Saturday, November 8, 2014

Some Non-Linear Reflections on Tom Cruise Science Fiction Movies

Tom Cruise fights Tom Cruise in the desert after realizing he's one of many Tom Cruise. We want to root for our Tom Cruise, but also cringe at seeing Tom Cruise, any Tom Cruise, in pain. Tom Cruise fights Tom Cruise and a gun is discharged, Tom Cruise's lover: shot by mistake. The old maxim, we realize, is true. When Tom Cruise fights Tom Cruise, everyone loses.

Tom Cruise loses his son when aliens attack. Not to death, Tom Cruise's son literally runs away from him. If you were Tom Cruise's son, would you leave Tom Cruise? No, you would not leave Tom Cruise. The film stretches believability.

I am aware that Tom Cruise practices Scientology.

Tom Cruise's face is disfigured in a horrible car accident. We do not want to believe that Tom Cruise can be disfigured, so we follow Tom Cruise in Tom Cruise's quest to re-figure Tom Cruise's face. That is 70% of the movie, but we care just as much as Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise wears a mask but if I needed a mask it would be Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise fighting drones. Drones cannot hit Tom Cruise. Drones disintegrate everyone in Tom Cruise's vicinity but will not disintegrate Tom Cruise. The bullets miss Tom Cruise by mere inches but of course the drones are doing this on purpose. The Drones: "We cannot kill Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise can never die."

Tom Cruise gets his Tom Cruise eyes taken out of his Tom Cruise head. The Tom Cruise eyes are placed in a bag and can be used to open doors at the plot's convenience. Is Tom Cruise still Tom Cruise without Tom Cruise eyes? If I surgically implant Tom Cruise eyes into my head will I be Tom Cruise? Phillip K. Dick asks the important questions.

I have not seen Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow yet. I regret that every day.

Tom Cruise flying Olga Kurylenko over mountains. Tom Cruise can not be killed. Tom Cruise shoots drones out of the sky and Tom Cruise crashes, but, don't worry, Tom Cruise is okay. It's like a video game, Tom Cruise's life. Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko crash into the desert. Tom Cruise finds the other Tom Cruise. No one wins.

Tom Cruise is called Jack, John, Cage, Ray, David, Jack again, but his name is Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise fights Tim Curry. Tom Cruise sends Tim Curry into the void but Tim Curry can never truly be destroyed. Tom Cruise knows this. And now, so do we.

Tom Cruise finds his son's murderer, or so Tom Cruise thought. He was not the murderer, and Tom Cruise realizes this after deciding not to murder him, even though it's foreseen that Tom Cruise murders his son's not-murderer, but then the not-murderer pushes Tom Cruise's gun into him and makes Tom Cruise murder him (the not-murderer), which proves that no matter what you do, Tom Cruise is inevitable.

Tom Cruise kills Tim Robbins because Tom Cruise thinks Tim Robbins is creepy and aliens. Tom Cruise's daughter is scared so Tom Cruise has to do what Tom Cruise has to do, and that's kill Tim Robbins. Tim Robbins invited Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise's daughter into his home, but Tom Cruise kills Tim Robbins. Tom Cruise is not a murderer, Tom Cruise is just the killer of Tim Robbins.

Tom Cruise loves Penelope Cruz. Tom Cruise loves Olga Kurylenko. Tom Cruise loves Jessica Capshaw. Tom Cruise loves Mia Sara. Tom Cruise loves Emily Blunt. Tom Cruise loves Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise in every Tom Cruise Science Fiction Movie. He is the same Tom Cruise, always.

Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman fly to the spaceship, in space. The spaceship is full of Tom Cruise, millions of Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman intend to blow up all of Tom Cruise. This cannot happen, but it must: Tom Cruise is the only one who can kill Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman hold down the nuclear detonator together, they annihilate each other and Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman die, and all the millions of Tom Cruise die, they're all dead.

Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow always dies and comes back. I haven't seen Edge of Tomorrow. I realize that.

Tom Cruise gives Max von Sydow a chance to kill Tom Cruise but Max von Sydow kills Max von Sydow because only Tom Cruise can kill Tom Cruise.

Olga Kurylenko, bleeding. Picture it. Tom Cruise fought Tom Cruise in the desert and Olga Kurylenko is the one that is shot. Tom Cruise cancelled out Tom Cruise. That's the only explanation.

Tom Cruise kills Tom Cruise after Tom Cruise can't get back Tom Cruise's face, but Tom Cruise is alive in the machine and brought back in the future, outliving everyone in death. Tom Cruise is the resurrection.

Tom Cruise annihilates Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and millions of Tom Cruise. How is this possible? It is not possible. Look, in the clearing, Olga Kurylenko. There is Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise can never die.

Monday, May 26, 2014

GUYS, Listen. You Really Should Have Some Girl Friends.

Boy and Girls can be friends too!

And I don't mean girlfriends either (though they are great too), I mean friends that just so happen to be, unavoidably, girls. What I'm saying is, guys, I'm sorry - Men, not only should you have women friends, you need them.

You need a girl friend because we need to get over this backwards friend zone mentality that somehow gives pity to those that we assume are trapped within it, when, in fact, we should all be just thankful that we have a friend in our life, any friend of any sex or race or orientation, because we shouldn't need sex to realize the love we feel for them.

You need a girl friend, you need many girl friends, because the next time a girlfriend dumps you, your girl friends, being girls themselves, will understand probably better than anyone else why you were dumped and, just maybe, you'll grow from that experience instead of becoming needlessly bitter.

Why would you want to escape a friendship?

You need girl friends because then you'll start understanding why that girl on the bus didn't want to talk to you when you were flirting shamelessly with her, and you'll understand why that girl at the bar ignored you entirely, because, wow!, maybe people just want to sit on the bus and read their book sometimes, maybe that girl just wanted a drink with her friend after a bad day at work. Your girl friends will help you realize, with their own horror stories, how constant such attempts really are, how they cherish being left alone, and then your reaction to their avoidance will no longer be, What a bitch. 

"Can't I take the Redline in peace?" 

You need a girl friend in your life, guys. I'm talking to the straight guys, specifically, because you specifically need to understand. When you've had a girl friend long enough, you'll stop calling girls whores or saying that they're asking for it. You may even give up leering. You'll even find that you've stopped slut-shaming entirely. When one of your guy friends treats a girl like dirt, in either a passive or overtly cruel way, it will give you pause. You'll wonder what is deficient within his own character instead of giving him that enthusiastic high five he expects for putting a woman in her place.

Not that it will always be easy.

Some of your guy friends may ask you when you will have sex with your girl friend or your other girl friend or why haven't you attempted to sleep with that one girl friend because they are so sure that she wanted to sleep with you. They may attempt to give you tips on how to sleep with her, thinking that something is wrong with you.

You'll shrug and you'll feel sorry for them, these sad, angry men who seem to be always seething with an unfathomable violence. But then, you'll notice, that many of your other guy friends will have girl friends too, and because it's not a big deal for them, it won't be for you either. You'll just think of all of them, eventually, as friends.

"Hey, you're my friend and I appreciate you in my life!"

Do you understand? You need girl friends because when you meet a woman your first thought shouldn't be, Now how am I going to fuck her? 

You need women friends because Elliot Rodger is not an anomaly. What happened this weekend didn't come out of nowhere, he's not just some crazy kid (people don't work that way). Because when you hear some atrocious statistic about the rate of which women have been sexually assaulted in this country, your reaction should not be, Here we go again, how come men are always the bad guys? 

Instead you'll remember your girl friends and you'll realize that other women are human beings just like them. You'll feel outrage instead of this strange need to be defensive. You'll no longer view everything as men vs. women

It'll just be us (human beings).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Asian Artist Profile: Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses is the author of a novel, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying and the novella, The Last Repatriate. Both books I highly recommend. His newest book, from Thought Catalog, is an essay collection called Different Racisms. It explores the unique racism Asian Americans face, including Jeremy Lin's impact on Asian American representation in national media, America's perception of Psy (Gangnam Style), and the model minority myth. Different Racisms can be found here.

Matthew was kind enough to answer questions about his writing, growing up Asian American, and, yes, sadness. You can find out more about him at his website here, friends.

I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying is a novel told in flash fiction, while The Last Repatriate is a beautifully concise novella. What are the benefits and difficulties of writing short fiction? Especially with taking the short pieces to form a longer narrative, like a novel? 

Each of the chapters in I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying is shorter than a page long. And I suppose, though I hadn't thought about it, The Last Repatriate is made up of many small parts. I've realized recently that this may just be the way I write best, as much as I'd love to write longer extended scenes. When I attempt those scenes, they often work better broken up into parts. I think part of this is that I am working with insight as cause and effect, more so than a longer string of physical action, and insight on the scale of smaller arcs is a lot about suggestion. Real insight is done in conjunction with the reader, or something. I leave a lot out when I'm making leaps or I cut a lot out when I'm really revising. When these small arcs add up, their elisions, as much as what is there, hopefully add up to some larger arc of emotional insight, where the reader is able to make something out of what is missing and feel it on a deeper level than the satisfaction (hopefully) of the resolution of what is there. I am making this up as I go along, though, and perhaps am not explaining myself accurately.

What struck me from reading both I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying, and The Last Repatriate, is a sense of almost indefinable sorrow, something that the characters in the books don't quite have the language to articulate. Even with the humor in these books, there's an underlying sadness that creates a tension, at least for me, that is extremely effecting. This may be too abstract, but can you talk about creating that mood? About writing, capturing, that sadness?  

Sadness--that's interesting. I think, in a way, the sadness is in the level of awareness. What the characters are aware of and what they are not aware of. The disconnect there is a large part of the disconnect in articulation and between fantasy and reality. I'm often writing arcs of denial. But at some level, there's awareness, and that awareness probably creates a sort of unrealized, or mood of, sadness.

Who are some of your favorite writers? What are you reading right now? 

I was just telling someone that I've noticed that so many of favorite writers are Canadian: Michael Ondaatje, Anne Carson, Alice Munro as frontrunners. Some of my favorite storytellers are Japanese: Haruki Murakami and Hayao Miyazaki, especially. Right now, I'm reading and rereading a number of Asian American books for a course I'm supposed to be teaching in the fall. I'm also reading ARCs of forthcoming books, like Kim Sunee's A Mouthful of Stars, and listening to E.M. Forster books on my iPhone.

There was a time that I didn't think there were really any young Asian American writers out there. But I was wrong, I just didn't know where to look! Was it difficult for you to find other Asian American writers? Do you feel like it's getting easier for Asian American writers to get noticed, to be found? 

It was difficult. I hope it has gotten easier with the internet. But I think part of what made it difficult when I was younger was that I didn't even know to look. Or I was afraid or ashamed to. One's school (and maybe one's local library) tell you what books are supposed to be, especially if you grow up in certain parts of the country. There is always someone telling you what books are supposed to be. Perhaps now those voices are more representative, but I suspect they're only very slightly so. There's too much politics to go on with this answer.

How was it like growing up Asian American? How has it affected your writing? 

For me, it was inextricable from growing up as an adoptee. I'm basically always writing about it, now. But there was a long time when I couldn't bring myself to write about it. It's harder for some people to be honest with themselves than it is for others.

Monday, April 28, 2014

This Is Happening

I have a short, ten minute piece that will be performed at 2014 My Asian Mom by the wonderful people at a-squared. It starts Friday. It is happening. You can buy tickets, here (I don't know why it says 7:00 in the ticket drop window, the production starts at 8:00).

So, this is happening. When I wrote my piece, "Why Do We Mistreat Our Korean Mothers?" I was not sure I would ever see it performed. It's fast-paced and split into ten separate parts, a disjunctive narrative that could fall apart under the weight of its chaotic asymmetry. And, even though it's not a direct adaptation of my life, it's still very personal, and a part of that embarrasses me, because I'm also a very private person. But it's time to get over that.

I have faith in a-squared. I have faith in the power of theater, or is it theatre? Google says I'm spelling it wrong.

This is happening too. No, not Calvin Kline. He is not happening (here).

After months of random Kpop posts, Zander Stachniak and I have made a separate website, Critical Kpop. It is a labor of love. This website is happening, has happened, will continue to happen. We've put a lot of work into it (okay, okay, Zander designed most of it) and we think, no, we strongly believe, that we're looking at Kpop from a different angle.

I was worried about this site too, because I worry about everything. I was worried about it failing immediately and embarrassing me, but I was conversely worried about it succeeding and embarrassing me.

What I should accept about myself is that I am always, somehow, embarrassed. If it's not about bad fortune, I'm embarrassed about success (fleeting as it is), about my reaction to success (am I gloating, am I showing off?) I'm embarrassed by conflict, by friendship, by my own exhaustion (you'd be exhausted too if you were this embarrassed all of the time)! When I'm not embarrassed at the moment, I'm considering how I will be embarrassed next, and I wonder, even now, why this is such an essential part of my biological makeup, what part of me sets me in a constant state of shame.

Which is to say, I'm embarrassed by this blog. I'm embarrassed by my lousy segue, informing you to look at the website for the Marble Room Reading Series, which I am co-curating with Olivia Lilley, and am very happy (and embarrassed) about. May 18th is our 12th reading.

And the new issue of Ghost Ocean Magazine is out (why bother with segues?), and it has poetry and fiction that I strongly believe in, and a review of Joshua Young's play in verse, The Holy Ghost People, that I also believe in.

I'm a fiction editor on the magazine (did you know this?); Heather Cox, a poet you should know, founded the magazine, and the wonderful press, Tree Light Books. The press is happening (has happened even). Heather is happening.

When you think about it, and maybe you should, the entire world is happening. Good, bad, tragic, impossible to fathom. The world has no time to be embarrassed, no time to say, "Sorry about that tornado." Or; "You're welcome for the nice breeze." There is only movement and spinning and spinning, etc.

I'm not sure what my point is with this post, except to say: This is what is happening in my life and I'm happy and I'm embarrassed. But also, I can't forget, so very fortunate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Dystopias: A look at Bald New World(s), Orphans, and the complete and total Annihilation of Identity

I've always enjoyed reading about damaged worlds. I feel a thrill in weaving through Dystopic Literature, not just to see what writers do with their futuristic worlds, but to figure out what these worlds are saying about us right now

Peter Tieryas Liu's Bald New World, Ben Tanzer's Orphans, and Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation are dystopic books released within the past year that bring us into three very different futures. But they carry similar themes, a synchronicity that can't be ignored. 

I've written about Peter Tieryas Liu's work extensively because I feel like he's pushing Asian American writing into new avenues. With Bald New World, Peter writes his most personal story yet but brings us into a setting that may just be his most bizarre. In a future where everyone on Earth has gone bald, wigs are the largest commodity. Peter's book follows aimless but good-natured Nick Guan, a war-veteran and photographer, and his friendship with eccentric billionaire filmmaker Larry Chao, who owns, through inheritance, the most powerful wig company in the world.

The story is about image, yes, and about human greed, but at its core it's a story about belonging, and friendship, and what that makes you as a human being.

Who are you, really?

Peter uses the dystopic landscape of a world teetering on the edge to test the limits of human identity. This is a story about image but not just what you see in a mirror: It's about how you perceive yourself.

One of the most telling moments is when Nick finds himself embodying the body of a cricket, as part of a neural sport dangerously played in the future. It's so dangerous that Nick almost forgets that he is, in fact, a human, and the hormonal instincts of the cricket nearly take full control. But if his mind still believed he was a cricket would he still be Nick? With plastic surgery so precise in this future that you can look like literally anyone, who are you really? And does it even matter?

At its heart, Bald New World is a confrontation with identity in a world where so much of that can be bought.

With Orphans, Ben Tanzer brings us a dystopia that pushes inequality to the limit. In this future, jobs are the commodity. And with jobs being so scarce, keeping one, at all costs, is the only thing that matters. Even above holding your own individuality.

There are many issues at play here that break down the identity of the protagonist, Norrin Radd. Norrin has to sell real estate on Mars to the richest people on Earth, who are looking to start a new, better world. He's good at his job, a job that he hates, so what does that make him? No one cares.

What's most interesting about Ben's book is how the Corporation (capital "C") of this novel don't stop at minimizing people at work, using them as cogs, the Corporation's reach touches the home - where they supplant their employees, some gone for months at a time, like Norrin, with idealized clones. These Terrax inherit the memories and much of the personality of the employee, without their glaring, and very human, flaws.

Using Terraxes to take the place of the employee at home is used to avoid heartbreak over these long separations, to keep up productivity. But what the Corporation in this story is really saying is chilling:

In every single way, you can be replaced.

With Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer's first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, we get a dystopia that continues the question of identity. But it doesn't just say, You can be replaced. A big part of the story leaves you wondering if that would be such a terrible thing.

The enemy here isn't a monolithic corporation, the enemy is science itself (or maybe that's not the right word to use here, maybe there is no enemy). There are strange things happening at Area X, a place cut off from the rest of the world. Annihilation follows an expedition (the twelfth to reach the site) of four nameless woman; our protagonist is the biologist, but there is an anthropologist, a surveyor, and the leader, known only as the psychologist. Names are not important here, in this case, they are forbidden. You are your skill. The personal is to be kept at a minimum for the security of the mission.

But that doesn't stop the mission from falling apart.

As we learn more about the biologist, we find that her participation in this mission is not simply for science. Her husband traveled through the strange, ever changing terrain of Area X on his own mission, and when he returned, he was changed. Himself, but not. Hollow. And then he died. The biologist is in Area X to find out what happened to him. As she progresses, she must also figure out what is happening to her.

Through her interactions with the breathing landscape, her own biology begins to change. There is no doubt: Area X is changing her from within. But if her cells change, her own biological makeup, is she still herself? Can you become an entirely different being and not even realize it?

When it comes down to it, all three books are very different and ask different questions about identity. All are worth reading and analyzing and questioning.

For myself, I'll never stop questioning.

I believe that we are more than our jobs. We are more than what we like on Facebook, what we read, what food we eat. We are more than our skin. Our race. Our personality. Who we love. Even our biology.

But I can't stop wondering. How much more?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cambodian Son, American Exile

Exile. Many of our artists create their greatest works deprived of their native countries. Think Dante and The Divine Comedy. Think: Voltaire. For a time, Hemingway.

And now, think: Kosal Khiev. Cambodian Son follows the life and times of the Exiled American/Spoken Word Artist/Former Gang Member/Attempted Murderer/Fatherless Cambodian as he struggles with his new home, misses his old home, and not just survives, but lives.

Make no mistake, Kosal Khiev is an American. And this is a very American story, a tarnished man seeking redemption. Reaching bottom, and then climbing, desperately, to reach salvation, or justice, or success. I came to the opening night of the annual Asian American Showcase, expecting this basic, but very fulfilling narrative.

But what makes Khiev's story so compelling is the brilliance of that execution, the intensity and charisma of Khiev himself, and the complexity of filmmaker Masahiro Sugano's storytelling. 

This isn't just a story of one man's rise from the bottom, of a man without a country. It's a story seeped in history, of wartime sins: the bombing and displacement and purge of the Cambodian people in the 1970's, the effects of which have rippled down generations, into the lives of millions of people today (how could it not?).  

It's a story of a dehumanized prison system that takes damaged teenagers and throws them to the wolves. Of an immigration policy that tears those children away from their families, sometimes forever. And, of course, it's a story about art, used for healing, and expression, but also as a vessel for the human experience. Like an extra limb for the soul. 

There's a lot going on here. All of these issues intersect and respond to the imperfect life of Kosal Khiev. The complexity of the story is even apparent in the exile. Kosal is Cambodian, but the only life he's ever known as a child was in America. Because of history, his family found themselves exiled from Cambodia, their home. America was his home, and yet, he's lived half of his life in its prisons. 

I'm talking a lot about stories, and I have talked about new, diverse narratives in so many posts because I think they are: 1. Important, 2. Morally Just, and, almost just as important, 3. Interesting. 

But I can't forget that this story here is true, and these struggles are everyday. Opening Night at the Asian American Showcase made it a point to bring the story to reality. At the end of the documentary, (the filmmaker) Masahiro Sugano, spoke with the audience, and he brought with him Kosal Khiev, through the miracle of Skype, where he answered questions from the audience. 

Kosal is still in exile, his struggle far from over. For the viewer, this is a story. We have to be reminded. For Kosal, this is his life

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

on Satire #RACISM

Sorry #NotSorry

It was a stupid tweet, obviously. Ching-Chong Ding-Dong is tantamount to screaming "Gook" at me on the street. If you're a popular figure (and I know it's an intern or a web editor that sent that tweet out), you can't put something like this out there, especially without context, and not expect a response.

I wonder though if a hashtag of #Redskins make this tweet okay? If it was clear that he was being ironic, would this work? Repeating dehumanizing words, words that many Asian Americans hear all the time, is that even really satire?

Colbert apologized on his show on Monday, reminding everyone that he is being satirical here. The crowd gave uproarious support for the embattled idol. People are overreacting. Being stupid. They don't know what satire is. Everyone is just too sensitive nowadays. 

Overreaction #Proportion 

Of course when Asian Americans were upset about How I Met Your Mother's yellowface, it was an overreaction.

Of course when Asian Americas were outraged at Two Broke Girl's portrayal of a silly Asian buffoon, Han Lee, that was an overreaction.

Of course, of course!, when a child on a Jimmy Kimmel segment called for America to kill all Chinese, and they still aired it, causing Asians to protest, that was an overreaction.

Of course when Seth Macfarlane's sitcom, Dads, made fun of Chinese penises and strange sexual appetites, that was an overreaction when Asian Americans were upset.

Of course (of course!), Katy Perry's appropriation of Asian culture at the AMA awards and the outrage that followed, this too was an overreaction.

All of these incidents, alone, made in a vacuum, a fantastical sphere without history or time, are not outrageous. The Colbert Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, alone, is not a huge issue.

But understand: There is history here. There is context. Understand: These are just a few examples that have come up recently. 

Media #Comedy

Micky Rooney in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's. This film was Iconic Hepburn. Forever marred.

Micky Rooney playing this character is the epitome of everything wrong with Asian portrayals in media.

Do I see a change from then and now? Yes.

Now this is done in the guise of irony. This continues, it breathes, this perception of Asians lives on.

Oppression #Perception

What I'm talking about is not Oppression, capital "O," I'm talking about Perception. Which is a tool of oppression, but hear me out here. You've made it this far.

What I'm saying is that as long as these perceptions of Asians live on, even through irony, Asian Americans will remain as Others.

What I'm saying is that Orientalism, even done with reverence, is a form of imprisonment.

I'm saying that it's time we went beyond these stereotypes and even beyond satirizing them. Because when you use racial humor ironically, you're still seeing race, not the person. It's still, in the end, dehumanizing.

We need new narratives. Asian Americans that have goals and dreams and faults that go beyond. It's time. Asian Americans must demand new stories.

Privilege #Problem

I think it's important to know my own privilege. My privilege is that my race is ambiguous. As I've grown older, it has become even more so. I can navigate many different worlds without worrying about someone yelling "Gook" at me on the street. Since I am not often perceived as Asian, people's perceptions of me are often blank, but when it benefits me, I can use my (half) Korean ethnicity to my advantage.

I have a short play upcoming in the show, My Asian Mom, this May. I'm very proud of it, but I'm also scared. I wonder sometimes: Is my play Asian enough? 

My mother is Korean, was born and grew up there, but I often don't know if her personality has anything to do with her culture, if anything she does is truly, distinctly, Korean. So I worry that, somehow, my play and experiences will not be viewed as "authentic."

That's the problem. Even I have an image of what an Asian American story should be. I have seen so few examples of anything different, that my imagination is limited. My mind has been wired this way. We are imprisoned by banality.

Satire #Satire

So the question remains, was Colbert's Ching-Chong Ding-Dong satire?

I'll give him this, it was an attempt at satire. Satire punches up, the old saying goes, and this, with context, almost does that. But satire, at its best, takes something morally wrong, and exaggerates the injustice to add humor and highlight the absurdity. The Washington Redskins owner trying to pay off Native Americans while keeping that horrible name, that is morally wrong. Using the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation joke doesn't quite highlight that absurdity. Because it's everyday language for many people, language used against Asian Americans to dismiss or badger them. For it to work as satire, truly, he'd have to use language that were more absurd then the language that is presented here.

Colbert is not the first and only comedian that uses racial (or homophobic, or sexist) humor to confront those issues ironically. Often, it's effective. But even more often, the point of those jokes are lost, and instead, the humor becomes the words themselves, and those words and those thoughts continue.

But is shaming the answer? Is telling someone that you can't say *this or *that the way?

I'm not so sure. And if shaming is effective, it may not be the way, just a way. 

Now #Tomorrow

It's getting better.

It's getting better.

It's getting better.

It's getting better. 


But we're not there yet.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Violence in Kpop: Boy Bands and Bullets

You can now find this piece at Zander Stachniak and my new Kpop site, Critical Kpop! You can check out the piece here, friends

Friday, March 14, 2014

On Dealing With Dread (as a writer)

On Publishing 

When I talk with writers that have books out, they nearly always say the same thing: "Having a book out doesn't change anything about your life."

When pressed, one admitted that the only thing having a book out did for them was give them an opportunity to compete (and receive) a full-time (tenure tracked) teaching job, respect in the literary field, money, a condo, other writing offers, invites to readings, the stability to start a family (if desired), and a chance to travel the country to promote their book.

So the only thing it changed for them was everything.

The Truth

Sometimes I get so impatient trying to get my book published that I can't fall asleep at night. 
Sometimes I imagine my book out there and having to answer for it. 
Sometimes I feel like I'll never have my book published, or anything published, ever again. 
And then I feel dread, with all these thoughts, this overpowering endless dread. 

AWP, Seattle 

According to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, there were over 13,000 writers and readers at their 2014 Seattle Conference. One of those writers (and readers) was me. I sat at the Ghost Ocean Magazine/Tree Light Books table (I'm a fiction editor for Ghost Ocean, check us out, we're awesome). You might have talked with me there. You were probably a writer too. We were 2 of 13,000, in fractions: 2/13,000. We were .015384615% of the writers that were there. Maybe we had a connection. Maybe we'll both make it. Maybe there's room for all 13,000 of us to get our books out there. Or maybe I'll see you next year, and the year after that, and we'll both be hoping, still dreaming.

This Book

Is wonderful. I highly recommend it. It's also tremendously frustrating. Because there are just so many of us out there, writers, people that want to be writers, people teaching others to be writers so they can teach others to be writers so they can teach others to be, etc. Do writers still have anything to say except how much they want to be writers?

I believe in the MFA. I believe it was good for me and for others. But there's something in me that believes the whole system is ready to collapse. And what then?

I Believe In 

Margaret Atwood.
my unpublished book.
my charisma.
this blog.
my family.
most Latin American writers.
most of my friends and most of their projects.
the capacity to achieve one's goals, in my case the publication of my book, and upon achieving that goal, more opportunities arising, leading to further success, stability, and comfort, in short: Happiness.

That's it.

See this blue? 

It's the sky! Can you believe that? How can anything be so blue? How come I can't describe it as anything but blue? If words fail you, why even bother? When you have pictures widely available, why even bother?


writing is fun and reading is stimulating. Because just the other day, I gave a lesson to students on descriptions because not a single one of them described a single character in their personal narratives. After the lesson, I gave them pictures of three iconic characters and had my students write three-four sentences describing them (some did not know who these characters were, but I was prepared, I told them to write how they perceived these characters from just their appearances). One of these characters was:

Homer Simpson.

My students had fun describing him (not so much with Minnie Mouse, who many of my students did not recognize [surprisingly?]). One of my students described Homer as a failure, a lazy worker who chokes his son. Someone described him as a tragic person, who is stupid and selfish, but has a big heart. Almost everyone described him in a different way but no one described him as a cartoon character. My lesson in class: Everyone has different perceptions and honing those perceptions on paper is interesting and worthwhile. The lesson to myself: the sky is devastatingly blue; the sky is majestically blue; the sky, this sky, is so brilliantly and blindingly blue. 

Did You Know? 

That I write this after having taught a pretty good class, a day after writing some of my best work (for a new book that I'm very happy with), all during a very good, satisfying year (so far). I'm running a reading series, and I've met so many cool writers that way, and I don't say that enough and you wouldn't even know by reading this blog how grateful I am for that.

Did you know that I had so much fun at AWP? That I met so many great people and felt, more often than not, intense kinship instead of the much maligned dread? Did you know that I really believe that I'll get a book out, eventually?

Did you know that I really, truly believe that you will find a way too?

In Conclusion 

That dread is still there. But everything else is too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Violence in Kpop: Revenge of the Girl Group

You can now find this piece, and many others, in the new Kpop site Zander Stachniack and I have started: Critical Kpop! Specifically, here, friends!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Excerpts From My Three Potential Erotic Novels

While doing research for potential publishers of my very literary novel, I've come across many, many erotic publishers that are just itching for new material! That, my literary friends, is where the money is. With that in mind, I'm posting excerpts from three potential erotic novels for their consideration (Why not use my blog to sell my work for once?!). Enjoy!

Murder Mystery Sex Erotica Book 

The only thing she wanted was to do sex with him. He wanted to do sex with her too, and then to do sex with her again, at least five times in one day, every day, until forever. The problem was this: he was the chief of police. She was a criminal. And it was his civic duty to arrest her for the murders.

He stood at her door, just sweating all over himself. Even between his fingers there was sweat because it was so hot out and because of the burning of his being.

"You don't have to do it," she said. She was wearing a white gown and was naked except for her black panties and her bra, and a tight t-shirt and jeans. She was so hot inside her skin that it was as if her birth canal was a volcano on one of Jupiter's Moon, like Olympus Mons, spewing hot lava all over, into space, the void, reaching asteroids even, melting balls of ice into tiny, useless pebbles. "You don't have to take me in and you know it," she managed to utter through her sweltering lips, desire slowly dewing.

"You're the murderer," he said, he could feel his heart beating against his jet black blazer. Thump-thump-thump. Like a knock. Like his heart was asking to be let back in. "I have a duty," he said, and he did, because he was the chief of police, and the siren before him was the murderer.

"I only murdered because I had to," she said. "You would have done the same thing if you were me."

"Maybe," he said. "But the law is the law and I have to enforce it." His hands were trembling. In his right: handcuffs. In his left: his long, hard pistol. Totally like an erect penis. "Are we going to do this the easy way or the hard way?" he said.

She stepped forward. He could smell her neck, the smell of lilacs in winter. "The hard way," she said, and she caressed his pistol as if it were his penis and like she was giving him a hand-job, except it was her hand on his pistol, not his penis. It was weird but also erotic.

The Martian Sex Chronicles  

As an astronaut, she knew all of the risks. Except...for falling in love. She didn't mean to reawaken the Martian King, but she had pressed the de-hibernation button against the wall and he suddenly sprang alive from his frozen crypt.

She was wearing her tight silver spacesuit and sexy high heels and she gripped a blaster in her right hand that almost looked like a penis, but it shot lasers instead of semen. "Oh no," she said as the Martian King awoke, screaming in his erotic Martian tongue.

The Martian King wore a big golden helmet that fit perfectly over his wide, bulbous head. His eyes were huge, like eight inches long, and his skin was dark red, like a heart beating thunderously with love. He only wore a loin cloth over his naked penis and butt. He saw before him an angel, he could barely make out her black skin through her helmet and wanted to do sex with her immediately. He rose from the crypt. Alive at last.

She screamed, but not out of fear...out of intense unfathomable desire. But how would they do sex in the severe Martian habitat? He came to her, not came in the gross way, like cum, I mean like he walked over to her and they hugged and he kissed her on the neck. Did I mention he had two sets of lips? "Better for pleasure," he would have said (but didn't, not here).

Anyway, she suddenly had an idea. She would take him to her spaceship and the would make wild passion. In zero gravity. HOT.

Sex and the Single Mermaid 

He was running out of air fast. He had lost his team as he searched the innards of the derelict ship. He told them to go ahead so he could investigate further, because he was the bravest, and an alpha male, and he had big biceps and a well proportioned face, and no scars except for on his shoulder - and that scar give him tremendous character. "If I am to die," he said, "I wish I could die doing sex."

And that's when he saw her: her, green skin and beautiful lush brown hair dropping below her ample bosom. "Are you an angel!" he screamed but he couldn't scream because he was underwater. That's when he noticed she was a mermaid.

"Oh goodness!" he said, lustfully.

She floated towards him with an inquisitive, erotic, stare. If she wasn't in the water already she would have been wet just because of him, sexually.

"I want to do sex with you so bad!" he said to her. And somehow, she understood, and she nodded!

"Let's totally do it," she said.

And they totally had sex there in the water. How erotic is that?