Thursday, March 30, 2017

Godzilla, Ladies Man

My corner of literature often requires me to discuss "Godzilla, Ladies Man." Photos like these also remind me why there's just some things the new incarnations of Godzilla can't get right, that the public just won't have as much fun with. They're capable, to varying degrees, but it's just not the same as being able to say, "I took a walk with Godzilla."

Meanwhile, here's a shot of Amelia Earhart with King Kong that makes me wonder how, in all of this time, there hasn't been an anthology of stories and poems about this yet. Let's get on it, folks!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Remembering Vietnam

On this day, March 29th, 1973, the last US combat troops left Vietnam. It's a bittersweet anniversary that makes me think of that old song about how "If I could change the world, I wouldn't change a thing..." and I find myself saying that there were a lot of people on all sides who paid the highest costs imaginable, both civilians and military personnel. I find it's not something to revel in, but to appreciate as a lesson. One we would do well not to repeat, but to grow from.

For those of us with roots in the Secret War for Laos, it becomes a particularly striking issue because of the significant consequences it had for so many of our families that pushed many of us into diaspora to avoid torture, imprisonment, and execution for assisting American efforts that were violating the Geneva Accords that had declared Laos 'neutral' in the conflict.

Forty-three years later, Johnny Cash's classic song "Drive On" remains the song that best encompasses the Vietnam War for me and how our veterans and families reconcile with that experience. Among the poems we've written over the decades, Vietnam veteran Yusef Komunyakaa's book Dien Cai Dau, as well his poem"Facing it" remains among the most moving for me, as does this reading by a fellow veteran at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

[Poet Spotlight] Geneva/Genève Chao

Geneva/Genève Chao has a B.A. in French Translation and Literature from Barnard College and an MA/MFA from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. Although I've only just begun to speak with her with some regularity, I've found her consistently awesome and bold, and the kind of voice we need in today's poetics. She recently released a new chapbook this year, called POST HOPE free to download from Moria.

Her poems and translations have been published in Boxkite, Can We Have Our Ball Back?, (Satellite) Telephone, n/a literary journal, New American Writing, DIAGRAM, the L.A. Telephone Book, and others. You can catch an example of her style at Boston Review as well as at Aught. This February also saw the publication of her poem, "Things I've Vomited Since November 9, 2016. (a partial list)" in Heavy Feather Review.

Her book one of us is wave one of us is shore (Otis Books | Seismicity Editions, 2016) was also a finalist for the Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. Her translations of Gérard Cartier’s Tristran and Nicolas Tardy’s (with François Luong) Encrusted on the Living have appeared from [lx] press, where she is an editor.

She has twice been a Tamaas resident for work on the intersectionality of language/poetry and dance/the body. Her book Hillary Is Dreaming was released by Make Now Books. For details on how to bring her to your classroom or institutions for a reading or conversation on literature, check out her entry at Have Book Will Travel.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

[SFF Poet Spotlight] Sandra Katsuri

Sandra Kasturi is one of our amazing Canadian members of the SFPA. She is a poet, writer and editor, and the co-publisher of the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Award-winning press, ChiZine Publications.

Born in Estonia to an Estonian mother and Sri Lankan father, she now lives in Canada. She is the co-founder (with Helen Marshall) of the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium and the national Chiaroscuro Reading Series.

Sandra’s work has appeared in various venues, including ON SPEC, Prairie Fire, several Tesseracts anthologies, Evolve, Chilling Tales, A Verdant Green, TransVersions, ARC Magazine, Taddle Creek, Abyss & Apex, 80! Memories & Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin, and Stamps, Vamps & Tramps. Her two poetry collections are: The Animal Bridegroom (with an intro by Neil Gaiman) and Come Late to the Love of Birds.

She is currently working on two books: a new poetry collection called Snake Handling for Beginners, as well as a story collection, Mrs. Kong & Other Monsters. She is fond of gin & tonics, Michael Fassbender and red lipstick.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Laomagination: Phi in the Shell, or Cyberpunk, Cinema, Compromise and Resistance

This month, we'll see the release of the live-action American version of the cyberpunk film Ghost in the Shell, which was one of the highly influential anime of the 1990s.

The live-action film has been subject to intense criticism for white-washing, cultural appropriation and fetishizing, as well as departures from the source material. An interesting text to read these days is the 2015 essay collection Techno-Orientalism  edited by Greta A. Niu, David S. Roh, and Betsy Huang to get a sense of the many issues that merit conversation.

This isn't to say there aren't opportunities to do such a film well. History obliges us to look at the exchanges between Akira Kurosawa and US and European cinema, for example, notably The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.

We might look at works such as the American adaptation of Infernal Affairs, which drew strong influence from the Hong Kong film, but also localized it enough to create an arguably interesting but not necessarily superior film. More often the results are works like Dragonball Z or Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, or Godzilla. 

While Ghost in the Shell did not make as much of a personal mark on me compared to Akira or Fist of the North Star, among others from that time frame, I think it asked some interesting questions about identity, law, that are unfortunately at risk of being left by the wayside in the name of style. Compare the original trailer to what we are being asked to be interested in in the live-action version.

There are significant and to ironic issues of erasure and extreme body theft with this production that will likely be ignored as the world awaits what they hope will be a new Matrix franchise.

The most likely response will be "It just looks cool, and that's all I wanted to see."  I appreciate that, but that's not all that science fiction or fantasy can be, and I hate to see us collectively settling for less. Compare it to the approach used in the recent films Ex Machina or Moon. We must encourage and strive for the interesting conversations that can help us reframe and reconsider our existing assumptions.

Speculative literature, film and art can and should be stylish and sexy, violent and transgressive, original, yet fully informed by our traditions both in the US and around the globe. 

From what I'm seeing, the production is problematic, not unsalvageable, although my opinion could change in the final viewing.

As an artist, I think it would be more daring to create an original property and a modern take that addresses the challenges of our times with an unflinching eye. But barring that, I should note this could easily have been done as a story that obliges us to go seek out the original films and manga connected to the concept. Just recap the least you need to know, and move forward, letting the audience catch up to the saga as it wants to.  If this was a genuine sequel to the other material, rather than what looks like an American effort to show "we do your stories better," I'd be more enthused to see what the results are.

Ghost in the Shell is largely about jerking around with people's memories and narratives, a theme that resonates with me and other refugees and immigrants at a very personal level. So, what if we found out in the likely sequel this really is the original Major Motoko Kusanagi we met in the 1995 film but somehow she HAS been renamed and shoved into this new body to relive this variation of her "prior experiences," getting renamed Mira to see what happens. If I was brought in to salvage things, that would be one approach I'd certainly consider. 

Many people clearly put some very hard work into the visual look of this film, a future world that's going to be cosmopolitan and multiracial, even as I wonder how many American audiences will read so much of it as a dystopia when others of us would see it as a point of tremendous progress. In a cityscape not unlike the iconic Blade Runner billboard of the Korean woman dressed a geisha, we have:

Which is certainly a very interesting and not unimaginable extension of where we're headed as an ad-infused world. Looking at this cityscape, I do ask myself what would happen if we'd replaced the geisha with the Quaker Oats guy, the Samuel Adams spokesman, or a French maid. Or are audiences expected to read this much the same way that Serenity and Firefly shows a Chinese-dominant future where the majority of Asians are coolies, bar girls and futuristic rickshaw drivers.

The premise of the original Ghost in the Shell series is that New Port City is host to Public Security Section 9, a special operations task force of ex-military and police detectives doing counter-terrorism work while contending with Machiavellian intrigues, corruption and cyber-crime.  It's a culture where people have accepted a wide-range of cybernetic body modifications from the simple to a full-body prosthetic, as is the case for the lead character we typically follow in these stories, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Of course, if you have a machine, it can be overriden and we often get stories wrestling with the classic line from Blade Runner that noted "Replicants are like any other machine. They're either a benefit or a hazard." Overall, gratuitous cheesecake aside, it's a compelling premise as we see more members of our society addressing issues of identity and humanity, and I can see why so many have returned to this universe to ask some interesting questions of what would happen.

In Akira,a great deal of the controversy with the live-action film comes from the question of localization. That the themes we love most about it are also deeply interwoven into a tale of Japan, and the climatic explosion in Neo-Tokyo has much more cultural weight to the Japanese who've experienced an atomic bomb. Efforts to bring Akira to American screens with a more American sensibility in New York, for example, earn a lot of eye rolls because Hollywood has time and again demonstrated an almost willful inability to handle such material intelligently.

I'd ask is Ghost in the Shell the type of story that only makes sense in Japan or Asia, and if not is that a strength or a weakness. The Godfather, for example, is a story that can ONLY take place in America. Even as we have criminal organizations and sagas such as Better Luck Tomorrow or Infernal Affairs, The Godfather story is so centered on exploring the American dream, immigration, family and a fall from grace it couldn't really be ported over to, say, Colombia or Cambodia with ease. Around the World in 80 Days doesn't work well unless you begin in England, because classically the English culture of that time lent itself far more readily to gentlemen's bets and near absurd levels of adventurism. But you could plausibly do Peter Pan in Asia. Could The Joy Luck Club have worked if it was retold as a story of different Irish families coming to America so audiences could connect?

Could Ghost in the Shell have been created or adapted in Laos? Or among Lao Americans? I wonder how we would have treated the subject matter differently given our history and where we tend to put the focus in our imaginative literature. What would Phi in the Shell entail, given women's traditional roles and the nature of Lao justice and government? How would all of this play out in a Laotown quarter of America?

In the big picture, the challenge for many of us creating works of imagination in the Lao American tradition will be how to responsibly integrate our influences from both Asia and the US, appreciating that much of the material we have been exposed to, to date, has been filtered through the media consumption needs of the US that has benefited from establishing Asians and Asian Americans as an exotic other.

How do we effectively build an interest for our cultural perspective and approach without throwing ourselves under the bus? We need to push ourselves to be ahead of the curve. We need to be able to present enough of our work in our own words, on our own terms that still has reasonable mainstream appeal without compromising ourselves and closing doors of expressions and exploration. This is not an easy task and certainly deserves a much wider conversation.

[Poem] The Hymn of Stones

My poem "The Hymn of Stones," from my second collection of Lao American speculative poetry, BARROW.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Recent Blade Runner Fan Films & Homages

2019 is fast approaching, the year the influential science fiction film Blade Runner was set. I'm curious to see how the city of Los Angeles will pay tribute to the film. I hope that institutions like CSU-Fullerton and others who have access to some wonderful art and papers connected to the work of Phillip K. Dick will have some displays that year to mark the occasion. It would be nice to see a convention organize a celebration seriously.

Part of what I'd like to see is of course a film festival that shows all of the major cuts of Blade Runner, and the upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049. Additionally, I think a solid case can be made to include screenings of the short-lived Total Recall 2070 TV series, which owes much more to Blade Runner than the Total Recall film it was named after.


We've seen an increase in the number of fan films made in homage to Blade Runner since at least 2011. To provide an initial resource for would-be film festival programmers, here's a few that have caught my eye that I'd consider.

Some are of better quality than others, and some miss many points of the world that Ridley Scott and the others envisioned while adapting Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But even so, I think it may be worth looking at them to have conversations about what a more fully-realized vision will entail. Considering recent statements that in his mind, Blade Runner operates in the same world of Alien, this also opens up some distinct possibilities such as the Prometheus and Predator series or Kurt Russell's film Soldier.  

Speedrun: Blade Runner in 60 seconds certainly captures a good majority of the themes and memorable scenes of Blade Runner to bring everyone up to speed who hasn't seen it yet. #SpoilerAlert, naturally.

You might also do well to compare and contrast it to the 8-bit Cinema recap of Blade Runner if it had been a reasonably good game, compared to the actual Commodore 64 game that came out.

I would hope that an effort would be made to showcase some of the cutscenes from the Westwood Blade Runner game from 1996, with some of the designers discussing the thinking that went into it.

Among recent fan films is the subdued Tears in the Rain and the atmospheric Slice of Life.

2016 gave us the short film Rogue Investment using the Grand Theft Auto tools. Obviously, it's very rough, but I would give it a few points for trying to push the game engine about as far as it could be pushed to create a neo-noir Los Angeles. 

A 2015 trailer was released for "Blade Runner 2" which asked what might have happened after the events of Blade Runner with a reasonably complex story it was trying to tell:

2011 gave us XXIT which is notable for the successful low-budget approach for the time in recreating the Blade Runner universe, with a touch of the Terminator thrown into the mix.

2013's True Skin, set in Bangkok  also has my vote for consideration, and it has been in the process of getting adapted into a series by Amazon, apparently. 

In December 2016, LOVE magazine also did a video that was supposedly an homage to the interview with Rachel in Blade Runner, where a Voight-Kampff test is administered to someone who might reasonably be suspected of being your basic pleasure model like Pris, thanks to Victoria's Secret model Cami Morrone. I personally prefer Sean Young's approach, but there you have it:

Are there any short films I've missed that should be a part of a Blade Runner mini-film festival? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Exhibit: The Spirit of Invention by Tim Hawkinson

On exhibit until April 14th at Pasadena City College is Tim Hawkinson's Spirit of Invention. It's a short visit, but there are a few noteworthy pieces to consider, primarily his Average Vitruvian Man and Thumbsucker. Admission is free. It's a quick stop but an enjoyable one.

Hawkinson is recognized internationally for his creativity. His approach is to mix "high tech and low tech in unexpected confluence, his resulting artworks are a wonder of creative ingenuity. Because of his remarkable spirit of invention and the wonderfully unpredictable outcomes of his inquisitive postulations."

His 2016 Average Vitruvian Man references the famous Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, which was based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry and classical architecture. Here, all the main body parts have been photographed in the round, and averaged into identically sized 8 1/2 x 11” prints wrapped around plastic soda bottles.

Hawkinson's work has been called "a playful dance with life itself." In his 2015 Thumbsucker, we see a moon "formed from enlarged and reduced casts of the artist’s mouth, and the astronaut is formed through casts – also enlarged and reduced – of his thumb and fingers. " 

Pasadena City College notes that "This exhibition of Hawkinson’s work offers a sampling of artworks throughout his career, in hopes that the viewer may witness this ongoing thread of creative genius, this unexpected, serendipitous pairing of high and low that marks Hawkinson’s innovative process of discovery."

Per his bio:
Tim Hawkinson's (b. 1960, San Francisco) idiosyncratic creations are meditations on nature, machines, mortality, the body and human consciousness. Since the 1980s, the artist has used common found and store-bought materials, handcrafted objects, and machines to shift familiar subject matter off-kilter, creating visual conundrums and conceits imbued with deeper meaning. His inventive works range in size from monumental kinetic and sound-producing sculptures to almost microscopic pieces created from such unassuming materials as fingernail clippings and eggshells. Driven by ideas, materials, and an interest in transformation, Hawkinson continues to create unlikely and thought-provoking associations by transforming common materials into works of art. Hawkinson received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015.

[Road Trip] Museum of Neon Art, Glendale, CA

Founded in 1981 the Museum of Neon Art is a definite treasure of Southern California. The Museum of Neon Art "encourages learning, curiosity and expression through the preservation, collection and interpretation of neon, electric and kinetic art. Neon is a gateway between scientific principles and artistic expression. Neon illumination integrates electrical technology, creative design, and fundamental concepts of physics and chemistry."

The Museum of Neon Art currently holds the distinction of being the only museum in the world devoted exclusively to art in electric media, exhibiting electric and kinetic fine art, and outstanding examples of historic neon signs, for over 30 years. Which may sound like hyperbole, but I found it to be an apt description.

Presently, their main exhibit is the art of plasma, which I found extremely fascinating. It's on display until July 30th, and well worth the visit no matter what your artistic discipline. There's much to consider with this medium, and I'd love to see how Lao artists might take on such a form even as it would require an engagement with the sciences and the humanities in a way that not all of us have ready access to.

It's been 18 years since the Museum of Neon Art last presented an exhibit on plasma, and director Kim Koga was a wonderful host during my visit recently, putting it all into context.

Here are just a handful of the amazing and wonderful displays I saw:

I particularly appreciated this because we often think of neon art as a very two dimensional affair to appreciate primarily from a single angle, but here the plasma art made a very good case that much of it must be seen from 360 degrees, and the very best pieces allow for tactile engagement, although the general public rarely gets to do so. Private collectors would do well to obtain such wonders.

Presently, the MONA is open only from Thursday to Sunday, typically from noon until 7pm, except for 5pm on Sunday. Admission is typically $10 or $5 if you're a Glendale resident. Children under 12 can come for free. It's located at 216 Brand Street and is near some good restaurants and shopping before or after.

Parking is somewhat tricky because the back lots behind the museum fill up fast, but it is not impossible.  $35 also gets you a year's membership, which I think is more than reasonable to preserve such treasures.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

50 Years Later: Remembering Otto Rene Castillo

It's time I think for a repost of Otto Rene Castillo's poem "Apolitical Intellectuals," here in the August 1970 edition of the Ann Arbor Sun. Born to the middle class family in Quetzaltenango, Otto Rene Castillo wrote 2 volumes of poetry in his lifetime. In 1967, he was interrogated, tortured, and burned alive by the Guatemalan government. This year, March 23rd marks the 50th anniversary of his death. He would have been 83 years old on April 25th. Keep involved.

Doxiepunk Dachshund Adventure of the Week!

"When you meet a philosopher on the road..."
Cal-Tech, Pasadena, CA.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Presenting at G-Fest XXIV!

art by Chris Scalf

For the very first time, I'll be presenting at G-Fest, the international Godzilla Convention this July on "Kaiju and Speculative Poetry"! See you in Chicago on July 16th in the Kennedy Room at noon at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare! The hotel is located at: 5440 N River Rd, Rosemont, Illinois.

Special guests for G-FEST XXIV include composer Michiru Ōshima, designer/illustrator Yuji Kaida, director and special effects director Shinji Higuchi, actor Ryuki Kitaoka, assistant director Kazuhiro Nakagawa, comics industry veteran Tony Isabella, and actor Robert Scott Field. Movies to be announced.

As the author of 6 books of science fiction poetry, my very first featured many poems that first appeared in G-Fan Magazine (a poem cycle entitled 'The Kaiju and I'). This year it's celebrating its 10th anniversary. On The Other Side Of The Eye qualified me for my 2009 NEA Fellowship. My book of Lao American Lovecraftian poetry, DEMONSTRA (Innsmouth Free Press, 2013) won the Science Fiction Poetry Association's 2014 Elgin Award for Book of the Year and continued to expand upon the kaiju tradition in Laos.

This year, I'll be discussing the work of Jay Snodgrass, Bao Phi, Yusef Komunyakaa, Bryan D. Dietrich​, Simon-Bucher Jones, and other poets who've addressed Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, and other legendary giant monsters in verse.

I'd like to put together a reasonable introductory list to kaiju poems for our participants, so if you have a poem or even a whole cycle or chapbook of poems you think are appropriate for the conversation, drop me a line at by May 1st, so I can get started putting the list together!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Visiting Artist at UC Merced!

I'm excited to announce that this April I will be the Visiting Artist for the University of California-Merced from April 2nd to 30th thanks to their Center for Humanities.

This will include a variety of readings, workshops, and brownbag talks with the community both on campus and in the city examining the intersections of the humanities and the arts with our world, particularly through the lens of refugees, immigrants and science fiction poetry. This is a groundbreaking project and I'm honored to be selected for it. More details to come soon!

[Poem] Here, the River Haunt.

The opening poem to my second collection of Lao American speculative poetry, BARROW.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#Blessed comes to Philadelphia May 6, 2017!

I'll see you in Philly during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Catzie Vilayphonh and Laos In The House as they continue their innovative pop-up program combining refugee stories, the culinary and literary arts in the City of Brotherly Love. I'm so proud of her continuing journey to share Lao culture with the world.

This time around I'll be discussing the meaning of refugee and immigrant journeys four decades later for Southeast Asians in today's political climate and how we respond to that as artists, as human beings. And maybe who puts the Phi in Philly, but that comes much later in the evening. ;) It's been 7 years since I last visited Pennsylvania, so I look forward to seeing how much has changed. And of course, eating a genuine cheesesteak again. :)

#TBT: Lao American Writers Summit

7 years ago we received word that our 5-page grant I wrote had been accepted, giving us $5,000 to start the first National  Lao American Writers Summit in Minnesota. We eventually raised $13K and set in motion a vital gathering that continues to meaningfully bring our refugee writers and community builders together to share our stories and expand our sense of what we can do together.

We convened in August, 2010 at the historic The Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, gathering together nearly a hundred emerging and established Lao refugee artists and writers to share and exchange their work and ideas. This was an audacious, perhaps even outrageous idea for its time, but as we see the continued, tangible impact of that gathering it reminds me of the importance of the arts in our lives and valuing our voices.

This all reminds me how much can be done even on a shoestring budget. Gatherings that can make such a pivotal difference in our world. Many of these artists would meet for the very first time in 40 years. Many of them have continued to collaborate since then.

I thank my amazing fellow founding co-chairs who were with me at the beginning: Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, Catzie Vilayphonh and Chanida Phaengdara Potter. For all of my fellow refugees in diaspora from so many nations and cultures, I hope this message resonates with you: It's Possible.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

[Poet Spotlight] Leah Silvieus

Leah Silvieus is the author of Anemochory from Hyacinth Girl Press. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, and was raised in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from The American Academy of Poets, Kundiman, and US Poets in Mexico.You can get a sense of her poetry at the Four Way Review, with poems such as "Still Life with Fallen Game."

Her work has also appeared in CURA, The Collagist, and diode, among others. She has been nominated for The Best of the Net Anthology. Her multimedia poetry projects have been featured at the O, Miami Poetry Festival, The Paragraph Gallery in Kansas City, MO, and the Asian American Women Artists Association in San Francisco. She is a certified yoga teacher and holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Miami. The Collagist has a fine interview with her to get a sense of where she's coming from as a writer.

She currently divides her time between Florida and New York where she works in the yacht hospitality industry.

Monday, March 13, 2017

[Poem] Little Bear (Ursa Minor)

My poem, "Little Bear (Ursa Minor)" first appeared in Astropoetica, and then in my first full-length collection of Lao American speculative poetry, On The Other Side Of The Eye in 2007.

Friday, March 10, 2017

When Everything Was Everything reading: March 12th with Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay

Demonstrating the power of short notice, Lao American poet Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay has announced her reading of her manuscript as partial fulfillment of her Masters of Liberal Studies Final Project. If you can make it to Goldne's Lowertown in St. Paul on Sunday, March 12th from 2-4 PM, you're in for a treat.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day: Women of Speculative Poetry

Happy International Women's Day!

As a poet, I've been honored to have the privilege of reading the work of many outstanding women who've added greatly to science fiction, fantasy, horror and the imagination through their verse. I regret that I can't share pictures of everyone who's been involved with growing the cosmos of arts and letters, but here are just a few who've been making a difference and adding their voice, and I hope you'll all take the time out to find even more writers out there and encourage them.

I will say, this was a LOT of reading, but it was an effort happily undertaken! I look forward to seeing so much more from all of them! his fine assembly includes a Pulitzer Prize winner, PhDs, SFWA Grand Masters, SFPA Grand Masters, Rhysling, Elgin, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award winners, and so many more. There can be no argument this is fine company to keep. It also includes emerging writers from whom I expect great things in the future.

What makes me particularly excited is that many of them are among the very first in their cultures to be writing speculative poetry. This is no small thing.

As always, please accept my apologies that this can't be an encyclopedic post, but I hope that others will share their favorites here or elsewhere to help us expand our familiarity with so many of the imaginative voices of speculative poetry.

[Poet Spotlight] Do Nguyen Mai

Do Nguyen Mai is a Vietnamese-American poet and musician living in the Los Angeles area. Her work has been published in the Rising Phoenix Review, and her debut poetry collection is Ghosts Still Walking was released in 2016 from Platypus Press, which is a 2017 Elgin Award nominee for Book of the Year.

In her collection there are a great many poems to admire, with my personal favorites including "Knitting Needles," "Firestorm" and her brief "Devour," whose imagery definitely lingers for any of us with roots in the Southeast Asian diaspora. I'm definitely looking forward to her follow-up, which hopefully won't be too long from now.

In what little free time she has, she can be found researching Southeast Asian history, ranting about current Southeast Asian political events, and teaching Vietnamese to young children.   She's the ambitious founder and editor-in-chief of Rambutan Literary, which is now accepting submissions for its fourth issue:

Do Nguyen Mai wears many hats, as writers are wont to do, including serving as the social media manager for The Fem and previously helped the journal Half Mystic in a similar capacity.Whether awake or asleep, she often dreams of a day when her family will have a home to return to.

Don't miss Ghosts Still Walking.

Monday, March 06, 2017

2017 ALEC conference comes to Sacramento

Hosted by Lao American Advancement Organization (LAAO), the 2017 Annual Lao Education Conference will connect Lao American youth who are prospective college students with leading scholars, artists and community builders to discover the opportunities ahead of them and how to succeed. Among those presenting will be Sahtu Press author and founder Nor Sanavongsay. Other confirmed speakers include web-developer and project manager Emmaly Manchanthasouk, Tony Ouk, a Silicon Valley business manager. and tech start-up founder Sysamone Phaphon.

ALEC is a one-day event, Friday, March 10 at 9 AM - 4 PM and will be held at CSU Sacramento at 6000 J St, Sacramento, California 95819. ALEC is a free conference for all middle and high school Lao American students! Registration is required to attend ALEC. It's particularly designed for students in the Sacramento City Unified School District or Twin Rivers Unified School District.

[Poem] Golden Triangle, Holy Mountain

Saturday, March 04, 2017

[Road Trip] A Visit To Tankland!

Known by several different names, including the American Society of Military History or the American Military Museum, Tankland is located in South El Monte near Los Angeles and Pasadena California, right next to the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area.

Naturally, enough, this is an outdoor museum that closes during bad weather, and it has limited hours relatively speaking. The museum is open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00AM to 4:30PM. They have tour booklets in English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

 Arrangements for vehicle or equipment rental, school tours, group tours, photo shoots, special event, birthday parties, or any other questions can be asked during office hours, which are Tuesday through Friday from 8:00AM to 4:00PM. Admission is $5 for adults which is a great price if you're into this sort of thing. They can only take cash, as an FYI but there are gas stations nearby with ATMs. Be aware that the entrance to the museum can come up a bit quick.

Presently, it's all American military vehicles, some in better shape than others. There's no throwing rocks, climbing on tanks, or smoking for a variety of good reasons and decorum.

They have a number of artillery pieces, a Police Rescue Vehicle with battering ram, jeeps, supply trucks from different eras and even an imitation of a Japanese tank used during the MGM film "Windtalkers."

They also have a UH-1B Huey helicopter which is handy if you want to get a good dramatic shot for whatever reason:

They're presently in the process of restoring a P61 "Black Widow" quad gun turret thanks to Steve Wagner, a 1950's M38A1C Jeep and 106mm Recoilless Rifle thanks to Mark Walter and Daniel French is restoring a 1940's Air Raid Siren.

Overall, I think you can spend a good half-hour to an hour looking at the various vehicles and getting an appreciation for what we put into use around the world. You can see how far we've come with some of our vehicles, and what technologies have remained difficult to improve upon.

The selection of vehicles reflects all of the branches of US military service, and they have a handy tour booklet you can take with you across the grounds if you want to read more about the specific pieces there. I wish them continued success and more support in the years ahead as we preserve and appreciate this aspect of our nation's history and the men who were a part of it.

As someone with an interest in the Secret War for Laos, I found it an enjoyable visit and would also pair this with a visit to the nearby March Field Air Museum, which is about an hour away. It's relatively easy to do both in a single day.