Thursday, March 19, 2009

When is Technology 3.0 TOO interactive?

Before heading back to China from my recent US visit, I became obsessed with Amazon's new Kindle 2.0 digital reader.

To a frequent traveler and overseas resident, it seemed like the perfect way to get American reading material. Sure, you can get books, but also newspapers and magazines as well. Mind you, GIANT HOOTERS MONTHLY isn't on the list yet, but I'll settle for Newsweek and Foreign Policy these days.

So I plunked down $300, bought a few books (to include Russell Brand's fantastic My Booky Wook), and subscribed to Newsweek and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And, of course, having finally taking the plunge, I began a vigorous letter writing campaign to Jeff Bezos to demand inclusion of GIANT HOOTERS MONTHLY in the Kindle magazine store. So far no dice.

Anyhow... so far I really dig my Kindle. Every day I read the Atlanta news from back in the US, keep up to date on national goings-on with Newsweek, and am reading 2 novels at once (this from a reformed reader who'd turned, instead, to film and tv as my media of choice). I drag my Kindle everywhere.

So here's the killer bonus to having a Kindle: It's a better chick-magnet than a freaking dog or a baby. The minute I pull out the bloody thing I'm swarmed with people wanting to talk about it. And by people I mean people who read, which would by anyone with breasts, and (manageable collateral impact) old men. Everyone knows young guys don't read.

During my flight back to China I, no exaggeration, was approached by more than 20 random strangers, 19 of whom were female, wanting to look at the Kindle, talk about it, ask how I like it, etc.

Point here being... if you're a single guy (I'm not, so mostly this was just entertainment value for me) -- BUY A FREAKING KINDLE, STAT. You will meet more chicks than you can shake a stick at. Of course, if you're a single old lady, you may want to consider this, as well.

As long as we're on the subject of interactivity, I'd like to ask what the hell is up with Twitterholics?

Now, I'm more geek-inclined than most. I've been working in the internet industry since 1995, and have ridden the wave of nearly every nerdy innovation along the way... especially those that are social in nature. I blog (as you know). I facebook. And, driven by many of my friends Twittering, I recently decided to get on board that trend and open a Twitter account. I added a bunch of buddies, they added me, and a-Twitterin' I planned to go.

But here's the thing about "micro-blogging." People seem to broadcast their every action. Sure, I get promoting your business, or talking about especially noteworthy events in your life like you'd do on Facebook or in a blog (even if its periodic updates of the mundane). But I'm looking at Twitter and I see an ENDLESS, FREQUENTLY updated thread of human minutia that no one could possibly care about. Here's what my current TWITTER home page feed looks like:

FRED: Why is Charmin so expensive compared to Kroger brand?
FRED: Wiping...
TONY: Relax, don't do it!
FRED: Pooping!!
FRED: Sitting down... seat is cold.
ELMER: How can you tell which Craigslist ads are hookers?
FRED: Closing bathroom door and locking.
SALLY: Hrmm... ground beef and an old onion.
TONY: The Reflex is an only child...
TONY: Too-raa-loo-raaa-loo-raaa-laaay
SALLY: What should I make for dinner?
FRED: Have to use toilet.
ELMER: Who wants to buy a '78 Pontiac Firebird?

Seriously. There isn't a drop of valuable information in that 1-hour's worth of posts, unless one's an 80's music fanatic or a fecaphile. Do I need this level of communication with my friends?!

Upon reflection, maybe my friends just suck. I know... I'll pull out my Kindle and make some new ones!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Missing Chipper...

As I write this, I'm en route from Atlanta back to Beijing.

There are lots of things I love about China, and Beijing. Frankly, its rapidly becoming one of my favorite places I've ever lived -- and I've lived in a lot of damn places. The people, the food, the culture... even my job. They're all great.

But there's a critical thing that's missing -- Chip.

Chip's my son, and he remains in Atlanta. With each mile that passes 31,000 feet below me, further separating us, my heart grows heavier. I tell myself I'm doing this for the greater good - and I truly believe I am - but it doesn't make it any easier. Being around him is like breathing sunshine.

Miss ya, buddy... can't wait to see you soon!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Motherf**in' Culture Shock

A lifetime ago I was in the Army. For 5 years, no less. This is often a shock for people who only know me as old, soft, weak, fragile Charlie, but indeed I served my country.

Like anyone in the Army, I'd go on field exercises and deployments. When you're "in the field," things get kinda salty. You curse a lot, you spit, do dip, talk a lot of trash, and generally act macho and tough. And when you return from the field to "the world," its always a bit of a transition. The old joke, but dead accurate, is that when you go home for Thanksgiving you'll inevitably end up saying "Pass the motherfu*king potatoes, Grandma."

Returning to the US is kind of like that. I've now been in China for 2 months as an expat, versus just a periodic visit, and have just returned to Atlanta for my first visit. Its a bit of a transition.

First off, forks suck. At nearly every sitting, I find myself desperately missing chopsticks. Its just so much easier to eat with them. Even something like steak or a chicken breast... I'd so much rather pick up the whole bloody thing with chopsticks and take a big bite outta it like some kind of hobo than be inconvenienced taking a knife and fork... cutting a piece... setting the knife back down, eating the single piece, then getting the knife again, later, rinse, repeat. Waste of damn time and effort. Western manners suck.

And dealing with bones, gristle, shells, olive pits, etc is so much easier in China. Here you have to delicately spit the non-digestible item into a napkin, elegantly and discretely. In China if you don't wanna swallow it, you just spit it out... right there on the table. PTOOOEY. Problem solved.

I also miss screaming "FUYAN" across a restaurant every time I want something. Its so much easier to bark for service than having to wait for a waiter to happen buy, or desperately trying to flag one down from across the room. I'm dying to scream "HEY WAITRESS" at the top of my lungs across TGI MCFUGNUTS to get a fresh order of wings, but I know I'd get tossed out for doing so...

And I probably don't need to mention the dirty looks I got when I hocked a big loogie on the street this morning? Mind you, I usually get funny looks in China when i do it but its more of a "HEY! LOOK! The big laowai just spit on the sidewalk, too" than any true judgment.

Another weird transition is driving again. I haven't been behind the wheel of a car in over 60 days, and now have Beijing cabbies as my automotive role model. Atlantans seem less tolerant of me honking, swerving and weaving, stopping wherever I want, turning without a signal across multiple lanes, and driving with an unpredictable mix of g-force speed and an unexplained crawl.

And could I actually be craving baiju?! I swear I miss the stuff. Tonight I soaked a dirty sock in some grain alcohol trying to recreate that perfect mix of burning and stinking. Its just not the same.

But, oh man... Five Guys Burgers make it all worthwhile. Aside from my son, Chip, 5 Guys may just be the finest thing in America. I'd like to marry a 5 guys burger, have sex with it, and have baby 5 Guys burgers, just so i could eat them, too.

And you know as I was enjoying it, without thinking, I asked my Grandma to pass the motherf*ckin' french fries. Some things never change.