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Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

An Ambassador for my Country (Moron on the Plane)

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm

By Antonio Graceffo

Some questions just shouldn’t be asked. And some people should be allowed to fly.

Flying from Bangkok to Saigon, I was filling in my landing card. When I got to the customs declaration page, I read a question which always kind of irked me. “Are you carrying more than 300 grams of gold?” Does this situation come up so often that they need to ask this question? Has anyone ever answered, yes?

When thoughts like this occur to me, I feel the need to tell someone instantly. I turned to the guy on my left and I said, “You know this question is nuts.”

“Tôi không có 300 gram vàng.” he replied.

So, I turned to the guy on the right. I saw he had an Australian passport, so I struck up a conversation with him the way I always do with Ausies.

“Excuse me, are you British?” I asked.

The reactions I get to this question range from forgiving, almost sympathetic, to being hit in the face with a full can of Fosters. This guy answered me a polite “No,” followed by some type of explanation about how, being American, I wouldn’t be able to tell the two accents apart, and my mistake was understandable.

I did want to point out that there was a picture of the Queen of England in his passport, which also could have been misleading. Or, I could have reminded him that the absolute high court of Australia is the High Court of England. Perhaps I had forgotten that, not only does Australia still have a Governor General appointed by the Crown, but, just a few years ago, the Governor-General sacked the Australian government.

So, it’s not really just the accent or the driving on the wrong side of the road that might cause an otherwise intelligent person to ask the honest question, “Is Australia part of Briton.” The answer, of course, is no, but since the Australian Navy is the Royal Navy and since the ships are all marked HMS or Her Majesty’s Ship, I think it is a fair mistake.

But of course, I didn’t mention any of these facts, because I am an idiot American who doesn’t know anything about Australia.

And playing that role, I could have asked him, “Is Australia part of Asia? Which continent is it on?”

In which case he would most likely have answered, “Australia is on the continent of Australia.” Which is, of course, a myth, as there is no continent called Australia. The continent, which includes both Australia and New Zealand and a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous islands, is actually called Oceana.

While a man with more knowledge of the world could have asked any of these questions, what I chose to ask was a question which I thought was priceless.

“I’m American.” I began, doing my best Donnie Brasco accent (one an Austrian pub owner in Taiwan will never be able to imitate). “And we don’t know about the metric system. On this form, it asks if I am carrying more than 300 grams of gold. Now, I have a pound and a half of gold ingots, pirate treasure, in my checked baggage. So, what I need to know is, is 300 grams more or less than a pound and a half?’

Let me pause here and say, I like Australia a lot. In fact, it is my second favorite country, after Canada, and it only slips into second place because of its distance from NewYork. Australia beats Canada for weather. So, if Australia was located closer to New York, say, in the Caribbean, I would rank Australia number one and Canada number two. That’s high praise coming from a New Yorker who has never been to my state capital because it is north of 115 th Street.

I wouldn’t ride the subway above 115th street, but I would like to go visit Australia.

Also, just for the record, I honestly had nothing against this guy, at this point. I was just joking. And I assumed the joke, which was obvious, was that no one has a pound and a half of pirate gold in their checked baggage. And I thought we might have a laugh about what a silly question this was, both mine, and the one on the customs form.

But, his reaction hit every pet peeve that I posses, which is many, and I suddenly wished I had ripped into him.

“A pound is about a quarter of a kilo isn’t it?” He asked.

“Actually, it’s 2.2 pounds to the kilo. But, it was just a joke. I don’t really have gold in my bag.” I explained.

Unperturbed, he continued with his calculations. “Well, if there are two pounds to a kilogram, and 1000 grams is a kilogram….”

“I was kidding.” I said, trying to stop this runaway train of mathematics.

“I believe a pound shouldn’t be more than 30 or so grams.” He was still calculating. I couldn’t stop him. Not only that, but none of the numbers that were dripping from his mouth made any sense. “The square root of seventy-five…2 pints to a quart, 3.7 Polish Zloty to the Georgian Lari….”

Suddenly I understood how Asians feel when they are dealing with irate Americans. When hideous American tourists in Pattaya rip into a Thai food vender because the Pad Thai is not kosher vegan, the American is angrily shouting at the top of his lungs and the polite Asian plasters a fake smile to his face, but the eyes betray his true feelings, a mix of confusion and fear.

And at that moment, that was exactly how I felt. Being on the receiving end of a Westerner’s rant, I made a solemn promise to never go off on any of my Asian friends again.

I put on my best Mickey Rourke, botched botox smile, and nodded politely, while Pickwick Gibson Hogan, as I decided to name him, finally reached a conclusion.

“Fourteen pounds to the Stone, a caddy is one metric pound, so half a kilo, which, from what you say, is slightly more than an American pound….the Lira could be either Turkish of Italian….”

I was searching through my pockets for something sharp to slit my wrists and take the pain away. But the post 9/11 security took removed even that option. After several minutes of sawing into a vein with my motorcycle key, I was just about admit that escape was beyond me, when Pickwick Gibson Hogan finally reached a conclusion.

“It seems like you have just slightly over the limit. So, just go ahead and say No. That’s what I always do.”

He always marks NO? Although it isn’t true? Did Pickwick Gibson Hogan know something I didn’t know? Had I just been had? Is Pickwick Gibson Hogan writing on a blog somewhere “I had the misfortune of sitting next to one of those dumb Americans who thinks he is clever, although he doesn’t have 300 grams of gold, as I do.”

Maybe on the way back to Thailand I will find something less volatile to talk about.

That customs form also asked questions about fruit. On the return flight, I think I’ll only chat with the people who don’t speak English. And probably, it’s better if I keep the conversation limited to fruit.

How could fruits cause an international incident? I mean, unless they tried to get maried.

Man, some guys give their country a bad name when they fly. Sorry Australia.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,international,relations,incident

Modern Poverty in the Richest Nation on Earth

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2010 at 3:35 am

By Antonio Graceffo

When I was a financial planner in New York City, I reviewed the finances of nearly 1,000 individuals and small businesses. While there were people who made bad decisions, stupid decisions, or created debt to finance consumption, the bottom line was that most of them simply didn’t earn enough to live. If they had made good decisions and lived frugally, they would still fall short month after month. When you realize that this is the situation you are in, with two parents working full time and you still slip deeper and deeper into debt every month, why not just use credit to buy the plazma TV or go on holiday at Disney?

Living in Southeast Asia, I am confronted with poverty on a daily basis. But, there is a Western poverty in developed countries which needs to be addressed. Very few Americans are suffering from lack of food, but a significant percentage earn less than the basic minimum needed to live.

Back in America, in the 1980s, when a friend of mine, call him Jawa, was in his early twenties, he was extremely poor, living hand to mouth, pay check to pay check. Working at a grocery store, he earned slightly less than it cost him to live. One day, he was late for work, but needed to stop at the post office to mail his financial aid paperwork, so he could pay his next semester’s tuition, eventually finish college, get a decent job, and not have to suffer financially and spiritually anymore.

Not finding a convenient parking space for his 15 year old car, which barely ran, Jawa parked illegally. The line in the post office was longer than expected, and while Jawa was waiting in line, his car was towed. He came outside the post office and discovered that not only was his car gone, but now he had no way to get to work.

Jawa called his boss and explained the situation.  His boss was angry, but he told Jawa to come in as soon as he could. Without a car, the only option to get to work was to take a taxi. The taxi fare would have been $20. Jawa earned $4.50 per hour. His shift was scheduled for six hours. So, after taxes, Jawa would break even. And of course, at the end of his shift, Jawa would still need to get home, which would put him $20 in the hole.

Jawa looked in his wallet and found that he had three dollars more than what he had thought. He had eight dollars. Not seeing how he could get to work, Jawa began walking home, which was closer. By the time Jawa walked the five miles back to his home, it was too late to call the towing service and find out about his car. The next morning, he woke up and called the impound lot. The cost of releasing his car was going to be $30 for the fine, $50 for the tow, and $50 for storage. Jawa needed $130 to get his car back.

Of course, he had missed both school and work that day with no way to get around. He had $80 in the bank, but in those days before ATM machines, getting the money would necessitate going to the bank, which would be $30 round trip in a taxi. This left Jawa with $50 toward the $130 that he needed to get his car out of impound. It was a Wednesday, and Jawa would be paid at his job on Friday. He earned $4.50 per hour, worked 30 hours per week, and he would get a check for about $100. The check, plus the $50 he had would be almost exactly enough to get the car back. So, Jawa decided to wait till Friday, get his check and go pick up his car.

By Friday, Jawa had been fired from his job for missing work. When he got his check, that evening, he wasn’t able to cash it, because the banks were closed. So, he had to wait till Monday. Early, Monday morning, Jawa went to the bank, cashed his check, took out his other money, and went to the impound lot. At the lot, he paid his fine and tow bill. But when he went to pay the storage bill, he found out that the fee was $50 per day. The car had been there since Wednesday, so the fee was $300.

Obviously, Jawa couldn’t pay the bill. He also couldn’t get his car back, so he had no transportation to go look for a new job. The bill went into collections, and eventually, Jawa found himself the defendant in a legal action. He missed more than three days of classes at university, so he received failing marks in several of his courses. Because of his poor academic performance, his financial aid was discontinued, and he had to drop out of college.

Eventually, Jawa found another minimum wage job. It took him over an hour to walk each way, but he looked at it as a temporary problem he had to overcome, just one more obstacle, on the road to graduation from University.

During the frictional period that it took him to find a new job, Jawa failed to pay rent twice. He begged the landlord not to kick him out. The landlord was sympathetic and agreed to accept late payments when Jawa received his first salary from his new job.

When Jawa’s first pay check arrived, he found that his wages had been garnished by the impound lot. Although he had worked full time, plus over time, his check was less than $80. And, with late charges, interest and penalties, it was going to take months to pay off the debt to the towing company.

Jawa’s landlord was unimpressed with the $80. Jawa lost his apartment.

Getting a new apartment was an impossibility because he would need to put down first and last month’s rent plus a damage deposit, money he simply didn’t have.

Then a lot of other stuff happened, and Jawa became an author, so he could live in a dignified poverty for the rest of his life.

Jawa was a relatively smarty guy, from a decent family, and through a chain of unfortunate circumstances, his life was almost ruined. How much more difficult must it be then for people from broken homes or ghettos, people with children or with a criminal record? A large percentage of the American population lives, hanging by a very narrow thread, which could break at any moment, setting them adrift, slipping into the oblivion of those two relatives, homelessness and hopelessness.

Recently, I have developed an addiction for the Judge Judy TV show. What I love about the show is Judy’s sense of justice. But I also see the show as a look into the lives of everyday Americans. Everyone on the show is not necessarily poor, but what I often see is that people behave immorality for relatively small amounts of money, and I have to believe that they would have behaved better if they weren’t living so close to poverty.

I think that many people have a moral compass, and would behave better, more fairly, if they had more money. For example, two friends go out for lunch. They decide to split the bill evenly, although one of them ordered an entree which cost fifty cents more. This is normal and moral behavior. When you are with a good friend or relative, then you think, no worries, next time, I might be the one who spends more and it will even out. But in cases where people are barely earning enough to survive they don’t apply that type of reasoning. Every debt, every contract, every discrepancy becomes a fight, results in litigation, costs more money, and often destroys personal relationships.

In a recent case that I saw on Judge Judy, the plaintiff, X, sued the defendant, Y, for several hundred dollars. Y had borrowed X’s car and wrecked it. Then the car was impounded and destroyed. So, X felt she didn’t need to pay Y, because the car was gone. Obviously, Judge Judy said that Y had to pay X for the car. Next, X continued the suit, saying that, because of the fines and fees associated with the wreck and impound, X missed payments on his insurance and rent, and incurred late fees and monetary penalties. Judge Judy basically said, you can’t sue for a chain of events. You can only sue for direct costs or direct losses.

The case reminded me of what had happened to my friend Jawa. When you are living so close to the hilt, any little problem can destroy your whole life.

And it doesn’t just happen to poor people.

In my financial planning business, I had mostly wealthy clients. One client had a car accident, while on holiday in Florida, and killed someone. When he rented the car, he had had the forethought to purchase maximum car insurance. It turned out, after the survivors sued him for 1 Million dollars, that the car rental company actually only sold an overage insurance, which was to cover that portion of your liability not covered by your own car insurance. For most Americans, this would have worked out fine, because they have car insurance. But my client was a real New Yorker, living in Manhattan. He had no car insurance.

He will be paying off this debt for the rest of his life. Any plans he had for retirement were gone. The only reason his kids will even be able to attend college is because he had some type of prenuptial agreement with his wife, which established separate property, and his wife’s assets were not attached by this law suit. But now, his wife will be paying the entire college tuition for all three children, herself.

The recent mortgage crisis is full of stories of people who had been using their home as an ATM machine and because of sudden declines in real-estate values, those loans came due and people were unable to pay them. In some cases, this caused a domino effect of loss of home, loss of job, loss of credit, and eventually drove people into a seemingly inescapable poverty.

The credit crisis caused a lot of people to point fingers and throw blame. “They shouldn’t have bought a house they couldn’t afford.” Probably, but many of these people wouldn’t have had a house at all, unless they over extended.

The purchasing power of Americans has steadily dropped over the years, as the cost of living has increased. In 1971 very few Americans had credit cards. According creditcardstatistics.com In 2009 there were 609.8 million credit cards in the US, which is almost double the number of people.

In 1971 the average home price was $24,000 and the average income was $10,000. Said another way, a house cost about 2.5 years’ salary. The down payment was about 3 months salary. Couples took a second job or worked weekends for a year to save $2,400 for their down payment. A new car cost about $2,000, or 20% of salary. The average college tuition, for their children, was $600, or 6% of their salary. Minimum wage in 1971 was $1.60. So, it was not unreasonable for parents to expect their kids to work part time and help pay for their education. In a single summer, kids could earn enough to pay their full tuition without any assistance.

In 2009, however, the average house cost was $270,000. But, the average US income was only about $42,000. So, the house cost 6.4 years salary. And the down payment of $27,000 represented more than half of a year’s salary. An average car costs $14,000 or 33% of salary. College costs in 2009 skyrocketed to $19,000. With federal minimum wage at $7.25 kids could barely earn a quarter of their college tuition in one summer.

In that financial climate, the average American was in a house he couldn’t afford. If the average, in other words, the majority of the population is forced into doing something that doesn’t make good fiscal sense, then the situation, not the people, must be called suspect.

If everyone is overextended, something is wrong, somewhere.

We all have seen stories on Jerry Springer or in the news about people on welfare buying themselves this or that extravagance that they shouldn’t have. Jawa had bought a leather jacket just a week before his life exploded from the towed car. Jawa had a cousin by marriage who was similarly poor, who paid $300 for a paintball gun that he had been dreaming of for years.

People pointed at those two purchases and identified them as the root of the two boys’ financial problems. But the truth is, the jacket was on sale for $125. The paintball gun was $300. Neither of these young men could have dramatically changed their lives for that amount of money. If they bought themselves a treat or didn’t, they would still have been poor.

Wearing a nice jacket or owning a slick paintball gun makes poverty a little easier to live with.

You can easily spend $6 on a large frapa-mochiati-chino at one of the many fashionable coffee chains in America, and now, around the world. That represents 1 hour of net salary for a minimum wage worker. It represents a quarter of an hour of salary for the average American worker. In theory, no one can afford a $6 cup of coffee. So, why do people buy it? Because it is an attainable luxury, that makes life livable. Everyone has $6, even if they shouldn’t spend it on coffee. If any coffee drinker wound up loosing his or her home in the recent mortgage fiasco, could we blame the coffee? Would $6 have made a difference?

I lived in Tennessee for years and saw people who earned minimum wage or slightly above, buy a new car that they couldn’t afford. And when that decision wrecked them, people pointed a finger at them. “You did this to yourself.” Yes, and no. Take my friend Jawa, after the mess that caused him to lose his car and his job, he bought a brand new car.

Why does someone with no money buy a brand new car? Because you can get a new car with no money down. Jawa needed transportation. An affordable used-car cost cash. But someone with no money could drive off the lot with a brand new car.

And so the cycle of debt continues and actually worsens.

And again, this situation is not limited to the poor. I have seen upper-middle class families do exactly the same thing. They were barely making it financially. Then, the kids reached driving age, and the only way to give them a car was to go into debt with a brand new car, no money down.

Consumption is definitely a culprit in the financial plight that most Americans find themselves in. How many TVs do you have in your home? How many cars does your family have? Do you really need a swimming pool?

But the flip side is, it costs a lot to live, no matter how careful you are. As a result, even in one of the world’s richest countries, a significant percentage of the population slips deeper and deeper into debt.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,finances,financial,crisis,povery,poor,spending,economy,economics

Filming Action and Martial Arts in 3D

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Creates Both Challenges and Opportunities

By Antonio Graceffo

“In some ways, 3D is like real life. It’s the way we see the world normally.”

3D Guy, Al Caudullo.

Putting on those funny glasses and watching the proof of our 3D martial arts fight on a video monitor was incredible. It was weird to see an image of myself, leaping out of the screen and jumping back into the fight. It was sort of like the first time you ever saw yourself on a movie screen or on TV, but with 3D it was really unique because you just aren’t used to seeing 3D images at all.

3D in 2010, is what TV was in 1950 or radio in the 1900’s. It is a brand new, wide open opportunity, a chance to get in on the ground floor of the new new-thing. If you kick yourself for not buying stock in Yahoo or Microsoft in the early 1990s, cashing in on 3D will give you a shot at redemption.

In July of 2010, director Al Cadullo of 3D Guy TV and Explore World TV filmed a one minute martial arts fight in 3D, with me, (Antonio) and Ulysses Chan, a Muay Thai fighter from Taiwan. The one minute clip was to be used as a proof for his new concept of a martial arts travel show in 3D.

Since then, he has begun producing a number of 3D travel shows, mostly for the Wealth TV network in America, which will be going to a 3D format 24/7 in January, 2011.

Having worked with Al on several 2D fight scenes last year, and now, several 3D shoots, this year, I asked him what the primary difference was in shooting 3D vs. 2D action.

“In general, 3D gives you different tools to use.” Said Al. “In 2D, if you want the audience to focus on the main character, you focus on him and blur out the background. But in 3D, everything is in focus because non-focus doesn’t work. Your eyes don’t have blur, unless you need glasses. So in 3D, you need to use lighting more effectively and place the characters in the 3D plane, where maybe they are coming off the screen more, to set them apart. Someone made the point that setting up 3D is more like setting up a live play, because you don’t have blurred backgrounds. You use lighting to accentuate your characters more.”

“Plus there are the gimmicks, which are fantastic. You can have a punch come off the screen, and it makes the audience duck. It makes the movie more fun.”

“In some ways, 3D is real life it’s the way we see life normally.”

That first 3D fight scene was shot in a park in Bangkok. And I quickly learned that shooting 3D is a whole new art and presents a lot of different problems, compared to regular 2D movies. First off, movie sets which work in 2D will not work in 3D because they will look flat. You would be able to see that half of the background was painted on the wall, and that the parts that stuck out were only inches deep. Remember 3D gives real perspective. 2D only gives the illusion of perspective.

When we arrived at the shoot, I immediately spied a gazebo which had a roof made of crisscrossed steel. I though, wow! Perfect. We could put the cameraman up there and Al could shoot form bird’s-eye perspective, down through the holes in the steel.

But Al explained that if you shot from directly overhead with a 3D camera, the actors would look like they were six inches tall.

I suggested that Al could place the camera at a certain point and then use zoom. But he quickly corrected me.

“Take the word zoom out of your vocabulary, because the human eye doesn’t have zoom.” That made sense. 3D works more like the human eye. When you have an object in real life, and you want to see it closer, you move your eye closer to the object. And that is what you must do with camera in a 3D shoot.

“3D is more honest.” Insisted Al.

When setting up the fighters, we had to be careful how they were, not only in relation to the camera, but also to each other. You also had to be aware of every object in view and see how many different planes and layers you had, and if they made sense. Al used a pocket laser device to calculate distances and explained that there was a special software package for creating 3D computerized mockups of locations, in advance, to help you plan your shoots.

During the shoot, the director had to wear glasses to watch the monitor, but obviously, needed the naked eye to watch the actors. There is a lot of juggling in 3D. It is also a good idea to play back every single take, immediately, and watch it with the glasses. If the lighting is off or someone goes partially off screen, the whole image can go flat. And the footage would be unusable.

It seemed to me that you needed a lot more knowledge to shoot in 3D. Al Said, “To do 3D you need to first learn all of the rules, then throw the rules away.”

“This is the rule in 2D as well.” He explained. “And it took brave people, going out there and doing things everyone thought would fail, in order to create great new techniques.”

“Action!” yelled Al, and we began hitting each other. Two seconds later, he was already yelling “Cut!” Apparently every time we moved or circled we were going out of frame. Al marked the ground where we needed to fight. After one more cut, he tightened up our fighting area. Eventually it got so small he asked us, “Can you guys just grapple?”

The more we filmed, the more I realized how narrow the “in frame” area was and that it was limited not only by breadth but also by depth. Once again, this was 3D, depth TV. Getting too far away from the camera, under the camera, over the camera…left or right, we would go out of frame. But the real no-no was to be half in and half out.

The second half of the fight scene consisted of a chase across the playground and a very cool final fight on the sliding board. On the way to the sliding board, Ulysses was chasing me. He leaped up onto a row of park benches, got beside me and leaped off, giving me an elbow to the top of the head. I had wanted to shoot the leap from several angles, including from the ground and from bird’s eye perspective, but it just wasn’t possible.

Next, we fought on the sliding board, which worked extremely well for 3 D because Ulysses leapt off the board on top of me, dropping both a knee and an elbow on me.

Al said, “We are pushing the envelope today of what has been done with 3D.”

Al meant that we were maximizing the technology, but he told me that the future of 3D goes way beyond action and martial arts.

“What everyone expects in 3D initially is a lot of in-your-face gags and gimmicks. And that’s what we will have to deliver for a little while. But then, I think 3D will settle into something that is more immersive. You will feel you are looking inside the window and feeling what is really happening.”

For the moment, a martial arts fight scene was perfect for 3D. Unfortunately, however, at this point in time, you can’t just pick up a 3D camera and run with it. You had to cut, move the camera, and shoot the same scene again to get multiple angles.

When you cut the action and then restart, in 3D you have to make sure that the actors are in the same exact positions as they were before, including their plane, relative to each other. If we reset the actors incorrectly, the audience would be able to see the distance between them, and the audience would know that the punches and kicks were missing by a mile.

“Right now, people want 3D images that jump off the screen and land in your lap.” Said Al, but eventually, he believed that all sorts of shows, from news to game shows would be in 3D. I saw a 3D concert that he filmed and it really was like having a holograph of the band singing in my living room.

Two of the shows Al is shooting for Wealth TV right now are Markets and Tastes, a food related travel show, and WOW, a travelogue, showing various cities around the world. The shows have some action of course, but they also have eating and shopping and hotel rooms. So, they are already departing from the frenetic action and lizard-jumping gimmicks.

“A 3D travel show allows you to experience a place as you never could in 2D. The same goes for a 3D food show.”

Until we have movies with senses of touch, taste and smell, 3D really does add another dimension  to your viewing experience. Al is working on a golf travel show which obviously has stunning images of golf balls jumping right at you and panoramic views of golf courses from around the world. We have also begun filming my martial arts series, Brooklyn Monk in Asia, which is all in 3D. He has plans for a show called Tech Toys which will explore all of the latest gadgets on the market, telling you which are hot and which are not.

3D is the new new-thing, but it isn’t quite ready for independent and student films. “The Blair Witch Project” in 3D is still a while away. First off, the cheapest professional grade Sony 3D camera is $21,000. That is more than the total budget of “Blair Witch.” Sonny is coming out with a consumer-grade 3D camera for just over $1,000, but until we review it, we won’t know if the quality is there yet to make affordable 3D movies.

3D is the radio of the 2000’s. People always said I had a great face for radio, and now I am putting it to work.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey. He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

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An Attitude like yours

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Reaching out a hand of friendship and getting slapped

By Antonio Graceffo

“We are all Children of Adam. If you had many children, would create one group of children to kill another group of your children?” Islamic Guru, Mazlan Man. “Of course not! God made us all different so we could love each other and learn from one another.”

When I first came to Asia in October of 2001, I had anger in my heart. I wanted revenge, on who or on what, I don’t know. But I think it is fair to say, I didn’t have warm feelings about the religion of Islam.

Roughly 18 months later, I was pedaling my bicycle across the Taklamakan Desert I met the Uyghur people, a Muslim ethnic minority who were being ill-treated by the Chinese government. A group of Uyghur workers, living in a labor camp, took me in, fed me, and gave me a place to sleep. I wrote about them in my book, “The Desert of Death on Three Wheels.”

That incident was one of the first significant face-to-face contacts I had had with Muslim people. It was also the first step in my healing and in my learning about Muslim people. Every step of this long journey has been published because I wanted other people to also learn about the peoples and cultures I encountered along the way.

Later, in Cambodia, I wrote about the Cham Muslim minority, who were almost like the lost sons of Islam. Muslim magazines and organizations from the Arab world to America to Malaysia were writing me for more information. Many sent researchers, others sent charity or aid organizations.

Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Cham Muslims in Cambodia (Part 1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhi0n3qMbeo

Because of those Cham stories, I was offered the chance to write for Illume and Islamica magazine, both of which are large Muslim publications. And I went on to do stories on the Badjao and other small tribes in Asia who followed Islam.

In 2009 I went to Malaysia for the first time and trained with Muslim martial arts masters. Among them was Guru Mazlan Man who teaches Silat Kalam, a religious form of martial art. I interviewed him for a video.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Because of God (Part 1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGLs-Xqj39Q

He was co-interviewing me as well, to ascertain if my intentions were genuine.

When he was satisfied that I had good intentions, he invited me back to Malaysia to study with him. In 2010, I became the first non-Muslim to be permitted to study Silat Kalam. He also taught me the religion of Islam, as well as the Muslim prayers which I had to practice each day.

Eventually, the local news media in Malaysia, The Star, did a print news paper story about us and compiled a video documentary on my studies with Guru Mazlan and my long journey from 9/11.

Antonio Graceffo on the Malaysian Star Online

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9yb_8LYpIQ

I posted a video on youtube about Silat Kalam which was the result of my three months in Malaysia, studying Islamic religion and martial art.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNu_hd0zDuc

A week or later, I also published a video entitled “Exploring Religion.” In this video, I explored the concept of the universiality of religion and I quote my Muslim Guru, Mazlan Man, who said, “There is only one God but we call him by many names.”

Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Exploring Religion (Part 1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvhjm1RyfXs

Recently, checking my youtube channel, I found an insulting comment from a youtube user named Wael77.

“I enjoyed this. But I read your book some time ago, and I’m not sure but didn’t you have some pretty rotten things to say about Muslims and Arabs? Have you had a change of heart, or are you just being hypocritical for the sake of learning the art?”

Antonio Comment

Actually I don’t know which book of mine you read, but a prevalent them in my ten years in Asia has been about learning to understand and appreciate Islam. My second book and my forth book talk about Muslim ethnic minorities who are victimized in Asia. I also write for Ilume which is a huge Muslim magazine. And I have a video on here called Exploring Religion which talks about Islam. I never delete comments, but I would appreciate it if you could rethink calling me a hypocrite.

Why did you call me a hypocrite?

Was that warranted?

Wael counter comment

I’ll see if I can get my hands on a copy of the book (The Monk from Brooklyn), so I can see exactly what you said before I comment further.

Wael to Antonio

Yes, the book I read was The Monk from Brooklyn, where you studied with the Shaolin in China. It was a fascinating account. It kept me interested from beginning to end. But I’m pretty sure you did make some racist comments about Arabs or Muslims, and that was a real turnoff. I remember because I threw the book away when I was done, because of those comments.

I remember that you made a good friend, another foreigner who was slightly dark skinned (from Spain maybe? sorry it’s been a while). At first you thought he was Arab so you were very cold and you wanted to kick his ass. Something like that. That was one example.

I am Egyptian-American. Born and raised mostly in California. I moved to Panama from about 2004 to 2008 because I got tired of getting racist comments from people with attitudes like yours. Down there, nobody really cared about my ethnicity. I visited Costa Rica and Colombia and it was the same, I never once was insulted or demeaned because of my race.

Wael

Antonio response

When you say attitudes like mine, do you mean people who studied Islam for three months in Malaysia, people who write for Illume Magazine and Islamica magazine and who have written extensively about various Muslim groups in Asia?

Is that what you meant by, people with attitudes like mine? If you only associate with people who do more than that, or better than that, then you must have a very small circle of friends.

I never said I wanted to kick Rafael’s ass. I said I didn’t want to be friends with him because I thought he was a Muslim, THEN I went to say how STUPID that was, and this was an example of what I had to get over. And that was the point of the whole incident. S,o are you saying you were turn off by someone’s change of heart?

You realize that Costa Rica and Columbia have had zero interaction with the Arab world so it is not possible for the people there to have preconceived notions. Having said that, I know a lot of Muslim people, and none of them felt they had to move to Costa Rica.

I lived in Costa Rica and attended university there.

As for looking for a copy of the Monk from Brooklyn why don’t you watch any of my Muslim videos on youtube which are free and which you can do right now.

Or google my name plus the world Islam or Muslim and find countless articles I have done.

Instead, you want to go back, find the Monk from Brooklyn and intentionally misinterpret one sentence written a year after the 911 incident.

I don’t think it’s my attitude that is creating a climate of hate. It seems to be you who doesn’t want to bend.

Antonio

Here is my direct email antonio@speakingadventure.com

My phone number 66 ———- in Thailand

And I live in —— soi –,

I am not someone who hides. I would love to finish this conversation openly, face to face, or via skype and I will record it and make another video about racial intolerance.

I have attached one of my recent videos about the Cham Muslims. Can you really not see that the point of this entire 10 year exercise of living in Asia was to get over 9/11 let go of the hate and learn to understand and appreciate other races and religions? You are some kind of villain and an instigator.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey. He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,Muslim,Islam,Kalam,religion,racism

Traveling, Doing TV and Still Broke

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Living the Dream, hoping I’ll wake up.

By Antonio Graceffo

A friend of mine told me he was on his way to Ohio and that he hated going. He wanted sympathy from me. Telling a New Yorker that you are going anywhere, except back to your own apartment in New York, will normally evoke sympathy.

But in this mixed up, upside down world where the cop is the perp, and the perp is the victim, I envied my friend going to Ohio.

I told him:

Ohio, hugh? For my new TV show, I have to go to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macao. You know how much I hate travel to begin with. On top of this, I will be staying in a $600 USD per night hotel. BUT I won’t be able to eat or do laundry, because only the room is comped.

This annoys me. I saw Casino. I know how comped is supposed to work. I am allowed to strangle the prostitute as long as she has no family, and useless brother Fredo owns the brothel. But then I have to do whatever Marlon Brando wants me to do, even give Johnny Fontain a part in my new movie.

On top of all of my other travel issues, I have already lived in Hong Kong. So, it’s like, you know, redundant, the same thing, you know, the same thing over and over, repeating, again and again…sort of like subscribing to the New York Times but getting the May 18th, 2004 issue delivered to your doorstep, day, after day, till you finally just give up, and dangle your leg in a vat of dry ice until it has to be amputated.

I have never been to Ohio. You are lucky, seeing something new. Try and see Ohio through my eyes.

I will send them to you, and possibly my left leg as well.

I am talking to a large, well-paid network. They have a famous, TV chef who has agreed to be on my show in (a certain country). And now, large, well-paid network might pay me to be on famous, TV chef show in (a certain country). And large, well-paid network might be offering me my own TV series on large, well-paid network. So, I am pretty excited. But still what?

BROKE!

This is a constant. I keep thinking about fat people who are afraid to loose weight, because they are used to their fat, and fear regret if they loose it. Buyers remorse, also called losers remorse.

And no one wants to be a loser. They don’t even want to be the Biggest Looser. There are even people who get upset when their blood tests come back negative. No one wants to be thought of as negative.

But at the same time, there are people with body integrity identity disorder, who wish to get rid of a limb or body part that they hate.

So, on the one hand, my poverty is a constant, which psychologically, I could attach to in some sort of Helsinki Syndrome, as in (Helsinki, Sweden). On the other hand, I could hate my poverty, like someone suffering from body integrity identity disorder who dangled his leg in dry ice for several hours till it had to be removed.

Why do people from Helsinki always take hostages when they rob a bank? And then why do people fall in love with them? The only Helsinki-ite I have ever worked with is Arman Alizad, from the TV show, Kill Arman, and he never has, to my knowledge, taken a hostage.

Maybe it is a bum rap, like when people say all Italian men know how to cook and cheat on their wives. Some might argue it is because Helsinki is in Finland, and not Sweden. But I think they are just making excuses for bank robbery.

They are a bunch of enablers.

Bt anyway, doing a self-diagnosis:

If I had poverty integrity disorder, I would dangled my poverty in a vat of dry ice and wait for a rich doctor to cut it off. Or, if I have fat-person-fear-of-skinniness disorder, I would cling to my poverty and love it.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey. He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,chuck,norris,delta,force,2,movie,first,tennessee,johnson,city,martial,arts,odyssey,tv,martial,arts,asia

Chin Refugees in Malaysia (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 7:27 am

While they wait, they get arrested, again, and again.

By Antonio Graceffo

Chin refugees buy time in Malaysia, waiting for resettlement in a safe country.

While they wait, they get arrested, again, and again.

In Malaysia, immigration enforcement raids are often carried out by Rela, a volunteer police force, which many outside observers see as a deputized gang of thugs.

According to an article, published in Thaindian News, “Kuala Lumpur, Dec 7 (IANS) The Malaysian Bar Coun­cil has called for Rela, the civilian vigilante oeganisation tasked to detect illegal migrants, to be disbanded following numerous reports that allege “members’ abuse of their powers during enforcement raids.”

Victor Sang, the coordinator of the Chin Refugee Center, Malaysia said that the Chin refugees get arrested by Rela, nearly every Sunday morning. When they get arrested on Sunday mornings, “Rela takes them to police headquarters and ask for 200 Ringit to release them. If they don’t have 200 Ringit, then Rela comes down to 100 and then by 10:00 PM they allow people to leave for 5 Ringit. Almost every Sunday they arrest the same people.”

If Chin are arrested by the legitimate police, they are not sent back to Burma. According to Victor, “They deport them to the Thai border. But now, sometimes, they put them in the detention center. And the UNHCR cannot visit them. There are about 500 Chin in detention. One girl gave birth in detention. She and the baby are still locked up.”

A new problem faced by the Chin in Malaysia is beatings and robbery by Indian gangs.

“Locals kidnapped refugees. This is the new thing.” Explained Victor. “They want money from the refugee community. Two of our people were captured, beaten and stabbed. Then they demanded a ransom. They gave us a bank account number, and we paid in 3,000 Ringit. They gave us the people back. We told the police the story, but they did nothing. Now they have kidnapped someone else. The victims said it was a taxi driver who took them somewhere, they didn’t know where. The kidnappers told the victims to call their family begging for money.”

Victor told me the hair-raising story of how he himself survived the refugee path. “When the government allowed tourists into Burma they didn’t allow them into Chin State because some tourists witnessed human rights violations.”

“I worked as a tourist guide when I was a student” in the capitol, Yangon. “There were always government agents following me and asking me questions.”

In 1996 Victor took part in a pro-democracy demonstration in front of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house.

“I was arrested, but I was very lucky. My university professor came and got me out of jail. But we were told to get out of Rangoon.” If Victor hadn’t taken advice and gotten out, he knew that his fate would be a midnight arrest. “They don’t arrest people openly. They come at night.”

“I was trafficked through Thailand.” began Victor. “They are very greedy these traffickers. They squeeze at least 15 people in one car at least 5 people in the back boot. I was in the back boot for 6 hours. We almost died. In the front seat one person is stooping and one is sitting, twelve people in one car. The traffickers made a line of thirty or forty of us and lead us through the jungle.”

“I was arrested twice and beaten. I was captured by Thai human traffickers. They kept me in the jungle for eight days, but I ran away. If not, they would have sold me to a fishing boat. Most of the girls will be raped. Some will be stabbed if they resist.”

In February, 2001 Victor was among the first group of Chin to approach the UNHCR for help.

“There were only 4,000 Chins in Malaysia then. So, I and 400 people applied. But the UNHCR didn’t even know who the Chin were. Three hundred and eighty people were denied. But luckily the Canada government recognized me directly.”

“I left Burma and I lost my education. But, I went to Canada and graduated with a law degree in 2004.”

Victor, as most Burma observers, is not optimistic about change in Burma. Victor commented on former dictator Ne Win. “Ne Win was so strong, but he couldn’t survive the demonstrations.” Ne Win stepped down after the massive protests and blood baths. The current dictator, Than Schwe, on the other hand, seemed to have a grip of power that no former dictator ever had. “But Than Schwe, how many years has he been in power? How many demonstrations has he survived?”

The Burma government has been publicizing their upcoming elections, touting this as a first step towards democracy. Nearly all foreign observers, as well as most Burmese themselves, believe the elections will be a sham. The junta have already banned opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office, and forced her party the National League for Democracy (NLD), to dissolve.

Some members of ASEAN members have applied a head in the sand strategy for dealing with the war in Burma, as a way of not having to admit their guilty in admitting Burma to ASEAN.

“The Malaysian government is saying that with the upcoming elections in Burma, there will be civilians in government, so the refugees can go home. And there won’t be more refugee influx from Burma.” Concluded Victor.

The other director shook his head sadly. “There will be no election in Burma. There will only be a selection of hand picked military people. Nothing will change.”

Nothing will change in Burma. And nothing will change for the Chin refugees who are Out of the Frying Pan, But Still Next to the Fire

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com sign up for his mailing list on the site.

Antonio,graceffo,Brooklyn,monk,kuala,Lumpur,refugees,burma,chin,state,Malaysia,SSA,Shan,State,Army,war

Ups and Downs of TV and the Brooklyn Monk

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 4:53 am

Riding the rollercoaster makes you seasick

By Antonio Graceffo

“Show business is a hideous bitch goddess.”

George Burns

I received email saying that my show, Brooklyn Monk in Asia was cancelled, because the network didn’t think a martial arts show fit with their target audience and their theme of life styles of the rich.

I was down to my last few dollars and absolutely shattered. I had basically not worked all of June and July when we were shooting the promo and spin-off pilot for my show. Now, this devastating news came in, and I didn’t know what to do next.

A number of people in US and elsewhere stepped in to help me. Meanwhile, the production company sent me a number of encouraging emails, saying the believed in me and wanted the Brooklyn Monk show to succeed.

The next day, the production company called and said they had a new job for me, hosting a travel/food show. I will also be credited as the writer. We start shooting almost immediately, following the same schedule as before, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Thailand.

The production company really believes in the Brooklyn Monk in Asia show, so we are going forward with the filming of that show, on spec, and will be looking for a network that wants it.

Thank God, I am back at work, sort of. Flying back to Thailand for pre-production. Tentatively scheduled to start filming in Singapore in mid August.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com

This episode was edited by Antonio Graceffo and features the official Martial Arts Odyssey intro and outro by Andy To.

Antonio,Graceffo,martial,arts,odyssey,Brooklyn,monk,brooklynmonk,asia, Bangkok,Thailand,kick,boxing,box,Vietnam,Saigon,ho,chi,minh,city,Singapore,hong,kong,macau,macao,Thailand,bangkok

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Canceled

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2010 at 6:49 am

Down and out in Saigon, again

I just got bad news from the production company. My TV show, Brooklyn Monk in Asia, got canceled before it even started. The Production company loves it, but the network pulled out. Now, I am completely broke and stuck in Saigon. Down to my last $50 with nothing on the horizon.

I feel like crap.

The network turned it down because their network is all about rich people going on dream vacations in exotic places.

Network executives apparently felt that flying to Singapore and getting beat up was not a dream vacation.

What world are they living in? Flying to Singapore and getting beat up is my dream vacation.

The production company is trying to sell the show to a different network. It would probably be better for Spike or AXN.

For now, the project is on hold. If we get a sponsor and can move forward, I will do après release.

Sincerely,

Antonio

Donate to the Keep Antonio Writing and Filming Fund

https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_flow&SESSION=5Oy-m8R66Jpy7mgkYnR9j5gY0UFnplYlkbjvwHbnHrffilO-GB6tTloRqQy&dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d66edfb0b39be7838c6fe2b48d77d66ee

Donations can also be made by check or money order made out to John Fotheringham who does my banking in US. Checks and money orders must be made out to John Fotheringham.

Send to:

John Fotheringham
4004 NE 4th St. #107-345
Renton WA 98056-4102

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com

This episode was edited by Antonio Graceffo and features the official Martial Arts Odyssey intro and outro by Andy To.

muay,thai,kick,boxing,kickboxing,martial,arts,odyssey,Brooklyn,monk,brooklynmonk,Antonio,Graceffo,Bangkok,Thailand,kick,boxing,box,Vietnam,Saigon,ho,chi,minh,city