recital anxiety? ... but it's cute!

for the month of april, monkey's doubling as a recording engineer. a fancy term if you ask me. am i really an engineer? according to the great wikipedia, the term is defined as following (if it's on web, it's true ya? heh.)
An engineer is a person professionally engaged in a field of engineering. Engineers are concerned with developing economical and safe solutions to practical problems, by applying mathematics and scientific knowledge while considering technical constraints. As such, the work of engineers is the link between perceived needs of society and commercial applications. Some consider this profession to be the link between art and science.

well, i would be a professional(am getting paid) in field of engineering (even when i may be standing in the middle of the field like a scarecrow in late fall that someone forgot to take off from the field, totally clueless), applying math and science knowledge (well i suppose i have to cut tracks and use basic science knowledges such as power need to be on for machines to work. believe or not, this is one of the common problems of malfunctioning machines: power's off!) and am under constraints (whether they be technical or not..)

the work is a link between PERCEIVED needs of society (i guess documentation is documentation, regardless of the quality of it. im not saying the concerts i record are good nor bad, i aint saying anything in fact. i say it's a perceived need because.. well, we as the society grew this weird attachment to logging everything- whether it's necessary or not. in a sense, it's not a need, but more of in-case-of-need, need for a possible need). link between art and science, well, that's grey enough that anyone with passing grade in logic could argue for/against/inbetween. we'll also leave that alone for a bit. so i guess, monkey's engineering this month.

anyhows, it's student recordings that i will be working on. and my mentor tonmeister is a smartypants. rest assured students- the recordings will be fine, perhaps- well, too honest sometimes (i prefer the crisp, close-up, tight space sound, what the a.eng. often refer as german school). so no harm done for the performers really.

as i am watching these recitals, it brings back many memories. most of them hilarious at least. some just really funny. no, im not laughing at others. im laughing at myself, really. i have no idea how many concerts i have played at this point- i started working at a big community church when i was 14 and they always had concertinos for holidays and occasions. as undergraduate, i started to accompany people for recitals/juries/whatevers. funny enough, because i was a music education major (that's borderline designation for 'one that may not play their instruments with proficiency' in music schools), i didnt really play much at school. instead, i went all over europe for festivals and played there, isnt that ironic. ha ha. festival performances- well, they really vary. i will get to it, i promise.

the very first grown-up recital i had was my masters 1st recital i suppose. a packed program, entire stage, all to my-self. it was not frightening, but lonely. with the lightings and such, you dont really see the people. the school i went to, university of kansas, had a medium sized hall (now that i think of it), but i swear it felt like a football field. or even better, chernobyl. after the bomb, thanks. no one's around, they are all standing around the vicinity and watch you suffer. a faint whispers of support occasionally ringing through dead field, clap.. clap.. cl..a...p. . .

okay that was a tad bit dramatic.

so went the early days of grown-up performing. with sound checks and everything. though i never really got into the whole dressing up stuff. nah. in fact, in my first two doctoral recitals, i solved the entire dressing problem by:

1.carving up a nice mohawk on the night before: well, i was shaving my friend javier's head and we had this marvelous idea of shaving mine. it got better as we decided to leave some chunks. mind you, this was fresh short hair that was just grown out from the fall bald-shaving session. the things people do for fun. ha.

2.having the entire house dark, stage dark, just one dinky desk lamp, to the piano keys. i was invisible. no way you could have commented on my posture or pedalling. or grimaces etc. ah the inaudible but clearly visible swearing. so uncharacteristic in midst of.... beautiful and graceful schubert. heh.

i thought i was being so original until i realized, crap, richter have already done it. and he played like a mofo. well, there goes the power of novelty i suppose. bonus points for my hero for having dark house though. anyhows, the dark-house was put to early death because people fell asleep (those who stayed awake, however, really liked the fact that they were FORCED to listen. nice. now im shoving sound into people's ears. ha ha) and the fire marshalls (how do they know) complained about dangers of fire escape plan (but really, what are the chances of having a fire in middle of recital vs. just cases of bad/dead music?)

anyways. i got my fair and more than sane amount of performance experiences in last 5years. three especially brutal sessions remain fresh in my head (how could i forget): casalmaggiore collaborative position, UNL collaborative teaching assistantship and recently, banff.

casals was brutal in a sense that in three short weeks, there are concert put on almost everyday, twice a day infact. students do the weekday ones and then faculties on wknd. me, being an intern, fell into the abyss, playing.. well, for both parties. so. end: playing some obscene amount of music, over 30 programs for 3 weeks. sometimes the entire thing, sometimes partial. sometimes in and out of orders. gawd. i went through music as if it was.. well.. free. like and addict (more like prisoner in some way though). that was two summers.

UNL position: i taught some classes, but because im kinda lacking authority power (no shoes, tattered jeans, occasional sprinkle of swearing during class instruction, further sprinkled by more swearing as im trying to apologize) and was the kid would and could read anything, i ended up playing for the flute/saxophone/viola studios. see what happens: if you can play quietly, read all the odd rhythms and deal with contemp repertoire, they stick you with classical saxophone. which is.. well, not the best rep. same with viola. the flute studio was too much fun though. that was GOOD for me. and good with me. i played all sorts of things from bach/handel continuo sonatas on harpsichord to the hot-off-the-press-by-classical-music-standard, like muczynski and liebermann. i think on second semester of my second year, i didnt take any coursework (was done), but was at school from some obscene hours to swearing hours. every bloody day. lots and lots and lots of concerts.

banff: not only i got to play solo/collaborative, i also played with visiting artists, who were way........ better than i. and brought some real hard reps. everyone there was uber committed to music, and the reps got harder and harder. including that busoni sonata that nearly killed monkey at one point. at least i survived and am going back for more in the fall. may be it is an addiction at this point.

for about 6-7 years of kick-butt playing load, i think i finally found some points that are important. the very first thing is that i dont like solo reps. my favs are chamber music, in order of: quintet-quartet-instrumental sonatas-trio. trios are hard because the piano is just too big for a trio format. so you really have to adjust and play... smaller. but not weaker. hard ordeal. like playing for viola (im not making fun of viola, but for violists, pianists really have to scale down to not to completely annihilate their sound).

another thing is since casals, i learned to take each recital as an experience. at certain point, i remember making a complaint to one of my favorite mentors: the freebies are gone! he went: what? hah. let me explain.

when you are less experienced (or whatever), often on stage, things MIRACULOUS happen and you feel super great. things work. finally. have no idea why. adrenalin, whatever it may be. then... in second summer at casals, it stopped.
no miracles. no christmas. no freebies. just really dull-ish feeling of:


but the smart mentor guru told me a truth: well, it means that you are getting better. no surprises are due to the fact that now you can play however you will to play. each note, each phrase. nothings' done for frevolus reasons. things have been thought through and now you can execute them as you see fit.

i took that and ran home and never looked back.

until i quit (again!) after my last big recital of DMA program. i was just too tired and lost interest in music. burnout may be? (dramatic and laconic music cue)

in fact, the first big thing i played since then was in banff. entire bach 4th partita with repetitions and ornamentations, the whole jazz. it was a painful experience. tears, snots, everything. the playing was not the dealbreaker. it was simply being on the stage and start to speak. speak as i am, as i want to, as i need to. naked. vulnerable. i tried really hard to be genuine, not pulling back, put my neck on the line. and it's kinda scary.

well that's three months ago. since then, i played whole bunch. may be i still get some nerves walking from the backstage to the workbench. but. overall. monkey's back and willing to play. not just play the instrument, but to play- like children. invite, interact, provoke, aspire- if im lucky. now, that doesnt mean that i succeed in doing all of that. but just willing to try and giving it a try.

watching these student recitals brings up such mixed feelings sometimes. on top of forementioned stuff, i also had just silly incidents: scores flying away as i turn my pages- off the music rack to floor, wayyy to go in the piece. nosebleed in middle of a piece. simple false starts. getting lost and futile attempt to get back on, missing chunks of pieces (damned recapitulations), playing the entire sonata with mistuned instrumentalists, broken strings in middle of concerto, firealarm, sneeze, all kinds of biological needs arising all the sudden from nowheres, staring on wrong keys, stuck on a crash and almost missing the concert, broken bones in cast- playing anyways, watching out to the hall and getting completely distracted, old people passing out, missing collegues, forgotten or missing/lost scores, getting the time mixed up, contacts falling of your eyes in middle- and no spares! general confusion, you name it, i prob gone through much of it.

am i amused to re-visit all these things? yes. i am. i think they are funny. and also human. and as an engineer, now i am perched on the top of the hall booth, watching the human fiasco, tragecomedy, really. and often, honest and touching performances as well. i am not so glad about the performances wher ive missed/messed things, but im now learning. learning to take them for what they are. and be able to laugh. and take the moments when they were nice.

i hope all those who are on stage gets to experience both peaks of performance wave. enjoy it and chew on it. never let it be just another thing to check off. life is too interesting for let things pass by.

and remember:
this is not about you. it's about us. yes, you, me, audiene, composer, history, culture and the community. and whether you falter or nail things to perfection, there are always moments of saving grace. and.

it's just a concert. there's more coming.

inbetween the drops of water

a juggler could tell you
about the beauty of a ball
when it arcs through
the s p a c e

before the descent


defying gravity
or its immediate fall

all that momentum
skilled curve from the hand


under the sun,
it is almost invisible for a second


onto that space
between the d r o p s o f w a t e r

life continues to whirl
going around in a loop
sometimes upward
the other times downward
sometimes im weightless
a perfect pause
a graceful cusp point
beauty of an arc existing
for just a split second
i hang free
in spaces between the drops of water
a silvery projectile


rain over the city

grey blankets covering the sharped jagged edges of the city,
once portruding buildings now disappear slowly into the fog,
thick enough to be clouds, forgiving the unsorted mess of city skyline.
the rain sings upon meeting the pavement,
a quiet, gentle variations, irregular but happy.
drip drip drop tap drip

a gentle welcome for a child who came back to familiarity, however if with a morphed view. im donning my shoes to go for a walk, no longer in the tall mountains of canadian rockies, but in maze of city buildings and quiet humming of the march rain.
unlike the calmness of the cloud above, the city is well-grounded. sediments. and from these sediments, many small vertical upward movements, for spring. buds. fuzzy. wet. anticipation. waiting.

toronto's raining today.
consistent, small droplets.
droplets on the delicate spring buds,
knock knock, wake- wake from your stasis.. it's time now.
a little variations on pavement for the day so gentle.
what a welcome!

looking int the same apeture, variation i

it seems rather surreal that i am back here in toronto. that three months, the first quarter of this year already flew away. i probably lived equivalent of a year in those three months. i crossed so many paths with so many different people. when i left, it was in midst of frost and ice, now it has been warm enough to be walking around in t-shirt and a sweater. quite different from banff's high tall majestic mountains, now im comforted by tall, illuminated buildings.

i was also reminded that some will always be old friends, just meeting up now, realizing, hey, where have you been? ive been looking around.

i didnt get to bid good bye to everyone, it being the last day, the aftermath of last reception etc., but soon we will all be back in the old world, and if one isnt careful, it will just become a piece of past- the snow, music, persons and thoughts, common experiences, differentiated opinions...

i think i will be trying to attempt to keep these fragile new relationships as alive as possible. to keep all people would be futile and unrealistic. to keep a few would be integral to my survival and enrichment.

it's almost 4am and the wind outside of my familiar 32nd floor view is scattered lights on dark blue velvet, accentuated by bright logos on top of the buildings.
my aperture, my window. blinking and dancing as the spring evening wind, capricious and rough-playing rips through the silence of the night. chiro obscuro, accompanied by fresh memories- so fresh, it's hard to tell what would be remembered. what would become the negatives and what would protrude through the present?

like alice who's back from the rabbit hole. going for the next ride.

yyc this afternoon was pale golden yellow, like that of fall wheat, already harvested, drying out, like bales of hay, with gentlest caressing of dvorak op. 95 new world symphony, ii: largo. im going home. but let me not forget that home was with me all this time- where i could be who i am without worrying (there is a such place), where anything goes. where things are gentle.


cbc evolution 2009 & the global peanut gallery

there has been a great commotion around the quiet mountains of banff in last two weeks called evolution. basically, the CBC is bringing back a composition competition back to life (which was defunct for awhile), and since it collided with the darwin anniversary, the team decided to put a new twist to the old game- not just the theme, but a great change in format. part of a process, i suppose.

for the laymen out there (if you know how this goes, skip a couple paragraphs pls): traditional composition competition usually works in submission basis. meaning they put up a deadline, along with a couple guidelines of what they would like (such as ensemble formats, the length of the music, may be even contextual themes etc), and the usual red tapes such as ages, nationalities, etc. and as a composer, you submit a work. could have taken you a day or years. as long as it's printed on a sheets of paper, ready to be read/eaten/digested/played by the performers, then passed on to the audiences or more importantly (silly enough), the panel members. and whatever happens in the discussion room happens, and someone is declared a winner, then comes prize/performance/publication/despair/whatever fits the bill.

the evolution 2009 was a quite unusual thing as it involved a three stages: first, the elimination round. you submit, they look, and call couple guys who they think are the appropriate candidates for this competition. then comes the twist. these 5 guys are then called into banff center, then within the given workspace (a hut, as the locals call it) and time (in this case, the duration was approx. two weeks), they compose. and yes, there are guidelines and rings of fire. DEADLINES (insert wicked evil laugh and screaming children noise)

the theme, evolution, was revealed to the composers on their first official day here, so the prepping for the actual composition was minimal (or it was expected to be). then you crank. crank as fast and furiously as you can. write write write. bite chew pencils. slam at your keyboard. perhaps im exaggerating, perhaps no one was really 'stuck' and 'frustrated,' i cant tell. their side of struggle i suppose.

then the second week, the ensemble, ECM: Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, rolled down to town, and they... grab the score still wet with fresh sweat blood and god knows what, and... play. as a performer, this is highly unusual. four days of rehearsal, fresh, and national broadcast by end of the four days. brutal. esp. there is not much materials you can get to even get close to what's going to be on your pages. dread. excitement. toil. trouble. oooeerrrr.

third stage: performance, concert in broadcasting, composers on toes, ensemble on toes, me- totally relaxed and curious to see what spectacle would happen. haha. for a change, i am an observer. great. i could do this. peanut gallery. then should you feel mildly being involved, you casually cast your vote on web. and wait. see.
all this for what: lots of money.
20,000 for first prize, 5000 for commission, 5000 for peep's choice.

for young composers, this is a big break. not only they all got some dough for making it to 5 finalists, they get a good performance of their compositions and a gamble for the prizes. though the situation- esp. time constraint may be a little less optimal. well world just aint peachy for anyone i guess. even for peaches- soon or later you be consumed, often even mocked further by being drowned in syrups until peaches themselves no longer resemble anything of a peach- no fuzzy hairs, no juices, no pits, just.. somewhat jell-o like sweet mushy stuff. mmm.

anyways. if you wanna know more,

so last night was the big hurrah.
it was packed in the auditorium and i decided to do this the old school style. through a radio! but with a twist! we evolved and hence came live web streaming. so i decided to check it out on video feed. alas, the feed was too sluggishly big for the bandwidth. no luck. so back to just audio.
and then came the magic.

me being a complete lunatic absolutely mad fanatic of web communication, i had some of my chat windows open. and since there is no visual element and i am not in a concert hall, i could do whatever i pleased: including chatting, naughty naughty monkey!

in less than 5 minutes, me and 3 buddies, all separated by distances- as close as my room to the music and sound building, to someone in toronto to some peeps in europe, we all were listening to the streaming. simultaneously, though as if we are riding the continuum of time together somehow, but avoiding the usual co-habitation clause.

we are all musicians, sprinkled around the globe like... well, crumbs off the bagels: one in gmt, one in mountain times, one in eastern time, one in cet. and fortunately, none of us had the luxury of having wide-enough bandwidth to ride the full visual broadcast. so as we are listening to the streaming, we had nothing really to look at, but our screens and the blinking 'screaming' from the chat buddies.

not only we got to experience the old school radio broadcasting, having the access of the web on the fingertips allowed me to infectiously get three others to listen to an event with me, real-time broadcast, we were non-stop chatting, eventually merging into a big chat window, like a conference call. what was that? did you hear? is that a bass solo? how did they do that effect you think? hold, was that a melody? okay- this is a ryhtmic pulsation- no it isnt- yes it is, so on and so forth. it opened up a new possibility where we could exchange idea and perhaps even influence each others' perception of listening. it was amazing.

not only that, we were able to call up on possible-contextual-extrinsic stuff, images, word definitions, writings, ideologues. pull them out of google. cut paste. let your cyber family lap it up like a sunday night supper!

even right up to the announcement, we were listening and arguing, all simultaneously. the event became nothing passive, in fact, all active. the real time exchange opened up new perspectives immediately, and like true friends (haha) anything that was undefended was discarded. opinions had to be validated and minds were convincing and being convinced.

the prize decision we made as a group was diversified- all over the map. but we took a great pleasure to explain one idea to another, sort of john stewart mill's 'on liberty' applied in music criticism:
1. form an opinion, an informed opinion that is
2. express thine opinion to thy neighbour
3. see if you agree or disagree
4. if agree: good, you are at least ont he same page. awesome.
5. if disagree: well, you can decided
i)simply co-exist, ii)convince, iii)be convinced
6. repeat as necessary

this wasnt like anything i have expected of the broadcasting of evolution and it's amazing to see that evolution, not just natural ones, but also so technological evolution have shapes the way we receive and contextualize abstract things, such as music and opinions. i am still fascinated with the experience and i hope to expand this idea further with my other friends in near future- go live streaming. let see how well we could all connect through this new dimension found on old school radio.

yes, you may sit and listen.
and open up a window and peek.


thoughts for/from my tea

as the steam rises from my pot,i look at the small, tiny discoloured leaves, uncurling and relaxing. the leaves stretch out from a long slumber- shreds of aspalathus linearis, commonly known as rooibos or red bush tea, grew in a small region in south africa, in cederberg region of the western cape province. rooibos tea is made from dried rooibos plant, from the needle-like leaves, so technically it is not a tea, but a tisane, a herbal infusion.

from the initial planting, it takes about 18 months for the bush to mature for first harvest. each spring, little yellow flowers will come up and transform into a simple legume with single seed inside. then when it's ready, POP, goes the seed. tiny as they are, the bush tenders used to go to the anthills to collect the seeds. imagine the surprise from the ants: you are robbing us, we found those seeds and brought them home- well, nearly! thieves! literally taking it from our jaws!

well, the seeds are collected little more ethically now, using machines. no ants are robbed in present days.

rooibos bush really resembles a puff ball from the distance, with its tiny thin green leaves. from the bright, translucent green at harvest, enzymes flirting with oxygen, those little bits oxidize (this process is often incorrectly termed as 'fermentation.') result is that bright red-brown-purple richness of rooibos tea that we see in out tea bags. the bush will stand for about 3-5 harvest cycle, then it will be 'retired.'

surprise harvest (i bet the leaves didnt know that they were going to be harvested- they were intending to stick around and live for a bit!), a brief flirtation with open air, then drying process under the grueling sun. now commercial plantations will further extend the process by adding steam pasteurization. more heat. more torture. capturing the essence of the life in the middle of its peak- these tisane leaves are taken away from flourishing further, put into a stasis, a long sleep.

shipped to the companies, my rooibos tea came with other buddies, rose and calendula petals. a harsh deal for both flowers- picked at their prime, then put into artificial stasis. they cant tell me how far they have travelled- where would you have came from, which continent? all they brought was the memories of their home, of their life, the songs and winds they have heard. now dormant, in my tea bag.

all these leaves and petals stay asleep in the merchant's counter. you can smell the memories- the bright sun, wind that tickled them as they danced in the fields, the sweet smell of earth as a nurturing mother, the raindrops that nourished their thirst. the storms they have seen, the thunders that fell nearby, the white clouds giving a little respite from blazing sun. in the faraway land of south africa. and many more. memories so beautiful that even when they are in stasis, the opened container resonates one's senses to million different direction, tiny little shards of life at the peak.

it's only when the boiling hot water is added that tea come alive. boiling water has so many cultural connotation, especially concerning: trouble, trial, surprise. hot enough to sear a man's hand, the water once again rudely awakens the tea. startled, the leaves and petals spring back to life, as if there was no break in their flourish, bringing all that life force back, the smell, the taste, and oh so much more.

not knowing where they are, brutally interrupted from imposed stasis, the tea gives off all essence to the water. for that brief minutes we wait for the tea, they stretch out and dance, swim as naturally as if they were meant to be fishes, not land plants, until everything is drawn out. until they sink to the bottom of the tea, now empty and gone. only the empty body remains.

i so conveniently draw my tea from the pot. and often drink it without thinking twice. forgetting that it really is the blood and memories of another life form, drawn to the point where the dregs no longer resemble any glory they emitted just couple minutes ago. forgetting that i can have such nice tea just because they have sacrificed. because they were forced to wait in stasis, travelled around the globe without knowing, then lastly graced by boiling water.

the nutty sweetness of the tea that nourished me and my mind was not just another tisane. it was the generous act of the tea and nature. i should be careful to never forget that only reason that this tea graces my thirst is that it died for me, for this instance. this evening, as i hold the last cup from the bag, i think of the mountain dusk falling in banff- silent and somber, closer to winter solstice than spring equinox, the amber lights warming up my studio, and the company that unexpectedly brought another window that opened up another world. all the sudden, im not drinking my tea in solitude, but in multitude of sensory riches.

thanks to my tea in that humble pot.
with your sacrifice, my life is elevated from being another living organism to a beginning appreciator of beauty, if fleeting, even just for couple minutes.


nail trimming: a tricky business

there's a new surprise, a limited release at the vistas cafeteria at the banff center this week. there is no menu board and sometimes, like all cafeterias, they run out of stuff, so if you dont pay attention, you lose out. as long as you never know what you lost out on, i guess it's all alright. what you never knew, you cant miss!

what im beating the bush around for is: a baby.
if i remember correctly, she's yeh-high and this-big. about 14 months old and has strawberry blond hair and still indecisive hazel-green eyes. like the trees. and four teeth, two on top, and bingo, two on bottom. i mean, who really cares about the can-be-numbered things anyways. numbered things can stay on paper somewheres, or on a database for a record. if you ever need it, just look it up. it's all the un-numbered things that makes an entity unique, i believe. if you dont believe me, look into a guinness book of record and see how many of those numbers will actually provoke or aspire you. think carefully, that's not the same as it being amusing or worthy of passing note. i meant something that takes you further from the present point, wherever it may go.

baby, naturally, has small hands. grabbing, licking, whatevers, offering, teasing, those tiny hands are busy. still not so sure about their own strength, the hands often gets messy squeezing an orange piece or crumbling a piece of quiche. it needs constantly wiped, cleaned and oh- the nail trimming.

now, i have nothing to do with a/any baby of any sort at this point. they simply arent around and for where i am- an arts/conference center in middle of touristy spot in middle of the rockies, it's rare to have a regular exposure to the subtle baby smell. so i consulted mr. salamander, who confirmed a hypothesis: that baby nail-trimming can either be moving or a wiggly fight.

my fingernails, broken and held together at times with superglue, they are used being banged around. hard, tough and perhaps a little thicker than normal people (i blame it on the repetitive impact on fingertips), i am used cutting them off whenever wherever as long as there is a garbage can and and a nail clipper. sometimes too short, sometimes too sharp on the edges, usually done in a hurry and a half.

i bet baby nails are trimmed with extreme care. they are so small and soft, thin and almost translucent. the ones i know, they are always trimmed with nail scissors, not clippers. too delicate for such barbaric tool, which literally just punch them off from the rest with a simple but sure lever mechanism (i dont know about yours, but i make a lot of noise and mess whenever i cut my nails; if im lucky, i may even get hit on the eyes with fragments. revenge for something i suppose). i can barely cut mine, i would never even attempt cut someone else's nail, forget baby's!!

though there was this one time where i did trim someone else's nails. and funny enough i remember so much about it. all i needed was a pink baby hand to look at.

long time ago, may be more than 10 years ago, i was doing a stint at a homeless shelter for a bit. for being a suicidal teenager, i think it was a fitting activity, among many that was suggested for me. i went and 'worked' diligently. as much and often as i could. where do you find the time, you ask: when you really dont have anything that you want to care for yourself, there is always abundance of time.

one homeless man, who referred himself as tom, used to be a regular. now that i think about him, i think he must have some serious mental illness. but it didnt click in then. he was a crazy homeless person, seldom spoke to anyone, never rude or violent, just confused at times. i know very little of him, except for the fact he pretty much fitted the general description of homeless man in his twilight years. aged, broken, abuse/abused, almost forgotten from rest of us. i never found out if it was 'tom' or 'thom,' but i guess it's too late.

one day there was a shortage of plastic utensils. i ended up taking my lunchbox utensils out, wash them so he could use it. it literally sent him to heaven for some reason, to hold metal utensils. it was so crazy that on the way home, i bought a one-person set of heavy, balanced cutlery set from nearby secondhand store. some heavy silver-plated thing. anyways, i started to bring that and a small stash of tea for tom. i would try the very best to serve him with that particular set of flatware. that really made his days i bet.

leaving late one day, i decided to make a second cup of tea and bring it to him, as a surprise. went down to the sleeping quarters, there was tom, curled on his side, trying to do something, unclear what though. i was just going to drop the tea off by his bed and leave to home. then he looked up and asked in very small voice:

'could i ask you for a favour?'

tom was trying to trim his nails but his hands has been marred by arthritis and god knows what, it was trying to be a larger task than he could handle. i sat on the side of the bed, realized that his hands are all dirty. went up, got a wet hot towel, and i scrubbed and trimmed his nails for a bit.

an old man, almost forgotten and powerless, nearly a spectre of a young man he was once, curled on his side like a baby, with thin blankets on top of him. hands scruppled and ruined over the ages and days, now being scrubbed with a wet towel. a lost kid, also almost forgotten and powerless, a shadow of a young person she could be but was not, sitting on the side of bed, holding hands of stranger, scrubbing then trimming those yellow, hardened nails, one by one.

he talked a great deal (for him anyways)- the whole time. the words came sound by sound. then came as words, sentences. fragmented, often making no sense than any sense really. soft and thin, like those worn blankets. connecting two strangers in that given moments, like a cloud made of warmth. nothing grand or profound. just nail trimming. like youve done, like ive done, millions of time by now. and more to do in upcoming days. but probably the first and may be the last time i will be trimming someone else's nail, with all the care i could pour on, as if trimming baby fingernails.

a small spark from mr. salamander brought a fragment of that unexplainable feelings of that afternoon, more than ten years ago. cliche you may say, but as im listening to gavin bryar's jesus'blood never failed me yet, just like the hot water with the small crunched tea leaves, im in a slight intoxication of the pale memory.
more than ten years ago. rememebered through the baby hands.

i hope tom is well.


four seeds from the winter mountains

so monkey just got a word recently from the people high up in the world that she's back next fall for the banff collaborative residency. hooray. it's amazing to think what this all entails- first of all, it means that i dont have to go nutty worrying about what i am going to do for living. from september to december of 2009, monkey will be back in the middle of the canadian rockies, having the luxury of watching the sunrise in the morning, the mountains turning from bright green to the calmness of grey. and the lengthening of the winter evenings, getting slower and darker, mellower and quieter, until the next peak, the winter solstice. watching the process of such inevitability and huge scale in middle of mountains will be spectacular. as i had the fortune to watch it turn from the gravest point of the winter, at its rem sleep, then slowly letting the blood flow again, to the farthest digits, warming up for the next cycle of spring. and i will get to play music.

and even for the days i feel somewhat silly being a musician- whether helpful or detrimental, i will still be gently nudged to pay attention to my puppy, music. always slightly unruly, often maddening stubborn, chewing every piece of thing that i own, but always there wagging its tail, its tongue hanging out, smiling.
(i must be feeling happy today. if you ask me on another day, description of music as puppy may not be so pretty.)

secondly, it meant i mustve done some things right. gearing up for the term wasnt so difficult in a sense because i really didnt have much time to prepare for it! i had barely enough time to wrap up, pack and just head to banff. then the work started to rain and i was soaked with wrong notes, right notes, good phrasing, total crap, whatevers in between. there are some concerts i think and cringe, but there are some that makes me rather happy. it's funny how we live/die depending on one bloody performance, but that's just the way it is i suppose. so to know that things went well and that my peeps are happy with my work is very important. hooray. even for boooooo-soni. or skullcrusher.

and third, i now know there always be a surprise collision with other minds, which may be amazingly provocative, aspiring, enjoyable, painful, never dull. some peeps from this term, i really think i will be hearing the echoes of such collision for awhile- who knows how long: the bookbomber, a gentle guitarist, amazing australian pianist, my instrumentalists, mr. salamander, the friendly and encouraging admin staff, mentors and teachers. even if we are to lose contact, let say, the ideas and reactions will continue their own courses as i am often profoundly effected by such discourses and that my future actions will always be slightly altered from that. if i caused pain, i am sorry for it, but if i could provoke or aspire, even for couple minutes or so, it would be enough for now.

fourth- i go away and will return with more realistic me, hopefully. as krishnamurti said, it is so easy to create images and live in world of images. you buy more mirrors and you grow attached to your images. images reflecting from one person to another, and so fragile- even just a movement of one centigree difference will create a whole new tangent. so we fiercely try to protect what we now know- image of the truth. and unfortunately we forget what we were. we only know what we think we are, and are terribly disappointed when the images distort.

but they distort because they arent real. they are projections of reality. with that simple concept, i am willing to take the courage to shed the images of myself, and may be able to look at self without contempt or lies. it will take a while i think, but even if i cannot look at self yet, i now know that rather than building up self images, it is much nicer- for all who are involved, to look outside of self, and seek for reality, then work toward collaboration with those around me.

the list can go on and on am sure.
but i think 4 was a good number to stop at. 3 would be a little too significant. haha. the four seeds, harvested from the stark mountain winter- which is actually quite beautiful and alive, not stark at all, just quiet and static from the outside, but once looked carefully, it reveals all kinds of wonderful secrets and subtle beauties- like the dusk falling on quiet winter mountains, watching it from a room, warm and dark, with some nice tea- teas giving up the saved essenses of their life, of concentrated tales and life of summer sun and the sweet dusty smell of fruitful earth, now releasing it with no reservation in hot water, knowing that this is the time they must give it all, and transform old hot plain water to a cup of pure magic and sensation.

with new but old company. of comrades. of collaborators. of similar kinds. now just another wk to go before returning to old turf. i wonder what kind of stories and journey i will be bringing back in the fall, to now familiar mountains. the stories of warm spring and chilly rains, blistering summer suns and the hands at work. collision of things that arent so random. the fires and sparks that lit up my reality like blue glow of summer fireflies.

i am anticipating and relaxing simultaneously. two opposite words. at same time. like the two sides of one coin. am happy to be here.


upward, onward, from this cusp point..

spring equinox is here. officially on upward motion. the sky grows higher, the wind a little gentler. little puddles of wet, now melted ice and snow, creeping up to the ankles as you drag your pants ever so slightly on the ground.

the bare branches now nurturing little fuzz-haired buds, some already half-waking in their slumber, just a crack on the sheath, barely showing their most gentle colours,
the petals that will be awaken with the sunlight and a warm-hearted urging of spring rain. little green tips poking through once frozen earth. the light getting longer, the shadows dragging a bit longer when dusk falls.
day by day. warmer. gentler. excited. anticipating.

the rockies are still a bit grey and cold, holding the last bit of shards of ice and the calm, dark blue coolness of winter mountain gale. but when the sun was heading down for another rest, i saw a hint of exuberant joy of spring to come, not in the setting sun, but on the reflection on the cloud, beautifully set in pale pink and yellow.

it will be awhile until i get a taste the wetness of spring rain through the soles of my shoes and my pants hem, a little longer than it needs to be, soaking up raindrops. however,
with images of swimming silverquark fish and a strangefish,
salamander tending its fire,
warmth of house smelling like fresh toast
while the outside resonates with cool and grey bits of dusk spring rain,
the magical places where the warm and cold currents mix,
invisible connections and entanglements through a simple window,
i am breathing in essence of spring to come with quiet anticipation and a sense of renewed hope.


i would like to become a lump of coal.

individuals, the smallest, no longer divisible, mingling, crowding. crowd is no longer a noun, but a verb, existing in the present, acting and interacting.
pub. beer. glasses full of liquid dreams and aftermath of daily rituals of carving/mangling self. wanting to, striving to, trying to be what one is compelled to be, now left with only half of a self, trying to mend, before the new day begins with fresh wound. dosing ourselves with the medication that is stronger than opium- the belief that things will turn out. or even better, that things no longer matter.

amnesia. amnesia for the mind. for the body. for the future. for the present.

in conversations lost in noise and movements, ideas spring up, bounce of the shields of one another, the guises we put up to be happy and content. the guise that is strong enough to fossilize oneself into.. a shell that one may no longer realize where or how it all started. growing roots out of our feet, becoming part of the ground, eventually, becoming a rock. a breathing rock.

the smiles and shards of laughters from the crowd, as we sway from one side to another, in perfect symmetry within self- though we no longer sway in sync. all lost in... like half-harden wax pool from a candle that it's hitting it's last minutes of illumination. not solid, not liquid, not burning, not illuminating. just a simple aftermath. not a waste, but not particularly useful.

sharp silvery pitches of trumpet cutting through the chatters, small talks, the choked smiles of... me. of you. of us. in the midst of busy swirling pool of colours and we are all hypnotized in the drum beats, in that anxious moment from the anacrusis to the very next beat, knowing that one beat must die in order for the next one to exist.

is this all it's about? about having a good time? what is a good time? i feel like one small fish that got sucked into a current, now swimming with a school of different fishes. moving as they are, travelling through the time and space at the same speed and direction as they all are. not even trying, starting to blend onto the one of the many. the faces in half smiles- that small curvature on the corner of the lips, lips that no longer speaks anything from the inside, but reflecting and passing from the outside, just like volleying a ball in a simple game.

i am a spectre, a spectre of my own self, refusing to let go of the day, stepping away from the maelstrom of the night swimming of this particular school fo fishes. going with the current, into the deeper, colder part of the sea. until. until there is no more light or until we all hit the bottom, having to just rise again. i am here but i am not here. i am present but i am running away.

i stand, building an invisible cocoon,
watching the joyride pass me by, in the hazy world, outside of my own chrysalis.

may be my own salvation will come. long after i am done fossilizing. turning into stone. a concrete form of carbon. then may be i could free self and become a moment in present. like coal that burns now, memories of ages and pressures and things that have been forgotten long ago.


'texeucution, a happy accident.'

all these ideas and words, a desperate attempt for the sake of expression, are represented by somewhat unreal world of world wide web. it exists in a sincere relativist/existentialist context, as i could read, write and others may read and write, talk, think, whatevers, all coded in somewhat complicated maze of 0s and 1s. i connect to this tabula rasa, 'post-create,' which awaits me with infinite patience and calmness through electronic signal and whatever i type in are coded in a blogger-specific platform, then 'published' by stroke of an enter key.

an enter key! think about that! whoa, by pressing a simple button, all the sudden you are inviting/letting whoever peeks into the door to walk right in to the middle of a personal jumbled thoughts. one has it easier than alice now- we dont even have to make an executive decision to eat nor drink. just a click on an index finger, and voila, thoughts, once private and plastic as external concrete expression.

and these words sometimes wields powers so much greater than just pixels on a screen. by creating a body of text, the conversation continues in a third time zone, as one reads from another, forming a thought, a connection between two different people. especially interested in etymology and context of words, i take a particular joy when simple words become verbs as one reads and understands, creating myriads of reactions and events. the sum becomes greater than parts.

on a phone conversation, i feel as if things are fleeting way to fast that i am not able to grasp every nuance and possibility that may be passing by; in-person-conversations are much easier in a sense all the non-verbal expressions always 'say' so much more than what's actually being plugged into spoken sentences. but this particular format, texting-chatting-blogging creates quite a different atmosphere. things are so much more direct and simple, one learns to express in singular ideas, building up to a much larger impression as a whole, much like the each dots of pointillism of seurat or lichtenstein. or rich, even brutal brush strokes of van gogh, creating momentum larger than just a slap of paint on a 2-d space. as john ashbury said, '..the secret ways that rooms fit into each other' in the old house, the richness from all the small shards and fragments creates a place that is simply inconceivable in 0s and 1s(from self-portrait in a convex mirror (1975), sheherazade).

mr. salamander, witty and sharp as usual, gave this phenomenon an appropriate name, texecution.

as i continue to peek into different windows of memories, collected knowledge and random events, simply represented in binary codes, in words, in sentences, i am learning to enjoy the happy accidental clash of individuals. sometimes it's amazing when different things collide into one another, with no previous announcement, taking one further to another trajectory- if unexpected, a joyous ride.



someone quick, help poor ophelia.. wait, you mean she was 'help' herself? i guess she'll have to stay drawned then..

in recent window gazing, i was left standing with a map in my hand, wanting to look for the girls, at the peak of their youth, at the cusp point, immortalized by two particular artists, millais and klimt.

their girls are the youthful ones, have this same look of fleeting beauty, like early spring flower petals that has been surprised by the last frost- even more beautiful since when the frost melts away, their capillaries and cells would collapse from the previous expansion of water, leaving them eventually colorless, shapeless, a past.
i used to have all these girls hanging up in my otherwise sterile dorm room. gazing at me as i gazed at them.


all these passing beauty, in the richest colors of gold, midnight blue, amber, van dyck brown, winter green contrasting so sharply with their pale skin only accentuated with faintest hint of pink leaves me the mellow sweetness of first sip from a well-crafted espresso. only sweeter because the hint of bitterness always envelops the experience with the most gentle reminder of... well, life i suppose. the contrast.
and when they are done with their phase, well...
only shadow of their youth remains, which has a bizarre wintry beauty quality to it.

these painters are quite decadent, especially klimt. but their use of chiro-oscuro is somewhat similar to caravaggio0 though his subjects are still a little more antiquated.

i wonder what kind of meteor mr. salamander saw in belvedere.
when i went to belvedere, it was one of the few days i was completely alone and after seeing klimt's kiss, i felt fulfilled and empty, simultaneously. fulfilled because the richness of the work was enough to fend off hunger and tired feet, empty because i could only imagine how those two people in tangled golden embrace would see the world.
then i took a nap once i got to zentralfriedhof, the public cemetry, sitting on a bench near beethoven and schubert's graves.
it's a weird feeling, to chew on the reminicent fragments of gold and rich colours in midst of a stasis. like alice in wonderland, i took a peep at the window on third time zone, took a small thing, ingest it somehow and now am left to savour a few minutes of my life out of the predictable reality, but in the company of fleeting beauty and reflection of lights on those small gold flakes.
'curious and curiouser,'i wonder where i could take and who i would take with me from this game square to - who know, the next square. mr. salamander, you started it, i hope you are game.


monkey business for a friday of march

my position here at the banff center is somewhat unusual. we are all called 'artist,' which is bizarre- i mean, who gives someone the right to call oneself an artist? but even beside that, most residents at the S+M building (music and sound building; but i often call it the noise or sound building; all music is just noise, which becomes sound when one pays attention, then becomes music when it's contextualized. if you are curious, i think there are several posts regarding that issue already) are classified as 'residents.' residents, in banff context, live mainly on the site (some are off-site, esp. the ones who actually live here all seasons of the year), applies to the program with specific project ideas and such, and the center provides work spaces, tech gears, etc. they are free to schedule their own recitals/performance/concerts/happenings, hence allocating their time as such.

well, see, my position is an intern. intern is something slightly close to second class citizen in a sense, the only better thing would be that one actually voluntarily signs up to BE an intern. so we arent exactly like slaves. in practical terms, hanging in the limbo between freewill-people (residents with freedoms) and tasks-dictated-facilitators (people who actually works here and has to perform specific duties), the monkey position requires a careful balancing of selection/execution of tasks.

earlier this spring, when i had a meeting with the big boss, he was wondering if i would need another intern to suffer together with; and not really realizing how much of an exponential curve i will be riding, i said i be ok. i was at the high cusp point, where things are kinda slow, almost at a pause, things on the ground looking so cute and small from afar, like top of the roller coaster; i had some idea about the ride, but.. ya, like the first ride on a new roller coaster, it's always a bit different. in this case, a bit faster than expected. haha. gawd.

well, now that was a historic moment of sanity. since then, ive been riding pretty thin. and it gets even more fun when every other person on site, ie. residents, realize that there are really only FINITE number of days left and things need to be done faster than expected. see, apparently i may have a choice in choosing my work- ie. what compositions i will work on, with who, etc. however, i think if they are here and my title says 'collaborator,' not a 'co-habitor,' i should really try to fit their projects as much as i can while doing it well as i can. sometimes i feel kinda in a rut, because often the point that i have to spread so thin is easily lost to the individuals and i hate to bring it up. the old school style, toughen it out! i havent really been able to hang out, go have a beer, watch a movie with them, whatevers, but i do realize that im here to work. they are here to 'create,' whatever that may involve. i gather it's lot more free time than mine. haha.

i am not expecting sympathy or pity really; i can work with this situation. i think it's actually quite nice. to have piano to practice, place to live, etc., but the only catch is time. just because one person has a need for an hour rehearsal, often they forget to look ahead. for that one rehearsal, i may require one or two hours or prepping (just because i prob wont be as intimate with the selection as they are- i mean, they picked and have been working on it), and some sort of mental spaces between the tasks (so that i dont play like a total airhead and that i may even remember things discussed etc). and there are several i need to cater to. so sometimes, short notices are bad. real long notices are bad as well, in case some malign-looking composition turns out to be a man-eating-fire-breathing-piano-burning-monkey-killing monster, and requires heaps of unexpected efforts/time.

so it's like seeing a doctor. general physician. you only see them for like 10 min and they always tell you an answer to your ailment in two sentences or less, but you do book like a freaking week ahead (as if you know that you will be sick...), and usually wait around in white-boxed-where-the-sicks-hangout lounge area. the only difference is that i make no money compare to a doctor. though i am a doctor as well. i guess i save no lives, haha.

tonight's concert is a big one. the piece given to me (one of two), was completely unfamiliar to me and when i started to look into it, i realized that its temperament is very very VERY far from me. and it being somewhat unknown work, okay, fine, i never heard it before and i know im not the only one- it's a rare thing to be played in any case, the lack of familiarity really was being a big obstacle. it was only earlier this wk, from tuesday, that this piece started to make any sense at all on expense of the visiting violinist, who, in case you wonder, plays it wonderfully. i went from absolute gagging to making public statement that there are some nice things, and who knows, may be one day i will find world-saving answer from it. this eat-by-bar-by-bar painful process drove not only monkey nutty, but the book bomber and mr. salamander also have been enjoying the nutty monkey in display for awhile. it was spectacular.

for some reason, it's impossible for me to work on a piece and make it sound 'average nice okay' IF i dont get the piece. many people just are able to plug themselves at the piano bench and make it happen. boring as it is, it would be at least technicall apt, etc. me, it really shows that i have no clue whatsoever. like, incomprehension in display with amplification X1000. i think i actually put the violinist in a quite a rude shock from my lack of.. well, musicianship/technical aptitude/love of music. well, i do have some, not much, but the incomprehension was just getting the way.. i think he feels better now though. phew.

he's a real nice chap.

so now the challenge is to play it well this evening.
i want to play it well. as well as i can. as well so that he can really play however he wants to without worrying about monkey falling off the train and getting run over by it. it's hard. it's still somewhat unclear. but as a true intern, i must deliver. im really digging the first definition that goggle has given me for the simple word 'intern':deprive of freedom; "During WW II, Japanese were interned in camps in the West"

much to write on this sonata process, but it's T-1hr for dress so monkey should go do some practice, for the curiously inclined, here's free score of one of the two pieces. mr. salamander may be was on the money when he said:'hmm it's even offered for free. well, such things are offered free for a reason.' when you read between the lines, i hope you arent drinking tea. i almost spewed mine up my nose.



rated B, epic-wknd: macro-micro game

i just had a small rated-B epic wknd and all i could say is that sometimes things have way of resolving themselves in the ways one does not expect. especially if it has to with one person to another. whether it be a companionship, friendship, casual acquaintance, etc. the line is always so hazy and people always move around in relation to you, making it rather impossible to define such things for the third person.

now, you may wonder what the heck im talking about, or even hoping that i will spill some gory details of monkey's 'epic' wknd. well, you arent going to get any of that, so don't get your hopes up. i do not believe public announcement for private matters.

now most people would assume then it was a case of private matter. i love the way this works. haha. this exactly the same reason why i have the 'adult content' disclaimer on my blog. just for the hell of it. whenever people see that, they expect hype, scandal, gossips, etc. etc., forgetting that it's just a warning, of perhaps, may be, which may not even be true. most of the time, it should be noted as warning for 'immature' or 'childish' materials warning anyways.
(look at comedy channel or adult channels. has nothing to do with maturity but usually of lack there of)

what really makes me wonder is the idea of perception.
it is very easy to give a definition to something when you just glance at something. because you arent seeing the details and differences, it becomes rather automatic to gentrify and simplify something, whether it's closer or far from the actual thing. like talking about brown shoes or something. the more you look at it, the more details you will recognize. the height of the heels, materials, the dye process, is it raced or slip-on, does it have buckles or not? matte finished or shiny? what size? for man or for woman? may be unisex? the list goes on for... well, for awhile, i mean there are many people, not just a few who dedicates their lives for shoes. but if you arent interested in brown shoes at this particular moment, well, it's just another pair of brown shoes. heck, you may even just describe it as shoes. brown, black, red, whatevers.

it is easy to explain and break things into elements and sections; basically, one could always divide an image or a concept further, if necessary, until one get to the absolute simple concept, now indivisible. even then, one could further breach out by connecting one indivisible idea to another simple or complex idea. depending on your conversation or context, one uses the micro-macro, singular-multiple contexts freely, as tools of explanation and the subsequent comprehension.
case in point, even the dull ones could pass through school if they are taught well and they are willing to be taught.

and here comes the big catch-22 though. you cant teach perception. or ability for perception. many can learn to become a proficient home-fixer, but none of them may become an architect, beside the architect who happened to be a home-fixer; similar thing here. it all looks deceivingly similar, similar however, meaning not the same. and no matter how hard one tries to become the other, it's well... not only painful, labourous but also impossible. but hey, we need both, house-fixers and architect.

how did we get here, discussing perception? because in a sense, everyone perceives the world a little differently, and despite of many similarities you may find from the surface, one always realizes that what may have been similar may not be similar at all. from the external point of view, two different persons can have many mutual interests. music. literature. hobby. food. whatevers. that's not the point. the point is that though two people may seem similar, they may not be. and as time progresses, two individuals who may have been closer, may no longer be so close. usually that's also alright, it is a-okay to have a company who is really different from you. even encouraged, really. but the problem arises when the difference in perception becomes larger and larger, eventually creating this big distance between two individuals, a drift. and when the distance, or the difference become a cause for a suffering for both parties, that's when one needs to make a decision. where does this relation need to go- not where you want it to go?

in recent weeks, mr. salamander and i have been conversing through small window that does not even really exists. now, i can sense you getting interested in knowing who this mr. salamander is. well, once again, that is for me to know and for you to figure it out, should you be really bored. conversing in binary codes over the invisible connection, i thought that perhaps this conversations wont work at all. however, the observations beg to differ; not only it's been enjoyable, it's also been evocative and provocative.

moving from topic to another, his incessant need for new stimulation and amusements are fulfilled by monkey's random thoughts and non-linear, non-sensible chains of actions. nothing grand here, it's not like we talk about the truth of the universe or anything. just enough to keep one listening to another, then volley back so that the other cant help it but to response in all sincerity. this only works because we both receive things in similar manner, though we are very different people from the outside. in a sense, the outward crystallization of the persona differs enough that we arent seen as similar people, but since the way we perceive the world is similar, the outer differences are not only tolerable, but also immensely enjoyable.

au contraire, monkey and the chemist, has much in common from the outside, but the inner sense of the self and the world differs wildly. from the outside, it may even look that the two are almost identical. but once you crack and take a look into the heart of the matter, the two sees the world in almost opposing point of view. now, chemist really did try to see the things from monkey's point of view and monkey did an okay job of breaking down and explaining how she sees the world. however, monkey also realizes that she cannot make the chemist to adapt to her point of view. because the chemist perceives the world in the entirely different manner. what one sees as virtue becomes others' vice, quick as a wink.

can monkey and chemist co-exist? yes. they even may benefit from each others' company, especially since they are so different. but when the differences between two identities are so big that it is causing trouble to one another, it becomes a necessity to adjust the relationship so that the unnecessary trouble no longer exist and the pain caused by such trouble to have sufficient time to heal.

it's never about who is better than who. not even about who is 'more like' who. it's about seeing the world and perceiving the world with a true sense of self, and being able to share it, whether you contrast or concur with another. as long as the processes are enjoyable, i see no problems. however, the epic wknd was a necessity, because the differences were becoming alarmingly stressful. but since it's only a b-rated epic, am sure there'll be more fiascoes to come even just from this wk. and monkey will be having mr. salamander laughing and chuckling on the other side of the window. and may be some laughter will be infectious enough to make it all the way to the book bomber, whose been immersed in total sense of reality according to a succinct email (much like him in person, makes me laugh)
and i have funny feeling it'll involve much booze-only policy.

that was a good one, book bomber.
it's also hilarious that book bomber and mr. salamander, who never have met one another, plays the similar word games. i think they understand what i mean by that,
and while that take a bit of time to settle, monkey's off to shower to get that zamboni track off her brain. ugh.


rain over there = wrinkly pink piggies

as we were taught since wee kids, i often ask strangers and friends alike, how things are going. and it's amusing where that simple stock question may take you. just a while ago, so casually, over the time zones and a small puddle of water called the atlantic ocean and such, one of my friends (who i still have to come up with a code name) answered THE stock question that his feet are wet. as i was ready to make fun of him for drinking his pints with his shoes, he jumped the gun and explained that the situation was entirely nature-induced, that it was simply raining outside. okay, you drew faster than i. i will not give you a hard time. so what are you doing to get dry? and he mentioned stove. burning things inside of a metal chamber, creating heat and warmth (that is so much greater than the hallmark imagery that we are all desensitized to). you mean you have a old school stove?? and the answer was.... yes, lump coal stove!!

we used to have coal stoves when i was growing up in seoul. my father went over to the middle east, working for hyundai construction during the late 70s and early 80s. sending the money home and coming back only twice a year (we, the three kids are exactly two years apart and i dont think it's all just a chance-operation, haha), mom/dad saved up enough to buy a lot and build a house. in traditional korean houses, back in those days, often had the old school coal stoves, especially in the living room. the stoves i see now in north america tends to be more square or rectangular, burning mostly woods or gas. these stoves were round, like a oil barrel, had opening on the belly, to stack the formed coal blocks, like the ones in the picture, round, may be about a foot tall, with air holes going through it for oxygen circulation. with a gigantic black wire tong, you have to carefully stack them inside and switch them out once in awhile to keep it going. if it gets ridiculously cold, often mom or dad have to get up in the middle of the night to switch the coal batches.

so it burns coal. which means it need vents. unless we all wanna create a cult, collects thousands of dollars, and go purchase nike sweatsuits, then die from carbon monoxide poisoning. actually if i remember correctly, every year, there would be handful of people who would die from accidental CO leaks from house stoves. ooops. shouldnt joke with things like that. anyways. the vents were made of thi metal pipes, probably made from galvanized tins or something. the joints were sealed with those very thin metal tapes. i used to get into much trouble for peeling them off from the joints. all i wanted to do was have some piece of it to practice origami (those sheets fold wondefully, holding onto all sharp lines and edges etc), and i knew nothing about CO poisoning. i swear. i didnt like my siblings so much, but not as much to create a mass death scene. and believe it or not, there was a period when i was just a simple child and didnt know anything about CO poisoning.

one of the fondest memeory of my childhood involves that coal stove. when winter approaches, the stove would be put out in the middle of the living room. they brought in workers to install the vent system; the coal delivery man came once in two weeks i think, and he would deliver stacks and stacks of those coal bullets, and in my house, they were stored in the unfinished basement.

hot water was still relatively expensive thing, so back in the days, my mother would wash all three dirty kids in succession. and this is very amusing for me, because we mustve been really little to be washed all simultaneously. esp. with the cutting edge sharp gender separation policy of eastern asian culture. anyways, so after some romp in the snow, we were all gathered to the bathroom. unlike the western house bathrooms, where there is no drain hole on the floor, the korean bathrooms have the drain on the floor so you can splash as much water as you would like without wrecking the house. which i still miss to certain degree.

so after the a la ford process of soap, lather, buckets of hot water (now lukewarm), we would be sent to the living room, wrapped in little towels to be dressed.
and depending on how mom or granny felt, there would be an extra kick: sometimes they would hang jammies around those vent pipes, holding them together with clothpins, so that they would be all soft, warm and slightly toasty cottony. up to this day, one of my favorite texture is the dryer-fresh thick cotton jersey. they rest on your skin almost weightlessly, but with enough body to feel substantial.
anyways. so if you are lucky, not only you get to throw your wet winter boots and jackets on floor, soaped and somewhat dried, then put onto now vent-toasted jammies.

and i remembered, myself, a small child, sitting on a chair, stretching my feet out to the stove to dry them. the toes were all wrinkly from the moisture of wet winter boots and the shower/bath. like prunes. but much more pink and smaller. little wet wrinkly piggies on my feet. and you try to spread the piggies separately so that every square mm of your little feet are dry. and if you are around for the right time, granny or mom, sometime dad will come around to switchout the coal blocks. and they would come out no longer black, but glowing light pink, ready to crumble into pile of ashes. they were put on the side of the stove, left to cool. then once there is enough, they will be moved to outside, right by the garbage cans.

oh let's not forget toasting things on these stoves. see, around the winter time, traditional korean food includes rice cake soups. they punch the wet glutinous rice into pulps, and keep beating them until they turn into this soft, sticky goo. the village mill (yes, we did have such things still) would do this using the machine, but if you are around the traditional holidays, you will still get to see all these grown men, beating a pile of sticky rice with big wooden hammers with long handles. when they are sufficiently gooey, quickly it is rolled out and cut into squares, or put through a machine, pushing out as thin ropes. the ropes are then cut into these oblong shapes, commonly used in rice cake soups. this is nothing like the crunch, bland, airpopped and glued-together-with-cornsyrup western rice cakes, the crunch kinds.

so around dinner time, if mom's willing, we will be given scrap pieces of rice cakes from the kitchen, and we toasted them on top of the coal stove, using our fingers, flipping them more than necessary just because it was fun. i never really got into toasted rice cakes, but boy i burned a lot of them. they are white, but they will eventually turn brown from toasting, often having these little blisters from the air bubbles trapped from the initial beating process. they show up like pimples, small rise on surface- then all the sudden, blow up to a size, then pops off to an empty crater. i still do the same with marshmellows. wont really eat them for some reason, but will toast. slow, long, toasting, until the outer shell barely holds. and pop, the skin falls, and it's all goo. fun. though they can really stick to your fingers and burn. ouch.

three kids. toasting their feet on the coal stove heat. all about the same heights, all with pink, soft, wrinkly piggies on their feet. hahaha. small enough to all fit into a love seat with room to spare, no problem.
sometimes i think things got real decadent with introduction of cheap hot waters and abundance of house heating devices. too decadent in a sense that everything is instant and sort of average. an electric coil heater will never give out heat like gas or coal stove. but that's supposedly better for some reason and that's what we get now. yay for central heating.


what a pleasure it is that you grew up with real fire, my friend said. and ya. i know exactly what you mean by that.

just because it rained on the other side of the atlantic, i got to re-live the glow and warmth of old school coal stove technology. not exactly the most linear progression of thoughts, but im now going to bed with the memory of watching my own wrinkly piggies drying out, remembering the slight anxiety, worrying about the possibility that they will never dry out completely, that they may stay wrinkly (as one of my evil cousins have suggested as a joke). and may be sometime one of those tomorrows, i will toast my wet piggies together w stove owner , and try to warn about the impending dangers of permanently wrinkled piggies, toasting and burning all kinds of things on the top of the stove.


the gap of time and proximity

it is really funny to think about the differences between simultaneity and cooperation/collaboration. lot of times, it is the misuse of the words that gets us into the hot water. one of my friends so poignantly pointed out that hot water is just good for tea and no one seems to be willing to take a dunk in it, which made me think of the unfortunate case of the dormouse in mad hatter's tea party. haha. tenniel was a genius.

there are many of us in this world, the conscious living beings, considering each self as an individual. individual meaning it can no longer be divided. the smallest part of the whole. so we all co-occupy the space and time, being born, getting old, then dying. and one life intersects countless others, whether they may or may not be conscious of it. but most of the time, like walking in the sea of crowd, mingling among strangers, one happen to ride the same flow of time at the same instance, as an individual. hence, living simultaneously. even when one is taking part of a larger entity, ie. going to school, sitting in a bus with others, waiting at the doctor's office and such, the consciousness usually does not make much significant connection. like waving at the bus driving by, without really knowing if anyone's even riding in it. or trying to go through the grocery aisle without getting run over by little children. they run right past you, with no care about who you are, what you want for dinner, whether you are going to look down and try to find a non-name brand items for substitution, etc. co-habiting and passing by.

and then there are the occasional opportunity for cooperation/collaboration. commonly known as 'doing things together.' working together, unlike co-habitation or simultaneity, requires active participation from the conscious of the parties involved. continuously giving and taking, the repeated cycle synthesizes new ideas, product, even just an acceptance of a new point of view for an old dog. in a sense, the difference would be that the parties involved are changed due to the experiences of the cooperation. and yes, i believe there usually is an enormous satisfaction- the true joy of communicating and exploring another person's realm, taking a dip at an alternative reality. as a relativist, i find the this kind of communication rewarding and enjoyable. though it's never free- kind of a tandem ride, if you will, both parties must be present.

and there comes another interesting thing about identity of words; some words have double meanings- as a noun and a verb. and often, in co-habitation, or simultaneous individual action in close proximity, the words simply stop living and becomes simple nouns. like 'mind,' which has over 47 entries, become a simple word, meaning not much more than some bizarre abstract concept.

and how many hours, days and years have i spend mistaking one to another, simply blocking out a chance to explain and be explained, or take proximity as a pre-requisite for collaboration?

recently there has been many different forms of communication and exchanges in my life, esp. in banff as well as somewhere as far as the other side of the small pond called atlantic ocean. and sometimes, though the identities are far enough to occupy the flow of the time simultaneously, we are subjected to the tyranny of the time zone differences. that is a topic for another piece i think- how bizarre is it that i am thinking in cooperation with another being, while one could be in a different flow of the day from the other? here, proximity really brings out the difference that the distance could make. in contrast, there are people who are so close to me in proximity that i could touch and whisper to, though there is only simultaneity.

thinking about these differences, i think i just get more and more lost about the subtle nuances of one life to another; however clear i think it may be, it always blurs at the edges, like blending of millions of shades of blues and greys of the mountains here in winder rockies. only when you take the time to look at them, you start to see them. and once you start to see them, you see more and more shades. in a sense, may be whenever i look at closely at lives who are cooperating, the term individual no longer applies. because we blend, there is no possibility of separating into smaller parts- indivisible.
it is a shame truly that i cannot cooperate with all conscious minds around me. i understand that it's impossible. which makes me rather wistful sometimes about the proximity of the people who are cooperating with my flow of life and time.

may be im just getting old and sentimental,
getting attached to those very thin threads between people, that you have to continuously spin out with utmost care, thin as spiderwebbing, however, still clearly connecting through one identity to another.
meanwhile, im gonna try to stay out of the hot water. tea pot or not.


bertrand and snow in sincerity of evans

outside my window is swirl of grey and blue. the mountains appearing and disappearing, as wind brings the thin veil of floating snowflakes around the quiet afternoon.

i have much work to do however i am not able to concentrate on task on hand. this is rather unfortunate since even if i work around the clock, i will not be able to complete as many tasks i would like to. but what is the point of getting angry at the score- it wont reveal anything to me, until i take the time to sit down with it and have a real conversation.

hey score, what are you all about, really, what are you trying to tell me? i know you are just a messenger and that you probably will bring me more questions than answers. but i still want to know what you need and want to tell me. i will stay quiet and pay attention, i will try. and if i cant listen and see what you need to show me, i may as well leave you for now, rather than trying to mold you from me. you are already set in concrete form, black inks on white pages. i am the flexible being in this relationship. until i commit and take a closer look, you wont show me what you know.

instead of work, im filling this afternoon up to the rim with sound of ravel and bill evans. there's this crazy pianist by name mark ponthus at mannes school of music, new york. i was studying at the contemp. institute couple years ago, and i still remember the way he played le gibet in the concert. gaspard de la nuit is often abused work in piano world. it's flashy, it's pretty. it's all things that may be abused for competitions and egos. the gruesomeness, the sense of inevitability and sinister often gets lost as we get carried away with this exciting kinestatic sensation of playing faster and louder.

but once one goes back and look at bertrand's poetry, it becomes impossible to look at its beauty without that bitter taste in your mouth. like some magical perfume you pick up, and you first sense a deep, rich, enticing romanticism, sweet, pleasant, relaxing each strands of your muscle fibre. but when the first note finished, one is left with such foul finishing note, noxious, bitter and lingering. so unexpected and thick, that you can taste the smell. leaving you with a sense of paralysis in the very center of your brain, limbs hanging limp from post-pleasure, now paying for that pleasure. the french symbolist poets- starting with bertrand to baudelaire and marllarme, extending to the larger group called les mardistes, really knew about the price of decadent pleasure. les fleurs du mal being a prime example. not fantastic but rather, phantastic literature.

for those who wonder what gaspard is all about, there are some translation of the three poems of bertrand that ravel drew from. gaspard refers to the man in charge of the royal treasures: "Gaspard of the Night or the treasurer of the night thus creates allusions to someone in charge of all that is jewel-like, dark, mysterious, perhaps even morose," according to siglind bruhn's 1997 publication on extrinsic meaning of music of debussy, ravel and messiane.

in contrast, bill evans, my favorite jazz pianist of all times, is the epitome of sincerity. one of those few people, who looks almost shy because they are so honest. when you look at them in the eyes, they almost blush, then calmly meet your gaze with evenness and calmness, then, may be then they crack a small smile, barely there, in their eyes and just on the corner of their lips. they listen not just with ears, but with intensity of their entire body. they draw sympathetic resonance from you and once they speak, you can't help it but to drop every other thing, lean forward and listen. intimate enough to be inaudible. but clearly spoken, not rushed and not forced. and you must also listen at the same pace with them; but not a such a difficult task, since they will also speak with your pace. pulses not beating simultaneously, but together.

i never had the chance to meet evans, i was born way too late and in a different continent. but when i first heard him playing nardis, i felt as if i already knew this guy. from the audio track, he spoke clearly, surely and slowly. with intensity of warm glowing fire. steady and charismatic. listening to my favorite album of his, conversations with myself, always bring me back closer to my center. and fortunately, there are several characters who are much like evans in my life. assured, calm and quiet. as i keep running away from hype and noise, i seek out these individuals. i would love to be something close to them one day. to be able to plant my feet on ground and be able to really look at reality, without cynisism or sarcasm.

so here goes my afternoon. and i am taking a leave of absence from my own busy, work-cluttered, messy place for another hour. alternating between the sickly-sweet decadence of ravel's gaspard and embarassingly honest bill evans, i am sinking into the mud called life, enjoying both sides of one coin.

i believe it all will be fine, may be.

25 things plague epidemic virus contagion outbreak pestilence pandemic blight calamity infestation

this was the virus that went around facebook for awhile, where people took 25 things about them and created a random list of.. well, themselves. and knowing that some of my peeps are against the vicebook, i figured i could also post them here for them to read. somewhat amusing,and i meant... well, all of it. and if you read it already, well... you are spared for a day i believe.

1. I think this 25 things plague is hilarious. In this world of supposed individualism and free-speech, we are still getting into this sheep-herd mentality and ‘trying’ to express self in the conformist way. Way to go people. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am also doing it.

2. There is a world of difference between what a person claims to be and what a person is known as. For instance, not all self-proclaimed musicians are musicians. Often they are simply people who are making sonic events that only exist in time, and whether it is music of not, who knows. However, if it isn’t music, then they are not musicians. And honestly, I am not trying to be critical. I am just amused by the massive difference between such small discrepancy of expression.

3. I think winter is more beautiful than summer in a sense that one needs to pay attention and is willing to see beyond what’s apparent and obvious. The magic lies in the fact that things seem quiet and dormant, however, when you pay attention, they are just waiting, accumulating momentum, bursting out in full colors and gentle perfumes at its first chance in spring. Also since summer is always busting with energy and activities, I find it tiring and difficult to pay attention to more subtle gradation of things.

4. In relation to 3, I tend to like monochromatic things. My closet is usually the colour pallet of various bruises I used say. Blue. Black. Grey. Sometimes brown and everything in between.

5. I recently resigned to life and returned to music. I really like playing music but sometimes I think it’s really silly that I take it so seriously now. If you see me getting aloof with all these ‘artsy’ nonsense, feel free to assign me some manual labour. I quite like manual labour, something that you could see the result of, on top of it being practical.

6. I always wanted to be able to write. Haven’t found a way to do it well
yet. Words don’t stun me, they run over me. The proximity of definitions of verbal communication is a tricky one, and then I ruin it further by talking way too much.

7. However, I do like taking photos. In fact, I am quite proud of some of them.

8. Once I start to refer you as a friend, you are good on my book until the Armageddon comes. This, in reverse, means that not everyone I am acquainted with is considered friends. It is quite bizarre that now everyone calls everyone friends, whether it be msn buddies, MUD game buddies or simple just other people who happened to be occupying the same space simultaneously.

9. I can’t really say that friends and family should come first all the time. There are times for responsibilities I think. It is also a form of art to be able to be rational in times of turmoil. However, in my mind, they will be the first thing all the time. Even when I cannot be there right away, don’t ever assume that you are not my priority. You are. I just may be also required to be somewhere different for things, and am just temporarily delayed. But I will be there ASAP.

10. I depend heavily on relationships- I should clarify this one. If I am forming a bond, that bond must be mutual in a sense that I and the other entity needs to contribute, however not necessarily simultaneously. And from these bonds, I continue to live on, though I am still a rather insignificant weakling in larger scheme of things. Even just having trees and plants which solely depends on me to take care of them is enough, though it is silly for me to think that I am the caretaker, as I have no control over the sunlight that really gives them the life they need. I am just an interconnector between the water tap and the plant pots. In a sense, the word ‘relationship’ has become a rather restricted and rigid term in recent years- we always think of it as a boy-girl or life-partner things. I think in this case, the word relationship refers to the very plain vanilla definition: Re*la"tion*ship\, n. The state of being related by kindred, affinity, or other alliance. --Mason. (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc)

11. I often take things way over its intended context. I would be surprised if you are still taking the time to read this particular 25 things list. But I think it’s almost too much fun to really sit and maul simpler things and see what one can conjure from a given opportunity, a spark to start a fire. Though in my case, I often end up burning self with this kind of pyromaniac tendency. My dad would say that I have too much time in my head and hands, which returns to point 5.

12. I have terrible temper. My fuse is way too short. I am working on it, believe it or not.

13. I am always open for new things to try out. Though I may still protest rather loudly. And this goes for people as well. It may take me a while to learn to like some things/persons since I am naturally stubborn and judgmental, but really, for initial exposure, I will try to look it as not ‘I do not like it,’ but ‘I do not like it YET.’ And even if I have settled in an opinion, I try to tell myself that it’s not a permanent decision, but a just a simple benchmark of where that thing stands in relation to me and only me.

14. I often try to press people’s buttons out of the blue. Nothing personal, I just want to see where they may go with the situation. I just hope no one dies of aneurysm or heart attack because of me. Seriously, if I ever piss you off, it’s probably not the intention I had in mind and I will be sorry, but may still be amused with such strong reaction.

15. I have huge soft spots for things like puppies, spring tree buds, snowflakes, smell of freshly brewed tea, etc. However, I was told multiple times that really, I should stay away from fragile things. And they (whoever they may be) may be right most of the time. I wish I was little gentler with things.

16. I talk too much. Time to return to point 5.

17. I like going to the zoo. My favorite animals are monkeys and polar bears. Lying parents and crying children are quite a different story though: ‘Mommy where are the lions?’ ‘They are all sleeping’ (pushing the stroller as far as possible from the lion den)

18. I often become too attached to people. This one is hard.

19. I appreciate sarcasm and cynicism. Sweet and pink never did it for me. I am often at loss of words if I have to lie ‘nicely.’ Even when I do, I bet it’s plainly obvious that I am lying. Damn it.

20. One of my favorite activities is having tea with people. Sometimes things are way nicer with other people sharing it. Not only I get to share simpler things like tea, I also get to share their presence and company. Tea by self if nice. Tea with people I care for becomes something much larger, richer and better though.

21. If you see me at a bar, offer me a gin and tonic and I will be thankful especially if it is Hendrick’s. None of the girly stuff and I don’t really dig beer. In summer, I will be game for other things such as campari soda, negroni, mojito and sangrias. I make mean gin and tonic and freshly muddled mojito.

22. If I could choose any occupation, I would be a pirate monkey. Or a rock band member. Nothing sensible like banker, doctor, lawyer, etc.

23. When there are enough stimuli, I can stay up and keep going for days. Probably why I am a raving insomniac.

24. I cannot appreciate the presence or existence of TV. Especially because I have to plug myself down and watch the episode unfold from beginning to an end and unlike books, where you can just leave a marker, close it, leave then return, one kind of have to commit to the entire segment. I find it brutally constricting. And the shows suck anyways.

25. If you really did read this to the very end, you must really like me or mildly amused about my rant. I rant a lot. And if I rant to you on regular basis, it probably means that 1. I have too much time (back to point 5) or 2. I consider you a friend, which may or may not be a fortunate situation for you (to point 8)