Monthly Archives: November 2009

Lights Turn Me On

WORDPRESS WORLD! It’s only been 2 days since my last post and I miss you!!

Got back from a bangin’ weekend with the fam in NYC.  We were showing my aunt (visiting from Vietnam) around to all the sightseeing joints so I def felt like a tourist again.

This dude is the FN man.  He’s from Trinidad.  We were waiting in line for the Statue of Liberty and he asked us, “Where are you guys from?”  My dad said, “Vietnam!”  Then he starts playing the National Anthem of Vietnam on his violin!!!  That’s wasup homie!!


When I was younger, I used to not like Times Square because I felt impounded by the towering advertisements.  It felt like I was being swallowed by the monster of a consumerist culture at it’s worst.  It was honestly revolting for me.  I didn’t want to be a part of it.  It made me want to retreat to the mountains and raise sheep and make my own clothes.  I still feel that way sometimes.  But now, more than anything I just love love LOVE the SHINY LIGHTS!!!!! Brings me to babytalk gaaaaaaawhaaaWOW!

Lights like these are enough to make me fall in love.

I’m uploading two videos of the light shows (Snowflakes and Tree).  They will be posted this week!

SUNDAY BUZZ BLEEDS INTO MONDAY MAJOR

1.) I told y’all I would release my “Figure 8’s & Elephants” painting today, but I’m pushing it back one more day. TOMORROW! PROMISE!

2.) I’m also pushing the release date for my first chapbook: JANUARY 5th!

>>December is here in a few hours, and I realized I’m just not ready to put out a quality chapbook.  I want to take an extra month to solidify and edit my poem selections, and work on the cover art.

3.) Website will also be revamped and relaunched: JANUARY 5th!

>>I’ll be updating the gallery with recent paintings, hooking up the Merch page, tidying up little details, moving my WordPress blog onto my own server, and more good shit!

I hate to change deadlines, but I need more time!! Plus, it’s better to drop these bangin’ changes for the bangin’ NEW YEEEEEAR!

4) Also, my first solo exhibition dates in LA have been moved to JANUARY 2010! We gona start the new year off riiiiight yezzirrrrrr!

Bloggy blog posts to expect this week:

1) Figure 8’s & Elephants Painting (a.k.a. Balance & Babar!)
2) The story of how I was raised Khmer
3) Awesome NYC light show videos to get you in the holiday mood
4) A Title for the Readership’s Hit List
5) Whatever else I feel like.

Thanks for reading.

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Jose James: Park Bench People

Big ups to the homie, CHUCK, for putting me on!!

This reminds me of a painting I did back in 2005, called “Park People” of a homie sitting on the Park Bench! WHAAAAA! Yes yes y’all.

For more paintings and artwork, visit my flashy flash website: www.RIOTINTHESKY.com

Holla.

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Filed under Snippity Snippity Shnap, The Living Stroke

Spank You Spandex & Turkey Jesus!

Ooooooo after nearly 36 hours of gluttonous indulgences, my jeans are feeling tiiiiiiiiight!  This is when I bust out my spandex and sweat pants for that snowy marshmallow season! Mmmmmm…


The resurrection of TURKEY!!!!! I don’t eat meat, but this discovery was awesome.

I know I said I wasn’t going to blog until Monday, but I couldn’t resist.  There’s only so much a food comatized couch potato fatty can do on “Black Friday”.  Speaking of which, who came up with these names? “Black Friday”, “Blackmail”, “Black List”… all of which insinuate cheapness, lesser value, riotous behavior, deceitful trickery, malicious intent and a list of unwanted people.  Gaddam, does racism ever take a holiday?

I hate shopping on “Black Friday”.  It’s a nauseating experience for me.  Too many people rampaging the aisles and not enough patience (in me).  I don’t like shopping in general, unless I know what I want.  It’s too much of a conflict of character within myself.  Consumerism vs. Buddhism.  Consumerism has got us thinking that we have to buy MORE than we really need to be happy.  There’s a difference between immediate indulgences and sustainable happiness.  Most of those immediate indulgences come in material things–like expensive bags, jewelry or shoes–which overtime can become excessive if not handled with moderation.  Buddhism, on the other hand, promotes the philosophy of detaching ourselves from ALL material desires–to decrease our greed and reach enlightenment.  I’m not saying one is better than the other.  Rather, I’m constantly trying to understand my role as a pushing Buddhist living in the reality of a consumerist culture.  Minimalist and simplistic is my style, occasionally spiked.  Balance is my ultimate goal.  That being said, can I just brag about my new pair of sexy black boots I just copped the other day, haaaaaaay!!

Every year for Thanksgiving, I make my most anticipated VEGETARIAN POT PIE!  Which was recently renamed from its former, “Vegetarian Shephard’s Pie.”  My cuzzo was tripping like, “How can this be Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie?  The definition of Shepard’s Pie is ground beef.” I said, “It’s VEGETARIAN shepard’s pie, aite?”  And he goes, “Are there vegetarians in it??”  Okay, I get it.  It’s no longer called veggie shep pie…it’s veggie POT pie! Holla.



It tastes BEDDA than it looks. 🙂

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Thank you thank you thank you…you’re far too kind.

I am thankful for:

1) mom and dad for getting over their prejudices of each other and giving me life.
2) Jenny for being the first subscriber to my bloggyblog.
3) Kimberly for sneaking me snacks from the kitchen after 9pm.
4) all my friends–you know who you are don’t make me name you because it’ll make me lose friends I didn’t even know I had.
5) the cute coffee boy who serves me my almond brioche in the mornings.
6) a job where I have way too much fun laughing and talking smack.
7) the inventors of vegan cupcakes.
8) Totino’s pizza rolls.
9) YOU for actually reading this far.
10) everybody who fought & died so I can have the rights I have to live the life I live with all of the above listed and more.

THANKFUL ALL DAY EVERYDAY.  I’m spending time with the fambam and going to NYC this weekend, so no bloggyblog posts from me until MONDAY! (Unless it’s an impromptu post).  I’ll be unveiling a *new* never-before-seen painting on Monday’s post, so holla back.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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When Globalization Hits Home

Globalization has declared a war on diversity by setting a universal standard of living. The process has most of the world convinced that the capitalist way is the “best” way.  For nations to gain international leverage, they must enter the race to modernize society. In essence, the reality of globalization results in standardizing all aspects of culture–language, customs, traditions, food, production, manufacturing, etc. When we see field workers drop their pitchforks and take up jobs at the nearest McDonalds–that is a product of globalization. When we see a street vendor sell rice plates for 50 cents outside a newly erected Louis Vuitton store–that is a product of globalization. When we see indigenous mountain people sell souvenirs to tourists for a living–that is a product of globalization. While the process of globalization standardizes, modernizes and quickly transforms a nation’s economic landscape, it inevitably widens the disparity between the rich and the poor at exponential rates.

There was a point in time when my dad’s family and my mom’s family were in the same economic class–DIRT POOR. I remember visiting both sides (Dad’s family in the North, Mom’s family in the South) and it was always everybody packed into a one room “home” with rice, salt and potatoes for sparse meals. By the end of the Vietnam War, most of the country was so fragmented and ravaged there were only 2 social strata: the impoverished and the ruling. In 2007, Vietnam finally joined the WTO (World Trade Organization) and made a significant shift toward an OPEN MARKET ECONOMY–which basically means they’re opening their doors to compete in the global economy, which basically means more standardizing, more mechanizing, more modernizing, more skyscrapers, more condos, more business suits, more wireless networking, more conference calls and more westernizing. This is a race, so you can either get with it or get left behind. But the reality is, some people can’t even run the race if they wanted to.

Being in the city (and capital, Hanoi), my dad’s side of the family still had the chance to go to school and pursue an education. Most of my dad’s siblings went into finance, marketing and business. With the booming open market, some quickly went from rags to riches (my aunt even got her own chauffeur!!). My dad’s family are part of the lucky few who entered the finance market at a good time–when it was rapidly on the rise and they got pulled up as quickly as they entered. Like stock markets, trading and closing deals–timing is everything.

My mom’s side of the family is less fortunate. They are stuck in the cycle of poverty which they’ll probably never escape. As a small fishing village, education was less accessible. When boys become men, they head out to sea and become fishermen. Girls find little ways to make money, like washing hair, bartering at the market or selling lottery tickets. That small fishing village my mom grew up in has not changed. Some of her siblings are still living in the same dainty shacks made of the same wood planks and metal sheets I remember visiting as a child. I’m surprised the homes haven’t collapsed under the water yet. Everyone is begging for a way out of poverty. My female cousins keep pleading me to find them American husbands that can marry them out of the cycle. Now, after all these years, the government is kicking everyone out of my mom’s fishing village because they want to build a resort for tourists. The villagers have no mode of transportation, no savings to buy land and no money to build a new home. Tourism, capital and resorts are all a result of globalization, which in turn makes the economy better, but makes the poor just damn pointless.


(This is actually the “nicer” part of the village. My aunt’s shack is on wooden stilts above the water. And the public toilet is like a high dock on poles. You squat above a hole in the dock that drops all your crap into the ocean beneath your stankin’ ass.)

With a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA, I’ve studied and theorized globalization from many angles. But I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel when I actually WITNESS the impact of it in my polarized family. North vs. South. City vs. village. Rich vs. poor. They say that those who flourish within capitalism can only profit at the expense of fucking over another entity. If there is a winner, somebody’s got to lose. So within economic politics, is the reason for my dad’s side becoming richer part of the reason that contributes to my mom’s side being fucked over?

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Filed under Bigger Than Me and You, Essays on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Refugee Romeo & Juliet: I WAS BORN

I’m starting a new category.  It’s going to be somewhere between critical essays on race, class, gender, sexuality, global ish and the good, the bad, the ugly in my eyes.

There are many layers when talking about the Vietnam War.  So let me break the entities down for you:

The Colonizers = French (Outsiders)
The Anti-Imperialist Revolutionaries = North Vietnam (Insiders)
The Anti-Communist Revolutionaries = South Vietnam (Insiders)
The Nosy MFerz with the Personal Agenda = United States (Outsiders)

North Vietnamese revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, finally kicked the French out, claiming Vietnamese independence for the first time in over 1000 years.  After so many years of fragmented colonization, he wanted to unite all of Vietnam under one vision–Communism.  But South Vietnam wanted to do their own thing, so they became more of the underdawg radicals, waging a guerilla war against the North.  The U.S. got involved, fighting on the side of the “South” but since they couldn’t tell North Vietnamese apart from South Vietnamese, they ended up murdering anyone and everyone who looked Asian.  To this day, the world still questions why the U.S. got involved and what they were fighting for–and no one will give you a good reason because there isn’t one. But international supporters like Che Guevara, Black Panther Party, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, African nations, Third World Nations, the working class and revolutionaries alike outspokenly stood in solidarity with Vietnam against U.S. and their aggressive, imperialist, suckiest agenda.  Basically, looking at internal affairs, the Vietnam War was a war between one set of Revolutionaries against another set of Revolutionaries.  The North and the South did not get along.  It was an onslaught of radicals, militants, guerilla fighters and working people against their mirrored selves.  Everybody wanted independence, but freedom looked different to different people.

My pops was a city boy from the North, one of 7 children. After the North Vietnamese kicked out the French AND the Americans in 1975, the entire country fell under “Communist” rule.  There was a lot of chaos and poverty.  Many people wanted to get out but it was illegal to leave the country.  So people secretly escaped by boat; hence, refugee.  If you were caught trying to escape, you were immediately imprisoned.  When my pops made his run, he left only a letter behind for my grandma.  He didn’t tell anybody–not even his family because it endangered him to get caught.

My mom was a seaside girl from the South–she was from a small, fishing village where all the men went off to sea for months at a time and the women stayed back and hustled a modest living in anticipation to see how much fish would be brought home.  They lived in shacks made from scraps of metal and wood, some on stilts because the tide would rise and so people had to travel by boat to go from home to home.  My mom was the youngest of 5 kids, and the only one to escape Vietnam by boat.  The boat fare was 1 ounce of gold.

My mom and pops were just teenagers when they said “FIGHT THE POWER!” and escaped Vietnam.  We got the revolutionary-life-on-the-line-fight-for-what-you-believe spirit in our blood.

To fast forward to the good part, both my parents coincidentally ended up in East Boston via a Refugee Relief program.  They lived in the same housing complex with other refugee homies.  My mom was a Pretty Young Thing and all the girls had a crush on my dad.  No surprise, my pops had his eyes on my mom, and tried stepping to her but immediately my mom was like, “I don’t date men from the Communist Country!”  This was nothing to deter my dad.  He insisted, “Just because my government is like that doesn’t mean I’M like that…” (Sound familiar, Americans?)  My pops persisted with the mackdown and continued to woo my mom until next thing you know, my older sister was born, and then I WAS BORN!  It was a brave, forbidden love for it’s time. But like Che Guevara and many revolutionaries will tell you, at the core of any revolution, is love.

And that’s how I was born.  Now let’s start the show.

It’s cool to find artwork in every countries around the world supporting Vietnam (China, Cuba, Angola, Russia, Philippines, Cambodia, etc.).  This is just a snippet:


Cuba supports Vietnam: “For a Vietnam 10 times more beautiful.”


“The People of Viet Nam will win!  The American Imperialist will lose!”


Friends today and back in the day

Read about how the Black Panther Party and Ho Chi Minh became homies! Click the image for full story:


I had the honor of meeting Muhammad Ali when I was in the fourth grade!!  This man laid the WWF truth on the world.  And I’m not talking about wrestling.  I’m talking about the SMACKDOWN!!!

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Filed under Bigger Than Me and You, Essays on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

New Sunday Buzz & Solo Exhibition @ UCLA

Oooooooooo it’s been an exciting week since my last Sunday Confessional…which will now be called Sunday Buzz, because Confession has such a nefarious connotation, and like a wise graffiti buddy once said, “YOU NEVER WANT TO INCRIMINATE YOURSELF!”

Plus, Buzz is better because I’ll be yapping about all things good with me. YEEEEEEEA.

I’ve been scrubbing toilets and evacuating the dust bunnies all day in preparation for my Auntie’s arrival tonight from Vietnam!! Yup, this will be the first relative from the motherland to visit the U.S.A. since my pops fled the country 30 years ago after the Fall of Saigon.  Inspired by my Auntie’s visit and my parents’ Refugee State of Mind, I will be dedicating two blog posts this week on my family’s history.

I’m letting you know what kinda posts to expect before they even go up!

BLOGGY POSTS THIS WEEK:

Monday: The Refugee Romeo & Juliet Story
Read about the tragic and fated events that led to me being born.

Tuesday: When Globalization Gets Personal
This shit ain’t all fun and gravy when the theoretical becomes real.  Half of my family is Vietnam ballin’.  The other half is getting robbed, and plain fucked by global politics. Get an inside perspective on my family’s story as the epitome of globalization.

Wednesday: Figure 8s & Elephants
I’ll be unveiling a never before seen painting (from Summer 2009)!! Inspired by the balance I’m perpetually striving for in my life and Babar.  I’m excited for this one.

Thursday: L.A. Throwback

The importance of friendship & mentorship.

Friday: Damn, I really don’t know yet.  TBD

DISCLAIMER: All of this is subject to change or be rearranged at anytime! But I WILL get them all to you.


GOOD NEWS!! MY FIRST SOLO EXHIBITION (UNcurated by me):


I’m heeeella excited to announce that the UC Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission (CAC) is doing an entire solo exhibition on my artwork!  So if you’re in the Los Angeles area, def check it out.  This is my first solo show conceived & curated by someone OTHER THAN MYSELF (say haaay!).  It is also CAC’s FIRST permanent art collection, which is exciting for all of us.   This is one of the reasons why I love creating visual artwork; it is a product that can be transported and shared in real life with real people anywhere in the world no matter where I AM in the world.  It is most definitely a part of the dream.  Thank you to Joanne Danganan and Margarita Rozenbaoum for making this really happen. (I didn’t get to come up with the exhibit title but that’s okay).

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Filed under Believe Me Ego, In the Know Know, The Living Stroke