Monday, June 26, 2006

Li-Young Lee Interview At Rock Salt Plum

Rock Salt Plum has a new and entertaining interview up with Li-Young Lee. Check it out if you get a chance!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Midwest Radio Harassing Asian Americans

On June 20th, the Toledo Blade finally paid attention to the situation brewing down in Toledo, Ohio where a DJ was making a racist ass of himself. The Toledo Blade Article gives you the basics. I've got an op-ed posted over at Asian American Press that covers some of my feelings on the matter. But I hope others will see the importance of speaking out against this kind of harassment. It shouldn't be tolerated anywhere.

Wendy Wu

Ok, so Disney just inflicted Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior onto us featuring Hmong actress Brenda Song. Of course, I have to say this is a terrible, terrible story. I've already made extensive remarks over at Harlow's Monkey and Ethnically Incorrect Daughter.

Some points awarded for a Hmong actress in the lead. But we must ask for better.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Visual Poem June 2006: What Lasts

Over at the blog of the terrific Barbara Jane Reyes, she's sent up an intriguing visual poem. In the name of interesting poetic dialogues, then, here is my own response. I look forward to seeing the responses of others on their blogs!

A field of inner lightWhat face is this?All that ever truly lasts.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Kundiman's Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Competition

Kundiman is holding their Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Competition with a deadline for June 30th (Coming up fast) Visit Kundiman for more details.

Even better, visit Asian Week's classic 1997 article on Vincent Chin and learn more about the history of Vincent's tragic murder and its broader significance to Asian Americans, even 24 years later. Longtime readers of mine know that as an Asian American living in Michigan at the time, this case affected me deeply. I hope you'll continue to work against racism.

Monday, June 19th is the anniversary of the night Vincent Chin was attacked.

Laotian Rock Rat Found Alive

I can eat four times my body weight in nuts and berries! Which has its consequences, but go figure.
From the BBC and others: 'Fossil' rock rat pictured alive

Of course, anyone who's seen my vacation photos or most of the photos from anyone else who's been back to Laos could have told you they're alive. Just one of the many fun discoveries to see back in the old country. It is fun to see that it's made "front page" headlines on AOL and a few other services. Of course, he didn't exactly know he was missing. Just heavily hunted. But go figure.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pop Culture: New Asian Superheroes. True Progress or 'Same Same, But Different?'

Check out: DC Comic's New Chinese Superhero Team: The Great Ten.

You should have seen the ones who DIDN'T make the cut. Featuring figures like the ever popular "Mother of Champions" who can give birth to a litter(!?!?) of 25 super soldiers every three days.

There's many things we could ask, like "Where's "Father of Champions?" and other issues of sex & sexuality. Or lack thereof, based on comic creators' apparent (no pun intended) view of Asians.

But that's a whole different rant.

In any case... Nice. I guess we can be glad we don't have Incredible Launderer, Knock-off, who possesses "the inscrutable ability to make cheap versions of anything he sees," or Crafty, the Sly Siamese Spy "who betray round-eye with single word..."

Then again, we haven't seen The Great Ten's enemies yet.

Why do I think we might be better just watching Minoriteam episodes?

In the meantime, thanks to the hard work of Loren Javier, we can traipse through yesteryear at the Asian Pacific American Toychest to see how far we've come! While I'm not sure I agree with all of Loren's takes on the subjects he showcases, this is still a very interesting site and hopefully it will become a more comprehensive resource in the years to come!

Pop Culture: Asian Body Count, X-Men Style

Is it just me, but with the exception of Jubilee, did EVERY Asian American character in X-Men 3 get killed off?

Jubilee seems to always wander off in the films. Blink and you miss her, like this scene in X-Men 2:
Strangely, more people care about what happened to me than to Cyclops.
I'm won't go into all the things that could be said about how Psylocke was handled. (Who, in the comics, is a proper English psychic trapped in an Asian supermodel assassin's body with a lousy sense of costume practicalities... But then, aren't we all?)

Update: Given how several "well-known" X-men personalities were given short shrift in X3 it's probably good to point out that "Psylocke" was supposed to be the one on the far right with the purple hair and no dialogue:
Can we get SAG cards for this?

Pop Culture: Upcoming

We've already seen a lot come out already. Still, there are a few notable things:

My hopes have all but dwindled for Pulse, a remake of the long, but reasonably interesting film Kairo. To say they seem to have missed the point is a bit of an understatement.

On the other hand: The horror film Ang Pamana - The Inheritance looks like an interesting offering from the Filipino Canadian director Romeo Candido.

G-Fan Magazine also just announced that they'll be hosting one of the first showings of the first CGI Kaiju film, "Negadon-The Monster From Mars" at G-Fest in Chicago this year, along with the all new Gamera film, "Gamera-The Little Braves." If you're in Chicago, it sounds like a don't miss.

I've just got to put in a plug for the upcoming film "The Motel" It's inspired by the very funny short-story that ultimately became Ed Lin's classic novel "Waylaid," a definitely must-read if you can find a copy! Thanks to Angry Asian Man for posting the current poster for this film!

From The Dept. of "Hmmmm.":
Zhang Ziyi seems to be in talks to star in an un-Disneyfied Mulan. This could go good or bad. After all, the authentic Mulan story is a timeless classic.

There's also talk of her in a Seven Samurai remake.

This probably disturbs me just because I rather like the Seven Samurai. And hey, I may be accusing before I've seen. How bad COULD it be?

The Essential Asian American Poetry Library

I'm always curious to see what other people would consider essential texts to an Asian American poetry library.

Since there are so many out there, which ones do you consider your top ten that everyone (who's interested in this sort of thing) should REALLY have a copy of?

An Interesting Introduction

This is the publisher's blurb about "The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry" by Xiaojing Zhou from the University of Iowa Press that's coming out this year:

"Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional "I" of lyric poetry - based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian "I" - to enact a more ethical relationship between the "I" and its others. Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's idea of the ethics of alterity - which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness - Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry. "The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity" is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries."

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited by the idea of the book, and will try and get a copy. I'm grateful to Xiaojing Zhou for writing this text. I think it's important for those in academics and MFAs, and it's a monumental undertaking.

On the other hand, speaking from the perspective of a practicing Asian American poet, I just find this sort of thing, well, tedious for non-academics.

Writers write, as they say, and this doesn't sound like the sort of thing that will easily win over any new fans from the general population to the marvels and joys of Asian American poetry.

And I believe there ARE marvels and joys to it.

But hey, I already wrote about this whole matter in my poem, "The Big G." in 2004, in less than 300 pages.

And, you know what, I think I'm just going to let that poem stand for the rest of my argument. Because that's what poetry is supposed to do anyway.

Contemplating Identities

Challenge everything. Regret nothing. One of the critical dilemmas is the question of Asian America. I wrestle with it at a personal level. In pending posts, it may be helpful to understand where I'm coming from. My belief is we have, at a minimum, a quintilateral identity. In no particular order:

* As Americans

* As members of our individual ethnicity (Lao American, Japanese American, Hmong American, Tai Dam American, Chinese American etc.)

* As Asian Americans (Or APIAs, APAs, etc. or even American Asians)

* As individuals upon whom our culture and/or self/imposed identification has no effect.

* As citizens of the world/universe. As human beings.

I'm certain there are other states as well. There are complex politics of identification at play here. A hundred different boxes we can be put into. Some we climb into willingly, others, less so.

This model of course may not work for other people, but it's something I bear in mind.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Back to basics.

There is no one right way to write poetry.

My personal commandments to myself:

Be honest.

Have fun.

Never think it’s perfect.

Don’t be too hard on a piece because it’s imperfect.

Explore. Experiment. Experience. Excite.

Go where words haven’t gone yet.

Don’t forget the past.

Don’t blind yourself to the future.

Be present for the whole thing.

Remember to have something to write with nearby at all times.

Strive to write so well you’d be content to take your own work
with you on a desert island. But don’t expect to get it right the
first time. Or the last.

The inner, the outer and the other.

Remember there’s always someone better than you. There’s always
someone worse than you. Know that all this can change in an instant.
Know that worrying about this is silly.


New Asian American Poetry Books For 2006?

Well, might as well start this off right.

Who's putting out new books of Asian American poetry for 2006?

2005 was a pretty impressive year, with some very good entries from a diverse body of figures. Will 2006 match it?

If you've got a book coming out or has come out, or know someone who does, let's hear about it!

Saturday, June 10, 2006


"Come, come whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. Ours is a caravan of endless joy! Even if you've broken your vows one thousand times, come, come, yet again come!" - Rumi

Welcome to the all-new blog by Laotian American writer Bryan Thao Worra! The focus of this blog will be on issues in contemporary Asian American writing and community activism, as well as popular culture and whatever seems appropos the moment.

As a caveat, I've usually not had much luck with maintaining blogs, but with your support and feedback we'll provide a fun and interesting journey with regular posts and updates!

Have a better one!