The Beast of the Ball

Last night I DJed at a private Sacramento high school for their winter semi-formal dance. I thought it would be my chance to be a cool kid at prom, spinnin’ records with a pretty dress and headphones on, instead of the shy girl chatting it up with my English teacher chaperone and not dancing.

But kids are mean! I felt more pressure last night than I did when I was actually in high school. I got dirty, condescending looks and comments from dozens of teens (and one teacher!) because we didn’t have their Top 40 requests. I literally heard “boo”s when throwing on certain songs. I even watched one guy point me out to his friends and then yell, “You suck!”

I was going to say that the main difference last night was that I was finally okay being the uncool kid at prom, but the truth is I was proud to be an offbeat at that age. I gracefully accepted that social standing long ago.

The difference is that now when I’m the uncool kid at prom, I get paid $100.

Eat that, jock!

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January 16, 2010. Tags: , , . autobio, music. 3 comments.

Traveling at Weather’s Whim

Now that we’re a couple weeks into official winter, I want to revisit the issue of weather. More specifically, I would like to address my desire to hibernate for three months and inability to wake up before noon if it’s not sunny.

So instead of hibernating or sleeping all day, I am escaping this admittedly mild winter for a tropical island whose temperature rarely drops below 70 degrees. In a little over month, I’m flying to Okinawa, Japan for a family/research adventure. Near-equatorial weather aside, I’ll be among people who are just pushed and pulled by climate as I.

Cathy Davidson says this about weather in 36 Views of Mount Fuji:

The Japanese expect connections between external conditions and internal ones. If the rainy season, for example, comes too late or lasts too long, everyone starts acting strange; it becomes almost a national obsession. The national meteorological service feels compelled to apologize publicly for the disruption.

I get anxious when the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow. I get cranky when I’m cold.  I let external conditions affect my own, but Davidson continues:

In the West, our usual impulse is to deny that anything as significant as the ego could be influenced by mere nature.

But isn’t it easier to blame nature than ourselves for any faults of ego? Nature, weather, rain is the perfect scapegoat for the fact that I’m still in bed at 1 o’clock. Maybe in Japan I could get away with that argument, but with a warm forecast I won’t have to.

January 6, 2010. Tags: , , , . autobio, travel. Leave a comment.

An Open Love Letter

Happy anniversary, KDVS and me! Five years ago on this very night, I timidly entered a Wellman classroom and for two hours sat entranced by DJ Rick‘s storytelling. Here is what I wrote in my journal that night:

“KDVS meeting tonight, music history chart of hip-hop and prog/industrial all over the board. So cool! Learned more there than in English 1. So I’m an official volunteer now, they seem like cool people.”

When I ventured into that first meeting as a mid-quarter newcomer, I didn’t know I would find a welcoming, stimulating community in a matter of weeks. The catacombs of KDVS became a home base, a refuge providing warmth in the winter, AC in the summer and good sounds year-round.

When I performed my first volunteer task for Joe Finkel, scanning images for the next KDViationS, I didn’t know that for three glorious years my name would be at the top of that masthead. I, too, got the distinct pleasure of ordering hours-hungry minions to do my bidding.

When I first heard Big Sammy‘s radio show, I didn’t know that I could like hip-hop that much, having only heard KSFM’s garbage until then. It was the first of many revelations about new kinds of music, a series that altered my own radio show until unrecognizable from its original form.

So thank you, KDVS and all my fellow DJs, for five fantastic years. I never dreamed I would find such a love.

Yours,
Elisa

December 15, 2009. Tags: , , , . autobio, music. Leave a comment.

The Ta-da! Moment

homemade

Every interview I’ve read or conducted about a teacher mentions their “A-ha! moment.” Apparently it’s this magical epiphany when a student finally understands the concepts a teacher has been driving at all along. It’s proof that their work is not for naught.

Well, I’ve never delivered an A-ha! moment, but I have executed many — what I will call — Ta-da! moments.  This came to mind tonight as I concluded my screenprinting class at the UC Davis Craft Center. The Ta-da! is the epiphany when a student realizes he is capable of amazing things.

Ta-da! You can silkscreen any image you want onto a T-shirt and wear it right out of the classroom, without going to a professional printer!

Ta-da! Your hand-scrawled poetry has been printed 6,000 times in a magazine and is being distributed all over the country!

Ta-da! You can record a song in your bedroom at night and hear it played on the radio the next day!

I remember my first Ta-da moment delivered: In high school I booked my friends’ band, Red Sauce, to play a concert in our auditorium. When I brought to lunch a copy of Alive & Kicking that listed their name in the events calendar, the guitarist ran through the quad yelling unintelligibly and flailing the paper around. That’s when I decided I must find more ways to say, “Ta-da!”

November 5, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . autobio. 2 comments.

How’s the Weather?

sunclouds rain

My favorite season ends next week, but lucky for us Central Valleyites, Indian Summer is upon us. I will celebrate the autumnal equinox on Tuesday by sweating in air-conditioned classrooms while the afternoon reaches near 100 degrees.

I think a lot about the weather. When someone asks me how I’m doing and I reply with something weather-related (“You know, just trying to stay cool” or “Freezing!”), it’s not just because I’m a horrible conversationalist. The weather dominates so many of my actions and emotions that I don’t consider it to be a mundane, last-ditch-attempt-at-social-interaction topic.

My friend Clara wrote about the recent phenomenon of mass weather updates on Facebook:

[T]hey are all prompted by the same question, the queasily intimate, “What’s on your mind?” This suggests that on Sunday, when valley temperatures topped out at 110 degrees and most local updates read along the lines of “[Name] is too hot,” weather was somehow occurring in the mind.

This is reassuring to me, that other people are just as pushed and pulled by climatic changes as I. A gray drizzly morning coaxes me to stay under covers until 2 p.m. as much as a balmy 85-degree valley nighttime energizes me to create sweaterless adventure until 2 a.m.

I am also reassured by what I learned today: The standard Japanese greeting konnichiwa did not always mean “hello” or “good afternoon,” as we translate it today. As our teacher explained, people in Japan do not ask “How are you today?” as a greeting. Instead, they ask, “How is the weather today?” Konnichiwa, over generations, has morphed in meaning and translation from an atmospheric inquiry to a simple salutation.

So maybe — if I can actually learn the language — in Japan I will be a better conversationalist. How’s the weather where you are?

September 18, 2009. Tags: , , , . autobio. Leave a comment.

Lookin’ Good to a New Generation

My grandmother is from the Philippines, where public officials are decided by attractiveness. “If you are good-looking, people will like you,” she told me. She admitted the mindset still sticks with her, and part of her reasoning for voting for Barack Obama in the then-upcoming election was that he is “handsome.”

Appearances aside, she recognizes all the necessary qualities of a nation’s leader. I asked who her favorite U.S. president has been, and she answered Carter without missing a beat, and rattled off a few other front-runners and their winning traits.

Hearing her speak with pride about past presidents, I realized my generation and younger have never known the president to be anything but a joke. Sure, I remember holding a mock-election in first grade and checking Bill Clinton’s name — but mostly I remember that the boy I had a crush on checked it too.

By the time I was at all in tune with current events, Clinton’s sex scandal was in full flare, and by the time I could vote, it was half-heatedly for John Kerry.

Kids now need to grow up respecting that person and position, knowing that he is there to help in their education and livelihood. So they finally had a chance to learn this, to finally form a positive impression; that some were denied the right by teachers and parents makes me sick.

The new generation of kids should be able to exchange their mental image of the president from a monkey-faced cartoon to an intelligent and responsible leader — handsome, too, Nana.

September 11, 2009. Tags: , , , . autobio, currents. Leave a comment.

Journalism and Jumpsuits

I have wanted to be a journalist, or in some way involved with media, since I was 5 years old. Back then, I published my own legal paper-sized editions of The Sacramento Bee and longed for a yellow jumpsuit like April O’neil’s.

Since those early days of entrepreneurship, I have worked for a handful of media outlets. My greatest love has been DJing and working at KDVS, UC Davis’ student-run community radio station, where I was in charge of editing and publishing the quarterly magazine, KDViationS. I learned the art and science of copy editing at UC Davis’ daily newspaper, The California Aggie, and currently copy edit for The Sacramento Press.

While copy editing and page-designing are fun and rewarding jobs, I still feel that 18-year-old desire to write and report (and I still lack a proper jumpsuit). So here we go. This is a test run.

September 9, 2009. Tags: , , , . autobio. 2 comments.