Archive for Saigon

da 5 bloods [film review]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2020 by xi'an

I was most excited to see the new Spike Lee’s film, Da 5 Bloods, available on Netflix. As I had liked very much his much earlier films like She’s gotta have it, Do the right thing or Clockers. (Although I feel the original book had more impact, I felt.) But I was rather disappointed by this one. (Although I related with the few pictures taken at the War Remnants Museum in Ho-Chi-Minh City, which I visited in 2013!) As I felt it was wasting most of the story for the allegory… The heist story was implausible from start to end (which is admittedly an usual feature of heist stories), with the five guys going into the Vietnamese jungle on their own, 50 years later!, which makes them 70 years old at the very least, with a small back-pack each but enough to carry a complete metal detector, and finding gold and bones (not a true spoiler I think!), not worrying about mines (until it is too late). Some of the actors are terrific, especially the (PTSD) out-of-control Delroy Lindo who essentially carries the film and keeps it alive. But other characters remain dreadfully under-exploited, counter-productively for the story. Which (literally) implodes with too many divergent threads. All unraveling into botched conclusions and ending up into a mess of the movie, the message eventually shooting the messenger…

On top of this I also think the film is presenting a very one-dimensional view of Vietnam, from a postcard idyllic vision with buffaloes in rice paddies, to thugs working for a French crook. With the overused tropes of the faithful prostitute and the cigarette smoking femme fatale. Except the later is a propaganda speaker on the Vietcong radio and unlikely to smoke American cigarettes… And the 1950’s (pre-Điện Biên Phủ) attitude of the said French crook (including the “bad guy” Luger gun!) does not fit either. Of course, these anachronisms and clichés could be understood as a second degré choice, i.e. as a pastiche of earlier American Vietnam war movies, from Apocalypse Now (explicitly referenced at the beginning of the movie, copter, river boat trip and Khmer temple included) to The Deer Hunter (especially the Vietnamese xenophobia), to Rambo (with cartoonesque shooting scenes). Collating epoch newsreels with blurry and dreamlike recalls of the actual experience of the 4 veterans looking their present age is a stylistic choice, obviously, but its repetition does not help in creating structure or credence in the movie. Especially when the current day battles in the movie are not any further realistic, although intended to be so…

Saigon snapshots

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2013 by xi'an

DSC_4994I did not have too much time to explore Saigon and even less Vietnam in the 62 hours I spent there, especially with the course and the conference, but I very much enjoyed the feeling. From riding on the back of  a motorbike in the traffic (thanks to a guest student!) to having pho in a simple restaurant by the side of the street, from watching improbable loads going by on the same motorbikes to wandering in the shops around, to talking with students around the course, my snapshots all came back in the best possible light and I found my stress about food safety, street security, pollution, &tc., very quickly fading away and I wish my suitcase would have arrived in time so that I could have gone jogging in the vicinity of my hotel (rather than using the treadmill in the hotel). DSC_4968I have obviously seen nothing of the countryside and wish I can go back there in the future.

This most kind student also took me to the War Remnants Museum, which is a highly sobering place about the destruction and long-term health consequences of the Vietnam War, in particular the generations of victims of the Agent Orange sprays… Even when accounting for the (mild) propaganda bias. Actually, a few days prior to flying to Vietnam, I had read Bao Ninh’ Sorrow of War, a moving and very grim account of the war and of the after-war from a disillusioned soldier.  (The book was banned in Vietnam for a while. And thus I was unsure I could travel with it…) Continue reading

Saigon river [Sông Sài Gòn]

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , on June 7, 2013 by xi'an


Statistics, with interactions

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 6, 2013 by xi'an

Ton Duc Thang University entrance hall, June 5, 2013Due to a tight June schedule (3rd conference in a week!), I only stayed one day at the SIOD 2013 conference in Saigon. (SIOD means Statistics and interaction with other disciplines.) The conference was housed by Ton Duc Thang University, on a very modern campus, and it sounded like the university had drafted a lot of his undergrads to catter to the SIOD participants: similar to the Bayesian conference in India a few months ago, those students would stand at the ready to guide us around the campus and to relay any problem to the organisers. This was very helpful and enjoyable, a plus being that most female students wore the traditional pink costume adopted by the university, but it also made me a wee bit uncomfortable as I do not know how much say those students had in this draft… In particular, most of the students I talked with were from other fields than Statistics. (And definitely not complaining, but being on the opposite very friendly the whole time!) A funny side story is that I got a wake-up call from the conference organisers in the morning as I had missed a welcome ceremony with the president due to oversleeping (itself due to an excess of iced coffee rather than minimal jetlag!). Among the few talks I attended, some French school statistics due to the presence of a large contingent from Toulouse, a talk about zero inflated normal distributions which sounded like missing-at-random normal observations (hence easy to process), and a talk about the point of using Bayes factors in hypothesis testing which essentially if independently provided a second version of my course from the previous day.

DSC_4983Yesterday, I also had a short discussion with Paul Minh who presented a talk on a general regenerative device for MCMC algorithms, using a bound on the target density rather than on the Markov transition in order to achieve easier regeneration. While a neat idea, this method requires the construction of a lower bound that can easily simulated. Furthermore, if the regeneration probability is low, the mixing speed may remain similar to the original MCMC sampler, as the method ressorts to a standard MCMC step on the remaining part of the target density.

Saigon skyline

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , on June 5, 2013 by xi'an