Link

Gun-Control1Its been a while, but m trying to start writing again and have started posting a little using “Medium”, so sometimes Ill post links here that will direct you to my posts there. Here is my first post on the topic of guns in the U.S. http://bit.ly/19oGwG9

After you read my thoughts, come back and weigh in.

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Which lines have you been waiting in?

It has been quite some time since my last entry. Blame it on life…actually lets just call it priorities. I’m not doing much modeling at the moment and have started to teach english privately while studying Chinese. It’s fair to say that the business is going MUCH better than the Chinese. My next post will update everyone on life, but this post is about that most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, I’m talking about Black Friday…what, you thought I was referring to the Christmas? Thanksgiving? Or maybe Remembrance Day? Actually, now that I think about it, I guess I am referring to those three days which when combined make up what should be the most reflective time of the year for the average person.

Once a month in October, November, and December, we are given a day or two off of work  so that we may celebrate, give thanks or pay tribute to others. It’s against this back-drop that “Black Friday” stands out like a business suit in a soup kitchen line. To be specific, it’s the fights, lines and obsession with getting a “steal” that I’m talking about, not the shopping itself.

In the following clip listen to how excited people are, and look at how many of them there are?! I mean you would think that they were about to meet Jay-Z and Beyonce or something…but no…they are buying underwear…that they can’t even afford.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, personally I find it hard to watch footage like this, because I just don’t get it. But, my point isn’t to judge. It’s certainly not to say that this is something endemic of a particular nation because as soon as something is “on sale”, “marked down” or “free”, it seems to bring out the worst in people regardless of where they’re from. For an example of this right here in China read this. All I’m hoping is that all my readers reflect a little on their own actions and choices a little.

Here’s the twist though, if you were the woman screaming for joy over the $30 thong you bought for $5, or if you were the guy who drove all the way from Vancouver to Seattle in order to buy an Armani suit that was discounted 50%, that’s fine. Savings matter, especially in today’s economy, and quite simply, who doesn’t appreciate big sales?!

What I’m asking is whether you’ve spent some time in a different line recently. Maybe the one full of people waiting to shake a Veteran’s hand in the pouring rain. If not, why not? Were you one of those people who, when asked, told their buddy they couldn’t afford to contribute $20 to a”Movember” campaign, or couldn’t spare a minute to even talk to the Habitat for Humanity canvasser on the street corner. Were you able to  commit to making a monthly contribution of even $5 a month towards any cause that was near and dear to your heart this past year?

So you see, this post really isn’t about the evils of shopping, and neither is this time of year. It’s a special time of year, a time when we are reminded to give thanks and are given ample opportunity to give back because its safe to say that most of us have more to be thankful for than we realize.

So next year when “Black Friday” rolls around, and you find yourself standing in an epic line, or watching  all the videos, and news stories about the general mayhem, remember to ask yourself which lines you’ve been waiting in all year.

As a footnote I read about “Giving Tuesday” after the fact and I hope it gains a little traction next year. Just one more opportunity to GIVE!

Teaching Tiananmen

One of my students is getting ready for his final year of High School here in Guangzhou, and like most Chinese youth his age, he loves three things: Basketball, Video Games, and Eminem. Also, like most youth his age, he knows only that which he has been permitted to know.

We had a two hour class this morning and the theme was Global IssuesI decided to show him the Kony 2012 video and one thing led to another. Soon we started talking about whether the Chinese population could ever exert the same kind of pressure on its government, as the Americans had with theirs (in the documentary).

Naturally, this led me to ask him what he knew about the most famous Chinese example of this, the Tiananmen Square Massacre. His friend had told him a little about it, but he hadn’t seen, read, or heard much about it at all. Since I have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) I am able to access the internet as if I was somewhere outside China and was able to show him these two videos:

We watched the videos and had an interesting conversation. He told me the official reason given for State censorship is that it is intended to ensure a “Harmonious Society”. He also told me that anyone born after 1990 would probably have no idea that anything had ever happened at Tiananmen Square at all. He went on to say that parents usually didn’t discuss it with their children, and students certainly didn’t learn about it in school.

All I can say is that sharing this piece of history with him was a powerful experience, akin to sharing  images of the holocaust with a German teenager who had never learned about it, or showing a documentary of the “Rape of Nanjing” to a Japanese student whose government still refuses to acknowledge any wrong doing.

In many ways, this is an example of why we should travel…and maybe even why we must travel. Because, despite all of the pressures, barriers, impediments, and limitations that governments, and institutions, may try to put on us, or place in our way, the power of human connection undoubtedly trumps them all.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Good Music + Good Lyrics = Music That Matters

I’ve come across a few songs lately that made me stop and think. Strange right? When was the last time you heard a song that made you think?All too often we hear someone (usually of a different generation) say something like, “That music is terrible…what a horrible message.” or “No wonder things like the Denver shooting happen, when kids hear this kind of thing on the radio.” Well I don’t disagree with that kind of sentiment, but I think its time to reframe the subject.

Listen to the three songs below and tell me you don’t FEEL something when you LISTEN to the lyrics. Like I said, lets reframe the discussion. Lets stop asking why there is so much crap being made (because the answer is…we like crap) and recognize those who are making music that matters. Stop criticizing those who are making music you don’t like and support those who are creating something you do like…and share it!

Talk about the issues that matter with your kids, and youth in general. You can’t control what they hear on the radio, or the videos your kid chooses to watch on YouTube, but you can point them in the right direction and teach them to think for themselves (Lesson 1: Brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack is just disgusting).

Have a listen:

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Same Love

Lupe Fiasco: Bitch Bad 

Dan Mangan: So Much for Everyone 

Purpose: Life’s Blueprint

I stumbled upon this post this morning and it got me thinking. It seems that everywhere you turn, someone (myself included) is preaching living a life that to some or many, may seem unrealistic, unnecessary or unachievable for various reasons. You know the people Im talking about. They deliver sermons on quitting your job and traveling the world with nothing but a toothbrush, or lifestyles that advocate donating something of yourself every day. Whether you find them inspiring or not, such lifestyles just ain’t gonna work for everyone.

Is he ever not smiling?

This link I’ve included references two mantras which I think cover the full spectrum of ambition and abilities of most people. The first I’ve seen floating around the web including on my friend Jian’s Blog. The second mantra is from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, someone who needs no introduction. It’s just sensible, simple advice on life. Regardless of where you are in life, or what your aspirations are, there are always ways to live a little bigger, more fuller and positive existence. That’s all anyone worth listening to is saying, and It’s up to you to figure out who’s worth listening to and how you want to live.

On Chance Encounters

“Serendipity”, what does it really mean? I can’t access the internet to look it up because the Beijing wifi network instructions are in Chinese, so I’ll just have to speculate. I think there was also a movie made called Serendipity but I never saw it. I have a feeling it has something to do with chance encounters that somehow seem preordained, as if they were meant to happen or must have some great significance.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that whether or not you believe in serendipity, that the act of traveling creates many opportunities for such moments to take place, more so than when at home perhaps.

I can’t speak for everyone but I seem to hear many people complaining that they cant meet Mr./Ms. Right, or that they want to meet new people but don’t know where to look. Why is that? I think that it’s because we find it easy to switch on autopilot during our daily routine. We don’t go out of our way to meet new people and many of us don’t even interact on a basic level because we drive to the same places on a regular basis and are so plugged in during this commute, that we don’t even notice our surroundings. On our days off, we struggle to motivate ourselves to step out of our little comfort zones. Maybe then, life’s opportunities have less to do with serendipity, and more to do with a frame of mind that we are either in or out of.

When we travel, we are forced to interact with strangers, even when we don’t want to. And when we try to meet new people it’s surprising at how easily it happens. That probably explains why so many people claim to find Mr./Ms. Right at the wrong time, while on vacation half way across the world. On vacation we turn on “vacation mode” and out of nowhere we meet amazing people, see amazing things and then feel that we were destined to cross someone’s path because it’s been months or years since something similar happened last.

While in China, I made an effort to put myself in situations where I could make contact with people other than the models I was meeting on a daily basis. My daily trip to Starbucks is an example of this. I met Ramsay, who introduced me to Sam, whose girlfriend invited me to the opening of her new Thai restaurant, where I met one of her friend’s who owned a dance studio. A barista at Starbucks who ended up giving me a Chinese New Year gift invited me to a customer appreciation event across town where I met a woman from Australia who actually new a few of my friends already (serendipity?). Even Mandy, the Australian English teacher who I met through Gary the model would introduce me to people who randomly seemed to know each other. All these connections helped me, and some of them were so random and helpful, that it’s hard to fathom that they happened at all. Yet at home many people struggle to expand their networks and feel as though their lives are destined to be void of the serendipitous events and “ah ha” moments that seem to happen to everyone else.

The good news is that I think its all in our heads and in our hands I guess. The opportunities are everywhere, and can be found wherever we are. We just seem to see them clearer on some days and in certain places than we do in others. After all, a serendipitous moment gone unnoticed is just a moment. Two summers ago, my friend Jackie and I decided to have the best summer we possibly could. We were going to do things that we had always wanted to, and say yes to everything. That summer turned out to be one of the best summers Ive had in Vancouver for so many reasons. So open yourself up and put yourself out there and you’ll probably be surprised at what happens, serendipitously or otherwise.