3 Important Things That Recently Happened in My Career

So there’s a major “new father-family responsibility” thing going on in my life, but I’ll talk a bit about some of the good things that happened to me.

1. I Met Creators of Marco Polo!

IMG_1965 IMG_2481 IMG_2496

I should say we, because it was a group work of MetaStory, the NGO. Long story short, we contacted Netflix saying, “We love the fact that you’re doing a show on Marco Polo. This matters a lot to Mongolia. Can we help with anything?” And you know what? They replied. They had producers come in here and we had a chance to meet them. We organized a VIP screening of the first two episodes of the show in a brand new mall in UB, and it was just fantastic. I was enthusiastic about the show from the beginning (I never seen the Sopranos, but Benedict Wong’s got the charisma like Tony Sopranos to me), but watching it on the wide screen was amazing. The mise-en-scene is awesome.

For Mongolians, there’s actually an additional layer of fun because the background dialogues are in Mongolian. And there are lots of bits and pieces about our culture (e.g. the ankle bone game), almost all the characters are based on real historical people.

And I got in touch with the Creator John Fusco, Director Dan Minahan and Producer Richard Sharkey. Their works are very well-known. John’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was nominated for Oscars, Dan’s directed episodes in Game of Thrones, True Blood and Six Feet Under, and Rich’s portfolio spans two decades, including LOTR trilogies, Star Wars: Episode I, the Fifth Estate and Fantastic Four 2.  [As an afterthought, I’m wondering if it’s okay to talk about these people without asking them. John, Dan, Rich, if you’re reading this, thanks again for coming! ] Um, so we have big plans for the future. Best not talk about it before they’re actually achieved. You know, Mongolian superstition.

This might be too Natso-centric description of the visit of these important figures in Mongolia. If you’re interested in fuller picture, check out these coverages:

UB Post

Mongol Beat

Ikon.mn aka bonus if you read Mongolian

There are plenty others if you read Mongolian, just google marco polo ulaanbaatar in cyrillic.

2. My Two Articles Were Approved on Cracked.com

OK. I’ve been a Cracked fan since my college days. I even created a blog called Mongol Angle back in 2010, emulating the Cracked humor. But it was only last summer that I seriously worked on pitching articles and writing for them. Since last July, I had been trying to have this “robot article” pitched for a long time then. It’s still not accepted, and I’d have to bring robocalypse closer to have it accepted, but I learned a lot during this period. It took me several months, and I have several drafts stuck in the three levels of critiquing, but here are the two articles that have my name on it.

The 5 Most Incredible Pranks Ever Pulled at Famous Landmarks

This is an article that another writer had pitched. The editors told him to scrape off some entries and he was short, so he called for co-writers. I didn’t think much of it, did a little research and brought up an Australian iceberg prank that was done in Sydney harbor in the 80s. And it was accepted! But it’s embarrassing to boast about this, because the entry I wrote got cut off in the final version. The other two writers really did the heavy lifting and had this published, but somehow they put my name in it, even though my entry was scraped.

5 Insane Things Science Just Found Out About the Human Body

This is the article I pitched after reading the Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn. I initially pitched six entries and my idea from the book was that we had taste buds in our stomach (whaaat?!), but that was already covered by Cracked. I pitched a lot of new discoveries and when they were rejected, asked for co-writers. Luckily, another writer (should I name them here?) gave three entries and we had seven entries approved by none other than Soren Bowie himself. The final version had 5 entries though. Eating your boogers is good for your immunity and other posts didn’t make the final cut.

One thing I learned from this is that even when your final draft is submitted and they pay you, the editors still bring it through a stricter scrutiny and cut the parts that aren’t that funny. For the first article, I was really hoping to include this dicksicle joke. Oh well, I guess the world will never know.

3. Book I Gave Technical Advice to Got Published

I’ve been beta-reading and giving advice to an author in terms of Mongolian history and language for some time last year, and the book recently got published on Amazon. It’s called the Broken Sky and it’s part of the Foreworld Saga, a vast universe of fiction in 13th century that focuses on Mongol Conquest and European Shield of Brethren that tries to fight back. It’s written by a group of authors, headed by Neal Stephenson, who did European medieval sword-fighting in the morning and group-writing in the afternoon. C.B. Matson’s (or morf as I call him) several characters are from the Mongoliad, but it builds on it and takes a really different unique stance from the Mongolians. Anyway, if you’re interested, I highly recommend you buy the book here.

Anyway, that’s about it for me now. I feel blessed that I have made some traction. There’s been a time when I felt like I wasn’t going to reach anything, that I wasn’t confident in myself, but these events have given me a lot of courage to move forward. My wife and family have been really supportive and understanding of me throughout this whole solitary writing thing. (if you’re reading this, thank you, love you babe!) And of course, my boy–oops, gotta go. He might wake up. Goodnight, and thanks for reading.

My Blog Title, Tagline and UVP

So I thought I’d give a little background on why this blog is titled Natso’s Not So Personal Blog. Yeah, it’s today’s assignment, but I am already satisfied with my title, so I’ll go ahead and publish a post. I haven’t found my angle of writing yet. So far, I know it’s going to be not so personal things, like reading, writing and NGO stuff. I guess I like this title because Natso sounds like not so, and it’s like one of those cheesy puns.

Except there’s something I should tell you about the word Natso. Ladies and gentlemen… (drum roll) the truth of the matter is… Natso is not my real name (gasp!).

My real name has eleven letters and seven of them are consonants. Yep, just about your typical Mongolian name. I won’t write my real name, because, like a lego piece, it poses a choking hazard for the unitiated to pronounce. Talk about mystic spell(ing)s.

So Natso is basically a contraction of my real name. I actually created a blog titled Natso Personal on Blogger a long time ago, but then focused on blogging about books or other things, so I changed it. Basically I don’t like to come across as someone pouring out their personal information  for everyone to see. But when you’re blogging for a long time, and you want to build a relationship with your readers, you might have tendency to write TMI things.

About the tagline: lives in Mongolia, writes in English. As you can see, very simple tagline. What I’m hoping right now is that it becomes my Unique Value Proposition–you know, something that sets me apart from other blogs. I also have seen a lot of short story authors’ bio include “lives in [Insert city and state] with [Insert significant other and obligatory pet]” sentence a lot, so I tried to emulate that.

Speaking of UVP and pets, there was an example in a Coursera class called Foundation for Business Strategy that’s bothering me now. It goes like this.

During the dot-com in the 90s, there was a site called Pets.com. It had a simple brand, simple domain, simple logo (stuffed puppy puppet) and a simple business model–sell pet supplies. It had a good branding and even featured their puppy ad during Super Bowl. Then, it went bust.

Why?

Its Unique Value Proposition was not so unique. Everybody wanted in on the pet supplies and chomped from their market share. It was not unique enough.

So that’s what I am afraid of. That my tagline is simple to the point of being ripped off and spawning several more blogs. In the domain of blogging, especially in Mongolia, I’d see this as a compliment that I’m impacting, if not inspiring, people. But I’ve seen people take and build on my idea to my expense so many times now. For example, my NGO’s UVP is that its trying to build a cluster of creative industries. I talked about this to several crowds, pitching and trying to recruit co-founders for a year now. But this August, a crowdfunding NGO had used an exact word cluster poster basically translating our creative content poster into Mongolian. Worst thing is the folks had even scored an interview in Bloomberg, while I was only getting featured in a newspaper. Granted, the business models are different, but they have taken our UVP!

In most cases, I’m glad when people build in my idea. It gives me the sense I’m making a change. In 2010, I think, there was Startup Weekend 3 in UB, and I pitched my ride-sharing web idea, unaahuvaa. Soon after, the startup show car pool pitch was running. I mean they took the angle, not my pitch, plus I didn’t deliver what I promised, so fair game. But it still brings an awkward situation and makes you think if all the effort you took and someone else getting credit for that makes you feel powerless.
OK. Enough personal information.
I guess the takeaway is that competition is inevitable, and you should focus on building an identity that other people can’t imitate that easily. Some people accomplish it by getting specialized in the least explored market or embracing their weirdest side.

Who I Am and Why I’m Here

OK. You might be wondering, “What is this blog? And who is this guy?”

Hi, I am Natso. I live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I have been trying to commit to writing for a while and only recently am I joining a Daily Post 30 day challenge called Blogging 101. That’s right. For the next 30 days, you’re going to see a new post every morning.

What would I write about?
Well, I think I ‘ll write for the sake of writing mostly, but I also became a Co-CEO of an NGO, so you can read about my experience of setting up a “legal entity” in Mongolia. Note how I am not saying a “startup”. That’s because I am not much of an entrepreneur, that thing is risky.
I also have been trying to write stories in English. Yeah, I only have few short stories and I already got few rejections. Let’s see, from Buzzy Mag, Orson Scott Card’ Intergalactic Medicine Show and Far East Enough. I think I’m missing a place. But I have some projects going on that might fare better.

I also like to read, so I’ll write about some interesting things I find out. For instance, I am in the middle of two books, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms and Account of James Gilmore’s Mission in Mongolia.
While reading Farewell to Arms, I realized I would understand the book better if I had visited Italy. Because the book had a lot of Italian words about wines, breads and stuff. Also, this is my first book by Hemingway, and I’m not sure if I like his style. It sure is punchy though.

On the next book, Gilmore’s a Scottish Christian missionary who lived in Mongolia during the dawn of the 20th century. I found the book while scouting Gutenberg for anything related to Mongolia. It’s basically a tribute to the missionary, but the passing mentions of Mongolians gives me ideas about life in 1900s.

That’s about it, I guess. Writing, heading an NGO and reading. If you want to ask me questions, criticize or commend me, go ahead and leave a comment. I’ll take it all with thick skin. (Ah, who am I kidding, I’ll mope about it all day) If you want to follow me or whatever, I guess hit on the follow button. And I’m writing this from my phone in the morning with no editing so apologies on formatting and sloppy writing.

Have a nice day, I guess.