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Thứ Năm, 31 tháng 3, 2011

1. Có phải các cô bạn thân (rất thân) thường không thích người yêu của nhau không?
Mở rộng: Áp dụng tương tự với chị em gái thân (rất thân) nữa?
2. All is suffering
3. Bị ám ảnh bởi một giấc mơ cứ lặp đi lặp lại về bà, càng ngày càng đáng sợ. Có lẽ vì dạo này mình đọc nhiều về thần thánh ma quỷ quá chăng?
4. Rất muốn để status là "Nghiêm túc đề nghị các bạn đừng đếm ngược ngày tớ về nữa", nhưng thôi, sợ lại bị bảo là "cá tính thế". Căn bản là dễ bị rơi vào cái bong bóng, tưởng là mình được trông ngóng đón chờ ghê lắm, nhưng thật ra chả phải.
5. Vẫn chưa mường tượng ra được cảnh đi làm. Lấy chồng càng không.
6. Trong các cuộc tranh cãi, đứa nào tức tối đứa đấy thiệt :))
7. Bây giờ đã bắt đầu hơi hơi hiểu ra sự thú vị của việc chơi với bọn con trai kém tuổi. Bọn trẻ con rất buồn cười
8. Thôi, đi ngủ :D

Thứ Hai, 28 tháng 3, 2011

Read till my head bursts
Read till I drop

Thứ Bảy, 26 tháng 3, 2011

As I was cutting grape into small pieces and absent-mindedly considered whether I should mix guava juice in, it dawned on me why there are people out there who love cooking and make-up. Finally I began to understand the art and the joy of these two very feminine practices. It’s not necessary that cooking and makeup lovers must be feminine women or that they give in to the pressure to be so. In the end, you can love cooking and wearing makeup for other reasons rather than to be a stereotypically good woman.

I always like mixing things up. Little bit of this, little bit of that and see what the combination will be like. When I was young, I tried out every mixture I could think of. I have eaten rice with beer, noodle with a mix of Coke, sweet wine, soya sauce and something else I can’t remember. I know Im blessed with a stomach strong enough for me to indulge myself in those little crazy ideas I came up with. I remembered applying a recipe to mix soil and fertilizers from a newspaper, and killed a few of my grandfather’s plants before I succeeded eventually. Weird, as Im recalling them now, there seems to be a lot of failure. But since they don’t matter, I forget them all.

As I grow up, just like others, I enter the adult’s world and leave behind my curiosity, the thrill to try out new mix and the unique excitement in creating something new. They belong to childhood, when you’re not afraid of failure and no one laughs/looks awkward if you ask stupid questions. However, cooking and makeup allow adults such childish joy. It is the joy of being the creator of your own world, the self-fulfillment in front of your creation, no matter how messy and how terrible it is regardless of anyone’s approval. I have learnt to follow rules for too long, so long that I can no longer consciously recognize the rules I am conforming to. Until that moment...

How does it taste to add some milk, or some cinnamon powder, or some juice? Should I use condense milk or just regular milk? How much is enough? Just a tiny bit or a little more? Should I put in it now or later? How should the temperature be? The possibilities are endless. The result changes according to countless changes made during the process. Every outcome is unique. You will never get the exact same output twice. Each product is a means and an ends in itself. Every time you set out to cook, it is a new adventure. The destination is brand new and will never be repeated.

How does that sound to you? Exciting enough?
The same principle applies to makeup. The combination of colours brings about endless results. Even when the colours are the same, brushes play a big role. Small, large, puffy or pointed, long or short, old and new. How you apply colours is a big deal, too. The angle of your arms, the pressure under your finger, the surface of your skin, just to name a few. After that comes the weather, is it humid or dry, sunny or cloudy, and your mood, are you feeling high or low? Every time you sit in front of the mirror, the final product will be different. You are still you, but different in a different way. Fascinating enough?

When I cook, I should allow myself to experiment. I read recipes just enough to know the ingredients and the process. I never measure, why bother if it doesn’t turn out the way it’s supposed to be. There is no such thing as “supposed to be”. If it tastes well, excellent. If it doesn’t, fine, I won’t do the same thing next time. I haven’t learnt enough makeup techniques to be so confident with experimenting. After all, you need the rules first in order to get your freedom. Without rules, you can’t start creating in the first place. Or if you do, it’ll be inconceivable (imagine using eye shadow for lips and lipstick for cheeks)

Now it sounds like sociology. I know I’d always turn back to this big thing getting stuck in my mind. Rule and freedom, for example. A complete ruleless collective is not a free society; it is just a random group of people. A face which doesn’t conform to the most basic makeup rule, i.e. eye shadow for eyelid, lipstick for lips and blush for cheeks, is not an ugly face, it will suggest insanity. The degree of freedom and conformity is always relative. So next time when you think you are free to do whatever you want, think again!

But the unique satisfaction comes from the act of cooking and putting makeup on, which as I have said, doesn’t come from outside source, such as others’ approval and acceptance. Of course the result does, because a tasty dish and a beautiful face will be complimented and it’s a great source of self-fulfillment, but I mean the very process of mixing and experimenting, when no result has been achieved yet. Why? Have you ever done anything just for the sake of doing it, not for the outcome? I call it pure love.

The Hindu people believe that this world comes into being from Gods’ act of play. Not a willful creation in a Christian sense of a God. No, just a play of a child, does whatever s/he pleases at the moment, the fulfillment of the act in itself. No child plays to get something. S/he just plays because s/he likes doing it. It’s fun. That’s why in Hindu view, this world will eventually come to an end, sooner or later. But there should be no fuss about it, because it’s natural, and it’s fine, really. Because we are only one phase in a great cycle, one will fade for the other to come. So much contradiction to the anxiety in both the Maya myth of 2012 and the Christian Bible of the end of the world. We will come to an end, so what? That’s fine, people.

Certainly Hindu people strive for salvation, just like Christians or any religious people do. It’s just not an immediate action must be done in this life. To quote my professor, “if they can’t do it in this life, it doesn’t matter, there’s always be a next” (I did laugh when he said this). But it’s a play after all. This life is a fleeting moment. And why should I feel so great when I mix up banana and grapes and milk and guava juice?

Because for a moment, I was playing. And I felt like a creator in front of my own creation. I call it pure love.

p/s: For Giao: You once asked me about the possibilities of life, what if this, what if that. I have been thinking about it for a while. It's called the debate between contingency and agency, a forever ongoing debate among the humanities. We are always bounded to some conditions beyond our control, but at the same time, have space to work within these conditions. How much space, again, is a matter of contingency. This very question is one of the main reasons why people turn to religion. One, to explain the factors they can't control. Two, to try to control those factors. Contingency surely creates anxiety and reassurance is one reward religious folks enjoy which we don't have. Sociology most of the time don't have answer for question of the source, they can only study the result (e.g.. accept the fact about contingency and study the anxiety it creates in people). Religions will provide you with the answer. For instance, Hindu people will say you are born in this life as a result of all you have done in your previous life and for uncontrollable events, you can ask the gods for help.

Chủ Nhật, 20 tháng 3, 2011

My professor is an Indian-born, yet grew up under British education (just like most highly-educated Indians in the time of British colonial are), lives most of his life in Canada and married to a French lady. He is as intense as a great fire, as deep as a big ocean. He is my supervisor for a reading course on the sociology of Asian religions this year, but we have worked way beyond the scope of sociology. We read anthropological, theological, personal memoir, of course sociological writings and discuss comparative religions in light of sociology, psychology, cosmology, philosophy and a combination of all.

He is the type of teacher any student would wish for. In his own way, he lets me know that: “Ok, I’m satisfied with what you’ve done so far, but I expect and believe you can do better.” He always expands the scope of what you can explore. He pushes you further than your limit, but when you're nervous and overwhelmed, he assures you. He encourages you to work hard on what you like, but pulls you back when you go astray from the focus. Many students hate him, first, because he doesn’t has an email address. They are instructed to either meet him in his office hour or leave him a message on the phone. Second, because he expects them to read books, not articles. Third, he is a tough grader. Fourth, he doesn’t hold seminar since he hates listening to students rambling on big terms and phrases they themselves don’t understand. Fifth, he only needs them to demonstrate they have read and understood the materials, i.e. the grade falls entirely on two exams in the first term and a big paper in the second term. The list goes on. I took his class last year, and one of the few who like him. I asked him to supervise a reading course on Asian religions, and he agreed, even though technically he has retired after last year. Glad to quit teaching because he is too tired and fed up with the erosion of university education as well as students and professors’ corruptness. I guess Im probably his very last student.

He doesn’t teach me in the sense of “preaching”, telling me what I should think, what is correct. He is a wonderful teacher who helps you to recognize your interest and strive to reach your potential. He doesn’t shape, he guides. He is so flexible in letting me read the book I like (of course it is relevant), dropping the one I couldn’t digest and further suggest what else I can make of my interest. He is the figure I’ve always dreamt of, someone who I can just sit and ask questions one after another for hours and hours. Everything I ask he can provide an answer, or at least what he thinks about the matter. He seems to know everything I can ever think of. For all the most random questions bumped up in my mind, he can draw from his memory a few titles of books for me to check out.

He is decisive, fierce, determined and strongly convinced with his own beliefs. He holds unshakable values and lives according to them. He is against the way theories are handled in pieces in classes, given to students as mere facts and information to memorize. He proposes to change the International Development Studies Department into Comparative Civilization Department. He was trained in Anthropology, has spent most of his lifetime in Marxist analysis and economics, pursues philosophy as a life-time interest and teaches sociology because it is loose enough to allow him some freedom to teach according to his values. His principles are often at odds with the larger society, as it is the case with most people who are firm enough to not bend with the current flow of the mass. He has everything I admire in a man.

After each of our meeting, he often leaves me exhausted but inspired. He talks for at least 3, sometimes 4 hours straight (with cigarette break, he smells of cigarette smoke and earl grey tea). My head often starts spinning after 2.5 hour concentrating. And after each meeting, just writing down what I can remember takes me a few more hours. But then, I again feel the urge to read more, to drown myself in knowledge, to find out what people have to say about this and that. He is my motivation for the quest of understanding. Knowledge, through his hands, becomes like salted water, the more you drink, the thirstier you become. To me, sometimes he is like a dear grandfather. Watching him talk is fascinating because he is extremely expressive. Dry and complex ideas are explained in a story-telling manner. Concrete and simple examples are drawn to illustrate for abstract theories. Clear, easy to follow, intense yet fun, again, he is everything a student can wish for in a teacher.

He outlines to me structural schema he has worked out in more than 50 years of serious studying. He presents them as if I would understand them all. He challenges what I’ve taught for the last 4 years in university (e.g. determinism and relativism can be placed side by side, biology is the starting point to work towards a sociological understanding, etc). He shows me how to learn from the great thinkers, like Marx and Durkheim, but still able to step back and recognize their bias. He criticizes the whole Western civilization, linking ideas of free will, democracy, individuality to a secularized version of Protestantism. His critique is so deep and fundamental that it renders all the critiques Western intellectual directing to themselves I’ve read superficial. Religion is the most overarching scheme, the most universal, and the most fundamental beliefs we hold dear to our hearts and let them go unchallenged. That’s why he calls those big terms Westerns take pride in “mantras”. They are repeating the words which they “just know” to be true because if the latter were not true, the former would be so disoriented that they can’t be a society.

I don’t know if I like to be like him, an exile in both a physical and social and psychological way. A man who grows up in the most accomplished Western system of thoughts (Brittan and American), understands it so well to the point he rejects it, but still lives and breathes in it. Someone who is too critical can’t be happy. Happiness always requires a little blind faith and much naïve. To uproot social entanglement, be conscious of its force, yet still accept to be held captive, to fight and many times lose the battle with the majority, Im sure never easy.
Every time I look at his back disappearing  in a crowded street in downtown Toronto, his faded yellow sweater and overworn woolen hat, I can’t help but wondering how many times have I and will I miss the chance to listen to such great minds, under cover of an old man, looking a bit under-average (even though I know his income used to be over 100k a year), who seems to have nothing interesting to say, but actually if you listen, and if they are willing to talk, you can only sit there in amazement as they themselves are a wonder of life.

Im so grateful to come across him, to study under his supervision, to know him and listen to him, as an intellectual, a teacher and an elder about sociology as a discipline and life as it’s lived. I’ve always wanted to know if he was born in August, and been very hopeful that he was. Yesterday I met him and one particular moment was very touching. I mentioned my plan of leaving Canada in May, and he said: "We should really strive for Cornell. There are some great people there." The "we", instead of "you", was enough to leave me speechless. 
He is the man I adore. The man who can burn you with their fire of passion when coming into contact. And Im just happy to be burnt.

Thứ Bảy, 19 tháng 3, 2011

Đọc nhiều quá. Cảm giác đầu mình sắp vỡ mất :((
Nếu ăn chữ mà no được chắc mình đã bội thực mà chết từ lâu rồi :((

Thứ Năm, 17 tháng 3, 2011

Hôm kia, ngồi trên bus, ngắm ánh nắng vàng rộm, bầu trời xanh ngăn ngắt và những cánh chim đầu tiên chao lượn trên mặt hồ, ngẫm nghĩ xem có nên mua một cái kindle không. Vì rất chán ngán với cái viễn cảnh về nhà không kiếm được sách tiếng Anh để đọc, nếu mua kindle rồi mua ebook của Amazon, nhiều khi chỉ tầm 5-7$ một quyển sách quý, thì rất tiện và tiết kiệm nữa. Nhưng rồi nghĩ không cần phải vơ vét tích trữ nhiều như thế trước khi về. Có một dự cảm rất rõ ràng rằng chỉ trong vòng một năm thôi, mình sẽ lại đi tiếp. Chẳng biết tại sao.
Hôm qua, đứng chờ bus (mọi suy nghĩ hay ho đều xoay quanh cái xe bus). Lúc đó tầm 9h tối, downtown hiu hắt vắng hoe, ánh đèn đường vàng vọt, có một con bé buộc tóc, quàng khăn len trắng to sụ, đứng cúi đầu, không nhìn ai, không nghe gì, không biết hướng suy nghĩ của mình vào đâu. Bỗng dưng muốn có ai đó ghi lại hình ảnh mình lúc đó, đúng ra là, bỗng dưng tự mường tượng được rất rõ ràng hình ảnh của mình lúc đó, và mơ hồ cảm thấy đó là một khoảnh khắc đặc biệt, sẽ không bao giờ lặp lại nữa. Đành rằng làm gì có khoảnh khắc nào lặp lại bao giờ, nhưng trong cái tư thế cúi đầu, tay đút túi, cổ quàng khăn đó, cảm giác sẽ không bao giờ tìm lại bản thân như thế nữa. Chẳng biết tại sao.
Hôm nay, nói chuyện với anh, đến lúc anh phải đứng dậy đi làm, bình thường không sao, đang nói cười ha hả, đến lúc phải chào tạm biệt bỗng cuống quýt muốn giữ lại. Ngày nào cũng tạm biệt nhau ít nhất hai lần, rồi biết sẽ gặp lại ngay. Mà thật ra bây giờ, chào tạm biệt hay chào gặp mặt cũng chẳng khác nhau là mấy. Có gì đâu, không hình ảnh, không âm thanh, không cảm giác. Vậy mà muốn níu lại kinh khủng. Trong đầu vang vang lời của bài Lucky: “Every time we say goodbye, I wish we had one more kiss. I’ll wait for you, I promise you I will.” Bài đấy thật đúng với những người yêu xa. “Boy I hear you, in my dream, I feel your whisper across the sea. I keep you with me in my heart. You make it easier when life gets hard”. Đúng là có những lúc nhắm mắt lại trong đầu liền vang vang giọng nói của anh, có những lúc tất cả những gì mình có để bấu víu chỉ là một lời thì thầm truyền qua cáp quang chôn dưới đáy đại dương, và có những lúc tỉnh dậy toát mồ hôi vì một giấc mơ căng thẳng đã nghĩ đến anh để dỗ giấc ngủ khó khăn. Lúc chào tạm biệt, muốn giữ lại, rồi tự nhiên nước mắt chảy ra. Chẳng biết tại sao.

Thứ Năm, 10 tháng 3, 2011

For students in Art programs like me, exam is not a bad time. However, now is. March is the period of essays, papers, presentations and the like. We don’t usually have exams, just staying home writing papers. Yes, just that. Somehow my mom can’t ever get through the idea that not going to exam can be as stressful and tiring as the other option.

Anyhow, yesterday’s weather was extremely sad and depressing, snowy, gloomy, windy, dirty, muddy and wet. It was a pain even to go outside, wait for the bus in the wet snow, get wet all over from head to toes. But a good way to pass the time in such weather, that I haven’t known before, is to hang out with your classmates in a café, discuss your professors, their pros and cons, watch the snow swirling outside the window, with a soy latte added cinnamon powder.

I’ve never had the pleasure of discussing my professors with friends, simply because I don’t hang out with classmates, and those Im close to major in different departments. I’ve always been jealous (well, kind of) when I have to sit in silence and watch my friends having a lively conversation about this and that prof, such a pastime they apparently enjoy so much. That’s possible because they are in the same program, mostly Computer science, Math and Economics. Even those who are in Arts like me major in different disciplines, and I just can’t talk with them about what Im studying.

I just never know that it can feel so good to be able to talk about what you are thinking, how you are doing, 
 to be reassured that Im not the only one who feels a little lost in this class, or to be secretly pleased that I’ve done well in an essay most people failed miserably, to laugh and know that this prof doesn’t like me only, he doesn’t like any student. That’s what they call “the power of sharing”, I guess.

I’ve never been “friend”, in a true and meaningful sense of the word, with any of my classmate, and I have come to accept it as a matter of fact which no longer bothers me. I’ve stopped for a long time my effort in getting close to people who I see a few hours every week. All of sudden, in a snowy day, as I sat in a cozy corner in a café so empty I could only hear us talking and laughing, I realized I have missed so much a part of student life.

Next time, if there is a “next time”, I’ll do better.

Thứ Ba, 8 tháng 3, 2011


Ngồi viết từ sáng đến chiều mãi mới được 7 trang, trong khi cô giáo yêu cầu ít nhất là 8 trang, dài nhất 12, chẳng nộp bài được, nhớ lại ngày xưa mình toàn viết dài hơn yêu cầu, sao giờ lại tắc tịt thế này. Ôi thời oanh liệt nay còn đâu :((
Đi ngủ, mơ thấy nhiều thứ (lúc nào chẳng thế). Mơ thấy bà nội, khỏe mạnh y như ngày xưa. Trong mơ vừa ôm bà vừa hát "Bà ơi bà cháu yêu bà lắm, tóc bà trắng màu trắng như mây", tỉnh dậy nước mắt đầm đìa. Tự nhiên mấy hôm nay hay mơ thấy bà, bỗng dưng thấy sợ hãi kinh khủng. Gọi điện về cho mẹ, may sao cả nhà vẫn khỏe.
May sao, mọi người vẫn bình an.

Thứ Bảy, 5 tháng 3, 2011


There are things we learn about in childhood that remain forever mysterious. When I was very young and still slept on the same bed with my parents, sometimes I woke up at night and heard them talking. Times and times again, like the last summer I slept in their bedroom and sometimes waken up by their voices, it seems to me they always talk at night, at the most random moments, somehow I even feel like they don’t sleep. Yesterday, I finally had a breakthrough. I understood.

He was sleeping soundly, and I was reading. We left the video call on. I heard occasional engines roaming on the street, a rooster crowing now and then, people chatting on and off. I fell asleep for about 2 hours and woke up when dawn broke, finally his cell phone’s alarm went off, we said goodbye and ended the call. I’ve never watched anyone sleep before, simply because I enjoy sleeping too much to stay awake when others are sleeping.

It is like experiencing two realities happening at the same time. In my place, everything stood still. I knew time by the light outside my window. It got darker and darker, going from the bright early afternoon to complete darkness. In his place, everything constantly moved. I counted the flow of time by the noise echoing to his bed. The street got quieter, then became lively again with vehicles and people. I didn’t see anything there, but I heard everything. I could feel time moving slowly but steady. Here, I couldn’t hear anything in the uttermost silence surrounding me, the only sound was when I turned pages. To see light and to hear darkness, to feel day drifting to night and night approaching day, to experience time moving in two different directions through two different senses, is weird, strange, yet interesting. I could feel the Earth revolving around itself.

I could tell the stages of his sleep cycle based on his breathing. It was fast and kind of heavy at first, then got deeper and slower, until it got to a point I hardly heard anything. For a while, I found myself breathing the same rhythm with him, love dancing in my body from head to toes. For a moment, I saw in my mind the picture of a busy market, where everything is fresh and full of life, and almost like I could taste a summer breeze. I didn’t know why. Why a crowded market, why a cool caressing breeze, why I saw them in the rhythm of his breathing? That moment, I couldn’t describe anything better than I felt like home. Not close, not intimate, not peaceful, not loving, not happy. “Home” here doesn’t mean family, nor fatherland, neither Hanoi nor Vietnam. I felt like home, like something I’ve known for as long as I can remember, like it’s always been there, I just wasn’t aware of it. Finally I found it, and was grasped by a sudden recognition that it has always been there. A man who makes me feel like home.

 I love how he murmured “I love you so much” in such a dreamlike manner I wasn’t sure if he was awake, when his eyes were still tightly close and fell asleep right away. I love how he composed “poem” in sleep, read a pair of sentences out loud and I couldn’t help laughing and teasing him for the entire of the day after. I love how he just wanted my presence there when he slept, with no need to talk or to share anything. It’s like during the night, he belongs to me, his complete being is mine, only mine.

And I love how he would say something random in between sleep and wakefulness, switching between consciousness and unconsciousness and I would answer him. The conversation carried on for a few minutes until he, or both of us, fell asleep again. Finally, I understand how my parents always seem to talk at nights to the amazement of a kid.

Thứ Năm, 3 tháng 3, 2011

...listening to the rhythm of his breathing.
If anything, here is probably the good thing about being half way around the world apart, because I wouldn't be able to watch him sleep were I in the same time zone with him.