The looping matrix

After being immersed in the guilt of being indifferent, I opened the door of my broken-arm-housemate
“Hi!”
“Hi?”
“Do you wanna come over and watch a movie?”
“A movie? Sure, just let me know when you are ready”
So at around 8 she came over with a huge casted arm and we started by a movie I quickly come up in mind.
“Do you know Matrix?”, I ask.
“No. What’s it about?”
I hesitated at choosing the right words to summarize. How can I best describe it? Hmm
Uhm, it’s a movie about another world. It’s mysterious, and entertaining”
She seems to be okay with that short sentence and together we cradle inside a big blanket, some snacks on the side. This is my 5th time watching the movie and I find myself pausing every 10 minutes to explain the culture cues that I am able to interpret. The same feeling when a friend from Saigon, reversely, says about Foucault as a matter of fact while I stare at him cuelessly. Feeling the big gap, I stop explaining after a while and exchange plain so-called observations
– He is so fast!
– Yeah
– Is this a horror movie?
– No, it isn’t.
Movies, more than entertainment, can be the gateway to understand culture and complex ideology of another world. Depending on how well a viewer can explore, the effects of a movie will vary. Despite my good intention, the housemate can not share my pleasure, and till my turn,  I cannot reflect on that work as deeply as someone who are more familiar with cyberpunk, Plato’s cave or Simulacra and Simulation which serve as inspirations for the movie’s premise.
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However the purpose of a movie is often not to educate. Movies, first and foremost, need to sell. A movie like Matrix needs to be thought-provoking enough to draw viewers’ attention and at the same time, entertaining enough to give us a good time even when we don’t get the deep culture cues. Ignorant audience still feel the pace of action scenes, like the moment Neo raises his hands to stop the bullet flow
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That superhuman power scene with his calm posture and ultimate control to twist a fatal incident to a different turn is enough to leave a long-lasting impression, urging us to want more.
Yet, movies fans after enjoying that, dig deeper and spend hours exploring premises constructed by screenwriters and even create website like this
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When it comes to interpreting fictions or cinematic works, I can’t help feeling we are sheep. My housemate is the ignorant sleepy sheep and the ones contributing to Matrix101 site are passionate sheep who may pat themselves on their shoulders for exploring deeper layers.
Yet, altogether, we are just exploring pieces of a game set up by screenwriters and producers which might or might not make any sense. If that’s the case, I would rather join the second gang.

Hidden Figures revealed in Hanoi

It’s been a long time since I came back to American Center, this time, for a short heat and mental escape. Both reasons. I got through the security gate and immediately facing a bunch of Vietnamese high school and undergraduate students talking with each other in loud american english. The charming woman with a stylish dress who has been working there greeted us with a smile.

– Coke & popcorn are outside.

“Free food !!!”, the scarcity mindset that dominated me for nearly a month makes that industrial coke suddenly very attractive. “Hmm, do I deserve it? But it’s free food”, I took a sip of coke without touching the popcorn.

Soon enough we came to the event & movie room, opposite to the library section. An American woman stood up to introduce the movie called “Hidden Figures”, in which the setting is 1960s while black segregation was prevalent. The main characters were 3 bright black women working for NASA, hoping to help US not behind in the space race.

The plot is predictable – the 3 black women are, in the beginning, very talented. They are so talented that NASA cannot put segregation rules on them, eventually. And sure, something’s gonna happen to change racism. A positive vibe is radiant from the screen.

It’s not difficult to see why hordes of teenagers rush here (and will be more in summer). It’s $ from America spent in educational resources that we can benefit, in a regime of instructing a positive image of that country.

Thank u, American tax payers. For your WiFi, books, coke & movie.


P/S: despite all that, the film is quite idealistic. The women there are top notch. They are built to succeed and there is not any moment that they lose faith or spirit, which is too hyped up.

But it’s still a movie to inform I guess. Thank u

“Dear John”- when Tatum was kept in a cage

A perfect looking brown hair guy with the shape of captain America (just that he is better, the well known Chaning Tatum of Step Up) fell in love with a perfect blond girl. They do not kiss even at the 2nd date because they need to wait to a rain to fall in the middle of no where to maximize its cheesiness. She does not smoke nor drink (and of course never sleeps around), charms his dad and basically everyone around him. Above all, she is altruistic yet possessing the eyes of a seducer.

The day before he went back to army is the first time they argued with each other. Not really, he jumped furiously over the difference between the word “autistic” & “retarded”. Together they form a pink and romantic passive aggressive couple.

Here is one of their conversations

“Do you have any fault?
Well I do curse.
I never heard it.
It is in my mind” =)))))

How can it be worse? One of the most boring films I have ever watched =))))

Channing oi u r born to be wild, not to be cheesy !

Requiem for a dream

“Tao và đứa em gái cùng bật phim lên xem, được 5 phút thì nó bỏ đi và 30 phút sau quay lại rồi mắt dán chặt vào màn hình không thoát ra nổi. Bọn tao gần như nín thở và tối hôm đó nó quyết định hủy bữa tiệc với đám bạn để ở nhà. Một cảm giác buồn sững không thốt nên lời”

(Một Youtuber)

Giống như đôi mắt giãn tròng vì kích thích, mở toang khi thuốc len lỏi qua ven chui vào mạch máu lan khắp cơ thể khiến nhân vật chính bùng nổ trong đê mê, tôi cứng người lại khi bộ phim dần tăng dần tiết tấu. Bi kịch tiến dần theo vòng xoáy ốc không thể kiểm soát nổi của các tuyến nhân vật trong Requiem for a dream khiến tôi không khỏi giật mình trong sự cứng đờ và sợ hãi, sợ hãi khi biết rằng mình rất có thể là một trong số đó.

Requiem for a dream (Nguyện cầu cho một giấc mơ) là bộ phim kinh dị tâm lý do Darren Aronofsky (đạo diễn của Black Swan) viết kịch bản và sản xuất dựa theo một tiểu thuyết cùng tên. Được đề cử Osar cho hạng mục Nữ chính xuất sắc nhất và chiếu tranh giải liên hoan phim Cannes năm 2000, nó còn là một trong những bộ phim đầu tiên đưa chủ đề nghiện ngập lên màn ảnh theo phong cách kết hợp giữa siêu thực và hiện thực với nhạc phim dồn dập và cách dựng phim cắt lát đầy ám ảnh.

Vòng xoáy xuyên thế hệ của các con nghiện ở đảo Coney

Requiem for a dream khai thác song song 4 tuyến nhân vật nghiện các loại thuốc khác nhau từ thuốc giảm cân (chứa đá), heroin và cocain. Câu chuyện diễn ra ở đảo Coney, Brooklyn-nơi thuốc phiện dễ lấy và đẩy mỗi người vào vòng xoáy phụ thuộc của riêng mình. Nhân vật chính, Harry Goldfarb là một con nghiện điển hình có mộng “làm lớn”, buôn thuốc lấy tiền từ các tay to với sự trợ giúp của cô bạn gái Marion và gã ban thân Tyrone. Trong khi đó, mẹ hắn vốn đã già thì bị ám ảnh bởi hình ảnh hồi còn trẻ, sự cô đơn và cơn nghiện truyền hình đã đẩy cơn cuồng giảm cân của mình đến cực độ và dẫn đến chứng hoang tưởng ngày càng nặng để rồi kết thúc trong nhà thương điên.

Ai cũng biết nghiện ngập là xấu và có mường tượng nhất định về cơn phê thuốc cũng như số phận tuyệt vọng của những tay dính heroin, nhưng thực sự hình dung sâu sắc những giai đoạn cũng như diễn biến tâm lý mà những con nghiện trải qua thì không dễ. Một cách vô thức, ta tự tách mình ra khỏi “chúng”. Thế nhưng, trong Requiem for a dream, “chúng” là tập hợp các nhân vật bình thường đa dạng về giới tính và lứa tuổi và mang trong mình những nỗi bất an thường thấy mà ai cũng liên hệ được – Harry muốn chứng tỏ mình cho mọi người, Marion tìm thấy sự khẳng định trong tình yêu với anh, Tyrone cuốn vào cuộc chơi với bạn thân còn mẹ hắn thì cô đơn và ám ảnh về quá khứ, hi vọng việc mình giảm cân, được lên truyền hình và giới thiệu cho tất cả về chồng và đứa con (mà bà luôn khao khát trong tuyệt vọng) sẽ ra đâu vào đấy của mình.

Đó là một tuyến nhân vật rất khác thường song cũng rất bình thường, để rồi khi thảm kịch xảy ra theo chiều trôn ốc, ta không khỏi giật mình. Khi nhân vật chính lôi hắn và những người xung quanh mình xuống đáy bùn, chìm sâu hơn trong hoang tưởng vì thực tế đang trở nên tàn nhẫn phũ phàng với tốc độ không cưỡng lại được, người xem có thể cảm nhận được mình trong hành trình đó.

Những lát cắt ám ảnh của thực tế và ảo vọng

requiem_for_a_dream

Hình ảnh được chọn làm Poster phim được cắt ra làm đôi rất giống với cách dựng hình ở nhiều đoạn trong phim. Phía trên là đôi mắt mở to đê mê vì phê thuốc, phía dưới là hình ảnh đẹp đẽ trong giấc mơ hoang tưởng. Hình ảnh trong “giấc mơ” đó càng đẹp bao nhiêu thì thực tế lại càng đáng sợ bấy nhiêu vì khi độ nghiện ngày càng tăng, tình trạng thể chất, tài chính cũng như độ liều lĩnh và tuyệt vọng của tên nghiện thuốc đã bị đẩy đến mức không thể tệ hơn.

Cách dựng phim không dễ đoán của đạo diễn đòi hỏi người xem tập trung cao độ để hiểu và để rồi, trong dòng chảy đó, có những khung hình đã trở nên ám ảnh.

 

mariom

 

Sau khi Harry thất bại và không thể kiếm được Heroin, Mariom không còn lựa chọn nào khác ngoài đổi tình dục lấy tiền. Cuộc trao đổi từ bẩn thỉu (đầu tiên Mariom ngủ với một tên bác sĩ tâm lý mà cô ghê tởm và bị hắn hành hạ như một con thú) đến tuyệt vọng và đau đớn. Trong khung hình trên, người cô đầy mồ hôi và tóc xõa rũ rượi trong một sex show tập thể hạ cấp mà cô phải tham gia để đổi lấy it bột trắng từ tên buôn ma túy duy nhất mà cô biết. Về nhà Mariom nhỏ bé co quắp trên chiếc ghế bành mà hai người từng làm tình, ôm lấy gói bột, chiếc quần đen đã ướt đẫm tự bao giờ.

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Tyron nhăn mặt khi nhìn thấy cánh tay đã gần bị hủy hoại của Harry vì tiêm chích. Cậu giục bạn mình vào bệnh viện ngay lập tức, còn Harry thì chích thêm một phát nữa vào hố đen sâu hoắm đó, vừa chích vừa rên rỉ về đau đớn.

Hố đen xấu xí, với tôi, như một cánh cổng giữa thực tại và ảo vọng, và chính nó cũng đang dần chết khi hai thế giới đến mức cực điểm của riêng nó.

 

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“Khi nào anh về nhà?

Sớm thôi”

Cả Harry và Mariom đều khóc, khuôn mặt trang điểm kĩ chuẩn bị cho cuộc sex show mà cô ghê tởm đã bị ướt nhòa bởi dòng nước mắt trong khi Harry co lại trong trại giam.

HOME

With dad watching Home. Rewatching this documentary is still a bliss.

With an immensely wide viewpoint and high resolution, breathtakingly beautiful images, the film shows us what a miracle the earth is. To lead us in a tour in which time and space is stretched and in perspective. To warn about climate change by intriguing a sensational feeling towards our common home.

What an artwork.

 

The Curious case of Benjamin Buttons

The curious case of Benjamin Buttons is such a depressing book/ short story.

I am sure that with this idea it could have been better developed.

**

So different from the impression the movie gave years ago.

Gotta watch again. If anything, the screenwriter & director are brilliant in their creativity.

 

Listen with a naked mind

“If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it and half out of it”.

That’s one of many interesting sayings about conversation that Celeste Headlee, an US singer, reporter and radio host with 16 years of experiences shared in her TED talk . She makes a living out of talking to people and her guests vary from Nobel prize to plumbers, including people she both likes and doesn’t like, and still having amazing talks. As described in her bio, Celeste “knows the ingredients of a great conversation”.

She might not be the most well-known talker, yet the advice she gives are succinct and very worth listening, delivered in a very articulate and funny manner. Her 10 tips are:

1. Don’t multitask.

2. Don’t pontificate (or trying to fill up the conversation with your opinion)

3. Use open-ended questions.

4.  Go with the flow (stop the urge to interrupt)

5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.

6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.

7.  Try not to repeat yourself.

8.  Stay out of the weeds (don’t focus too much on trivial details)

9. LISTEN.

10. Be brief.

 

If I can get something out of her talk, the only word that would stay is LISTEN. And all the other 9 tips eventually boils down to curiosity and attention, the thing we all crave from other human beings. Curiosity and attention leads to engaging conversations.

I am lucky enough to do a job that allows me to talk with different people from around the world in my comfort zone. With amazing chances to interact with interesting people coming from various places, so many times I let great conversations slip out of hand. So many times I listen with my head filled with assumptions or just stop talking altogether.

 I was in my little bubble, a comfort zone I know well and the others were, on the contrary, in their foreign zone.

Hence I talk with automated replies for their questions. I forget that each is interesting & individual with their own motivation & story.

I ask questions with assumptions in mind. The assumptions quickly fill the mind, leaving no room for exploration.

 

If you care and curious, you do these things automatically. But sometimes it works vice versa. It’s easy to have a great conversation with whom we like or agree with us, but so difficult to talk with someone whose different values or ideologies.

Most of the time we argue to win, not to understand. And as the saying goes “You can’t win an argument”. The argument will soon be taken personally, leading to personal attack.

With me, I am trying to figure out how to talk with family. Talking with family is hard for it is filled with assumptions: we think we know our family well. May not so. Without frequent input, the mutual understanding will go dry.

Exploring our dearest people requires a naked mind.

Maybe that’s reason why we feel more comfortable to open up with total strangers?

Do you take yourself too seriouly? (Transcript)

Hi this is Dr. Gary. I have a question:

Do you take yourself way too seriously?

You know other people do.
And if you are one of the people that do, then what that
means is you are always kinda looking over your shoulder to see
what others people are thinking, always concern about
your behaviors to make sure no one is gonna judge you
in a way that you think is inappropriate.
Taking yourself too seriously can ruin your life
Understand this very important principle:

You have absolutely zero control over what people think, or do

You could be perfect and they could still think ill of you
Or you could be a complete nuthead and they could think
you are complete jade or the coolest thing that ever walks
We see that on Hollywood everyday.
Taking yourself too seriously is kind of a disease of a thought
process.
This very important principle lies true in the fact that
you have absolutely no control over what other people
see, say, or do.
Remember: the way other people see you is through their filter
not yours.
What other people think is pretty much none of your business.
I am going to ask you today to let that go.
Remember: what you think about you is more important
than what other people think about you.
Your opinions of yourself will drive you into correctness more
than what other people are thinking.

Because they are looking through their filters built
upon their lives and their perceptions of reality
And the worst thing is: there is no reality, it all
comes through our filters.

Every person in this earth has a different filter.
So today, quit taking yourself so seriously.
Lighten up, have some fun, and conduct yourself in
appropriate ways so that it’s never a concern to you
If you like you, that’s good enough.

**
This is Dr.Gary wishing you a great day and we will talk to
you tomorrow.

**

5/12/2016 – Some thoughts upon rewatching

I am starting to read “Self-reliance” of Emerson. Yet, I have the feeling that I will never understand the book the right way, that the book will just reinforce the illusion of utmost dependence in a turbulent interdependent world where nothing is certain, where all of us depend on each other and affect each other, for better or worse.

A few months ago I was pretty content with the message of a video called “Are you taking yourself too seriously?”. A short video in Youtube featuring a confident guy telling his audience to forget about what everyone thinks since “everyone has their own filter”. This filter can be understood as a lens to see the world and since everyone’s filter is different, people will see you differently. Easy, if you have no fixed image in people’s mind then why care? This idea is easy to grasp but difficult to apply in real life.

But now that message becomes to simple. To really not care what people think about us, at least we should have an idea about who we are. When we are still unsure who we are, we cannot stop looking for affirmation and affections from others. We are not born as rock with a solid formation and predictable content. We change everyday with a never-ending struggle of self-acceptance while still trying to define what that self is.

I am charmed by people who seem so sure of themselves, but there is still that big question in the back of my mind “How can u be?”. The admiration soon turns into suspicion that scares me away.

My son the pornographer

An evening to spare led me to a candid documentary called “My son a pornographer”. It was classified into “sexuality” column due to the word “porn”, which is not so true.

My son the pornographer

 

A journey of a guilty father looking for his son now working as a story writer and pornographer in Prague. I don’t know if he makes this documentary to reconnect with his son or to release the guilt inside him (for not being a good enough dad, in his own terms). Some people even criticize the father for being selfish. Either way, what I truly value in the documentary is how candid they are in trying to communicate with each other.

The journey is very personal to both son, dad and eventually, the sister. A war of emotions in each person, leading each from self-denial to self-expression, acceptance, connection.

The dad, despite feeling disgusted with porn, still decide to explore the son’s work ground no matter what. He even tries playing a small part of his son’s movie (which dad is clearly not proud of). For many days the son and dad spend many hours a day watching actors and actresses fucking, with the father’s disgust and the son’s disinterest.

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They are all trading off the vulnerability to challenge themselves, trying to make a sense of the connection. More than the tie of family and responsibility, humane concerns emerge out of the surface, giving the film so beautiful conversations:

A moment that kept staying in my head is when the dad came to meet Kole and was given a razer:

What is this? To shave your head off ?”

“You can shave harder”
“This is gonna be crappy with the haircut”
“Okay now we go to the symbolic moment, what role does it mean?
“Well if you don’t understand then there is no point at all”
“Well, I mean it means you are turning over a new leap or what does it mean?”
“No. Just my gift to you”

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And moments like that stay in us, audience’s head, the one with not much understanding of their father-and-son life, but can feel some humane moments that speak so loud.

 

Some ask the stepfather to “look deeper into his motives”. Well, at least he is trying and at least Kole is responding at some level. Despite of whatever motives, both are open to make a sense of something, resolve something that matter to them internally. As the comment of a 77-year-old watcher:

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“Yes, they are fortunate they can talk together, something I never really achieved either with my father or my children”

Reading this makes me feel guilty myself. I can’t help thinking about my dad and mom, in which there is no effort from me whatsoever to share or truly communicate what I think, assuming they would never empathize.

WHAT FOR?

and then if that is figured out…

WHEN ?