October Ed Lessons, or How to Stay Out of Vietnamese Prisons

The October issue of AsiaLIFE is almost put to bed. But like a colicky child, it turns out that magazine work is most volatile right before bedtime. The good news is I’ll go forward next month much more capable of managing multiple deadlines. What else have we learned this month?

First off, staying out of jail may be a continuing concern as AsiaLIFE moves towards more research-based articles. Yes, we are a lifestyle magazine–you’ve got to be an accredited journalist to do anything else without getting sent to the clink here in Vietnam–but we do like t back up our trend pieces with facts and figures. This was something I learned when, having reviewed my article on why you can only get one kind of draught beer in HCM City, my publisher informed me that my liberal citations of Vietnam Brewery Limited’s exclusivity contracts could land me in jail.

And to think I wanted to support my case by citing Vietnam’s nascent competition laws. Turns out that could’ve been interpreted as a direct accusation of guilt under Vietnamese press laws, leaving our door wide open to a lawsuit levied against us by the region’s biggest brewer.

On the art front, my journey into performance art turned up a pretty interesting artistic dilemma. Performance artists, whose work often hinges on spontaneous interaction with the audience and who frequently use the street as a workshop, find themselves in a strange predicament as all arts performances must be vetted by the Ministry of Culture, leaving many Vietnamese peformance artists searching for a more adequate explanation that, “I’m not really sure what I’m going to do, so the thing with submitting a recording beforehand is…”

Japanese chefs like baseball. This is good for journalists who show up to an event with an hour and a half’s notice and no more than a paragraph of promotional information to interview what turns out to be Japan’s preeminent French chef, a two-star Michelin master. What knowledge I lacked in cuisine spontanee, I was thankfully able to make up for in my ability to recall Matsuzaka’s approximate win tally.

Rounding out this month was some truly trying research for articles on spa treatments for men and luxury food products available in HCM City. It’s a dirty job…

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Filed under Ho Chi Minh City, Media, Vietnam

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