Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Photos from North Vietnam

And my third and and final set of Vietnam photos: North Vietnam. Here's a link to the thumbnails and a link to the detail view.

Photos from Central Vietnam

Here's a link to my Flickr thumbnails and to the detail view of my Central Vietnam album. It includes photos from Da Nang, Hoi An, Phu Bai, Hue and southwest Quang Nam province.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sometimes what you don't see is right in front of you

My friend Jonna stopped by my desk today while she was waiting to visit one of our coworkers. There are plants along the window ledge at the desk I'm currently, and temporarily, occupying. I hadn't paid much attention to them, a cactus of some sort and another plant I couldn't identify.

Jonna poked her head in over my desk at the cactus and pointed to a metal doodad in the pot with the plant.

"Look," she said. And I said, "What?"

I had to stand up to see what she was looking at. The top of that metal doodad was a dragonfly.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A sampling of photos from South Vietnam

More photos from the Southern part of my Vietnam trip are on Flickr here. You'll see thumbnail versions of the photos. Click on a photo to see a larger version, or click here to see the detail view, which shows titles and medium-sized versions of the photos.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A weekend of photo work

I spent most of this weekend (and a lot of the last week) working on my Vietnam photos, cropping and adjusting them and uploading them to my Flickr account. I got so into it today that I wore the purple tank top I wore in one of the photos. And I hadn't worn it since I'd been back from Vietnam. I guess I'm in a last-ditch summer mode in addition to wanting to immerse myself back into that trip experience. Every photo makes me want to write. Phuong left for DC today, and my nonfiction class starts on Tuesday.

I'm tired of uploading photos at the moment, so here is a link to the photo of me in the purple tank top with Jack.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Phong and I discussing Warhol's "Mao"

Come to think of it, maybe there's something a little "Seinfeld" about this.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Seinfeld" in Vietnamese

I've been busy the last several days working with my Flickr site. I'm finally getting around to going through my Vietnam trip photos, one by one, cropping them, and I keep finding details I hadn't noticed before. I'm only about 30 hours into the trip, photo-wise. It'll take me awhile to go through all of them.

This is Phuong's last week in Pittsburgh, and on Saturday she and her friend Nguyen invited me over to Nguyen's place for dinner--and it was great. I'm still laughing to myself how an episode of "Seinfeld" was on the TV when I walked into the apartment. I felt a little like I was inside an episode because of the door I'd just walked through. But I also wasn't sure if Phuong and Nguyen knew what they were watching.

"It's a whole series about nothing," I said to them.

"Isn't it about ten years old?" Nguyen asked me. I said it was. He knew which season this particular episode was from. And then he told me that "Seinfeld" is on Vietnamese TV.

"It's not funny in Vietnamese," Phuong said to me, as she waved her hand at the television screen.

"It's the translation," Nguyen said.

"But it's not funny in English a lot of times," I said. I tried to imagine the characters speaking Vietnamese, and I couldn't figure how a bunch of middle-aged American single people could have much culturally in common with the Vietnamese. I think it's most likely a harmless American export--I can think of a lot of worse American TV shows they could be watching.

Dinner was fantastic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

At the Warhol

Scott Beveridge and I took Phuong and Nam to the Andy Warhol Museum on Pittsburgh's North Side on this past Sunday. Nam arrived in Pittsburgh just last week after spending six months in Arizona. He's from the countryside south of Hanoi, and is here to study public health.

Here's Nam with Andy's Flowers:

and here's Phuong walking past a wall of Andy's Maos:

(I felt like there should have been a wall of Andy's Nixons facing Andy's Maos. And then some typewriter sounds and maybe some Carpatho-Rusyn minor key music, maybe accordion, in the mix. Or maybe some Rolling Stones.)

But the Warhol isn't just about looking at art on the walls. In the mylar balloon room, you get to walk into the art and interact with it:

And it's so fun to photograph in there. Scott and Nam walked around taking photos in there, and Phuong and I sat down on the hardwood floor and took photos and laughed a lot. Here's Phuong looking at a photo Scott's showing her on his camera.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Thursday night on Penn Ave.

I was at the monthly Friends of Danang meeting this past Thursday, at Enrico Biscotti. After the meeting, Phuong interviewed the group's founders, George D'Angelo (in the photo below, left) and Tony Accamando (in the background).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday on the South Side

Scott took this photo of Phuong and me in the Beehive on Carson Street this afternoon. It's a coffee shop with wireless internet and a lot of character. (And characters.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

August 2006 issue of Vanity Fair

The August 2006 issue of Vanity Fair includes a story about the Vietnam War and Agent Orange in its print edition. The story by Christopher Hitchens is on the Vanity Fair web site. Hitchens uses the term "ecocide" to describe what Agent Orange has done in Vietnam--to the land, the vegetation, and to the people--including those who are yet to be born. The accompanying photo essay by James Nachtwey is here. Some of the images (of both Americans and Vietnamese) are disturbing, but according to Hitchens there were far more disturbing photos which weren't chosen for publication.

I understand what Hitchens says about images being burned into his mind. I saw things in Vietnam that I didn't photograph, out of respect for the people and out of my own awkwardness and shock about what I was seeing. One in particular was a man working in a rest stop between Halong and Hanoi. He had no hands but had a pen stuck into a fold of flesh where a wrist bone should be, and he wrote money transactions into a book. For a long time I assumed he was a war veteran who lost both of his hands in the war. And that may have been the case. But now I also see the possibility that he was my age, and that he was born that way.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What next?

I've been struggling for words lately. Unusual for me, isn't it? But I've had a lot on my mind: I'm at a point in my life where I have a lot of possible paths I could follow, but I'm trying to figure out exactly where I want to go. Is everywhere a valid answer? I hate having to choose one thing when it means I have to give up other things. I'd like to get my MFA in creative nonfiction, and get my RN (where'd that come from?) and maybe study history and public policy and take apart software interfaces and functionality and look under the hood and figure out why they work the way they do, and then make them work even better. It's probably a good thing I didn't go to med school, because I probably would have become fascinated with abdominal surgery for much the same reasons I want to tinker with software interfaces. And it's much the same way I want to tinker with stories. I get frustrated with the writing style and structure of a lot of authors, and I have an even lower tolerance for television shows and movies.

It's at times like this that what I should do is shut up and listen. And it's also at times like this I wish my dad were here to provide his insight on all of this. Granted, it's great talking to my mom about it, but I sometimes wonder if some of my quirks are ones I would have shared with him, and if some of these things, particularly the writing ones, would have been obvious to him when they aren't so obvious to me.

I keep seeing dragonflies, and they're showing themselves to some of my friends, too. Check out Scott Beveridge's photo of a dragonfly on a lotus bud. Lotus flowers are very Vietnamese. I've probably mentioned it a thousand times, but I saw lots of dragonflies in Vietnam.