Thursday, September 10, 2015

Red Brick - 赤レンガ + Thoughts in Hiroshima

I just logged on here and realized it's been months since my last post!  A lot has been happening this Summer.  Big surprises to reveal, the completion of a new album -- but more on these later -- I promise!

I've just read through all of your beautiful comments on my After The Rain post about the smells that remind you of home, or memories.  They were all so touching.  Reading each one brought me peace and calm.  If you missed the post, or would like to read the other comments, you can find them here:  After The Rain.

The NHK movie "Red Brick" is premiering in the Chugoku region of Japan today, September 11th!
Watch the Trailer

I spent most of June in Hiroshima shooting a made-for-TV movie for NHK, entitled "赤レンガ" [Red Brick].  I played the role of a Japanese-American singer-songwriter who travels to Japan for the first time to search for her Grandfather's 1st true love, only to learn the truth about their complicated love and the devastation caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.  Being an actress was really never something I ever considered seriously pursuing.  But the Director and Writer, Mamoru Ohashi, has been a friend and supporter of mine for the past few years, and after hearing the message of the story, it was hard for me to say "no", despite all of my anxieties of being an actress!

Besides my fear of acting, as a Korean-American, who's Grandparents were actually affected by WWII in a nation that was once colonized by Japan, I did have some other real reservations in playing this part.  After explaining the story to my Mother (who is Korean), she gave me her blessing by assuring me this film had a good message in the end.  And she is right.  No matter what the complicated history is, the most important thing is how we can spread peace and shed positive light on today, for a better tomorrow.

I will be honest... it wasn't easy in the beginning.  Every morning I would get a Japanese newspaper in English delivered to my hotel room.  I mostly carried the paper around with me to work on the crossword puzzles in my downtime, but it was hard to ignore some of the front page articles dealing with the ongoing ill feelings between Japan and South Korea.  It actually hurt my heart to read about the endless back and forth between the two countries... which really, for all their differences, have just as many similarities.  I know this to be true, because I have friends in both countries who are open minded, kind, and compassionate people, and don't think in terms of black and white, as these newspapers were sometimes conveying.  (I also know that the Korean newspapers publish very similar feelings and points of view, similar to the Japanese papers)

I was having a hard time digesting all these feelings as I walked around the city.  I'm used to staying in bigger cities, like Tokyo and Osaka, where a tourist on the street is no big deal.  But Hiroshima is a bit different.  Most of the tourists who are there, are there to visit historical sites that have been left standing as a reminder of the atomic bomb.  People are there to pay their respects, or to learn more about a dark part of our history as mankind, or just out of curiosity... but it all revolves around one thing pretty much.  So as a Korean and an American... it was a strange feeling for me.

Hiroshima Castle

One night, the Director took some of us to his favorite okonomiyaki restaurant.  Okonomiyaki is a specialty in Hiroshima.  Usually it's made with meat or seafood.  The chef at this place knew I was vegetarian, so he generously prepared a very special meal just for us.  The first thing I saw when we entered the restaurant was that all the seats were ready for us around the teppan, and at each seat, there were little dishes of Korean kimchee!  I was so moved by this gesture.  This chef had just bridged a painful gap in my heart, simply by setting out kimchee for us.  And this wasn't any ol' kimchee.  This tasted like real, authentic kimchee!  At the end of the meal, he made us rice porridge (something my Mom always made for me when my tummy wasn't feeling well), with radish kimchee and umeboshi (pickled plum - another Japanese food favorite of mine).  After the first bite, I actually almost cried.  I had to fight to keep the tears and overwhelming emotion in.  It was the ultimate comfort food to heal my heart and settle the complicated feelings I'd been working out in my stomach.  I will never forget this meal, or this Japanese man's kindness on this night.  From that meal on, I was able to feel more at ease at just being myself, knowing that whatever the history has been between South Korea and Japan, or Japan and the U.S., when we get down to it...we're not a world made up of countries.  We're a world made up of people.  Human beings with hearts and individual stories.

Goichi-san ~ the Chef, and I, after my life-changing meal!

But making this film wasn't all complicated feelings!  It was a great experience in which I made a lot of new friends and worked with amazing people, and actually had fun acting!  I was surprised at this last part.  Even though I was nervous every day, I actually enjoyed playing a "character".  I can't say if I was any good at it, but I had fun doing it!

Akira Takarada plays my Grandfather.
He starred in the original "Godzilla"! 

Shinobu-san is always making sure I stay out of the sun and stay hydrated. :)

My adorable translator, Mirei Yamagata, enjoying soondooboo jigae with me.

Inside the Red Brick building.

Tomoko Naraoka plays my Grandfather's 1st love.
She has such a strong spirit.  She was very patient with me, and taught me a lot!

This was the hardest scene for me!
I had to lead the cast in a march as we each said meaningful things in Japanese, at a certain pace of walking.
I kept messing up!!!  Too much pressure!

Yuichi Fujisawa, amazing hammer dulcimer player who is featured in one of the songs I wrote for the movie, and my co-star.
Here we are enjoying some after-work veggie okonomiyaki and ice cold beverages.

On our day off, some of us visited the gorgeous and healing island of Miyajima.
I hope to return here again one day.

My favorite, karaimen from Karabu!
I got up to #18 on the spice chart!

My Director, Mamoru Ohashi, enjoying a delicious green tea ice cream cone on one of the very few breaks he had.

From bottom left:  Reika-san, my hair and makeup artist; Mirei-san, my translator; Sayaka-san, wardrobe artist; myself.
Day off bowling!  

The most wonderful and amazing
and hard working crew!!!
I still miss them all!

Anyway, this post has become so long.  Maybe that's why I've been avoiding writing it.  But I wanted to share this with you all.  I know our world is filled with painful history, and cultural and religious differences.  But I also know that our world is filled with individual people, all made up of the same blood, bones, joys, heartbreak, fears and dreams.  No matter what is going on politically, or what has happened in the past.... I believe in each and every one of us.  We make up the energy of this world, of this life.  I promise you that I will teach my children to love and respect your children no matter where we come from.  And one of the best ways I know how to do this is by setting that example.  Thank you to everyone around the world who has shown me such kindness and acceptance, whether it was by helping me find my way in a new city, supporting my music, or setting out a small bowl of kimchee to make me feel more at home.  Thank you for inspiring me, and reminding me of how we are all in this together.

p. a.

Friday, May 15, 2015

After The Rain

Last night we had about 10 minutes of a steady, thick, downpour of rain.  We even had some flashes of lightening and loud cracks of rolling thunder.  Southern California is in such a dire drought right now, it's pretty unnerving.  So last night's shower was a little blessing for us.  Whenever it rains here, it's as if we get a new slate.  The sky is cleansed, and the air smells sweet and fresh.  The hills change from dry brown to lush green.  The plants and animals are happy.  I walked outside today and smelled wet earth for the first time in a while.  Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I always loved this smell, but of course took it for granted at the time.  Smelling dampened soil today took me back to playing in the woods in PA, to camping trips in the Summer, to sitting under the stars around a campfire with my family.  I think I prefer the smell of the earth and woods more than any flower, more than any ocean.  LA gets a bad rap for 'not having seasons', but today we have Spring.

What smells do you love?  Bring back memories?  Remind you of home?


Sunday, April 12, 2015


I've had lots of people ask me what kind of loop machine I use to loop my voice when I perform live.  Over the years, I've tried a couple different ones, but this one is my favorite, by far!
Electro Harmonix 45000

It's super easy to use, versatile, clear sounding, and you can even record up to 99 loops if you don't want to forget a genius idea you came up with.  That happens to me never.  But it's nice to know it's there.

I made a demo for Electro Harmonix, showcasing how I use the pedal live.  I thought it'd be fun to perform a new song that I wrote with the amazing Dan Wilson, called "Waiting".  This isn't a music video!  It's just a home video of me showing what buttons I click and how I loop melodic lines.

And if I'm not convincing enough about how great this pedal is... check out this video by Reggie Watts that he made for EHX.

He's kind of a genius!

Anyway, for anyone interested, I hope this post is helpful for you in your musical endeavors!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Exploring the Timeless Worlds of Hayao Miyazaki

I recently wrote an article for the very cool Hit City U.S.A. about why I love Hayao Miyazaki's films so much.  You can read the whole piece here.  For all Miyazaki super fans out there, I hope I did an ok job relaying the beauty of, and of course my personal fascination for his work.  And for all Miyazaki Virgins out there, I hope I was successful in perking your curiosity a little bit.

Last Sunday, I performed a mini live event set up by Hit City at the uber-hipster Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A.  Thank you to everyone who showed up and supported.  It was a beautiful evening!

Other than that, I've been very bad at keeping you up to date with all that's happening with me these days.  A lot of transitions slowly setting in motion, and projects I will probably announce very soon I hope!  Until then... I have the Spring Wave music festival to prepare for in Taiwan at the end of the week, so I better get some shuteye.  G'nite...

p. a.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mission Blue

[photo by Octavio Aburto]

It's official.  I am no longer eating seafood anymore.  It's something I've been gradually leaning towards more and more over the past year, and after watching the beautiful documentary "Mission Blue", it was the final push I needed to send me over the edge.

Seafood is one of my favorite foods in the world!  I would try anything from the sea!  I pretty much loved everything new I tried!  I'm not joking in the slightest when I say that when I go snorkeling in the ocean and see all the colorful fish swimming around me, my mouth waters... under water.  Perhaps I was a seal in a past life!  After being vegan for a year (many years ago*) the first non-vegan food I bit into was a piece of fish... and it was divine.  It was always the food I craved the most.

But something was starting to feel not right in my soul about eating so much fish all the time.  Trust me, I was a big consumer and really eating too much of it!  I started to lose my joy in eating it, taking it for granted, bite after bite.  And the truth is, our oceans are so over fished... at this rate, wild-caught blue fin tuna will soon be wiped from the Earth!  Our magical coral reefs are literally dying and disappearing due to all the pollution we've been dumping into our water.  What runs into a river, will eventually meet the sea.  In many parts of the world, where the rivers meet the sea, "dead zones" have been created.  Meaning, absolutely nothing (fish nor plant) can live there, because the water is uninhabitable.  Those numbers are rising.  Also, after that most devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the number of off-shore drilling in that area has now increased.  The aggressive and rapid way we as humans are consuming our natural resources (fish, animals, plants, trees, oil, clean water) is completely out of balance to the way Mother Nature intended for us to live.  I hate to say it, because it's a very dark truth, but we have become something of a "virus", attacking our "host" (Earth).  I just hope that we won't eventually devour it completely.  This is such an extraordinary planet, full of wonder, and full of millions of compassionate human beings who I know care about this planet we all live on and share together.  I know it all can seem so daunting at times.  Sometimes I think, 'What difference will it make?'  If we all just do our part a little, and remember to stop every now and then and think of what we can do to make where we live a better place for our next generations, we may just be able to slowly turn things around.... little by little.  It simply starts with you and I.

I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, or how to eat.  I'm just announcing that what this documentary makes us aware of, is a step in the right direction.  Sylvia Earl's mission is to create "Hope Spots"; protected areas of our ocean that can have the time and space to heal itself and one day, flourish again.

Here's to HOPE.

p. a.

P.S.  Here are some ways we can help!  


*I was vegan for one year when I was 20 years old.  I mostly lived off of candy and rice milk.  Needless to say, I was a terrible vegan!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Juice Cleanse

Photo from

At the end of the year, Mike turned to me and said, "Let's do a juice cleanse".  My eyes widened in surprise, half out of shock that he wanted to do it, and half out of fear!  I warily said Ok.  One of my favorite juice shops in L.A. is Moon Juice.  Their stuff is Medical Grade (!!!), Cold Pressed, Certified Organic, and always really delicious.  Every time I drink one of their juices my body thanks me and I feel alive inside.  So there's definitely something to it.  I didn't trust our own knowledge or dedication to making our own juices every day enough, so we opted for one of the Moon Juice cleanses.   I signed up for a 3 day, and Mike a 5 day.  We chose the Indigo Cleanse, which fell in between the hardcore Green Cleanse, and the less intense Rainbow Cleanse, which contains more fruits.

The first day was tough!  We had to pound 8 juices in one day.  11pm would roll around and we still had one more juice to drink!  I'm bad and I don't drink enough liquids throughout the day as it is, so this was a real challenge for me.  I was sluggish all day.  My eyes felt cloudy.  I was hangry.  The last juice of the day was a nut milk made from Pumpkin Seeds, alkaline, mineralized and oxygenated water, wildflower honey, and pink salt.  Somehow it felt like I was eating food while drinking this.  It was so satisfying and nurturing at the end of a long day.  Afterwards, I swiftly fell into a deep, amazing sleep.  When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that it was earlier than usual for my waking time, and I felt amazing.  Not drowsy or sleep deprived at all.  The second thing I noticed was that I wasn't that hungry, after not having "food" all day.

The 2nd and 3rd day of the cleanse were the complete opposite of my 1st day.  I felt so light!  In high spirits.  Like I could take on anything.  But not with a manic energy that I sometimes have when I'm trying to tackle a project.  Instead, I felt very calm.  I went about cleaning our house in a very peaceful, concentrated way.  I really paid attention to my body.  When it needed to rest, I sat down and took a breather.  On the 3rd day, the world around me just started to glow and shimmer!  I'm serious!  I felt so present and in touch with myself and my surroundings, in a way I haven't felt since I was a child.... or when I first moved to L.A. and everything was new and exciting.  My skin even looked brighter and glowing in a way I'd never seen it before.  I felt so great, that I added on two more days to the cleanse.  Of course there were moments when I longed to bite into something.  But I never felt 'starved', because all day long I was pumping my body full of amazing nutrients from the juices.

The first day off the cleanse, we started the day off with some aloe water, and then a delicious vitamin and enzyme packed smoothie (a slightly more solid kind of juice, really), and it was divine!!!  We could now taste every ingredient in this smoothie that we used to slurp up and take for granted on a daily basis.  When we bit into our first Kale & White Bean Soup.... tears came to my eyes.  I was able to appreciate my food and where it came from on a whole other level.  We ate slowly (instead of gobbling it down like we usually do).  We took breaks between spoonfuls (instead of chatting on the phone while eating, or scrolling through Instagram feeds).  We ate mindfully together.  After the soup, we took a nap.  Our bodies were actually digesting solid food for the first time in 5 days.  All day we felt buoyant.  As I'm writing this, today is Day 2 of coming off the cleanse.  We're definitely feeling closer to earth today.  Part of me misses the "high" that we had on the cleanse, and the lightness I felt coming off the cleanse... and yet, I'm happy knowing that I carry the experience and the knowledge I learned from it with me always.  While cleansing, we've even incorporated tongue scraping to help us along the detox -- something I never thought I'd do!  Here is a great blog post on natural, oral hygiene that I found inspiring.  And should we ever need to reset, doing another juice cleanse for 5 days, 3 days, or even 1 day, is always there.  And the best part is that now I know I can do it!

Here's to eating more mindfully in 2015!