Tuesday, 8 November 2016


I've just got back from York. Was there from Friday for ASFF (Aesthetica Short Film Festival) and returned to Leeds on Monday morning.
List of films I watched:
1/ Gnome by Sacha Goedegebure
2/ No Place Like Home by Cat Bruce
3/ To Build a Fire by Fx Goby
4/ Bound by Dann Parry
5/ Riflesso by Alice Guzzo& Mateusz Borkowski
6/ Puzzle by Stav Levi
7/ Hobart by Hajnalka Harsanyi
8/ Seven Seven by Georgina Ferguson& Eduarda Lima
9/ Apocalypse Rhyme by Oliver Harrison
10/ Dave by Garry J. Marshall& Chris Watson
11/ Trial& Error by Antje Heyn
12/ About Death by Eunjae Lee
13/ Oh, Morris by Lewis Kyle
14/ Truck by Rob Curry
15/ The Sticks by Jamie Delaney& Russell Davidson
16/ Panic by James Cookson
17/ Insomnolence by Keifer Findlow
18/ Lock In by Neville Pierce
19/ Cork Man by Dawn Han
20/ Severed Garden by Goncalo Almeida
21/ Listen to Me by Rob Ayling
22/ Eat by Carl Shanahan
23/ Smile by Carolina Giammetta
24/ The Understudy by Morgane Polanski
25/ Prey by Sunny King
26/ The Kindness of Strangers by Alkin Emirali
27/ Cerberus by Remy Bazerque
28/ O- the Movie by Frank Aron Gårdsø
29/ Black Woods at Sundown by Tom Oliver
30/ Béatrice by Christophe Previte
31/ Fumes by Tom Werber
32/ The Ditch by Sheena Holliday
34/ Mark Gets Coffee by Richard Starkey
35/ Aquabike by Jean-Baptiste Saurel
36/ The National Facility for the Regulation of Regret by Rachel Genn
37/ City Lights by Ed Wiles
38/ Shabes Morgen by Or Dotan
39/ Headless- The Ed Shades Story by Youself Thami
40/ More Than God by Kev Cahill
41/ One-Minute Time Machine by Devon Avery
42/ Check Please by Daniel Sorochkin
43/ Cropped by Chris Thomas
44/ Lovequake by Stephen Glass
45/ Madam Black by Ivan Barge
46/ Big Boy by Bryan Campbell
47/ Paco by Catalina Jordan Alvarez
48/ The Final Scene by Mark Pressdee
49/ Rhonna& Donna by Daina O. Pusic
50/ Fangirl by Kate Herron
51/ Little Big House by Cat Jones
Seen on vimeo, not at the festival:
52/ Drawcard by Antonio Orena
53/ The Great Moon Hoax by Alex Simon Klug& Daniel Pitts
54/ Fragments of May by Maria Pia Fanigliulo
55/ Aymara by Michele Benigna
56/ Moth Vitals by Nancy Wyllie
57/ Emma, Change the Locks by Julia Hart
58/ Haldernblou- Triptich by Laurent Scheid
59/ Kaltes Tal by Florian Fischer& Johannes Krell
60/ Two Signs' Den: Epilogue by Bruno Decc
61/ Made of Sugar by Kevin Rios
62/ Ravages by Alan Lake
63/ The Museum of Departures by Gautamn Valluri
64/ The Tide by Richard Rudy
65/ Midnight of My Life by Phil Davis
66/ Senses by Zanyar Adami
67/ The Mausoleum by Lauri Randla
68/ Run by Elad Tzadok
69/ Jacked by Rene Pannevis
70/ Pinch Me- For Ted Baker by Crowns& Owls
71/ A Confession by Petros Silvestros
72/ Billy the Kid by Sam Johnson
73/ Across Still Water by Ruth Grimberg
74/ Drifters by Anu Valia
75/ How I Didn't Become a Piano Player by Tommaso Pitta
And other films that won last year and were shown again at ASFF now but I saw before the film festival:
76/ Stutterer by Benjamin Cleary
77/ We Were Evergreen: Daughters by Dominique Rocher
In short, in York I watched 74 short films in total, not counting the one seen on vimeo, and, excluding the films that won last year, I watched 69 out of the 400 films at the film festival. Also went to 2 masterclasses.
Some of the films are in the wrong category, like Oh, Morris is more like comedy than thriller- perhaps it was meant to be a thriller but distorted during filming and turned into comedy by the main actor, the same way Johnny Depp alone made The Tourist a comedy. 
Some to me feel incomplete, like To Build a Fire or Lovequake. Some don't seem to go anywhere, such as EatThe National Facility for the Regulation of Regret, Seven Seven, Big Boy; or can frankly be pointless, like Paco; whilst the experimental films don't speak to me at all.
Some of the films are well done, and might touch some people, but in my opinion are quite unoriginal or simply unremarkable and forgettable: Panic, Lock In, Prey, Listen to Me, Béatrice; whereas Senses has trace of Ingmar Bergman, especially Autumn Sonata, all over it. But it's hard to say. City Lights isn't original; the idea and plot might be said to be banal, the outcome is predictable and even the twist is a bit conventional, but somehow it's OK because it's 1 of those films that are just cute, like Stutterer. Madam Black and Rhonna& Donna are also cute. 
The Sticks has a good turn of events- though, if you think carefully and dig more into your memory, the twist is not really original, it's so effective that that is forgiven. O- The Movie starts from a very simple idea and works around it- it works well because of suspense and intrigue. The same goes for Check Please, though it's a different kind of suspense. 
The Mausoleum is amusing and sharp in its absurdity, and mockery of the USSR. 
Mark Gets Coffee and More Than God are funny- I have no more to say, that word alone would suffice. 
Above all, I like short films that stand out. Puzzle is clever. Trial& Error is an intelligent film that is fascinating in its spontaneity and randomness, starting from a very simple idea- a man loses a button on his jacket and thinks outside the box by using other stuff around his house to keep the 2 parts together, replacing the button. Cerberus is a circle. One-Minute Time Machine plays around with the concept of a time machine that allows you to go back 1 minute, and the idea that each time pushing the button is killing a copy of yourself in a parallel universe, in a flirting scene. But the film I voted for is Aquabike, because of its humour, its illogicality, its absurdity, its originality, and its irreverence for reality or logic or boundaries or anything whatsoever. 
It's a pity that none of the films I like got any award in the end. 
(From last year's winners, my favourites are Billy the Kid and How I Didn't Become a Piano Player- those 2 shorts are worth hunting down). 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Some funny lines in A Room with a View, or maybe I keep laughing in the wrong places

Reading A Room with a View, I sometimes laughed at a phrase or clause that I wasn't sure was meant to be funny.
(Emphasis mine)
Like on the 1st page:
"She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall."
Or this whole sentence a few pages later:
"He preferred to talk to Lucy, whose playing he remembered, rather than to Miss Bartlett, who probably remembered his sermons."
The information given is a bit strange, I think, or it's the structure of the sentence. 
The funniness of this line is perhaps intended: 
"The clergyman, inwardly cursing the female sex, bowed, and departed with her message." 
Or this line, in the same chapter: 
"The young man gazed down on the three ladies, who felt seated on the floor, so low were their chairs." 
This is how E. M. Forster ends chapter 1: 
"Then she completed her inspection of the room, sighed heavily according to her habit, and went to bed." 
Maybe my laughing is what he intended. The "according to her habit" just sounds funny to me. 
What do I see in chapter 2 then? This is the 1st line: 
"It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons." 
Feel like I keep laughing in the wrong places. 

Startled, shocked, reddened with displeasure: chapter 1 of A Room with a View

Everything seems to be pale and dull after Melville. Except for Tolstoy. The Bronte sisters. Nabokov. 
I've just started reading A Room with a View. The 1st page is about Lucy Honeychurch and Charlotte Bartlett whining about the rooms and being upset with the Signora's Cockney accent or the manners of some ill-bred English folk. So small, so petty, so narrow.
A stranger butts in the conversation.
"Miss Bartlett was startled." 
"Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would “do” till they had gone." 
When the man and his son George seem to impose on them the idea of exchanging rooms: 
"Miss Bartlett, though skilled in the delicacies of conversation, was powerless in the presence of brutality. It was impossible to snub any one so gross. Her face reddened with displeasure. She looked around as much as to say, “Are you all like this?”..." 
In another mood I may have laughed. 
It is clear we're meant to find Charlotte Bartlett ridiculous. Lucy? I'm sure we're supposed to like Lucy- I've watched the film (with Helena Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis). 
Look at this scene: 
"... Hardly had she announced this fell decision when she reversed it. The curtains at the end of the room parted, and revealed a clergyman, stout but attractive, who hurried forward to take his place at the table, cheerfully apologizing for his lateness. Lucy, who had not yet acquired decency, at once rose to her feet, exclaiming: “Oh, oh! Why, it’s Mr. Beebe! Oh, how perfectly lovely! Oh, Charlotte, we must stop now, however bad the rooms are. Oh!”" 
Genteel people have such affected manners it gets on my nerves. 

The Confidence-Man- the end

I've finished The Confidence-Man (after about 2 months?). What should I make of it? 
I don't know what I think. This is a strange book, a very strange book, not weird in the way Gogol is weird, or Lewis Carroll is weird, but unusual, because it doesn't look like a novel, but not in the sense that it encompasses many genres and is many things at once like War and Peace or Moby Dick, it's simply different. This book I must read again later and should write about only when I'm more familiar with Melville as well as Thoreau, Poe, Emerson... 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Currently reading: Google Maps

Long time no see, folks.
I just moved to Leeds last week. I know, surprise! The reason for the silence is that I've been and still am extremely busy, having a lot to sort out and many other things to do and hardly anyone but myself to rely on, and I haven't been reading anything but Google Maps- only got my student card on Monday and went to the library today to borrow another copy of The Confidence-Man
So, yeah... 
Regarding my new life in Leeds: 

I'm uploading the 1st photos of Leeds. You'll see them soon. 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The restaurant, the ex-boss, and a moment of schadenfreude [updated]

I've written 3 posts about my experience at the restaurant: 
I never translated the article I wrote and got published. To summarise, it has 5 main points: 
1/ Low pay. No tip, even in cash- everything goes to the boss.
The boss never gave us anything, even at Christmas and New Year. There were only 2 occasions: the 1st time was on her birthday, she gave each a piece of cake; the 2nd time was at Christmas, when there was a special sale of pepperkake, 1 kroner a box. 
2/ No rights. 
3/ No freedom. There are 4 cameras: the 1st one viewing the whole restaurant, the 2nd one pointing at the bar and the cash register, the 3rd one watching the kitchen and the 4th one for the area where people chop meat and vegetables. 
The boss watches her employees all the time, even when she's on vacation. 
The details of these 3 points were in my 1st post about the working conditions. 
4/ Lack of respect for employees. The boss doesn't respect people working for her. She never turns to violence, but scolding, insulting and humiliating are common, especially for the students working part-time. 
Once, the mobile phone used for accepting takeaway orders and table reservations was lost at the end of the day. It's a crappy phone that nobody would bother to take, cheaper than our own phones. The next day, whilst people assumed it could have been accidentally swept into a waste basket and lost, the boss went around saying loudly that it was certainly stolen, and accused 2 persons of stealing who were present the day the phone was lost but absent that day and unable to defend themselves. 
5/ The boss only thinks about her own gains. In the article I only told 3 stories: 
- Once, some time before Tết, the boss got as gift a box of cookies, which she put on display at the restaurant for decoration. A woman, some kind of manager just below her in power, opened the box and let the employees eat. That evening, I saw the boss phone the woman to scold her- why did you open the box? who told you? that box was for decorating the restaurant, if it expires then throw it away, who told you to let them eat, etc. 
- There were 2 exchange students who registered for a Norwegian-language class, twice a week. The 2nd day was on a Wednesday. The boss whined, why learn Norwegian when the restaurant didn't have enough workers. Finally, as though coming to Norway to work in a restaurant instead of studying, those 2 students had to skip a few classes in order to take turns to work on Wednesdays. That time it was none of my business but I jumped in because there was actually a girl, working full-time, who was free on Wednesday and didn't have to do anything. I asked why not ask her to switch because the Norwegian course was temporary and it was a class, whereas that girl didn't have to do anything, it just happened to be her day off. However, the 2 students were not me, they agreed, and that's that. 
- The 3rd incident was some time before I quit. Back then, I worked as a waitress and a cashier. 1 time, when the cash register was transferred from a man to me, I discovered that there was a difference in over 400 kroner between the cash I counted and the amount in the system. I could have been a mess at waitressing, but never screwed up at the cash register, but that man sometimes did, and we often covered up for him- however, because it was such a large amount, I had to tell the boss. It turned out that he made a mistake in inserting an amount, and instead of pressing "retur" to fix it, he inserted it again and doubled the mistake. In other words, no money was actually lost. What he could have done was to press "retur" to delete the whole amount. For fear of getting trouble with the tax agency and being accused of using "retur" to take money for herself, the boss insisted on him taking money from his own pockets to make the amount the same as in the system. I stress again, the money wasn't really lost, but she forced the man to do so. 
The amount was about more than 3 times as much as his pay per hour. 
I would have fought to the end (within the time working at the restaurant, I challenged the boss at least 3 times). He didn't. He acquiesced. 
I write about these incidents to let you see that my ex-boss isn't an ordinary exploiter, which is typical for immigrant restaurant owners. She's a special case. One may even see her as an interesting case study, if not for her pettiness, stinginess and cruelty. 
My 2 blog posts in August were updates on what happened after my article. My friend, who started working there together with me and stayed after I quit, has been working nonstop, without a day off, since 25/7 for lack of workers. When I went out with her on Tuesday, 23/8, she told me that, after working every day for a long time, she worked for 11 hours and a half on Sunday (21/8), and on Monday (22/8). We hung out for some hours, then she went to work. Even now, she hasn't had a day off, since the last day off on 25/7. Today is 3/9, you make the calculations. 
I asked my friend if she could at least get overtidtillegg (extra pay when one exceeds the limit of working hours), she asked "Do you seriously think there is overtidtillegg at that woman's restaurant?". Don't ask me how the bitch evades the law, I have no idea. 
Not only so, recently my friend told me that she asked the bitch to send her salary early to pay the rent. It didn't come. My friend texted to remind her, and got no response till the next day, and from the looks of it, would get her money next week. She also said once the woman that managed things asked about a late pay, and the shameless bitch asked "Why do you love money so much?". 
(At this point, your question is why my friend continues working there. It's difficult for her to get another job, having no formal training in restaurant work, and even though she speaks better Norwegian than I do, she's very shy, so shy that she works inside, cutting vegetables, preparing food and making starters, rather than meet people. Besides, as she works all the time, it's impossible to go anywhere to ask for another job). 
Now you see why I use the word "the bitch". It is justifiable. 
However, here are the news I've just got lately: 
1/ The bitch has just had some kind of trouble with the tax agency. She probably has to pay some fines. I don't know the details, that information comes from 1 of the waitresses, who, by the way, has been working since February without a contract. 
2/ After me, some other people also quit. 1 of the cooks transferred to another restaurant. 
3/ Lately, the bitch can't hire anyone. I don't know if it's her luck, or 1 of the effects of my article, but she can't find anyone working for her. 
4/ Mattilsynet (Norwegian Food Safety Authority) have just come for a check-up, and given the restaurant a sad face :( 
I don't particularly like revealing the name of the restaurant, but here is proof
The other restaurant of the same boss seems to do better, but the last result :) was in April, and after 1 :( and 2 :| 
According to 1 of the waitresses at the other restaurant, the boss said there were complaints in the papers about bad service, but because she didn't say which newspaper, it could have been a lie she made up to scold her employees. 
5/ There's some trouble between the bitch and her young boyfriend, whom we often call her gigolo or toyboy, not only because he's nearly 20 years younger but also because he is unemployed, lives on social benefits for people with mental health (he once stabbed someone, or so the rumour says) and she treats him with contempt. Again, it's hearsay, so I don't know, but apparently the man stole some money and jewellery, so it's quite a big deal now, involving the police and the court and all that. 
These things are nothing compared to what she has done, but allow me to be childish and have a moment of schadenfreude. I don't have 1 bit of guilt. 


Update on 6/9/2016: 
In Norway there's something called feriepenger (ferie= holiday; penger= money), which is money that employers have to pay employees for the summer holiday and which is typically paid before holiday, for example, in June. 
It is now September, the summer is over, and the bitch hasn't paid feriepenger to anyone except a Bulgarian woman who, after asking many times, mentioned the law and threatened to sue, and me. 
My hard-working friend hasn't got her feriepenger. Her salary went into the account yesterday. Not only was it late and without overtidtillegg even though my friend had been working every day for over a month, but the salary was also 1000 kroner short, apparently because of fears of some issues with the tax agency, according to my friend. The bitch said, that 1000 kroner would be added to next month. 
You'd think a person like that sounds more like a caricature in a novel. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The style of The Confidence-Man

Reading The Confidence-Man, I sometimes come across a rather tiresome sentence, though not as odd as many sentences written by Henry James. 
For example, from chapter VII: 
“Upon his hitherto moderate enough companion, this suggestion had an effect illustrative in a sort of that notion of Socrates, that the soul is a harmony; for as the sound of a flute, in any particular key, will, it is said, audibly affect the corresponding chord of any harp in good tune, within hearing, just so now did some string in him respond, and with animation.Which animation, by the way, might seem more or less out of character in the man in gray, considering his unsprightly manner when first introduced, had he not already, in certain after colloquies, given proof, in some degree, of the fact, that, with certain natures, a soberly continent air at times, so far from arguing emptiness of stuff, is good proof it is there, and plenty of it, because unwasted, and may be used the more effectively, too, when opportunity offers.” 
Or from chapter XII: 
“What made it yet more lamentable was, that the unfortunate man, thinking that, before the court, his wisest plan, as well as the most Christian besides, being, as he deemed, not at variance with the truth of the matter, would be to put forth the plea of the mental derangement of Goneril, which done, he could, with less of mortification to himself, and odium to her, reveal in self-defense those eccentricities which had led to his retirement from the joys of wedlock, had much ado in the end to prevent this charge of derangement from fatally recoiling upon himself—especially, when, among other things, he alleged her mysterious teachings.” 
At this point I don’t have much to say. The only thing is that the novel’s very different from Moby Dick. The exuberance, the joy and enthusiasm of Melville’s magnum opus are not to be found here. Nor is humour as we see in Moby Dick, though perhaps The Confidence-Man does have humour, a different kind. 
I’m noting, not really complaining. 
What do you think? 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Melville's The Confidence-Man: who is the con man in chapter 3?

I've returned to Melville- I'm reading The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. What can be a better read now, whilst one follows the elections in the US? 
People who know the book all know that it's about a con man or more in different disguises. What bothers me is, who is the con man in chapter 3? Everywhere I look, people say it's the crippled black man, because he wins people's pity and thus gets money, but is he? What I see in the chapter is that out of nowhere "a limping, gimlet-eyed, sour-faced person", a custom-house officer, appears and loudly says the black man's deformity is a sham, "got up for financial purposes". How does he know? What are those allegations based on? Does he have evidence or anything to back up those claims?After saying it's a sham, the custom-house officer just says "He can walk fast enough when he tries, a good deal faster than I; but he can lie yet faster. He's some white operator, betwisted and painted up for a decoy. He and his friends are all humbugs." but doesn't bother to prove any of his words. He is like a Donald Trump, loudly and confidently throwing out claims and accusations based on nothing, showing no regard for facts. Then he leaves, but before that, has successfully sowed a seed of doubt in everyone's minds. 
Doesn't that make him, rather than the black cripple, a con artist? 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Updates: life, The Sympathiser, the restaurant

Here I am again.
Last week, some time after my trip to Greece, I finished reading The Sympathiser, and should have written a review or something by now. Sadly, the problem with taking so long to read a book that isn't so thick is that once you're finally done with it, you no longer feel the urge to write anything, and just want to move on with your life. What can I say? On the 1 hand, the sense of responsibility keeps nagging me- as a Vietnamese who feels strongly about literature and about the war and who has an advantage over many Vietnamese people in that she can read the Pulitzer-winning book in the original instead of waiting for a translation that perhaps would never come, I should write a few words. On the other hand, I've been changing from a watcher to a doer, having fun, enjoying life, trying out fascinating stuff and experimenting, and then analysing myself as I've just discovered another side of myself. At the moment it appears a bit pointless to get worked up about a book when I just prefer to embrace my joie de vivre philosophy instead (which, I know, is merely a fancy way of saying I'm just frivolous and lazy).
Perhaps some day I'll write. The verdict: I'm not impressed.
To get back to the restaurant, I keep in touch with a few former co-workers to know that the ex-boss aka the bitch still talks of me constantly, and would never forget me because she has owned a restaurant for 28 years and nobody has ever dared to write a word, so on and so forth. She should have known better than to mess with me, I thought, if she couldn't handle something so light, let's go hardcore. But now, except for a few headaches, I'm generally in such a good mood that I don't bother- after all, who cares really, I didn't hear it, she didn't say to my face.
I'm feeling great.
Here's some Louis Armstrong:

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Some note on my waitressing experience

As you may remember, in May I stopped working at the restaurant and had a rant about it on my blog
Soon afterwards I started writing for Trẻ magazine, and in July, used my own experience to write about the working conditions in 1 Vietnamese restaurant in Oslo, which was published on 27/7. The article was shared around and apparently became a thing in the Vietnamese community in Oslo, at least among the restaurant people, and reached the owner of the restaurant, my former boss. She called me last Saturday, 30/7. The conversation lasted about half an hour- long story short, she spoke of the reactions in the community and their fear of its effect on the restaurant business, explained several points in the article, tried to justify herself, spoke of things I'd said at the beginning, asked why I included so many details, said she didn't remember such trifles, noted that other restaurants of Vietnamese people paid their employees the same salaries and of course wouldn't be the same as Norwegian restaurants, on the 1 hand, wanted to put me down and made it personal, on the other hand, asked me to understand and sympathise, and tried to sweet-talk me into taking down the article. 
(That was a surprise. I rather expected some furious insults). 
I did say it's not personal- if I had really wanted a revenge, I would have filmed or recorded her and taken it to the Norwegian media or even the tax agency, or at least named the restaurant and included photos of it in my article. 
On the same day, 2 girls from the restaurant contacted me. For 1 thing, many of my former co-workers have read the article, and like it- it's all correct, they said. They even asked why I didn't publish in a Norwegian newspaper*. 
More importantly, the boss called the restaurant to ask how people felt about working for her, and over the past few days, has been nicer and more gentle than usual. She even asked 1 of the 2 girls about her pay, and decided to raise it herself. 
I'm too cynical and pessimistic to believe that 1 article of mine can change a person- she's 60 years old, but it feels good anyway. At least I made her think a bit. 

*: To be truthful, I wanted to bring down the whole restaurant. Then I contacted Arbeidstilsynet and realised that Norwegian's law is actually fucked up, and didn't bother... That article I wrote mostly for the fun of it.