UVSA nails down Tet Festival location: The OC Fairgrounds

The OC Fair and Event Center, where the OC Fair (pictured) takes place, is the site for the 2014 Tet Festival with theme “A New Spring.”

The OC Fair and Event Center, where the OC Fair (pictured) takes place, is the site for the 2014 Tet Festival with theme “A New Spring.”


Several months after breaking off negotiations with the City of Garden Grove over the latter’s pay-to-play demand, the UVSA announces today that its annual Tet Festival will take place at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, a humongous venue with way more than enough parking for everybody.

UVSA’s presser follows:
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Garden Grove Council members demand pay-to-play, Tet Festival refuses

Photo: UVSA

What happens when a private party wants to hold an event and the city says, if you want to do it, you have to pay $75,000 a year, for 5 years, to this other private entity, because two City Council members are on the board of that other private entity?

You want to play, you got to pay Broadwater and Nguyen’s organization, city says.

That should make anyone’s blood boil, especially if one believes in plain old capitalism and the free market — and even more so in this post-Bell and anti-Kelo era.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in the city of Garden Grove, where after several years of trying, City Council members Bruce Broadwater (now mayor) and Dina Nguyen were still incapable of raising funds for their pet project, the Vietnam War Museum of America Foundation, so they — or at least Broadwater did — tried to make the Tet Festival‘s organizers fork more than a third-a-million over to their non-profit corporation.

Yeah. We don’t know how to fund-raise, so we’ll make someone else pay for our toy.

The 2014 Tet Festival would be the 11th year the Union of Vietnamese Students Association (UVSA) organize at Garden Grove Park under a lease with the city. The second five-year contract expired this year, and the two sides were negotiating for another five-year lease, when, at a meeting attended by Broadwater and city staff, Garden Grove dropped a bombshell: They wanted UVSA to “donate” at least $75,000 to the Vietnam War Museum. This ignominious and communistic proposal was memorialized in a letter from the city to UVSA, shown above.

The total demanded by the city on behalf of this private entity amounts to a minimum of $375,000 over the time covered by the proposed contract.

The Council members’ pet project

The Vietnam War Museum is, so far, an entity existing solely on paper. The City of Garden Grove voted in 2010 to spend $25,000 on a feasibility study, and put Broadwater and Nguyen on its Board. The study’s results came back seven months later, with a price tag at a whopping $50 million.

At this rate of net proceeds of $3962 a year, it will take 12,600 years for the Vietnam War Museum to get the $50 million it needs.

Usually, that means the Board of Directors should get going on fund-raising. But the organization’s filings with the IRS for the year 2012 show a paltry $29,597 in assets and $31,110 in gross revenue.

The net proceeds for Garden Grove’s Vietnam War Museum for 2012 was $3,962. At that rate, it will take more than 12,600 years to raise the needed $50 million.

The filings also disclose a convenient $999 expense for “Board retreat and meetings.” Broadwater and Nguyen are two out of six members on the Museum’s Board, and Nguyen its only Vietnamese member.

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The Bolsavik in the ocean

On the day Diana Nyad completed her historic crossing of the Florida Straits, the Bolsavik did his first open water swim, at, oh, 0.3% of Nyad’s distance maybe? Anyway, that’s not something that usually qualifies to be included on this blog, but since it involves the blog’s author, it got elevated. And it’s not as if the Bolsavik has been saying anything else anyway. Here the Bolsavik tells you all about it in the first person.

I didn’t know there was a 64-year-old woman swimming from Cuba to Florida last week-end. All I wanted to do was to get some practice for a triathlon some time in the future. It was just an awesome coincidence that I got my feet wet in ocean water just on the day Diane Nyad completed her historic crossing.

So, in honor of my latest hero, here’s a story of my first-ever open water swim. I’d love to hear from other ocean swimmers; maybe you can give me some pointers.

I lost my open water virginity in Encinitas, about 70 miles south of Bolsavikland. My brother-in-law came along. He’s a former Navy lieutenant and frogman with ooddles of war zone experience and I was hoping that if something bad happened he could do something.

Where I popped my open-water swimming cherry: Out to that buoy and back. There's another buoy about half way horizontally from it.

Where I popped my open-water swimming cherry: Out to that buoy and back. There’s another buoy about half way horizontally from it.

In this picture you can see where I swam: From shore, out to the buoy, and back. The former Navy man estimated the distance as “short,” meaning somewhat less than half a mile, round trip.

I’m happy to report that I did it. I swam out to the buoy, tried grabbing on to it to adjust my goggles, and swam back in. It took less than 20 minutes, which is consistent with the distance estimate of half a mile, and now I’m living to tell what I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: Sea water tastes like sh*t. When you swim in a pool, some water inevitably touches your lips and your tongue. No big deal, you spit it out as you exhale. Well, same thing happens when you swim in the ocean. You avoid the wave crashing into your mouth by breathing in a more elevated way than in the pool, but still gravity puts some water into your mouth.

And sea water tastes super bad. Like, really yucky. Pthhhh! And on top of that, psychologically, I was afraid I’d get prematurely dehydrated because of all the salt, so I probably exhaled way too much. Usually, in the pool, I’d take a breath every 4 strokes (same side) or 5 (both sides). Out there, I ended up breathing every 2 strokes.

Lesson 2: Can’t see sh*t. When you’re swimming in the ocean, you can’t see anything. I’ve read about it. Out in the ocean there isn’t a lane marker to tell you you’re swimming straight. People teach how to sight when you’re swimming in open water.

But it’s more than that. Without the lane marker and with the current flowing against you (on the way out), you’re not even sure if you’re advancing at all. You take 9 or 10 strokes, taking all those breaths and tasting all that yucky water, and you don’t even know if you’re any further from shore or if you’re just going sideways or maybe even pushed backward.

Not too far from shore, and already I couldn't see the buoy and was treading water looking for it.

Not too far from shore, and already I couldn’t see the buoy and was treading water looking for it.

Plus, if you think about it, when you’re swimming freestyle, raising your head gets your eyes only about 2 inches about the water. So all it takes is a tiny wave to block most of your vision. And that buoy ain’t so tall. So I ended up having to stop and tread water, just to see where I’m going.

So it ended up being swim swim swim stop. Look. Wait for wave to pass. Ah! There’s the buoy! Repeat.

It wasn’t so bad on the way back. There were tall trees and houses on the hill I could aim at, so I was able to look ahead and swim pretty much without stopping.

Lesson 3: I probably swam too hard. In a pool, you can swim as slowly as you want. I mean, as long as you make some movements, you will move forward, and if you stay in the water long enough, you can make any distance D=RT. Not so in the ocean: There’s a current going against you, so you have to make sure you beat that.

But I couldn’t see, so when I was swimming I had no idea if I was going forward or backward, so I probably swam way harder than I needed to.

You know how some people say in a triathlon you should try swimming with your upper body only and conserve your legs for the biking and running? And how some people say the opposite? I didn’t need to resolve that controversy because I was so worried the current was pushing me back, I kicked like crazy.

Lesson 4: You get nervous. So, with all of those problems, I ended up getting nervous and perspiring a lot. The perspiration from around my eyes alone was enough to partially fog up my goggles. So I had to stop to clean it out.

And I told myself, let’s get to the buoy, grab it and fix the goggles. That didn’t work. The buoy is just one plastic tube anchored to the floor, and it’s all slippery.

I saw a person smoothly swimming back and forth between the two buoys. I was impressed.

Lesson 5: Swimming with the current gets you more sh*tty water. It’s just physics. When you’re swimming freestyle with the current, more water gets in your mouth. Yuck. Breaststroke is different, though, all the waves are in your back and you stay clean. Much better.

And that’s it. I made it to shore. My brother-in-law was standing there like a pro, keeping an eye on me like a hawk. My wife was thrilled to have her husband back in one piece. I was excited to finish my first open water swim, but nervous at the same time. I determined right then and there to do it again — just not on the same day.

So I want to hear from other people with ocean swimming experience. Did you go through the same things when you started out? Any advices? Do you get used to the yucky water? Or is there something about the breathing technique that I missed?

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LGBT invited to join parade by other marchers

Viet LGBT at the 2010 Tet parade.

Right after the court declined to interfere in the Tet parade, many people, already in the parade, stood up and invited representatives of the LGBT to march with them.

Most prominent is UVSA, the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, representing VSAs at 13 colleges and universities around the Southland. In an announcement entitled “UVSA takes a stand against discrimination,” the group welcomed Viet LGBT to join their procession, and wrote:

“Having a long history of advocating for human rights in both the community here and abroad, UVSA strongly believes in fighting against discrimination of its own LGBT members and those in community as well. In order to promote unity, the members of a community must strive to overcome its differences to live in harmony.”

On Friday, Westminster City Councilwoman Diana Lee Carey told the Orange Juice Blog’s Vern Nelson she would also welcome LGBT Viets to join her.

In Santa Ana, Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero pulled out of the parade, but later decided to come support Viet LGBT on the sidelines.

VAALA members joined the community in support of LGBT Viets.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, probably the most popular politician in Little Saigon, also announced she’s not joining the parade this year – the first time she skips since the beginning. She said in a written statement:

“Hopefully the organizing committee can get this resolved soon so that all who would like to participate in the Tet festivities may do so.”

With the rash of withdrawals by these and many others in the community, the organizers blamed the LGBT for the boycott, so at a press conference on Friday the LGBT Coalition said they never asked anyone to pull out, just for them to pressure the organizers to let them in.

And they asked the community to support them by coming to the parade with signs and rainbow flags proclaiming that Vietnamese do not discriminate.

The UVSA, by the way, is a community power house. Among other things, thye organize the spectacularly successful annual Tet Festival. As of this year, the UVSA will have given back more than $1 million of the Tet Festival proceeds to community groups.

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LGBT group tries the law

As it appears that the organizers of this year’s Tet parade is not going to listen to voices of reason, fairness, morality, and human rights, the LGBT contingent – which has not received either a “yes” or “no” from the organizers – is taking to the court to settle the matter.

Which the Bolsavik thought may be something of a long shot. For all the idealism of justice, the legal system is here to enforce only what’s legally required, not what’s reasonable, fair, moral, and respectful of human rights.

Anyway, the LGBT group’s lawyer Luan Tran yesterday gave notice for a hearing for a TRO – an emergency court order – for today at 1:30pm at the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana (courtroom TBD). The Bolsavik is teaching at the time so won’t be there but will update on any development. The Vietnamese-American Federation, who organizes the Tet parade, has retained Mark Rosen, a former Garden Grove Councilman.

Meanwhile, the organizers’ discrimination has caused the Garden Grove Unified School District to pull out of the parade. Upon motion by Trustee Bao Nguyen, the school board on Tuesday night pulled the item from the agenda, thus not granting authorization for a yellow school bus to join the parade.

The board of the Vietnamese-American Chamber of Commerce, which represents 1,500 Viet business owners, also voted unanimously to send a letter to parade organizers in support of the LGBT group.

“Diversity is very important to our chamber,” said Tam Nguyen, the chamber’s president. “We’re still participating in the parade, and we request they include everyone.”

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Against tradition, Tet Parade excludes LGBT Viets

Worshippers congregate on the temple to gay general Le Van Duyet every Tet, in Saigon.

For at least 100 years, it has been a tradition of Southern Vietnam on every Tet (Lunar New Year) to pay homage to a gay general of the Nguyen dynasty.

Against that tradition, though, the organizers of this weekend’s Tet Parade sought to not allow a contingency of LGBT Vietnamese to participate in the parade, something they have done for three years straight already. The parade is held with a permit from the City of Westminster, which granted it the exclusive use of public streets for the duration of the event.

Apparently aware that this sort of discrimination could get them all personally sued, the entire organizing committee (the same one involved in shenanigans with Sandy aid money) spent the weekend dodging phone calls from the LGBT groups’ lawyer Luan Tran.

Even Tran Son Ha, a lawyer who’s specifically in charge of participants, told Tran he’s got nothing to do with any decision about the LGBT. The head of the organizing committee, Neil Nguyen, kept delaying talking to Tran, pushing their appointment back and back until Sunday night.

On Monday, representatives of the LGBT groups met with the organizing committee. It became clear very soon that the real power behind the throne was Bishop Van Thanh Tran, of the Lutheran Reform Church Vietnamese, and head of the Vietnamese Interfaith Council. During the lengthy meeting, Neil Nguyen disclosed that if he allowed the LGBT group to march, Bishop Tran’s group would quit the parade and Neil couldn’t afford that.

And when Bishop Tran spoke up, he said the LGBT groups should go “sacrifice themselves for the good of community unity.”

For all that bravado, however, the group never had the guts to give a definite answer. The meeting ended without the organizers ever saying yes or no – which effectively keeps the LGBT group from preparing, considering that the parade is this weekend.

So, just who is the gay general mentioned in the first paragraph? His name is Le Van Duyet, a warrior whose military prowess helped found the Nguyen dynasty, the last dynasty of Vietnam.

The first Nguyen emperor made Duyet the vice-roy of all of southern Vietnam – the area that would become Cochinchina and included today’s Saigon.

Every year, on Tet, his tomb near Saigon is the main congregating point for worshippers seeking good fortune for the new year. “Lăng Ông,” as his tomb is known, is such an obligatory destination for Tet that there is even a group in Little Saigon offering a replica of Lăng Ông for OC Tet revelers.

No words on whether the gay general is banned.

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Foremost Viet composer Pham Duy passed away

Phạm Duy at 59, by his contemporary Tạ Tỵ.

Phạm Duy at 59, by his contemporary Tạ Tỵ.

Phạm Duy, a prolific musician whose life and career spanned some of the most turbulent parts of Vietnamese history, passed away Sunday at his home in Vietnam, eight years after returning to his birth country from Orange County. He was 91, and his death came just more than a month after that of his eldest son, singer Duy Quang.

Phạm Duy, whose real name is Phạm Duy Cẩn, left a vast treasure of more than a thousand orginal songs, many of which are known and memorized by generations of Vietnamese. His music is appreciated for having a hint of folk tunes of Vietnam, and his lyrics are among the best uses of Vietnamese poetic rhythm in songs.

Even his personal life is unique and reflects the tumult of modern Vietnam. Born in Hanoi to a progressive writer who advocated for mass education in French-occupied Vietnam, Phạm Duy pursued further studies in Paris, where he also audited classes at the Institute of Musicology.

Returning home, he performed in a touring troupe before joining the Viet Minh during the war against the French. It was during that time that he met just about every top communist official in music and art, stories he would later tell in his four-volume memoirs published in California in 1989.

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How Sandy aid money went into someone else’s account

Abbot Thich Quang Thanh with an enlarged copy of a check that went into the Vietnamese Interfaith Council account instead of Hurricane Sandy aid fund.

Abbot Thich Quang Thanh with an enlarged copy of a check that went into the Vietnamese Interfaith Council account instead of Hurricane Sandy aid fund. Photo by Nguoi Viet.

How did donations, supposed to be delivered to New York City to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy, instead get deposited into the Vietnamese Interfaith Council‘s bank account in Little Saigon? The group held a press conference to answer that question, and admitted to a mistake but also accused the Buddhist abbot who raised the issue of being a troublemaker.

The presser actually opened with the group trying to kick out two women, including an editor of Nguoi Viet Daily News who loudly proclaimed that she had the right to be there because she donated money too. Check out the beginning of the video here.

The money had been raised at a Little Saigon walk-a-thon fundraiser in December, organized by the Interfaith Council and their friends, including Neil Nguyen, a.k.a. Nguyen Xuan Nghia, the President of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, which is now trying to raise funds for the Tet Parade.

The walk-a-thon raised more than $200,000 total, including $27,000 from the Bao Quang Buddhist temple in Santa Ana. The temple gave the organizers two checks for $27,000, with the understanding that Thich Quang Thanh, the abbot of the temple, would travel to New York City with the group to hand all the donations to the Mayor’s office.

When Thich Quang Thanh opened the temple’s bank statement last week, however, he found out the temple’s checks had been cashed out on Dec 18.

Just a few days earlier, after getting the city’s conditional approval for the Tet Parade, Neil Nguyen had gone on Little Saigon TV assuring donors that the checks from the Bao Quang temple had been put aside, undeposited, to be delivered to New York. Nguyen was on TV to raise the $60,000 deposit for the parade.

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