November 22, 2007
America’s game hits Vietnam metro
Major League Baseball and Operation Smile discover they are doing the same thing at Ho Chi Minh City’s first baseball camp.
Having only seen base-ball on TV, Vietnamese youngsters took to the game with flair Saturday as Major League Baseball introduced the game at a camp in Ho Chi Minh City.
The camp, held by the world’s premier baseball organization – home of the Yankees and Barry Bonds – and Operation Smile Vietnam, aimed to teach locals how to play the game while at the same time creating awareness of the charity organization’s cause.
“We are here for the same reason that Operation Smile is here, and that is to put a smile on your face,” said Rick Dell, Major League Baseball (MLB)’s Director of Baseball Development in Asia, during his opening address.
Operation Smile, an organization that provides surgeries for children with cleft palates, helped to organize the event and had a booth open at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s South Saigon campus, where the camp opened yesterday.
This is the first time MLB has held a camp in HCMC, though its coaches have hosted similar seminars in Hanoi and Dong Ha in Quang Tri Province near the former demilitarized zone.
“I have never played baseball before, though I have seen it on sports channels, Japanese comic books and American movies,” said 8th grader Ngo Le Vy, one of the 15 students from Vietnamese American Private School (VAPS) who took part in yesterday morning’s camp.
Dell, who ran the camp with two other American coaches, said the major goal was simply to have some fun, but he did not rule out promoting baseball in the country on a more long term basis.
MLB currently supports baseball teams throughout the Asian region, including programs in China and Cambodia.
Dell said he wasn’t sure if baseball would catch on in HCMC.
“My plan is now to run four very good training sessions in Vietnam and when I wake up on Monday morning, we’ll see where we are and go from there.”
Judging by the kids’ enthusiasm and energy yesterday, Dell and MLB might have to return.
“I’m not very good at throwing and catching the ball yet, but this is fun,” said Trinh Ngoc Anh, another 8th grader from VAPS.
“I may start playing baseball after the camp.”
VAPS CEO To Thu Thuy said “If the kids here today are interested, we’ll certainly give them opportunities to play baseball.”
US Consul General Ken Fairfax, who threw out the traditional first ball at the camp, said sports diplomacy has the ability to bring countries together.
“Playing sports together is a good way to become friends and this is some-thing I think will help Vietnamese and Americans to become friends.”
Thirteen-year-old Le Vy said she wanted to study in the US someday, so the more she knew of American culture, the better.
“This also gives us a chance to practice our English skills,” said Vy’s friend, Ngoc Anh.
Also on hand was Hong Bang University’s President Nguyen Manh Hung.
Hung said his school planned to incorporate baseball to further develop its sports program.
He said that he felt Vietnamese schools didn’t pay enough attention to sports but that “as they interacted with schools across the world, more sports programs will surely emerge.”
The camp will conclude today with a morning session (10:00-1:00 p.m.) for kids 12 and under and an afternoon session (1:30-4:30 p.m.) for anyone 13 and over. All camps are co-ed.
Reported by Thuy Linh
November 22, 2007
Protesters reject Nguyen’s name for retail district; want ‘Little Saigon’
DEBATE SPLITS SAN JOSE VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY
Article Launched: 11/16/2007 01:45:33 AM PST
Click photo to enlarge
In a raucous scene outside City Hall, Nguyen – hoping to broker a compromise between Vietnamese factions dueling over whether to call the area “Little Saigon” or “New Saigon” – stepped to a microphone with Mayor Chuck Reed and three other council members at her side. “It is with great hope and excitement that I propose the name ‘Saigon Business District’ for this area,” she said. “I hope this name will unite the community as one.”
There was momentary silence from the more than 200 people in the audience. Then much of the crowed broke into a chant of “Little Saigon” while waving signs and placards. One woman’s sign inexplicably read, “My Lover Is In Little Saigon.”
Members of the Vietnamese media and a small, but loud group of Little Saigon supporters later followed and crowded Nguyen as she walked back to her office on the 18th floor of City Hall.
The chaotic episode sets the stage for what is expected to be a dramatic city council meeting Tuesday night. The council will vote on what to call the one-mile strip of mostly Vietnamese-owned restaurants, jewelry stores and markets on Story Road.
The first Vietnamese-American woman elected to office in the state, Nguyen now faces threats of a recall from Little Saigon supporters who say she is siding with her business associates instead of the people who voted her into
office. Similar to the spats among Cuban emigres in Miami, the debate is laced with rhetoric that has historically marked Vietnamese-American politics – accusations that people are either radical anti-communists or passive communist sympathizers.
After taking over Saigon in 1975, the communist leaders of Vietnam renamed it Ho Chi Minh City. Supporters of Little Saigon like the name because it represents the way things were before the takeover. Nguyen and business owners in the area want to attract non-Vietnamese clientele to the area and believe Little Saigon is too narrow in its appeal.
“It is kind of unbelievable,” said Phillip Huynh, a San Jose resident. “When we voted for her, we thought she represented us. I think she is pro-communism.”
Nguyen, who fled to the United States with her family by boat after South Vietnam fell to communist forces, said she has heard those criticisms before. But she said it’s her job to serve all of her constituents.
The debate over the names carries “a host of cultural, national and historical connotations, evoking a complex struggle between folks seeking to affirm their connection to Vietnam and those wishing to sharply distinguish themselves from the current government” there, said Andrew Wood, a professor of communications at San Jose State University who specializes in the power behind names.
After Thursday’s announcement, Reed tried to appease the crowd, noting they were still free to call the area whatever they want. The city’s redevelopment agency has budgeted $100,000 for signs and banners for the area, and Nguyen said she expected the signs to say “Saigon Business District.”
But in an interview, Reed said the signs might have no words written on them – only artwork.
The mayor said the Little Saigon supporters are the most vocal – but may not be the majority.
“This is a compromise proposal that tries to accommodate everyone’s preference,” he said. “We have 80,000 Vietnamese people in San Jose. We have 50 people at a press conference.”
Contact Joshua Molina at email@example.com or (408) 275-2002
November 22, 2007
De Palma revisits American nightmare
Nov 17, 2007 04:30 AM
The story of Brian De Palma’s Redacted, a multi-mediated account of an atrocity perpetrated by American soldiers at war, begins in two places: on the ground in Iraq and in a Japanese restaurant in downtown Toronto.
“It was at the festival here last year,” says the director on the occasion of his 67th birthday during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “I was talking to Laird Adamson from HDNet Films. He said, `You make a movie for $5 million about anything you want. Except you have to shoot it in high-def.'”
The proposal intrigued the director of Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables, but he felt he needed an idea that suited the technology.
“Then I saw a movie here about a squad in a war,” he explains, “a very disturbing movie by Bruno Dumont called Flanders, and that got me thinking about the war we were in. Then I read of this incident that was very familiar and very much like the incident in Casualties of War, and I said, `This is happening all over again.'”
De Palma is referring to his 1989 movie, which proved a lightning rod for controversy upon its release. Based on an account of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Vietnamese girl by a squad of American soldiers, Casualties of War bears some astonishing resemblances to the real-life case – the March 2006 rape of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl in Mahmudiya – the director would ultimately recreate, nearly 20 years later, in Redacted (see sidebar).
But while the circumstances depicted in the films are similar, the means of articulating the narratives could not be more different. Where Casualties of War bore all of the director’s trademark gloss and polish, Redacted, in theatres now, is deliberately splintered and ragged: a grim tale told through a multitude of digital prisms.
“I asked myself, `How would you tell the story?'” says De Palma. “And in researching the incident, I went on the Internet and all these things came up, whether they were blogs and video postings, or websites or montages of photographs of civilians who had been killed in the war. So I said, `This is like speaking to me. This is the form in which this movie should be told.'”
Made with a cast of unknowns and shot through myriad lenses, Redacted unfolds as a cacophony of “unofficial” images: home video footage, surveillance recordings, Internet postings, blog excerpts, websites. It’s the war you see only on the Internet, and it’s not the war its architects – to use the filmmaker’s phrase – want you to see.
“Having lived through Vietnam,” De Palma observes, “you just can’t believe America would get into this kind of situation again. It’s inconceivable. And the architects of this war all worked in some phase of the government during Vietnam and yet here they are and it’s all happening all over again. You just go, `How can this be?'”
For De Palma, the truly terrifying thing is the repetition, the fact America seems doomed to be living out its worst nightmares all over again, and that the lessons of history can go so perilously unheeded.
“I told that story in Casualties of War,” he reminds you. “But when it happened again, I had to tell it again, because for me it’s like a metaphor for these types of invasions and occupations we get ourselves into. You to go war under made-up pretences that you find out don’t make any sense when you get there. You’re in an extremely hostile environment that’s nothing like you’ve seen back home. You’re surrounded by a people who are speaking a different language and are so alien to your culture you can’t get a handle on it. The only sense you can make out of it is, `I protect my brother’s back and he protects mine.’ You band together and that’s the only sense you can make. You’ve got orders and you protect your brother soldiers.”
For De Palma, this is a recipe for atrocity, especially when you stir in inexperienced kids who have enlisted out of poverty, ignorance or a misplaced sense of patriotic duty.
Not surprisingly, Redacted has already been attacked for undermining the efforts of American soldiers in Iraq, but De Palma, a veteran of aggressively negative publicity campaigns, shrugs the charges off.
“I know the movie’s going to fall into that cliché of being anti-American and aiding the terrorists,” De Palma says, “just like one of the characters says at the end. But that’s been going on for years and years now. I’m just going to be another log in the fire.
“They’ll argue about it, there’ll be the pro and the con, it will be just more fodder for the cable channels and then they’ll move on to something else.”
November 22, 2007
Posted by Kelly Hessedal
Opening casting call for major Hollywood film
- Film to be produced by Oliver Stone
- Casting call is Saturday from 1-6 P.M.
- Film to be shot in Thailand for six weeks
(MEMPHIS, TN 11/16/2007) If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing yourself on the big screen, Saturday afternoon you’ll have a shot. A casting call for Oliver Stone’s new film is taking place right here in Memphis.
A casting agency is looking for extras for “Pinkville” at the FedEx Forum. The movie centers on the investigation into the My Lai Massacre of 1968 in Vietnam. U.S. troops killed hundreds of My Lai villagers mostly women, elderly and children.
Some big name stars like Bruce Willis have already been cast in the film.
Casting directors are looking for Caucasian, African-American and Latino males between the ages of 20-50 to play soldiers.
It’ll be held at the forum from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You need to bring a recent headshot and a passport that doesn’t expire for at the least the next 6 months.
If you’re chosen for the film, they’re going to be shooting on location in Thailand for six weeks starting December 26. Production will cover travel, room and board and per diem, and pay.
November 22, 2007
Closing the Gap Between Vietnamese and Mexicans
Nguoi Viet, Commentary, Ky Phong-Tran, Posted: Oct 11, 2006
MEXICO CITY — Here, I walk down streets with names like Insurgentes and Reforma. It is morning and the city wakes with me: the smell of fresh bread drifts from a bakery, a deli owner chats in Spanish with his wife, the early traffic putters and beeps and honks.
I turn into Chapultepec Park, the capital’s main gathering of museums and monuments. The lush grounds are filled with walking trails, statues and lakes. I’ve never been here before, and yet somehow it feels familiar. Perhaps it’s the giggling pack of teenagers in school uniforms flirting with one another and kicking a soccer ball around. Perhaps it’s the old European touch, a colonial place with its canopy of large trees and wide, cobbled roads. No, no, it’s the trash cans that look like penguins and the pedal boats that are ducks.
When I close my eyes and take a deep breath, Mexico City’s pace, people and street life remind me of Sài Gòn, which reminds me of Vi?t Nam, which reminds me why I travel in the first place.
I grew up in Long Beach, Calif., which in 2000 was the most diverse city in the United States, according to USA Today’s Diversity Index. I studied with kids who went to both the Ivy League and to prison. At homecoming, we didn’t have a king and queen; we had international ambassadors that represented the dozens of ethnicities on campus. I was one of them.
Fourteen years later, old habits are hard to break and I still go out of my way to travel, to meet people, to learn new histories, to try to see the world through someone else’s eyes. In 2001, I went on my return pilgrimage to Vi?t Nam to see the country my parents left and my life that might have been. It was a life-changing experience, and still, I felt like I would have short-changed myself if I didn’t go to Cambodia as well.
Why? Long Beach has the largest population of Cambodians in the United States, second to Paris for the most outside of Cambodia. My classmates and neighbors were Cambodians, and I wanted to know more about them. I hoped that a week-long stay in their homeland could give me a glimpse into their global view. From Angkor’s majestic ruins to Phnom Penh’s hustle and bustle, I was not disappointed.
So when a graduate-school classmate invited me to Mexico City, I jumped at the chance.
I needed to see it not just as a tourist, but as a person trying to confront my own racism. Though I claim all responsibility for my point of view, I can say that in the United States it’s very easy to be racist. In a country built on the notion of race, racism naturally follows.
What an irony, right? I grow up in Southern California, formerly Mexico, surrounded my Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and I’m prejudiced to the point that I find it hard to reach out to Mexican Americans.
But why? I think it was two factors. First, there were no or few Mexican American kids in my classes so I never had a real life model to engage with. Second, and much more tangible, the rampant gang activity in Long Beach.
From the mid-1990s until now, there has been a deadly war between Mexican gangs and Asian gangs. Shootings, drive-bys and killings are common occurrences. In fact, at the peak of the “beef” in 1999, there were 17 homicides in one year. The terrifying thing about the conflict is that you don’t have to be a gang member to be threatened, just the wrong ethnicity in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So for a large part of my life, I have lived with the fear that some gang member was going to pull up next to me at a stop light and blast me with a machine gun. Was it rational, paranoid or even fair? Of course not. But was it real? Real as a coffin.
The Mexico City I see charms me, surprises me, challenges me. My classmate Gaby and her husband are from the middle- to upper-class and both grew up here. They are locally engaged artists— she a poet, he a video-installationist — and we spend the week going from film premiere to art opening to warehouse/garage-band party.
They live in the Condesa, a quaint walking neighborhood sprinkled with trees, cafes and restaurants. It was once destroyed by an earthquake in 1985, but has been revived into the hipster scene of the city. Its energy and vibe remind me of Greenwich Village in New York.
The other neighborhoods I visit all have their distinct charms: the history of downtown and its massive town square; the street life of the Roma; the upscale posh of Polanco; and my favorite, the villa feel of Coyoacán with its weekend market and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s home.
On my own, I do the tourist thing and see the National Museum of Anthropology as well as the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán. Near the city’s center, I fall in love with a building that at first seems out of place: a squared, angular five-story structure highlighted by blue tiles. It is Spanish, from the colonial days but distinctly influenced by the Arab Muslim Moors from Africa. With five or six rich cultures crammed into one structure, it lets me see the variety within Mexican culture.
It’s a hippie cliché to rave about “the people” you meet when you travel. But just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true or important. And hanging with my classmate and her husband and all their childhood, college, and professional friends, I feel like I had an insider’s access to local life in Mexico City.
In addition to everyone’s kindness and friendliness to their new Vietnamese friend from the United States, I was blown away by their diversity and worldliness. (Granted, I know I am around a very privileged class of people). A sampling of Gaby’s friends includes a Lebanese Mexican filmmaker, a Dutch ex-pat filmmaker, a Lithuanian-French-Jewish-Mexican best friend and her Egyptian Mexican husband. They worked in editing, translation, film, art and media.
Most had traveled the world, living in New York, Paris, Toronto, and were gracious enough to speak in English with me. (Though I speak rudimentary Spanish, I did awfully regret not studying harder in my high school classes).
From meeting this group of young jet setters, artists and intellectuals, I was stunned at how many were immigrants or the children of immigrants. As Americans, I think we often associate immigrants only with coming to America. Seeing Gaby’s eclectic, talented circle allowed me to see Mexico City as a world city, with the coming and goings of both new arrivals and global corporations. It opened my mind to a Mexico, a Mexico City and a Mexican culture that was much bigger than what I see in Long Beach.
In an “It’s a Small World” kind of way, Gaby’s friends reminded me of my friends in the U.S., immigrants and the children of immigrants from the Philippines, India, China, Vi?t Nam and Japan.
I’d by lying to say that after my seven days in Mexico my racism had been purged and I’m now a color-blind person. And it’d be lying to say I no longer get annoyed at my neighbors who play loud mariachi music into the night or I don’t still get scared walking certain parts of my neighborhood. But it’s easy and truthful to say that my trip gave me a fuller, more complicated, and more realistic view of both Mexico and Mexico America.
Of all my experiences on the other side of the border, the partying, the sightseeing, the delicious food, what stands out to me most is this: Wherever I went, people spoke to me in Spanish first. They asked me for directions or for a lighter. It surprised me, because even here in the U.S., many individuals assume an Asian face does not speak English. The assumption that I was one of “theirs,” a Mexican, was one of the most welcoming things I’ve ever felt in terms of dealing with my ethnicity and nationality (a lifelong struggle for me as a refugee).
On the Metro alone, no one stared at me. If I stayed quiet, no one knew I was a foreigner and did not speak the language very well. My brown skin and average height fit in well in Mexico and comforted me. (And if you believe that the indigenous people of the Americas came from a land bridge to Asia, then “racially,” this could be considered a long-delayed family reunion.)
Last month, congressional candidate Tan Nguyen allegedly sent intimidating and illegal flyers to Mexican American households. It was quite a despicable act, made a little more hurtful because it was one immigrant picking on another. I didn’t write about my time in Mexico City as some sort of rebuttal or political thought piece. But if I can make amends, build one bridge, lull one reader with my experiences, I also wouldn’t mind.
Back in the U.S., I miss Mexico City very much. I’d like to spend a summer or even a year there to get to know it better. I want to work on my novel at a café in the Condesa or talk world politics with my new pals at a bar. On a whim, I’ve looked up home prices there and found them manageable. After graduate school, I plan on taking Spanish classes. I’ve been to many of the world’s great metropolises — London, Paris, Rome, New York — and Mexico City is right up there with them, but with that something extra, a wild flare and charm, that fits me well. Along with Hanoi, it’s the only other city I’d consider moving to.
It’s a bit sad that a city and culture so close — only a four-hour flight — had been so far to me. But not anymore.
And that, that is why I travel.
November 22, 2007
Vinh Quoc Doan’s artwork makes its U.S. debut in Orange County
Vinh Quoc Doan’s art is serenely grounded in his Vietnamese heritage.
THE gathering had the feeling of a family reunion, a kind of homecoming for Orange County’s large Vietnamese community. They gathered in a Westminster newspaper office to welcome legendary artist Vinh Quoc Doan and view his collection of paintings, sculptures, wood-panel engravings and decorative arts on display for the first time in the U.S.
His family history was one familiar to much of the crowd. Doan is the son of South Vietnam’s famous novelist and social essayist Sy Quoc Doan, who was sent to prison by the Communist government for 13 years after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Despite this, Doan managed to climb to the top of Vietnam’s burgeoning art and design world.
While his childhood appeared turbulent, his art tells another story. Doan’s work overflows with serene images deeply rooted in Vietnam and its people — colorful paintings of young women in ao dai, fitted Vietnamese traditional dresses that resemble long tunics with slits at the waist and worn with pants; astrological symbols often displayed in the traditional Vietnamese homes; images of the water buffalo, an animal seen as representing the work ethics of the Vietnamese peoples.
“Politics doesn’t appeal to me,” said Doan, 46. “Art is an outlet for me to express the quiet beauty of Vietnam, many happy memories from my childhood that touched my soul and life around us. ”
Saturday afternoon, more than 300 people, including many from the Vietnamese-American print and television media, turned out to see Doan’s first U.S. art exhibit, called Ao Nha Lung Linh (The Shimmering Pond from Home), at Nguoi Viet News office on Moran Street in the heart of Little Saigon. Doan, wearing a black ao dai with a mandarin collar, moved swiftly about the room, stopping to pose for photos with guests in between interviews with reporters.
He is not unfamiliar with media attention. In the past decade, Doan’s art and interior design concepts were often showcased in Vietnam publications. “His work brings an authentic feeling of Vietnam,” said Joe Lubow, a travel writer from San Francisco who purchased Doan’s art when he visited Vietnam last year.
Doan’s own home life was nearly shattered after the fall of Saigon, when his father was abruptly taken from his large family, which worked at odd jobs to get by.
“I still remember him in those days walking around in tattered clothes,” said Thu Anh Do, a childhood friend of Doan’s. “We were all starving. Meals usually consisted of rice mixed with potatoes so that it would be more filling.”
When city youths had to go to the countryside to do manual labor, as part of the Communist government’s cultural revolution program, Doan was often Do’s chauffeur by way of his old bike, transporting his friend to various work locations.
“I think because we went through so much hardship together, his success is shared by many of us who know him and his family, and even those who never met him, but they grew up in our generation,” said Do, who came to the exhibit to support Doan and visit his family.
During difficult times, Doan turned to art because it brought back memories of happier times of his early childhood. His father’s friends, many of whom are well-known poets, writers, artists and musicians, would frequently stop by and fill their family room with conversation and laughter.
“Our home was filled with so many original artworks from my father’s friends,” he said. Doan said he particularly admires the work of Vietnamese artist Vo Dinh, a family friend who now lives in Virginia. He remembered watching Dinh engrave intricate designs on a cabinet that was also used as a prayer table by the Doan family.
“He once told me that art doesn’t have to be fanciful and complicated. It should always be natural and pure. That idea always stayed with me,” said Doan.
The elder Doan, now 84, said that while he was in prison during the years his children were growing up, thoughts and memories of his family gave him strength to survive.
“I was worried for them because I know my wife and children would have to struggle in life and I wasn’t there” he said while visiting the exhibit. “But somehow, I always had the conviction that my children would turn out as good people while I was gone because of the education and values we instilled early on.”
His son’s lucky break came in 1980, when he was selected to work as an apprentice for one of Vietnam’s premier architects, Truong Dinh Que. After his apprenticeship in 1984, Doan tried to find work but was repeatedly rejected based on his family being blacklisted by the government. He later worked as a truck driver, a taxi driver and then a tour guide in Saigon. By 1988, his father was released from prison.
In the early ’90s, as the Communist government began promoting tourism in Vietnam, more restaurants and cafes began to open. Friends turned to Doan for help with art and interior design for their businesses. For each venue, Doan designed individual art collections to enhance the décor and aesthetic energy. The results of these efforts are on display, for example, at Nam An in Saigon. In 1992, Doan opened his first art gallery, HomeFlowers Design, which also serves as an interior design firm. Two years later, when the U.S. lifted the trade embargo with Vietnam, his business was one of the first interior design companies in Saigon with more than 40 employees.
His decision to come to the U.S. now was fueled by his desire to reunite with his family, he said. His three sisters in Vietnam are awaiting paperwork to join the rest of the clan. Doan is enjoying his new life in America but said he is surprised at the nonstop work pace here.
His siblings and friends were available only during weekends to help him set up his showroom, which will open Dec. 1 at DV Gallery & Interior Designs on Beach Boulevard in Westminster. Doan turned the small warehouse, often used for community events, into an art gallery. He built free-standing wall panels and makeshift shelves to showcase more than 200 pieces of sculptures, statues, vases, lamps, mirrors and room partitions with hand-engraved etchings. As for lighting, he transformed more than a dozen copper bird cages into ceiling lamps lighted with color bulbs.
“I’ve never had to set up a showroom by myself,” he said, laughing. “I’m very spoiled in Vietnam. I just speak to my staff on the phone and it’s done.”