Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dang Nhat Minh Brings to Life Liberation Struggle Doctor's Diary

The diarist, Dang Thuy Tram (left).

UPDATED with audio links: To listen to the entire Subversity show on Dang Nhat Minh, including the USC panel discussion, click here: .

To listen to just the USC panel discussion: click here: .

Vietnam's top filmmaker, People's Artist Đặng Nhật Minh, has made a moving anti-war film based on captured diaries of a National Liberation Front doctor, whose intimate and revealing thoughts about war and the Party are put on paper in between treating soldiers during the "American War." The diarist is a young surgeon, Đặng Thùy Trâm, known as "Thuy." Tragically, at age 27, she was killed by an American bullet through her forehead, in 1970. The film, Don't Burn (Đừng Đốt) is Vietnam's entry to this year's Academy Awards.

In her diary, only two volumes of which survived the war, Thuy rails against the American invaders (whom she calls "devils") while wondering why the Party took so long to admit her. Was she too bourgeois? In a telling entry, she admits "Bourgeois sentiments are always suspect. It's strange that I still prefer to be like that than to be clear and simple like a farmer." The Party later did admit her and she is now considered a martyr in Vietnam. The diary has been published in the U.S. as Last Night I Dreamed of Peace.

"Don't Burn" not only brings to life events described in the diary, but also brings the story up to date, showing how an American soldier, and his military family, came around to read the diary of an enemy doctor, in the process struck by the futility of warfare. The film describes how the diaries ended up at Texas Tech, whose library contain the largest non-governmental collection on the war, and shows how Thuy's family came to read their daughter's writings almost four decades later.

Thuy's father was also a noted surgeon and his mother a pharmacology lecturer specializing in medicinal plants. Thuy gave up her dream to be a ophthalmologist and instead, like many of her compatriots, went south to serve the state.

The parallels with the film director's own family upbringing are stark. Dang Nhat Minh's father, Dang Van Ngu, was also a noted doctor, leading efforts to fight malaria with penicillin. Indeed, he also was killed by the Americans, in 1967, a year before the entries in Thuy's recovered diary begin.

Dang Nhat Minh himself has stated: "I have no regrets at all about being a film director as it is destiny. But if I could choose again, I would rather be a doctor and follow in my father's steps." Both father and son have won the Ho Chi Minh Award.

This is the first film to portray the views of America's "enemy" so starkly.
It seeks to reconcile the two nations who fought so bitter and deadly a war.

Dang Nhat Minh & Kieu Chinh at USC 23 January 2010. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010

And perhaps as a sign of possible reconciliation between Vietnamese in the homeland and here, director Minh was embraced warmly by Little Saigon's most famous film personality, Kieu Chinh (left), after a recent showing at the University of Southern California(USC).

Indeed, in California the past few weeks, the film has been shown to audiences young and old in northern and southern California.

Dang Nhat Minh answers a question during panel discussion at USC. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010.

On KUCI Subversity's 1 February 2010, from 9-10 a.m. we discuss this film and diary and present the panel discussion after the film showing at USC, with Director Dang Nhat Minh. Also on the panel are Oh, Saigon director Doan Hoang (whose film was also shown that day), interpreter Gianni Le Nguyen and USC Prof David James, who kicked off the session. Thanks to Prof. Viet Nguyen, who co-organized the "Dreaming of Peace: Vietnamese Filmmakers Move from War to Reconciliation" event, for permission to record that session and air it. Prof. Nguyen prefaced the showing of Don't Burn with a moving tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. by quoting from the civil rights leader's writings against the Vietnam War.

The Subversity program airs on KUCI, 88.9 fm in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via Podcasts will be made available later and posted here. See trailer of Don't Burn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

UCI Chancellor Drake Grilled by Students

Chancellor Drake listens as the spouse of an outsourced worker asks in Spanish to be treated with dignity, captivating the audience. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang 2010

UPDATED with audio link: To listen to the show, click here: .

Irvine -- UCI Chancellor Michael Drake, for the first time since a critical UCI Faculty Senate blasted him for (initially) firing founding Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in 2007, faced Wednesday 13 January 2010 another hostile audience at a public forum organized by student protesters who gave what OC Register's Gary Robbins called a "verbal drubbing" -- with all but one student criticizing his leadership of the campus. It was a P.R. disaster for Drake.

Unlike previous "town hall" meetings where Drake managed to be in control, students criticized him for deferring to aides and not answering the questions "man to man". Asked pointedly if he would still continue to stay at UCI should his pay be further cut, he never answered the question, nor did he made a commitment to remaining at UCI.

While Drake and UCI police chief Paul Henisey declined to comment on the police abuse at UCLA protests (saying they were not there to see what happened) -- after the public forum, Subversity managed to ask the police chief if he would drop charges against sociology graduate student John Bruning, who had been arrested at a protest late last fall. Chief Henisey said it was up to the Orange County District Attorney.

At the forum, students laughed when Drake declared that UCI's commitment to free speech was nationally known. The chief then denied his cops were ripping down protesters' posters on campus. Both Drake and Henisey said they knew nothing about that. See photos of a UCI police officer ripping down posters on the Occupy UCI! blog.

Subversity has also learned that in another sign of intimidation by campus police, protesters who have been chalking on campus recently -- writing statements such as "UCI is Racist" on walls and the ground -- have been confronted by campus police who take down their name and threaten to charge them with "defacing" university property should the chalk not be able to be removed. This week's rains are likely, however, to wipe away the chalk.

The only time Drake seemed moved and did not act like a CEO of a corporation was after the wife of an outsourced worker who has worked at UCI for 20 years pleaded with him to provide benefits to the workers. Drake responded that he was committed to "quality experience" for everyone at UCI and said he had been working to help the disadvantaged and dispossessed in his career.

A day after the forum, dozens of outsourced workers demonstrated on campus and a smaller group of workers and student supporters gave Ramona Agrela, an associate to Drake, posters of workers who had been laid off.

Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, airs today (18 January 2010) at 9-10 a.m. audio from the public forum as a public service. The program airs on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Students & Workers to Confront Chancellor at Public Forum

UCI protest rally organizer Dennis Lopez, 4 January 2010. Photo credit: Daniel C. Tsang © 2010.

A public forum with students and workers confronting UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake on the privatization of the UCs is slated for Wednesday 12 January 2010 at 5-6 p.m. at HIB (Humanities Instructional Bldg) 100 on the UC Irvine campus.

High on the student agenda, beyond calling for a reduction in fees and end to privatizing a UC education, is expected to be calls for Drake to control the UCI police, to ban the use of Tasers on campus and to drop charges against Sociology graduate student John Bruning. Some students even want UCI to be made a cop-free zone.

If UCI police meant to silence Bruning, a student protest leader, by arresting him late last year on dubious grounds, it has done the opposite. Bruning in an article in today's New University calls for a ban on Tasers on campus, citing a recent court decision criticizing its use.

Though he is not happy under the spotlight as a student leader whose arrest and his being dragged off by UCI police was captured on video and posted on YouTube, Bruning is likely to use his trial -- if it comes to that -- as a platform to further critique UCI's administration and police tactics. Does UCI really want to provide him such a platform? After all, UC Berkeley dropped all charges against those originally arrested outside the Berkeley Chancellor's home, after windows were broken. At UCI, Bruning is not even charged with breaking windows, just slamming his arm against a glass-paned door to the administration building. I suspect the Orange County District Attorney's office will find there are no grounds to proceed to trial.

Meanwhile unnamed individuals have been posting on campus WANTED posters of Drake and Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, charging them with neglecting student needs among other undocumented allegations. The reward: Their salaries, the amounts of which are emblazoned at the bottom of the posters, which stayed up only hours before being removed by also unnamed individuals.

These and other WANTED posters remain online, on the so-called Communist Party Planning Committee site, targeting, in addition to Drake and Gomez, Sharon Salinger (Dean of Undergraduate Education), Assoc. Dean Caesar Sereses, Police chief Paul Henisey, officer Charles Chon, new Dean of Students Assistant Vice Chancellor Rameen Talesh, and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Michael Gottfredson. The CP Planning Committee is likely a parody of the name and the WANTED posters a provocative escalation of tactics.

The fact that these wanted posters with salary numbers haven't been widely posted on campus perhaps suggests a hesitancy among the protesters, who are by no means a unified whole. We link them here to inform the public.

As for the targets, just to mention two more: Salinger is the UCI administrator who wiped out a key student services resource, SAAS, the Student Academic Advancement Services, and subsequently asserted on KUCI's Subversity show that the services, which were partially refunded by the U.S. Department of Education, would continue under another name, although the former SAAS director and staff were let go.

Talesh in a letter in today's New University, while declaring UCI's commitment to protect free speech rights, argues there is a "time and place" for student protests, but not when they disrupt classes.

The text of the student/worker endorsed statement, distributed via email originally yesterday, follows:

Dear Campus Community:

In the past 3 months, we've seen changes and decisions made at the UC system that many of us wouldn't have dreamed of. Undergraduate fees have risen 32%, faculty, staff, and campus workers have been laid off and furloughed, classes have been cut, and the library hours have been reduced. To add insult to injury, essential services on campus have also been terminated, such as Student Academic Advancement Services (which ran Summer Bridge), Counseling Center staff has been cut, and financial aid has been decreasing. We all have questions about our futures in the UC system: How will the cuts affect us? How will we continue to afford UCI? What job prospects will we have after we graduate?

In response to the growing discontent and anger over the budget cuts on campuses across the state, a broad coalition of students has organized a Public Forum at UCI to discuss the important changes affecting our university. Chancellor Drake has been invited to attend and participate, which he has agreed to do, along with other key administrators at UCI. We urge all of the UCI community -- students, workers, faculty, staff -- to attend and raise questions about the decisions being made on our behalf for the future of the University of California and public education more generally.

Sponsored by:
Black Student Union
American Indian Student Association
Asian Pacific Student Association
Alyansa ng mga Kababayan
Radical Student Union
Worker Student Alliance
Muslim Student Union
Women and Criminal Justice Network
Incite Magazine
Defend UCI
University Council-AFT, Local 2226
AFSCME, Local 3299
Alud, The Graduate Student Journal of the Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese

Monday, January 11, 2010

Privileging (Gay or Straight) Marriage is "Misplaced"

For the first show of our new Winter 2010 season, Subversity re-airs our November 24, 2008 edition, when we talked with law professor Nancy D. Polikoff, author of a new book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law (Beacon Press, 2008), on the limits of fighting for gay marriage. The show airs on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, California, and is simulcast via

She argues that by privileging marriage under the law over other relationships, many people suffer, including those in domestic partnerships. She breaks with fellow queer activists who have moved into the streets to defend gay marriage after California voters approved Prop. 8 that banned gay marriage in California. She challenges those activists to see beyond gay "equality" arguments that restrict marriage benefits only to those willing to get married.

Today, a federal court hearing on Prop. 8 is slated to be made available via YouTube.

Nancy D. Polikoff is Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, where she teaches in the areas of family law, civil procedure, and sexuality and the law. Previously, she supervised family law programs at the Women's Legal Defense Fund (now National Partnership for Women and Families), and before that she practiced law as part of a feminist law collective. For 30 years, she has been writing about and litigating cases involving lesbian and gay families. Her articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, and her history of the development of the law affecting lesbian and gay parenting appears as a chapter in John D'Emilio, William B. Turner, and Urvashi Vaid, eds., Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights (St, Martin's Press, 2000). She helped develop the legal theories in support of second-parent adoption and visitation rights for legally unrecognized parents, and she was successful counsel in In re M.M.D., the 1995 case that established joint adoption for lesbian and gay couples in the District of Columbia, and Boswell v. Boswell, the 1998 Maryland case overturning restrictions on a gay noncustodial father's visitation rights.

For more on the book, go to web site.

Her blog is at: here.

See also John D'Emilio's "The Marriage Fight is Setting Us Back".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yet Another Murder: Black and Gay Theater Director

Ben Bradley. Photo: Courtesy Fountain Theatre

Six days after Black and gay Indiana University English professor Don Belton was murdered by Michael Griffin, 25 at the time, an ex-Marine in Bloomington, Indiana, another Black and gay figure (this time in the stage arena) was also brutally murdered, in another apparent relationship gone sour.

Bennett Bradley, a well-loved and respected theater director who presented plays at the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, was brutally killed by his apparent lover on January 2, 2010. With the theater now celebrating its 20th year, Bradley had been scheduled to direct a new production of The Ballad of Emmett Till next month. Ironically, the play tells the actual story of a Black teenager whose murder helped spark a civil rights movement.

Press reports, citing the police, are saying that Jose Fructuoso, 25, stabbed the 59-year-old director to death. Fructuoso has been arrested and according to press reports has "confessed" to the brutal murder. News reports are calling Bradley and Fructuoso "lovers" or involved in an "intimate" relationship.

This tragedy -- the second in a week where a beloved Black man in his fifties was allegedly killed by a 25-year-old apparent "lover" -- raises the issue, why, in the four decades since gay liberation's Stonewall Rebellion (1969), we have yet to resolve the perplexing question of what makes a young man kill someone who loves him.

When Lindon Barrett, 46, the UC Riverside (and former UC Irvine) English Professor, also Black and gay, was murdered in 2008, and a young man, Marlon Martinez, then-20, was accused of his murder, I had wondered if the ensuing trial would provide any answers about how the young with older relationship had gone sour resulting in such brutality and finality.

That hope was squelched recently when on Christmas Day 2009, Martinez was found dead in his six-man cell in Los Angeles Men's Central Jail. Any inmate's jail death is suspicious and deplorable. Authorities are still investigating the cause of his death but one thing is certain, we are nowhere closer in understanding Lindon Barrett's brutal murder.

A memorial service for Bennett Bradley is being planned. For more information, see the Fountain Theatre's Ben Bradley memorial page, which also links to news reports on his murder.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tribute to Lindon Barrett [Repeat Subversity program]

Lindon Barrett

Irvine -- In the wake of news about the death in his jail cell of Marlon Martinez, the person accused in the murder of UC Riverside (and UC Irvine) Professor Lindon Barrett, as well as the murder of another gay Black English Professor, Don Belton (from Indiana University), we replay portions of Subversity's tribute program to Lindon Barrett.

This program first aired 30 July 2008 and at the time was simulcast on KUCR, the UC Riverside station. Clips were also aired on KPCC that day narrated by Steven Cuevas.

The repeat show airs Monday 4 January 2010 from 9-10 a.m. on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, and is simulcast via

Friday, January 1, 2010