Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Weekend

This weekend we are going to the annual Manzanar event in Owens Valley at the eastern base of the Sierras. This is the site of one of the Japanese interment camps from World War II. The Japanese-American community, led my Victor Shibata and his friends, began taking a pilgrimage to the site every year to pay homage to their families, to connect with the past, and to raise awareness so that this does not ever happen again. I wrote an article for it a few years ago, if you'd like to learn more.

We are going up to camp (yippie) and then to see the ceremony on Saturday. Then I am headed back to Virginieee on Monday! Whoohoo, get to meet my niece for the first time!
My friend recently forwarded me these amazing photos from the Denver Post (By Ansel Adams from the early 1940s.)



Bonsai: The Documentary

Last night we rushed out after work to see the first LA screening of Bonsai, a fantastic documentary that my friend, Holly Mosher, has been working on since 2007. In the film, she follows the work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunnus. In her words:

"Bonsai celebrates Yunus’ extraordinary humanitarian work, which started when he simply lent $27 to 42 people out of his own pocket. As the founder of Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people – mainly women – with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty."

The final product is amazing! You have to check out this film.

Here's Holly explaining the fundraising process with Kickstarter. This is an incredibly important film - ESPECIALLY now that Muhammad Yunnus and the Grameen Bank are in danger of a federal takeover.

Bangladesh is notorious for its corrupt government. When Yunnus began exploring the idea of running for office about a year ago, the government balked and launched quite a few smear campaigns. The media highlighted some of the corrupt immitation projects that popped up and tried to drag Yunnus into the problem. This has  been compromising the momentum the micro-credit movement has generated and put Yunnus and the Grameen Bank in jeopardy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

our own studio

Last weekend our friend Ben came over. He's a mean upright and electric bass player. We set up the ad hoc studio and had some pretty good sounds for a first run. We got perty creative - I turned my banjo into a viojo or a banjolin, banjello or cellojo. (Something between a banjo + voilin or cello).
Note I didn't tear up his base bow; that's an old bow from a violin we got at a flea market.

I looked it up - I knew that I must not be the first to take the bow to the jo:
It actually sounds cool, but is kind of hard to get a steady sound. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

dreams and dreaming and things that people should talk about at the water cooler

I'm not exactly an insomniac, but my best hours are between 10pm and 4am. I'd love to pop up in the morning and go for a walk, see the sunrise, or make a nice breakfast, but dang it, sleep is just so riveting, I can't tear myself away. Usually there's a fairly cinematic dream playing in my head.

I always like to hear about people’s dreams. I also spend a lot of time trying to decipher my own. What is the underlining meaning? Do they have any meaning? Some are probably just debris from the day, while others I feel are really significant. 

Many esoterics believe that you can actually travel to another place in your dreams, this place could be a separate reality or dimension. I’ve always wondered if this could be possible. Science still has so many gaps when it comes to the mind. And anyway, I don’t particularly have faith that we will uncover explanations for all of the mysteries that unfold while we are awake, much less while we dream. 

I’ve had dreams so disorienting in location that the dirt in the air was still gritty in my teeth when I woke up. For a while I was spending every night in one place and waking up in another. I think this is semi-unhealthy. Maybe these places are just projections of the brain, but could it also be possible that in some dreams we slip into a time and space outside of the bedroom? If anyone’s out there: have you ever been to a particular place in your dreams and felt like you were really there?

I have also read theories that you can actually meet people in your dreams. I don't know if it is true but as an example, one night I met a Rastafarian in my dream. Why a Rastafarian, I don’t know. I don’t even like reggae music. But I swear there was something about him. I was watching a movie on the sofa and then he just appeared out of nowhere in the hallway. He introduced himself and answered some questions about his origin. Turned out he was a really nice guy and I was sad to see him go. He said he would visit my dreams again sometime, but that it was difficult to get there. That leads me to wonder if I've ever appeared in other people's dreams, like "just popping in to mess up this fantasy you have going, see you later." Sometimes you encounter people randomly in a dream that you haven't seen, much less thought about in years. Could the cosmic roads be at an intersection? Have you ever felt you’ve really met someone in your dreams? 

I also like to believe that you may check in with loved ones. If you live across the country from family and friends, hanging out with them in a dream is kind of comforting. Same could be said for loved ones that have passed away. 

Fairly often, I dream of the two significant people that I’ve lost. What I find interesting about this is that when they first passed away I had very significant dreams with them. I talked to them and communicated about what happened. We had a certain eye contact that stayed with me long after I woke up. I felt like they had truly come for a visit. However, now when I dream of them it usually concerns the circumstances around their death, and we usually don’t speak much. It’s a wild theory, but I wonder if perhaps the dreams soon after death were significant because these people were still in this space and time. Maybe now they have passed over, and what remains is simply remnants of our memories. Either way, I am still always happy to see them. Have you ever seen someone who passed away in a dream? 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Abstract Pixel Art

I find abstract pixel art pieces to be pretty brilliant. I had too much fun "solving" them. I was not familiar with most of the images from this site being video games and such, but I think you will probably know all of the ones below. Answers at the bottom.







1. Weezer - Blue Album / 2. Star Wars Characters / 3. South Park / 4. Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart / 5. Sesame Street / 6. Toy Story / 7. Ghostbusters / 8. Ninja Turtles / 9. Super Mario / 10. Star Trek / 11. The History of US Presidents

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

people from Cambodia

Thank you for checking out the Cambodian New Year pictures. Since we are celebrating and all, I thought I'd pull out a couple of pictures from my past trips to Cambodia for you to see. Really this is just an excuse for me to look at them. I do miss the sights, sounds, smells, and people.. especially the people from Cambodia. It's driving me a little mad, but then I won't get into all that.

I know what you are thinking, "Oh no the poor cat!" 
This little thing was such a trooper.
He is the quintessential little boy with bugs in his pockets 
and a mischievious grin. 
They call her grandmother even though she's only in her fifties. 
She works at a coffee shop and always has a big pair of galoshes on.
Met him on Silk Island where they make many of the famous Khmer scarves. 
Some people just have naturalstyle.
This is a very sad one. She is the mother of at least six children. 
They live at the city's landfill. This was her newborn. 
I told her the baby was beautiful. She told me I should take it.
This little imp is trouble, but in a good way. 
Before she was living on the streets, so she's tough. Not an ounce of fear.
This is just for fun. You may or may not recognize the one in yellow. ha! 
They worked for hours to do make-up and hair. The only extentions they had were black - so they had to make my brown hair look like highlights. By the end all of the women thought I was half-Cambodian. Amazing what a little make-up can do.

It was like an alternate dimension. Looking in the mirror, I was horrified. I thought two things: who is this crazy person, and I will be ridiculed when I go downstairs to this party. I was so wrong. Our ideas of beauty are so different. It's really fascinating. Everywhere I went at the wedding people stopped me and told me how beautiful I looked. And not just, "You look pretty." They gawked, "Oh My Gosh, You are SO Beautiful. So Beautiful. I can't believe it." They would just stand there and hold my hand. It was the trippiest, funniest thing ever.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

sousadey chnam thmey

I have a couple of pictures to share from Cambodian New Year in Long Beach on Saturday.

I will tell you, it was a hero's trial trying to get into this festival. We wanted to ride our bikes, but were stopped by bulky security at the entrance. No biking or walking, can you believe that? You had to drive your car into the park and clutter up the grounds with vehicles. You'd think a city sponsored event would encourage eco-friendly transportation.

Aside from that, it was fairly expensive, which made the whole scenario so strange. Biking back to the car via the aqueduct, we passed tons and tons of Cambodians trying to sneak into the event from the fields behind the park.
Apsara dancers 
Apsara are mythical celestial dancers that date back thousands of years. You can see the carvings of apsara on the temple walls at Angkor Wat. It's not the only form of dance in Cambodia, but I think it is probably the most popular. The movements are very subtle and graceful. Each pinch of the finger is full of symbolism relating to harvest and myths from ancient Angkor. Though the steps are simple, the form is very important. Little girls begin training as early as five, memorizing the precise posture and stretching their hands and feet daily to create the graceful bend. 
This is one thing I love about Cambodia. Even though the country is struggling with poverty, corruption and the aftermath of devestating genocide, still the people appreciate and love art. Music and dance thrive. 

We met this sweet singer after her performance. There was one song that J particularly liked (he likes to remix the songs too).
We dug through the CDs and DVDs at all of the outdoor vendors. Karaoke videos are a priceless piece of Cambodian culture. The music video industry in Cambodia is huge. They have pop stars that are household names no matter where you go, and ongoing video series that you can collect. We dug through so many, but couldn't find The song.
As we were scoping out the food stalls, we got into a conversation with an enthusiastic volunteer from Project Angkor, an organization that provides medicine to people in rural areas. We talked for a bit, then he took off and returned a few minuets later with a ton of food (and coffee : ) From that point at least three different groups of people offered to either buy or give us food. The generosity never fails to amaze me.

Two women across from us were smugging liquor in water bottles and kept telling us, "Shhh. Do you want some? Yeah? Shhh." They were eating crawfish. One woman was saying, "When I cook, mine are better. But I cry!" I thought she was talking about the bad crawfish she was eating, but then she said. "I cry! They came out of the pan, and I cried. I had to put the top on. So I don't make them anymore.... but I still like to eat them." She gave the funniest look, "what can you I do?!"

The event was a field day for kids. There were tons of games and activities for them.
 Probably the highlight for me - the costumes
As I was taking pictures, I ran into the designer (on the right) who was there promoting her new business. I wasn't able to do a proper interview as I would've liked, but I did get to ask her a few pertinent questions.

Name: Angkeara Brang
Business: Angkeara Bridal
Hometown: Phnom Penh, Cambodia, now living in Long Beach
How long have you lived in Long Beach? ten years
How long have you had this costume business? for 5 months. It is still new.
How long does it take to make a costume? usually 3 days to sew
Where did you learn to sew? I learned in Phnom Penh. I began sewing when I was 18 years old. I also worked in Malaysia and New Zealand.
Where do you get your fabric? I import most things from Cambodia, but I also have a shop here in Long Beach (1638 E. Anaheim St.)
And the metal pieces? I import those from Cambodia also, but I do the designs myself or give the designs for them to be made
Who are your customers? Most are for dance and bridal
How can we find your work? I have a website; we are still working on it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Khmer New Year

Sousadey Chnam Thmey! We are taking off down to Long Beach this weekend to celebrate Cambodian New Year. This time last year, I was in Cambodia playing games, dancing and hearing the holiday tunes coming from every shop down the street.

New Year in Cambodia is like Christmas for the US. It's the biggest holiday of the year. Everyone heads back to the provinces in the rural area of the country to hang out with family for as long as two weeks. There are traditional games that everyone plays with branches and leaves. And just like we have Christmas songs, they have New Year songs! This one is my favorite:

The main instrument is called a Troh Khmai; love the tune at 2:41. Also love the singers little chipmunk grin. too.