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Book Notes #10: “The Sympathizer” (By Viet Thanh Nguyen)

An incredibly well-written novel about the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

I finally read a fiction book. I wanted to read something different from self-help and meditations. And I discovered that this Pulitzer Prize winner on sale in the Kindle store. So, why not?

The Sympathizer
By Viet Thanh Nguen

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Another world
    I don’t know much about the Vietnam War. In American history class, by the time you get to the 1960s and 1970s, it’s the final sprint. So, the Vietnam War battles are not etched into my my memory as those of WWII or other battles.While I’ve been to Vietnam and written about my travels in my book Coined, I’ve learned about the Vietnam War through art – literature and movies.The Sympathizer is an intrepid attempt at showcasing the multiple sides of the Vietnam War, and the complexity of the view points (and doctrines) that fueled the armed conflict.
  • The confessor
    The protagonist is a nameless confessor. He has been captured. And he’s recounting his life story as a confession to his captors. The protagonist embodies the hyphenated. He was born to a French Priest and Vietnamese lady. He’s a Communist mole who is implanted with the South Vietnamese, who then becomes a refugee in the United States. He is of many worlds.

    They…fabricated a portmanteau word to describe my kind, the Amerasian…

    Ah, the Amerasian, forever caught between worlds and never knowing where he belongs!

    It’s this multiplicity of viewpoints that makes the book a fascinating read. He’s able to jump from his opinion to seeing himself and the world through the eyes of others.

    We genuflected, but in actuality we were atheists who had chosen communism over God.

 

  • Stations of life
    Prominent military men fled for the United States where they had a different station in life. For example, the General owns a liquor store and his wife starts a restaurant.This struck me as something many refugees have to go through. They start over again. But the way Nguen juxtaposes these old-and-new professions is quite glaring. The War was over, but among refugees it wasn’t yet. It had to be recast.

    Leaving for America was not desertion, we claimed. This was strategic retreat…

    The General had finally conceded to a basic tenet of the American Dream. Not only must he make a living, he must also pay for it.

    The confessor communicates via letter to his “aunt” in France. But he writes in invisible ink to his friend in Vietnam. This is how they communicate instructions and responses.

 

  • The power of art
    The protagonist is invited to be a script consultant on a movie The Hamlet about the Vietnam War which is being filmed in the Philippines. He knows that the movies can be propaganda and endeavors to get the author to cast real Vietnamese who have actual lines in the movie. The protagonist succeeds in getting some token representation but it’s not meaningful. And he almost dies in an explosion in the fake cemetery on the set.

    Long after this war is forgotten, when its existence is a paragraph in a schoolbook students won’t even bother to read, and everyone who survived it is dead, their bodies dust, their memories atoms, their emotions no longer in motion, this work of art will still shine so brightly it will not just be about the war but it will be the war.

  • Quotables
    Some noteworthy lines.

    Despair may be thick, but friendship’s thicker.

     

    But to a bureaucrat paper was never just paper. Paper was life!

     

    I began to realize that true revolution also involved sexual liberation.

     

    As Hegel said, tragedy was not the conflict between right and wrong but right and right, a dilemma none of us who wanted to participate in history could escape…

     

    we being living reminders of their stinging defeat. We threatened the sanctity and symmetry of a white and black America whose yin and yang racial politics left no room for any other color, particularly that of pathetic little yellow-skinned people pickpocketing the American purse.

     

    Hollywood’s function as the launcher of the intercontinental ballistic missile of Americanization

     

    Mao said that art and literature were crucial to revolution. Conversely, he warned, art and literature could also be tools of domination.

Edition #24 – Nathalia answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

You could say that music has been a part of me. I grew up in Barranquilla, a city that is full of music and liveliness.

It wasn’t until I began studying music therapy at Berklee however, that I became more seriously involved in music.

I moved to California soon after continued working as a music therapist and ended up forming an early childhood music education program.

As a parent, I wanted to teach my children about their Colombian heritage and of course, teach them Spanish.

I did so by making up simple short songs to help remember words.

This inevitably inspired me to create albums full of bilingual content for kids that I now perform in stages all over!

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

As I mentioned, music was a major part of my upbringing in Colombia, so naturally my primary musical inspirations are traditional Colombian music like, cumbia, mapale, currulao, joropo, vallenato, as well as other ‘general’ latin styles like merengue, salsa, bachata, pop/rock latino.

Artists that have inspired are endless, but if I had to choose, Joe Arroyo, Juan Luis Guerra, Toto la Momposina, Carlos Vives are certainly at the top.

3. What is your practice routine?

It saddens me to say that establishing a practice routine has been the hardest thing to do as a musician.

I am balancing owning a music program, training preschool music teachers, writing and recording new songs, teaching early childhood music classes, being a parent, being my PR/Booking agent, and being a mental health therapist that actively sees clients!

I find myself crafting my show and interactions with children as I teach my classes, they give me immediate feedback as to if my song works or not.

4. Why did you make this album?

Mil Colores
By Nathalia

Mil Colores is basically an extension of the music I’ve been writing for over a decade now.

I enjoy the idea of making music that both younger and older generations can listen to together, and I think this album reflects that.

More specifically, the songs encourage children to disconnect and be present and to find inspiration in the world around them.

I think what really makes this work stand is how we approached each song, carefully crafting lyrics and translations without any pressure or need to finish within a set time frame.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

Throughout any creative journey I feel that balancing work and parenting has always been challenging.

For this album we got to add a global pandemic, moving across the country and adjusting to a lot of changes within our lives into the mix.

The only way to overcome any obstacle really is to have patience and continue moving forward, one step at a time.

And when feeling discouraged, to shift your attitude and focus on all the things around us that we should be grateful for.

6. Who is featured on the album?

  • Produced by: Brian McLaughlin
  • Featured Vocals: Juan Deluque
  • Guitars: Daniel Jimenez Afanador, Gary Lee, Max O’Rourke, Will Pearce
  • Violin: Andrea Hammond
  • Cello: Simon Huber
  • Trumpet/Flugelhorn: Matthew White
  • Accordion: Albert Behar
  • Keys: Gary Fukushima, Brian McLaughlin
  • Bass: Luis Angel “El Papa”, Dustin Morgan, Eduardo Belo
  • Drums/Percussion: Brian McLaughlin
  • Recorded by: Brian McLaughlin (The Imposter Productions), Daniel Jimenez Afanador (DJA Studios), Shafik Palis (Golden Door Productions)
  • Mixed by: Daniel Jimenez Afanador (DJA Studios) except Sueños y Deseos, mixed by Shafik Palis (Golden Door Productions)
  • Mastered by: Oscar Zambrano (Zampol Productions)

7. Where may we find you online?

How David Sands balances 3+ careers (Physicist, Blacksmith, Metal Artist)

How David Sands balances 3+ careers (Physicist, Blacksmith, Metal Artist)

Meet David Sands. He’s a multi-careerist based in California.

I’ve known him for years through the music community. I’ve always been impressed with his curious mind and ability to traverse many fields.

David’s Careers

  • Physicist / electrical engineer (SRI International, Tesla, Zoox, Range Energy)
  • Music producer / performer / audio engineer (the Music Annex, Snads Metal Music)
  • Blacksmith / metal artist (Snads Metal Works)

On his motivations for many careers

Many disciplines interest me, and I derive great pleasure from learning how to be a professional and expert at these disciplines.

Being able to earn income from them is just an added benefit to the sense of accomplishment.

“Don’t do a half-baked job!”

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

Ask questions of the experts in any field; learn how they became experts and emulate, leaving lots of room for your own creativity.

On overcoming obstacles

I have been fired from numerous tech and music jobs; I never felt that I was a failure, however, I just had different ideas and was open to pursuing another opportunity to learn new skills.

Eventually I found that running my own business meant that I probably wouldn’t fire myself, (music/art) and have developed my engineering skills to the point where I am always in demand, at least in the Silicon Valley.

On how careers are mutually beneficial

To me, there is a synchronicity to the apparently disparate careers.

But the physics informs how the sound moves which then informs how the electronics can control the capture and generation of an emotion connected to the sound which also informs the aesthetically pleasing shapes that metal can be formed into but the manipulation of materials is based on molecular states, which is related to vibrations, which are sounds that can be mathematically described by Newtonian physics…

And so forth and so on in an endless cycle, just like that sentence.

So even though they are differing disciplines, it all seems like different facets of the same, larger cycle of living.

Yep, that’s my story!

On finding balance

Well, my wife Lisa is also a multi-careerist (Sound artist & Environmental scientist) so she understands being on the edge of ADD (!!).

But the sheer joy that we derive from being immersed in multiple disciplines creates the spark that we call “being a light” and is the central tenet of our ketuba marriage contract: to spread soulfulness as our Yetsirot or creations/emanations)

On what he wished he knew earlier

More fun, less work!

On what to share with others

I typically blab about everything that I do, but try to be aware of that “glazed eyes” look that most folks get when I go on too long, with those folks, I just keep things focused on the tasks at hand.

People who express an actual interest get the full story.

On how to sublimate ego

Even though I may be very good at what I am doing (on any particular day) there is ALWAYS something new to learn.

So I keep my mind open to gaining new skills, such as delegating the banal tasks to a direct report, who can then experience the sheer joy of filing documents.

A Day in the Life

6:30A: get up, slurp coffee, and eat.

If its a weekday go to the jobsite by 8:30A to be an engneer.

12:30P, workout ( run or cycle or row)

Then back to the EE stuff from 1:30 to about 6:00 P.

Then go to my workshop (have 2000 SqFt of blacksmithing studio in San Mateo CA) and be a metal artist, or rehearse music for any active projects.

Then go home to spend 6 hours with the wife.

If its a weekend, then instead of the day job, get to my workshop by 9:00 or so and beat the bejeezus out of red hot metal, or go work on the 1933 wood sloop that I am restoring at the marina, or work on the in-law unit in the backyard that I’m refurbishing.

I will get back home by about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and either go out for home supplies, or make dinner or play music / engineer with Lisa for a while.

Where to find Ross

***

Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

Follow Kabir on LinkedInInstagramFacebookTwitterSpotifyYouTube.

Edition #23 – Ciro Hurtado answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

I picked up the guitar for the very first time, when I was around nine years old, and I just knew that I was going to be playing the instrument for the rest of my life. I started gigging when I was around 15 years old and I never stopped. I would also say that the Beatles and Argentinian rock groups that were popular during my youth played an important role in my formation as a musician.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

Peruvian folk guitarist Raul Garcia Zarate. In jazz, Pat Metheny, Badem Powell; in Flamenco, Paco de Lucia, Vicente Amigo; and the Beatles. There are many other younger players who are also very inspirational.

3. What is your practice routine?

I start my morning doing wrist stretches for about 10 minutes. I use weights to assist me with that. I developed a bad case of wrist tendinitis about 10 years ago, it put me out of commission for a couple of months. I practice some scales, arpeggios, thumb exercises. I go over some of my material and then some other pieces, currently I’m practicing Bach which is great for right hand technique. I generally do this for 2 to 3 hours. If I’m preparing for a concert, then it is much longer.

4. Why did you make this album?

Luna
By Ciro Hurtdao

I started writing the material for a new album when COVID-19 hit and we all went into confinement. During this period of seclusion, I kept track of the time during nightly walks in my neighborhood.

Every full moon I realized that a month had gone by, hence the title of my album Luna (moon). But it’s also an expression of the pain, and sorrow we all felt as we lost loved ones, and my goal in making this album was to use my music to send a message of hope, healing and redemption, that we can be resilient in the face of such tragedies.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

Melodies come to me easily. Lyrics are the difficult part. I have written many songs in the past. Now they take me longer. I keep on re-writing, adding, subtracting for weeks.

6. Who is featured on the album?

  • Cindy Harding: Vocals, Quenas, Zampoñas, Chajchas
  • Julio Ledezma: Bombo, Redoblante
  • Gino Gamboa: Cajón, Cajita, Congas, Bongó, Quijada, Campana
  • Milena Salamanca: Vocals
  • Gary Johnson: Organ
  • Ricardo “Tiki” Pasillas: Drums
  • Guillermo Guzmán: Bass
  • Libby Harding: Vocal, Jarana Jarocha Primera, Jarana Jarocha Segunda
  • Strings: VSRE / The Venezuela Strings Recording Ensemble
  • Drums: Luís Alejandro Bermúdez
  • Cajón, Surdos, Rainstick, Chimes Rain): Luís Alejandro Bermúdez
  • Electric Bass: Eybar Serrano
  • Piano: Mario Alex Urbina
  • Violins: Jesús David Medina, Ornella Hernández, & Daniela Valentina Pérez
  • Violas: Jesús David Medina, Ornella Hernández & Lina Cáceres
  • Cellos: Maycol Chacón, Gabriel Delgado & Jhovanna Acosta
  • Trombone: Kevin Rincón
  • Trumpet & Flugelhorns: Jimmy Cárdenas
  • French Horns: Jhonny Maldonado
  • Oboe: Robert Zambrano
  • Clarinets: Mariana Salas

7. Where may we find you online?

How Ross Palmer Balances 3+ Careers (DJ, Startup, Host)

How Ross Palmer Balances 3+ Careers (DJ, Startup, Host)

Meet Ross Palmer. He’s a multi-careerist based in Los Angeles.

I took his online DJ Course and was impressed with how easily he explained difficult concepts. I looked him up and discovered that he had many careers. Naturally, I had to feature him, especially because of his unique disposition.

Ross’ Careers

  • DJ
  • Start-up builder
  • Digital marketer
  • Writer
  • Public Speaker
  • Podcast Host

On his motivations for many careers

I’ve always been passionate about multiple things in my life.

I can’t help but be fascinated by many different things, and I can’t imagine cutting things I love out of my life.

When I become interested in something, I get obsessed and want to learn and know more.

Even though I’ve chosen a difficult path, it’s the only way I know!

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

If you’re a weirdo like me, you’ll need better examples of success.

If you hate reading about how Tiger Woods only ever played golf his whole life, you’ll want to draw inspiration from people like you who have succeeded doing multiple things at the same time…

My advice is follow your curiosity, and don’t be afraid to forge a path where there was none before.

On overcoming obstacles

People find it very hard to believe that a DJ could also be passionate about comedy, writing, or sustainability.

My whole life, my soccer coach didn’t understand why I also wanted to play baseball.

My coaches didn’t understand why theater and improv comedy was so important to me.

I’ve learned that most people in this world don’t genuinely pursue multiple interests, and this can make it tough for them to believe that anyone could be truly good at multiple things.

Society tells us that someone who is multi-passionate can’t be particularly good at any one thing.

On how careers are mutually beneficial

The biggest benefit is seeing connections.

My greatest strength is that I can see the connections between seemingly unrelated things.

It’s easy for me to see the common thread that binds performing music, comedy, sales, and the environment.

To see how everything and everyone is interconnected is the greatest gift any human can experience.

On finding balance

My family is number one.

I have structured my life so that I can be an excellent father and husband.

I have worked very hard to set up the structures in my life that enable me to earn money being who I am.

It was no easy task, but I’ve always kept my freedom and time at the forefront of all my major life decisions, and that has paid off for me.

 

On what he wished he knew earlier

I wish I had known that every career “reset” requires years of thankless work before you get established.

I’ve switched gears hard many times, and I’m always unpleasantly surprised at how long it takes me to get into the next thing.

As I write this, I’m trying to build a new career outside of music, and it is taking me a very long time.

For others, it seems to be easier, but for me, it appears that my life requires incredible amounts of grinding and determination, with no guarantee of success.

Overcoming the stigma of multiple careers

There is definitely a stigma. We are asking ourselves to go beyond the norm.

We must shoulder double or triple the responsibilities of “normal” people. We need to finish one job and then begin another.

The work involved can be extreme, and the mental toll can be very high. The only way to overcome this is to know why you are doing what you are doing.

Having a North Star is key in the tough moments.

On what to share with others

I’m a very honest person in general. I answer questions candidly, although I don’t bring things up because I know square-box people won’t understand.

If someone wants to know more about me or my ideas, I tell them! If not, I don’t bring it up.

 

On how to sublimate ego

Again, this is about understanding why you do what you do.

I do a lot of boring work. But the reason is to provide for my family and my daughter.

I understand that this banal work can facilitate the other work. For example, I can buy equipment needed to give my passions a real chance of success.

A Day in the Life

I wake up around 6:30 and make coffee while taking a short, only cold shower.

I’m at my desk working around 7:15 am.

I work until I pick my daughter up from school, around 3:30pm.

I pick my daughter up via bicycle to get in exercise, then I come back and answer emails, put out fires, etc.

I have dinner around 6PM, put my daughter to sleep, and then I’m pretty exhausted!

I either read or watch some streaming service.

Where to find Ross

***

Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

Follow Kabir on LinkedInInstagramFacebookTwitterSpotifyYouTube.

I finally watched Game of Thrones

I binge watched Game of Thrones.

All 8 seasons.

It took me like ten days or so.

It was a bit nostalgic for me because it reminded me of living in New York…

I remember the subway stations decked out with GOT advertisements – large and fierce looking dragons.

I didn’t have HBO or a TV during those years.

Mostly focused on my job and research/writing my own books.

Which made watching GOT even more exhilarating – because I didn’t really know what it was about, other than it was a cultural phenomenon.

GOT is an exquisite, marvelous epic.

I was wowed with the production value, storytelling, and gripping nature of the tale.

The Starks. The Lannisters. The Targaryens. John Snow.

I’ve been googling about George R. R. Martin and watching clips of the principal actors on talk shows.

I’m debating whether I should read Martin’s books.

They’re so long and a significant time commitment, however.

Well, I just invested 70+ hours in watching the show, after all.

I felt a little sad when I finished the series.

I’m invested in the main characters…

I felt a bit of withdrawal after watching so much great television in such a short period of time.

And yes, the last couple of seasons felt rushed.

The ending was…curious.

I’ve only made a couple films, so I have a tiny sense of how to make a show.

I have such respect for what the showrunners were able to make.

The highest of their craft.

My goodness, the scale is magnificent.

It got me thinking of other epics that could be produced.

My first thought was the Mahabharata, the Indian religious epic.

It was turned into a serialized TV show that my grandmother used to watch.

But maybe there is something that can be done with it.

Anyways….

I’m glad I saw GOT. What an entertaining experience.

How Constanza Boix manages 3+ careers (Corporate Exec, Startup Founder, Mom)

How Constanza Boix manages 3+ careers (Corporate Exec, Startup Founder, Mom)

Meet Constanza Boix. She’s a multi-careerist based in Uruguay.

We met over LinkedIn after she read my 2 Careers HBR article.

Right away, I was impressed with how she handles her multiple professions with dexterity.

Constanza’s Careers

  • Mom (2 girls) and wife
  • Chemical engineer (I haven’t practiced in the past 12 years)
  • Chartering manager in multinational corp.
  • Co-founder and executive director of NudaProp
  • Speaker in global events and podcast
  • Entrepreneur, mentor, and mentee

On her motivations for many careers

  • Connect to my passions and purpose
  • Continue learning process
  • Curiosity
  • Amplify my networking
  • Contribute with and to others

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

Don’t let your mental limits stop you for trying different activities.

Whatever you do with passion — let it surprise yourself…

On overcoming obstacles

My own mental limits sometimes let me think that it’s not possible to grow and accomplish great results in all activities. But then I settled on my own definition of success for each path and…I realize that it’s possible!

There are moments where I think I cannot do it, but I overcome with the support of my family (I make a great team with my husband) — and also with my friends and colleagues. I share my concerns and look for advice.

On how careers are mutually beneficial

My corporate career is the way to be financially sustainable for my family and my startup. Also, I keep continuously learning and contributing within a big company, developing more skills also applicable for my other activities.

My startup (cofounded with my friend from childhood), is the way to contribute to a better world. It fills my spirit with the social impact. It also benefits me in terms of knowledge and networking. I sometimes joke that it’s a continues career of live-MBA with revenue.

On finding balance

The best strategy is having great teams for each activity.

It also helps to work from home twice a week, to reduce commuting and be more present with my family.

The “house team,” together with my husband we provide love and care to our girls, and have the support from a great nanny.

I also work with a great “corporate team.”

The “startup team” is made with my great business partner, and we also have an “entrepreneur team” that is composed of high potential woman entrepreneur that is a great source of inspiration and help.

On something wished had learned earlier

Would have been better to know in advance that there are a lot of people that also choose this lifestyle, so I don’t feel so strange in the corporate/startup world.

I’ve been always very transparent about these two careers…

Overcoming the stigma of multiple careers

Yes, bosses or stakeholders may have a prejudice about people with multiple careers. Sometimes they tend to think that we lack of focus and also cannot be high performers.

There isn’t much to do with that mentality, rather than showing the results as facts, showing that it might be just a bias and nothing else. People who are motivated and connected with their passion are more productive.

 

On how to sublimate ego at the day job

Making the great tasks or the boring/banal tasks is part of the daily routine. It’s part of my responsibilities, so it doesn’t affect any ego.

Right now we are living a revolution of technology in terms of automating the repetitive/non added value task. I’ve already started the path career for digital transformation to be able to reduce these kinds of tasks.

A Day in the Life

5:07 – 5:30 AM – Wake up and drink 0,5lt water and start to work for NudaProp.

6:30 to 7:30 – Twice a week work, Breakfast (Milk, coffee and toast)

8:00 – Morning logistics, Kids at colleague + Husband CrossFit

9:00 – 18:00 – Chartering manager at corporate activity

18:00-20:00 – Executive director in my startup.

20:00 – Mom and wife 🙂

Where to find Constanza

***

Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

Follow Kabir on LinkedInInstagramFacebookTwitterSpotifyYouTube.