Tag Archives: society

A Time Lapse of Time


A Conversation with My Head (Updated Version)

Dogs bark.

Chickens cluck.

Cows moo.


And how do you know that? You know because someone has told you so. You might know what the animals do, but you don’t know what to call their actions. If you think about it, someone would have to come up with names for these actions. Then by repeating them enough times, people believe that it is normal for animals to do these actions. Imagine hearing someone says:

Dogs moo.

Chickens bark.

Cows cluck.

What would you think? Perhaps like this: “Ey, you there!!! You get it all wrong. Dogs don’t moo, cows don’t cluck, and chickens don’t bark!” 

You think that person is wrong, because it is not right. It is not what everyone has agreed upon. But to some people, your normal seems strange. In this world, there is a small portion of the population that can’t hear, see, or speak.


 –you may ask.The mute doesn’t speak. The blind doesn’t see. And the deaf doesn’t hear.

Why say such obvious things?”

Because that means if the mute knew cows moo, they could say it. The blind can hear “mooooooooo” yet, could they have known cows do that? The deaf can only see the cows’ mouth moving, but they would hear no thing.

“What are you getting at?”

–Well, language is a way of communicating. It seems normal. It seems easy. But it is an extremely complicated and complex system. It’s not just sound. And it’s not for everyone.

Have you ever ask a child to describe something to you?

Or have you ever played the game Taboo?

Or have you ever walked into a very dark room, and try to navigate yourself without knowing what is in front of you?

Sometimes, language consists more than just words. They are actions, motions, guesses, and whole bunch of other things.

“You are boring!”

Okay, then let’s play a game with me. See if you can win. I will blindfold you, and then I will ask someone to give you something (maybe an object). You will have to describe it to me. I will guess what it is. No peeping.









Ready?–“Yes”–Okay, begin!

“Hmmm. I don’t know. This feels cold. Not too heavy. Uhm. Maybe plastic?”

–You need to be more specific!

“I’m trying. Let’s see! You can open it up. There is glass. A rubber part. Some buttons. Can you guess what it is? I think I know what this is.”

You can’t tell me. Your job is to describe, my job is to guess.

What do you think this is?





Okay, let’s move on to the next game. I am still blindfolding you, but I will walk you into one of my rooms. You will have to guess what room you are in, and try to navigate yourself out. I will be watching! Ready?

“Shouldn’t be that hard! Let’s do this!”






“Woa. This is dark. Ouch! I think I just hit a table. Wait! This isn’t a table. What is this. Hmm. Glass. Is it a mirror? Wait, there is something next to it. Fluffy, smell good. Is this your closet?”


No, no, you are not in my closet! You won’t even have space to move in there, let alone walking around. C’mon. Explore!


“I know what this is. This is small enough to be a picture frame. Hmm. Drawers. What are those? Sleek. Ahhh. Books. Must be your shelves. OUCH! I just hit something again. Seems like heavy metal. Table? Rough surface. Cold. Do you have a safe in here?”

–Nah. I don’t have much to put in a safe. I think a box under my bed is good enough. You are such a chicken. You only move a few feet and already whining.

“Why don’t you try this? It’s not easy to walk blind!”

–Now, you see what I mean about the blind. You can’t quit yet. Do a better job!

“Who said anything about quitting? I can hear a clock ticking. That clock is somewhere behind me. Ah, a rug.”

How do you know it’s a rug?

“Well, it feels soft on my feet, and not cold like when we were out there on the tiles. Plus, this doesn’t feel harsh like a doormat. What else you put on the floor that could feel like this?”

I don’t know, maybe my sleeping bag? It feels just like you describe. Anyways, so can you tell me yet what room you are in?

“I think so. It’s…”

What do you think the room is?






Now you see what I mean? Even for a person like you, when your sight is limited, you still had a hard time figuring things out yourself, let alone letting someone to understand you. You can speak. You can use words to describe what things feel like to you. You rely on me knowing the same things to figure out what you say. But not everyone is like that. Sometimes what you see is not what I see. You see blue, but I don’t see that shade of color because where I stand would get a different reflection of light. Language is not absolute. Like everything else. Nothing is absolute. So the next time, you hear me say I hear my dog moos. Don’t laugh! Maybe that’s what the dogs do. They moo. And somewhere in the course of history of language, we just end up associate “mooing” with cows.

You know, maybe. Just maybe. Like I said, nothing in this world is absolute.

A Month Without Sight

IMG_1199IMG_1189IMG_1192IMG_1190IMG_1191I couldn't see foodIMG_1193IMG_1194IMG_1197IMG_1196


IMG_1198food description


Here is the photo of the actual dish:

Bu'n mam

Bu’n mam


The photos are hand-drawn using Paper, and edited using Procreate and Art Studio.

Sound and Emotions

ATTENTION READERS: Below you will find a very boring introduction to the second version of sound object. If so, please go straight to where it says: “Start reading here…”! ENJOY!

This blog is my revision for the sound object of my portfolio. Like my peers have reviewed, this media object seems a bit different that what I have been doing for my other media objects (text and image). Thus, changing the platform to host this object is my hope to explain how this is playing into what I have been doing.

The first version of this was posted on Sound Cloud. It is a very good website to post and share music/audio recording. However, it doesn’t really give much space to elaborate on the background of one’s audio file. Since I didn’t know to put for the title of my first version, it was very generic. Without an appropriate title, one finds it hard to understand the purpose of the audio file since sound is quite abstract in its own right.

One of my peers have suggested to use WordPress to help audience understand better the purpose of the song. She mentioned that WordPress has the option to post audio object. Here is my second version:

You won’t find much difference between the two versions, except for minor enhancement and the cut-out of the clapping at the end. My reason to cut out the clapping even though it was a live performance is because I want the audience to focus on the song.


For my other media objects, I have always been focusing on having a physical disadvantage in perceiving information (e.g. loss of sight). For this sound object, I am doing something similar. However, this time I am focusing on social disadvantage rather than a physical disadvantage. Although they both seem to be the same thing, in my opinion.

How on Earth are they the same?–I am not saying they are exactly the same, but to hear something and not understanding what it means is quite similar to deaf. OR or or or………as this sound object is trying to prove, even if you can’t understand the literal meaning of the words being spoken/sung, you still could find yourself feeling something for the music.

Before reading on to the next section, please make sure you have already listened to the song completely.

This song was recorded live at Le Cat Trong Ly’s performance. She is a famous Vietnamese singer. Her songs are famous for thought-provoking, or good to listen to if you are in mood for contemplating about life.

Le Cat Trong Ly

I recorded this song at one of her mini-concerts. I wanted to show how the acoustic instruments are playing together with the sound of her spoken words to create the emotions/feelings that you have. As my peers have said, the song gave them the feeling of loss, or just a sad feeling in general. Are you also feeling the same way?

Below, you will find the lyrics of this song, and my best possible translation (or you could choose to use Google Translate). You might find the translation hard to understand, but that’s how her lyrics are. You could find her performance of this song on Youtube.

I hope after reading the lyrics, you could compare your feelings with those before. To see if the feelings are the same. Because we all know reading and hearing the same thing does not necessarily give you the same feelings.

Như Là (It feels like) – Lê Cát Trọng Lý

Như là người đến thưa tội Like one that has come to confess
Trăm tội, có tội chưa hay? Hundreds of sins, guilty or not?
Như là lòng hết mong đợi Like the heart that has long given up
Mong gì? Bất diệt nơi đây?! Waiting for what? Immortality in this place?

Như là mình đã chết theo thời gian Like I am dead with time
chết theo cơn mê này Long dead in this delusion
Như là mình đã chết đi tình yêu, vì u mê Like my ability to love is dead, due to illusion
Như là mình chết theo thời gian Like I am dead with time
Chết theo cơn mê này Long dead in this delusion
Như là lòng đã chết đi mùa xuân… Like the Spring has died in my heart

Như là lòng hết âm thầm Like me no longer being silent
Ơ hờ đêm hội mưa ngâu Negligent in the festivity of the rain
Như là lòng chẳng u sầu Like myself no longer feel sad
Vui buồn câu chuyện nhân gian Happy or sad about people’s stories
Như là mình đã chết theo thời gian Like I am dead with time
Chết theo cơn mê này Long dead in this delusion
Như là lòng đã chết đi tình yêu, vì u mê Like my ability to love is dead, due to illusion
Như là mình đã chết theo thời gian Like I am dead with time
Chết theo cơn mê này Long dead in this delusion
Như là lòng đã chết đi…Like I have been dead
Như là mình đã chết đi…Like I have been dead
Như là lòng đã chết đi tình yêu…Like my ability to love is long dead

Internet and Divides

At the beginning, Internet was thought of as a Utopian where all other social issues could be abolished. Everyone could be anyone online. The New Yorker’s Peter Steiner’s famous On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re A Dog cartoon is an evident to this point.


The idea that one person could become anonymous, and detach him/herself from offline reality has been proven wrong by many researches. It’s harder to remain anonymous when everyone is online nowadays. People start to move their offline network online, and also expanding it. Not only that, author Eszter Hargittai wrote in Open Doors, Closed Spaces? Differentiated Adoption of Social Network Sites by User Background that “offline identities very much carry over to online behaviors” (224). That means one could hardly hide one’s identity such as race or gender online. Thus, the segregation one has suffered by one’s identity offline also moves online. So, instead of a promised land, the Internet is a very mean place. It is a place where all of the bad -isms (e.g. racism, sexism…) are existing and well.

In the article How Black People Use Twitter, columnist Farhad Manjoo tried to find out why a certain Tweet hashtags that initiated by black users gone viral. He explained that because black users have a more close knit network of followers than other races. They followed back everyone that followed them. The interaction was mutual, and reciprocal. Yet, the heat that this article had attracted wasn’t so much because of the content, but rather the picture of a Black Twitter bird.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

Why did this particular picture of the bird ignite such a big discourse online? Is it because it depicted very visually a trait of a particular race? Or is it because it play along with racial stereotypes (that black people are usually seen wearing oversized baseball cap). There are different parody to this Twitter bird, and the majority of them come from black community.

If the Internet has set out to fix the problem with social segregation, then why is it people still stay in their particular community? Why is it content that has racial implications quick to go viral? I think the answer is that people online are still individuals offline. As an individual, one is subjected to different social and cultural forces. To go through life, an individual rely a lot on different social stereotypes to save them time and cognitive energy. In this way, racial stereotypes get reinforced generations to generations. For what we see becomes what we think, it would become habits, and eventually become us. This explains why Hargittai said that offline identities got carried over to online behaviors.

Technology is getting more advanced everyday. People are increasingly connected online. But can we abolish all of the hate online? Can the Internet be that Utopian like it was once thought of? I would like to see that happen despite how impossible it seems right now. Maybe it won’t happen in my life time, but the old teachings that created these divides in the first place will be forgotten one day. People in the 1800s wouldn’t even think about interracial dating. In the 21st century, it is nothing strange to see family that made up of two or more races. The Internet, with its speed and transparency, will, one day, help to bring the battle about race down to the grave. Until we can Avada Kadavra these divides, let just make them visible by talking about them!

America and Race- the never ending relationship

Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s “Racial Formation in the United States From the 1960s to the 1990s” is a dense reading on their research for race and ethnicity in America. Omi and Winant explains the racial formation process in America through different theories (e.g. ethnicity theory, class and nation-based theories, etc.). In their research, they mentions about the “color-blind” society from 1960s to 1980s:

“It was a period of racial upsurge, failed consolidation, and reaction which, we believe, demonstrated the centrality of race in shaping American politics and culture” (Omi and Winant, 1994: 5)

Throughout different illustrative examples in the book, both authors point out that as much desirable as it sounds, a “color-blind” society is not possible. Indeed, they suggest that America should not ignore race but notice it. By noticing race, it is then given the amount of recognition it deserves (159). Because of some races are seen to be more privilege than others, the old-fashioned racism still exists. But, the authors point out that by recognizing race, people can start to challenge racism. In my opinion, this sounds possible, but not always plausible.

It is important to distinguish between Race and Ethnicity. A main difference is that race cannot be altered but ethnicity can. Ethnicity is culturally influenced, and could be geographically based. For instance, a Vietnamese child that was born and raised in a Western country may or may not speak or believe the same things his friend, who was born and raised in Vietnam, does. Race is a about the biological features like skin tone, eyes colors, etc.. So the kid that was born and raised in a country different from his motherland might be regarded as more Westernized, but in those Western country, the kid is still regarded as Asian.

Because racial features cannot be changed, the difference in biological features set apart the different races. America is a melting pot with different racial groups and ethnicities living together. However, it is not hard to see the separation between the races. This map shows how people prefer to live with people who look like them. It is not hard to find an exclusive African-American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, or Caucasian neighborhoods. The video below also shows that racial separation brings forth different issues:

And this video shows how racist behaviors are wired into the daily life:

Racist behaviors might or might not be intended. Nowadays, with so much information to process, people rely on stereotypes to get them through different life scenarios. This is the reason why recognizing race to confront racism is possible but plausible. Because racial stereotypes are very difficult to overcome. As much as people would like to think as themselves as rational individuals, they act irrationally anyways. Moreover, more and more American have mix-racial children. Could this be the end for racism? Far from it. The legal system as illustrated in the book does not always make the process easy. This article also points out how authority census on race is very restricted.

In conclusion, unless there is a breakthrough in the legal structure to accommodate the racial diversity of America, racial segregation, racist behaviors, or different racial issues will pertain every aspect of life for America. Once again, Omi and Winant are right to highlight that, “race will always be at the center of the American experience” (5).