Friday, July 27, 2007

Fun German Term: Schadenfreude

Today we're taking a moment to reflect on schadenfreude, a German term that means "taking pleasure from someone else's misfortune."

Before we get too far into this, the Buddhist concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune," is sometimes suggested as the opposite of schadenfreude.
Interestingly, people suggest there are few direct English equivalents for schadenfreude, with the exception of the archaic epicaricacy, or the idiomatic phrase, 'Roman Holiday'.

While trolling around on wikipedia, there were several interesting suggestions for the equivalents of schadenfreude in several Asian languages:

For Thai, it's suggested the phrase สมน้ำหน้า, som nam na, would apply, and would be interpreted as: "You got what you deserved"; "Serves you right"; or "I'm laughing at your bad luck". I'm sure Lao and Hmong both have a parallel phrase, but I really wouldn't be able to tell you what it is right now.

In Korean, the phrase 고소하다, go so ha da, translates to "to smell sesame oil". It's an elaborate idiom: The phrase apparently applies because in Korea the smell of sesame oil is regarded as very pleasant, and this phrase is used when one is pleased about a particular event. It is especially used when one is pleased about "an event involving the misfortune of another," according to the Wikipedia.
This could all just be rumor, mind you. So don't go running off to get it as a tattoo or use it as the key line for your novel.

For Chinese, the phrase xìngzāi lèhuò (Simplified Chinese: 幸灾乐祸; Traditional Chinese: 幸災樂禍) is apparently a classic idiom that directly translates to "enjoying (other's) calamity (and) laughing at (other's) misfortune". Very precise.

For Japanese, the phrase 他人の不幸は蜜の味, tanin no fukou wa mitsu no aji, translates as "others' misfortunes are the taste of honey". Mmmmm. Honey.

For Tagalog, it's suggested the phrase "Buti ngà sa iyó," fits. It's supposed to mean "Good for you", but can be translated as "Serves you right" or "Buti ngà sa kanyá" as "Serves him/her right." Apparently the short form is usually just "Buti ngà!"

In light of the Simpsons Movie coming out tonight, let's not forget the classic exchange between Lisa and Homer:

"Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?"

"No, I do not know what Schadenfreude is. Please tell me because I'm dying to know."

"It's a German word for shameful joy, taking pleasure in the suffering of others."

"Oh, come on, Lisa. I'm just glad to see [Flanders] fall flat on his butt! He's usually all happy and comfortable, and surrounded by loved ones, and it makes me feel...what's the opposite of that shameful joy thing of yours?"

"Sour grapes."

"Boy, those Germans have a word for everything."
Be sure to check out the Simpsons rundown over at Tripmaster Monkey this week too!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Quick MN Shout-Out

Welcoming East Coast-based poet, spoken word artist and community activist Ching-In Chen, who's coming to visit all of us in the Twin Cities over the weekend during her time with the Split Rock arts program. She's been keeping a super busy schedule, but we look forward to seeing her!

Ching-In Chen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and a Kundiman Asian American Poet Fellow.

A community organizer, she helped to plan the 3rd national Asian Pacific American Spoken Word and Poetry Summit in Boston. Ching-In is currently working on a poetry collection about the travails, heartbreak and adventures of a Chinese-American girl called xiaomei. She will be entering the MFA program at University of California Riverside this fall.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Laotian Library, Books and Dictionaries.

An interesting day: SaoLao.Net recently posted up a nice article about their book box program to bring books to Laotian schoolchildren.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian newspaper Sin Chew Daily posted an interesting article about the plans of Laos to update the National Dictionary:

"The Lao government plans to set up a Council of Lao Linguistics to approve words for a new official edition of the national Lao dictionary, local media reported Tuesday (July 24th).

Lao people create new words all the time, from television, newspapers, foreign films and music, and integrate them into their daily speech, said Dr Thongphet Kingsada, director general of the Institute for Linguistic Research, according to the Web site of the English-language Vientiane Times newspaper.

The council, to be made up of linguistics experts from schools and government agencies, will discuss and approve new words for the dictionary, he said."The Institute for Linguistic Research doesn't have the power to decide on the official use of Lao words, which is why we need an officially approved council," he told the newspaper."

For some reason, whenever I hear the word 'dictionary' mentioned, it gets my attention, and it is with some fondness I think of the recent classic, The Professor and the Madman, which so ably demonstrated the strange process of creating a national dictionary for a culture, and the curious things required when we're dealing with humans.

On a very oblique side note, related to On The Other Side Of The Eye, in my end notes, I make a reference to a particular story by Jorge Luis Borges regarding Franz Kuhn's remarks on a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. This link may be of help later on to a young student who might not be you just quite yet.
It's a rather famous passage, eliciting remarks from no less a figure than Michel Foucault in his book, The Order of Things. Which in itself has some connections to On The Other Side Of The Eye, but that's neither here nor there right now.


Keeping track of this at the moment for my own benefit here, more than anything else:

Probably up only briefly, but
North News in Minneapolis has a nice blurb about me and my upcoming reading at the Loft on August 10th. The Otterbein College Towers alumni magazine is also due to cover the release of my book this season.

Asian American Press has joined City Pages in covering my story about my reading at DreamHaven, as did a microscopic line in the Twin Cities edition of The Onion. Other journals and papers that I know who've covered the pending release include:

The Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association Newsletter March, 2007

Asian American Press, March 22, 2007

The Center for Lao Studies Newsletter April, 2007

Hmong Times Article by Amy Douen, May 1, 2007

MN Artists.Org, May 31st, 2007

Saline Reporter, by Jessy Patterson, June 7, 2007

Minnesota Monthly, Front & Center Blog, by Tim Gihring June 28, 2007

Star Tribune, by Kay Miller, July 13, 2007

Asian American Press, August 02, 2007

Asian Pages August 1, 2007

To everyone who's interviewed me and mentioned On The Other Side Of The Eye, I appreciate it deeply, and we'll update this entry regularly as more articles come out.

A Tale of Two Katies

As a writer, one of the great privileges of the profession is to run into other fine talents not only in your own field, but in other arts.

This last Saturday at Mu Performing Arts was an exceptional reminder with the readings of two short plays:

Q&A by Juliana Hu Pegues, and May Lee's Anatomy of a Hmong Girl: A Memoir Told In Body Parts.

Both writers demonstrated exceptional skill in presenting issues within the Asian American experience without resorting to conventional, tired tropes we've come to expect from 'safe' Asian American theater.

And, per the title of this post, both starred performing artists named Katie. :)

Katie Leo's performance was as the character 9066, one of three people caught in a mysterious, ambiguous setting akin to 'No Exit,' 'Lost' and 'The Prisoner' (or perhaps Herman's Head?) :)

Intellectual, dispassionate, interrogative, most audience members could find much to dislike about the character who some might see as little more than an antagonist like a Dr. Mabuse or Hannibal Lecter. Of course, this is selling the character short in favor of an overly simplistic interpretation.

It takes a particular talent to create such believable figure of 'malice', particularly if one has seen Katie Leo in other 'softer' performances as the protagonist.

In this particular reading, Leo brought a distinctive subtlety to a character one might consider as difficult to present as King Lear (whom critics have oft criticized as an unplayable, demanding, exhausting role.)

9066 provokes to define. Conflict is a means to the construction of identity in a minefield of desire, power, guilt, relation and uncertainty.

The structure of Q&A is such that it was easy for some to miss one of the most intriguing elements of Leo's 9066:

While the other characters have extensive monologues declaring 'who they are' , 9066, on the surface does not appear to, and some audience members felt cheated from not hearing her backstory.

But in actuality, she DOES present her backstory:

Through the way she questions others in the play. A dysfunctional homage to transactional analysis, if there ever was one, but it is still revelatory.

It is the very process of interrogation, the process of questioning that 9066 subjects others to that reveals who she is, and the character is an intriguing meditation: Can asking your questions say more about you than answering a question.

Q&A still needs work, but what has been shown here is rich with myth, popular culture, high literature and contemporary social and political concerns that I cannot help but lament that we have so few works so daring on stage today.


Meanwhile, Katie Ka Vang's performance in May Lee's Anatomy of a Hmong Girl: A Memoir Told In Body Parts. was also an amazing demonstration of artistic prowess that makes Vang a performer to watch within the Twin Cities performance scene.

Similar to the work of Sarah Jones, Vang is tasked with a demanding array of roles to submerge herself within to tell the complex memoir of Twin Cities playwright, poet and spoken word artist May Lee.

Vang must at once assume the role of May at various ages, as well as the various men and women in Lee's life:
From a middle-aged school teacher, an older sister and her mother, to her father, in addition to a complex persona that is 'Katie Ka Vang the Actress' who is not necessarily Katie Ka Vang herself, but a literary construct employed by May Lee (but not necessarily May Lee the character).

A role that is further complicated by the improvisitional elements May Lee requires Katie Ka Vang to employ to engage the audience.

If this sounds complicated and intense, it is.

And I can think of few actresses Katie Ka Vang's age who can take on such roles, and roles within roles, as seamlessly, immersing the audience within her performance even as she submerges her own ego beneath the varied characters.

And she has to interact with the author herself on stage. Yow.

This particular performance was just a reading, and not a full, formal adaptation of May Lee's play. One can only imagine that within a full production, we might see something to rival the tour de force performance of Alec Guiness in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

As for the play itself, the material is exceptional, at once free-form in its execution yet deliberate in its craft.

It explores the Hmong woman's experience, and indeed, the Hmong experience without resorting to crude shuck-and-jive minstrel humor at the expense of the Hmong culture that some pandering contemporary performers (who shall remain nameless) engage in.

Instead, this play is a nuanced take, clearly drawing from the influences of spoken word and early Hmong theater of the 1990s.

But it does so without resorting to the use of traditional folktales as narrative crutches ("hmmmm. can't think of an original story... I know! We'll fill up time with The Orphan Boy story!") or the shameless melodrama aping Miss Saigon and some Cliff's Notes rendition of the Joy Luck Club.

In today's age, it seems many people are trying to assert the idea that they have something meaningful to say. In these two plays alone, I might argue there are indeed those voices, and those performers who might yet bring truth to that idea.

Katie Ka Vang has her own show coming up as part of Intermedia Arts Naked Stages Production series soon, and it will be fascinating to see how well she handles her own material considering how well she handles the complex material of other writers in the community.

Don't miss either production in the future if they come around again!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Robert Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest

$5,000 first prize
$2,000 second prize
$1,000 third prize

The Heinlein Society is proud to announce "The Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest" to take place between July 2007 and July 2008.

The Contest celebrates the 100th anniversary of Mr. Heinlein's birth, and continues the spirit, ideas, and philosophy that make the works of Robert Heinlein a testament to the human spirit.

We also hope to inspire new fiction in the style of The Grand Master, because, frankly, many of us have already read and re-read everything he wrote.

The Contest is open to any professional or amateur writer, excluding members of the board of directors of The Heinlein Society. The prizes will be awarded to the best original short story (in English) expressing the spirit, ideas, and philosophy of Robert A. Heinlein.

All stories must employ an original universe of characters and locations (sorry, no Lazarus Long stories), and should be fewer than 15,000 words in length.

Entries shall be judged by a most august panel of professional writers, editors, and Heinlein scholars.At the conclusion of the Contest, The Heinlein Society plans to publish an anthology of the best stories.

Any author whose story is selected for publication will be compensated at respectable SF short story rates, except for the first, second, and third place winners who are awarded Contest prizes. By entering the contest, authors grant The Heinlein Society right of first publication for a period of one year from the date the winners are announced on or about July of 2008.

Start working on your story now!The Heinlein Society will shortly post more information on and will begin accepting entries later in the year. You may win a prize, be published, and launched on a writing career of your own.

In any case, we'll have a lot of fun!

Help Find Mahalia Xiong

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay student Mahalia Xiong was reported missing after she didn’t return from a night of bowling with friends, said her brother, Tou Lee, on Sunday, July 15th.
As of today, there's still been no progress in locating her.

Thus far, the case has attracted only marginal media coverage outside of the Green Bay area.

From what family members have pieced together, Xiong and her friends left Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, 2929 Allied St., sometime after 2 a.m. Friday, Lee said.

Mahalia is described as a 5-foot tall, 105-pound Asian with a medium build. She has black hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans and black high-heeled shoes.

She was last seen driving a four-door, 1996 Mercury Sable with a Wisconsin license plate of TFD-715.

Anyone with information about Mahalia Xiong is asked to call Green Bay police at (920) 448-3208.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On The Other Side Of The Eye ISBN

There are several ways to order On The Other Side Of The Eye right now- from filling out the mail order form at or using the paypal button on the right. You can also order it from your local bookstore, referencing ISBN #1-933556-97-8. The bookstore may be using a different system so you can also try: ISBN 978-1-933556-97-0.

Thanks everyone, for all of your great support!
You can also use Paypal!

Recent Asian/Asian American literary award winners

I'm probably missing a few, but some recent names that have come up include:
  • Marie Myung-Ok Lee, 2006 Richard J. Margolis Award from the Blue Mountain Center.
  • Angie Chuang, creative non-fiction writer, was a recipient of a 2006 Oregon Literary Fellowship.
  • Sarah Liu, non-fiction writer, recipient of a Bellvue Literary Review Prize for "Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice."
  • Haruki Murakami won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Poets and Writers Magazine also just did a feature profiling Frances Hwang, author of Transparency: Stories from Black Bay Books, and Rishi Reddi, author of Karma and Other Stories from Ecco.

From the Dept. Of Everything Old, New Again.

On July 17th, President Bush just signed the Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.

Already, people are noting that the underlying provisions of this new law are written 'so broadly' as to outlaw all forms of protest against the war.

George Orwell once said "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." But I guess we'll just toss that out the window now, along with habeus corpus.

If the White House decides that you are in any way “undermining efforts” in Iraq, or related to Iraq, even obliquely, the Treasury Department is authorized to seize your money, property, stocks, etc.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DreamHaven Reading on the 23rd: An A-List Event!

It's always great to get a nod from City Pages, who just declared my upcoming reading event an A-List event!

As a refresher:
On Monday, July 23rd, at 6:30PM at DreamHaven Books, I'm reading preview selections from my forthcoming book of poetry, On The Other Side Of The Eye as well as new works as part of the Speculations Reading Series, a co-production of SF Minnesota and Intermedia Arts.

Dreamhaven Books is located at 912 W Lake Street in Minneapolis!
Hope to see you there!

Also, my colleagues have two great performances coming up this Saturday.

Starting at 3 p.m.:
Q & A.
by Juliana Pegues
Dramaturge and Director: David Mura
Featuring Katie Leo, Laurine Price, and Bao Phi

From speed dating to police line-ups, Asian Americans question and answer social and political interrogation starting with the most-posed question, "where are you from?" Our three characters are labeled yet unnamed: "9066" for the WWII executive order which interned her ancestors, "187" for the gangsta rap allusion to murder, and as "½" says, "it's kinda obvious, isn't it?" When their self-constructed masks come down, each character must ask (and answer) what they are ultimately more guilty of: self-hate or self-love?

Anatomy of Hmong Girl: A Memoir Told in Body Parts
by May M. Lee.
Dramaturge and Director: Robert Karimi
Featuring Katie Vang and May M. Lee

The Hmong believe when someone is born their placentas are buried underneath their homes, so when someone dies, they can find their way back home. What happens when you don't know where your placenta is? ANATOMY is an exploration into the search for home. Part memoir, part political statement, this piece focuses on how Hmong Americans have been continuously dissected and how we attempt to flesh out and re-assemble our real voices and experiences.

Saturday, July 21, 5:30 p.m. FREE
Mu Performing Arts Studio
2700 NE Winter St., Minneapolis, MN 55413
or call 612.824.4804
(Use this. Mapquest and google send you to the wrong place)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading at Dreamhaven Books on the 16th

Well, due to some crossed-wires and misprints in the publicity, it appears I'm actually reading on Monday, July 16th, 6:30PM at Dreamhaven Books as part of the Speculations Readings Series, a co-production of SF Minnesota and Intermedia Arts. Dreamhaven Books is located at 912 W Lake Street in Minneapolis.

However, because it's a little late to get corrected news out, I'll probably arrange to read briefly on the 23rd as well. I hope to see you on one of these dates!

Now seems like an excellent time to also mention that I will be presenting extensively during Diversicon 15. The Guest of Honor is the lovely Andrea Hairston, playwright, novelist, educator. She's a wonderful speaker who brings an amazing array of knowledge to any topic, and is well worth meeting.

This year's speacial guests are Christopher Jones and Melissa S. Kaercher, the artists for the comic book Dr. Blink! Superhero Shrink.

As Melissa is a devotee of H.P. Lovecraft, Godzilla, and zombies, to me, that's a trifecta of great interests that should give all of us plenty to talk about.

If you haven't pre-registered yet for Diversicon, I highly encourage you to do so!

And of course, please keep your schedules open for my official book release August 10th at the Loft!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SFPA Poetry Contest: Sci Fi Sonnets

The Science Fiction Poetry Association is having its second annual poetry contest. This year they are looking for sonnets - a sonnet on a speculative topic of your choice (science fiction, fantasy, horror, science, astronomy, surrealism, etc).

Contest entries are free - no more than three per person, and they are now open to entries. Entry deadline is August 24, 2007.

1st Prize: $80, SFPA web site publication, and a year's membership (or extension) to the SFPA , and a copy of Aberrant Dreams I, The Awakening, and a set of MYTHIC anthologies, (MYTHIC and MYTHIC 2) signed.

2nd Prize: $40, SFPA web site publication, and a year's subscription to Tales of the Talisman, and a copy of Aberrant Dreams I, The Awakening.

3rd Prize: $20, SFPA web site publication, and a year's subscription to Dreams and Nightmares, and a copy of Aberrant Dreams I, The Awakening.

For more information:

Monday, July 09, 2007

The War For Laos, Rescue Dawn

A few readers have been asking me if I've heard of the new movie Rescue Dawn and if I'd recommend going to see it.

I haven't seen it yet- but I will confess a particular interest in the film, although I hesitate to use the word enthusiasm.

Based on Herzog's earlier 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs To Fly, Christian Bale and Steve Zahn star in Rescue Dawn, an action drama by the man who has brought the world some of my favorite films, from Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man and My Best Fiend, Klaus Kinski.

Rescue Dawn recounts the true story of German-born Dieter Dengler, who dreamed of being a pilot and eventually made his way to the United States, where he joined the military during the Vietnam War era. He was shot down over Laos and captured. Eventually he organized an escape with a small band of captives.

It should be pretty obvious why I'm intrigued, as most films never touch the war for Laos with the exception of the shoddy Air America. Or arguably, Missing In Action. In a lot of ways, I can imagine the pitch for this film as being: "Air America meets Bat 21 and We Were Soldiers."

Of course, my main objections will stand: That it is once again a movie set in this time period in Laos that is perceived to be of interest only because an American soldier is at risk (Ok, he's technically a German who got into the US military, but that's splitting hairs.)

In many ways, I am glad a film like this presents an opportunity to discuss the war for Laos, but I am still left saddened by the suspicion that this is not really THE film about the war for Laos that my people and I have been waiting for years to see.

Over the years, I've run into a lot of people with 'scripts' for treatments about the war, supposedly. But to this day, I've not seen one yet that would truly do justice to the story.

But as for Rescue Dawn, I'll probably go see it, but I'm not expecting much. But I do hope it proves me wrong.

Dreamhaven Reading, July 23rd, 6:30 PM

I'll be reading on Monday, July 23rd, 6:30PM at Dreamhaven Books!

Dreamhaven Books is one of the indispensible institutions of the Minnesota and Midwestern speculative literature community, and I'm very excited to be coming back here to read again in advance of the release of my new book, On The Other Side of the Eye.

This event is part of the Speculations Readings Series, a co-production of SF Minnesota and Intermedia Arts. FFI: or call Eric at 612-721-5959.

Dreamhaven Books is located at 912 W Lake Street in Minneapolis!

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Our History? What For?

An interesting essay in Phillipine News: ‘Philippine history? What for?’ by Allen Gaborro articulates a classic and essential question with parallel implications for the Hmong, Lao and Southeast Asian American community I strongly suspect we'll face in the near future, if we aren't already facing it.

There's much in this essay that resonates with me.
It's not particularly new in some ways. We've discussed it for years.

But that the urgency of this matter continues to remain says a great deal to me.

It is something we will revisit in the near future here.

In a side note: Every so often, there are those moments of serendipity and synchronicity that makes a person marvel at the intricacies of the universe.

During my recent trip to the 2nd International Conference on Lao Studies in Arizona in May, I stopped in on the workshop being run by Penélope V. Flores and Pete Fuentecilla, the author of the new book, Filipinos In Laos.

As I mention in recent interviews, much of my life is written in pencil, and this is one of those times.

For years, my research had led me to conclude I was born at Mahosot Hospital, but upon finding my mother, she said I was born at the OB Hospital.

At the time, there were no notes or mention of the OB Hospital in any of the usual reference materials I was using to construct my picture of Laos in 1973. But then came the conference in Arizona.

It turned out OB stands for Operation Brotherhood, an international volunteer project working in Laos from 1956-75.

The group consisted mostly of college-aged Filipino men and women who established a hospital and provided health services to the local community.

Today, many continue to participate in Mekong Circle International, a non-profit organization providing support on health and education issues in the Phillipines and Laos.

So, another aspect of my past has been sorted out, and I express my thanks to all the volunteers of Operation Brotherhood for the time they spent in Laos. (And without whom, who knows, I might not even be here today!)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Review: Transformers. * out of 5.

Combine Michael Bay with the Transformers and you're not really going in expecting Shakespeare. But having just come out from the new film, I'm going to simply say it fails at three particular levels for me.

As an instance of nostalgia, there is simply not enough to derive a viable sense of joy with the way they've handled the franchise.

The Autobots and Decepticons are largely so unrecognizable to most fans from their original designs as to make naming most of them an exercise in absurdity. Few resemble the characters we'd grown to love in the 1980s.

There are a few lines from the film and television, largely delivered as throwaways. But catchphrases are not enough to invoke and vindicate nostalgia. One must also have the spirit of the storyline, the greater themes in mind.

The largest flaw is that within the original series, the Decepticons, and even the Autobots had enough interpersonal interactions and personalities to give the veneer of depth to the story. Here, almost everyone is merely a pasteboard cut-out to be crudely knocked down.

It is like greeting an old friend who has had such radical plastic surgery you are uncertain it is even your old friend.

Here, much as was the flaw of the Mission: Impossible series, there's really not much to connect the action on screen to the franchise.

It's not a full homage, nor even an engaging 'update' to the story. It is at best, an adaptation without any purpose except commercial.

Second, as a stand-alone, self-contained story, Transformers fails.

If one walked in knowing nothing of the original series and its complex mythologies, one will walk away bewildered and unimpressed by massive flaws of narrative structure, physics, geography, and characterization, and even the use of CGI is so badly directed in points as to be laughable.

Finally, the third level at which the Transformers fails is that there is an uncomfortable and unnecessary undercurrent of xenophobia, stereotypes and racism lingering within the film that reaches significant lows.

Perhaps not as severe as the problems I had with 300, but enough that this is a strong candidate for worst film of 2007 featuring characters of color. There is a condescending attitude towards Latin Americans and Asians that is very difficult to overlook, and African American characters are played either as comic relief or as stock cutouts who are not so much characters as expostions with faces. Perhaps this last complaint is of interest to only a small section of fandom, but it is still an objection that needs to be raised.

To be sure, I wonder why Michael Bay continues to get work and opportunities. He has come a long way since his Playboy video direction days. But it is still a substandard film and while it will excel in the theaters, it does not do so with justice.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


It's that time of year again!

As in recent years past, local writers of color will be gathering at CONVergence in Minnesota, one of the largest conventions of the year.

CONvergence attempts to draw together all the various mediums and aspects of the science fiction & fantasy genres as equals. Many conventions choose one aspect as a primary focus (literature, comics, movies, etc.). But by covering this broad spectrum, the organizers hope to show what brings all of us together as fans of the media.

And we just think it's fun.

The theme of CONvergence 2007 is "Creature Feature," which may give many visions of monster movies new and old, and of things that go bump in the night. While those ghouls and goblins will certainly be part of the proceedings, creature characters are not limited to the realm of Horror, and this convention will explore that.

Some panels I'm specifically serving on are:

Adopted! A Roll of the Dice
From the beginning to the present, adopting is a frequent element of mythology, folklore and speculative literature. From Oedipus and the Peach Boy to Damien and Worf, images of adoptees run the gamut, but more than just a plot device, why is this a popular theme, and how is it presented in different cultures?
Shannon Gibney and Jennifer Li will be helping me take this one on.

On The Other Side Of The Eye: Speculative Poetry Reading
Six Twin Cities writers take on the fantastic, the mythic and the cosmic through speculative poetry and spoken word. And once again, the miniature city of Neo-Minneapolis might get destroyed in the process! I'll be reading along with Robert Karimi, Brandon Lacy Campos, Shoua Lee, Bao Phi.

And don't forget our party room on room 401: "America's Nightmare Boutique" where the Twin Cities Nerds of Color will be hosting all sorts of fun party games from trivia matches, pinatas and the Map of Monstrosities!

It's going to be great!

Over on Goodreads.Com...

There's a classic moment in Moby's episode on MTV Cribs where he expresses his dismay that whenever you visit the other rock star's homes, you never see any books in them.

So he really wanted to show the audiences that rock stars CAN have books and be well-read and cultured. And I respect him for that.

This is a post to let you know that I'm on (and you can just search for me on goodreads looking for the e-mail thaoworra @ This is far from the comprehensive list but it's a start. I'll be updating it weekly or so.

I look forward to your suggestions, too!

Philosophy and Poetry

The Chronicle has an article by Carlin Romano on Richard Rorty (1931-2007): the View From Somewhere that provides a light and interesting take on the life of the maverick philosopher.

While the world of letters and history hash out the finals of his significance, there are some interesting ideas that stood out to me in the article.

Romano cites Bertrand Russell's words: "To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it."

As a poet, I'm interested in this statement. It makes me wonder how poetry can relate to this process, especially in light of Dirac's famous remark:

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."

This, of course, is not an absolute truism, but is an interesting point to bring into consideration.

According to Romano, Rorty suggested a philosopher might be considered "somebody who remaps culture — who suggests a new and promising way for us to think about the relation among large areas of human activity."

Isn't that idea of being one who remaps culture interesting for artists and poets?

Romano writes:
"It might seem that a thinker who stressed the contingency of vocabularies but kept adopting new tags for his position — "neo-Hegelian," "quietist," "polytheist" — suffered from self-contradiction. Such a view would misunderstand Rorty's unconcern for a vocabulary that "fit the world." A pragmatist to the end, Rorty saw adopting new terms the way a doctor sees alternate therapies: a set of options, one of which might solve "the problem," which was not representing the world, but achieving our purposes."

There is liberation within this, I suspect.

I'm going to tie this post off with a classic quote from Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.”