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Author Archives: Cynthia Wang

About Cynthia Wang

I'm a singer-songwriter - I write and perform your typical heartbroken singer-songwriter fare. Oh, I also teach at Cal State LA, but that's not going to be the focus of this blog.

Another simple one…

I don’t know what it is about this week, but I thought I’d share another “hack.” My friend was over playing Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” on the ukulele, and I was providing him a percussive beat on my guitar as we were jamming. The guitar percussive stuff didn’t sound right – one of those times when one wishes one had an egg shaker.

So what to do? Make your own. Luckily, there was a painkiller pill bottle nearby, so while my friend was playing, I grabbed it, dumped out the pills that were inside, and filled it halfway with rice. 

Homemade egg shaker. Went lovely with the music.

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

To avoid the chiropractor…

This is a hack that I have been thinking about for a few years, but never got around to doing it. And…I hope that this counts as a hack.
My guitar case is really heavy. This is not so much a problem in Los Angeles, where I can drive and park relatively close to the venue at which I have a show or a performance. However, when I was living in New York, I didn’t have a car, and spent a lot of sweat and muscle (or lack thereof) lugging my guitar up and down the subways, often walking up to several blocks at a time to get to different venues. During these times of sweat (literally, in the summer) and tears, I thought about how great it would be if my guitar case had wheels. 
Since, I have learned to skateboard (or, longboard, really), and a skateboard has parts that can be taken apart – namely, wheels. While I did not take apart my board, I purchased trucks and wheels, but stupidly forgot to get bearings, and didn’t want to spend more money buying them. I just took some painter’s tape and made bearings (that work!) to make sure the wheels didn’t slip off.
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Painting tape to the rescue!
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Because I don’t want to do too much modification to my actual case, and because I didn’t want to spend too much time doing carpentry or welding work, I merely used mounting tape to attach the wheely contraption to my guitar case…
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And voila! Wheels!
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So why does this bug me? I’m a rather wimpy person, and having a heavy guitar case that I have to carry is just…not fun. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I should work out more. But showing up to a show sweaty and out of breath doesn’t lead to a good show.
Of course, there are sites that sell guitar cases with wheels for $250-$300, here and here.
That’s a lot to spend. My guitar case came with my guitar, and it is a nice, hardshell case. If I were really cynical or really paranoid and suspicious, I would say that companies are doing this to get guitar players to buy an additional case with wheels, but I don’t really think that’s the case (no pun intended). I think putting wheels on a guitar case just isn’t a top priority for case makers. After all, not everyone is as wimpy as I am. But there clearly are economic implications here, however slight they are.
Moreover, guitars come in different shapes and sizes. Even if you were to buy a case with wheels, there is no guarantee that your guitar will fit into it. Different guitar models have different styles of bodies. My first guitar had a jumbo body, and did not fit into standard guitar cases. The guitar case that I did this hack on is specific to the body shape and size of my Taylor 312CE, which has what is called a Grand Concert body, not a very popular body style/size for any guitar. $30 seems like a paltry amount to spend on this hack to give my case wheels than dealing with all these other factors.
 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Calhoun and Sandal, mostly.

Calhoun’s piece looks at this idea of public and community, and the differences therein, which are greatly implicated when we talk about the “public good,” and what exactly is good for the public? Rather than what’s “good,” though, Calhoun asks that we consider what is the “public.” There’s an element of legitimizing here, what is the legitimate public, the “normal,” and the process of legitimizing actually homogenizes and eliminates the differences of individuals and groups that are contained in an assumed “larger” public.

I keep conceptualizing the way that Calhoun examines the public as one big circle that contains a bunch of little circles, the big circle being the “legitimate” public in which people in it are assumed to be similar (the communitarian point of view), and the little circles (which Calhoun pushes for us to consider when speaking of the “public” sphere) where differences in the larger community are subsumed and oftentimes repressed (racial, sexual minorities, religious groups, socioeconomic class differences) within the more “legitimate” group. He gives an example of America, in which America becomes the “legitimate” public, but is homogenized. The identity “American” points to a set of expectations for which all Americans follow, a set of characteristics that define what it means to be “American” – and such sets of expectations and characteristics assumes a similarity amongst all members, when the reality includes people who are different, and groups that don’t fit into the “legit” idea of “American.”

Another one I always think about is the Asian American identity (a smaller circle within the larger American one, but in and of itself, a “legitimate” public and a politicized identity). Being in America often necessitates, for purposes of representation, visibility, and the fact that people of Asian descent look different than Caucasians, the construction of an identity (didn’t Stuart Hall say something to the extent that identity is articulated through difference? Calhoun also alludes to this idea of difference) that only exists and is situated specifically in America (after all, people in Asia are just as likely to call themselves “Asian” as we are to call ourselves “North Americans”). We often talk about the “Asian American community” or the “Asian American movement” as a monolithic entity that works on the larger American sociopolitical stage. The Asian American community, then, purports to speak for and represent all Asian Americans, which is, uh, problematic. As if, if you are of Asian descent, you are Asian American, and the specific history of Asian Americans and the repression and disenfranchisement all applies to you. Clearly, this negates consideration for the differences of experience, socioeconomic class, area of origin, language, etc.

Habermas neglects identity politics in his conception of the public sphere. Calhoun says that “Identity formation thus needs to be approached as part of the process of public life, not as something that can be fully settled prior to it in a private sphere.” (pg. 31) So true. I’ve heard once that identity is only good for commiseration, which is a funny and cynical way of thinking of identity, but is sort of true. Stuart Hall has also said that identity is articulated through difference – that you have an identity because you are different. But then, identity becomes this bigger public sphere that sometimes disregards or discounts the differences within a sphere of identity.

Calhoun speaks of interdependence between different groups, and that an assumed similarity is, well, an easy way out, a bit of a cop-out, sort of like how your Facebook newsfeed will likely only show you stories and points of view you agree with, since Facebook is a self-selecting news source, highly customizable. Calhoun calls for public discourse is to increase understanding between different groups.

I think, in my own work, the LGBT public is assumed as a group that strives for similar goals. No matter where you are in the world, if you identify as LGBT, you are supposed to support certain rights. This also gets really complicated. In America, if you are an LGBT individual, you are automatically assumed to support issues like gay marriage. However, many individuals and subcultural LGBT groups have a problem with the institution of marriage and may not necessarily feel like marriage is something the community should be striving for, as it buys into a heteronormative institution. Similarly, we assume an importance for certain issues here in the US that may not be a priority for LGBT groups in other countries and cultures. My project seeks to, at the very base level, increase understanding across the Pacific for LGBT organizations by discoursing through differences in goals, cultures, identities.

My initial reaction to the Sandal piece was that he was investigating the intersections of theory and praxis, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and, I think, what a lot of the “so what” of academia boils down to. He talks of a pluralistic stance on what “good” is. Right must be proceeded by good. There needs to exist a framework that allows for individual choice and self-governance. 

He also discusses Rawls unencumbered self, and Kant’s trancendental subject, in which the self cannot be means to an end, and that one “cannot belong to any community where the self itself could be at stake.” (pg. 87) I think a poignantly obvious example is being not-straight. Within this line of thinking, to be true to oneself, even to come out, is necessary so that one is not trapped within an overwhelmingly heteronormative community that is contrary to one’s identity. This mindset, of course, would come from a very specific ideological framework – one that, I believe Sandal is discussing here. Kant and Rawls seems to talk about one identity, and that identity existing outside of circumstance. In the case of coming out, there may be many identities, many factors of selves – only one being sexual attraction. Others can be familial values, religion, nationality, etc. to reduce one’s idea of self into a Pre-formed identity is not the right way to go about it either. Perhaps then, sexual identity, and our politicized versions of it, becomes that end that betrays the individual, the self, if indeed, the self deviates from the monolithic ideologies of the identity. By understanding ourselves first, we are able to then better prioritize the factors that dictate our choice of identity and our actions. This actually gets tied back into what Calhoun says too, that the monolithic tends to homogenize and discounts the diversity and discourse needed to increase understanding among differences.

Ok, so I’m talking about a self that is based on many factors, as Sandal goes on to examine, that consist of external forces – family, friends, education, citizenship – attachments that make up the self. I think Sandal’s piece is really cool. We seem to think that a rational way of thinking separates us from our background, our past, our social and familial ties, since only then can we rupture the framework of social normativity and stop the influence of socially constructed values on our decisions, behaviors, and actions. But, like Sandal, I don’t think we can, and that we MUST consider these factors as we go about our lives. I think of Bourdieu’s discussion of habitus too here.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.
 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/advocates-ask-why-do-asian-americans-go-uncast-in-new-york-theater/?pagemode=print

I’ll address this, but I’ll do it later.
 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

High and Low Cultures

Thinking about high and low cultures…why is it that things that are considered high culture are always older? Opera, Shakespeare, classical music, Renaissance art? Is there an ageism thing going on here?

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The problem with Race, and other controversies in my head

Another platform for me to spew out thoughts.

I got into an interesting conversation about race the other day. Actually, it was a series of conversations with various different people, and these conversations, frankly, have been ongoing for well over a decade for me now. But that aside…
I’ve been thinking about race. In ways that I think will make me immensely unpopular in any sort of ethnic minority group of which I am a part, or purport to be a part, or seen by members of which to be a part (whatever). I’ve been thinking about race and human dignity. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the ethnic minority to which I most closely identify — Asian American. And for the first time in a very long time, I’m having a problem identifying using the term “Asian American.”
What is Asian? Why can’t I be American? These questions aren’t new. What is new, though, is WHY we want to feel like we “belong” in America. We get so offended when someone asks where we’re from, assuming we are foreign. Take a look around, folks. A lot of people with Asian descent ARE foreign – they were born in not-America…yes, we can make the argument that no one would assume a Black/African American (choose your poison) person would speak Swahili. But if you’re walking on the street, and you encounter an Asian person, chances are high that person 1) knows how to speak or understand some form of Asian language, 2) was born in an Asian country, and 3) does not consider English their native language. For this particular stereotype, it is based a lot on the truth of the situation. And for this particular situation, it will most likely be ameliorated through time. In a few generations, people with Asian face will likely all speak English (provided they stay in this country and populate it and make lots of babies), and people will stop assuming people with Asian faces are foreign.
And then, there’s the question of…why do we feel like we want to “belong”? I think it boils down to the question of human dignity. The question here, though, is, who’s the authority on this dignity?
When I say human dignity, I’m not talking about the material or physical. I’m not saying that we should question the atrocities that befell likes of Vincent Chin and others who are physically assaulted for being not-White. I’m not defending the difference in the pay scale for African Americans (or Black Americans) and Latino Americans (or Chicano or whatever words you want to use to identify) – those, under the ideologies of equality in this country, are wrong. I’m also not disregarding the history of colonialism and imperialism and the wrongs the West (and White) have done to Asian countries and societies, nor am I excusing the past grievances of genocide, torture, murder, death, maiming, and other forms of badness that came from White interaction (or, sometimes Japanese) with Asia. I’m questioning human dignity on that transcendant level – the level on which we often speak of love and art, the one with which we can only be concerned with if we have enough food to eat, clothes on our back, and a roof over our heads.
A few more points – let’s be Marxist for a sec and boil everything down to the material. Are Asian Americans as a group really economically disenfranchised? No. What’s so bad about being the model minority? People think we’re smart. Why is this a bad thing? What of the medical field, which is teeming with folks of Asian descent making a great living? How about the fields of engineering? What is it that makes an individual happy? Really happy? Is it some transcendental idea of “belonging” and “equality”? Or is it being able to provide a comfortable life for oneself and one’s family?
The argument comes in where people complain about lack of representation in the media. And yes, I agree that in some forms of media and representation, like Broadway, Asians are sorely underrepresented. For the record, the article says Asian Americans make up 12% of the NYC population. Keep in mind that the population of Asian Americans in America is roughly 4-6%. So, what is adequate representation? I would like to conduct a study to see what percentage of characters in commercials, TV shows, films, are of Asian descent. I would venture to guess that we are hovering around 4-6%, if not greater.
Finally, think about it. The desire for racial equality would not be significant if it weren’t for a Western ideological, neoliberalist framework. So, is our dignity defined and authorized by the big bad White man?
 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

KaoHsiung International Airport

In an attempt to document all of the traveling I do, especially in light of my research, I’m going to start blogging about connectivity at various airports, and other time-related stuff. Boring, I know, to most people, so just ignore this.

I’m currently sitting in the KaoHsiung Airport waiting for my flight to Hong Kong. I think there is only one terminal, but I found a great wifi spot – it’s right outside of the Ever Rich Duty Free store, and all it takes is a one-push button “log in” to access wifi. The connection speed is not bad either. There are some numbered “AIRPORT” wifi networks – I think over 10 – I haven’t had a chance to encounter all of them, but their connection speed seems even faster than the Ever Rich one (although it felt sluggish when I was on my iPhone).
BTW if anyone knows exactly what a website like speedtest.net measures, I’m all ears.
 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Bizarre Gaga video

This video of old folks dancing to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance has gotten a lot of circulation on the interwebs, and has been made fun of a lot. I’ll spare you the expected rants about Othering Asians by making fun of them, although I think that is a pervading element of it – by not understanding, it is easier to make fun, and make inferior another racial/ethnic group. Blah blah.

My good friend, Dawen, suggests that “ga ga” might be a way to say “elder” in some form of Chinese dialect, and that the song itself is nowhere near a direct translation of Lady Gaga’s song, and the song might be some sort of elder people showing of solidarity through song, a common commiseration. Why don’t my kids pay attention to me? Poignant?
 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized