Monday, April 03, 2017

Literary Meditation

From my previous post, you may have picked up my lamenting of a wasted life.  Ten years working on a novel and I didn't want to spend time on it anymore.  From some gentle nudging from friends and colleagues, I decided to spend ten--fifteen minutes at most--doing rewrites. After those minutes I was going to live my life.

Those minutes turned into an hour, and what a wonderful hour that was.  I was in the zone of writing and caring about this novel again.  I might hate it again, but at this time, I cared.

That hour was not about wasting my life.  It was a deep, creative meditation.  I didn't waste ten years of my life, I grew creatively and spiritually.  For ten years, I was sitting at my own banyan tree. The sentences I wrote were my mantra.  The resistance I felt was Mara sending arrows toward me.  Writing turned those arrows into flowers that fell at my feet.

I meditate.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad.  Whatever the "sit," it aims for my overall piece of mind.  Once I finished writing, I went for a run--something I hadn't done in awhile.  I felt jazzed.

Not a single story is wasted.  It may not find publication, but it help pad the meditation cushion where I sit.     

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Literary Choices

I was asked to work on my novel Miraculous Boy.  My agent is asking me to do rewrites.  My agent is rare.  He won't give up on this book.  MB has been on the market on two separate occasions and hadn't sold.  Frankly, I'm tired of this book.  I've put in ten years into writing and rewriting this book.  I swear in all the time I'd put into it, I wondered about the job opportunities I didn't take up or the relationships that passed me buy.  I chose art making over everything else. 

Writing a book means that there are other aspects of my life I had to give up or did not pursue.  We are our choices and I chose to write.  This is not a bad choice.  I don't regret the creative process during the last ten years, but I'm nearing fifty.  At what point should I just give up and find other ways to grow my life?     

Friday, October 14, 2016

Literary Strange--Not in a Good Way!

I read this Vanity Fair article about Dr. Strange.   I'm going to pass on this movie. Love Tilda Swinton but she's miscast. In the comics, her character, the Ancient One, had been an older Asian man.  The producers made her Celtic.  If she's supposed to be Celtic, then why is she "oriental" looking, spouting eastern philosophy, and  living in Nepal?

All their explaining sounds like, "I'm trying to save my ass so I don't look racist."  I don't buy this stuff about not using an Asian person because they didn't want to play to stereotype (in this case a Fu Manchu type). Why couldn't you make the Ancient One a gorgeous Asian man--THAT would be playing against stereotype.  Instead you make the brave choice of hiring an aristocratic white woman who shaves her head for the role (oh, how edgy).  If you didn't want to offend the Chinese by sticking to the character's Tibetan roots, why didn't you just make her Chinese then?  C'mon, if she can be Celtic, she could have easily been Chinese.

Back in the day, when a white guy played an Asian dude in Miss Saigon, people defended the choice by saying this was "non-traditional casting."  You know what's non traditional casting?  Have an Asian person actually play an Asian person in the movies is non-traditional casting.  In Hollywood's history, it was tradition to have Asians played by white people. For the producers of this film, rather than breaking a stereotype, they reinforced it.   

(George Takei who would have been great in this role, had this to say, "Marvel must think we're all idiots.")

Friday, July 22, 2016

Literary Images: On Mapplethorpe, Star Trek and Being Seen

I had the pleasure of going to the Mapplethorpe shows at LACMA and the Getty.  They were amazing.  He shot iconic images and he was one of many artists we'd lost to AIDS.  His photographs tell a story of a time and place in latter part of the twentieth century.  They speak of what was attractive and interesting and edgy during the 1970s and 1980s.

Robert Mapplethorpe
Mapplethorpe's eye was truly one of a kind.  From his photographs, one can see how moving and controversial his photographs were.  He spoke of gay sex and sexuality.  He spoke of S&M--in this world of Fifty Shades of Grey, people would hardly blink now.

He loved working with models of color.

One of his favorite models was Asian female body builder Lydia Cheng.

He photographed many celebrities.

Grace Jones
Yet through these images, I kept looking for the photographs of Asian men.  As an Asian man who counts the 1980s as formative years, I thought it was interesting that we weren't there.  This is NOT a slam of Mappplethorpe.  However, I do think it was common to treat Asian men, particularly gay Asian men, like we didn't exist. The world, it seems, is merely black or white.

I also saw Star Trek Beyond.  I wanted to support the movie on the first weekend, the most important weekend for a movie.  I usually don't go to the first weekend--too crowded--but I wanted to support this.  Why?  Because it was announced that Sulu, played by John Cho, would be gay.  A gay Asian man in the future!

I was more than thrilled to know that he had an Asian husband and a child.  He had a family!

Actor/Writer Doug Jung
It was important to me that his husband was Asian.  What does it say about a gay Asian man when he couldn't even entertain the idea of loving someone who looked like himself?

I spend years at the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team trying to convince my peers that safe sex was self love.  I enjoyed seeing the new Star Trek.  Even though the gay Asian story line was implied, it was nice to be part of the narrative.  It was nice to be seen.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Literary TBT: AWP and Hamilton Casting

Thanks Alex Espinoza for the screen shot!
A few things things happened in the last week that gave me pause.  There was a big blow-up over how Actor's Equity handled a non-white casting notice for the musical Hamilton.  In an op/ed, Equity apologized and vowed to do more about diversity.  

Last weekend, I attended the annual conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).  I sat on a panel called "Intersections: Race, Sexuality and other Collisions in Los Angeles." It was a terrific time organized by Alex Espinoza with Fred Smith, Felicia Luna Lemus and Myriam Gurba.

Early in the panel Fred Smith said that Los Angeles wasn't like Beverly HIlls, 90210.  I said that before I was a writer I was an actor and I actually did an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.  Back in 1990, I was grateful for the role--and still am.  The character was a guy named Chang, an Asian busboy, who helped Brandon Walsh (played by Jason Priestley) realize that his life as an upper middle class white boy in Beverly Hills wasn't so bad.  Hey, he could be me (or my character), which was third world kitchen help who didn't even make minimum wage.

Doing those kinds of roles is one of the reasons I became a writer.  An actor's life is hard. My creativity was dependent on getting hired at best, staying in acting class at the least.  When I wrote, I could be creative everyday. Yes, I took classes, but it was the act of writing, of creating that drew me in.  At first, I wrote for roles I could play on stage.  Then I decided to attempt the novel, which was one of the hardest things I'd ever tried to do in my life. 

In the 1990s, AIDS was destroying my gay and Asian community.  I worked for the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team where I worked to help men stay HIV negative or HIV positive men stay as healthy as possible.  One of the ways we did this was convincing ourselves that we were worthy individuals who deserved health, wealth and well-being.  And I couldn't properly convey that by playing guys like Chang. 

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that busboy. In that world of Beverly Hills, 90210, how did Chang turn out? 

Hmmmmm. A short story might be in the works.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Literary Again

I'd been updating my CV. A great way of documenting my work was to go through this blog. It was wonderful seeing my posts from the last 10 years. I'd grown a lot. When I started this blog, there was no financial meltdown, I had a new novel coming out--things change.

At some point, I stopped focusing on literary stuff and opened it up to all sorts of stuff.  I was exploring my world, I guess. I wrote on my blog less--as I had other writing projects that took up my time. 

Now, I think I should just focus on the writing. And go back to looking at the world purely through a literary lens. 

Literary is back.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank You for the Thank Yous

Over the years, I've taught students about writing or would read a friend's manuscript. I might give literary direction here and there.  Or I get the chance to work on a book at my job as a technical writer.  The point is I get to be a part of that exciting and, sometimes, laborious process of writing a book. 

Honestly, I can't begin to tell you how many books or short stories I've read and given feedback on.  For whatever reason, 2015 saw the publication of four books in which I was listed in the "acknowledgement page."  It was truly a joy to see the progression of these writers and their books.  Three of them are first time authors and 2015 will figure into their lives as monumental. 

What made these acknowledgements important to me was the idea that I'm on the right path.  I've been in Buddhist divinity school and this year I made an incredible spiritual leap--I got ordained!  Seeing these books become a reality reinforces that I'm slowly moving along on this Bodhisattva path (or path of being helpful).

I was one of many to be acknowledged (as it always takes more than one person to write a book), but I was honored to be there on their journeys. 

Check out their books. 
1.  How to be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

2.  The Paper Man by Gallagher Lawson

3.  Still Life: Las Vegas by James Sie

4.  The Problem of College Readiness Edited by William G. Tierney and Julia C. Duncheon


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why I'm Honoring the Moon Tonight

Tonight I'm going to honor the Moon--a truly rare event is happening. I've explored this theme in my second novel, Talking to the Moon.
Before Christians arrived and forced The Philippines to switch over to the solar calendar, my ancestors paid attention to the lunar calendar (like many other Asian countries). When we were forced to quit worshiping the Moon, all the dances, songs and celebrations died with it. In other words, cultural genocide took place. Read about the Popes apology to indigenous people HERE. (Though it was meant for the Americas, I believe it should extend to other countries.)

"Brighter, brighter, shine you moon; brighter, brighter shine you moon/
I will follow the trail to the hot lands; I will follow the trail to the hot lands*/Rocks, rocks to step on/ rocks, rocks to step on/Bamboo, bamboo to hold to; bamboo, bamboo to hold to."

Naboloi Songs, as recorded by C.R. Moss and A.L. Kroeber, UC Press Berkeley, May 10, 1919.

*I've pondered what "hot lands" means. I can guess that it means guiding one to another celestial deity, The Sun. Or I've guessed it to mean the lowlands of the Philippines, which is considerably warmer than the mountain provinces of the Philippines (where these words originate). Indeed, that journey down the mountain means stepping on rocks and holding onto bamboo trees for support, something the song also refers to. Other interpretations are welcome.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

On Painting Joshua Tree

My agent has my novel now and I'd been in limbo for several weeks now. I am a creative person and feel the tingle to write, but I'm exhausted.  I'm using my creativity in other ways though. I'm painting. Rather than words, I'm using paint, paper and canvas to speak.  I was in Joshua Tree not too long ago and took some pictures.  Yes, I have exact replicas of Joshua Tree via photos, but it's not capturing the wonder and joy that I felt.  I hope these paintings can help exude that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Beijing

Summer Palace
I hadn't written about this because to do so meant it was over.

I was in China from March 15 - 20. It was a wonderful, life affirming, life changing trip.  It was great being connected to a history that way.  I was in ancient environments. I climbed the Great Wall and walked around the Forbidden City.  It was really amazing and it will take me awhile to process this.