Friday, January 22, 2016

Lao Artist Spotlight: Aloun Phoulavan

In Minnesota, one of the Lao American visual artists who is working to rebuild our artistic and cultural traditions is Aloun Phoulavan. He was born on 1971 in Vientiane, Laos and raised in Northeast Thailand. He is particularly significant as one of the few Lao Americans in the country teaching art at the K-12 level, with over 13 years of applied experience.  This includes a decade in the St. Paul Public Schools. He's also taught reading at Columbia Academy middle school in the Columbia Heights Public Schools. 

I've worked with him in the past on several exhibitions and projects of mine, including the Legacies of War: Refugee Nation Twin Cities interdisciplinary exhibit at Intermedia Arts, the Re:Generation exhibit of Hmong and Lao Art, as well as The Five Senses Show at the Babylon Gallery. He's been a great part of the Lao American Writers Summit, and was one of the three visual artists that Saymoukda Vongsay and I showcased back in 2004 during our groundbreaking Lao'd and Clear performance.

He's the second oldest of five children born to immigrant Lao/Thai parents. His family arrived in the United States in 1976 as part of the first wave of Southeast Asian immigrants to the United States initially settled in a South Central Wisconsin city. 

His K-12 education was in the Janesville Public School system in Janesville Wisconsin. He received his undergraduate degree in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin- Stout in Menomonie. He completed an M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Art Education from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities in the winter of 2003, and obtained a Reading Specialist License at Hamline University June 2010. He once taught at the Global Prodigy Academy in Jeonju, South Korea.

He's enjoyed travel and is inspired by numerous artists including Picasso. You can read an interview with him at Little Laos on the Prairie done in September, 2015. He used to have a website at but it's been down for a little while.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2015 Bram Stoker Awards candidates announced

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) recently announced the Preliminary Ballot for the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards. The HWA (see is the premiere writers organization in the horror and dark fiction genre.  They have presented the Bram Stoker Awards in various categories since 1987 (see The HWA Board and the Bram Stoker Awards Committee congratulate all those appearing on the Preliminary Ballot. In poetry, the selections appearing on the Preliminary Ballot are:

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Boston, Bruce – Resonance Dark and Light (Eldritch Press)
Crum, Amanda – The Madness in our Marrow (Amanda Crum)
Gailey, Jeannine Hall – The Robot Scientist’s Daughter (Mayapple Press)
Hanson, Michael H. – Dark Parchments (MoonDream Press)
Manzetti, Alessandro – Eden Underground (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Morgan, Robert – Dark Energy (Penguin Books)
Opperman, K.A. – The Crimson Tome (Hippocampus Press)
Randolph, Michael – Poetic Allegories (Eldritch Press)
Simon, Marge – Naughty Ladies (Eldritch Press)
Wytovich, Stephanie M. – An Exorcism of Angels (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

No DisneyLaos for you!


So, the other day rumors surrounding Laos got so out of hand that folks at Disney actually had to step in and say that there were no plans for a Lao-edition of Disneyland, despite claims that were getting circulated in several media outlets that watch Southeast Asia.

It would appear that these claims came out of a real estate developer's very unofficial nickname for the Thakhek Dream World City project currently under construction north of Savannakhet in the Khammouane province.

The project aims to develop 507 hactares of land over the course of three phases near a city of roughly 26,000 people. The province itself spans 16,000 square kilometers with an overall population of 330,000 people. Among its ambitions is to bring a "modern and upcoming intellectual township, which has an international financial centre with community development, the first theme park, the first Lao cable car, golf resorts, 4 and 5 star hotels and an iconic tower of a 60 storey-building."

There's certainly room for development here, as the majority of the province is considered forested mountainous terrain. The region has many streams that flow through Khammouane to join the Mekong River.

Among the highlights are the Tham Khonglor Cave (meaning: “Beauty in the Dark”) which is part of the Nation Protected Forest Area in Hinboun Mountain. The stupa of That Phanom dates back to the 5th century, reportedly protected by a serpentine Ngeuak known as Ai Tong Kwang. The Nak Thanamunlanag also reportedly resides in the province.

I think it's hilariously awesome that things can get so strange in Laos that as seemingly absurd as this proposition is, we do still need a confirmation.

Considering how much trouble everyone in the current government went through to end the Royal Lao Government and colonial occupation, suddenly welcoming the Magic Kingdom and all of the Disney princesses, especially the falang ones, would have been quite a stretch of the imagination indeed.  History teaches us never say "Never," but for now, I wouldn't bet too heavily on the possibility in the near future.

Tasting Laos in the North Carolina Mountains

Katy Clune did a nice article on the Lao community of North Carolina and the culinary traditions of Laos at the Southern Foodways Alliance. She provides a great overview of dining culture in Laos and how that's carried over to our community in the United States.

As the Lao mark 40 years of our diaspora throughout this year, it's nice to see the diversity of our experiences reflected with greater care and thoughtfulness. Be sure to check out the article, and if you're passing through North Carolina, stop in on the Phapphaybouns at the Asian Fusion Kitchen and the Lao Lanxang Asian Grocery Store.

I'd also check out Katy Clune's other project: Home In A New Place: Making Laos in Morganton, North Carolina at which goes into greater depth documenting the lives of the Phapphayboun family. I'm looking forward to seeing her work in folklore, as well.