Artist Spotlight



IN REVIEW: Carol (2015)

In a storm of passion and romance, Carol takes the silver screen through the eyes of a person in love. The 2015 film, directed by Todd Haynes –previously known for 2002 Far From Heaven, the period drama about forbidden love— rides on the familiar waves of infatuation and undeniable connection that comes with being completely in love.

Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, an author more often recognized for her crime thrillers such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, the story follows Therese Belivet, a young woman played by Rooney Mara, who becomes entranced at first sight by a magnificently poised femme fatale (Cate Blanchete). As subsequent events draw them closer and mark their poignant interest for one another, it becomes obvious the significance each has on the other’s happiness. However, the 1950/1960’s setting shows their relationship as a frontier not yet understood and much less legally respected. This poses a problem especially as Carol, our femme fatale, is a just recently divorced mother.

The film’s cinematography is intimate and gothic with a score that matches the subtle suspense and intensity of a budding romance. Rooney Mara, lauded for 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, gives a spectacular performance of a vulnerable, yet open creature trying for her own happiness. With 5 Golden Globe and 6 Oscar nominations, Carol may be the best romance of the year. To be sure, this is not a movie for everyone, as the subject of love between two women is not yet as generally accepted as the typical heterosexual relationships portrayed in Hollywood. Unfortunately, beyond terrific acting, visual and sound direction, a weakness lies in the script for leaving a bit to be desired in immersing the viewer into the realness of the characters. The film is best appreciated when one embraces the simplicity of the connection between the two protagonists.

A high three stars.

A note from Gach Noi:

Traditional theater in Vietnamese culture, such as the operatic ‘Cai Luong,’ showcases tragedies and romantic tragedies full of plots and twists tying in economic and class dynamics to Shakespearean breaks in family relations. Yet the representation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters are still taboo in popular literature and we are yet to see “out” role models in the Vietnamese community. As more significant and respected quality media such as Carol are presented and embraced, so will the notion of love between any two people, regardless of gender, be embraced as an inarguable asset to humanity.

**Author’s note: I hope you’ve enjoyed this first movie review. There are many more to come, for a very diverse range of films. This first one is very dear to me, and I hope to continue sharing movies that may mean something more to you! Keep your eye out and happy viewing! (I’d love to hear your input, so comment below for thoughts or requests.)

Caly Tran

Watch Carol’s trailer below:

A Peek at Cà Mau

The name “Gạch Nối” was meant to symbolize the bridging of generations. To help build this bridge, we can to listen to, learn from, and tell the stories of our families. What stories have you been told? What was life like for your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles before you were born? While you were too young to remember? Let’s have a conversation.

I’ll start.

Image from

My parents were born in Cà Mau, what I like to call the San Diego of Vietnam. Their homes laid alongside a calm, clear river. At the front was the bustle of people selling, buying, going to and from school, etc. At the back was the river, where some sold produce from their canoes, and others swam. Still others like my mom, who wasn’t allowed to get too close to the water, watched (or collected seaweed with a stick only to push it back into the river). Of course as nice as that sounds, my parents couldn’t just be children; they had to work. Their families owned businesses. In fact, they were fairly well off, and fairly well respected.

My dad’s family sold candy and other snacks. He told me that when he was little, he would sneak downstairs to eat candy before going to sleep (it was common for people to live upstairs and run businesses downstairs). You can imagine the assortment of snacks he was able to choose from then. Even more, they were all homemade. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

My mom’s family owned two businesses: one that sold fabric, and another that sold incense, “ghost money”, etc. The first time I went to buy fabric with her, she told me how they used to measure and cut the fabric – apparently much more nicely and efficiently. I remember wishing they still sold fabric, because then I would have an array of sewing material at my disposal.

So that’s an introduction to my family. It may not be anything particularly interesting, but it’s an important part of my family history, and a significant part of my bridge. I’m curious about yours. Leave a quick comment or submit your own article. Let us know what you think: should we continue with stories like these? And if yes, will you help us gather them?

Tammy Luu


Chuc Mung Nam Moi! – How to Wish for a Happy New Year

For many of you Vietnamese Americans, Lunar New Year is the only occasion you get to see all of your relatives, who you otherwise would never see. Thus, it’s really important that you make a great impression. You want to act enthusiastic toward everyone, dress well, and follow the Vietnamese code of manner. That means conservative and formal clothing only (if not áo dài), and having a lot of “dạ and thưa” in your sentences to show respect to your elders. Also, when you receive your red envelopes, you want to show your gratitude and say your wishes in Vietnamese.  If you barely can pronounce them, that’s actually a great opportunity to show your efforts. Everybody will think you are so interested in your heritage and language, for simply rehearsing a little more than your cousin, who probably just learned the line while driving here and misread it and embarrassed herself.
We’re gonna show you how to do it properly.
There is a ritual to the process.
First start out by saying “for the new year, I wish you….”
that would be,

“năm mới, con/em chúc cha/mẹ/bác/dì/etc…”

then pick either one of these two options

Option A:

“Sức khỏe dồi dào”
“Vạn sự như ý”
“Tấn tài, tấn lộc”/”Phát tài, phát lộc”

Dồi dào is an adjective that means abundant, or in excess. Sức khỏe dồi dào, then, means you wish them a lot of good health. Vạn sự litereally translates to “ten thousand things”, as in everything. Vạn sự như ý means everything goes according to their wish. And tấn tài tấn lộc or its variance, phát tài phát lộc, means you wish them lots and lots of wealth. You better be ;). You can also choose to say just one or two of these phrases, but together they still fit well.
Option B:

“Phước như Đông Hải
Thọ tựa Nam Sơn”

Phước means “good things”. Thọ means longevity. These are the same Phước and Thọ that makes up the trio in Phước Lộc Thọ, aka. Asian Garden Mall in OC. Đông Hải literally means the East Sea. Nam Sơn is a little bit trickier.
Many people assume it means the Mountain in the Nam country, but actually it is the name of a mountain in China, famous for an abundance of bamboo leaves, which signify longevity. So no, Thọ tựa Nam Sơn does not mean as long-lasting as the Nam country, but rather as a mountain. These two lines go together with the Sea and Mountain acting as a complementary pair of objects. Remember the meanings so that you can impress people in case someone asked if you know what you’re saying. 😉
You should only say this to old people, no less than 60 years. Otherwise you risk offending them.
The two above options are tried and true classic lines. It’s nothing new but the key is to pronounce them correctly and to the appropriate people.
When receiving the red envelopes, first say “Dạ, con/ em cảm ơn [pronoun]” and make sure to use two hands, as a sign of respect. You should also bow at 45 degrees as you reach out your hands. And never open the envelopes in public! Many people make this mistake. You’re supposed to receive money for “symbolic” purposes only, so their financial value shouldn’t matter. If you must, go to a bathroom.
And please, no selfies in front of the altar.
Khoi Nguyen


UCSD’s Gach Noi Magazine is underway for bringing you informative and entertaining news and stories. From the Kardashians to Germany’s handling of refugees, what world news do you want to hear about? We want to hear your requests!