Gay-themed music video a YouTube hit

Grand's first music video, for his country-tinged rock ballad "All-American Boy," was posted on YouTube last Tuesday. By last night, it had exploded, attracting more than 400,000 total views — nothing for top-charting videos from big-name recording artists, but an impressive figure for one from a complete unknown whose only promotion has been Internet buzz.

The video cost just $7,000, a fraction of the major-names' going rate, but it was a fortune to Grand, who came up with the entire budget himself by maxing out his only plastic to tell the video's story.

"All-American Boy" portrays a young gay man who misreads signals from an apparently straight "all-American" male friend. On a day hanging out with the gang, the two guys and a girl take off in a car. She drives, as the guys sit together in the back, with the straight man, at one point, falling asleep on the gay man's shoulder. Feeling like a third wheel, the girl eventually, angrily drives off, leaving the two men to pal around in the woods, where they end up stripping down and going skinny-dipping — even sharing a quick kiss. Ultimately for the straight guy, it was just all in good fun. But for the gay man, it was something much more significant, and he is left dazed, confused and longing.

"I was a 13-year-old boy (at camp)," noted the 23-year-old singer-songwriter, speaking by phone from his hometown Chicago. "One of my counselors was warm and strong and he took an interest in me — not sexually, but as a friend, and it really moved me. I remember leaving with a horrible ache in my heart."

While "All-American Boy" is told from the gay man's perspective, Grand said he knew its tale of unrequited love would resonate across lines of sexuality. He's received hundreds of postings on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook from viewers, both straight and gay, saying they understand such rejection and heartache.

"I'm not a cryer," noted Grand. "But since this all began, since people have been reaching out, I've been beyond moved, because so many people have felt what I felt, been through what I've been through."Grand said that upon discovering he was gay in eighth grade, he told friends, which quickly got back to his parents. They insisted he go to so-called "straight therapy," which he endured for five years. But it didn't work.

He logged his full freshman year at Belmont University in Nashville, but, due to the costs, returned to Chicago. His recent employment has run the gamut from modeling to supplying music for Catholic church events, the latter being what he called the "food-money" gig.

Grand said he has no idea where the YouTube success may take him, though he does admit he's "not much of a singer" and more of a songwriter. "Of course, I want to continue to grow as a man and grow as an artist," he commented.In contrast, there are all of those thrifty people in emerging markets. They save vast amounts of money that can be used for investments in growing economies. With strong family traditions, they eschew debt in any form. Or do they? Actually they don’t. Given the chance, consumers around the world act more or less the same. Credit card abuse is a universal past-time. But this time the credit bubble is no longer in the US.

Consumer debt meltdowns are not exceptional in Asia. Before the American crisis, there were three. Over the past 15 years Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan have all experienced excessive household debt which threatened the stability of their financial systems. But these countries and their issues were relatively small and localized.

The combination of rapid economic growth in emerging markets, combined with trillions in stimulus money and the search for yield has provided borrowing opportunities never before available to millions. The result is that non-mortgage consumer credit in Asia outside Japan rose 67% in the past five years. It now amounts to over $1.66 trillion. Car, motorcycle, appliance and electronic loans all more than doubled while credit card loans grew 90%. These issues are no longer small or local.

But is this a problem? Overall, consumer debt in Asia is far lower than in many more developed countries. The difference is income. As a percentage of income, debt burdens in Asia are up to 30% higher than in the US. Overall, debt burden relative to GDP is higher in India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, China and Malaysia. It is only less in than the US in Taiwan and Hong Kong, two of the countries that have experienced consumer credit problems. 

One of the most vulnerable economies is Malaysia. Unusually, strong economic growth has led to an explosion of consumer credit. Consumer debt is approaching developed world levels. Malaysian household debt has risen to 76.6% of GDP from 65.9% five years ago. It is the highest in the region. Malaysian consumer boom has followed the country’s economic expansion. A lot of this expansion has been due to commodity producer exports to China.

Much of the credit has been due to the inflow of money from developed countries specifically the QE program of the US Federal Reserve. With China slowing and the QE program ending, consumers specifically and the Malaysia economy as a whole may be vulnerable. But they aren’t the only ones.

Indonesia has also benefitted enormously from the export of its mineral wealth to China. Indonesian non-mortgage consumer credit nearly tripled in the last five years. Domestic consumption has become the other main driver of Indonesian economic growth and has been driven by easy access to credit cards. The central bank has belatedly realized the danger and is trying to rein in credit by imposing minimum down payments for car and motorcycle loans. But unlike some of the other South Asian countries, Indonesia manufactures essentially nothing. That makes it particularly vulnerable when the two main sources of economic stimulus, commodities demand and cheap money, dry up.
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