falling blossoms—
birds too are startled:
the dust of the koto
chiru hana ya / tori mo odoroku / koto no chiri 

swarming in the waterweeds,
the whitefish: if taken in hand
they would vanish away
mo ni sudaku / shirauo ya toraba / kienubeki 

foolishly, in the dark,
he grabs a thorn:
hunting fireflies
gu ni kuraku / ibara o tsukamu / hotaru kana

in summer rains
the crane’s legs
become short
samidare ni / tsuru no ashi / mijikaku nareri

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Perhaps because of the number of outspoken Vietnamese blogs on wordpress, it is blocked here in Vietnam, making it harder and harder for me to update efficiently.

As opposed to (or hand in hand with?) censorship, I find propaganda drawings fascinating. Here’re a few beautiful ones from North Korea:

vaccine the cows
vaccine the cows

let's extensively raise goats in all families
et’s extensively raise goats in all families

fish farming/
fish farming

It’s interesting how avian flu enters various areas of our lives and stays to inspire different story-lines or music, which in turn contribute to the popular imagination. At a Furtureshorts screening a month or two ago here in Saigon, I was surprised to see a Belgian rooster who had survived the avian flu as the hero protagonist in a short animation. Here’s an excerpt of Tom Schroeder’s creation:

In the early 90s, soon after Vietnam reopened its door and abolished the subsidy system my grandfather, Mr. Sinh, wrote a poem for my grandma. This poem often brought up at family gatherings, reminds everyone of a time when people, regardless of occupation, regardless the size of their living quarters, have at one point or another tried to keep livestock as a supplement to their diet and income. My grandparents were actually fortunate to have access to the understructure under their apartment to keep chicken. In Danang during the mid 80s, my parents too have tried their hands at chicken farming while many in their neighborhood raised pigs in the cooperative’s yard. In Hanoi, particularly during the subsidy period, when everything was rationed and everyone was hungry even people living in crammed soviet-era appartment buildings kept pigs, in their bathrooms.

Here is my translation:

On raising chicken

We live in open times
Our heart yearn for a free economy
Watching people trade North and South
earning billions, we too harbour dreams.
Mrs. Que pioneers, raises the flag and launches ahead
With her wisdom, foresight and strategy
Investing half a million
Fence up the understructure, secure it inside out
Skillfully raise a flock of hen.
Feeding on dropped grains of rice they lay golden eggs.
Mr and Mrs prosper in no time
Savoring golden eggs, they’d live to a hundred
Mr. Sinh eagerly adopts their farming model
Fences up his understructure, even builds connecting stairs
He makes a 4-room coop
The chickens surely will be happy with so much room.
Mrs. Sinh looks for choice chicken of a strong breed
but unwittingly, she brings home sick ones
Mr and Mrs frantically look for a cure
trying various medicines for several days
One after another the chickens drop,
Soon after the whole flock’s done for.
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Magical mystery doorways! I thought. Before someone pointed out that these are birdhouses, specifically for swifts.

In recent years people in Can Gio (75kms from Ho Chi Minh city) started farming swift birds for their nest and egg. Swift nest made from the bird’s saliva is a highly prized delicacy in South East Asia.

Unlike poultry, you have to seduce the birds and lure them to this “den” by maintaining the right temperature, sound and particularly by spraying chemical pheromones all over the building. The popular brand on the market is Close2You Aroma. Great name.



Tranh Đông Hồ – traditional woodcuts from Dong Ho village, Bac Ninh province, has been around for hundreds of years, and was most popular during the 17th and 18th century. People commonly refer to them as tranh tết as they’re often produced and sold around Tết (lunar new year) as decorations as well a charm to bring good luck. In recent years they’ve suffered from lost of interest and consequently economical difficulties. What was once a whole village’s craft, passed down through the generations, has now dwindled to a few households. The rest of the village has now turned to making hàng mã (offerings for the dead) as it is more profitable. There are only 2 woodcut masters alive who know how to make these woodcuts in the traditional style, Nguyễn Hữu Sam and Nguyễn Đăng Chế.

Tranh Đông Hồ obtain their subjects from from village life and folklore, they often depict farm animals, sometimes with human and other times by themselves. In some cases, the animals even take on the activities of human beings (such as in Đám cưới chuột – Mouse wedding, Thầy đồ cóc – the frog mandarin). Animals motifs work as allusions and metaphors. They provide rich insight into the relationship between human and animal, and the extent of respect given to animals that goes beyond seeing them merely as food.

There are 4 main themes in Đông Hồ woodprints.

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