Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Persnickety Technology and Hmong American Poetry

Youtube is acting up as far as searching for the previously cited entries I posted, so here are some of the more recent videos for your entertainment until they get their search function properly enabled. Above, Pacyinz Lyfoung reads her poem about the Hmong diaspora over the last 4,000 years.

Here, Kaying Thao reads her memoir excerpt Becoming A Pastor's Kid.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Updates Of Note

For the readers of my horror work, the new issue of Dark Wisdom has arrived and I can officially say it's rocking as they switch over to the all new full-color format.

You'll really want to check this issue out because it features my non-fiction article on the mysterious spirit city of Xieng Khuan in Laos. Some of you may remember the locale from my presentation at Diversicon in August during the Cryptogeography session. And I will say as a writer, I've had a very good experience dealing with the folks at Elder Signs Press, and I hope more people discover them in the coming years ahead.

I've been busy this weekend uploading footage from the recent Camden Coffee Company readings organized by David Zander. We've got the footage of Dr. Gary Yia Lee available now, as well as some additional poems by Pacyinz Lyfoung and a short non-fiction essay by Kaying Thao at

Over the next few days I hope to have the remaining footage from the Outsiders Within release party up. We recently added Kim Park Nelson's "Shopping For Children In the International Marketplace" and will soon be adding more.

And that's about it for now. Ho ho ho!

Friday, December 22, 2006


The first ad is up at Youtube for the new reading "Parallax" that Hmong American writer Pacyinz Lyfoung and I will be giving at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis on Friday, January 26th, 2007 starting at 7:00 PM.

It's free and it'll change the way you look at Hmong, Lao and Asian American poetry. With door prizes, surprises and fun for all!

Made possible in part by generous donations and support from COMPAS and the Loft Literary Center as well as our friends and family. See you there!

(And a special thanks to Kachouaz Lyfoung for providing the music to this video...)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Asian American Poetry Videos Online

Well, over on Youtube, we just had the addition of Mong-Lan's performance in Kuala Lumpur. The music is a little distracting for me, but as far as I can figure out, it's one of the first times we've seen her giving a reading. Google it, and there's an old interview I did with her a year or two ago running around online.

But anyway, just for an interesting contrast, here's a snippet from a Bao Phi performance.

Hopefully, we'll be seeing some more good stuff coming up soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

From the Dept. of D'oh!

Now, this is just silly.

Over at NPR they've reported in "Border Fence Firm Snared for Hiring Illegal Workers" the Golden State Fence Company will be fined $5 million dollars for using undocumented workers, including some who helped to construct some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico.

In fact, U-S Attorney Carol Lam says as many as a third of the company's 750 workers may have been in the country illegally. Thanks to Power and Politics for the heads up on this.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


A few weeks back, Lee Herrick posited that he might never watch TV again, thanks to youtube, and I have to agree- the proliferation of videos on demand allows me to bid adieu to the functionally useless MTV and MTV2.

I mean, really- there WAS a time when it was all music videos, the whole music video, all the time, with only an occasional VJ there to put it into context.

Well, if you've got a fast connection, some new poems of mine have gone up on youtube as part of an effort to put more genuine literary content on the internet besides some of the crappier stuff that's already out there. Particularly among the presently poorly under-represented Asian American poetry scene (as of 12/06 currently hovering at a little over 30 entries or so. )

I'm happy with most of the results- some glitches here and there on the sound, but that couldn't be helped due to some emergency surgery I had to do on the videotape at one point. I'm glad most of it is intact as it is...

But anyway, search for Bryan Thao Worra or "Laotian American Poetry", and you'll have an opportunity to see what's some of my poetry sounds like, as read by the author.

Here's Surprises In America, that first appeared in the journal London Ghetto Poets a few years back.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hmong tragedy in CA

The December 2nd issue of the Sacramento Bee has a tragic story about the failure of police to provide adequate support for a Hmong family seeking help to find their missing son, Keng Yang.

According to the article, "A boy lost, a rift bared for Hmong, authorities" By Crystal Carreon:

"Everybody feels that the sheriff really didn't use the effort to get the boy," said Paul Moua, president of the Hmong American Association, a nonprofit group that serves Sutter and Yuba counties. "That's how we feel -- that we were not being treated equally."

Sutter County Undersheriff J. Paul Parker said resources and risk -- not race -- were the reasons authorities abandoned the search of the bypass hours after the boy disappeared amid gunfire on Nov. 22. That evening, the current was fast and some depths dropped to 20 feet...

But really, you should check out the rest of the article and see for yourself. It's an important read.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Looking back on Anti-Asian Violence, 1994-2002

Between 1994-2002 NAPALC released the only comprehensive, nationwide, non-governmental compilation and analysis of anti-Asian violence in the United States. The electronic versions were made possible by Verizon and are available free of charge.

I always thought they provided a very sobering picture of the situation today, although there were areas where the results could have been improved, including better analysis of the meaning of some of these statistics. Still, it's a good place to start, and for those of us working on anti-violence issues, it's worth a refresher.

Reflecting: 1 Year Later.

This is from an op-ed I'd written for the Pioneer Press after the Chai Soua Vang veridct last year on October 20th, 2005. Over a year later, I find that sadly, much of it remains relevant, particularly for my brothers and sisters in Detroit who are going through a very difficult time. I'm re-posting this in solidarity, and to remind us that we still have a long road.

Asian-Americans must speak up

In the wake of the Chai Soua Vang verdict, now, more than ever, Asian-Americans need to talk candidly about race and racism, or the American dream shall never truly be ours. Throughout the trial, Asian-American leaders uttered little more than politically correct, safe pronouncements hoping for fairness and justice, but said little to help others understand: Yes, racism against Asian-Americans is serious.

The fear Asian-Americans have for their life is connected to a long history of racism we have every reason to take seriously. When Vincent Chin was murdered in 1982 in suburban Detroit, his white killers never served a day in prison. They paid only a fine of $3,000. They called him a "Jap," caving his skull in with baseball bats. The scant punishment implied a license to kill Asians.

In 1998, a 13-year-old Hmong girl, Panhia Lor, was gang-raped, beaten and murdered, her battered corpse left to rot in a Minnesota park like a pile of trash. Her killers called her "gook" and "chink" as they raped her. We were told it was not a hate crime. It was not a racist act.

In 2001, Thung Phetakoune, a 62-year-old veteran from Laos, died after Richard Labbe cracked Thung's skull open on the sidewalks of New Hampshire. Labbe told police, "What's going on is that those Asians killed Americans and you won't do anything about it, so I will. Call it payback." Phetakoune risked his life for Americans stationed in Laos. Trying to rebuild his life, this is how it ended.

In January 2005, 36-year-old Tou Yang, a father of three, was shot at home by the Milwaukee police seven times, including three times in the head because the police could not find a nonviolent resolution, like tear gas or a stun gun. Tou Yang's case was eerily similar to that of Tong Kue, another 36-year-old Hmong man was shot at home in Detroit in June 1998 by police.

We're told: "There isn't a pattern. It's just a fluke." We're told to turn a blind eye to a culture that consistently depicts us as aliens, foreigners and the enemy. Every time someone calls us a "gook," "chink" or "Chinaman," ignore it like good Uncle Toms.

Why can't we laugh it off? Because words that demean us pave the way for greater violence. Filmmaker Gode Davis, researching "American Lynching: Strange and Bitter Fruit," estimates as many as 200 Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos died from American lynchings, yet we never confront this.

It's time we call things as we see them, because things only get worse, not better, from our silence. Whether it's politically correct can no longer matter. We must hold America accountable for how it treats Asians, or else the dream will fail us just as it failed the Chinese laborers who died ignominiously constructing the American railroad, or the Japanese unjustly forced into internment camps during World War II while German- and Italian-Americans were not.

After 30 years, most of the U.S. remains unaware of the Southeast Asians who died to protect Americans during the Southeast Asian wars of the 20th century.

The culture we get is the culture we make. So, someone needs to say it: Asian-Americans are sick of the slurs, ignorance and stereotypes. We're fed up with injustice against our community. We want life, liberty and happiness as much as anyone else.

And if that means speaking up, so be it. Because this is our country, too.

Disappointment in Priorities

It's a little small-minded of me, but I'm going to say: Watching the chatter among other Asian Pacific American blogs, I'm deeply disappointed that the biggest thing we can harp on is Rosie, while other issues such as the excessive police violence against Chon Buri Xiong barely make a blip.

And no one is talking at length about the issue of 'material support' provisions in the PATRIOT Act and the REAL ID Act.

US policies that will particularly affect Burmese, Hmong, Montagards and other refugee populations from Asia and around the world in very real and concrete ways.

I WILL say that as long as we all get in an uproar over c-list celebrities making an ass of themselves but turn a blind eye to real policies and issues that affect our community, we forfeit our right to be surprised at the lack of genuine progress in Asian Pacific America.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

DAY Project Chon Buri Xiong Mtg. Friday

The DAY project in Detroit is holding a support meeting this week in the Chon Buri Xiong case.

Please join them this Friday for their weekly meeting to continue their efforts to help the Xiong family find justice for their son. They will be sharing updates from last week, as well as discussing how we can support them as the new year approaches.

Meeting to Support the Xiong Family of Warren, MI
Friday, December 15, 2006
6:00 - 7:00 PM
Boggs Center
3061 Field Ave.
Detroit, Michigan

Following the meeting, please join DAY Project at
their Holiday Party from 7:00-8:00 PM
Contact:dayproject [at] gmail [dot] com
(313) 333-3112

Monday, December 11, 2006

Southeast Asian 'Terrorists' and the Patriot Act

Way back in January, and throughout the year, I'd written editorials for both the Pioneer Press and Hmong Today and even gave a number of short lectures on the matter to Hmong student groups about the problem that the PATRIOT ACT and our current definitions of terrorist could lead to significant difficulties for Hmong refugees seeking naturalization or to those who were trying to help their relatives back in the old country.

This of course could also apply to Lao, Tai Dam, Iu Mien, and any number of other refugees whose families or friends had been part of the US / Royal Lao Government army and anti-LPDR resistance.

To the United States, a terrorist is defined under Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d):

—The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

—The term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving the territory or the citizens of more than one country.

—The term “terrorist group” means any group that practices, or has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism.

Right-wing Republican Hmong told me I was being paranoid and the PATRIOT ACT had no relevance to our Hmong community.

But a recent alert from Hmong National Development has pointed out that this is a very real issue:

On Tuesday, December 12, 2006, Hmong National Development, Inc. (HND) along with Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), Human Rights First, and numerous other local and national organizations will participate in a national letter writing campaign to the White House regarding “material support” legislation.

They point out that:
...thousands of vulnerable refugees have been prevented from receiving asylum or being resettled in the U.S. because of sweeping immigration provisions included in the USA PATRIOT Act and the REAL ID Act that relate "material support" to "terrorist" organizations.

The government's concept of "material support" is so broad that it ends up affecting refugees who do not support terrorism, and even refugees who are actually the victims of violent groups. In addition, refugees who have arrived in the U.S. may be affected when they adjust their immigration status in order to gain permanent residence. The material support bar is currently impacting refugees from around the world, including Hmong and Montagnards.

And added this succinct summary:

How does “material support” affect the Hmong community?
In 2003, some 15,000 Hmong-Lao refugees in Thailand, primarily at Wat Thamkrabok, were given the opportunity to seek resettlement in the United States. However, this process left out thousands of other Hmong refugees who left their refugee camps for fear of repatriation and found relative sanctuary in Wat Thamkrabok, a Buddhist temple in central Thailand. Under the broad definition of the “material support” statute, both groups are in danger of having their immigration status indefinitely held up – whether applying for citizenship in the U.S. or awaiting resettlement in Thailand. Many members of the Hmong community have fought alongside U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. The broad definition of providing “material support” to “terrorist organization(s)” implies that by taking up armed resistance against the Lao Communist government, many of these Hmong people have engaged in “terrorist activity” against the government.

They've asked the community to:
Send a letter to the White House on Tuesday, December 12th, 2006 in order to let President Bush know that community members across the country expect the removal of the "material support" bar as it applies to refugees and asylum seekers.

As always, you may send your letter to the White House via e-mail at: or you may send the letter via the post office to: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500.

I'm going to go an extra step and point out that this has implications not only for the present and immigration questions, but long-term issues for our community.

For example, would Hmong and Lao candidates for high-level positions in the State Department or the military be denied security clearance for their involvement with 'terrorists'?

Hmong and Lao researchers who work for labs with government contracts or medical facilities who treat government employees could suddenly face difficulties because of these 'ties', even if the act was a simple as buying a music CD put out by a group who wanted to donate clothes and money to armed refugees in Laos.

Even if those arms were just used for subsistence hunting, for example, how does one prove that they weren't used in an attack on the Lao government? And who's to say what constitutes an attack? If a shot was fired, even accidentally, or in self-defense, will the law recognize the finer shades of gray on the matter?

Counter-terrorism is a serious and valid issue, but at the same time, we need to understand the effects and implications of our legislative language and fine tune it to effectively defeat terrorism without it coming at the expense of our families and allies.

So, hopefully we'll see some people take time to drop a quick note off to the president on the matter tomorrow. It's only a few minutes, but it will make a difference in the lifetimes of those we care for.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Special Note of Thanks

This week to Kate Kysar and her students at Anoka Ramsey Community College who were a wonderful audience on December 7. I appreciated all of your questions and comments, and look forward to the next time we can talk!

Holiday Reading: December 23

Celebrating the Holidays and Hmong New Year:
An evening of poetry and music with Valeng Cha, Xis Xiong, Bryan Thao Worra, and friends:

Saturday, December 23, 2006: 7-9 p.m.
Camden Coffee House
1500 44th Ave North.
(corner of Humboldt Ave North and 44th Ave in North Mpls.)
Free and open to the public.

It will be great if you can make it!

Kissed By The Sun: Reading On Thursday

A Carol Connolly Reading Series Women of Color Reading
Minneapolis, MN, on December 14, 2006.
Featured artists:

May Lee is a former member of the Hmong spoken word group, FIRE (Free Inspiring Rising Elements) and has been published in Bamboo Among the Oaks, Paj Ntaub Voice, Unarmed Journal and The St. Paul Almanac.

Tiana Newbauer-Hampton, a member of GNO (Girls Night Out), a polymaedumacated (BA honours at First Nations University of Canada in poli-sci, a certificate in Russian Language and study of Aboriginal Peoples of Siberia from Tomsk State Pedagogical University, and a Masters in Telecommunications from Saint Mary's) life-long student.

The reading will be at 7:00 PM at Patrick's Cabaret on 3010 Minnehaha Ave in Minneapolis and is hosted by Sherry Quan Lee.

All Carol Connolly Readings are free and open to the public. This Carol Connolly Reading is sponsored in part by Patrick's Cabaret. For more information, go to

Dr. Gary Yia Lee to Teach Hmong Literature

Following on his successful residency this Fall, Dr. Gary Yia Lee is staying on in St Paul next quarter to teach a four credit course on Hmong Literature at the Hmong Studies Center, Concordia University.

The class will be held Wednesday evenings from 4:20 – 8:20 p.m.

It is possible for Hmong writers and educators from the community to audit this course. Many of the novels/reading materials will be in Hmong. This promises to be a very unique course.

For more information and to check on above details contact the Hmong Studies Center:

(Inquire now to confirm starting dates and how to register for Jan 2007)

Justice for Chon Buri Xiong

The Detroit Asian Youth Project at is mobilizing to raise awareness of the Chon Buri Xiong case. If you get a chance, stop by and support them if you can.

The following is a brief summary of the case details:

On September 17, 18 year-old Chon Buri Xiong was fatally shot 27 times in his home by the Warren police. The Xiong family has suffered a great tragedy and is very upset about the incident.

The Macomb County prosecutor has closed the case, stating that the police officers acted properly. However, the Xiong family’s side of the story has not been taken seriously by the authorities and has not been repored by the media.

The Xiong family deserves justice. They have many concerns about the police behavior that require a deeper investigation.

It actually reminds me a great deal of the Tong Kue case earlier in Detroit in 1998 and the shooting of Tou Yang in Milwaukee in 2005.

In all of this time, I'd hoped that we would have reached a greater sense of dialogue between our communities, the city and the police.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

UN Urgently Racing To Prevent Hmong Deportation

UN in urgent talk to prevent deportation of Hmong

Officials from the United Nations refugee agency were involved in urgent talks Friday to try to prevent the deportation of 152 Hmong back to Laos.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they believed the Hmong would be at "serious risk of persecution or loss of life" if returned to Laos, according to a recent article in the Nation.

New Additions To The Family

Yay. Today, a new trio of hermit crabs has come to stay with us. They're already pretty lively and getting a sense of their new home, where they'll be well-fed and warm. But I should say there is no immediate truth to the rumor that I drop my speaking fee by 10% with the gift of sea monkeys or hermit crabs.

On my reading list: Nextwave

From a comics point of view, I'll look back on 2006 as a year marked with some real gems, but sadly most of them also ended, were one-shots or are ending. The Losers and The Punisher: Tyger are two particular examples that come to mind, but the one I'll really be sad to see going is Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Written by Warren Ellis, it's a hilarious respite from comics who have been taking themselves way too seriously, bludgeoning us with irritating year-long cross-over mega-maxi-events aping the Crisis on Infinite Earths. (Civil War and 52 can end any minute now, thank you...)

Nextwave is absurd and refreshing with great characters and stories told in two-issue arcs. The recently released hardcover collects the first 6 issues and is a great introduction to the series.

Ellis described Nextwave as "an absolute distillation of the superhero genre. No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It’s people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode."

And you know what, it works. I'd especially recommend it for those who grew up reading comics during the 1980s and 90s. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

President Sharkey The Impaler

I'm amusing way too easily these days.

But it looks like it's true:
Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey is running for President in 2008 on the vampire... I mean, Independent ticket. You can check out his forms here.

Apparently he was found not guilty on all of the other business, and he's back in action at

And he has a documentary out about him. No, not Sharkey's Machine. It's Impaler, A Satanic Vampire Runs for Governor at

I think there are still some parts of his foreign and domestic policy to flesh out, but I will say this: While some may resent the fact that he's running on pure moxy at this point, my immediate retort to those who'd outright dismiss his candidacy is:

Although this is an EXTREME example, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: If we don't want the United States to be a plutocracy or to fall under the sway of oil and energy dynasties who willfully compromise our civil liberties, then we need to work to create a system in which ANY American has an equal chance for election.

It's time to make the United States of America live up to its promises.
Now, I'm not saying vote for any person who just comes along, but come 2008, I'm voting for the one who convinces ME with their vision, and not the one who convinces some party machine.
Now, if Sharkey could find some way to bring back Emperor Norton, as his running mate, I'd be paying a lot of attention. And as a final note? At least he's up-front about his 'evil.' :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gojira Shaped Building? We can only hope!

Our good buddy Wah-Ming Chang (the live writer living in New York, not the dead ones) sent over a note to Tripmaster Monkey about the recent post by Ironic Sans regarding the theoretical possibility of a Godzilla-shaped building in Japan. It's too good to keep quiet. :)

Oh, please! Yes! :)

To Dream The Impossible Dream.

This would make it one of the only buildings in the world I'd happily pay money to see built.

As the creator of Giant Lizard Theater, I heartily endorse this 'project' ;)

Even if no one else is even seriously thinking about making it right now.

Thanks, Ironic Sans!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blame the Pornorgraphers

All right- Now, I'm the farthest thing you can get from a prude, (And that may be too much information, admittedly), BUT, as much as I love hearing from anyone and everyone, due to a recent influx of porn-related spam comments (now deleted) scuzzing up the blog, I've got to enforce comment moderation from now on. Boo hiss! Go peddle smut somewhere else.

Like here.

New addiction: Pirates and Booty

Ok, I admit, I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. They got me back in the old days with Legend of the Five Rings, and now, I have to admit, I'm really starting to like the Pirates of the Coast game since picking up a few packs of their Pirates of the South China Sea edition.

I'm crack shaped like a pirate ship!

I'm not that keen on the fantasy editions that are currently coming out. It seems like we're about a year or two from jumping the shark, if we're not already there, but I have to say it's pretty sweet taking a fleet of Chinese Junks against, oh, just about everyone else.

Still, I'm also going to say that I'm getting sick of games that make me hunt and hunt for the pieces that I need, like, oh, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniature Games.

I'm not even going to go into how many boxes it took for me to finally get my weretiger figure to use for my module "Yer and The Tiger" based on the traditional Hmong folklore story.

Grrr! Grrr!
This creep cost me about $160 looking for him, and he's supposed to be 'uncommon.'

Yeah, right. Jerk.

Look, people, there WAS a time when you could play a game the way you wanted to with all the pieces you need right in the box. This hunt and buy approach gets really old after the first $100.

But hey, I'm ranting now.

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Art Books On My Shelf

While Barbara Jane Reyes is busy wowing us with her hip collection of comics, chanbara and high lit, I might as well take time too to give some nods to some books that actually made it home with me instead of just getting thumbed through at the bookstores.

First up, while kind of macabre for the holidays, I've been meaning to get my hands on it for quite some time: Barlowe's Inferno and Brushfire Illuminations.

Barlowe's Inferno. Dante who?

Frankly, it's captured my imagination and awe a great deal more than many full-fledged novels, graphic or otherwise, with the suggestion and implications embedded within the accompanying text.

They're two really stellar books if you can find them. It's next to impossible these days without going online, but it's worth it.

Hell. Crushing souls and hope since the beginning of death.

I'm also poring through the collection The Art of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos that I'm going to classify as pretty close to a classic, but not perfect.

Frankly, I'm going to have go on the record of saying the big C is way over-exposed now, and has fallen far from the initial monument of mind-blasting madness he was when H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about him.

Ia, Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn!

And while Chaosium, Fantasy Flight and so many other great companies have done the world a great service in keeping his work, controversies and all, in the public eye, the problem is that it's also rendered these unstoppable, cosmic horrors as something defeatable by ordinary humans.

These days, my wife has a hard time seeing Cthulhu as anything more than just a giant walking squid. Sigh. Really, he's quite a scary entity when you encounter him in context... oh, never mind.

Yeah, just what every kid wants for Christmas.

My other quibble is extremely subjective, and it's merely that some artists clearly understand the material, and what is horror in fantastic art, while others sadly, miss the boat by miles and would be better off apprenticing themselves to shopping mall caricaturists. But I'm not going to name names.

It's the holidays. :)

Girls Read Comics And They're Pissed

Now seems like a good time to give a plug to Karen Healey's exceptional blog Girls Read Comics And They're Pissed that provides a great voice for understanding contemporary issues and concerns for women and the comics industry.

One of my favorite posts from her so far has been when she takes artists like Greg Land to task for crappy photo-referencing and a propensity for giving characters 'porn-face'

Can you believe I'm Reed Richard's wife?

I mean really. This is supposed to be Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four?

Give it a read, make it a regular stop.