Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Archive for February 2008

There is Nothing False about Hope

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It’s not new. I hope you have seen it already. But watch it again, for me. I watched it another half dozen times tonight.  I feel it.  It gives me chills, in a good way, like that moment at the very end of Braveheart when William’s huge oaf of a friend heaves his sword a mile into the sky….


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February 22, 2008 at 5:28 pm

News From This Side, Google It…

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Two big things happening in China right now. Firstly, Kosovo’s declaration of independence squeezes a wedge between Sino-Soviet and U.S.-Euro relations. Kosovo setting a precedent for succession of democratic, autonomous states turns the spotlight on China-Taiwan and Russia-Chechnya. Very interesting to look into. Secondly, on a lighter note, google the Edison Chen sex scandal. The Hong Kong pop-superstar took his laptop in for repairs and ended up having it hacked. An unknown group or individual, known as Kira, is now releasing hundreds of photos and videos captured off his hard-drive. The problem? Oops, they are porn videos and nudie shots of him and some of Asia’s top female superstars. The ripple effect on the rich-and-famous has been tsunami-like.

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February 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Page Turners

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This is supposed to be a good year for me.  No more double-pig.  No more bad luck.  No more wearing red underwear to ward off the bogeyman.  The Zodiak prophesies the year of the rat will be the year of the bounce-back for Mr. Miles.  Hey, it never hurts; when the mumbo-jumbo is pouring your way, just roll with it.  Roll, roll, run.

When I began this blog, it was all about youth and searching for answers in the post-collegiate miasma of life.  Growing, learning, those were guiding concepts.  Taking steps.  Recently, my pace has quickened from a near standstill to having a little hop in my step and swagger in the gait.  Yes, I landed a new job!

I am now copy-editor and voice-over for an international television station, working on the news team.  My primary task is to polish reports filed by local Chinese journalists; make them sound smooth.  Plus, I get to write and record sports, and do a little translation dubbing.  It has its challenges.

Monday was my first full day.  “News at 10.”  It was a rush!  I haven’t felt a surge of excitement like this in quite a long time.  I had almost forgotten what a buzz the newsroom gives me.  The studio.  Lights up, cameras on, the production room in motion.  People flying around.  The teamwork.  All that jazz, like they say.  It just keeps the energy flowing, everyone is positive.  Every day has a specific goal.  It’s fly or die in a sense; get it on the air or look for a new job.  Life in television is a constant job assessment.

Odd, too, that I also clicked my way through The Washington Post this afternoon and found the article, “The Dumbing of America.”  Susan Jacoby takes a few poetic jabs at an America finding itself more often in the margins than reading in between the lines.  The act of reading is becoming the art of reading as stupendous amounts of Americans find themselves visually defined and literary lightweights.

And once again, I am scratching my dirty nails down the blackboard of the social classroom.  A cog in a machine, literally, one more tit in the boob tube.  Just as I fought imperialism by becoming an English teacher, here I am working towards a method of informing poor, developing nations about sustainable lifestyles from inside a commodity box.  Needless to say, my odyssey isn’t quite the masterpiece I am hoping for at this stage.  But we are still in the early going, like a rough draft.  As long as I keep the wheels rolling, greasing the chains with a bit of youthful energy and enjoyment, the next chapter ought be engrossing.

Written by Miles

February 19, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Travel in Vietnam “Rendition”

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On my first night back from Vietnam, my gracious Norwegian host and I took a stroll down to the DVD pirate shack.  Tellingly, ironically perhaps, we failed to find a comedy and chose to drop the $0.75usd on “Rendition,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.  Now, bare with me, as I work through my thoughts on my two weeks in Vietnam in reverse order.

“Rendition” is a quasi-true type film based on the use of “extraordinary rendition” by the United States government since 9/11.  This term refers to the US government kidnapping a suspected enemy combatant and relocating them to an allied country where interrogations can take place outside the laws (Geneva Convention) of the US.  You may remember when this story had a millisecond of press a few years back.  The press referred to it, then, as secret prisons.  It was widely brushed off by the State Department and Pentagon as a necessary ploy to detract the enemy from finding out where their comrades were being held.  Feel free to sprinkle fishy quotation marks around all of the words so derelict of definition in that paragraph.

“Rendition” vividly depicts a man being completely dehumanized, brutalized, beaten, electrified, and waterboarded (suffocated by drowning).  You know, tortured.  That big “T” word that so many US politicians have refused to renounce unequivocally, except the one man who happened to fight in the Vietnam War, Mr. McCain.

They don’t call it the Vietnam War in Vietnam, as one might expect.  It is the American War.  And justifiably so.  Less than 24 hours before I watched “Rendition,” I had spent two weeks traveling through the country we Americans literally tried to “bomb back into the Stone Age.”  I visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where their godlike revolutionary figurehead is entombed.  I walked streets of Hanoi that had been nothing but puddles and shards of scrap less than 35 years ago.  I hiked trails outside the Cham ruins of My Son where the VC had fled to hide during US bombings of their improvised base camp.  I was horrified by the images and machinery of war at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon.

At the same time, I saw the most beautiful women I have seen in Asia.  I was cordially welcomed at gates of military bases.  Roads were being built.  Cities are teeming with young kids running wild with nouveau money from parents, buying toy trinkets and street-side snacks.  It was a mind-boggling land of paradox, both inspiring and insidious.

I was welcomed there.  As an American.  It was rather unsettling, the forgiveness.  Was it forgiveness?  Or was it a blind eye being turned toward a promising future?  Was it wrong to forget the past?  Could I?

Vietnam is at a crossroads many nations face at many points.  It defied all odds and won a war with gritty determination and selfless wit, defeating two imperialist attempts.  It reconciled, though rather savagely, a divided nation.  And after all of that, brighter days lie ahead.  The mood is calm, positive, entrepenurial.

How will I remember Vietnam?  As a mistake.  Not to travel to, but to invade so many years ago.  I was reminded yet again of the monstrosity of war.  A year ago, I was in Cambodia just a generation after the Khmer Rouge.  And now, this.  Napalm.  Chemical defoliation agents.  Carpet bombing.  Birth deformities generations later.  It was just, just… wrong.  I used to believe war was inevitable in a realist world order, that at times it was “a continuation of politics by other means,” as Clausewitz said.  And I was wrong.

How is it that empire governments and human beings at the helm fail to realize generosity breeds fewer enemies than revenge?  That feeding people rice rather than bullets wins friends?  That a helping hand works better than cutting them off?  A determined, united people facing the most extreme odds can and will survive and succeed.

Written by Miles

February 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm