General Thoughts

Once again, long time no post. I’ve been extremely uninspired lately and feeling a bit disconnected. “Disconnected” seems like an ironic word to use since I’m now flooded with information on a daily basis through my PDA, Google Sidebar, news and magazines. Yet, for some reason I feel like this information really does not help me understand anything at all!

While living abroad, I was exposed to so many new things and experiences. Couple that with the grave mishaps (the Bush administration) America was up to I always had the drive to write. Here in America I feel like I’m constantly subjected to one big advertisement telling me to buy something and the wonderful experiences that I had in Asia no longer happen here. Instead, new “experiences” are simply different ways to spend money.

It might be that living in the city has something to do with this. There are always things to do but require sums of money to do. Restaurants, shopping, even Napa involve money. Also, the constant noise, honking, sirens make me unable to concentrate unless I’m at work. Throughout the workday I only think about my accounts and sales opportunities which, while good for my career, do nothing for personal growth.

Thus, my longing to return to Asia. In Asia I feel like I can “slow down,” spend time with interesting people and always be learning. Here, I feel like I’m simply always spending.
To get away from spending I turn to information, the news, magazines, etc. Yet, I feel like I never really learn anything. For example, I’ve spend a lot of time trying to figure out the whole “economic stimulus” idea yet have gotten nowhere. I read the “Economist” and listen to politicians from both sides but in a nutshell this is what I hear.

1. We need a large stimulus to revive the economy. We have to get the banks lending again.
2. What happened to the last stimulus package? Nobody is quite sure!!!!!
3. Will the new package work? — Absolutely no real answers.

As for the hope that the politicians will be able to help, that is fading quickly. I still support Obama but the whole fiasco with Tom Dashle in health care puts a damper on this. I cannot understand why someone who is supposed to manage national programs cannot manage his own affairs!!! As for the economic team, I think Summers will do a good job and there are plenty of smart people in there AND they must do SOMETHING but no matter how hard I try to understand I feel like nobody really has the answer and this package will not work just like the first one did not.

The scary thing is that nobody is sure how far this thing will go. In the news the benchmark is that things will be tough through 2009 but should be improving in 2010. Yet, the reality is that this thing could be very very severe with the entire American financial system in complete meltdown at the extreme end. Even though the probability of that being on the low side, America could enter into a “dead economic period” such as that of Japan during the 90’s.

For me, all this economic talk does not affect me directly and will not until heaven forbid I get a pink slip from my employer. I hear all this bad economic talk but am still able to sell and did make goal last year and am just a bit under this year. Personally, I’ve never been in a better position financially. During the “boom times” I found it more difficult to maneuver than I do now so it would seem I move in an opposite way to the actual economy and what the news is broadcasting.

Even if I were to get laid off which is unlikely, I have an escape hatch right back to Asia where I could always find work even if there would be a big pay cut. For me, money does not translate to happiness. Happiness is reserved for new experiences and “living life to the fullest” which does not mean I have to spend money. The only area where money comes into play is providing for my wife and future family which would involve a house, kid etc.

Therefore, the only solution I can find to actually “be happier” is to cut out the news, ignore the honking horns and not rely on my environment to provide happiness but instead to make it a “mental state.” This can be done but I honestly think it was much easier to accomplish when I was in Asia.

Yet, should I move from San Francisco I know I would sorely miss this town just as I missed Tokyo when in Saigon, and Saigon now that I am here.

Therefore, what have I learned since being here?

1. Money does not buy happiness.
2. I am extremely restless always looking for new experiences.
3. The news does nobody any good and only puts me in a bad mood.
4. I am addicted to information (including the news) and will read it anyway.
5. It’s harder to relax in a city.
6. I really enjoy the peacefulness of my parents porch swing in Ohio but would get bored if I went there to live (In Ohio,,, not with my parents).
7. I like reading the Economist put get tired of the economic angle on everything and would really like to read more from a social point of view.
8. I am more informed but have less answers.

To wrap this post up, I feel as though it is not as exciting as my former posts. Yet, this is my mental state at the moment and it might make good reading for my expatriate/foreign friends. Now, the rest of the day will be spent at the gym, reading the economist and news and playing video games. Seems I’m in a bit of a cycle with no real out at the moment.

A Parody of the Media

A Parody of the Media

Everyday, I check a variety of news sources on the net, TV and radio and have found similar patterns in all of them:

HEADLINES!!

1. CNN

a.) Brittney Spears did something again!!!
b.) Paris Hilton also did something!!
c.) Why isn’t Nicole Richie doing anything?
d.) Christine Amanpour is desperately looking for a war zone to run around in and try out her new cross training Prada heels!
e.) Grace Under Fire is livid once again!
f.) Grace realizes that being angry all the time makes her tired.
g.) Wolf Blitzer admits his name is made up. And he is mad at Stone Philips for also making up his name.
h.) CNN admits that yes, they have been hiring from the Playboy Mansion.
i.) Man finds image of Jesus in his breakfast burrito.

2. Fox News

a.) The Democrats did something stupid again
b.) George Bush is the best EVER!!!!
c.) Announces results of Presidential election for 2012 and the Republicans win… What do you mean it’s too early???

3. French News – Le Monde

a.) The farmers are on strike.
b.) The transportation workers are also on strike.
c.) Protesters take over McDonalds and demand name change to Le McDonaldeau.
3. American news in general
a.) There yet another CRISIS
b.) SCANDAL!!!

4. Midwestern News

a.) The weather today is hot.
b.) Tomorrow will be rainy.
c.) Thursday will be hot again.
d.) Tune in at 6:00 for the latest on the weather.
e.) “Quiet Communities Count on Blasts of Noise to Scare Crows” (A real headline) – Realize the communities are longer quiet and are investigating into the cause of the mysterious noise.
f.) Evangelical from World Harvest Resurrection Hope of the Savior wants all Muslims to quit being silly and convert.

5. San Francisco News

a.) Gay people still really mad about Proposition 8. (Took away right to Marry)
b.) George Bush is an idiot!
c.) Homeless people have taken over our newsroom and are demanding “just two dollars for Alcohol Research.”
e.) Mayor Newsome — All your policies are stupid,, but you are still handsome.

6. Oakland News

a.) Three dead in gang violence
b.) The mayor chooses Yellow as gang color and is exploring corresponding hand sign.
c.) Police arrest mayor for being gangster but is then released as he dissolves police force.

7. Berkeley News

a.) Man sues for right to marry Oak Tree.
b.) Spiritual Leader known as “Moonbeam” arrested for living in tree.
c.) Moonbeam elected mayor.
d.) We should leave our houses and give them to homeless people.
e.) We are the most peaceful city on Earth.
f.) We created the Nuclear bomb but let’s not talk about that.

8. The Economist

a.) Why poor countries should listen to our advice about how to fix all their dumb mistakes.
b.) Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is still the worst leader in the world.
c.) Why aren’t the poor countries listening to our expert advice?
d.) We Brits found something else that is wrong with those poor countries.

9. Japanese News – Asahi Shimbun

a.) Why doesn’t the rest of the world understand that whaling is a good thing??
b.) Something happened but we will not say why nor give any details.
c.) Try the Ramen at “Murasaki” in Ikebukuro… It’s really really good!
d.) Foreigners just don’t understand.

10. China News

a.) All our policies are good.
b.) We have never done anything bad.
c.) Please leave our Olympic torch alone…. and don’t even think of trying to do that nonsense here… you saw what happened to Tibet when they tried.
d.) You can’t read this article because it never existed.

11. Latin American News

a.) New political party formed, has “Revolución” in the title.
b.) President want to change constitution so as to remain in power for life.
c.) President can’t change constitution so people elect his wife as next president,, currently working on male heir.

12. BBC
a.) Retains title as best news source ever!!!!
11. Market Watch
a.) STOCKS POST RECORD GAIN CAUSE THE PRESIDENT SAID ECONOMY IS OK
b.) STOCKS PLUMMET AS INVESTORS REALIZE REALITY IS “REAL.”
c.) STOCKS RALLY CAUSE THE PRESIDENT SAID REALITY ISN’T “REAL!”
d.) STOCKS PLUMMET AGAIN AS INVESTORS REALIZE THE PRESIDENT IS FULL OF CRAP!

13. The Bill O’Reilly show

a.) Bill is complimented on being “A Great American” for the 1000th time.
b.) Anything the Democrats have done recently or ever done is simply a bad idea.

14. Rush Limbaugh

a.) Rush realizes he really likes to hear himself talk.
b.) Rush has set record for longest elongation of the “S” sound at the end of his words and is wondering if he sounds gay.
c.) Everything I have ever said is right and please don’t listen to any traitor Republicans who are telling you guys not to listen to me.
d.) I have intimate dreams of me with Ronald Reagan.

America – A Desperate Housewife?

I was once asked what it is that I like about Asia so much. I’m always talking about how much I miss it over there and hope to return someday. I’ve never really been able to offer the perfect answer but in a nutshell it is the following.

In Vietnam especially the people are exceptionally warm and friendly. It is impossible for a Vietnamese not to be able to have a very large, sincere smile on their face when you meet them. They are very poor yet seemingly never unhappy. Even the woman carrying 100lbs of stuff on her shoulder does so with a smile. It seems like they are living the perfect life with little to no money and have found happiness.
I believe a big part of this is that family is very important to them and even in the face of extreme hardship and even war they can see the beauty of life and have an great appreciation for it.

However, here in America it seems we are constantly striving towards the same end which is simple happiness. Unfortunately we go about it in the entirely wrong way and never get there. We do things that we think will bring happiness such as work for a lot of money, cars, vacations and although these things do bring temporary happiness it never lasts as we need to continue getting more more more to sustain it.

In this way, I think a good analogy is that of a Desperate Housewife.

1. Concern with image – Our culture is always telling us we are not good enough. We always have to “get to the next level” whether it be better looking, more money or higher social status.

a.) Concern with image – The cosmetic companies always tell us we are not beautiful/handsome enough and need their products to have a reasonable appearance. The clothing companies also do the same and change the styles every single season so that we are constantly out of fashion and must spend more to keep up. The Desperate housewife is the same, always trying to outdo each other in terms of appearance. Yet, they can never win as there are always more clothes to buy, different creams/makeup to make the skin smoother etc. Therefore, they will never reach the goal and just be able to stop and be comfortable with their image.

2.) Medication – America IS on drugs. We are so overly medicated that now there is even estrogen in the water supply. If you have a problem then there must be some sort of medication to treat it. A wise man once said that in America we are always treating the symptom and not the underlying causes. The cause being stress, not at peace, always running around and never at peace. In every religious tradition, peace and happiness is the goal yet we in America can never seem to get there. Therefore, we take drugs, have them advertised to us daily and consume consume consume.

3. Money – We can never get enough. Even if we do get that great job and reached a goal, then we simply have to get to the next level continuously unsatisfied with what we have achieved. In other words, we are always looking up and never how far we have come. In this way too we are never satisfied with what we have just like the Desperate Housewife. They always need more more more.

I sometimes think a good slogan for newcomers in America would be, “Welcome to America, now go buy something!

4. The credit crisis – We are a capitalist country which by nature requires people to buy more stuff continuously. In this “credit crisis” we are shaken to the core because we will not have the ability to continually spend.

Now there are those who really are suffering like those losing their homes who have worked hard. Yet on the other end of the spectrum, we read stories about people who just bought more than they could afford and those that mortgaged their already owned homes so they could spend more. I wonder if there was a “fairness index” which could show those that really do need help and have worked hard vs those that just wanted bigger and better in terms of housing. Nancy Pelosi said we must “tighten our belts” but it would seem that the tightening is around a size 43 waist and that we cannot simply spend like madmen anymore.

I guess that after being in Vietnam and seeing people so happy who have nothing, I have trouble reconciling the fact that we should be feeling sorry for ourselves when we have become little more than constant consumers. I also think a result of this has been the mass evangelical movement for people who are looking for more meaning out of life than to simply consume. Not inherently bad, but unfortunately it hits mostly the uneducated and they start telling other people how to live and how to be fanatical.
Desperate Housewives we are indeed.

Tropic Thunder

A new movie “Tropic Thunder” is now showing in theaters. I’ve only seen the previews but could not help but be completely saddened by it. The reason is because it looks like this movie is based upon the Vietnam war which was an atrocity yet is used for an offending nations entertainment. I was also completely exasperated to see on the news today that people are protesting but for a completely different reason which is the disabled or as the movie refers to as “retarded.”

http://omg.yahoo.com/news/updated-disability-advocates-call-for-tropic-thunder-protest-stiller-responds/11875

This is a perfect case to understand how one’s viewpoint changes due to international experience and my experience in Vietnam. It also showcases the ignorance of film makers concerning international affairs.

Having lived in Vietnam, I saw the affects of the war that still continue today from Agent Orange and the image of severely deformed children from this poison is burned into my brain. Yet, American film makers have the gall to make a comedy about the war????

Imagine if you were Vietnamese, and saw the add for this movie. Of course America was “assisting” the repressive southern regime but by most viewpoints today America should have stayed out of Vietnam’s affairs. Further, as one reads Ho Chi Minh’s literature one would call into question the true motives for America’s actions.

To see on the news that the people with disabilities are offended isn’t the only problem here. It is extremely disheartening (Horrendous!) to see that there were not protests about making comedy out of such a tragic and sad affair. I’m completely baffled as to how the entire American public has not called attention to this grossly insensitive film. Has America forgotten the pain that both nations suffered during this conflict? How can people go to see this movie and laugh??!!!!!!!

Having lived in America (again) for the past two years I have again integrated into the society. But shit like this brings me back to the same level of anger as when America started the Iraq war and everyone followed it blindly (which now people are starting to realize as a mistake). Make a comedy about an awful war yet they decide to only protest about the disabled. It only shows how short collective memory can be and further how little the American public knows about international affairs. Why not start another war, kill a bunch of people and then make a comedy about it 40 years later???????

I’m pissed off about this. God love Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.