Today is so right and so ready.
Did anyone die today? Did you make a million dollars? Was there a tsunami in your part of the world?
In truth, nothing happened today. And that's, oddly, where we all got it wrong. A whole lot happened today and maybe people were just too stoopid, dim or unaware to have seen any of it. It pisses me off. Because I saw a whole bunch, and I'm chirping mad to know why nobody else saw it. Here's the list:
A week's worth in one day: (Click on the pics to make them bigger)
In a previous post, I mentioned my insistence and pleasure in walking in Saigon. I know, it's farking nuts. Leave me alone. Today I walked home from a client and passed many of the shops that produce the kind of art you can buy at an art exhibit at the Holiday Inn in Bentonville, Arkansas - art for everything from trailer homes to McMansions. You know, copy Mona Lisas and the like. And honestly, some of them are quite nice. The Vietnamese, for the record, already got their colonialist lesson in how to paint in the style that the intruders liked - and they're absolutely crack at it. You can get your hands on a Warhol, DaVinci, Steadman (No shit...Fear and Loathing!) and anything else you like for maybe thirty bucks – better if you live here. So I know the routine on the locals pickin' off tourists to pay way-the-hell-more than they ought to for a damn nice copy.
My cost on a crack Patek Philippe watch is $14. Take it to your jeweler dude, and then give me shit. But back to the artist.
The walk I took is a mix of motorbike repair shops full of 60's Vespas, garbage Hondas and rubbish what-evers from Russia, Hungary, Korea and... art galleries. Go figure. I can almost see the well-healed New Yorkers, Parisians and Abu Dabbers traipsing this odd turf in search of the next Keith Haring. Fat fucking chance. This bit of the Wild Wild East is mine and I'm the sheriff. That's why I get to walk home on this street – and do anything I fucking want.
So I hit the shop. Another shop – like any one would be any different from any other. There must be 1000 versions of a sultry Vietnamese farm woman, baring a bit of a breast, and pouring water from a jar with a forlorn look in her eye. Yeah, every rice farmer's got a copy of that one – right over the Harley in his garage – the only place his wife will let him keep it. C'mon ... Vietnamese don't buy this stuff.
But this artist must have known something – whatever gallery owners know when a prospective buyer walks in the door: "Is he newly divorced?", "Looking for something to match that Crate and Barrel sofa?" or "just another stiff off the boat? " Come in...
My guy doesn't go there at all. Instead, he walks me up to a painting that I don't like very much at all. It's an original of a butterfly hovering over a plant of some sort. Wretched. But I'm nice enough and have an art poker face that works in all the major markets – so he begins to explain the piece: The tuft of a willow sort of bit is an eyebrow. The butterfly, a nose. Another bit of a flower, the lips and the stem of another unseen flower, the outline of a female face. It's an incredibly innocent concept, but one he presents to me as his own. His idea. And I am floored. The idea is to see the positive images in reverse and that will reveal the face he has really painted. It works.
But of all the guys, and dammit - white guys - that he sees in his joint everyday, did he decide to show me his "thinking" instead of his copies? I am in love.
And no, I will never buy this painting. But I'm in love with the idea that no matter what we have to do to pay the bills, that some of us will still gravitate to what lives deepest in our hearts – our ideas. Because life goes on. Nothing really happens. Except when we think.
Do not come to Vietnam to walk. Not in the city at least. Like I said about the Afghan technology in their roads, it gets no better on the sidewalk. The sheer number of steel rods sticking out at inopportune times, shifts in pavement height and general disregard for anyone who walks is appalling. Got it?
CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
The cacophony of houses in Saigon is absolutely artful. The minute you are charmed by a fading French Colonial masterpiece, you'll be blown away by some new bit of urban blight that puts the term "McMansion" to shame. Shit, they don't even have McDonald's here so how the hell would they know? In any case, the dichotomy in urban housing is masterful. Mansions next to certified shotgun shacks and that's how it's going to stay. And all because of Ho Chi Minh.
With the communist takeover of the south in 1975 there shortly came a grand re-appropriation of real estate. The spoils of war. And those southerners who were rich and now on the loosing side? Well, they became the famed boat people we had so artfully framed in the US as poor Vietnamese farmers who were driven out by the evil empire. And who were they really? Well, lawyers, doctors and other professionals who had had the misfortune of befriending America when we had pretty much abandoned ship here. You have no idea how much it cost to buy even the most unseaworthy of craft at that time. Farmers? Hardly.
I know. I was part of a church "big brother" program in college to help a Vietnamese family relocate to the US in 1975. My little brother was 28 and a former lawyer in Vietnam. I was 19 and an art student. We had to teach the family how to use Levelor blinds and electric can openers but my brother, despite his lack of language skills, was determined to become a lawyer again. I'm sure he is today.
Yet, however horrendous the takeover – and yes, you can find plenty of unsavory stories on the internet, the dust settled and peace became – and the houses were reassigned. The little house you see today, next to a mansion, may have been that of a driver or mechanic of a victorious general. The driver still lives there. And somehow, that's all fair. Everybody gets along.
That means, "Would you like a ride on my motorbike?", the modern day Vietnamese equivalent of a taxi driver having his light on. I am accosted by this statement/question at least 20 times a day as I ply the city. My friend and I used to joke that the national slogan for Vietnam should be "Motobike, Marijuana, Boom-Boom!" Because that is precisely the order in which street hawkers will try to sell you the three things they think a foreigner is most ready to buy: Transportation, pot and sex. Why do I think they are more right than wrong?
He didn't mean to make art but he did. The man who will sell you a new muffler or tailpipe for your motorbike has a limited amount of street space – because his shop is in the back and the other vendors own squatting rights to the sidewalk in front of their TV repair joints, restaurants and other shops. So the muffler guy simply put all the mufflers and pipes he could fit into a shopping cart and wheeled it out next to the curb. Everybody knows what that means. It's a sign that says, quite clearly, "Muffler guy, here". Now, should you buy a muffler, that will change the art – a deceptively calculated part of the performance, I suspect.
HOW DO YOU DEMOLISH A JUNKYARD:
You'd think the shit had already hit the fan in this place. Old Citroens, a few Mustangs and a mess of other stuff that is just what junkyards out to be. I fucking loved this place. And it was just down the street from what routinely sell as million dollar plus, 20 ft wide, three storey, street properties. Today, a fully functioning Komatsu tractor is raking the joint over. My junkyard is gone. I used to come here for meditation. To see the visions of the past that had now come to call this part of urbana their home. Shoot. Now I'll have to go to a park or church like other people. I won't like that near as much as I will miss this.
I slapped out at my friend Hugh MacLeod recently for wanking about his Technorati ranking. Gapingvoid.com is #409 and Hugh just signed a book deal with Penguin, the same people who published Seth Godin's "Purple Cow".
And then I found my ranking. It's like - a million-sumthin'.
Doesn't look immediately good. Until you realize that Technorati claims to rank over 112 Million websites – and that puts me well inside the top 5%. So " f " off, anyone who says I ain't shit. I'm in the top five percent of shit apparently.
On a sidebar, the website Wild Wild East, which is my book site and not the fun or active one, ranked in at # 2,910,025. That's top 3% and better. And that's a 75 + page site with no breaks and basically one post. Go figure.
THE MOST DOCUMENTED LIFE IN HISTORY:
Is blogging obsessive/compulsive? Are we all just digital wankers? Probably yes , but we're not even close to holding any records. That one, and one not likely to be eclipsed by any blogger, goes to R. Buckminster Fuller, creator of the geodesic dome, the Dymaxion car, the modern FIFA soccer ball and former Professor Emeritus at my alma mater. He is dubiously credited with having the most documented life in modern history – owing to his having kept a journal, to the minute, throughout his life.
DIGG, DUGG, BLIM, BLAM AND WHAM BAM THANK YOU MAM:
See all that rubbish at the bottom of the post. Wanna "Digg" this or "Mixx" that? If anybody knows what the hell all of that is please feel free to click away and Digg, Mixx, or Spooge this article to your liking.
My Brazil campaign is kicking butt and here's the map to prove it. Brazil loves me! Read the post and you'll get it. And all because I reached out to them. Brazil is now on the map but watch out – India is still the house favourite for a surge. Wait until I decide to go after Mongolia. Brutal is the only word I can think of.
DIRTY WORDS:See any lately? Around here they're becoming de rigeur – and I wonder, should I be concerned? A friend of mine was fired recently, from the most prestigious university in town for comments she made on her personal blog in relation to Vietnamese women. Let's just put it this way, think of all the words that equate with "money for sex" and that was the analogy she was making – probably not in a literal or truly antagonistic way but it didn't come out well for her. She was turned in by a fellow worker who took offense at her opinion.
So where does one draw the line? Do you stop at saying the "F" word or does it go further? Does it go to the heart of your matters? For me, I'm not going to get all motherly about the use of certain words but I will keep a mind about how and why I use such words – and the ideas they, combined with the clever crafting of other words around them, communicate the heart and spirit of ideas. In short, I may be terse, blunt, pointed and theatrically profane but I will not be a nasty bastard. No point.
TO SEE:One day, on the walk out of our office in Korea, I stopped to examine the bark on a tree. The molting of this particular tree bark created a three dimensional pattern that I had neverseen on a tree before. It was a big flowering Korean tree but I'll be damned if I can tell you what it was. Seeing me fascinated with the tree, my staff, Nam Mee-Hyun, remarked, "David, you're the only person I have ever seen pay any attention to that tree at all". And honestly, I didn't think twice about the attention I paid to trees, or old cars, or anything. It's simply the beauty of walking more than most. You see more than most. That tree, that day was at least worth this story.
WHAT'S A LITTLE THING?
Maybe the beauty of little things is you never really know what is little or what is big unless you look at the little. A lot. What's big is just so fucking obvious that we should really regard it all as an illusion. Texas. A Lincoln Navigator. The ocean. Maybe there's nothing there.
But there's a million little things – everyday. If we look.
Today, my friend just opened a site to celebrate the life and little things of her son, Colin , who is no longer with us.
Today a million little things mean everything. They are simply, what happened.
Today is just so right and so ready.