Asian Representation in Popular Culture

I recently wrote a post about the dominance of White people and culture in every facet of society here in America (you can read the post HERE.), and I have been thinking a lot lately about Asian representation in popular culture. Surely there are more than just classic martial art films? (Cue the sound of crickets endlessly chirping away.)

I look over at the African-American community. They have come such a long way. Last year, the film Moonlight won best picture. They have won Oscars in all of the major acting categories. They have formidable pop stars. (Beyonce and Rihanna anyone?) Rap, R&B, and Hip hop have become mainstream mainstays. They have brought us jazz, blues, and Michael Jackson. A man by the name of Barrack Obama showed us all how its done, and recently, they have given us Black Panther–the first real African American super hero franchise. They are AMAZING.

Then, I look over at the rest of us–the Asians, Latinos, and everyone from the Middle East. We have yet to fully stake our claim at the table.  You can argue that many opportunities are being denied us, but what we must ultimately do is stand up and show up.

Unless we actively share our art with the world, no one will hear our voices. As a person of color, I need to rise above the limitations, the whitewashing, the gentrification, and the marginalizing. I need to stand up and be heard.

The cultural landscape is not completely devoid of empowered Asians. I wanted to highlight a small handful of them here who are officially kicking some serious ass. They are forging a path for the rest of us. We will all stand up and follow .  .  .

Nathan Chen

He is, arguably, the Michael Jordan of figure skating. It was refreshing to see a Chinese-American be the face of the US Olympic team in the media and in commercials leading up to the winter games in Pyeongchang, Korea. Even though we’ve already had titans like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan before him, it felt as if this time someone of Asian descent was legitimately embraced as marketable and worthy of  hype and attention.

By the end of the competition, he made history by being the first of any Olympian to land five quad jumps in a single program in competition. He’s bad ass, and I’m so proud of how the whole country rooted for him.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen

Asian women have been dominant forces in American figure skating over the past few decades.  Again, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan come to mind. Carrying on in this tradition are Mirai Nagasu who was the first American woman to land a triple axel in Olympic competition and her teammate Karen Chen. Both of them have been US Champions and Olympians.  Gritty athleticism, hard work, and pure talent have taken them this far. I hope many more will follow.

Francis Lam

The show “The Splendid Table” on NPR has been a longstanding favorite among food enthusiasts in America and all over the world.  When its founder and host Lynn Rossetto Kasper announced that she was retiring, there was much trepidation surrounding the show’s future. It was not long before it was announced that Francis Lam would take over as host of the show. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking, as well as an easygoing and comforting over-the-air presence, he has taken the show into new directions toward international flavors and delicacies. He is the son of Chinese immigrants and is so good at his job!  Listen to the Splendid Table on NPR! He’s totally worth it.

Vienna Teng

In the indie music scene, she is well-known, revered, and beloved. Vienna Teng is a singer/songwriter and pianist whose music is rich with poetic lyricism and gorgeous melodies. I’ve been to her shows, and she is the real deal. Her piano work is first-rate. There is a gentle shrewdness behind each of her songs. She gives us narrative arcs that force us to cram our minds into tight and uncomfortable spaces, only to set us free by the final chords. Currently, she splits her time between a successful  indie music career and work as a climate change consultant for international corporations. Isn’t that amazing? If you haven’t heard her music yet, check her out.

I will be featuring more Asian artists and content creators in the future, and I too, will stand up to be heard.

You’ll see.

-Roqué

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Intention: The Value of a Slow Lifestyle

bloom blog roque

I grew up on a remote island in the South Pacific.  I vividly remember what life was like over there.  The speed limit was no more than 25 miles per hour on the roads.  Everything.  EVERYTHING moved at its own seemingly glacial pace.

Nonetheless, things still got done.  People worked, cooked food, had gatherings with friends and family, built homes, and lived full and rich lives.

On a clear summer night, I left that island with my tear-stained face on a plane headed for America.  Now, I live in a land in which someone else is always driving faster than you on the freeway, regardless of your own breakneck speed.  People hurry along in droves trying to get so much accomplished in so little time.  They are pulled in multiple directions raising kids, posting on instagram/facebook/twitter/etc, taking selfies, building a career, staying healthy, partying, traveling, creating, doing, doing, and more doing.

They all move SO FAST.

But why?

Seriously, why?

At what point did we learn that faster is always better?

What if we took on the intention to slow down in life?  Instead of taking on so many things so quickly, what if we did the opposite?

Could we do one thing at a time?  Do it at a slower and more comfortable pace?

Why not?

What if we regularly stepped back to press on the brakes and proceeded slowly?

For myself, what I gain from doing this is more space to breath and gather perspective.  So what could this look like for you?

Instead of a tackling a to-do list of 20 items, take on one important item with the trust that either everything else will get done in their own time or that some things just actually do not need doing.

When you eat food, chew slowly and savor every morsel of flavor.

Walk a little more slowly along your way.

Have multiple moments for yourself to take a long, deep breadth.

Take a drive through the countryside and do it slowly.  Feel the wind in your hair.  Drive slow enough that you can take in the view.

Pause before the next time you pick up your cell phone and acknowledge what is going on around you.  Is there someone you can talk to instead?  Maybe you can just do nothing for a few minutes.  Why rush?

Ultimately, living a life that is paced at a rhythm that is comfortable and sustainable means living a life of deeper contemplation.  You can trust that everything will get done and will happen as they need to.  You can still live a rich and full life.

Slowness allows us to actively live in our own richness.

-Roqué

 

Intention: Incremental Learning for Life

Bloom Blog Roque

One of the primary ideas I want to explore here at BLOOM is the concept of intention.  This is the first of an ongoing series of posts that expound upon the notion of living a life of intention.

First of all, what is intention?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intention is defined as ” a determination to act in a certain way.”

It is synonymous with the words .  .  .

purpose
resolve
aim
conviction
hope

It’s a big word with a lot of depth.  So, the next question is “How does one live a life of intention?”

I suppose it means living with an active awareness of and acting on one’s preferences, desires, goals, and dreams?

I suppose?

All of that sounds hunky-dory, but is it really that simple?  I will not pretend that I know the fullest and best answer, but I want to take the time to find out.

One way that I have explored intentional living is through what I like to call incremental learning.  It is the kind of learning that is diametrically opposed to crash courses or any kind of fast learning.  Basically, you take a skill that  you want to learning and pick it apart to its most simple and fundamental components.  Then, you SLOWLY explore each of these components one at a time in a gradual, organic, and consistent way that has no deadline.

Back in 2012, I bought a cello.  I started taking lessons and have loved it ever since.  The challenge was that I am not a cellist by trade.  I am a piano player.  The way I learned to play and understand music is almost completely different than the way a cellist does.

I must have been crazy to take it on.

But I have always loved the instrument.  (Also when I grow up, I want to be like Yo-Yo Ma.)  At first, I dove in.  I found a wonderful teacher who taught me a lot that first year.  I was ambitious and focused.  I tackled as much as I could as fast as I could.

Then, I started to feel pain.  I felt pain in my thumbs and in my hands. I never felt pain when I played the piano, which feels as smooth as water cascading down a mountainside.

I had to stop and reassess.  I stopped taking lessons and took a long break.  I mulled over the viable option of quitting the instrument altogether.

What I eventually decided to do was to stick with it and do it more methodically and slowly.  This is where I have come to practice incremental learning.  I play no more than 15 minutes a day to reduce strain.  In those minutes I focus on just one element at a time.  For the longest time now, I have been working on strengthening my bow hold in a way that does not create pain or strain.  I have made good progress, but there is more work to do.  Other times, I might focus on creating a good tone that is pleasing to the ear.  Another time, I may just work on memorizing a piece.

Incremental learning means slowing down and taking the time to understand something one small element at a time.  There is no pressure.  No deadline.

This has been my intention, and I have reduced the pain while managing to learn something I love.  Even though this particular learning process takes forever, I am still getting out of it what I  wanted.

If there is something new that you want to learn that feels impossible or overwhelming, consider learning it incrementally.  Go with that intention and see where it leads you.  It will not be long until you find your own way.

-Roqué

What I Have to Give

I wanted to take some time to go a little more in depth about the intentions behind my new website.  It is, in fact, more than just a forum for me to promote my music and performances.  I am not in this for constant self-promotion or to make any money.

At this point, the truth is twofold:

    1.  I want to practice my skills.  In addition to being a musician, I am, for better or worse, a multi-hyphenate.  I am a singer-pianist-cellist-ukulele player-visual artist-photographer-storyteller-web designer-graphic designer-poet-writer-budding filmmaker-catlady-etc.  I wanted to create a virtual space in which I can explore all of my interests from any and all vantage points.  This website is my artist’s studio.  It is my personal garden in which I cultivate my ideas, imagination, and creativity.  It just so happens that all of you get to watch in real time as everything unfolds.
    2. I want to share what I know and have learned.  There is a layer underneath all of my multi-hyphenate skills/interests that informs all of these things.  This layer is a personal dedication towards self-reflection and learning.  I have taken a lot of time to think, ask questions, explore, define, and understand why events happen, how I behave, and how I can be a strong and good human being.  In some way, I hope that my writing and my work on this site will give my visitors insights into their own lives or some kind of inspiration to cultivate something that they love.  If all this sounds a little vague, you will see (or read) what I mean soon enough.

With all of this said, I would be remiss by saying there will not be some kind of promotion for my music, art, and performances because there certainly will be.

A friend of mine recently told me not to be afraid to toot my own horn.  I am growing into the idea that part of being an artist is being unapologetic and audacious.  I will inhabit these characteristics in my own dorky, brazen, and fantastically Asian ways as well.

Hopefully, with all of my most sincere  and heartfelt intentions, you will all somehow enjoy what I grow in this carefully loved, sacred space.

-Roqué

 

Welcome To My Brand New Website!

Today is August 1st! It is the official launch date of my brand new website roqueinbloom(dot)com.  This overhaul has been one of my big projects over the summer.  I decided that along with my name change to Roqué, I wanted to cultivate and present a broader view of my creative output. As such, this new website will not only be a place to access my music and information about upcoming shows, but it will also be an online forum for my visual art and writing.

As of this launch, you can now view galleries of my drawings, digital art, and photography as well as listen to my music.  There will be a dedicated poetry space in which I will showcase one new poem every month, links on how to find me all over social media, and “Bloom”, my new blog.

The blog will have a weekly posting exploring one of the following topics:

Piano and Music Performance
New Music and Videos
Visual Art
Intention
Personal Growth

All that I have mentioned is just the first tier of features this website will have.  I am adding an archive of my Where Pianos Roam photography project in the coming months. There will be an online store through which you will be able to purchase music and limited-edition prints of my art. Lastly, I will have a page dedicated to larger works-in-progress so that I can share my creative process with anyone who would be interested.

This site is intended to convey my artistic and creative journey through my life.  I am more than just my music, my writing, or my visual art individually.  I have many facets to my creativity that all coalesce and flow together.

This is where you can watch me grow and where you will see me bloom.

Thank you for visiting and please come back as often as you like.  I hope that in some way, I can inspire you to bloom too.

-Roqué