Thursday, January 28, 2010

Going to be on 89.3 The Current's Local Show! Other shows too...

We (Guante & Big Cats, plus Chastity Brown, plus our band featuring members of Dragons Power Up!) will be taping for 89.3 The Current's Local Show on Monday; it should air next Sunday the 7th at 6pm. Awesome.

Me and Big Cats will be playing as a duo at two other shows this week too:

~MPLS TV fundraiser on Thursday, 1/28 at the Bedlam Theater; they're a local video crew who does some very cool stuff. The show is packed with "buzzing" bands like Zoo Animal, Lucy Michelle, the Paragraphs and many more. Starts at 6; music at 8; we're on around 10. It's $10 and should be a lot of fun.

~Beat Coffee House on Saturday, 1/30 w/ our friends The Gavels and a few other bands. This one starts at 6pm and is ALL AGES.

We're the token hip hop act at both shows, which is always fun. We'll also have copies of AN UNWELCOME GUEST for sale!

ALSO, an early update on a really exciting show: February 6 at Intermedia Arts: Guante, Khary Jackson, Tish Jones, Tou Saiko Lee and the Poetic Assassins unite to form POETRON. Haha. Kind of a silly name (and a ridiculous image courtesy of Hieu Nguyen), but this really will be a showcase of some of the best spoken-word in the Twin Cities-- lots of new stuff, surprises and more. We all won the VERVE spoken-word grant last year and this will be a showcase of what we did with it.

I'll also be performing solo at the Loft Literary Center on February 10 for a fundraiser to send some great local writers of color to the big AWP conference. Even more of the TC's best spoken-word will be featured there, including Robert Karimi, Marcie Rendon, Brittany Delaney, Bao Phi, Diego Vazquez and Tatiana Ormaza. 8pm.

Finally, here's a great video of No Bird Sing on the Local Show. I hope our appearance goes as well as their's obviously did:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tru Ruts secures national distribution!

So the label I'm on, Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, just secured national distribution for our music. I'm not up on the details, but this is a big deal. Very exciting.

Read more at the Tru Ruts main page.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughts on Avatar

The only good thing about Avatar was watching imperialist mercenaries die.

I know that's kind of a bold statement, but I have to be honest. Maybe it's just that I'm in the middle of re-reading Ron Takaki's "A Different Mirror" right now, so issues of racism and imperialism are at the front of my brain, but man... Avatar was trash. I went into the theater with an open mind too; I hate the "good is bad because it's not perfect" attitude that's so prevalent in progressive thought, particularly when it comes to art, so I WANTED Avatar to not be as bad as people have been saying. But it is.

And I don't mean "the movie was bad," like with plotholes, or bad acting, or stock characters or a predictable story. I mean that the movie was offensive, insulting and racist. I have good friends who love the movie. But again, I have to be honest.

The films' major problems have already been written about by Annalee Newitz HERE and David Brooks HERE (both articles are must-reads, whether you agree or disagree with me) so I won't go on for forty paragraphs about it. Those two writers pretty much sum up my feelings. I'll just say this:

Part of the reason I didn't like it is because it's a white guilt fairy tale: white guy (and even if Jake Sully had been played by Will Smith or whatever, he'd still be "the white guy" because the film is INESCAPABLY a parable about white imperialism and colonialism) infiltrates the mysterious, idealized natives and doesn't just begin to identify with them but becomes their greatest warrior, their leader, the guy who marries their princess and the hero of the story (see also: Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai). He can't just be a guy who defects and helps out, he has to be "the chosen one." And yeah, that's just how Hollywood works, but that's not an excuse. (I could go on, but the two articles linked to above really dig into this idea).

But more than that, I think what gets to me about Avatar is that it's escapist fantasy masquerading as something progressive. Yes, the film is anti-imperialist and pro-environment on a superficial level, but it doesn't talk about struggle or resistance in any kind of real-world way-- it's all deus ex machina "chosen one" bullshit. In real life, throughout history, the U.S. murdered millions of Native Americans (and others, from Africa to the Philippines to Central America to Iraq and beyond); I just couldn't watch the movie and not think about that. As liberal-minded people, we want the story of Avatar to reflect our world, and feel good about ourselves because we want that; the film never challenges us, however, to understand struggle or imperialism as things that exist in real life.

I know people will disagree. That's fine. I just don't want to hear that "it's just a movie" bullshit or that "you're over-analyzing it" bullshit. That's lazy. Art, especially film, is a community experience and it always has meaning, whether you want it to or not.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Updates: year-end lists, TC hip hop awards, Ed Bok Lee, more!

Been a busy 2010 already. Still pushing the pre-order package of the new Guante & Big Cats album, "AN UNWELCOME GUEST" at Strange Famous Records (the deal ends 1/12, which is also the "official" release date for the album). Big ups to Tru Ruts (my label), Sage Francis and everyone at SFR for hooking that up. After 1/12, it'll be in stores and online for regular purchase.

Working on lots of new stuff. Trying to get on the St. Paul poetry slam team so we can defend our national title this year. Working at my new job-- arts coordinator of The Canvas, a St. Paul arts-based youth center. Some big shows. Working on my new book/one-man show. A million meetings.

Here are a few random updates:

1. My roaches poem made GILES LI's "top spoken-word pieces of the decade" list. High praise. Big thanks.

2. Though our full-length album isn't officially released until 2010, our EP, "Start a Fire," made Midwest Broadcast's "Best EPs of 2009" list.

3. One of my idols, Bao Phi, included the album anyway on his list of "Favorite Asian-Americans recordings of the Decade." More high, humbling praise.

4. I'm nominated in the Twin Cities Hip Hop Awards for "Best Solo Act" and "Best Knowledge Spitta." Tru Ruts is up for best label and Big Cats is up for best band (!). I'll be performing a short set there too. It's January 22 (my birthday) at First Ave. Should be... interesting.

5. Another show announcement: details soon, but on Saturday, February 6, you should plan on being at Intermedia Arts. It'll be a show featuring the winners of the 2009 VERVE grant for spoken-word: me, Khary Jackson, Tish Jones, Poetic Assassins and Tou Saiko Lee. It's going to be very cool.

6. Check out this video of the always-great Ed Bok Lee performing "How to Survive in America."

7. If you haven't seen the video for No Bird Sing's "Devil's Trombones," stop what you're doing now and watch it/listen to it.

8. The Green Bay Packers are going to win the super bowl. This year and every year, forever.

9. Another cool video to check out. Junkyard Empire in Cuba!

10. I swear I'm not one of those blogs that just posts videos of other people's stuff, but YET ANOTHER cool video: Detroit's Invincible made a documentary about women in hip hop called "The Revival." Check it out!

11. Finally, CultureBully, my music-writing home for the past few years, is officially on hiatus. Sad, but big ups to Chris and best of luck for the future!

And a million other things.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Guante & Big Cats on 3 Minute Egg

Here's a new video of us done by Matt Peiken, who runs 3-minute egg, a very cool local video series documenting the arts scene in the Twin Cities. Check it out; the video includes some exclusive footage of us rehearsing and me wearing sunglasses because I'm cooler than you.