Tag Archives: Vietnam

The absolute horror of cover music.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was familiar with cover bands. These were what we called ‘garage bands,’ a group of guys who enjoyed occasionally getting together to perform gigs at parties or special events for friends. The band members were proficient enough on their instruments to learn popular songs and play them well, but they weren’t songwriters. Some cover/garage bands were better than others. The best ones spent a lot of time rehearsing and could play a cover song with real gusto and flair. My brothers had cover bands play at their weddings,  and they put on great shows.

There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with a band playing and singing the music of other bands. If people don’t have the opportunity or the money to see their favorite band perform live, then seeing a cover band play those songs at a show can be a satisfying alternative.  I have had many enjoyable evenings listening and dancing to cover bands.

However, in the last couple of decades, an entire industry has been created to record and market cover music. This industry has nothing to do with weekend garage bands. Like all big industries, it is all about money- big money. The epicenter of the cover music industry is in Asia, where people are absolutely infatuated  over cover music. How and why this came to be I have no idea. Cover music is now so ingrained in the culture of Asia that it’s almost become part of the scenery.

I know this because I often visit restaurants, coffee shops, lounges, and bars,  and cover music is played in the majority of these establishments. Managers arrive in the morning, press ‘play’ on the computer screen where there is a ten-hour long playlist of cover songs and then forget about the music for the rest of the day.

Cover music, specifically the recored playlists which are widely played in eating and drinking venues, is an abomination, for many reasons. People, particularly Asians, need to wake up to this fact and demand to hear real music again.

First, the songs which are covered are all from English-speaking bands, usually from the United States and England. Most of the people in Asia listening to this music have not the slightest idea what the songs are about. The lyrics are unintelligible to them. Even locals who have a moderate grasp of English can’t understand the vast majority of songs which are played on the sound systems at their jobs. Even worse, they don’t even try to understand the words. The music, being played all day, every day, just becomes background noise, something that is not worth paying attention to.

Second, the young Asian crowds listening to the songs are wholly unfamiliar with the original songs. They know they’re listening to cover songs, but haven’t a clue who wrote the song in the first place. And they couldn’t care less. They don’t know that the original song was sung nothing like the cover version and had a completely different feeling to it.

Third , the bands whose songs are being covered, recorded, and marketed are not given their rightful  share of royalties. The musicians who wrote the songs don’t have the time, money, or energy to travel around the world with lawyers and try to rein in the huge and ever-growing cover music industry. Intellectual property rights, contracts, and royalties are not the concern of customers who sit and listen to cover music for hours on end in coffee shops in Seoul, Tokyo, and Saigon.

Next, the songs are all covered and sung by young women who change the tempo and feeling of the songs. You see, in Asia, they love what is called ‘relaxing’ music. Music in Asia is seen as  something which should calm the nerves after being out in traffic all afternoon. This is the main reason why Kenny G is a god-like figure throughout Asia. So, in the cover music factory, probably located somewhere in the suburbs of Tokyo or Seoul, the female singers take the songs and sing them in a mellow and ‘soft jazz’ kind of style. Now, that might work for some songs, but the cover music managers have their singers do this for all songs. I’ve been in Asia long enough now to realize that probably every Billboard Top 100 song from 1965 to the present day has been covered, recorded, and sold.  I used to think that they just preferred to cover the ‘soft rock’ hits from the 70s and 80s, like the Carpenters and Terry Jacks, but now I’ve heard nearly every genre covered.

For example, I recently heard the famous hit from The Police, ‘Every Breath You Take,’ being played as a cover song in a Japanese restaurant which I frequent. That song was always creepy; after all, it’s about a stalker. Sting sang it with just the right amount of menace in his voice to make it work. However, in the Asian cover version, the female crooner turns the song inside out and tries to make it into a mellow  love song! “Hey, I’ll be watching you, la-la-la.”

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of Bob Marley’s songs on cover playlists. The gourmet market where I shop has been playing this list frequently in the last month. It is bizarre to hear some young Asian female singing “I remember when we used to sit….in the government yard in Trenchtown.” (From Marley’s famous song ‘No Woman No Cry.’) That woman singing the song probably couldn’t even find Jamaica on a map. It was always bad enough to hear cover songs from the Carpenters, but now they’re covering Reggae and Grunge music!

Herein lies the rub: these companies pumping out cover versions of famous songs can copy the melody and the lyrics, but they can never duplicate or replicate the feeling or the soul of the song. They know this, and they don’t even try. They slow the beat down on every song and just tell the girl to sing it like it’s a lounge song. It simply doesn’t matter if the original feeling of the song is obliterated in the process. The cover music  industry managers do this to every song. Hell, I recently heard ‘Come as You Are’ the famous song from Nirvana played on a cover playlist. It’s not a very good song; it’s completely nonsensical  and the only reason it had success was Cobain’s hoarse and edgy voice and the thumping bass line.

I’ve asked various people over the last few years, both customers and restaurant managers, why they were playing and listening to cover music. After all, since the original versions of the songs are available, for free on the internet, why not just play the originals? Why listen to a 20-year-old Korean girl sing ‘No Woman No Cry’ when you can just play the entire ‘Exodus’ album from YouTube and hear Bob Marley sing it? I’ve never gotten a clear answer. The customers don’t pay any attention to what’s playing, and the managers always say something like, “Well, we like cover music. Her voice is so good. It’s so relaxing. The customers like it.” Or, “My boss likes this kind of music.”

It appears that cover music has taken over Asia. Not only are the original songs being lost, but the indigenous music of Asia has receded so far into the background that it, too, risks going extinct. I protest as much as I can, but I’m just one person. Unless people demand an end to this nonsense, this is what we will be living with in our future: Soul-less, corporate junk music which will continue to lobotomize the public into a permanent zombie state.

 

 

 

 

 

Mass tourism’s devastating impact

When we look at all of the problems facing humanity and the environment , including nuclear radiation from Fukushima, oil spills, toxic chemicals, GMO contamination of our food supply, overcrowded cities,  polluted groundwater, fracking, and EMF pollution,  mass tourism’s effect on the environment  seems a minor one in comparison. But its impact-on native cultures, ancient ruins,  and natural landscapes- is significant and governments need to rethink their policies in regard to this.

Many thoughtful observers, especially older ones who have seen the impact that tourism has wrought on famous sites  over the last three decades, have bemoaned the degradation. If you were lucky enough to visit Angkor Wat fifteen years ago, Koh Phi Phi twenty years ago, Bali twenty five years ago, or Machu Picchu thirty years ago, consider yourself lucky. As many distraught and disheartened travelers have noticed  ,  those once semi-pristine places have been irrevocably changed, for the worse. We could, of course, add dozens more to this list. Chambers of commerce, travel agents, tour operators, and hotel owners try their best to put a positive spin on the changes, using phrases like ‘more choice,’ ‘superior accommodations,’ ‘better infrastructure,’ ‘reliable transportation,’  and so on, but it’s just the same old public relations. No honest observer, comparing any of those places today with how they were thirty years ago, would choose today’s version. What good is a five star hotel when you are looking out from your balcony onto a beach strewn with trash and covered with thousands of tourists,  tossing their plastic water bottles onto the sand and taking selfies with a selfie stick?

Mass numbers of tourists tend to have a corrosive and corrupting effect on small  ethnic tribes, regardless of how respectful the tourists try to be. Take the Sacred Valley of Peru, for instance. As the millions of tourists wind their way around the ancient ruins in tour buses, the local Quechua speaking people wait dutifully for them at the rest stops so that the tourists can snap a photo with them, along with the family’s alpaca.  We, the tourists, are supposed to give them  a small donation as a gesture of thanks for the photo-op. What could be more cynical than this? This scene is repeated at hundreds of other places all over the world. Many ethnic tribes which have adopted modern Western clothing will don their native garb when the tour bus rolls into town and throw it off the minute  the buses pull away. Many ethnic groups now rely on the small amount of money they earn performing for tourists, enacting ‘traditional’ dances and such.

The impact on relics and ruins is substantial as well. The Cambodian government has allowed tourists to scamper, unsupervised,  all over the ruins of Angkor Wat for decades now. It wasn’t a big deal when only a few thousand people even knew about Angkor, but today when the tens of millions descend upon the ruins yearly, the impact is far greater.

If you are going to invite millions of tourists to visit a place, then you need to build the infrastructure to feed and house them. Hence, surrounding areas are methodically stripped of forest cover and natural ground cover  in order to construct hotels, resorts, restaurants and boutiques to serve the masses. Siem Reap, the small city adjacent to Angkor Wat, was a sleepy village just twenty years ago. Now, it is a mini boom town and new hotels are sprouting up every year. Meanwhile, the water table underlying the city is falling rapidly and could affect the ruins themselves in a short time. Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu, has grown in proportion to the exploding numbers of visitors to that popular site. There is not much room for it to grow except into the surrounding mountains, which contain some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

 

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The global tourism industry has now grown so large, producing  billions of dollars in profits and supplying millions of jobs, that it now  generates its own momentum, just as a  hurricane makes its own weather. It’s not like you can just slam on the brakes and say ‘no more.’  One billion people now travel annually. With the Chinese market growing by leaps and bounds, we can expect this trend of increasing tourist numbers to continue into at least the near future.

Everyone who has been to an overcrowded holiday destination recognizes the problem, but nobody is willing to give up their dream or change their lifestyle because of it. People who have the means and the opportunity want to experience Paris and the Eiffel Tower. We now accept the fact that we must ‘experience’ Paris  while rubbing shoulders with a few million other tourists, all visiting the same sites,  taking the same photos, staying at the same hotels and eating the same food. Most of us accept this as a minor irritation  to be endured for the privilege of seeing such a spectacular place.

 

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I’ve never been to Paris but I suppose it might be possible for the city to absorb all these tourists without crimping its style and still offer a worthwhile  experience. The same goes for Venice, Florence, Rome and Barcelona. Strong government regulations and a solid tourist infrastructure can mitigate at least some of the negative impacts.

When we look at other popular sites located much further away from major population centers, in developing countries, and with inadequate infrastructure, the problems become more severe and the solutions considerably more complex. In the rush to milk the tourist cow, governments and corporations tend to cut many corners with building codes, safety regulations, and historical preservation.

 

Floodwaters washing away overdevelopment at Aguas Calientes, Peru:

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In fact, governments, which comprise mostly bureaucrats, technocrats, and functionaries, are generally clueless about how to deal with the demands of tourism. There are exceptions to the rule, Thailand being one. Here in Viet Nam, the apparatchiks in the government could learn a thing or two from their neighbors. Many tourists associate Viet Nam with Ha Long Bay, the most iconic site in the country. Unfortunately, Ha Long Bay has become a poster child for the disastrous effects of unregulated mass tourism. Thousands of tour boats ply the waters there, accommodating the millions who want to see the stunning landscape. The boats, alas, are mostly unsupervised  and dump their waste and trash directly  into the bay which suffers accordingly. If that’s not bad enough, tourists are accosted by  rude, pushy,  and obnoxious vendors when the boats pull ashore. And the government does nothing.

Where does all this depressing news leave the curious traveler? If you don’t want to be part of the problem, is it better to just stay home? Do eco-tourism, ‘responsible’ tourism, or volunteering offer more authentic experiences? They’re definitely worth exploring. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, then don’t count on finding it at a place like Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. I feel fortunate to have visited both of these places, but I can only dream about what it would have been like to experience them without the hordes. Perhaps there are those people who are able to block out the distraction of other tourists, but I’m not one of them. Imagine what secrets these awesome places might whisper in our ears if only we had the peace and solitude to listen.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from visiting these places. Any experience of Machu Picchu or Angkor is better than no experience at all, but my recommendation of these places comes with a heavy qualification.

 

 

 

 

The rise of ‘super bugs’ and the decline of allopathy

I recently came across  two articles which addressed the issue of antibiotic overuse and abuse. One of them was written by Ranjita Biswas of IPS (Inter Press Service) and the other was an article from an English language newspaper in Viet Nam.  The first one gave a global overview of the problem with a focus on India, and the latter  was an analysis of the acute problem we are facing here.

Perusing these articles and sharing them with my students, I was hit with the realization that we really have come to a dead-end with this 200+ -year-old Allopathic model of medicine. Allopathic, or ‘modern’ medicine started to gain serious traction in the 19th century in America, and really took off when the Rockefeller family got behind it and began to fund medical schools and hospitals in the USA and monopolize the cancer ‘treatment’ industry. The Rockefeller influence is a fascinating and little-known part of American history that is never taught to medical and nursing students. For a good introduction to the topic, I recommend Eustace Mullins’ ground-breaking work, “Murder by Injection. The Story of the Medical Conspiracy against America.”

 

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Prior to the rise, and eventual overwhelming dominance, of Allopathy in America, most people visited a homeopath when they became seriously ill. If history had gone in another direction, it’s possible that today we would have allopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors and others all working together and none claiming dominance or hierarchy, but that’s not how things went. The doctors of the new medicine didn’t want competition and homeopathy and chiropractic were suppressed vigorously. Although today you can certainly still find any kind of medical practitioner you choose, it is undeniable that when most people think of ‘medicine’ , they are referring to the Allopathic model, which can be boiled down to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery.

Which brings us back to the subject of the recent articles: antibiotics and their use and abuse.  The IPS article highlighted the problem in India where the average person takes eleven (!) antibiotic pills a year, which means that the country as a whole consumed an eye-popping 12.9 billion ‘units.’  The problem with widespread and regular use of antibiotics is that the bacteria for which they were designed to kill become resistant to them. Eventually, they adapt and evolve, or mutate,  into ‘super-bugs.’ And then pharmaceutical companies must design a new antibiotic which the bacteria will eventually become resistant to as well. We’re in a vicious cycle and the only way out is to exit the system completely.

 

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This has become a deadly serious matter. According to the article, in Europe alone 25,000 people die annually from drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

The overconsumption of antibiotics takes different forms depending on whether you live in the Western developed world or in the so-called developing world where I have lived for the past 3 years. In the USA in particular where many M.D.s have been  corrupted by pharmaceutical pay-offs (disguised as seminars, dinners etc.), antibiotics are routinely over-prescribed.  In the developing world, the problem is the completely unregulated buying and selling of the drugs. Many years ago when I got sick with an infection in Peru, I was delighted that I could walk into a pharmacy and simply buy an antibiotic without a doctor’s order. It saved me a lot of time and money. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that everyone in the country was doing that whenever they got sick. Neither the populace as a whole nor the pharmacy workers were educated about the potential harmful effects of the drugs.

 

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Going back to India, the article states that the problem is a combination of ‘increasing income and affordability, easy access without a prescription, willingness of physicians to prescribe antibiotics freely and a high background of infections that should ideally be contained  by better sanitation and vaccination.’ In fact, that statement describes quite a few countries in our world including Viet Nam. With the crisis in India growing larger by the day, people are starting to recognize it and dumping Western medicine altogether for  Ayurveda , homeopathy, and naturopathy.

A group has been formed in India to raise awareness of the issue. Ashok Tamhankar, the coordinator of the organization IIMAR stated, “The ignorance and callousness are at every level of society-from care providers like doctors , to pharmacists, lawmakers, manufacturers, and even the consumers.”

Such an awareness-raising organization is sorely needed in Viet Nam where the problem of rampant antibiotic overconsumption is acute. No doctor’s order is needed for most drugs and people routinely take an antibiotic for even the most routine health issue. I have read numerous stories here about people who run down to the pharmacy for a ‘pill’ the moment they start sneezing or coughing. The pharmacists, who lack the necessary training and are rarely held accountable, dispense the drugs without even discussing dosage and side effects with the customers. Is it any wonder that drug-resistant strains are multiplying rapidly in this unregulated environment?

Health authorities are belatedly realizing the magnitude of the problem and are trying to put some programs into place to combat it, such as unannounced visits to pharmacies. A recent survey found that 88 percent of antibiotic sales in the cities did not involve a prescription!

One hospital director here stated, “It’s no exaggeration to say that antibiotics are bought and sold at many pharmacies in Viet Nam as easily as vegetables.”

With the rise of the new bacterial strains, M.D.s in hospitals are prescribing  ‘antibiotic cocktails’ to  their patients, comprising 2,3,4,5, or even 6 or more different antibiotics. What insanity.

In Viet Nam, the level of ignorance around antibiotics and  drug-resistant strains is massive. The government has a big job to tackle and lacks the resources to do much in the short term. In the long term, education at the grass roots level combined with strict enforcement at the national level are the only options to get the issue under control. And when we look further into the future, we will no doubt see a return to the past as well, with  people once again embracing the holistic forms of healing that so many cast aside in the rush to modernism.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/health/rampant-antibiotic-abuse-has-left-vietnam-vulnerable-doctors-29598.html

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/11/uk-urge-global-clampdown-antibiotics-g8

 

 

Our artificial sky and Monsanto’s war on the human race

August  2014

This morning I took these pictures from my bedroom window, looking east and south just after sunrise. As is the case most mornings, the sky is filled with chemtrails. Here in Southeast Asia, the chemtrail planes do most of their work at night and off-shore so the worst time of the day to be outside is between 6am and 10am. DSCF8633

 

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Although the spraying here is not quite as bad as it was in Seattle when I was living there a few years ago, it is bad enough. The deafening silence surrounding this ongoing ecoside of our planet’s biosphere demonstrates conclusively how much the mass migration of people from the countryside to the cities over the last century has atrophied their  hard-wired connection to the natural world.

Even though our sky is  sprayed on a daily basis and the resulting diffuse chemical soup obliterates the blue hue, nobody notices it, let alone comments on it. None of the local media here, whether local or expat, print or digital, journalist or blogger, takes note of the sky and what is happening. This new artificially engineered world, indeed artificially engineered reality, has been put carefully into place and we now have a new normal.

 

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As I browse the world wide web, the vast majority of photos from every continent which show a portion of the sky in the background give evidence of the chemtrail program. Whether I’m looking a photo from Paris, Johannesburg, Moscow, Sao Paulo, New York, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, or Riyadh, the sky looks the same: a bleached out morass of chemicals suspended in the air and slowly descending to the ground in the form of nano particles of aluminum, barium and strontium. To reinforce this new normal, advertisements, especially those revolving around air travel and tourism now feature chemtrails. Disney movies are being made showing fat chemtrails spewing from the planes’ engines. Technicians in Hollywood are busy in the studios adding chemtrails to the sky in pre-1990 movies. Increasingly, when I watch films online from the 1970s and 1980s, I’m seeing them, even though the spraying program didn’t really begin until the late 1990s. Not just our current reality, but history itself is being reconfigured so that we, the people of planet Earth, accept what is being done to us without our knowledge or consent.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that the chemtrail program is being implemented in conjunction and coordination with the  push for GMOs which is being led by Monsanto. This monster of a corporation has not hidden its agenda for total control of the entire global food supply. Their patented GMO seeds will be the only ones capable of growing in heavy metal saturated soils.

 

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So far, nobody has been able to prove this link between the spraying program and Monsanto. We are awaiting a courageous whistle blower to come forward and lift the lid on this assault on Earth’s life support systems.

Meanwhile, I will do what I can by continuing to publicize the issue and sound the alarm bell. Take whatever protective measures you can such as building or purchasing an orgonite chembuster.. Detox regularly; chelation therapy removes heavy metals from the body.

 

http://educate-yourself.org/ct/goodbyects10jan02.shtml

The vaccine scam- the view from Asia

Last year a number of infants died in central Viet Nam after being injected with a ‘5 in 1’ vaccination.  The Ministry of Health in Viet Nam, like most health ministries in other countries around the world, pursues an aggressive vaccination program, especially for infants and children. Following the tragedy of the infant deaths, the ministry and its multi-national sponsors,  such as WHO and its affiliated programs, had to go into damage control. The children’s deaths, though tragic, were a result of perhaps a ‘bad batch,’ they claimed. The ministry reassured families in the region that a thorough review was being done and all samples would be tested for safety. But most of all, they reiterated in strong language that in no way should parents be fearful of vaccinations, that vaccines are completely safe, and that parents should continue on as before with the full schedule of vaccinations. ‘Nothing to worry about here, go on as before. We have the situation under control….’

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I have not seen any follow-up stories in the last year. It would be interesting to know how many families in the affected region stopped the vaccinations and how many believed the government’s reassurances. Taken in isolation, the story of a simple ‘bad batch’  could indeed be plausible. But when looked at from a wider angle, with all the stories from around the globe of deaths  and adverse reactions to vaccines, from polio in Central Asia, to influenza in America to smallpox in Africa, the story takes on a much deeper and more sinister aspect.

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Even an average college graduate has little knowledge  on vaccines- their history, their ingredients, their rate of efficacy, potential short and long term effects, and the political and financial aspects to the whole world-wide vaccination program. Imagine then an uneducated, impoverished farmer’s reaction when a a health team shows up at the commune with a bag full of needles and drugs and instructs the women to bring all the children ’round. When the doctors and nurses starts speaking to the villagers about the wonder of these drugs, using medical terminology which is incomprehensible to them, and furthermore stoking their fears with what might happen to them if they don’t get injected- malaria, dengue fever, death!- they easily succumb to the propaganda.

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Just yesterday, a story appeared in the local news media about the immunization program for Viet Nam. Children already receive eleven    vaccines here. But that’s not enough. Now, they want to add three more. The new shots will be for pneumococcus, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, and cervical cancer.  The Global Alliance for Vaccines has pledged to provide the vaccines for free initially. The GAVI is a Bill Gates foundation founded in 2000, which is a public and private partnership. This, of course, is code language meaning that the drug manufacturers want vaccination rates to increase, as this will increase their profits.  (In a future post, I will examine whether Bill Gates really wants to save children, or eliminate them.) The story goes on to say that the vaccines are expensive, with the cervical cancer vaccine costing nearly 80 USD per shot. And this is in a country with a yearly per capita income of $2,000.

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There is little doubt that at this time next year, we will read a news story that states that the ministry of health has decided to add another handful of vaccines to the regular schedule for children. The fear campaign will be kept ramped up, and the smarmy, gruesome  visage of Bill Gates will be looming in the background. Meanwhile, expect to see more unfortunate deaths and hospitalizations from the millions of shots being given by brainwashed doctors and nurses.

vaccineChildren do not need more vaccinations. What they need now, and have always needed, is clean water, proper sanitation, and pure, fresh food. There is no substitute for a healthy immune system.

‘Primum Non Nocere’- First, do no harm.

http://thanhniennews.com/society/latest-infant-deaths-force-vietnam-parents-to-rethink-vaccination-1723.html

http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/society/80025/two-years–nearly-20-babies-die-after-vaccination.html

Ten things I love about Viet Nam

10) The Weather

In the southern half of the country where I live, it’s never cold. Sweaters and coats are unnecessary. My clothing budget is minuscule;  I get by with shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops when I’m not working. That’s not to say the weather here is perfect. Far from it. The heat, humidity and rain can all be unpleasant.  But overall, the climate here is conducive to my lifestyle and I love seeing the bright sun every day.

9) Cost of living

Inflation is happening and the bowl of pho that cost 25 cents a few years ago now costs $1.50.  However, the cost of basic items needed for daily living is still a bargain, especially if you shop around. Everything from pedicures to taxis is a fraction of the cost of Western countries.  If you can manage to avoid the more expensive touristy areas and the stores geared toward the wealthier expats, you can live quite cheaply. Shop for food at the markets and share housing, especially with a local family, and you can actually save money.

market8) Street Markets

For convenience, cost, and freshness, you can’t beat the local street markets. Even though there is a family of ten living in this house where I rent a room, their refrigerator is only 1/4 full. Why? Because they shop for fresh food every day at the street market. A refrigerator becomes redundant when you shop daily for fresh produce.

7) Tropical fruits

soursopExotic fruits that I only read about back in the States are now a part of my daily diet. Mangosteen, dragon fruit, durian, rambutan, lychee, jackfruit, soursop and more are just a few steps from my front door. In-season fruits sell for 25 cents a pound.

6) Being in Southeast Asia

Cambodia (with the otherworldly Angkor Wat ruins), Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines are all just a stone’s throw away. With discount airlines such as Air Asia offering daily flights all over the region, there is enough to explore here to last a lifetime. A bus fare to the Cambodian border costs a mere ten dollars.

5) Opportunities

constructionViet Nam is a developing country. It is growing rapidly in an economic, political  and cultural sense which means there are many opportunities here for aspiring entrepreneurs. Many young Vietnamese who studied abroad are now returning here from Europe, America, and Australia and helping to build the country.  There is still far too much red tape to navigate for foreigners to start a business, but that is improving, albeit slowly.

4) A respectable English language newspaper

Viet Nam News is published seven days a week and is superior to any daily paper in the United States, and operates  on only a fraction of the budget of papers  like The Washington Post.

3) A sense of optimism about the future

Vietnamese believe that the best days lie ahead.  After two brutal wars of liberation from foreign powers, the country is rapidly industrializing and joining the global market. Foreign investment is flowing into the country and the internet is exposing the population to the wider world. Not just new technology, but new ideas are gaining ground quickly.

2) A well-established ESL job scene

ESL language schools have been around now for over 20 years, (some longer than that), and the demand for English instruction seems to be as robust as ever. This is good news for teachers like myself. Most of the bigger schools are reputable and treat their teachers with respect and courtesy. Now, if the government could just simplify the work permit process….

1) Vietnamese women

The women of Viet Nam are the most beautiful in the world. From their soft skin to their long silky hair, they are gorgeous in every respect.

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What happened to environmentalism?

The modern environmental movement is traced back to the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring in 1962 which gave impetus to  the budding ecology movement in the 1960s that culminated with the first ‘Earth Day’ on April 22, 1970.

Major ‘Earth Day’ remembrances and celebrations were held in 1990 and in 2000,  and smaller gatherings in many countries have been held annually thereafter.

springPrior to the big 20th anniversary event in 1990, I distinctly recall an excitement and sense of optimism amongst my progressive friends and acquaintances who were environmentally conscious. It appeared to us that the shift in consciousness that we had always hoped for was finally happening. Environmental destruction was finally getting the press and the attention that it deserved. At the health food store where I was working, we were phasing out all plastic bags and encouraging people to ‘bring your own bag.’ Taking advantage of the increased attention and momentum, we tried to make our little store as eco-friendly as possible. We imagined, or at least imagined, that within a decade plastic shopping bags would be a thing of the past, a relic of ignorant bygone era.

I can look back on my naiveté  during  that time with a certain amusement now. I had vastly overestimated the average person’s concern for the environment and had in a sense projected my own growing awareness onto the greater whole. Furthermore, in a war between environmental protection and the ever increasing needs of growing economies, the environment will always lose out. The capitalist corporate machine knows no boundaries.

In advanced first-world economies such as the United States and Western Europe,  where the educated class has been exposed to preservationist ideas, things such as littering out of the car window and burning your plastic trash in the yard are frowned upon and can even incur a hefty fine. In the developing world, it’s a different story altogether. Tossing your rubbish out of the car or bus window onto the roadside is normal and not seen as anything ‘bad.’ In South America, some roadsides I saw were heaped so high with garbage that you had to cover your nose when driving past. I remember once taking a bus through a beautiful, pristine mountain park in Ecuador, and the woman next to me casually threw her entire lunch, wrapped in numerous plastic bags, out the window into the wilderness.

Here in Southeast Asia, the ethic is the same. Outside of a few tourist areas, public trash bins are few and far between and people are raised and taught to ‘just toss it.’ The city governments hire thousands of street sweepers to keep the city free of rubbish, but a good amount of trash of course ends up getting washed into the waterways.

The deeper underlying issue is not whether or not the trash thrown onto the thoroughfares will get swept up and thrown away, but whether people can unlearn the dysfunctional habits they have  repeated  from a young age. When you venture into the countryside where there are no street sweepers, the ingrained habits manifest and people still toss it onto the ground, where the trash, if it doesn’t get washed into the rivers, will stay for millennia.

For developing countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Viet Nam, Indonesia and so many others, environmentalism is not a serious issue. It may be given occasional lip service by government ministers, but the name of the game is industrialization and ‘development’- at all costs. Build and develop now, clean up later. China is the poster child for this kind of thinking.  I’m afraid it’s already too late for many who live there, judging by recent news reports on the unbreathable air in many of its major cities.

This model of ‘clean up later’ filters down from the top to the bottom sectors of society. The populace of most developing countries, being uneducated and lacking any ecological perspective, is simply left to deal with the environmental crisis on their own. They are essentially abandoned by their governments who only want to see increasing GDP numbers. Incapable of organizing and  lobbying for laws for cleaner air, they simply don a primitive face mask in the hope of coping with effluent of industrial society.

And the plastic bags that I was so sure would be gone by now? They are more numerous than ever. The world loves plastic bags. Anything that I purchase, from a banana to a razor blade to a beer to a book, is handed to me in a plastic bag. I mostly refuse the bags, but my insignificant little act of eco-grooviness is pointless in the bigger picture. Nobody knows, let alone  cares, why I refuse plastic bags. The shopkeepers and clerks just shrug their shoulders and go about their business. I try to inform and educate whenever I can, especially to my students, but the level of enthusiasm for environmentalism is low.

I’m increasingly doubtful that environmentalism can ever gain any real traction in this world. In order for it to do so, a global consciousness shift would need to occur. Change must first happen in the mind before it can be manifested physically. I think Daniel Quinn pointed the way in his books, especially in Ishmael. As long as we continue to carry around the mindset that Earth is here to be conquered and for humans to use it at our pleasure, environmentalism will be but a pipe dream and a healthy planet only a memory.

China’s aggressive new stance, Viet Nam’s reaction, and Obama’s Asian pivot

Events are unfolding quickly in Southeast Asia. A military coup has just occurred in Thailand and China has provocatively placed an oil drilling rig in the South China Sea, just off the coast of Viet Nam. The rig is well within Viet Nam’s economic exclusion zone and is an area that Vietnamese fishermen have used for centuries.

Once word got out what China had done, spontaneous protests broke out in Viet Nam, some turning violent. Things have calmed down, for the moment. The government moved quickly to squash the protests, apprehend the protest leaders, assuage foreign investors and reimburse companies for damages. Vietnamese leaders have opted for a strategy of peaceful resolution, utilizing whatever legal means in the international arena they can while trying to reassure investors and tourists that it’s all ‘business as usual.’

bde191_5238c45a6231fc31cccc92b8ffa41f15China, meanwhile, has sent in dozens more ships to protect the oil rig and harass Vietnamese boats which come too close. Where this is all leading is anyone’s guess. One thing though is for sure: if Viet Nam is unable to dislodge the oil rig and China continues drilling, the government’s credibility will take a serious blow and China will gain the confidence to do similar actions around Southeast Asia. Today  Viet Nam’s leaders met with their Filipino counterparts to brainstorm responses to China’s aggressiveness. Soon, Chinese ships will show up on the Philippines’ coast doing the same thing.

 

Area of the ‘South China Sea’ which China claims:

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Cooler heads are prevailing at the moment, but this is an extremely worrisome move by China’s leaders. They risk alienating not only Viet  Nam but also all of their Southeast Asian neighbors. Do they really need the oil, or is this more of a symbolic move, a clear signal to their neighbors and the U.S.A. that the South China Sea is their ‘sphere of influence?’

As Obama moves forward with his ‘Asian Pivot’ in an aggressive attempt to blunt China’s influence and , indeed , to ultimately encircle that huge country, we can expect more counter-moves such as this one. Meanwhile , smaller countries on the periphery, such as Viet Nam will be caught in the middle.

 

 

 

A Review of the Press in Viet Nam and Cambodia

Newspapers, magazines and other print media are struggling around the world as we transition more and more into a digital world where we receive all our news and information from online sources. Nevertheless, newspapers and magazines continue to published as they work to find niche markets and explore ways to survive in the new economy.

08_09_2013_001Viet Nam is a one-party state that is not known for having a robust and free press. The organization ‘Reporters without Borders’ publishes an annual list ranking 180 countries around the world on their freedom of the press. Last year, Viet Nam ranked 174th on this list (ouch!) and Cambodia ranked 144th. However, a number of quality newspapers are published here, and one of them is an English language daily Viet Nam News. I read Viet Nam News almost every day and often share stories from it with my students. I appreciate the layout. Typically it is about 30 pages long. It is 28 x 30 cm, a perfect size for reading on the table next to your breakfast and does not require any awkward unfolding. Except for the front page picture, the photos are in black and white and advertising is set to strict limits. The newspaper covers local and national business, environmental, cultural, and social news. Additionally, international news is extensively covered with many wire stories reprinted from Reuters, Agence-France Press, AP, and many others. Articles and opinions from readers and expatriates are encouraged and reprinted weekly.

Thanhniennews publishes their print edition in Vietnamese but has a online English language edition. They used to print a weekly newsmagazine in English called Viet Week which was excellent and covered a broad and interesting range of topics. Unfortunately, this was discontinued a few weeks ago due to financial costs associated with the printing. The people at Thanhniennews have an excellent editorial team and are not afraid to run hard-hitting pieces aimed at government and police corruption, and graft and malfeasance in the business sector. I am always impressed with the quality of their articles.

stock-footage-young-man-reading-newspaper-in-cafeThere are two slick glossy magazines printed here which are aimed at wealthy Western tourists and the expatriate community: Word  and Asia Life. They are mostly what you would expect from magazines in that genre- lots of articles covering restaurant openings with photoshopped pictures of food , reviews of nightclubs, bars, cafes, djs, bartenders, etc. and of course plenty of articles about beach towns and the hot new spots around Viet Nam. Occasionally, they will attempt an in-depth article, but the focus is on fluff, consumerism, and nightlife.

Cambodia has two surprisingly good newspapers based in Phnom Penh: The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post. The former has a layout similar to Viet Nam News and is a compact, dense newspaper filled with articles from sources all over Asia and the world. With a minimalist style, including small black and white photos and small type-face, it might not appeal to younger generations who are used to splashy graphics, but I love it. I grab a handful of issues whenever I go to Cambodia. The PPP is similar though it looks a bit more like a traditional Western newspaper. Articles and editorials critical of the government are not widely seen, but as the country continues to open up and develop, I believe we will see press freedom expanding as well.

Online magazines, news sites and blogs are starting continually. Saigoneer is a website started recently by English speaking expats in Viet Nam and is aiming to cover a broad range of news topics. Lacking many writers, they mostly grab and repost articles from Thanhniennews and others. Khmer440 is site for expats in Cambodia to share their blogging material and occasionally has some interesting material, but regrettably the vast majority of their submissions are low quality gonzo garbage. Asiapundits, based in Korea also gathers materials from writers and bloggers based in Asia and , like Khmer440, has 10 throwaway pieces for every submission that is worth reading.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

http://www.cambodiadaily.com/

http://thanhniennews.com/

http://vietnamnews.vn/

http://saigoneer.com/

www.khmer440.com

http://www.asiapundits.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index

chemtrails over Saigon 2014

Here are some photos of the sky over Ho Chi Minh City, May 2014.

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The Vietnamese, like other people all over this modern world, rarely look up, let alone pay attention to what is happening in the sky above them. If they do manage to pry their eyes away from their smart phones, it is only to notice if it is daytime or nighttime, cloudy or sunny. They are not able to differentiate between cloud types and certainly cannot tell what a chemtrail is.

Here are a couple of photos from a slick expatriate magazine. One is the sky over Saigon and the other is the sky over Singapore. Again, we see a chemtrail filled sky but with no awareness or commentary from the photographer, writer, or editors.

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DSCF8543Modern man’s ignorance of the most basic features  of the natural world, in this case cloud types and formations, is contributing to the rapid decline and downfall of our species. The fact that people today cannot look up and notice that something insanely unnatural is happening right over their heads is a sobering commentary on where we are.

The first step to knowledge, and then further on to wisdom, is direct observation. From direct and accurate observation, we can gather pertinent facts about the natural world and our circumstances. This is called ‘grammar’ in the classical Greek style of learning known as the Trivium. But before we can even get to observation, we must be in a state of awareness, another condition that they (the powers that be)  are trying to breed out of us. Smartphones and the like are specifically designed to destroy our awareness, and hence the PTB are able to blithely spray poisons down on us with not a peep of protest.