With all this talk of the NSA and its activities, espionage has stormed back onto the front pages. Perfect time to publish a spy novel set in China, the USA and Germany, one should think, and cometh the hour, cometh the man in the form of Olen Steinhauer. That surname suggests another Nordic star but [...]
“Nobody gives way to anybody. Everyone just angles, points, dives directly toward his destination, pretending it is an all-or-nothing gamble. People glare at one another and fight for maneuvering space. All parties are equally determined to get the right-of-way — insist on it. They swerve away at the last possible moment, giving scant inches to spare. The victor goes forwards, no time for a victory grin, already engaging in another contest of will. Saigon traffic is Vietnamese life, a continuous charade of posturing, bluffing, fast moves, tenacity and surrenders.”
Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham
In the early 1920s, a rather eccentric Cambridge academic named C.K. Ogden came up with the idea of “Basic English“, which reduced the language to 850 words. One can imagine Winston Churchill, then in his mid-forties, having been shocked by such an idea, but circumstances change cases and, astonishingly, the great orator and author of [...]
A trip to the big city of Hanoi is a memorable occasion and a group photo in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum belongs to the essential rituals of the excursion. Visitors should note that legs must be covered, silence must be observed, hands must not be in pockets, nor arms crossed. Photography is [...]
YouTube is a treasure trove, perhaps the greatest treasure trove in human history. A recent browse revealed the 80 voices of the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir performing the music of Bob Dylan. It’s inspiring to hear his songs of faith treated with such devotion. Here’s What Can I Do For You? from Dylan’s 1980 album, Saved. “You have laid down Your life for me / What can I do for You? / You have explained every mystery / What can I do for You?” The lead vocalist is the superb Lisa Shergold.
It’s hot in Vietnam. No, make that unbearably hot. Here’s what happens when the temperature reaches 43C: “In Hanoi, a great number of people rushed to supermarkets, cinemas, indoor recreation centres, and green parks to avoid the hot weather. The hypermarket Big C Thang Long was packed with visitors from 9 am. The ‘escapees’ included [...]
Daniel Klein is a chef and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His site, The Perennial Plate, is a mouth-watering temptation to experience delights such as Frog’s Legs with Homemade Ketchup, Crab and Cactus Taco with Tomatillo Salsa and Bison Tartare. Quite rightly, his short film, A Taste of Vietnam, has been nominated for a Vimeo Festival Award in the “lyrical” category. Vote!
In mid-April, China’s “great firewall” system that blocks blacklisted foreign websites temporarily blocked all foreign websites. This was followed by an increase in website-blocking across the country. Then came the news that posts by weibo users with more than 10,000 followers will be individually vetted, and it is said that Beijing is also pushing the [...]
The standoff earlier this month — “Philippines Warns China in Naval Crisis” — between a Filipino warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels was ostensibly about disputed fishing rights in an area of the South China Sea where both countries claim sovereignty. This is about something more controversial than shark fin soup, though. China wants to [...]
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami.