Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Interview with 1954-liner Allan Cantrell:

13 years of age in the year 1968, Allan Cantrell (my uncle) now recalls little of the Tet Offensive, but at the time maintained much disdain for those involved in the student protests of that year. Both the assassination of MLKJ as well as 'Bobbie' Kennedy left upon him the impression that America was a degenerating nation with an increasing number of national issues and few solutions. Olympic Athletes of the year who raised their arms for Black Power served only to slightly shock him, as his accepting, albeit deeply conservative upbringing led him to believe that black rights was not such an issue that African Americans would speak out in such a radical fashion. (It is worthy of bearing in mind that Allan was raised in rural Appalachia  and outside of his blue collar community had little interaction with these 'radicals' until he was older.) Skip to  22:16 to listen to his thoughts on the oft-made comparison between the fight for black rights in the 1960's and marriage equality in the 21st century.

However, African American rights was not the only issue of the 1960's. At the risk of injecting personal opinion, there is one major failure of the US government during the 1960's, the repercussions of which still reverberate in the more recent generations of Vietnamese. First, however, it is important to understand the background that contributed to the decision of US military leaders to perform arguably foolish actions.

Valley of A Luoi. Kan Lay, 55 years old, and her son, Ke Van Bec, 14 years old, physically and mentally handicapped, pose in front of the billboard denouncing the operation Ranch hand.
1954 marked the division of Vietnam by the 17th parallel and demilitarized zone (DMZ) into the communist North Vietnam, and the French-backed South Vietnam. In 1962 members of the US decided to stick their collective noses in the situation to prevent the dominoes from falling (read: North Vietnam communistifying the rest of S.E.A.). The Vietnam War itself began in 1959, and did not cease until 1975. Members of the partially guerilla Viet Cong army (the pro-communist opponents of the United States and South Vietnamese) occupied South Vietnam during this time, making good use of the South Vietnamese jungle as coverage with which to hide from enemies in the sky. To remedy this issue, the United States resolved to employ herbicidal warfare. Though it honestly sounds like a war against parsley, sage, rosemary  and thyme, herbicidal warfare is one of the most detrimental methods of warfare to raze the livelihood of civilians, not so much because of the destruction to the villages  but the long-lasting effects of the application of what has been determined as a carcinogenic and mutagenic compound.

Operation Ranch Hand lasted from 1962 to 1971 during which approximately 20 million US gallons of herbicides and defoliants were sprayed over South Vietnam, covering an estimated 20% of South Vietnamese forests over the course of 10 years (as well as portions of neighboring countries Laos and Cambodia) in an effort to deprive the Viet Cong of both their source of food and vegetative cover. "Ranch Handers" of the US Air Force (flying C-123s) stuck to the motto "Only you can prevent a forest"- a slightly humorous parody of the US Forest Service's Smokey Bear slogan. Herbicides were sprayed at concentrations of up to 50 times more than the amount normally used in agriculture. Most commonly used of the 'rainbow' of herbicides was the infamous Agent Orange: a mixture of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid.

(An interesting and biological aside, the compound triiodobenzoic acid was first studied by plant biologist Arthur Galston in 1943 in an effort to procure a plant growth hormone which would allow for the adaptation of soybeans to a shorter growing season. Excessive usage of the compound was found to have an effect nearly opposite of that the desired. Instead of growing more rapidly, the compound caused 'catastrophic defoliation.' Side effects to both humans and the environment were prominent concerns of Galston, yet were somehow overlooked by the US government in years to come.)

While all is purportedly fair in love and war, the use of Agent Orange has no valid excuse. Of the 3-4.8 million Vietnamese exposed to the herbicide, between 150,000 and 500,000 were children born with birth defects. Exposure resulted in an inflated rate of both miscarriage and stillbirth in human females as well as in cattle, pigs, and water buffalo. Health problems resulting from being the child of one exposed to the herbicide include, but are not limited to a host of genetic diseases such as cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, extra fingers and toes, and keratosis. Incredibly elevated levels of dioxin were found in both the breast milk of Vietnamese women and the blood of US soldiers in 1970. Dioxin to this day contaminates Vietnamese soil and continues to pose a health threat to citizens by way of poisoning the food chain (thanks, biomagnification!), causing illness, serious diseases of the skin, and a whole host of cancers (lung, larynx, prostate, etc.).

In the years since the war, a number of law suits have been filed. Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Diamond Shamrock (the companies which produced Agent Orange) have been sued multiple times since 1978. Vietnam veterans sued for injuries due to toxic dioxin. Widows sued for their lost loved ones. Eventually, in 1991, the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act which served to grant the authority to the Department of Veterans Affairs to declare certain medical conditions 'presumptive' to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure. VAVA, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin filed a 2004 lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn against a number of US companies for liability in causing personal injury. The case was dismissed with the statement that the herbicides  used during the war were not intended for the use of poisoning humans, and therefore were not in violation of international law. (The US Supreme Court declined the case.) The same case was dismissed and declined again between 2007 and 2009. Assistance to victims of dioxin exposure has come in the form of "peace villages" established by the Vietnamese (as well as by members of both the Vietnam Veterans Assiciation and an international group of US veterans) throughout Vietnam, wherein somewhere between 50 and 100 victims per village are able to receive medical and psychological help. Many of these victims are orphans, abandoned due to their genetic mutations and mental conditions. While failing multiple times in US court, VAVA has provided medical care as well as rehab and financial assistance to the injured.

The damage resulting from Operation Ranch Hand and herbicidal attacks on South Vietnam is ever present, and may take generations to subside. For further information on the devastation  the documentary embedded below is worthy of a glance.

If it wasn't clear, I don't like Agent Orange.

Sources Cited:
"Agent Orange." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 03 May 2013.
"Herbicidal Warfare." 
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2013. Web. 03 May 2013.
"Operation Ranch Hand." 
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 May 2013.
"The Vietnam War (1945–1975)." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 03 May 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

AP3D Q2: I went to the Lego exhibition of Nathan Sawaya's works a couple of weekends ago. One Friday afternoon I was like, "hey, I need to go to the Lego thing." And Ellen was like, "hey, I do too. Let's go do that now." And so we did. Going to an art-thing with one's favorite artist is just super-cool, if you feel me.

Aanyways, at the exhibit I noted a number of things. First and foremost, the lighting. A vast majority of the dude's pieces were solid colors (as you can see to the left), and had he not taken into account lighting when building them, well, he might as well have been painting a 2D blob. We also had a discussion as to whether he had decided on his exhibit's lighting, or if the curator at the MBS did. The lighting definitely contributed to the work, and we noticed specifically that those sculptures which were blue had blue-and-white lighting, while those which were red had red, and so on.

The sculpture I liked the least was a heart made of recycled Lego pieces. It was meant to be conceptual and had an affixed textual explanation of how hole-y heart metaphorically standing for the global love which results from recycling those pieces of our hearts which... let's be honest, the heart looked like something I made out of Legos when I was four.

His commentary on his "Yellow" sculpture was amusing. If you've not seen it, you probably have, on Tumblr or Reddit or your mom's Facebook feed. It's a Lego guy ripping open his chest from which his contents explode out. The artist stated that the sculpture is his most recognized piece, because it could be felt and related to by both adults and kids. On an adult-level old people resonate with the feeling of wanting to explode or something, and on the kid-level a dude with his guts exploding looks cool. If it's not apparent, I'm still on the kid-level of art analysis over here.

I was kind of disappointed he didn't make use of an RCX or NXT in his exhibit. I mean, he's got some pretty cool junk, but attach a motor or twenty to one of them things and not only could he have a huge dinosaur, but he could have a huge dinosaur that walks. Seriously.

My favorite sculpture was the dinosaur, which was pretty cool to look at not only because it looked like a legit, standard-science-museum T-Rex, but you could walk around it in the shadows projected by the exhibit, and it felt like you were in some Jurassic jungle with all the pterodactyls and stuff on the walls, as you can see on the right. Yay.

Also also also, he mentioned something about the human form and how it was interesting to create out of Legos because Legos are only meant to offer that standard, blocky shape, and he has managed to create the curves of the human body- the spine, legs, hips, bellies- by breaking them down to their component pieces. It's kind of what I wanted to do with my failed cardboard sculpture.

I mostly liked that he didn't try to apply a lot of PIBA to his creations. They were just cool-looking Lego stuffs and The End.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Boyz Nite Out Singapore 2012

A couple of nights ago I attended the Boyz Nite Out Singapore 2012 kpop concert. It was lovely. ^.^ Performers present included Jay Park, B1A4, SHINee, TeenTop and the up-and-coming rookie group 7942/CGSE (칠구사이). Because concert was indoors, and we had standing tickets, Danielle and I stood incredibly close to the performers (one of the members of CGSE pointed directly at me and winked), most importantly of whom was Jonghyun. SHINee's "Sherlock" (video below) was particularly awesome live. I didn't understand the majority of the concert because white girl in Asia my knowledge of the Korean language is nonexistent, but Jay Park took his shirt off, so it was over all 不錯. #burritotime


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies (The Kind that are Homemade with Love and What Not)

Mah favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe  ^.^ (I attribute any cookie failure to our oven. That thing is simply impossible. You have to guesstimate the temperature to the nearest 20 degrees, it doesn't always heat up all the way, the back of the oven is always hotter than the front, etc.)


1 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 package (12 oz) chocolate chips

Take a big bowl. Dump all of the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt into said bowl and stir it around. Take your room-temperature butter and the egg and add them. Mix. Dump in the chocolate chips and stir them about as well. Roll dough balls. Bake on 180°C (350°F) for 7 minutes. 

Enjoy your cookies.