31 October 2010

Dear Leader

Phill shared this with me, it's good, but a little too cleanly edited and photographed. It seems surreal and propagandistic, obviously from one perspective, but more subtly from another.

24 October 2010

Nha Trang in the Rain

The first night I was in Nha Trang I went to find another restaurant that was listed in the guidebook I had. Oh No! Not another "learning experience!"
Apparently, these guide book writers like western style settings for their dining experience, this was the third time in as many days that I found myself in an upscale restaurant that was similar to anything in the States except for the language and the menu. Don't get me wrong, the food was still cheap and good. I had what the menu called mackerel braised in a spicy tomato sauce. When the waitress brought it to the table she asked me something that apparently meant "do you want me to cut your food into bite sized pieces so that you have to do less work you decadent imperialist pig?" To which I unknowingly responded yes. Within seconds my mackerel was minced. I didn't knowingly go to another restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet for the rest of the trip. When the check came it said I had ordered tuna.

Almost as soon as I left the restaurant it started raining, and I didn't have my rain-jacket so I ducked under an awning with some Vietnamese people and waited. And waited, and waited for about 15 minutes, but it showed no sign of letting up. You can see from the pictures how heavy it was raining. The streets were six inches deep or more in places, motorbikes, at least the ones with the tiny wheels, were flooding their engines. Across the street there was a restaurant with a patio. Coming out of the wall was a downspout shooting a 2 or three inch column of water into the street. I saw someone crouch under an umbrella in front of the downspout but didn't realize what was going on until I saw them stand up and pull up their pants.

I got tired of standing there so I dashed a couple of doors up the street and found a bar where I could have a beer (Tiger) and wait out the rain. I immediately met another guy who was sitting there doing the same thing, or at least it seemed so. Turned out he was a United Statesian who had been living in 'Nam for ten years. The restaurant was owned by an Italian lady who was very nice. The Statesian  bought me a beer and we sat and chatted for about an hour and a half. He told me about his Harley which was parked in front of the restaurant, and told me how much it cost and how much it cost him to have it imported. This seemed to be important in order to demonstrate how much money he spent and also how corrupt the Vietnamese government was. He assured me that the six digit figure in importation tax was lining pockets, not funding infrastructure development. He told me the first year in Vietnam was the honeymoon year, after that you start to see all the shady bullshit that goes on. The Russians he said called the Vietnamese "little rats" for a reason. He also said that you could be fairly certain that the reason a person left their native country to live abroad, nodding at the Italian woman, probably did so because they couldn't hack it in their home country. I wasn't sure if he was aware that this might also apply to him.

The next morning the streets were clean and dry. I would find out later that it wasn't the water that had washed all the trash and stuff away.

21 October 2010

20 October 2010

On the Road

In Mui Ne I discovered how easy it was to catch a bus in Vietnam. Initially I had planned to take the train for a good deal of the trip, but I found that you could pretty much catch any bus right from a hotel lobby. The train has to follow a single track, but even if the bus itself doesn't stop at your hotel, they'll send a guy around to pick you up. In Mui Ne, the bus stopped was a Korean "sleeper". I had been led to believe that the Korean buses in 'Nam were equipped with karaoke machines and I was hoping to partake at least once. In fact, this bus was intended for sleeping, or at least resting and as such there was no karaoke, but there was no rest for me. The average Korean is much shorter than me and I did not fit in these "seats" very well. On top of that, we were going very fast on some fairly narrow roads and I was on the top shelf where the swaying back and forth as the driver careened around motorbikes is amplified. Add to that the Vietnamese traffic signal, the air-horn, and you get an entertaining experience to say the least. I did get a great view of the passing countryside though.

For my third day in country it wasn't  a bad way to see a lot of the place, and I got to read some H.P. Lovecraft during the five hour trip to Nha Trang.

These last two are Cham towers. The Champa Kingdom of Hindus lived in the Vietnam-Cambodia region before the arrival of early Chinese peoples. Now the Cham People are a mostly Muslim minority group in Vietnam. I got to see more of these up close in Nha Trang where I arrived that evening.

11 October 2010

Vietnam Space Stamps

Which one of these stamps do you think it was that convinced me to buy the set? They were, maybe 2 dollars for all six. Half of 'em are fairly bland, but there was one that really sealed the deal. If you guessed Sputnik you're right. I saw the astronauts and ogled the awesome line work that defined the tone and outline of their forms and was pretty much sold. So casual yet controlled, perfect. The rest of the stamps, sattelites etc, are okay, but the Sputnik closed it off. No questions after that.

Sleepover In Mui Ne

Look left, that's the road to Sai Gon. After a nice warm glass of Bongmilk you're ready to get back on the bus and keep going north to Mui Ne, a tiny fishing/tourist town on the coast.

A lot of people mention this town because it's so laid back and beautiful. The hotel I stayed at, Hai Yen, was like a beach wandering beach bungalow. There was a pool that was about five feet away from the beach. It was the 60th anniversary of the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, so a lot of the rooms were full with Vietnamese vacationers. The Vietnamese rise early in the day, with the sun. Generally speaking, people don't stay up too late unless they run a business that necessitates late business. A restaurant, a bar.

In Mui Ne I discovered my first full-bed mosquito nets. I'll be honest and say that I immediately thought of some movie scenes. Anyway, instead of letting those heavy gauze breasts sway above me unused all night, I decided to smother myself in one. I don't like things pushing on my feet while I sleep, blankets, goblins or mosquito nets. I threw it off before the night was over.

That night I had to catch a motorbike to a restaurant, well I didn't have to. Hai Yen also had a restaurant. But I wanted to get something else so I went to the Peaceful Family Restaurant, which nobody knew what the hell I was talking about. So I just got on a bike and rode until I saw it. I was the only person there for about 15 minutes until the place filled up with Vietnamese (for the holiday). I had crab and asparagus soup, followed by pepper braised pork with vegetables and rice. I practiced shoveling rice into my mouth straight from the bowl like I've seen in kung fu movies. I would need to try again before I got it even a little bit. Choke.

On the way back, I just walked for a while, it was a couple of miles back to the hotel. I probably should have walked all the way, woulda been nice, but I hailed a moto. I was watching like a hawk, but I thought we had gone too far, passed the hotel. I stopped the guy, got off and pointed to the name on a cheap tourist map of the city. (below) Yes, yes he said. Alright. I don't remember driving past all these empty beaches and banana trees but whatever. You say yes, yes and I'll believe you. Sure enough, he was right, another half mile or so and we were at the hotel. Sweet. I think I gave the guy a good tip. I don't remember. I definitely patted him on the shoulder and said "Hey dude, you were right, good looking out, sorry bout that." After that I had a beer and read some Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn before settling in beneath my mosquito net.

The next day I got up and didn't do shit except wait to go to Nha Trang. And wait I did.

Rocket Propaganda

Seattle Police Accountability

All images are Copyright 2010 Seth Goodkind

09 October 2010

I occasionally become obsessed with filling an entire page with lines, usually with this sort of comedic result. Both of these are from 2006.

06 October 2010

Totally Thirsty?

I don't know like, what you use to quench your thirst when your mouth is all cottonmouthy and parched man. But lemme tell ya, there's a trick I learned when I was in The 'Nam that soothes the post herb-oral Sahara like nothing else man.

Amazing isn't it? You'd never have guessed, but then again, you weren't there man. You wouldn't understand.

Lucha de Love

A wedding present. I would change some things about it, but it still works.

05 October 2010

War Remnants Museum, HCMC

Honestly, there wasn't much at the War Remnants Museum that I hadn't seen before, except that it was all approached from a perspective that is anathema to the U.S. American story about the war. There was a large collection of war materiel and photographs, most of it correctly labeled from a technical standpoint. The kicker were two rooms that didn't have to do with the hardware aspect. The first of these was a room devoted to memorabilia concerning international solidarity for Vietnamese independence. The collection consisted primarily of anti-war posters and newspaper articles from around the world. Many of them were pretty straightforward, and all of them were behind glass so I didn't take many pictures, just of the stuff that was particularly striking.

The apron above says something along the lines of US out of Vietnam, or Peace In Vietnam (Japanese speakers, help?) Just below you can see a book about the Japanese fellow who wore it everyday for something like nine years. That's amazing to me, commendable and amazing.

A four language poster with a universally understandable image of Nixon riding a bomber. If you don't know the details of Nixon's "Secret plan to end the war" with which he duped the American public into electing him, you can be forgiven. Long story short it basically consisted of escalated expanded and increasingly arbitrary violence throughout the southern half of Vietnam. There was no plan for peace.

If you click the pictures above you should be able to read the captions, but these are solidarity banners from the Mexican Communist Party and the Palestinian Liberation Front.

Nobody talks about this stuff in the States, but it has happened many times. The plaque in the top left says everything you need to know.

The second room that was an exception to the hardware collection was a photo exhibition from the Requiem collection. This is a collection of photographs by correspondents from both sides, and from unalligned countries, all whom were killed during the wars. I didn't take any photo's of the photos because they were again all behind glass, and because there is a book out with the entire collection. Also, quite a number of the photos are well known, or well used, we just aren't aware that the people who took them were killed.
 Take for example this famous image from a series taken by Larry Burrows, a photographer who was lost (likely in a helicopter crash) somewhere in Laos in 1973:

 The last room of note was the Agent Orange room which was a bunch of photographs of disfigured and deformed people and babies. I didn't stay in there long.

Several groups of Vietnamese students were at the museum doing a class/tour of some sort. At one point a couple of girls sat down near me and started asking me some basic questions in English, probably to practice, but their teacher saw and gave them a talking to. That ended my conversation with my future student demographic.

And of course, there were old military vehicles parked in the yard around the museum, not terribly interesting if you can't crawl around inside them. This M-48 Patton tank had a tiny tree starting to grow out of the coupola, that's why I took the picture. I love it when nature overtakes human endeavor. Maybe you can see it if you look close. I heard an interesting statement during the trip, totally unrelated to the subject of war, but it applies to this picture in retrospect. It went something like: "Nature always strives to reach a balance, man always strives to conquer."

Speaking of conquering.

 And of course, the walk through model of the infamous tiger cages on the Con Son islands.

All this was still the first day I was in Vietnam, so it was also my first experience with motorbike traffic. This is not a great picture, but I did take it while riding on the back of a motorbike! When I originally got to the museum it was closed and this guy affered to take me to a couple of other places until it reopened. Why the hell not, seemed like a great way to start the trip.