Friday, September 13, 2019

Write with Me!




I'm teaching the short story form at UCLA Extension. Please join me.  Classes begin on October 3. I'm working out of the downtown Los Angeles campus. More information HERE.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Vulnerability NOW!

I'd been taking these acting workshops through the SAG-AFTRA conservatory.  I took two workshops that required immediate intimacy.  Right. Now. 

Within 30 minutes in a room of complete strangers, I had to cry, love, yearn and regret. 

I delivered. That's what actors do, but I had to reflect on how each and every time actors are asked to be "authentic."  By being authentic, we lay it down, offer the most intimate moments of our lives through our bodies, speech and minds.  

After each acting experience, I'd felt, in a way, closer to something higher than myself. Was it God? Or Enlightenment? Or an elevated sense of self?

When I was doing AIDS work, some of the most spiritual times of my life were connecting with someone who was dying. There was no wall between us, it was just two human beings connecting at a core level.

That's what those acting workshops resembled--a core level of connecting.  The director and casting people were EXPECTING to connect on a deeper level, so this cold place with strangers because a temple of sorts. For 10 minutes--the time it took to act my scene--I felt something sacred.  

Who knew at an acting workshop, I'd be "taken to church." It was a nice place to be.


Friday, August 30, 2019

What I Learned through the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory


I decided to check out the SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Conservatory. For $45, members can access all sorts of workshops on acting, casting, self-care, technology, and more! I was surprised at the variety of classes offered.  I've made several sessions thus far.  Here are some of my takeaways.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

When Moments Come Together

Recently, Skylight Books, where I've hosted for 18 years, had a staff showcase.  It's an opportunity for Skylight staff to show off their talents.  I showed a painting (pictured), while my colleague Arlo sang.  I like how our talents meet in the above picture: the guy singing in a hat is being admired by a painting of guy in a hat. Arlo confessed that he saw my painting earlier in the day, and he may have subconsciously wore his hat because of my painting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Headshots


I haven't had acting headshots in nearly 15 years.  If I'm going to start acting again, I decided to finally get them.  The photographer is the amazing Alexis Rhone Fancher.

I was fourteen when I got my very first headshots. I got my first agent at 16 and got into the unions by 17.  I got my BFA in acting. I thought I would be acting forever. However, the roles were few and far between, and the roles pretty much sucked.

I did my own performance work, which I loved, but found my creative urges could be quenched through writing.  Leaving acting to write was one of the best decision I made.

Now, I feel the urge to go back to my first love of acting.  We'll see what happens.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Story Read in Hi-Fi

This is the first time that I'd been fully recorded reading a short story. If you're not into reading and would rather be read to, here's a video for you.

I'm reading from my short story Music Heard in Hi-Fi, which was published in Sunday Salon. It was a joy reading at Sunday Jump, a monthly open mic in Historic Filipinotown.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Los Angeles is Burning


Over 25 years ago, I saw a documentary Paris is Burning, capturing the very queer ball scene of New York. I was blown away of these stories of queer people of color living their very best lives, finding families when their own biological families may have shunned them.



The ball scene made famous "Vogueing" which Madonna brought to the mainstream. 

The ball scene continues today. It is performance, it is fierceness, it is church. With shows like Ru Paul's Drag Race, one can see how competitive and fabulous drag queens and trans people can be.  








Recently, I went to the Proud Festival in Downtown Los Angeles.  There was an impromptu Vogueing competition, very much like the kind seen in Paris is Burning.  But it wasn't New York is was smack down in downtown Los Angeles.

I'm sure many of these dancers weren't even born when Paris is Burning was made in the early 1990s. This tradition of mostly black and brown queers is wonderful.  In these videos, you can hear me screaming, Yaaaas!

What makes this more incredible is that the ball scene was usually hidden away, kept in secret ball rooms.  But here we are in downtown LA, all are welcome to witness. In the above video, I love how there's an Asian couple watching.

Being there, among free queer people, there was a sense of the divine--that God or God-like forces were present.  It was truly uplifting.



Thursday, August 22, 2019

Meditating on Death in Paris


On a recent trip to Paris, I had the pleasure of visiting the Catacombs, where six millions Parisians are buried.

I thought it would be ghoulish, but it was rather reverential. The skeletons were placed there when the graveyards ran full. Priests blessed the bones and they were laid to rest. The bones were placed ever so delicately on top of each other, creating a restful pile.  



Walking through the catacombs felt like the Buddhist tradition of sitting in charnel houses. Aspiring monastics sat with dead bodies to meditate on impermanence. They watched bodies disintegrate as a spiritual practice.

The whole experience felt otherworldly. I couldn't help but wonder who they were and how they may feel about their bones.  Then again, would they even care?

I don't think meditating on death is maudlin.  On the contrary, it's life affirming.  We shouldn't be taking our lives for granted.  We're all moving to being a pile of bones. Before becoming lifeless skeletons, are we leading the best lives possible?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ritual in Literary Spaces


When news broke that Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison passed away, I slipped into pastor mode. I took a class in divinity school on rituals.  Rituals are an important part of life.  Marriage, graduation, birthdays are all forms of rituals.  Rituals mark transition.  Rituals are important.

I felt Toni Morrison's passing required some kind of ritual.  On my Facebook feed, I saw people lamenting her death.  The literary community that I circle in was truly mourning.  So, I organized a tribute, asking some awesome writers to participate (photo above, starting with back row: Jervey Tervalon, Gary Philips, Nina Revoyr, Lisa Teasley, Michael Datcher, Terry Wolverton, Lynell George; front row: me, Dana Johnson, Natasha Deon).

At Skylight Books, we discussed the work of Toni Morrison and what she meant to us, then we read passages from her novels.  It was an awesome turnout.  I was thrilled that Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress) showed up.

At the end of the reading, I did feel a sense of closure. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt this literary ritual was an important one to have.



Monday, August 19, 2019

Black and Brown in Technicolor

I went to two exhibitions recently. Soul of Nation at the Broad and Liberacion at the Village. What struck me was the dazzling colors in the shows.  I was quite touched by it.  Why?

Soul of a Nation
I think it's because the black and brown narrative is often seen through a narrow lens--one usually of struggle and oppression.  However, these paintings offer a different story.  These artists see a multi-narrative.  Black and brown lives are far more complex, literally more colorful than others may give credit for.

Liberacion
I'm a brown man in the world.  In this country, all sorts of stories are thrown at darker skinned people. I found relief in these paintings. The brightness of these paintings reminded me of the brightness this brown man can encounter in his life.