thất cầm

ột album rất dễ thương Thất cầm một thuở… một số tác phẩm của Thất cầm, nhóm những cây đại thụ trong làng guitar Việt Nam. Dĩ nhiên là thật khó để so sánh, nhưng nhiều khi cách chơi guitar không liền mạch, cách tạm ngừng hết câu rất VN, và cả những tiếng ngón tay rít trên dây đàn… những âm thanh đó gần gũi với tai nhạc của chúng ta hơn là âm thanh mượt mà đến hoàn hảo (không hề có lấy một tiếng rít dây) như của Francis Goya chẳng hạn.

Bài ca hy vọng 
Quê em miền trung du 

Quê em miền trung du – Thái Thanh 

Không khó để tìm thấy trong album này những bài nhạc mình yêu thích: Domino, Mazuka, Andaloucia, Bài ca hy vọng… và nhất là Quê em miền trung du, bài ca của nhạc sĩ Nguyễn Đức Toàn nổi tiếng thời kháng chiến 9 năm: Quê em miền trung du, đồng suối lúa xanh rờn, giặc tràn lên thôn xóm… Anh về quê cũ, đi diệt thù giữ quê, giặc tan đón em về. Từ mờ sáng tinh mơ, anh đi trong bóng cờ… Riêng bài ca này, hãy nghe lại qua một giọng ca đã đi vào huyền thoại: Thái Thanh.

kindle – the verb

Xa cách – Tuấn Ngọc 

indle, I’m using it extensively for the time being, my reading list is growing huge with so much books, documents to be read. Kindle suits my needs very well, you can make side notes along the lines, like writing on the margins (similar to the layout of this website with notes putting on the left). These notes can later be synchronised to your laptop so that you can re – organise your random thoughts into systematic thinking and schedule. You can also use dictionaries without having to leave your reading. I’m still getting surprises on Kindle’s audio quality and its battery time, you can read, listen to music for weeks before having to recharge.

While I’m trying to develop some home – brew softwares for Kindle (including an email client), I’m also getting sympathised to Amazon’s designs. You would only got a special – purpose machine by removing odd features, confiding yourself to very specific needs, anything rather than reading is strictly restricted. Reading, taking notes, making investigations and drawing out plans are real pleasures, at least for the time being. Just want to discover what I wanna want to do until the time of vanishing out of this earthy world!

I used to criticise reading a lot, and I still do. We’d had generations of parrot – repeating readers already. You don’t have to read (at all), but whatever you read, do it thoroughly. I have to speak straight out, as many of our fellows pretend to read something other reads, listen to music other likes. But the cassock doesn’t make the priest, literature, music… are of personal values. Whatever you read or listen does not matter, it does only matter if you can discover new things out of the contents. I apologise the true readers and listeners, this is specific to my environment only, I get disgusted with all those “fashionable things” going on around down town!


Screenshots of the new Unity desktop. There’s certainly a harsh non – exclusive competing between Unity and GNOME Shell. A proxy war between Ubuntu and Fedora Core, which is in turn a proxy war between Canonical and Red Hat.

Eventually, it’s user experiences that would decide which desktop is best (and best for what), and that’s still a long way to come. But technically, Unity is the first huge bold break from tradition, whose real goal deep inside is replacing completely the age – old heritage of X window system by an OpenGL – based one, a problem partially addressed in my previous post.

am trying Ubuntu’s new desktop introduced lately with Natty Narwhal (11.04). After heavy development phases, Unity has reached its alpha stage, a massive move replacing the GNOME desktop environment by a completely new one written from scratch. I’ve read too many negative reviews about Unity already, but personally I think this is a good move. Developed from Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix (which I didn’t like much, you don’t have to maximize windows like that all the time), switched from Clutter to Compiz 3D windows compositing system (my last experiment with Clutter also hinted potential performance problems), the new Unity shows a huge shift toward Mac’s style desktop. Though there’s still lots of bugs and missing features, a few things can be said about this new Unity.

First, people complains about the break from the norms, some hates Unity because it stops their accustomed habits. The GNOME community (with its long development history) can feel like being betrayed. But for all I knew after some years in graphics, UI design is the job of personality, it’s the task of a small group who decides what is “nice and beautiful”, and which is the way (for other users) to follow, it’s not the task of a committee (that is “People’s Committee” I mean 😬). As a developer, I’m often in the self – conflicting state of wondering what is “nice and beautiful”, modify over and over again some simple UI widgets. It’s no strange that UI always becomes a huge diversity (and problems) for community – driven projects. Key requirements for a UI system in my opinion are: simplicity, consistency and elegance.

For consistency and simplicity, Unity is a big step forward, reasons given that GNOME has become too complex and inconsistent (then how about the much more complex KDE?). Maximized windows have the caption and menu bars all incorporated into the system bar on top, a feature clearly borrowed from Mac, yet further varied and developed. A simple dock bar is positioned on the left, and system menu button doesn’t bring up menu but a searching panel with which you can launch programs, open files… with a few key strokes. I like this much cause it offers a form of GNOME – Do: it’s harder to launch rarely – used items (especially if you don’t remember the names) but it’s more convenient for frequently – used ones. After all, lexical memory is much faster than spatial memory, if one has been trained to that.

One more apparent physical factor is that the vertical screen space is more scarce compared to horizontal space, and 16:9 screens has become quite popular. To conserve useful screen space, UI must make constraints to the caption, menu bars, especially tool bars, there’s even recommendations on eliminating the status bar and minimizing scroll bar at Mark Shuttleworth’s (Canonical’s founder) blog. For scroll bar, that’s quite sure a mimic and modified version taken from iOS. Actually with my recent experiences with Mac and iOS, there’s still a lot of lessons to be learned from these two OSes on how to use space efficiently: remove heavy windows decorations and borders, use lighter UI fonts, smaller and more symbolic icons, design simpler widgets… and in cases even sacrifice some less – used UI features.

The trend of UI becoming simpler and more consistent is quite obvious. Efficient uses of space is the key, but spatial is not all for user experiences: keyboard and mnemonic are also important parts of the learning path (UI effects can be fancy, but over time, people get to love the simplest keystrokes that do the job). The third factor: elegance is even more a topic of debate, people can largely agree to what is simplicity and consistency, but what is aesthetics remains mysterious! Unity claims that it would directly compete Mac on UI designs and user experiences, but my opinion is that its aesthetic aspect is still far behind that of Mac, e.g: Compiz’s effects are numerous, but actually not very fine – tuned compared to the smaller set of animations Mac offers… And even Mac still doesn’t satisfy my eyes in quite many cases…

the tự – do boat

The boat now belongs to the Australian National Maritime Museum. It has been refurbished and restored to the original design with the help of the Lu family, and preserved as a museum’s fully – operational object to demonstrate the country’s immigration history, the whole story is recited here.

nteresting story about a Vietnamese boat – people‘s vessel, the one dubbed: Tự do – Freedom. In 1976, the boat was laid down at Phú Quốc island as a dragnet fishing vessel, a construction built just for the escape from the newly – formed regime (1975). Mr. Tan Than Lu planned his escape meticulously along with his family, relatives and friends.

The hull (as seen in the images) still incorporates in it some Vietnamese indigenous ship building features, the registration number reads: VNKG1062, which indicates that the boat originally had its home port in Kiên Giang, Việt Nam. Hull dimensions: 19.4m (length), 5.2m (beam) and 1.8m (draft). It must be noticed that the Lu family is a very rare case among almost half a million of Vietnamese boat – people at the time, very few could afford building such a boat for escaping, and few had had such a lucky and successful trip.

The boat involved in fishing for half a year to allay government’s suspicion. Then pretended to have an engine breakdown so that surveillance of them would be relaxed, a more powerful replacement engine was installed during the night, children were given cough medicine to make them sleep and keep silence, the crew of 38 departed on Aug 16th, 1977. They arrived at Mersing, Malaysia, where 8 passengers were disembarked as refugees.

After one month of unsuccessful approaches to the US Embassy, Mr. Lu decided to set sail for Australia with the remaining 30 people on board. They were resupplied and encouraged to move on by the Indonesian authorities. They reached Darwin, Australia on Nov 21st, 1977 after a 6000 kilometers journey guided only by map torn from a schoolbook and a simple compass.

un vietnamien bien tranquille

aving a time to read some notable documents: The spy who loved us – Thomas Bass, and The perfect spy – Larry Berman. At first, I’d thought: oh, all these stories I’ve knew quite well already, there’s no need to read more. But then I considered it’s good to be reflective, reading the same stories in another language, from other points of view.

I’d read these two books (in English), which contains quite some interpreting errors (most of them are unintentional I think) then I proceeded to their Vietnamese translations (which are really bad, lots of linguistic mistakes), but again another reflections of reflections. All readings confirmed my understanding about the Vietnamese legendary intelligence agent Phạm Xuân Ẩn, whose role is now recognized as crucially decisive in the second IndoChina war.

Espionage and Journalism

As the first IndoChina war was approaching its end, the Việt Minh leaders knew that it’s just a matter of time before the American get their hands in. They had lived and fought with the French long enough that they had extensively well understanding on their enemy, the same is not true for the Americans. During the 9 years of the first IndoChina war, Ẩn had already worked against the French, under his cousin Phạm Xuân Giai, head of South Vietnam’s Cinquième Bureau – department for psychological warfare, who was working for the French’s Deuxième Bureau.

In 1957, Phạm Xuân Ẩn was ordered to go to the States, studying journalism (as a cover), learning their language, culture, their way of thinking… a preparation that later turned out to have devastating effects. During the time in America (and even long before), Ẩn has developed a sympathy (if not admiration) for American people and culture, and at the same time, touting his horns in a war to come against them.

These two professions were very contradictory, but also very similar. The intelligence job involves collecting information, analyzing it, and jealously keeping it secret, like a cat covering its droppings. The journalist, on the other hand, collects information, analyzes it, and then publishes it to the world. (Phạm Xuân Ẩn)

Information and disinformation

Upon coming back (1959), Ẩn worked for several presses: Việt Tấn Xã, Reuters, Time… Among all journalists in Saigon at the time, Ẩn is considered to be the best informants: new – comers introduced with him for guidances, seasoned ones seeked him for tips. He had various sources in the governments, army officers, secret polices… he had the best ears on the ground for everything. He is dubbed: “the weatherman” who foretell the political atmosphere, generals consulted him before planning coup d’état, the Buddhist monks informed him in advance if they prepare a protestant self – burning.

He made very good friend and closed cooperation with Edward Lansdale, head of IndoChina CIA division, the legendary agent nick – named: the king – maker, who manipulated every puppets on the Southern political stage, yet Lansdale had never doubted it. People was thinking he could be a CIA agent, a French sûreté, a South VN secret police, or he could be both. But none ever thought of him working for the Red NLF.

After the war, upon learning about the fact, some of his colleagues have tried to prove that Ẩn could had been giving disinformation at times. In fact, all his written records at the Time magazine (where he worked for 10 years) proved the opposite. Had he done it, with all the overwhelming clandestine agents among the presses, things could have easily been cross – checked and that would betray Ẩn, the espionage. And he of course hadn’t made those preliminary mistakes.

The source had given me the story on condition that I shouldn’t reveal it before it happened. These are the ethics of the press. You have to observe them, no matter how tough it may be. These are also the ethics of an intelligence agent who knows the propaganda value of burning monks. (Phạm Xuân Ẩn)

Balance and Objective

One thing Ẩn learned in American news career is that: a writing must be well – balanced, not biased in any directions, and at the same time it has to be objective, giving useful information to help coming to some helpful conclusions. Yet the two are usually contradictory. Similarly, questions have been raised about the nature of a man who lived an extremely dangerous double life for 30 years, about the one who deeply admires American culture but fiercefully fights against them.

In fact, Ẩn made true friend to many American journalists, help them in many cases, many of whom still love him even after learning that he was a spy. Many would recall how he saved the life of Robert Sam Anson, the war correspondent who was arrested by the VC in Cambodia. Ẩn came closest to getting discovered when he promised to Anson’s wife (who was begging for help) that he would do everything he could, a dangerous remark which implies he really could do something. Anson was later released as per request Ẩn made to his superiors, a truth Anson would only know for sure years later.

He was a man of wisdom, courage, and clear – headed patriotism. He was also – even if it seems ironic to say this under the circumstances – a man of extraordinary integrity. He loved us at our best even while confronting us at our worst. (Daniel Ellsberg)

Strategy and Tactic

A pattern in Ẩn’s stories, as usual, as an amusing raconteur: I’m a strategic analyst, I was concentrating on background information and situation assessment. Yet it’s a reason he gives in order not to get into too much details that he wouldn’t want to release even in the next 50 years: that’s related to too many people, many have died, but some still alive with their relatives, there’s no reason to cause harm to them anyway (Ẩn has always been loyal and protective to his information sources, from either sides, many of which is built upon personal relations).

But Western researchers found this an “undeniable fact”: he’s been awarded with 16 medals, among which 2 are general (one “Hero of the People’s Army” medal, the highest military award in VN, and another medal for “50 years of Party’s service”), the other 14 are all credited to specific battles, 4 of which is apparently known: the Ấp Bắc battle (1963), the Tết offensive (1968), the Lam Sơn 1972 operation, and the final 1975 campaign. That gives some obvious hints on his role as a tactical adviser who devised detailed tactics to be used in various battles.

He would have had enough knowledge of the battlefield tactics, rules of engagement, logistics and battle – readiness of both the Vietnamese and Americans in that area at that time to give pretty good advice on the way to set up a trap for them. Certainly Ấp Bắc had the hallmarks of a trap. (Nick Turner)

Nguyễn Văn Tào (nom de guerre: Tư Cang), head of the H.63 spy ring, direct ‘boss’ of Phạm Xuân Ẩn, famous for his ability of pistol shooting with both hands, and never miss a shot.

Phạm Xuân Ẩn (nom de guerre: Hai Trung), the strategic analyzer whose information, documents, assessments… greatly changed the pace of war.

Nguyễn Văn Thương (nom de guerre: Hai Thương), one of the couriers who run Ẩn’s messages. He was arrested, tortured, both his 2 legs were cut off six times, each without any narcotic. He could had saved his life, but he chose to save the network.

How could someone so voluble and open about his life be a spy? How could someone so funny and pointed in his remarks about human stupidity be a Communist? …He was a divided man of utter integrity, someone who lived a lie and always told the truth. (Thomas Bass)

The spy who loved us – Thomas Bass
(pdf.tar.gz) (mobi.tar.gz)

Perfect spy – Larry Berman
(pdf.tar.gz) (mobi.tar.gz)

Communists and Nationalists

This is the point of hatred conflicting among Vietnamese communities for so many years. My point of view, which is also reflected tho – throughly throughout the books (can be seen as 2 American views) is that: the communists, they had an ideologue (no matter right or wrong it could be), and they had determinations. On that basics, they’d had detailed planning and extensive efforts to carry it out, and they’d made sacrifices to carry it out to the end. The same is not true with the so called southerners’ nationalism.

As long as the Americans were pumping money in, the Southern government staffs were trying to steal as much as possible, and pretend to be supportive to the Americans’ causes while avoiding fights and casualties on the battle fields. They’d lost, as they presented nothing, not nationalists, not even anti – communists, but only their own personal and family’s interests. The consequence can be seen clearly: the majority of southern people took side, they have always been sympathetic to the Communists’ national independence causes, although they’re not communists.

Communism and Patriotism

It would eventually become clear why so many people have made extreme efforts and sacrifices, it was not because of any ideology. Of the total 43 members of the H.63 espionage network, 25 were captured, tortured, many of them chose to die, but the network remained unbroken. They were couriers, who in 15 continuous years, ran the total 498 messages (reports) from Phạm Xuân Ẩn to the Iron Triangle Củ Chi, from where it would be delivered directly to the Politburo in Hà Nội. Ẩn always kept an poison pill in his pocket, ready for a death that was hanging over him for those 15 years.

Many who survived the war found themselves disillusioned with the post – war living, finding that the new regime has become even more corrupted than the previous one, and that is not what they were fighting for. Yet they were fighting not for any individual, any ideology, any government… Many failed to realize it is patriotism in the truest and deepest meaning! Phạm Xuân Ẩn to the last year of his life, works as an consultant to TC2 (the Vietnamese equivalence of Deuxième Bureau), who doesn’t understand and doesn’t trust him, but badly need his razor – sharp analyses and assessments.

Lessons learnt

If something can be learnt from Phạm Xuân Ẩn’s life, it’s something about cultural understanding. While most VC has very limited knowledge about American culture and values, they’d succeeded in cultivating at least one spy who could think like an American, a spy who loved Americans and was loved by them in return. That way he can get deep into the adversary’s mind and soul, and know the way to defeat them.

It’s all about understanding, the French had stayed in Vietnam for a considerable amount of time, they’d learnt to divide and conquer the Vietnamese, a job they’d done excellently. It took a few generations to absorb their culture, to gain enough understanding to have successful retaliations. What the American had done in Vietnam to some extent was repeating things the French had done already, in a far larger scale.

Those above are indeed the small part of the lessons. Ẩn said: the American are very good at collecting and analyzing information, but they don’t know what to do with them (at least in scopes of the Vietnam war). Similarly, we can say: the Vietnamese know how to obtain a victory (or it supposes to be called so), but then they don’t know what to do with it. Phạm Xuân Ẩn in person is a talkative one, he can talk about his thinking all day.

But as a spy, a strategic analyzer, he is actually a very quite Vietnamese, who had much more profound thoughts and understanding but can’t say it out. Lots of our own problems are briefly reflected throughout the American books, but they’re not recognized tho – throughly by our own people… Things get passed silently in our sleeping – pleasing minds until another war, another revolution that is… just pending.

hoàn kiếm turtle

Ai về xứ Bắc ta đi với,
Thăm lại non sông giống Lạc Hồng.
Từ độ mang gươm đi mở cõi,
Trời Nam thương nhớ đất Thăng Long!

This could be the last living turtle in Hoàn Kiếm lake and among the lone 4 surviving individuals (2 in China and 2 in Vietnam). The specie is known to be the largest soft – shell turtle in the world.

In 1967, this turtle died (the body preserved at Ngọc Sơn temple), leaving the turtle above the last one. His post – mortem measures: 2.1 x 1.2 meter in size, 250 kg in weight, estimated age at 400 years.

ecently, there’s been much activities on protecting the last specimen of turtle living in Hoàn Kiếm lake. Preserving efforts are being taken place to: improve his living conditions and try to mate him with similar turtles in the hope of producing offspring. All Vietnamese was taught at elementary school legends behind this sacred Hoàn Kiếm turtle. And through out our history, the turtle appeared at crucial moments for not just one time… It’s the Golden Turtle who assisted King An Dương Vương in building the ancient citadel of Cổ Loa (~ 257 BC).

The turtle later helped the king in creating a multi – shot crossbow that destroyed the Northern invaders… In the last “known” advent, the Golden Turtle was sent to reclaim the Heaven’s Will Sword, which was given to Lê Lợi who carried out a 10 years resistance war and regained Vietnam’s independence. Much like King Arthur and his sword Excalibur, myths on a sword with super power sent to assist the hero is unlikely. However, the story’s moral is much more likely and profound indeed:

One year after winning, declaring independence and becoming the Emperor (1428 AD), Lê Lợi goes for boating on a lake near his palace. In the mist of the lake, the Golden Turtle appears, advances toward the boat and asks the emperor to return the sword. It suddenly became clear to Lê Lợi that the sword was only lent to him to carry out his duty, as a powerful weapon in war time, but it now must be returned to its owner, lest it would harm him and his country if misused as it’s not the appropriate tool in peace time.

Lê Lợi draws the sword out and hands it to the Golden Turtle, who grasps it with his mouth, then disappears into deep water. Aftermath, the lake was renamed Hoàn Kiếm, which means: lake of the Returned Sword (or Sword lake for short in spoken language), now at the center of Hà Nội, Việt Nam’s capital. Wise old men argue that if this only remaining sacred creature is going to die, then who would reclaim the hammer and sickle – ☭ ? 😬

the godfather

et everyone knows this film, and almost everyone loves it, I really like to watch it from time to time too: The GodFather. Of the three parts of the movie: I (1972), II (1974) and III (1990), the previous ones are more enjoyable in my opinion, hardly can something grow under the shadow of a big tree, and this is no exception.

I especially like the 1st part, it introduces fresh and detailed colors and sounds into the world of Italian and Sicilian: their songs, music, customs, relationships, language, personalities… Some scenes in the film have become classical and canonical metaphors for many situations in life. They are even using this movie as examples for lessons on running a business, some quotes from the film:

– Vito Corleone: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

– Tom Hagen: Your father wouldn’t want to hear this Sonny! This is business, not personal! – Sonny Corleone: They shoot my father and it’s business, my ass! – Tom Hagen: Even shooting your father was business, not personal, Sonny! – Sonny Corleone: Well, business is going to have to suffer then!

– Vito Corleone: [to Michael Corleone] Listen, whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor. Don’t forget that. (I really like this wise idea too)

– Tessio: [to Tom Hagen] Tell Mike it was only business, I always liked him. – Tom Hagen: He understands that. – Tessio: Can you get me off the hook, Tom? For old times’ sake? – Tom Hagen: [shakes his head] Can’t do it, Sally.

– Michael Corleone: Just don’t tell me you’re innocent! It doesn’t make me angry, it insults my intelligence!

russian movies

ome recently seen (in the past few weeks) post – Soviet Russian war movies: Admiral (2008), Attack on Leningrad (2009) and Brest Fortress (2010). I can’t say anything rather than: marvelous! Both these three films should be on top of greatest war films, in many aspects: acting, costume and makeup, sound & music… comparable to any other war films ever made in the West. CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is really good but maybe still a bit after that of Hollywood.

Russian cinema has made excellent advances, less propagandic, less rigid patterns, closer to real people in real life… that the things that made the films worth watching! In my opinion, of the series of three, the later the more interesting ones (though others may have their own different idea and evaluation).

Admiral (2008)

The films recites the life of Aleksandr Kolchak, admiral of the Russian Empire Navy. Kolchak himself was a complex character, living in a complex time: a famed Polar explorer, a valorous naval commander, a passionate lover, and eventually the Supreme Governor of the anti – communist White forces. No longer ruled by a dictatorial doctrine, Russia is now seeking to bring back true images of an extremely harsh period in her history.

The film starts with glorious feats of Kolchak commanding a destroyer in the Navy, his bravery in battles, his love affair with Anna Timiryova… and then the Red October came. Kolchak becomes the Supreme Ruler of the White Russia, who fought against the Bolshevik. Kolchak has far less success as a political leader than as a naval commander, he was finally arrested and executed by the Red. After decades of being vilified by the Soviet government, Kolchak is still now a controversial figure though there’re been rehabilitation movements to restore the place he deserves in Russian history.

Attack on Leningrad (2009)

An English journalist (of Russian origin) was trapped in the besieged city of Leningrad, the war correspondent Kate Davis was assumed dead but find herself among the starving people of the city struggling for their own survival. With the help of a kind and idealistic police women Nina Tsvetnova, they live through the 900 days in that sieged hell where food shortage only permits a ration of 125 gram of bread for each person a day. Encirclement around the city was almost completed, the only supply route through lake Ladoga was called the Road of Life (and also the Road of Death).

Nina Tsvetnova later guides a soldier group attempting to re – establish the supply route across the frozen surface of the lake. As a reward, she is permitted to bring members of her family out of the city. Nina along with the journalist take one child out with them. They succeeded but decide to return to help another child. Both two women died in the terrible city but saved two children out of the 1.5 million civil death toll, half of the city’s population.

Brest Fortress (2010)

Brest fortress was the strong hold which accounts for 5% of total Germany losses in the first phase of their Russia invasion. When German started the war, the Russian was unprepared, under – powered and defeated easily, their army was in all the way to retreat, except for this fortress. Defensed by a small unit, a regiment formation of soldiers along with their families, the fortress stands for almost a month when German has already advanced hundreds of miles into Soviet territory, leaving the point an isolated symbolically heroic fortification.

Yet they fight to the last man without any food, medical and ammunition supply, without any reinforcement. Alexander Akimov, a 15 year old young cadet of the fortress lived through the bloodshed resistance, trying to help other soldiers and his girlfriend Anya. He is the lone survivor to recall the story. The film is indeed beautiful: it concentrates on normal people, their daily lives and activities, their love, hate and humanly feelings… their choices and fates against the brutalities of war!

12 angry men

ne of the films I’ve really enjoyed recently, having some free times during the new year holiday to “re – master” some classics. Yes, it is truly a classical master – piece! Off 95 minutes of the picture, almost 90 min is spent in just a single room, with 12 men discussing, arguing, debating… There’s not even a single frame for flashbacks, visualizations or imagined scenes or such things, a 2 – hour continuous hard talk between 12 jurors of a trial’s jury, to decide in a murder case whether a boy is guilty or not.

Although some scenarios in the film are quite predictable, and some details are somewhat illogical (those that could hardly occur in real world), the fascinating part of the film is about the diversity of the jury board: 12 men from different backgrounds, ages, professions… different personalities, their logic systems, their value scales… and their prejudices. Some just doesn’t care, some is more or less “a yes man”, flipping sides at any times, some just want to kill the boy cause he grew up in slum, and slum is where crime was born…

Only one man has the braveness that leads him (and later the whole board) to the truth! The film gets to the core of the American juridical system, and helps explaining why the country has a strong democracy: democratic is built upon the votes (decision making) of a mass, it’s the quality, the responsibility of the mass that decide outcomes. The film also helps explaining why in some countries, dictatorship is the only thing that’s possible. That is, eventually, people get the ruling system, the kind of government they’ve wanted!

bánh chưng

ọi năm, đa số những đồ ăn Tết đều do trong nhà tự làm: bánh, mứt các loại, nem chả, rượu… ngày trước có những năm trong nhà tự làm đến cả chục loại bánh mứt khác nhau, hai ba loại rượu! Thật không có dịp nào để thể hiện khả năng DIY (Do It Yourself) như là dịp Tết!

Nhưng càng năm càng bớt dần, với tất cả mọi người, thời gian càng lúc càng ít lại. Thế nên Tết nhứt cũng bớt về số lượng, bớt luôn cả sự cầu kỳ, những năm gần đây thì chỉ còn làm tượng trưng vài loại. Nhưng cũng mất hẳn một ngày gói và nấu bánh chưng, bánh làm theo kiểu Huế, bé tí ti vừa đủ cho một người trong một lần ăn, kích cỡ mỗi cạnh vào khoảng 10 cm.

Ở Huế có những nhà thậm chí còn làm nhỏ hơn, chỉ khoảng 8cm. Có thể so sánh với cặp bánh chưng làm theo kích thước điển hình kiểu miền Bắc do nhà bên cạnh làm tặng (16 ~ 17 cm). Đem cặp bánh nhà làm tặng đáp lễ thì hẳn người ta sẽ ngạc nhiên phải biết! Bánh chưng làm kiểu miền Nam thậm chí còn có thể to hơn đến 20 ~ 22 cm.