Saturday, May 24, 2014

VIETNAM: A Window To War photography exhibition May 27th to June 14th

The Quarter Gallery at the Regis Center for Art presents the exhibition VIETNAM: A Window to War.

The exhibition is a compilation of photographs and materials collected by James R. Thompson during the time he spent serving with the 101st Airborne, U.S. Army in Vietnam from August 1970 to August 1971.

After six months in Recon he was reassigned to be battalion photographer when most of these photos were taken. When he returned home, Thompson put the negatives in storage and they remained there for forty years. In 2010 he rediscovered the negatives and began the recovery and restoration of these Vietnam photos. In this exhibition Thompson has tried to show the many sides of this conflict.

Artist Statement
“My interest in photography and filmmaking began as a student at the University of Minnesota in the late sixties. I developed an early interest in documentary and street photography. I tried to use this sensitivity when photographing in Vietnam and later as a cameraman in the motion picture production business from 1975 - 2008. I now concentrate my efforts on restoring my Vietnam negatives as well as working on contemporary street photography. I continue to look for interesting people and situations and photograph them with the dignity they deserve no matter what their lot in life.”

Artist Biography
James R. Thompson was born in Minnesota, graduated from Aitkin High School, and attended the University of Minnesota from 1967–69 pursuing a B.A. degree in Studio Arts. In August 1969 James was drafted into the U.S. Army and in 1970 was assigned to Recon, 101st Airborne in Vietnam. After his military obligation James returned to the University of Minnesota and in 1974 received a B.F.A. degree in Filmmaking and Photography. James spent thirty-three years (1975-2008) in the motion picture and video production business.

He lives and works in the Minneapolis area as a freelance photographer.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Cook Lao Food Like A Pro with Jeannie Ongkeo

Besides asking mom.

Anne Noyes Saini and Mark Rinaldi took time out to visit Mangez Avec Moi in Tribeca and learn from chef Jeannie Ongkeo the principles and joys of Lao cooking. You can see the full article over at Serious Eats.

Mangez Avec Moi is located at 71-73 West Broadway in New York City between Warren and Murray Streets. They bill themselves as authentic pan Asian cuisine, which is understandable given that Lao food isn't really on the radar of many New Yorkers yet beyond the Khe-Yo.

I'd take issue with the assertion that "Food like hers is rare in the U.S. outside a few small cities like Des Moines, where Lao communities have slowly grown since the 1970s and 1980s." You can certainly find Lao restaurants in Garden Grove, Sacramento, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, Fresno, Seattle and the like. But this article was written by New Yorkers, so we'll let that slide.

One of her favorite dishes to make is Or Lam, and definitely a dish few Lao restaurants present on a regular basis. If you get a chance, it's most likely a dish to try. Chef Ongkeo's brother owns the restaurant. Here's to many more years of success for them!

It's good and refreshing to see Lao entrepreneurs taking a chance after 40 years in the US to present Lao cooking to a wider audience.

As long as it doesn't suddenly drive the price of Tom Mak Hoong to $10 for a half-plate or something.

Strange Aeons: An Oz adaptation of Shadow Over Innsmouth seeks $2K in 19 days.

Writer and director James Latter and producer Yuri Higashino have taken to Kickstarter to raise funds for their indie film adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft classic short story, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," out in Australia.

Latter has "spent the last few years honing his film making skills in freelance music videos, commercials, corporate videos, short films and documentaries. He has recently shot a documentary in rural Queensland and directed a punk/hardcore music video shot in Melbourne." Yuri Higashino "is a content producer based in Brisbane, Australia. She has produced a wide range of creative projects including short films and music videos. Her interest expands to the new media platform and transmedia storytelling."

Timothy Nguyen has been providing storyboards for the production.

They've already made it past the 50% mark, which is good news. As with any of these projects, the more money they raise, the more they can improve production values. 

They don't have enough to rival the budget of Dagon, but I think the prospect of an adaptation of "Shadow Over Innsmouth" through an Oz lens is intriguing enough that I encourage you to consider supporting it. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On building an international readership

Looking back as a writer, I'll share this for those of you who are just starting:

Don't be afraid to seek out an international audience from the outset.

You're still going to get a lot of rejections from the international journals but you'll also be learning more about what your global readership is looking for and what they're interested in.

There's some schools of literary thought that say you should just focus on your home game first.

I can see that fear some people have. They feel that sharing your work in other countries before you're acclaimed in the US, for example, would be like going to a party without without pants or something. But that's just fear. And fears are meant to be overcome.

My first big breaks, and big lessons, some of them harder than others, mind you, came from abroad. Once you can get the interest of your international readers, though? I think your home game becomes much smoother.

Just some food for thought.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lao Horror Director Mattie Do Needs BLOOD! And You're Going To Help!

Lao American Horror Director and Enfant Terrible Mattie Do is on her next feature film and needs your help to add the blood it needs, the blood it DESERVES. Dearest Sister is now in production but to finish it needs a lot more than the shoestring budget she got stuck with making the indie horror hit, Chanthaly. 

Mattie Do makes a lot of waves as Laos first woman film director, deservedly so. She's also getting accolades around the world for going in as the very first film director in Laos to make horror films.

If you've been following this blog, you know she is breaking ground in incredible ways. But now she needs your help to get to the next level. Twitch Films is partnering with her and her team on Indiegogo to raise the last $30K she needs to make it happen.

But here: Mattie explains it best.

Well, I'm in. Are you?

*No word yet on whether Mango the Whippet survived Chanthaly to reappear here, but there's hope.

Celebrating 10 Years of Legacies of War: July 15th in Washington D.C.

“I hope others in the international community will join us in our efforts to bring this legacy of the Vietnam War era to a safe end and give the people, particularly the children of this nation the opportunity to live their lives safe from these unexploded bombs.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State

Join Legacies of War as they celebrate their successful effort over the past 10 years in advancing the clearance of unexploded bombs from Laos — thereby bringing hope and sustained attention to a once seemingly unsolvable humanitarian problem.

They'll be gathering on Tuesday, July 15th from 6:00pm - 9:00pm at the District Architecture Center 421 7th Street, NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20004. You can get tickets via Eventbrite :

The event’s theme, “Inspiring Hope & Saving Lives in Laos,” will highlight Legacies of War’s history and accomplishments, recognize key congressional champions, heroes, donors and introduce and raise funds for their 20|20 Vision campaign; the next phase of Legacies' work.

The evening's backdrop will feature a *Mekong Night Market* — a celebratory and festive atmosphere of SE Asian food, cocktails, music and handicrafts. Over 200 guests are expected at this year’s event. Past attendees have included an international audience, young professionals, and such dignitaries as former U.S. Ambassadors to Laos, Senator Al Franken, Congressmen Honda, Faleomavaega, McCollum and representatives from Senator Leahy and Cardin's office, and the U.S. State Department.

 For Inquiries relating to Event Details, Tickets and/or Sponsorship:

Legacies of War is the leading U.S.-based educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of conflict in Laos during the Vietnam War-era. They raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing of Laos, provide space for healing the wounds of war, and create greater hope for a future of peace.

From Washington, DC, they engage and establish relationships with governments, the civil society and individuals to raise awareness and increase financial support for clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos. They work directly with key decision-makers in the U.S. government — including Congress and the Administration — and with the private sector and media outlets to provide these influential groups with compelling information and analysis. They serve as a convener and organizer of partner organizations and individuals seeking to resolve the UXO problem in Laos.

Their work has led directly to the quadrupling of U.S. funding for UXO activities in Laos, from $3M in 2008 to $12M in 2014. In bringing greater attention and increasing resources, they have helped to make a real impact on the ground in Laos: more land being cleared, lives being saved and additional care and services available for the approximately 12,000 UXO victims living in Laos.

From 1964 to 1973, as part of its anti-communist strategy, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos 580,000 bombing missions — equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years — resulting in Laos as the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Nearly 80 million of the cluster bombs dropped never exploded, littering the land and injuring and killing over 20,000 innocent victims since the last bombs were dropped and this threat continues today.

Kaiju-a-gogo a Go on Kickstarter!

One of the interesting kickstarters that just came up on my radar this week is Kaiju-a-gogo
In a nutshell: 

"Kaiju-a-gogo is a strategy-action, PC/mobile video-game featuring GIANT MONSTERS. The player takes on the role of a fledgling Mad Scientist who has built the first human-controlled Kaiju in the world. While your rivals race to catch up with your genius and build their own Kaiju to compete with you, you have a five-year-window to use your Kaiju to achieve TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION."
Good enough for me. Check them out and give them some support if you can.

Monday, May 12, 2014

[Opportunity] Minnesota's FY 2015 Artist Initiative Deadlines Approaching

The Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative program supports and assists artists at various stages in their careers.

It encourages artistic development, nurtures artistic creativity, and recognizes the contributions individual artists make to the creative environment of the state of Minnesota. Grants will be awarded for career building and for the creative development of artists. Some artists may choose to request funds to create new work, but that isn't a requirement of the program. The grants range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Artists working in all artistic disciplines—dance, media arts, music, photography, poetry, prose, theater, and two- and three-dimensional visual arts—may apply. The Minnesota State Arts Board uses an online application now.

There are three deadlines for the FY 2015 Artist Initiative grant application, depending on discipline:
Literary arts; poetry and prose: June 13, 2014
Performing arts; dance, music, and theater: July 11, 2014
Visual arts; media arts, photography, and visual arts: Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday, May 09, 2014

History, Hot Sauce and High Hopes: Huy Fong Foods

What with all of the buzz about the Sriracha factory of Huy Fong Foods moving out of California after nearly 30 years thanks to the officials of Irwindale, I figured it was now or never to see one of the greatest expressions of the Southeast Asian American Dream of the last four decades. You can see my experience over at Little Laos on the Prairie this week at: "History, Hot Sauce and High Hopes."

A Day In the Life of Asian America: May 10th, a Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center project!

I'll be one of the 300 community photographers who are part of tomorrow's Smithsonian project, A Day In the Life of Asian America. 

Photographers from New York City, Washington DC, Toronto, Phnom Penh, Manila, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tel Aviv, Fukushima, Paris, Shanghai, Anchorage, Hanoi, Nairobi, Kolkata, Honolulu, Milwaukee, Philadephia, Vancouver, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Des Moines and Beijing will be contributing shots on Flickr and Instagram.

The results will be exhibited in the Smithsonian's official Flickr album for the project. The hashtag will be #LifeAPA for those of you who want to follow along. Catzie Vilayphonh of the Laos in the House project will also be adding shots throughout the day!

The Lao Space Program is GO!

Happy Friday! Reach for the stars!

Monday, May 05, 2014

DEMONSTRA a 2014 Elgin Award candidate

My collection of Lao American speculative poetry, DEMONSTRA, has been included among the candidates for the Science Fiction Poetry Association's 2014 Elgin Award candidates, which will be awarded to books published in 2012 and 2013. The voting deadline is August 15th.

If you're a voting member interested in a pdf review copy, you can e-mail me for one: Thaoworra (at) and I'll be happy to send one your way.

Or you can also buy a paperback edition by visiting Innsmouth Free Press at: which admittedly, I think is a much better experience.

The interior of DEMONSTRA features the work of Lao American artist Vongduane Manivong, and you can visit her site at where she is currently taking on new commissions!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Indiegogo project highlight: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

(photo courtesy of the author)

"Both born in 1916, Dick, dreams deferred, kept her house like an Ethan Allen showroom, while Jani crashed through 3 marriages on her way to becoming a feminist." That's the pitch for Dr. 
Julia Lee Barclay-Morton's proposed book The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani which she's presently attempting to fund via Indiegogo.

This project may be of interest to many of my regular readers who are interested in biographies and completing memoirs. I won't recap the entirety of her project proposal here, other than to say that I think it's a solid idea that is at once profoundly personal to the author, yet touches on a bygone era from a compelling people's history angle. Both of her grandmothers sound really interesting and I think she'll be able to tell the stories well.

Dr. Barclay-Morton has been in many transitions lately, some of which she shares on her regular blog over at: She is an Adjunct Professor at Fordham, teaching writing (composition & rhetoric). Her credentials include working as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at CUNY, an acting teacher at Hunter College, and she's taught workshops at Brecht Forum, NYC. Five years ago, she received a PhD from University of Northampton, UK by arguing that theater, through writing and performance can be an act of philosophy, a proposition that certainly gets my attention.

But back to her project: Dr. Barclay-Morton has reached 50% of her goal with a little over 20 days left to reach the remaining funds to buy her the time and resources she needs to finish her project. It would be great if you can be a major sponsor, but even if you can only chip in $5 or something close to that, I know she'd appreciate it!

Celebrating the life of Pom Outama Khampradith in Seattle

The community celebration of the life of Lao master artisan Pom Outama Khampradith (1971-2014) was held at the Foundry in Seattle on April 27th, 2014. Hundreds gathered to remember her life and legacy.

During the community celebration, her original students performed together the very first dances and songs they learned from her. Touching tributes from many community figures who knew her were a part of the afternoon, which was marked by good weather and wonderful company. The family thanks everyone who came and everyone who expressed their support during this time.

Some of the pictures from the afternoon are now uploaded to flckr at:

Friday, May 02, 2014

On writing your first books.

People tell you to write your most important story, your most vital book to share with the world.

I get that.

They're trying to impress upon you the urgency you need to write, and to ensure you don't waste your time or other people's with what you're writing.

But my advice goes against the grain: Don't focus on your first book being your best, a masterpiece debut. It's getting so many of you hung up and freaked out.

Save your "best" stories for your 3rd or 4th book in, so that you'll have had practice along the way and understand what goes into a good book, and what doesn't.

There are a few people who only make one book in their life. Some people who also get lucky and write their very best book first. But I don't see why that's something real human writers need to aspire to. In practical application it leads to so much kitchen-sinking in first novels and poetry collections, the results are often clunky and embarrassing.

So, seriously: Try making a few good practice collections first, before going for your magnum opus. It'll do you good.

The Laodyssey: Visalia

In the aftermath of the funeral of Pom Outama Khampradith in Seattle, it was time for all of us to begin our respective journeys home. Originally just a 20-hour drive for me, like any true Odyssey, it took a little longer and more than a simple straight line back.

There were many side trips along the way that led me to the different corners of Lao America. As I told the poet Binly Phounsiri on the final part of the journey in San Diego: "Do I understand what it is to be Lao more from visiting over 13 temples across California? I don't know. I don't think anyone can know. But I have such a sense of how many different ways there are to be Lao, for sure."

I'll sort all of the images and responses into something a little more coherent and comprehensive later this year, but for now, here is a preview: The Nak gate at the Wat Lao in Visalia, California protecting the dharma from bad dudes.

More to come...