A catch up

Wow. It’s been nearly three months since my last post. Time flies when you’re not blogging. So, how’s things? Nothing much has happened lately. I have a failmate instead of a housemate who won’t pay rent/bills on time, throttles the bandwidth, and pees on the floor. I’ve reviewed Genesis and written a reflective piece on Poh Ling Yeo. My father discovered that I know how to swear and is now disappointed in me…

Anyway, I’ll be doing a ‘Footscray Whitewash’ reading for the Peril launch this Friday. We should catch up. Say 7.30pm at Hares & Hyenas? Maybe wander down to The Lifted Brow launch at The Workers Club afterwards? Don’t worry, it won’t be just the two of us. Christine Priestly who sometimes posts for me will also be there. Her article on microbiologists is in the latest Brow and she’s pretty excited.

So, um, yeah. See you there then?


Oh Footscrazy, how I’ll miss you

Last year, I wrote an article about Footscray’s gentrification, which has now found a home in Peril’s latest issue, ‘Skin’. Despite having grown up in Melbourne’s affluent eastern suburbs, Footscray (or ‘Footscrazy’ as the locals call it) was a second home. Mum and Dad took me there every second week. It was the only place we’d dine out as a family, scoffing down Thanh Phu* pork chops on broken rice. It provided me with my first mobile phone, my first DVD, and the fabric for my first ao dai.

During my private school years, I hated the suburb. It smelt of piss, rotten vegetables, and fish sauce. Its inhabitants were fresh off the boats who paraded around in demoded styles that Alice Pung would later describe as ‘De Paul finery’. I spent most of my adolescence, sulking in the back of my parents’ station wagon, trying to drown out the front-yard karaoke with Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey.

Footscray grows on you however. It’s loud, vibrant, and just a little bit dangerous. I shall miss the Footscrazy once the inevitable clean-up occurs.

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*Thanh Phu has since closed down due a fatal food poisoning incident.

TINA Tales 2010 (Part One)

Once upon a time (last Thursday), there was a toy sword that was going to be a prop for my American Gothic Ball costume. It was cheap and nasty but I loved it very much. One day, it got confiscated at the airport. The grizzly airport security took one look at it, and they said: ‘This sword is too real looking. This sword is too big looking. This sword is not right.’ So they confiscated it, and checked me for explosives.

The moral of this story: five-foot Asian women who carry around toy ninja swords are potential terrorists.

But back to more important things like the TINA 2010 program. My first TINA 2010 event was not ‘How to make bombs’, because you can learn that from MacGuyver, but ‘Ethical Magazine Making’. Cameron Pegg moderated a roundtable that consisted of Lin Tao (Trespass), Andre Dao (Right Now), Lian Lowe and Hoa Pham (Peril) and Elizabeth Redman and Duncan Felton (Voiceworks).

In regards to advertising, Andre Dao spoke about his wariness of being used. Starbucks had approached his human rights magazine with a large sum of money, wanting to become a sponsor. It probably wanted to improve its corporate social responsibility profile, but the magazine reluctantly rejected the offer due to Starbuck’s suspect practices.

Lin Tao and Cameron Pegg noted that a lot of companies expect advertorial as well as advertising space. Hoa Pham wondered about her magazine’s future. Once grant money runs out, will Peril have to align itself with a university? And how would that influence the magazine’s direction?

The ethics of blind submissions was then raised by Pegg. Voiceworks, Peril, and audience members discussed the pros and cons of each. Yup, the blind submission process seems fair, but sometimes context is needed to ethically accept or reject a piece of work.

Discussion then moved to the payment of contributors. Voiceworks was willing and able, but Right Now didn’t have enough money to pay all of its contributors. Andre Dao posed the question, ‘Do we pay the high court judge or the student?’

While Right Now had taken an egalitarian approach, Peril was still using the Meanjin system of payment. Poets were getting paid less by the magazine and Laura Smith, poet and audience member, took issue with this.

Brief mention was given to environmental ethics. With the improvement in quality and affordability of environmental stock, Pegg declared that there was no reason why magazines couldn’t choose to be environmentally friendly. Concerns about sustainability were one of many reasons why journals were ditching paper for the internet.

In summary, advertising is still The Big Issue, but magazine makers should also be addressing a broad range of ethical concerns.

‘Ethical Magazine Making’ finished with plenty of time to spare for me to get to the ‘Op Shop Tour of Newie’. After handing out ‘Op Shop Hop’ badges and hand-drawn maps, Vanessa Berry took us on the bus out to Islington where we hurriedly ransacked seven op shops. Prices are generally better than Melbourne: I saw many good quality religious prints going for cheap, and thirty-buck retro couches. I picked up some old placemats for $2, and 1950s coloured glassware for $6. 🙂

On the way back, our group chatted with the blue rinse set. One lady suggested that we should go to Gardenvale, land of many chain stores, and a trio appraised our hipster outfits and hats.

Back at the Town Hall, Van Badham, Zora Sanders, Alexandra Neill, and ‘Adam’ were debating whether free-to-air television was for old people or idiots; it seemed that everyone was arguing for the negative side. After the ‘snarky’ arguments were made, the real discussion began. Alexandra Neill brought up the morally superior ethic of watching free-to-air. How can we expect to continue watching good shows if we don’t support them by adding to the ratings? Van Badham talked about the worldwide tweet phenomenon that is ‘Q&A’, which has taken the old lounge room discussion online and abroad. All were of the belief that new media would not kill the TV star.

We grabbed dinner at Lan’s, a Darby Street Vietnamese eatery stuck in the eighties. It shared many of the dishes my mother used to make at her Saigon Restaurant in Melbourne: carmeralised pork, stuffed chicken wing, lemongrass pork/chicken, ginger chicken, and chicken and corn soup. There was a distinct lack of fish sauce, and aromatic herbs, replaced by strange additions of celery and pineapple in my prawn and pork coleslaw. Lan’s is a great example of showing how Melbournian taste has developed over the years in regards to Vietnamese cuisine.

Final event for Day Two of TINA 2010 was ‘Our Well Hung Parliament’, a quiet affair at Renew Newcastle. Many rambled on thoughts, political ephiphanies, and allegiences, myself included, including Randall Stephens who described the immediate effect of K Rudd’s apology on a group of Aboriginal school children.

For Day Three, I’ll be attempting limericks and traipsing down Georgian-frontaged Tyrrell Steet in my Lizzie Bennet gown. I’ll try to blog you and not cheat with Twitter. Brb gf/bf.

Review: Peril Edition Eight

I’ve finally sat down and read ‘Why are people so unkind?’, Peril’s latest issue. For those of you who haven’t heard of the journal, Peril is an Asian Australian online journal on arts and culture run by the likes of Hoa Pham, Lian Low, and Tom Cho. It’s a bit patchy at times with editors choosing pieces that reflect the Asian-Australian experience over more polished prose. With the eighth issue, however, it seems that they’re finally finding a balance between the two. ‘Teh Halia’, a prose piece about an Indian daughter’s regret over cups of her father’s ginger tea, is touching and carefully observed, moving beyond ethnic literature into something more universal.

The non-fiction was particularly strong in this issue with many pieces focusing on gender identity: Owen Leong interviews two Japanese artists who both explore gender in differing ways, while Lian Low speaks to The Ladies of Colour Agency about sexuality, whiteness in political movements, and genderfucking. Benjamin Law’s article on Asian-American conservative Michelle Malkin is perversely entertaining:

…Malkin seems quite attractive. Even as a homosexual myself, I cannot take my eyes off her, partly because Malkin’s pretty, and partly because there’s some gland inside me that reacts to seeing an Asian—any Asian—with a broadcast media platform. It’s this same gland in me that’s triggered off whenever I see Penny Wong on The 7.30 Report, or old footage of John So cutting a ribbon in Melbourne, or watching Poh being interviewed on Masterchef.

There’s also a couple of opinion pieces on Indian-Australian relations from Amrita Dasvarma and Angela Dewan, discussing the ubiquitous exploitation of overseas students, and the pressure to assimilate as a migrant, as well as an interview with Kamal.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from such a strong collection, but Lily Chan’s poem resonated with me the most: ‘in my head i was scout finch / elizabeth bennet / nancy drew / stepped back, startled / from my own reflection’. In a few lines, Chan encapsulates an Asian-Australian girl’s experience: feeling white, being attracted to white boys, experiencing ambivalence to Pauline Hanson and guilt for having it ‘good’ compared to her brother. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Peril’s next endeavour will be about ‘creatures’, and I’m curious to see how this theme will be interpreted in an Asian-Australian context. For those of you who feel like submitting to Issue Nine, check out the journal’s submission page, here.

So what’s happening, Melbourne? Racism apparently

According to Spambook, Peril’s Issue Eight will be launching Thursday, 3 December, at the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. I’ll be stuck at an end of year work function, missing out on the likes of Tom Cho, Ladies of Colour Agency, Maxine Clarke, Angela Costi, and Diana Nguyen. I really want to meet Diana after reading her Growing Up Asian in Australia piece, ‘Five Ways to Disappoint Your Vietnamese Mother’, and I enjoy Maxine Clarke’s performances; I’m kinda bummed that I can’t make it. Somebody should go on my behalf and tell me about it (or, even better, record and post stuff up on YouTube).

My one consolation is that I’ll be MC-ing December’s Caffe Sospeso gig on Friday, 4 December. Racism will be the night’s theme, and there will be performances from Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson. It will be like totally PC and high brow: I’ll be putting on my best  ‘Sittingvale’ accent and my new ao dai. Come along and laugh and then feel awful about it. Things start happening around sevenish. 


Poetry Fridays: Racism with Maxine Clarke, Lian Low, and Raina Peterson


You will submit to Peril’s ‘Why are people so unkind?’

Online Asian Australian culture magazine Peril is open for submissions again. Issue Eight’s theme is ‘Why are people so unkind?’

“Why Are People So Unkind?” has become a famous, perhaps notorious, Australian catchphrase. It’s attributed to our kaftan king and iconic Australian performer, Kamahl. Among other things, this issue of Peril challenges you to think about the ways in which cultural icons are created and maintained – what and who ARE our Australian icons these days? (Asian Australian Studies Research Network, 10 June 2009)

Issue Eight will be funded by the Australia Council, so Peril will be able to pay contributors. It publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, academic work, art, as well as blog-like articles containing links and embedded media (i.e. YouTube clips); it’s pretty flexible really, as long as submissions fits in with the style of the magazine.

Here’s a sample plate of what others have prepared earlier:

Photo courtesy of Kimi

Photo courtesy of Kimi

Submissions for Issue Eight close 30 September 2009.

One last note: Peril does not exclusively publish Asian Australian authors and artists, so don’t let its Asianness stop you. Sitting on something appropriately themed? Submit it stat!

15 Minutes of Fame

I was supposed to go to yoga and pilates tonight but ended up at the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s ’15 Minutes of Fame’ instead. Hosted by Angela Meyer from Literary Minded, ’15 Minutes of Fame’ has been running for the last few nights, introducing various local emerging writers and publications. Tonight’s lineup included Tiggy Johnson (editor of Page Seventeen), Hoa Pham (editor of Peril), children’s writer Helen Ross, and Jenny Blackford (one of the judges for the World Fantasy Awards).

After grabbing a glass of wine ($5/glass? why not?), I sat down and listened to these writers talk about their inspirations and motivations. Helen Ross was also feeling flushed from her wine, but it was interesting to hear her speak about her decision to self-publish children’s poems. Jenny Blackford was much more authoritative, talking about her love of Ancient Greek history and her work as a judge for Aurealis and the World Fantasy Awards. Tiggy Johnson seemed a bit nervous, and so was Hoa Pham, her gaze downcast for most of her interview.

What was great to know was that writing short stories does pay off: Blackford was approached by Hadley Rille Books after getting one of her pieces accepted for their anthology.

However, the best part of the night for me was talking to other emerging writers. As well as catching up with the very busy Angela Meyer, I finally got to meet Hoa Pham. Issue Seven of her journal, Peril, has just gone up on the web and I’ve managed to read most of it. There’s a higher quality of articles this issue round, probably due in part to recent art funding—the magazine is able to pay for contributions now—and I was particularly drawn to Komi Sellathurai’s ‘Skin’, which discusses the skin-bleeching ‘Fair & Lovely’. (After reading ‘Skin’, I noticed my Chinese flatmate has a tube of ‘Olay Milky Fair’; I suspect it’s used for the same reasons.

15 Minutes of Fame has finished for 2009, but the Emerging Writers’ Festival is still on until 31 May 2009. I might see you peeps there.

Angela Meyer interviews Hoa Pham about her magazine

Angela Meyer interviews Hoa Pham about her magazine

Withdrawing submissions: fail or ftw?

For the last few days, I’ve been stressing over submission etiquette. What happens when you want to withdraw a journal submission? Is it done? Or is it like abusing apostrophes: something not done in polite (and literate) society? 

I asked Tom Cho about my dilemma. I had recently submitted a poem to Peril, but a friend who had helped me workshop the piece asked if she could publish it in another journal. What was I to do? Could I withdraw my submission?

‘It should be fine,’ was Tom’s answer. ‘Just contact them and say that you are withdrawing the piece – and that you’re doing it ASAP to avoid any inconvenience. I’ve withdrawn pieces from journals and anthologies a few times before and never had a problem. If you’re polite and the piece hasn’t been accepted or isn’t too far in the production process, it should be fine…(If you know you’ve already been accepted by a journal, then it’s not very good to do. But even then I once withdrew a piece!)’

So there you go. Withdrawing submission ASAP is for the win. Withdrawing submission post-acceptance is a fail. For more on failing, visit failblog.org for all your classic fail moments.

Peril Call Out

Peril is seeking submissions for its next themed issue ‘Fashion Fetish’:

‘Fashion Fetish’ is the theme for Peril Issue 7! Love it or hate it, everyone has an opinion on fashion and fads. Is it, as Bowie says, big, bland, loud and tasteless? Or is it the realm of risk-takers and visionaries? Do you follow or buck trends? Is Oriental in (yet again) this year? Are we talking clothes or cultures?

Below are some prompts that we hope are only the start of what you might do with the theme:

(Un)healthy obsessions

‘So hot right now’ – lure or deterrent?

Extreme fashion

Fashion, culture and identity – who or what does it say you are?

What’s class got to do with it?

Let’s see and hear what you think about ‘Fashion Fetish’ – write, create, draw, compose, collaborate! We accept submissions of any kind of text, sound or visual art, as long as it can be presented online (e.g. essays, blog entries, reflections, poetry, fiction, memoir, spoken word tracks, photos, etc.). Text limit is 1000 words, preferably submitted in .txt format.

We are fortunate enough to have two issues sponsored by the Australia Council this year, and will be paying contributors for Issues 7 and 8. Issue 8’s theme will be “Why are people so unkind?”


The deadline for Issue 7 material is March 31 2009, to be published online by May 2009. This issue will be launched at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Please send your submissions and queries to peril@asianaustralian.org

The peril of passing and failing

Edited by Hoa Pham (author of Vixen), Peril is an online journal which focuses on Asian Australian arts and culture. Its latest endeavour, Issue Six, explores ‘passing, failing’, an experience that many people can relate to. 

‘Perfumed lotuses, dirt and daffodils’ is my interpretation of ‘passing, failing’: the struggle to reconcile cultural expectations with the need to be true to oneself. It forms part of Issue Six’s collection of fiction, interviews, articles, and poetry. To read ‘Perfumed lotuses, dirt and daffodils’, click here.