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!

Giant Lizard Theater

This post isn't exhaustive by any means or absolutely authoritative.

It's just some thoughts I've gathered from here and there on the traditional mythological reptiles of Asia worth noting, comparing and contrasting them.

Let's start with the basic ones:

The ever-familiar Tatsu or Ryu of Japan.

Recognizable by its three toes, like most of the creatures we'll be mentioning, they are wingless and snake-like creatures with small clawed legs and a horned or antlered head.

These beings are associated with large bodies of water, the clouds in the skies or the heavens in general. The Ryu are often far more slender and fly less frequently than those in the traditions of Vietnam, Korea, or China.

The Yong of Korea can be recognized typically by its four toes.

It is connected to water and agriculture as bringers of rain and clouds. Many are said to reside in rivers, lakes, oceans or deep ponds inside mountains.

Politically, the Yong represents the Emperor. The Yong are usually depicted as benevolent. They possess a very specific number of scales: 81.

According to some sources, there's some numerology involved making the numbers 9 x 9 lucky and significant.

In China, the equivalent creature is the Lung, and there are several complex stories and heirarchies related to the Lung.

Featuring 4 or 5 toes and 118 scales, the Lung have several different variations including (but not limited to):

Tianlong (天龍) or Celestial Dragon.

Shenlong (神龍) or Spiritual Dragon, controller of the weather.

Fucanglong (伏藏龍) The Dragon of Hidden Treasures, guarding precious metals and jewels buried in the earth.

Dilong (地龍) Controlling rivers, Dilong is also considered the Earth Dragon. Dilong spends springtime in heaven and autumn in the sea.

Jiaolong (虯龍), the mighty Horned Dragon.

Panlong (蟠龍) is the term for the Coiling Dragon who dwells in the lakes of Asia.

My personal favorite is the Huanglong (黃龍)or Yellow Dragon - a hornless dragon regarded for its scholarly knowledge.

And then there are the four Dragon Kings (龍王) - each rules over one of the four seas.

And in Vietnam, we find the Rồng or Long, who also feature four or five toes, but also occasionally breathe fire. Quite a difference, actually.

Within Vietnamese tradition, there is a belief that they are the descendants of a Rồng who married a fairy.

This is interesting to me as we compare it to the stories the Lao tell about being descended from a giant Nak that lives in the Mekong River.

Or the myths of the Naga people who believed for centuries they were descended from snake-like dieties of old. And we shouldn't forget the various Hmong legends of the Zaj.

This is all quite a contrast from Judeo-Christian connections of the serpent to the expulsion from Paradise.

Just some interesting things to ponder for the night.