Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dr Whirlpool, or how I learned my dishwasher was locked and what I did about it

It was time to wash dishes, but a light under a little padlock symbol was illuminated on the front panel of the dishwasher, and no button on the panel worked. I couldn't start the dishwasher. The chilling thoughts of an overpriced repairman or, worse, a new dishwasher rushed through my head. I looked closely at the front panel and found the brand name. Even that was a challenge because years of use have caused some of the writing on front to fade. But there it was: Whirlpool. I was about to find out the difference that a good brand name makes.

The persistent green light beneath the lock suggested
we were going nowhere fast.
I Googled for an owner's manual, and I was directed to the Whirlpool site, which maintains a well-kept collection of owner's manuals. Unfortunately a lot of companies are careless about maintaining their documentation, but Whirlpool maintains theirs in the most professional manner.

The site required only the Model Number, and I was equally ignorant about that, but there was a link just below the space for the model number that said, "Where is my model number?" I clicked on that, and up popped a table that said for dishwashers, the Model Number is along the inside rim. There was even a picture with an arrow, so now I knew where to look.
At the Whirlpool site, amenities led me
to exactly what I needed to know.
The arrow points at the model number.

So, armed with visual instructions on how to find the model number, I opened up the dishwasher and took a picture of the label on the inside rim with the model number. I use this trick a lot: when information is in an awkward place, I stick the camera there and take the picture. This works at the grocery store when cans are on the bottom shelf; it works when I'm looking for an audio plug on the back of my computer; and it kept me off my knees while getting the model number of my dishwasher.

Now armed with the model number—you can see it there in easy to read black & white, DU948PWPQ2—the Whirlpool site immediately handed me the manual in a PDF file (which I have added to my Cloud-based collection of manuals for everything).


The little lock above the green light intuitively suggested that "Locked" was the key phrase to search for in the manual, and intuition was right yet again. Why one would want to lock a dishwasher was a mystery to me, but I gave a nod to Whirlpool for empowering their customers with the option. Maybe they were thinking of those little kids who wreck Nicholas Cage's mobile home in Raising Arizona. "Well, Glen and Dot are bringing their kids over again. Better lock up the dishwasher, hon'."

The instructions said to press and hold the HEATED DRY button for five seconds to unlock the dishwasher. I held my breath, pushed the button, counted to five, and sure enough the lock light went off. The problem was solved, and I started the dishwasher, wandered back to my office and did some more work.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Eleven Great YouTube Channels You Should Watch

Used to be that a lot of people would read newspapers in bed in the morning when they had nowhere to be. Hemingway often did that in fact and in fiction. I've written the news off, though, but I enjoy waking up and watching what new things that daily vloggers have to say. Vloggers like Casey Neistat are more addictive than soap operas because their productions have drama, but they're real and believable.

So I thought you might like to know who I watch. My choices are personal: they cluster around a few centers: I like videos by expatriates, particularly in Asia. I like videos about food and travel (the two go together, as I will explain). And I like videos about alternative housing, among other topics that I anticipate needing to know about in the future. I like videos that make me laugh. And rather perversely compared to my other tastes, I enjoy the occasional cat video. These may not be your choice of topics, but they're a starting place from which you can gradually discover your own areas of interest and vloggers who talk about those topics in an interesting way. So this list is in no way meant to be comprehensive, but just a starting place for good YouTubing. Even if you're a long-time viewer, you might find a few new channels to interest you.

I'm also a fan of cinema, so I watch movie previews, but I don't expect YouTube videos to be outstanding cinematic productions. YouTube videos are typically made by someone who has something to say, and they say it with simple, inelegant equipment. Yet anyone who produces videos daily with even the crudest equipment gets better, and some people, like Casey Neistat, just seem to be natural born filmmakers.

Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat was already vlogging when he turned 34 last year, but on that birthday he committed himself to produce a short documentary film about his life every day. He already had a following that nobody would smirk at because he and his brother had done a season of films for HBO, and Casey and a friend had also made a film for Nike of himself using every conceivable conveyance and doing a lot of running in which he took a very active trip completely around the world in ten days. But shortly after he began daily vlogging, boosted by a handful of viral videos (Snowboarding with the NYPD, 13.6 million views; Bike Lanes, 16.4m; The Surprise in South Africa, 4.8m, among others), his following climbed logarithmically, to a million, then more quickly to two million. As of this writing it's at 2.8 million and headed fast to break the three million mark.

Those accomplishments alone are significant and possibly more than a lot of people do in a lifetime, but there are many more remarkable things about Casey. Here are ten of them:

  1. His life was going nowhere, and one day woke up and decided to U-turn out of the dead end. He rented a sofa in a friend's apartment that just happened to be a block from the World Trade Center on September 11. The video from that day is about fear and confusion. Now he lives a life that goes everywhere. He often travels in and out of the US, but he loves New York and calls it home.
  2. The guy has a Midas touch: he literally makes a living, a good living, doing what he wants to do and what he loves to do.
  3. Casey and his wife have family ties in Connecticut, Houston, and South Africa, so these recurring locations in the Niestat ouvre.
  4. People send him things. When he opens mail in his vlog, he has more packages than Father Christmas. He has a sweet tooth and people send him candy (but lately he has been trying to go cold turkey on the sugar addiction, and he's doing a juice cleanse). He gets cameras, microphones, Boosted Boards and Hoverboards (electric-powered skateboards) and electric unicycles, drones, and much more. For free. Tourism agencies of island nations fly him to their Caribbean resorts just so his legion of followers will see what it's like there. Companies send him their products in the hope that if fans see the well-respected YouTuber using their product in the video then they'll want to use it too. Product placement. For a long time Casey flew American Airlines almost exclusively, and AA reciprocated with access to very ritzy VIP lounges complete with showers, food, and drink, but AA suddenly backed away, and now he and JetBlue could be courting each other for the next Niestat choice in airlines.
  5. Casey is still very much Casey, which is one reason the fans who stop him to say hello on the street like him so much. Having achieved success with a rare flair and panache, and without selling out, he is an inspirational speaker. His advice to becoming a successful vlogger is simple: vlog every day (1 trick to 2.5 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS). His video on Losers and Closers is essential to understanding the secret to success, whether you want to be a YouTuber or an axle luber: you've got to commit and stay committed. As Yoda says, "Do. Or do not. There is no try." (By the way, almost without fail, Casey has great music soundtracks—I suspect he's worked out a deal with composers—but unfortunately the Losers and Closers soundtrack sounds like a two-dollar music box, but you can't win them all.)
  6. He's a great filmmaker. Critics say that the key to Akira Kurosawa's success lies in every shot composing an eye-pleasing picture. I don't know if Casey is a fan of Kurosawa, but his every shot contains strong visual interest, especially when roughly half the shots are made atop a Boosted Board weaving through New York City traffic while he holds the board's controller in one hand and the leg of a camera tripod as a selfie stick in the other.
  7. Now that he's mastered flying drones, the drone often runs alongside him or over his head at varying distances as he runs his Boosted Board on the sidewalks along the East River. That's a great effect, but it could not have been easy to master because again he's got the Boosted Board controller in one hand and the iPad-like drone controller in both hands, yet he's coordinating both his path and the flying camera's path through space. Indeed, the drone-borne camera often flies off into space, up and over the Brooklyn Bridge and peers into the heart of the Manhattan skyline. The camera lens makes love to the City. No filmmaker loves that City more than Casey Niestat or Woody Allen.
  8. Casey is a storyteller, and when he is in teaching mode, he says, Don't let the gear get in the way of the story. Most of his videos not only document a day, but they have an objective, some sort of story, tied up in their telling. The exceptions are when Casey decides to explain some principle like the Pareto Principle or Always Be Closing or how to be successful in the vlogging (or blogging) world.
  9. Casey is a family man. He has a teenage son named Owen by a woman he knew in his past life. Casey's success has allowed him to take Owen on a lot of his global excursions. Casey is married to Candice, and they have a baby who has spent the first year of her life highly visible in the first year of Casey's daily vlogs. We've seen her transform from tiny infant to a walking and active toddler who is on the verge of talking. She's already saying "Dada!" Candice owns her own business as well: Finn, a classy designer jewelry store in Manhattan.
  10. And a bit of Niestat trivia: for weeks now one of the monitors at his editing station has been playing the Godfather saga. Is there a message there? Or is Coppola his favorite director? Or is that just the way it is? With Casey, all of these are possible at the same time. (12 May 2016 Update: Casey says, "Somebody asked me why I have the Godfather I and the Godfather II on a permanent loop in here, and the reason why is that it's the greatest movie ever made and looking over and seeing it is a constant source of inspiration.")

Mark Wiens

Mark Wiens

"...having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world" (Herman Melville, Moby Dick).
Mark Wiens is American and has a Thai wife named Ying who brings a lot of charm and grace to his videos and who accompanies him at table and on the road. Ying often works the camera while Mark explains what they're eating, and Wiens's face blossoms with enthusiasm and heartfelt foodie passion as he gamely tries all sorts of exotic food all over Asia. Occasionally, from the kitchen of his Bangkok apartment, he shows us how to cook simple dishes, but most of the time they're on the road. Wien's Web site, Migrationology, complements his presence through his YouTube channel. Wiens gives a lot of information away for free on his site, but for sale there are some splendid guidebooks without which you shouldn't travel to Asia. I just bought a T-shirt to upgrade my long-term spiritual enthusiasm for all this food and travel with something more substantial.

Typically one of Wiens's excursions lasts a week or two and produces several daily videos, in which Mark and Ying eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at restaurants worth visiting if you should ever travel to the city in question, and ultimately he publishes a guidebook on Migrationology. Their trips have led them to Saigon, Singapare, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Seoul, and other no less exotic places. One excursion was to their home city, Bangkok: they left their apartment and spent two weeks in local hotels so they would experience Bangkok as travelers but with their keen insights—of locals, yes, but Wiens somehow takes that insight everywhere he goes. Recently the Jordanian Tourism Board flew him and Ying to Jordan, where they ate, visited Petra, and drank a LOT of delicious Arabic coffee. Wiens's unbridled enthusiasm for good food and what the world's many peoples have done to sanctify the daily task of feeding themselves cannot be overstressed. The video about eating beef in Kobe, Japan, provides one of the best examples.

Everyone eats, but few know how to eat as well as Mark Wiens. We travel not merely by the feel of our soles on terra firma but by the taste of food across our palates: we travel not merely by foot but by tongue. The great French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan equated language and culture, and man invented language first to speak about food. So eating becomes the most pure, direct, and visceral way to experience local language and transcend another culture. Nowhere is this more apparent in Wiens's work as in the the Jordanian trip, where even Wiens was on relatively new terrain and cuisine.

In his biographical notes, Wiens says he was born in Phoenix, but spent his first year of school in Albertville, France. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence, but Anthony Bourdain also spent part of his childhood in France, so I can't help wondering if a childhood in France introduces youth to fearless and adventurous eating. Wiens spent three years being home-schooled while living with his parents in the jungles of the Congo before attending an international school in Nairobi, Kenya. I know from teaching at an international school in India that this sort of education opens one to cultural diversity and a profound curiosity about the world, so it's quite appropriate that Wiens majored in Global Studies at Arizona State University.

After graduating in 2008, "with few plans," Wiens wandered about South America, hiked the chilly, wind-sheered mountains of Patagonia, and considered teaching English, but that turned out not to be his path. A year later he returned to Arizona to attend his sister's wedding, and that was when he was inspired to establish Migrationology and to begin blogging. Rather like Casey Neistat's 34th birthday commitment to blog daily, Wiens committed himself to Migrationology. "With no plans other than to eat as much as I could" and to blog, he bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok.

He explored Southeast Asia for six months and spent all his money. He signed one last contract to teach English, but the commitment he made in that year was never to teach again but to live off the Internet, eat, travel, and earn some money.

"It wasn’t easy," Wiens says, and it took three years of staring at the computer screen until cross-eyed, scrimping, and saving before he was making enough to support anyone other than himself. Wiens shares his secrets in a video, How I make money while traveling the world (and eating), and also published these tips as a blog at Migrationology.

Then he met Ying, "the most amazing girl in the world," and they married in July 2013. All in all, Wiens and Ying live life like an artwork in progress, and what a delight that they share this with us through almost daily videos.

Angel Wong's Kitchen

Angel Wong

I've only been watching Angel Wong a short time, but she's charmingly telegenic with an innately wholesome image. She's a natural teacher who explains food in its cultural context and provides clear, step-by-step instructions on how to cook each dish in a way that makes even me, generally a klutz in the kitchen, feel ready to take on anything from wontons to boba tea, and she even explains how to make the bobas (tapioca balls) that make tea boba-ly. She's been producing YouTube videos for two years. Wong balances her videos between Taiwanese cooking and Asian culture, so they are both culinary and anthropological, and sometimes her recipes come from other parts of Asia as well. For example, the matcha tea ritual, called chado in Japanese, she says, is Japanese. She is especially partial to tea and has numerous videos on how to prepare it and serve it, from Taiwanese Milk Tea, which she professes is her favorite, to Starbucks-style green tea frappuccino. Despite all these wonderful approaches to tea, her channel's recipes cover every corner of the table. So from soup all the way to dessert, you could start with classic wonton soup, serve green onion pancakes and mapo tofu alongside popcorn chicken with basil as the entrée,  and wow everyone with almond cookies for dessert. The possibilities for menus with her recipe-rich channel seem endless.

With 78,000 followers and growing rapidly, Wong was acknowledged by YouTube as a "NextUp Winner," one of a promising new class of creators upon whom YouTube "bestows funding, training, and mentoring." This year, says YouTube, 360 total winners were chosen near the Creator Spaces in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Paris, Toronto, and Mumbai. Wong had just returned from a trip to Taiwan, from where she regaled us with lots of Instagram and Twitter pictures of some of the most enticing street food I've seen anywhere, and somehow during a vacation she also managed to tape and edit a few YouTube videos as well. She made it back just in time to immerse herself in serious training at YouTube's Los Angeles Creator Space.

Ryosuke and Grace Mineta

Grace Mineta and her husband Ryosuke's YouTube channel and Web site create a huge Web festival celebrating the couple's creativity. Their videos fall into two major groupings: those that document their life, especially Grace's "A Day in the Life" videos (a personal favorite); and those that offer advice on a topic about which they are particularly qualified to give advice like 5 Things to Think about BEFORE an International Marriage and 4 Things to know BEFORE marrying a Foreigner.

Grace is the author of three comic books—or so she modestly calls them: the one I have, Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo, is more like a novel rendered partly in comic strips and partly in text, and though it is spirited and written in good humor, it is anything but trivial or silly as comic books tend to be. Here runs a rich current of feeling, love, intelligence, and of life lived such that every day brings a wondrous new adventure (hence, I suspect, the Day-in-the-Life videos). One heartwarming thread common to many of the expats living in Japan (Grace and Rachel share this) is their love for their adopted country and how thrilled they are when that country—or someone from that country—returns their affection.

Grace and Ryosuke provide yet another example of how, with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, one can indeed begin to make a living online. As I recall from one of their videos, Ryosuke did have a traditional job outside the home, while Grace stayed home, did some freelance writing, wrote her comic books, and took care of the YouTube stuff. Making films for YouTube is not trivial. Although videos have the casual appearance of home movies, they look easier than they are (try it if you don't believe me). Just like a Hollywood movie, a YouTube video must go through stages of pre-production, production, and post-production, and Grace was taking up the slack there while Ryosuke worked. She has said that it took her close to three years before she built up a reasonable income. Moving out of Tokyo to a smaller town in Japan also helped their financial situation. Ryosuke wasn't happy with his job outside the home, so he has now joined Grace in their cottage industry.
More lately Grace and Ryosuke have visited her academic parents in Ghana, and Ryo went on a "bro trip" with friends to Hawaii, so their videos sometimes take us into a completely new cultural contexts.

Rachel and Jun
Jun & Rachel

Rachel and Jun are another internationally married couple living in Japan, yet they are quite different from Grace and Ryosuke, so having them both on this list is anything but redundant. I wouldn't be too far off target to say that the difference between Grace and Rachel and, hence, the difference between their videos and narrative styles, is the difference between introversion and extroversion. Rachel loves fashion and will sometimes buy (or be given by shops?) a whole bunch of new clothes, which she delights in putting on for the camera to make a little fashion show for her female audience.

Rachel is also the Gertrude Stein of the expat YouTubers in Japan. She's infinitely prettier than the Grand Dame of Paris ever was, but like Stein she is connected and catalytic. She seems to know them all, and she often shares her venue with another YouTuber, which is a great way to discover other people in that corner of the world that you might want to follow. For example, here she is with Martina of Simon and Martina (see below).

Jun is an accomplished chef, and his recent edible sushi sculptures that look like koi have gotten a lot of press. Together they have been doing some wonderful videos about travel in Japan, in which they strive for a more objective and professional approach, like mini-documentaries about place, as opposed to the usual first-person and intensely personal style of vlogging. The Water City is a personal favorite out of this series, and the Japanese Capsule Hotel shared details I've been curious about since I read Neuromancer.

The Talking Kitty Cat

Sylvester the talking cat

Sylvester is a talking cat with an attitude that duplicates how many real cats act, think, and, well, talk. I mentioned the talking cat in a Google+ post once, and someone corrected me and said that cats can't talk, but I fired back that I'd seen the cat talking in the video with my own eyes.

In this household of verbal felines there is also an extraordinary dog named Shelby. This big old black Labrador does not know how to talk, so the resident human and video producer Steve Cash has engineered a special electronic collar with a speaker suspended from it that allows us to hear Shelby's thoughts. The dog tends to select and fixate on one or two words in the conversation and to move no further: "BACON?!"

Sylvester's co-star, Gibson, had a much more softspoken personality than curmudgeonly Sylvester, and he was often cowed by Sylvester's bullying. Yet sadly, in the last video, What No One Saw Coming, the Talking Kitty channel owner and creative force made a surprise appearance to tell us that Gibson had died during production of this video, but not before his mate had dropped a litter of tiny Gibson-like kittens. This tragic twist in an otherwise comic series spawned numerous fan tributes like this one by Nicholas Coulter.

Cats Life TV

Hatch and Mac are the stars of Cats Life TV, where the cats do not talk either Japanese or English, and out of a characteristically Japanese shyness or a universal need for privacy, we never see the channel owner's face. What we do see are two charming cats that love to be petted by their human, who loves to pet them. This channel is about pure cat love. The channel has a modest but impressive following (by YouTube standards) of over 8000 followers, and her videos typically receive 1500 to 2000 views, though this video starring Tuxedo cat Hatch has had 107,143 views. The Japanese do not have a monopoly on loving cats, but they perhaps love them more than anyone else. There are cat stores that sell every imaginable cat accessory—clothing, toys, catnip—and if we take Rachel and Jun's video about cat adoption at face value, it's probably easier to adopt children than cats in Japan. Japan also has cat cafés, a concept which is slowly reaching the US, and even a cat island. Homeless cats often have visitors who pet them and build shelters for them.

Shonduras (Shaun McBride)

Shonduras is the online moniker of Shaun McBride who remains something of an enigma to me probably because I am older and otherwise outside his general demographics. To me, he is an amalgam of a hundred paradoxes: he has long hair and a scraggly beard and lives the life of a boy in which all the world is an obstacle course for a skateboard or a parkour artist; yet he clearly loves his wife and baby and is a great husband and father, and he provides for his family well. Despite the hair and would-be beard, his only vice is cereal. I thought for a while that he was an X Games athlete because he's better than anyone else in his world on boards, skis, or even makeshift snow vehicles that he puts together for fun like the refrigerator bobsled (others in this maladaptive snow mobility series are worth watching: a scooter with skateboard trucks; a hoverboard with skateboard wheels; skiing on a bike; snowboarding on an ironing board; snowboarding on a waterski; skating on an "open" [for business] sign; etc.). But then I read that his fame emerged not from any sort of extreme neo-athletics, but from Snapchat, which is famous for putting anyone over 30 in a state of cognitive dissonance. But the income theory gets even murkier: there's a part of his house that he calls the Space Station that holds, like a small Internet café, a dozen computers, and one to three guys, depending upon the video, who seem to be either working there or sleeping there. On the wall he has mounted cereal dispensers for anyone who needs a Lucky Stars fix. Yet out of this fog emerges the happy face and positive attitude of Shonduras, who seems to have no disparaging language in his vocabulary, who sees something happy in just about everything, and whose videos are always titled "Best Day Ever #XX," where XX is the episode number. I suppose I'm left out in the cold like Bob Dylan's Mr Jones, but people pay to have Shonduras come spread his positivity in their corner of the world, and he spends a good chunk of time traveling—maybe not as much as Casey Neistat, who is a friend of Shonduras, but a lot. I fear I will always be thoroughly mystified by what I'm watching, but I'm pretty well hooked. It's like watching a cross between Hot Dog ... the Movie and Lost.

Simon and Martina
Martina and SImon

Simon and Martina spent seven years in Korea, and they moved recently to Japan and brought their following of over a million viewers with them. On camera they have share a dynamic that reminds me of the exchange between radio personalities on one of those really good and funny radio shows that you listen to in your car on the way to work in the morning. Well, OK, maybe they're not that funny, but they are also informative, and information presented with humor ranks high in my book. I ask myself, what would early-morning radio talent be doing wandering around East Asia, and my theory is that the rapport of their public pesonae isn't rooted in radio but in teaching English as a Foreign Language, which is how most foreigners come to Japan and Korea. If you're going to survive as a teacher, you have to be entertaining, and they were in Korea for seven years—that's like 28 in teacher years. Simon sometimes wears a T-shirt that says, "I'm more interesting on the Internet," and I understand that completely. On the Internet he gets to do the persona and the rapport with Martina: it might not quite be the real them, but it's the wonderfully entertaining them for their vlog.

I started watching them because I was eager to get someone else's insights into the country where I lived for two years. So I came to them for the country but stayed for the humor, the information, and all the wonderful things they were telling me about Korea, much of which I hadn't noticed myself even though I was no stay-at-home stick-in-mud. Suddenly they uprooted themselves and moved to Japan, which is great because now they're going to tell me about Japan with that Buddhist virtue called the Beginner's Mind. And it will be funny. 

Simon and Martina rank just behind Mark Wiens on this list for knowing how to eat. I don't mean that I value gluttony as a virtue. I mean that eating is something we all have to do, and it is better done if it is sanctified by carefully and lovingly prepared food and appreciated that way as well. Eating is necessary to live. Eating well, appreciating the art in cookery, celebrates life. Coincidentally, Simon and Martina did a video about shabu shabu just as I was learning about it here in the states. Now I can't wait to go to this nearby restaurant, though here in Texas shabu shabu is a menu item in a more general hot pot restaurant. Now I haven't had any of this yet, but I have had hot pot in Hong Kong vicariously with Mark Wiens, so I'm sure it's good, and I've had shabu shabu vicariously with Martina and Simon, but I worry that a hot pot restaurant that doesn't specialize in shabu shabu won't do it as well. By the way, Martina explains that shabu shabu in Japan means swish as in the swish and flick that Hermione Granger masters when learning to levitate a feather in Harry Potter's first.

Kinoshita Yuka
Kinoshita Yuka

Kinoshita Yuka is a Japanese vlogger who usually includes English subtitles with her videos. The premise behind Yuka's videos are that she is going to eat a massive quantity of some particular kind of food, and she is going to do it with gusto. She's no amateur walking around with a selfie-stick: her videos are professionally produced with a staff that includes even the subtitle writer, and she has a camera presence that suggests professional training. One night she tackles 3 kilograms of pizza, and another night two jars of cookie butter with 18 slices of Texas toast at an estimated 6336 kcal, which is enough calories for a man twice her size for two days. As a novelty that's interesting to drop in on, and she's got a perky stage presence and a contagious zeal for food, and although the video treats all this as something amazing and a little funny, I am sometimes haunted by the guilty feeling of being a voyeur upon someone's eating disorder. I don't know eating disorders well enough to say, but if she doesn't run to the bathroom to throw all this up in a classic case of bulimia, is it still an eating disorder? She's coming out with two or three of these videos every week. Nevertheless her enthusiasm is addictive, and her personality is charming and funny.


Mimei is, I think, from New Zealand, but she speaks fluent Japanese and far better English than most Americans. She has at least two channels: Mimei Land, in which she speaks primarily English, and Mimei, in which she speaks mostly Japanese. However, each channel provides subtitles that make the videos accessible to both Japanese- and English-speaking audiences. 

I've enjoyed the videos I've watched so far, but I haven't watched enough yet to call myself a fan (though I'm fast becoming one). She is obviously culturally and linguistically an expert Japanophile. 

After reading my first draft, she wrote me to say that she will have to think about how she gave me the impression that she's so focused on shopping, and I'm sure that my mistake originates with being new to her channels and making judgments with too little data. 

Still not using rocket science, the only overt visit to a shop that I find on the first page among dozens of videos is Inside a Japanese MEGA Convenience Store!, which is really fun and interesting. There is a bookstore within this store with manga and comics (which apparently are not quite the same thing) as well as novels and non-fiction. There is food in three states: food ready to eat; food that will be ready to eat with minimal preparation, usually a brief zap in the microwave; and food that you will probably want to cook. 

Like many expats who walk through the looking glass, Mimei enjoys the moments of going out for simple things like having a cup of cappucino or seeing The Last of the Cherry Blossoms (what I can't figure out is why, one fruit-gestation period after sakura, we don't see people in Japan walking around and eating lots of cherries).

The Short List

There are just so many YouTubers that one can write about in an evening, but I don't want to end without mentioning these vloggers whom I'm watching but, because I'm relatively new to them, I don't have that much to say about them yet. They all deserve a fuller write-up and a position alongside everyone above—well that gives me something to do in the follow-up. I'm on the lookout for new talent to watch, so the list expands and contracts constantly. (NOTE: the drawing of this list was monitored by independent if not objective observers who certify that no rocket science was employed in the making of this blog.)

  • Bangkok Fatty is a friend of Mark Wiens in Bangkok. He's trying his hand at blogging, and I've just tuned in to see what he can do. Actually, I note that he has 110 videos on his channel, so he can't be that new to it.
  • CollegeHumor is an ensemble humor group, the Saturday Night Live of YouTube, usually doing satirical skits on current events and social issues. Some of these are home runs of hilarity. The What If Google Was a Guy videos are viral screams with 28 million views apiece.
  • Kirsten Dirksen makes videos about "simple living, self-sufficiency, small (and tiny) homes, backyard gardens (and livestock), alternative transport, DIY, craftsmanship and philosophies of life," all of which interest me profoundly, so I'll likely stick with her.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vietnam Summit at the LBJ Library, Day 2

South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut). Used by license.

Panels on Wednesday (4/27/2016), the second day of The Vietnam Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, comprised a fascinating array of star journalists, photographers, historians, and anti-war activists. The keynote speaker this evening was Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Power of a Picture

"When I first got to Saigon it was full of energy," photographer David Hume Kennerly said Wednesday (27 April 2016) at the Vietnam Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. "Saigon didn't seem to be in the war zone, but there were signs of the war surrounding it. I took a bus ride and there was a dead person on the side of the road. Not what you see in New York. I didn't even take a picture. It's like, We're not in Kansas anymore."

Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographers Kennerly and Nick Ut discussed with Moderator Angela Evans how their work affected public sentiment toward the war. Evans is the dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Ut, who was born in Vietnam and speaks with an accent, allowed Kennerly to speak for the both of them through much of the session.

Kennerly has been shooting in war zones for fifty years. He has been a photographer since he was a little kid. Kennerly said he went to Vietnam because he didn't want to be explaining why he didn't go twenty years later.

"I did the National Guard to get out of Vietnam," Kennerly said as he considered the irony that he wound up in Vietnam voluntarily. "I had to get out of the service to go to the war. When I got over there I experienced a lot of situations, close calls and all that. I've thought about this a lot: why am I able to put this in the rear view mirror and other people can't. Others had no choice about what happened to you. You're also the one with the gun, doing the shooting. The only story that gave me nightmares was Jonestown. It doesn't plague me now, but I remember the nightmare. I haven't had any nightmares about Vietnam, though I did the other night dream that the North Vietnamese were dropping the Statue of Liberty on me."

"When I first got there, [photojournalist] Eddie Adams told me there were no more good pictures to be taken. When I won the Pulitzer Prize—something I didn't know I'd been put up for—I was in Saigon and I got all these cables. One of them was from Eddie Adams, who wrote, 'I was wrong. Congratulations.'"

Kennerly's photos are archived at The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, a research unit and public service component of The University of Texas at Austin .

"Which photos do you send forward and which do you hold back?" Evans asked.

"We'd send our film with a courier," Kennerly said. "So we didn't pick and choose our pictures. Our editors did. The photos went to Saigon and were picked there and transmitted out. Of course nowadays everything is digital, so the photographers have much more control.

"The TV brought the Vietnam war into your living room, but the still photo always took the image directly to your heart. The film of the guy shooting the guy in the head. The film is out there on YouTube along with everything else. But the still picture, once you've seen it, is embedded in your brain.

Kennerly was referring to Eddie Adams’ image of a Vietnamese police commander executing a Viet Cong prisoner. Eddie Adams shot the iconic photograph just as the bullet enters the prisoner's head. An American TV film crew happened also to catch the execution, but it happens summarily and quickly, and the still photo had a much deeper reach into public sentiment in the United States.

"Nick's photo of the kid running down the road,...  these can be arranged to say this is the kind of thing that happens when we go to war. I didn't look at it as a ... tool but just as informational."

On the day that Ut photographed Kim Phuc as she ran down Route 1 with her brothers and cousins with napalm burns over their skin, he took his film to the processor himself and had an 8X10 print made of the photo. He feared that there was a possibility of censorship because she was naked, but the picture soon appeared on the cover of the New York Times. The photo changed people's feelings about the war.

"When I came back to the States," Kennerly said, "it was like there wasn't even a war going on. I kept looking around and wondering how could people be comfortable with all this. Kennerly said that he admires the Vietnamese people who came to the US after the war. "When I look around at this phobia of people coming to this country it makes me sick because the Vietnamese community has been one of the strongest elements in this society."

After the war Kennerly became a photographer in the Ford White House.

The photographers took questions from the audience.

"You mentioned several iconic pictures and how they were interpreted," an audience member said. "Do you have any comments on how your picture ended up? You have little control of how people view and use your pictures."

"That's the beauty of photography," Kennerly said. "Nick took the picture of the girl because it was happening. It wasn't to make a political point. I think we appreciate that our pictures can educate, make people get emotional about it, say whatever they want."

Another audience member asked, "What is the comparison between being the reporter of the camera vs. being the artist with a camera? How conscious are you of the composition?"

"That's why God created cropping," Kennerly said. "We're just happy to get something in there that we can deal with later. Artistic is not a word that goes through my mind at that moment usually."

"I fell into the familiarity hole of being in a situation day in and day out. I go to a photo fitness workout, where you go into your neighborhood and take pictures of things you just don't see. I don't think my pictures change or have become more thoughtful over the years. I do think more about what I'm doing, not as an artist, but what's a better way to tell a story.

Kennerly is the author of seven books.  The most recent, David Hume Kennerly On the iPhone, was released in the fall of 2014.  Previous books include ShooterPhoto OpSeinoff: The Final Days of SeinfeldPhoto du Jour, and Extraordinary Circumstances: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford.  He produced, “Barack Obama: The Official Inaugural Book,” and was one of its principal photographers.
Moderator Angela Evans, Dean, LBJ School of Public Affairs; photographers Nick Ut and David Hume Kennerly; at the Vietnam Summit, LBJ Presidential Library, 27 April 2016.

Secretary of State

Wednesday evening Secretary of State John Kerry made the keynote address of the Vietnam Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. He was introduced by former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, who also served as the top fund-raiser of the John Kerry presidential campaign.

"John Kerry voluntarily enlisted in the US Navy," Barnes said in his introduction, "serving two tours of duty, earning a silver star, a bronze star, and three purple hearts. He became a veteran speaking hard truths against the war. As a senator he served on Foreign Relations Committee."

Kerry said that his official topic was the Vietnam war remains a complicated and controversial part of American history, but "it occurred to me that the thing to do wasn't to give a long keynote address as billed, but to give a few observations, then to have Ken [Burns] ask a few questions."

"The Vietnam War calls for a serious analysis of what happened, but it also calls for us to feel what we feel in our gut," Kerry said and invoked "Santayana's famous warnings of what happens to those who don't remember to the past.

"There were mistakes in leadership, communication, strategy, basic assumptions about the war. So it's no surprise that public support disappeared at a critical time.

"Our veterans did not receive a welcome home. Nor the benefits nor the treatment that they not only deserved but needed. The vets themselves had to fight a whole new round of battles. Fights for benefits. Fights to deal with trauma. Fights for a memorial that they deserved.

"When we talk about Vietnam, here is lessson #1: whether a war is popular or unpopular, we must always treat returning vets with the dignity they deserve.

"We were right to work hard, and in some cases we are still working, to go forward from the divisiveness of the war. We were right to welcome the many Vietnamese refugees after the war.
We were right when the Supreme Court upheld the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Kerry has been involved in the attempts to account for and recover the remains of American soldiers who never came home. "The accounting," he said, "tells you something remarkable about the remarkable openness of the Vietnam people. They helped us search for the remains of American troops even though they lost a million of their own. The Vietnamese did so because they wanted us to move beyond the war. They let us into their homes, their history houses, their jails. On more than one occasion they guided us across mine fields.

Kerry said that on this trip to Texas he had visited George H.W. Bush yesterday in Houston. Along with Brent Snowcroft, Bush has been working with Vietnam to find bodies of American soldiers still Missing in Action. Kery described a 30-foot-deep pit, in the wall of which was the detritus of a C-130 where they hoped they might find the remains of soldiers.

Outlining some of the peaceful ties between the US and Vietnam today, Kerry said there are nearly 19,000 Vietnamese students studying in the US, and he mentioned a Fulbright School that exists today in Ho Chi Minh City.

"If we forget," Kerry said, "we cease to learn. The tragedy of what happened in Vietnam has to be a constant reminder."

Afterwards Ken Burns asked Kerry several questions about Vietnam not as it is now but as it was during the war.

A Ken Burns Documentary

An afternoon session of the Summit featured a Conversation with Documentary Filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The co-directors shared scenes from and discussed the making of their upcoming ten part, eighteen hour PBS series The Vietnam War.

"Vietnam would complete a trilogy with The Civil War, The War (about World War 2), and the Vietnam War. But we decided to do it in a different way." Burns explained that the Vietnam War would include interviews with American soldiers, South Vietnamese soldiers, North Vietnamese soldiers, and Vietcong.

"The Vietnamese government let us come in with our cameras and talk to the people of our choice," Novick said. "We just started talking to the American War generation there."

At first they had older men who were all dressed in more or less the same way, carrying the same medals, and giving the same speech. It seemed likely they were getting an official story, but eventually a few people expressed independent minds.

"This will be our most controversial work," Novick said.

Speaking of the Civil War, Burns said, "In the presence of the enemy, who happen to be our brothers, we have to drop our assumptions." But it becomes immediately clear that Burns isn't speaking merely of a war in a country divided within itself, but of the divided brotherhood of humanity. In a war, Burns said, the leaders feel it's very important to make the enemy just bad, which is a way of reducing people to nothing.

"I was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Ann Arbor had the teach-ins," Burns said, speaking of coming of age during the war. "It consumed our country. By the time we get four or five decades away, when you can get some historical triangulation, you get where you realize that a lot of the things you believed are just not true."

The War at Home

An afternoon panel featured historians and a social and political activist to examine how the war divided the nation and shaped American culture, but the time was so short and the topic so ambitious that they had barely started before they had to stop. The panel included Tom Hayden, politician and anti-war activist; David Maraniss, author (They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967) and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post Journalist; Marilyn Young, author (Vietnam Wars 1945-1990) and professor of history at New York University. Robert Schenkkan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright (All the Way: A Play), moderated the panel.

Young began with some critical observations of Kissinger, who was the keynote speaker the night before. Kissinger blamed not the nature of the war but the split in opinion in the US for the quagmire in Vietnam. She pointed out how egregious events in the war eroded support for involvement.
She pointed out that the US had an early, post-WW2 relationship with Ho Chi Minh. They were working together to fight the Japanese. After the war, Ho asked for a developmental support and reciprocal economic exchange with the US, but the US missed the opportunity. She also strongly disagreed that Nixon's bombing inside Laos and Cambodia was limited to a five-mile strip along the border as Kissinger had said.

Hayden, a twenty-year veteran of the California legislature, founder of Students for a Democratic Society, and one of the Chicago Seven defendants, spoke candidly about his confrontations with the Chicago Police Department during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Hayden has authored 20 books, including Listen, Yankee!: Why Cuba MattersThe Port Huron Statement: The Vision Call of the 1960s RevolutionLong Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama; and Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden Reader.

The moderator, Schenkkan, rose questions about how America's obsession with race prevents it from focusing on class distinctions. "The war changed Americans' awareness of class," he said. "We talk about the draft, but not about who actually got drafted and who didn't. We think of this as an egalitarian society, but how true is that?"

"The working class is fighting the wars," Maraniss said, "and the policy makers are coming from another class."

"Martin Luther King was shifting from a black people's march to a poor people's march," Young said, "and that's when he died."


Dan Rather and Peter Arnett

In another afternoon session, television news personalities Peter Arnett and Dan Rather spoke about about the often tense relationship between journalism and government. Andrew Sherry, Vice President for Communications at the Knight Foundation and a former foreign correspondent, moderated the panel. Sherry has worked in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Pnomh Penh, and other parts of Asia.

"The policy of all four presidents during Vietnam attempted heavy handed manipulation of media," Arnett said. "Even in 1962 there was a credibility gap plaguing military and media relations that worsened as time went by. And the South Vietnamese Secret Police arrested and beat American journalists."

Rather went back and forth between Vietnam and New York. The first trip was in October 1965 and lasted about a year. He went three times after, but not for as long. On a combat operation at Tam Ky he saw the first wounded american he'd ever seen in combat.

"The longer you were in Vietnam," Rather said, "the more you said what I'm seeing isn't what the politicians are saying."

"What was the impact your reporting was having in the US?" Sherry asked.

"There was a 180-degree difference between government statements and press reportage," Arnett said. "In 1962 Senate leader Mike Mansfield visited and lectured the press on their reportage."

"What made the press/military relationship in Vietnam so different from that in Korea?" Sherry asked.

"We could go anywhere in Vietnam we wanted to go," Rather said. "We were basically in the hitchhiking business. The military in Vietnam war was eager for correspondents to see the war as it was. But on the question of censorship, there was censorship in World War 2 and Korea, but not in Vietnam. But here's the point: they didn't want correspondents to see combat."

"All too often," Rather observed, "the corporate leadership doesn't have a sense of the value of the Press to american society."

"It was only in the later stages," Arnett said, "under Nixon that the tension started to materialize between the military and the press."

"The military had learned some good lessons from Vietnam," Sherry said, "like how to define an objective and pulling out afterwards."

"From the time we got to the invasion of the Iraq war," Rather said, "by and large by the time we reached that point, American Journalism had lost some of its moxie. We got caught up, questions arise in your mind, if you raise the questions you're gonna pay a heavy price. To ask the tough questions, the tough follow-up question, you're gonna have a sign placed around your neck, 'unpatriotic,' 'bolshevik,' or whatever. Every journalist knew it, but nobody wanted to talk about it. If you don't get on board with the invasion, it's like the burning tire they put around people's neck in South Africa."

"In Iraq," Arnett said, "you couldn't photograph wounded Americans, but you could go all over country."

"By the time we got to the Nixon administration, a president who did deal in deceit, the reporters were skeptical. Not cynical, but skeptical."

The reasonss the president said for going to iraq were not true. we had good reasons to question it.

Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, covered Vietnam for 13 years for the Associated Press, from the buildup of advisers in the early 1960s to the fall of Saigon in 1975. He penned two thousand news stories and has written several books, including memoirs Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad, 35 Years in the World's War Zones and Saigon Has Fallen.

Dan Rather, former CBS News Anchor and Journalist, spent 43 years at CBS, 24 of which as anchor and managing editor of the CBS evening news. In his early days with CBS he often reported from combat zones inside Vietnam. His books include Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News and The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Vietnam Summit at the LBJ Library, Day 1

Dr Henry Kissiner at the LBJ School of Public Affairs Auditorium, during the Vietnam War Summit, 26 April 2016.
Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser during the Nixon Administration, called the violation of the Peace Treaty with North Vietnam and the subsequent invasion of the South "one of the saddest moments of my life." Kissinger spoke Tuesday evening (26 April 2016) as part of the ongoing Vietnam War Summit being held at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin. Afternoon sessions included a panel on the Battle of La Drang moderated by Joseph L. Galloway.

Larry Temple, chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees introduced and welcomed Dr Kissinger.

"LBJ would have wanted this summit," Temple said, and he quoted President Johnson: "'It's all here, the story of our time—with the bark off. There is no record of a mistake, or an unpleasantness or a criticism, that is not included in the files here.' His greatest failure was not achieving peace in Vietnam."

The presidential library houses the papers from Johnson's time in office. "These include criticisms of decisions and actions that were taken fifty years ago. There should be no record of a mistake or criticism that is not included in this forum.

"It is my honor and my privilege to introduce my friend Dr Henry Kissinger."

Dr Kissinger at 92 walks slowly, and his trademark gravely voice and German accent have both thickened over the years, making him a little harder to understand than when he advised Richard Nixon.

Mark K. Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, interviewed Kissinger and served as moderator when audience members asked questions. Updegrove is also a historian and author who has published books on the presidency: Second Acts: Presidential Lives And Legacies After The White House (2001); Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis (2009); and Indomitable Will (2012).

"It is a pleasure to be here," Kissinger said, "and to participate in a conference that gives room for debate about vietnam."

Although Kissinger was still a professor at Harvard, he had a secret channel of communication that he offered to the Johnson Administration so the United States could talk about peace. This channel broadened when he joined the Nixon White House as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, and it also eventually allowed Nixon to open relations with China.

"We've been involved in five wars since World War Two," Kissinger said. "We entered each of these wars with a wide public consensus. There was 80% support at the commencement. but after some time, people tend to say we need an exit strategy.

"If you cannot describe an objective you should not get in it. When we started in Vietnam, it was a reasonable objective."

Updegrove asked Kissinger what he thought of Johnson's foreign policy.

"He did not know the foreign leaders as well as domestic politicians," Kissinger said, "so foreign policy did not come to him as naturally as domestic policies."

Updegrove mentioned a National Security memo that Kissinger had written, and on that memo Nixon had written by hand that the "US has controlled Vietnam's and Cambodia's airspace for ten years, but what good has it done?"

"What did you make of Nixon's response?"

"I had known President Nixon for five or ten years," Kissinger said, "and I had a tendency to wait and see if there would be a follow-up." There was general laughter in the audience although Kissinger was not seeking to mock Nixon. "I think Nixon might have exaggerated when he said that in a note, written probably late at night," Kissinger added, to more general laughter. "There are lots of these documents with these sorts of notes that are floating around. I had a very clear idea of what he wanted [without having to respond to spontaneous requests and observations]. The most important thing a National Security Adviser can do is to tell the president his options."

Updegrove then allowed audience members to pose questions to Kissinger.

"There are many who allege that you are  a war criminal due to systematic carpet bombing of Vietnam and Laos," one audience member asked. "Why was that bombing necessary?"

Kissinger denied that there was any carpet bombing, and he reacted visibly and sometimes audibly whenever he felt that historical details of the audience were inaccurate.

"The claim of carpet bombing was not true," he said. "The North Vietnamese moved four divisions into the border areas of Vietnam and Cambodia, and eventually launched attacks into Vietnam. The troops were deliberately put there before an attack."

"When Nixon came in," he said, "he sent a message to the Vietnamese that he was eager to negotiate."

But Nixon firmly believed in negotiating from a position of strength, and he ordered attacks on base areas within five miles of Vietnamese borders.

The spectre of Robert McNamara arose various times through the day. McNamara was on his way to becoming CEO of Ford Motor Company when newly elected President John Kennedy pressed him to become his Secretary of Defense. McNamara had a reputation for understanding and managing complex systems of logistics, which made him a perfect fit for Defense. After Kennedy's assassination, Johnson asked the Cabinet to stay with him and to stay the course established by Kennedy.

Yet McNamara's logical mind conflicted with his intuitive feelings against war. "To the end of his life," Updegrove said, "Robert McNamara regretted the war. The war was futile. Combat was terribly wrong."

"The American presidents," Kissinger said, "and those of us who dealt with them were acting in good faith at the time. ... I'm proud of Bob McNamara. He was a really good friend of mine. I have good regard for him," but Kissinger did not agree with him.

Updegrove asked Kissinger what was the biggest lesson we should learn from Vietnam. Kissinger said that the dilemma of American foreign policy is that Americans tend to think that peace is the normal condition among people, and when there is war they are overly eager to become involved to try to end it.

Updegrove asked Kissinger about the upcoming presidential election. "You said that Hillary Clinton would make a good president, but you intend to support the Republican candidate. Do you still intend to support the Republican nominee?" Kissinger, perhaps in light of the course of the Republican campaign, did not answer.

An audience member asked if Kissinger thought the war on drugs was worth it, but again Kissinger did not formulate a clear response.

As both a player in and scholar of history, Kissinger has published numerous books, highlights of which include White House Years (1979); Years of Upheaval (1982); Diplomacy (1994); On China (2011); and World Order (2014).

Perhaps by chance, Dr Kissinger's exit music was The Supremes' "I Hear A Symphony."

Earlier in the afternoon during a panel discussion on The Battle of La Drang, moderator Joseph L. Galloway, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once... and Young, told the story of one of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's trips to Vietnam. President Johnson, noting casualties in Vietnam were much higher than anticipated, told McNamara in so many words "to get his butt over there" and find out what was going on.

After briefings from key military personnel McNamara on his return flight wrote a memo. When McNamara walked into the next Cabinet meeting, Johnson held McNamara's memo in his hand, and he was miffed.

"Bob," Johnson said, "do you mean no matter how many men I put in Vietnam I cannot win this war?"

McNamara shook his head. The North Vietnamese had already matched a recent American troop escalation, and would continue to do so. The Americans had reached a fork in the road: either they pulled the troops out and brought them home, or they escalated the troops and took the military stalemate to a much higher level of violence by giving Westmoreland the 200,000 additional troops for which he was asking.

Galloway's book, which he wrote with Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, was also made into a movie starring Mel Gibson as Moore.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Vietnam War Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library

This summit on the Vietnam War at the LBJ Library in Austin will supposedly take a "substantive, unvarnished look" at the war and its role in the LBJ legacy. They have already "distributed" tickets, which means, I suppose, that it's an all-VIP kind of deal. You certainly don't want anyone asking embarrassing questions during an unvarnished look. Supposedly the events will be streamed, so I'm going to try to watch as much as I can just to see how that varnish stripping goes. I will try to blog some of it if it's appropriate. I'm hypothesizing a cascade of hypocrisy: after all, can you imagine Henry Kissinger coming clean? In Austin, Texas? No, that man is going to his grave with unimaginably heinous secrets. For the sake of National Security.

For those of you who did not get invited to the Summit, the Austin American Statesman says you will be able to watch it streamed here.

The summit begins at 12:30 pm Tuesday with the afternoon program:

  • Commanders-in-Chief. "Historians and presidential aides discuss the roles our presidents played in the war and how their leadership affected its outcome."
  • The Battle of La Drang. "Veterans recall the first major campaign of the war--and its bloodiest."
  • The Afterewar. "Experts explore the physical and psychological trauma our veterans faced after the war--and continue to experience today--and the bitter, sometimes hostile reaction they received from fellow Americans."
  • Closing of the afternoon session with City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

At 4 p.m. there will be a Veteran Recognition Ceremony in the LBJ Library Plaza.

An Evening with the Honorable Henry Kissinger begins at 6 pm.

Participants include, top row, left to right: US Secretary of State John Kerry; Liz Allen, PhD, major, US Army Nurse Corps (retired); Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker; Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and former National Security Adviser to President Nixon. Bottom row: William McRaven, University of Texas System Chancellor and former Commander of US Special Operations Command; Dan Rather, former CBS news anchor and journalist; Nick Ut, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer; Ambassador Pham QUang Vinh, ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the US.

Monday, April 25, 2016


In the huge passage of life when I programmed computers, I didn't eat breakfast.

On weekdays around 7 a.m., my alarm routinely beeped, blatted, and pled into a void of darkness. I woke hungover, elephants grazing on my forehead, at 9:30 a.m. I showered, dressed, and left the apartment by 10 a.m. I arrived at the office ten minutes later because I made a point always to live close to my office. Even in Houston, a poor man's L.A. where it takes an hour to drive anywhere (other than the neighborhood supermarket), I defeated one of the cruelties of the city where nobody lives voluntarily. Besides, nothing is worse for a hangover than driving on a freeway. I am certain that whatever Angelino invented road rage was hung over.

So there wasn't time to eat cereal, much less to cook.

If you drive into Houston from the west on I-10, an hour and a half before you reach central Houston, you enter the fringes of the sprawl and begin to pass office towers and strip malls that all look indistinguishable from each other: architecture and urban planning by rubber stamp. My company built a tall office building out there in that desert of imagination, and that was when I fled to a contracting job in Denver, where once again I lived close to work and rolled into the office with minimal decorum. I was paid well to write software that helped geophysicists find oil. Still no breakfast. Once in a while there might be donuts or bagels in the conference room, or someone would have a birthday and we'd dissect a cake in the conference room.

But most of the time I didn't break my fast until lunch. Although nobody was as audacious as I about the schedule I kept, we were all hard drinkers in that office, and it wasn't hard to find a small crew to go to a not-so-fast food joint where we could wash down an upscale burger and ponderous fries with a few pints drawn from an imported keg behind the bar. We all broke fasts and had hair of the dog, and no doubt by mid-afternoon somebody would wander the labyrinth of offices to collect a few dollars from each of us for the afternoon beer run. We'd drink in the office while we modeled layers of the earth by processing seismic data, something like using dynamite to do an ultrasound on the belly of the earth. The guys in suits who came around to see the finished work loved the geophysicists I worked with because they took a lot of guesswork out of where to drill for oil. I was a gluttonous pauper, but somebody was getting rich.

I lived an extravagant lifestyle, and I spent every penny before I earned it. I should have been living cheaply and building a money machine that would have taken care of me for the rest of my life, but, no, I stayed as poor as I was in college, except that now I ate and drank far too much.

During my first incarnation in college (I reincarnated later, but that's another story) I was lucky to eat at all. We did none of the administrative business like registration online. Rather, we did it in lines, and I remember being so faint from hunger one absurdly early morning that I had to go sit down for a few minutes.

In Denver, drinking every night and most days, I certainly conformed to anyone's definition of an alcoholic. I didn't walk away from it through some twelve-step program. Just over time, and after all the damage was done, I simply outgrew it. Now and then I want the buzz or the drunk, and I let myself have it because I don't fall into some pit where I have to drink every night. Sometimes a bottle and a sad movie provide a wonderful catharsis, but most of the time it just seems like too much work. Beer bloats. I'm losing my taste for whiskey. Rum and vodka require filling mixers.

Had marijuana been legal back then I would have drank much less, and I would guess that the outcome would have been somewhat more sensible, but it's impossible to say how that alternate life would have gone. What I do know is that these days I love breakfast, and if I were to eat only one meal a day, that would be breakfast. Sometimes I have sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Or I poach eggs and slide them between English muffins. And sometimes I have cereal hot or cold.

Lately I've been following a few good YouTubers, among them Shonduras, who happens to eat cereal wholesale (eating isn't his thing, but there is an amazingly slender Japanese woman, Yuka Kinoshita, on YouTube who does eat massively for entertainment). However, watching Shonduras dash across snow on dozens of improvised conveyances (discarded refrigerators; skateboards stripped of their skates; etc) has given me an appetite for cereal for breakfast and maybe for a snack or two later in the day. I find that I go through boxes of cereal much too quickly, so ordering bulk single servings as part of Amazon's Subscribe & Save program makes sense. It's kind of like buying cereal at Sam's.

And now I've gotten a lot better at managing money, but now there's almost none to manage. Well, I'm working on that.