They Reminisce Over You

7 Feb

stussy-hand-picked-j-dilla-favorites-1
Ten years ago today, J Dilla celebrated his 32nd birthday by releasing Donuts, an album produced entirely from his hospital bed. Three days later, he died.

He and a few other tragically early losses in the hip-hop world, plus those in our families, inspired the last radio show I hosted. When I was home in California for the holidays, I signed up to sub a Christmas Eve slot on KDVS, and it felt a fitting hour to honor those no longer celebrating and creating.

In this episode, you’ll hear tributes to J Dilla, Nujabes, and Gang Starr, a song for our mother, a song for your father, and more.

The Blizzard of ’96

23 Jan


We’re in the midst of a blizzard in Washington, D.C., this weekend. It’s my first one! I’m staying cozy in a house with three boys, a dog, and a Nintendo 64. At work, my colleagues kept referencing the last big storms: “Snowmageddon” in 2010 and the Blizzard of 1996.

I grew up hearing about the Blizzard of ’96 because my dad happened to be in D.C. that week for a conference. He loves telling the story, which starts with seeing jazz pianist Mose Allison at a club in Georgetown. I had him retell the story once more over the phone when I found a cassette at home labeled only with my dad’s name—hoping it would be recordings of him—that ended up being a bunch of Mose Allison songs.

So I edited together one of Mose’s songs and my dad’s blizzard tale, now 20 years later. Take a listen!

 

What’s your best blizzard story? Any songs to recommend?

Dating Is Stupid: A True Audio Story

12 Aug

cherry blossom bike ride through East Potomac Park
Last weekend I participated in the KCRW 24-Hour Radio Race, an annual contest for amateur and professional media producers to create an audio story around a specified theme in the span of one day.

In the first five hours of the race, I suffered from laziness and lack of inspiration. In the sixth hour, everything I had planned got tossed aside as an unexpected, very uncomfortable opportunity presented itself.

Listen up:


I didn’t end up submitting the story by the deadline, but I’m glad I can share it here so we can all bask in the awkwardness of dating together.

East Potomac Park during cherry blossom season
cherry blossoms

My Hapa Story

5 Aug


Last week our gamelan ensemble from the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., performed a wayang kulit (shadow puppet play) with guest artists from Java. After our first rehearsal together, their director—realizing I couldn’t converse with him in Bahasa—asked me where I am from.

“Philippines,” my director answered for me.

“No!” I argued, surprising both of them and myself. “I’m from California!”

I’ve never really identified as Filipino, even though it’s half my blood. I’ve never identified with the quarter of English or the eighth of Irish. Maybe I accidentally embraced my eighth of mystery ethnicity.

I’ve never felt strongly like an American. I didn’t feel like a Sacramentan until I moved to Los Angeles, and I didn’t feel like a Californian until I moved to the East Coast. Davis was the only place where I truly felt like a member of a community, and even then I knew I couldn’t stay in such a small town.

My mom with me (the baby) and my brother Allan, I think on Maui, 1986
My mom felt the same way. Full-blooded Filipino but a dual citizen, born in the Philippines on an American military base, raised back and forth between Okinawa and all over the United States, drawn alternately to the Bay Area and Tokyo, she told me once that she never felt like she belonged to any one place. As an army brat, it was very weird for her to live in Sacramento—in just one house, no less—continuously for 24 years.

As a result of my mom’s immigrant identity crisis, I know little of Filipino culture. Since her parents wanted to raise Americans, didn’t teach the kids Tagalog or their respective dialects, my generation is left with only a few traditional recipes, the word for fart (utot), and a giant fork and spoon in the kitchen.

Instead, my mom filled our house and her childhood anecdotes with pieces of Japanese and especially Okinawan culture. I’ve been far more interested in learning about and visiting Okinawa than I have ever been in the Philippines.


Working at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, where we celebrate the diversity of cultures in the world and help communities sustain their traditions and assert their cultural identities, I think about this issue a lot—how I don’t really do these things for myself.

But maybe through learning Okinawan music, adopting Indonesian culture through playing gamelan, and immersing myself in Peruvian or Kenyan or Chinese cultures at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, I at least carry on my mom’s identity as a cultural wanderer.

This post is a submission for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s #myhapastory project.

Cassette Recovery

23 Mar

candlestick script marlene - sony audio cassette tape
Today at work I had a minor Twitter triumph with a post about restoring audio tape by baking it in a convection oven. And while I didn’t have to do anything that advanced, I also successfully restored my first cassette at home this weekend.

I found this tape last time I was home in Sacramento, with “Candlestick Script Marlene” handwritten on it. Marlene is my mom’s name, so I was hoping it was something she recorded, maybe even with her voice on it. The tape had come off one of the reels, so I opened it up, Scotch taped it back on, and wound it back up.

Nothing earth-shattering on it, though. Just a collection of Benny Goodman songs. But maybe they were all my mom’s favorites, and maybe she would listen to it in her little Datsun, and that’s pretty cool.

The opening song, now a little warbled due to my shoddy handiwork:

Happy Birthday from Kepi Ghoulie

17 Mar

kepi ghoulie at comet ping pong
Today is my birthday! So I’m posting this recording of Kepi Ghoulie playing his “Happy Birthday” song that I forgot to post on my brother’s birthday.


Allan came to visit Washington, D.C., for Thanksgiving, and then we got to see Kepi with the Mean Jeans as his backing band at Comet Ping Pong in December. It was a hella Sac throwback. Since the last time I saw Kepi was an acoustic show, nice and mellow, it was a jolt to see him thrashing around on stage. The birthday song was for one of the Mean Jean Moms, who all live in the D.C. suburbs.

They played another one of our favorites (though I still prefer the Kirsty MacColl version on my favorite mixtape Allan made for our parents), “A New England.”


Any advice on stupid, irresponsible things I should do in the last year of my twenties?

when it’s the dead of winter

22 Feb

sligo creek trail in winter
This winter I have biked in the rain and through the snow, wiped out in ice, and tasted road salt. It’s the gloomiest time of year, but we have to remember to find small adventures and musical sources of warmth.

 
LISTENING NOTES: Continue reading

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