 1,153 words in – that is nearly IT, anyway.

I only joined Twitter (putting up conveniently SHORT bits from this column’s “Random Thoughts” and “Favourite Quotes”) to PROMOTE the pieces in these columns. Other than that, I have disdained the Social Network – that’s for KIDS – which I definitely am NOT.

But I have made my MARK. The Beiber may have more hits than me – but then, I wouldn’t give his problems to a monkey on a rock (thanks, Dave).

No, I have worked long and hard to put all this together, just for the JOY of the thing. It makes me not a penny, but I don’t care. Even the two hundred million hits are not THAT important. The FEEDBACK I get on YouTube is my main reward.

Much of it is routine – “Thanks for sharing” – “I wish modern Pop was as great as YOURS was” – and so on. But every now and then, I find myself communicating with people who were a PART of a piece. Either in the audience, or as a technician – and just occasionally, the ACTUAL STARS THEMSELVES.

THAT is when it REALLY pays off. And even if the piece is VINTAGE, a son or daughter may thank me for keeping the memory of their parent alive.

Plus there’s the YouTube like/dislike ratio: on virtually ALL of my items on their service, it tops 20-1.

So no, my TWO HUNDRED MILLION HITS are not essential to me at all.

But damn – THEY DON’T HURT!!!

During the Trump-Clinton Debates, a “question from the public” popped up that showed – just for a moment – the human side of Trump. It asked if – following the overt VEHEMENCE shown between the two during the campaign – there was a quality in each other they actually ADMIRED.

And Trump, who had to go first, answered that he admired the fact that Clinton NEVER QUIT. In his TV show, he had always demonstrated his hatred of quitters – and thus, his answer seemed to come from the heart.

But then it was Clinton’s go – and she totally DUCKED the question (and appeared to seek Brownie points from the audience) – by stating she admired Trump’s CHILDREN.

REALLY? Have you ever SEEN them? Here they are…

Doesn’t the above picture remind you of the LOWER one?

If you are American – or British, but young – Google the Kray Twins.

Cy Quick has passed. I put the following eulogy atop his site…

This site has been effectively suspended for five years. And if you read its “about” you’ll see why. However, I am now belatedly adding this EULOGY.

Cy was a pseudonym for ANDREW.

I first encountered him well over twenty years ago, when he began contributing toward a Mensa writers SIG I ran (Mensa: we might have both been crazy, but at least we weren’t stupid).

And although we never met, over the next two decades plus, I got to know and grow fond of the man.

Back then, I was about forty and he, fifty (today, sixty-four and DEAD).

And over the years, I have built up a picture of him.

He liked Doowop and Radio Caroline – and hated trees.

He was something of a loner, living in a flat in southern England.

He had had a relationship with a woman many years earlier – but when he realised he was gay, it did not end well.

Now, while I was a product of the Swingin’ Sixties, Andrew hailed from the Repressed Fifties.

And being gay was ILLEGAL then. And even when, in 1967, this was overturned – little changed.

For a start, the age of gay consent was pegged at twenty-one and remained so for many years.

And Andrew was repelled by the idea of congress with a mature man – and scared to death of same with a young man.

Although it seems he occasionally succumbed to his orientation – but was FILLED with guilt and self-loathing afterwards.

Also, I believe he might have been manic-depressive (U.S. – bipolar).

This is evidenced by his posts (a mixture of BRILLIANT angst-ridden scribblings – and routine, mundane blogging) – and his habit of periodically DELETING his blog (and clubbing his computer to death with a hammer).

But eventually, he would acquire another computer and RETURN.

However, after he gave me his password for THIS blog – it containing a lot of good stuff, not only from Andrew; but by THIS and OTHER writers – I took the opportunity of DOWNLOADING it.

Then, the next time he had a rush of blood, I edited his trivia out of my shadow file (retaining his GOOD stuff) then created this blog, uploaded the material to it and presented the result to him.

I said I’d delete his stuff if he REALLY wanted me to – but he said it was cool.

Thus far, I have presented an image of a troubled, unhappy man; one with deep issues – who was born a decade too early.

But a man has many parts. And Andrew had always harboured a desire to visit what he believed was his spiritual home – Los Angeles. Particularly Hollywood.

And so, some years back, he saved his pennies and WENT there – for a holiday. And a few years later, instead of exploring elsewhere, he REPEATED the experience.

Both times, he took many pictures, sticking them on his current blog (there may be some on this one).

But this was his last hurrah. Soon would come the end.

Alzheimer’s fried his Mensa-level brain during his last months In This Place – and eventually killed him.

Nevertheless, at least this gave him a peaceful, painless passing.

He always thought his blog writings would be valued long after his passing – possibly by aliens. I never tried to dispossess him of this.

In any case, some of the BEST of his work is at least preserved HERE, below.

Currently – over the past eight years – more than fifteen hundred souls have stumbled across these ramblings. A handful may even some day read THIS.

So in closing, I’d like to state that I am the richer for having known Andrew – and the poorer since his passing.

Elsewhere in these columns, I have mused on the fact that Britain’s main problem lies in its TRUE unemployment statistics.

And the fact that there are primarily three reasons FOR them. In chronological order: the Baby Boom, Automation and Outsourcing.

And since there is no way to put THOSE three genies back in their bottles, Britain is screwed – right?

Well – not necessarily.

You see, there is a FOURTH reason for the chronic unemployment that blights Blighty – and causes the frequent riots. It is the SYSTEM that Britain’s industry has evolved, over the last several decades. It is DEEPLY flawed – but it COULD be FIXED. Here’s how…

The average Brit puts on his company car every morning and goes to work. And after an hour or more CRAWLING through the rush-hour traffic, he arrives at his place of employment – ALREADY KNACKERED.

He HATES his job, but will take ALL the overtime he can get, in order to pay his bills. And one of those bills is his TAX bill – a large part of which goes to support those who HAVE no job.

And if he doesn’t get promoted every few years, his long hours doing the same old same old, day in and day out, will eventually cause him to SNAP, smash everything around him and go lie in a corner in the foetal position, crying.

At which point, his company medical cover will take over and after a few weeks on downers, he will return and continue – as a broken man.

But it DOESN’T have to BE this way.

Let us take two companies: Delta Holdings and Omega Industrial – both of which make… glandle-hooks.

Now, Delta has a thousand employees, all working forty-hour weeks – while Omega has five hundred employees who, with overtime, work EIGHTY-hour weeks.

But here’s the thing: Omega’s glandle-hooks will cost LESS to make. So eventually, Delta will go BUST.

Why? Because Omega may pay more in total for its labour costs (assuming overtime pays one-and-a-half rates) but Delta is paying for a THOUSAND company cars, employee insurance packages and employee health, dental and what-have-you packages – as opposed to Omega’s FIVE HUNDRED.

And those packages are charged PER EMPLOYEE, NOT per employee-hour-worked – which is the NUB of the problem.

While company cars cost an employer almost as much as the EMPLOYEE does. And once you factor in the cost of those employee insurance and health packages…

Which is why companies that declare massive profits immediately make half their workforces REDUNDANT – they want to make even MORE profit.

So what can be DONE about this insanity? Actually, more than you might think…

State Pensions. Drop the retirement age to 60 immediately, for everyone (where it ORIGINALLY was for women) and by another year, every year – to age 50 (for now).

This would immediately free up MILLIONS of jobs for the disenchanted, disconnected, disenfranchised youth.

Company Cars. Many of these are only used to ferry employees to and from work. Like the employee health packages, they are nothing more than a ploy to force them to STAY with the employer. Quit your job and you lose your CAR – and you and your family have to revert to the tender mercies of the NHS.

It’s like the “tied cottages” of yore – “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

But if HMG brought in laws requiring company cars to be SIGN-WRITTEN and only permitted them to be used for REAL company business – then employees could buy their OWN car for private motoring and use the TRAIN to get to work.

This would have MAJOR benefits. The obvious GREEN ones – with freer roads – and employees would arrive at work FRESH.

However, ANOTHER measure would have to be taken by HMG first. While no-one wants to see a return to the Fifties – where many cars belched smoke, had bald tyres, mediocre brakes and rust holes in the floors – the modern MOT test has gotten RIDICULOUS.

What started as a sensible idea to make Britain’s roads safer – has today turned cars into a financial LIABILITY. The test has become SO draconian that many cars rolling off ASSEMBLY-LINES could fail it. It’s like PC – it’s gone TOO FAR.

But HMG could rethink it, so that only REAL safety features would be covered – and second-hand cars could make a COME-BACK. Here in Thailand, I drive a Mitsubishi Galant Ultima that cost twenty thousand pounds when new. I bought it at nine years old, for four thousand. It is now twenty-three years old and STILL worth at least two thousand.

In Britain, I couldn’t GIVE it away. It would most likely have been JUNKED, YEARS ago. But with careful maintenance, my chariot still goes like a bird – and is SAFE.

Employee Insurance Packages. HMG could force insurance companies to charge companies PER EMPLOYEE-HOUR-WORKED. This would mean a company’s employee numbers would no longer be relevant, insurance-wise. Simple.

Employee Health (and dental, etc.) Packages. Levy a huge TAX on them – to be paid by the EMPLOYERS – and pay the money raised to the NHS! HAH!!

And finally: give companies tax breaks, based on the number of employees they have, versus their turnover – the more employees, the higher the breaks – and limit overtime to TEN hours per week, per employee.

If HMG did all of the above, unemployment, poverty and the British Malaise would disappear OVERNIGHT!

But naturally, they won’t. It would ruffle FAR too many INFLUENTIAL feathers. The car manufacturers, “private” healthcare companies and insurance companies – to name but three.

And ALL employers (whom HMG represents) WANT unemployment. Full employment would turn the jobs market around to favour EMPLOYEES – leaving the employers having to RAISE wages and working conditions to attract them.

No, HMG will do what it’s ALWAYS done: LIE about life-expectancy figures and try to RAISE the age of retirement – blather on about “job creation” – and order more water cannons to help quell the NEXT round of RIOTS.

The term “sweeping changes” is oft-used by politicians. But the last time such changes were ACTUALLY invoked was to create The Welfare State – a state that has been DECIMATED by HMG during the last thirty years.

Mind you, the above changes ALONE would create a bunch of NEW problems, which would ALSO need addressing. Like, if hard-pressed employees could not earn overtime money – how would they manage to continue to support their families on a single wage?

After all, if they had KIDS, their wives could not work – even though there would now be jobs FOR them.

Plus the tax increases (HMG HATES imposing those) required for the higher pension bill would CRIPPLE employees.

Well, full-time nurseries could look after the kids – and provide work for some of those wives.

And HOME work would also solve those problems. Currently, such is available – but the wages paid for it are THIRD WORLD level. This is because it is menial.

But develop SKILLED jobs that could be done in the home and labour could be SPLIT between couples. Then hubby would return from work with his will to live retained – while the combined income of him and his wife would enable them to have a LIFE.

However, no-one is even TALKING about ANY of the above suggestions. They are long-term and HMG only thinks short-term. Plugging holes in the dam, never considering building a NEW one.

Fact is, since the Sixties, Britain has driven down a social and economic CUL DE SAC. And going back is not an option. The only solution is to BULLDOZE the house at the end. I’m just glad it’s not MY house.

Mine is in THAILAND – where EVERYONE has a job.

Of course, this is only achieved by MASSIVE over-manning and a LOW cost of living. But it WORKS – which is why Thailand is known as The Land Of Smiles.

Britain could learn a LOT from this place…

It’s funny how TV game-show formats translate internationally.

F’rinstance, “Family Feud” originated, then bombed in the U.S. But in the U.K. the softer “Family Fortunes” ran for years, thanks to the ridiculous answers given by contestants – “Name something red.” “My car.” “If it’s up there, I’ll give you the money myself.” Whilst back Stateside, a celeb version has returned – hosted by Steve Harvey.

The show was tried here in Thailand, softened even further to “Family Game.” It was crap.

And Chuck Barris’ “The Newlywed Game” – a raunchy show in America – featured pensioners in the U.K., ran in the afternoon and the sexiest question was, “Which side of the bed do you sleep on?”

“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” began in the U.K. and was a massive hit world-wide, but varies dramatically, country to country. In the States, Regis Philbin asked easier questions (Americans like to see winners).

Meanwhile, the Portuguese (I was on holiday there) managed to extract ALL sense of exitement from the franchise by slowing the game, with lots of chat twixt host (a handsome chap, but someone ELSE should have dressed him and done his hair) and contestant.

And the contestants were so DUMB. Example: “Blah, blah (I don’t speak Portuguese) blah Agatha Christie blah blah? a. Hercule Poirot (obviously) b. Sherlock Holmes, c. Mr. (sic) Watson, d. Zorro. The bloke didn’t know. His “phone-a-friend” didn’t know. He took a 50/50 and guessed the wrong one. I nearly wet myself laughing.

This was only a second round question, but had he REACHED the top, a million Escudos was only about £3,000 ($5,000) – hardly retirement money, even in Portugal.

Here in Thailand, a million Baht is a little more – around sixteen grand Sterling ($25,000) – which with prices around one-fifth of Western, equates to around a hundred grand in the West. A princely sum.

However, the Thai production company were too tight to pay Celador for the format, music and graphics, so “Millennium Millionaire” was a knock-off.

Unlike “The Weakest Link” which Thailand DID buy (Auntie probably wanted less money) installing their version of The Queen Of Mean. But the Thais – a very polite race – didn’t GET it and it didn’t last long.

When it premiered, they ran a promo which had shots of ALL the Bitches In Black, all around the World. And a SCARIER bunch of women you could not imagine. They looked like the Goth Chapter of Hell’s Grannies.

Most were getting on (a couple even looked like Annie) but the Thai one was young. In fact she looked a lot like a lady in Pimlico I once paid £50 for some disciplinary instruction. But that’s another story…