Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lao and Certificates In Literary Publishing?

Looking through the Writer's Chronicle the other day, I spotted Emerson College's June program for a certificate in Literary Publishing.

I have to admit, with all of this talk we've been having in the community about establishing a larger number of Lao American publishing houses, the topics certainly seem like something I'd consider. Topics on finance, legal issues and management in particular, but also acquisitions and editing. At $995 the price really isn't that bad of an investment if it's done right. But I'd want to make sure that it's on top of the field as far as technology goes.

CSU in Chico also has a program but i much prefer the idea of a five-day intensive program at this point in my career. I think it would be of interest to other Lao Americans considering the publishing field rather than an extended program, which just isn't feasible for most of us due to budget and time demands. I guess I'll have to do research to see who else is offering anything similar.

I'd encourage other Lao to consider this kind of program, but I'd probably also warn them that as always, having a certificate and some sheet of paper is one thing, but it's taking it and applying it that really counts. Over time, we probably need to develop our own specialized program to address the unique issues that will emerge with the Lao and Lao American publishing industry.

2010 APALA Awards for Literature Winners!

The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association, has selected the winners of the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. The awards promote Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and are awarded based on literary and artistic merit.

The Awards are given in four categories, with Winner and Honor books selected in each category. Apparently there's no poetry category. But, here are the winners of the 2010 awards:

The Picture Book Winner is “Cora Cooks Pancit,” written by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore and illustrated by Kristi Valiant, published by Shens Books. Picture Book Honor was given to “Tan to Tamarind” written by Malathi Michelle Iyengar and illustrated by Jamel Akib, published by Children’s Book Press.

For Youth Literature, the Winner is Sung Woo’s “Everything Asian” published by Thomas Dunne Books. “Tofu Quilt” by Ching Yeung Russell and published by Lee & Low was selected as an Honor recipient.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford and published by Ballantine Books was selected as the Adult Fiction Winner. “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See and published by Random House was selected as an Adult Fiction Honor title.

The Adult Non-Fiction Winner is “American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods,” by Bonnie Tsui and published by Free Press (Simon & Schuster). The Adult Non-Fiction Honor Book is “Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens,” by Lane Ryo Hirabayashi and published by the University Press of Colorado.

Winner and Honor books were chosen from titles by or about Asian Pacific Americans published in 2009.
The Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) was founded in 1980 by librarians of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestries committed to working together toward a common goal: to create an organization that would address the needs of Asian/Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian/Pacific American communities.

3 Poets: Friday, March 12, Banfill-Locke

The Banfill-Locke Center is one of the essential centers for Twin Cities arts, regularly hosting readings and other special events in our community. This month we see three poets performing:

 Florence Chard Dacey is a poet, author and creative writing teacher. Educated at St. Louis and Stanford universities, she served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria and raised three children before focusing full-time on writing, teaching, and working for more vital rural communities. She is the author of four poetry collections—Rock Worn by Water, The Swoon, The Necklace, and Maynard Went this Way—and the libretto for the opera Lightning, performed by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, and the recipient of Loft-McKnight and Nimrod-Hardman awards in poetry.

Freya Manfred has published five books of poetry—A Goldenrod Will Grow, Yellow Squash Woman, American Roads, My Only Home, and Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle, and a literary memoir, Frederick Manfred: A Daughter Remembers. She has received a Harvard/Radcliffe Fellow In Poetry Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Minnesota Poetry Award and a Tozer Foundation Award, and has been a Resident Fellow at Yaddo, The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and The MacDowell Colony.

Joyce Sutphen lives in Chaska and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. She is the author of Naming the Stars (2003); Straight Out of View (Beacon Press, 1995), winner of the 1994 Barnard New Women Poets Prize; and Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, Water~Stone, Hayden's Ferry, Shenandoah, Luna, and others.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this one because I am reading at DreamHaven Books that same day. But if you're near the Banfill-Locke that evening, these are also good writers to catch!

Lao Americans and Census 2010.

The Lao American community is doing a lot to reach out and get community members to fill out the Census 2010. A new video has been posted on youtube:

If you get a form, fill it out!

Why There Is No Jewish Narnia

Michael Weingrad has written an intriguing article for the Jewish Review of Books that makes me assess the work of Lao Americans writing fantasy and science fiction in a new light as well.

The essay opens with the fine retort Tolkein gave when the Nazis wanted assurances he wasn't Jewish before they brought the Hobbit to Germany. Tolkein not only critiqued them on the proper use of the term Aryan but noted:  “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

Among the notable bits, Weingrad suggested
"...we should begin by acknowledging that the conventional trappings of fantasy, with their feudal atmosphere and rootedness in rural Europe, are not especially welcoming to Jews, who were too often at the wrong end of the medieval sword. Ever since the Crusades, Jews have had good reasons to cast doubt upon the romance of knighthood, and this is an obstacle in a genre that takes medieval chivalry as its imaginative ideal."
It's a long article, but offers some intriguing notions that have applications for other communities and cultures.

Gulag Humor

Michael Idov's new article, "Gulag Humor" among The New Republic's February book reviews does an able take-down of Karen L Ryan's new book Stalin in Russian Satire. 

While the topic is definitely intriguing and worthwhile, Idov's leading complaint is that through the lens of academia, one of the bravest acts of the cold war, mocking the despotic tyranny of Stalin, is tantamount to an act of cowardice. Artists, writers and others who wrote against their leaders could easily find themselves arrested, tortured and executed, along with their entire families and erased from history, as we've seen in texts such as The Commissar Vanishes.

Idov does note that the way the text was organized is interesting, classifying sections by literary and aesthetic device rather than by era or genre. Still, what could have been an intriguing and insightful book remains hampered by academic language and a postgrad fetish for terms like alterity and otherness. Idov contends that while Ryan has some terrific insights, she negates them to make them fit within the framing thesis she'd chosen.

His closing line is fitting:
"Reaching for Lacan to connect Stalin to a cat through the latter’s unknowable alterity is a classic case of forest-for-the-trees hyperacademism. The man looked like a cat. Every person living in his hell knew that."

Entering History

Andre Glucksmann's essay, "The Velvet Philosophical Revolution" recently appeared in The City Journal. I recommend it because it has some very interesting ideas regarding the end of the Cold War.

During the first days in the end of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama had made headlines with an essay that suggested that this marked the end of History. Glucksmann was one writer who'd written an essay  “To Leave Communism Is to Enter History”—and sought to present the view of those emerging from behind the Iron Curtain.
The West’s confusion arose because it wasn’t prepared for such a fundamental unsettling of postwar geopolitics. During four decades of ideological confrontation, theoreticians and journalists had argued about how a society should move from capitalism to socialism. There was no research on the opposite question—that is, on the transition from socialism to capitalism—apart from a few inconclusive studies, most notably in Poland, concerning the possibility of introducing some elements of the free market into a Communist society. As the philosopher Josep Ramoneda has observed, the whole world—Communists, anti-Communists, and those in between—took it as given that the Soviet Union and its satellites could not “return” to capitalism. So when, during the Velvet Revolution, demonstrators posed exactly this question—How can we go from socialism to capitalism?—there was no ready answer.
Although many may think this has ramifications only for Europeans engaged with the Cold War, I think there's much to observe and lessons we might consider in many situations that are operating today. Worth reading as many of us consider the future directions of policy.

Glucksmann points out that as societies, those nations coming from behind the Iron Curtain found themselves faced largely with two options:

One was the rejection of totalitarianism, and desiring a society that cultivated its own convictions and eschewed sectarianism. The point of dissent was not to replace the old dogma with another one but to create an intellectually robust route to social and political change.

In contrast we saw an option espoused by those like Milosevic, where corrupt bureaucrat could rise to power through careful manipulation and deception, uniting interests who consider repression a legitimate tool. Such people considered liberty a disease, and while the old ideas might not serve such people, the methods of exacting obedience and coercion were still of interest. seized power. The result was war and ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in a bid to hold onto power and reclaim 'lost' territory.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reading: Otterbein College, February 25th, 2010

For the first time since 1997!

It's been a long time, but I'll be reading at my old college in Westerville, OH on this Thursday, February 25 at 4 p.m. in Towers Hall 112 for the 2009-2010 Writer's Series. Other writers this year included Ann Pancake, Mark Doty and Richard Gilbert. (I should note that it's now a university, but forgive me, old habits die hard.)

The Otterbein Writers' Series brings poets and writers to campus for readings and workshops. Its purpose is to provide students and faculty, and also area residents, with chances to meet contemporary writers and to hear literary works performed. So, I'm quite excited. 
Thinking back, the writer I first really remember at Otterbein was Heather McHugh, and her poem, What He Thought. And for years, I thought that's how poets were and should be. Of course I met many others along the way, like Diane Kendig, who taught me quite a bit about Neruda.

Otterbein is a member of the Ohio Poetry Circuit, a consortium of nine Ohio colleges that cooperate to bring nationally known poets to Ohio. Recent circuit poets have included the current and previous U.S. poet laureates, Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky, as well as many renowned poets such as William Stafford, Mary Oliver, Stephen Dunn and Yusef Komunyakaa. In recent years, the Writers' Series has been assisted by grants from the Perceval Fund of the Columbus Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council in expanding events to include a week-long festival of readings and workshops about writing and the teaching of writing.

The Writers' Series has also initiated participation by graduates of the Otterbein English program. These writers have included fiction writer Michael Olin-Hitt (class of 1986) and John Deever (class of 1990), author of Singing on the Heavy Side of the World: A Peace Corps Ukraine Story.  
Otterbein was obviously a formative part of my experience as a writer, where I also received many of my first literary awards for my work as a student, so I am excited and honored to be returning there after nearly 20 years since I first set foot there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

[Theater] The Unit Madness: "Doorways" 2/23

The Unit Collective, a new collaboration of playwrights in Minnesota is back this month, with their Madness program. This time Madness is presenting "Doorways" and the Producing Playwright is May Lee-Yang. The playwrights will be in the hot seat after the performances for a Q&A.  They'd love to see you there!

Tuesday February 23rd
7:00pm Taco Bar
7:30pm - 9:00pm Performance

The Playwrights' Center
2301 East Franklin Avenue, MPLS

Monday, February 22, 2010

Art in America: A passing thought.

There's an old joke that says a diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell is a way that makes you look forward to the trip. I think of this as I read work such as the Langston Hughes poem "Let America Be America Again," or Bruce Springsteen's  song "Born in the USA" which really don't mean what most people think they mean. The question that's been of great interest to me is whether or not Andy Warhol's portraits are in fact making fun of their subjects, and much like the story of the Emperor who wore no clothes.

[MN] AMA 5th Annual Lunar New Year Gala

Asian Media Access will host its 5th Annual Lunar New Year Gala on Sunday, February 28, 2010, from 12:30PM to 3:00 PM at the beautiful Varsity Theater (Dinkytown), 1308 4th Street SE, Minneapolis 55414.
Please join AMA in celebrating the Year of the Tiger at the Gala including:
  • Buffet Luncheon of Asian Cuisine
  • AMA Presentation/Performances
  • Traditional Asian Performances
  • AMA Awards
  • Silent Auction (funds go to AMA and the Media Arts Complex)
  • Prizes and more
Tickets for the event are $10/adult (suggested donation).
For more information: David Kang, Project Director, Asian Media Access
612.376.7715 or

Fun Ohio fact from NASA

Things you may not have known: Ohio is home to 24 astronauts including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

But to put that into perspective, they've only given us seven presidents. They also use the only American state flag that is not a rectangle, called the burgee.

And this is all just a roundabout way of saying I'll be back at my old college (now a university, apparently) this Thursday for my first reading in Ohio since 1997. I'm a little overdue. See you then!

Supporting Luang Prabang Film Festival 2010?

I just received a nice letter from Gabriel Kuperman in Laos, who has obtained formal approval from the Lao government to produce a film festival in Luang Prabang in December of 2010 (marking the 35th anniversary of the Lao PDR, and the town's 15th year on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list).

This would be Laos' first major film festival and will call for submissions from all 10 members of ASEAN, and will celebrate and promote filmmaking in Southeast Asia. The plan is for it to have a strong educational component for young Lao and regional filmmakers. They are currently looking for funding, which may be the most challenging part of this project.

They're looking for some advice on people or organizations that might be interested in collaborating or sponsoring. Any support they can find would apparently be appreciated- Funding has proven to be much more difficult than they expected, so any connections you think they could tap would be fantastic.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ways for Editors to Attract Women and POC Contributors

Writer and activist Claire Light was recently discussing ways for journals and publishers to attract women and writers of color to submit to them.

I've got my own take on it all often boils down to DIY instead, an approach that emerges from experience, but I can see some writers are deeply attracted to the idea of someone like Random House, DC, Copper Canyon Press or Kaya giving them the seal of approval. Some of the big points Claire suggested for editors that I would particularly endorse include:

Diversify your masthead and staff.

Incorporate inclusive language that actively invites writers of diversity to submit.

Have in-person visits to open mics, readings, classrooms in diverse communities to get them familiar with you. Or: To be read, be seen. To get submissions, be someone to submit work to.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cantor Arts Center exhibits 4 modern Chinese master painters

Cantor Arts Center is staging the first-ever U.S. exhibition of 4 'national treasures' of 20th-century China who survived a variety of wars, revolutions and hazards of the time. The four Chinese ink painters featured in the Cantor Arts Center's exhibition endured "persecution, insult and neglect to redefine and revivify an ancient art form." This looks like one to catch if you can.

These men were neither traditionalist nor modernist. Either direction invited censure and worse while they tried to redefine Chinese art for the modern era by incorporating realism within a complex network of political and cultural currents. The question was how do you maintain the best of an art form that's a centuries-old national heritage especially when people might kill you for it if you can't negotiate the tumultuous upheavals of the time. They also had to figure out how to respond to the influence and encounters with European and American influences and means to innovate their craft.

Writers to add to your reading list: Heinrich Von Kleist

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) only wrote 8 stories, but is highly regarded as one of the greats of world literature by many people. A new collection has recently been released allowing more readers a chance to become familiar with his work.

Poetry, Tarantino and the journey to Auteur

As we get closer to the Oscars, a lot of people are commenting on Quentin Tarantino and his chances with Inglorious Basterds. Among the more interesting questions is whether he has reached the stage where he may be considered an auteur. The critical question is: does he have enough of a body of work after five films that we can say, not only does he have a style, but he has something to say?

The concept of auteur intrigues and somewhat irks me because it suggests a writer's relationship to the film is subordinate to the vision of the director, which should be able to shine through even in spite of studio interference and other hazards of the industry.

Cinema is an industrial, commercial process, but this can be, to a degree, circumvented, according to other directors by the director exerting their vision and will to wield the camera the way an author wields a pen. But this may also mean one can be prey to hubris and excess.

In the US today, we often see directors credited more than the screenwriters. There's a lot of lip service given to the truly collaborative nature of the work. It's a very American notion in particular to seek individual heroes and mavericks rather than to celebrate a cohort of visions. It's very hierarchical. Our foregrounding the director as principle heart and vision of a film seems discourteous. To reject the contribution skilled cinematographers, writers and sound technicians, lighting experts and others bring to the process should be unconscionable.

I admit, I rather like the nature of poetry that is open to, but does not require a cavalcade of cast and crew to present it to the public. But I enjoy 'cross-training' and what I would extract from film and the question of auteur is: how do we present our vision.

Is it important for a poet to have a style, a set of consistent themes we deal with?

Perhaps, as my readers look at On the Other Side of the Eye, BARROW, Tanon Sai Jai, and my separate pieces one can detect certain stylistic tics I employ. Certainly, I think there are ways I write that reflect choices only I would make. Enjambments, allusions, Hmonglish, Laoglish, romanizations and tones. Now, have those been wielded effectively to examine worthy subjects? I would like to think so, and hope I've added something new and meaningful to the discourse. If not adding, why speaking, after all?

I am not necessarily inventing language but demonstrating plausible, communicative, expressive arrangements I suspect may work to somewhat consistently generate an artistic response from my reader. That is, the recognition of the words presented before them are known to be poetry, and not just a misplaced soup-can label. That it cannot be mistaken for the work of a Beat Poet, a Slam Poet or even another Lao or Asian American poet from the present moment, or the past or future. This is part of the artist's journey.

As I sit here tonight, I imagine it much like the old sayings about humans only borrowing their ancestors names. It's up to us to return it to them 'unblemished.' We usually only borrow language, rarely invent but occasionally repurpose. It is not ours to keep and hoard or else those words die and wilt. We wind up with hapax legomenons. Which, while interesting to a degree, don't contribute much to the larger business of languages yet.

So, poets might well turn to Shakespeare and a few others and note how some of us can buff and polish it to accomplish something more than a random grunt or hoot can.

Shirin Neshat Examines Laos in Madrid Exhibit

The New York Times featured an interesting article on Iranian New Yorker Shirin Neshat, an accomplished film-maker and photographer who has an exhibit in Madrid at the moment.

The heart of the exhibit is the relationships between men and women via lam, the Laotian custom of reciting courtship songs. She's documenting the joyful interaction of elderly men and women joking, singing and teasing each other provocatively. She translated the Lam first from Laotian to English, and then into Farsi. Neshat then wrote the translation on a temple wall for the backdrop for her portraits. If you can make it to Madrid, this may be a very interesting exhibit to see.

[Poetry] A Lao American perspective on language

Jack Lynch recently published The Lexicographer’s Dilemma which presents a number of interesting discussions on the evolution and history of the idea of 'proper' English grammar and its use. As a poet, one of the things we recognize is that all languages are malleable and dynamic. It's hard for many of us to read Old English or the English of Shakespeare or the vernacular of jive or cockney, but in there time they each allowed communication between people. Lynch breaks down lexicographers for following two general tracks:

Language experts outline the laws of  speaking and writing.

Language experts describe, not dictate, how language is used.

As a poet I observe both of these tracks with great interest. My current book BARROW explored this challenge for poets.

I enjoy writing poetry for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to push language and to try to speak of those things for which there are no words.

In some cases words can be developed for these concepts and inventions. In other cases, there are no words because they are the phenomenally unspeakable, such as the concepts of the Tao, where they write 'the way that can be spoken of is not the true way,' which can only be discovered by understanding the many amazing and mundane things it is not. Maybe.

As a poet, in addition to working with larger concepts, we are going 'granular' too, examining every word and its place in a poem. If it gets our 'point' or at least 'a' point across, has that word done its job or should we expect more from it, or less? And if less, why?

In poetry do we choose to add words to the language we write in, validate and reinforce that word's presence in our lives, invent, modify, or are there cases where we must advocate for that word's removal from human memory?

A case in point: We have many ways to say hello. Aloha, bonjour, guten tag, hey, hola, and so on. As a writer within a particular Lao American context, I'm given the option of writing sabaidee, sabaydi, and any number of romanized forms of the word. Even emerging shortcuts like SBD that others use. And I have often been deliberate in trying many different variations of the Lao word for hello. We will probably always use hello in English, but I liken the issue to a toolbox. Maybe there are situations where a sabaidee is a handier word to have around, and I see no reason to discard it, and no reason not to push it to its limits to see where it could take us in the ongoing journey to express and communicate to others.

The Lexicographer's Dilemma also takes note that for  native English speakers 300 years ago, to say they were using their own language improperly would be absurd. There are many who try to impose arbitrary and nonsensical rules on usage, but there is also reason to consider the importance of having certain standards as well, and the public can benefit from this.

To speak and write in a language 'properly' is a route to 'power' for many. In job interviews, news reports, and so many other aspects of life, one will be overtly or covertly discriminated against and find their opportunities truncated and their authority undermined if they can't navigate a language formally. But much like Picasso and other artists demonstrate: once you know the rules, an artist is also obliged to explore and transgress those rules. Sometimes we make a case more effectively than others. Sometimes we flop, and not even magnificently. It is merely mundane and pedestrian.

For poets, language is like a laboratory.  Some of us will practice responsibly and uphold the great body that has preceded them and train others to appreciate that language. Others well seek to innovate and explore. I think there's room for both.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Speculations Readings Series Announced!

The Speculations Readings Series continues monthly, mostly on Fridays, 6:30-7:30 p.m., at DreamHaven Books, 2301 E 38th St, Minneapolis. Each reading is accompanied by a reception with free soda pop and cookies.

On Friday, February 19, ROY C. BOOTH reads a variety of work. Mr Booth is a published novelist, short story writer, poet, comedian, journalist, essayist, game designer, scriptwriter/script doctor (film/radio/TV), and internationally award-winning playwright--48 plays published, 640+ known productions worldwide in 25 different countries (so far). He resides in Bemidji with his wife Cynthia and three young sons, where he owns and operates Roy's Comics & Games of Downtown Bemidji. His education includes an AA from Central Lakes College, a BA in English/ Speech /Theater and an MA in English (creative writing emphasis) from Bemidji State University. Visit him at

On Friday, March 12, BRYAN THAO WORRA reads his poetry and fiction. Mr. Thao Worra is a Lao American poet, short story writer, playwright, and essayist. His work appears internationally in numerous anthologies, magazines, and newspapers, including Bamboo Among the Oaks, Tales of the Unanticipated, Illumen, Astropoetica, Outsides Within, Dark Wisdom, Journal of the Asian American Renaissance, and Mad Poets of Terra. He is the author of the speculative poetry books On the Other Side of the Eye and BARROW.

On Friday, April 30, DAVID J. SCHWARTZ reads his fiction. Mr. Schwartz's first novel, Superpowers, was a Nebula nominee; his short fiction has appeared in numerous magazine and anthologies, including Strange Horizons and The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

On Friday, May 21, DANA M. BAIRD reads her fiction. Ms. Baird is the author of the young adult fantasy novels The Spell Keeper and Veil of whispers (both Sam's Dot Publishing). She is a member of Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers and the International Association of Astronomical Artists. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art from the University of Minnesota, and has also been a member of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival entertainment cast for more than 20 years. Dana is a life-long resident of Minnesota. She currently resides in St. Paul with her long-time partner, Eric M. Clark,and has two crazy cats. Visit her online at

On Friday, June 4, LYDA MOREHOUSE reads her fiction. Ms. Morehouse leads a double life. By day she is the science fiction author of the award- winning AngeLINK series. At night she transforms into the best-selling vampire romance author Tate Hallaway, author of the Garnet Lacey series and the young adult vampire princess of Saint Paul series. As Lyda she's won the Shamus (a mystery award) for Archangel Protocol, and came in second for the Philip K. Dick Award for Apocalypse Array. She's just finished a prequel in the AngeLINK series called Resurrection Code, whill will be coming out later this year from Mad Norwegian Press. Tate has been busy as well: 2010 will see the publication of the last of the Garnet books,Honeymoon of the Dead, as well as the first of the vampire princess books, Almost to Die for. She lives in St. Paul with her partner of 24 years, six-year-old son, four cats, two gerbils, and a multitude of fishes.

SPECULATIONS is a co-production of DreamHaven and SF MINNESOTA, a multicultural speculative fiction organization that also sponsors DIVERSICON, a multicultural SF convention, the 18th edition of which will be held July 30-August 1, 2010, in the Best Western--Bandana Square, St. Paul, with Guest of Honor WILLIAM F. WU and Special Guest ROB CHILSON.

Convention on Cluster Munitions Ratified

On February 17th, Burkina Faso and Moldova ratified the international convention banning cluster munitions, bringing the total ratifications to 30, the required number for the convention to enter into force.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) will enter into force on August 1, 2010, and Laos will host the First Meeting of the State Parties in late 2010. The 104 signatory nations agree to prohibit all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Other provisions deal with victim assistance, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles.

While most European countries have signed the CCM, the United States, Israel, Russia, China and India have not.

The CCM ratification is the conclusion of a three-year process, which began in February 2007 with the Oslo Declaration and will lead to the First Meeting of State Parties later this year in Vientiane, Laos. As the most heavily bombed country in history, Laos was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the CCM and is set to host the First Meeting of the State Parties in late 2010.

Vietnam War-era bombings by the U.S. from 1964 to 1973 left nearly half of the country contaminated with vast quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Today, close to 78 million cluster submunitions litter forests, rice fields, villages, school grounds, roads, and other populated areas. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured by UXO in Laos since the bombing ceased; each year there are more than 300 new casualties, most of whom are children. Nearly 40 years on, only a fraction of these munitions have been destroyed.

The U.S. spent $2 million per day for nine years bombing Laos. However, the U.S. has only provided an average of $2.7 million per year for UXO clearance in Laos over the past 15 years. Put another way, the U.S. spent more in three days dropping bombs on Laos than they have spent in the last 15 years cleaning them up.

Hmong Literacies: February 25-26th

Hmong Literacies: A Two-Day Series of Public Events
Thursday, February 25th and Friday, February 26th
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities & Concordia University, Saint Paul

The Center for Writing and its cosponsors are happy to present three free events as part of the Center’s Literacy & Rhetorical Studies Program. Hmong Literacies scholar John Duffy (University of Notre Dame) joins a thriving community of Hmong studies scholars to explore questions of literacy, writing systems, and the emergence of Hmong studies as a scholarly field.

The Problems of Hmong "Preliteracy"John Duffy, University of Notre Dame, author of Writing from These Roots: Literacy in a Hmong-American Community (2009 CCCC Outstanding Book Award)

Thursday, February 25
2:30 - 4:00 pm
135 Nicholson Hall, University of Minnesota

Hmong Literacies: Literacy Activists and Lesser-Known Writing Systems
Join three speakers -- all Hmong literacy activists -- who have been deeply involved in the creation and promotion of lesser-known Hmong writing systems over more than 50 years. Includes discussion, interpretation in English by Kao Kalia Yang, and light dinner.

Chia Koua Vang (Txiaj Kuam Vaj), Ntawv Phaj Hauj (Pahawh Hmong)
Tchyui Vang (Tsuj Yig Vaaj), Ntawv Neej Hmoob (Hmong Life Alphabet)
Choua Der Xiong (Tsua Dawb Xyooj), Qauv Ntaub Qauv Ntawv (Embroidery Pattern Alphabet)

Thursday, February 25
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Buenger Education Center, 200 Syndicate Street North, Concordia University, St. Paul

Currents in Hmong Studies: A Roundtable of Hmong Studies Scholars
Roundable discussion, moderated by John Duffy, with lunch.

Leena Neng Her, Hmong Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Educational Linguistics
Mai Na Lee, Assistant Professor, History
Mitchell Ogden, Assistant Director, Center for Writing
Gian-Thao (Alisia) Tran, Hmong Studies Graduate Fellow, Psychology

Friday, February 26
12:00 - 2:00 pm
125 Nolte Center, University of Minnesota

For more information, and to register for these free events, please visit

Tips for working in nonprofits and the arts

What can you do to keep enjoying your work in the non-profit sector or the arts, or both?

Over the years, I've found developing resilience is important, and maintaining an easy-going attitude.

But talking with a few other colleagues, here's a few positive things you can add to your to-do list to keep from getting too frazzled and burnt out before your time.

1. Dream a big dream. Don't be afraid to think of a bigger vision.When the mind and heart take flight, ask what do you truly love to do, and what calls to you?

2. Don't settle for too little. Out of the nearly 100,000 hours you spend in your lifetime on work, don't waste those hours as if it's dress rehearsal. Value that time and where it's taking you. And if it won't move you or the cause you care for forward, think about what it will take.

3. Don't sell yourself short. You're not defined just by your last job or assignment. Make sure you fully understand all of the experience, potential and skills you bring to your work and your art.

4. Challenge yourself. Remember the dynamic elements of a job. And yourself. You're both changing all of the time. Pause to review, but don't get paralyzed by it.

5. Keep learning. Always keep filling your toolbox with new skills. Like the saying goes, a head full of knowledge is worth more than a tray full of money.

6. Open to outcome, not attached to outcome. Our craft means lots of things don't always go according to plan. Be patient. Keep the long-term picture and goals in mind. Setbacks are not defeat.

7. Play the hand you got. Ups, downs? That's the territory. But it's how we get back up that counts.

8. Be present, and make a difference. All jobs have ways to accomplish things and to be proud of those achievements. Even if you're not quite in the dream job, you can still care about quality, and doing your tasks responsibly with an eye on a well-planned future.

9. Envision beyond yourself. We're in this work because can care about others, and there's room to collaborate on a common goal. There's a lot to be interested about in the other people who are there with you.

10. Recharge your batteries. This field attracts zealous workaholics because it often demands deep passion and lots of intangible rewards. But always reserve time and emotional energy for the other important aspects of your life. It's ok to wander around a bit and clear your head if it makes you more effective.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nerakhoon @ The Walker

Nerakhoon will be showing at the Walker for free, one night only on Thursday, February 18th. Thavisouk Phrasavath won't be there, but Ellen Kuras will be on hand for a conversation. If you haven't seen it yet on the big screen, this is your chance. I consider this the most important movie on the Lao American experience, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

[MN] Get Up to Speed with High Speed!

Join the Minnesota Digital Justice Coalition (Main Street Project, Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizing, Twin Cities Community Voicemail, and the People Escaping Poverty Project) on Monday, February 15th.

The event is from 12pm-2pm at the Brian Coyle Center. The center is located at 420 15th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454. The special guest is Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State. They're providing free food provided by La Loma Restaurant, but the purpose of the meeting is to increase awareness of our community needs and our relationship to the internet.

Our housing, our education, our lives and our movement today depend heavily on the internet. This dependency puts those with access at an advantage and communities historically excluded at a disadvantage to participate fully in our communities. At this educational forum, we'll talk about the importance of the internet in our everyday lives and discuss how the struggles we face offline, relate to our struggles online. This is being held as part of the Media Action Grassroots Network's National Day of Action!

Here's a clip from the American president regarding his support of Net Neutrality:

Valentine's Day or Thao Worra Day 2010!

Is it 365 days already? We're rapidly approaching February 14th and I know, it's not the holiday for everyone, especially those who object to the nefarious machinations of the Romantic Candy-Card Industrial Complex.  So, in preparation of this, I once again present the annual reminders of your options for alternate February 14th Observations.

You can always celebrate these anniversaries:
1929: The St Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago.
1950: USSR and China sign peace treaty.
1963: First successful kidney transplant.

February 14th is also the birthday of:
1766: Thomas Malthus, the misanthropic British philosopher.
1817: Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist.
1819: Christopher Sholes, American inventor of the typewriter. Where would we be without it?

If none of these strike your fancy, I hereby endorse the celebration of Thao Worra Day. Much as in the spirit of Festivus, the festival for the rest of us, you too may engage in the following activities to mark Thao Worra Day in good spirits and much amusement:
  • Send a nice note to someone you have just met or haven't talked to in a while.
  • Declare yourself Emperor of the World (or Empress) and see if anyone notices. But you have to give back everyone's stuff by the end of the day. Or before the cops come.
  • Treat yourself to a nice meal with someone you genuinely like, but in a completely non-romantic way. I totally approve.
  • Make sure all your electronic equipment is fully recharged, that it may go well for you.
  • Read a short poem out loud, even if no one is looking. No, it doesn't have to be one of mine.
  • Leave a chair for me at your desk or table. For I may come by. But don't hold it against me if I don't. I do have a busy schedule, you know.

And yea, though Thao Worra Day is not for everyone, it is free for all to choose and participate in. If you do so choose to mark it, let me know how it goes.

Have a great one!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

[Refugee Nation] Twin Cities arrival: October, 2010

TeAda Production's Refugee Nation is coming in October! This  is an interdisciplinary/multi-media collaboration exploring the impact of war, refugees, global politics and U.S. citizenship. It has performed across the United States, but this will be the first time it has ever been presented in Minnesota.

The actors collected oral histories and use performances to reveal connections between the U.S. and Laos. The play brings voice to a community typically excluded from both mainstream and Asian American textbooks and art.

Presenting their very personal reconstructed memories, Refugee Nation seeks to create a performance to create dialogue about the Laotian community to promote restorative justice. They'll be performing at Intermedia Arts thanks to cooperation with local grassroots organizers, Pangea World Theater and the Lao Assistance Center. This production will also include the Legacies of War exhibit. You can visit them online at

[Asian American Theater] KP's Actor's Gym

Down in California near Fresno, Khetphet “KP” Phagnasay has assembled an interesting grass-roots approach to acting and the arts known as KP's Actor's Gym. The group is dedicated to bringing professionalism into the entertainment industries, school, and the community. They strive to give, challenge, contribute positive, constructive, safe, nurturing environments for learning.

I've enjoyed the results of their work so far, particularly their recent Lookee Loo Showdown, which wound up producing a number of fun, low-budget horror shorts such as The Lycanthropes.

The concept was a seven day film challenge in which you had to write, shoot, edit, export to DVD and hand deliver your project before the midnight deadline. Another aspect was that teams must assemble a crew and cast, not to mention secure locations. Is this the future of Cinema? Who knows.

At 8 minutes, even if you don't like the stories, at least you don't have sit through too much of it. I'm looking forward to their future projects!

[MN] Yellow Face

As part of our ongoing discussion of Asian American Theater: The Guthrie in Minnesota is presenting a Mu Performing Arts production of Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang, directed by Rick Shiomi.

This is a comedy that "packs poignancy with a punch."

Audiences follow the character of DHH, who serves as the alter ego of the author, as he reflects on his Tony Award-winning M. Butterfly and the Miss Saigon controversy and watches a promising career spiral and careen all over the artistic landscape, including everything from broken relationships to political investigations.

This play helped get David Henry Hwang a nod as a 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Yellow Face asks us if good intentions do always win out in the end. The answere might be no. It's playing February 6 – 21 at Dowling Studio, Guthrie Theater, 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis. The
Tickets are $26 to $34. You can call 612-377-2224 or visit for more details.

Here's a few segnments from a 2008 production of Yellow Face in New York:

Monday, February 08, 2010

Laos' vanishing forests

“Forest cover has declined from 70 percent to 43 percent over the last 50 years, largely due to clearing of lowland forest for permanent agriculture and unsustainable logging. a recent report from the World Bank Report has said.

"If no action is taken to change this trend, Lao’s forests will dwindle to 31 percent by 2020,” the WWF has further reported.

Being Proactive in Lao American Activism

As we grow as a community, some of us will come to a point where we ask: Can we do something more?

And in that journey, you might come to a decision that you want to be more deeply involved in Lao American activism. This term will mean different things to different people, and I think the Lao American movement grows stronger from a vibrant diversity of approaches.

Part of the joy of this lifelong journey is discovering for yourself what levels of commitment are best for you. For the record, I don't think most people should seek an 'all activist, all the time,' approach to life. I'd find that monotonous and likely to burn you out before too long. By the same token, I don't recommend superficial activism either. It's rarely satisfying.

If you're just getting started, what can you do? How do you start exploring your full potential? Here are a few ideas:

Volunteer with your local community organization. There are still many organizations out there who can use volunteers, groups who can use help reach out to the community, particularly elders and youth. If you have skills you'd like to share, this is a great first step in becoming a Lao American activist. You can make a difference in the lives of other Lao Americans just by donating a few hours per month to an organization near you.

Develop political awareness! Follow the local politics and become aware of the legislation in your state that could help, or hurt, the lives of Lao Americans. Contact your representatives and tell them which issues matter to you. Volunteer on the campaigns for politicians who take a progressive stand on the rights of refugees and immigrants or other causes that matter to you.

Write an opinion piece or a letter to the editor for your local newspaper about an issue that is important to you.
Plan or participate in an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month event in May.  This is especially important in states where there are smaller communities of Laotians. 
Hold a workshop or a talent show in your community, or host a screening of a Lao documentary to raise awareness – and money – to help Lao communities around the world. Many local libraries, independent bookstores and other community spaces have rooms available for this or you can even do it from your own home.

Become a mentor! Today’s Lao American youth are the next generation of Lao American activists. Strengthen that generation by being a positive role model for youth, whether it be through tutoring, coaching a sports team, or signing up with a program like Big Brother or Big Sister.

Become a contributor for Lao American magazines and journals! They are always looking for new voices to add to our community.  Or even start your own blog! Our community becomes more vibrant with many voices contributing to the discussions.

What are some of your favorite ways of getting involved in your community?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

[2011] Lao American Art Programs: Minnesota

The thing about life as a writer is the need to plan things out a year or two ahead in advance to find the right funding for it. In 2010 we're going to see some great programs coming into Minnesota, including the first national Lao Writer's Summit and the Refugee Nation: Legacies of War Exhibit, as well as the premiere of the new children's book Mali Under the Night Sky and the Lao Women's Dance Program.

There are certainly the classic festivals in April and June as well as the July Dragon Festival and the 2011 Asian Pacific Islander Spoken Word Summit in August, but what are some essential projects to take on to develop?

It would be a long way off to develop a Midwest Lao Traditional Arts and Dance Camp (2012 at the earliest) but I think it would be exceptional to see a program that would allow dance troupes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa to come together to train and practice. Ideally, it would be great to have the other troupes from outside of the Midwest come in as well, but the expense and logistics would be tremendously prohibitive at the moment.

A quarterly or monthly Lao writers series is possible. I'd love to see a monthly Lao writers/artists workshop emerge, particularly for young and emerging Lao writers in the community.

Right now, we have interest groups who have a significant curiosity about photography and video, and this is understandable. Given the great resources we have for independent film-makers in Minnesota, perhaps we should work to increase access for the community.

A public access show on Lao or Southeast Asian American writing and art could also be interesting. One part of me wonders thinks websites such as youtube may soon supplant public broadcast stations, and perhaps we need to be developing work with this in mind.

The development of a Lao American newspaper or a publishing company remain possibilities. At the moment, it's hard enough for conventional publishers to make any money, that one may wonder if we should bother. I think a conference to explore the possibilities could be in order, however.

Friday, February 05, 2010

[Puppoetics] NYT: Ramayana Casts Its Ancient Spell

The New York Times has an interesting article on the Ramayana exhibit “Ramayana Revisited: A Tale of Love & Adventure,” an exhibition at the Peranakan Museum in Singapore until Aug. 22,and the cross-cultural power of the epic.

They make mention of the Thai and Cambodian version, although not the Lao approach. In the Lao tradition, one of the most notable variations from the original epic is we also often consider it a Jataka.

The curators noted that it's hard to find very old artifacts. Many of the original pieces were made of leather and papier-mâché which don’t last long in the conditions in Southeast Asia.

Of particular note are the nang yai, large shadow puppets from Thailand for Ramakien performances. These puppets are constructed from buffalo hide, and it's part of a dying art tradition. Contemporary examples are traced from original 19th-century puppets stored in Wat Kanon in Thailand's Ratchaburi province. They're large 2 meter panels or 6.5 feet tall by 1.5 meets or 5 feet in width. They're then propped up on large poles.

There's been a resurgence of the papier-mâché mask making techniques of Cambodia now that the Pol Pot regime ended in the 1980s. They also call attention to differences in the Wayang Kulit Siam puppets of Malaysia, which employ very fine features and tall crowns, with bodies decorated with distinctive geometric patterns. These puppets traditionally move only one arm, compared to the similar puppets in Indonesia.

Large Tholu Bomalatta puppets from India are also on display. The Tholu Bomalatta puppets are made from translucent leather that's painted with strong colors so they can be projected onto a small screen. Puppets are made in profile and with frontal views and embellished with floral and geometric ornamentation in this tradition.

They note that in other nations, adaptations of the Ramayana tend to present the demons and dieties and demigods in a more human light so that regular audiences could relate to them. The monkey Hanuman in India is celibate but elsewhere, he's quite a womanizer. Which is preferable? I think that depends on who you ask. But if you're in Singapore, check it out.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

No Word for Art Masters Gallery Exhibit

In 2009, the Center for Hmong arts and Talent hosted its 8th Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival: NO WORD FOR ART.

Organizers note that "Although there is no Hmong word for art, the reality is that there is a rich tradition of art weaved into the daily lives of the people." This season, 5 artists are being showcased in the Masters Gallery who were the top scoring artists in the visual arts exhibit at the festival and now displayed at the St. Paul Pioneer Press Gallery at 345 Cedar Street, Saint Paul from February 4 to March 31st.

This exhibition is sponsored by Pioneer Press and produced by the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). Artists featured include Dinah Her, Tou Lee, Tou Yia Xiong, Galea Vang and Nikki Yang.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Asian Pacific Americans

Asian Pacific Americans: Local Lives, Global Ties 2010:
Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) in the Washington, D.C. area speak dozens of different languages, teach classes that emphasize ethnic identity, participate in traditional practices, and contribute to the cultural landscape of our nation's capital and its surroundings. With approximately 30 Asian American and 24 Pacific Island American groups in the U.S., the more than 350,000 APAs who live in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area represent a microcosm of the cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity found from New York to Hawaii, and every state in-between. TheAsian Pacific Americans: Local Lives, Global Tiesprogram at the 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will focus on what it means to be a person of Asian descent living in the United States today and examine strategies for adaptation.

If you're in the area June 24-28 and July 1-5th, be sure to check it out! Hopefully we'll also see great representation from the Laotian American communities!

[Reading] Words in Shades of Gray: 2/17

I'm reading in the new series Words in Shades of Gray on Wednesday, February 17th at 7pm at 42nd Avenue Station in North Minneapolis with other guest readers!

Words in Shades of Gray challenges writers, spoken word artists and storytellers to delve into the nuances of their lives and our many cultures and communities. The series aims to hold open space in which to wrestle with difficult questions while resisting easy answers. Words in Shades of Gray promotes artists who are dedicated to exploring the shades of gray all around us. I look forward to seeing you there!

[Reading] 5th Literary Love Fest @ Kieran's: 2/9

On February 9th, I'm reading at the Fifth annual Literary Love Fest with a great lineup of speakers at Kieran's Irish Pub at 330 Second Avenue South in Minneapolis at 5:30 PM

Raking Through Books celebrates love around Valentine’s Day. Local literati will read our own work or some of our faves as we riff on love, hate, community, family—whatever our hearts desire!

This year's fun line-up includes Antay Bilgutay, Jill Breckenridge, Carol Connolly, Pat Dennis, David Grant, Heid Erdrich, Phebe Hanson, C.M. Harris, James Lenfestey, Ardie Medina, Tim Nolan, Jonathan Odell, Lynette Reini-Grandell, Faith Sullivan, Katrina Vandenberg, and myself!

Guaranteed to be an evening full of mirth, meaning, and yup, love.

Special points go to those who can figure out which poem from BARROW I'm reading that evening! :)

Opportunities for Asian American writers:February

Minnesota spoken word poets: Applications available for Intermedia Arts' 2010 VERVE grants ($3,000). Deadline: February 11, 2010. Full details:

The NEA Fellowship in Literature for Poetry is due March 4th.You're eligible if you published a volume of 48+ pages or 20+ different poems or pages of poetry in 5 or more literary publications.

Asian and Asian American literary journals to check out:

Monday, February 01, 2010

AALDEF looking for summer interns!

Founded in 1974, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all. And they're looking for summer legal intern.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund was the organization that rose to the support of Lao American student Lori Phanachone in Iowa last year when so many other organizations who could have and should have, did not. If you know a good law student who's looking for a place to intern, send them over to AALDEF. They deserve it.

Lao Philanthropy: Give Children A Choice

A big focus of my blog this year is to highlight philanthropic projects in the Lao community around the world. Because I think it's important to counter perceptions in many sectors, even in our own community, that Lao are only recipients of aid and assistance and that they do not engage in compassionate and effective projects for social change.

In any community, there are those who live lives just for themselves and don't make conscious efforts to make the world a better place. They eat, sleep, work, party and get into their own particular dramas, and that's their choice. But I think there's more to life than that, and I've heard too many people discouraging efforts to improve and change the world for the better, particularly when those efforts come from Laotian or Southeast Asian refugees.

Perhaps even after all of this, there will still be people who hold onto their beliefs that Lao don't help Lao or others, but at least it won't be because we didn't point out good work in our community. So:

Give Children A Choice has just returned from Laos with the green light to provide over 11 tons of vitamins to over 24,000 poor preschool children in Xieng Khouang, Laos.

Representatives say it has not been an easy project. Lack of funding and lack of support has almost dashed this important mission to aid in the chronic malnutrition situation there. But they've made some great headway this month.

Founded by Dori Shimoda, Give Children A Choice's mission began as an effort to build and fill preschools with children in Asia. Their primary objective is to raise the educational achievement for elementary school girls and preschool children during the critical formative years of learning.

At the moment, their main website is having a few HTML issues, but they approach their work with clear enthusiasm. Their general process is to build tuition-free preschools, jumpstart the program, and assist the children with enrollment and attendance. According to the website "100% of donor contributions go directly to preschool construction projects. 0% of donations are used for fundraising."

Overhead to build a preschool averages a mere $200 to $300. So far, they've secured a longstanding agreement with the Luang Prabang Education Department that all Give Children A Choice preschools are tuition-free, and integrated into the broader education agenda for the province and country. They point out that "Preschool education was not a key part of Luang Prabang children's education program in 2001-2002, but it is now."

[Arts] Teaching a love of Asian American theater?

We've often talked about building a love for traditional Lao dance, Asian American film and encouraging lifelong literacy and a love of reading in youth.

I particularly hope we see more Southeast Asians and Asian Americans developing a deep love of reading for leisure. Today, I'm thinking a lot about our project to bring Refugee Nation to the Twin Cities and that always gets me thinking about Asian American theater.

The live theater tradition is also an important part of our community and cultural growth and development, stretching back to the ancient roots in Asia to the present moment.

There's much to be said about live efforts to express something cultural and meaningful and to plunge deeper into life beyond artifice and digitized expression. All too often, the live performing arts are treated as the broccoli of the art scene. Everyone knows it's good for you, but only a few really relish it.

We need to teach a love of Asian American theater not just to children but to adults.

The best of the main suggestions people usually give for instilling a love of theater? Just go. See a play performed at the theater. Take a risk, and comment on what you saw, ask yourself what you liked, what you disliked. It's ok!

For mainstream theater, people often suggest reading a play out loud. This is much harder in the Asian American community, particularly the Lao American community because there really isn't a big market for contemporary Asian American playwrights scripts and so these are almost impossible to find. I think this seriously handicaps the spread of Asian American theater. You can walk into a bookstore and find Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, no problem.

But finding a copy of a play by an Asian American playwright? Good luck. Of course, then the question is, how many people can even name an Asian American playwright today?

The same applies to listening to an audio recording of a play read aloud. I think it would be fascinating to see some of our playwrights revive the tradition and create something akin to the old radioplays of the early 20th century. This of course, leads to a lot of heated debate regarding copyright, access to technology, fears of piracy, fears of being sued or not making any money, etc. And I think that's a pity that we're so tied up with that that it's created a chilling effect on the growth and proliferation of Asian American theater.

To me, I think a well-done, compelling audioplay does provide a stronger incentive for audiences to 'try before you buy'.  Even just a few good MP3s of an act or two, anything, would surely be better than where we're currently standing.

People also recommend watching a pre-recorded performance on DVD or video, and I can appreciate this, but I wouldn't call it my absolute favorite approach because there's many parts of the experience, about being up close and live that can't be captured by video cameras.

But, if you're just starting to get interested in Asian American theater, an interesting place to start is with he National Asian American Theater Festival and following the work of companies such as:
Mu Performing Arts
Pangea World Theater
TeAda Productions
Pan Asian Repertory Company
Asian American Theater Company
National Asian American Theater Company
East West Players
Second Generation
KP Actors Gym
and Ma Yi Theater

There are many others that rise and fall in any given year, and I think it's an art form that can energize and excite audiences but we also need to continue to encourage a deep love and participation in the craft for it to realize its fullest potential. I don't think we're anywhere close to that yet.

[MN] Arts Advocacy Day, Tuesday, March 2nd

Arts Advocacy Day, organized by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, is coming up on Tuesday, March 2. This is a wonderful opportunity to let your state legislators know about the impact that the arts have on their constituents and their communities.  At Arts Advocacy Day, you can spend an exhilarating day at the Minnesota State Capitol with hundreds of other arts supporters. During this time you'll also learn how to talk to your legislators in a fun and effective manner, and network with artists and arts organizations from around the state. If you can, learn more about how to participate!