Sunday, July 20, 2008

July 19th Lao Fundraising Party, Minnesota

Here are some scenes from a special fundraising party sponsored by the Lao Veterans of Minnesota at VFW Post 7051 in Golden Valley, MN on Saturday, July 19th.

This fundraising party was to raise money for a memorial dedicated to the Royal Lao Armed Forces at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Veterans, friends and their families came from across Minnesota to support the event, featuring several popular Lao singers and entertainers performing traditional and modern work.

The organizers thanked all the volunteers who helped make the event a success. There is still money that needs to be raised, but this was a good start.

The monument will honor the Royal Lao Armed Forces and the lives of those who, for the principles of freedom, liberty and democracy, made great sacrifices during the conflict known as the “Secret War”.

The total cost for the monument construction is $450,000. The State of Minnesota will pay most of the cost; but the remaining portions are the responsibility of the Hmong and Lao communities.

The Lao specifically need to secure $25,000 to be part of the construction committee.

For more information, you can contact the Lao Cultural Center at 2648 West Broadway Avenue. Minneapolis, MN 55411 or call 612.302.9048.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thank you for coming!

We had sooooooo much fun during the Eye The Other Bust! reading on Crime and Love on Monday. :) All of your support meant a lot to Ed, MoOks and I, and I want to give a big shout out to all the great volunteers of the Loft who made it possible, and to everyone who helped spread the word.

Alas. No one else noticed that July 14th was also Bastille Day, which really tied in so well to our theme of cops, crooks and romance. :)

Still, a great night!. :)

We gave away some great door prizes, everything from sea monkeys to dragons, and we had a fabulous cake from Cakes By Fhoua. :)

But the best part was just seeing all of you! Thanks!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Legacies of War and Refugee Nation: Minnesota '09

Today is a good day to announce Minnesota efforts to bring the acclaimed Legacies of War exhibit and the play Refugee Nation to the Midwest and the Twin Cities in 2009.

Legacies of War was created to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos, to provide space for healing the wounds of war and to create greater hope for a future of peace.

During the war, more tons of bombs were dropped on Laos than were used on all of Europe during World War II.

3 out of 10 of those bombs in Laos failed to detonate and continue to wreak havoc on civilians nearly 40 years since the end of the war for Laos.

These bombs have a devestating effect on the ability of Laos to rebuild and recover from the war, and current estimates say it will take centuries to completely remove all of these weapons.

Today, over 400,000 refugees with roots in Laos are rebuilding their lives in North America.

TeAda Production's Refugee Nation theater performance involves Southeast Asian American artists and Laotian community members in an exploration of the impact of war, refugees, global politics and U.S. citizenship.

Through oral histories, Refugee Nation reveals the connections between the history of the U.S. and Southeast Asia excluded as part of the American experience in mainstream versions of history.

This will be a big project for our community in Minnesota and the Midwest, and to make it a success we need volunteers.

The Legacies of War exhibit and Refugee Nation will hopefully take place between August and September of 2009.

If you're interested, drop me a note, and we'll talk about the best way to get you involved!

Big Brother Mouse and Lao literacy

In a June 28th article by the Wall Street Journal is a discussion in part on the Big Brother Mouse program in Luang Prabang. It's a community center where monks and other locals can practice their English every day with visiting tourists. They also publish books in English and Lao, inviting tourists to buy them, ($1 to $3 each), and distribute them to children, teachers and others as the tourists go through other parts of Laos.

Lao American poet in VOA news

Voice of America's Vannasone Keodara reported on Reflections Within showcasing Lao American Mali Phonpadith's poems with Dede Haas's photography. The work is interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing what further directions it can be taken in.

On Thai puppets and performances

Some results from my current research online:

In Thailand, performing troupes have similarities to a degree, but close observation also shows each troupe has unique performing elements.

With the Nai Wing troupe, each puppeteer holds the puppet with the right hand and the stick with the left hand, while other troupes do the reverse.

Master Chuen Sakulkaew trains his beginning puppeteers at the early stage to hold puppets by centering the bamboo core (as a handle) in a bowl. Reportedly, this way, puppeteers can control the movement of puppet in the way they want.

Chakkrabhand Posayakrit is said to incorporate different posture or movements from various masters such as Chuen Sakulkaew and Wong Ruamsuk into his own way style. He is famed for performing key characters in the Ramakien: Phra Ram, Sida, and Benchakuy among others.

Hun Krabok is regarded in Thailand as a high art form for its emphasis on the expression of moods, actions, and dance styles. I'll try to track down more information later.

Thai-Lao Train successful.

In an article by the Thai newspaper, The Nation, it was announced that the tirst test run of Thai-Lao train was successful:

The State Railway of Thailand on Friday successfully completed a first test
run of train service linking Nong Khai to Vientiane, Laos.

The 3.5-kilometer railway is expected to inaugurate the international
service in August. The inauguration service will be presided over by HRH
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

Thai and Lao authorities plan test-run services twice per day until July
15. The train fares will range from Bt50 to Bt20 per passenger.

First Laotian American in the Olympics

Voice of America's Vannasone Keodara has an interview with Khankham Malaythong, the First Laotian American to Compete in Olympic 2008. Worth checking out.

Reviews: Wanted and Wall E

Who wants who? For what?
Lose. Train. Betray. Seek and wreck.
Contemplate 'choice,' 'need.'

Wall E
Laboring alone.
Solitary, crushing. Dreams.
Collect. Object? Grow.

Recommended Pairings:

Things In Common:
The lonely seeking purpose, a love interest who must go beyond 'just a job,' adversaries with a warped reading of their duty, CGI, the importance of choice, and surprisingly helpful vermin. ;)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

An Interview With Ed Lin

How've things been going with the release of This Is A Bust?
Very well! In fact, I think I've found a whole new audience who have stumbled upon me because they're into mysteries. But when they head on into Waylaid, I think they're in for a bit of a surprise!

In a nutshell, what's This Is A Bust about?
At it's core the book is about a damaged man looking for a reason to keep going. On the surface level, it's sort of a murder mystery set in New York's Chinatown in 1976 that an alcoholic, Chinese-American Vietnam vet-turned-cop has to solve.

What's the best compliment you've gotten about it?
Someone said it was like "Taxi Driver" with a Chinese-American cop in the place of Robert De Niro.

What's the strangest thing you've heard someone say about it?
Someone asked me in a Q&A why there was a car floating above the building on the cover. Um. . .yeah. . .

What keeps you writing?
I can't stop.

What are some of the things you're hoping to see while you're in the Twin Cities?
Are there statues of Grant Hart, Greg Norton and Bob Mould? I would totally burn incense in front of them.

Will we see This Is A Bust, the Movie?
You will see it as a movie in your mind as you read the book.

Do you have any new projects you're working on?
I always do. I also never say exactly what I'm working on. I'm Chinese. I'm superstitious.

Any advice for new writers?
Don't start until you're ready. Don't stop until you're done.

Reading on July 14th at the Loft

Ed Lin is joining us for his first reading ever in the Twin Cities while Saymoukda Vongsay and I will be teamed up together again for the first time since our reading Lao'd and Clear in July, 2004.

I'll be performing a set of my work including 'A Crime in Xieng Khouang,' 'Hunting The Asian American Male,' 'E Pluribus Unum,' and a few others appropos to the occasion. It's going to be rocking and provocative.

Bulgarian Puppetry: An example

An interesting five minute overview of a Bulgarian puppet troupe's reading of the Trojan War. The possibilities are interesting, and it would be intriguing to see the lasting influence Bulgarian puppetry has on Lao puppetry over the coming decades ahead.

Here, compare that to the Hollywood spectacle by Wolgang Petersen.

The Children’s Cultural Centre (CCC), Luang Prabang Performing Troupe

Established in February, 2000, The Children’s Cultural Centre (CCC), Luang Prabang Performing Troupe was created when when Ipok puppetmaster Lung Ouane Phothiphanya trained former dancer Senghchanh Phadith how to perform Ipok puppetry.

Ms Senghchanh has since developed a simpler version of Ipok puppetry most notably without the sacred ceremonies for CCC children to perform.

This story is reportedly closer to the original than that performed by the Central Puppet Troupe in Vientiane.

But here, the puppets are not exact replicas of the originals, while those of the Central Puppet Troupe are closer thanks to funding from foreign aid sources in the 1990s.

In addition to Ipok puppetry, the troupe also performs classical and folk music and dance, including a style known as khap thum.

Lao Puppetry: Théâtre d'objets Kabong Lao

Leuthmany Insisiengmay is the Director of Théâtre d'objets Kabong Lao, an offshoot of the Central Puppet Troupe.

They were established in 2001 with assistance from Michel Laubu, founder of Lyon-based Turak Theatre.

Théâtre d'objets Kabong Lao has six members who perform a contemporary style of puppetry known as hun kabong, developed in 1999 with assistance from French experts.

The puppets are made from recycled materials and the troupe develops its own stories which feature both human and animal characters.

The company places strong emphasis on artistic form, with object and actor in close collaboration.

The group aspires to reach children in schools and youth centres and to spread interest in the development of creative pursuits.

Théâtre d'objet Kabong Lao has toured in France, Portugal, Sweden, Cambodia, Thailand, China and Japan.

Lao Puppetry: 4 forms and the National Puppet Troupe

In a tiny office behind the Lao Plaza hotel in Vientiane, you'll find the National Puppet Troupe.

They were established in 1979 following a six-month exchange programme when a group of Lao arts practitioners went to study with the Central Puppet Theatre in Sofia, Bulgaria. Today, they focus on 4 forms:

Bulgarian-style hand/rod puppetry - using both Bulgarian-style and Lao-style puppet for 10-minute ‘social theatre’ playlets on development issues to amuse, entertain and educate;

Hun kabong puppetry – a new style of hand/rod puppet made from recycled materials, a technique developed with French support.

Humans in costume. (Probably not on the scale of the Mummenschanz.)

Ipok Puppetry. In practice the one-and-a-half hour stories are rarely performed and when they are, it is a simplified version to make them easier to understand.

The troupe receives many requests to tour outside Vientiane, but is unable to tour anywhere internationally unless an NGO or government agency pays for the costs.

Their small office/rehearsal space is located immediately behind the Lao Plaza Hotel in central Vientiane, which can also be a performance space for small audiences.

They have no theatre of their own and are interested in overseas aid to build one.

The National Puppetry Troupe has also expressed a need of a second vehicle since the existing one is extremely overloaded when the entire company travels with their equipment.

The National Puppet Troupe is not currently a member of UNIMA due to funding issues.

Lao Puppetry and Lung Ouane Phothiphanya

Lung Ouane Phothiphanya, was one of the last Ipok puppetry masters.

Ipok puppetry originated at the former royal court of Luang Prabang, and the puppets carved for the royal family were stored there since 1975.

The puppets repertoire focuses on 3 Lao traditional stories - Karaket, Sithong Manora and Linthong.

Ipok puppets are quite different from Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese style puppets. Ipok puppets are controlled by hand and rods.

There were originally 12 puppeteers. The provincial government seeks outside assistance to preserve the art form; both the Central Puppet Troupe in Vientiane and the Children's Cultural Centre (CCC), Luang Prabang Province Performance Troupe perform Ipok puppetry, but neither version is considered authentic.

In Luang Prabang performances are given only on festival days and other special occasions. The show is preceded by a ceremony to honor the spirits of ancestors believed to reside in the puppets.