Tag Archives: Vietnam

Films 154-162


Oldboy. This smart violent revenge thriller had me hooked. Then it ends by going over whatever’s over the top. Too much pain/despair for me.

Gomorrah. Liked the use of barely connected threads in telling this organized crime story. Never clear of the sides, not that it mattered.

Turbo Kid. Love the Atari-ness of everything. And Apple. And the bikes. Even all the silly blood. A fun homage to great dumb 80s flicks.

To Kill a Mocking Bird. How is this film 50 years old? It’s still so great! The kids are amazing. I can’t think of anything wrong with it.

Uncle Boonmee. A trippy ride of a film. Occasionally takes a break for a little chill time, or fish love, or whatever. Let it flow over you.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Fan of Gong Show. Read the book years ago. Film’s a fun adaptation. So enjoyed it, but not left with much.

A Clockwork Orange. Anti sex and violence film with lots of sex and violence. As disturbing as it is, there’s a lot to like. Mulling it over

Uncommon Valor. Saw it 2 nights in a row at the theater in ’83. Cheesy bits still cheesy. But actually better than I remember in some ways.

Major League. Better than I expected, but still not that great. Some laughs. Surprised how I was made to care if they won that stupid game.

We are Asian lion dogs

As you may know, I took an amazing trip this summer. My family got the opportunity to visit Vietnam, a place we hadn’t been to since 2002 when we adopted Maly. So as part of communion I’ve prepared a slideshow of our over 600 photos . . . Just kidding.

We did have a great trip and we did get to see and do a lot. And we learned a lot–I think sometimes the kids felt like they were learning too much, and they wanted the tour guides to put a cork in it so they could just wander around a bit. And rather than show you 600 photos, I want to share just one story that I learned that I thought was pretty cool.


This is a pair of Asian lion dogs. They are mythical creatures that one might keep in one’s home for protection. They come in pairs so they don’t get lonely. One has its foot on a jar, representing the protection of your possessions. One has his foot on a cub, representing the protection of your children. We got a couple, not necessarily for protection, but because I like the story, and because they remind me of the church, which is why I’m sharing this part of my trip now, at communion time.

While Jesus was waiting to be arrested and crucified, he went off to pray. He said, “What I’m about to ask for, I do not ask on behalf of my current followers, but for those also who will believe in Me through their word, (I think that would include us); that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” A bit later he prays that they (we) may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that god sent Jesus.

In the book of acts we see one of the ways that the early church worked toward this unity of believers. –“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” (‭Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭32-35‬ NASB)

So that’s why I brought home a pair of lion dogs. Because they remind me of the church that Jesus prayed for, of the church that Jesus died for, of what the church, us included, is supposed to be.

God gives us each other so that we don’t get lonely, so that we can take care of each other, and so that we may be all in one. Like they did in the book of acts, this means seeing that our brothers and sisters (and our neighbors and our enemies, if I understand Jesus correctly) have what we need and some of the things we want. And it means seeing that our kids and our families are cared for. We are to do this together and for each other.

And I’ll be honest, I think this church, and this community, do an amazing job of this. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Especially by a couple of sweet Asian mythical creatures.

So as we take the body and blood of Jesus this morning, and as we remember his life, death, and resurrection, let’s remember especially that Jesus prayed for us to be one, to take care of each other, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. And maybe we can thank god for all that we receive from each other. And then take those blessings out into the world.


Da Cau

I got another review published over at Wink Fun. Here’s the review and one photo. There are more photos at the Wink Fun site. There’s no direct link to the review, but you can find it here if you look for this picture. Plus you’ll find a link to buy one of these, and lot of other cool things. I believe they publish a new review every day.


This summer our family got to take a dream vacation to Vietnam. While my wife sets up the slide projector and screen, let me tell you about this thing I bought during a stroll through one of Saigon’s beautiful parks. A number of young adults were kicking around this thing that’s sort of a hacky sack with feathers. And what they were doing with this thing was amazing.  They were kicking this thing back and forth, 30 feet between them, often kicking it forward over their shoulder with bottom of their foot.

As I watched in amazement, a street vendor approached me with the product in hand. I said no thank you and kept walking. I didn’t need anymore stuff. By the time I got to the next group of folks playing with one of these, the 10-year-old inside me had won. Clearly, if I had one if these things, I would be able to perform these amazing kicks just like these kids (never mind that I’m no kid anymore). I spotted a vendor, our eyes locked, and she reeled me in. After very little haggling, I purchased a large and small version for about three dollars, if I did my conversion correctly.

When I got home last week I did a little internet research and learned that I had bought a da cau. One online encyclopedia tells me that the da cau is the national sport of Vietnam. There are a variety of versions with different names that are played across Asia, but Vietnam is where it all started 25-hundred years ago.

So the family took our new toy to the back yard. We soon learned that the traditional hacky sack circle was too small for the da cau. I don’t know if the da cau is heavier or more aerodynamic than the hacky sack, but a nice kick sends it farther, and with a bit more practice, I suspect the feathers will aid in accuracy. Also, the stack of curved disks at the bottom of the da cau acts as a spring, and delivers a satisfying pop when you connect solidly. I haven’t mastered the over the shoulder heel kick yet. But our new da cau has been a great reason for our family to stand around the backyard after dinner to play and laugh and visit. And that’s certainly worth three dollars.

When swimming in a sea of scooters



When swimming in a sea of scooters
It’s important to catch the best wave

Ok, right after this guy in the blue helmet (we try to swim together) we go
Slow and steady keeping an eye on the current as they swim by before us and behind
All beeping as they pass
Surrounding us as we drift carefully through the school
Singles, doubles, and triples.
The rare quadruple—Against our best judgement we pause to stare and smile

Our feet touch the curb
We come ashore
Safe for now
(Look both ways before you cross the sidewalk, we joke)

We walk a bit more, catch our breath, check the map
And dive in again


* photo from saigon-online.net

MIA Only Hanoi Knows


My first real knowledge of the Vietnam war was from the movies. As I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to see The Deer Hunter and some of the more serious films to come out in the 70s. But by the 1980s, when America was making the lets-go-back-and-finish-our-unfinished-business movies, my brother and I were happily along for the ride. After watching Uncommon Valor at the local theater, we came back the next night to see it again. First Blood was a good movie, but the stupid Rambo movies that came later were what we loved. Unfortunately, this left me, and I suspect many of my generation, with a view of the Vietnam War that didn’t include real people and real hurts, but silly characters whose loss was treated, if not as a joke, then as something that could be fixed by sneaking back at kicking some commie butt.

So when I was in Vietnam to get my daughter, and I was looking for something to bring back to my yearbook kids who were carrying on without me, the gaudy, campy shirts featuring a giant face of Ho Chi Minh seemed perfect. My students got the joke. But you know who didn’t? Vietnam vets. More than one of these kids later shared stories of being backed into a corner and sternly lectured about the fact that Ho Chi Minh was responsible for the loss of a lot good men, and his image wasn’t a joke to them. Sorry about that kids. We learn things everyday.

The kids didn’t have to worry about wearing the shirts much anyway. Upon being washed once, the big colorful political leader’s face ran off the tee-shirt and onto the rest of their laundry. There’s another lesson there somewhere.

Where God Is Not

This is from a couple years ago. I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for god in 2015. It’s often not easy.

The thing about writing these words, these introductions to communion, is that it forces me to pay attention to things, to be on the lookout for something to say, or someway to say one of the same things I always say, but a little differently.  And sometimes, even though Don is flawless in emailing the schedule every month, I don’t realize until a couple days before, that I need to have something prepared.  So I desperately start looking for something to talk about.  I start looking for god in the world, and what god’s up to.  Because that’s what’s special about the cracker and the juice.  Those things show that god is with us, right here, in these plates, in our hands, in our mouths, present among and within us.

So this week as I was looking for god, I noticed god was in a lot of places, and maybe not places that warrant a mention during communion, like in the sound of a bat hitting a baseball, or in hot coffee on a cold morning, or in the opening few bars of any AC/DC song.  So I took my thought experiment even farther and looked for places where maybe god wasn’t.

It was hard to imagine geography where god wouldn’t be.  I know there are those of you who could testify that god is clearly present in the quiet of a deer stand early in the morning when nothing seems to be moving, but clearly, something’s moving.  But surely there are people everywhere who feel the same about the jungle or desert or beach or tundra or city.  That if you listen, as god is often quiet, there is no question but that god is there.

And what about in all those people far away?  Here at home we know god is present in the relationships we have with our kids, our parents, our friends, our co-workers.  So god has to be present in the same relationships in places that are so different from what we know, places so foreign that many of us would never want to visit because, in the words of my late grandmother upon hearing we were visiting Ukraine in search of a son, “Why those people would just as soon shoot you as look at you.”  I know god’s in those places.  I’ve seen god myself in English pubs, Greek train stations, German youth hostels, and especially Ukrainian and Vietnamese orphanages.

What about those places, I continued to think, where not only don’t we want to go, but where our own state department tells us not to go, because people really do want to kill us, where in the meantime they kill each other.  I looked these up online by the way.  There’s a map of most of them in the back of your bibles.  Is god there?  In those places on the news, where bombed buildings fall in on children, where people are fighting and fleeing and struggling to maintain a standard of living that’s not as high as that of our pets.  Where’s god in all that?

And I don’t know.  It would be easy for me in my relative luxury and safety to say, I’m sure god is there working it all out in his own time, while children die and parents mourn.  Or that god’s not there because those people believe wrongly about religion or politics or something else.  But it’s hard for me to imagine a place where god’s not.  So my answer is what it always seems to be, what I always say.  God is there in the neighbors digging for the bodies of their friend’s children.  God is there in their mourning for their lost friends and family.  God is in those refugee camps, and with those aid workers.  And somehow god is with those people in power who make horrible decisions that result in dead families, but for the life of me I’m not really sure how.

And, as I always remind us, myself included, god is in the food we eat, not just the cracker and the juice, but in the food that powers our bodies, our hands and our feet, the only hands and feet god has, to do what god would have us do, to see that god’s will is done on earth, here at home, or abroad, in both peaceful places where we can hear god in the silent morning, and in horrible places where we can’t.