Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Round-up: Phi Galore!

Over at Little Laos on the Prairie I have a Halloween edition post outlining so of the many phi you can encounter in Laos and Southeast Asia. Be aware they may go by different names depending on where you're at, and who you're with.

Also, DEMONSTRA, the standard edition, is now on pre-sale until November 16th featuring over 100 pages of Lao American speculative poetry, especially through a Lovecraftian lens to examine our diaspora of the last 40 years!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tawan the Sun Girl released by Chay Douangphouxay

Tawan the Sun Girl, written by Chay Douangphouxay and illustrated by Alex Kuno has been released.

The description is as follows: "Before a Lao child is born, the child’s parents spend endless nights trying to think of the perfect name. Once the name is carefully and lovingly chosen, the child must strive to live up to that name. If the child is successful, it will bring great honor and joy to the family. But if the child fails, it can bring much sadness and misfortune. Each of the characters in Tawan: The Sun Girl has been given a special and meaningful name. Their names were given as a guide to help them become better people. But when the true test of life comes knocking on their door, will Tawan, Din, Nom, and Prince Jaiboun choose to live up to their names?"

This book has been released as part of the Reading Together Project, which seeks to address the lack of children’s books that speak to the experience of being an Asian Pacific Islander (API) child or youth in the United States. The project supports the development of English literacy skills while recognizing cultural heritage, and creating opportunities for children and families to learn about API cultural heritage together.

Chay Douangphouxay is a Lao-Khmer American artist/activist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. Douangphouxay uses her art to educate and inspire others to advocate for their communities. Her first solo chapbook, Remission: Finding Light In the Midst of Social Darkness was released as part of the 2012 Legacy Fellowship Grant and has been widely utilized as a national educational tool on issues of class, gender, and race. Chay is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Twin Cities Chapter of NAPAWF, a national organization working to forge a grassroots progressive movement to advance social justice and human rights for Asian-Pacific Islander (API) women and girls.

The Minnesota Humanities Center's collaborative work with the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) focuses on amplifying missing narratives from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, increasing access and building upon the excellence of arts and cultural programs, and building capacity.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A thank you from Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals

It was recently announced that Lao American playwright Saymoukda Vongsay's Kung Fu Zombies Vs. Cannibals (Mu's 45th world premiere) is now the highest-grossing world premiere in the history of Mu Performing Arts! You made that happen. Thank you!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Speculations Readings at DreamHaven Books, Wednesdays, November 20 and December 11

The SPECULATIONS READINGS SERIES continues monthly, mostly on Wednesdays, at DREAMHAVEN BOOKS, 2301 38th St E, Minneapolis. Each Speculations Reading event runs from 6:30-7:45 p.m., including a post-reading reception with free soda pop and cookies.

On Wednesday, November 20, JASON D. WITTMAN reads from his fiction. Mr. Wittman lives and works in Minnesota. In addition to having two games published by Steve Jackson Games, he has had fiction published in SCIFI.COM, Baen's Universe, and Tales of the Unanticipated. And he now has a stand-alone novella, Saint Nicole, available at Sam's Dot Publishing:

On Wednesday, December 11, S.N. ARLY reads from her fiction. S.N.Arly enjoys writing dark stories suitable for young adults and regular adults. Her most recent publications include a dark fantasy tale in Tales of the Unanticipated #29 and a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" in the all wolf story anthology WolfSongs Volume 1. She is a member the local critique group Guts and Rocks and can be found on Facebook: and G+. When not writing, she enjoys collecting stray electrons and returning them to the world all at one time.

Speculations is a co-production of DreamHaven Books and SF MINNESOTA, a multicultural speculative fiction organization that also hosts a midsummer SF convention, DIVERSICON, the 22nd edition of which will be held July 25-27, 2014, in the Twin Cities with Guest of Honor CAROLYN IVES GILMAN and Special Guest TERRY A. GAREY.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lao Leadership Institute-Minnesota 2013, Cohort One

One of the interesting Lao American projects currently underway in Minnesota is the Lao Leadership Institute.

It's a special pilot program to mentor and develop emerging Lao Minnesotan community leaders.

By the end of the 5 sessions, they will be engaged to think and act on critical topics in non-profit and community organization development. Participants will go on to become board members of non-profits, advisory committees and other key projects to help make Minnesota an amazing place to live, work, learn and grow. Chanida Phaengdara Potter, founding editor of Little Laos On The Prairie is currently facilitating the training of this cohort, drawn from across the Greater Twin Cities Metropolitan Region.

Guest speakers have included Saengmany Ratsabout of the University of Minnesota, Terri Thao of Nexus Community Partners, Elizabeth Loddy Tolzmann of Tolzmann and Nordell, and Bo Thao-Urabe of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.

A second cohort if forming for January, 2014. If you're interested in participating, be sure to contact the Lao Assistance Center at or e-mail their executive director, Sunny Chanthanouvong at

Be sure to follow the Lao Assistance Center on twitter at @laocenterMN and on Facebook at: for continuing updates of their progress!

A big thanks to all of our individual donors and sponsors who made this possible, including the City of Minneapolis.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scholarship opportunity: Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund

Since 1980, the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund has been committed to providing scholarships for Southeast Asian students of good character and scholarship. The unique thing about this scholarship is that it is only available in one state at a time, changing states each year. I served on the review committee when it was in Minnesota in 2007. In 2014, it will be coming to North Carolina.

The last time it was in North Carolina was 1999. So, I'd strongly encourage all of our community members to be proactive in getting their senior high school students ready to apply for this program. Please send them to:

As a quick overview: The Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund (NSRCF) is a non-profit foundation that annually awards scholarships to students from underserved Southeast Asian communities pursuing higher education. It was established by second generation Japanese Americans, Nisei, in gratitude to the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council. The Council made it possible for the Nisei to leave the World War II internment camps for colleges and universities across the United States.

The NSRCF encourages inter-ethnic collaboration and promotes public awareness and understanding of the forced removal and unjust imprisonment of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

This is particularly necessary for the children of Southeast Asian refugees who have faced significant education disparities including lack of access and a lack of scholastic precedent in their families. Many of the recipients are the first in their families to attend college. Considering that almost 30% to 40% of many Southeast Asian families are still living beneath the federal poverty level, support from scholarships like this are vital to help our communities escape multigenerational cycles of poverty.

Over the years they have been to the following states:

1982 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1983 San Francisco Bay Region, California
1984 New England
1985 Chicago, Illinois
1986 Los Angeles, California
1987 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
1988 Houston, Texas
1989 Denver, Colorado
1990 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1991 Seattle, Washington
1992 Southern New England
1993 Stockton, California Area
1994 Sacramento Valley Area, California
1995 Fresno Area, California
1996 New York City, New York
1997 San Diego, California
1998 Madison, Wisconsin
1999 Hickory, North Carolina
2000 Massachusetts
2001 Merced, California
2002 Atlanta, Georgia, Merced, California #2
2003 Portland, Oregon
2004 Portland, Oregon #2, East Lansing, Michigan
2005 Denver, Colorado
2006 Gulf Region
2007 Minnesota
2008 Phoenix, Arizona
2009 Long Beach, California
2010 Washington, D.C./Maryland/Northern Virginia Area
2011 Seattle, Washington
2012 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Area
2013 Houston, Texas

It's a rare and exceptional opportunity. But I also hope, as we approach our 40th anniversary in the US that it will not be too long before Southeast Asian Americans pay it forward, and we see a new generation of philanthropists emerge who provide scholarships for other new Americans who are just beginning their long journey intertwined with the great American tapestry.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals visited by MN State Senator Foung Hawj

For the Sunday, January 20th show of Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals, MN State Senator Foung Hawj was in attendance. Senator Hawj has been a long-time supporter of the arts, and was interested in the way playwright Saymoukda Vongsay addressed the issues of UXO and the Secret War throughout the play.

There has often been an interesting relationship between the arts and civic engagement for the Hmong and Lao community. While it has not necessarily been the same for other refugee communities, almost all of our elected officials from the Hmong and Lao backgrounds have been connected to the arts for at least some point in their young professional careers. I would argue that any institution that wants to see greater civic engagement from Hmong and Lao would do well to sponsor positive and meaningful arts programs. Not just half-hearted after-school busywork.

One reason I suspect this has been the case for our communities is that performing arts such as poetry, spoken word, and theater encourage Lao and Hmong to build audiences. To understand timing and logistics. To build not only language skills, but non-verbal and environmental communication skills. They learn to become advocates for themselves, and in the process of researching for their own art, they become in tune with their audiences and their communities. They also learn how to work their hustle and how to be life-long learners. These are essential skills.

I would turn to Senator Hawj's biography as a great point to understand his journey, which resonates with many of us:
"When I left my home country of Laos over three decades ago for a new life in America, I could never have imagined that I could one day be elected to public office. I work hard all my life, got a college degree and started my professional career as a computer programmer and later was able to start my own multimedia production company. I became interested in public service through my years of volunteering, working with different kinds of groups to improve my surrounding including the East Side of St. Paul. As I told my senate colleagues, "I'm new to politics, but I'm not new to helping people." Moving from a war-torn Laos to urban America, I have been through much adversity and overcame many obstacles. This has given me a lot of appreciation for the struggles people go through, but also a boundless optimism about what is possible when we work together..."

Colorado Wat Lao unveils plans for rebuilding

A little over two years ago, in December, 2011, the Wat Lao in Westminster, Colorado burned down. This was tragic at many levels. The Denver Post recently reported that plans for the reconstruction have been unveiled, but the community will need to pull together from across the country to make it happen.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take several pictures there before the blaze in June, 2011. The community members there were warm and welcoming, and clearly a positive part of the lives of Lao in Colorado.

This wat was home to many of my favorite examples of Lao artwork, many of which were lost in the destruction. Among the artworks lost were over 50 gold, bronze and ivory Buddhas, including one that was over 15 feet, as well as many fine murals.

Emmy Thammasine, an architect based in Denver, has been in the lead to create the redesign for the new wat. According to the article, "the hardest part of the design was reconciling the traditional needs of the Buddhist culture with necessary building infrastructure that met all the code standards for the city of Westminster."

Among the other conditions that need to be met are ensuring the space has "safe, functional electrical wiring, and a sound barrier wall to break up the echoes created from early morning chanting before they reach the houses directly south of the property."

Wat Lao Sida Ounnaram, also known as Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado is located at 10685 Dover Street in Broomfield, Colorado. The wat was first established in 1989. The Venerable Ounkham Veunnasack Thammavaro was the lead contact there.

Their website used to be at but it is currently down and their facebook has not been updated recently.

"The fire consumed 90 percent of the art, artifacts, writings and architecture that Laotian refugees brought with them to Westminster in the last century, including a sacred book that was more than 1,000 years old," Maly Khanthaphixay said.

Here's wishing them much success in the reconstruction.

Laos is a world leader in solar energy use

Over at Doghouse Diaries they have a great map highlighting things various countries are good at. It catches many Lao by surprise that we're a leader in solar energy. The US leads the world in Nobel Prize winners and people killed by lawnmowers.

We're #2 in the world in solar energy use, according to his data source, and data from the CIA World Factbook. The number 1 country is Luxemborg. I think it's a great achievement for the Lao community. Over the next few months we'll be sure to take a deeper look into the issues and opportunities for solar power in Laos. I hope this fuels a renewed vigor and enthusiasm for understanding the science and now moving forward to creating exciting innovations in the field.

Of course, according to a WHO survey, Lao people are currently #1 in alcohol consumption among the ASEAN nations, so the mind spins a little contemplating the relationship between these two facts.

[MN] Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community Summit

This may be of interest for many of our community members in Minnesota. It has been ten years since the first Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Summit hosted by the City of Minneapolis on Oct. 23, 2003.

This 2013 effort is led by Twin Cities Regional Center and collaborated with Asian Media Access; Hawman and Company; Project Sweetie Pie; Strategies; and University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC). It will examine the progress made over the past decade, with a special focus on Transit Oriented Development, disparities in health and education, the proposed Minneapolis Public Schools 5-year Plan.

Registration is free and open to the public. The Preregistered will receive a half-hour FREE consultation with the Venture Capital Team:

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community Summit
When: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 from 9 AM – 4 PM

Where: University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC),
2001 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411


• 9:00 – 9:30 – Breakfast and Networking

• 9:30 – 10:10 - Welcoming by UROC and invited political leaders

• 10:10 – 11:10 – Asian American Business Overview in North Minneapolis

• 11:10 – 11:20 - Break

• 11:20 – 12:30 - “How much you can do with $500,000 investment” – Twin Cities Regional Center as a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

• 12:30 – 13:00 – Lunch

• 13:00 – 14:50 – Divided into A and B Tracks

• Track A at room 107: 1) AAPI Health Disparities Report; and 2) MNSure – MN Health Insurance Updates

• Track B at room 105: 1) Current Transit Development Updates; and 2) Resources for Small Business Owners

• 14:50 – 15:00 - Break

• 15:00 – 16:00 – What Should We Do Next – How AAPI community can create the health/economic/environmental impacts to support the TODs

The purpose of this Summit is to connect Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community with resources available from various Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD).

For the past 10 years, MN has actively developed public transit options, such as: the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (along St. Paul University Ave.) and Southwest LRT (proposed line from Eden Prairie to Minneapolis), etc. These diverse Transit Options will link to future economic development and health/environmental impacts at neighborhoods.

All AAPIs need to get involved NOW, to showcase the tremendous assets we all have, and how we can be part of the Transit Oriented Developments that grow the economy, add jobs, and create opportunities for quality housing and walkable neighborhoods.

Friday, October 18, 2013

ArtAsiaPacific 2011-2012 Lao artists year in review

ArtAsiaPacific regularly has a profile in their almanac on art trends in the region, including developments in Laos. The most recent year assessed was 2012. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have any of their older almanacs online, but it may be worth tracking them down in various libraries if you can.

There's a lot of great accomplishments highlighted. Laos held the "inaugural national artist awards at the National Cultural Hall in the capital Vientiane. Sixty-three artists in the fields of fine arts, performing arts and literature were awarded the title of National Artist, and 87 were named Prominent Artists; 38 of the awardees were women."

I'm doing my best to find the full list of names for future reference for those of us doing research on the growth of the arts in Laos.

I think this is a very positive development, especially in terms of gender equity and recognizing the artistic contributions of women in our culture. The Lao Women's Federation convened the “Fifth Lao Women’s Art Exhibition: Art in Women’s Imagination” during Women's History Month, although there aren't many details on who was exhibited this time around.

From the looks of it, the most interesting exhibit of 2012 was convened by M Gallery’s Singapore branch: “Voices” (1/21–2/28), featuring 6 Lao artists, including painter Kongphat Luangrath and photographer and video artist Souliya Phoumivong. Another name to watch for is Phetmalayvanh Keobounma, who, with Phoumivong attended the "2011 ASEAN-Korea Contemporary Media Art Exhibition: Cross-Scape.”

In the United Kingdom, Vong Phaophanit and his long-time collaborator Claire Oboussier had 3 main installations, the first being "Mute Meadow," a “forest of light,” on the banks of the River Foyle. They also presented an installation for the New Performing Arts Centre in Kristiansand, Norway. Finally, their permanent laser light installation on the seafront at Weymouth, Light Veils, debuted at the 2012 London Olympic Games. But what do you think? Did ArtAsiaPacific miss any other major presentations from Lao artists in 2012?

"An Homage to Acharn Manivong Khattiyarat"

At The Quiet In The Land, they have a nice biography of Lao artisan Manivong Khattiyarat, where they contend he is one of the most important Lao artists of his time. It may be worthwhile for visitors to Luang Prabang with an appreciation for art to seek out examples of his work. Due to the fragile nature of the Internet when it comes to preserving Lao artist biographies, it is reproduced here:

"An Homage to Acharn Manivong Khattiyarat"

Manivong Khattiyarat, commonly known as “Acharn Manivong” (“Master Manivong”), is one of the most important Lao artists of his time. He exemplifies the Lao tradition of the nak ork beb—the creative person who provides others with an artistic model and vision. For his entire career, he has directed his talents to the nourishment of Luang Prabang’s artistic heritage, which he has described as a unique mélange of traditions from neighboring countries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, and China, characterized by its simplicity and vigor. His work in the fields of design, drawing, and mask-making has immeasurably enriched this heritage.

Born in Ban Sithan (now Ban That Luang), Luang Prabang in 1929, Acharn Manivong is from a family of many artists and intellectuals. His father was Chao Khattiyavong, a younger brother of Chao Maha Oupahat Bounkhong, father of Prince Phetsarath Rattanavongsa (1890–1959). An official interpreter, Chao Khattiyavong, who did not use any family name, according to the custom of the time, spoke several languages, including French, English, and German, and traveled frequently, particularly to Hanoi. In 1955, Acharn Manivong married Nang Kenchansy (nickname, Phou). They had 12 children—nine boys and three girls—of whom one died at a young age. Most of the children inherited from their father a love of the arts: two of the boys are architects and draftsmen, another was a professor at the Luang Prabang Fine Arts School, and one of the girls helped her father make masks for the Phra Lak Phra Lam performance.

Acharn Manivong has created designs for numerous buildings in Luang Prabang, including structures for Vat Xieng Thong, Vat That Luang, Vat Vixun, Vat Phone Pao, and the former royal palace, as well as for buildings in other cities in Laos. He regards his greatest work to be the sculpted narrative program for the Funerary Carriage House (1963–75) located on the grounds of Vat Xieng Thong, which was built to house the funerary urn and carriage of King Sisavangvong (1885–1959). Decorating the exterior walls and the window shutters of the structure, this narrative program portrays the Phra Lak Phra Lam and is designed to be read in a counterclockwise direction, perhaps in harmony with funerary ritual, which calls for a counterclockwise circumambulation of the funerary monument.

Acharn Manivong has observed that with his design, he sought to be faithful to tradition while incorporating new forms and ideas. For this project, he worked under the supervision of Phya Sing and collaborated with Phya Thit Tanh, a master woodcarver, and Thit Bounthan, who made the glass mosaics for the structure. His many other achievements in the field of design include the catafalque for the funeral procession of Phra Khamchan Virachitta Maha Thera, who died on July 7, 2007.

Acharn Manivong’s skills as a designer are equaled by his skills as a draftsman. He has created an impressive corpus of drawings that are distinguished by their mastery of perspective, precision of line, and delicacy of color. These drawings include plans, elevations, and detail drawings of architectural projects, both realized and unrealized; furniture and embroidery patterns; sketches for the Phra Lak Phra Lam performance; and drawings of more unusual subjects, such as a rendering of a howdah, a canopied seat placed on the back of an elephant to transport a person of high status. Collectively, these drawings are irreplaceable documents of Luang Prabang’s material culture—especially of its Buddhist architectural heritage. In this regard, two of his most important projects include a series of exquisitely detailed drawings of the sculpted doors of the main monasteries of Luang Prabang, which he began in the late 1970s, and a series of drawings he prepared for the construction of the Ho Phra Bang, the chapel for the sacred Phra Bang, which reflect his incomparable knowledge of Luang Prabang’s architectural traditions. He began the latter project in 1978, at the request of Phoumi Vongvichit (1909–1994), who later served as Acting President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

In addition to his accomplishments in design and drawing, Acharn Manivong has excelled in the art of mask-making—particularly, masks for the Phra Lak Phra Lam performance. The most important epic in the Lao literary tradition, the Phra Lak Phra Lam is a sacred text that is a Lao version of the Ramayana, the great Sanskrit epic composed by the Indian poet Valmiki in ancient times. Enormously popular, it is performed as uplifting entertainment for the public and portrayed in temple paintings and sculptures. It not only propagates the values of Theravada Buddhism, but also demonstrates the triumph of a political dynasty that embodies these values.

The Phra Lak Phra Lam begins with the foundation of the city of Indraprastha by a brahma couple, who descend from heaven and establish a dynasty. One line rules from Indraprastha; the other, from Vientiane. Thotsakan (Ravana, in the Ramayana), the heir to the kingdom of Indraprastha, abducts Canda, the daughter of his uncle, the king of the kingdom of Vientiane—an act that upsets the moral and social order. To avenge the king, the god Indra directs two devaputtas to be born as his sons: a bodhisattva named Phra Lam (Rama, in the Ramayana) and his brother Phra Lak (Laksmana, in the Ramayana). Phra Lam and Phra Lak journey through the Mekong River Valley to Indraprastha to recover Canda. Eventually, Thotsakan surrenders to Phra Lam and marries Canda after formally negotiating for her hand and paying the bride-price, as Lao custom dictated. With the moral and social order restored, Thotsakan is accepted as Phra Lam’s brother-in-law. The second part of the epic, set in the island kingdom of Lanka, focuses on Thotsakan’s abduction of Nang Sida (Sita, in the Ramayana) from Phra Lam. The beautiful daughter of Thotsakan, she was one of Phra Lam’s 12 wives.

Assisted by one of his daughters, Acharn Manivong created a series of Phra Lak Phra Lam masks in 2006. Mask-making is an art shaped by long-established conventions. Only certain roles require the use of a mask; and the facial expression, color, and crown for each of these roles are set by tradition. The masks are created by applying layers of papier mâché, made from traditional mulberry paper and glue, onto a mold. Then the masks are lacquered, painted, and gilded. The most elaborate masks tend to be for demons, such as Phra Sahatsadesa, the elder companion of the fierce Thotsakan; he is portrayed with a snarling mouth, two tusk-like teeth, furrowed brow, and a three-tiered headdress. By contrast, the masks for gods—such as Phra Phom (Brahma) and Phra Narai (Vishnu), whose avatar is reborn as Phra Lam—are more refined. Acharn Manivong’s designs for these masks reflect his intimate rapport with the performative tradition of the Phra Lak Phra Lam, as well as his delicate craftsmanship.

After she arrived in Luang Prabang, France Morin met Acharn Manivong and learned of his collection of his drawings. Not only had these drawings never been seen by the public, but they were deteriorating. With his cooperation, The Quiet in the Land arranged for the conservation of 20 of the drawings. These works, along with five of the afore-mentioned masks he created, were included in an exhibition organized by The Quiet in the Land, which was presented at the Luang Prabang National Museum from October 2006 to July 2007. In a ceremony held on the museum grounds on August 17, 2007, the drawings were officially accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection, where they will be preserved and made available for exhibition and study. The ceremony was attended by Acharn Manivong and his family; Sisavath Nhilatchay, Director of the Luang Prabang Fine Arts Museum; Bounkhong Khutthao, then Deputy Director of the Department of Information and Culture; France Morin and Francis Engelmann of The Quiet in the Land; and several dignitaries, among others.

Information for this text was gathered from a series of interviews and conversations between Acharn Manivong and Boreth Ly, France Morin, Vanpheng Keopannha, and Patrice Bleton in August 2005, and Francis Engelmann and Nithakhong Somsanith in September 2006 and July 2009.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Teaching Picasso in Laos

In the course of my continuing research on the visual art of modern Laos, it became very clear that many of the artists in Vientiane were still interested in the possibilities within Cubism and the work of Pablo Picasso. While some merely imitated the form, others were more ambitious with a capable understanding of the spirit of his artistic process.

A decade ago I had a chance to spend a day at the Picasso Museum in Paris. It left an impression on me, although I much prefer the work of Giacometti, Modigliani and Rodin. Looking at the variety of styles Picasso experimented with over the years is definitely inspirational. It's also comforting as I see some of the radical differences in my own art from one decade to the next. Or even one year to the next.

I'm particularly interested in where we can go now. We have a significant body of Lao artisans familiar with the techniques and approaches of Picasso and other Cubists. What might we consider genuinely interesting conversations to have, from an arts educator's perspective?

There have been some particularly interesting Picasso exhibits this year.

In Chicago, they celebrated a 100-year relationship with him. In 1913, the Art Institute of Chicago became the first art museum in America to present the work of a young Picasso. To celebrate, they brought together over 250 examples of his work. It begs the questions, who have we displayed as an emerging artist in 2013 who we'll be celebrating with such joy in 2113?

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston did a focus on his black and white work. They asserted "Whereas Picasso's art is often seen through the lens of his diverse styles and subjects, the recurrent use of black, white, and gray is frequently overlooked. Picasso Black and White demonstrates how the artist was continuously investigating, inventing, and drawing in austere monochromatic tones throughout his career."

Some years back, there was an exhibit called Erotique, which was "drawn from personal experience, imagination, mythology and earlier art, these images - by turns humorous and melancholic, enraptured and enraged - explore an almost encyclopedic range of sexual impulses, practices and human desire." I would be curious to know how many of our Lao artists would have responded to this exhibit, and how much would be seen in general display.

Very soon, Christie's Auction House will be selling the Jan Krugier collection of 29 Picasso originals anticipated to fetch almost 90 million dollars. Again, I wonder, which of the examples from the Krugier collection might particularly inspire our modern Lao artists, and which would seem wholly alien to them?

Might we have encountered La Minotauromachie re-interpreted through figures drawn from Phra Lak Phra Lam instead, such as a dreadful Nyak? Could we have seen Lao traditional dress depicted with the same abstraction as Claude et Paloma? What would it mean to do so? How would Lao artists respond to the voluptuous, twisting forms of Baigneuse sur la plage? Or Tête (1962-1964)? Would any of the other pieces from the Krugier collection have changed the way Lao art teachers consider Picasso's work and the lessons they impart to students today?

One part of me wonders what it would have been like if Laos were to have purchased the collection intact in its entirety and presented it on display in Vientiane, or the art schools in Luang Prabang or Savannakhet. There would certainly be the question of preserving it from the elements, but that effort, that process alone could be quite interesting, with techniques later employed in other buildings throughout the country.

How would you approach giving Lao art students a meaningful and innovative understanding of Picasso's techniques and methods?

Horror Writer Association Announces Scholarships for Members

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is pleased to announce two annual scholarships – the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship; and The Horror Writers Association Scholarship, each worth $2,500.

The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship will be open to female writers who are members of the HWA.

The Horror Writers Association Scholarship will be open to all members of the HWA.

The first Scholarships will be awarded in early 2014. Thereafter, the Scholarships will be given annually. Both Scholarships are designed to assist in the professional development of our Members.

HWA President Rocky Wood explained the intent of The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship, “It is very clear to the HWA that there are unseen, but real, barriers limiting the amount of horror fiction being published by women. There are many fine women writers being published in our genre but we also see potential for the percentage of horror fiction being published by women to increase. This Scholarship, named after the great female horror writer, aims to encourage more female writers to enter our genre and to aid in the development of those already working within it. At the same time the HWA exists to extend the horror genre in all its aspects, so we are also establishing Horror Writers Association Scholarship, which is open to all our members, regardless of gender.”

The application for each Scholarship will be the same – a sub-Committee of the HWA Board will choose the winners, who will be announced around 15 March of each year. Applications will open on 1 November 2013 and close at midnight US PST on 31 December 2013.

Each Scholarship is worth $2,500, which may be spent on approved writing education over the two years following the granting of the scholarship (see the Rules at for more detail).

“These are the largest, and possibly the only, Scholarships offered in the horror genre. HWA hopes to supplement these scholarships with smaller grants as funds allow,” Wood said.

Programming for the Lao American community

One of the key issues an organization serving Lao Americans needs to address is how to create a robust programming model that meets their mission in a sustainable way. There are many dimensions to this process. Each state has its own strengths and talents. It would be hard to argue that at the moment any one state has a master of each and every one of the core Lao arts traditions in addition to emerging arts. This should be encouraging more communities to do arts and cultural exchanges with one another.

We see some states are only programming arts for the traditional Lao New Year and possibly Boun Phra Vet and a few other holidays. Others are successfully convening monthly performances, and in some states, we are seeing regular performances presented in multiple disciplines, especially the literary and visual arts.

I think there are a lot of positive things to be said for making an effort to provide programming connected to the corresponding animal year. I believe there are benefits to committing to at least 12 years to 24 years of providing children and emerging artists a chance to see how they would respond artistically to the different animals of Lao tradition.

I've spoken already at length of programming that can be done with the Year of the Horse: exploring the history, beliefs, science, and arts of the Lao related to the horse. From Manikab to trade routes of pre-colonial Laos to the present day. One could do similar work with the Year of the Monkey, or exploring the relationship of birds to Lao belief during the Year of the Rooster, from the Kinnaly to cooking shows about how to make a good ping gai.

If a community was committed to a rigorous curriculum of study, our Lao American youth could emerge with a fascinating education and body of knowledge from K-12, growing each year with greater skill and disciplines.

Monthly programming in the US also presents us some unique opportunities. Taking the forthcoming year of the Horse, for example, we might see a community present responses to the following:

April: Lao New Year of the horse begins. National Poetry Month readings.

May: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month performances.

June: Boun Phra Vet. High school graduation parties/award ceremonies.

July: American Independence Day. Dragonboat Festivals.

August: National Lao American Artists Heritage Month.

September: Back to school celebrations. Latin American History Month.

October: Lao American Halloween Parties and Filipino History Month.

November: National Novel Writing Month. Native American History Month. Veterans Day.

December: End of year holidays in multiple traditions.

January: European-American New Year. Martin Luther King Day.

February: Chinese and Vietnamese New Year. Valentine's Day. African American History Month.

March: Women's History Month.

This is only a partial list of opportunities where Lao artists and cultural organizations can be seeking out responsive programming that explores interesting intersections.

5 Precepts Recap: Theravada and Zombies

Because of the resurging interest in the 5 Precepts mentioned in Saymoukda Vongsay's play, Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals, here's an overview of the classic ethical principles for lay Buddhists. These are at the core of their ideal practice. Actual observation will vary from soul to soul.

As a demographic note, over 65% of the population is estimated to be Buddhists in Laos. The figures may be similar outside of Laos.

As noted in Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals and elsewhere, these aren't always easy precepts to follow, especially under difficult circumstances such as disasters or the Laopocalypse. One can try to come up with different justifications that assuage one's sense of guilt, but that does not necessarily remove the stain on one's overall kamma or the distance they find themselves from the damma.

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.

5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

One chief concern contemporary writers have noted is that often people think the 5th Precept is the least important. But the trend among many writers is to illustrate that violating the 5th Precept has often led to violating other precepts. You might consider it the gateway precept towards creating drama and misfortune in one's life.

How many precepts can you catch the zombies, cannibals, and humans violating in Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals?

How would you interpret these precepts in other art forms, such as dance or visual art?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Collecting Stories of the Lao Diaspora with Little Laos on the Prairie

As Little Laos on the Prairie celebrates its two-year anniversary of trailblazing the online presence of Lao voices, editor Chanida Phaengdara Potter is embarking on a journey with Lao photographers to collect the stories and capture the faces that connect our Lao diaspora communities.

"Who are the Lao? Where are the Lao? Lao Americans have been in the US for over 40 years, yet many are still unaware of who we are. Have the Lao fulfilled our American Dream? How about those in Laos today? Post-war, who are the Lao in a fast developing country? These are important stories to share. The Lao Diaspora Project: A Photo Essay is a photojournalism project that strives to collect the stories and capture the faces of Lao communities in Minnesota, the US, and across the world."

They need your help to make this photo essay journey a reality. Please help support their work by donating here: They have 30 days to reach our initial goal of $3,000.

Your contributions will help them with travel expenses, printing costs, and coordinating a traveling exhibit. They'll be starting in Laos in November while local photographers will start in Minnesota and other states to collect the stories of the big and small Lao communities that grace the US. If you have questions or would like to be involved, please contact Chanida at

Please share this with your friends and family. Thank you for your support over the years.

Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals Soundtrack funded

Because of your generous support of the project, the Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals Soundtrack Project was just $50 shy of meeting their $3,500 goal! They are now able to provide the artists fair compensation: musical artists ($150 each), the album cover artist ($100), and the album designer ($100).

DJ Kool Akiem has donated his production, time, and recording studio to many of the artists and they couldn't have done this without his generosity as well.

Saymoukd Vongsay has said "Thank you for believing in them. Thank you for telling your friends and family about our project. We're extremely proud of the work that these artists have done and can't wait to share what we've created with you very soon!"

On Sunday, October 27th, they are having the official album release at The Nomad World Pub in the Cedar/Riverside neighborhood. They would love it if you can come out and celebrate with them!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A shot from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles

A great shot of my reading during the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles on September 28th at the Whale and Ale. A big thanks to everyone who came and all of the organizers!

I was reading three poems: "To An Old Tune," "The Deep Ones," and "The Terror in Teak," most of which will appear in my forthcoming book DEMONSTRA from Innsmouth Free Press later this year. Hopefully, in the future, we'll see even more Lao American voices involved in this fun and amazing film festival!

Photo by Todd Gardiner, copyright 2013, used with permission.

Setting precedent for Laochshunds

Taking a quick break from our usual topics today, I'm setting the precedent online for discussions of those lovable creatures the Laochshund, or Lao Dachshunds. These are dachshunds who happen to live in Laos or are owned by families of Lao heritage. 

To be clear: There is no confirmation of feral razorback jungle dachshunds in Laos at the moment. But if you spot one, try to catch a picture of one. It is believed by many that Laochshunds bring good luck and happiness to their owners when treated well. 

There's no clear history of when exactly dachshunds were introduced in Laos, but it is likely no earlier than the mid-1800s. Laochshunds have been spotted in California and Minnesota, and other parts of the country. I'd love to hear about yours!

Celebrating 2 Years of Little Laos on the Prairie

It’s been two years since Little Laos on the Prairie launched its online presence as the space for Lao voices on news, culture, and life.

They covered the story of Anousone Phanthavong and brought his tragic death to the forefront because mainstream media found it difficult to remember the victim and they shared nostalgic photos of Lao people at cultural events and served up the latest neo-Lao recipe for our readers to try out.

The diversity in their voices and interests is at the core of LLOTP. They believe in the culture that is captured through blogging and we are a more vibrant culture because of our compelling voices. They've invited the community to celebrate their anniversary by sharing with them whatever story you want to tell.

For those who are local in Minnesota, come ring in two years with them at their very first get together with fellow community bloggers, friends, and family:

Little Laos on the Prairie’s #StayLaod Anniversary & Fundraiser
Date: Friday, October 25 at 5:30pm
Location: The Pub Room (2nd floor),
5310 16th Street West, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

*Sponsored by Twin Cities Daily Planet, Tolzmann & Nordell LLP, My Huong*
Appetizers, dessert, and cocktails will be provided.
Donations at the door are welcome.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Beyond Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals

Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals will have only a short run in Minneapolis, although I think the evidence suggests it can be a real smash. Minneapolis is home to the world's largest Zombie Pub Crawl. Minnesota is also host to numerous acclaimed science fiction conventions including CONvergence, Marscon, Minicon, Diversicon, Arcana, and Crypticon. Amina Harper just did a new interview with Saymoukda Vongsay for the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

But after that, the good question becomes: "Now what?" for Lao American writers.

At the moment, the major Lao American candidates to present live theater performances would be Ova Saopeng, who is working with Leilani Chan on Global Taxi Driver. K.P. Phagnasay has his Secret Asian Man one-man show, but has been quiet about his latest projects in development. Souphine Phathsoungneune and Phayvanh Luekhamhan worked together in Vermont on a Lao-American poetry-opera work entitled  I Think of This Every Time I Think of Mountains. It would be interesting to see that performance or something similar brought to other parts of the US. The Kinnaly Dance Troupe may also have some projects cooking in the works. Many of our other writers are focusing on develop feature-length and short films at the moment.

San Diego recently gave 10 Lao Americans a chance to try their hand at playwriting and the majority of the results were coherent and demonstrated promise. I hope they'll find the resources to continue developing their works into stronger full-length works.

One of these days I'd consider getting back to using what I learned during the Many Voices Fellowship with MN Playwrights' Center. But that's a few years off.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before someone brings "Our Laotown" or "Death of a Padaek Salesman" to stage. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw "Uncle Vinya," or some other staid Lao drama. But for now, I'd like to think the offbeat, spunky vision of our playwrights that's previously brought us works like "Lao as a Second Language" will carry the day, and that we see more forays into live Lao horror theater. Especially in light of the recent viral video that demonstrated how one can create the effect of psychic powers gone wrong in a live setting.

But what are key productions you think we should be keeping an eye out for?

[Lao Classic Legends] Horse-Face Keo

Over at the archives in Northern Illinois University they have a number of very rough translations of Lao classic folktales there. Among them is Kaew Na Ma, although I prefer the spelling Keo Na Ma, or Horse-Face Keo.  You can find iterations in Khmer, Thai and many other Southeast Asian storytelling traditions. This should NOT be confused with the North Korean song of the Excellent Horse-Like Lady.

Horse-Faced Keo raises some great questions about bravery, valor, and beauty in Lao culture. I particularly like the aspect that her end goal isn't to stop having her 'horse-faced' form. When a Lao woman pregnant with triplets can defeat a demon army, that's worth a look. She's also a weather forecaster: Able to predict the weather, but not apparently able to change it.

Often, this legend is played for comedy in other cultures. I think it would be interesting to see the subject addressed through the lens of high fantasy, and even horror, considering the prominence of demon armies in this case.

The NIU translation of the story goes three generations to her grandchildren, so there's room for further adventures, and if you read it all of the way, I think you can see there's plenty of room for side-adventures as well.

There's dispute over whether it's a fully 'Lao' story, but I would argue it's been a part of our tradition for long enough that we should still embrace it and build upon it as only Lao writers and artists can. It begins like so:
"King Phuwadon and Queen Nantha of Mithila City had a handsome son named Pinthong. At about the same time, an old couple who lived outside of the capital city had a daughter who looked like a horse. She was called Kaew Na Ma or Horse-faced Kaew. When this girl grew up, she was able to forecast the weather. Her parents and her neighbors loved her in spite of her unattractive appearance...”

Monday, October 07, 2013

Manikab: Program planning for Year of the Horse, 2557

With less than half a year away from the end of Year of the Snake, Lao community organizers should begin to decide for themselves how they want to celebrate the arrival of Year of the Horse in April.

2014, or 2557 will specifically be the Year of the Wood Horse, and horses aren't the first thing you connect to Laos in most cases, but they do play a part in both the mythic and historic sense of our country. Tragically, our sense of the equestrian has largely slipped away from most Lao in the US almost to the point of abstraction. Most people will tell you they think of Lao riding buffaloes, donkeys and if you're lucky, elephants. Once in a while you find someone post up a video of horse riding in Laos. But not often.

Let's face it, horses in Laos don't capture the imagination the way it did for Genghis Khan and the Mongols. I might suggest we turn our eyes to the legend of the flying steed Manikab for hints of how to do this in style.

Lao myths have a legendary flying horse by the name of Manikab, or Manikap, or ມະນີກາບ, who appears in numerous epics including Phra Lak Phra Lam, and Kalaket, and is certainly available to appear in new tales of the Lao if we so chose.

Within Lao myth, Manikab appears typically as a gift from the god, Phra In, or the Lao parallel to Indra. He is usually referred to with honorifics such as splendid, marvelous, or wondrous. He plays a role in a number of key scenes. It is Manikab Phra Lam rides into the many epic battles against the Nyak and armies of darkness.

The roots of the Manikab do not appear strictly influenced by the Greek myths but more by other Asian myths, particularly Hinduism. The key myth is Uchchaisravas, the seven-headed "horse" who is part of the class of divine mounts, a vahana who primarily serves gods and demi-gods. When the gods of Hindu legend were churning the cosmos into being from the great ocean of 'milk' Uchchaihshravas was one of the treasures who came forth.

Lao legends prefer Manikab to be a flying steed. It may be possible that it was further influenced by the legends of the Qilin or Ki-Rin from Chinese and Japanese mythology. The character of the Qilin might be one many Lao could relate to. It is typically a gentle being whose step doesn't even trample a blade of grass, and it can walk on water without making a ripple. It doesn't eat flesh and never walks or harms any living thing. The Qilin only punishes the wicked and only appears where there is a wise and benevolent leader. The Qilin are thought to be a protective symbol of prosperity and long life, and in the mythology serve as the pets of the gods.The Chinese have a dance in the style of the Qilin characterized by high energy movements, particularly with the head mimicking that of a divine horse.

For the Lao culture, the Fon Manikab might take a similar approach, but hopefully not simply the 'horse dance,' although I'm sure we'll see plenty of that during the New Years around the country.Let's raise our expectations for the new year!

Representing in Redshirts: The Game, and other notes

A little over a year ago, I backed a scrappy indie game company's kickstarter: Redshirts Deluxe Edition, a "lighthearted game of space exploration, betrayal and murder."

It finally arrived this month, and so far, I've been delighted with it. The team at Weaselpants Productions put a lot of love into the game, which, thankfully is fun to play. (In this industry, it's great when those two elements come together.)

I used to love the old role-playing game Paranoia in the 1980s, so the humor of Redshirts was right up my alley.

As one might expect, it's filled with nods to many popular science fiction shows of the last century or so. (Safely within the protected realm of parody! We swear!)

It's easy to understand the rules, set-up, and then get down to the business of bumping off your crewmen while preventing others from bumping off theirs. It's up there with Kill Dr. Lucky as a great, solid game that plays quickly with a lot of laughs.

Thankfully, it arrived just in time for the holiday season so this will keep me and the nieces and nephews very, very entertained. Although in the first test-runs, it seems they went out of their way to kill off their uncle. I'll have to keep an eye on them in the future, clearly.

I backed it at the Lieutenant Commander level, which means this also sets a neat precedent: It's the first space card game to feature Lao American characters. (Horror on the Orient Express from Chaoisum will also feature a certain Lao American poet you can play as you face dark cosmic horrors, but it's still in production, and will probably arrive next year.) Besides myself, Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao also appears as a bonus card. We're still debating who gives you better benefits on an away mission.

Granted, you'll be working overtime to bump us off, but hey, everyone's getting bumped off here.

The art was done by the award-winning David Reddick, who brought a great sense of humor to the project. He is the creator of various popular comic strips such as "Legend of Bill," The Trek Life at CBS/ STARTREK.COM, Gene's Journal and Rod & Barry at He is also a full-time cartoonist at Paws, Inc., where he works on the Garfield worldwide property.

I also encouraged them to add in the dreaded Astronecronomicon and the Alien Poetry Slam, naturally. And to include a helpful robodachshund modeled after my dog Sadee. These particular cards are only available to a certain backers who participated in the kickstarter, and not the main edition you'll find in the stores right now. But who knows. Maybe next edition.

Overall, a big thanks to Skippy and David Reddick for making this a fun experience, and I'd certainly back other projects of theirs in the future. Now, back to our regularly scheduled zaniness.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

I Want the Wide American Earth: Los Angeles

I went to go see my poem "Evolve" on display at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. They're showcasing the Smithsonian's traveling exhibit, "I Want the Wide American Earth," which was previously at the National American History Museum in Washington D.C.

As the exhibit explains:
For decades, “Asian in America” was not the same as “Asian American.” While the earliest immigrants struggled to be legally recognized as citizens, their descendants fought to be seen as “true” Americans. Additionally, Asian Pacific Americans have played key roles in some of the nation’s most important moments—from the long stretches of the Transcontinental Railroad to the toughest battles of World War II to the streets of Oakland to Washington D.C. Alongside some of history’s greatest names, they campaigned for civil rights and social justice—both for themselves and others.

I'm honored to see my poem a part of the exhibit, as both a transcultural adoptee and as a Laotian American. I was also delighted to see several of my peers and students reflected in the exhibit, as well. They did an excellent job selecting a variety of artifacts from the Japanese American National Museum to accompany this exhibit that really helped to build an understanding of how the local can affect the global.

"Evolve" first appeared in the groundbreaking anthology Outsiders Within, from Southend Press. It broke ground as a text examining the jouney of transcultural adoptees in our own words, on our own terms. I gave a reading of "Evolve" during the launch party in Minneapolis, November 18th, 2006:

The Japanese American National Museum is a beautiful space to host the exhibit. The Japanese American National Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The founding of the Museum is considered "a story of high hopes, remarkable achievements, frustration, and ultimately, success."

I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and curated by Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Initiative Coordinator Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. The exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and is a collaborative initiative with Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

It will be available to visit until October 27th.

Nor Sanavongsay and Full Metal Hanuman

We hit a major stretch goal in the Strange Horizons Fund Drive and the awesome art of Nor Sanavongsay has been included with my poem Full Metal Hanuman.

If you're interested in seeing more of Nor Sanvaongsay's work, be sure to check out his tumblr at

Be sure to let him know if you need a sketch. He has great rates for commissions. I appreciate him donating his skills to Strange Horizons on short notice. The results are great as one of the first visual depictions outside of the Lao community of the legendary entities known as the Vanon, set in the far flung future.

The Vanon are the Lao analog to belongs to the Hindu Vanara, who were typically simian in appearance. But they're more than just monkeys. Vanon had taken birth in bears and monkeys attaining the shape, valor, and occasionally, the character flaws of the gods and goddesses who created them. They were a forest-dwelling fighting force, who began near holy mountains at the center of the Multiverse. Or bio-weapons. So I think there's a lot to examine in their story.

Hopefully, we won't be the last to write of these fascinating entities. Who they've been, and what they might yet become.

Available for Minnesota lectures and presentations October 15th to December 20th

As an update: I'll be available for a limited number of lectures, workshops or readings in Minnesota from October 13th to December 20th. Discount rates are available for schools and non-profit organizations. This is a very narrow window of time when I will be available in Minnesota in the coming year ahead based on my current schedule, but I would be happy to speak to your students and colleagues on any number of topics of interest to you..

The following credentials may assist you when considering whether to retain my services:
I hold the distinction of being the first Lao American to receive an NEA Fellowship in Literature in 2009 for poetry. In 2012, I was selected as the Lao delegate to serve as a Cultural Olympian during the London Summer Games. My poetry is presently on display at the Smithsonian's national traveling exhibit I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story.

I have been cited for my writing in over nine national and international textbooks including the 2012 edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics and Wenying Xu’s Historical Dictionary of Asian American Literature and Theater.

Among my 20 literary, academic and professional awards, I hold an Asian Pacific American Leadership Award in 2009 from the State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, and a 2002 Many Voices Fellowship from the Minnesota Playwrights Center. I am the author of 6 books and my work appears in over 100 international publications around the world including Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, France, Singapore, China (Hong Kong), Korea, Chile, Pakistan, as well as across the United States.

I am the first Lao writer to hold professional membership in the international Horror Writer Association and the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
Let me know if you have any questions!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Set Truth on Stun: Reimagining an Anti-Oppressive SF/F

Recently, Daniel José Older asked a group of writers, editors, and publishers to imagine in both practical and fantastical ways what the SF and fantasy community would look like if it was actively anti-oppressive. This conversation took place over email in August 2013, and the results were published in Strange Horizons as "Set Truth on Stun: Reimagining an Anti-Oppressive SF/F."

He opened with the question: "How do you imagine an anti-oppressive SF/F community? You can think small and practical or sweeping and grandiose, you can talk about the community itself or the literature it produces, take the question anywhere you want to go with it."

Léonicka Valcius, Carrie Cuinn, Andrea Hairston, Kay T. Holt, and Justine Larbalestier responded with a lot to consider.

Among my favorite take-aways was Cuinn's response: "I imagine a community that isn't aggressively anti-oppressive—it simply isn't oppressive. I'd love to live in a world where sexism, racism, and other forms of Othering didn't happen, to the point where we're surprised when they do. The reaction to those sorts of negative generalizations should be, "Oh, why would you think that?" not the agreement or even silent acceptance we often see today. I imagine a community that understands there is a wide spectrum of speculative fiction creators and consumers."

Daniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, composer, and paramedic. Salsa Nocturna, Daniel's ghost noir collection, was hailed as "striking and original" by Publishers Weekly. He's co-editing the forthcoming anthology, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From The Margins Of History. His music, ponderings, and ambulance adventures live at

Check it out!

[Poem] "No Such Phi" accepted by Lakeside Circus

My poem, "No Such Phi," has been accepted for publication in Lakeside Circus. Stay tuned for more details! UXO, Pokemon, Lao horrors from the other world, and Ceres, California. It's all in there. But you'll have to wait and see how...

Lakeside Circus is a short-form speculative fiction magazine, published quarterly by Dagan Books, LLC. Beginning late in 2013, they will produce the magazine for sale in multiple ebook formats, and then release most of the content online over the course of three months (free to read). Readers can subscribe, purchase the individual ebooks, or wait for the free content to appear on their site. It's a nice model and I wish them much success in the coming years ahead.

Lao Poetics by Maha Sila Viravong

For those of you who've been interested in classical ideas of Lao poetics, there's this handbook on Lao poetics by the late Maha Sila Viravong at It's all in Lao, but many of you may be able to find it an interesting introduction to the historical mechanics of it. Mind you, this is not the last word in Lao poetics by far, but it is one of the more modern conversations we had in the 20th century. There are many more discussions to be had:

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

2005 Notes on Lao Visual Arts from the Rockefeller Foundation

As many of you know, there isn't a lot of material available on Lao arts in the 20th and 21st century. The Rockefeller Foundation shut down their interesting Cultural Profiles site a few years back, but you can still find some interesting information scattered around the Internet. Today, I'm including some of the key notes they gathered on contemporary Lao visual artists so that we can have a baseline understanding. Please note that some of this information may be outdated or incorrect, but it reflects our understanding from 2005:

Western-style oil and water-colour painting arrived in Laos during the French colonial period, however in contrast to the situation in neighbouring Việt Nam and Cambodia, the first western art school was opened not by the government but by a private individual, French painter Marc Leguay (1910-2001).

Having arrived in Indochina in 1936, Leguay subsequently travelled extensively throughout the country before deciding to settle down and open an applied art school at Sala on Khong Island in Champassak Province. Here he taught traditional drawing, metalwork and graphic art from 1940 to 1945, when he was briefly imprisoned by the Japanese. Two years later he decided to move his school to Vientiane, but in 1949 the school was closed due to lack of funds and Leguay found employment as an art teacher at the Lycée de Vientiane, a job which he held until he left Laos for Thailand in 1975.

Often called 'the Gauguin of Laos', Marc Leguay portrayed scenes of Lao life in vibrant colours and is chiefly remembered for the postage stamp designs he produced on commission to the Royal Lao Government during the 1950s. One of his greatest pieces was a large untitled work of 1967 depicting a local religious festival; commissioned for an international stamp exhibition in Sri Lanka and painted on 15 square metres of plywood panels, the painting was recently restored in France and is now on permanent display in one of the Lao Fine Artists’ Association's Exhibition Halls at Ban Anou in Vientiane.

Leguay was also involved in the founding of the National School of Fine Arts (now the National Faculty of Fine Arts) under the Ministry of Education, Sport and Religious Affairs, which opened in 1962 together with the National School of Music and Dance at Ban Anou in central Vientiane, offering secondary and intermediate or higher secondary programmes of study. After 1975 two provincial secondary schools of arts were established in Luang Prabang and Savannakhet respectively. A National Arts Teacher Training School was also opened in 1982 under the Department of Teacher Training of the Ministry of Education to train primary and secondary school teachers of art and music.

From the outset the National Faculty of Fine Arts and its two provincial satellite schools taught modern painting and sculpture alongside traditional drawing, graphic arts, metalwork, ceramics and woodcarving, yet the syllabus has always focused mainly on copying classical or early modern western masters, providing comparatively little stimulus for the development of individual technique or original creativity. Meanwhile the Lao fine arts sector has remained relatively insulated from contemporary international art trends and developments, with the result that a distinctive Lao style of contemporary art has yet to develop.

As in neighbouring Cambodia, established Lao painters and sculptors are obliged (in their own words) to 'chase the market', supporting themselves by creating realistic reproductions of famous Lao monuments or idealised rural landscapes aimed primarily at the tourist market. The few Lao artists who have been fortunate enough to participate in international exhibitions and workshops and thereby gain exposure to new creative ideas have little incentive to put these ideas into practice back home, where there is as yet no market for their work.

Perhaps the best-known artist working in Laos is Khamsouk Keomingmuang (b 1942), a retired officer of the Ministry of Information and Culture who sells his work in the cloisters of Phra That Luang. While occasionally venturing into more abstract territory, Khamsouk paints mainly rural scenes involving women in traditional costume. His work has appeared in a number of regional exhibitions, including the ASEAN exhibition 15 Tracks - Contemporary South East Asian Art 2003 and several joint programmes organised in collaboration with the Isaan and Lao Arts Association of Thailand.

On his return from studying Graphic Art at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1988, Kongphat Luangrath (b 1950) found employment within the Ministry of Education. Since 2003 he has taught printmaking at the National Faculty of Fine Arts in Vientiane. Although his primary passion is printmaking, Kongphat has become known internationally for his oil paintings, which have been exhibited in the Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan and Germany.

Kongphat Luangrath is one of a small group of teachers from the National Faculty of Fine Arts who set up Mask Gallery in Vientiane as an outlet for their work. His colleagues May Chandavong (b 1943), Anoulom Souvandouane (b 1948) and Sorasinh Bannavong (b 1949) produce mainly realistic representations of traditional rural life.

Mask Gallery also sells work by other staff members of the Faculty, including Sengchanh Soukaseum and Chaleunphonh Phommabut. Kanha Sikounnavong 2Mention should also be made of Kanha Sikounnavong (b 1957), another alumnus of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria who currently works as Head of Art and Handicraft Research at the Institute of Cultural Research (ICR). Kanha's work has appeared in numerous group exhibitions, including the 6th and 8th Asian Art Bienniales in Bangladesh (1993, 1998), the 4th Asian Art Show, Fukuoka (1994) and several exhibitions organised by the Isaan and Lao Artists Group. In recent years Vientiane's T’Shop Laϊ Gallery has offered a regular platform for the work of local artists who are seeking to achieve something new in Lao art. In early 2005 the gallery presented a highly successful exhibition of work by Nirad Chounramany (b 1962) and at the time of going to press it is providing a small studio space for younger artists such as Sakhone Sonsuphape (b 1979).

Overseas, a native of Savannakhet, Vong Phaophanit (b 1961) was educated in France at the École des Beaux-arts in Aix-en-Provence (1980-1985) before moving to Britain. Known for his interest in disturbing preconceived notions of language, Phaophanit's art uses indigenous materials such as rice, rubber, and bamboo, which he combines with a striking use of neon light. In 1993 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize for his installation Neon Rice Field.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Horror Tales of Lovecraft Have Wide Appeal: Author Joshi

Acclaimed Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi is interviewed in the India Times this week with some great thoughts on the enduring legacy of H.P. Lovecraft, the significance of the Cthulhu Mythos and why horror matters in our modern world, and how it connects us to our past. Worth checking out. And it's short.

HP Lovecraft Film Festival Photos online

Everyone Question has a gallery up of photos from the LA Lovecraft fest last weekend:

Be sure to check them out!