Friday, December 02, 2011

Long Beach Literary Life

I was invited to this really cool literary event. I'll be reading at around 1:30pm. Come for the day. Would love to see ya!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Plot Twist

Earlier this year, I was appointed to the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs, a body that makes recommendations to the Governor's Office and the Legislature on matters concerning the Asian and Pacific Islander Communities. While others had been congratulating me--and my family is ecstatic!--I was actually alarmed at my new role. I am flattered that there were those who felt my background and knowledge would qualify me for this. When I was asked to apply, I said, jokingly, I would do it just to see if I'd pass the background check. This required them looking into my credit and financial records.

It's odd to say that I'm a "Commissioner." When I think of "Commissioner," I think of some old guy, maybe someone who'd been to war, and has a gruff old voice. You know, like Commissioner Gordon from the Batman comics. There was a part of me that thought my creative voice will somehow be stifled. In going through the background check, I made it clear that I'm a writer who firmly believes in Free Speech. There was no way that my Voice will be quieted. On my curriculum vitae, I did point out that I was anthologized in Best Gay Asian Erotica, and if they had a problem with that, just throw my application in the trash right now.

Apparently, there was no problem with that. So, I'm a commissioner. It's been interesting work, which included meeting with the Governor's Staff in Sacramento, and listening to the needs of the community. I'd been going to "hearings," where people and organizations talk about what the collective community is worried about. It's actually been quite informative.

Recently, I went to a hearing in Long Beach to hear a survey taken with Cambodian youth, an underserved community still experiencing the traumatizing effects of the Killings Fields. I sat with Assemblymembers Mike Eng, Bonnie Lowenthal and Warren Furutani as we became educated about this community experiencing an array of issues: racial profiling, immigration, education. All of this I will report back to the statewide committee.

I was truly moved by the youth who provided personal testimony of being pulled over by cops or having a relative deported. I found their civic engagement inspiring.

I know I have new duties under my belt, but these young people have it harder. I wouldn't want to be a teenager again for all the chocolate at Hershey.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Needs Vampires When You Have Art?

My latest on the Huffington Post. It's on artist Bonnie Lambert. Click here.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Teaching Again...

I started teaching again. I'm doing an Intro to Fiction Writing course, and I truly value it. It forces me to go back to the basics. I instruct students to write atleast 10 minutes a day--something I forget to do sometimes.

Going back to how to do things from the beginning is always good, I think.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Character Development

I'd been thinking about a character all day. I didn't write about him, because he was so new that I was afraid that he wouldn't last. I do this all the time: think up people and put them in a story. However, I know to let the idea gestate. I have too many stories with just a few sentences, but don't go anywhere.

I wanted to make sure this character sticks, particularly if he's going to be in my new novel. I started working on him tonight. I won't tell you much, but his name is Eduardo Betancourt, the son of an ambassador.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Creativity in Another Form

I hope you can attend this! It's the first time that I'm exhibiting work in public. I'd love to see some supportive faces!

Please join me and my fellow artists:

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Akumal Blur

Here I am in a bar in Mexico. It pretty much represents my time there--colorful, playful, and one huge blur! In other words, it went by so quickly that what I felt and what I experienced can not be contained in one blog post. It can not be contained in several blog posts--it was that incredible.

What made it astounding was that I'd never done anything like this before. I went away with a bunch of other writers with the intention of doing nothing but writing (of course, we ventured outside of our rooms to enjoy the local flavor, as the photo above proves). We were asked to observe the writing hours of 9am-12pm and 3pm-5pm. Those hours were dedicated to writing.

On the first day, I'd done more in the first three hours than in the previous nine months! I learned alot about myself and about my book. I decided to strip away characters and voices that don't serve the story--we're talking atleast 100 pages here!

I had a deep honest look about what I wanted to accomplish with my third novel, and I discovered that I was going in the wrong direction. Hub-boy. But I feel better about my choices with this book. I feel more at ease.

Thanks to Radar Productions. Michelle, Ali, Beth, and Christina--you rock!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Journey to Akumal

Most of my writing life is kind of dull. I'm by myself, filled with dread and awe. I wonder what will happen with my creativity, if something will come out of a writing session I commit to. Some writers call it drudgery. And, sometimes, it is.

Every once and awhile, I'll get to do something cool though. Like get a writing fellowship. Which I did! I'm heading off to spend ten days in Akumal, Mexico with a bunch of other writers. All of this with the generosity of RADAR Productions.

I have definate goals for this trip. I'm bringing a ton of research material, an old draft of my third novel, a newer draft which needs some revising. I intend to rewrite 25 old pages and write 25 new pages. Of course, I'll still be on a beach in Mexico--I hope I can focus.

Here's a recent interview.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My First Love

I did a reading of Aurelio Locsin's play "Family Affair." It was really fun studying a character again and doing ensemble work on stage. I never thought going to "rehearsal" would be such joy again.

In the audience was someone who was more familiar with my literary life. He'd seen me host at Skylight, and he told me that he knew I did other things...but not acting! I told him that theatre was my first love. It's still a love.

However, I started to write because my first love was always hard to come by. She was like the popular girl you wanted to spend time with in high school, but she would only give you the time of day at her whim.

I probably wouldn't have written if the acting game wasn't so hard. Now, that I've written and consider myself a writer, could I return to my first love? And not feel slighted if she chooses not to spend time with me? Would I find joy just in the pursuit of her?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

New Works Festival--August 14th

East West Players is having their Summer 2011 David Henry Hwang New Works Festival. And I'll be a part of it. No, no, not as a writer, but as one of the actors. Yes!

Playwright Aurelio Locsin is having a reading of his new play and I'll be reading one of the characters. Director Dom Magwili asked me to play the role of LD, a rather plain accountant who is ending a relationship. We had our first rehearsal last was good to go to "rehearsal" again.

Here are the details:

Family Affair by Aurelio Locsin
Directed by Dom Magwili

Filipino-American LD and Anglo Kenny decide to break up their long-term gay relationship. LD’s family, who like Ken better than LD, are thrown into turmoil. Do they try to get them together or push for the separation?...

Starring:Noel Alumit, Melody Biutiu, James M. Dyer, Christian Estrada, Ronalee Par Miyasaki, Alden Rey

ADMISSION IS FREE but parking costs, unless you can find free street parking.

(This is a staged reading, so no costumes, props or lights. Just some great acting and directing.)

When: August 14 at 8pm

Where: East West Players, 120 Judge John Aiso Street in Little Tokyo, downtown LA.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thanks, Phyllis. Thanks a Whole Bunch

Today I went to the memorial for Phyllis Gebauer, a writer and well loved writing teacher. I took a class with her in 1999 at writing conference. It forever changed my writing life. She gave me hardcore literary techniques on how to write. She was a dear friend to the amazing writer Thomas Pynchon, and gleaned writing advice from him.

From that class, I also bonded with several other writers. Phyllis created a safe, unifying space for us to learn. Recently, we had a gathering and toasted her memory.

I have no shame in saying that in my own life as a teacher, I've stolen many of her techniques. I sat in a church in Pasadena listening to others memorialize her. I took it all in and teared up. I'll miss this lady.

She'd taught many writers, and her legacy will live on in us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Idyllwild, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Friend and Author Eduardo Santiago started a reading series in Idyllwild, a small town up in the San Jacinto Mountains. I was invited to read my work. I'd never been to Idyllwild. I don't know why. I'd always heard about it, but never had the gumption to go. Now that I'd been there, I wondered what took me so long?!?!?

I had a great time in this small town of four thousand people. And the residents make it a point to keep it a small town. No chains stores are allowed. No 7-11, no McDonalds, no Ralphs.

A nice crowd came to the event, including a book club from Palm Springs.

With Eduardo and Lauren of B's Mountain of Books, the store hosting the event.

It was a wonderful experience. Spending time in the mountains was truly restorative. I'm already planning my trip back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The New Suzie

Last month I interviewed pioneering actress Nancy Kwan. She made it big in The World of Suzie Wong, where she plays a prostitute with a heart of gold. I caught up with her as she celebrated 50 years in show business. A documentary on her life was being shown where she talks about losing her only son to AIDS. I interviewed her about AIDS awareness in the Asian community.

This, of course, got me thinking about a writing project called The New World of Suzie W. It'll be a modern take of this Asian woman, dealing with her crumbling life. Instead of Hong Kong, she lives in Silverlake. Instead of prostituting, she's an aging artist forced to whore her creativity. Hmmmm.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

AIDS at 30

Wasn't there supposed to be a cure by now? It's been 30 years since AIDS entered our conciousness. There's been a lot of discussion about it. The fine journalist Karen Ocamb asked me to write a personal essay on AIDS. I chose to remember my friend James Sakakura (pictured above). Here's my contribution:

My standard of beauty at the time was some white guy. Seeing James, a well-built Asian man with a bald head and full lips made my head spin. He challenged my concept of beauty. Read more here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coming Through

Some of you may have remembered how I went through the process of trying to get my third book published. Well, here we are, a year later, and no book contract in sight. I must confess that in the last year, I'd experienced some (alot) of depression over this. But, today, May 21st, I think I'm coming out of it.

Yes, some predicted the End of the World today. Well, part of my world had ended--that part of hoping, yearning, praying that someone will want to put my next book into print. I even started entering my collection of short stories into contests, hoping that it'll win a publication. Not too long ago, I got a rejection letter from one contest stating that I'm not the winning manuscript. Oh!

It's a tough time out there, and I'm not the only author getting rejected. However, it stings. It really does. Or rather, it really did!

I'm feeling back to my old self again. Welcome back, Noel. I missed you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Where have I been? Well, I'd been writing. My 2011 goal was creative success, so I'm trying new things. A little while ago, I was asked to work on a screenplay, something I'd never done before. I didn't think writing a screenplay was my cup of oolong. But I'd never tried it.

After spending several weeks on it, I must admit that I have a new respect for screenwriters. Really. You have to understand that in Los Angeles EVERYONE seems to be working on a screenplay. The kid in Starbucks is working on a screenplay. It is common lingo in LaLa Land to say, "I'm working on a screenplay."

I was telling a friend about my latest venture, and she encouraged me. She said you SHOULD write a screenplay. Lord knows, there are people who can't write who are writing a screenplay. I thought, yeah!

More later.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Porn Prodigy

My latest post for Huffington is on emerging performing artist Bobby Gordon. Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan, Part II

Strangely, my friend Dan Kunosoki, did some investigating and found the commercial that I did for Japan. I hadn't seen this in over 20 years!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh, Japan

Here's a picture that I keep in my apartment. I'm all of 20 years old. I was booked on a commercial/print job for a Japanese company. I was just starting my creative life, so that period in my development will always be memorable for me.

I remember my audition. I had been smoking, but decided not to smoke that day. I didn't want to smell like cigarettes. I arrived at my audition, and it was for a cigarette commercial! They asked me if I'd be willing to smoke. Of course, I said, Yes! They must have seen the relief on my face when I inhaled. They hired me. I was flown to New Mexico with two other actors and had an AWESOME time.

Later that year, I visited Japan, and thought Tokyo was an incredible city. I thought the Japanese people were truly hospitable, and have always felt a kinship with them.

What's been going on in Japan has devastated me. The Japanese and Americans of Japanese descent that I've known have played an integral part of my life, and I know that they're hurting right now.
It's hard, but I know they'll recover. Their strength continues to inspire me.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Save Our Libraries

Come check this out! I'm hosting this.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Skylight Musings

I'd been hosting events at Skylight for over TEN years now. I'd had some great times there. Indeed, a big part of my writing community is because of that bookstore. The picture above is of me and a fellow skylight staffer Kevin. See other pictures here.

What's great about Skylight is that there is a great bunch of weirdos who work there. They even started a Skylight band! The band is called Staff Juice.

I was cleaning up after a book event when I saw some of the guys fiddling with some recording equipment. They wanted to know if I'd like to sing.

"Sing what?" I asked.



Well, I sat down, put the mic to my mouth and recorded this song. I totally made it up on the spot! It's coarse and funny. My voice is wacked, but, hey, it was a blast. You can also hear our store cat "meow," along with other staff folks chiming in. Hear us screech here.

To hear other Staff Juice songs, click here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm not in a couple, but I played one in a parade

I got married! Well, not really. In the Lunar New Year Parade earlier this month, I was asked to be in a pretend a gay marriage. That's my friend Alan above. A lesbian couple marched next to us. It was to raise awareness about the marriage issue to the residents and visitors of Chinatown.

I was a little afraid at how we might be treated at the parade. Afterall, this was rather bold for a rather conservative community. And, you know what? It was great! We weren't booed or anything. It was actually quite...liberating. We were cheered and appreciated for our actions.

I remember five years ago when we hoped to march for the very first time in the oldest parade in Los Angeles. There was some tension among the organizers. But we were given permission and away we went.

Someday, this will be looked at with such folly. People will wonder what the big deal was. As I marched down the parade, I truly felt like a young groom looking toward his future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

LA Art Show Mash Up

The LA Art Show ended today at 5pm. It was a full five days of visiting galleries and artists from all over the world. The best part was viewing work I wouldn't necessarily would have seen otherwise.

Meeting Tao Dong Dong was a personal highlight for me. He lives in Beijing, so I thought it was treat

Some performance art took place. This artist rolled around in a potato sack.

Believe it or not this is not a live person. She is literally a piece of art.

Me chatting it up with Magnolo Bulgarin, Gallery Director at Pyo Gallery in dowtown LA.

My mother and sister came to the art show. That was the best time of all!

First Nation Art

Native American, AKA First Nation, art has been around, well, before the United States became the second nation. Native Americans have been the subject for many artists (check out the Andy Warhal piece above). Their lives continue to inspire, and serve as a constant reminder of injustices committed against indigenous people.

There were many pieces at the show. Not surprisingly, galleries from the Southwest featured the lion's share of Native American Art. Yes, there were traditional renderings of American Indian life (above); however, there were newer, more abstract pieces, like the ones by Native American artist Tony Abeyta (below).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What the Hell Is That? Thinking in Abstract.

There was a time when I thought that abstracts were bunk. I needed to see defined images with obvious content. Then I began to appreciate color for color's sake. What is on the canvas, is open for interpretation.

Last year, I was at a gallery and was awed by an abstract. There was something about it that "spoke to me," if you will. The artist was there and began explaining it to me. The painting was called Pain, and it was a piece he had done when his lover passed from AIDS. Having done AIDS work for 20 years, I understood what the artist was doing. He captured an emotional state that I was familiar with. What do you see?

Exploring the Female Nude

What is it about the female nude that is so tempting to capture? The male nude is also beautiful, but the painting, photographing, sculpting of a woman's nude body is just different somehow. The curves, the peaks of the breasts, the grooves of a ribcage is truly awesome.

Here are some images from the LA Art Show.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seeing Monty and Other Dead Celebrities

I was walking around at the LA Art Show, admiring the work. I turned a corner, and I lost my breath. As many of you know, I am a HUGE Montgomery Clift fan. You can imagine how I felt when I saw his face in a painting!

There are certain icons who continue to inspire way after their death. Indeed, it's their demise--often at a much too young age--that contribute to their legend.

China, Loud and Clear

Unless you've been living in a cave, you may have noticed China's emergence in global discussions: politics, economics, sports (they whupped ass in the Olympics). But there's always been that not-so great record on human rights. For obvious reasons, divisive political art in China is frowned upon, however, there are creative Chinese voices coming through loud and clear. It was evident at the LA Art Show.

Freedom of expression seems to be tolerated, as long as its charming. There was no work recalling Tianemen or demanding freedom for Tibet. Gallerists probably chose the pieces at the artshow, thinking they'd best appeal to westerners. It certainly appealed to me. The work displayed was incredible. Large, colorful pieces overwhelmed walls, as if to say that the Chinese voice is truly THIS BIG. Playful and melancholy were sentiments that I took away from the work exhibited.

For some of the galleries, this was their first time showing in the US.

It was refreshing to see work by Chinese women at the art show. Artist Hao Li in front of her painting. She's exhibited all over the world.

My childhood came rushing back when I saw this piece!

An artist that I hyperventilated over meeting was Tao Dong Dong. His visions of seeing his subjects through water has awed me for quite some time. I was thrilled to do this impromptu vid of him.