Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Issue of Whistling Shade: Winter 2010

Whistling Shade is still going strong! One the first journals in Minnesota where I got my start, they're celebrating an all new issue!

The Winter 2010 number will feature a review of literary cafes in the Twin Cities, a powerful memoir by Maryla Neuman about her time in Auschwitz, Hugh Mahoney on John Dos Passos, another Central American misadventure by Justin Teerlinck, some simply wonderful poems and stories, and more.

The issue release is Wednesday, January 27 at Merlins Rest (3601 E Lake St. Minneapolis) starting around 7. Get there by 7:30 and do the pub quiz. In any case, stop by and have a pint with them!

[Literacy] Encouraging Lifelong Readers

Good reading skills are essential for community success, growth and enjoyment. Starting kids early to not just be able to read, but to love reading, is one of the great gifts you can give as parents, relatives and friends. Here are some tips that are handy.

Keep print around the house.The more books, papers, labels and objects children can find around the house in English and other languages, the more they have to practice. Be sure to keep books on diverse subjects for children to explore.

Read out loud to children daily. Make it an interactive process, and don't be afraid to read them some of their favorites. But also be sure to encourage them to explore new books too and to teach them that reading can be for pleasure as well as for learning.

Encourage open-ended questions and critical thinking. Helping a child to think things through and put their thoughts into words makes a difference. Encourage them to imagine other possibilities and to question what they're reading, and to form new ideas.

There are many other great ideas out there! What are some of yours?

[Grammys] Yeah Yeah Yeahs duke it out for Best Alternative Music Album

This Sunday, it's the Grammy Awards, which, mind you, may not be very relevant in the industry anymore, but this year it's a good year for Asians and Asian Americans.

The big one I'm watching is the Best Alternative Music Album category, because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs album It's Blitz! is up. Korean American Karen O is the lead singer for the trio, most of whom met in the late 90s at Oberlin College in Ohio and are influenced by the Ohio Avant-Punk scene. I can appreciate that. They've been compared favorably with Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The fun bit is they're going up against David Byrne with Brian Eno, Death Cab For Cutie, Depeche Mode and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, most of whom I also enjoy. Who will come out on top? Oooh, excitement. :)

Also worth noting is Hiroshima's Legacy is up for Best Pop Instrumental, Kitaro is back again to contend for Best New Age, Museop Kim is up for Best Opera Recording and Yuja Wang is going for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without an Orchestra). Yo Yo Ma & Friends are trying out for Best Classical Crossover.

I was surprised to spot Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho up for Best Hawaiian Music Album, and Sandra Oh is one of the various artists who narrated The Maltese Falcon: Dashiell Hammett which is nominated in the Best Spoken Word Album. That one kind of raises eyebrows, but hey.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Refugee Nation at UCLA: February 1st

For those of you in California, the Laotian American Organization at UCLA proudly presents:

Written and performed by Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng
Based on the stories of Laotian refugees and their descendants.

Monday, February 1, 2010,
7:30-10:00 PM, (Doors open at 7:00 PM)
Ackerman Grand Ballroom,
2nd Floor, Ackerman Union, UCLA Campus

A mother lives in the darkness of a South Los Angeles apartment. An Army General struggles to forget a lost war. A son battles in the streets of urban America. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas of the U.S. waged Secret War in Laos during the Vietnam War era.

The event is free and open to the public. The show will run for 60 minutes and will be followed by a 30-minute Question and Answer session with the artists.

For more information, please contact Leslie Chanthaphasouk at laoatucla@gmail.com or 714-383-4543.

The following event was made possible through the following campus partners: Campus Programs Committee, USA/BOD Programming Fund, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and Critical Asian Pacific Islander Students for Action (CAPSA).

Lao Sword Demonstrations (Fon Dap)

Unfortunately, not a lot of context was provided in most cases, but apparently a few demonstrationss of the Lao sword dance have been posted on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKKG0C3WLBk


The Natasin dance troupe of Iowa has also posted a fon dap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EePsucREaDA

Here we see an example of younger artists who are familiar with the form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EePsucREaDA

One commenter remarks that these are derived from the Muay Lai Lao fighting style which originated in Laos, A.K.A tiger dragging its tail, with these particular examples incorporating swords. Any additional information is appreciated!

For an interesting point of comparison and contrast, here is a demonstration of the Thai Krabi Krabong form at an exhibition in Japan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkrSaNiR13A

2010 Elephant Festival in Laos

The 2010 Elephant Festival, with 50 pachyderms attending has been scheduled for February 20-21 in Viengkeo village, Hongsa district, Sayaboury province, organized by Elefantasia, a nature conservation organization working to increase awareness about the endangered elephants. Elephant processions, bathing, rides, ceremonies, a logging demonstration, treks and an Elephant of the Year competition are expected.

Laos was once referred to as Prathet Lan Xang, the Realm of a Million Elephants, but hunting and deforestation have greatly reduced their numbers.

Wild elephants have less than 47% of the country to roam in and are in constant danger from hunters, particularly poachers from across the borders who want the elephants for their ivory, although it is technically illegal to trade in it. There may be fewer than 700 left in the wild today and only 570 who are known to be domesticated. This is a 20% drop from 10 years ago.

Some have even been victims of UXO, unexploded ordnance leftover from the war for Laos (1954-1975).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

[Diversicon] Special Guest: Rob Chilson

Diversicon 18 has announced its 2010 special guest: Rob Chilson.

Rob Chilson is the author of 7 novels including As the Curtain Falls, The Star Shrouded Kings, The Shores of Kansas, Men Like Rats, Rounded with Sleep and Black as Blood and over 60 stories in such publications like Analog (including 9 with 2010 Guest of Honor William F. Wu), Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, Universe 7, and Years Best SF. You can visit him at www.robchilson.com

Diversicon is July 30-August 1, 2010 at the Best Western-Bandana Square (1010 W. Bandana Blvd. St. Paul, MN)  This year's Guest of Honor is author William F. Wu and the posthumous guests of honor are Fritz Leiber and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. For further information you can visit www.diversicon.org

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Lao Spaceport for 4,228,500,000 Kip?


An interesting article from Jeff Foust at The Space Review discusses the seeming glut of spaceports being designated across the US without necessarily having a sufficient number of clients to make use of the spaceport.
Japan, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates are among those who are pursuing development of spaceports. They're not all at the same level of maturity, however.

It looks like the present budget for a spaceport is around half a million dollars a year. The downside is that means about 4,228,500,000 kip. This of course doesn't include the costs for marketing and promoting or convincing people to come to the Lao Spaceport.
Primarily, the companies preparing to develop the relevant spacecraft include Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin,Masten Space Systems, XCOR Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane Global are considered the main companies to watch. Unfortunately, Rocketplane's finances went bust and they're all but out of the picture now.

A robust spaceport would need to be able to accommodate craft that take off by rocket power or by jet power, and by vertical and horizontal take off. From the looks of it, as a spaceport needs to be able to do routine aeronautics as well, and this includes aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul work as well as getting cargo companies like to make use of the airport element of the spaceport.

There could be many positive arguments for developing a spaceport in Laos, if understood correctly. Laos' central location in Southeast Asia with access to Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand and Southern China could be an advantage. Spaceports are presently developed to attract high-technology businesses and jobs, attracting a billion-dollar industry to a region, but there are legitimate concerns if this does not gain traction. Initial rides in a Virgin Galactic ship currently cost around $200,00. That's pretty pricey.

The most obvious candidate for converting an existing airfield would be the Wattay International Airport, although the relevant runways would have to be at least 4,100 feet, if not more. I don't think developing the airport at Luang Prabang or Pakse would be a good idea for this venture. But perhaps I'll be overridden.
There is, of course, also an airfield over at Long Tieng, but that hasn't been maintained for about 35 years now.

During this time, while Laos was developing a spaceport, it would definitely need to ensure adequate science, reading, math, logistics and engineering skills, particularly in aerospace sciences. Otherwise, all of the jobs that would emerge from having a spaceport would have to be held by non-locals for many years and defeat much of the purpose for building a spaceport.

As far as American colleges go, Caltech, MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor have consistently scored very high for programs in Aerospace Engineering, although there are many other colleges which offer fine programs as well. The Caltech Jet Propulsion Lab, however, makes it particularly attractive to many candidates.

Would Laos' long-term engagement with the aerospace industry be desirable? That's a question we should ask ourselves, but I don't think we should automatically dismiss it if we are to see the continued growth and development of Laos.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remembering Yia 'The Bull' Mua

For those of you who can't come to the funeral of Yia 'The Bull' Mua who passed away last week, they will be live-streaming the funeral from Fresno at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/yia-the-bull-mua-memorial-site from 9 to 9. The funeral will last three days. An article is expected in the Fresno Bee tomorrow (Saturday, January 23rd.) Our condolences to his family.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

30 Scholarships for SE Asian Students in DC Area

The Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund is looking to award 30 scholarships to students of Southeast Asian heritage. The minimum criteria are:

1. Living in the Washington, DC area (DC,VA,MD)
2. Graduating in 2010 and planning on higher education
3. Lao, Vietnamese, or Cambodian heritage

Applications are being accepted and the deadline is March 5, 2010. In the past, Laotian Americans have been very under-represented. If you or anyone you know meet the above criteria, please ask them to fill out the application at http://www.nsrcfund.org/scholarships/

Claire Light releases Slightly Behind and to the Left

A quick congratulations to Bay Area writer Claire Light who has just released her chapbook of short stories and flash fiction, Slightly Behind and to the Left, thanks to the publishers at Aqueduct Press.

Claire writes fiction, blogs, criticizes (usually in the constructive way) and is a cultural worker. One of the visions who co-founded Hyphen magazine, she has also been a contributing editor at Other magazine, and has contributed criticism to the KQED arts website.

Claire also brings her inimitable style to the non-profit sector in administration. Which means she bosses folks around for good causes. Her big focus has been the arts and in the Asian American community. Her MFA in fiction came from San Francisco State University, and some of her fiction is published in McSweeney's, Farthing, and a forthcoming issue of The Encyclopedia Project. She blogs at her personal blogs "SeeLight" and "atlas(t)," and at Hyphen magazine's blog.

In her chapbook, a woman with the most thankless job in space will calculate a new kind of  "cold equation" to get her home to port. In a fantastical place where adulthood is the biggest threat to adolescent boys, predators arise from unlikely quarters, and in a world with wonky physics and no gravity, a lone human learns the meaning of  "reckless endangerment of alien life."  This ought to get interesting.  Check it out.

Asian American Film Festivals?

In case you were wondering, there are many Asian American film festivals being conducted around the US that provide great opportunities for emerging and established film-makers. 

Each of them has their own character but if you're in the area, they're definitely worth checking out. Let me know if I've missed any:

[Diversicon] Hong on the Range

This year's Diversicon Guest of Honor is William F. Wu who is the author of the unique 1989 wild west/science fiction adventure of Louie Hong and his faithful companions. The gang consists of Prism Chisholm, Chuck, Rusty, Betsy, and many more including cows who really do talk and sing.

It's not often you see an Asian American space cowboy, and this one pulls it off in grand style: In the future, most people and animals are partly mechanical, so totally human cowboy Louie Hong faces some odd adventures when he tangles with bionic outlaws and bounty hunters who are both blaming him for a recent bank robbery. How does it end? Well, you'll just have to find out.

It was also turned into an Image  comic book series that was chosen for the Wilson Library Bulletin's list of science fiction "Books Too Good To Miss."

Hong On the Range has also been a selection for the American Library Association list of Best Books for Young People,  a Young Adult Editor's Choice by Booklist Magazine and received the New York Public Library's Recommended Books for the Teen Age. Hong On the  Range emerged from Wu’s Hugo and Nebula Award nominee HONG'S BLUFF which first appeared in Omni Magazine.

William F. Wu is coming to Minnesota from July 30th-August 1st with a reading at DreamHaven Books on July 29th. He's a fun guy and you shouldn't miss him when he comes to town! And you'll also get a chance to find out what his upcoming projects are.

Rates for registering for the convention up until the Ides of March, (March 15 2010) are: Adult $25, Student (ages 5–21) $15.  Up until Bastille Day, (July 14 2010), the rates go up to Adult $30, Student $20.  At the door, rates are Adult $40, Student $30. For more questions, contact diversicon@gmail.com

New Creative Works Editor for JSAAEA

I am happy to announce that I will be serving as the Editor of the Creative Works Section of the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement at www.jsaaea.org.

This is an on-line and freely accessible interdisciplinary journal providing a forum for scholars and writers from diverse fields who share a common interest in Southeast Asian (SEA) Americans and their communities.

JSAAEA is an official publication of The National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the department of Bicultural-Bilingual studies and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

To that end, I'm happily calling upon Southeast Asian Americans to submit literary or visual artwork of creative merit for consideration to the journal at jsaaea@lists.sis.utsa.edu or directly to me via thaoworra@gmaill.com

I'm looking for poetry, reflective essays, personal accounts, biographies and autobiographies, and other creative or literary works. However, before submitting, please be sure to read the submission guidelines at: http://jsaaea.coehd.utsa.edu/index.php/JSAAEA/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing new work from all of you!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tanon Sai Jai E-Book: Current reflections

Tanon Sai Jai E-Book Edition

In June of last year, I released Tanon Sai Jai as a book available in both a free e-book format and in a hard copy edition as an experiment to see if this approach was viable for Laotian American poets. I'm still studying this approach, but my feeling is yes, it can work and it's important to do it this way.

There are unique opportunities that work for both the reader and the poet that strengthen our ability to create a robust and dynamic literary environment for our community. I can't wait to try additional approaches later this year. As my readers, I think you'll really like them.

[MN] Lao Student Social Networking 1/29

Lao social networking dinner on Friday, January 29th, 2010 from 6 pm - 9 pm at Sawatdee resturant in downtown Minneapolis. This event is organized and hosted by the Lao Student Association at the University of Minnesota. This will be a fund raising event that also seek to raise awareness of their organization in the community as well as to connect LSA new members and alumni with the Lao community of Minnesota. Sawatdee Resturant, 607 Washington Ave S. #100, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

[TN] L.A.O. Talent Showcase!

Laotian American Outreach in Tennessee presents their 3rd Annual Talent Showcase this weekend! This year they have some great performances for you all to see. They'll be giving out some great raffle prizes so plan to attend! Doors open at 5:00pm. Admission: $2.00. Bethel World Outreach, 5760 Granny White Pike, Brentwood, TN

[Non-Profit] Center for Asian American Media

This month, Angry Asian Man pointed out The Center for Asian American Media a non-profit dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible.

They do this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media. Supporting their work allows CAAM to continue being the largest presenter of Asian American films worldwide, presently the sole producer of Asian American programming for public television, and the largest Asian American media resource for schools, colleges and libraries around the nation. You'll be supporting the work of Asian American filmmakers and helping to shape modern media to be fully inclusive, representative and diverse.

[Writing] Basics for submitting poetry

For many poets an important part of the process is submitting your work for publication. There are writers who bypass this approach entirely.

Some don't aspire to write books, and in an age of e-publication, this may not be as unusual as it sounds anymore. But for writers who enjoy having their work collected as a book, professionally, it is helpful to have some demonstrable credits and proof of prior publication before going to a publisher.

There's a few successful people who have never published in a journal before and knocked it right out of the park on the first try, but they're few and far between. So for the rest of us working writers, some basics:

1) Find a few journals and magazines to see if your writing would be of interest to that journal. And read them.

If they don't publish poetry already, the odds are highly unlikely your poem is going to change their mind. It's sad, but true, just as it's also unlikely that Bay Area Mothers Magazine is going to accept your poem about Swinging at the Hell's Angels Lemon Party with a Rusty Trombone in Steamin' Cleveland.

For a good guide to current journals around the world, check out: www.newpages.com

2) For poems, pick out a selection of three that demonstrate different styles and topics. If they don't like one poem, chances are reading two others about the same thing in the same voice and tone aren't likely to get you any further. Use a good format- avoid 'funky fonts' or too much avant garde presentation unless the journal really suggests that's what they like.

3) Use a basic cover letter. This will introduce your bundle:
* Who you are
* How many poems that you're submitting, and assure them that they've never been published before.
* The titles of the poems included.
* Provide a bio about yourself: One or two sentences about where you live, what you do for a living, a few other publication credits or awards and a way to read more of your work.
* Thank them for their time, and give them a way to contact you if they have any questions. E-mail addresses are usually sufficient these days.

Most journals accept e-mail submissions. Some don't accept attachments. Figure out what they prefer from their submission guidelines.

Submit once or twice a year. Don't ever bombard them with tons and tons and tons and tons of poems.

Over time, you'll want to diversify your poetry credits anyway, and poems published in one journal really shouldn't be submitted to other journals unless they specialize in reprints. This keeps copyright protections in the clear for everyone.

My other advice, after years of trial and error is don't submit to journals that ask for money to review or print your work.

Understand that most journals don't pay for your work either, and those that do rarely pay more than enough to buy a small cup of coffee. That's just the field at this point. Poets have to do this because they love to do it. To adapt the Harley Davidson riders motto: Live to Write, Write to Live.

As an FYI: As of 2010, the average book deal for poets seems to net you a flat $1,000. Some get a little more with larger presses  but I wouldn't count on those too much. As a poet, when we're creating, one never expects to give up the day job.

[MN] Bloomington Theatre and Art Center Writers' Festival and Book Fair

The Bloomington Writers' Festival will be held on February 27, 9:30  - 4:30 at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, 1800 W Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN.

Keynote speaker Cathy Wurzer, THIS WRITER'S LIFE will open the Writers' Festival at 9:30 am.

The Book Fair, workshops and panels will follow her presentation.>The Book Fair is open to any published author  who wish to act as a resource for aspiring authors, meet the reading public, do a public reading of their work and network with other published writers. Businesses and organizations that support established and aspiring authors are also advised to reserve their tables early.

Table reservations and readings are filled on a first come, first served basis. Table reservation's deadline for the 2010 event is January 29. For more information and reservation forms, go to www.bloomingtonartcenter.com

[Writing] Southeast Asian American Horror Stories: Getting started

To encourage a growth in the field, I think it's important to demystify some parts of the craft process. Over time we'll work on the issues of 'excellence,' 'risk' and 'innovation' but for now we just need to get things down on paper so that we have something to work with.

I happen to work best in horror, science fiction and fantasy, and am content I shall never be tapped to write a NASCAR Romance, so I'm going to outline some principles that may or may not work for you within these types of stories. Other rules apply to other forms, such as the mystery and western.

The basic structure of a modern short story is now approximately 9,000 to 12,000 words, or 36-48 pages long. Most have a beginning, middle and end. On this, the important thing to urge is: An end. These are self-contained stories that assume someone has not read previous or later works, and avoid the common complaint "The story didn't so much end as simply stopped."

Your story should have a definite who, what, when and where. For horror stories, the how and why can be somewhat mysterious and there may be a few instances where you don't reveal this. (Although you, as the writer should know.)

One writer has described the writer's puzzle as: Take a person. Put them in a tree. Now get them down somehow. I would also remember the old newspaper joke that says a dog biting a man isn't news. But a man biting a dog? That's news.

Armed with that, for beginning Southeast Asian American horror stories there are some very easy formulas that allow for some compelling ideas and infinite variety within them. Factors we consider are:

Time Setting: Stories will be set in either a historical, modern or in a few rare cases futuristic setting. Most of the futuristic settings tend to be near-future or 'post-apocalyptic' or 'mid-apocalyptic.'

Location: Most stories will choose between remote or rural locations, urban locations, a mix, possibly with a sense of global movement.

Protagonist: The person we're following in the story. We used to call this the hero or the good person, but many modern stories don't necessarily put you in a good person's shoes. A protagonist is likely to be either a woman or a man, a child, adult, or elder. A good horror story will give them an advantage or two, but also an internal or external disadvantage that puts them at risk. It's preferred to see stories told from viewpoints we've rarely seen before.

Without risk, if the conclusion appears automatic, there is no tension, excitement or terror within the story: "Well, of course Rambo, soaked in holy water covered with garlic, crosses and armed with stake-firing machine gun defeated the vampire in a showdown at high-noon,"  would not make for much of a story. Well, maybe in this case it would, but that's pretty rare.

Threat: Threats to the protagonist in a horror story will tend to be either internal, external, or a slight combination of both. Those threats may be natural, supernatural or possibly alien, although the use of aliens in horror is something most prefer to use sparingly. For Southeast Asian American horror, we can anticipate the supernatural creatures will most likely be from ancient cultural tradition (or possibly a rival ancient tradition) or a more local tradition.

Stakes: Usually, stakes are life and death, which is somewhat predictable but it makes the stories worth telling. The prevailing thought goes: Few people sign on for a horror story that is essentially 'the very big inconvenience.'

Horror by its nature demands something horrible arrive to at least one person, possibly many. And the protagonists are aware of the possibility and the stakes. Some people like the protagonist to have a happy ending, others do not. But at no point should a character's survival be an automatic given.

Under these basic ideas, this can result in many intriguing scenarios such as 'Hmong shaman versus eurotrash vampire on holiday,' 'Lao rapper meets a disguised phi pob after a concert in Milwaukee,' 'Vietnamese poet meets the hairy nguoi rung while he gets lost taking a tourist trek'  Please, no glittering mummies.

There's more we can discuss here, but let's hear from you.

[Laos] Luang Prabang: 15th Anniversary as UN World Heritage Site

This year, Luang Prabang celebrates 15 years as a designated United Nations World Heritage Site.

The UN Heritage Site program was established with an understanding that heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. They believe that as a world, our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

The United Nations cites places such as East Africa’s Serengeti wilderness, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia among many other wonderful examples as part of our world’s heritage.

These are places that transcend nationality and in many ways belong to all the peoples of the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) continues to encourage identifying, protecting and preserving cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

Laos has two sites declared UN World Heritage sites, the cities of Luang Prabang and Champassak, notably the unique Wat Phou complex nearby. There have been efforts to have the Plain of Jars also declared a World Heritage Site.

The name Luang Prabang translates roughly as: "Royal Delicate Buddha" and is located in Northern Laos. It is a city of just over 100,000 people and was the former royal capital of Laos. Today it continues to draw tourists for its mixture of natural and cultural attractions. Visitors are often struck by the magnificent wats and the classical colonial houses of old, the likes of which simply aren't built anymore due to modern 'sensibilities' in other nations.

This process has not been without controversy, because many sought to use UN funds to modernize and transform Luang Prabang into a city like any other, demolishing the same wood and stone structures of old, claiming these are the building materials of the poor, and deforesting the surrounding countryside to install hotels and other attractions like golf courses.

Hopefully, over time, an effective balance and understanding can be reached and Luang Prabang will continue to develop gracefully as a fine example to the rest of the world.

Shades of Yellow New Year: Saturday, January 23

The fabulous SOY New Year comes this weekend, Sat. Jan 23, 2010 at the Prom Center, 484 Inwood Ave in Oakdale, MN.

It's 4-8PM with an After Party scheduled from 8-10PM. Advanced tickets are $7. Tickets at the door are $10. This is the 6th annual Hmong GLBTQ new year. You can contact contact Kevin Xiong (kevin.xiong@shadesofyellow.org) or Ming Lee (ming.lee@shadesofyellow.org) for more information.

Shades of Yellow (SOY) is the first Hmong GLBTQ organization, supporting Hmong GLBTQ and their families in the Twin Cities. Their mission is to provide support, education, cultural awareness, social gatherings, and advocacy to Hmong GLBTQ, SOY members, families, allies and the Hmong community in the Twin Cities.

They've been a very positive and active network in the Twin Cities and across the US and I'm looking forward to seeing their future efforts in 2010 and beyond as they expand their advocacy capacity and bring communities together to create a positive and progressive environment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Call for Submissions: Saint Paul Almanac

The Saint Paul Almanac Invites Submissions! 

The publisher of the Saint Paul Almanac invites novice and professional writers alike to participate in the 2011 version of this local treasure. Anyone with a unique Saint Paul story to tell is encouraged to submit their work for consideration in the 2011Saint Paul Almanac, the publication’s fifth edition.

The annually published Saint Paul Almanac features essays, poems, photos, maps, and listings of events, bars, restaurant, theaters, and other cultural venues within a datebook format. Writers featured in past editions include literary giants, everyday residents, students of all ages, journalists, new Americans, and lovers of Saint Paul who live in other corners of the world. Each submission is read carefully by the Almanac’s community editors who select the 100+ pieces to be included in the new edition. Each writer whose work is accepted receives a stipend.

The Almanac encourages writers to make their story personal and specific, have fun with the process, and think outside the box in terms of topics and format. Most selections in theAlmanac are 650 words or fewer, with a small number being as long as 1,500 words. Tiny poems are encouraged.

Writers interested in having their work considered for the 2011 Saint Paul Almanac have until March 31, 2010 to submit. Multiple submissions are acceptable. The complete guidelines for submitting a piece and ideas for topics are available atwww.saintpaulalmanac.com on the Submissions page. Send your stories by email tostories@saintpaulalmanac.com

[Diversicon] Posthumous Guest of Honor: Fritz Leiber (1910-1992)

At this year's Diversicon we're recognizing the work of fantasy and science fiction master Fritz Leiber, who was deeply influenced and encouraged by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft but gained significant prominence and acclaim for his characters Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, written over the course of fifty years in numerous novels and short stories set in the city of Lankhmar.

Leiber's characters set the groundwork for many of the tropes seen in modern sword and sorcery since, but also distinguished themselves by the way the characters matured over time, something not seen in most stories of this kind during the period Leiber was writing.

Leiber's work influenced figures such as Ramsey Campbell, Joanna Russ, Terry Pratchett and many others. His early essays on the work of H.P. Lovecraft were instrumental in building a serious critical appreciation for Lovecraft's writing.

Writing mostly in short story form, many consider Leiber a forerunner of the modern urban horror story. Leiber's work is distinctive for its early incorporation of action and comedy within genres that, at the time, were often grim and dark, such as Robert E. Howard's hero, Conan the Barbarian.

Leiber was rather fond of cats, who figure prominently in many of his short stories as protagonists. Leiber's 1964 novel The Wanderer involves a cat-like alien, Tigerishka who is attractive to the human protagonist but repelled by human customs, monkeys she considers as overly talkative, noisy and unsuited for space travel, disconnected from the realities of the universe. I'm not suggesting any shades of James Cameron's Avatar, of course but I think it would be interesting to compare the two characters.

Dark Horse Comics released an anthology of Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories adapted by comic book legends Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola and there has been talk of a Fafhrd and Grey Mouser movie. It's somewhat difficult to find Leiber's work that is not set in Lankhmar but it's worth tracking down if you get a chance.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

[Film] NYT: The Coming Revolution

The New York Times ran an article recently highlighting the opportunities and paradigm shift for independent film-makers to distribute their work in the future. We've been talking about this for a while. It's worth a look.  Three key points of note to me:

"The festival circuit has emerged as a de facto distribution stream for many filmmakers, yet the ad hoc world of festivals is not a substitute for real distribution. And then there’s the simple fact that there are independent filmmakers who do not fit inside the Hollywood (and Hollywood-style) distribution model and do not want to..."

"...By sharing information and building on one another’s ideas, they are in effect creating a virtual infrastructure. This infrastructure doesn’t compete with Hollywood; this isn’t about vying with products released by multinational corporations. It is instead about the creation and sustenance of a viable, artist-based alternative..."

"The downside to this new D.I.Y. world is that filmmakers, who already tend to expend tremendous time and effort raising money, might end up spending more hours hawking their wares than creating new work."

Laotian Film Festivals: Films To consider

As student groups and local communities consider programming in their cities for Laotian film festivals, the following films and shorts have been shown in the past around the world and provide a good solution to the famous King of the Hill scenario:

The First and Second International Conference on Lao Studies and the Vientianale Film Festival have all demonstrated this can be accomplished.

As an artist and community organizer, I would request that if you're going to organize such a festival, please don't use pirated copies or excerpts that chop up the artists' visions and message. Be ethical and get permission when possible.

Nerakhoon: The Betrayal by Thavisouk Phrasavath (2008) is currently the leading film communities are showing, and for good reason. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQmx_qvKKqU

Bua Deng: Red Lotus by Somouk Suthipon (1988) Told from the perspective of Dara Kalaya it was intended to show her life during the 1960s and living through the rise of the Pathet Lao and an exploration of the ideals of what a Lao woman should be.

Luk Isan: Child of the Northeast by Choroen Lampungporn (1991) Based upon the award-winning novel by Khampoun Bounthavee on his childhood during the Depression in the region of Isan.

Bombies by Jack Silberman (2000) From 1964 to 1973 the US secret air war dropped over 2 million tons of bombs on Laos making it the most heavily bombed country in history. Millions of these 'cluster bombs' did not explode when dropped, and still pose a threat nearly 40 years later. You can learn more at Bullfrog Filmshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYZqSK3WV-Y

Blue Collar And Buddha (1987) is a one-hour documentary discussing vandals and attacks on Lao trying to build a Buddhist temple during the early years of their resettlement. A look at the opinions of townspeople and American officials attitudes towards the Lao and refugees and highlights the differences between refugees and immigrants. You can obtain a copy from Collective Eye


Bomb Harvest by Kim Mordaunt is another documentary on UXO following a bomb removal team in Laos for two months. Australian bomb disposal specialist Laith Stevens has to train a new young big bomb team to deal with bombs left from the US Secret War, all the while local children are out hunting for scrap metal from bombs. This timely story is terrifying, yet filled with eccentric characters and moments of humour, vividly depicting the consequences of war and the incredible bravery of those trying to clear up the mess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twHP3fwcfhU

Becoming American (1982) A documentary on the Hmong journey following the life of  Hang Sou, and his family who lived six years in the Thai Namyao refugee camp. Distributed by New Day Films.

The Best Place To Live by Peter O'Neill and Ralph Rugoff (1982) is one of the early documentaries on the lives of Hmong resettling in Rhode Island. There is a sequel that was being made.

The Leaf, Not Yet Falling Vannasone Keodara is a short film at 13 minutes documenting a girl's childhood memories and over two decades of experience living in exile.

Letter Back Home by Nith Lacroix and Sang Thepkaysone (1994) is a 15 minute look at Lao and Cambodian youth in San Fancisco and was originally taken back to Laos to show how refugee youth were really living in the US. It received  Second Prize in the Chicago Asian American Film &Video Contest, and the Best New Vision Documentary Award at the Berkeley Video Festival and was broadcast nationally on PBS. Currently distributed by the Center for Asian American Media.
Death of a Shaman by Richard Hall (2002) follows Fahm Saeyang who takes a look back at her father's unsettled life and death and the heartbreaking path he took from respectability to hopelessness. It examines how a Mien family suffered through a 20 year ordeal of poverty, racism, religions, drugs, jail, and the murder of her sister. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO3K7ZbF4_E

The Split Horn by Taggart Siegel and Jim McSilver (2001) is the story of Hmong shaman Paja Thao and his family in Appleton, Wisconsin. It documents the 17-year journey and a shaman's struggles to maintain his ancient traditions as his children embrace American culture. Presented on PBS by ITVS and NAATA.
Kelly Loves Tony by Spencer Nakasako (1998) Following the life of 17 year old Kelly Saeteurn and her "American dream." as a Iu-Mien refugee. But her dreams exist in sharp contrast to her reality. She's pregnant and her boyfriend Tony is a junior high drop out and ex-con. The film follows two young people struggling to make their relationship work through obstacles like parenthood, gender issues and cultural and educational differences.

From Opium to Chrysanthemums by Pea Holmquist (2001) At the height of the Vietnam War, in 1969, Swedish filmmaker PeÅ Holmquist traveled to South East Asia to make a film on a Hmong village leader named Lao-Tong and the Hmong. This film documents Holmquist's return after 30 years. With new material filmed in Thailand, Laos, and the United States, and incorporating scenes from the 1969 documentary, the film shows how much has changed, and what has happened to the Hmong, both in Thailand and Laos, and in the United States. Distributed by Icarus Films.

The Vientianale Film festival screened:
The Secret of Palm Leaves 
Our Daily Opium
Let the Gibbons Live 
Laos, Land of a Million Elefants (German)
Approach to the Underworld (German) 
and Want to be a Soldier and Land of Freedom by the Lao Cinema Department. 

Unfortunately there aren't any detailed synopsis available for these films but they are possibilities. 

Of course, there are several Hollywood and mainstream films that set in Laos: Air America, Gran Torino, Little Dieter Learns to Fly, Rescue Dawn, Love is Forever and the Chuck Norris film Missing in Action (Not really recommended, as it's only said to be set in Laos and reflects nothing of the country or culture).

Individual film festival organizers may have different ideas about what they would and wouldn't want to program into their schedule, but I hope this list demonstrates that we don't have a shortage of options available to us. Are there any others that should be considered?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2010 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy Recognition Awards!

The Asian Pacific Community Fund (APCF) in partnership with Asian Americans/ Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) is seeking nominations for young individuals and organizations that have exemplified outstanding support for the Asian Pacific Islander community through their leadership and philanthropic efforts.

Two individuals and two organizations will receive awards. All nominees will be recognized. The awards will be presented at the 2nd Annual Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy Recognition Awards to be held in early March. Completed nomination packages must be received by 5:00 P.M., Monday, January 25, 2010. 

Apply online, or send all forms by mail to: ATTN: ELP Recognition Awards, 1145 Wilshire Blvd. 1st Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017, or by fax to: (213) 624-6406.

For more information about the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy Recognition Awards, contact Kristina Ramos, Marketing Associate of the Asian Pacific Community Fund, at (213) 624-6400 x4 or kramos@apcf.org .

Texas Asian American film festival trying to raise $1,500

Slant: Bold Asian American Images, the annual festival of short films in Texas is celebrating 10 years and trying to raise $1,500. A cute video explains the situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45EtDjHsuPs.

Donations go towards paying filmmakers, performers, venue rentals, travel costs and other things that will make this a really great festival. And if you're a filmmaker, the deadline to submit a film is January 30.

[Philanthopy] Highlight: Asian Women Giving Circle, New York

The Asian Women Giving Circle is a New York-based group pooling their money to fund other Asian women in New York City, particularly those who use art to further a social equity goal. Over four years, the Asian Women Giving Circle raised and distributed $270,000 in New York City to thirty individual artists and community organizations.

That's a really great accomplishment and it's wonderful to see others establish similar giving circles in their communities where it can make a difference.

In Minnesota, the Hmong Women's Giving Circle is one of the earliest examples in the Southeast Asian American community. Asian Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy established a National Donor Circle that greatly enhanced the giving power of many giving circles across the US.

Asian American Giving provides a great list of giving circles already established across the US. Check it out, get involved.

[Philanthropy] Harvard Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management

The Harvard Business School Asian American Alumni Association (HBS4A) is sponsoring a full tuition, room, board, and materials scholarship for a non-profit executive director to attend the Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program at Harvard this July. Previous organizations which have benefited from this scholarship include the New York Asian Women's Center, the Chinese Community Center, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association and the Chinese Information and Service Center. It's a great opportunity and I hope we see many of you apply. This year's deadline is March 1st, 2010.

Call for entries: San Diego Asian Film Festival

The San Diego Asian Film Festival announced their call for entries for 2010. They're seeking entries in: narrative feature, narrative short, documentary feature, documentary short, and animation.

Films submitted must be directed or principally acted by an artist of Asian or Pacific Islander descent; or whose subject matter relates to Asian or Pacific Islander culture.

The early deadline is April 30, 2009 ($25 Submission Fee), and the late deadline is June 11, 2009 ($40 Submission Fee)

An independent jury selects winners, along with the Grand Jury award announced at the Festival's Gala Awards Night. Festival programmers also select a first-time filmmaker to receive the George C. Lin Emerging Filmmaker Award (A $1,000 prize.)

The 11th San Diego Asian Film Festival is October 21-28, 2010 at the Mission Valley UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center. For more information, visit the San Diego Asian Film Foundation website.

Friday, January 15, 2010

[Diversicon] Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Getting it Wrong

This year's posthumous guest of honor at Diversicon, science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke is often hailed for many of his visionary postulations of what life would be like in the future. But it's also entertaining to look at what goes wrong too, and this makes for a very lively conversation. Alas, moon mining did not come to pass as soon as he predicted, nor are we traveling yet to other planets or living alongside cyborgs, making our way around thanks to matter transference.

But in many other ways he did make some close to accurate calls about what we could expect. In one of his books, he notes “The one fact about the future of which we can be certain is that it will be utterly fantastic.” And in many ways, that has happened. Perhaps not to the time of flying jetpacks a la Ray Bradbury, but interesting advances, just the same.

One day, it will be interesting to see where today's science fiction writers get it wrong.

Nollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood and the Lao

The other day, I was talking with some friends the concept of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry that some claim produces 50 movies a week at a cost between $10,000 to $28,000 a film on average. They hope to one day rival Hollywood. It's an interesting ambition, and perhaps one day may rival Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.

Naturally, I then wonder what a really ramped-up Lao or Hmong film industry would look like. And what's might hold us back?

Funding for Bollywood films is often based on private distributors and a few studios, and increasingly Indian banks and financial companies who can now lend money to those studios. Which I imagine is something of an improvement, although in the old days the Mumbai underworld was also credited with backing the production of films and getting involved either by physical of monetary means. I don't think we'll see that happen in either the Lao or Hmong film industry in the US. Everyone will always suggest that getting the money is the hardest part. The other challenge for our community seems to be issues of piracy.

Access to reasonably professional equipment does not necessarily seem to be the problem at the moment, but issues of time and a comparatively small pool of professional actors, writers and technical personnel to draw from at the moment, so many are settling for semi-professional or amateur talent to get involved.

I worked in Minnesota for a while with Asian Media Access and their Cinema With Passion series to present Hong Kong films to the public in the late 1990s. This was before Asian films made it big after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and a few others. As a result, I got to see a very wide range of quality but most often, passion in the productions.

Even if the plots and dialogue of Hong Kong films could get very thin, and the results were often rushed, at the end, you had results. Often with people at least looking happy for that effort. Abd nire experienced. I found it inspiring to see a city of people so intent on making movies, as if there was simply a sheer joy and adrenaline rush from making movies. There's a certain cowboy element to many of them, where it's really clear someone could and often did really did get hurt by the reckless attitude of some production companies, but many resulted in visual brilliance.

This pains me most as I see any number of Lao and Hmong film makers today with great ideas for scripts but little progress in completing them. I hope for a happy medium in our production process. To flood a market with crap or cinematic spam is certainly nothing to aspire to, yet a crippling attachment to perfectionism, too, will stunt the growth of Southeast Asian refugee film industries.

I take note of this particularly with the recent success of the '$70' zombie movie Colin or the barebones budget of Paranormal Activity which seems to owe a great deal to the low-budget, high-content ambitions of The Blair Witch Project or the $900 film The Last Broadcast.

It's not all about the money, and besides the horror genre or films like El Mariachi, or the science fiction films La Jetee and Alphaville, we can look at a thoughtful film like the audacious My Dinner With Andre and say that American over-reliance on technology, pyrotechnics and 'star-power' is often a crutch.

The absence of these elements is not necessarily a guarantee either, as we see thanks to films in the Dogme 95 tradition, that, as avant garde as they may be, are also most often... boring. Surely, the one truly unforgivable crime of art.

We've seen a substantial rise in Asian American film festivals and Asian American film-making teams emerging.  This is exciting and promising. We need to encourage more robust representation and community engagement and discussion of these topics and opportunities.

For the Southeast Asian American film industry to truly succeed with meaning, I think we need to keep encouraging even beginning writers to continue refining and polishing their stories, to take risks while committing to deeper truth and excellence. One of the most important things we can do is build up individual and community capacity for risk. So that even if a particular film of project flops, we do not consider it some terminus, a final end point to someone's promising career.

[Minneapolis] Visions: A Portrait of West Broadway

The Northside Arts Collective of North Minneapolis has recently released a new video highlighting the relationship of artists to the development of the City. As a five minute video, it tries to cover a lot of territory that I think is worthwhile to consider not only to continue such efforts in Minneapolis, but in other communities:

[Loft] a la carte: A Writing Buffet for Beginners

On February 20-21st, the Loft is offering beginning writers a chance to try their hand at several different styles of writing. If you ever wanted to try your hand in poetry and also screenplays, the a la carte Festival is a great chance to meet other writers and professionals and gain some great insights about the writing life from award-winning writers. 

It's no secret I'm a big fan of literary cross-training. Knowing the differences and similarities between the forms strengthens our work and pushes us.  This time, the main options are in Children's Literature, Novels, Memoirs, Short Stories, Graphic Novels, Poetry, Screenplays and Teleplays

The Keynote speaker is Selden Edwards, and I can see why he was chosen to talk to emerging writers. 

Selden began working on a novel in 1974 and it took him 33 years to work, revise and submit his manuscript. It went through six 'final drafts' and you could wallpaper a room with the rejection letters he got, but when he gave it one last try, the result was a critically acclaimed debut novel, The Little Book, which is on Entertainment Weekly's 'Must List.'  

So, what was it? Luck? Perseverance? A really, really, really good cover letter? An agent that believed in him? The man worked on a book almost since the year I was born and never really gave up on it.  But what kind of lessons do we extract from it, especially in today's literary marketplace where there's such encouragement to produce books rapidly? And frankly, given how long it took him to write one book, where does a writer like him go from here?

It's an interesting question.

At $175 for non-members of the Loft, it's an investment, but the way the festival is set up, I think this is a great opportunity for people who want to really get close to other writers and try their hands at different literary forms with some professional input. 

If I understand it from the latest update, almost half of the registrations are filled now. I imagine the rest of the available seats will fill up very quickly.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

[Loft] 2010 Graphic Novel & Comic Book Writing & Illustrating Conference

One of the really nice things about being part of the Loft Literary Center's board of directors is being able to see previews of really exceptional programs.

While there's a ton of events that will happen at the Loft in 2010 I'm looking forward to, my personal favorite is the Graphic Novel & Comic Book Writing & Illustrating Conference (June 19-20).

Despite its regrettably clunky title, the keynote speaker for this conference is Gene Luen Yang, who deeply understands the opportunities and challenges of the field today. His work American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association's Printz Award. I think he'll have some fascinating things to share with everyone on how he navigates a personal story, a cultural story and his traditions while also innovating and pushing the medium.

You'll see some great conversations taking place on craft, breaking into the industry, and most importantly, staying in it. For a lot of my readers, I'd say this is really the 'don't miss' event to save space on your calendar for.

Monday, January 11, 2010

MN Lao artist's life featured in children's book

A very big congratulations is due to long-time colleague of mine, Lao American visual artist Mali Kouanchao, whose life served as the basis for the new children's book Mali Under the Night Sky, written and illustrated by Youme Landowne.

Due out in July 2010, it is being released by the award-winning Texas-based Cinco Punto Press. Cinco Puntos seeks to publish great books which make a difference in the way you see the world. To quote the publisher:

"Mali Under the Night Sky is the true story of Laotian-American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Before the war began, Mali lived an idyllic life in a community where she felt safe and was much loved. She loved to sit in front of her house and ask everyone who passed by, “Where are you going?” She herself went everywhere too—climbing on the flowering trees, catching tiny fish in a rice field, looking for pale bamboo shoots in the dark forest. She loved the time she spent with her family, napping in the hot afternoons, making feasts and coming together on special days to celebrate. But the coming war caused her family to flee to another country and a life that was less than ideal. What did she carry with her? She carried her memories. And they in turn carried her across the world, sharing where she is from and all that she loves with the people she meets."

It's wonderful to see Lao American stories finally being recognized. Having known Mali for nearly a decade, now, I think it's time her story and her art receives the recognition and acclaim it deserves.

She's done groundbreaking work to develop a new and daring visual vocabulary for the Lao American experience of the world, with a style that's evolved substantially over the years. One of her well known pieces is the one used by Refugee Nation.

It's very hard to find early examples of her work now, but she's been part of some amazing projects over the years, including several murals you can spot in Minneapolis and Minnesota.

I've had a chance to see advance previews of the book and it's very touching, a don't miss for 2010. I hope it will also inspire other Lao writers, artists and community members to tell their stories too.

The well-regarded Cinco Punto Press has received the American Book Award for excellence in publishing and been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. They've received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission for the Arts. Several of their books have received Southwest Book Awards and they've received a special Southwest Book Award in 1993 for outstanding achievement in bringing national recognition to their regional literature. They also received funds from the Fideicomiso para la Cultura de México y Estados Unidos.

UNESCO Creative Cities, Publishing Houses and Lao Writers

Previously, we discussed  the Creative City Networks proposed by UNESCO. For writers, one resource UNESCO sought was: Quality, quantity and diversity of editorial initiatives and publishing houses.

I find this a very fascinating. What is an ideal climate to generate resources for Lao American artists to thrive in? For Lao in the United States, I wish to see by 2020 at least 10 solid publishing houses for Lao writers to submit work to and develop successful careers that meet our cultural needs.

We already have a few publishers developing, most focusing on children's literature. This is understandable and admirable, however I also hope to see Lao American publishers commit to developing excellent books for adults as well, and to encourage a reading beyond the merely practical, but also for leisure over our lifetimes.

A growth in Lao American publishers will ideally be able to exist in a complementary coexistence with other mainstream and international publishers to encourage Lao and others to read and celebrate literacy. In particular, Lao publishers must be bold enough to risk printing work that may offend some sensibilities. Without that courage, that willingness to express an opinion, we stagnate and fall far short of our potential.

The Center for Independent Publishing discussed what it would take to become a good publisher:
"Before becoming a publisher, you should decide the level of commitment you are willing to put into your business and how you will deal with your business through the difficult times. You should consider how you will fund your company, what your editorial concept and niche will be, how many books you will realistically be able to publish, and how you will market those books for your target audience. After determining a plan, you should begin to put it into action, making sure your program runs on a consistent schedule. Remember, the quality and consistency of the books you publish is more important than the number of books. Through consistent business methods, you will begin to build a credible reputation for your publishing company."

Something to think about.

There are publishing companies who developed with only $10,000 to start up. That's less than $1,000 a month for a year. This will make it a very barebones company, but it has potential. I encourage starting with at least $20,000 to really get a good beginning. Ultimately, I'm encouraged by the idea that the cost of entry isn't as high as one might think for a small publisher, especially compared to the costs of starting other businesses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Reading of 2010: Birchbark Books in Minneapolis

Wednesday, January 13 @ 7pm
Birchbark Books and Kenwood Cafe
prix fixe menu available at Kenwood Cafe, 6:15pm

The Birchbark Books Reading Series presents Bryan Thao WorraAndrea Jenkins, and Tammy Darrah Wenberg. Hosted by Michael Kiesow Moore. 

This ongoing series features new, emerging, and established writers presenting their work at Birchbark Books and the Kenwood Cafe on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, from September through May. 

View theseries flyer for more details about the Minnesota poets and writers featured in this installment of the reading series. A warm and wonderful success so far, come support local writers and bring a friend!

Birchbark Books and Native Arts is located at 2115 West 21st Street, Minneapolis, MN 55405.

You can visit them online at www.birchbarkbooks.com!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

[Fon] Lao American Dance

In our ongoing discussion of Lao American dance it can be helpful to understand what we might see and expect in a contemporary dance exhibition. As mentioned in a previous post, there are over 60 possible dances we might see and observe in Laos. We see considerably fewer here performed in the US, but there's still significant diversity within what we are seeing.

Depending on the time available, at the moment you can typically expect around 11 dances in a standard two hour period, and the current tendency is to also include a number of instrumental performances and songs during the evening. 
 Dances are running approximately 5 to 6 minutes in many cases, although there are shorter and longer performances observed across the US. Increasingly, we're seeing efforts to add hip hop dance into the programs, although the focus continues to prefer traditional regional dances. 

Notable Lao dances in the US that can be spotted occasionally include:

The blessing dance, usually reserved for special occasions including weddings and the Lao New Year as a welcome. This dance has gone be several different names, depending on the state it is being performed in.

The Fon Souliya. The typical story associated with it is the story of young girls who went to see a sunset and were so delighted by it they began to dance.

The Lam Salavanh. A regional dance from the Southern Lao province of Salavanh.

Fon dok champa. A dance performed in honor of the national flower of Laos, the dok champa. Typically performed in America to a rendition of Champa Muang Lao.

The monkey and mermaid dance. Drawn from a side story of the Lao Ramayana, Phralak Phralam, this dance is an interpretation of the tale of a monkey warrior seeking the love of a mermaid.
The Fon kinnaly. The Kinnaly dance is inspired by the stories of the graceful Kinnaly, a celestial race of half-human, half-birds known for their elegant dancing and art. This is one of the more rare dances to observe in the US due to the expense of the costumes and the significant training required to perform this dance. There is a particular variation, the Fon Manola that references the classic legend of Manola and Sithon.

I'm still locating descriptions for all of the dances mentioned in this post, but notable dances also include the Fon Dok Bouatong, Fon Poakanoy, Fon Pongelang, Fon Kubtoom Luang Prabang, Fon Xaokaw and the Fon Leeng. The Royal Lao Classical Dancers of Tennessee are particularly generous in sharing these dances with the public during their performances in May.

Fon Yuk or Fon Nyak references the classic Lao ogres of legend, who may be closely tied to the Rakshasas of South Asian folklore.  The Fon Nang Keo is also another dance that might be seen in particular communities.

 Hopefully, over time, we'll see more examples of these documented and posted online.

[Folktales] Laos: A Story of Giving

In 1998 the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans and the Department of Children, Families and Learning produced 'Myths, legends and heroes,' that provided a profile of the Asian-Pacific community in Minnesota. The following Lao folktale was presented. It would be interesting to find out how and why this particular myth was chosen.

Laos: A Story of Giving
Once there lived a rich man and his wife. They were miserly and godless. They had a son who passed away when he was sixteen. They buried him and set up a shrine to honor his memory. According to tradition, offerings and food were to be delivered to the grave everyday. This was done for an entire year. One day while the maid was on her way to deliver the offerings to the son, a terrible storm swept across the countryside making it impossible for her to proceed. When the storm had subsided, the maid saw a Buddhist monk standing in the distance with an empty bowl in his hands. She approached the monk and kindly donated all of the food she had to him. Later that night, the wife and husband heard the son speak to them saying that he had died a year ago, but had not eaten any food until today. In the morning, the husband demanded an explanation from the maid. The maid related everything that had occurred the previous  day. The husband and the wife immediately set off to the temple to discuss their son with the monks. The monks explained that possessions could not be taken to the afterlife, and that through donation and respect for the temple could they be passed on to the deceased. Understanding this, the couple built a big temple for the monks where they prayed and brought offerings regularly.