Friday, October 03, 2008


This is how yesterday's Update began: "How I'd really like to use this blog, for the rest of October, is for exciting myself about a Halloween season I'll mostly miss out on." What I meant when I said this was that I wanted to write about horror movies all month. This blog is one of the methods by which I can connect with the holiday happening without me back home, and my DVD collection is another. But that's not what I went on to say, you'll remember. Unsurprisingly, what I began ruminating over was how the political situation, every four years, infringes on my ability to escape into the month of October. Inevitably, I ended up talking about the current worldwide economic reckoning. I thought I might try again today, but it's just starting the same way. Already I'm tending toward politics again. It's an unavoidable subject right now. Within the next few days I'll receive my absentee ballot and vote one month early--even that won't wait till November. Tonight, when I'd love to be taking about watching scary movies on TV, what’s on my mind is the taped vice presidential debate screened at an office party earlier this evening. That was also scary TV, frankly, but it wasn’t escapism. I'm afraid it's completely futile. Two years ago, I reviewed one horror movie each day throughout the month of October, but now I just can't stay on track. This year, I'm noticing the tendency to, for lack of a better word, blog. I'll not have this. In an effort to celebrate the distant fall, my favorite month, and the Halloween holiday, I'm going to observe The Silence of the TombTM here on this website. I'll return Tuesday, November fourth after a short birthday vacation. See you then. [Cavin]

Thursday, October 02, 2008


How I'd really like to use this blog, for the rest of October, is for exciting myself about a Halloween season I'll mostly miss out on. There is some expat Halloween celebration here, I remember from last year, but all that's imported. Domestically, I'm on the wrong side of the planet for that sort of thing. Plus, we're tossing around ideas for a birthday trip at the end of the month, a trip somewhere else (Bangkok? Angkor Wat? Luang Prabang?), without even these tenuous probabilities. But back to the subject: while I'm able, I want to talk about those whimsically fearful things October inspires instead of the political subjects headlining this season. I suppose this is symptomatic of some existential apathy preventing a greater degree of intellectual engagement with complexity. The political state of the world is complicated--so demanding, such a drain on time and mind--that, when the need for understanding and action becomes really acute, my attention rebels. My excuse is flimsy and all too predictable: election years are an infringement on my holiday season. The economic crisis sweeping the globe has only intensified this. I mean, October is really much scarier this year. Today I noticed this quote in the New York Times:
"Supporting this [bailout] legislation is the only way to make the best of a crisis and return our country to a path of economic stability, prosperity and growth," said [Senator Harry Reid, Dem. NV, majority leader].
What? But isn't this 7x1011 dollars of bail-out money, um, borrowed? Isn't that the problem? I know I'm thinking about this in the most ill-informed and simplistic way possible, but are our creditors about to buy our economy? And is this really a good investment for them? That doesn't feel like fearful whimsy at all. [Cavin]

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Happy first of October! Reports from North Carolina tell me it feels like a nice fall morning. Crisp, clear, and even a little chilly if the wind is taken into consideration. That's good. It's not so obviously October here. The sky is clear, so it's hazily sunny. It's also very warm, a fuzzy eighty-eight degrees, rendered somewhat cloying by building damp. We haven't had a storm in many hours. The air had that translucent yellow greenhouse glow all afternoon, making me feel like the world was trapped inside a cheap plastic squirt gun being ever-so-slowly reloaded. A storm must have come through this morning, sometime before I woke up. It was evidently powerful enough to scatter green leaves and seed pods along the streets lining the nearby park. Women, dressed in municipal orange, pushed carts along the outer lanes of Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street, using bundles of straw to rake the sidewalks. Squinting, this could seem kinda autumn-like, I guess--urban southeast Asian yard work. Standing on our balcony earlier, during the last few minutes of sunset, I could faintly pick out the smell of wood smoke in the air. This isn't all that surprising: people had erected temporary restaurants on the sidewalks fourteen floors below, cooking food in clay pots over fires built right on the concrete. This is a daily ritual along Le Quy Don Street, just to my northeast. That's because, sometime between five and six, the city-block-sized school there disgorges what may be ten thousand uniformed kids onto the surrounding sidewalks. A little industry crops up every day at this time: blankets are spread with school supplies, ice cream vendors honk* their wares, and little niche restaurants set out plastic tables and stoke up the pavement. It's carnivalesque, sure, but is it autumnlike? [Cavin]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Recently I got a letter from Sunshine's mother. She'll be visiting us next Thursday. She asked what she could bring us from the US. She regularly sends packages with stuff we can’t get here: Cheerios, Gatorade, hand lotion. (My mother too: US Campbell's soup flavors, Slim Jims, Twizzlers.) Mostly this stuff's for Sunshine. She's very attuned to her cravings. I don't know why, but I don't pine away for home products when I'm abroad. I don't obsess about M&M's or First Carolina Deli. Perhaps I'm just not very brand loyal. I have no problem substituting local things for old habits. The Gatorade above shipped just for me, though. Whenever someone makes Sunshine's mother's offer, Sunshine reminds me that I'm probably missing Gatorade. And she's right, I probably am. I certainly want it once I'm reminded. It's just that I almost never think of it without prompting. When I visit home, just looking around reminds me of many things I've been missing; but while I'm still here I simply don't notice. In my reply to that email, the only thing I could think to tell Sunshine's mother I was missing? Iceberg lettuce. Too bad she can't bring me a head of lettuce on the plane. All I see here is leaf. It's funny--back home I like leaf lettuce better. I'm digressing. I should try to remember stuff I'm missing, to have an answer for that question. But I don't really want to start something here. I don't want to begin obsessing over the products of old homes. I could be missing sopa tarasca from Pátzcuaro as easily as something from somewhere else (sorry, I couldn't think of another example). Eventually, I'll be missing Vietnamese stuff once we've relocated to [where? where?]. I could ruin my adaptability like this. [Cavin]

Monday, September 29, 2008


Here are two facts loosely related to the newest half-baked video posted to my Flickr account (here). This isn't an interesting back-story to the dull movie. The video shows the Caravelle Hotel lighting up shortly after dark. It's just something I saw happen one night, noted the time, and filmed the following day. These two facts, then, are the things I think about when I watch the video now. The first: I've really been enjoying being outside at six o'clock recently. Over the last few days I've gone out and crossed the park right around at six pm. Since the equinox, the sun really has started going down earlier. It used to set at ten after; now it's pretty much dark, depending on the clouds, by six. But the lights all over the city are still running on bygone schedules. So at seven minutes after six, according to that note, all of the lights in the park, along the streets, atop the Caravelle Hotel, etc., blink on at once. Lately, between six-ish and seven after, things have gotten really dark around here, with a sort of close, exciting feudal quality reminding me of campgrounds or maybe safe neighborhood power outs. The other thing: our internet access has been iffy all weekend. Sure, our occasionally tenuous connection to the web has been even less reliable, but there have also been suspicious cases of seeming restriction: specific sites have ceased to function. What's odd is that we were forewarned. We are sorry for the inconvenience, according to that note, but some websites will not work this weekend. Weird. Blogger domains worked okay, for example; but Yahoo! didn't work at all: no access to email accounts or Flickr. Therefore, the video above, posted under the "Friday Matinee" label, actually appeared today. [Cavin]