Wednesday, February 28, 2007
To quote the « Singaporean legend », Vietnam was developing at an admirable pace, but it would take several decades for her to catch up with other developed Asian countries like Malaysia. In 2005, Malaysia’s annual income per capita was 4,960 USD, Vietnam’s was 620 USD and Singapore’s was 27,490 USD. According to Mr. Yew, Vietnam’s greatest challenges are weak infrastructure, unfair educational practice [whatever that means], and a weak knowledge of English. It currently costs Vietnam a lot of time and money to translate research and learning materials from English into Vietnamese. As long as Vietnamese teachers don’t teach in English, Vietnam’s education will find it difficult to develop.
Now you know how I feel about languages. From a purely empirical and personal perspective, I can tell you that the more languages a person understands and/or speaks, the more intelligent that person is. The Vietnamese urban populations are already very keen on learning foreign languages, especially English. In my professional capacity (I’m a translator/interpreter), I have had many opportunities to talk with high level, sometimes even ministerial level, civil servants from Vietnam and they all agreed on the necessity for the Vietnamese new generations to master a second language, preferably English. So of course, Prime Minister Lee is quite right to stress the importance of fluency in English if one wants to succeed in today’s global economy. But it’s not like Vietnam is still stuck in the agricultural anti-intellectual mindframe of the war period. With the financial, economic and cultural contributions of the Viet Kieu diaspora, the booming tourist industry and the ubiquity of Internet access, the English language is more prevalent in Vietnam than Mr. Lee can imagine and the costs in time and money to translate stuff into Vietnamese are mere drops of water in the sea of Vietnam’s development ambitions and eagerness.
“As long as Vietnamese teachers don’t teach in English, Vietnam’s education will find it difficult to develop”. Oh really? According to the CIA, Vietnam's literacy figures for 2002 are: 90.3% for the total population, male: 93.9%, female: 86.9%. Not too shabby, wouldn’t you say, compared to Singapore’s 92.5% rate? http://tinyurl.com/yo4rpn
The elephant in the room that Mr. Lee is careful to tiptoe around is this: the Republic of Singapore, a former British colony, does not have a national language (instead, the following various languages are spoken: Mandarin 35%, English 23%, Malay 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese 5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9%). That is why Mr. Lee has a hard time understanding that other countries could very well, and just as efficiently, use a common national language, that is not English, to foster development in the economic as well as the social and cultural fields.
I don’t know if it would take another 200 years for Vietnam to catch up with Singapore, and frankly my dear, who gives a shit. But like I said, if anyone asks me, Singapore isn’t the country I particularly would want to emulate. And I have nothing against Singapore, never having visited that country. But from the usual description (clean, disciplined, in other words: Swiss), I think it is a disservice to the world to have Vietnam assimilated borg-like to the Nice Boring Countries Club. Resistance is not futile!!!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Il dit au garçon: "Je voudrais un plat d'antipasti et des spaghettos".
Le garçon: "Bon, je vois que vous n'êtes pas Italien. On dit "antipasto" et "spaghetti".
Le type: "Si vous voulez. Maintenant dites moi où sont les lavabis, je vais aller faire pipo!"
Le Pape pleure de compassion devant la pauvreté de la blague.
Monday, February 26, 2007
J'ai une petite chienne, Loulou, qui est le soleil de ma vie. Je l'ai eue en cadeau il y a huit ans (la mère était une Cocker Spaniel qui avait eu une petite aventure avec un chien inconnu et la propriétaire voulait se débarasser rapidement des chiots qui n'étaient pas pure race). Elle m'a déjà coûté une fortune en vaccination, stérilisation, médicaments, nourriture, garde-robe, sans parler des séances bimensuelles au salon de beauté pour coupe, shampoing, mise en plis et manucure.
Pendant longtemps, j'avais pensé qu'elle était la réincarnation d'un membre de ma famille (mon frère? ou mon père, peut-être?), parce qu'elle essayait constamment de nous parler: elle entrouvait sa bouche et s'efforçait de former des sons en plaçant ses lèvres dans diverses positions. Elle a fini par y renoncer, mais j'imagine sa frustration...
Tous les matins, je partage mon petit déjeuner avec elle: croissants, tartines, fromage, pâtés chauds, fruits, elle mange de tout et le soir, elle finit les restes de mon souper. En été, quand mon fils B-Boy prépare du pina colada pour la famille, elle a sa part (sans rhum) dans un petit bol. La nuit, elle dort avec moi dans mon lit d'opium. Avec l'âge, elle n'arrive plus à grimper au lit toute seule, surtout avec un genou qu'elle s'est tordu l'été dernier et que j'ai guéri par imposition des mains mais qui reste faible. Je devrais lui acheter des petites marches.
Noel dernier, j'étais partie plus d'une semaine à Calgary et j'ai demandé à des amis de venir loger chez moi pour s'occuper d'elle et lui tenir compagnie. Elle n'a pas mangé les trois premiers jours et n'a jamais voulu sortir pour ses marches quotidiennes, de peur de rater mon retour. Elle était restée campée en permanence devant la porte de la cuisine à m'attendre.
Hier soir, alors qu'on était toutes les deux bien enfoncées sous le duvet, à moitié endormies, j'ai fait un pacte avec ma Loulou: je lui ai fait promettre, si elle mourrait avant moi, de se réincarner de nouveau dans ma famille. Quant à moi, quant je mourrai, je promets de la chercher et de me réincarner dans sa famille.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
My son Genius Asparagus has written two songs. I prefer the second one, Gorilla Vs Ninja, probably because it has nifty lyrics that you can sing along while dancing to the beat. To download and listen to the song, go to his blog: http://www.nebupookins.net/
Here are the lyrics with timing information:
[0:00] Gorilla fights against ninja
[0:01] Ninja wins against gorilla
[0:04] Na na na na na na na na
[0:06] Na na na na na na na na
[0:08] Na na na na na na na na
[0:10] Na na na na na na na na
[0:12] Go go go go go gorilla
[0:15] go go go go fight the ninja
[0:17] Go go go go go gorilla
[0:19] go go go go fight the ninja
[0:21] Gorilla fights against ninja
[0:23] Ninja wins against gorilla
[0:26] Gorilla fights against ninja
[0:28] Ninja wins against gorilla
[0:30] Go go go go go gorilla
[0:32] go go go go fight the ninja
[0:34] Go go go go go gorilla
[0:37] go go go go fight the ninja
[0:39] Na na na na na na na na
[0:41] Na na na na na na na na
[0:43] Na na na na na na na na
[0:46] Na na na na na na na na
[0:51] You cannot win.
[0:53] You cannot hope to possibly stand a chance
against the ninja
[0:56] Go, Ninja.
[1:02] ...are known for rocking out on electric gui-tars!
[1:05] Na na na na na na na na
[1:07] Na na na na na na na na
[1:09] Na na na na na na na na
[1:12] Na na na na na na na na
[1:14] Go go go go go gorilla
[1:16] go go go go fight the ninja
[1:18] Go go go go go gorilla
[1:20] go go go go fight the ninja
[1:22] Gorilla fights against ninja
[1:24] Ninja wins against gorilla
[1:27] Gorilla fights against ninja
[1:29] Ninja wins against gorilla
[1:31] Na na na na na na na na
[1:33] Na na na na na na na na
[1:35] Na na na na na na na na
[1:39] You cannot win against the ninja!
As the name indicates, the site is a collection of readings of a common text by various people in the world with their different accents. Here's how they did it:
We constructed an elicitation paragraph to be read by each subject. The paragraph is written in English, and uses common English words, but contains a variety of difficult English sounds and sound sequences. The paragraph contains practically all of the sounds of English.
Naturally, I checked the Vietnamese accents in the archives and were surprised by their number: they had readers from Can Tho, Saigon, Vin Long, Hanoi, Cam Ranh, Ninh Binh.
But after listening to a few, I must admit that they all sound more or less the same to me, just like a generic Vietnamese accent. Must be the limitation of my own hearing. I have a friend who despairs of ever making me distinguish between the pre-war Hanoi accent and today's Hanoi accent, which he says is much coarser. To my uneducated ears, they all sound like a "normal" Northern accent.
Where do I begin to tell the story
Of how great a love can be.
The sweet love story that is older than the sea,
The simple truth about the love she brings to me.
Where do I start?
With her first hello,
She gave a meaning to this empty world of mine.
There'd never be another love, another time.
She came into my life and made the living fine.
She fills my heart.
She fills my heart with very special things,
With angels' songs, with wild imaginings.
She fills my soul with so much love
That anywhere I go, I'm never lonely.
With her around, who could be lonely?
I reach for her hand,
It's always there.
How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?
I have no answers now, but this much I can say:
I know I'll need her 'til the stars all burn away,
And she'll be there.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
About two or three years ago, I was munching on some jackfruit in my office when I realized that one of the seeds have protruding roots. I promptly planted the seed, not really hoping for fruit or anything, because the jackfruit tree can reach a height of 3-5 m in the wild and bear hundreds of heavy fruits. In fact, the jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, reaching 80 pounds in weight and up to 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter.
The seed gave a nice little plant which I more or less neglected and left alone in a pot in a corner of my office. So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, a baby jackfruit started peeking out of the leaves. It looked like this:
Every day at the office, it was such a sweet torment watching the fruit grow bigger and bigger and praying that it wouldn't dry up and drop from the branch. I started reading up about the jackfruit. Apparently, the jackfruit tree bears both male and female flowers in separate flower-heads. What I thought was a baby fruit was actually a male flower. Male flower-heads are on new wood among the leaves or above the female. They are swollen, oblong, from an inch to four inches long and up to an inch wide at the widest part. When mature the head is covered with yellow pollen that falls rapidly after flowering. The female heads appear on short, stout twigs that emerge from the trunk and large branches, or even from the soil-covered base of very old trees. They look like the male heads but without pollen.
Of course I immediately bragged about this to my friends who were sharing my excitement and impatience. One of them informed me that, at her family orchard in Vietnam, when the jackfruit trees are in bloom, the workers would go to the trees and simply ask aloud for the number of fruits they expected the trees to bear, and allegedly, the trees would always comply.
So I stood in front of my tree and said loudly: «Hello jackfruit tree, this is your owner speaking. If it's not too much trouble, I would like you to produce four fruits please. Got it? Four fruits. Thank you!» [The reason is I only have three good friends, so I ordered one jackfruit for each of us.] Every few days, I would remind the tree of its duty, taking care not to annoy it by nagging too much.
Last week, the female flowers started appearing on the trunk, two of them. So now I have three male flowers and two females. The problem is one of the male flowers is already blooming and producing pollen, while the female flowers are still minuscule. I tried to collect the pollen in an envelope but it's hard to detach from the flower head, so I decided to leave it alone.
Now we'll see how Mother Nature is coordinating all this. My job is simply to water the tree, remind it of my expectations and wait for this:
Imagine though: a jackfruit tree producing fruit in Montreal, QC, Canada, in the heart of winter!!! I'm good or what!?!!! God damn!
Mon copain (hehehe!) KCA a un blogue que je me fais un devoir de visiter chaque jour: http://00844.blogspot.com/
Mais dernièrement, à l'occasion du Têt, le sieur KCA s'est déchaîné et a fait un reportage du tonnerre sur les festivités de Bac Ninh. En voici une photo, mais allez voir le reste, cela vaut le détour.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Depuis qu'on est divorcé, l'ex et moi avons souvent des conversations civilisées, où n'entrent presque jamais certaines expressions, pourtant fréquentes durant notre mariage, telles que: fuck you! ou: go to hell!
L'autre jour, dans un moment d'égarement, il a laissé tomber les gardes et m'a confié que ses amis et lui, tous divorcés ou veufs, cherchent des compagnes, non pas nécessairement pour convoler en justes noces, mais simplement pour ne pas être seuls. Je comprends parfaitement ses sentiments: quelques années après le divorce, j'avais moi-même entrepris de répondre aux petites annonces pour trouver l'âme soeur, ou du moins quelqu'un avec qui prendre un café.
Ce fut épique...
Cas no.1: On se rencontre dans un café. Il va chercher son thé et passe à la caisse payer, sans m'attendre, pour ne pas avoir à payer mon café. Une fois assis, il sort de sa poche un biscuit, qu'il casse en deux et m'en tend la moitié. «Tiens, dit-il, je l'ai acheté pour toi.»
Cas no. 2: À peine faites les présentations, il me dit: «Viens, on va aller acheter des provisions et on va aller à mon chalet. Tu me feras de la cuisine vietnamienne». Je dis: «Tu sais, si je voulais faire la cuisine pour des inconnus, je serais devenue chef dans un restaurant». Lui: «Mais... c'est moi qui vais payer pour les provisions.»
Cas no.3: Lui: «I like you. You're pretty. But I want you to grow your hair, cause I like women with long hair.» Moi: «Sure, no problem. Me, I like men with tatoos, so I want you to tatoo a huge dragon all over your back.»
J'ai fini par comprendre qu'avec l'âge, je suis devenue plus souple, plus tolérante mais, en même temps, plus stricte et plus difficile. Fini les compromis, les «il n'est pas parfait, mais il changera peut-être». Les priorités se sont affinées, les goûts se sont décantés, maintenant c'est exactement ce que je veux ou rien. Je ne peux même plus concevoir subordonner mes envies, mes projets, mes rêves, mes choix à l'approbation ou à l'interdiction d'une autre personne.
J'ai dit à l'Ex: «It's easier for you guys. You will always find women of any age who will want to be with you. At my age, I'm limited to 60-65 year old farts and you know how conservative and stupid men that age can be.» Ce qui signifie que je vais probablement vieillir et finir mes jours seule. De tout façon, comme disait Dalida: On n'a jamais fait un cercueil à deux places.
«Pour ne pas vivre seul» - Christophe Willem
Monday, February 19, 2007
As described by Wikipedia, Shabu Shabu is the Japanese version of the hot pot. The dish is prepared by submerging a very thin slice of meat or a piece of vegetable in a pot of boiling water or dashi (broth) made with kombu (kelp) and swishing it back and forth several times. (The familiar swishing sound is where the dish gets its name. Shabu-shabu roughly translates to "swish-swish".) It is usually served with tofu and vegetables, including Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, nori (edible seaweed), onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and enokitake mushrooms, fresh spinash, watercress. In some places (like the Hinashima restaurant where we went), Udon and harusame noodles may also be served. Cooked meat and vegetables are usually dipped in ponzu or "goma" (sesame seed) sauce before eating with a bowl of steamed white rice. Once the meat and vegetables have been eaten, leftover water from the pot is customarily combined with the remaining rice, and the resulting soup is usually eaten last. It was sooooo delicious!!!
During the meal, the Ex took pictures with his digital camera, so naturally we asked him to show us the ones he took from his last trip to Vietnam. Now Mr. Ex has suddenly taken a shining to Vietnam. He already went twice in the past six months and he was supposed to go with us again in May of this year. He has said on many occasion: "I always, always have a great time in Vietnam, and as soon as I leave Vietnam, I can hardly wait to go back". So, of course, with my sewer mind, I immediately suspected that he met a few "em" in Vietnam ["Em" litterally means "younger sibling" in Vietnamese and is the euphemistic term for bar girl/whore]. The suspiction was confirmed when he refused to show us any picture. He also said no when his son B-Boy pretended to borrow the camera to take some pictures. And his new wife must also suspect something cause he finally told us that he won't be able to go with us in May, cause she won't let him. I cruelly taunted him, putting on my worst Vietnamese accent: "Come on, Ex! If you go to Vietnam, love you long time! Five dollars, suckie suckie!!! Are you a man or a mouse?"
What a great time we had last night!! Even if the Ex still won't go with us to Vietnam...
The commercial was uploaded everywhere: YouTube, Google, Netscape videos, etc. and embedded in millions of blogs around the world (including yours truly's blog). Here it is again, because it's such a great performance:
Well, there are two other versions of that performance, which I am happy to post here, for your viewing pleasure.
For those of you who are only interested in the Kayageum players and not in the BBoys:
And finally, the inevitable: «The Making Of...» video
Consider this as your New Year li xi.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I'm Baaaaack! So I said the 19th and it's only the 18th. Sue me.
My Internet connection is back. The whole sorry episode was too painful for me to recall in details. Suffice it to say that I will try to cut my connections with Bell as soon as I practically can. I've already got a new server, now I will switch to Vonnage or some other server for my land phone. Curse you Bell Canada!
Family news are not too good. My little brother (my only sibling still alive) has been diagnosed with blood cancer and will have to go through some chemotherapy. It all started with a brain tumor for which he got operated. The tumor analysis revealed the blood cancer. If he has to undergo a bone marrow transplant, I would be the only compatible donor. In the meantime, I lent him my laptop which I stocked up with films and video clips, cause I know how boring a lengthy stay in a hospital can be. Now I might as well say goodbye to that laptop, he won't give it back...
Mommy Dearest will also have an operation soon, for the cataract in the left eye. She calls me many times a day, for various nonsenses, because she is in her down period. B-Boy and his cousin Soy Sauce performed at the Tet Party organized at the Olympic Stadium by the Vietnamese community in Montreal. We videotaped the show but my mother's vision was too poor, and she could not even watch her grandsons' performance on her TV. I will post the link when the show will be uploaded on YouTube.
Then my car got towed away because I lent it to someone who parked it on a street where they were doing some snow clearing. The next day, I had to take a taxi to drive around the area, looking for my car. Ended up costing 40 dollars of taxi, plus 92 dollars of fine.
That's it for my whining and complaining. Happy New Year, everyone! I have the feeling that I paid off a lot of my bad karma and that things will be so much better from now on.
Oh wait, one more thing. To the people of Herouxville: You're a bunch of assholes! [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herouxville]