Saturday, January 17, 2009

Demonstration Against LAAVA

Despite the fact that the "FOB II: Art Speaks" exhibit was shut down by city code enforcer due to a lack of a gallery permit, the demonstration against VAALA still took place as planned on Saturday as promised by the anti-communist groups. About 700 people showed up with their Freedom Flags demanding the dismantle of VAALA.

On Friday, the San Jose activist Ly Tong flew down and managed to enter the closed exhibit and sprayed paint the infamous photograph of the bust of the Great Uncle Ho positioned next to the lady with a yellow star red tank top.

As expected, politicians of all stripes are feasting on VAALA to build their name recognition. State Assemblyman Jose Solorio (Whom the community has no relationship or has an inkling who he is) in an open letter suggested that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido should shut down VAALA's headquarters right away. The reason - VAALA has violated the dignity of the Vietnamese-Americans and all others who defend and respect freedom and democracy.

LSI predicts that this will get uglier, especially now that it has become a politicized event for politicians to exploit. Nguoi Viet Daily News of course is pouring oil on fire trying to get this same group of demonstrators against Nguoi Viet for the last 1 year to focus on VAALA instead.

Westminster Mayor Pro Term to VAALA: Apologize

Wesminster Mayor Pro Term Ta Tri and the Trannie's demanded VAALA to apologize and make amend to the community (?). The shutting down of the exhibit apparently was not enough in their view. Y Sa, the ED of VAALA, scoffed at the idea and responsed by reiterated the fact that VAALA as an organization always respects and honors the many suffering and sacrifices the community experienced under the communist regime and its fight for freedom and democracy.

At the end of the day, nobody wins and the community is again at a stalemate. VAALA representing the younger generation with a more liberal cultural value view is trying to provide a forum for a silent majority. But with a bad timing and questionable agenda to start with, the exhibit was designed to fail. The idea of mixing arts and politics or letting arts representing political voices can either be explosive and self-destruct or be brilliant and constructive vanguard.

If there is lesson to be learned, it is about don't try to be a hero. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said :" Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy."

Democracy At Work (Depending on Which Side)

At the press conference on Friday's morning in VAALA's headquarters while about 60 protesters standing outside with their anti-communist chants and Freedom Flags, the organizers of the controversial exhibit "FOB II: Arts Speak" announced that they will close the exhibit immediately. One of the main reasons is because Santa Ana City code inspector told the organizers they did not have gallery permit for the ground floor of the office building they had leased. The other reason is of course the threat of a massive demonstration this Saturday (which is doubtful because these anti-communist groups lack the majority support of the community)

Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Costa Mesa, also put VAALA on notice with his political ultimatum of cease and desist. In a letter to VAALA, Tran compared the exhibit as promoting a Nazi flag with a bust of A. Hitler in the middle of a community of Holocaust survivors.
The only real drama of the day was an emotional statement from Han Doan, the father of Brian Doan, the photographer who composed the now infamous picture. He apologized to the community and asked VAALA to remove the picture. He expressed his anger at his son's insensitive toward the community. He revealed that he spent a decade in concentration camp under the communist regime.
VAALA is a victim of bad timing and wrong motive in organizing the exhibit considering the current highly sensitized political climate of the community in Little Saigon and of course in Vietnam with the communist government cracking down on religious dissidents as well as innocent people

However, it is a shame that VAALA can not continue on with its exhibit due to the pressure of extreme right wing groups, albeit that they are powerful with Assemblyman Van Tran as their de-facto leader.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Year's Celebration

To mark the upcoming year of the Golden Ox, the Vietnam Consulate in San Francisco threw a big party last weekend with traditional New Year's food and music. The Tetmosphere in the Green Room at the SF War Memorial and Performing Art Center was vibrant and the crowd of over 500 people readily enjoyed themselves with the hope of bringing better luck in 2009 while trying to forget a disastreous Year of the Rat.

Not to be outdone by the communist government's party, the Vietnamese-American community in San Francisco is having their traditional Tet festival on Jan 18 in the newly named Little Saigon District (made up of 6 blocks of streets) next to SF City Hall. For a community of less than 14,000 people, it was quite a lobbying effort to not only have the name but also get the city to pay half of the cost for the gate. How did they do it? Well, a prominent journalist there suggested:"Because we did not have a Vietnamese-American councilmember in SF city council."

The big Tet Parade in San Jose will be held in downtown San Jose on Feb. 8 with their annual parade and live music, arts and crafts and exhibtors. Whether Councilwoman Madison Nguyen will attend the parade is remained to be seen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

VAALA and Art Revenge

VAALA stands for Vietnamese-American Arts & Letters Association. This is a nonprofit organization founded with the intention of promoting Vietnamese-American artists, writers and film makers. The original driving force behind VAALA was the largest Vietnamese-American newspaper in southern California, Nguoi Viet. Le Dinh Y Sa, the executive director, is a champion of VAALA and has spent tiredless efforts promoting its causes.

Recently, touting its current exhibit as one of the hottest events in Santa Ana, VAALA announced the opening of " FOB II: Art Speaks ". The main attraction of the exhibit is a provocative photograph of a bust of the Great Uncle Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the French Communist Party as well as Indochina Communist Party and one of the most influential people in the 20th century (according to Time Magazine), positions next to a young woman gazing nostagically while wearing a blood red tank top with prominent Yellow Star on her chest (for those who don't not know, the tank top is designed to resemble the official flag of the communist party).

In a lenghthy justification of the exhibit, VAALA had translated into Vietnamese commentaries written specifically for VAALA from Lan Duong, assistant professor of women's studies at UC Riverside and Mariam Lam, assistant professor of comparative literature at UC Riverside. They both are Vietnamese by heritage.

The week long exhibit so far is not a big attraction with hardly anybody shows up for viewing. The main Vietnamese-American media in southern California for now choose not to cover it.

But the organizers will get the attention that they had sought with some of the anti-communist groups in Wesminster and Garden Grove planning a small demonstration this Saturday.

It is well known within the community that Hao Nhien, the popular blogger, is the husband of Le Dinh Y Sa.

Hao Nhien was let go from Nguoi Viet Daily News along with two other colleagues as part of a management shake-up. The new ownership, basically, Do ngoc Yen's daughter and her new husband (an engineer from San Jose) and other major shareholders finally had enough with the two consecutive faux pas that costed Nguoi Viet millions of dollars as well as its reputation. The first was the printing of a New Year poem praising the current communist regime, the second of a lesser sin was the now infamous picture of the foot spa decorated with the graphic of the Freedom Flag.

The irony here of course is Y Sa is the daughter of the late Le dinh Dieu, one of the original co-founders of Nguoi Viet Newspaper along with Do ngoc Yen. The well respected Le dinh Dieu was an author/writer and spent a short period in the communist concentration camp for his anti-communist view.

Many people in southern California are now either jaded or sick and tired of communist red baiting and labeling. After all, the most pro-communist public figure of them all, as being labeled by the State Assemblyman Van Tran, is County Supervisor Janet Nguyen. If LSI recalled properly, she trounced the anti-communist flag waving "The Van Gang" of Trung Nguyen, Dina Nguyen and Hoa Tran at the poll all in one year.

It is interesting to see how the legacy of a war 2 generations removed somewhat still haunts even the youngest generation that hardly knows their own history or speak their mother tongue properly. The freedom of speech and expression of one's view is the corner stone of this great nation of immigrants. However, to exploit such privileges with the intention of provoking hurtful memories of a community that has to rise from despair and total destruction by the most evil force in the 20th century is incomprehensible.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Appointment of a Filipino American to Replace Madison Nguyen

So LSI went North to attend the swearing in of a new mayor and on the way home, got a text message from the 18th floor that the Filipino American whom Chuck Reed had approached for the appointment to replace Madison Nguyen after March 3 election actually turned down the position. Her reason to Reed is that this is a tainted seat and she does not agree to the condition that Chuck put forth - cannot run for election in 2010. Not to revealing any name to protect the innocent but on the other hand, it would not make the story interesting, LSI can only say that the person's first name is rhyme with the name of one of the recent US First Ladies.

Since early December, it is a well known fact on the 18th floor that Reed will appoint somebody to replace Nguyen. His dilemma is who? A Vietnamese-American, a Hispanic, an Anglo Saxon? In District 7, where there is only 20% Whites, it would be difficult not to choose a person of color. But who, not a Hispanic for he does not want Nora Campos to have a coalition against him. A Vietnamese-American, he sent out feeler to the community leaders - What about Khoa Nguyen, his young aide? The answer is he is green and it would not look right if Reed appoints his own staff.

What about the condition of not to run for election in 2010? Why would he put forth such condition for appointment? Even though there is neither legal nor political obligation by the appointee, why Reed wants it to be known that his appointee will have to make a promise not to run in 2010.

LSI is just a reporter and not a political analyst but by talking to Nguyen's camp, it is now clear that her backup strategy is to run for reelection in 2010.

Personally, LSI thinks that all these political moves and calculations are a waste of time and can cause embarrasing doubt.

Nguyen with her good look, powerful position, boat load of money and the powerful support of Labor, elected officials like the mayor, the vice mayor, the "silent majority", the many Vietnamese-American media outlets and the mainstream media from Merc to Metro, etc.... will crush the recall team. As LSI mentioned before, it is not even a fair fight.

But on the other hand, the conventional wisdom is Nguyen 40%, the people 60%. Is this why Nguyen decided to abandon walking in area where there are a lot of Vietnamese-American residents ? According to her camp, they will put effort in convincing the Hispanic and White voters. They based their decison on the poll that they painstakingly took in December by calling people with a questionnaire of 50 questions (that's right, 50 questions!)