Stopping Hollywood’s Asian Stereotypes, Radical Poets, and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘Net are doing, too. Today we’ve got a profile of poet Keston Sutherland, a polemic against Hollywood’s persistent furthering of Asian stereotypes, an interview with electronic musician Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and the journey of a woman who was harassed by the same troll for two years.

The New Yorker‘s Nicolas Niarchos writes about poet Keston Sutherland in a way that will make even the most stubborn armchair poets want to go out and see him perform. Or, rather, you can just google him and watch on YouTube, as Niarchos has. Either way, Sutherland is radical in a way that’s rare for poets with names one might know, and the profile is worth your time.

Watching Sutherland jerk about at the reading in New Haven, I get the sense that he is trying to convey that his writing, too, is a product, like a carton of orange juice at a supermarket. He makes himself into the puppet that poetry has made of the words he uses, and the puppet that capitalism has, he believes, made of literature. He is aware, in other words, of the violence that he is doing to language.

Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded to criticism from its own members regarding damaging portrayals of Asians at its televised 88th Oscars ceremony. Now, in The New Republic, Elaine Teng explains just how Hollywood should go about making sure its portrayals of Asian characters are anything but damaging.

The only way to increase awareness is to have more people of diverse backgrounds working in Hollywood. But according to Nancy Yuen, a sociology professor at Biola University whose upcoming book chronicles racism in Hollywood, Asian American actors are still struggling to break stereotypes. “Asian American actors have told me they are just seen for their race,” she said. “There’s less specificity in the casting calls, just for ‘Asian man.’ Usually casting calls specify if they want character actors or leading men, but with Asian actors they see both types across ages, from 20 to 50. And if you’re looking for a villain, any Asian will do.”

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is an electronic musician who lives in Los Angeles and uses a Buchla 100 Series Modular Electronic Music System, also known as a music easel. Laura Snapes at Pitchfork interviews her in anticipation of her upcoming album, Ears, which is Smith’s first album to pair the Buchla with non-electronic instruments (other than Smith’s often modified voice).

At the record’s heart is a bright and lively primordial pulse, which Smith shapes with mellow woodwind motifs and soothing vocal chants (though what might sound like a flute is actually a tone distilled from her voice, using granular synthesis). It’s meditative, but more indebted to the avant-jazz of Alice Coltrane than, say, Enya. In combining organic and electronic sounds, Smith’s aim was to make listeners “feel like they were in a lush, outdoor environment.”Lastly, the long and scary story of Bloomberg Business writer Dune Lawrence, who found a falsified, damning article about her on a website called TheBlot. Turns out, the site was run by a businessman named Benjamin Wey, whom Lawrence had met in 2010. She’d written a story that he believed to be responsible for a subsequent investigation by the FBI, which prompted his vendetta against her. The resulting “troll” of Lawrence by Wey quickly turns malicious, and caused panic in this writer who, maybe more often than one would advise, writes negatively about things. Wey had already started tweeting that I was implicated in “massive frauds.” When Bloomberg’s lawyers sent him a letter telling him to take down the tweets and stop defaming me, he fired off another long e-mail. “You are a tabloid writer, a sensational woman, a total loser with absolutely no sense of morality,” read the message, which nonetheless went on to say that “this is just the beginning of endless efforts to express our opinions forever, and continues the debates of our differences in civility.”