Kafka is Alive and Well, and He Has Moved to Vietnam

Erin at the Wall 2-10

I have somewhat a special interest in Vietnam (for reasons discussed briefly below). So the sentencing of five “democracy protesters” naturally caught my eye. As noted in The NY Times:

Last month, the army newspaper Quan Doi Nhan Dan said the arrests “are totally legal in Vietnamese law and compatible with international law.” The government guarantees free expression, the newspaper asserted, but “strictly punishes those who take advantage of this freedom to act against the national interest.”

Prosecutors on Wednesday said three of the defendants had violated Article 79 of Vietnam’s criminal code, which prohibits “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and can be punishable by death.

Mr. Dinh, who was arrested in June and made a public confession on television in August, told the court, “My actions were in violation of Article 79, specifically participating in the Democratic Party of Vietnam, whose purpose was to call for a multiparty system, pluralism and a new state.”

It’s that timeworn maxim, even heard sometimes here in the U.S. (during our periods of paranoid “sedition” prosecutions or fears of syndicalism), that some free speech is simply too free. Vietnam. China. Iran. Myanmar. The list still seems too long, especially when you add up the numbers of souls affected.

(My own closer interest in Vietnam stems not only from the eleven months spent there in 1969-70, but more recently in 1997 from my consultation with Vietnam’s Department of Justice (!) under auspices of the United Nations. Among my recommendations was that Vietnam tie into the then rapidly expanding worldwide Internet, even if by using a filtering mechanism like China’s “Great Firewall.” They did so, which led in turn to people like these five democracy advocates establishing blogs. For me at the time, it seemed a Hobson’s choice, reasoning that even an imperfect Internet was better than none. That recommendation seems to come full circle with persecution of those wishing to use the Internet the way intended.)


Travel Woes Department

Took a print to my local framer (a delayed Christmas gift for one daughter). Jim had just returned from his annual vacation in the Philippines, and the tale he told of travel woes on both ends raised hackles. One story in particular had my special attention — he was singled out (“random,” they said) for a full luggage inspection by U.S. Customs upon his arrival in Detroit. Now, part of it may have been a single, middle-aged man who travels frequently to Manila (he owns a house there, has extended family in the country, and works with orphanages when he visits — he’s said it’s been really good for his soul over the many years he’s made the trip) — I’m sure coming from Manila triggers a “sex tourism” suspicion and so increases likelihood of being taken aside, although he says it was the first time it had ever happened to him.

What bothered me in particular was that they insisted on seeing all images on his flash cards, reviewing the images one by one. I wrote fairly recently about Customs Agents’

greater latitude to search digital media — not needing to show an articulable suspicion that such media might contain contraband — so imagine one of us prolific photographers returning from a long trip abroad, with at a minimum thousands of images on flash cards, laptop hard drives, and portable external hard drives.

Any National Geographic photographers among you readers? Or anyone else who has experienced something similar when coming through U.S. Customs?


Best of the Best Department

I finally submitted three images to the Kinsey Institute Show. I waited until the last moment with the thought a shoot in January might provide a better candidate, but no such luck (I’ve had one extraordinarily good January session, but the images are not suitable for the Kinsey show). So two photos from the “Sappho” series last August, and one from a shoot with another model in June — the latter way too explicit to show here.

Now to wait. I don’t have friend Dave’s superb record with that show — an entry accepted in every single show. My own rate has been one for two — an entry accepted in 2008, but not in 2009.


This Is Really Neat Department

I came across this yesterday and almost laughed myself silly at the absurdity of it all — how to actually use the TSA rules to your advantage and transport expensive camera equipment as checked luggage with minimized likelihood of theft: Just pack a weapon with the equipment and declare the weapon upon checking in. (Obviously not recommended for international travel.)

Read the story.

I have no idea if this would actually work. Some comments suggest that more than one person has successfully used the technique to check valuables when flying.


Painful Lesson Department

When I walked the lake two days ago, at one point I bent over to retie a shoelace. Big mistake! My iPod was in my coat pocket, and when I bent over I also bent the mini-RCA jack connecting my earbuds. The rest of the walk (3/4 of the lake) I only had one channel of music. Bah! So today I purchased a replacement (not a big deal — $19.99).

Why doesn’t everyone design these jacks with a right-angle plug, like this:



Erin from Philadelphia, being dramatic — a taut and wiry body.

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