October 2012 Archives

Andrew Lam

Vietnam, Afghanistan: War, Karma, and Peace

By Andrew Lam, Oct 30, 2012 3:59 PM

 Trying to Google news of my homeland, Vietnam, over the last few weeks has not been easy. The headlines that often showed up were about another country, not Vietnam.

Here are a few headlines from major news organizations:

- Afghanistan haunted by ghost of Vietnam
-Barack Obama must stop dithering - or Afghanistan will be his Vietnam
-The Vietnam War Guide to Afghanistan
-Afghanistan is Obama's Vietnam
-Which is America's longest war, Afghanistan or Vietnam?
-Vietnam and why we lost Afghanistan


Often times, indeed, when we mention the word Vietnam in the United States, we don't mean Vietnam as a country. Vietnam is unfortunately not like Thailand or Malaysia or Singapore to America's collective imagination. Its relationship to us is special: It is a vault filled with tragic metaphors for every pundit to use.

After the Vietnam War, Americans were caught in the past, haunted by unanswerable questions, confronted with an unhappy ending. So much so that my uncle who fought in the Vietnam War as a pilot for the South Vietnamese army, once observed that, "When Americans talk about Vietnam they really are talking about America." "Americans don't take defeat and bad memories very well. They try to escape them," he said in his funny but bitter way. "They make a habit of blaming small countries for things that happen to the United States. AIDS from Haiti, flu from Hong Kong or Mexico, drugs from Columbia, hurricanes from the Caribbean."

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

This Halloween: Dress classy. Dance cheesy. We're a Culture, not a Costume.

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Oct 29, 2012 11:00 AM

As Halloween nears, whenever I teach late, I come home to find a different cast of characters galloping triumphant through my house, including Howl’s Moving Castle, pirate vs. ninja, kung fu masters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Steampunk, Goth Lolis, and more. A raucous combination of cosplay and Halloween, the spirit is festive, the creativity fun, the details impressive. Last week, even my old prom and wedding dresses were both trotted out and Steampunked. “Don’t you kids have homework to do?”

Louis Nevaer

Mo Yan on Bullfighting

By Louis Nevaer, Oct 24, 2012 1:21 PM


In 2011, Chinese author and recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mo Yan, was invited to speak before the Cervantes Institute in Beijing. Mo chose to speak about a Chinese view of something emblematic in Spanish/Hispanic society, namely bullfighting.

Andrew Lam

Salad Days: Becoming A Vegetarian To Remember Grandma

By Andrew Lam, Oct 23, 2012 10:11 AM

 SAN FRANCISCO -- For a period of a month sometime ago I became a vegetarian. Some people won't eat meat because they think it's cruel to animals, or because of health concerns. My reason is a little different: it is love.

I simply wanted to honor my grandmother's memory by not eating meat. A devout Buddhist, grandma spent a large part of her life as a vegetarian, and some of my fondest childhood memories in Vietnam were sharing a meal with her.

In fact, as a child, I learned how to appreciate food not from fancy dishes my mother regularly whipped up, but from the simple meals my grandmother prepared. In her presence a piece of crunchy green pickled eggplant was incredibly delicious, and fried tofu dipped in sweetened soy sauce delectable.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

"What do you mean you don't vote? How can you not vote?"

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Oct 22, 2012 10:02 AM

We came up over the rise as the highway curved and my breath caught in my throat. The Washington Monument. The Jefferson Memorial. So beautiful and serene in the morning mist.

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