Wednesday, August 31, 2011

5 Scene Challenge: Star Wars IV-VI

Recently catching up with the famed Hawthorne Hawkman from North by Northside this week, one of the topics we discussed was Modesto's favorite son, George Lucas and his latest revisions to the classic Star Wars Trilogy.

These changes range from new dialogue of Darth Vader shouting "No, Nooooooo!" ruining a classic moment of cinema to Obi Wan Kenobi making an even more ridiculous version of the Krayt Dragon call than in the original.

Obviously this is not the first time, nor likely the last, that Lucas will tinker with the series. But it got us to thinking about what 5 scenes each of us would have added, improved or restored instead within the original trilogy.

My five:

5) Biggs Darklighter:
Biggs Darklighter was Luke's best friend on Tatooine, who is also seen getting killed later during the attack on the Death Star. While this scene was deleted because it is a little slow compared to the rest of the film, it still builds a relationship that demonstrates Luke didn't just grow up in a vacuum consisting only of droids and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

To that end, I also consider the scene at Toshi Station where Luke meets with Biggs and his other friends Fixer and Cami an additional lamentable exclusion.

4) The human Jabba.

While not strictly necessary, retaining the footage of the human Jabba as the 'visible' public face of the Hutt syndicate could make for a far more interesting back-story.

Some juggling would have to be done in Return of the Jedi to the effect that most people never really knew what Jabba the Hutt really looked like, and to have found their way to the REAL Jabba makes for a bigger jaw-dropper. Plus, it would increase the implied menace of  those we see in Jabba's court and inner circle who were trusted to know who the real power was.

Or barring this, at least restore the original Sy Snootles song, Lapti Nek, instead of the ridiculous Jedi Rocks.

3) Wampa Attack

Among the many great scenes to restore or update is one from the battle for Hoth.

Earlier, it was established that the rebels had locked a number of wampas in a storage bay and never gotten around to addressing the problem. Once the rebel base starts getting overrun by Vader's elite 501st Stormtrooper Legion, C-3P0 buys everyone some time by removing the warning sign. Stormtroopers come along and open the door. They get a big, furry, pissed-off surprise.

Of course, sadly filed firmly under 'never going to happen' is Lucas bothering to use all of that CGI  technology to change the Ewoks of Endor to the Wookies they were originally intended to be.

2) Han shoots first.

In Lucas' revisions, the bounty hunter Greedo shoots first. There's extensive debate that's raged on over the years. When the smuggler Han Solo shoots first, rather than in clear-cut self-defense, we see an essential, ruthlessly mercenary element of his character. This is part of his growth, and later changes far more interesting.

In Mos Eisley, a 'wretched hive of scum and villainy,' you're not going in to find the honorable, but the expedient. That Solo changes so much along the way is almost more interesting than either of the Skywalkers' journeys.

1) Give Chewbacca a medal!

At the end of "A New Hope" our heroes have blown up the Death Star. We all know Chewbacca was the one who probably guilt tripped Han Solo into going back to help Luke. And yet, if you watch closely, hey, Han and Luke get medals, but not the Wookie? That's just wrong.

Which scenes would you add, improve or restore?

Laos Zoo hatches 20 Endangered Siamese Crocodiles

In two years, or around 2013, we'll be releasing 20 of these adorable little fellows into the wild. The Laos Zoo has successfully taken part in a project to bring back the endangered Siamese crocodile. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many more positive projects to contribute to our world's diverse ecosystem.

The Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) is a freshwater crocodile native to Southeast Asia.

In the wild they prefer slow moving waters like swamps, rivers, and a few select lakes. Their peak length is 10 feet although hybrids can grow much larger. Their biggest enemies are habitat loss and excessive human hunters.

They were believed extinct in 1992 but tiny populations were found in Thailand and Vietnam. Six years ago in 2005, conservationists found a nest containing juvenile Siamese crocodiles in the Lao province of Savannakhet.

Southeast Asia ca. 1400 CE or 1943 Lao Buddhist Era

This map is a rough approximation of the borders during 1400 CE or near the time of the formation of the nation of Lan Xang, that many claim is 1353 CE or 1896 by the Lao calendar.

There are conflicting dates and histories written by each of the societies involved, of course. So, when writing around this era, I would definitely exercise caution and cross-check as many facts as you can, taking into account the bias of different historians.

These borders will change and flux over time, and between 1707-1893 CE, a contentious period emerged when Lan Xang was split into the realms of Luang Phrabang, Viang Chan, Champasak,and Muang Phuan.

Given that there are at least 160 ethnic groups speaking over 82 distinct living languages or combinations thereof in modern Laos, the situation was likely very similar during the ancient era, with possibly more. Undoubtedly there may have been some additional societies who were not well documented or lived only briefly in the region.

As in modern times, near any nation's borders, travel and regular people's sense of who they are and their particular loyalties would likely have been very fluid. Villages would come and go, some would get overgrown, others destroyed by the modern era, wiped out without a trace during both major and minor conflicts.

To that end, for writers of fiction, I would consider it to be a time of either great possibilities or one that could be very intimidating to tackle. How would you approach it?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Haiku Movie Reviews 2011

I've been getting behind on our Haiku movie reviews this year.
So to correct that, here's a quick trio:

Planet of Monkeys?
No, apes. No, CGI 'souls'
Acting more than men.

Cowboys. Aliens.
Who belongs, hunting for gold?
Flops, fighting blue smurfs.

Red, white and blue myths
Punching Hitler and History
Shields truths to what end?

Haiku Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Monkeys built better,
Updated and promising.
Much to consider.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

AAPI White House Initiative Video Challenge: “What’s Your Story?”

At the White House Initiative on AAPIs, they seek to amplify these voices nationally. They are pleased to announce the first ever White House Initiative Video Challenge, called “What’s Your Story?”

They’re calling on you to produce a video, up to three minutes long, telling them who you are and how you have impacted those around you. In your video, answer the questions: How have your unique experiences shaped who you are today? And in what ways are you making a difference in your community? Everyone is welcomed to participate.

They will review the submissions and post a select number of entries on the White House website. In addition, They’ll invite a group of exceptional AAPI leaders to share their stories in person at the White House this fall as special guests in a White House Initiative on AAPIs event. To learn more about the challenge, watch their call-out video here:

To submit your video and learn more about the challenge, go to The deadline for video submissions is midnight on November 1, 2011.

Lao Steampunk: A theoretical approach

Although I tend to agree with a few colleagues of mine who say Steampunk is for Goths who discovered the color brown, it is possible that one day we'll see Lao Steampunk stories that examine themes of alternate history, influenced by the aesthetics of Victorian England (1837-1901, give or take a year or two.) and a technology principally based on clockworks, spring-propelled objects and steam engines .

If you can get past the risks of Orientalism and perpetuating Colonial stereotypes of an exotic Asia, there could be some very interesting material to examine. But I don't think it's been explored either well or seriously yet, especially centered from a Lao or Southeast Asian perspective.

Interacting with other societies in this setting, one would want to be aware of how they address racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, jingoism and homophobia among other values of the era. Some choose to ignore it in their stories entirely. I do wonder how Lao writers will take on the subject, given the many options and possibilities they have.

Building an authentic point for the historic timeline to diverge, a plausible possibility might take place around 1839, when the Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang conducted experiments to make steamboats like the French.

By the end of Minh Mang's reign, 11 steamboats were created in three different classes, Heavy, Medium and Light.

In real life, the industry could not be sustained due to financial issues and social upheaval in the region. But what would have happened if things had been successful?  The outcome of the Nguyen-France War in what is now modern Vietnam might have ended very differently. Would the technology have spread to Luang Prabang, Vientiane or Champassak? Or perhaps, what if Minh Mang had failed, but research in the technology succeeded elsewhere? In an era of gunboat diplomacy, things could have been very different.

What would have happened if Lao had been successful in integrating steam engine technology into their society? Besides the likely rapid deforestation?

A writer could have a very interesting time exploring what the presence of  lighter-than-air airships, analog or digital mechanical computers such as the Analytical Engine might have had on events in Southeast Asia.

In all likelihood, authors will be divided regarding whether to stay with historical steampunk and use techniques of magic realism, or to just create all-out fantasy and science fiction, drawing on interaction with phi, nak, yuk, kinnari or any of the other classic creatures of Southeast Asia.  As Lao made efforts to balance relations between over 100 different tribes and foreign nations in the region, what could happen? Might some make it to the West Coast of the United States in such a world and be part of a Wild Weird West? Six Guns and Sticky Rice? Have Padaek-Will Travel? Lan Xang Dove?

It would take some research to really do it well, and a good understanding of history and technology to make it work, but it is not wholly impossible. How would you approach the genre?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lao American Speculative Literature and Speculative Japan

A number of my friends and colleagues are currently passing through Japan this season to study or vacation. That seems a good impetus to present one of the interesting notes I'd come across while I was considering directions for Lao American speculative literature.

Lao American speculative literature would include poetry, theater, short stories, and novels in horror, science fiction, fantasy, and arguably, taken far enough, the western and mysteries. At the moment, there's not a lot of it.

From what I've seen in the community we're probably a good decade or more away from seeing speculative novels from Lao in America. Most of the writers I've come across who are taking their work seriously or at least semi-seriously are working in short forms, and most are grounding their work in realism and creative non-fiction, particularly memoirs.

Still, given the intense interest many Lao, particularly youth, have for science fiction and fantasy,  it is only a matter of time before we see works from our community emerge.

Kurodahan Press is a great publisher who's brought some amazing translations from Japan into print, including Speculative Japan, edited by Gene van Troyer and Grania Davis, gathering 15 outstanding short stories by Japanese writers from across a significant range of time.

What I found particularly useful were remarks from the introduction citing Yamano Koichi's sense of three major phases of the genre's development in Japan.

"The Pre-Fabricated House Phase (or "infiltration and diffusion"): Japanese SF writers who made their debuts in the early 1950s and were deeply influenced by traditional Western definitions of SF. Instead of creating their own worlds, they immersed themselves in and emulated the translated major works of Anglo American authors like Asimov, Heinlein, Brown, and Bradbury. Somewhat like living in a "ready-built" home, the SF genre in Japan thus grew into Japanese culture regardless of whether there was a place for it."

When Lao American writers take on the Lovecraft mythos, zombies, or other ghost stories, which seem to be among the most popular subjects, it would appear we're still well within this phase. Yamano believed the second phase Japanese writers would move into is the Remodeling the Ready-Built Home Phase (or "adaptation and acquisition").  Yamano felt that the writers sought to expand the world-view of Japanese science fiction to include "socio-polical and multi-temporal themes, evolutionary and information theory, and new (and sometimes quite existential) patterns of reader-text interaction. But in so doing, the often distanced themselves from traditional Japanese cultural perspectives, foregrounding a Western-style "rationalistic" and objectively macroscopic world-view."

But could Lao American writers jump ahead to Yamano's third phase, Putting Up A New House ( or "creative departure"). It's here that Yamano contends Japanese science fiction had found it's own original voice that eschewed Anglo-American models and presented work informed by their own traditional and contemporary culture and worldviews. And, could a writer be a part of at least these two, if not all three phases?

And I suppose, maintaining Yamano's house metaphor, can we get into houses before someone forecloses on the whole kit and kaboodle?

Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry

Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry: (8/26-11/5/11): An exhibition of contemporary art that invites explorations into visual metaphors and celebrates the poetics of interpretation. Opening Reception: Friday, August 26, 7 – 10 pm. The Gallery Hours: Saturday & Sunday 12 – 5pm, and by appointment; free admission at the  VAALA Cultural Center: 1600 North Broadway, first floor, Santa Ana, California 92706

The Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA) is delighted to announce the opening of Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry, guest curated by Thuy N. D. Tran and showcasing recent works by artists Trinh Mai, Christine Nguyen, Tammy Nguyen, Trinh Ponce, Dao Strom and Van Tran. Marvelous Metaphors marks an important milestone for the VAALA Cultural Center as the organization completes its newest exhibition space. The opening reception presents a lineup of musical performances by Miniature Houses, Whalesound and Sea Moon and is free to the public. Additional programming will be offered throughout the duration of the exhibition, including art talks, a panel discussion on poetry and curatorial walk-throughs.

Marvelous Metaphors: Art as Visual Poetry encourages audiences to read visual art in the same way as poetry—through the contemplation of visual metaphors that play with interpretive possibilities. Featuring new faces to VAALA, Marvelous Metaphors offers a wide array of artistic media including photo-works, paintings on canvas, fiber arts, ceramics, inks on paper, drawings, book-art, sculptures and other mixed media. The artists selected for this exhibition are very diverse in subjectivity and technical approach; however what they all share in common are works that invite viewers to delve into the many overlays of meaning.

Be sure to check it out if you get a chance.

Loft Literary Center Annual Gathering 2011: 8/30

Write Here. Write Now.
The Loft Annual Gathering brings writers and readers, students and teachers together to catch up and celebrate the Loft's achievements in the past year. It's also a great time to learn about upcoming classes and events being planned, from literary festivals to author appearances, and to get an inside look at the future directions for the organization as we build a thriving literary community together.

The open house is Tuesday, August 30th from 5-8 p.m at 1011 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis.

The event is free, but they would really appreciate RSVPs in order to make sure they have enough for everyone.

Jocelyn Hale, the Loft's executive director, will speak at 6 p.m., followed by a student reading at 6:45 p.m.

Throughout the evening there will be opportunities to take a Loft mini-class, learn about Loft programs and classes, stake your place in Loft history, and socialize with other aspiring, emerging, and established writers.
Come share the literary love.

Register for the Loft Annual Gathering at

Incorporated in 1975, The Loft Literary Center is the nation’s largest independent literary center.

The Loft supports the artistic development of writers, fosters a writing community, and builds an audience for literature. Thousands of students register for Loft creative writing courses each year; thousands more participate in Loft readings and other events. Loft competitions, grants, and honoraria help authors pursue the writing life. Loft publications and its website bring the writing life home to literature lovers everywhere. Check them out at 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Northography Chapbook competition (Minnesota) and Red Bird Chapbooks unite to bring you the Summer Broadside Competition, a two-week writing frenzy culminating in the publication of one winner’s poem as a broadside.

Enroll now as a community member.

Then, on August 21st, a photograph by our featured Northographer, Gina Kelly, will be revealed on the website as a writing stimulus. You will have two weeks to submit as many quality poems or prose excerpts as your passionate heart can stand. A panel of three judges will review each post and, from these, will select one winner.

The winner’s poem or prose will compliment Kelly’s photograph in a broadside to be released by Red Bird Chapbooks this year. Winner will also receive complimentary copies of the broadside, and be featured on Red Bird Chapbooks’ Broadside Series page. Broadsides are printed as 8.5” x 11” posters and posted in select venues throughout the Twin Cities for 30 days as a work of public art/public literature.

SEARAC releases statement on immigration enforcement

New Immigration Policy Provides Relief for Some, Targets Others in Southeast Asian American Community

Washington, DC – The Obama administration announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the Department of Justice (DOJ), will review the deportation caseload and use discretion to prioritize deporting people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk, while clearing out low priority cases. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) welcomes this effort by the administration to use its authority to provide relief for some. However, this policy does not do enough to relieve the burden for many immigrant families facing deportation. In fact, while some community members will benefit from this policy, many will become even more targeted for deportation.

Doua Thor, executive director of SEARAC, responds: "We agree that the President and his administration have a responsibility to enforce existing laws, but the blanket deportation of any group, including people with criminal histories, is neither responsible nor effective. This policy continues to undercut our American values of justice, where people who have criminal histories, no matter how minor, are subject to mandatory deportation without consideration of their circumstances—including whether they have already served their time, how long ago, and how reformed they are, or the fact that they arrived as refugees with long term legal permanent resident status."

Such blanket policies deport people who are an asset to our communities, like Sam (not his real name). At the age of 9, Sam and his mother were resettled in the U.S. as refugees fleeing persecution in Cambodia. He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Philadelphia, where at the age of 21, he was involved in a neighborhood fight resulting in a conviction that made him deportable. After serving his time, Sam turned his life around. He started his own thriving small business as a barber and became a role model and advocate for youth in his community. Sam was determined to ensure that other struggling youth would not end up in prison has he had. Yet, after 7 years of proving how valuable he is to his family and community, he was deported to a country he barely remembers, and faces indefinite separation from his U.S. citizen children and wife.

Immigration enforcement is a civil—not criminal—matter, and discretion must be applied to all cases. SEARAC applauds the administration’s recent efforts to provide discretion for some, but continues to urge the administration and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that ensures due process, proportionality, and judicial discretion.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On the road as a working poet

Essential Travel Kit Items
When I'm traveling, there are a few essentials I never leave home without whether it's by air or car. I present the following checklist as a helpful guide for my fellow performing travelers to consider. These fit easily into a travel kit perfect for air travel or under my driver's seat:

Paper, pen and cell phone, confirmation numbers: These are essential for your traveling 'office' and your arrival. Always make sure you have at least two people's cell phones you can call if you run into a delay, an emergency or get lost. And write it down on paper in case your cell phone breaks or your batteries die. Don't ask how many times that's happened to me. Obviously, don't forget your cell phone charger. I also really like the free PocketMod ( for its customizability and compact way to keep you organized.

Tissue, hand wipes, pain reliever, theraflu, vitamins: When driving I prefer to have along a full first-aid kit, but in a pinch? These essentials will keep you ready for just about any case of the ick, especially during conventions and conferences. Try and swap out your aspirin and theraflu packets at least once every six months to keep them fresh.

Zippered pouch/zip-lock bag: Have someplace you can store your receipts and small loose items you pick up along the way so it's easy to sort out when you get home and file properly.

Umbrella: It's amazing how small they can get umbrellas now, and it's really handy during unexpected weather to keep your camera and other sensitive equipment from being exposed to snow, rain or other elements.

Snacks: Keep yourself from getting grumpy and biting off your hosts' heads (always bad form!). Fresh fruit and granola bars are my usual choice. It'll keep costs down and improve your health as opposed to what you can find in the airport stores or roadside restaurants.

Business cards: I always try to keep at least twenty business cards and brochures ready for audience members and other people who are interested in my work or have special projects coming up. If you’re just getting started, will give you 250 free business cards, although there are also others who will give similar or better deals if you look. Of course, if you’ve got books or brochures, you should bring a set of these with you too. I'd always carry a few by hand, rather than pack them in luggage or have them shipped, just in case a box gets lost or arrives too late.

Autoclub membership card: Even if you're flying in, a membership with an auto club like AAA or other good travel club can come in handy for discounts at hotels, restaurants and many tourist spots around the world. Usually they'll offer services like roadside assistance and towing, help opening locked cars and many other perks. Hope you never need them, but with one accident and the membership more than pays for itself usually.

Alternate ID and insurance card: It’s always handy to have photocopies of an alternate photo ID just in case, or at least promotional posters or a copy of your book with your picture on it in case you ever have to prove who you are. Getting caught without proper insurance is a major hassle, so it goes in the list.

Additionally, when you can, you should always e-mail yourself a copy of your manuscript that you’re reading from, and other key documents, just in case you lose them in transit. This way, it will be easy to pull the material from online and prevent any unexpected problems during your performance.

That usually gets me through any situation. But what do you like to bring with you when you hit the road?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Upcoming Calls For Submission

The New Madrid editors are looking for work in all literary genres that gives evidence of the dynamic interaction between Japanese and American cultures, such as: literary responses to the earthquake and its aftereffects; responses to classical Japanese poetry and poetics; responses to the work of Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe, Haruki Murakami and other modern and postmodern Japanese fiction writers; work in new Japanese literary forms inspired by manga, cell phone texts, etc.; translations of Japanese literary works into English; literary travel writing by Americans visiting Japan or by Japanese visiting the United States; work about Japanese immigration to the United States, the internment of Japanese-American citizens in the United States during World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or along other historical themes; new takes on traditional Japanese aesthetics and/or spiritual practices. All submissions should be of interest to the general reader. Please do not submit scholarly articles. Submissions open August 15 – October 15, 2011 for Winter 2012 issue.

Whistling Fire nonfiction ONLY! Memoirs, personal essays, etc. September Guest Editor Stacy Furrer. Aug 21

Lit Undressed poetry and short-short fiction inspired by fashion. The selected will be performed live by nude figure models at the Omaha Lit Fest. Sept 15

The Destroyer online seeks images, audio, text, rants, and awesomeness for inaugural issue.

Menacing Hedge online poetry, fiction, artwork quarterly. Oct 1 and Jan 1

Flycatcher: A Journal of Narrative Imagination online seeks submissions for inaugural issue of any genre or art form that imaginatively explores place/sense of belonging to place. Oct 31

pax Americana online “undiscovered, irreverent, and experimental” poetry, prose, multimedia.

Consequence Magazine fiction, poetry, non-fiction, visual art, addressing the culture of war and social injustice, and proposals for reviews. Nov 1

Lao American artist spotlight: Sayon Syprasoeuth

One of the nice things about spending some time out in California this year is discovering new Lao American visual artists. Among the recent ones I've found is Sayon Syprasoeuth in Southern California. You can visit his website and his work at

He's working in a number of different techniques and I think he has a distinct style and set of themes that he has been working with, that tie nicely back to traditional culture but also more modern sensibilities and experimentation. For Lao American visual art to flourish in the century ahead, this is essential. I look forward to seeing more of his work in the coming decades.

Narratives, truth and the war for Laos

Almost 2,500 years ago, the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote "The first casualty of war is truth."

In the 20th century, we saw that little had changed over two millennia. One of the most overt examples of this was the war for Laos. The Geneva Accords of 1962 established the neutrality of Laos, but it did not take long before politicians found ways to subvert the letter and spirit of this policy. 

One of the most well-known outcomes of these efforts was the creation of the secret armies of US-backed guerrillas drawn from Laotian minorities including the Khmu, Iu Mien, and the Hmong.

Many of the details of this conflict were not allowed to be known by the American public, much less the international community because of the outrage it would cause.

Today over 400,000 refugees and immigrants from Laos are rebuilding their lives in the US, as well as France, Canada, Australia, Japan, and even French Guyana, among others as a consequence of this secrecy.

Some of the names are well known, but others, such as Captain Chaomai Srisongfa from the Iu Mien, and Captain Kham Seth from the Khmu are quickly being lost as we approach nearly 40 years since the end of the war in 1975.

History is always difficult to reconstruct, but for Laotians, it has been especially difficult because of the efforts to deliberately obfuscate and contaminate the historical record in the name of political and social expedience.

Although we have a significant degree of technologically sophisticated equipment available to the families involved in the war, there is also a tragic lack of knowledge and education among our youth who are not being given the tools and opportunities to fully appreciate their history and context.

Many simply don't know where to begin asking questions while others do not see its relevance to their present situation.

As a result, we cannot be too surprised when many emerge with a warped sense of their heritage. But we can and must also do what we can to set the records straight and to bring the truth to light in our time. Thankfully, some, like Kenneth Conboy and Timothy Castle have done exceptional work to recover the record, but we Laotians, from all of our communities, must value our own stories.

We must treasure the journey we took together, and we must not exclude any of those voices that would add to the greater truth that others would strip from us.

Lao American Navy SEAL among those killed in Afghanistan Crash

The Sioux City Journal has reported that John Douangdara was among those who died during an anti-Taliban operation in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan.

Douangdara, 26, was a Master at Arms, Class 1 and a lead dog handler for the elite Navy SEAL unit. Other members of his unit had been involved in the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. He was a 2003 graduate of South Sioux City High School.

The United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's principal special operations force.

My condolences go to his friends and family.

Legacies of War seeks grant writer

Legacies of War seeks a grant writer who can work off-site but be open to travel to our Washington, DC office. Primary responsibilities include preparation of proposals and grant applications, and performance of responsible professional and administrative work in researching, identifying, developing and responding to public and private grant opportunities in the areas of peace and security, post-conflict, disarmament, reconstruction, arts and culture, community organizing, capacity building, social media, international development, Laos, and Southeast Asia.

Qualified candidates should possess excellent writing and computer skills (Microsoft Office Word, Powerpoint and Excel), and database management skills. The candidate must be highly organized with the ability to implement tracking systems and follow-up processes, able to effectively work under pressure, use independent judgment and produce quality work within tight time constraints. Previous experience will demonstrate a proven track record in securing new funding opportunities; strong research skills, and the ability to distinguish and identify funding opportunities for special programs.

Work is performed under broad direction of the Executive Director with the majority of work performed independently.

Researches and identifies new government, corporate, foundations and private funding opportunities.

Generates proposals and supporting documents in response to solicitations.

Identifies funding opportunities and new program areas to match organization’s priorities using research tools.

Engages with program officers, as needed, of potential funding organizations to solicit invitations to submit proposals.

RATE & SALARY: Commensurate with experience, but contract will be based on grant submissions.

TO APPLY: Please submit cover letter, resume and writing sample (previous grant applications, proposals, concept papers, or similar documents) via email by 5:00pm EST on August 15, 2011 to: Ms. Helly Lee –

News from the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center

A few interesting pieces came from Washington D.C.-based Southeast Asian Resource Action Center this week:

New Legislation Would Protect Disabled and Elderly Refugees from Losing SSI -- Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced a new bill, H.R. 2763, intended to protect thousands of elderly and disabled refugees who are at risk of losing their Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Without the passage of H.R. 2763, thousands of refugees are set to lose their SSI benefits on October 1, 2011. While SEARAC continues to seek a long-term solution to protect elderly and disabled refugees from losing their SSI, we applaud the bi-partisan leadership on this emergency measure.

Aftermath of the Debt Ceiling Debates -- Earlier this week, President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act (BCA), which raises the debt ceiling by at least $2.1 trillion and promises to cut nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years. The legislation includes immediate cuts to discretionary funding, impacting social services and programs that support low-income and underserved communities. The legislation also creates a bi-partisan joint Congressional committee charged with recommending an additional $1.5 trillion cuts to reduce the deficit by November 23rd. If the committee fails to agree on deficit reduction cuts, a "trigger" would lead to across-the-board draconian spending cuts. While the trigger is meant to provide incentive to reach a bi-partisan compromise, we cannot assume that Congress will actually agree to a balanced deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and additional revenues. As we continue to face a fragile economy, cutting essential programs that protect low-income people is the last thing that we should do.

SEARAC Now Accepting Fall Internship Applications – SEARAC is looking for interns for the fall semester! Are you looking to learn more about policy, research, legislative advocacy, and communications? Ideal interns have superior writing skills and an interest in and knowledge of the Southeast Asian American community. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and no later than August 26th.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Embracing Cambodia: Yearning for Home" Opening Reception

This Saturday is the opening reception for  "Embracing Cambodia: Yearning for Home" on August 13 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the University of Minnesota UROC Gallery. This is a long-anticipated show that will be at 2001 Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis.

Khmer Minnesotan artist Phira Rehm has never seen Cambodia, but the beauty of its art, people, and folklore --as told to her by her parents- captivates her. Audience members are invited to come along she takes you on a journey to a different place. Not quite Cambodia, but not quite America. She will share her own work, her family’s collection of Cambodian paintings and temple figures, and her struggle to find understanding and place somewhere between two cultures. The show is for anyone who has ever yearned for home or returned to find that the place they left behind is not quite the one they remembered. The opening reception will feature art, live traditional Cambodian music, wonderful food and stimulating conversation.

Even if you can't make the opening, the show will continue at UROC through September 12, 2011.

I highly recommend it, because it's been a very long time since Minnesota has seen a Khmer American visual arts exhibit, specifically one that's conceived by an experienced Khmer American woman. Having seen examples of her work, I appreciate its mix of modernity with an unflinching eye on the traditional art and history of their community. I hope this is but the first of many such projects to emerge in Minnesota in the coming years ahead.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Robots for Laos? UXO and US EOD Technology

One of the critical challenges for Laos is the removal of UXO which contaminates over 30% of the Lao countryside.

Without addressing this it becomes difficult to address the effects of chemical defoliants or many of the other social and economic challenges for fostering long-term growth, prosperity and interaction with the global community.

The Mines Advisory Group and others working closely with UXO removal teams still need significant funding and support. Official estimates suggest that it will take at least $100 million dollars at the current rate of clearance to effectively remove all of the leftover munitions in Laos by 2020, or 9 years from now.
This remains extremely dangerous work under the best of circumstances. Removal of bombs in Southeast Asia has many other hazards that would greatly benefit from having access to effective high-quality equipment that can also meet the challenging environmental conditions.

A case in point would be something such as a TALON robot which is used for many purposes including Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
Unfortunately, a low-end robot costs $15,000.00 or approximately 120,300,000 kip and can run as high as $18,000 or more, although they are very rugged. This video is one of many that demonstrates a TALON at work: 
Key challenges for introducing more robots to Laos besides the cost would be access to electricity in some areas, and the ability to clear the treads out of the muck especially during the rainy season.  But could it enhance survivability and expected lifespans for our current and emerging Lao EOD teams?

I think it's worth at least a trial investment. I would further encourage the development of more affordable robots that are easier to repair or replace in the event of accidents.

There are other robot models out there, but in any decision we need to consider the need for large quantities and ease of deployment and the consistent high risk of catastrophic damage due to ordnance detonation, robots such as the REMOTEC ANDROS, or the $25,000 MATILDA by Mesa Robotics:

We could consider the Packbot by iRobot, below, although they appear to run around $115,000 each. Ouch. A more outdated Marcbot costs around $8,000. Could a more effective, affordable device be developed that can meet the needs and conditions of Southeast Asia?
It can't all be solved by robots, however. There's still so much need for adequate levels of funding to support humans and effective equipment on the ground for identifying and removing these hazards.

Hopefully we can begin to gain support introducing safer and more expedient ways to clear the legacies of our wars from the last century so we can build a more peaceful legacy together in the years ahead.

Jai Arun Ravine has new book out: แ ล้ ว and then entwine.

I'm taking a quick moment to point out one of the interesting new books which has just been released by TinFish Press by Jai Arun Ravine,แ ล้ ว and then entwine. You can find a blog at Doveglion regarding the text and pick it up at:

Jai Arun Ravine is a Thai American and luk kreung writer, dancer, video and performance artist. They received an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University. Ze is the author of the chapbook Is This January (Corollary Press, 2010) and creator of The Spiderboi Files.

A Kundiman fellow, hir poetry, essays, reviews and visual art have appeared in Drunken Boat, Lantern Review, Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, TinFish 18, Delirious Hem and Galatea Resurrects, among others.

Approaching 1 Year since the Lao American Writers Summit

It's been almost a year since the first national Lao American Writers Summit in Minnesota.  We gathered together Lao American writers and artists from across the country, many meeting for the very first time. We held it on August 13-15th at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

There, you could meet almost everyone from Lao rockers to Oscar-nominated directors, actors, playwrights, poets and spoken word artists.
There were so many wonderful parts of the summit. Those moments more than made up for the challenges we had along the way, but I think what I enjoyed deeply was that this wasn't some rigid conference with plenary sessions or an extravagant production on par with an Olympics opening. It wasn't a bunch of people putting on airs or trying to win some competition or present their thesis for a Masters degree or something.

You had 48 hours as artists to talk and be with other artists for as long as you needed to. I think it's vital as artists to have opportunities where you're trusted to do something that allows you to create and take your work to the next level, and hopefully help others in similar positions.
Sometimes, something really creative came out of it. Sometimes not. Some of our guests were inspired just by being in the same room with others who shared their passion.  At the end of it all, those of us who wanted to share something with a larger audience could. Or you could just sit back and just see someone else perform. But in either case it was a performance on our own terms. And that was powerful.
I look at where most of us who participated have gone on since the summit, and I'm impressed with the ground we've covered in just a year. Some have new books and plays out, others have become executive directors and board members for some amazing organizations. Many have traveled widely and performed to great acclaim. 

But in any case, I have to say that it's amazing, validating feeling to see where we've come and I look forward to where we're headed next. And to everyone who was a part of this, thank you!