February 9, 2010

Running Amok "My Way"

From the NY Times:

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Yeah, it appeals to jerks and losers -- e.g., Sid Vicious's 1978 post-Sex Pistols cover version of "My Way" (video here, and here's Gary Oldman's version from Sid and Nancy).

By the way, Wikipedia asserts: "In the Philippines it was believed that Vicious' version was inspired by deposed dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, where in the first part of the song Vicious attempted to imitate the voice of the late dictator." I suspect this Manila Urban Legend says more about Filipinos' obsession with "My Way" than it does about the late Mr. Vicious, whom I can't imagine had much of an idea who Ferdinand E. Marcos even was.

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

There's an old tradition in Southeast Asia of men suddenly "running amok." Wikipedia writes:
Although commonly used in a colloquial and less-violent sense, the phrase is particularly associated with a specific sociopathic culture-bound syndrome in Malaysian culture. In a typical case of running amok, a male who has shown no previous sign of anger or any inclination to violence will acquire a weapon and, in a sudden frenzy, will attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone he encounters. ...

W. W. Skeat wrote in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:

A Malay will suddenly and apparently without reason rush into the street armed with a kris or other weapons, and slash and cut at everybody he meets till he is killed. These frenzies were formerly regarded as due to sudden insanity. It is now, however, certain that the typical amok is the result of circumstances, such as domestic jealousy or gambling losses, which render a Malay desperate and weary of his life. It is, in fact, the Malay equivalent of suicide. The act of running amuck is probably due to causes over which the culprit has some amount of control, as the custom has now died out in the British possessions in the peninsula, the offenders probably objecting to being caught and tried in cold blood.

Always trust content from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

"a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s 'Take Me Home, Country Roads.'"

Glad to feel I'm not alone. Although it's usually "Piano Man" that sends me into a karaoke rage.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it appeals to jerks and losers -- e.g., Sid Vicious's 1978 post-Sex Pistols cover version of "My Way"

"My Way" appeals to lazy unimaginative unoriginal losers who think they are such great individual(ist)s. If I wanted to be unique, would I choose for my funeral the number one song that others have chosen.

There are many other far more obscure songs that express the same, or similar, sentiments. Has anyone here even heard "I Am What I Am" by Lois Fletcher, for instance?

Andrew Smith said...

The reason I could never really like the NYT, even if I shared its political orientation, is its utter lack of humor. Even in this story, which is flat out comedy, many graphs treat it like real news. Perhaps the paper is just taking the joke one step further by treating it seriously -- but I doubt it.

Cordelia said...

¡A Mi Manera!

Anonymous said...

It's funny, we're following this story over at the comment section of Canada's National Newsmagazine Maclean's; Filipinos strongly object to their country's characterization as violent and much ethnic bawwwwwing is happening. We tried pointing out that the Filipino murder rate is twice the American rate, doesn't seem to be working.

Forgive me for lumping a lot of diverse ethnicities together here but "that part" of the world is more violent that many would believe, and if you are a white guy in the middle of it, you're fucked.

There is the story of MMA fighter and former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber getting into a kerfuffle in Bali. Urijah is a liberal Californian surf dude type, so it must have come as quite a shock to him that man is somewhat tribal and that his beef with one guy in the bar became a beef with 150 million odd Indonesians. He said it was like a Bruce Lee movie trying to get out of there alive.

Oh, I almost forgot: we're always trying to find a Darwinian reason for gay men, right? The new hawtness is of course Cool Gay Uncle Theory; the closely related Gay Karaoke Host Theory is raised in this article:

"A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons. Since the gay men are not considered rivals for the women’s attention — or rivals in singing, which karaoke machines score and rank — they can use humor to forestall macho face-offs among the patrons.
“That’s the biggest source of tension,” Mr. Lanada said. “That’s why every place like this has a gay man like me.”

Well before karaoke was invented, my favourite gay stereotype was always Gay Oriental Lounge Host, he's awesome. I think there was one in Good Morning Vietnam and some other movies that escape my attention.

josh said...

I knew a Phillipino guy once. he was very little,but a hard worker and nice guy.When I was temporarily sans transportation,he very generously gave me rides. He had an amiable disdain for blacks. "So lazy!" he'd laugh. But macho is not a word I'd associate with them-despite the rise of their Manny Pacquiao as the best PFP boxer in the world. This guy LOVED to drink! From what I gathered he was hardly alone. He wound up having a stroke,tho he was thin as a rail,prob because of the mass quantities of beer. Wow! i have absolutely no point! Just sharing.One WTF moment I had with another Phil. guy that I knew slightly. He was a nice humble average guy. His little wife worked in an old folks home. He happened to mention that his father had been an army general! Under Marcos! In such a miserably poor place like that,his family mustve been pretty high up-and taken quite a fall. He also said that he was going to LA for the funeral of his wifes relative. She had been living with a guy--and his FATHER. The father had murdered her!The father! I didnt ask details on that one. But ya gotta wonder;who lives with a guy and his father?? The specter of the white western guy "pushing up" on the Filipina informs relations between the peoples,as well as between Asians and whitey in general. But I dont think the guy was white. Perhaps a countryman who heard My Way once too often? Or..I dont want Truth on my ass,so I will stop. :)

dormouse said...

A Vietnamese guyl told me that country music is very popular among the Vietnamese, which puzzled and surprised me. But it's not that weird really. The lyrics actually tell a logical story about everyday, practical things, with just enough forlorn emotion to make it interesting. The kind of whiney tone also resonates to some Eastern music. I was flabbergasted at how good some old Celtic Irish tunes sounded when played by a Chinese group that toured with the Wolf Tones. Some of the tradtional Chinese tunes were not a million miles away from some of the Irish ones.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps singing Sinatra or Denver is an obscure Asian form of "dissing" someone else? Being "dissed" is a very serious affair in the ghettos and barrios of our own USA, absorbing the energy of many of our leading citizens.

Glossy said...

I have noticed long ago that in the realm of Western music East Asians mostly love highly melodic, some would say saccharine, stuff. The song Yesterday is a good example, as are a lot of other melodies written by Paul McCartney. The Simon-Garfunkel oeuvre is very popular in Asia as well. I remember a middle-aged, somewhat burly Canadian-born Chinese guy telling me how much he loved Frente's version of "Bizarre Love Triangle". That's typical. Don't get me wrong, it's a great song, but it's also true that in the West songs like that mostly appeal to teenage girls.

This Russian song has been enormously popular in China for decades. It has one of the sweetest-sounding melodies I know of.

One weird aspect of this is that I'm not aware of any kind of traditional Asian music that is very melodic.

About running amok: a Westerner who had lived in Hong Kong for many years once described it to me with regard to Chinese men. They suppress anger all their lives, and I guess sometimes it simply explodes. Of course this doesn't happen often at all - Hong Kong has one of the lowest murder rates in the world.

Anonymous said...

I had read similar things about amok. I wonder if it is their version of a high-speed chase/crash or suicide by cop.

rob said...

The knife thing might be unique to Malays. We don't call it running amok, but surely the author knows "that going to the post office" means something very different than "going postal."

Anonymous said...

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled.

Six in 10 years? What a murderous place!

Steve, I have visited the Philippines twice a year for the last six years and I assure you it is not a dangerous place. The NYT, and American media in general, are incompetent when it comes to reporting on events outside the USA.

mnuez said...


You happen to be a successful blogger and beggar, the rest of us though are jerks and losers and happen to find comfort in imagining that the reason for out utter lack of any success in this world is because we chose to do it "My Way".

We take offense at your accurate characterization of our jerky loserishness.

P.S Though this was obviously written in jest it happens, in my opinion, to not only be true but to reflect accurate self-perespectives as well. Many of your readers actually have a "way" that's different from that of the herd and it's perfectly fine for them to focus on that fact rather than on the unfortunate fruits of being that "way".

P.P.S. Back when Milosovec died there was some newspaper patter about his supposed appreciation of that song (I won't call it "Sinatra's" song because it was written for him. His ability to read does not impress me.)

Frigham Olds said...

Actually there are certain editions of Britannica that, unlike most encyclopedias, are still considered valuable because they were compiled by the leading thinkers of the day. I don't know if 1911 iwas one of them- I seem to remember the desireable ones were late 1920s.

TGGP said...

Even Sinatra hated that song. Blame the French for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to call BS on the 1911 article.

There are far too many man kills his entire family after losing job stories in the US to say Malays have something special.

Or do Anglos and Malays both have a tendency to run amok?

Anonymous said...

(Cliff Arroyo)

"Has anyone here even heard "I Am What I Am" by Lois Fletcher, for instance?"

As a matter of fact, yes:


That said, most people here were probably thinking of this song of the same name:


More Shirley Bassey in the same vein,

My way:


This is my life:


belated warning: Watching those three videos one after the other (in any order) is like trying to stuff 11 pounds of gay in a 9 pound sack. If you make it through them, you're liable to take a whole new interest in curtains and fine porcelan.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the weirdest comment thread ever.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Sid Vicious, here's an amusing little anecdote once related by the late, great British comedian Peter Cook:
During the Sex Pistol's disasterous tour of the USA, The Pistols played a venue at which a young female audience member suddenly rushed the stage and punched Vicious hard in the face, causing a streaming nose-bleed.Apparently this wasn't an assault, but more in the line of 'an ancient punk greeting'.
Well, anyhow on reading a report of the incident in a British tabloid paper (in 1977 The Pistols were an on-going joke and tabloid soap-opera in Britain), Peter Cook made the classic comment, "This must be the first case in history of the fan hitting hitting the shit".

Anonymous said...

One thing that puzzles me is if the television work of the late, great Irish comedian, Dave Allen (syndicated by the BBC)has ever been broadcast in the Phillipines?
- I don't know if he's well known in the USA, but Dave Allen's comedy trademark was lampooning the Catholic church in every way possible including send-ups of Leonardo's last supper painting, and comedy silent sequences involving monks and magically appearing halos.Apparently former Yugoslav head-honcho Tito (raised a devout Catholic), loved Dave Allen's work, and invited him to stay as his guest a few times.
I don't know if Fillipinos have much in the way of a sense of humor, let alone an irreverant sense of humor, but I wonder if that strongly Catholic nation would take offence or amusement at Dave Allen.

Anyhow, I don't know if the Fillipinos have

Anonymous said...

On reading about the tastes of east Asian karaoke singers, I wonder how popular are British acts from the 1970s are over there?
Is the Irish singer/songwriter Gibert O'Sullivan popular over there?, is his big hit 'Claire' known in the far east?
Or what about Leo Sayer etc?
Or towards the poppier end of the spectrum the ultra-melodic 10cc?

Vincent said...

Sheesh, did this guy (South Korean, as it happens, not Malay) run amok or what?


Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

There are far too many man kills his entire family after losing job stories in the US to say Malays have something special."

Sadly true. Americans seem equally liable to run amok nowadays - even american teenagers.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Peter Cook made the classic comment, "This must be the first case in history of the fan hitting the shit"."

That's funny. Peter Cook was a riot - perhaps it takes a morose drunk to be that funny.

Anonymous said...

How about "Bad Side of the Moon" written by Elton John, and performed by either Elton John or April Wine?

Even though Elton is gay, the song is not. More aspie, actually.

Kylie said...

This SNL skit was the first thing I thought of when I read this entry:

"Remember when Saturday Night Live used to still be funny sometimes back in the early 80s? Eddie Murphy was playing an old blues musician being interviewed (by Brad Hall, I think). The interviewer asked him if there was one song that got requested more than any other, and his answer was, 'I tell you what...I tell you what...If I ever meet the man what wrote "Proud Mary," I'm gon' kill that man.'"


I had friend who had a rock band. When he asked for requests, I'd always holler, "'Smoke on the Water'!" Drove him nuts.

But "My Way", in or out of the Philippines, sung as karaoke, a capella, with live back-up or in the shower is definitely grounds for justifiable homicide.

rich s. said...

Nobody wants this to be a "least favorite song" site but Anon. did mention "Piano Man". Ditto.
When my brother was hospitalized, body wracked by kemo, brain addled by dilaudid, he murmured its melody and lyric.
As if to say to me, "Yea it's bad, how much worse can it be if I sing this?"

Anonymous said...

Paul Anka must be spinning in his grave.

Anonymous said...

(Cliff Arroyo)

In no particular order:

I fuckin' _love_ Piano Man (the only worthy Billy Joel song) and anyone who ridicules it does so at the risk of having their liver eaten while they watch. I could listen to it 5 hours a day for 8 years.

The atmosphere of social conformity and formalistic deference that characterizes much of Asia carries a very high psychic price. I can easily imagine guys going ape shit violent to escape it if only for a few sweet moments before death. Many Asian men Ive known seem like a 24 hour watch wound for 76 hours. (the price for women is just as high thought they're less liable to go postal about it).

The original French language version of "my way" is totally unrelated to Paul "Having my baby" Anka's rewrite. It's a morose, passive aggressive song about a relationship gone wrong called "Comme d'habitude" (like always/ as usual)


Anonymous said...

The atmosphere of social conformity and formalistic deference that characterizes much of Asia carries a very high psychic price.

America is pretty darn conformist as well, but without formalistic deference. Maybe that's it. In Asia the rules are strict but clearly written; in America they are more lax but unwritten.

The Neutralist said...


I'm dating myself, but that tune was poplular over here in 1961 as Midnight in Moscow. It was done dixieland style. Listening to it on youtube, I realize Klezmer is Dixieland for Jews or Dixieland is Klezmer for Christians.


Don't forget the Cherry Cokes.

Mr. Anon said...

My vote for absolute worst song of all time:

"The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace

Close second:

"Reach out in the Darkness" by Friend and Lover

Dishonorable mention:

"Hey Paula"

Anonymous said...

American perception of the Filipino tendency to go apeshit violent is nothing new--our forces figured it out right after we took the place from Spain in 1898. The greatest American handgun of all time--the M1911 .45 pistol--was developed as a direct result of the experience of dealing with Moro rebels in Mindinao who fought with beserker-like ferocity, even going so far as to tie tourniquets around their limbs before battle, and drugging up, so anything less than head or heart shots wouldn't drop them in their tracks. The M1911 was designed to stop a charging Moro cold.

Truth said...

"I'm dating myself, but that tune was poplular over here in 1961 as Midnight in Moscow..."

CARBON dating yourself!

Anonymous said...

You guys know very little about the Philippines if you think it's a conformist society. It's a lot more like a South American country than an Asian one.

Imelda said...

Filos are a funny people. Ian Buruma's chapter on them in GOD'S DUST is just the most hilarious thing.