Jun. 8th, 2009

reileen: (general - strawberry)
Having finished my JPN106 final (likely got a few things wrong on it, especially WRT to the particles and conjugations for passive and causative-passive and blah blah, but I'm working from like a 95-96% in that class, so I'm not worried) and my ART264 project (presenting at the final critique tomorrow afternoon), I have some time to finally post something more substantial than whining and short links. :D?

***

Vienna Teng

Despite having a shitload of music that I still haven't listened to even once, I've been returning rather frequently to Vienna Teng's Inland Territory. It's basically the musical equivalent of comfort food for me at the moment, and healthy comfort food for me, at that. I'm still floored at how rich and full the songs are, and how, despite the title Inland Territory, it's actually the least introspective of Vienna's albums so far. No...that's a misleading description; if you looked up "introspective" in the dictionary you'd find Vienna's picture. What I mean to say is, when you compare the subjects and the handling of those subjects in IT songs versus her earlier songs, there's a stronger tendency in the IT songs to reach out beyond personal, interior experiences. Or rather, the IT songs are remarkable for this fusion of the external world of events that may or may not be beyond our control, with the internal world of emotions and thoughts. It's a skillful, refreshing blending of themes into an audiophiliac frappuccino.

One thing I didn't consciously notice about the album until someone mentioned it on the VT forums: it's framed by two songs that both have what can be referred to as "instrumental choruses". It's especially spine-tingling on St. Stephen's Cross. (Incidentally, both were songs that needed to grow on me for a while before I came to love them, in their own way.)

Vanessa Carlton

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Carlton has debuted two new songs, "Fair-Weather Friends" and "London". Unfortunately, the quality is so bad on these recordings that you can't understand what she's singing, but melodically it sounds like stuff that would fit in with Heroes and Thieves. According to Wiccapedes, she's apparently almost halfway done with the album and will release it later this year, holy shit.

My liking for Vanessa Carlton's music is mildly perplexing to me. She's not necessarily an excellent vocalist - I wouldn't care to hear her a cappella - but it's such a distinctive voice and it fits her songs. Similarly, I get bored real easily playing her piano arrangements because they're so simple, yet I haven't really figured out a good way to transform those arrangements into something more complex (and thus more interesting) for me to perform as a cover. And her lyrics didn't really become compelling to me until Heroes and Thieves, but they've always had a certain je ne sais quoi about them that was uniquely VC.

At any rate, I look forward to VC's new album.

Yousei Teikoku

With their latest release, the single "Gekkou no Chigiri", it seems like YT is moving towards a more pop sound, though they still retain their distinctive gothic, neo-classical, and electronica elements. I was actually underwhelmed by the three songs on "Gekkou no Chigiri", but then again I was also underwhelmed by the songs on "Irodori no Nai Sekai" and now I actually really like the songs for the most part. In particular, I keep on coming back to "Alte Burg" for some reason. I think I'm fascinated by the chord progressions and the melodic structure, the auditory tension pulled tight like a bow in the stanza melodies before being released in a graceful arc into more musically familiar territory for the chorus. They've done this on other songs as well (including other songs on "Irodori no Nai Sekai"), but for some reason the pattern really caught me in "Alte Burg". I'm not entirely sure that it's an effect of this song being necessarily better than their other songs; it may be that I was listening to the song at the right time and in the right mood.

Charice Pempengco

You can sample her music on her MySpace; her Wikipedia page is here.

I first heard about her through the Angry Asian Man. Charice Pempengco is a young Filipina singer who placed third in a Filipino talent show called Little Big Star, loosely patterned after American Idol. However, she only gained worldwide recognition after an avid supporter named "FalseVoice" started posting videos of her performance on YouTube, garnering millions of hits. Through a series of fortunate events, she eventually landed a performance spot on Oprah, which led to her being signed by music producer David Foster. She is supposed to have a US debut album sometime soon, though I'm not entirely sure how soon.

Charice really has an impressive set of pipes, but she seriously needs to learn how to control that voice. She's cited Celine Dion and Mariah Carey as influences, and boy does it show - and not always in a good way. I think it's great that she has such a good range, but I honestly despise it when singers "oversing" their melodies (see also: Christina Aguilera). It seems so unnecessary most of the time. I prefer her softer vocals in "Smile" and "Maalaala Mo Kaya". But hey, what do I know? I think that, with this style of vocals, she may actually have a chance to break into the American mainstream, somewhat. She's already got two albums released in the Philippines, and a single here in the U.S.

Dragonforce

So cheesy! So retro! Yet so gloriously awesome and epic! I wanna write my own Dragonforce-esque song. Not that it would be hard, technically, but still.

***

I have some book discussion I want to do (namely, The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and Tekgrrl by A.J. Menden - neither of which I was impressed by), but it may take some time for me to formulate coherent reviews about them, so I'll leave y'all with a long-overdue link-o-llection instead.

Jeff Yang: What Does It Mean to be Asian-American?

Four decades later [after the late Ronald Takaki taught the first-ever Black Studies course at UCLA], however, it's worth considering how far the idea of Asian America has come, and how far it can go. Does Asian American identity still have meaning? Have prevailing attitudes towards race evolved to a point where the term "Asian American" limits us rather than lifting us up? Has the moment passed?

Truth be told, the current picture isn't pretty. Many prominent Asian American institutions, particularly those associated with arts, culture and media, have either shut down or are in danger of doing so. Some of this is due to the larger economic crisis, but if pressed, many of the former leaders of these organizations will quietly admit that the core issue they face is simple: Audiences and subscribers for their work have been dwindling, and without collective support from within the community, it's been an uphill battle getting support from outside of it.

On the political front, the vibrant grassroots movement of the '60s and '70s never produced a broad-based pan-Asian American advocacy organization along the lines of the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza. While reinvented old-guard institutions like the Asian American Justice Center (formerly the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium) and exciting new-school entities like Asian Pacific Americans for Progress offer hope, the history of Asian American activism over the past few decades is largely a mosaic of short-term coalitions that were built with a single issue in mind and vanished after that issue no longer seemed pressing.

And those issues are rare these days. It's hard to point to a critical political event that has galvanized pan-Asian communities since 1982, the fight for justice for Vincent Chin, the Chinese American murdered by laid-off Detroit autoworkers for being "Japanese." (Some might suggest the protests against the Broadway musical "Miss Saigon" fit that bill. Even so, those took place in 1991 -- nearly two decades ago.)

All of these factors point to the uncomfortable truth that bringing together Asian Americans has often seemed like herding cats, if those cats were randomly mixed in with, say, dogs, sheep and giraffes -- a metaphor that reflects the staggering diversity of our community, which incorporates dozens of nationalities, each with multiple linguistic, religious and ethnic subsets, and a varying historical record of immigration to the U.S.

Yes, the challenges are enormous. And yet, the stakes are high. Those who seek to suppress racial discourse have gravitated toward Asian Americans as the weakest link in the multicultural chain. They suggest that the successes some Asian Americans have achieved mean we no longer need the protection of a racial category; they point to the difficulties we've faced in organizing as evidence the category never should have existed in the first place.

Ray Fisman @ Slate: Want more women to study science? Hire more female professors.

The researchers also found that the influence of professor gender was even starker for the set of students who were math whizzes when they entered the Academy (those with math SAT scores above 700). For these students, a female instructor eliminated the gender GPA gap entirely—and solely because high-performing women did well in their classes rather than because high-ability men underperformed.

What's more, having a male instructor didn't just affect female cadets' performance in their first-year classes—ramifications could be seen throughout their undergraduate careers. Not surprisingly, students who did well in their introductory science classes were more likely to go on to obtain science degrees (and presumably go on to science-related professions). Among high-math-SAT students—those most likely to be the ones to go on to obtain science degrees—the authors calculate that having a women-only roster of faculty would create gender parity among science majors.

What is it about a woman instructor that is so important for female pupils? It's unlikely to be simply the sense of empowerment of seeing that women can in fact make it in science. If that were the case, then having all female professors should help their female students catch up to the men and having all male professors should cause the male-female performance gap to widen. Yet the authors found that, while female students perform better on average in classes taught by female professors, there are some male professors under whom there's no achievement gap between male and female students (and also some female professors for whom the gender gap is as big as that of some of their male colleagues). So some men are very good at mentoring women, just not nearly enough of them.


John Scalzi: The New York Times: We May Slide into Irrelevancy But At Least We Update Daily

The thing about this Times piece is that it feels almost endearing anachronistic; not to run down blogs, but they’re not exactly the hot new kid on the block these days, are they. These days it seems like the only people starting new blogs are laid-off journalists, which says something both about blogs and these journalists. Everyone else has moved on to Facebook and Twitter. Which is something I personally applaud; I like my blog, but I’m a wordy bastard, by profession and by inclination, and online social networks actually do a far better job of what people wanted blogs to do, which is be a way to act and feel connected online with friends and family. No one gives a crap if your tweet or status update is short and utterly inconsequential (”Hey! I just ate a hot dog!”) — indeed, that’s kind of the point.

[livejournal.com profile] nonfluffypagans has a post discussing the idea of pagan community centers. It touches on a number of issues that PCCs face, including money, interpersonal politics, and the lack of support from the broader community.

I want this corset like burning.

Iraqi teen cracks 300-year-old math puzzle.

Tokyopop recently raised the prices on its individual manga volumes, but it looks like readers are actually getting less for their money.

And then finally, an article from The Onion that is sure to be a classic: Oh, No! It's Making Well-Reasoned Arguments Backed With Facts! Run!

-Reileen
fire's getting closer but I've got to stay calm

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Reileen van Kaile

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