There's some minor buzz going around that while we've seen most of the good that's likely to come out of Japanese and Hong Kong horror cinema, that Thai horror may become the next big thing in the US.
Granted, the titles some are citing leave a lot to be desired. Hollywood seems to have bought the remake rights to: Street Racing Grasue, Ghost Dorm, My Boss Is a Hobgoblin, Flying Gnome's Drain Pipe and Zombie Mule-Deer, so this may not exactly be a report to take absolutely seriously.
But here's a clip from the 2004 film Garuda.
Reviews suggest that by many contemporary horror and kaiju standards this one could have been a lot better, but in the wake of films like Shutter and films on the story of Nang Nak, there is a potential there that is worth keeping an eye on.
In the spirit of Halloween, Filipino American Heritage Month and National Humanities Month, it seems appropriate to offer a selection of mythological and rumored creatures for consideration besides the usual angsty Eurotrash vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies who've all about outstayed their welcome in the public consciousness for now, as well as creepy long-haired Japanese ghosts.
From Tanzania, we have the Popobawa of the island of Pemba. First identified in the 1970s, he can be identified by his odor, and is a one-eyed flying ogre with a giant penis and a penchant for buggery. He attacks only men, for up to an hour. Seriously, I'm not making this up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popo_Bawa
From the Philippines, the Manananggal is beautiful older woman, and one of the more repellent types of Aswang. One with leathery wings and a detachable torso that flies away legless. Manananggals are reported near the Visayan islands. They feed on pregnant women, using a proboscii to suck out the hearts of fetuses. Legends also say manananggals reproduce by spitting a black chick into another person's mouth.
The Tiyanak is a Phillipine creature that imitates a child, usually a newborn baby who cries in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by someone, it reverts to its true form and attacks. Aside from slashing people, the tianak love leading travelers astray, or in kidnapping children. Some say it is the spirit of a baby whose mother died before childbirth. You can apparently counter a Tiyanak by turning your clothes inside out. The tianak finds the method humorous enough to let you go and leave you alone.
The Bakunawa is a Filipino deity depicted as a serpentine creature with two sets of wings, whiskers, a red tongue, and a mouth ‘the size of a lake.’ Bakunawa lived in the sea at a time when the world had seven moons. Being fascinated by their light, it would rise out of the sky into the sky and consume the moons. Thus, they were the cause of eclipses. To prevent the world from becoming dark, the people would run out of their homes, taking their pots and pans, to make the most noise they could in order to scare the Bakunawa so they would stop eating the moons and give them the moonlight back.
The Tikbalang is another Filipino creature that lurks in the mountains and forests. A tall, bony humanoid with limbs so long that its knees reach above its head when it sits down. It has the head and feet of an animal, usually a horse. It may be a transformation of an aborted fetus which has arrived on earth from limbo. The Tikbalang apparently enjoys slapping people, or hoof-stomping its poor victim while smoking a huge cigar. All sources agree that the Tikbalang can perfectly mimic the appearance of people familiar to you, and this transformation is heralded by the strong smell of tobacco.
But not all of the fun creatures come from Asia and the Pacific. Here's one from Europe.
The wolpertinger of Bavaria's Black Forest is a bunny that sports roebuck antlers, jay wings, duck feet and fangs. It's obliquely related to the American Jackalope.
One of the few Asian reptilian mythological creatures that's consistently malevolent is the Yilbegän. This reptilian dragon is identified in the myths of two Siberian cultures – the Turkic peoples and the Siberian Tatars – as a polycephalous monster. In some legends it takes the form of a winged serpentine creature but in others it is a leviathan who rides an ox with 99 horns.
In Russia, we find Chuvash dragons, from Chuvashia, naturally. These dragons are winged fire-breathing sorts and shapeshift from dragon to human (and vice versa). The legends say the ancestors of the Chuvashians found a giant snake, which theydecided to kill, but the snake pleaded for peace and was given wings by Allah – which is how the creature came to fly. Chuvash dragons can be polycephalous. The most famous is one called Veri Celen (literally, ‘fire snake’ in Chuvash) who was able to take human form in order to visit men and women in the night and sleep with them.
In Korea, we find the Imoogi. Depending on your source, Imoogi are immature dragons that must live for 1000 years before becoming a dragon or else cursed, hornless beings unable to become fully-fledged dragons.
We'll add more creatures soon. But this is a start on breaking away from the 'usual suspects' of horror! In the meantime, here's a scene that may or may not have been inspired by the legend of the Wolpertinger. ;)
The November Book Arts Roundtable is related to this year's Winter Book by the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts.
The book 'Winter Ink' features my poetry and the work of several of Minnesota's finest visual artists.
The roundtable is at 7 pm on Tuesday November 18 and free!
It's a special opportunity to get an advanced look at this amazing book and hear an explaination of some of the techniques involved in it's production. It is also an opportunity for people to meet those who have been involved!
If you can make it to the presentation, that would be great. No matter what, it will be informal and fun!
This will take place at 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis at the MNCBA building.
Today, there are dozens of E-book formats vying for our attention, but the lead formats I'd bet on include: AZW (Amazon), MOBI (MobiPocket), LIT (Microsoft), PNPd (Palm eReader), and BBeB (Sony), and PDFs.
PDFs are my preferred format for the way I get my e-books out to the community without much hassle. PDF conversion is a fairly easy process. To convert the others into their appropriate formats:
AZW (Amazon): If you set up an account and then eMail your content to YourKindleName@free.kindle.com it's converted and a link to the converted file is eMailed to your registered eMail address at no charge. You can then download it and use your PC's USB connection to transfer the content to the Kindle. However, the free MobiPocket v4.2 Creator will convert many formats -- HTML, MS Word Docs, Text, and Adobe PDF into .PRC files -- nicely compressed and encrypted if you wish -- which, when transferred into the Kindle are directly readable.
MOBI (MobiPocket): Mobipocket is a company that makes Reader software called MobiPocket Reader and MOBI format eBooks. You can create books in the Mobi format here.
LIT (Microsoft): Any Microsoft Word 2000 or greater has a feature that lets you convert to this format for their Microsoft Reader also known as MS Reader, an eBook reader that is shipped with most installations of Pocket PC.
PNPd (Palm eReader): E-Reader is the new name for Palm Reader or Peanut. It is a viewer for electronic documents on PalmOS and other platforms and devices. You can create eBooks for this format using the Dropbook program.
BBeB (Sony):Printer for LIBRIe allows the user to print data stored on a pc in word, excel or pdf format into a file readable by the Librie. Possible usages include proof reading, text checking, or paperless document carrying.Unfortunately you cannot search or zoom books created by it!
Now, digital rights management is a whole different game, and so is the question of distribution and sales. But for those of us who are DIY this is an important step.
Interestingly, one of the strangest issues for the net is that while it is easy to find places to store your photos and videos, it becomes far more difficult to find places to store pdfs and other similar documents, although http://www.Scribd.com may provide one possible solution if hosting your pdfs/e-books on your own site is not immediately viable. (Although that's a preferred method).
Storing the at http://www.archive.org is also possible but is recommended only for texts you intend to be in the public domain under the creative commons principle.
To that end, here's a quick reminder of the Creative Commons idea:
Dating back to 1763, Filipinos established their first permanent settlement in North America near New Orleans. Since then, Filipinos have migrated across the country settling mainly in Hawaii and California, and metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Washington, D.C. and Seattle. In 2007, the Filipino American community was estimated to be at 4 million, or 1.5% of the United States population.
With that in mind, it seems appropriate to take time to note the passing this year of Robert Aspirin, a Filipino-Irish American science fiction and fantasy author who was born in Michigan and raised in Ann Arbor (where I spent much of my formative years in the 1980s) and the author of the Myth Adventures and Thieves' World series, among numerous other projects.
His work with Phil Foglio was a deep influence on me, and I'm sorry I never got to meet him in person. But that's how the arts are, sometimes, you get only fleeting meetings with the creators, but the work leaves you changed over a lifetime.
Of course, this is also a good time to give a quick shout out to my good colleagues Barbara Jane Reyes, Anthem Selgado, Patrick Rosal, Marlin Esguerra, Dr. Penelope Flores, Marlon Unas Esguerra and many others who've helped me in one way or another on my journey as a writer. Keep energized, keep creative!
It's that time of year again when the Bush Artist Fellowships are available. Script Works, Literary Arts Deadline: November 7, 2008 Performance-Based Work, Music Composition, Traditional & Ethnic Performing Arts Deadline: November 14, 2008
Kartika Review publishes literary fiction, poetry, and essays that endeavor to expand and enhance the mainstream perception of Asian American creative writing. The journal also publishes book reviews, literary criticism, author interviews, and artwork.
They turn their focus on works relevant to the Asian Diaspora or authored by individuals of Asian descent.
Kartika plans to sponsor readings, panel discussions, writing contests, and other creative activities for the Asian American community in Boston, New York City and the Bay Area.
In Minnesota, this weekend was the annual Fallcon hosted by the Minnesota Comic Book Association and before that we had the MCAD Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits a three-day event comprises manga drawing workshops, guest lectures by academic experts and professionals in the anime and manga industry and a cosplay fashion show.
So, this month seems like as good a time as any to talk about a few of my favorite manga and anime from Japan that were a part of my formative years.
First up: Akira, a Japanese animated film co-written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Next to Robot Carnival and Fist of the North Star, this was my first really serious introduction to everything that anime could be, and was one of the key films I saw during those years, next to La Femme Nikita and Heaven and Earth.
Even as I grew up with the Robotech series and the imagery of other cartoons from Japan such as Battle of the Planets (aka Gatchaman) and Voltron (originally called Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV) Akira changed my sense of how much social commentary, plot and characterization could be embedded into a 'cartoon' even as admittedly, it is also one of the few films where I think it makes less and less sense the MORE I view it. But the imagery remains spectacular and evocative. It's a great, trippy story that laid critical groundwork for anime in the United States.
Robot Carnival was another personal favorite of mine for the sheer depth and variety of anime styles it hinted we could encounter. Fist Of The North Star was basically shoved down our throats during the early 1990s and its hyperviolence was a portent of the schlock to come that made it difficult to wade through much of the early anime offerings in the US with a focus on outrageous gore and melodrama with nonsensical plots. I'm probably particularly hard on Fist Of The North Star because I just can't get over the fact that I sit through 2 hours of searching for some character's sister, who then never once appears in the remainder of the movie after she's found. (!!!)
For my money, I deeply appreciate the depth and variety within the anime series, Cowboy Bebop, where, in addition to the progressive narrative, we found each episode exploring a different musical and literary theme/genre. One episode might look at the mythos of the cowboy western, another might be an homage to the world of Batman. It remains a classic series to me.
Another notable film I enjoyed was the re-envisioned Metropolis, that in recent years reminded me of the stunning, sweeping visionary heights Akira promised we were capable of. It diverges heavily from the Fritz Lang classic it's inspired by, but that in a way is what also makes it engaging, because it is faithful to many of the themes and motif's of Lang's opus.
A trailer for Lang's original work with a 1980s soundtrack for a restored 1984 version:
A standout series I continue to enjoy viewing was the retro Giant Robo series. Giant Robo was inspired by Mitsuteru Yokoyama's manga series and was an homage to Yokoyama's career.
The series featured great characters and plotlines from the manga artist's entire canon of work, effectively creating an all-new story. Set in the near future, ten years after the third energy revolution, you follows the master of Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the Big Fire Group, a secret society bent on world domination. (aren't they all)
In 1999 I had the great fortune to be part of the Minneapolis Asian Children's Film Festival and to show a 10-film retrospective of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, from well-known classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service to Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind,Laputa: Castle In The Sky and many others.
All of them were great. But for personal reasons, my favorite is really always going to be Porco Rosso.
Porco Rosso is the story of an anti-fascist aviator transformed into an anthropomorphic pig in 1920s Italy. Porco is a bounty hunter who fights air pirates and an American soldier of fortune. The film is a fascinating meditation the tension between selfishness and duty, and ever an abstract self-portrait of Miyazaki himself.
But the long and the short of it is, while far from comprehensive, these would be among the first I'd recommend to others with an interest in manga and anime. And now you know! :)
For several years now, one of my favorite websites for Minnesota writers has been Northography.Com, which gathers together novice and experienced writers alike to respond to a weekly stimulus, many often selected from the artistic offerings of other Minnesota artists, or items with a more timeless and universal quality.
I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in connecting with other Minnesota writers. Several writers who've met through Northography have gone on to collaborate together on their own projects and readings, to great success.
The Laotian American writer Saymoukda Vongsay and I are regular contributors, and you find many talented figures here. Whistling Shade, one of my favorite Minnesota publications, has been a longtime supporter of Northography since it first launched.
It's still a rare thing to see a full, official Northography reading in the Twin Cities, which makes Friday, November 14th exciting!
Doors open at 6:30pm and from 7 to 10 PM to feature 13 of Northography's contributors, reading for just 5 minutes each:
As we enter into October, it seems like a good time to share a fun commercial from Thailand that provides a pretty good overview of several types of ghosts to be found in the region. A very special thanks to Soy Mountry for pointing this one out to me.
Thanks go to everyone who came to join us at Nina's on Oct. 1st. It was a great evening with exceptional performances by Sharon Chmielarz and Connie Wanek, and I as we read round-robin style at Nina’s Café, above Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul as part of the Nina’s Café “Verse and Converse” Series.
I think the poems from each poet interlocked nicely, with work initially touching on issues of finances, faith, time, death and life, animals and politics and other fun subjects. Todd Boss was a great MC and it was a chance to see many great poets, writers and readers gathered in the room, including Tim Nolan, Katie Leo and Joyce Sutphen, Patricia Kirkpatrick from Water-Stone Review and many others. Afterwards, a great afterparty was held at Costello's.
I'm looking forward to next month's Verse and Converse!