Monday, December 31, 2007

Asian American Poetry Triple Header: January 25th!

On January 25th at the Loft Literary Center (1011 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis) join us for a unique reading as California-based poet Lee Herrick joins Twin Cities poets Sun Yung Shin and Bryan Thao Worra for a one-night-only performance!

Each will present incredible work from their 2007 debut collections of poetry!

The event is free and there will be food and refreshments, door prizes and a chance to meet the authors:

Lee Herrick was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at eleven months. He is the author of This Many Miles from Desire.

His poems have been published in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Many Mountains Moving, The Bloomsbury Review, MiPOesias, and others, including anthologies such as Seeds from a Silent Tree: Writings by Korean Adoptees, Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a 2000 Los Angeles Poetry Festival Award finalist.

In Skirt Full of Black, Sun Yung Shin employs the techniques of investigative poetry and collage to craft a nuanced, unique language for navigating the politics of gender, ethnicity, and identity. As she spins new myths from Christian and Buddhist traditions and bestows new connotations upon the characters of the Korean alphabet, she gives voice to the spiritual and cultural hunger of those caught between the two.

Bryan Thao Worra's On The Other Side Of The Eye is the first book of Laotian American speculative poetry and is a journey to the hidden edges of the universe and the human soul, examining secret wars and ancient kingdoms, myth, history, science and dreams, drawing on over 17 years of his work that has appeared internationally.

We hope you'll join us for this unique event!

Friday, December 21, 2007

AvPvTvR: A Hypothetical Mockup

From the department of: "I've got a little time on my hands" comes the hypothetical imagining of what would happen if we finally got that ultimate mash-up between Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator vs Robocop.

Functionally impossible because of conflicting licenses and things like that, but I should note we've historically debated Aliens vs. Predator for nearly 20 years since the first Dark Horse Comics mini-series and likewise Terminator vs. Robocop.

Of these franchises, Aliens vs. Predator has a surprising amount of longevity given the source material.

But as a craft exercise, let's see how it might work out:

I'll make the argument that for this story, the setting would take place in New Detroit, the historic home of Robocop and Omnicorp. We'll throw in a possible take-over attempt by Weyland-Yutani, the primary corporation of the Aliens/Predator mythos.

Historically, Cyberdyne and Cyber Research Systems Division have historically been credited with the research and creation that leads to Skynet and the creation of the Terminators.

However, with time travel and alternate futures being a major part of Terminator physics you can pretty much revise the future any way you see fit, including a way to make the historic Frank Miller version close to the canon truth for now: that Skynet gained intelligence by interacting with the Omnicorp product, Robocop.

Presently, we have many interesting and plausible scenarios to work with but presumably we should consider: What will give us the most bang for our buck: Lots of Predators, lots of Aliens, lots of Terminators and using Robocop, then?

From the precedents established in both Predator 2 and Aliens Vs. Predator, the Predators regularly use eggs from an Alien queen to seed selected planets for hunting grounds.

Bringing them all to New Detroit is no problem then. And therefore, a chance for Robocop to try and maintain order.

A fun and plausible scenario for introducing the Terminators is where it can become a challenge.

The two most likely options are pretty obvious: Give Terminators a reason to go back in time, or else demonstrate a prototype Terminator.

Of the two, I prefer the prototype Terminator route.

Before we get too far into this, we should note that many elements of this have already been proposed by fans such as:

We could REALLY have fun presenting the Terminator T-100s as a series originally planned to culminate in the Nexus 6 line, until the technology gleaned from the Predators demonstrates effective research routes to the T-1000 and beyond.

But that's pushing it.

The prototype Terminator model could be getting introduced as a way for Omnicorp and their new Cyberdyne partners to prevent a hostile Weyland-Yutani takeover.

Designed to be a less off-putting, public-relations friendly version of the Robocop concept, the Terminators human appearance has an unexpected advantage: They can be effective lures for Aliens and Predators alike because the lifelike, human appearance of the Terminators registers with enough verisimilitude that they present interesting and provocative targets.

Whereas, Robocop clearly registers as just a machine the Predators would have no interest in.

But an interesting issue may emerge that the Terminators are predominantly guided by inhuman AI priorities, and that by the conclusion of this story, as New Detroit is being overrun by Predators and Aliens and Terminators with a ruthless 'victory at any cost' policy of even shooting through, say, civilians, that Robocops become necessary because while cyborgs, they still maintain enough humanity and compassion for humans that they might be able to accomplish what the Terminators are failing to do.

And solve the current infestation problem.

And you might even see people volunteering to become robocops as the only effective way to counter them all. Which is really where the Robocop concept needs to be taken - we've already explored themes of forced inhumanity and the reassertion / indomitability of the human spirit / soul, memories, etc. But the question needs to be asked, what would happen if a situation arose where people must confront and volunteer for inhumanity?

Interesting issues to ponder for a Holiday weekend. :)

Oh, don't give me that look. :)
At least I didn't put in a Beverly Hills Cop Axl Foley returns home subplot. :)

Or to find a way to bring in the Batman/Superman vs. Predator/Aliens stories that have been done already, or bringing up the Batman vs. Punisher crossover that would then open us up to a thought of Archie vs. Aliens vs. Predator vs. the Punisher from back when the Punisher met Archie.

TRA Jukebox, Christmas 07 Edition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rellics Of Quantum Physics

Schroedinger's Fridge.
It's been examined before, but it's still fun:
Until the fridge is opened, whether the food has spoiled or not is indeterminate! The problem is that the wavefunction doesn't collapse no matter how much we observe. :(

On Monsters

"Monsters are tragic beings; they are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, they are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy": —Ishiro Honda, film director for Toho, most famous for creating Godzilla.

Recommended Watching For On The Other Side Of The Eye

To say cinema has an influence on On The Other Side Of The Eye would be an extreme understatement. To list all of the films that are alluded to or inform On The Other Side Of The Eye would take volumes.

To keep it manageable, here's a short list of films and some clips scattered around youtube that will speak to some of what we're going on about.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner: Blade Runner will get a whole separate and long-overdue post in itself in a matter of days, especially with the release of the Final Cut on December 18th.

But for the purposes of understanding its relationship to On The Other Side Of The Eye I would suggest considering:
  • The concepts of Cityspeak, the amalgam of global languages that has become commonplace in the future of Blade Runner.
  • Director Ridley Scott's technique of layering to near obsessive detail that leaves something new for you to discover every time you watch it.
  • Themes of memory, dreams, love, the environment and the pursuit of 'a chance to begin again' that ultimately boils down to a search, not necessarily for immortality but just "more" life.
  • Themes of vision, displacement and juxtaposition.
  • Ideas of retrofitting, attaching the new to the old.

And many more.

From a craft point of view there are problems with Blade Runner's script and logic but these are easily, easily overlooked against the greater poetry presented before us. But as I said, a longer post will emerge soon enough on Blade Runner. Let's take a look at a few others.

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. Like Don Quixote, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is a film that should be watched and seen at many points in your life because like all truly great art it changes for the audience as they grow older. And to be honest, I love all of the dreams in this film.

But I also find something truly maginifcent in his "Village of the Watermills," that as an audience member reminds me how good it is it to be alive, and as an artist how we can speak of important things simply and in a way that gives hope.

Kurosawa's Rashomon is also an importance influence due to issues of perepective and multiple vantage points and a concern with the truth:

Peter Greenaway's loving tribute to William Shakespeare, Prospero's Books, with Sir John Gielgud is also a strong influence, a love letter not only to the Bard, but to all literature and the truly magical things of the world- hope, love, family, dreams, art. Maddeningly difficult to find for years on DVD, it seems it will soon be available for us all to see in its full glory.

Godzilla films naturally also have their say within the text of On The Other Side Of The Eye. I'll be writing at particular length on the impact and themes I find interesting in the series and the genre later on this month as well.

Heretical as it may sound, I'll throw in a nod to Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!:

We'll discuss a few more influnces in the coming months ahead, both the serious and the guilty pleasures.

Recommended Reading For On The Other Side Of The Eye

Back during Dennis O'Neil's run on the DC Comics title The Question, he always used to include a book each month under the heading "Recommended Reading" which ranged from philosophy to crime fiction and other books.

These weren't essential to understanding a particular month's story, but at the same time were interesting and over the larger course of the series' run, could add to your appreciation of the ideas in play there.

Hundreds of books, films, albums, discussions and experiences inform On The Other Side Of The Eye and perhaps one day I'll do a complete annotation, but for now I thought I'd provide a bakers dozen of 13 or so authors for an example. In no particular order:

The Book of Stratagems: Tactics for Triumph and Survival by Harro von Senger was an interesting approach to discussing the classic 36 Stratagems of Asian philosophy with a dizzying array of historical and legendary examples that are just as interesting as Sun Tzu's classic, Art of War. I'll let audiences decide how and where some, if any, of these ideas were applied in the structure and approach of the On The Other Side Of The Eye.

Joseph Campbell's Power Of Myth has its detractors but the intent to see the amazing ability of stories, of legends and ideas to speak to a culture deeply are relevant and worth engaging with.

Paul Reps Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a classic of Zen and Asian stories and aphorisms that are designed to shake us out of our perceptions of the everyday andd the ordinary to see the world differently.

Adrienne Su's Middle Kingdom. Middle Kingdom gives me a lot to think about as an Asian American writer considering the way to compose a book of Laotian American poetry. There are many fine and readable poems within Middle Kingdom, with great humor and soul worth examining.

Khalil Gibran's The Madman. Gibran's classic The Prophet is nice, but I personally preferred the short, deep stories and anecdotes within this underappreciated classic of his.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. One of the classic masters of horror, his cosmic approach was ground-breaking and his influence continues to speak to later generations long after his contemporaries have become unread.

Jorge Luis Borges Labyrinths and The Dictionary of Imaginary Beings. There are amazing ideas, thoughts and stories at play in both of these books and they are heavily influential on many of the works within On The Other Side Of The Eye in terms of structure, content and theme.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko The Face Behind The Face. Originally picked up for Yevtushenko's poem "People," one of three personal favorite poems of mine, there are many fine gems within this collection.

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Among the arcs that were particularly important to me from this master of the fantastic was Seasons of Mist, Brief Lives, Dream Country and The Doll's House.

Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum or Name Of The Rose. Intelligent and fascinating texts with surprising humor and brilliance, it can take years to unravel all of the topics and allusions Eco is covering, but it's rewarding.

Heather McHugh's Hinge and Sign, particularly her poem "What He Thought."

Yusef Komunyakaa's Talking Dirty To The Gods and Dien Cai Dau. I'm particularly fond of his "Ode To The Maggot" and "Facing It," but there is much to be responded throughout these two books of his.

I'll also name a few bands and musicians whose work I can reasonably cite as influences on the poems in On The Other Side Of The Eye:

Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Shriekback, Eurythmics, Oingo Boingo, The Talking Heads, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Siouxsie and the Banshees.

And of course, many, many others, but try these for a start.

Moments in Cinema: Sanjuro.

One of my favorite films is Sanjuro, particularly the near final lines after Toshiro Mifune's character has defeated his enemy, Muroto, one of the corrupt swordsmen of the film, who forces a reluctant Sanjuro to a final duel.

Sanjuro kills his adversary with a single stroke of 'exemplary' swordsmanship, stunning both for its lightning swiftness and its graphic gore. The young samurai who witness the duel run up to Sanjuro trying to congratulate him, but they are quickly rebuked:

"He was just like me, a naked blade. We're both swords out of our scabbards. But it's like the lady said: really good swords stay in scabbards."

On Hell

One day some students asked a venerated buddhist monk:
"Master, when you die, what will happen to you?"

"I will go to hell," the elder monk replied matter-of-factly.

"Go to hell? How can you say such a thing? You've led such a pure life!" the students protested.

"Hell is where they need me most," he replied.

Goodbye to Carolyn Bye

This week the Twin Cities had a chance to say goodbye to the legendary Carolyn Bye after 14 years as the head of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. An amazing intelligence and spirt, Carolyn was an invaluable advocate and ally in building the arts community in the seven county metro area, and as artists in Minnesota we owe her immensely for helping to foster such a positive environment for our work.

The community gathered at the Red Eye Theatre on 15 West 14th Street in Minneapolis and naturally there were many stirring performances, including a guitar and flute duet by Don Eitel and Suzie Kunyoshi, a magnificent collaborative performance of Sonja Parks' "De will bend, don't break" read by Laurie Carlos and interpreted by dancer Roxane Wallace. Noah Bremer shared an exuberant piece entitled 'A man, a plant, a quest for joy,' and we heard from many exceptional leaders in the non-profit and arts community who were able to express the immense influence and joy Carolyn has brought to Minnesota in her time here.

So long, Carolyn, and thanks for everything!

And while we're at it, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council provides great support to artists and projects in Minnesota and they're a great resource worth checking out:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Red Bamboo

Two artists were visiting each other and working on new landscapes. One colored the bamboo red.

"You should always use the color black for bamboo," the other critiqued.

"Have you ever seen black bamboo?" the artist replied, and went back to work.


Now firmly in the holiday season, it's as good a time as any to remember Festivus!

And yes, I do celebrate Festivus.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ed Lin Reviews OTOSOTE!

The amazing writer Ed Lin, author of the novels Waylaid and the new This Is A Bust, had a great review for On The Other Side Of The Eye. Thanks!

I hope he doesn't mind my reprinting it here! :)

"I've been reading this striking book over the past two months, every day on the train, making my way through the layers of writing and my own thoughts.

It's a remarkable collection, full of lonesome, searching and speculative songs as if Hank Williams contemplated Lovecraft instead of love.

Here's a perfect verse: "In two years, I don't believe I've said more/than a dozen words to my Khmer neighbors/in the apartment below me./That's just the way it is."

Here's a perfect line: "And what we have left to say could explode any minute."

There are many more perfect ones. There are many that are not.

Thao Worra gives it to you together to show you all that is broken and beautiful in this terrible world.

I strongly suggest you buy one here now."

A favorite quote of mine from Hokusai.

Written on his seventy fifth birthday:

From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy five I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'

Among writers, how can we have any less passion for our craft?

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Thought On Resident Evil: Extinction

There's the classic Francis Ford Coppola moment when he shouts, Apocalypse Now isn't about Vietnam, it IS Vietnam.

Which seems a terrible thing to bring up when I think that Resident Evil: Extinction isn't a 'movie' about zombies, it IS the zombie.

It holds the distinction in my mind of being one of the bigger budget films that is not so much a film as a series of derivations, of moments cribbed from other far better movies ranging from Road Warrior to The Birds, to Dawn of the Dead, both versions!

In an effort to avoid giving this terrible film more brain cells than it deserves, I will keep this note short other than to say: A mindless, tediously lumbering assembly of cannibalized bits of once-good films you want to flee from in terror lest it get your brain.

My god, in a weird post-modern way, it's almost brilliant.

But somehow I doubt that was the serious intention of the crew and the studio at the time. On to better things:

Save yourself the trouble of watching this film and go read World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War, a far more entertaining book than just about any zombie film that's come out lately.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TRA Jukebox!

Finishing off National Adoption Month, we present the final installment of TRA Jukebox for 2007. :) Thanks for watching! :)

'Cause I'm worth a million in prizes. ;)

On The Other Side Of The Eye Holiday Special

Let me start this with a very special thanks to everyone from across the country who already bought a copy of On The Other Side Of The Eye for themselves and your friends and family!

I really appreciate it.

You helped make it an amazing success as the first book of Lao American speculative poetry.

It has been well received across the US and internationally in just the first 6 months and I'm really excited about 2008 as awareness increases.

Before we finish 2007, it's a good time to point out:

If you order a copy of On The Other Side Of The Eye by December 13th, we can get it to you in time for the holidays, including Christmas, delivered to your door.

If you order it directly from me, I will include a nice note and inscription to you or the person of your choice. You will be satisfied! :)

I only have a few copies left before the next printing, and they're going fast!

At just $10 plus $2.50 shipping and handling, it's a great deal if you're looking for an exceptional gift! Have a great day!

The 161 Meme

Thanks a lot to Barbara Jane Reyeswho tagged me with this meme.

Line 6 of Page 161 from Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets: Strychnine Lives is: "You ain't about that. We BOTH Goddamn KNOW you ain't got the BALLS." Sigh. The things I put on my reading shelf. :)

I tag any of my readers whose full name contains at least two of the same consonants.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fantasy Matters Conference A Success

Some initial pictures from the highly successful conference Fantasy Matters at the University of Minnesota on November 16-18. Excellent and enjoyable at every level. :)

Before I begin my after-action report, I have to give a hand to the conference organizers, Lindsay Craig, Kathleen Howard and Jen Miller and all of the volunteers for putting together an informed, fun and amazing event.

As most of you know, I was given very short notice to read on Friday, and I was slated for the dreaded 8:30 Sunday panel with my good friends John Till and Robert Wood on Monstrous Assemblages.

See what happens when you don't slip the schedulers a $50?

Still, my parts went well enough, and John Till gave a truly excellent presentation.

John spanned political history, Russian art, images of the profane, the World of Darkness role playing game, a fabulous diagram and a great question that effectively drives a stake through the heart of that conventional wisdom which suggests during conservative eras horror thrives but wanes during liberal times. Great job!

And Robert also spoke well on issues in Tolkein's universe and the construction of the monstrous.

I was able to attend an interesting pair of papers on the issue of "His Dark Materials" including the topic of how the 'anti-religious' elements of the trilogy may be toned down and we may never see the sequels since, well, it's pretty hard to tone down the 'anti-religious' elements of a book about a war with heaven. :)

Neil Gaiman naturally gave a magnificent presentation, using us as guinea pigs for his new upcoming novel. It unfortunately made most of the rest of the writers in the audience slap our hands to our heads and go: "What a maddeningly genius idea, why didn't we think of that."

But that's just par for the course with Neil.

Had a great opportunity to meet some fine and incredible writers, including the ever-wonderful Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, author of Zahrah the Windseeker and Shadow Speaker, and whom I must confess was the real initial draw for me to the conference.

Neil, of course, we always know is going to be great, but I always like going to these conferences to see if you can spot the up-and-comers, and Nnedi is by far definitely in my short-list of people I'll be watching.

I'd met her first during Think Galacticon and the Carl Brandon Society, and she's got a great and lively take on things with her writing that she's seriously one to watch.

Nnedi will be back up here for Diversicon as well, taking the acclaimed Special Guest spot Minister Faust, Christopher Jones, Melissa S. Kaercher (Go Godzilla! Go Cthulhu! Go Zombies!) and I have all happily occupied in the past.

I had a chance to talk with the legendary Jack Zipes for a while about fairy tales and his upcoming book on fairy tales in the movies around the world. It was great and informative.

New faces I also had a chance to meet for the first time include the hilarious and multi-talented Patrick Rothfuss and the young Drew Bowling who has finished his first novel before he even left college.

David Anthony Durham, the author of Acacia was another writer who had a great presence, as well as Jim C. Hines, who's a great guy to talk to, working with goblins. :) I also met Jackie Kessler, who's a riot, as well as Theodora Goss and Damian Sheridan.

The folks from DreamHaven were there and it's always good to see them.

Among the local con regulars, I had a chance to catch up with Jody Wurl and Eric Heideman and also ran into Haddayr Copley-Woods, and they all seem to be doing really well. :) The free food and drinks afterwards at the Town Hall Brewery was wonderful and everyone worked well to make it worthwhile.

I will probably post more reflections on this all later, but for now, suffice it to say that this was really fun.

And DreamHaven books even sold out all of their copies of On The Other Side Of The Eye! :) Yay!

TRA Jukebox: 11/11!

Some fun ones for this week:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Lee Herrick!

To my peer and brother of the heart out in Fresno, congratulations on a great and fascinating year, and wishing you all of my very best for 2008 and beyond. Looking forward to having you come up to join us on January 25th at the Loft with Sun Yung Shin and I for a great reading of TRART. :)

Highlights From "Crazy People Reading" at the Loft, 11/15

From the amazing reading at the Loft featuring TRAs Shannon Gibney and Sun Yung Shin as well as Doug Kearny in a literary tour de force in a packed room. Claire Wilson was an exceptional MC organizing the event to popular acclaim, with other great literary and community figures attending including E.G. Bailey, Bao Phi, David Mura, Juliana Hu Pegues, Jae Ran Kim and Kim Park Nelson, Robert Karimi and more.

A special congratulations to Cakes by Fhoua for yet another fantastic and delicious cake. In fact, all of the refreshments and snacks were uniformly excellent and yummy.

Youtube videos of the performance should go up sometime around the end of the month once I survive Thanksgiving. :) But in the meantime, enjoy the slideshow. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reading at Fantasy Matters 11/16

This just came up last minute:

I'm reading selections from my book On The Other Side Of The Eye at this weekend's Fantasy Matters Conference at the University of Minnesota in Room 35 of Mondale Hall at the University of Minnesota at 6 PM on Friday, 11/16.

I'll also be giving a presentation at 8:30 AM on Sunday, 11/18 in Room 50 on "Monstrous Assemblages" with John Till and Robert Wood.

For more information, you can check out the website at www.FantasyMatters.Org with the complete program being found at

I'm exctied to be reading and presenting in the same company as acclaimed luminaries as Neil Gaiman and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. :)

Hope to see you there if you can make it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trambiguity. Copyrighted! ;)

Right up there with the palindrome: TRART for "TRA Art."

Trambiguity was officially coined at 1:15 CST, 11/13/07 to denote the dual / multicontextual meanings embedded within the high context language of TRAs.

Example of usage: "Yes."

Not to be confused with Trampbiguity, which is a completely different thing entirely. In most cases.


Alternate definition: [n.] a core state of being particular to most TRAs.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Media and Adoption

This has been a long year. And it looks to get even longer.

I'm going to be civil,but I do think it's rather tragic when, next to mainstream media, a parody newspaper, The Onion, still has said about all that needs to be said with the classic 2006 article: "My Adopted Daughter Is The Most Beautiful Child In The Third World."

And in the meantime:
I'll refrain from editorializing about this classic, fascinating video.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

TRA Jukebox: 11/11!

Sure, they're great songs by themselves, but they're even more fun when you're a TRA.

And you should go check out:
Leonard Cohen's First We Take Manhattan.

Stay tuned for next week's selections! :)

The Outsiders Within Series

For those of you who missed it last year, here are some of the videos from Outsiders Within you can spot on Youtube:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Worf: Sci Fi Icon, TRA Poster Child

Almost half-way through NAM, seems as apt a time as any to bring up one of the more interesting poster children of the TRA experience: Worf, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Adopted by the Russian Earthlings Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, he was the only Klingon in Starfleet.

For those not up to date on their Star Trek mythology, the Klingons were once the main enemies of the Federation (a futuristic stand-in for the United States and United Nations)
The Klingons were considered at various times savage, noble, sneaky, violent and honorable, eating strange foods and holding on to strange, almost barbaric customs.

Even though they were clearly a space-faring race with access to highly advanced technology. Hmmm. That sounds familiar to a lot of TRAs.

Sergey Rozhenko was a human engineer nearing retirement aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, and during the Khitomer Massacre, was one of the first response team members who eventually took in Worf.

Worf then grew up in their household and eventually had a long and distinguished career serving on the USS Enterprise and many other adventures on the Deep Space Nine outpost.


But what we're interested in, for this post today, is the accuracy and depiction of Worf as a TRA.

It's apples to organges, but historically, the depiction of the TRA experience, whether it's in a production such as the Walleye Kid or Better Luck Tomorrow almost invariably rings false among adult TRAs.

At the risk of generalization, more often than not, we see our experience and perspective used merely as a plot device and the "character's" actions so inconsistent with how we might really react and respond to the world.

From an adoptee perpsective, there's rarely a shortage of individuals in the media who we're told to view as peers: Luke Skywalker, Oedipus, Batman, Superman, the Peach Boy and so on.

And that these children have amazing destinies ahead of them, often unheard, untapped in their childhood.

But they're also so rarely written from the point of view of a TRA.

I'm also intrigued by the character of Odo in Deep Space Nine, and we may get around to talking about him in another post.

I'm home. Now I have to kill you all.

I find Odo fascinating as a contrast to Worf in that his narrative eventually requires him to return to his people with a specific mission of destroying all of them.

(Or, maybe we'll be generous and just suggest: only all of the really bad ones who "had it coming" for organizing an interplanetary group that wasn't the Federation...)

Seven of Nine has been brought to my attention too, but I'm not as impressed with her characterization if we were to take her character as written, viewed from the POV of a TRA.

A TRA, technically, but not as well written, surprisingly.

But back to Worf.

I found his depiction to be surprisingly among the most apt to date of the true TRA experience.

Because more often than not, he faced many of the challenges of living the bicultural experience and exhibited many of the classic coping strategies we employ throughout our lives as we struggle for reintegration, reconciliation and recognition of ourselves and our identities.

In the initial seasons, when we first meet Worf, he is a young Klingon raised by humans who has struggled to assert his identity as a Klingon, even as he tries to operate in an organization populated by xenophobes and racists who spent most of their careers trying to kill his people, and who still watch his assignment as security officer aboard the flagship of the Federation with great suspicion.

The Klingons he meets are also suspicious of him.

But like most TRAs, Worf has spent much of his life studying and learning the ways of both societies and probably has a greater understanding of much of the Klingon history and cultural practices than the average Klingon really does.

Or at least, as much as Federation anthropological records and unclassified Klingon records will allow. But that's another wrinkle.

Worf employs a classic TRA response strategy- he becomes extremely militant and 'Klingon-Pride' for lack of a better phrase, often to the point of being REALLY hard to talk with, and constantly peppering his conversations with bits about Klingon culture and things he's proud of it for.

And that alone might be enough to earn Worf a spot in our books as a well-written TRA, but what does it for me, is the accuracy with which Star Trek: The Next Generation also depicted Worf's journey midway through.

They had Worf gain a greater knowledge about the 'compromises,' the 'realpolitik' and the difference between 'ideal' cultures and their actual implementation.

When Worf finds corruption among the Klingon high command he is disappointed but also cannot turn back.

At one point, he's brought amazingly close to becoming the leader of the Klingons, but must ultimately turn his back on it.

We might view this part of the journey with a particular pity: To become so close to reintegration, to attain almost everything we as TRAs might seek out, and yet, circumstances oblige us to step back, and release, let go.

It resonates.

Worf eventually has a son with a bi-racial, half-klingon, half-human woman, and this too resonates with many of the TRAs and who we have relationships with- often those on the periphery of our root culture.

That it does not quite work out is another issue that's heartbreaking but still true to the experience.

Worf later goes on to be connected romantically with any number of characters whose backgrounds are also telling.

Often, throughout the series, though this was often just a plot device, Worf had many elements of his past challenged- everything he knew about himself might have been a lie or inaccurate, or he had family enemies he never even knew about but was obliged to confront. But still, this rings true to much of many TRA experiences.

But what is refreshing is also that Worf is a character who grows, who is not paralyzed like some Shakespearian Danish prince, and kicks ass along the way- sometimes to cartoonish excess, but these moments can be forgiven, given the source material.

Is he a perfect character? And can we only read Worf as a TRA? Of course not.

But in looking in the elements that went into writing him, and how we was handled, more often than not, for a character who has appeared in so many episodes, Worf stands as a model we can only wish other people who are writing of adopted adults, whether fantastic or more mundane, might consider, if they were going to be truly sensitive to our experience.

So, with that being said, take a look at this classic 'mix' of 'Worf-isms' and see what you think.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

TRA Nation tradition, tarnation!

Tell me, in single words, all the good things that come to mind about your mother.

So, last year we gave a nod to National Adoption Month and National Novel Writing Month and back then, we looked at folks like Moses, Romulus and Remus, the Peach Boy and of course, we could have mentioned old Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's.

We also talked about Outsiders Within.

Has it really been a year since it's come out? Where does the time go? And yet, there's a lot I see where the dialogue initiated by Outsiders Within still needs to go forward.


I am going to look back on 2007 as a banner year: Uniquely, 3 TRA books of poetry came out: Mine, Sun Yung Shin's Skirt Full Of Black, and Lee Herrick's This Many Miles From Desire.

What I appreciate about it is precisely what I understand some TRAAPs object to: That the certainty, the clarity that these ARE texts about the TRA experience is rather murky.

Welcome to our world.

And this flexibility of interpretation is in fact what I would consider one of the few distinctive hallmarks of much of TRA Nation's best creative expressive tradition.

NO easy answers.

Time and time again, in both private and semipublic conversation, I've mentioned that the life of a TRA is punctuated by moments of great ambiguity that some think is meant to be resolved, to overcome, as if somehow we're being 'criminal' in avoiding the 'definitive,' the 'absolute' or the 'overt.'

Such a 'luxury', these.

I'm informed to some degree by the old TV series, The Prisoner, in which the protagonist, whose captors want to designate Number 6, objects and responds definitively:

"I AM NOT A NUMBER! I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own."

And though I did not choose the beginning of my life, I do not have to conform or confine myself within some box for the convenience of others.

I laugh with a certain knowing when Hank Hill, from King of the Hill, shouts:

"Dang it, I am sick and tired of everyone's asinine ideas about me. I'm not a redneck, and I'm not some Hollywood jerk. I'm something else entirely. I'm... I'm complicated!"

I and Harlow's Monkey had an opportunity recently to attend a YWCA event called 'Let's Talk,' which was supposed to be a dialogue on race and racism, and for us the event had an odd resonance because the keynote speaker was a fellow TRA who sang about his experiences as an adoptee making his way back to his biological family.

This was particularly interesting to me, given a recent fellow TRA suggesting we should all be listening to another TRA, who shall go nameless, who is also making a career for himself singing sappy songs about his experience and his "yes, massa" paeans perpetuating stereotypes about the countries we're adopted from.

Here, I'm going to veer off and go rogue and say that there are specific elements to their approach of dealing with their experience that I personally wouldn't take if I could help it.

And for now, I'm just going to leave it at that.

In TRA Nation, there are many stages we as artists can go through when forming the cultural institutions within TRA Nation. (Although there are some who also never go through this, as well.)

It reminds me of the old zen axiom: Before zen, a teacup is just a teacup. During zen, a teacup is more than just a teacup. After zen, a teacup is just a teacup.

I think we all go through periods as TRAs where we really have to be overt and write in 'no uncertain terms' about our feelings and our perspective. But, we live lives that must only be written in pencil, as I've said.

Over time, some continue this path and fixate on it with their work and language.

But I think, after a time, TRA artists also return to less 'overt' discussions of the adoptee experience because we come to a sense, either consciously or subconciously, that our art and expressive culture will ALWAYS permeate our work, much in the way Borges declared that a writer always writes in their contemporary style.

Just as we dislike it when Asian American poets hop up and down in their poems shouting 'look at me, look at me, this poem is Asian American because I use the word Asian American every third line'

It lacks artistic subtlety. And there ARE reasons that subtlety is needed. You can say it all overtly, but it doesn't really advance much of our true dialogue, in my opinion.

For my money, TRA artists at our best write and create in ways that you can tell it is our work even when we don't mention the classic motifs at all.


I think quite often of Schroedinger's Cat, that old quantum metaphor. For myself, I guess it resonates with me as much as the old slit screen test of physics where light can be seen as a particle or a wave simply depending on the intention of the researcher.

Within my sense of self as a TRA, I admit residing within a 'flux' status in a world that constantly attempts to codify me as either/or, instead of as a creature of AND.

And I'll be quite clear, for the time being, that I've come to a point in my life where I've reconciled with this and have no intention of choosing 'The Great Convenience.'

This is not an issue of indecisiveness, but a matter of electing not to relinquish what some consider a 'handicap' or a 'liability', but which I've come to realize is more a unique tool and apparatus to appraise the universe in ways many can not.

To you who must live condemned to your lives of certainties, my pity.

There's a classic line from Blade Runner that has since been excised by the latest batch of director's cuts:

"I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got?"

Going out on a limb here, I'm willing to suggest that a TRA comes to understand the uncertainties within their life, and with some fortune can come to realize the greater uncertainties within ALL creation more acutely than many others. And with this understanding, emerge with the confidence to strive forward and not be paralyzed by that uncertainty.

So, we look at a question as the figure of Cervantes poses in Man of La Mancha:

"I've been a soldier and a slave. I've seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I've held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" I don't think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived."

And we see something others do not.


Personally, I prefer poetry and visual art over 'narrative' for TRA Nation expression because narrative, those essays of our lives, after a while tend to make my eyes glaze over with a particularly strange sense of pity- these narratives often try so hard to pin details down, to sort out whole lives, whole experiences regarding ambiguity and uncertainty.

And yet I find the visual arts and the particular powers of true poetry have unique abilities to capture those open-ended elements of our lives far more powerfully and succinctly. And these are art forms where it is easily clear that even when I'm not talking about a thing, I AM talking about a thing, and when I AM talking about a thing, I am not.

And that's what it's like for me to be a TRA.

Or at least, for now. :)


Good News for Non-Profit Employees

Although, it's just typical: I totally don't qualify for this one.

Student Loan Forgiveness for 501(c)(3)s and Public Sector Employees
On September 27, 2007, President Bush signed into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (HR2669).

In addition to a number of provisions providing financial and debt repayment support to current orpast college students, the bill establishes a loan forgiveness program for individuals working for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or in government.

The loan forgiveness program allows the Secretary ofEducation to forgive 1/10th of the balance of federal student loans held by 501(c)(3) or public sector employees for each year of the repayment period in which their income was less than $65,000. This program applies to all public service employees who:

*Have not defaulted on their loans
*Have made monthly payments on their loans for 120 consecutive months after October 1, 2007
*Were employed full-time with a 501(c)(3) or in the public sector during the entire 120 months during which they made their payments

The loan forgiveness program is not retroactive in the sense that, if you have been making payments for 10 years or more, that payment history and schedule does not qualify you for loan forgiveness.

However, it is retroactive in the sense that any debt incurred prior to the development of this program is eligible for forgiveness so long as you meet the qualifications listed above and have a current debt repayment schedule that is longer than 10 years.

The Department of Education is currently working out rules and regulations for implementing this program. The current timeline is for those regulations to be published in a few months.

These regulations will answer more specific questions, such as: what payment schedule will allow individuals to qualify, the process for obtaining loan forgiveness, and other miscellaneous administrative issues. Visit for more information or to obtain the specific regulations when they are made public.


Congratulations to Sumeia Williams for being chosen as one of several contributors to The New York Times "Relative Choices" blog, subtitled "Adoption and the American Family". As one of the best writers on the experience of adult Southeast Asian adoptees, the New York Times could not have picked a better choice for a perspective that is both unique and informed. I look forward to seeing her upcoming posts and encourage anyone with an interest in Southeast Asian American adult adoptee experiences to read her work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anthology Deadline Extended

Worth checking out. The deadline has been extended to next week, so if you can, I strongly encourage you to send in a few pieces.

Southeast Asia has been a region long divided not only by geographical and cultural boundaries but by the question of identity and belonging. One anthology will attempt to present the shades of contemporary Southeast Asian experiences of cultural/sexual identity, globalization, immigrant/expatriate experience, third culture phenomena, and new technologies, among others.

The call for submissions is open to Southeast Asian writers and translators under 40 years old.

The anthology will focus on works dealing with contemporary themes, or employing new forms in poetry; prose (fiction, travelogues, essays, blogs, text, etc); drama (one-act plays, short screen/teleplays); graphic arts and comics (under 30 pages long); and everything in between—literary experiments as well as genre works (horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, or combinations thereof).

Works must be limited to 8,000 words and must be in English (translations must be accompanied by the original text).

Previously published works are also welcome.

Please send submissions to, as attachments in MS Word document format.

Deadline for manuscripts is November 8, 2007. Please include a short bionote and contact information. Contributors will get multiple copies of the book.

The anthology editors are Jerome Kugan (Malaysia) and Mervin Espina (Philippines)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

[Influences] A Man Said To The Universe

A man said to the universe: "Sir I exist!"

"However," replied the universe,"
The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

-Stephen Crane.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Remembering Violet Kazue de Cristoforo (1917-2007)

Angry Asian Man posted a note on the passing of Violet Kazue de Cristoforo who was famous for writing and collecting haiku poems that capture life in Japanese internment camps during World War II.

It's one of those days that makes me appreciate how much we lose with every poet's death, but how much we gained with their lives. And I continue to encourage everyone to write, to express, to create and to celebrate these moments and to remember these stories.

News of the week

If you haven't picked up your copy yet, the 2008 Saint Paul Almanac is out from Arcata Press (ISBN 0-9772651-2-9, $11.95) and if you look carefully you'll spot my work in it, including my poem, Riding The 16right up at the front on page 10 to start off the year, and Modern Life.

The almanac is a great datebook featuring stories, poems, short essays and photographs from Minnesota writers across the state. Some personal standouts for me include May Lee, Peter Yang, Trinh Ngo, Alexs Pate and David Mura. But you should check it out for yourself and see.


And it's a little ahead of time, but on October 25th, the first online issue of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal will debut at featuring my poem Zelkova Tree as well as the work of other great Asian and Asian American writers from around the world.

The list of writers in the debut issue includes Russell Leong, Arlene Ang and many other exceptional poets and artists that this is really one I'll be watching in the months ahead.

Based in Hong Kong, it's a very promising journal, and I look forward to adding them among my other publication credits in Singapore, Australia, London, Germany and the United States. Thanks, everyone!


And as a final side note: I'm teaching the craft of writing poetry this Friday at the annual Asian Media Access Asian Media Camp in the Twin Cities for Asian American youth interested in film, video and media technology.

I'm looking forward to meeting with those of you who will be my students this weekend!

And for all of the rest of you who made it this far to the end of my post, thank you, and if you have any performances and projects coming up this week, I hope they go well for you too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day Off The Dead

Reminds me a bit of one of my old favorite games, Grim Fandango.
Thought it would be fun to share with you this month. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Remembering John Worra (1935-2006)

It's been a year now since the passing of my father, John "Jack" Worra in the city of Tipton, Michigan on October 10, 2006.
A pilot by trade, he was born in South Haven, Michigan. In 1953 he enlisted in the US Army, and by 1961 was working for Zantop Airlines.

From 1971 to 1973 he was flying in Southeast Asia for Royal Air Lao before going back to work again for Zantop Airlines again once he was back in the United States.

In 1988 he began flying for UPS and retired from UPS in 1997. Beyond this, what is public is public, what is private is private for any number of reasons.

Thanks to all of you who were there for me and my family during this time- it means a great deal and we have not forgotten.

Within the family there are poems I've written on the matter, but really, this year I feel compelled to turn instead towards my fellow poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and his poem 'People':

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them is not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private,
and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute.
These are private.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

We Pesky Minority Poets.

An interesting discussion on the flap at the Poetry Society of America can be found at Rigoberto Gonzalez post "Those Pesky Minority Poets." Great post, and a special thanks to Oscar Bermeo for bringing this one to my attention. :)

[Influences] The Shadow

'Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!'

And with those iconic words and a sinister laugh, I was introduced to the world of Lamont Cranston, the Shadow, who was a pulp fiction precursor to Batman: Wealthy playboy by day, crime fighting vigilante by night.

The big difference being that unlike Batman or Doc Savage, the Shadow had no qualms about killing people with his two-fisted pair of .45s.

This was all well before John Woo made Chow Yun Fat an iconic action star in Hong Kong in films like A Better Tomorrow and its sequels:

"The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay..." was a signature line the Shadow used in both the pulp fiction stories as well as the radio dramas that featured the voice talents of many great actors including Orson Welles of Citizen Kane and The Third Man fame:

The Shadow clearly had an influence on much of what we would consider contemporary superhero narrative structure today: A mysterious past and dual identity.

Even a network of elite agents hidden in 'ordinary' jobs around the world from Moe Shrevnitz the cab driver to Margo Lane his beautiful socialite 'friend and companion,' and Dr. Roy Tam, his Asian American physician.

The Shadow had a rogues gallery of one-time and recurring villains ranging from Benedict Stark 'The Prince of Darkness' and Shiwan Khan, 'Master of the Orient.'

Make no mistake:
Writers all the way up to the present steep the Shadow's story with Asian elements from adventures in Chinatown to the roots of the Shadow's powers (in one interpretation, he is a paladin of Shamballah, the sacred, secret kingdom hidden in Asia like Shangri La) and they've had varying levels of sensitivity to multicultural issues and how well characters like Dr. Tam and Shiwan Khan are fleshed out.

But, much as the work of H.P. Lovecraft, Shakespeare and many others can be appreciated with an understanding of the times they were writing in and their personal characters, so too, I think there is much to be enjoyed in the tales of the Shadow.

I'm in a particular minority on this, but the work of Andy Helfer during the DC comics run of the early 1990s remains a personal favorite of mine for its dark humor and for introducing me to the work of master artists Bill Sienkiwicz and Kyle Baker (the author of my favorite Why I Hate Saturn.)

Helfer's run, while since declared heretical by most ardent fans of the classic Shadow, was still one that left a memorable impression on me when the comic book shelves were flooded with X-men and Spiderman stories.

Personally, I think they still hold up quite well as enjoyable reads.

When DC relaunched the series a few years later, we found a more restrained take that was also enjoyable, but never hit the over-the-top looniness of Helfer's take, which was distinctive for its radical departure from Howard Chaykin's four-issue mini-series, itself quite a transgressive interpretation.

Chaykin brought the Shadow to the late 20th century, no longer packing blazing .45s but a pair of mini-Uzis in a heady cocktail of sex, death, violence and miniature nukes.

Back then, Howard Chaykin brought an amazing sexy and urban sensibility to comics that was innovative and helped push the medium forward to what we have today.

You can of course check out the wikipedia entries and other resources on the net for the full run-down on the Shadow, so I'm not going to go into all of his powers and history.

But I will say:

In many ways, the Shadow was a welcome relief from goody goody two shoes characters, arguably even a predecessor of the Punisher, in that he was a 'no fooling around' dark anti-hero more interested in 'justice' than law.

The 1994 movie was terrible, except for giving Tim Curry something to do. :) But the trailer was REALLY promising:


But as an overall influence on my writing?

I easily have to acknowledge the Shadow as a formative part of my youth that showed me, among other things, how one blends world history, pop culture and dark humor together. And you can spot that within On The Other Side Of The Eye if you look.

Or a few photos of me currently circulating around the internet, apparently. But that's neither here nor there.


I've been gone for a bit- some big changes recently, but it's time to get back into the swing of things and catch up.

So, it's October 10th, and today in history?

In 1967, the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the placing of weapons of mass destruction on the moon or elsewhere in space, entered into force. 40 years. so far so good. As far as we officially 'know.'

And apparently, Pac Man was introduced in Japan in 1979. Today, there are free online versions of it everywhere.

So, I imagine you could celebrate the day by either playing a round of Pac Man, or at least choose not to put a weapon of mass destruction on the moon. :) Both are pretty easy to do, I think.


The writer Oscar Wilde had an interesting little quote:
"At every single moment of one's life one is what one is going to be no less than what one has been."

Something to ponder.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Equilibrium 5th Year Anniversary

Some initial scenes from September 29th, the 5th year anniversary show of Equilibrium, the spoken word series at the Loft with Bao Phi, MC, and featuring the talents of Sonic Rain, Juliana Hu Pegues, D.Lo and Reggie Cabico. A great show with a packed house!
Thanks to everyone who came. :)

Sumner Library Reading: 9/29

Thanks to everyone who came to support the talent show at the Sumner Library in Minneapolis on 9/29! :) We had a great turnout with some really fine talents on display, with a special thanks to Fancy Ray McCloney who was the MC for the afternoon. :)

An old zen story

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful girl whose parents owned a grocery store lived near him.

Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This angered her parents greatly. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to the master.

"Is that so?" was his response.

The parents were so incensed they soon began talking about it to the rest of their neighbors and community.

"Is that so?" was all he would say.

The neighbors began to pelt him with vegetables and dirt whenever he came into town.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin.

By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer.

She told her parents the truth - that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, apologizing profusely and at length, and asked to get the child back again.

As Hakuin handed them the child, all he said was:

"Is that so?"

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!

Leonard Cohen is one of the leading musicians whose work inspires my own poetry and writing. Born on September 21st, 1934, he continues to create music and write in a variety of genres. I was first introduced to his work through the tribute album I'm Your Fan, followed up by getting his actual 1988 collection, I'm Your Man in 1991.

I'd heard of him during high school through a compelling article in the Ann Arbor News, and thought it was a really distinctive style and way of phrasing the various experiences of his world. I think there was also something that resonated with me about that picture of him just holding a banana. But thanks for all of the great songs, Mr. Cohen, and here's wishing you many more!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

[MN] $5K Cultural Community Partnership Grants:

May Lee Yang, the API Community Liaison for the Minnesota State Arts Board has passed this on.

Having received funding from the MN State Arts Board myself in the past, I think that for the right project, this IS an excellent opportunity. Check it out.

From May:

Here's a great grant opportunity for either artists of color or organizations who want to work with artists of color.

The MN State Arts Board is offering grants of up to $5,000 to help you improve your artistic career—whatever that may mean to you. Not relevant to you? Please help me out by passing it on to others.

Deadline is October 8, 2007!

Here are some things that may be helpful to know:

Short notice but there is a grant workshop tonight, September 18, 2007 at the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (995 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN) from 6-8 p.m.

I’m also available via phone, email, or face-to-face meetings.

Also know that you can look at past grants that were successful as well as those that weren’t so successful.

As a Community Liaison, I’m available to answer questions you may have. Take care!

May Lee-Yang
Community Liaison
MN State Arts Board
Cell Phone: (651) 587-1208

To check out grant guidelines, go to and look under the Cultural Community Partnership Grants.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Celebrating 5 Years of Bamboo Among the Oaks

Thank you so much to everyone who came to help us celebrate the 5th anniversary of Bamboo Among the Oaks on Thursday night at the Rondo Community Outreach Library.

It was a great and extraordinary reading with over 60 people in attendance, including students, librarians, academics, fans of Asian American literature and other great writers of our community.

You all helped to mark a special turning point in literature. More thoughts on the event will be posted a little later, but I do also want to give a special thanks to Alayne Hopkins from the Friends of the St. Paul Library, and Dyane Garvey and Mitch Ogden from the Hmong American Institute for Learning and Paj Ntaub Voice for all of their generous support.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

[Influences] Matt Wagner's The Demon

Originally conceived by Jack Kirby, a comic book legend in his time, the character of Etrigan the Demon really took off with the amazing four issue mini-series by Matt Wagner, a writer and artist of immense talents who also had previously brought us Grendel, a stylish series about a thief named Hunter Rose.

The basic premise of the Demon has been that in Ancient Britain, the wizard Merlin bound the demon Etrigan to his services on Earth, but couldn't just have him hanging around all the time, so when he didn't need Etrigan, he just tucked him inside of the milquetoast Jason Blood. Which didn't really make Jason too happy. Or Etrigan, for that matter.

Think of a metaphysical The Defiant Ones, and you've kind of got it.

Still, whenever the need arose and some bad guy was brought out by someone like Morgan La Fey or Klarion the Witch Boy, Jason Blood would shout out the words:
    Gone, Gone, o form of man!
    And rise the demon, Etrigan!
And of course, appears The Demon, who proceeds to kick the infernal stuffing out of whoever it is in question, usually immolating them with his breath, by magic or through sheer brute force. In most instances, he's pretty vicious about it. And enjoys it.

After Alan Moore (of Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta fame) had finished writing the character, the full poem that released Etrigan was typically a variation of:
    Yarva Demonicus Etrigan.
    Change, change the form of man.
    Free the prince forever damned.
    Free the might from fleshy mire.
    Boil the blood in heart of fire.
    Gone, gone the form of man,
    Rise the demon Etrigan!
Arguably, he's a hero. A very reluctant hero.

For me, from a writer's craft perspective, he's a good character because when he's written well, there are many readings and interpretations possible without being heavy-handed or contrived about it. Flexibile, yet distinctive.

As an Asian American reader? I can certainly make the obvious snarky statement: Etrigan is a yellow guy who gets bossed around by an old white guy to do his demonic dirty work, and has to spend the rest of his time being bored out of his skull taking a back seat to Jason Blood, who just whines and moans all the time.

The fact that Etrigan also speaks in rhyme, (if not exactly poetry) earns him a big plus in my book, of course.

But that's selling us all short here, so I'll elaborate on the Matt Wagner mini-series, which is to this day still the definitive take on the character for me.

As a preface, throughout the Kirby series, while Jason Blood was resentful and hated his relationship with Etrigan, he rarely did anything about it.

By the time we get to Matt Wagner's mini-series, however, things have changed, and we're taken to a Jason Blood and an Etrigan who are both at their last wits end chafing at the arrangement, but now, they finally have a means to free themselves.

If they're willing to make a choice, a stand after all of these centuries and act like they have free will.

Of course, the forces of both Hell and Merlin don't want Etrigan running free of Jason Blood so they start sending demons and the like after the two of them and their friends.

Much action ensues, and it's interesting because unlike most superhero comics, we have a story of two people who are being 'selfish' in trying not to solve the world's problems, but their own for a change. And are they more driven as a result?

And will the world be a better place for it?

Frankly, the Wagner mini-series is quite darkly ruthless as we see what happens to Jason Blood's 'friends' who are largely not so much friends as 'people unlucky enough to meet him.'

Along the way, we learn more of the true origins of Etrigan, who his father really was, and also his half-brother, creating an almost Grecian or Shakespearian story of family and the quest not for redemption, but freedom and self-liberation.

Here, we explore what it means to be true to our true natures and yet discovering that our desired freedom might come only by fighting that same basic nature we want to express.

It's hard to find complete sets of The Demon nowadays.

The later comic series lost sight of what Wagner was really demonstrating makes Etrigan such a delicious anti-hero. A demon, who, even though we know the world will be the worse for his success, we can't help but root for.

And, if nothing else, The Demon has also taken a great stand against racism, as seen in this panel from the regular series of The Demon (#48) when he's going up against the Kings of Hate and starts laying the smack down:

The Demon Says: Just Say No To Racism.

Secret Identities

A preview pdf for the Secret Identities project is now up online at .

I and many others are currently cooking together submissions for this exciting anthology discussing Asian American superheroes and what they would / could mean for the community.

We'll see if it gets picked up, but even if it doesn't I will say we've had a heck of a good time talking about it.

Almost makes me want to go back to City of Heroes and reactivate my old LaoMan character. But my schedule is way too packed to fit in an mmorpg these days.

In recognition of this great project, and because I've recently been rummaging in my basement, I'll be posting more about comic books and superheroes who've influenced On The Other Side Of The Eye and other pieces of my writing over the years, from an Asian American perspective.

Stay tuned!

Patriot Act and the Hmong

A recent article on the effects of the Patriot Act on the Hmong that demonstrates many of the initial concerns that were expressed at the beginning of this issue.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Read Or Die: Philippines Style.

As other colleagues of mine point out, wow, that's hardcore: is a group to encourage reading in the Philippines. :)

Not to fear, it's not a terrible government campaign or a P-Diddy idea gone horribly awry, it takes its name from the anime series about a young librarian who loves to read books.

Which seems like as good a time to plug one of the organizations I belong to, the Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association. If you ever thought it would be fun to be a librarian, they can hook you up.

APALA is not as fun as the British Library Special Operations Division of Read Or Die, but they're still great people. :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Shaolin Monks vs. Ninjas! In Court!

From Reuters Africa:
Shaolin Monks Vs. Ninjas. In the Courtroom!

I can only imagine how the conversations are going for this one over there. :)

I'm sure there's a Law & Order epsiode in this somehow.

Someone should make a facebook widget for THIS. Screw Jedi Vampires vs. Sith Werewolves and Federation Zombies. :)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

9/07 Poetry Features Indian poets

The new September 2007 issue of Poetry Magazine has almost justified my subscription after two years, with a selection of 13 Indian poets gathered by R. Parthasarathy, author of the 1977 long poem, Rough Passage and his translation of The Tale of an Anklet, a Tamil epic.

He is a professor of English and Asian Studies at Skidmore College in New York.

In the portfolio Dr. Parthasrathy has selected, he's chosen poems from "thirteen of the twenty-four languages, including English, recognized by India's National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademi)."

There are a lot of provocative statements within his explanatory essay, including an assertion that there haven't been any poets comparable to the European Moderns since the Indian poet Ghalib.

Dr. Parthasarathy says that English poetry, described by one poet as the "milk of the tigress" has 'served as a model to be imitated, often with unhappy results'.

He does cite the emergence of Dalit poetry (poetry of the oppressed and downtrodden) and feminist poetry as significant developments in Indian poetry.

He also has an intriguing line regarding the Buddhist monk and translator Kumarajiva who remarked that in the act of translating 'a Sanskrit text into Chinese it loses all its nuances...It's something like chewing cooked rice and then feeding it to another person. Not only has it lost its flavor; it will also make him want to throw up."

A charming image, but how far off the mark is Kumarajiva?

I'm only now just starting to read through Dr. Parthasarathy's selections, left wondering how many other really good Indian poets are also out there who had to be excluded or who are slipping under the radar.

I'll probably comment more on this issue later.

It makes me wonder who would go into a portfolio of Laotian American or Hmong American poets right now, and what a commentator/curator would say. And how would we put together a portfolio of TRA poetry? The hamster wheel turns...

Xolo, Not A Chupacabra.

About as fast as it began, it looks like the end to the recent story suggesting the discovery of three Chupacabra corpses in Texas.

Experts now contend they are in fact the bodies of three Xoloitzcuintle or Xolos for short, a rare dog.

Many are now dismayed that it looks like someone is killing and abandoning undesirable Xolos in their efforts to breed ideal versions of the hairless dogs.

And in the meantime, the search for the real chupacabra continues.

I suck goats!

As a quick recap: The Chupacabra is a cryptid inhabiting parts of the Americas.

First reported in Puerto Rico in 1990, it has since been sighted in Mexico and the United States, especially in Latin American quarters. The name translates literally from Spanish as "goat sucker" because the creature attacks and drinks the blood of livestock, especially goats.

So if you spot one, let us know!