Michael Eric Dyson: JAY-Z: Made In America

In his latest book, Professor Michael Eric Dyson dissects JAY-Z’s lyrical genius. In three parts, Dyson breaks down JAY-Z’s hustling spirit, poetic inventiveness, and political savvy. Dyson also unveils the nuances underneath JAY-Z’s braggadocious rhymes and clever wordplay. As a long time fan of JAY-Z’s lyricism, I was skeptical of this book at first, but I thoroughly enjoyed Dyson’s concise, engaging, and thoughtful examination of JAY-Z’s work.

Letter to My Sons #10

Dear sons,

In this tenth letter, I would like to address being uncomfortable—something you will face again and again in your life. If you ever feel uncomfortable, you can refer to this letter and you can always talk to us. I will share my own experience so that you know you won’t be alone.

As a husband and a father, I strive to give us a comfortable life, but I thrive under uncomfortable conditions. Paradox, isn’t it? Whether in my professional career or in my personal life, I don’t let myself become comfortable. If I become comfortable with my job, I would need a new challenge. If I become comfortable with my personal life, I would get bored—your mom always pushes my comfort level and I love her for it.

For me, being comfortable is easy. As long as I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, I can make everything seems comfortable. Deep down, however, I am just avoiding uncomfortable feelings and I ended up making myself miserable. As a result, I often use my blog to express my uncomfortable feelings. I had made many people feel uncomfortable in both professional and personal settings. I felt bad and extremely uncomfortable, but I have learned that being uncomfortable made me face the truth. I can no longer hide my uncomfortable feelings. I had to deal with it head on and being uncomfortable helped move our relationships from negative to positive.

Your mom and I had many uncomfortable conversations and our marriage is strong not based on how comfortable we are with each other, but how we worked out our uncomfortable issues. She pointed out uncomfortable truths about me and they hurt, but I know they come from a place of love. If you find someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the uncomfortable truths, that’s real love.

I can’t wait until the day that we can watch stand-up comedy together. One of the reasons I love comedy is that it takes uncomfortable issues and make them funny. Great comedians can make you laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time. It is an art form that I enjoy and respect.

Being uncomfortable will push you forward. Once you get past the uncomfortable zone, you will feel a whole lot better. You will get into more uncomfortable situations in the future, but you will be more equipped to deal with them. A comfortable life is good, but an uncomfortable life has the potential to turn great.


Meet Cường

I just came across cuong.com and read all of the posts. Cường is a Vietnamese-American writer born in Sài Gòn, Việt Nam. In his new blog, Cường offers a Vietnamese-American perspective on various subjects including race, parenting, politics, education, and religion. Subscribed!

The End of an Era for Personal Design

When Jeffrey Zeldman published “Another Blue Beanie Day” on his website, I noticed that he has switched his design to WordPress Twenty Twenty and my heart sank a little.

The man who brought us web standards has given up on designing his own site. I still remember being in awe to see his website sported a new design every few months. He inspired me to do the same with my own site, which I still do til this day. I have kept this blog so simple that it doesn’t take me much to whip up a new design. The changes here aren’t so drastic, but I do make the changes several times a year.

I hope Twenty Twenty is just temporary until he cooks up a new design. No pressure!

Michelle Wolf: Joke Show

Michelle Wolf is vulgar and she is not hiding it. In fact, she brings her vulgarness to the forefront in her latest Netflix special. She talks about women topics, which include period, pregnant, and abortion, with fierce and frankness. She is both hilarious and provocative. I dig her writing.

Tôn trọng người khác

Chiều nay tôi rời khỏi chỗ làm sớm để đi đón Đạo và Đán sau giờ học vì hôm nay mẹ nó phải đi đón bà ngoại ở sân bay. Hai đứa thấy tôi cũng rất mừng. Khi bước vào xe Đán hỏi tôi có snack cho nó không. Thường thì mẹ nó mang theo đồ ăn vặt mỗi khi đón bọn nó còn tôi thì muốn nó để bụng ăn tối nên trả lời với nó là không.

Nó đạp ghế và bắt đầu la hét. Tôi nói một câu, “Hôm nay ba có chuyện không vui ở chỗ làm. Đừng làm ba tức giận.” Không ngờ câu nói có hiệu nghiệm. Đán xuống giọng hỏi nhỏ nhẹ, “Có chuyện gì khiến ba không được vui?” Đạo cũng hỏi, “Ba cho tụi con biết đi?” Tôi định không nói nhưng tụi nó có vẻ tò mò nên thôi cũng kể sơ qua cho nó nghe. Tôi tóm tắt là, “Hôm nay có người hẹn để có một cuộc họp với ba nhưng người đó lại không đến. Lần này là lần thứ sáu người đó hẹn mà không hiện diện. Ba đã bỏ qua nhiều lần nhưng lần này ba phải đối chất với người đó vì họ đã không tôn trọng thời gian của ba. Đó là hành động của những người không professional.”

Tiện đó tôi dạy dỗ hai đứa nó rằng nếu có hẹn với ai phải giữ lời hứa và cần nhất là phải tôn trọng thời gian quý báu của người khác.

Personal Websites Matter

Laura Kalbag makes a convincing case for personal websites. Kalbag writes about freedom:

Personal sites give you the freedom to practice the design and development you care about, without the constraints of your boss’s bad business model or your manager’s questionable priorities. We can create accessible and inclusive sites that don’t exploit our visitors. We can experiment and play to work out what really matters to us. If we don’t like our personal site, we can start again from scratch, iterate, change, keep working to make it better.

Kalbag writes about design choice:

Your own personal website means you choose the design. Rather than sharing on a blogging platform like Medium, we can make our design reflect our content and our principles. We don’t need to have ads, paywalls or article limits imposed on us.

Kalbag writes about no tracking:

It does rather defeat the point of having a personal website, if you then hook it up to all the tracking mechanisms of Big Tech. Google Analytics? No thanks. Twitter follow button? I’d rather not. Facebook Like button? You must be joking. One of the benefits of having your own personal site is that you can make your personal site a tracking-free haven for your site’s visitors. All the personal websites I’ve shared here are tracking-free. Trust me, it’s not easy to find websites that value their visitors like this!

This is one of my favorite essays on 24 Ways this year.

Learning From My Kid

Last Friday, I took off work to babysit Vương because my mother-in-law was out of town. We had to leave the house so that my wife could focus on her work. I didn’t have any plans so I ended up taking him to my office to meet my coworkers for the first time.

He walked into each office, stopped, smiled at my coworkers, and walked back out. We finished the tour in half an hour. I took him to Eden Center and we shared a bowl of pig’s offals congee (cháo lòng). After lunch I didn’t know where to take him so we just went for a walk.

Ever since Vương learned to walk, he loved walking all by himself. Observing him walk has been my joy and my fascination. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he roamed freely like a prisoner just got out of his cell. He simply walked without looking where he was headed, but he was aware of the space around him. Then he stopped, stood still, and looked up. He contemplated for a minute to decide if he should keep going forward or backward. Then he continued his journey without any purpose.

As I was adoring and admiring him, I wished I could just walk like him without looking into the near future. I wished I was not afraid to take risks. If I fall I will get up again just like him. I was amazed how a fifteen-month kid could teach me a lesson in life.

Rachel Louise Snyder: No Visible Bruises

This has to be most heartbreaking book I have read this year. Snyder’s deep reporting and compelling writing shed light on the deadliest corner of domestic violence. She recounts stories of men controlling, beating, and killing the women they claimed to love. In her meticulous research, Snyder busts the myth of reasons women don’t leave their abusive partner even though they know that they have put themselves in danger. They take the beatings to protect themselves and their children when the system fails to protect them. In familicide cases, the men kill their wifes, kids, and themselves. Snyder’s research also shows that gun is the deadliest cause in domestic violence. It takes the bargaining power away from the victims. As a father of four sons, I now have a new responsibility: making sure they never put their hands on women, particularly the ones they love.

Page Design: New Layout & Editorial Design

Light on text but load of editorial design examples using typography, grid, and imagery. One of the magazines stood out to me was Format Wars simply because its main text is set in Fira Mono, which seems like an odd choice for a print publication. I would love to have a physical copy to see how Fira Mono holds up for long-form text. Most projects showcased in this book are good to drawing inspiration from for students and graphic designers.