Thanksgiving 2015: The First at Home in Years!

Turkey, the grand centerpiece, ready to be attacked!
This week I got to enjoy my first Thanksgiving at home since 2011! I can't believe I spent three Thanksgivings and Christmases in a row away from home. I didn't think I'd be able to stand it as those are my two favorite holidays, but over the years I suppose built a Teflon will, was able to focus on school and work, and by 2014, I had completely forgotten what the holiday season felt like in the States.

While I was living in Taiwan, my dad visited me twice and brought me frozen turkey from Thanksgiving both times. Nonetheless, as delicious as it was, it couldn't compare to sitting around the dinner table and having discussions with family and friends. And, of course, being thankful for all that we have. I had some great times in Taiwan, and some extremely dark times, especially during the past year. I think it's fair that I was throughly tested there, and it was a period of my life that encouraged me to grow up and reevaluate what and who are important to me. 


The 26th Annual Houston Native American Championship Pow-Wow

Gorgeous Jingle Dance competitors at the conclusion of their event.
A man with intricate adornments and tattoos.
During Thanksgiving time, many of us ironically forget about the native people of the United States. We won't recognize their culture or the pain the aforementioned upcoming holiday will trigger for those whose ancestors were marginalized and nearly made extinct in their own land. 

The Native American people are not simply Indians. They are a rightfully proud people with a rich culture. They have a variety of traditions, awesome stories to tell, gorgeous regalia, and intriguing dances. 

The pow-wow, the Narragansett word for "spiritual leader", is a meeting of Native American people which typically involves dancing. Within the pow-wow Circle, men, women, and children move their bodies in an impressive, rhythmic manner to the beat of drums and singing, the physical representation of stories passed down over hundreds of years. 
Couples taking part in the "two-step" dance where two lines are formed
behind lead dancers of each gender.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to attend the first day of the two-day 26th Annual Houston Native American Championship Pow-Wow last week. It was a gorgeous, clear day for a pow-wow with cool weather and generous sunshine. Native American dancers from several tribes exhibited many traditional dances for the crowd as well as for competition. There was also plenty of opportunity for attendees to dance and make monetary donations to the tribes. 


Opinion: The Taiwanese Man on the MRT was wrong, but...


Recently, an expat in Taiwan, Christopher Raymond Hall, was riding the Taipei MRT with his Taiwanese girlfriend when he was accosted by a local man who apparently disliked their interracial relationship, and generally, the involvement of White men with Taiwanese women. He approached them with harsh, insulting words as Hall's girlfriend recorded the incident on her phone. The video was posted onto YouTube, and has since received over two million views—whew! Additionally, the instigator was summoned by the Taipei police, and due to his foolishness, has lost his job.

Without a doubt, the instigator is not only foulmouthed, but is dangerous and possibly has anger issues. He and others like him would do well to keep their mouths shut next time they see strangers they dislike for any unreasonable reason in their backwards minds. 

On the same vein, I respect that all cultures are different, but I wish bystanders would stop ignoring negative situations happening around them in Taiwan when Taiwanese people and foreigners alike are under distress and need assistance. Regarding this particular situation, I believe a comment or two would have sufficiently embarrassed the instigator to the point where he probably would have either kept his mouth shot and gotten off the train earlier in shame.

That all being said, when you compare the treatment between White foreigners and POC expats in Taiwan, the man's belligerence toward Hall is, in my opinion, child's play. Furthermore, it is not an incident of racism.

No, I am not saying the attack was justified. Yes, I will adequately explain why my opinion is such below.


最近,在台灣的外國人(Christopher Raymond Hall)和他的台灣女朋友坐捷運的時候,有一個台灣男子對他們說了一些進攻的東西。Hall的女朋友做了一部影片,然後Hall放了在他的YT頻道。今天,有兩百萬多意見。台北警察召喚了那個激進男人來派出所,再說他丟了工作。





Black Women Thrive: Interview with Teacher and Freelance Writer Carla Bruce-Eddings

English teacher and freelance writer
Carla Bruce-Eddings.
According to the current social constructs of America, being an introverted Black woman is simply a contradiction. Silent introspection, social anxiety, and and general shyness are attributes not within the borders of the canvas which illustrates the average Black woman. Instead, many—including Black women and men—use images of the stereotypical Black female to gauge the "normalcy" of her realistic counterparts. 

As English teacher and freelance writer Carla Bruce-Eddings knows too well, the farther you are from the stereotype, the harder it is to connect with many of those in the Black community.

"I've definitely gotten the 'you're not like other [B]lack girls' thing multiple times. It was meant as a compliment, and I took it as one because that was the world I lived in...Respectability was the name of the game."

Bruce-Eddings' shyness manifested itself when she was a child. She was made to attend only private Christian schools until college although she pleaded with her parents to let her go to public schools; she was hyperaware of her presence as the one of the only Black students in many of her classes. Similarly, she found it difficult to connect with others in the majority-Black church her family regularly attended since she was used to being "in majority white settings" and found small talk to be not unlike a root canal.

"My parents would want to stay and chat it up with every...person in the building and it was the worst...it wouldn't have been as interminable if they had just let me sit in the car and read my book while they talked. But they dragged me from conversation to conversation so I could be asked the same questions, forced to smile and respond and be 'nice'."

Simply put, she found it hard to play the silent social games created to make conversations go smoothly, "For me, it was literally 'talk to people, and smile more often than you scowl'."

Her difficulties connecting with fellow members of the Black community continued when she entered college at Rutgers University. As a large, public university, Rutgers has several clubs and organizations geared toward the wide array of minority students. Nevertheless, due to her upbringing outside typical African American culture, Bruce-Eddings felt excluded from her Black peers. She didn't have the same mannerisms or points of reference as they did; she felt like an interloper. 

"I was distinctly aware that there was a coolness factor and sort of ease that I lacked...this feeling was compounded when I got to college...and tried to assimilate into various groups of [B]lack people. It just never really worked."


Ueno(上野): Culture + Commerce

A girl walking under a striking series of gates in Ueno Park.
A map of my Day 1 walking tour.
I only went to Ueno(上野)once during my Tokyo trip, yet I wish I had made time to go again and more thoroughly explore the area. There's plenty to see in the district; most of the sites like the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Ueno Zoo, and Shinobazu Pond are situated within Ueno Park(上野公園).

I spent most of my time at Ameyoko(アメ横), arguably the commercial center of Ueno, but I wish I had focused more on Ueno Park. However, by the time I reached Ueno, it was already late afternoon. Visiting Tokyo in late winter has its perks as it's not peak tourist season. Nevertheless, you have to accept the much shorter days. I think visiting the park in the morning would be a great compromise.


Music Musings: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (1997-2003)

Moods for Ska ~We Don't Know
What Ska Is!~ (1997)
Music Musings: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (1990-1996) can be found here.

4th Compilation Album: Moods for Ska ~We Don't Know What Ska Is!~ ムース・フォー・トーキョー・スカ 〜ウィ・ドント・ノウ・ワット・スカ・イズ!〜 (1997)

Nope, I did not review TSPO's first three compilation albums as they are rare and quite difficult to locate. I believe this one, although their fourth, is the first worth noting. This album is a hodgepodge of live and studio tracks, and contains many fan favorites like "Pedorazu" and "Monster Rock".

I see this album as a good intro to TSPO; although it's nearly two decades old, many of the songs on this record are played by the band at nearly every concert they play these days, like "Shot in the Dark", "Burning Scale", and "Skadon", all extremely lively songs. 

"Mr. Mystery Shuffle" is my favorite track with vocals on the album. It sticks to the traditional definition of a shuffle beat wise, yet is anything but mundane. Cleanhead Gimura is responsible for the vocals on this one, a posthumous release. If you read part one of this series, you already know I'm a sucker for his unique vocals, and he sounds borderline evil on this song, so it's particularly delicious to my ears! 

Top picks: There's not a track I don't like!

Arkestra (1998)
8th Album: Arkestra アーケストラ(1998)

Arkestra was the first of two albums which included the late Cleanhead Gimura's younger brother Rui Sugimura on vocals. Sugimura was far from his older brother's convenient replacement; his singing and personal style are much different from the elder Sugimura's. Rui Sugimura has a lighter, more pop-oriented voice which also goes well with traditional jazz tunes. Nevertheless, I prefer Cleanhead.

Out of the instrumental tracks, "the PIRATES" is my hands-down favorite. It has a comical, sinisterly nature to it as it sounds like the theme song of a cartoon villain—in a good way, of course. Bassist Tsuyoshi Kawakami is the star on this number. While the bass line is simple, it's harmony with Tatsuyuki Aoki's surgical drumming is extremely catchy and addicting.

The majority of the songs on this record include vocals, a few of which are unfortunately on the generic side. However, Sugimura shines on the last three tracks: "Funade no Machi (Sailing Town)"; "Hikari (Light)"; and "Dear My Sister". The harmonica solo close to the beginning of "Funade no Machi", reminiscent of country music, might initially seem out of place. Nevertheless, one of my favorite aspects of this track is the arrangement; I especially like the radio-like filter over the bridge portions. On the foundation of a simple, slow beat, the musical style of the foreground instruments changes. For instance, when Sugimura sings of a "symphony in the sky" the music turns symphonic.

Generally, "Hikari" is driven by Sugimura's melancholic vocals. It's a slower track about saying goodbye, but I find it more soothing than sad. The music is minimalistic to an extent at the beginning, similar to the sound of midi music files, yet the saxophones pick up toward the end

"Dear My Sister" is a favorite of mine because of the lyrics; there's nothing too remarkable about it musically. It's a fun, inspirational song essentially about leaving loneliness behind, and the upbeat tempo makes it fit nicely on my workout playlist. Sugimura's fast, almost rapping vocals adds to the positive mood the song evokes. 

During the Arkestra tour, drummer Tatsuyuki Aoki died after an apparent suicide and was replaced by Kinichi Motegi. Naturally, this marked a significant change in TSPO's music in the drumming department. Motegi is skilled with amazing singing abilities to boot, but lacks the flair and precision Aoki had in my opinion.

Additionally, this was the first album including guitarist Takashi Kato, who I consider to be more talented than the previous Toru Terashi.

Top picks: "the PIRATES"; "Funade no Machi (Boating Town)"; "Hikari (Light)"; "Dear My Sister"


Anchorage Farmer's Market

The Anchorage Farmer's Market grounds.
My mom buying fresh fruit.
The Anchorage Farmer's Market is located in the downtown area of the city and is open every Saturday between 9 am and 2 pm. Although the market isn't large, there are a wide variety of goods available, especially food and crafts.

On the day my parents and I visited, it was warm out by Alaska standards, but certainly not ours. It was kind of awkward being the only people in long sleeves and scarfs, but Alaskans seem to be acclimated to temperatures below 60F (15C) in the summer.