Late Ramblings: my speak in Saigon, Vietnam, Sharyn Maceren is still Hard To Get, Donna Fujii dresses me, M.E.M update, and getting through Tough Mudder

Late Ramblings: my speak in Saigon, Vietnam, Sharyn Maceren is still Hard To Get, Donna Fujii dresses me, M.E.M update, and getting through Tough Mudder

 

Hello…

[Peering out the corner of my Facebook / Twitter residency.]

I have become a recluse about bloggin’, or whatchamight-call all this ramblin’… In 2008, Wired Magazine said that blogging is dead. Currently, rayhom.com is coming out of a coma – still fixing a bunch of links and making this site SEO-friendly and added responsive-design, as best as I know how. Initially, way, way back, this site was all just to share pics & writings with what few friends & family I have. Then the evolution from AsianAvenue to Friendster to Xanga to Myspace, and now a longtime Facebook whore has increased my circles (in Google+ speak), and most of what I write would end up at the edge of hollow echoes if I relied on blogging alone to thrive, if that even makes any sense. With all the attention baiting with foodie pR0n, baby pics, cat/old lady/Game of Thrones meme, and “I’m bored” status posts that make up about 85% of the social media world, what’s another blog whimpering and whining about how bad a movie I recently saw is? Or my love for books? And all things HBO? Sympathy whore-ism is not my angle but I gave a part of my soul to it… but since a few of you who still come here but refuse to join Facebook to be my friend, I am back.

So, what in the “green-poopie-of-the-hentai-world” is there to write about?

After so many years I still don’t know, which results in my erratic blogging schedule. I don’t want to write just to write. But I’ll take a stab again – encouraged by, as of this post, 31 of you whom liked and shared my last post. It’s not history in the making but who the hell are you few folks? – by starting to type something… Sure, previous posts have been pretentious, condescending, and self-deprecating, in order to just get a post up. But, “guawd-darnit”, I was saying something, expressing something, enough of something for a bunch of you to read ’em. And, although, there are probably a million other blogs and FB posts online that you could spend your time grazing over, y’all here. (Thx!) But, if it gets too daunting, eventually, I will drift off with a trail of ellipses to imply “to be continued”…

 

So… Saigon, Vietnam, Savvi’s TecX 2012

 

It’s been a little over half-a-year since I’ve been back from Saigon, Vietnam, for the Savvi’s TecX 2012 biz tech conference, which has become a distant, (bias) nostalgic memory. But, so it began, my trip far, far away to the other side of the world on July 1, 2012…

I hate flying because of my fear of heights. People who know me in person can see a distinct scar on my chin from when I fell off a 10-feet gate in first grade school. Without getting in too much of the gory details, I busted my chin open, like it became a 2nd mouth, which required 10 stitches. (You would have to ask me in person for me to describe how bloody it was.) Ever since, I’ve been acrophobic. Anything higher beyond 2 stories, I will fight you if you scare me with a fake (or real) “push”. I often dream of some day exploring the outer universe just to get away from this planet and its nutty inhabitants, but my hopes of being an astronaut has been crushed during this incident of my youth. If someone can suggests a good way to cure my phobia which doesn’t involve dropping me off a tall building, I’d be eternally grateful. Help my dreams!

Anyways, imagine my fear increasing, as my flight of about 16 hours to the other side of the world came closer, day-by-day. I dreaded it, knowing that I’ll be stuck in the air – visual thoughts played over in my head of the plane crashing, terrorists overtaking the flight, or needing to walk down the aisle to go pee during turbulence. But, the excitement of an opportunity to speak in another country was more than enough to overcome that fear. It’s all psychological. But, I wouldn’t tell that to myself if anyone dropped me off a tall building, though.

The flight itself was quite pleasant, actually. Leave it to movies and sleep to keep me distracted of being thousands of feet in the air. (At certain times, I was giggling over some Simpson episodes, with annoyed neighborly onlookers.) And, I peed multiple times with good balance. I’m a big boy now! With two layovers, I had my laptop to keep me company. Yes, I’m the type where I’d say about 80% of my waking hours are spent in front of my smartphone, ebook reader, or a computer. I’m preparing for the Coming of the Singularity.

Upon arriving to HCM (Saigon), a driver awaiting me held a sign with “Ray Hom” written on it. I never got his name, he barely spoke any English other than saying “New World Hotel?” I’m unsure if he even knew what was written on the sign. It could of had “Fuck You, Ray Hom” written on it, and he’d prob still held it up awaiting my arrival. I would of embraced that reception.

I just simply nodded “yes”.

And, off he drove, with my first impression of how insane the traffic was. Cars, trucks, and motor bikes stop for no one. You cross the street like “Frogger”, and you don’t stop walking (or hopping, if you like my reference) until you reach your destination safely. If you get hit as a pedestrian, it was your fault for being out of sync with the rest of the traffic. Then, our car gets rear-ended. My driver pulls-over, puts on the emergency lights, and proceeds to step out of his car towards the driver that hit us. Keep in mind, I just entered in this country no more than a mere 15 minutes ago. So, thoughts of “WTF is going on here” entered my mind as I hear an argument proceeding between the two drivers. The xenophobic words of some friends back home “You’re gonna get kidnapped and raped!” rang through my head. I took a breather… then, moments later, my driver hoped back in the car with a fistful of cash in hand. I guess, sometimes, exchange of insurance info is not required.

I am Chinese-American, full bred and born, in San Francisco. I know a little Cantonese, and recognize a bunch of Asian languages by tone, but, ashamed to admit that I am still unable to grasp the Vietnamese language. I don’t know a single coherent word by heart. My experience with the language dates back to middle school where a large portion of my schoolmates were Vietnamese. Surely, I should have picked-up a bunch of bad words at that age, yes? No. A few of my Vietnamese friends in the U.S. speak the language around me. I swore they said,”Fuck you, Ray Hom”, a few times. It was somewhat a relief to find out that 85% of the Vietnamese population do speak some form of English. I’m a spoiled American.

New World Hotel” was a comfortable, somewhat fancy place to stay. I had given my bellboy about $10US (200,000VND) because he carried my bags and gave me a quick tour of the hotel and the room. (I’m not even that generous in the U.S.) He then eagerly pointed at his name badge several times to make sure I remember his name, in case I needed anything else. I was to learn later that I had given him an amount equal to about one week of his wage. The average salary in Saigon, I’m told, is about $40 – $60/month. I never remembered the bellboy’s name.

On Vietnam TV, the most popular broadcasts are K-pop music, English-speaking news, and Vietnamese dramas. Netflix is banned over there, but people login through a VPN to surpass the block. I have a suspicion that Facebook is blocked as well, and although I bypassed it through certain networks, I was, at times, getting “site not accessible” messages. Yes, you can LOL-at-me, as I had episodes of anxiety not being able to post a pic. I’m a social networking slave/whore.

As I attended the conference, I was mistakenly greeted as “Dr. Ray Hom” various times by the event volunteers. I believe it was because a few of the speakers have degrees in science or medicine. Honestly, this made me feel uncomfortable, being that I’m born Asian-American with the knowledge of the lingering stereotypes of the model minority. Maybe it’s an insecurity growing up in the U.S. when you’re taught to be an individual to separate from the crowd. Image is everything. I’m a web developer at my 9-to-5 and it’s a job I take great pride in, so I’m a techie geek. So, I mean no insults to Asian doctors as I’m grateful to the necessity of their trade to improve the condition of the human race. I need to just get over it.

I was initially nervous preparing for my speak at the conference. I only had notes scribbled on the letterhead paper that was provided by my hotel room. The speech in my head felt perfect before I left the U.S. And, the topic was simply something along the lines of how digital media and social networking has made an impact on how filmmakers can showcase their work. I was asked to test the mic by doing a rehearsal during the set-up, the day before the event was to take place. I stumbled, forgot my thoughts, and said,”I’m going blank…” in the mic a few times. I flew half-way around the world and began feeling insecure that I’m just not cut-out for this.

But, July 4th, 2012 came, and it was time for me to speak. Moderated by Tung Bui (Professor of Information Technology Management), I was joined by two other speakers: Dr. Harry Kloor (only doctor to have earned two PhDs simultaneously, and writer of various sci-fi series including “Star Trek: Voyager”, and creator of the all-star 3D IMAX film “Quantum Galaxy“) and Tom Nguyen (Vinamation Studios: does various animations SFX from “Polar Express” to “Men in Black III”). I ditched most of my notes and just spoke naturally off-the-cuff. Unsure if I gave the greatest speak but I must of been engaging enough as I was asked a few questions that interrupted my speak. I received laughs and clapping of encouragement by audience members. It was a satisfying experience that resulted in invites by a few of the conference visitors to join them for dinner and give me a tour of Saigon, as well to do some networking.

I had been given a tour of the city by D.K., an entrepreneur, (I will only refer to him by his initials here, as I believe he prefers anonymity. He’s no Facebook-type-of-person, that’s for sure.) and other people from the conference. I was only visiting Saigon for about week, so I only got to see parts – abandoned historical buildings, Vietnamese food that aren’t too heavy compared to how it was prepared in the U.S., malls, and shops… it was a beautiful city which I don’t have the words to give it justice. But, to say, my insecurity being in a foreign country has been alleviated.

The rest of the trip was just relaxing and attending the conference (and eating a lot of free food provided by the hotel!). I had befriended a bunch of the volunteers and translators that gave constant giggles around me that made me uncomfortable at times. I became insecure wondering if it was the way I dressed, is there a booger hanging from my long strands of un-clipped nose hairs, or if there was a “kick me” sign it Vietnamese on my back? I was later to find out it was because they enjoyed my sense of humor. I didn’t know my American sarcasm would translate well overseas. Now, I’m inspired to become a traveling comedian.


I have friends all over the world… woo-hoo!

My flight back was a bit grueling. An 8-hour layover in Hong Kong wasn’t too bad. It’s the closest I’ve been to “the Mother Country”. I had explored the immensity of the airport mall area, and bought a Starbucks for $35HKD. Don’t wide-eye too much. That still comes out to $4.50US. It was when I was stuck at L.A. airport for 8 hours that was a bit painful. Arrived there about 10pm, and my flight back to S.F. wasn’t until about 6:30am… stuck at an airport with no wifi, my laptop and smartphone are low on batteries. Stores and restaurants are closing up. I just wandered aimlessly at an empty airport. Yes, I could have taken a nap on one of the chairs, but it was too cold. I could of prob rented a car and driven back, but it was the AMs for the fear of falling asleep at the wheel (hwy 5 could probably have done that to me). Time was “idle”. I pride myself that I could be a loner if I wanted to. But, this was torture. I tried reading, but the empty, surrounding din of silence was heavy weight on the mental knowledge that there are barely any fellow humans around. Loneliness is a vast difference to being a loner. I was disconnected in almost every way imaginable, save being stuck on an island. There wasn’t even a hint of a zombie apocalypse lingering nearby. It wasn’t being in a foreign country that made me uncomfortable or home sick. There was just nothing… to… do… When about 5am came around, I was finally allowed to line-up to enter my flight gate. I never felt so glad to get my hands on an “Entertainment Weekly” mag along with a Venti-sized White Chocolate Mocha topped with whip cream in hand from Starbucks.

The question I get often after having arrived back home in the U.S. was “Would you go back?” or “Would you recommend Vietnam as a place to visit?” Yes, and yes. Don’t know when I would go back again, as I have other places to visit beforehand. I’m a late-bloomer when it comes to traveling. Maybe my acrophobia has something to do with it. I still haven’t visited my ancestry’s country of origin – China. But, I have made many friends half-way across the world, and thanks to social networking, I’m connected only a few taps of the keyboard away…

You can find pics of my adventure at Saavi’s TecX 2012 on Facebook. Or just watch me suck on some bone marrow.

 

Sharyn Maceren Is Still Hard To Get

 

“Someone just forwarded this blog to me and I came across it today…
I thought this blog was so cute! …thanx, Ray Hom for the blog! i enjoyed reading it!”
– Sharyn Maceren a.k.a. S-Factor, May 27, 2011 on Facebook

I write this blog to chronicle what mediocre life I have, and I get giddy when I talk about the “Freestyle Dance Movement” of the late 80s into the 90s, and still continue into the 21st Century. The loud bass, with the fast beat put to the sped-up voices of often times female Filipino or Hispanic singers in your ear-hole is unforgettable. That “beaw, beaw, beaw music you listen to”, as my family describes it. You gotta say that with the music playing in your head for that statement to be effective.

Back in 2003, I had written my nutty fan experience with (then named) “S-Factor” at Tower Records in San Francisco, which, the post, you can find under the title S-Factor is Hard To Get. Imagine my initial shock and surprise when I got the above quote by Sharyn Maceren (formerly known as “S-Factor”), herself, and tagged in a comment on her post of the aforementioned blog post. This is proof social networking is a strong force of nature!

During the recent weekdays, driving on my way to and back for work, I’m with my co-webteam member/passenger Paul Andre De Vera chit-chatting and listening (and debating) to music including Sharyn Maceren’s (she will always be S-Factor to me) new and old tracks. I still have “Hard To Get” in my playlist, next to music by Public Enemy, the X-Clan, and the “Soundtrack of The Lost Boys“… as well as playing Sharyn’s new one “Sunkissed“, esp. “In the Sunlight”. Her voice hasn’t changed. I meant that as a compliment as it adds to the nostalgia of my youth when I hear her sing…


Dre, if you recognize the dude, is responsible for helping make the club scene popular back in the 90s and beyond in the Bay Area. He’s also made famous a lot of the Asian import models including Nikki Cash, Melissa Reign, Jeri Lee, and Ashley Vee (but not including Sung Hi Lee, damnit! Linked to an old, sad obsessive post there) to name a few.

He’s the one that started pinays.com. NSFW, but that’s why I know you want to visit that site. In fact, a few of you are members, admit it! Anyways, Dre is the SEO master on my WebTeam @SFSF, culminating his skills from all the partying and making people popular on online from the experience in the brief resume I mentioned. Press play below if you want Dre in yo’ face. That’s how he dances in the car too…


In this whirlpool of a life he lived, he also knew Sharyn from his circle of friends and parties… So, you’d imagine, we giggle like little fan boys when any of her music comes on. At least, I do the giggling… Dre just ad-lib about “back in the days” stories. I’ve mentioned many times before, I have written “Hard to Get” in a screenplay awhile back. and, but of course, it’s a coming-of-age about growing up story in the Bay Area… If I ever produce that film, I will know where to find Sharyn Maceren on the InterWeb to ask for permission. But, for now, I’ll just giggle and reminisce about her new stuff…

 

Donna Fujii: Image/Fashion Consultant

 

This may be seemingly out-of-place for people who know me but I now have a image/fashion consultant who I occasionally hang with, Donna Fujii, who will advise me on how to mature in my fashion sense. I never believed I was necessarily a bad-dresser, just kinda typical Asian dude with monotone dark colors. Basically, I was comfortable just being plain. Being the wannabe, pseudo-intellectual, artsy-in-my-fartsy individual that I want to grow into… I needed some guidance. One day, if i ever win that Academy or the next time I’m invited to another speaking engagement or interview, I want to project the naturalness of being in my environment.

Who is Donna, you may ask? “Since starting her San Francisco-based image consulting business in 1978, she has consulted for thousands of individual clients and trained hundreds of image consultants in 13 countries around the world. Her image consulting work includes consulting for media personalities and news anchors all over the US and for TV stations such as KMEX in Los Angeles, KDTV in San Francisco, KTVW in Phoenix, and WXTV in New York.” Read more about Donna Fujii

And here are a few pics for you to just glance. That’s all, don’t touch.


          

Pictures can’t be enlarged (intentionally)

But, you can see ’em plus more info on the Donna Fujii Color & Style Institute page on Facebook

Then There’s The Movie-Making Thing…

 

For the past 4 years or so, my dreams of becoming a filmmaker has been realized. Working on various projects, including a few short films, I am confident a full-feature is in the near future horizon. But, first, I have to jump back into the director’s chair and shoot the long-awaited Introducing Sally, and two other shorts that will comprise what I am referring to as my “Moderate Intensity” trilogy.

This trilogy will be a fantasy/drama that will continue my vision of the “Ugly Heaven” universe that I have spoken of, or written stories in part of. I won’t link to anything or explain much of what UH is, it’s not necessary to have knowledge, as my previous works in this world-building is a bit clunky. You’ll have to unearth ’em yourself, if you’re really that curious. I may dig ’em out when my trilogy is done. This paragraph didn’t say much, did it?

But, I do have to give a big thanks to Bo! Campbell for keeping Mind.Erase.Media in the spotlight in the past year with acknowledgements of his recent three shorts: “Rated ‘M’ for Mature“, “Lady in the Kitchen“, and “Anti-Hero” (which got him best writer & film at a recent film festival)!

Many more films are coming up… stay tuned…

In the meantime, don’t think I promoted my following interviews and speaks (but these happened in the past couple of years). Better late than never:

Tough Mudder-phuckaz 2012

I had done the 12 mile obstacle course known as “Tough Mudder” back in Sept 2012. I survived it. Don’t know how. Well, maybe I do. I just closed my eyes, and took a step forward (but I skipped a couple of courses in between a few steps). I had briefly written my experience at Bench Monkeys United: In short, I carried a log for a mile, plunged into a pool filled with 70,000 lbs of ice, crawled under barbed wires, got a fat cramp, walked up 2-miles on steep hill in the blazing sun in the midst of dehydration, crawled through an underground pipe, and shocked myself through electrified wires to get my free t-shirt and bandana. It is for a good cause, tho.

Read about my Tough Mudder adventure over at the B.M.U. site.

Find a few pics of us at Tough Mudder on Facebook

 

Prob do it again later this year, and do it better…


Next on my agenda is I’m heading to Sundance 2013 in a couple of days! Woo-hoo! It was crazy trying to get tickets, but thanks to my fellow monkey buddy, Matt, I’m heading to Utah in a couple of days along with WoOlis and Bo! No, we don’t have a film playing there, but we still going as ecstatic filmmakers. Please watch this space, my Facebook and Twitter for some real-time updates (yeah, right. you’ve heard that before)… thanks for following!

To be continued…

 

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