Monthly Archives: June 2019

Find Your Inspiration and Cherish It

June 30, 2019

Culture and Society

Regardless of what path you walk in life, there are often guides that inspire you and draw you toward a specific direction. Maybe you became an accountant because you loved the specificity and language of numbers in grade school. Perhaps you became a chef because you felt loved when your parents made you a flavorful and warm home-cooked meal as a child.

In my case, I became a pianist because of the artistic and personal freedom it gave me. I saw other pianists like Beethoven, Thelonious Monk, and Tori Amos create such gorgeous, rich, and powerful work. They inspired me to find my own artistic and creative path.

Luckily, we can find inspiration anywhere. You might be doing your morning jog and pass by a house with a blooming garden. Its colors, textures, and smells bursting at the seams.

You might be watching this, as I was one day, and be totally mesmerized . . .

Something as simple as the design of a chair, with its balance of sharp angles versus wide curves and soft textures vs. hard surfaces, can ignite an imagination:

There is literally inspiration everywhere. I find it beneficial when I am creatively stuck or when I am simply bored to call on my creative muses. I love to geek out on what I love most.

Here is a short list of some of my inspirational go-to’s:

  • Just about ANY Madonna music video. (I have been a big fan for years.) Her talent lies in her sharp point-of-view. The music and the visuals honor her perspective. She leaves nothing to chance. Badass women are my superheroes.
  • Any performance by Michelle Kwan at a US Figure Skating Championship. She schools us all on the confluence of intricate technical skill, gritty athleticism, graceful artistic expression, and fiery charisma. It is Asian power on full display.
  • An album called “August and Everything After” by Counting Crows. The lyricism and emotions in this album will reach into you. A collection of songs drenched in devastation and yearning never felt so good. Lead singer Adam Duritz’s voice is comforting and expressive. Imagine being wrapped in a soft blanket, sitting on a recliner in front of a fireplace, and holding a cup of warm coffee in your hands on the coldest winter day ever. This is what this album feels like. It is a masterful work. Here is a song from that album called “Anna Begins”:
  • A Piano. Any Piano. All Pianos.

So, what inspires you? What gets your creative fires stoked? It is ESSENTIAL to have a list of ideas, people, music, or artwork that inspire you that you can access quickly.

Find it, wherever and whatever it is. Be it on Youtube, Instagram, in a book, in your bedroom, or anywhere outside your front door. Geek out on it privately or publicly. Hold onto it for dear life and cherish it often.

Just as food and water feed our bodies, our inspirations will feed our spirits and enrich our lives.

-Roqué

As a bonus, she was 15 years old when she did this. This was a close call. Find out if she won at the end . . .

Tropical Shade of Green Blog Collapse and Renovation

June 23, 2019

Website Updates

Well, yesterday, in an effort to upgrade and optimize this lovely little blog of mine, I managed to lose a bunch of data and all of my blog posts from the last 6 months or so.

Yeah, I suck.

To make matters worse, the back-up I had of my data is corrupted.

Sigh.

I am trying to make the best of this situation and looking at all of this as a way to improve this site and go for a refresh.

For starters, here is a new logo I designed that I’m thinking of implementing.

Neat huh?

There are other new features I am toying with along with an updated overall look.

In any case, there will be a shiny new post next Sunday, but please excuse the mess around here as I sort all of this out over the next couple of weeks.

Now I’m just going to sulk for a minute.

Sigh.

-Roqué

I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power

June 22, 2019

Culture and Society

The heading for this post is a grim reality that I face.  Here in America, white people are the dominant political and cultural forces in society.

You can look at any magazine rack at any supermarket and drug store.  The vast majority of magazine covers has beautiful white people on them.  Every major film release and television show predominantly features white people in leading roles and  explores the stories and experiences of white people.

Of the forty-five Presidents of the United States of America, 44 of them have been white.  The members of congress, the senate, and the supreme court have been primarily white people across this country’s history.  This counts for all three of branches of our federal government.

It’s clear to see who has the power and who has control of our media, popular culture, and government.

If none of this is directly intentional, then isn’t it at least eerily pervasive?  In the most ethnically diverse country in the world, why is it that one specific skin color is so dominant in virtually every facet of life?

White people are the standard of beauty in this country.  I have often been passed over in favor of the pretty white boy and have been told that I suit more “exotic” tastes.

I have performed at countless open mics as a musician in Nashville and been treated like some sort of novelty because of how foreign I look.  I am more than just a novelty.  I am more than just a token.

White people have won the vast majority of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, and Tonys.  They are well represented among talk-show hosts, newscasters, successful pop stars, and CEO’s of multi-national corporations.

I am a person of color from a family of immigrants from the Philippines.  I am currently a straight-A honors student in college.  When I graduate with my well-earned diploma someday, I go out into the world knowing that I am not part of the privileged elite.  I look different no matter how qualified I am.

I am not white, and I have less power.

I say all of this not because I want sympathy or a handout.  Everything I have in my life I have earned through my own blood, sweat, and tears.  My modus operandi is to work hard, and I would not have it any other way.

I say all of this because it bothers me.

In my lifetime, I want society to evolve out of this paradigm.  I want equal opportunity for EVERYONE and not just the white people.  I want representation for all people and not just the white people.  America is vast and rich with cultural diversity.  You would not know it if you watched the Oscars or sat in on a congressional meeting.

Surely this is not the best we can do?  Is this as good as it gets?

I sincerely hope not.

So, where do we begin?  We can start by acknowledging how our privileges affect others.  The place you hold at the table is a place that has been denied to someone else, and there is only so much room at the table.  There are only so many voices that can be heard.  There are people, perspectives, stories, and experiences that are all but invisible in places where important decisions are made.

We need to constantly ask ourselves whose voices are we not hearing?  Whose faces are we not seeing?  Whose lives and experiences are we dismissing in favor of an all-encompassing status quo?

I am not white, and I have less power.

This is the truth that I face, but I will take what little power I have and use it.  If I have to work ten or twenty times harder than a white person just to be noticed or valued in some substantive and meaningful way, then so be it.  It’s what I have always done.

I am a person of color, and I will use my power.

-Roqué

Fight the Power of Social Media

Culture and Society

What I have been doing lately may be subtle or even inconsequential, but I have been taking  small steps to fight the power of social media. Earlier this week, news was released about a company called Cambridge Analytica that compromised the personal data of close to 50 million facebook users in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is only one egregious abuse of access that large corporations and private entities are granted by social media companies, but it is a significant one–one of possibly countless others that are occurring without our knowledge or consent.

These kinds of invasions are compounded by the use of algorithms and powerful data analysis tools that comb through millions of our posts, hashtags, and photos in order to hone in on our sensibilities, personal tastes, and behavioral patterns. This information essentially becomes valuable fodder for businesses and corporations to use to target prospective customers. These entities can design marketing campaigns based upon vast amounts of social media information that we are freely handing over to them through our daily engagement.

This feels like a subtle form of surveillance and, ultimately, mind control that influences our decisions and inclinations.

Ok then, what can be done about this? Since social media and its encroaching power are relatively new phenomena, there does not appear to be a fail-safe way to guard oneself against it without completely disengaging. This does not mean that we should not try.

Here are some simple safeguards that I have implemented that guide my social media usage:

  • NEVER post personal information such as your street address, the name of the company you work for, phone number, or any other identifying information that could be used against you.
  • LIMIT your use of social media as much as you can. I have removed facebook and facebook messenger from my cell phone. I only check facebook on my internet browser when I am on my laptop. Otherwise, just use social media less. Maybe only allow yourself one-half hour of engagement per day? The less engaged you are, the less free information about your life that you are giving to the world.
  • CHOOSE one social media site to focus your output. These days, I primarily use Instagram because I love that its engagement is centered on photos and captions. As a creative person, this interface is simple and ideal. I have my instagram account set up so that it also posts on facebook and twitter simultaneously without having to visit those other sites. If facebook or twitter suits your needs better, than go with either of those. The smaller your window to the world, the less accessible you and your information can be.
  • UNDERSTAND how addictive social media is. These sites are designed to translate your usage into a formula that engages your attention for as long and as often as possible. Be aware of this and let this knowledge inform your behavior.
  • DESIGN posts that convey your vision of the world and your values instead of giving too personal a glimpse into your life. For example, do not post a photo of the front your house. Instead, post a photo of a flower that you grew in your garden. Do not post about the gifts you received for Christmas. Instead, write about the quality time you had with family and how it made you feel. Think about the message and the energy you want to put out into the world. You should dictate your own conversation, not the other way around.
  • DO NOT USE HASHTAGS, but if you have to, use them sparingly and know that they are like little lighthouses that attract companies who want to sell you products that relate to the ideas you espouse.  Again, this relates to how you want to portray your personal life on social media. Take control of the information and proceed with caution.
  • BUILD YOUR OWN PLATFORM. What I am doing with my website roqueinbloom.com and this blog is using my own platform to share ideas about my life, my ideals, and my activities.  This personal space on the internet exists without some multi-national corporation or foreign government mining my data.  Sure, hundreds of my friends and colleagues from facebook may probably never visit my website, but the friends who will are the only ones that truly matter. (Of course, I also have the ability to post links on social media back to my blog and website every week, thereby using social media to my own personal advantage.)

This is just a small handful of steps I have been thinking about and taking toward my ongoing social media usage. These will not be the only steps I take, and I will be posting more of my ideas surrounding social media and internet usage.

At the very least, I want to invite you to think about how you engage with social media.  Understand how addictive it is and how it can use all that you post and disclose for or against you without your consent.

Either way, it’s up to you how much of your own power and privacy you want to surrender.

-Roqué

There Is an Immigrant in All of Us

Culture and Society

Have you ever found yourself in a completely new and slightly scary situation?

Maybe you started a new job and had to learn your work from scratch (in addition to getting to know your new co-workers and how to find everything in a new building).

Maybe you were forced to give a speech or presentation in front of a lot of people on the fly.

Perhaps you moved to a new city without a friend in sight and no idea of where to find a good grocery store or better gas prices.

Maybe you’ve been in a hospital about to undergo an operation. The prospect of strangers cutting you up and doing whatever they want to your body while you are unconscious is unsettling.

Maybe you walked onto a car dealership feeling like you knew what you wanted and left feeling like someone just took advantage of you.

What do all of these scenarios have in common?

For starters, they all involve being in a foreign environment. Secondly, they also involve some degree of fear, feeling out -of-sorts, and being vulnerable.

Now, imagine moving to a foreign country. People speak a completely different language. There are ways of showing respect and gratitude that are confusing. Their food tastes weird to your tongue. You have no idea how to get anywhere, and the public transit is mind-boggling. You miss your family and friends terribly. You miss the comforts of the food and places you were used to. You feel alone and afraid.

Being an immigrant involves being in a foreign environment. It is an experience that can be rife with fear, feeling out-of-sorts, and a sense of uncontrollable vulnerability.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Right now in America, the immigration debate has finally reached the forefront of our national attention. Immigrant families and children are being used as bargaining chips by our own president. Initiatives geared toward cracking down on illegal immigration are racist and inhumane.

Where is the compassion?
How do we find actionable solutions that treat all people with respect and dignity?
Surely we can do better than separating children from their parents and incarcerating all of them?

I will not pretend that I have all of the answers, but perhaps one place to start is to know that immigrants are essentially no different from anyone else. They have dreams. They want to build a good life for themselves and their children. They are intelligent. They know how to love. They feel sadness and fear. They have the capacity to work hard and help others.

If they are no different, then they are the same.

The next time you feel vulnerable, lonely, or afraid, remember that there is an immigrant in the world who is also feeling those things.

The only difference is that their situation might be far more terrifying, sad, and hopeless.

Helping immigrants helps all of us.