Hiểu lầm?

Mấy ngày qua tôi không dám gọi mẹ nhưng tôi vẫn suy nghĩ nát óc về lời nói của bà. Tôi vẫn không tin tôi đã có ý định đuổi bà về Việt Nam. Tôi không ngang tàng hoặc có quyền để làm như thế. Mẹ cũng đâu phải hiền đến nổi đã không mắn chửi tôi mà chỉ im lặng để bụng mười mấy năm qua.

Tuy nhiên tôi còn nhớ có khuyên bà về Việt Nam ở. Lúc đó nhà ở Việt Nam còn chưa bán và ba muốn mẹ về ở chung. Ba muốn qua đây, mẹ lại không cho. Vợ chồng ở xa nhau đã gần 30 năm rồi thì về Việt Nam ở với nhau cũng không phải là không có lý. Nhà đã có sẳn. Mẹ được tiền hưu mỗi tháng sống thoải mái. Những người già ở đây cũng thường về Việt Nam sống sau khi họ nghỉ hưu. Đó là lời khuyên chứ không phải đuổi.

Bây giờ có giải thích cũng quá muộn màng. Mười mấy năm mẹ đã nghĩ là như thế.

Minority Leaders Oppose Rao’s Nomination

Marcela Howell, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, and Jessica González-Rojas write in The Hill:

During her hearing, Rao stated that her op-ed position — “A good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober” — was “just a commonsense observation.” While Rao issued a letter after the hearing insisting that she was not blaming survivors, she signed off on the Title IX changes regarding campus sexual assaults. Rao’s statements at the hearing and her work at OIRA reflect a lack of understanding that the systems of power and control can perpetuate rape culture.

Disturbingly, Rao has shown that she believes racial oppression is a myth. She has spoken derisively about affirmative action, suggesting that standards are dropped for “a few minorities.” More specifically, she referred to affirmative action as the “anointed dragon of liberal excess,” and said race, generally, is a “hot, money-making issue.” As organizations that fight for reproductive justice, including racial justice, we find this language to be deeply offensive and grossly out of touch with the realities our communities face every day. Currently, Rao is working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to gut protections against housing discrimination based on race.

Rao also has espoused dangerous views on LGBTQ rights. In talking about activists for racial justice, gender equity and LGBTQ rights, she wrote, “Underneath their touchy-feely talk of tolerance, they seek to undermine American culture. … For example, homosexuals want to redefine marriage and parenthood.” As reproductive justice advocates, we believe that centering our intersectional identities enhances our society, rather than undermines it.


Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho

Apparently Jeong, a Korean doctor turned actor, is famous and an unapologetic “minority millionaire.” He was in The Hangover and Dr. Ken. Both I have not watched. He was also in Crazy Rich Asian, which I did watch but could not remember his character until he mentioned it in his debut Netflix special: You Complete Me, Ho.

The title plays off his Vietnamese wife’s last name. If he learned to pronounce her name correctly with proper diacritics, which is Hồ not Ho, he would not be making fun of her name. The convenience of the word ho in English fits well with Jeong’s raunchy materials. Somehow two of the audience members who sat in the front also had the last name Ho. Is that a coincidence or a set up?

Nevertheless, his jokes are good, especially the ones about being a physician, and he speaks without an Asian accent. The tribute to his wife who is a breast cancer survivor is inspiring. It was the reason Netflix released this special on Valentine’s Day.

I am happy see another Asian comedian made it. Unfortunately I can’t let my kids watch it, but I can’t wait to tell my wife about a doctor who changed his career to become a comedian. She wanted our boys to become doctors; therefore, she had been mad at me for encouraging them to become comedians. They make tons of money for making people laugh. I didn’t say it will be easy. It would satisfied us both if they become doctors first then comedian. Then again, they won’t need to satisfy us. They just have to satisfy themselves.

Anh Tám

Lúc về Việt Nam tôi được biết anh Tám là người bạn của ba. Tôi không hiểu rõ vì ba cứ giỡn rằng, “Coi như của xí được.” Anh mời tôi và anh chị tôi đến nhà ăn tối. Anh và bà xã làm nhiều món ngon. Anh em cùng nhau ăn nhậu hát karaoke rất vui. Đó là những giây phút tuy đơn giản nhưng khó quên.

Lúc về lại Mỹ, anh thường gọi điện thoại cho tôi qua Facebook Messenger mỗi cuối tuần. Anh kể cho tôi nghe mỗi tuần anh đến thăm ba tôi hai hoặc ba lần. Hai người rủ nhau đi ăn và uống một hai chai bia. Anh tâm sự rằng anh mồ côi ba từ nhỏ nên anh quý ba lắm và coi ông như người cha.

Tôi cảm động lắm và cám ơn anh đã dành thời gian đến với ba tôi. Tôi bây giờ ở xa và rất ít cơ hội được gặp ba. Lần về Việt Nam đó rất ý nghĩa nhưng tôi lại không để ý đến tình cảm của anh và ba. Anh ngại tới lui nhiều vì sợ người ta nói anh nịnh Việt kiều.

Tuy gặp nhau không nhiều và chúng ta không dòng họ, tôi quý mến tình cảm anh dành cho ba tôi. Lần sao có dịp về Việt nam bảo đảm anh em mình không có khách sáo nữa. Ba có được người bạn (người con) ở bên cạnh lúc tuổi già là quá quý rồi. Tuy là con ruột, tôi chưa từng chăm sóc cho ba được như anh. Đừng ngại thiên hạ nói gì. Hãy làm những điều từ trái tim và lương tâm của mình.

Tôi hổ thẹn lắm. Tuy cha anh đã mất nhưng anh có thể tìm được tình thương của người cha. Cha mẹ tôi còn sống mà tôi lại không ở gần để lo lắng cho họ. Lúc có thì không biết quý. Mất rồi hối tiếc thì quá muộn màng. Nhưng trong cuộc sống không cỏ thể có được hết tất cả. Tôi chỉ biết sống sao cho thật tốt với những gì đang có bên cạnh mình.

Replacing Blower Motor for 2011 Toyota Sienna

Earlier this winter, I noticed a loud noise from a blowing fan every time I turned on the heater. I was worried it will cost a fortune to replace if I take it to the dealer or an auto shop. I ignored it for a while, but the noise was getting louder and screechy, especially when the weather was freezing.

I can still live with the noise, but I also noticed the air was not blowing out as much. I did some Googling and came across a YouTube video showing how to replace the blower motor, which located underneath the glove compartment. All I had to do was unscrew three screws to replace it. The process took less than five minutes.

I ordered a brand new Genuine Toyota (87103-0C051) Blower Motor Sub-Assembly on Amazon for $125. Now the noise is gone and the fan is blowing out more air than before.

A Subconscious Designer

I want to write about design, but I don’t know where to begin. I have been a designer for 20 years and received an MA in graphic design; therefore, I am conscious about design. If I were to start now, I don’t think I would even get into design.

Like most kids who started college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I went to La Salle University and major in communications because my cousin thought I was skillful at broadcasting, which I had never done anything with it before. It turned out communications had to do with writing and public speaking. I was terrible at both. Within the first semester of my freshman year, I knew I didn’t want to major in communications. I quickly switched to digital arts and multimedia design, which I also knew nothing about, but I didn’t have to speak in front of the class.

One of my first classes in my new major was learning Photoshop and I was hooked. In class, I just opened up Photoshop and played. Occasional my professor dropped by and said, “That looks cool.” I had no prior training in design and I can’t draw. I did not understand anything about design. The first webpage I made filled with blinking text, animated gifs, and colorful Comic Sans on black background. When I showed it an art history professor, she shook her head in disbelief. My design was driven by the software programs I had learned instead of the other way around, but I was not alone. The digital art and multimedia design program was brand new; therefore, many of the students including me did not have any design background.

The art history professor had to stop us from using the computers. She required us to buy sketch book, color papers, and glue. I still remember cutting out circles and squares from a piece of black paper and glued them into our sketch book. I did not understand the purpose of the exercise and thought it was a waste of time. I had no clue about composition, color, and design theory. Typography was not even taught in the program. I was not even aware of typography because we can only use a handful of system fonts for the web.

In retrospect, I would cringe at the design I did back then. If I were conscious of how terrible I was, however, I probably could not have become a designer. I came into design from a subconscious view. I thought I was good at it and I did not know how bad I was. I was like those aspiring singers who thought they are good at singing but they sound terrible. Then they would eventually sing better if they keep doing it.

The entry into design is low, but continuous learning is required to get better. My fifteen-year-old nephew Eric Trần is a good example. He started by using whatever tools available to him. He created his website using Wix and continued to hone his design skills. I don’t even know what tools he uses for photography and what typefaces he has access to, but his designs look much better than mine when I first starting out.

Like everything else, you just need to start somewhere. Don’t worry if your design isn’t good. You’ll get better eventually. Just don’t be too conscious about it.

English or Vietnamese?

A reader writes:

I greatly enjoy reading your blog, but alas do not speak Vietnamese. Do you, by any chance, publish a feed that contains only your English-language articles?

I completely understand the inconvenience or annoyance for people to subscribe to my RSS Feed with the content they cannot read. The posts are so intertwined now, I do not know how to separate them. I wish Google does a better job of translating Vietnamese into English, but it is pretty bad right now.

To be honest, I haven’t thought about it when I started to blog in Vietnamese. Almost three decades of living in America and focusing on learning English, I needed to pick up my native language again. My fifth-grade Vietnamese has become worst and I needed to practice. This blog is the perfect space for it. I didn’t know I was going to write that much in Vietnamese, but I had and someone has noticed.

When I incorporated Vietnamese into my blog, I struggled whether I should write in English or Vietnamese every time I wanted to write a blog post. If I write in Vietnamese, I would alienate my English readers. If I write in English, I won’t get any practice. Would the topic I am about to write better to be written in English or Vietnamese?

Vietnamese was a bit tougher to write because I had to figure out all the diacritical marks on my keyboard. In addition, my Vietnamese spelling was horrendous. In the beginning I didn’t care because I didn’t think anyone would pay attention. Thankfully, I had received a handful of emails suggesting that I check my spelling. My wife’s uncle wrote me a long note to tell me that the glaring errors would reflect who I am. As a result, I have to start paying attention. Every word I am unsure, I would consult Google, online dictionaries, or Vietnamese Wiktionary.

Nowadays, writing in Vietnamese is a bit easier. I still look up words, but I am getting better. I am also no longer struggling with which post to write in Vietnamese or English. Like choosing between Photoshop and Illustrator to accomplish a design solution, I know exactly which language is best to communicate my ideas. I write in Vietnamese on topics that are related to my Vietnamese roots such as personal stories of my childhood, Vietnamese music and books, and Vietnamese-related cultures. I can also write about them in English, which I did in the past, but Vietnamese language brings me closer to my root.

My intention is not to alienate English readers, but I am a product of bilingual. This blog is a representation of the two languages I have come to love so dearly and they have become inseparable in my heart and mind.

Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns

By weaving the incredible journey of three black individuals who fled the South, Isabel Wilkerson recounts the stunning history of the Great Migration between 1915 to 1970. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a cotton picker from Mississippi, migrated to Chicago in 1937; George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker from Florida, migrated to New York in 1945; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a trained doctor from Louisiana, migrated to California. Their stories represent the millions of Southern blacks who left their home in search of freedom from slave masters, klansmen, and the institution of Jim Crow. Wilkerson’s writing is revetting, particularly the way she described the vivid of mob lynching, inhuman torturing, and castrating (then made the victim eat the severed body parts). The disturbing details remind us how black American was treated in this country. Wilkerson’s narrative prose combined with her analytical force make this book an essential read, especially for the celebration of the Black History Month.

Khốn Nạn

Lâu nay tôi vẫn tự trách mình không sống bên mẹ để lo lắng cho bà lúc ở tuổi già. Mỗi lần nói chuyện qua điện thoại nghe mẹ đau chân, tôi đứt cả ruột. Nghe mẹ than phiền về hai bà chị tôi cũng xót xa. Hết giận hờn chị Hai rồi cãi cọ với chị Ba. Mẹ tự trách con cái không ai có hiếu với bà cả. Mẹ thường bảo rằng, “Phải chi ba mày còn ở đây không về Việt Nam, tao dọn ra riêng không cần ở với thằng nào con nào cả.” Tôi đau lòng lắm và cố gắng không nói điều gì khiến cho mẹ buồn thêm. Mấy lần tôi thăm dò ý mẹ có muốn ở với gia đình tôi không thì bà úp úp mở mở.

Hôm nay trò chuyện với mẹ qua điện thoại, tôi bỗng nhiên hỏi, “Má có muốn dọn lên ở với tụi con không?” Mẹ trả lời, “Ở với mày một lần tao sợ rồi.” Tôi ngạc nhiên nên hỏi lại, “Sao vậy?” Mẹ đáp, “Lúc trước ở với mày, mày muốn lấy vợ, mày đuổi tao về Việt Nam.” Câu nói của mẹ khiến tôi chết điếng cả người như bị mũi tên vô hình đâm thẳng vào tim tôi. Tôi nghẹn ngào không nói được một lời. Có lẽ bà cảm giác được sự yên lặng của tôi nên nói tiếp, “Nói vậy thôi chứ ở đây quen bác sĩ rồi dọn lên đó không biết bác sĩ mới ra sao.” Tôi không thể nào ngờ được nhưng cũng hỏi lại, “Con đuổi má thật sao?” Mẹ đáp, “Mày quên rồi nhưng tao nhớ suốt đời.” Không biết nói gì tôi chỉ trả lời, “Cám ơn má đã cho con biết con là thằng con khốn nạn như thế nào. Thôi con đi đón con con. Hôm khác nói chuyện.”

Cúp điện thoại đầu óc tôi như bị kim đâm. Câu nói của mẹ như cháy vào đầu óc của tôi. Tôi thật sự không nhớ đã nói gì hay đã làm gì nhưng nếu tôi đã có ý định như thế thì tôi còn thua loài thú. Ít ra thú vật cũng chẳng bao giờ đuổi mẹ nó để theo gái. Tuy tôi bất hiếu không thể lo lắng cho mẹ, tôi không thể nào tin nổi tôi là hạn người tồi tệ đến thế. Tôi không còn mặt mũi hay lương tâm nào nữa để gặp lại mẹ. Dù có muôn ngàn lời xin lỗi cũng không thể nào bù lấp được. Tôi đã khiến mẹ ôm hận mười mấy năm qua còn tôi sẽ ân hận suốt cuộc đời.

Warren is Officially In

Julie Pace wites in the Boston Herald:

Back in Iowa as a full-fledged presidential candidate, Democrat Elizabeth Warren took aim at President Donald Trump on Sunday, saying he “may not even be a free person” by next year’s election.

I am with her. Lock the motherfucker up.