Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who Are You - and What Da "F" Do You Want?

Well, aren't those the usual questions – but to ask them here is dangerous. Do I really want to know who all the loonies are who read this blog? Of course I do. For those of you who tuned in late, this thing started out in early February as a response to a post by my old ad buddy, Hugh MacLeod. Hugh writes and draws the GapingVoid.com blog and can be found easily in the sidebar here. As it goes, Hugh included a link to my book site (which can also be found inData, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statistics the sidebar) on his blog back in February and my hits took a steep hike because Hugh's blog is just very heavily read. He's in Technorati's top 1000 blogs worldwide and that's really something. At the end of this post you'll see where we are on that scale and that will give you some real perspective. But anyway, this blog, The Wild Wild East Dailies was created overnight to give readers a little more sound-bite-like stuff to get their teeth around, as opposed to the book site – which is 80 pages or so in one post of a story you may or may not want to read. And so, here we are today, and if I might say so myself, pretty damn healthy for it. It has helped make contact with a ton of old friends again, introduced me to a fine group of new ones, provided a bit of journalistic therapy and believe it or not, attracted a growing, incredibly dedicated, loyal readership – and, I absolutely just love writing it. So who the fuck are you? And why are you here? Those are the questions we're about to answer. Click on the images to make them full-size.

Welcome To the World:

The first thing I want to get a grip on today is a globe – because that what it takes to see who reads this. From Moscow to Seoul, Tokyo, New York, Vancouver, Michigan, Wisconsin, Brazil, India, Australia, Vietnam of course, some crazy rastafarian in Jamaica – I'm seeing hits from everywhere. And since we're now syndicated on Digg and Mixx we get a lData, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statisticsot of news and feature hits that come from virtually everywhere. One chart you'll see today says 30 countries, but that's just a 30-day snapshot. In reality, the total is a whole lot more than that but I don't have the capability to see everyone from everywhere at one time so we'll just do this little by little. Take a look at the two maps provided. They are snapshots taken roughly two months apart. The highest concentration of readers comes from the US, followed by Vietnam and then trails off to everywhere. The core reader bases seem to be New York and Vietnam with their frequency, loyalty and length of time spent constantly topping the charts.

What Do All These People Want?

You'd think that anybody who checked in and stayed here had at least a modicum of intelligence and a whole lot of better things to do with their time, but let's dig a little deeper into not only who check in here, but what they do when they get here. Look at the chart on the left below. You'll see the columns Country, Visits, Pages per Visit, Average Time on Site, % New Visits and Bounce Rate. Understanding most of that you ask, "What the hell is Bounce Rate?". Well, the bounce rate is the percentage of people who check in and say, "This looks like shit, I'm outa here." – and then leave quickly. Indians and Australians fucking hate me. 100% of both of those countries don't even stay long enough to use the toilet. They have 100% Bounce Rates. But never fear, they're followed closely by the Koreans, English, Americans and Canadians with rates in the 70s and 80s. That means I'm only interesting to 25% of those people, but considering that, aside from the Data, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, StatisticsKoreans, the Anglos represent the largest readership and 25% of those big numbers is pretty good. Now look again and see who has the lowest Bounce Rate. Huh? The Germans, Swiss and Singaporeans? Yep. 50% of them hang out. Now you've got to ask yourself. "What makes this so interesting to them?" I personally, have no idea. The Vietnamese, by the way, stick around for at least 30% of the time. – Now, swing over to the Average Time on Site column. And, oh look! The Canadians piss off the fastest whilst the Swiss, Germans and Vietnamese, spend around 7 minutes a pop here. Amazing! Even the Koreans are good for a three minute gig with the Americans and their short attention spans managing just a bit over two minutes. – Next up, the Pages per Visit column. Here the Viets, Swiss and even the South Koreans share honours with two pages per visit – so we at least know their scrolling fingers work. And those hard to please Americans? Down at a page and a half a pop. The Indians and Aussies couldn't get out the door fast enough after one page.

Who Loves Ya Baby?

Here's where we really start to cut the mustard. After we pitch the Indians and Aussies we're down to the 30% of the people who do stick around, and that's the audience I'm writing for. Whatever it is I write, be it advertising drivel, daily wanderings or the reproduction of truly lovely Buddhist prayers it's important to realize that in the end, this isn't about Data, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statisticsme. It's about the readers. It's about you. – So on to the love. The first chart here is about Returning Visitors. And that's pretty important. 33.41% of the people who manage to check in just once, actually come back – so that makes them either sadists or truly gifted, inspired individuals. When Google starts giving me psychographic stats on this thing, that will rData, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statisticseally be the bomb! – But, the next chart may be my favorite of the whole PowerPoint thing here – am I starting to look like Al Gore? The next chart shows Visitor Loyalty and you gotta love this one. Whilst 66.59% of the people never come back again and 8% or so only come back once before I make them mad, swing your eyes down to the bottom of this chart. Whoa! And watch the reader loyalty grow from 9-100 times they visit the site. 15% of the people who come here are coming back and back, over and over again and that spells just one thing – a growing loyal readership base. And how many is that? If 2500 people have visited the site in its life and 30% have managed to come back that would be a return of 750 people, and 15% of that number is 112.5 persons. I'm not sure who that poor 1/2 a person is but he could be just really short. So, roughly, a core of just over 100 people check in here a lot. A whole bunch. The rest of you are just party crashers so I'm gonna hire a guard to stand by the keg and shoo you away next time.

Love me long time?

The final chart today is called Visit Length. Don't we all secretly evaluate potential mates by how long they can stand to be in our company? Whatever snide things I may say about my ex-wife from time to time, I'll give her top credit in one area; she stood in the fire for nearly 15 years and you've got to give a girl points for that. Those of you who know me well will certainly agree. I even used to say myself, was that her best feature was that she pData, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statisticsretty much hung around and left me alone to my creative things. But on to my favorite stat of the evening (it's evening here). The Visit Length chart is revealing in the nicest of ways for a writer. It shows that of the 30 odd percent of those who hang around, 21% of you stay for more than an hour. Another significant percentage stays from five minutes, up until one hour. And that's generally good. I can see from all my stats over the last 4 months that it's taken some time to build content, but at 53 posts or so now, that is becoming less and less of an issue and so, even when a new visitor shows up, there's more to keep them interested. Through all the stats, Bounce Rates are in continual decline, Visitor Time is fairly constant, but the most important is Vist Length. That means that people are finding more and more reasons to waste their time here and that's nice. It's like having a party every week and getting to know the difference between the people who are your friends and those who just came for the free drinks. Thanks all. No moocher would have gotten this far in the post!

Drum Roll Please!

Data, Google Analytics, Love, StatCounter, Statistics
So to wrap this up all nice and tidy, we have a new Technorati score to reveal tonight. A week ago I posted that we had finally broke into the top 1% of blogs world wide and I'm happy to say that just after that, we jumped again, and then suddenly, again. To 790, 971. So that means the top 1/2% is our next target. Thanks all. I'm tired now and it's time to go to bed. Creative guys can only handle so much time with all this data you know.

Note: All stats are courtesy of StatCounter.com and Google Analytics.

For more on blogs, blogging and bloggers, check here:

Advertising People & Blogs - The Travis Diaries VI
How to Write the Best Damn Blog in the World
Throw That Blog a Bone!
If Blogs Are Free Are They Worthless?
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If You Like the Blog, Read the Book>/a>
2008 Annual Report - The Wild Wild East Dailies
Blog Redesign WWED
BarCamp Saigon 2008
Attraction vs. Conversion - How to Power Your Blog
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pay to Pitch?

I don't know if this is strictly a Vietnamese phenomenon or is happening in other countries but listen to the tale and then, someone, let me know.

The client here is S-Fone, a not-so-large Vietnam mobile service and the story is that they asked five or so agencies to pitch for their account and then asked the agencies to "pay" to pitch for the media. The value of the media portion of the business is 3 million US. Hot a shabby amount around here.

DDB ended up in a two-way battle for creative only against Ogilvy and emerged victorious on the creative assignment but declined to participate and pay to be included
in the media portion.

You can read the whole strange tale here on Brand Republic.

Blimps, Bullshit, Pay To Pitch?, Pay to Play, Advertising,
Shit. Is this some bizarre wave of the future or just a Vietnamese thing? Or could it be Korean? S-Fone is affiliated with SK Telecom in Korea so I wonder. But, in any case this brings me back to my blimp experience.

The client was the
blimp owner and was asking an agency to pay to write a plan and then have exclusive rights to sell advertising on the blimp and the agency was in-turn asking me to write this entire plan, uhh, for free.

Both Ogilvy and DDB walked on the pay portion of the pitch and I, of course, opted not to write any plans for free on blimps. There's a whole lotta hot air being passed around here these days. I'm glad I walked on the blimp instead of being taken for a ride.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I work for myself. Who do you work for?

The subjects of work and economy have been issues of considerable conversation recently, both with people I know here in Vietnam and my email friends back in the US and UK. Inflation rates globally are at 7% with over 4% in the US and UK and 20% here in Vietnam – and
Carlson communications, Asshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip Kotlersalaries are not keeping pace, anywhere – there is truly no place to run. China's not the answer that's for sure. Just read The New York Times story on the problems with construction of the Olympic facilities and realize the headaches of the international architects and low commissions they've accepted – yes, arguably, to build some of the finest examples of contemporary architecture this century has yet to offer – because the opportunity and low labor costs make comparable buildings impossibly unfeasible in any developed economy. Nobody's making any money in China right now but they are just working because that's where the work is. And that beats not working at all.

In Vietnam things are no different. For all the massive construction projects and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) it's hard to see the trickle-down theory in practice aside from providing plenty of jobs for labourers. Conversely milk has gone from 12,000 dong to 18,000 in just six months, affecting every mother in the country, and my rent jumped by 20% in March. As far as employment, things seem to be treading in reverse as well. I spent an hour last Monday at the largest headhunter in Vietnam and was told that only possibly thAsshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip Kotlerree jobs at my level were placed in the last two years. Honestly, I don't think this person had ever placed an experienced marketing person before – or knew what to do with one. An hour later at Ho Chi Minh Economic University the interviewer just looked at my CV and had a similar reaction – as if there were an elephant in the office and the main job was to figure out how to get rid of it. In terms of marketing, Vietnam has just no history and doesn't understand the values of marketing, branding or advertising. Even the universities have just recently started adding classes. (You can learn about a new "Institute" for advertising here, partially supported by the Vietnamese Advertising Association). What tends to happen currently is that clients come in, demand certain things and the agencies have only the capability of working in a reactionary fashion. There don't seem to be any concepts of pro-activity or market analysis or planning. What history there will be is currently being written. Do you think there might be some work there? I do.

Asshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip KotlerSo for my entire time in Vietnam I've focused mainly on client direct work. I supplement that with teaching jobs to pay the rent but just have much more fun and challenge with the mazes and creative metrics of marketing. The challenge then becomes deciding which deals one should take and which deals one should avoid. I read recently a story in Ad Age about "How To Avoid Working For A Jerk" and that really drove home the point:

"Who do I work for?", I asked myself and the answer was oh, so very clear.
"I work for myself"
, I answered. And I realized that that has always been the case. From my first full-time employment at my first agency after university up through today, my ultimate responsibility has always been to myself. If I don't like the way the boss treat
s me, or have issues with company policies, it is truly up to me to make the necessary changes – either by employing creative disobedience in relation to inane company or client directives, or by finding other, better work. It is really that simple.

The blimp job this year was a prime example – "Blimps Go Boom". This particular client had an idea to bring a blimp into Vietnam on which to sell advertising space but they had no business plan whatsoever. I gave them a fee for writing that plan, and Asshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip Kotlera good solid outline, and that became the end of that job. If a client doesn't want to pay for planning then it's a good bet you're never going to find a way to get paid for anything.

A few weeks after that I was contacted by an educational service on behalf of an Australian university. The job was 13 weeks at five hours a week but included 3 student evaluations of my performance, 2 from admin by the local service and one by the university, all over the course of thirteen weeks. That's an an evaluation every two weeks! A review of the evaluation criteria and contract revealed that it was essentially designed to provide a plethora of loopholes for the institution to claim the work I was doing was "not good" as was the language in the contract. Schools in Vietnam are notorious for structuring programs that are based on what the students enjoy anAsshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip Kotlerd not necessarily what needs to be taught because they want to maintain the highest possible enrollment and hence profit. So in escense, students are allowed to vote for their teachers. Translation? If you want students to be happy, make it as easy as possible. But this is simply not possible in a number of marketing and business disciplines. Teaching Philip Kotler's "Principles of Marketing" is no easy course for western kids and becomes doubly difficult when you realize they won't be familiar with half the case study companies and have a significant language barrier added in. So I passed on that opportunity. One clause in the contract stated quite clearly that the school "reserved the right to give the professor three days notice" and release him/her if the performance was deemed "not good". That was probably the biggest red flag in the whole deal.

Next up and finally, was the Japanese internet company that wanted me to provide three 200 word stories per week on marketing trends in Vietnam for an industry audience. Now that's slightly easier than sneaking a blimp into the country but bears it's own hurdles and challenges. It really all comes down to price. Information in Vietnam is not only hard to come by because of theAsshole, FDI Vietnam, Jerk Boss,Vietnam Advertising Association, ARTI,  Leona, Marketing, Paul Graham, Philip Kotler language difference but also because very little is published. The hidden research quotient in this job was about as large as that blimp – but undeterred by a little hard work I carried on a six week discussion with the Japanese company in search of a workable agreement. To give you an idea of writer's rates for this kind of work the Writer's Market gives a good overall breakdown for everything from advertising writing to various journalistic rates including trade journals. Their average rate for trade journal columns is 78 cents per word with a high of $1.25 and a low of 58 cents. Further checking with a writer friend here who has reported for a Hong Kong trade journal revealed that 45 cents per word would be an acceptable rate in Vietnam. The Japanese offer was 15 cents per word – pretty much a huge red flag and a no-go on that deal. I should put them in touch with the blimp people. They could start a business together! Neither one seems to have any money.

The whole point of this is that the one advantage that each of us has over potentially asshole-ish people and bad deals is choice. We get to choose what we do for a living. As the old story goes about the patient who complained to the doctor that "his feet hurt when he jumped up and down" , the doctors response was just blindly logical. "Then stop jumping up and down.", he told the patient.

We all have the ability to stop jumping up and down if that is what is causing us pain. And I don't suggest that we should be lazy or stop working but do suggest that we be more selective in the work we choose to do and make sure that Quality of Life is appropriately accounted for in our negotiations with employers and clients. We don't have to take a bad deal if we can smell it up front. The trick then becomes in our olfactory senses towards business. And that is what I find myself doing more and more of these days; deciding which jobs not to take.

And so my life is blimp-less and Yen-less but not necessarily less in terms of what I am prepared to do for my future. There's an old salesmen's adage that fit's well here –

"Every time a customer turns me away I say Thank You. Thank you for putting me one step closer to a sale."

Once we accept the fact that we are our own ultimate boss, it becomes a lot easier to bear the obstacles that will inevitably come along.

For some more interesting reading on this subject, take a look at this essay from Paul Graham entitled,
"You Weren't Meant To Have A Boss".

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Walk In The Park Today: Nothing Much Happened in Vietnam Today III

Two Hours:

1) Take a hard left semi-U-turn out of my house and you're headed down an alley just wide enough for you and a passing motorbike – well, okay, a lot of passing motorbikes – and then it's down home where the real people live. A friend of mine has said that Vietnam is the only country where you have to watch out for getting run over by a restaurant! And in this tight little alley that is indeed the case, because it is in these tiny alleys that the ladies prepare all the food that will end up on the street vendors carts that travel the main streets. It is also where people these people live and you can see them just three feet away from you, feet propped up on the sofa, shirtless men and shoeless women watching TV or operating their computers. I am always a little self conscious in these areas and try not to look as if I am peering into their privacy, but I have to admit, I am curious. Curious about all sorts of things. 2) Why do they decorate their houses the way they do? The Buddha shrines, with flashing Christmas lights way low on the floor next to the steep wooden staircases – the pictures mounted much higher on the walls than would be a conventional eye level – the multitude of what seem to be more Christmas decorations hung in all the oddest places – and of course pictures of babies or recent graduates in gowns or Jesus or Mary. 3) And out front of the shirtless man watching TV will be a small cart of electrical fittings – light bulbs, plugs, wires, fuses and whatnot along with maybe flour or instant noodles that you can buy from his wife – all that stuff on one cart mind you. 4) And I walk through the maze, twisting and turning my way past the Temple and the kids playing 20 year-old massive video games in a tiny room just big enough for four machines as I survey foods I would never see on the main streets. Oh, noodles (Pho) for sure, but other stuff – pickled, what look to be brainy innards of unknown mammals and other things coated in flour and deep fried to obscure whatever the original food was that is now inside. 5) Then boom. The alley spills out onto one of the busiest streets in my neighborhood, Tran Hung Dao Street, and my appetite is confused. Did I really want to try any of that stuff I saw, knowing full well that nobody will be able to speak enough English to explain to me what it was? Maybe not. But I like fried food. 6) Tran Hung Dao is now the center of one of the largest excavations Saigon has ever seen. A combination of installing the air vents for Line 1 of the new subway system and a citywide drainage project have caused the middle of what would normally be a fairly wide boulevard to be a tall green-sheeted-steel construction site forcing all the motorbikes onto the sidewalk during rush hour and most other hours of the day. Bad place to be a pedestrian. 7) I pull a yellow post-it note from my breast shirt pocket and look at the address – 219 Tran Hung Dao – but it's not my handwriting. And I have no idea what this post-it was doing in the pile of papers I cleaned up in my office today. The mysteries here never cease. Time to track down 219. 219 I surmise, is on the other side of the street in that, that seems to be where all the odd numbers are – but that might not always be the case. Sometimes odd and even numbers change at street corners, and never does a 214 on one side find a corresponding 215 on the other side. That could be blocks away. I have no idea why. In Korea, building numbers designate when the building was built, not it's placement on the street – so it would be perfectly normal to find a 217 next to a 712, because 712 was built many years later on the lot that possibly used to be 219, but not probably. But this is Vietnam and not Korea so I'm sure there's some ancient Confucian logic as to why it's fucked up differently than it would be fucked up in another Confucian society. Check the Anelects for the answer. 8) I know a woman here who will not cross the street. Seriously – she will have the cab driver go a full city block down and u-turn to get her directly in front of an address instead of braving traffic and saving a few dong to do so. Because she was hit once by a motorbike and quite seriously injured – broken leg and all – some hospital time she tells me. But I'm a trooper – and I've installed eyes on all four sides of my head. I used to be a lot better looking before the extra eye implants, but now I look better. 9) And it's not just bikes one needs to look out for – it's buses, two guys carrying sheet-glass or large mirror panels on a Honda, guys carrying beer on a Honda, or a refrigerator, three wheeled motorbike dump-trucks, cyclo drivers and the odd bicyclist, or a whole lot of bicyclists and cops. It's "Frogger" for grown-ups. Quite the trip. 10) 219 turns out to be an air-conditioning shop with some other electrical appliances, water heaters and such. I have no idea what that address was doing in my possession. Doesn't make any sense. 11) Most people have no idea what it's like to see a whole city just shedding it's skin daily and rebuilding itself – better, faster, shiny-er. Absolutely no city in the US has ever gone through this sort of a transition – at least not in modern times – and certainly not at this speed. I am just awash in the construction of new buildings at every glance. Addresses for many places are just positively worthless because it's a fairly good bet, if it was an old building, that it's not there anymore. 12) Inflation in Vietnam is being charted at 20% this year, but you won't find the local papers reporting that much. They say 10% – but that's as much BS as the government can shovel and everyone, certainly the Viets, knows it. That's one of the miracles of Communism. People know most of the info is BS and just go about their business anyway. They had 300% inflation in the late 80s so 20% doesn't look so bad today. 13) Back on the same side of the street I started on, I decide it's time for a little stroll, past some of the new car showrooms on Tran Hung Dao when I find the gem – no, not a Bentley this time, but a Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas. This car retails in the US for an MSRP of around $95,000 with tax differing between states but as the Vietnamese salesman happily explains to me – in perfect English, of course – that he can put me behind the wheel for a cool $230,000 I am just amazed. What a bargain. That's almost 1/2 what the Bentley would have set me back – with the 83% Luxury excise tax included! "Wrap it up", I tell him. "My wife will call you with the Amex number". 14) Geeziz. 15) Now I'm ready to eat some of whatever they were selling on alley #1. I double back and find myself strangely happy again to be back in the midst of normal people. Or at least as normal as they get around here. Any of these rice or Pho ladies could easily sell her three-storey flat for a million dollars as a teardown and buy that Jag with money to spare for the kid's education and a nice suburban home in the States. But she won't today. Today she will sell me a mysterious fried delight! To my surprise the elder of the two ladies, and I mean elder like 80, speaks perfect English. "Banana", she says, "Do you want banana?", she repeats. "No, I don't like banana", I tell her – "What's this one over here?" And that's where we hit the language barrier. Whatever it was, didn't have a name I might understand, and she knew that. But it looked good anyway and only cost 2000 dong, about 12 cents, so I took a bag. One of the things you learn around here is to always take a bite and smile, no matter what you are eating, even if it tastes like utter crap. But this was good. A little crispy spicy fried outside with a bit of a sweet soft chewey center, it was a bit like a Cajun Fry with a surprise inside. Charming actually. "Good?", she queried. "Yes, good!", I told her. An 80 year old grin spread from ear to ear and her daughter, the sixty-something one, nodded in approval. I'm sure they both had learned how to feed a GI or two in the old days. 16) Next up, a real dinner. Just a few steps down another lady had a wok in which she was deep frying something that appeared to be shrimp toast. A baguette split, layered with shrimp, shell on of course, and dipped in a very light rice flour batter and then fried over a little camp stove. I ordered two. They came with a sauce of dark soy paste (Hoysen in the US) mixed with a jelly-like chili squirt and a few ground fresh chilis for the lion-hearted to drive it all home. Stir, serve & dip. Man, these suckers were good. Had I ever been raised a suthun' boy these damn things woulda' made Mama proud. Delicious. – I thanked my hosts and moved along. 17) No day like this would be complete without a walk in the park so I ventured back out the alley from which I had started and made the two-block walk to the big city park nearby. Here I saw what looked like the largest stage I had ever seen erected and the set design, still in progress, resembling a cardboard mountain of sorts, with dancers and singers rehearsing for a director who sat atop a motorbike in the parking lot and barked instructions through a wireless microphone at the performers. And I can tell you, he was less than pleased with two of the girl singers. They were cute as hell but honestly couldn't have sung their way out of paper bags and he knew it. I suspect they knew it too but are probably models or sitcom celebrities and have a little too much princess disease to ever be completely cured – that's what backing tracks and lip-sync are for. But on this particular day, they were doing the vocals live against backing tracks and the director was going to get what he wanted, or at least closer to it. He made them do it again. And they sucked even more. NEXT! 18) The next three girls had excellent voices and could really sing but seemed a bit rusty on their blocking and minimal choreography. That what backup dancers are for. The director hurried them off and a large dance group appeared for a whole routine against music. Flag waving and Busby Berkeley kind of stuff. 19) But throughout this whole time, I had a great need to figure out what all this song and dance was going to be about. I didn't see any pictures of Uncle Ho around and it didn't seem to follow the stock government script of love, war, death, rebirth, nationalistic fury and Communist victory. No, this would be about something else entirely different, or at least, staged radically differently. In looking at the site I noticed banners with the moniker EVN 2008 hanging from all the trees. The four men in the poster stood cover-boy handsomely against a backdrop of what appeared to be, Mount Everest. It would be a trip back home and a few hours later before I would have the answer for sure. It looked like a mountain climbing show, but that doesn't make a great deal of sense in Vietnam now does it? Memories of the Jamaican Bobsled Team come to mind. 20) My walk home was punctuated only by the buying of cigarettes and an event that's become all too common and sad in Vietnam – a motorbike cowboy heist. The target is always the same, an unsuspecting tourist, and the bounty, a cel-phone, iPod or camera not attached to the tourist's neck. The routine works like this: Two guys on a bike circle a street corner, seemingly doing nothing and scout out their mark. Then when he or she is trying to cross the aforementioned chaotic street, they whiz buy and snatch the item. I saw this one almost peripherally and was more concerned about being run over by the heisters before I understood it was a robbery. There was nothing I could do. These are the infamous Vietnam motorbike cowboys and they rule the Wild Wild East on the iron horse than has come to be known as the Honda, Yamaha, or Suzuki. God pray when they start importing Harleys around here. With the Bentley, Hummer and Jaguar already running the rails, that can't be far behind. 21) Home would bring me to the end of this post and this walk. Two hours to do the walking and now a little over two hours to do the writing. 22) So
Everest Vietnam, Inflation, EVN 2008, Reality Show, Buddha, , Unfarkingbelievable Bentley, Jaguarwhat does EVN 2008 mean? It means that Vietnamese National Television (VTV) has actually produced a reality show where the contestants have had to climb Mount Everest. I shit you not. The damn thing has taken four or five months and I can tell you that this has not been about eating bugs or dangling from perfectly safe stunt mechanisms over swimming pools. These guys have trained on Kinabalu and Kilmanjaro and have now finished Everest. Take that Mark Burnett! The TV show and stage I witnessed are for the homecoming finale in June. 23) Unfarkingbelievable. I took a walk in the park today and the Vietnamese scaled Everest. Did I mention that nothing much else happened in Vietnam today?

For more in the "Nothing much happened" series, check below:

VIII People Are Just Dieing To Get Out of Here
VII The Hair Job
VI Happy New Year! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
V The Vietnam sNews
IV At The Center of Miss Universe
III My Walk in the Park Today
II The Stevie Wonder Post
I Ear Cleaning

Monday, May 19, 2008

Under a Million!

No shit, Technorati rank, Number One, Authority, One Million, SEO, PageRank, Google. Blogs, David Everitt-Carlson, Wild Wild East Dailies
We quietly snuck in under a million last night on the Technorati ranking charts gaining almost 200,000 places while I was sleeping. Now at 927,370. Who knows where it goes from here. Part of the Technorati ranking system is that we are rated higher if the blogs who link to us are rated higher – and there are some real players referencing the Wild Wild East Dailies on their blogs. This is all good. My job? Keep writing. Your job? Keep reading. Thanks to all.

A Buddhist Funeral Prayer

Botisattvas, Buddha, Compassion, Funeral Prayer, Gods, Ramsey Montgomery, Wild-Wild-East-Dailies, David Everitt-CarlsonA few months ago a friend here in Saigon, Ramsey Montgomery passed away at a rather young age. His parents held his memorial service in a Buddhist temple. Following is a prayer passed out to the gathering. We didn't speak this prayer in unison. Rather we were left to use it as we chose whilst the monk chanted and tapped out his rhythm with a wooden stick on a gourd.

The phrasings and Capitalization are how it was passed on to me:

O Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,

abiding in all directions,

endowed with great compassion,

endowed with fore-knowledge,

endowed with the divine eye,

endowed with love,

affording protection to sentient beings,

consent through the power of your

great compassion to come forth.

Consent to accept these offerings concretely
out and mentally created.
O Compassionate Ones,

you who possess the wisdom of understanding,

the love of compassion,
the power of doing
divine deeds and of
in incomprehensible measure.
( __________ ) is passing from this world
to the next.
He/she is taking a great leap.

The light of this world has faded for him/her
He/she has entered solitude
with his/her karmic forces.
He/she has gone into a vast Silence.

He/she is borne away by the Great Ocean
of birth and death.
O Compassionate Ones,
protect ( _________ ),who is defenseless.

Be to him/her like a father and a mother.

O Compassionate Ones,

let not the force of your compassion be weak,

but aid him/her.

Forget not your ancient vows.

My enjoyment and surprise is this particular evocation comes in the last line – "Forget not your ancient vows" – in that it nearly chides the Gods should they be remiss in their duty to our human friend. To me it indicates a sort of equality, a communication between the two parties, in that the Gods and we as devotees share a symbiotic relationship – something not stressed in the Christian faiths.

For clarification of the manuscript,
Buddhas are the Gods and Botisattvas are the reincarnated Buddhas such as the Dalai Lama - people who are believed to be Gods but in a human form only for a lifetime. The painting is by Robert Spellman.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Top 1%, Alvar Aalto & The Dalai Lama

& there we have it. On Monday, May 19, 2008 we broke into the Technorati Top 1% at 1,118,434 after just 3 1/2 months in publication. By the end of the month I hope to break under a million. As I've mentioned before, Technorati is the service that tracks only blogs and socTechnorati, top 1%, ranking, rankial media. This is not a ranking on all websites, but on blogs only. With Technorati tracking over 113 MILLION blogs, I feel pretty good. Oh sure, there's a lot of spam out there but I make better spam than most! in other news, I was walking home from a meeting and came upon an exhibit of Alvar Aalto, the 20th Century Finnish architect and designer, hosted by the Finnish Embassy and the Vietnam Association of Architects. I spent a charming hour in a gallery atmosphere learning about anAlvar-Aalto, Finnish, architect architect who combined nature and modern aesthetics to create harmonious environments and objects. You can see one of his tables, here. Aalto had long been one of my favorites but I relished this time to learn more and peace out. It's funny, some people dream to be architects and purveyors of form following function while others dream of working in a bank or insurance company. How can we know who will become who? This of course is one of the benefits of walking. I get to think. Had I been in a cab or on a motorbike, I quite possibly might not have seen the banners hanging on the wall of what is otherwise, a nondescript government building. I'll just thank my feet for that. and finally, Saturday was Buddha's Birthday. I encountered a parade on my way home with many big decorated trucks as floats and monks waving flags and chanting. Monks on floats –Dalai-Lama, Buddha, Buddhist funeral prayer, buddist prayer, now that's something I had never seen before. I waved at the monks and that made them very happy as they waved back in double happiness. And they had big pictures of the Dalai Lama as well. The Dalai Lama is considered to be the reincarnation of the Buddha and he is the 14th Dalai Lama. In post script, the Internet troubles of last week turned out to be no more than country growing pains. Things were sputtery all week but by Sunday seemed to have sorted themselves out. As the country grows the government will learn, not so much by study but by experience that the only way to stay in power is to keep people happy, and to keep them happy they want basic things like dependable electricity, clean water, acceptable roads and a damn fast web connection. With those tasks ahead, the government has it's hands full enough without chasing bloggers all over town !

For more on blogs, blogging and bloggers, check here:

Advertising People & Blogs - The Travis Diaries VI
How to Write the Best Damn Blog in the World
Throw That Blog a Bone!
If Blogs Are Free Are They Worthless?
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If You Like the Blog, Read the Book>/a>
2008 Annual Report - The Wild Wild East Dailies
Blog Redesign WWED
BarCamp Saigon 2008
Attraction vs. Conversion - How to Power Your Blog
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Stevie Wonder Post - Nothing much happened in Vietnam today II

This one's being written as the Stevie Wonder post – because it's being written "blind", quite possibly without me being able to see the final result. I'll include a picture of Mr. Wonder in his honor, and if you're reading this live, you'll hear a few of his songs, later in the podcast. r It's cool and breezy in Saigon today and that is very, very unusual in this hot and rainy Stevie-wonder, censorship, vietnam, saigon, ho-chi-minh-city, wild-wild-east-dailies, wildwildeastdailiesseason. Last night I actually felt the need for a long-sleeved shirt, almost unheard of in this country. r And so why am I writing blind you ask? Well, that's an awfully damned good question. A few days ago, Saturday precisely, I noticed that I was unable to see my blog on the net. Now mind you, this is pretty strange in that I am still able to post and publish – but when it comes to seeing it live, I'm in the dark. A little trouble-shootizing with the master, EC, in the States and it seems to be down to a server issue. EC is a techno-geek who works in the business of Search Engine Optimization (SOE) and knows his way around a computer extremely well. I'm no slouch myself, but I'm not a pro like EC. I'm just a guy with too much to say and too much time to say it. But on to WTF is going on... r And that's hard to say, so I've hit the skids in an effort to narrow down the options. I've had plenty of trouble with Google based applications here and know well the long delays I can sometimes endure as Google maybe has not kissed as much government butt as can be necessary. r The following quote from Wayne Greene on Mark Robinson's blog may or may not be true on different days at different locations: "Blogger is blocked by some of the postal authorities where ISP’s originate in Vietnam. At many locations, it is not possible to access Joe’s blog or “Vietnamese God”. Yahoo 360 on the other hand is free from those restrictions." r And this plays into the whole MicroHoo saga in Yahoo's dominance in Asia. Yahoo has just been here longer and has endeared itself to the region, in Joint Venture Partnerships, government compliance and customer relations. Google is still a newcomer and "B" player, generally. If Microsoft wants to be a Google-killer, Yahoo is their best shot in Asia. And so the not so difficult question becomes raised, "To what extent does government censorship become an issue in terms of Vietnamese blogs?" And my answer to that particular question is yet unresolved. r I've gone for days with certain parts of the web not working at all; to suddenly have them pop-up and be just fine. Sometimes a re-boot or a cookie-cleaning will resolve an issue. After the tsunami out in the Pacific off Taiwan last year, where a number of undersea cables were broken, things were shit for a month...and then just fine. Vietnam has a particular problem in that "salvage" fisherman routinely troll the waters for expensive undersea cables, drag em up, cut em' and then sell miles of fiber-optic for scrap. Why do I think that the people who buy it as scrap just sell it right back to the ISPs and then they lay it right back down in the same place. Personally, I thinks Aliens do it. Discovery Channel could make a show out of it - like they do about the lobster boats off the coast of Maine! r"See, we're pretty smart", says Captain Nguyen Van Hook, "We know how to pirate more than just DVDs!" r And the story moves on. I have a few notes out to others with blogs here in Vietnam and hope to hear back just some techno-mumbo-jumbo reasons - but I can't see their blogs either. So far, it seems that Blogger and WordPress are the issues. Yahoo360 works ok and WindowsLive seems to work – that's EC's blog you'll see – but my buddy on Blogger here cannot be raised and my own stuff remains dead – at least to me. r And for the designer in me, it's just a darn shame – not being able to see all the little tricks and quirks I try to program in just makes me feel...well...unfulfilled. Stay tuned. r A few little things popped up for me this week – While watching the National Geographic channel, in a story of Dinka Tribesman in Africa who heard cattle for a living, was the following quote - "You can't cook money and eat it. You could starve to death with money in your pocket." I just love that, mostly because it's so fucking true. r And now, here's a note about my Dad – because I know he'll never read it. r A few months ago I received a note from my father's wife saying that they didn't like to read things on a blog, but preferred I just email them things. I responded with a note that included a link to receive automatic email copies of the blog each week. "Just click it and say, OK", I added. And the link just sits. They don't want to do that. ––– In a way it's just a microcosm of my relationship with my dad, which I must say...is minimal. Dad's just not a writer, or a talker, or much of a communicator with me at all. And I find that sad – or I should say, it makes me sad. Somewhere in early adoption it does seem that my mother earmarked me for herself, and knowing the kind of person she was, can see how she could so closely dominate the situation to have left little or no room for my father. Oh, we tried baseball, I asked him to teach me to ski (something he could do) and he was present at my Boy Scout camp-outs, but to say that we ever enjoyed much of a father/son relationship would be a stretch. I'm an artist, writer, theatre, actor, speaker, musician kind of guy and he's an engineer, an electrical one – but I suspect things go much deeper than that. So deep that I may never really communicate with him at all. r Back in 2002, when Mom had passed away, I was able to stay with Dad for a few months. I mowed his lawn, trimmed his trees - so much so that he asked me to stop cutting trees - and cooked for him everyday. I made myself as useful as possible and tried to do things that would make his life a bit easier. And I tried, somewhat in vain, to talk with him. In my mind, I thought this would have been a good time in both of our lives to at least begin a conversation. But alas, that was not to be. Within a few months he had found a woman with whom he shared interests and they would be married a year later. Her husband had passed away in the same month as my mom. And with that, Dad's void was filled. He had found a woman who would take the same position as my mother had had and be a partition between the two of us. And that partition remains to this day. Most of the mail I get is written by her and he maintains his enigma status in the Father & Son Department – by some strange design, that I will probably never understand. r Now I've got technology in the way, or the Vietnamese government. I just checked again and nothing on Blogger will come up. If anybody in Vietnam reads this or gets an email or feed subscription, please contact me, and let me know from where you got connected. I'll continue my research and see if we can get to the bottom of the Stevie Wonder in Vietnam story. r Cheers. r Okay, usually the way this works is that I say "Cheers" when I'm signing off, but late breaking news keeps coming in on this Blogger deal. Here's a note from a guy here in town who's a web wizard and a true local guru. r "Ya, I can see blogger.com and blogspot.com. Yours has a Stevie Wonder post up top. Remember that the admin and actual blog are at different domains. I'm using the FPT ISP. If your ISP is blocking blogspot.com (possibly in preparation for the Buddha's birthday celebrations here), you can try going to blogspot.com via VPNTunnel, http://www.vpntunnel.net/, or another "anonymous proxy server" (in case your ISP is blocking that, too, just Google that phrase in quotes). If you can get to blogspot.com via proxy, then your ISP is blocking blogspot.com." r And so you can probably see how things can get a little confusing around here – as if the language barrier were not enough. And so I asked my friend, who will be regarded here as "Deep Throat", what anybody would have against Buddha and this was his response: r Buddhist groups here are basically divided in two, those authorized and those banned. The banned ones, the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, are complaining abroad that they're being blocked from the UN's 2008 Vesak (Buddha's Birthday) events and having some of their temples hijacked by gov't for staged events. If you can't see shite via VPNTunnel, try other proxies. Also ask your hotel's sys-admin if they're been required to block some sights. Sometimes the cops impose blocks at the retail Internet level. r Just another Monday in Vietnam. Who says nothing ever happens around here? r Cheers, for real this time!

For more in the "Nothing much happened" series, check below:

VIII People Are Just Dieing To Get Out of Here
VII The Hair Job
VI Happy New Year! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
V The Vietnam sNews
IV At The Center of Miss Universe
III My Walk in the Park Today
II The Stevie Wonder Post
I Ear Cleaning

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