Thursday, January 17, 2013

Heaven in New York? Chinatown:)

My last year+ in New York has been eventful, to say the least. Some might say challenging. Others have said it was a bitch. Being arrested and seeing my friends arrested for exercising our first amendment rights with Occupy Wall Street - not being able to smoke almost anywhere - the rigors of looking for a new position in a crippled job market. The general politics and pessimistic outlook of the country at large. Hurricanes. The American hallmark of mass public shootings. The general malaise and hubris I saw coming on when I first shipped out for Korea in 1995, made me long for Asia:)

So recently, when a friend told me about a Chinese video game room (비디오 in Korean) where I could use a nice computer for 15 hours for $10 total, buy cigarettes for $6.50 a pack vs.the standard $14, bring in my own beer, and nap during the session if needed, I felt like I was going home - to a place like many in Asia and even a few in Europe I frequented.  The only catch is that you must use the computer time in one stretch.

And so I was off to Chinatown away from the watchful eye of a government that shows more concern over what size soda I drink than whether I own an automatic weapon or not, to exercise all the rights I used to have in this country - once upon a time.

The main lure of course, is the cheap computer time, having had my laptop crash last winter and not having replaced it. The other things, are just a convenience, and a comfort if you will, for someone who has spent the last 16 years out of country in lands of the more free.

Using my 15 hrs, in two stretches, I was able to do a massive amount of uploading and processing on the over 1300 paintings rendered at iTOMB, clear a years worth of email, write a proposal for a Pringles/Star Wars promo , smoke all the while, and only have to hear Gangnam Style a few hundred times. All the computers have speakers and gamers tend to favour them over headphones. I use headphones. And that's where the film clip above comes in.

As I edit, organize and retouch art, it's always nice to have a soundtrack in the background. For over 30 years, My Dinner With Andre, a film By Louis Malle with Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory as both writers and actors, has been one of my favourites - not for it's visuals, but for the narative that begs one to imagine broader, more free and open thoughts - much of what I try to impart at iTOMB.

And the last two minutes of the film might quite be my favourite ever, with the spare piano of Erik Satie. He treats himself to a cab, riding home through a city of complexity, considering his simple life, and how it really is not so simple at all, but resigned and calmed - much the way I feel now. Much the way I feel in this oriental island on the larger island of Manhattan. Much the way I wonder, just how all of this will play out. Like Wallace, looking out the window as he rides.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

About "About Me"

I am currently involved in international marketing projects in New York City. Please let the following serve as an introduction to my work and career. Or check my profile on LinkedIn


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"If You Can Make It There, You'll Make It Anywhere" - It's Feels Good to be Home

Michael Moore
There's something in the bones about New York. For me, something in a hint of a memory of 335 E. 86th Street, where I was hatched. Something borne in one. I think of it mostly as I walk and ride the city every day. I think mostly about those for whom this city would definitely not work. My family. The girl I went to Europe and Africa with. Nearly everyone I knew in Vietnam, and most in Korea as well. The rest of the world. It's not for everyone, yet everyone is here. People from 100 countries, and more. It's the only city in the US I knew would be international enough for me to feel at home. In a recent post, Seth Godin reasons because "It's Different Here" and he recounts:

But there's more. Compared to Asia (and even to Paris) the subway is a dirty smelly hellhole that would be an embarrassment to any developed country - but New Yorkers like it that way (most of them haven't seen Asia or Europe).. It wouldn't be NYC without it. Conversations pass daily on how organized crime controls government and government controls the people - but that's how it is. Sadly. One guy tried to impress me recently with the idea of how much better the US is than Somalia right now. Interesting. We now have to compare ourselves to underdeveloped third-world nations in political turmoil to be better than someone. But that's how it is.

Yesterday Michael Moore showed up at the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park. This morning it was Susan Sarandon. Tonight I listened to Professor Cornel West from Princeton University. Inspiring. Yes, it's different (and fucked-up) here, and I love that. The Wild Wild East has now inhabited Asia, Europe, Africa, the Wild Wild Upper East Side of NYC and even Wild Wild East Broadway and things are just fine. Recently a girl commented on my "A Suspension of Disbeliefs" blog that my writing has become more "America-centric" since returning, and she surmises, that, "that makes' sense. Before I wrote about America from afar. Now I write to afar from America. It's a small world in any case and I am now your correspondent in NYC.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flying to New York on 09.11.11 Finds a Paranoid and Collectively Depressed Nation on Arrival

Those little town blues
Flying from Asia to New York is punctuated by an announcement on the PA from the pilot leaving Taiwan that says they are required by US law to tell passengers that they are not allowed to congregate in groups of more than two, anywhere on the aircraft during flight. It is only a small notion of the American paranoia to follow. You don't hear that going to China. On the flight from San Fran to NYC the first sign that America is in deep shit is that there is no free food on the flight as there had been from Saigon to Taipei and Taipei to San Francisco. Nope. You can buy a breakfast cookie for $3 on American Airlines or a limp shrink-wrapped croissant with ham and cheese for $6. It sucks. Welcome to the good ole US of A. Time to pay for everything - including the free-everywhere-else carts that you use to get your luggage out of the airport. In America, that costs $5. In Europe, Asia and Africa, all of which I visited in the past two years, those are free - and supported by advertising on said carts. "Sorry, we're fresh out of money in America because all the war and shit over the past 10 years", reads the idea and fresh out of things like 'freedom' and 'liberty' too according to the press I read.

The New Yorker Magazine does a whole issue on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 and it's not exactly a love story - having a cigarette with a guy who works stocking coolers at one of the restaurants in San Francisco's airports he says, "Do you think they really killed Bin Laden?" He doesn't believe it. The New York Times Sunday Book Review features a story by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum called, "That Used To Be Us" on America's slumping economy and lack of current innovation. 10 years of war are killing something, obviously. Obama is chided for curating George Bush's legacy by and it's pretty damn tough to find any optimism at all on the way into America. Excellent time to go back methinks.

You might find the Europeans grousing about Greece and the Asians grousing about, well nothing, but it's more than plain to see that at least the American intelligentsia are none too happy about much at all. As far as I'm concerned, I have nowhere to go but up. It will be interesting to see how that can come to be in a nation that seems to be wallowing in being down.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Wild Wild East Dailies Heads for the Wild Wild Upper East Side

It's time to go home. Home for me was 531 E 86th St. in New York. That's where I was born. It's doubtful that I could afford to be born there today as the building has become an upscale condominium, but in 1956, it was the Misericordia hospital and the home of the Guild of the Infant Saviour, a Catholic orphanage. This will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Business Plans of the Wild and Delusional in Vietnam - How Not To Market in Asia IV

If I hear of another website business idea in Vietnam for foreigners without a valid business plan or revenue model I'm gonna spit! Because I should be making good money helping people write plans for things like this. Or at least getting paid for recommending they NOT do silly things. The most recent is from VietnamOnline and they're already on the web. It's a nice enough site but they have no advertising and not really any content that you can't already find. Also, their use of Google Maps is unfortunate (Google Maps don't work in Vietnam). Yes, it's a website about Vietnam tourism, but unfortunately other sites like TripAdvisor do an adequate and profitable job already. The question about this site or any other proposed is, "But how are they going to make any money?" My introduction to VietnamOnline came through a job advertisement they had posted on VietnamWorks. They were looking for full-time writers and editors. I sent my samples and credentials and received the following reply:

Dear David,

Thank you for your interest in our company. While you are an outstanding applicant we are unable to offer you a position with our organization at this time. 

With your permission, we would like to keep your resume on file in the event that another position that could match with your ability as well as offer your expected salary becomes available.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in our position and hope that you continue to come back and read Vietnam Online often. 

We wish you success in your career endeavors in Vietnam.


Translation: "We don't have enough money to pay you." And probably don't have enough to pay anyone else either - not anyone who can really help them. So companies tend to look for cheap, or college kids, or Viet Kieu who are supported from home or anyone who thinks writing is glamourous and will do it for free. Good luck. To many, websites seem to look like the holy grail until you work out a business plan and hire a sales team to work on income, because writers and content alone, won't make you any money. But a business plan might. 

And that would be the same for any business. Unfortunately, I've seen this a lot in Vietnam. From design  schools to consulting enterprises to who knows what. What is it that get's people to launch business ideas with no plan whatsoever? Only delusion, possibly. I covered this two years ago in a post called Big Dreams, Big Plans, Small Money, No Commitment: How Not to Market in Asia III. Guess a few people still haven't read that one yet. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Livin' On Rooster Time

A few weeks ago my building decided to enter a full renovation without telling anyone. My Internet went spotty immediately and was replaced by jackhammers, drills, saws, all manner of Vietnamese arguments between construction and management in the hallways and the removal of my old American style window air conditioner leaving a large hole in the wall where no window had previously been. Then came the roosters. In a visual sense the rooster is a positively regal fowl. Decked out from head to toe in a rainbow of colours and strutting about like Mick Jagger you would think Keith Richards was lurking right around the corner. But just like a runway model what a rooster slays with looks is immediately knocked down when they open their mouth (or beak as it may be). And they like to open their beaks starting at around 4am and continuing past 10, as if they aren't quite sure the whole world is awake yet.

But how did I get from living in a city of 8 million to roosters in the flash of a renovation? Answer: There are two sides to every building.

In the area of Saigon in which I live there are hundreds of guest houses on every street - the kind of places that usually cater to tourists, have a travel service of some sort in the lobby and plenty of garish signage out front to make sure they are keeping up with the Nguyen's next door who have even more garish signage, and of course, roosters - but nobody knows that until they get to the back of the building. I live in a building like that - a building that thrives in a flood of neon to the street but basically fronts a barnyard out back - a sort of cruel reversal of the Universal Studios Wild Wild West town. Except, this in the Wild Wild East.

My move to the back, after having already become accustomed to sleeping through Bon Jovi at 4am every night from the bar across the street came with a knock on the door one day. "You move room one hour. We change everything. Two days. You move back". That was a week ago. But rooster time came immediately.

A Vietnamese professor explained in a newspaper recently that migration to the cities in Vietnam came differently from that in North America 100 years ago or more. "In America", he said, "people moved to the cities because that's where the factories were. In Vietnam, we have no factories in the cities, but people move anyway because they think they can make money." And so we live in a nation of farmers - who are all busy becoming millionaires of one sort or another, even if it's finding a way to make a million chickens. I guess that's what the roosters are for. Every Sunday I walk through the back alley here and see a man carefully washing his rooster. He loves that damn bird - because it's more than one meal for his family in the future. And there are ducks too. I can hear them now - but if I went out front, I'd get Bon Jovi, only he's no Mick Jagger, I can tell you that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

WWED Stories Now Available for Syndication

The Wild Wild East Dailies (WWED) is a collection of over 500 stories relating to Asia, Korea and Vietnam over the past 3 1/2 years, from an American expatriate POV. All stories are protected under a Creative Commons license that encourages reuse but only for non-commercial enterprises. Our stories have been linked or quoted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and New York Magazine but not reprinted in full.

If you are a commercial print publication, webzine or other site and have interest in reprinting WWED stories, please contact us. We offer very reasonable rates and can even write on demand for Asian related issues. Contact for more information.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The WWED Top 10 Posts Today, 25 July, 2011

Please pardon me all. For the last few years I have always published an annual report for WWED. This year I did not as I appended the project and dedicated it to The Morton Report. But we have moved on again and direction is in transit for WWED. I feel often that I have a voice that works and belongs at WWED but I also feel committed to my new venture, A Suspension of Disbeliefs, and to a more international voice and ideas - and so with that I give you the Top 10 posts of WWED over the last 3.5 years and ask for your feedback. Are these your favourites - others?

Here are the Top 10 with hit numbers. I like that Buddhist Funeral Prayer is #1, and that Roller Coaster is #2 just makes me smile - let's me know a lot of people relate to life in many variables. #8 and 9 are both interesting as well as they are about the advertising business in its many variables. But #10, Paris in the 30s - Saigon Today is both one of my favourite writing pieces whilst being a lovely representation of life in Vietnam at a certain point.

The Wild Wild East Dailies Top 10 - 2011
(Make sure to click on the icon before each story)











Rock on.

The Wild Wild East Dailies

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Read my blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies and keep up on our efforts with aSaigon/CreativeMorning.