Khanh's father was the second largest ship building magnate back in the 1960's. Only problem was he was the second largest ship building magnate in Vietnam. Sure enough the commies came, took his empire away from him, and he and his family escaped back in the 70's landing my buddy Khanh in Minneapolis.
I met Khanh at the U of MN Police Department's "Security Services Division" (campus/rent-a-cop) where he trained me in. Out of the roughly 100 people that worked there during my tenure he was the most colorful and unique of all of us and that is saying a lot because that program was full of obscure and eccentric characters. However, his personality was so unique is belied that he was a true genius even though he was making $6.90 and studying architecture.
What was he a genius at?
Now you all know me and my opinion of "art" and "artists." For the most part art and artists today are crap. It's minimalism, it's not art, it takes no talent, and so I was predisposed to think Khanh's art was nothing more than the regular crap being churned out on the U of MN's West Bank's Art Department.
Until you visited his apartment (which coincidentally was the "penthouse" suite of Riverside Plaza - the place where that "aspiring rap artist" and myself also lived).
Immediately upon entering his place you knew he was a genius if for any other reason how he had the place laid out and the art pieces he chose to display. His genius was only confirmed when you came to find out all of the works of art were his AND the majority of those pieces of art were done when he was in high school.
Additionally, he could do any "type" of art.
And all of them were undeniably top notch pieces of art.
The man literally had a gift like no other I've ever met, and if you don't believe me, below is a sculpture he did when he was 17 (I believe) by hand:
Well, you would think with such a rare and natural talent he would have naturally became some sort of an artist. And true enough he did pursue a career in an artistic field - architecture. He earned his bachelors in architecture and went to work in Phoenix (on account Arizona is the only place you can be a practicing architect without a doctorate - and that's not my sarcasm, that's true. You don't be an architect in most states unless you have a doctorate - how's that for progressive credentialism?)
But there was one problem - the housing bubble.
The only reason Khanh was able to find employment in Phoenix was because of a confluence of events that made it a rarity and unsustainable. Arizona was the ONLY place he could work with just a bachelors AND the red hot Phoenix housing bubble made architects temporarily in demand. So once the housing bubble burst, what ended up happening?
His architecture firm goes belly up.
Khanh tries to find employment, but can't.
Forcing him to work as a....
gas station attendant.
And not just work as a gas station attendant, but he lives in a Quonset hut in Phoenix where he can not just live on the cheap, but store all his art works. No airconditioning, no heat, no car.
Now what angers me is not that the housing bubble burst and my buddy Khanh lost his job. It isn't that he's working at a gas station when he is immensely more talented and capable of so much more. And, truth be known, he is a big time liberal (which is ironic because of what the communists did to his father and family, not to mention what socialism has done to this economy as well).
What angers me is how the labor market has become so corrupt that America's best, America's TRUE geniuses cannot rise to the top. That the talent, merit, creativity and innovation of America's top 1% of 1% does not automatically get them into the positions they deserve, and those positions instead are staffed by lesser qualified individuals for any number of reasons - nepotism, corruption, affirmative action, clueless HR staff, incompetent middle management, etc.
By every right Khanh (despite being a communist bastard) should be making a THOUSAND times more than me. His art should be world-renowned. His skill is literally off the charts and should command a commensurate salary. Surely somebody older and more-established in the art community should have picked Khanh up on his radar a LOOOONG time ago, but nobody did. And it is that where the source of my ire is.
I remember Khanh approaching many art galleries in the Twin Cities to see if he could show his wares. I can't remember them precisely, but the people he was in contact with were all older or middle aged, all had a ton of money, and none of them would give him the time of day. His art "wasn't what they were looking for" because they were presumably peddling their retarded son's art in their art galleries that could only induce vomiting (see below and see this link)
It is because of the craptastic art I was seeing put up and being heralded as "art"at the likes of the Walker "Art" Museum and the Weismann "Art" Museum (heavy emphasis on quotes) that I realized that there is nothing wrong with Khanh's art, but that indeed nepotism, cronyism, politics and corruption had infected the art industry. If anything the sheer genius of Khanh's work and the fact it was nearly impossible to get the recognition it deserved was a reverse proof the industry no longer cared about art, but was hijacked by (probably) elitist, trust fund baby snobs who turned it into their own little fiefdom so they and their trust fund offspring could all become "artists" and avoid real jobs. The only problem is none of them have any talent and so they had to redefine what "art" was. Certainly not the brilliant, detailed and painstaking works Khanh created. No, now it's "minimalism" which is artistese for "crap that doesn't take any skill to create" (see picture above again).
Now I use Khanh as an example in part because he is my best friend and in part because I have seen with my own eyes what this man is capable of. But ask the question:
"How many other geniuses in other fields are there are ignored, pass-over, shunned or just plan railroaded by somebody else who just happens to have connections?"
"what are the economic opportunity costs for these geniuses never making it to the top?"
Not out of arrogance or cockiness do I mention this example, but because you can see (and even today, probably feel) the economic costs - what would have happened if your loveable Captain was actually put into a position of power in the banking industry before the collapse of the housing bubble?
Now am I a genius? (well yes, actually, my IQ was tested at 140) But bravado aside, if I was promoted to some position where I had the power to do something the $1 trillion economic costs and this horrible recession would have been avoided.
Do you know how close the Ford Mustang was to never being? Lee Iaccoca was thankfully listened to.
You like Dr. Seuss? Look up and see how close he was to throwing his transcripts away after getting shot down.
Family Guy anyone? You know about Seth MacFarlane, right?
And Wal-Mart, regardless of whether you like them or not, was only possible because the founders decided to do it themselves after getting shot down by other chain stores.
And these guys were "just barely" successes. People on the verge of quitting or having their ideas squashed. Not to mention, this was back in the 50's and 60's when the economy and labor market was arguably much less corrupt than it is today. If these guys "just barely made it" how many other geniuses didn't?
Which leads me to my final point.
What do we lose out on because some rich guy's spoiled brat, moronic, untalented kid got the book deal, got the contract or got the funding the "unknown Bill Gates" didn't get?
The economic opportunity costs we lose out on I contend are unfathomable. I believe the top 1% of true, creative geniuses such as my buddy Khanh are the innovators and creators that don't make "horse buggies go faster," but build the automobile and advance society by leaps and bounds. They are responsible for the majority of the economic growth this country and the world has experienced. They are the ones who improve our lives more than us merely "working harder and longer." Furthermore, it isn't all about economics and production, but art and some of the more social and enjoyable things.
You ever see the new "Guthrie Theater?" Have you see what Riverside Plaza looks like?
Eye sores that force their visual oppression on the entire population unfortunate enough to be within eyesight of those hideous buildings.
But imagine ancient Rome. Or imagine a city designed by Khanh. Or imagine the television shows if more Seth MacFarlanes were allowed into Hollywood and not talentless nepotistic slobs.
Your lives would not just be materially richer, but much more enjoyable, and much more entertaining.
Alas, I estimate 95% of the true geniuses in this country will go undiscovered. But while those geniuses will suffer for it, society will unknowingly suffer more.
Enjoy the reality TV shows!