Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Blogcrawl

It must have been the phase of the moon, but for some reason all of my friends in Vietnam decided to contact me last week, and I was overcome with nostalgia and longing. Especially exciting was to hear that Kien has welcomed his baby son into the world - welcome to the Universe baby Khang! So now, let's look at some of the more interesting news from Vietnam, or about things Vietnamese, this past week:

A view of Saigon's Bitexco Tower from the blog

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Co Dau Dai Chien (Angry Brides)

When we were visiting our favourite DVD shop in Cabramatta recently the owner slipped an extra disc into our bag for free. "You'll love this one," he said. "A brand new movie from Vietnam."
Which is how we discovered Co Dau Dai Chien, a sex-comedy released in 2011 that details the adventures of a rather gormless nouveau riche lothario and the clutch of women to whom he has promised his hand.

Now, don't be expecting any great delicacy of observation in this movie. In terms of sexual politics I dare say it is quite problematic. But in terms of entertainment this is a wonderful, and surprisingly sophisticated film. It represents the most fascinating meeting of cinematic traditions, combining the martial arts aesthetics of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the sleek and sexually-charged repartee of the Rock Hudson & Doris Day movies, throwing in a generous dose of camp self-knowingness which at times put me in mind of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
It is also a remarkable evocation of contemporary Saigon, with its yuppie try-hards, its ambitious young career women, and centuries of tradition being fast jettisoned in the face of a growing prosperity. The film's hero is despicable in his treatment of women, but he is also ultimately punished for it in the most intimate and devastating way.
I absolutely loved this film, and simply couldn't stop laughing. The comedy veers from the slapstick to the cerebral, and the performances similarly slide from exquisitely subtle to over-the-top campery. But it is all such tremendous fun, and with such a complicated and even wicked moral, that the variety of experiences seem to be an intentional part of the journey.
Watch it with an open mind and tell me that the end isn't a kind of feminist triumph. Or I could have got it totally wrong.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Basic Concepts of Buddhism: The Sangha

The basic act of Buddhist devotion is taking refuge in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Monks at Tinh Xa Trung Tam, Saigon

The Buddha is the person of the most enlightened one, the Dharma is the body of the Buddha's teachings - but what is the Sangha?  

Buddha shrine at Vien Giac Temple, Bui Thi Xuan St, Tan Binh district, Ho Chi Minh City.

Sangha is a Sanskrit and Pali word meaning "Assembly" or "Community." Traditionally the Sangha has been interpreted to mean the monastic community of dedicated religious practitioners living together in a community devoted to the Buddha's teachings.

But Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has taken the concept further. In his book Joyfully Together: The Art of Building a Harmonious Community, he explains Sangha in this way:

"Any group of people can practice as a Sangha, as a community that is determined to live in harmony and awareness. All we have to do is commit ourselves to going together in the direction of peace, joy, and freedom. Together, we benefit from each other's strengths and learn from each other's weaknesses. A family is a Sangha, the members of a monastic and lay practice centre are a Sangha; even the United Nations is a Sangha! A Sangha is a family, a spiritual family connected by the pactices of mindfulness, concentration, and insight.  The Sangha may be Buddhist, or even non-Buddhist, so long as it is a community that walks the path of liberation together."

These days the Sangha is normally spoken of as "the community that follows the Dharma," thereby incorporating all Buddhists, lay and monastic.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Catherine Deneuve

Having once been the face of Chanel No.5, muse of Yves Saint Laurent and partner of photographer DavidBailey, Catherine Deneuve remains one of the most stylish women in the world, and she was, perhaps, at her most stylish when she starred in Indochine RegisWargnier’s 1992 epic about the French colonial period in Vietnam

I saw Indochine long before I ever saw Vietnam, and it indelibly coloured my vision of that country. And I still see myself in a vauguely Deneuve-ish light, swanning about in the Vietnamese heat in some gorgeous Vietnam-inspired couture.
When we finally did get to Vietnam in 1994 the shadow of Catherine Deneuve still loomed, particularly in Hanoi. She must have been quite the shopper, because shop after shop in the Old Quarter featured a blown-up picture of the proprietor standing next to a gorgeously humble Miss Deneuve, her hair pulled back from her beautifully sculpted face.
Now in late middle age, Deneuve’s name remains the very byword for a certain kind of old-world Gallic glamour that has almost totally disappeared. She is the last of the great French film stars.
And she’s back and going strong in a new French romantic comedy called Beloved. She was also just awarded the Stanislavsky Prize for a lifetime’s acting – well deserved. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Blogcrawl

Oh I am missing Vietnam.
I was there about 7 weeks ago, and now the longing has set in. It doesn't help that this week  three friends from Saigon spontaneously sent me messages, leaving me even more desperate to get back.
Here is some Vietnam-related stuff from the net this week:

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