June 29, 2005
The HMS Prison Ship 'Jersey'.
If you're thinking of actor Tom Cruise and his freakish comments about psychiatry, you're on the wrong ship. This is the other cruise you don't want to be affiliated with.
The United Nations says it has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining terrorism suspects, notably on American military ships.
'US Faces Prison Ships Allegations' comes as no suprise and nearly a week after the UN's requests to inspect the prisons at Guantanamo Bay were rebuffed. This goes toward explaining why the recent congressional field trip to Camp X-Ray turned out more like the Buena Vista Social Club than the embarrassment it should have.
And of the other embarrassment who director Steven Spielberg believes the media is treating too harshly. The Church of Scientology, for whom Tom Cruise is the de facto spokesperson, believes that at the end of the world, a big spaceship will come save its members. Cruise is currently promoting his latest film, War of the Worlds, where he portrays a divorced father who must save his children when (illegal) aliens arrive by spaceship to destroy the earth. Which spaceship is it Tom?
As bizarre and appalling as a floating prison is, the prototype can be found in the HMS Old Jersey (pictured above). Prisoners were captured from ships abroad at sea and forced to join the British navy or else be interned on the the prison ship until death without due process or trial. Sound familiar?
The British transport of convicts to the penal colonies in the pacific would in time become Australia.
In the New York Times article, Troops in Spielberg Film Get Sneak Preview:
The soldiers were called on by Steven Spielberg, who picked Fort Drum troops to star in his remake of the H.G. Wells classic "War of the Worlds." The movie, starring Tom Cruise, opens nationwide Wednesday, but the actor-soldiers were treated to a sneak preview Monday night at the post movie theater. It's not the first time the 10th Mountain Division has made it to the silver screen. The division's historic rescue of Army Rangers in Somalia in 1993 was chronicled in the book "Black Hawk Down," which was made into a 2001 movie by director Ridley Scott.
Since its reactivation in 1985, the 10th Mountain Division has been the nation's most-deployed (read: casted) military force.
The rumored US prison ships are currently believed to be operating within the Indian Ocean. "It feels awesome to help save the world," said Sgt. Christopher Lumpiesz, of Tampa, Florida, who gets to help shoot down a Martian ship in the movie. Approximately 450 miles from Tampa, somewhere near Reality, detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will definitely not be seeing the premiere of "War of the Worlds".
June 27, 2005
Film: Review or Curfew
Marxy notes an apparent lack of film criticism in Japan and asks:
While we're on the topic, does anyone know of any other country besides Japan that does not have institutionalized cultural reviews? Is this a East Asian social-network concept, a developing nation concept, or just another sign of a weak media dependent upon its advertisers?
I know of at least one.
Though I doubt it's an East Asian concept, as there's been a history of film criticism in China, take for example, Cinema and Desire: Feminist Marxism and Cultural Politics in the Work of Dai Jinhua edited by my former professor, Jing Wang, and Tani E. Barlow. There also seems to be a healthy film criticism in Korea. I find it hard to believe that it does not exist in Japan, and for the record, Japan is NOT a developing nation. Marxy may be correct if the apparent lack of criticism could somehow be related to the economics of film marketing. I recall years ago the scandal of so-called reviews often found on film promotionals by ghost critics (people that didn't exist or fictional covers in-house studio marketing). What were the odds that some poor schuck is going to take the time to validate if the reviewer who raved, "Four stars, an erotic thriller, a twisted love story, one of this year's best" actually exists? Ever heard of the X Tribune for which this guys writes? Nope. Me neither.
I don't have to go into the mysterious ways films find their audiences. In Vietnam, at least for now, its quite straightforward. Odds seem to be in your favor simply as a result of so few films being produced in Vietnamese.
On a positive note, at least people are trying to produce better films. Currently, they are amateurish, the lighting is poorly done (for example, the other night we saw a new film, Chiến dịch cho trái tim bên phải, where you could see shadows on the wall from a poorly placed spot). The sound doesn't quite sync up (and we're not talking about dubbing here). The editing in many films is not continuous. For example, in another film a man and his date are in a car about to depart but he realizes he has forgotten something inside the house. As his girlfriend waits in the car he quickly returns to his apartment to retrieve the missing item. An extreme close-up shows him unlocking his apartment front door. Meanwhile the CAR IS STILL RUNNING! Does he always carry two sets of identical keysets? So, stuff like this happens all the time in both cinema and broadcast productions here. But, like I said before, these might be considered growing pains of an emerging industry.
Before I bite my tongue by saying film criticism does not exist in Vietnam, for there is an emerging film criticism, it LARGELY does not exist, mirroring the absence of critical cultural discourse in other areas such as the visual arts. One online gem I was recently alerted to is yxine. If you read Vietnamese, please have a look at their review of Almodovar's Habla con Ella. I suspect as Vietnam continues to improve its film, there will be better, more informed audiences, to in turn critique the film s they watch. The Third-Cinema, as some have called emerging film industries in developing nations, is often a matter of national pride. As such, it is easy to understand why the government is promoting films made in Vietnam: from sending directors abroad for training, asking for honest critiques of their own industry and most remarkably, publishing the findings.
My intuition tells me that the film industry will grow more rapidly and enjoy more flexibility than we in the visual arts will experience. However, each paves way for the other. So, in the meantime, until I exhibit my next work, I'll be watching some good flicks.
An amazing exhibition at the Metropolitan in Ho Chi Minh City of paintings produced by street children. With complete honesty, the work was well done, unprejudiced by any inclination to say that all art by children is good, which we might recall, is what Picasso had once said only adding the question of maintaining the artistry through adulthood. The exhibition was organized by Shoshana Diem Hoang, a Fulbright scholar from the United States who has been working in Vietnam for 11 months.
Artist Tam, nominated by friends as the most skillful painter, said: "I drew these pictures in a spontaneous way. Today when my pictures were inserted into the frames, I almost didn't recognize them because they looked very beautiful."
Ngoc Thang from HCM City shared the others' happiness, revealing his joy: "Although I do not have any pictures displayed on the show, I feel quite happy as I have helped my friends with cooking and other jobs.
If non-professional organizations can put on well-lit, well-attended, well-packaged shows, why are the museums and art associations in the city unable to do so?
June 26, 2005
Tropic of Cancer
Is it too much to ask to be well fed and "living in the tropics"? What might seem like a promotion slogan for ClubMed is in fact the description of Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Someone needs to hire a new PR firm for this ad campaign. Transforming the image from what Amnesty International describes as the "Gulag of our Times" to what the administration wants to put forth as "Prison, Martha Stewart Style", is not easy task. Nor should it.
A Tale of Two States
"At first I didn't want to believe it. But I checked everything I could find on the internet and now I think it's true. It is a shame that we have to learn about what is going on in our own country from foreigners."
This quote comes from a student in China and ends an interesting article in the Guardian Unlimited about the selective nature of history. Jonathan Watts, in a special report from Beijing, returns to the much publicized rift between China and Japan over how each has chosen to remember, or more accurately, enact history.
I was about to name this entry, A Tale of Two Cities (Part II), following the sequence of the entry A Tale of Two Cities written only a few days ago. So, whether tales of cities or more often states, it seems that many of my entries are simply about two media systems on a common subject. For example, Same Sides of a Coin (Taiwan-Vietnam relations), Hard To Say I'm Sorry (謝りなさい) (Japan-Vietnam-China relations).
Ah, I long for the day when I can compare two media systems on the common subject of my artwork...
June 24, 2005
The Huns Assemble on Roman Border
1,575 years have since passed. It is now 2005. A global classroom of students prepares for the upcoming election of yearbook superlatives. The quarterback, Sam, is a guaranteed winner for the most popular category, and he's given his mates humiliating underwear-ripping wedgies so that there's no misunderstanding how the elections ought to turn out. His girlfriend and cheerleading team captain, Blaire, stands by her man.
The results arrive later that afternoon. The popularity category is a landslide upset for the badmitton and Lenovo-IBM computing club president. No one is suprised, except for the couple, who leave to prepare for the evenings homecoming battle with a rival school from the East side. The results are broadcasted schoolwide by the ham radio club. The next morning, a new exchange student is introduced to the class. He towers at over 7 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds. He likes basketball. No one can remember or pronounce his name.
BBC and CNN report,respectively, China 'is more popular' than US and Allies prefer China to U.S. America's image is still so tattered abroad after the Iraq war that China is viewed more favourably than the US in many countries, a global poll finds.
Ring My Bell
The night is young and full of possibilities
Well come on and let yourself be free
My love for you, so long I've been savin'
Tonight was made for me and you
You can ring my bell, you can ring my bell
ding, dong, ding, ah-ah, ring it!
you can ring my bell, anytime, anywhere
- Anita Ward, lyrics from Ring My Bell.
Excerpted today from The Australian:
"Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, leader of one of the world's last communist states, rang the opening bell today in one of the institutional hearts of capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr Khai, the first Vietnamese government leader to visit the United States since the end of the Vietnam War, stood on the balcony above the trading floor, flanked by the exchange's chief executive officer, John Thain, and the Vietnamese deputy prime minister and finance minister."
June 23, 2005
White Paper Black Ink
White Paper Black Ink
an exhibition of new work by Thien Do
Date: Thursday, June 28, 2005
Time: 8:00-8:00 PM
Place: Galerie Quynh. 23 Ly Tu Trong Street
District 1, HCMC
Exhibition continues through July 31, 2005
A Tale of Two Cities
photo: AFP (Agence Française de Presse)
TWO CITIES, TWO MEDIA, ONE LOVE
To begin, the BBC's report, Khai US visit stirs Vietnam media, is an interesting read. It surveys the coverage of the PM's visit to the United States through an assortment of Vietnamese press including Nhan Dan, Tuoi Tre, Voice of Vietnam, and Le Courriere de Vietnam. The article ends: "However, there is no mention in the press or media of the various protests by Vietnamese-Americans against the visit."
Thanh Nien News reports today, 'Overseas Vietnamese support PM’s US visit', quoting one Ms. Chau, a former South Vietnamese lawyer and current editor of the Vietnamese-language Tieng Que Huong radio in the US , as saying in an interview with BBC that "The Prime Minister of Vietnam received support from American Vietnamese on his trip to the US, which they said delivers a message of global unity among Vietnamese concerning the development of their country." There may be isolated cases where this statement may be true, but largely the statement is false. When I say false, I mean it is a denial of factual evidence to the contrary. This is not a an op-ed or review piece. It does not need or require a subjective interpretatiion. A BBC search yields nothing of the BBC alleged interview that Thanh Nien reports to have quoted from.
Across the board, as far as the Vietnamese-Americans were concerned, there were organized protests visible throughout the PM's visit to the United States. A simple google query, yahoo search or visit to any international news portal will confirm this.
To be fair, from my own experience, the US-based Vietnamese language press historically has been equally as uncritical and unbalanced. As I've written before, certain Vietnamese-American media personalities have been as so brazen to admit they've invented stories to support their cause. However, there are some balanced pieces acknowledging the ambiguity of Vietnamese American situation, particularly among and between the generations.
C'EST LA VIE
In the same Thanh Nien article: “American veterans who fought in the Vietnam War have turned to support Vietnam, so why do Vietnamese people of the same origin remain hostile to one another?” To a degree, again, this is false. On this same day, headlines from a wide cross sections of non-Vietnamese press report: War Veteran Protests Vietnam Premier (Las Vegas Sun), or as the Associated Press reports of the dinner interruption by a US Veteran:
"That's life," visiting Prime Minister Phan Van Khai muttered after security officers hustled a balding, shouting protester believed to be a Vietnam veteran away from the head table.
The veteran, Jerry Kiley of Garnerville, New York, faces charges of intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing Mr. Khai. Prosecutors accused Mr. Kiley of throwing a clear liquid at the prime minister during a dinner hosted by the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council and the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council.
Conspicuously absent from both US and Vietnamese press is the issue of Agent Orange, currently in the appeals process in the US courts. Only a few short months ago, the Agent Orange litigation dominated the Vietnamese press, with campaigns by Tuoi Tre and others demanding justice for the victims of the toxic poisoning. Singers and entertainers rallied support with full page photographic spreads. Vietnam appealed to the international community for support. And What happened? If there were anytime to better bring this issue into the international media consciousness, it is now.
Yet it is clear that the issue of the Agent Orange has the potential to jam gears. Unlike the one-way human rights issue that the US (despite its own internationally condemned violations in the gulags of Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib) is keen on attaching to non-humanitarian aid to Vietnam, the Agent Orange case redirects the inhumanity back toward the US. While Vietnam inks deals with Microsoft and Boeing, the real winners are Monosanto and Dow Chemicals and other former dioxin manufacturers.
HIT OR MISS
Furthermore, while issues of human rights and trafficking orbited around the huge economic agenda, Mr. Khai earlier this week signed an agreement with the United States that will allow Americans to adopt children from Vietnam. A marriage of sorts between the two seemingly disparate issues.
June 21, 2005
VK Your Way
The title of this entry is a shameless rip-off of the Burger King slogan. VietnamNet reports in that two overseas Vietnamese organizations based in Vietnam may form the Ministry of Viet Kieu. No, I'm not kidding. It would fall under the control of the Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There goes autonomy out with the fryolator oil.
“In the coming time, we are slated to establish Ministry of Overseas Vietnamese if necessary” stated Tran Quang Hoan, Deputy Head of the Committee of Overseas Vietnamese"
What would the new ministry do? It would represent primarily the overseas Vietnamese investment community. What does it have to do with me? Nothing. And that's why I'm writing this entry. The perception that overseas Vietnamese in Vietnam are either fake Versace-wearing noveau riche tourists or investment bankers is dominant. And what of the work of overseas Vietnamese having nothing to do with making a quick dollar/đồng?
Unless the Ministry of VK is sensitive to the needs of all overseas Vietnamese rather than soley the mouthpiece of the investment community, it's just fast food. Look what it did to China.
Convergence and The 11 Nguyens
Eleven Nguyens and the Thirty Year Loss
Opening Reception: June 23, Thursday 6 – 8pm
547 West 27th Street, 2nd Fl.
New York City 10001
Artists: Cat Tuong Nguyen, Christian Nguyen, Christine Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen, Han Nguyen, Hoang Tan Nguyen, Liza Nguyen, Long Nguyen, Pipo Nguyen-duy, Rodney Nguyen, and Stephen Nguyen.
Trong G. Nguyen is an artist and independent curator in New York City. Forthcoming curatorial projects include Devil’s Devil’s Nite (Lab Gallery, New York) and Saigon 2006 (Biennial, Ho Chi Minh City). Past shows include ambush! (Van Brunt Gallery, New York), Nails Nails Nails (Broadway Spa, New York), From New York with Love (Covivant Gallery, Tampa, FL), Take Out (Zabriskie Gallery, New York), and Miraculous: Contemporary Exvotos Paintings (chezTGN, Brooklyn, NY).
Artists from Vietnam, United States, Taiwan, Germany, Singapore, Malyasia, Thailand, England, Turkey, Cambodia, Japan, Philippines
On Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005
at 1500 hours
To be held at the HCMC Fine Art Museum
97A Pho Duc Chinh Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Exhibition from June 22nd to June 30, 2005
Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Association
Ho CHi Minh Fine Arts Museum
Blue Space Contemporary Art Center
Hội Tự 2005
Thứ Tư, ngày 22 tháng 06 năm 2005
Khai mạc vào lúc 15:00 giờ
Tại: Bảo Tàng Mỹ Thuật Tp Hồ Chí Minh
97A Phó Đức Chính, Quận 1, Tp Hồ Chí Minh
Triển lãm từ: 22 tháng 06 đến 30 tháng 06 năm 2005
Hội Mỹ Thuật TP Hồ Chí Minh
Bảo Tàng Mỹ Thuật TP Hồ Chí Minh
Trung Tâm Mỹ Thuật Đương Đại Không Gian Xanh
> blue space gallery
01 Le Thi Hong Gam Street
June 20, 2005
About Studio/About Cafe, Bangkok
Contemporary Artists from Barcelona:
Aiku, Marti Anson, Christian Bagnat, Lucky Kitchen,
Job Ramos, Jordi Ribes, and Francesc Ruiz
Curated by Marti Manen
Opening on Saturday, June 25th, 2005 from 7PM onwards
Followed by concert @ Wongwien 22 July Hotel
About Photography Bar
A documentation of art exhibitions by Bangkok-based
artists in Barcelona and Brussels:
Artists: Kornkrit Kianpinidnan, Prapon Kumjim,
Wit Pinkanchanapong, Thasnai Sethaseree, Manit Sriwanichpoom,
Vanchit Jibby Yunibandhu
Filmmakers: Pen-Ek Rattanaruang, Michael Shaowanasai
and Apichatpong Weerasethakul and About TV by AARA
Curated by Gridthiya Gaweewong
in collaboration with Klaomark Yipintsoi
The Show will run from June 25 - August 28, 2005.
Opening Hour: Noon - 10 PM everyday except Sunday
For more information go to Project304
June 17, 2005
Museum Monotony - Golden Gastronomy
Thanh Nien New's reports Vietnam’s museums in need of innovation
Monotony and lack of inventiveness are responsible for tourists’ disinterest in museums, part of Vietnam’s most important cultural sites, said Dr. Nguyen Van Huy, Director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the most state-of-the-art and successful museum model nationwide, in an interview. Managerial intervention from local departments of Culture and Information too distant from reality of the audience and museum also results in lack of professionalism in museum quality.
It applies to the artists as well. Ask most young artists where they prefer to exhibit new work. Given the "prestige" of the museum or the flexibility of the gallery, you will learn that almost unanimously no young artist will have chosen the museum over the gallery. This has nothing to do with commerce. In certain arts museums, there lacks proper lighting, unprofessional information and signage accompanying the works, and the walls seemingly haven't been repainted in years. Chances are a gallery owner will have taken the time to prepare a written introduction to the artist and their work, to have become acquainted with the artists history and process. Ask someone at the museum to provide stylistic or biographical information on a random exhibited work...it is likely they will know anything about it, nor the last time it was dusted.
You got milk, your teeth are sparkling white. Or you got gold teeth, er, from gold additives in your food? No thanks, I get all the pro-b vitamins from my shampoo already.
Quote of the Day and Story of the Day
"He's an artist? Go paint a bowl of fruit or something." in CNN and the story, Chinese Factory Worker Can't Believe The Shit He Makes for Americans
June 16, 2005
I approach this event with some hesitation (actually a lot), obligated to be critical while personally wanting to be compassionate. As a returning orphan myself, I can empathize with the orphans of Operation Babylift to Ho Chi Minh City. I don't need historical or psychological background filler, I lived it as much as they. Yet, how genuine is this experience with Reuters, CNN, Yahoo!, Tuoi Tre, and the dozens of other media corporations following and recording their every move? And with every image captured by the media is an image of the adoptees themselves recording their own images. Everything is removed once or twice from by a lens. The lens refracts, filters, separates. I will not call it a charade, for the emotional turmoil will certainly be real for many of the returnees, but it will also be expertly framed by their organizers. It seems like an episode of Survivor: Saddled with lenses and memory cards, the adoptees are dropped smack dab in the middle of the Ben Thanh Market. Where is the bottled water!?
Meanwhile, Vietnam has just agreed to resume adoptions with the United States after suspending adoptions, rightly, for concerns of baby trafficking in 2002. "The United States is the seventh country to resume adoptions with Vietnam, which has also reached agreements with France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden and Ireland. In 2002, U.S. citizens adopted nearly 700 Vietnamese children. Last year, Americans adopted 23,000 children worldwide."
I hope this is the life changing event that everyone hoped it to be. Though I doubt it. Maybe an orphanlift adoptee has a blog and we can begin a conversation about this. This is all I'm going to say about this issue for now.
Giants and Infants of the Mekong
Ethnic Vietnamese on the Mekong in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Days after the hopeful releasing of the endangered Mekong River Giant Catfish into the Mekong River in Cambodia, this morning an armed group has taken several hostages, some as young as 4 years old, at a school in Siem Riep, apparently demanding cash and weapons and transport into Thailand. The Mekong River, one of Asia's largest and most important rivers has been the circulatory system of this area, beginning in China and traveling through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and ending in the river deltas of Vietnam.
The Return of the Giants
The Mekong River Giant Catfish, which has been described to look like a toothless upside-down dolphin, is apparently down to critical numbers, can be seen as a metaphor the slow transformation of the traditional ways of life for the people living off the river. What has affected the catfish have most certainly affected the peoples.
For generations, Cambodian families have pulled fish out of the water almost at will. But in recent years, there has been a drastic decline in catches, and estimates suggest that giant catfish numbers have fallen by 90% over the past two decades. Possible causes include over-fishing, including the use of explosives and electricity, pollution and the building of dams upstream.
The Mekong River Commission, was established a decade ago "To promote and co-ordinate sustainable management and development of water and related resources for the countries' mutual benefit and the people's well-being by implementing strategic programmes and activities and providing scientific information and policy advice." The MRC addresses issues such as sustainable agriculture and fisheries, flood management and mitigation and hydropower among others. Unlike other regional multinational organizations, such as ASEAN, the MRC is not a political one.
Mekong: Flow and Re-flow
The flow of the Mekong River actually changes directions as the seasons change, one goes upstream one season goes downstream the other. This also can be indicative of life here. One must live with inevitable change.
What happens in Burma or Thailand does indeed affect Vietnam and Cambodia. The effects of massive damming projects in China to the lower Mekong River nations are still unknown but certainly will be unfavorable.
We know that violence has the potential to spread like wildfire. This region of the world has seen more that its share of modern human devastation from the war between the United States and Vietnam, the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and the recent violence in Southern Thailand which yesterday saw another beheading of a buddhist monk.
At present there is little information regarding the hostage situation. It remains unclear whether the armed group are affiliated with any organization. Their motive also as yet remains unknown. For whatever motive, the targeting of schools and children for violence is truly abhorent. From experience, we know that these situations rarely turn out positive, from the hostage situation in Beslan, Russia ending in over 300 dead children, toddlers and infants to the burning of 18 schools in southern Thailand. We can only hope for a better outcome in this developing crisis. It has been reported that they seek entrance into Thailand. We recall the burning of the Thai embassy by rioting Phnom Penh Students in January 2004. The relationship here with Thailand will be interesting. Vietnam, on the otherhand, for whom many Cambodians feel as much historical animosity or even more for, has been leveraged as one of the safest nations in Asia. This perception has done miracles for the burgeoning tourism industry here. Many of the tourists in HCMC take the day trip to the Mekong River Delta. There are approximately 5 million Khmer speaking peoples living throughout the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam. Consider this, the entire population of Cambodia is approximately 11.5 million. I will be looking for how the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Thai media frames the hostage situation in Cambodia over the next days.
Mediating the Mekong
I have been given the opportunity to pursue my arts research project, Mediating the Mekong, with a research grant from the Martell Corporation and the Asian Art Archive. As connections between catfish and violence can be seen as just one of many that can occur with the ever reconfiguring of the Mekong, we might also approach the arts within this interconnected model.
June 14, 2005
Artists and The Party People
No, the other party people (read: OPP, you know me). Time Asia reveals the Biennale strategy of our regional neighbors, Australia and New Zealand, which helps explain why many Asian artists cannot connect with their art.
June 13, 2005
Time Asia reports on Vietnam's frantic race to develop a vaccine against the H5N1 influenza virus, also known as the bird or avian flu, which has been a persistent and potentially pandemic concern for this area of the world. And Vietnam seems to be at the locus, although it was recently reported discovered as far as Indonesia.
The problem is that the virus reference seed the weakened bit of live H5N1 used to build up immunity in the human body was mixed with cancer cells to help it replicate and then grown in a monkey kidney. That method is highly unorthodox. "People could get cancer from the vaccine," says Klaus Stohr, head of the WHO's global influenza program. Even more ominous, the developers say they've followed international procedures to ensure that the virus hasn't mutated in the making of the vaccine, but they haven't opened all their records or allowed an inspection of their labs. The chances of mutations are slim, says Robin Robinson, an epidemiologist and influenza expert at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but the Vietnamese method "may have provided a means for emergence of mutated H5N1 viruses in humans that may lead to a pandemic."
The question is difficult. If Vietnam tests the unorthodox vaccine on humans, which it has said it will do, there is a risk of mutation. The downside also would be going to the doctor to be vaccinated for influenza to discover that you've been given cancer. On the flip side, time might not be in luxery here. The WHO CSR (Communicable Disease Surveillance & Response) can urge Vietnam against haste, but the virus is not looming over Geneva. Likewise, when the world urged for the development of an Asia-Pacific tsunami warning system that might take years to develop cooperatively, Thailand took it upon itself to develop one independently. We'll have to see where this goes. For me, there really isn't a clear right or wrong here.
June 10, 2005
In Retrospect ...
Recently in two cases in China charges were dropped against convicts after new facts, or rather people, were discovered.
In the first case, 'Butchered' China waitress turns up alive:
The children of a Chinese butcher executed for murdering a waitress have appealed against his conviction after the "victim" turned up alive, the second such judicial blunder to be made public in recent weeks. Shi Xiaorong was 18 when she disappeared in 1987 at the same time as six pieces of a woman's body, sliced off "in a professional manner", were found in a river in southern Hunan province, a newspaper said on Thursday. Police arrested Teng Xingshan because he was a butcher by trade and because of rumours he used to go to the hotel where Shi worked to find prostitutes, the Beijing News said. Waitress Shi was later found to be serving a prison sentence with her husband for selling drugs, the newspaper said.
In the second case: She Xianglin was freed after serving 11 years of a 15-year jail sentence in central Hubei province for murdering his wife when she turned up not alive and with another man.
She Xianglin has said to have confessed under duress and torture. Yet the man now seems to bear no ill will. What can you do in these situations?
This week, as reported in Vietnam's Thanh Nien News, Mekong province apologizes to wrongly convicted ex-director. "The Bac Lieu People’s Court on June 16 gave an official public apology to the ex-director of the Mekong Delta province’s finance department for wrongfully convicting her of fraud in January 2005."
Fortunately for her, it only took 6 months and she's still alive.
June 08, 2005
Ngày sinh nhật của Leta
Happy Birthday Leta!
I've known Leta perhaps longer than I've known anyone. Longer than my parents in fact. She and I are from the same orphanage and today is her birthday. She will be visiting Vietnam again later this summer after her travels in China and we'll be able to sit and chat on Ly Tu Trong Street (the former site of our orphanage), together, for the first time in 33 years.
Here's a link to a short article on Leta on Macworld
Most think of former US President Lydon Baines Johnson, or the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, for the letter sequence of LBJ, particularly when cross referenced with Vietnam. It will soon be Leta Beth Jussila. Go Leta!
June 07, 2005
Same Sides of a Coin
Two stories occur in the press this week regarding relationships between Vietnam and Taiwan. They span the poles from selfless altruism to inhumane exploitation. Or do they?
Ranging from various media sources from the BBC, Vietnam women in Taiwan 'abused', to Vietnam's Thanh Nien (Youth) News, Two Taiwanese now charged with rape of 30 Vietnamese women.
Japan's Asahi reports that Taiwan is passing new legislation to deal with this issue, known as the "20 Policy" which states:
* The bride to be must be at least 20 years old, and must have a minimum command of the Chinese language.
* The age difference between the bride and groom must be less than 20 years.
* Couples must also submit to a private interview at the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, a government branch office, prior to registering a marriage.
The move is intended to prevent bogus marriages from taking place for the sake of obtaining visas for women who will end up working in the underground sex trade. Since the new regulation took effect, the number of quickie weddings has dropped by 40 percent. As of June 2004, out of Taiwan's total population of 23 million, about 500,000 (excluding those from mainland China) held foreign resident certificates. Many were from Vietnam, at 130,000; about 80,000 of them had come to the island after marriage to a Taiwanese. However, the divorce rate among this group was much higher than the Taiwanese average.
Legislation usually responds to problems that exist. The Pearl S. Buck Foundation has established a hotline for domestic abuse in Tapei with support in five languages, one of them being Vietnamese. It was reported that 56% of all calls required Vietnamese support.
One Side of a Coin
In an apparent counter effort, the other story as listed on the Taiwanese e-governance site (also implying an official Taiwan government site) is the attempt at a feel good story, "Taiwan reaches out helping hand to Vietnamese victim of Agent Orange." It's not my intent to detract from the merits of goodwill, but the way this story reads is like a self-congratulatory pat on the back. It opens:
"With swelling of his brain membranes, cleft palate and lip, and severe maxillofacial deformities, eight years ago Ah-fu came to Taiwan as a charity case to undergo surgery. Today, he is a lively child who has grown taller, of course, and is now able to turn his head from side to side. These miraculous changes have caused A-fu's whole family to express their gratitude whenever the word "Taiwan" is mentioned, while the 6,000-odd other children in Vietnam with similar deformities can only sigh with envy."
Doesn't something seem scripted here? Does this feel good? It tastes sour. It reads less like a news story and more like a screenwriting exercise. It reminds me of Noam Chomsky's point about American resistance to the ongoing US military interventions around the world. He said that the administration strategy was to create framework around "supporting the troops" when the real question should have been around "supporting the policy". One cannot say, "No, I don't support the troops" just as one cannot criticize the a nation willing help victims suffering from the disabilitating effects of chemical warfare. But one can question the motivations, under certain conditions, for doing so.
The Other Same Side of the Coin
Surely there are mechanisms in place to protect women from such horrors! Apparently, up to 50 women are receiving refuge and shelter with a Vietnamese Catholic priest in Taiwan. This does not seem to be an isolated incident, and it follows a pattern of abuse well known and established.
As reported in the BBC article, "The Vietnamese media frequently publish stories of Vietnamese workers overseas being maltreated, beaten and humiliated by their employers. For several years they have criticised the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour for not doing enough to protect the workers abroad, particularly those in South Korea and Taiwan."
Responding to such allegation by the Vietnamese media, "In an interview with the BBC Vietnamese Service, Mr. Tran Dong Huy, Head of Vietnam's Ministry for Labour's Representative Bureau, denied that the Vietnamese authorities were not doing enough to protect the women, who are now said to be living in very poor and cramped conditions. He said that his bureau had contacted the Taiwanese authorities immediately, asking them to help any Vietnamese women who came to them needing protection and accommodation, and that his mobile number was always available. Tran Dong Huy replied that those women only went to the priest because they had his phone number."
Why would women that had Mr. Tran's mobile number for official protection still chose to contact the priest? It would seem to imply that allegations that these women are not finding the level of protection by the Labour Bureau adequate thus confirming the allegations by the Vietnamese Press. The article includes, "Dinh Quanh Anh Thai, a journalist for Little Saigon Radio in California - who has been investigating the conditions for Vietnamese female workers in Taiwan - said the fact the alleged victims are now under the care of Father Nguyen Van Hung, and not with Tran Dong Huy, proved they did not trust the government's representative."
To be honest, I'm very wary about citing clips from the Vietnamese American press in Southern California whose certain members have on record admitted to compromising their journalist integrity for personal motivations. I recall hearing one such reporter say bluntly that he will lie and fabricate stories without hesitation to rally support for his cause. I am not saying that all Vietnamese American journalists, or that the specific journalist above, compromise their journalistic integrity or fabricate stories, but only that they exist. Unfortunately, for me they stick out. Very few Vietnamese American journalists, from my own experience, have had the courage to confront the ever increasing power of the extreme right anti-communist political lobby at the expense of the larger Vietnamese American community.
I feel the Vietnamese American community on one hand, particularly the younger generation, largely does not share this viewpoint (unabashed lying) yet in the irony of seeking community empowerment, democratically elects these anti-democratic politicians. These politicians are currently trying to ramrod a certain issue down the American community under the guise of a flag. Thank you Minthy Bach for posting this.
June 06, 2005
Martell Contemporary Asian Art Research Grant
Several days ago I was informed that my proposal, Mediating the Mekong, for the Martell Contemporary Asian Art Research Grant was co-awarded! This critical funding will allow me to continue my research on information structures, media and contemporary art among and between the Mekong nations (Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. Unfortunately China was out of the scope given the budget). What is truly amazing is that the research of Leeza Ahmady, the grant's co-awardee, shall focus on Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Both our projects intend to investigate arts in Asia where perhaps information is the most scarce.
The grant is made possible by the Martell Corporation and the Asian Art Archive in Hong Kong.
June 05, 2005
ProjectOne artists now maintain their own sites.:
Dead Can Dance (and play piano too)
A provoking piece on today's New York Times introduces new technolology allowing audiences to hear live music from dead people. It begins:
The house lights dimmed at the BTI Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, N.C., one night last month, the stage lights came up on the grand piano, and in front of a rapt audience Alfred Cortot played Chopin's Prelude in G (Op. 28, No. 3), as he had not for nearly 80 years.
Cortot is dead, of course. He was not present in physical form, nor was anyone else sitting at the keyboard of the Yamaha Disklavier Pro as the keys rose and fell. But this was his performance come back to life: his gentle touch, his luminosity, even his mistakes, like the light brush of an extra note at the periphery of the final chord.
So for all you classic and jazz piano aficionado's, you've been one-upped. Sure, there are folks that will argue that the fidelity of a record is superior to the cd. Or that the scratches add charm. There is even software to add noise and other acoustic filters to recordings to give them "authenticity". The Acoustic Mirror plug-in for SoundForge can even simulate different environments including bridges, churches, concert halls, modern and classic microphones, and even caves. And for hardcore audiophiles, there is even a tool generating noise types to your flavor: white, pink or brown.
But where is the magic? As a child, I was fascinated by the piano that would magically play without the performer. Even as my mother explained how it merely ran off something akin to a punch card, it was no less absorbing. But for me, there are only so many times you can listen to the ghost of Scott Joplin do ragtime...
Old recordings of great performers are often marred by scratches and surface noise, or by sound badly filtered through primitive microphones. Dr. Walker is offering the same music with the immediacy of live performance and the acoustical advantages of a contemporary piano. To demonstrate the contrast, Dr. Walker also let the audience at the BTI Center hear the original Cortot recording from 1926, which sounds as if sand had been poured on the old disc's shellac.
"The farther you get from the recordings, the worse they sound," Dr. Walker said by phone a few days before the concert. "The fundamental root of the problem is that I don't want to hear a recording. I want to hear the young Horowitz, Schnabel, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk on an in-tune piano."
The little boy in The Sixth Sense could see dead people. Now he can hear them too.
June 04, 2005
The Jungle Book: Part II - A Bug's Life
I've never had malaria, but I've had dengue fever and believe you me, it sucks. Once again rainy season is upon us, I'm dreading the mosquitoes. I go to sleep with my weapon of choice, the electric zapper tennis racket, within arms length. But what can you do? I mean really...
Well, for one, if you get bit, you can make hot cross buns with your swelling wound as shown as illustrated on LDK's entry, mosquito bites (instructional graphic animation par excellence). A reader of the site commented that even with the x mark, it still itches. In Vietnam, we dab on some dầu xanh (green eucalyptus oil). And yes, it still itches.
At least it's a mosquito bite and if it doesn't contain some tropical pathogen, it's a thousand times better than getting stung on the eye by a bee which I experienced this spring while doing my installation, Land of Milk and Honey, in Saigon South. My face blew up like Quasimodo for three days, fevered and practically blind, I considered scaling HCMC's Notre Dame Cathedral to toll the bells. In the duration of one month, I got stung 4 times. I shouldn't whine for a) I met to feed the bees everyday for one month, 4 stings isn't a bad ratio given thousands of bees and 2) anyone dumb enough to install bees in a gallery derserves what he gets.
Land of Milk and Honey, Sound Installation (2005), dimensions variable
Addendum to The Jungle Book: Part I - Discoveries
The two Japanese nationals thought to be WWII soldiers stranded on an island near Mindinao has been confirmed to be a hoax. However, there are still people coming out of the jungle, or as my mother would say, the woodworks. CNN reports today in an article,"Hmong emerge after decades on run"
"After decades on the run, 170 women, children and old men of the Hmong ethnic minority -- once part of a U.S. -backed secret army fighting communists in Laos -- emerged from their jungle hideouts on Saturday to surrender to the government."
I'll continue to monitor developments on this front. It's not Apolocypse Now or Heart of Darkness. These indeed are very real events that beyond the media spectacle beg urgent questions.
June 03, 2005
ProjectOne: Around the World in 60 Days
4/5 ProjectOne: Hau, Khanh, Uyen and Rich at Mai's Gallery, HCMC
ProjectOne member openings are on a tear this month after an extended break which introduced two new members to the group (Ly's baby girl and Uyen's baby boy). Ly Hoang Ly will open her exhibition at the Cave Gallery in New York this week and Bui Cong Khanh opened his painting/installation at Mai's Gallery in Saigon this evening after his 2 month trounce through Vermont, New York and California.
LY HOANG LY - Installation
"New York is inside Rodney's House"
Vietnamese Artist-in-Residence Program
June 4 – July 3, 2005.
58 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
BUI CONG KHANH - Painting & Installation
3A Ton Duc Thang Street
District 1, HCMC, Vietnam
Meanwhile, member Ngo Thai Uyen prepares her fall collection which will be unveiled in Hanoi this summer and flies to to Paris to show her new designs for apparel and accessories. Nguyen Pham Trung Hau continues to paint in preparation for the National Exhibition in Hanoi. As mentioned in previous entries, I am preparing my installation (and perhaps video) for the upcoming show, Offside, in Dublin, Ireland. More information on this exhibition can be found on Irish Arts Review.
June 01, 2005
An Expatriate Example
I've been checking into a local weblog, if we can call weblogs local in the sense that we live in the same city, called Down and Out in Sài Gòn. Recently the weblog has become more concerned with American politics. The entries are well-informed, perhaps so much that as an American I am often found being schooled by the Australian blogger. If politics are not your thing, perhaps a core fascination with language is. If you live in Saigon, you should check it out.