Sunday, January 17 2021


Celebrating Viet Nam News' 25th anniversary

Update: June, 18/2016 - 09:00
Teed off Robert Bick Nell
Viet Nam News


with Robert Bicknell

As evidenced throughout this issue, Vietnam News is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, which is an amazing milestone considering we really started with a 4-6 pages back in the day.

I still remember the uniqueness of situations where we would report on the volume of things instead of the amounts. Example, we would say, “Authorities captured 25 kg of snakes” instead of simply saying, “Authorities captured 18 snakes.”

It’s one of the things that made us different…

I also got into an argument with a few editors over the use of the term “Vietnam War.” I reasoned that every war in Vietnam was a “Vietnam War” so the one against the US should have been the “American War”, etc. I will probably never get credit for it, but it eventually became the “American War” in the paper…

The US Embassy went slightly apeshit and wouldn’t talk to me for a month.

Yes, you will be reading elsewhere in this issue the exploits of a founder and Editor in Chief, Nguyen Khuyen, who we all referred to as “Mr K”. He’s an amazing person with a very kind heart and a strong moral character. He’s also the guy who nagged me for two years to try writing a column. I honestly thought I had nothing to say (no comments from the peanut gallery), but Mr K thought otherwise.

So, blame him for turning me loose on the unsuspecting (and often unwilling) public. However, to be fair, I have always said that, when folded properly, my column fits perfectly at the bottom of most birdcages, and is great for cleaning the bottom of muddy shoes.

Nevertheless, apparently I did have a lot to say and continue to say.

Of course, some people agree with it and some don’t. There have been ups and downs over the years, but mostly ups to be honest. I still get a kick out of it when someone sees me on an airplane and stops to say hello and talk about the column. Only once did I ever get someone who vehemently disagreed with something – which happens to be the column from 1999. I reminded players that “they are responsible for repairing pitchmarks, rake bunkers, etc.” I also said it’s the caddies job to do it, but it’s the player’s responsibility to ensure the caddie does it.

He relented.

No harm, no foul. I have always felt that my column’s main purpose is to inspire discussion. Sure, I’m not always right but I am always opinionated and that starts the discussion.

I have also been known to reverse my position on things when presented with a well thought out, rational opposing point of view. We can always change our mind, that’s a sign of intelligence. It’s when we refuse to change our position on something when faced with indisputable proof to the contrary that creates blithering idiots.

My editors work overtime to keep me from looking like a complete idiot. They figure a partial idiot is good enough. But they have been known to call me late at night screaming “You can’t say that!”

Most times they are correct and a fast rewrite is in order. Otherwise, I would be sending my column from Lao Cai when I wasn’t building highways, terracing rice fields and growing my own food (inside VN News joke).

Anyway, just for the fun of it, I sat down over lunch to do some figuring…

I have been writing this column since 17 May 1998 and this column is my 826th. At roughly 730 words per column, that’s 602,980 words. Not including punctuation. 

Now consider that an “average” novel is roughly 60-80,000 words (so we’ll use 70,000 to be fair). So that means I have thrashed out enough words for 8.61 novels since 1998. No wonder I am tired and rambling like an escapee from the dementia ward of the nearest old age home.

Heck, I have hacked out more words than “War & Peace” (544,406 words).

OK, granted, some of which has been complete and utter rubbish, but we are talking quantity not quality at the moment. Remember the old saw that “if you gave 1000 monkeys some typewriters they would eventually write Hamlet?”

I am proof that if you give one jackass a word processor, he will hammer out 826 golf columns.




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