Feb 09

“Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman (which I’ve not yet read) reminds me of a few things in his talk: 1) that humans are extremely capable, be it for good or evil, 2) we create and perpetuate the messy, ugly world in which we live, 3) in a sense we are asked the blue vs. red pill question everyday…and the truth is out there for those who choose the examined life.

Some highlights:

– The mechanics of modern imperialism, in order: economic hitmen, jackals, military force.
– Corporatocracy, the dollar and the oil standard.
– Assertion that Saddam Hussein was CIA’s ‘boy’ since the beginning, starting with 1959 when he led the attempted United States-backed plot to assassinate Qassim.

Feb 09

Say “No” to drugs

Having a kid opens the door to a whole new breed of comedy:

Sep 08

Self-interest and the Market Economy

Aren’t we being foolish as a society and constituents of a government to think that lack of regulations is the best way to let a market run? Hasn’t recent history (if not all of history) sufficiently demonstrated that markets move toward excess and not equilibrium (read: people are greedy, surprise surprise.)?

Wasn’t Enron enough of an example? Clearly not.

Will anyone be surprised in the next few years when criminal charges are leveled against specific individuals at various banks who schemed to defraud people out of their life savings and retirement funds through rackets known as CDOs (collateralized debt obligation)?

Regardless of however the bailout plan goes, executives and their lynch men made out with millions, and will not have to give the money back. It’s sad, but we’ve seen this before, haven’t we.

I’m a capitalist, and I love America (even more now being outside the US). But I believe the role of government should precisely be to protect us from systematic greed.

Sep 08

The little things

Living in a new country presents lots of exciting and interesting things. Four typhoons in 6 months, duck or goose for lunch, paying utility bills at the post office for free, 97% relative humidity: all fantastically exciting things.

But every once in a while, some little nuance about life in HK will be so appalling that it makes me gasp out loud and reminisce fondly about life back home.

Playing basketball here, for instance. I’ve never realized that the concepts of ‘change’ and taking the ball out ‘up top’ are cultural practices. They’re inalienable human-playing-basketball rights, right? Imagine the dismay when the guy takes the ball and simply dribbles away to shoot for himself after I drain a 20fter. Not even a moment of considering ‘should i give the ball back to the guy that just made it?’ – just simply dribble, dribble, shoot. Imagine 20 minutes of that. I think I even yelled out ‘yo, where’s my change?’…

Or general courtesy, for another. My 4-month pregnant wife holding our 2-year old standing in front of two 20 somethings sitting down on a train. I’m standing next to her holding a bunch of crap. Next to me is my 65 year-old mother in law. Behind me is a sign posted on the subway window that says (in Chinese) ‘Please offer your seat for someone in need’. Yeah, the guys look right at us, and continue to do so for the next 15 mins…from their seats, of course.

Maybe it’s the relative humidity, population density, or maybe just that courtesy is a uniquely Western value.

Sep 08

Dear Leader

Recently (9/7), many news outlets picked up the claims made by a Japanese professor Toshimitsu Shigemura that Kim Jong Il has actually been dead since 2003. He alleges that the Kim Jong Il of today is quite a few inches taller and that he is at all times flanked by 1 of 4 top aides. Now, it’s widely known that the ‘doughy dictator’ groomed many look-a-likes to impersonate him in public engagements for fear of assassination, and Shigemura claims one or more of them have been convincingly acting the role under the skillful pupeteering of the 4 top aides.

Now, today North Korea’s #2 (Kim Yong-Nam) publicly comes out and denies the leader is ill.

What can I say. This is classic. Lovers of pop-psychology and veterans of office politics (like me), you know that emphatic denials like this more often than not indicate a deep-seated, irrational insecurity to cover up the truth.

If it looks like poop, smell like poop, and moves like poop, then it’s poop.

Kim Jong Il is dead! Pretty crazy, I know.

Also, I want to call this right now. Within the next month, reports will come out from the motherland in the north that Kim Jong Il’s grandson was found running around the streets of Pyongyang claiming that his grandfather looks, smells, and moves not quite like his beloved grandfather. In fact, that it’s not his grandfather at all. Have you seen Kagemusha? Eerily similar. Does this mean they have internet or Blockbuster at-home delivery service in the North?

A strange world we all live in.

Aug 08

You busy?

I heard Warren Buffet once say that he tries to make sure he learns at least one new thing a day, and that (aside from drinking coke) is what keeps him “young”. So, in honor of our celebrity capitalist, I’ve resolved to a) learn one new thing a day and b) to blog about it here.

Today I learned how to ask “are you busy?” in mandarin:

你忙吗? (ni mang ma)?

The participle “ma” is used to transform a statement into a question. For example, 你忙 (ni mang) would simply declare “you are busy”.

This, if you’d like to know, brings my vocabulary to a generous 5. But I’m not discouraged because I know, as the proverbial Lao-Tze saying goes, that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

And my first steps (to mandarin nirvana, I guess) are courtesy of a French linguistics teacher (whose accent sounds more Russian than French to me) that splits his year between Shanghai and Vancouver. Strange as it first was, I am finding that he is an excellent teacher. Thank you Serge Melnyk!


Aug 08

One World, One Dream

Aug 08

Unusual for this neck of the woods

Look closely at all 4 figures in this sign we saw at the Ngong Ping village today. The management team surely must have hired a cultural and gender “sensitivity” consultant.

This was our 2nd trip on this cable car. The first time, we heard only afterwards that cars had fallen off the cable in the past (very bad for a cable car company). This time, knowing the troubled history and also considering news of the recent closure of Ngong Ping, we decided to say the hell with it and ride it anyway. Made it back safely this time but will definitely have to think twice next time. The ride is pretty crazy (pics to come).

The climb up the stairs to see the world’s biggest buddha at the Po Lin Monastery would not have been that bad, alone. With a 30 pound, 2-year old in my arms, it was a good leg workout. After coming back down, my sister-in-law told me she overheard people saying that the buddha isn’t old at all, that it was created in the 70’s. Turns out it was much later: 1993. The biggest and not the oldest, clearly.

Aug 08

Everyday Food in Hong Kong

I have recently been coming to grips with a few facts.

1. LA has the best food. Hard to argue w/ the incredible variety. Judging by dimsum in Hong Kong, tacos in mexico, and korean in seoul, LA can’t be beat.

2. There’s no good Mexican food outside the US. I come to this conclusion only after countless disappointments and have yet to be proven wrong. Note: for all you tex-mex lovers, that’s not what I’m referring to as “Mexican” food. I mean the real stuff: http://tacohunt.blogspot.com/)

3. Food in HK sucks. Most everything we’ve eaten has generally been a disappointment. I’ve just developed a different relationship to food, really. Maybe it’s the humidity, maybe the fact that everything is imported, maybe I’m just crazy and haven’t found the good places yet. Regardless, 5 months into it here in HK I can’t say I have tasted something really good yet.

So w/ that, here’s my top three everyday places to eat so far (pics to follow):

1. Yoshinoya: Yes, that’s right player, Yoshinoya. It’s terrific here. Food in-store is served on real porcelain, and is quite tasty. Also delivers to your home, oh my. Trying to order in English, however, is about 10 times worse than getting a root canal + getting all 4 wisdom teeth pulled. The Combo set (yes, half chicken, half beef separated by a canal of vegetables all swimming on a bed of white rice) is recommended.

2. Pret A Manger: Sort of on the pricey side, especially compared to HK local food. But the sandwiches, baguette sandwiches, salad and soup are all fresh (made daily), and quite tasty.

3. Seafood at Lamma Island: Ok, so maybe this isn’t everyday food, but that’s a matter of where one lives isn’t it? As you walk off the dock at Lamma Island, you find about 10 seafood restaurants each with their tanks full of live crab, fish, shrimp, lobster, clams, fish, scallops and fish. You get the point: live, fresh and tasty. Wok-fried garlic crab makes me want to move there permanently. It’s the home of Chow Yun Fat, for you lovers of useless-now-but-maybe-not-later information.

Aug 08

Edwards sucks… and McCain’s sordid past

This week, I had to admit to my wife that my judgement of political figures can sometimes be off, way off. I had bought into that “self-made, son-of-a-miner” ethos of John Edwards, so much as to consider how an Obama Edwards ticket would help to bring in the white low and middle-class votes. True, Edwards never did claim that he was a morally perfect person — just that his upbringing taught him to value people regardless of their circumstance, race or color — but he surely suggested that his character, his essence was solid, so solid that he could withstand the temptation of money and power from Washington’s interest groups.

Turns out that was all a bunch of crap. Truth is, he is a politician through and through. My wife reminded me that she called it reading about his $400 haircuts paid for by his campaign fund.

If you watched this interview, you know that he’s a skilled politician by the way he’s able to deflect attention (blame) on someone else, even in his own exclusive confessional interview. His mention of McCain’s first marriage made me google it, for sure. And the apparent truth about how McCain cheated on and left his crippled wife, and married his now wife 5 weeks after his divorce, is pretty ugly. There are lots of uglys about McCain. The truth about how his new wife, Cindy McCain, stole drugs from her own non-profit, and how McCain used all his political power to keep it under wraps is one (regardless of your penchant for twisted romance stories).

All this said, why do I find myself so bothered by it all? Because I believe so strongly in Obama’s message of hope, his reminder that we ultimately have a choice to define a better reality for ourselves. And truthfully because all this exacerbates my fear that in the end, after his presidency, he’ll prove he’s really just another power-hungry politician like McCain and Edwards…and that our world is still best characterized by greed, ambition, power and corruption and those that best wield these for their own reward.