Celebrating Pride Month

A Typical Vacation Day

6:00 AM: Woke up and read.

8:00 AM: Made Vietnamese ice coffee and hit the skatepark to rollerblade.

9:00 AM: Rollerbladed again on the boardwalk while the kids biked.

11:00 AM: Relaxed then had lunch.

2:00 PM: Hit the beach with the kids.

6:00 PM: Had dinner.

8:00 PM: Hit the arcades on the boardwalk.

10:00 PM: Played Monopoly with the kids.

12:00 AM: Went to bed.

Mua cua nhớ mẹ

Hôm qua đi mua một bushel (chín lố) cua, tôi lại nhớ đến mẹ. Mới năm nào mẹ cùng đi biển với chúng con và các cháu. Cả tuần lễ trong nhà trọ mấy mẹ con ngày nào cũng hấp cua lên cùng ăn cùng bàn tán hết chuyện thiên hạ đến chuyện nội bộ.

Chân mẹ yếu không đi ra biển được nên mẹ có thời gian thong thả lột cua ăn. Thấy được mẹ mỉm cười chúng con rất vui và hạnh phúc. Thế mà giờ đây mẹ đã không còn nữa. Tôi đi mua cua một mình mà không thể nào không ngậm ngùi nhớ đến mẹ.

Nhớ từng câu nói, nhớ từng nụ cười, và nhớ từng cử chỉ của mẹ. Nỗi nhớ càng mãnh liệt hơn mỗi khi chạm đến những dòng ký ức về mẹ. Ngày xưa cứ ngỡ mẹ sẽ luôn ở bên tôi. Cái cảm giác vắng mẹ vẫn xót xa vô ngần.

Letter to My Sons #18

My Brightest Xuânshine,

I can’t pinpoint how our conversation started, but I remembered exactly what you had asked me, “Do you miss Bà Nội?” I replied, “I miss her everyday.” Then I asked you if you know where she is and you responded, “She is buried in the ground.” You are one smart five-year-old and I can rely on you. When one of your cousins took little Vương out of the ice skating arena, you notified me. I ran out of the building and saw little Vương standing in the parking lot. If you didn’t tell me, something could have happened to your baby brother. Thank you so much.

As an older brother to baby Vương, you are caring and loving. Most of the time, you let him have it his way. You didn’t hit him back when he punched you. I observed and appreciated your compassion toward your baby brother. With Đạo and Đán, you were more competitive. When you couldn’t fight them physically, you used your words to get them in trouble. You even admitted your exaggeration.

In our family, you hold the record for early accomplishments. I am not sure if Vương would beat your records, but you are still indisputable. You started to talk in complete sentences early. You learned how to ride a bike early. You started ice skating early as well. You can pick up ice skating techniques with not much effort. You’re a natural skater. Keep it up, kid.

I can’t believe you will be starting kindergarten soon. I hope you will excel in education just like you had excelled in ice skating. Out of my four children, you give me the least stress. I don’t have to worry much about you, but I love you just as much. You are my brightest Xuânshine.

Love,
Daddy

Letter to My Sons #17

My Sweetest Đán,

You asked me why I always carry a book with me. You find reading boring. When I was your age, I didn’t see the benefit of reading either and it had been one of my regrets in life. I wished I had started reading around your age now. Books allow me to be somewhere else without having to be there physically. Books allow me to be in someone else’s head. Reading not only enriches my knowledge, but also makes my life much more exciting. I encourage you to give books a chance. Trust me, you will find reading anything but boring. Reading will also make your academic life much easier.

With the pandemic, online classes have been a huge challenge for you. It is not easy to sit still in front of a screen and listen to your teachers, but you do well when you focus and pay attention. I sound like a broken record, but your education is very important for you. Study hard now and it will pay off later in your life. No matter what you choose to do, your education will help you get there. So stay focused and do your best. I am here to help anytime you need me. I enjoy being with you.

I loved the camping trip we went together with your Cub Scouts. I admire your ability to make friends. No matter boys or girls, you can play with them all. You even found a friend in ice skating lessons. I hope that your friend inspires you to go further with your skating. You have a natural talent for sports. You can ski, ice skate, and rollerblade. You pick up techniques quickly. If you pay attention, you can do anything. I also admire your fearlessness. You fall, get back up, and do it again. You have motivated me to take more risks on the higher ramps when we rollerblade together. I wished I had the opportunity to learn these sports when I was a kid. Even though I am starting out late, I still enjoy them. I am not forcing you into doing anything, but I encourage you to stay active.

Cooking is a wonderful activity and I am glad you’re enjoying it. I love your Hanami Dango and hope to enjoy them in our next vacation. Your mother is happy and proud to see you in the kitchen. You’re already way ahead of me in culinary. Keep up the good work.

You have always been a sweet kid. You are kind and friendly. You love your brothers. Lately however, I have noticed that you are not as happy as you were before. You often get into arguing and fighting with Đạo. I understand that he could say things to provoke you, but you need to control your emotions. Calm down and don’t let his words get to you. You are strong physically so train your mentality as well. You are honest and you have my complete trust. You can come to me or your mom anytime. We are here for you. We love you very much, our sweet son!

Love,
Daddy

Lung Tung Xèng với Tuyết Loan

Sáng nay thức sớm thưởng thức một buổi jazz jam session sống động và ấn tượng của băng nhạc Lung Tung Xèng cùng với ca sĩ Tuyết Loan và sự hiện diện đặc biệt của tay pianist Daniel Vũ và Tuấn Saxo.

Chị Tuyết Loan cover lại “Autumn Leaves,” một bài jazz ballad, theo giai điệu swing tươi vui. Không biết chị hát tiếng Pháp ra sau nhưng phần tiếng Anh chị phát âm rõ. Giọng chị vẫn khỏe và chị swing rất chất. Chỉ hơi đáng tiếc là chị vỗ tay làm sao lãng đi phần solo của anh Tuấn Saxo. Bài “All of Me,” thuộc dạng jazz standard, cũng thế chị lại vỗ tay khi anh Daniel Vũ improvised.

Nói đến improvisation thì anh Daniel chơi rất đúng cách nhạc jazz nhất là qua hai bài bossa nova “The Shadow of Your Smiles” and “The Masquerade.” Phải chi băng nhạc cùng improvise thì thú vị biết mấy. Anh U Minh Kiệt chơi electric bass rất thôi miên. Nếu như cả band đều “dropout” hết để một mình anh solo thì phê biết mấy. Nhưng có lẽ chơi jazz không phải sở trường của Lung Tung Xèng.

Chị Tuyết Loan chỉ hát một bài Việt duy nhất là “Tôi đi giữa hoàng hôn” cũng qua điệu swing. Nghe lại thì nguyên một jam session chỉ có hai điệu swing và bossa nova. Thiếu đi chất blues. Một buổi jazz jam session mà không có không khí blues thì hơi bị thiếu sót. Thêm một điều nữa là chị Tuyết Loan chỉ hát straight jazz. Không luyến lá cũng không scat. Cho nên nổi bật nhất là những phần ứng tấu của anh Daniel.

Letter to My Sons #16

My Dearest Đạo,

Today is your day and you have made me so proud. You have finally worked up your courage to get your first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. I applaud you for your bravery. I understand your fear for needles, but I asked you to trust me. When I reassured you that you wouldn’t feel a thing, I was not just saying it to cajole you into getting the vaccine. I meant it because I took two shots and I didn’t feel anything. You still resisted when the time came for your shot and I asked you to trust me again. Even the pharmacist who administered the vaccine also confirmed that it only took two seconds and you would feel nothing. We were right, weren’t we? I am glad that you came to your senses and that you cooperated. I was so happy when you took that shot and I can assure you that the next one will be as painless. Trust me. Your mom and I wanted you to go through this to protect you. We love you too much to jeopardize your life. When it is safe for your brothers to get vaccinated, they will. Believe us.

I am equally proud to see you graduate from elementary school today. You have completed your Spanish immersion program. It had been a challenging year for school. You had to sit in front of the computer all day long and you had so much distraction right at your fingertips. Although you strayed off the track a bit, you had pulled through. Time has flown by so fast. It still feels like yesterday that I placed your tiny body into the giant car seat to take you home from the hospital for the first time. During the ride, I was extremely anxious. I didn’t know if we were able to keep you alive at home. Other than the jaundice concerns, you turned out well. Another milestone for me was when you picked up books and read voraciously. I was so proud that we are raising a reader. You have also excelled in sports such as swimming, skiing, and ice skating. You know how much I love ice skating and I hope that you will continue the journey with me.

Being the oldest kid is tough, especially in a Vietnamese family, because we expect you to be a role model for your brothers. They look up to you. When you treated them with kindness, they responded well to you. Đán, in particular, is very fond of you. He would do anything for you. You will be relying on each other in the world outside of our home.

Now that you have graduated from elementary school, you will finish high school and go away for college before you know it. You will succeed if you stay focused. Continuing reading will get you far. I wish I had an appreciation for reading as early as you had. Reading not only opens your mind to new information, but also lets you inside someone else’s head. So keep on reading.

Once again, I am very proud of you. I will always be there for you whenever you need me. I hope that I have earned your trust and your honesty. You know how important it is for you to be completely honest with me. Please don’t let me lose my trust in you. Because I love you so much, it hurts to lose that trust.

Love,

Dad

Sinh hoạt liên đoàn

Thứ bảy vừa rồi hai cha con (tôi và Đán) đi cắm trại trong hướng đạo liên đoàn Hùng Vương. Các trưởng và phụ huynh đều rất tận tình với đám Cub Scouts. Nào là bày ra những trò chơi thú vị. Nào là nấu nướng những món ăn rất ngon. Nào là ca hát sinh hoạt rất vui.

Lần này đi cắm trại ngoài rừng không điện cũng không iPad nên đám nhỏ tự chơi với nhau. Đến 10 giờ đêm, tụi nó mệt rã người chui vào lều ngủ. Còn các người lớn thì tụ họp uống chút bia bàn chuyện tương lai trong hướng đạo. Với troop leader và scoutmaster mới nên mọi chuyện thay đổi rất nhiều. Các trưởng yêu cầu cha mẹ tiếp tay để giúp liên đoàn.

Tôi định đóng góp vào việc thiết kế lại trang web của liên đoàn nhưng đã có người khác xung phong rồi. Đội lân Hùng Vương bây giờ không ai lãnh đạo cả. Tôi nói tôi biết đánh một chút trống nên các trưởng giao phó cho tôi luôn. Hồi nhỏ, mẹ mua cho tôi cái trống bé tí. Không biết nghe trống múa lân ở đâu nhưng tôi đã thuộc lòng một số nhịp điệu cho đến bây giờ cũng không quên. Lúc vào trung học, tôi tình cờ đánh trống trong lúc các bạn tập múa lân. Không ngờ các bạn mời tôi tham gia và trở thành tay trống cho đội lân trong câu lạc bộ Việt của trường. Chúng tôi luyện tập mỗi ngày sau giờ học và đã trở thành đội lân đi múa trong cộng đồng vào những ngày tết. Giờ đây hy vọng sẽ đào tạo cho đội lân nhỏ để bọn chúng học hỏi được một chút về văn hóa truyền thống của người Việt.

Một anh trưởng trong nhóm muốn tôi dạy cho bọn nhỏ đọc vì anh ta thấy tôi lúc nào cũng lôi theo quyển sách trên tay. Trong lúc chờ đợi đám nhỏ sinh hoạt tôi thường ngồi đọc sách. Tôi mê đọc sách lắm nên tranh thủ giờ nào trống là đọc. Tôi thấy ý kiến của anh ấy cũng hay. Tôi rất muốn mấy đứa nhỏ học tiếng Việt. Lần về Việt Nam vừa rồi, tôi đã mua một số sách thiếu nhi hai thứ tiếng Việt và Anh. Mỗi tuần tôi sẽ chọn ra một quyển sách đọc cho chúng nó nghe rồi hỏi những câu hỏi về quyển sách. Hy vọng sẽ động viên tụi nó học tiếng mẹ đẻ của mình.

Learning Ice Skating With Coach Julia

My transition from hockey to figure skates is now complete. I am now loving the Jackson Freestyle Fusion booth with Aspire blades. Even though I am still feeling a little bit of pain, the stiff figure is more tolerable than the soft hockey. I still need more time to break in.

These days I go to the arena by myself. My kids don’t join me anymore. Both Đạo and Đán were done with their lessons last week and their next classes will most likely be canceled due to lack of registrations. Xuân’s last class is tomorrow. We’re going to give them a break for the summer. They don’t seem to be enthusiastic about skating much anymore, but I still do. I am reviewing the techniques I have learned up to this point. When I took classes, I focused only on skills that were taught to keep up with my classmates. As a result, I didn’t go back to what I had already learned.

Now that I am learning on my own, I am going back to what I am not doing so well yet. I wanted to add more speed to my backward crossovers. Coach Julia has a fantastic demonstration near the end of her tutorial on backward crossovers. She is not only a skilled skater, but also an approachable instructor. If you want to learn ice skating on your own, her YouTube channel is an invaluable resource.

What I missed the most from hockey skates is the hockey stop. Doing the hockey stop using the figure skates is a bit harder than using the hockey skates, which makes sense. I am relearning the hockey stop on both legs. I am also reviewing the Mohawks and outside 3-turns so I don’t lose those techniques. I am practicing insanely on the inside 3-turns, which are for the Delta level that I am supposed to be continuing. Somehow inside turns are difficult to do than outside turns. I can’t seem to rock my skates to make the turn easier. I am also learning bunny hops. My hops are more like old-ass rabbit limps than bunny hops, but I am getting there. Once I learn forward outside edges, lunges, and shoot the duck, I should complete the Delta level on my own. I already saved all of Coach Julia’s videos for these techniques.

What makes me still passionate about ice skating is that there are so much to learn even just for the basic level. Now that I am learning at my own pace, I am taking my time to practice each technique rather than trying to rush through for the test. I wanted to be in it for the long run rather than trying too hard and giving up. I sweated profusely after an hour and fifteen minutes on ice. It had been a great workout every time.

Peter Ho Davies: A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself

If you want to have children, don’t read this book. The constant worries of conceiving a baby and raising a human being are being told throughout the novel. Having a kid also had a profound impact on a marriage. From sex to masturbation, birth complications to developmental issues, abortion to school shooting, Peter Ho Davies has written a hilarious, heartfelt work of autofiction on modern marriage and American parenting. I loved this book because I can relate to the narrator. Been there, done that.

On sex, page 20:

It’s the best sex of his life, her desire so sharp, so zealous, even if it’s not for him. Perhaps because it’s not for him. He can lose himself, abandon himself. The best sex of his life, yet he’s relieved when she conceives again, and it’s over.

On masturbation, page 100:

He’d taken to masturbating during her pregnancy (retaken, naturally, it was like riding a bicycle), and kept it up, so to speak, ever since. Masturbation had come a long way since he was a boy, he found. All thanks to the internet, of course, but what struck him most was not the sheer volume and variety of images available—though they were astounding; less stimulating than boggling—but the realization of how many people out there were looking at this stuff. Masturbation had always seemed so lonely to him as a teenager, part of its shame being how aberrant it was. (Dimly he senses this is somehow the point of the internet: to spread shame, but so broadly, so thinly, like a light coat of varnish, that we hardly notice it anymore, until we all just glow faintly with it.) Now, judging from what he could see on his computer, the masturbators far outnumbered the couples, and were probably getting more action. Frankly, it has gotten to the point that he’s come to prefer it-quicker, more efficient, less cumbersome than intercourse something for which he feels only an obscure sense of infidelity. Less risky, too.

Three, four, five times a week, like some horny high schooler. His self-stimming. Sometimes he fears he’s addicted, not to the porn, not even to the act itself, but to the shame it provokes. As if it’s shame he’s coaxing from himself, his body.

Still, every so often he weighs a real affair, albeit idly. The problem, more practical than moral, is that he can’t quite imagine sex with another woman. Marriage has rendered the act so mundanely intimate. It’s the slurp and slap of bodies coming together and apart. It’s the furtive postcoital stroke to disguise the rubbing off of bodily fluids on one another. It’s his wife’s fingers discreetly rolling the linty pills of toilet paper out of his ass hair, or the shivery quake when her cunt farts. (“Trumps,” they call these.) It’s her yelp of pain when he pins her hair under his elbows, or the little ouf (less of passion than pressure) she releases when he lowers his weight onto her. These are the things that have undermined their sex life, but they’re also what keep him bound to her. Who else would put up with such indignities, who else could he share them with? Ass lint has no place in an affair!

Marriage, he notes ruefully, is a terrible preparation for infidelity.

But if intimacy is filled with shame; shame—shared and secret—is also intimacy. Shared shame seems to him as close as most of us ever come to forgiveness.

On school shooting, page 184:

And then there’s another school shooting. They’re numbingly frequent, but this is the first since the boy started school. And the father feels powerless. What if you can’t die, or kill, to protect your child? What if you’re not that lucky?

The school principal emails tips for how to talk to a child about bad news. They sit the boy down. They’re nervous, but he’s calm. They have lockdown drills at school, he explains patiently, he knows what to do. They didn’t know about the drills (they don’t read all the principal’s emails). They’re relieved, and appalled. But the boy is calm, matter-of-fact. He is reassuring them. As if it were all perfectly normal, mundane as a fire drill, sensible as looking both ways before you cross or not talking to strangers.

The father is not calm. He rages at the politicians sending their thoughts and prayers. (Here’s a thought: Did your prayers get answered last time?) Rages at the NRA flacks talking about the Constitution (Rights! What about wrongs? Let’s talk about wrongs for once.)

It’s the shamelessness that incenses him.

He fantasizes about protesting a gun store. Standing outside with his own bloody placard showing gunshot fatalities, the number of gun deaths. Shouting “Baby killers” at customers, coming and going. Demanding a waiting period for gun purchases as long as for abortions. Demanding that gun buyers look at photos of gunshot wounds before purchase. Flinging spray pat terns of fake blood on the walls of the store.

Creative Spotlights

It is an honor to be part of the “AAPI Heritage Month Creatives Spotlight.” I am humbled to share the spotlight with such talented Asian-American designers. I am also glad to see Vietnamese Typography is being recognized beyond the type design community. Speaking of Vietnamese typography, I recently added two new typefaces that support Vietnamese.

Albula Pro

A charismatic, geometric sans, Albula Pro lends versatility, legibility, and readability to contemporary designs. Albula Pro supports a wide range of languages. For Vietnamese, its grave and hook above stack to the right of its circumflex while its acute stacks left.

Forma DJR

Started out as a refresh of the Italian neo-grotesque sans, Forma DJR takes on a life of its own with irregular details, tight spacings, and Swiss alternates. For Vietnamese, Forma DJR comes with straightened and curved horns. Its acute, grave, and hook above stack to the right of its circumflex.

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