At first, the number of disabled people - no, let me change that - the number of crippled, maimed and deformed people, on the street in Vietnam can be startling. But once one has lived here for awhile another observation becomes much more astute - how well they fit in - how they are part of not just the environment but the consistent social fabric and neighborhood in terms of relationships, businesses and the daily goings on of things. The shop owners take care of the beggars. There is an obvious harmony that I can not ever remember from America. There we called them street people and since Ronald Reagan cut federal funding for care facilities we banished our disabled to the streets to die. We later re-classified them as homeless to seem more caring. I recall Pioneer Square in Seattle, an historic area of charming cast iron front buildings, putting chain-link fence around all the park benches so the street people didn't sleep on them, which would have destroyed the quaint Americana experience for tourists. At that time, in the late 80s, they said the average lifespan of a street person in Seattle was 18 months, before they died from disease and exposure. Ethnic cleansing? We only like people who are perfect like us. Wash the others out. I thought the chain-link really added to the charm of the area - in an Alcatraz sort of way. The only people I've seen who have made a worse mess of their needy, other than the Americans, for a wealthy country, have been the Koreans. They're just absolute assholes to those who don't fit their Oriental/Arian idea of the perfect Hankook. Koreans hide their disabled and shame them. But that doesn't happen here, and whilst this Communist utopia has about the same health care program as the US, people do get along, and fit in. Maybe that's something to do with having fought and won a war against a fate that would have been much worse than what they have now. Visiting Iraq in 30 years will be interesting to see what America leaves behind. ? The two boys are having a full throttle row on the sidewalk, straight out of Smack-down's greatest hits. He spins and does an awkward lunge in the air which appears to provide a kick to his opponent whilst protecting him from the tiled pavement below. Stunt-man school in Vietnam. And three girls and a very little boy sit in portable plastic chairs as if at ringside cheering the bigger boys on. One of the girls pops up with a piece of plastic leg from a broken chair to mimic a microphone and proceeds to narrarate the match for the remaining crowd of two girls and the little kid. I just eat my noodles and smile. ? Forlorn poor bar girls populate my Internet cafe surrounded by forlorn looking foreign men, Japanese, Korean and Western in an odd dating match that seemingly pits companionship and money against each other with the possibility of sex being a sideline but I can't imagine that much of the western baggage around here can get it up anymore. One guy claims to be celibate but has this rotating cadre of odd girlfriends. Loneliness is fought with a serious arsenal in post war-torn countries. Your wallet. Choosing a paycheck or a meal over a shag is really quit sensible. Chalk up a score for the girls around here. ? And my coffee man smiles, again. I'm at the wet market this morning for a week worth of veggies and am particularly enamored with the fish. But not today. Stories can be told by the palms of the hands of the woman who sells me my vegetables. A gaunt conical hatted vestige, she bears the marks of at least some trying farm work in her earlier years, maybe harvesting sugar and tearing long vertical lines from her palms down to the tips of her fingers. Her fingers are all misshapen in some way from breakage and who knows what and the idea of fingernails has been whittled down to just sort of dirty stumps at the ends. This market work must be a blessing considering the past. She is as sweet as can be and is there, 7 days a week, doesn't speak a lick of English, but always calls loudly to me when I turn onto her outdoor aisle of the market. Big pile of tomatoes, onions, peppers and what-knot. 10 thousand dong. 75 cents. ? Move along cowboy. ? Halloween hit Vietnam last week with a vengeance and had pretty much wasted itself before the actual date. A friend told me the bars were packed on the 30th but I wasn't out that night. He said the Vietnamese couldn't wait. They love ghosts and horror films. I made the colossal mistake of attending a Halloween event hosted by the "Creative Circle", an advertising creative club in Vietnam founded by Aussies, who apparently don't celebrate Halloween, and I did something unheard of to the crusty old dogs who populate the thing - I wore a costume. Now admittedly, it wasn't a very outrageous costume - I went as Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group, arguably the top communication holding company in the world, and it only took a nice suit, one of those "Hello, my name is Martin Sorrell" tags, and a pair of glasses that look exactly like his (cheaply procured here for 2 bucks) - but it was a funny fucking idea, at least for that crowd. Yawn. Imagine the guys at the Creative Circle not doing anything creative at all for Halloween? Seemed normal to them. Only two other people, of roughly 30, wore a costume and they were treated as oddities. I did meet a few other people from Shanghai who were interesting and had a nice conversation with the guy who designed the packaging for my favorite beer in Vietnam, Bierre Larue. Other than that, is was thoroughly disappointing with one young Viet art director leaving, after being informed that there was basically no program for the evening, just beer drinking and a bunch of old foreigners. Yawn. My costume went over much better in my local pub where nobody knows fuck all who Martin Sorrell is, but the girls were all jazzed to see me in a very nice suit. ? The man in the booth next to me at the Internet cafe is talking to himself. He does this often - almost every night after the requisite amount of sud-swilling. Elvis plays. It's surreal as shit. Figuring out if it's PTSD he's affected with or more basic alcoholism is not really possible for me, - sure, I drink beer as well, but I sit at my computer and write. The greater majority of the place has no idea WTF I'm doing. That can be turned into a cocoon of sorts that keeps them all out - and lets this happen. ? So you're just itchin' aren'tcha? What the hell does the title to this post mean? What is he talking about? - The concept of Attraction vs. Conversion has become a bit of a Web 2.0 topic these days. Some like Mark Earls, describe it as "push" vs. "pull" marketing tactic. My friend Ken Johnson, who reviews business books for Amazon, reminded me recently, in his review of "The Peter Principle", that the core concept is over 40 years old. It's the idea that the more I actively market this thing, the less real readers I get. And I mean real readers as opposed to people who come in for the 99 cent special. I get all sorts of hits but only 25% come back over and over - and that's a good thing - considering that of that 25% there are 10% who stay for more than an hour each time. And I can deal with that. - Here's one of the latest of my more interesting readers. He congratulates me for being rejected by a major aggregating service for being "unclassifiable": - "First congratulations. I used to work as a journalist and I am inured to writing to a certain degree (an occupational hazard) - your blog has become riveting precisely because it is uncategorisable. It is not about anything, which in a modern Koan-like manner, makes it almost about everything. I really enjoy the writing and because I understand the drive, I will not deign to be condescending with the trite keep-it-up." - This is the kind of thing that keeps this blog going. This is the pull strategy in action. I didn't ask for this to be written. But I certainly don't mind an "atta-boy" or two. ? The guy in the booth next to me cuts right through the more than omnipresent Elvis that's playing - muttering, "fuck this shit", "fuck you", "fuck Bush" ? All I did today was go shopping and get this post up. Little things, but enough for today.
For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:
My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI
Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X
Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX
One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII
Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII
A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI
Seoul Searching - Perspective XII
He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V
Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2
Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV
Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1
Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III
Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II
This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V
The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things
Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2
Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1
Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III
Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II
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
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?