Bangs Are Back In Chengdu

Love the IDAGF look … #allforbangs

…and so am I! A few projects on my plate so far:

Freelance gig for a new client, a digital cat collage order, lady portraits continued, learning how to use a new mirrorless DSLR for pictures and video, and… resuscitating a plant that started wilting during the holidays.

So far, 2017’s bangin’.

Videos On The Other Side Of The Firewall

Taiwan has wifi.

Taiwan has wifi the way China has buffering. Except; there’s a void where you find yourself missing the croak and beeps of the modems– no feedback, nothing but the infinite, endless gray of buffering. Like the pollution. You have no idea why it surrounds you so thickly, and you get lost in it.

And so, on my last day on the other side of the Great Chinese Firewall, I’m consuming as many videos as I can before I’m back in the infinite gray.

Here are some that have given me a creative spark, some sunshine to guide me later through the haze of Chengdu. Enjoy.


Frank Ocean – ‘Nikes’ from DoBeDo Productions on Vimeo.

A Tumblr scroll through nostalgia, paralleled with Frank Ocean’s stream of consciousness and struggle through materialistic and overstimulated mainstream culture gives us just the right dose of beautiful, drunken melancholy.

Jamie XX- Gosh by director Sam Pilling

Shot in China in a city modeled after Paris, the sheer size of production and iconic imagery leaves you with a sense of awe bordering on religious.

DJ Shadow ft. Run The Jewels by director Sam Pilling

Political commentary makes violet puppets out of politicians.


Guerrilla Fighters of Kurdistan from Joey L on Vimeo.

Meet the guerrilla fighters of Kurdistan and their fierce female warriors. Listed as terrorists by the US Government along with ISIS despite their own battle against ISIS forces, documentarian and photographer Joey L. pursues more than their portraits as he ventures into the dangers of Syria– but their persistence in their democratic values and their fight for a better, more equal society.

Take me to the moon – trailer from Häns on Vimeo.

Watch the full 15 minute feature here via As an ex-pat in China, this strikes me as a documentary many of my Chengdu community may be interested in. We may live across the world from America, but our perspectives and prospectives are still very Western. This feature reveals a deeper look into the lives of many Chinese workers and how they feel about their dreams and futures.


Obituaries from Ryan Moody on Vimeo.

A touching fictional narrative exploring the world of the victims of mass shootings before they were faceless victims which leaves us to feel the pain of the epidemic today.

11x HUMAN from John Merizalde on Vimeo.

Killer Mike calls for more humanity amongst the violence, crimes, and racism we’re experiencing in modern day America.

When We Were Knights from GoPro on Vimeo.

An incredibly moving and inspiring piece starring an everlasting friendship struck with an authentic beauty, respect, and admiration.


NPR’s Best Music Videos of 2016

Vimeo: ‘Best Of’ Monthly Staff Picks


Empty Tokyo, New Year’s Eve

Spending the New Year in Tokyo: if you’re Japanese/ a native Tokyo-ite, you’ll be packing up to visit home. Professionals don’t get too many holidays a year, and the new year is an acceptable time to go home and spend time with the family.

For foreigners, Tokyo becomes their playground. Visitors come to dance the night away in Tokyo’s amazing musical venues; to gorge themselves on sushi, ramen, soba, okonomiyaki, and shop the year’s sales. You’ll notice more Chinese, English, and South Asian tourists, but when it came time to pre-game and prepare to ring in the new year, the usually busy and bustling subways emptied out and left me to my journey back to the hotel.

It was a bizarre respite: Tokyo had been a constant buzz of activity, of embarrassing excuse me’s as I forgot to stay left, not right, up the stairs; of nodding my head and bowing slightly when I bumped into others, overwhelmed by lights, stairs, arrows, signs, crowds of people, other confused tourists.

Started my journey home from Shibuya, when stores started closing around 8PM.
A 24 hour tourist ticket for the Tokyo Subway and Toei lines.
The last Tokyo-ites heading home on the Hanzomon line.
On the platform to transfer to the Shinjuku line
Exiting the Shinjuku line, passing an empty ticket kiosk.
Entrance to the JR station.
Tokyo is great at symmetry.
A New Year ornament decorates a Tokyo Metro office.
The colors palette in Tokyo is always so thoughtful; even public utilities have a stylish scheme.
This could be a great hallway for a horror movie. Many subways have underground passages to helpfully direct you past outdoor traffic and to main commercial streets.
Pedestrian passage
The pedestrian exit all the way from Bakuroyokoyama drops me off in front of my hotel.



Tokyo, December 28- January 1

Happy New Year!

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Tokyo with my father and brother during this New Year. We sent 2016 on its way with bowls of hot ramen, sticky daifuku, and a whole lotta walking.

Here are some pictures of the trip– click for captions. For a comprehensive map of our travels during these five days, scroll down for the Google Map with categories for shopping, eating, sight seeing, free wifi, and more.


To use this map yourself, take a look and toggle between the layers to hone in on what you need during your travels! Some quick travel tips:

_I used the Maps.Me app to navigate between wifi spots.
_Tokyo provides a free wifi for tourists for up to 14 days.
_Cash, cash cash– buy Yen before you arrive; the ATMs will rip you off.
_Buy discounted subway tickets in the airport before you get into the city to save boku bucks.
_Bring your passport with you for tax-free shopping!

Taipei on Monday December 27

0900 – 1000 hours

High of 61, low of 55  | Possible precipitation (60%)

Travel through Song Shan and Xinyi districts by bike

Taipei eslite
Eslite Bookstore/Taipei New Horizons
Eslite Bookstore parking ramp
Oil barrel plants
Most construction sites on major roads or boulevards are decorated with living walls, a sign of climate conscientiousness and eco friendly design. Here are industrial oil barrels repurposed– the giant construction going on in the background will be the ginormous Taipei Arena on Guangfu Bei Road.
Garden songshan
The converted tobacco factory of the Songshan Creative Cultural compound hosts a ‘baroque’ style garden
A quiet corner of the Songshan Cultural Creative compound.
Bike Taipei
My ride through Taipei, outside of Good Cho’s Cafe

Taipei postman drops mail off at Good Cho’s

Usually not the person who snaps pics of their food, but the smoked duck bagel sandwich is my favorite sandwich in the world.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan…

I’ve decided the best Christmases are spent in a casual, warm climate.

I’m in Taiwan for a little bit/during the holidays. A 5 day trip to Tokyo to deliver me into 2017; I’ll be flying back to Chengdu, China from here a week after 2016 finally surrenders to time’s inevitable flow, and dies.

Casual street graffiti is easier to come by in Taiwan than China

I cruised the streets of Dunhua today on one of those old bikes that work perfectly, the kind that is stuck on a low gear which isn’t so bad because it reminds you that you’re on vacation. No need to race traffic; just coast and feel the warm fingers of sunlight reach your neck between the cool, breezy shade of trees…

I would have posted more pics, but got yelled at 😉

Visited VVG Bookstore, and next to it, VVG  Pride– these stores are so well curated, it feels more like a museum when you’ve slid the red door closed behind you and face the shelves of strange, infinitely detailed memorabilia… books you’ve never heard of, you can imagine the shy, eccentric, talent behind the thoughtful vignettes (Invisible Cities), photography series (Cocks), spotting the odd elitist fashion/art mags (Kinfolk) that fit in with the intensely catalogued ambience. 

VVG “gets” me

VVG Pride boasts a window display of a “grocery” area. There are two extremely perfect zucchinis for sale, 100NT each; but the Francophile atmosphere justifies the cost of the poor squash no one will buy. Pride is a curation of lifestyle/home items with a focus on clothes, handmade patches, adorably vintage packaged needle sets, and soap from France. I like their awning outside the most: a classy navy with sculpturally broken white wicker chairs. 

Vvg Pride
VVG Pride

As I continue the cruise, I luxuriate in all the plant and foliage overcoming street corners, balconies, and barren walls. 

A lush street corner in Taipei

Exhausted by inspiration and delight, I found myself at Homeys Cafe, a coffee shop on the second floor of the bustling streets of Dunhua neighborhood. Without friends, I am ushered into the Library room– a smaller, quieter area lined with books and wall side one-top seats, to sip tea in silence,  murmur to myself quietly over my Chinese workbook, and think of the next phase of YAYCAKE : 2017.

In the meantime, I’ll continue collecting Empowered Lady portraits– send me suggestions of strong women you look up to. I’m trying to think outside the Melinda Gates/Ruth Bader Ginsberg box…

Happy holidays!



Chai Jing, investigative reporter

Even as a a highly respected and public face of China, Jing faced risk when she created a documentary called “Under The Dome”– a serious and shocking look at the state of China’s smog and pollution problem. A true detective and crusader for truth, the birth of her baby girl motivated her even more to be able to one day answer her daughter’s question: what is smog? and what have we done to create a world that hurts us?

Jing produced the documentary using around 1 million RMB, releasing it for free viewing online. The film is banned in China.

To view the film, visit Youtube for the full feature length documentary + subtitles in English.



#BlackLivesMatter movement founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi.

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.  It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

Follow Alicia Garza on Twitter @aliciagarza

Follow Patrisse Cullors on Twitter @osope

Follow Opal Tometi on Twitter @opalayo

Follow the movement on Twitter @blklivesmatter

An excellent article by outlining how technology and social media has empowered the movement (and historically, how black activism overcame challenges in oppression via communication and old technology)



Physicist, space scientist, and mathematician Katherine Johnson is an unsung heroine in America’s progress beyond Earth. Astronaut John Glenn had demanded that Johnson re-check calculations by a computer to ensure his successful orbit around the Earth.

Listen to NPR’s recent podcast on how Katherine Johnson confronted black inequality and fought tooth and nail for a better education, as well as her innumerable contributions to NASA and humanity’s progress into space.