When I was a kid, I thought being a music video director was a really cool job. MTV and cable tv were very popular back in the day and growing up in a house that had neither probably increased the appeal.

With the Internet, remix culture started taking off around the late 90s, early 2000s? Photoshop was invented in 1990. “A Stroke of Genie-us”, a mashup of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” and The Strokes’ “Hard To Explain”, came out in 2001. YouTube was invented in early 2005 and acquired in late 2006. I Can Has Cheezburger/lolcats happened around 2007. That’s over 10 years ago. Now our memes are created, gif’d, and shared in a matter of moments.

So considering this is my first fanvid, you could argue I’m behind the digital times. (I’ve actually spliced physical film and tried to edit a video project in 7th grade. My partner kinda took over. Ah, groupwork.) I feel like I’ve got a good handle on audio editing and Audacity, even though there’s still a lot to learn. Video editing is even more complicated than audio editing. It was a lot of work to edit the audio, then download videos, edit them into subclips, and arrange them into some kind of narrative. I say I put 15 hours into this moody artsy fartsy 43 second thing?

One thing I learned in 2017 is that creating is restorative. Even if all my materials and inspiration are from other people’s work, I’m still taking all that and making something new. Even if no one else likes it, like it. And I learned how to make a thing. Which will help me in making future things. I can finally make that Beyonce/Pacific Rim fanvid now that I found an editing program that won’t crash in my old computer!

Another thing I didn’t realize was hard was sharing the finished result. I alternated between “this is so cool” and “what am I doing, this is garbage” a lot. It helped to frame it as I’m learning how to communicate visually in a new way, but it’s hard to go past “why bother?” On one hand, I’m making things I want to see in the world, which is pretty cool. Then again, external validation can feel pretty sweet. According to Twitter, this is a pretty common feeling, one that will take time to get used to. So I better start making more things!

2017 kind of felt like this gif – alone by a glacier in the midst of a thunderstorm but I survived and that’s pretty good considering.

It was a psychologically difficult year due to politics and the constant reassurance that my existence and of those I love are simply not wanted anymore in the country I was born and raised in. Then there was the move and getting to know a whole new area. What made things bearable was the Internet, honestly. Finding journalists and creatives of color surviving and creating helped a lot. Discovered creating as a coping mechanism.

I have plans and dreams for 2018. “Exercise my heart”. Take better care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally. Let myself be vulnerable. Ask for help. And continue to survive.

My most played game – Overwatch. Sometimes maddening, other times hilarious, it made me think of 6v6 combat as a puzzle. What playstyle do I prefer? How can I use that to help the team and accomplish the objective? It doesn’t hurt that that characters have a lot of personality, thanks to the wide variety of emotes and voice lines.

Persona 5 – Effortlessly stylish and cool, and yet utterly WTF in the way only a Japanese role-playing video game can be, you literally live day-by-day as a maligned Japanese high school student. But at night, you become a Phantom Thief, where you enter distorted dimensions and fight warped mental perceptions in order to make reality a better place. Fight monsters, manage your time. friends, and resources, and see if you can make a difference.

Wolfenstein: The New Order would have likely been my game of the year if I hadn’t seen how many hours I put into Overwatch. Released in 2014, this installment of the Nazi-killing franchise envisions an alternate timeline where the Nazis triumph and BJ Blazkowicz must resist and survive. This game could’ve easily been an ultraviolent run and gun (and can be if you want) if not for two pleasant surprises – 1) broken stealth mechanics so if you want to be sneaky and kill someone by throwing a knife at a guy’s knee, go for it and 2) the writing which makes for some deeply intimate moments for the game’s cast of characters. The New Order does a great job making things incredibly personal for our protagonist and his friends, something that I felt was lacking in this year’s sequel The New Colossus. Add in the trauma of this past year’s politics? Violence can be cathartic. Resistance can be healing.

Seedship is an interactive fiction game written in Twine. You are a ship AI that is tasked to find humanity’s next home. It’s a simple game, challenging and fascinating. The game gave me a sense of wonder and occaisionally loneliness. It’s very much like life, I suppose. You do your best with what life has given you and hope for the best.

5 days ago, I opened Audacity and made some ringtones based on BTS’ first teaser for the latest single ‘DNA’ and shared them to reddit and YouTube. Thanks to YouTube’s suggestion algorithm, my video views jumped from 350 to over 10,000 the next day and was at 23,906 views when I started writing this. I spent the weekend making a few more ringtones from BTS’ second teaser as well as some requests and mixes. Someone in the comments asked how I did it and there was so much to share, I’m turning it into a blog post.

Please keep in mind that I am still very much new to Audacity. Those ringtones were basically the first ones I ever made. I’ll assume you used an app or website to download the audio from YouTube.

 

[animated gif on how to select an audio clip, copy and paste in Audacity]

First, select what part of the song you want to use and isolate. This involves a lot of zooming in to make sure you get as clean a cut as you can (aka no additional sounds). As you can see in the gif, I find it easier to click in the middle of the area you want and then click-drag to the where you want instead of trying to wing it in one mouseover. Once an area is selected, you can use Transport -> Loop Play to hear whether it’ll loop cleanly. Then I copy and paste to a new track (Tracks -> Create New Stereo Track). I like to keep a copy of the original track just in case I mess up.

Notice when I pasted the clip in an existing track, Jungkook’s vocal part shifts off screen. This can easily mess up the arrangement. It’s fixable but it takes tweaking with the Time Shift tool which I’ll discuss later.

 

screenshot of my Audacity DNA Teaser 1 + 2 = Her raw project file with notes

Here is a screenshot of all my raw clips Audacity project file for my BTS DNA Teaser Ringtone (1 + 2 = Her mix). As you can see, I’ve got the audio for both teasers (with the BigHit sound deleted) as well as various elements I thought I could use.

 

[screenshot of BTS T2 Simple remix Audacity project file with notes]

This is the actual fun part, where you arrange things to your liking. Here are my notes for my BTS DNA Teaser Ringtone Simple Mix, using the Teaser 2 Extended Instrumental as the base. (The Extended Instrumental was done by basically selecting the first beat and repeating it and then repeating the second drum part with the siren 2 more times. I couldn’t figure out how to repeat the build up to the drop cleanly or else I would’ve repeated that one more time as well.)

I usually keep the main music as the top track and then add a new track beneath it to paste the clip and move it around. This was mostly so I have a better visual bird’s eye view of where I want the clip to be in relation to the overall song.

 

[animated gif demonstrating the time tool in Audacity]

The Time Shift tool is so great. I mostly arranged things by listening and pasting what sounded good to me, but as you can see in the above gif, it’s so much easier to move clips around instead of pasting, painstakingly selecting the clip only to copy and paste it again. I could’ve saved way more time if I’d known about this earlier.

 

[screenshot of BTS Teaser Ringtone 1 + 2 = Her mix Audacity project file with notes]

The BTS DNA Teaser (1 + 2 = Her Mix) is probably the most complicated thing I’ve done so far. This one involved so much tweaking. I forgot to add it on the picture, but I had to extend the end of the 2nd whistle part. I basically Googled “how to extend a note audacity” and this old forum post was like “zoom in, select tiny parts of what you want to extend, copy and paste to new tracks, merge the whole thing as a new mix, crossfade.” This is when I started playing more with the Effects menu.

As you can see, I used Effect -> Amplify a lot. It automatically moves the selected clip to as loud as it can be, but if you move the slider toward -db, you can reduce the volume. I always Preview before and watch the levels to get a better idea of what I want it.

Once you’re happy with everything, select the Tracks and Render and Mix to New Track. From there, you select the track and Export Selected Audio to .mp3 format. That’s it!

It’s a lot of information, but the best way to learn is to just start! I hope this helps and good luck!

Please, think about who you give the microphone to.

I’ve met Chinese restaurateurs here in Los Angeles County who have been unable to open restaurants in certain locations because they are not “mainstream and trendy” enough. I’ve been forwarded actual emails written by the city representatives to those restaurateurs with those exact words. “We need to find something mainstream and trendy,” the emails say.

I’ve read too many articles rooted in the exoticization of my people’s food, written by white writers who don’t speak a lick of Chinese.

“A good researcher and writer may be able to winnow out that backstory, but it will be third-person, as opposed to a writer who has lived that culture, who can write from a much deeper personal point of view,” says freelance journalist Grace Hwang Lynch, whose work focuses on Chinese home cooking.

“I don’t believe that only Chinese people can write about Chinese food, as there also many good Asian food journalists who could do a fantastic job covering French pastries. But Chinese-American writers who can cover Chinese food should be sought out for their personal insight and the humanity they can bring to these narratives.”

I don’t air these grievances in a vain attempt of recognition, as a Chinese woman who writes about Chinese food. I write this because history has a way of erasing our role in our own food. #

Nothing makes me more insecure about my identity as an Asian American than when I step into a Chinese supermarket. I don’t know the language too well, I don’t know all the ingredients, I don’t know how to make it. I grew up with this food but I did not learn how to create it through osmosis. So while it’s easy to know which Chinese restaurants obviously catered to which demographic, I still hesitate about “authenticity”.

Now I’ve moved to an area where some major deep-fried, super burnt ends egg rolls are a regional cult sensation, where the sheer amount of online reviews about a Chinese restaurant involve the quality of egg rolls. These egg rolls have been around at least 50 years and are so influential that other restaurants model their egg rolls after them. I feel like I’m in a horror movie where I know I’m surrounded by the children of the corn but I don’t know how to escape.

But at the Chinese supermarket, I am at an utter loss. I don’t know what brand name is good for which food, I don’t know what spices to get to make me remember what my mom’s cooking tastes like. I’m currently looking for a steamer but I’m still too hesitate to just buy it in case I screw it up.

I know enough but not enough.

I don’t know how much time I have left with my best source of information – my parents. I’m hundreds of miles away and while I could call them or ask while I visit, it’s not the same. My mom says, “Just a little bit of this, a little bit of that”, things she was taught as a child and refined through practice. I get stressed making one meal, much less navigate a bunch of smaller plates. I’m paying more attention whenever I get back but I’m cognizant that I may never truly gain this knowledge.

This is nothing to say of non-Asian people making fusion Asian and getting all the attention and hype. Like the author of the article, it evokes complicated feelings. I want to know how to make bao like they do. But they can just take various ingredients from other cultures, merge them together, and people think it’s interesting. If Asian people do it, it has to be clearly marked as fusion or else the foodies become purists.

I just want to make and eat delicious food from my culture. Is that too much to ask?

This spring was unexpectedly challenging. My health and my heart both took a lot out of me and it derailed most of my plans. I’m still recovering but I’m doing a lot better now.

[A Munich man and his happy Lion]

I also had the opportunity to go to Germany for two weeks. I had an incredible time and being removed from my everyday context helped give me even more perspective.

[A view from the Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden, going downhill facing the Visitor Center]

I also discovered my cell phone camera can do panorama shots.

[Nuremburg's Opera House from my hostel window]

But vacation is only a temporary state. So what’s a Debbie to do?

[Illustration by Elle Luna from The Crossroads of Should and Must]

Life goes on. I go on. On the administrivia side, I’ll be working on bringing the pop culture log up to date as well as trying to reduce the amount of work involved. I think I’d either like to incorporate a 365 project or to simplify the blog format so when any friendly faces want to check in on me, they’ll have a good snapshot of what’s happening in my life. Then there’s still the matter of all the other projects I have in mind.

So a lot of thinking and refocusing happening right now. Hope to share more soon.