Eight things I learned doing my first Pecha Kucha

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 2.08.07 PM
That’s me talking about my Lola. Thanks to @novelnessidiotish for the Instagram!


I was invited the other day to take part in an official Albany PechaKucha event at the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges. (Thanks, Elizabeth and Amy!)

The idea is that you can give a presentation on anything, but it has be done with 20 slides and each slides must be shown for exactly 20 seconds. I decided to Pecha Kucha about what’s been on my mind as a writer — family, history, and mythology.

Here are eight things I learned:

  • 20 seconds is fast, but enough to get about 40 words, or four average-sized sentences said.
  • Practice. I didn’t practice enough — setting up powerpoint with timed images and going through what I wanted to say. I recommend doing that. I thought I’d be at a podium and could refer easily to my typed notes, but most people stood beside the projected image and just spoke. Some people had note cards, which seemed smart, as they could be flipped through smoothly. I had my text on 8-by-11 1/2 sheets of paper, and I didn’t want to be flipping through those.
  • Create expectations by setting up the transition. I had written out a text for each slide, and at a crucial moment — I spoke without notes — I forgot the transition sentence I had written and didn’t set up the next slide, which was an abrupt transition to a series of new slides.
  • The audience goes with the flow. You can make abrupt changes, and the audience will go with you. Maybe the Albany audience was super open and receptive, but perhaps everyone’s been in slog of presentations before and the format promises something quick and interesting.
  • One idea can be extended over multiple images. While some presenters had specific points to make with each image, others made one more complicated point over many images. Both approaches work.
  • Conclusions are satisfying. Some presenters (including me) wrapped up the presentation in a final slide with a variation of “and this is what it all means to me.” All of those kinds of endings are satisfying. One ending that was very satisfying was by the artist Michael Oatman, whose presentation was on his process of conceiving and creating a work of art and ended with an image of that work of art on exhibit in a museum.
  • Nothing beats enthusiasm. One of the best presentations of the night was also the first. Andrew Krystopolski reveled in being a fan of Polka music. He spoke with speed, clarity, enthusiasm and fun about how much he loved Polka, with photos of him at playing music, dancing, and meeting his Polka heroes — and even showing the audience his tattoos of the names of his Polka heroes. The presentation was fun, funny and from the heart. It showed Andrew to be not just a good presenter, but a wonderful performer and entertainer.
  • Earnest introspection also works really well. Stacy McIlduff’s presentation on the movies she grew up with and was influenced by — with each image being a still from a film — was interesting and earnest and also heartfelt. Her presentation felt brave because it was so personal and important to her.   

So would I do it again? Yes.

Do I recommend doing a PechaKucha? Yes.

Have you done a PechaKucha? What have you learned?


Coming soon to a YouTube near you: Creatures Of Philippine Mythology

So this has been on my mind for the past couple of years, and now there’s a web series coming soon. Very cool.

An Ohio Woman in the Philippines, published 1904

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 12.54.58 PM

A primer: How Americans taught Filipinos to see the Philippines

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.03.43 PM

As part of the U.S.’s colonial policies of “benevolent assimilation” in the Philippines, they set up a system of universal education. At first, the primers were geared toward U.S. children (with references to things outside of most Filipino experiences such as snow), and then new primers were made.

This page comes from a 1908 Revised Edition of the First Primary Language Book by O.S. Reimold.

This is the entirety of the essay and image to go with lesson 40 (what follows it are a description of centavos and pesos, and then “Written Exercises” such as “Write the names of ten things that you can buy in the market.”).

The questions the passage raises for me are: Who is the we? Is it the teacher (whether a Filipino or American) and the school children in the moment of the lesson? Or maybe I’m reading the “We” all wrong, and perhaps it refers to all the members of the colonial system? After all, wouldn’t it be too much to expect school children to have spending money for the market? So then is the “We” supposed to be a generalized “everyone,” as in “everyone goes to the market”? Then again, the “we” seems to be in opposition to the “many people” in the previous sentence? Couldn’t it be possible that some of the Filipino children learning to read, speak and write in English through this lesson be part of the “many people”? Is there a class distinction at play here that may be confusing to some of the student? Doesn’t the act of naming the shopper (Natalia) as opposed to the seller (“the man”) further that kind of class difference? And then, if the narrator can name one of the people depicted in the image, how is a child supposed to respond to those final questions about who is buying and selling the chicken? Are children supposed to know the names of the people? Are they supposed to respond with a gender identification (“the woman”/”the man”)?

Fact-checking family stories

I’m not in the habit of fact-checking family stories, despite the countless times (as a journalism student and journalist) I’ve heard: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

So it was more of a fluke than a deliberate act when I came across a document linked to what I’ve come to think of as the precipitating moment of my family’s coming to America.

A google search led me to the digitized book “Official Register of Officers and Cadets: United States Military Academy,” which included not only my grandfather (a cadet from 1926 to 1930), but also the conditions upon which he became a cadet.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 5.13.02 PM

Continue reading “Fact-checking family stories”