As a somewhat older, somewhat old fashioned M.A, student I grew up in a time where computers weren’t prevalent as toys for kids and a tool for everyday life. I still remember my first real exposure with computers in 8th grade they were those horrid little boxes with the black screens and green letters on display & dot matrix printers. I never really took to computers or technology as a whole, perhaps it’s because my father and brothers are all technophiles with all the current toys following all the new trends. I do have an extremely perverse streak in me.

Yet I realize that these instruments and techniques are how people, especially younger ones communicate with each other and interact with their world. I am interested in educational programming and the educational aspects of the curatorial role in museums and the interactivity and access that these types of media affords are the future of the relationship between museums and the public. So I by taking this class, among others I am trying to educate myself even though I have an ambivalence to these technologies for the most part as personal tools.

I also am a very private person. Even in my academic life I am not someone who feels the need to broadcast my work – that’s one of the reasons I’m not going for a PhD. This is the 2nd academic blog I have had to keep (the 1st was actually for my another Visual Methodologies course I took) and I am still unable to get over my aversion to the process.
Also perhaps if I didn’t live an hour away from Claremont I would have participated more in my blog. After ever class as I drove home in evening traffic I would review certain conversations and subjects in class that interested me and compose an entry in my head but by the time I got home I was so exhausted and there were other things that needed to be done that I never had the time, energy or inclination. Though that is a failure on my part.

This blog will fall wayside as did my other, yet the other projects and the technological and creative processes utilized in producing them, particularly the website which my father will link to our family website, will remain in use.


Eve’s class


Quite honestly I have been putting off writing this blog entry for quite a while – not for any reasons of laziness rather I had had some trepidation about how I was going to approach the subject of the transgender gaze & the topic of the film boys don’t cry. I felt that during Eve’s class there were numerous unspoken divides as undercurrents during the class discussion – the privileged, knowing lesbian faction & the feminist factions, the white male faction (whose voices were literally barely heard) & the straight (not necessarily self identified as feminist although in academia we all play the part) female faction of which I felt I had been placed / am a part of. It wasn’t until recently in Henry Krip’s cultural studies class when we read Stuart Hall’s reading about mass media that I felt I had found a comfortable way for me to speak about the reading w/out coming from that somewhat alienating predetermined place.

Although hall uses his approach to specifically address the news in mass media it seemed as if it could be equally applied to other forms of mass communication such as movies like “boys don’t cry”. The method I am referring to is the categorization of the ways in which we read mass mediated messages – preferred / dominant / hegemonic (though this specific labeling does not apply in this instance), the negotiated reading & the oppositional reading (which I will decline to address in this blog since it is not germane to what I am trying to explore w/in Halberstam’s essay). A quick disclaimer – although I am aware of the plot of the movie & the true story itself I have never actually seen the movie save the excerpts that eve played in class of the forced reveling scene in Lana’s house & the pre Brandon / Lana final sex scene.

The preferred Halberstam reading of the final Brandon / Lana sex scene –
In Judith Halberstam’s essay she establishes the predominant position of the gaze w/in Kimberley Peirce’s adaptation of the Brandon Teena story as transgender & accuses Peirce of abandoning / betraying this approach w/in the final sex scene between Brandon & Lana. The cues to which Halberstam points as a disruption of the transgender gaze are obvious & rather heavy handed through the director’s choice – Lana telling Brandon / Teena that he / she is pretty (although Halberstam doesn’t allow for the fact that those words are used sometimes in heterosexual relationships towards the male), Lana asks what Brandon / Teena was like as a girl, the cathartic atmosphere created by Brandon / Teena’s admission that there was a lot about him / her that Lana didn’t know, & the tentative words of Lana that she might not “know how to do this” that revel that they are about to have lesbian sex. It through these examples that Halberstam argues that Peirce has erred in turning the transgender gaze into a lesbian gaze in doing so lessened the impact by ascribing to an “universal vision of humanism” (672)

The negotiated reading – when Eve opened the discussion by referring to Halberstam’s question of whether it was realistic that Brandon would want to have sex so soon after the violation of his / her rape by the later murderers, john & tom. I offered that perhaps since it was love making (I don’t distinguish this in any way from the “sex” that they previously had in the film) that it may have been a healing moment & that perhaps since it was “lesbian” sex (I personally wouldn’t distinguish between lesbian sex, homosexual sex or heterosexual sex – sex to me is just sex) rather than penile penetration & as a desired act rather than a violation as a way of demeaning & emasculating Brandon that it was a vastly different experience for the him / her. Perhaps even more so for Brandon it could be seen as a moment of cleansing – a moment of intimacy, nothing to do w/ the sex act, in which two people in love try to forget the hatred & violence that their love inspires in others. A means of getting close to each other in perhaps the only way that they really know how through physical contact, obviously they are not experienced at achieving intimacy through communication (they aren’t grad students able to dissect their motivations, actions & emotions succinctly). At Eve’s further questioning of why lesbian sex would be desired as alright I further postulated that it would have different connotations then the associations of the violence that was perpetrated on Brandon’s body through heterosexual sex. I cannot claim authority or knowledge & for every person I would assume that the experience would be different & carry different meanings – no one can truthfully convey what that moment might have meant expect for Brandon himself.


Ambiguously Ethnic the Website

The idea for my project actually came from a class discussion. It was when we were watching the tampon commercial and Alex rather derisively referred to the girl in it as “ambiguously ethnic” – it was a term I had never heard before.
It invoked both a feeling of discomfort in me and a sense of recognition.
I am ambiguously ethnic.
At certain times more than others, like when I have a deep tan or when you see my family together.
Being bi-racial yet not having any of the physical markers or cultural heritage has really become an issue for me since moving out to California and entering graduate school.
Originally I conceived of this project as solely about me – about my experience of being half Japanese and half Polish-Czech.
As I began to think about it I realized that it was never something that my three brothers and I had ever talked about.
Our situation is vastly different than many other bi-racial kids; while we vary in the Japanese cast of our features none of us have overtly Asian features, for the most part we grew up in an area where at the time there really were no other Japanese and with a very Americanized Japanese father and we had very little connection to our cultural heritage.
So my project became about us.

Traditional digital storytelling in the Center for Digital Storytelling model could not encompass everything I wanted to convey so I employed a multi-modality approach to building a website, using: slide shows, recorded and transcribed interviews, movies, music, text and still photos to try and communicate what it is like for us, the Saegusa kids, to be – ambiguously ethnic.

youtube content mediated by artist natalie bookchin



“Advertisements are selling us something else besides consumer goods: in providing us with a structure in which we, and those goods, are interchangeable, they are selling us ourselves.” – Judith Williamson

Stuart Hall – Encoding / Decoding – The articulations of Hall’s interpretative codes for readings

We are all familiar w/ Mastercard – Priceless campaign. They provide today’s jaded tv viewing audience w/ an appealing blend of materialism & sentimentalism w/ the additional guise of corporate caring & “we connect w/ you the viewer/ potential customer not as consumers but as people” as a underlying message. The type of commercial that makes you laugh or cry & gives you a sense that Mastercard is not just this cold corporate entity but rather people like us.

The articulations of Hall’s interpretative codes for readings are pretty self -explanatory:

The intended audience for this message & the target audience for Mastercard’s customer base is obviously white & upper – middle class w/ a disposable income & a high regard for “quality” material goods even for their 2 yr old.

i) The dominant / preferred reading of this commercial – while material goods are important Mastercard understands that sometimes life’s greatest pleasures are intangibles that can’t be purchased w/ money. But when you inevitably want to purchase those material goods Mastercard is here for you.
ii) Negotiated reading – the consumer takes at face value Mastercard’s claim that “somethings in life are priceless”, i.e. the important things like seeing your child happy, thus rejects the need for luxury material items & in doing so rejects the need for such companies such as Mastercard.
iii) Oppositional reading – through this ad Mastercard is manipulating the uninformed consumer into believing that credit cards, specifically Mastercard itself, enable the viewer to give their children i.e. loved ones, only the best material items which while not equally important as “happiness, love, companionship, etc” are directly related to the fostering & achievement of these intangibles. This belief hides the true position of Mastercard & other such companies as cold corporate entities whose practices manipulate the viewer to perpetuate spending habits that they might not be able to afford – really $500 for a toddlers toy, $360 for a stuffed animal or $60 for a picture book? – at an exorbitant cost (not only monetary but psychological).

video essay


… [comics] seemed to say what otherwise couldn’t be said, perhaps what wasn’t permitted to be said or imagined, defying the ordinary processes of thought, which are policed, shaped & re-shaped by all sort of pedagogical as well as ideological pressures…

i felt that comics freed me to think & imagine & see differently.

edward said from “homage to joe sacco”

this sentiment brought forth from the pen of cultural critic edward said & published in 2005 in the intro to joe sacco’s graphic novel, palestine, coincided w/ the launch of the video sharing website of  youtube. written prior to his death in 2003 said could have had no inkling of the advent of  the influential & far reaching cultural technology that the internet would provide through the vehicle of the video sharing website phenomena.

today youtube & corresponding video sharing websites, such as vimeo & metacafe, offer their participants the opportunity to create their own content & showcase it, often uncensored, to the world. in this context the video essay can be seen as an extension of the freedom that the comic book genre offered said.

contemporary culture is very much a visually based one. i believe that it is essential for academia to recognize this & to correspondingly make the transition towards no longer favoring the text based traditions over newer visual technologies as a means of conducting & disseminating research. my own academic interest lay in the current move towards breaking down the fixed dichotomies w/in academia; pop culture vs. high art, theory vs. practice, academia aka. the ivory tower vs. the real world. it is my opinion that the future of academic study lay in the use of pop culture mediums like the graphic novel & the video essay as a valid means of cultural expression particularly for historically underrepresented or neglected groups.

since the bulk of my academic work is focused on the exploration of theory within the medium of visual culture the transition from paper based essays to the video essay was a rather simple one. i found that the use of the video essay enhanced my work & complemented my words by allowing the presence of visuals & music. thus making it more accessible to a greater audience while allowing it to retain its basis in theory. for me, personally, the video essay renders the question of “can we speak about visual culture w/out the presence of visuals?” moot & is a welcomed addition to the arena of cultural studies.