Well worth reading…an excellent comment in The New Yorker:
I learned something watching a BBC program on coffee, which I will share with equally dim wits. The journalist followed the trail from plant to coffee shops in London. I knew that much coffee is consumed in London, having observed the flowering of coffee shops in recent years. Tea is no longer the national drink, but 80% of the coffee is instant, made from robusta beans: the cheapest.
If asked, I would have said that the coffee is sourced in Africa or South America. It turns out that the biggest supplier of UK coffee is Vietnam and that country is one of the leading producers of coffee in the world. I did not know that coffee was grown in that country...and I assumed--wrongly--that I knew the country well. It seems that my knowledge is out of date, because the communist government forced the growth of coffee production in recent years, mostly the cheap robusta variety. The leading exporter has become a billionaire: a long way from Viet Cong fighter in rubber sandals or beetle-nut chewing mamasan in conical hat planting rice...
Yesterday, I watched a report on television about how the German police control trucks using the highways for size, weight, and safety. I could not help but recall my recent trips on Thai and Vietnamese highways, where I spotted a need for such controls. I also noticed more than one truck broken down with broken springs. I doubt that weight and balance is taught in schools.
German electricians, who travel to the United States, are surprised to discover such primitive electrical wiring. They would not recover from shock (not a bad pun, which was non-premeditated) and/or fear if visiting Vietnam or Thailand. From the photos below, one would not be criticized for mistaking one for the other.
Although most people see Asia as a huge mass of short people with black hair and slanted eyes, I have learned of many differences between nations and peoples.
Then again, differences can be difficult to spot...
I noticed this headline in the New York Times:
Price of a 50-Year Myth: The false lessons of the Cuban missile crisis led to disastrous policies.
There have been a number of similar headlines lately, due to the anniversary of one more of many fallacies about US Government wonderfulness. Revising history is difficult and usually unnoticed (especially by textbook creators), which explains much of myth longevity.
I have written about Custer's Last Folly, because of my personal connection to that debacle. Last night, I watched a program on Operation Babylift, which took place in 1975. Hundreds of Vietnamese infants were airlifted out of the country, with full political participation and media overkill. These children were placed in adoption in the US and Australia (and perhaps others), with the government claiming that they would be killed by the NVA/Vietcong if the South Vietnamese Government fell (which any fool knew would happen). In reality, this was a smokescreen to lull public opinion into believing the government were the "good guys", which officials involved at the time now admit. Many children have grown up to be disturbed by the separation from birth parents, who they cannot know.
I am certain that the list of government propaganda, lies, and deceptions is long, because too many elected and appointed officials believe that citizens are too stupid to understand the truth or want to hide the crimes they have/are/will commit. If you want to read one enlightening book, try Bright Shining Lie or anything about what the Kennedy's really did.
And, you wonder why I have become a cynic…
The following is a series of photos taken on a bus trip to the village of Hoi An and back to the cruise ship, which was anchored about an hour north of Da Nang. This is a series of views of Da Nang and vicinity, which show growth and continued poverty. Although scenes of less-well-kept streets might seem disturbing, they are similar to every resort town around the world.
My first visit to Da Nang was in 1972, a few days after a major typhoon had flattened most structures. I was not expecting to see high-rise buildings and beach resorts, so the area has made huge steps. The beautiful beach, like good beaches anywhere, is a blessing and a curse.
I live a country in which standards are clearly defined and rigidly controlled. Such aspects as power, water, and sanitation are some of the best in the world. No one messes with electricity with impunity.
Vietnam is different, as is evident in the urban scene below. A German servant would have a heart attack...or at least loudly criticize this country (which is the more usual thing). I am certain that Vietnamese shrug at any suggestion of imperfection. Whatever works...or whatever one can get away with.
When one visits different countries, one observes practices that can appear, at first glance, to be not understandable. I have found, in almost every instance, that the explanation lies in the tax code of that country. For example, German houses do not have walk-in closets, which are a normal feature of American houses, because such a feature was considered a “room”, and each room was taxable. Still today, most Dutch houses do not have curtains in the windows, because curtains were taxed in the past. I was surprised in Serbia to notice that many recently built houses had not been painted. The country seemed to be suffering from lack of funds to finish the job, not finishing avoided taxation. Of course, a clever government would change the law to make it taxable not to paint a finished house.
I observed this again in Vietnam. Houses are very narrow, because structures were taxed based upon width. I spotted houses no wider than four feet, but that were four stories high. Of course, this phenomena is more obvious in rural areas, where neighbors have yet to prop up house on each side, as they do in urban parts. A clever government would have changed the code tax a combination of width and height, but that seems to have required too much thinking.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.