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.

When it's the dead of winter by Elisa Hough on Mixcloud

LISTENING NOTES: Continue reading

Love at First Lecture: My KDVS Anniversary

15 Dec

Studio B self portrait at 3 a.m., first fundraiser show in 2005
Ten years ago on this night, I walked into a UC Davis lecture hall, and my life changed forever. No, I didn’t find a new favorite author or a new major—nothing that would go on my transcript. I discovered a whole new world of underground music and community media. It was my first KDVS volunteer class.

Over the seven years I DJ’ed, three years I served on staff, and ten years I’ve volunteered (in various capacities, to varying degrees), I learned so much about belonging to and being an active part of a community. KDVS was my home base in college, where I knew there would always be friendly faces, good tunes, and a comfy couch. Even when I visit now, surrounded by much younger DJs, I still feel like this is where I belong—the same feeling I had when I got my first hip-hop lecture and station tour on December 15, 2004.

Since my last love letter to KDVS, I moved across the country for a job that I couldn’t have gotten, wouldn’t have even known about, without the enriching, invigorating, (sometimes enraging) experiences I had in 14 Lower Freeborn Hall.

To celebrate, and to shake off some of the impending winter doldrums, here is my first daytime radio show from the beginning of summer 2006.

Analog Oatmeal: Summer Pop by Elisa Hough on Mixcloud

Andhe Andhe Lumut

25 Nov

embassy gamelan

By the end of next month, I’ll have been playing gamelan for eight years. I started out very timidly in the UC Davis Gamelan Ensemble, jammed once with the Evergreen State College instructor in Olympia, twice with the Geidai arts university in Okinawa, a year with the Los Angeles consulate, and now over a year at the Indonesian Embassy.

At the embassy, we’ve been practicing this epic wayang theater piece, Andhe Andhe Lumut, for several months. In May I challenged myself to the gongs, the largest and loudest instruments—which is fun for me as the smallest and quietest member. Sometimes it takes a bit of contorting to reach every kempul and some juggling with three different mallets, and that’s why I love it.

This recording is just an excerpt, but it’s some of my favorite parts. It sounds pretty echoey in the embassy’s ballroom instead of our basement practice space.


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