the eighth month anniv of your passing was rather quiet, blanketed by the boxing day craze- in lieu of gatherings and parties on top of this commercial maelstrom, it was quite difficult to keep in mind. i was with mr. minnow's family and thought it was important that i be engaged and interactive. sounds like a science exhibition, no? but rest assured, sadly, you were in my mind. the whole time. especially when the cold moon, the last of the full moons of 2010, was up and bright, full and blue, illuminating through the hills of england, where i wanted to bring you rather eagerly.
the roads here are often swamped by the fogs. the kind of fog that makes one a bit hesitant if one is not versed well with the local geography. after couple days of real cold spell, we have regained the usual winter weather of england- wet and wetter. the snow started to melt and the bit of sun that tried to crash through the blanket of clouds left the fogs rising and falling along the gentle crest of the hills. so when we started to head to leed with a friend to go see an opera, i think we took B6105 that goes through glossop to barnsley, then to M1, a real highway to leeds. after glossop, B6105 is quite a curly road, full of oblique turns and rising and falling hills, by the edge of the reservoir. on way to leeds, i saw a particularly nasty corner, now covered with flowers. and the whole time, that corner was in my mind. on way back, the same. i was thinking may be i will miss it on the way back but i didnt. it was still there.
i bet where you were, there has been no flowers.
i didnt put up any when i went to pick you up, as you were no longer there. and i didnt actually made it to the crash site, as i didnt have the mental power to do that. i am sorry, i was worn from contacting the police and the coroner, funeral director and travel arrangement and such. however, it didnt mean much to me then nor now; you arent there. you are somewheres else.
the hills were really foggy at times and i wondered what it wouldve been like, the night you crashed. it was supposedly pretty wicked weather, well, kelowna being the inner b.c., i can imagine it being somewhat magical and menacing, changing its appearances without warning. beautiful yet malicious.
it's almost new year's. we all miss you here. you arent discussed much with others, i suppose it's because i am not yet so comfortable talking about it, as people have been very sensitive towards me this holiday, as it is the first christmas you arent here. i dont think i will shed any tears especially, but it did hurt when the cold moon was so bright and all the stars were out in the hills. like the sensation at the dentist when he pokes you with the big metal syringe anesthetizer. perhaps i will keep you frozen in my senses. we are no longer two years, two months and twenty-two days apart. but i would like to keep you at the same distance, though the life will bring me further and further away from you.
sleepy warmly with fog blanket.
soundly, silently, melt into the quiet consciousness.
i hear from one of my newly made acquaintance (it is a funny world of mine, often i do not get to meet a person that i get to know through writing/email/posting/etc. there are a few and yes, it does seem odd at times. however, with amount of people i dearly love and yet do not spend much time in person, it is not too much of a surprise, i suppose. the building of a particular context with the individual always leads to variety of interaction and this person who i find interesting, lives in yyz yet i have not had the pleasure of face-to-face. perhaps it will change in the new year) that he has decided to give up music and go into the world of money, particularly investment banking (enrolling courses and such).
it is often at the end of the year that one is bombarded with difficult questions. especially with distant family members and name-forgotten-'friends' at mingling and parties. what is going on in your life? how is your job? how is your personal life? are you getting married? have you finished your degree? and with all the comparison that happens inevitably (the news of the successful cousins, friends' new spanking red sports car, family engagement/marriage announcement, you name it), it becomes almost impossible to remain completely accepting of a self: as is. motivation is a fine thing- seeing your friend 20 lbs lighter may give you an incentive to be more active and healthy. hearing someone's good news about paying off the student loan may give that needed push to make a lump sum payment to one's own student loan. learning new courses, sharing friends, it's all good thing.
and then there are news such as: i cannot sustain my life financially in the city as musician, therefore, i am selling everything related to music to pay for 900 bucks textbook.
i thought he is a very valiant man. not many people i know are able to acknowledge such situation- the financial difficulty related to arts-related occupations. often i hear people making a debut recital in a big city (nyc or london, for instance) well after they have completed their training (nice five years break and such). or organizing one's own concert is another frequent event i hear (though it is never mentioned to the general public). i dont think there's anything wrong with it. but often the problem is that people get stuck in a ever-hopeful stage for years, without ever becoming realistic. sadly, many of us, after years of struggle and hope, we fold and go into separate world, becoming someone who we did not wanted to be: though i dont mean to be critical, lots of us will become the local music teachers or ends up finding employment in a new field. i think career change is fine, even inevitable, especially if one happens to be one of those super-focused youngster, the ones you see in pre-university music programs and olympic hopefully gymnasts, etc.
even right now, i can count number of people i know who are very talented and hard-working, yet keeps a day job to pay for life. i am one of them in a sense that most of my work in yyz concerns cables and demo recordings. my crazy passionate aussie mad flutter is right now selling high end l'occitane products in yul, though she's brave enough to return to banff with even more hopes and energy. my good friend who is a beautiful cellist (or beautiful, period) had changed course and is now done with a law school. another percussionist friend also went to cornell law with a nice full ride and i think he's now in chicago. and many of them are still trying to find a place to be, to become who they are and who they want to be.
And many who were in school with me are now simply silent. i dont know what have became of them. most likely they have left the world of music as a viable source of income and never looked back. and it's not a bad place. one need to try many things before one finds the 'right' fit. and then of course, there are 'kiddies' who still live on 'family' subsidy. though they would never admit, there are a few that i know who could not make the ends meet without daddy allowance, which i find a bit bizarre. when would they grow up or have they simply accept their 'lifestyle' subsidy as a fact of life? i understand a kiddie will always be a kiddie to a parents but well-into 30s and 40s? well, at least they have generous parents, i suppose (may be i am jealous).
so what about this man's decision that is heart breaking? well, he's selling everything. music. strings. bow. instrument. and it feels that (though i hope to be wrong) once one have sold one's instrument, it's really a curtain drawn- it is unlikely that one will return and purchase an instrument with same dedication and excitement, and the financial commitment. and that's the point that made corner of my heart tug.
ive been lucky enough to have access to instruments though i have not owned a piano in a dog's life. often i go weeks/months without playing but it always works out somehow. there are people who simply are helpful for no particular reason. even here in england, not only i have access to an instrument, i even get to do a concert with friends. how nice. and though most of my income last semester was from recording and housemanaging, there are more playing coming on way and i cant complain. i quite enjoy getting involved in all aspects of music life- playing, recording, house managing, putting together programs, advertising, etc. and if i have to leave music and go do something else, i think i would be alright. though i would miss it.
end of the year. decisions made. and i am bidding a good wish for the young valiant friend of mine, who made a fresh decision, a big one. could not have been easy. best wishes for him. and for everyone else, let's stay hopeful and active. i wish to make all non-musical and musical experiences to be part of who i am; who and how i became who i am is interesting and important, often frustrating. however, once that's cleared out, i believe it is much more successful to be happy and satisfied. finding happiness with internal self. holding onto a few hopes, i bid everyone a happy holidays and greets for the new year. for the things it will bring to us to challenge, provoke and enjoy. life is grand, despite of a few bumps on the road.
with less than a week to christmas, there are some funny parallels i have been observing here in britain-canada-united states. it's this thing called 'need to shop.' i like buying things, especially if i have been looking for them with great sense of futility. discovering amazon.com was something of a wonder and some sort of sign from god, because i would know that now, the world's merchants are on tip of my fingers! with my first pay cheque from lincoln, i bought a tivoli raio, henry kloss model two, yes, from amazon, because there was a nil chance that i would find a tivoli dealer in the local area. the month after that, with my second pay cheque, i bought the subwooper for it. and yep, ive been rugging them around home to home, as i traveled quite a bit since then. they have been the heart of my little dorm room, they have been the voice of sanity in banff. they have been a soothing blanket while i was trying to figure out what to do, working as a barista at starbucks. and now they are here in chinley home, channeling many voices and thoughts (thank you spotify!)
my black backpack is a very old one, it's literally falling apart and it drives my housemate crazy whenever i use it, because it's 1. tattered, 2. it's starting to develop a small hole, which could drop important things like headphone jacks, pencils and such. i had it for over twelve years, so it's understandable i suppose. but even with the fancy chrome single shoulder messenger bag around (considered very stylish- may be that's why i dont use it so often), i often pack the daily weight into the tired old black bag. it's been to mexico, to all over eastern europe, scotland trekking and so many different rails and planes. obviously, i will toss them at some point, but i am not sure when that will be.
like many others, i have adopted the new tradition of mania love for aussie boots. however, i must make a distinction it's blundstones, not uggs that i really like. i have a pair of simple ankle length boots, blunnies, we called them in toronto (funny enough it is so popular in yyz but i havent seen them here at all!) that will turn four years old. they are starting to show their age on the heels (i tend to wear out the outer heels of my shoes), however still strong, water-proof, happy and multi-functional. in fact, i often pack this single pair of shoes for all trips. do i wear them on stage? well, yes, i do. when i first met fish's father, he was amused that i was doing some intricate piano pedaling with such thick, farmer's boots. haha. in fact, i think that's the first thing he said to me: hello, nice to meet you, were you really playing the piano with those boots? haha. these ones, i have no idea when they will retire. i am hoping i can squeeze another year or two and it seems very possible.
generally, i do consume and buy. i like the process. i like to find out what i need and to decide how it will be- which product? from where? what should it do? colour? options? company? a product one purchase could illustrate many things about the new owner. and often, the things we acquire helps us to be an individual and could make huge differences in our lives. my orange bicycle, from early-mid 1970s, expresses me rather well i think. it's often oiled and cleaned, though the gears have not been working as long as i can remember and the tires needs changing (no more grooves left). but slightly smaller framed than the supersized bikes of nowday, it's light (for a steel frame) and easy to maneuver, with no real bells and whistles. functional, old, loved and yes, i am happy that no one will dare steal it from me (not worth the efforts i suppose), though i do lock it every time i park it, often with double locks. and another example would be that i would never go buy an apple product. a long story but give me a pc and android product any day. i dont even have itunes since my first and last macbook crashed on me during my dissertation three years ago.
so what's with this upcoming criticism of 'season of buying?' well, i think it's a bit misguided. did things ever make anyone truly happy over a length of time? yes, sometimes. but it is rare, one would agree. and though we are no longer a majority christian society, certain traditions are kept strong, if a bit changed. for instance, minnow's younger son will be working on boxing day at the nearby town buxton. the town has many more shops and is quite larger. so he expects that it will be fairly busy during the whole shift, which is quite nice, because the day goes much faster. and strangely enough, i thought this boxing day shopping mania was a north american thing. i remember when i first came to canada, companies and shops often paid huge fines to open the doors to eager consumers when boxing day fall on sunday- yes, not even fifteen years ago, toronto shops were often closed during sundays. the iconic sam the record shop opened, along with few merchants, and it was a big talk of the town: should we let these giant merchants who can absorb the fines to ignore the law and be ruthlessly commercial? well, we know how that went. it would be an anomaly for downtown shop to not open with ridiculous sales on boxing days.
but you see, the tradition of boxing day is more of a victorian thing, so that slightly skewed my view (gullible monkey!) christmas boxes and often leftover food were distributed to tradesmen for their good service during the year by middle class victorians. before that, churches dating back to middle ages would collect anonymously in metal boxes, to be opened at st. stephen's feast day, where the donations would be spread among the poor. and since all wealthy families had some form of family servants (even now), it was required that the house servants would stay in the employer's house to ensure a good christmas; only after their christmas have ended, the servants would be granted leave to see their own families, with the forementioned christmas boxes.
now boxing day means buying things by boxes i think. hahaha. pardon the pun.
it's not a criticism, but a curiosity from me. what is it that you must have? often in states, you hear about people crushing one another, especially on black friday sale (which is now being adopted by the british, though they have nothing to do with the thanksgiving tradition at all; i once wrote on amazon.co.uk wall and said is it really a great thing for the brits to adopt this american 'tradition'- well, it's safe to say i was stoned to death on discussion board within five minutes. i deleted my post, as it was really making people angry, which was bizarre). and i am thinking it's not a localized event, but of a global matter. if there were opportunities, people will run over others, because of a certain dire need to purchase.
there are times when people are desperate for things, enough to steal, lie and fight. recent flood case in haiti rings a bell. so was the southeastern asian tsunami. flood in pakistan. if you didnt get your hands on it, it would be gone and you might never see it again. you might never see to another day again. your children may perish and you may have to bury them not only in ground, but in your heart. water. medicine. attention. the act of consumption for life must continue in the most dire situations. and when in such context, most of us will fail to retain the social grace that we once praised so highly.
but boxing day sales? how can it be even be compared to the needs for life? one simply would not die because one's television is 38' not 40'. and if one is purchasing television for happiness, perhaps one is making a big mistake- acquisition of goods and personal happiness may co-exist simultaneously, however, they are two dependent situations, unrelated to another. acquisition of goods and the consequent consumption should be realized as a tool, a mean to achieve happiness, however, they are never the core of happiness. it is never the things themselves, but of one's interaction with the things, where the object becomes part of life, of present.
i recently had a small run-in conflict where i felt the need to address an individual over one's mean of acquiring goods through manipulation- a situation when the individual felt that the conducted behavior has been tolerated over the time (that it never has been a big deal) hence, my reaction- which was to address the situation in rather non-english sense (perhaps too direct?) has been received as a quite a shock. and i chewed over the reply for couple days. i wondered and questioned whether if i was being too demanding- i requested that as i try my very best not to be manipulative, that the individual should also make a note, that though his behavior may be acceptable as a habitual thing, a good citizen owes to his community to be honest and sincere, not only to minimize such mishaps but also to create a built-in altruism.
what is about this built-in altruism? well it's quite simple; a social code of conduct is built on agreement of the general population not only to minimize personal loses, but also to protect and foster one another. sharing of materials is a great case of altruism. being respectful of other also reflects the self-respect. being considerate of other allows one to be considered by others. a selfless action eliminates the conflicts of selfishness. an honest action and clarification in communication will eliminate sources of misunderstanding. and after all, it's just goods- it is made and exchanged for consumption. so why not be aware of self-motivation and the process of acquisition?
it's been a silent treatment for couple days but i suppose i could not help but to make a rather sharp point. why? not because i want an apology for self nor i want to reverse the situation. but because i think it is very important for one to be aware of not only the desire for the goods, but of the context of goods that is represented through desire, acquisition, social conduct and self-aware-consumption. not because i am 'right,' but because it is a duty of a citizen to be aware and conscious through one's actions and consequences through one's life.
it all makes me wonder once again about this focus on consumption of goods, where a good relationships are threatened through machiavellian behaviors (or simply incomplete understanding of one's own conduct), blinded by the needs for things, and boxing day- the day of sharing have became the antonym of itself, the day of buying and personal acquisition. but hopefully, there are enough of us who are crushed once or twice by the weight of the things we haul through life (the more you own, the more you would want, the more you are responsible for and the more you need to maintain) and along with those who are courageous enough to take a second look at one's own consumption behavior to keep the spirit of things going. life is series of consumption. even unborn babies, if necessary, will consume mothers to prepare for birth. that's always been the way. life is never free. we are all consumers. so if we have to consume and we like to consume, why not be in in the full spirit of it and do it well?
so after eating large sunday roast prepped by minnow and the subsequent supper made from the roasted chicken stock and lovely dumplings (thanks to local ad veggie sales from cornershop), i send you all much love and a small request for awareness for consumption. it's always much more enjoyable when you know what you have and what you will do with it. like chestnuts and open fire. i am lucky to fill self up silly with such luxury.
being a keyboard monkey, this means much of my musical sensations also involve tactile sensations. have you ever sat down with your choice of instrument and start to bang away? the immediate joy (perhaps not your neighbours/familys) can often be so overwhelming that i often lose the sight of the practice, simply going through the fun of physical execution. i try to do this less when i am actually practicing and playing now, but now and then, it's a great thing to play a 8-notes chords with both hands, letting it resonate through the big huge metal frame of the modern piano. even better if i can get my hands and feet on a organ with 32-foot stops.
often music comes in colours and visuals. very often, when the pages get darker and darker, with many small note heads and even more flags, there is that common tendency to close eyes and hope for the best. like a stunt driver going through the burning tunnel of flame. and when it looks sparse- a good example would be that of holy minimalists, such as arvo part (i know that they would rather not be labeled as such, but let's forgo that for the sake of reference), an impatient one is lost inbetween the decay of sounds rather than tasting all gradation of sound, from its initial vibration to the niente ending, back to silence. however, once one can dare to approach the point of total silence, all the sudden, the white spaces inbetween the sounds become a live process, provocative and more colourful than any other 'busy' aural sensations.
cliche as it may be, once you immerse self in the world of the composers such as debussy and ravel, one cannot avoid to smell and taste the atmosphere. foreign. faraway. but real. that barely detectable fragrance of last summer's honeysuckcle. the smell of the wet earth, as the grave diggers push their strong arms and shovel into the hole, where a person may settle for the next phase- the phase of non-living. the jangling of gamelan that evokes sweaty yet cool breeze of the tropic nights, where life comes around in the shade of the night, away from the oppressive sun.
as an active audience, the sensors allow us to take a simple phenomenon of sound into the realm of life. as a composer of a player, the additional layer of conceptualizing and performing could adds lot more shards of mirror,s complicating the simple kaleidoscope to endless variations. beautiful. overwhelming. often overdriven and incomprehensible, but always real.
i recently went to see a japanese pianist play tchaikovsky piano concerto 1 with the bbc. impeccable playing. phrasing, colours, pedalling, technical brilliance and voicing. it was brilliant. i have seen him before actually, last year, in the van cliburn webcast. he goes by the name nobu. these competition webcasts are not really my cup of tea, usually i will glance may be twice or three times, in the final round, just to see if anything have changed. dont get me wrong, it is not that i think i am better than 'competition' ideas, it's just that i think there are enough people in this world who have found ways to communicate in their chosen language; and with time, if one dares to be sensitive and vulnerable, strong and inspired, one's language simply becomes more eloquent and effective. competition or not. and with so many competitions everywhere, i found it a bit pointless for me to follow them all. it's like the popchart top ten for classical performers- there are things that are simply not represented well enough in such format and i cant be possibly be interested in everything, so.
the audience was very appreciative of the pianist's performance. though i think many of them may remember just one thing: that he is blind from birth. i was quite unsure what i would think of this- yes, it is a difficulty that an average person will not experience. i like painting and doodling. i love the colours i can see. the simple idea that i can look and reach, point and grab is probably the earliest kinestatic thought i had since i was a baby. but the point was that blind or not, he is a brilliant musician. actually the first time ive seen him in webcast, i never knew. probably because i never watched the whole episode, but just glancing a minute or two, here and there.
i am left with a big question, a curiosity regarding nobu, however. i wonder how he sees his world without the physical sensation of 'seeing.' world composed so richly, yet without eyes. see, the difference is that though he does not have sight, he has plenty of vision. what is a vision? well, it comes from old french vision, from latin visionem: 'act of seeing, sight things seen,' from videre: 'to see.' it is also related to the sanskrit word veda: 'i know.' and yes, from his performance, one gets a glimpse of the world he knows- vibrant and alive.
as i write this post, i am listening to a recording of a friend, who wrote/arrange/played. and because of pre-listening context of this music, my world at the moment is surrounded by the vision of banff mountains and vast sky that one can only see when one has reached the summit. it's a funny thing, being in the mountains. living in the midwest, land of prairies, i have often felt so lost and naked, where the land is flat for miles and miles. then one learns to appreciate the vast openness of it. and in banff, i learned the warmth of the mountains surrounding small beings like me, with such a contrasting open sky from the top of the mountains. hence, i am not listening to sound. i am living through sensation. what is this world that i see? that i know?
i am not sure if i can pin point to what it exactly is, but it surely is amazingly beautiful. lucky me.
Re: Phone banking conversation on 06 December 2010
*the phone agent tells me that they cannot pass on this apology. so here it is, i buggered up. i hope she is at least havng a better day :s
*for those who knows me, i dare say that i didnt swear really. i think i did say 'for fuck's sake,' once or twice..
ive submitted my citizenship application eons ago (or what seems like eons), to be exact, on april 2009, i believe, when i came back from the states. now one wonders, what's going on? monkey, you arent a citizen? aha, no. while i was growing up, my dad have explained that switching one's nationality shouldnt be a flippant decision. as a first generation immigrant, i think he views his nationality a bit more seriously than the most. i understand. for him, he'll be korean, foremost and first. but for me? well, i came when i was 12. i have lived away from korea much longer. even when i subtract the five years i have spent in the states. so anyhows, there was no chance of getting a canadian passport back then. during my university undergrad years, i start to realize that perhaps it's the right time to make the switch over, as i grew more aware of the context i live in, the place i am at, about my own identity. the first and last time i went back to korea was in 1997, just short five years later we have moved and the most common comment i heard was that ' (i) must be not from here- where were you born?' and seeing my friends exercise their rights to vote, i start to muse self about this citizenship papers.
then i went off to the states and that made things much complicated. states being what it is and requiring ton of paper works for the foreign students, there was no way to really follow through the process, as one switches over the citizenship, there is a significant gap time that one is passport-less; and with the time it wouldve taken to reapply for another set of paper works and such, it was not a practical decision. so i had to wait till i came back to canada post phd graduation to apply. so it went off from my hands to theirs, last year april.
now here's the fun facts. twice, in dec 2009 and jan 2010, they have asked me to submit a supplementary applications regarding my residency (reasonable request, as i move around quite a bit) which i never received. so then comes the phone chasing. what should i do? would you send me another? etc etc. and because ive been out of the country while my papers in process, i had to be in contact with them regularly. and everytime (probably total of four or more), they have given me the same answer: no, you dont need to fill out the supplementary papers and we'll be in touch.
so today, in prior to my winter break, i called them again, to notify and to see where things are at; same procedure: yes, i will send in the intention to travel overseas to the local office. btw, where are my papers? how are they? then the agent says: we are still waiting for the supplementary papers.
look, i have been in touch with that missing chunk since april and i was told that you will be in touch with me, government of canada- well he now says that i need to still complete the damned form and send them in, and that the reason it's on grande pause is that they are waiting for the paper works. i say how the heck am i fill those papers out if you never sent them to me? after i have notified you that the previous papers were lost? he says nonchalantly that he'll put in the request for new set of papers and that it should get to me within next thirty days.
by the time it gets to me, it wouldve been a full year since they 'attempted' to get those papers to me. all i am saying is that it's a huge incompetence. though i have been happy in last couple months, doing the things i do and being with the people i love, i do not understand how the call centre agents managed to waste almost a year of my life. all they had to do was to send me the damned papers, as they should have. and now- well, almost a year later, i dont really know what to say. the agent today says that i should be following it as close as i could, well, what else could i have done? i have been asking the same questions of 'is there i can do/i am supposed to do' and today is the first day i got a different answer.
gross incompetency. i am upset. i am upset enough to shed some tears. that's useless, i understand. there's nothing else i could do at this point. i will just have to wait until they send their papers and i will have to diligently fill it out, send it and hope for the best. the thing is, i should not need grand things such as hope for paper works. all i would need is a simple competency.
close friend thinks that i should wait till they have processed my paper so that they wont conveniently 'lose' my works again. i am not too sure if they are that vindictive but i suppose there's no point of raising the issue. so i will wait till i have became a canadian. how difficult is it to become a citizen of the country youve been living in for nineteen years? not very. but when people do not care for their tasks, they become incompetent. and then start to drop the balls everywhere. i am glad to think that my past year has been very nice, if i may say so, but boy, i wish i had more control over my life, as i would have, if the call centre parrots have paid attention to their work. what a mad situation. good bye, a year of waiting. take comfort in fact that i still have to wait longer and longer and longer. gaaah. the friendly website tells me that verification will take up to a year no problem. good thing i like toronto as much as i do.
what is a university? well, the word comes from the latin word universitas. along with growth of towns, which made congregation of specialists and wanna-be-specialists possible, associations of various natures, much like guilds for tradesmen, came to existence. the difference between the pre-medieval and medieval universities? one may now get a diploma. the earliest famous university is university of bologna, where one of my favorite author, umberto eco, still teaches. awesome. university became a shorten expression for: universitas magistrorum et scholarium, a community of teachers and scholars. and yes, academic freedom was one of the very first thoughts that came into series of priorities. hence, let's just call the initial model of a university as a place to learn and exercise academic freedom and... there was no tuition! like current military academies, ex. west point, someone else paid for your university (usually by the church).
what do i see as the university now? well, we see it as a necessity (as if you would die if you dont advance from university from high school) for a normal life (ie. financial median earning power). tuition is high and often an undergrad degree is never enough, for the actual position you may want to eventually get to. so, an extended form of a high school, really. what about that distinction on paper- diploma? well, it's fairly easy to obtain:
1. apply to universities, get accepted
2. find a mean to pay for it
3. do not fail classes. file right paper works
4. with enough time, you get a paper
5. youve graduated!
and let me just add that... being in univ education usually can guarantee some outcomes. no, coming out better educated is not one of them. but, yes, being poorer is almost guaranteed!
well, when one started to charge for the rights to education, as it costs the society to run such institution, one would think that we would exercise our consumer power, as we often do. we complain about our coffees too hot. too cold. we complain about fast foods that it's unhealthy and should not be sold to us. we complain the cheap product that we bought broke down. we even buy clothing, wear and bring it back. and tuition isnt a small spending. unless you are bright (or live in uk, as i am told, where they often do degrees within three years), most likely you will take four years to complete a bachelor's degree. well, bachelor's degree takes about 127-132 hours of college credits, it now takes a good 4.5 years on average.
instead, in universities, these young adults often look themselves with pride, forgetting the very words they use to describe selves. the whole idea of bachelor's degree stems from the word baccalaureatus, which comes from baccalaureus, an advanced student. so really, it just means you have advanced as a student. what is a good student? since we are borrowing from the old times, let's see what student means...
etymology would describe that the english word student came in 14th century, from french, estudient, one who is studying, from the latin word studium- to study. so what is to study? well, here's something from online etymology:
study (v): early 12c., from estudier: to study,
from studiare, from latin studium: study, application,
originally: eagerness, from studere: to be diligent (pushing forward)
from (s)teu- to push, stick, knock, beat.
noun means: application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.
damn. it's a verb. did you see that?
a student then is a simple noun form of a verb, someone who studies, who pushes, who is diligent in pursuit of knowledge. dont even get me started on the word learn. all i would say is 'learn' is a... verb. again.
learn (v): leornian: to get knowledge, be cultivated
german lernen: to learn, or lais: ' i know'
to follow or find the track.
university is a noun. but everything else in there involves verbs. is it a coincidence? no. i dont think so. but because it involves life's normality such as tuition, pay cheques, tenuer process (which i think is mentally retarded concept), distinction between the job categories (ie. not all your 'profs' are professors. especially in music school, i bet most of them are instructors/adjuncts/tutors, who gets paid... well, slightly better than bank tellers), workloads, territories- physical and mental/conceptual, often it is easy to lose the very sight of things.
with couple good friends who have sat in all-around-academic chairs (with ten years spent at universities, i know that these people are also rather versed in the art of deciphering the mysterious academic fog regarding the 'respectable' university lingos), we often exchange thoughts that just steams up our heads. just to make sure that one have not completely lost it and became insane. you know what they say, if it's just you, you are insane. if there's a good group, it's a trend! hahaha. and recent talks have brought old thoughts back into life. and here i am, a lowly casual employee, trying to make a few interesting points. if it offends you, please remember, it's just a musing. from a monkey. hey, im somewhere below regular univ. non-academic employees.
and before it all happens, let's see how i see the social ranking of the universities:
1. students who pay (your tuition fuels the place)
2. teachers (they are respected- supposedly, for their knowledge):
tenure-track will include:
- distinguished/endowed chair (kingpins, like being canadian senate)
- full professorship (senior, tenured, safe for life)
- associate professorship (mid-level, usually tenured)
- assistant professor (entry smallfry, yet to be tenured)
- research prof (no teaching, just working, salaries are NOT from tuition but from external)
- adjunct instructors/lecturer/associates (paid for hours they 'work')
- full time instructors (non-tenured full time teachers)
3. non-academic full time employees (without office, it'll never run)
(oh wait, with office, it barely runs... you didnt hear it from me though)
4. casual employees (we come and go)
5. graduate assistants (ooooh.... there'll be light someday)
you see, most university takes undergrads because they want to be there and the institutions can charge them tuition, in my opinion. that tuition, with external fundings- private or public, like taxes, fuels the institution. yes, most of the undergrads are... consumers! you arent there because it's for free and yes, your teachers and staffs are... service providers. and no, they are not doing charity work.
so why so passive when it comes to getting your money's worth as a student?
5k is no biggie for you?
lucky you. haha.
however, remember that what i would call an 'old institution mentality' carved in ivory would like to convince you that the social ranking should be reversed on top....
1. teachers ('we are empowering you. giving you our precious time')
2. paying students (since you pay, we have to keep you content)
4. grad students as GTAs (get outta there, mate)
so what are the thoughts that monkey have leaking from ears? well.
1. get your money's worth: you need a service? perhaps you arent the only one who needs that service or facility. ask for it. ask until it's given to you. it'll never be given to you unless... admin had spare time (which they never do), or well, it'll never be given to you. speak up. be a noisy consumer. dont tell me your 5k isnt as important as a bloody mcdonald coffee.
2. realize you are there to learn. it means you would go do shit. ya, like obtaining skills of- well, teaching yourself how to learn. that's what your teachers are for. it's simpler to tell one how to interpret or physically execute a musical passage (since we are in music school) than teach you how to practice. so rarely they'll volunteer that information. but think what you may need to do once you graduate. do you wanna hire a teacher all your life? you must be rich or in dire need of companionship. get down to business and see what you are and what your doing.
3. look at the very words you use so often: 'practice.' one of the things that makes me laugh is what i call a 'hopeful' practice. it's funny because we all do/did it. and boy it is... silly. you start from the top of the piece, play till you get stuck. now, repeat the passage over and over again. when succeeds after million tries, proceed to the next part. wait. ooh. youve just lowered your chance of playing it right even more by practicing. if the odd was 1:10 (right to wrong execution), now it's at least 2:20.
if something isnt happening, wait. pause. think. why is it not happening? learn to dissect the problem. you dont know how? well, that's what your profs are getting paid for. that should be a lesson.
4. remember that bachelor's degree doesnt carry much anymore. you finished 4-5 years of univ. now what? how marketable are you? what do you know how to do? to practice 10 hours a day for a recital program a year means... well, may be you have 5 hours of music. that's 5 hours. what are you going to do for rest of your life with that? make sure those 5 hours are only an illustration of your obtained skill, rather than the sole product of your young life. true, it's not always about money, but when they send you the first repayment form, i bet you would wish you have money. we all do.
5. teachers have lives too. as much as you are proud to study with them, they are their own person before anything else. if they are busy and swamped with students, well, remember, he/she may remember your needs as much as you would. take notes. write it down. inquire. they wont be able to encompass the all-you, they are busy. instead, give them some tangible things they could do for you. simple admiration is something you do as a teenager with picture of the teenage vampire heroes.
6.why are you there? who are you?
before you commit further into academia, try to see why you are really there. being in school (a passive state) does not make you learned (as learn is an active verb. it's not a bloody noun). being in school means that you couldve been somewhere different. possibly more fun. so make it worthwhile. if it's boring, determine why it is boring. if the answer still is simple boredom, well, go do something else. what did bachelor's degree did anyone anything?
7. dont be wasteful. dont waste your teacher's time with stupid things they cant help you with. dont waste tax payers' money with failing a course you never studied for. though you pay, there are other people's money invested. for OUR future. so stop being a baby. so you pay while you are there. someone else had to pay in some form for the building to exist, the profs to be educated, you to be educated enough to get there, the subject to exist in academic disciplines, etc etc. it's not all just you. so stop taking advantage of things. be honest. be efficient.
anyways, am sure there'll be more things from monkey head in same vein for a bit longer as i am working at the univ. sometimes things i see makes me really question sanity of the general population. but then, im nobody. im just me. and that's enough for me to think and make statements of my own context: in this time, university. if you want, do pick up a fight with me for insulting the ivory tower. go ahead. but before that, make sure that you feel as if you got your bang-for-buck from the ivory tower you love so much. before you confess your admiration for your teacher, while respecting, try to think what is it that he/she actually have contributed for you and what you have contributed back. they arent replaceable batteries. they need recharge. give something back. actually go learn from them. what a concept.
and now to bed. love to you all. mad phd casual employee monkey's all ready for sleep. mmmm. sleep. im a simple person. as long as i dont have to do the things i hate, it's a good day. hope yours was as good.
or perhaps im just really lazy. may be the excuses i just put on there are for- well, justifying myself. why? i have no clue.
however, it's often funny when thoughts do cross path in the air, much like radiowave, simultaneously. as if it's been scheduled. and though one try to tell self that: oh no, it's impossible, who are you kidding! if they arent going to tell you that they have been thinking about you, how would you ever know that it's true? dream on kid!
then it happens. all the time, actually. between minnows, one minnow can almost tell when the other minnow would wave across the puddle, albeit through immature phone and skype, etc. synced. and today, with book bomber. i am somewhat cautious about taking bookbomber's time, i always have been. ever since ive known him, he's always working on something, hence perpetually short on time. usual communications are done through sparse emails, unless something super entertaining is going on. things like renovation-gone-wild. today- well, it was just out of the blue. had to take the phone and had to text a simple hello and voila, comes the reply:
'weird. i just started thinking about you and banff and here you are- etc.'
confluence. that's it. must be.
it's a real amazing feeling that there are such luxury in this world. in real life. confluence from one another, linking and overlaying, like real blueprint CADs, eventually creating the real complexity of life- which is quite simple when looked through as single layers.
just like everyone else, i have some pet peeves. though highly insignificant and dumb mostly, it is weird to be effected so fundamentally by such small things. i am sure i also have habitual failings that disturb others and i would like to not to do it, if i can help, at all! so what are monkey's peeves? well, there are too many to list, unfortunately, but i will put on some today here, as it makes me laugh at the same time. gah.
19. spit pools on practice room floor. it's gross. i understand that it happens, but brass players, dont you think it's gross to step on other people's spit pool? so stop! please!
20. what looked like a clean microcloth for cleaning glasses/camera lenses: the effort is now nullified totally and your glasses is dirtier than ever. if you use my glasses hankie for kentukey fried chicken lunch, at least leave me the wet nap with my dirty hankie. and yes, the correct order of putting lotion on hands would be: clean glasses with hankie, fold and put away hankie, put lotion on hands, not to be reversed, EVER.
21. butter for toast in airplanes and restaurants that are icicle hard. do you want me to heat them up on my non-existent cleavage? clearly, that's an insult to anyone who did not make it to the final interview at the hooters...
22. nailclipper that you meant to throw away long long time ago but have forgot to: now that you try to trim your nail in a hurry for a rehearsal, it'll rip through your fingertips. ouch. own fault. still, fail.
23. HHD blank cd packaging: those clear plastic wrapping for discs are impossible to open in a hurry. once again, perhaps it's the fact that i am always in a hurry. but you mustve remember at least once when you were excited to open a new cd, only to scratch across the entire face panel in vain effort to open the damned case.
24. that pencil you find in practice room- ooh yeah, pencil! only to realize it's empty/broken (snap! fail), haha.
it is that time of the year again. yep, the sales pitch for christmas is hung everywhere with no shame (well except in the states, they will still be waving thanksgiving sales flags till 26 november 2010, the infamous black friday where people run others over to point of death for their once-in-lifetime chance to get cheap stuff) and all sorts of relationship thoughts are creeping up. possibly for everyone (!)
the singles are starting to feel the pressure of RSVP parties, the doomed check-box for single attendee vs. double. the newly attached people are starting to re-examine their partners with microscope: can i bring him/her home? is he/she fit for my contextual surrounding? am i fit for his/her surrounding? what of people returning to home- especially college kids, the new fragile affection vs. the homey historical artifact gf/bf? the list goes on and on.
couple days ago, i ran into an article by one of my favorite journalist, david mccandless. his mash up of datasets and brilliant graphics makes one chuckle with no shame. even when it involves sensitive subject such as break ups. a bit of schadenfreuden i suppose. but before you call me cruel, do give me a break. ive endured my fair share of relationships-gone-the-way-i-dont-want. even at present point, being happy with mr minnow, let's not forget that he is in an entirely different time zone to begin with! and yes, that's far. boo.
i used to wonder as a child: how did my mom/dad meet? what is it like to fall in love? does it last? arent we all just programmed to cheat- that is, to get into a relation, stay long enough to reproduce and pass the first toddler stage, then bugger off to another mate? (btw, that would be approx. 2 years- and yes, the general consensus do state that a relationship would be tested usually by 1.5-2 years of inception) what if i change? what if he/she change? how do i know i am not gay? do old people have sex? is sexual love inclusive of fateful love? what of one-night-stands? platonic vs. personal interest? growing out of relationship? what of being royal vs. becoming a hypocrite?
DOES IT MATTER?
of course it matters.
in fact, up to this date, i think about these things fairly often. especially that i have found the person i love dearly with no reserve. yes, i have fallen in love before, so what makes this special? i suppose i am in a different place, quite simply. in a successful relationship, both parties make an effort. with common goal, even when the individuals may differ. yep. it's an effort, not efforts. of course there will be days that one needs to pull the other, one kicks the other on the shin, one picks up other from being crumpled on the floor, etc., but the idea is that it's a unified action. an action. not actions.
just days ago i heard that one of our friends' got a new appt with the symphony. great news, as music jobs are hard to come by. the even-better-factor? well, his partner's already in the ensemble. they also went through phase of long distance relationship, uncertainty with government paper works and the process of assimilation as a unit in the land that should have been familiar (trust me, when one has to the mountains of paperworks for citizenship related things, even a home soil will seem combative). so i suppose for me to hear about this news was almost like an elation. totally great. so now, with stroke of luck and lots of hard work, they can spend majority of their lives together. in close proximity.
there are also other unions within the orchestra and i envy them greatly. well, may be 'envy' isnt the right word. perhaps 'covet' would be closer. though one would never be a millionaire being in the orchestra, the job is enjoyable (esp in a good orch), pay is alright, and yes, this orch tours as well (take me! i know how to set up chairs) and you get to do it with your partner (somewhat like a second-degree removed chamber music, i suppose). i say that's pretty ideal. and unlike chamber music, where there is that chance of bite-head-off-discussion-moment, having a conductor and principles before individual players do nullify much possible confrontations.
in contrast, just couple weeks ago, i had some other friends who were also hoping for similar goal- but auditions being what it is, unluckily, they now wait for another chance in the future. parallel circumstance, however the very opposite outcomes. but at least they are together, unlike the minnows at yyz and man, which i, once again, envy, slightly. and yes, they are bonkers in love. so there.
then there's another union where one of them travels a great deal. often up to four to six weeks a stretch. it is work and yes, it is nice to travel and all that, but when one is slightly weak or sick (as life gets to us at some point), it is true that one naturally pines for the other, whether consciously or not. but they wouldnt trade it for the world. and i am so happy to be with them, as individuals or as a union.
recently there was another case where one settled for comfortable companionship with a person, though he was really interested in someone different. because of initial expression/hesitation from the interestee, rather than waiting to see further, i think, he went with the conventional route- when one is sought after, well, one should grant a chance to the world! and when i heard of the current situation ('old' relationship ending, starting to foster a new one with the initial interestee), i couldnt help but to think about the importance of examining the self: what is it that one seeks in this particular union? but like most young people (including myself and million others), such process is inevitable and unavoidable. at least he acted with the best possible attitude and grace he could possibly manage, me thinks. he's a fine young man and it's just one of those many learning curves of life.
there's another couple, who are quite young, however, is separated by the atlantic ocean (i know too many of these, it seems). though madly in love, my friend is often swayed and adulated by another person, who is in close proximity (geographically; it also helps that this person is totally infatuated and eternally hopeful) and often wonders about one's own reaction to situations of flattery and blatant pursuit. here, the major catch is that they are a young couple. there is very little one could do to give a non-verbal assurance or express affection through all that distance and time differences. i am crossing my fingers for them, but i also understand such circumstances are difficult.
then there are a few of my friends who are single and are the most wonderful human beings of this planet. period. the catch? well, because they are something spectacularly beautiful and unusual, it seems almost impossible for them to find an optimal situation (ie. find a partner). it's like being the hope diamond. the more beautiful and rare one is, more difficult it becomes to find a suitable partner for them. dont believe me? go ask a serious big scale jeweler; it is a common practice to withhold a gemstone for a ridiculously long period of time, until the jeweler comes to find another that can match it. no point of spoiling the gem by setting it against something that is, well, 'less.' unless, you see, if one is willing to set it as a solo piece. but unlike gems, people love companionship. so they think they are doomed, meanwhile i think it's just taking its time...
another case is people who grew into one another quite comfortably that since it seems 'set,' there is no easy option but to continue with it. a relationship usually goes through a rocky patch in the first 1.5-2 yrs mark. a silly (!) explanation would be that that's the length of time humans would require to mate, produce offspring and guard the offspring through the infancy. and when it's all done, it's time to go find another possibility, to spread the genes.
another explanation is that after 2 years or so, one needs to clarify whether it is a serious relationship (which involves various form of commitment such as engagement/marriage/common-law, etc) to the world and the partner (it is so easy to have a blah date then just return to separate residency and break out a bowl of chips and completely forget about it, hence ritualizing it) and that by end of this time period, one probably have learned most mundane things about the partner, including those pet peeves that could create a spontaneous combustion.
so after a easy initial 'honeymoon,' if one start to see 'other' interests, what is the right thing to do? well, it differs for each individuals, but the answer is it's never so simple. especially when that 'other' person keeps burning through the back of the head while the old partner have faded into a pattern. i know many who have passed through this phase and are happily settled into the 'serious' phase, where there is literally no one else in the world they could be interested in. and for those who are in this rocking point, i can only watch and mull over it. i am aware of cases where one makes the best efforts to transfer this 'familiarity' to 'love,' which then turns into heroic effort to be royal, at which point the only prizes available are:
1. a stand-in, largely functional social union (sans affection/love),
2. an elongated struggle, arriving to an inevitable yet somewhat fortunate conclusion of separation. in my humble opinion, a devotion can be deadly tool, as it could make people to be hopeful, and once hopeful, one is willing to endure all kinds of pain. but devotion, despite its ability to soak up all sorts of efforts and sacrifices, can only work if matched by another devotion...
and then there are a few who are unhappy with the world and self, who seeks companionship as a panacea for their lives' problems. uncharacteristically harsh and unstable, they are often the tyrants of their world while they can only see themselves as the victim. as one mends self, i think one grows out of this insanity (it is insanity in a true sense, as one realizes the faults or shortfalls, one does feel badly and feels the need to readdress their actions in apologies; though whether they do is a different thing all together. in looking back, they even feel sheepishly about their past behaviors) inevitably.
the problem is that until the mending begins, they can create further problems for others. especially for the 'sandbag' stand-ins. their partners are not really partners of equal value. they are supposed to become mentors, mother/father, caretaker, worshiper and a personal savior. the only problem is that those partners may not be aware of that implication at all...! they thought they would be in a simple, happy union (oh shit). and for the temporarily insanes, it is never clear what the problem is. i think it helps when the sandbags realize they are getting beaten up for nothing and start to demand respect, but often, these sandbags are just too nice (the unusually sympathetic bunch who are capable of self-sacrifice in name of humanity...) and they just get run over for a bit.
but not all relationships i know are like the aforementioned examples. there are simple and nice ones. and even every couple have their challenges and problems (who does not, unless, once again, one is truly delusional), much of the people i know have found their partners. it is a constant work and upkeep. and unlike fixing the house or childrearing, there is no easy way out and no real respite.
i have asked several people who tried to work through difficult relationships. ive been in to ruts myself. so after all that rant, how do i know that i am happy now and i am set for life? well, i think it's rather simple.
the first sign is that one simply knows. if one is aware and have been practicing being aware of the inter/intrapersonal world, being receptive to something so spectacularly stunning as love (not just infatuation, interest, companionship, obsession, veneration or pure mad mental illness) is not a difficult task. the question should be that whether one have been aware at all. if not (or unsure), the best place to be is to start to make some sort of effort to understand the world and self. then look outside of self.
the second answer would be that
1. there always will be something interesting if one waits long enough (just simple fact one lives in ever-changing flux of a world),
2. therefore to determine something so transient and ephemeral as love for its absolute value is futile (unless your partner showed up riding a unicorn with a complete castle set),
3. hence, it's not about making the best choice, but of being honest to self and being brave enough to commit and foster a relationship. so what if there'll be more stuff coming up later? for example, there'll always be nicer, bigger, cheaper, sharper imaged televisions. does that mean you should not buy one because there'll always be a better one? does that mean you must replace your television every quarter? nah- neither are practical or possible.
and even if it is possible, we are talking about television. it does not love you back. it does not care. you buy it in a store. you can buy it with a click of a mouse. it's a bloody thing. shouldnt people be a bit more complex and deserve a bit more attention?
the third point is that yes, anything worth your life is not necessarily so easy. sometimes it can be easy. but one shouldnt expect it to be a no-effort. i tell you, the easiest thing is to die. and well, most of us do not want to die. we want to live. and we want to preferably live without pain/suffering. and if there is to be suffering, we want to minimize it. look at the newest health/drug technology and their stocks- it's the hot shit, for sure. people have been desperate to find shortcut to happiness. for eons. even animals. plants. single-cell amoebas.
we the living all wants to thrive. and that is the exact opposite of death. my brother gabe will never ever have to worry about girls ever again, because he's dead. but i bet if he was alive, it would occupy certain portion of his consciousness. on-going. haha. so being alive and having the choice to tackle difficult things are the privilege of the living (and yes, it's not a right)
so based on those three things, i can happily muse that i am content, happy, elated and silly bonkers in love with minnow. i dont want anyone better. i dont want just someone. i dont want any love. i want love from this particular person, as i cant help but to love this man, and guess what, i am fortunate that he loves me. note, it's not that he loves me back. it's not a financial transaction. he loves me willingly and freely. even if i were to say to him: stop loving me, it would be his choice to love me anyways. and why would i say such silly thing anyways. i am fortunate that he kept himself through the trials of time and life. keeping oneself is a full-time commitment. especially if one is beautiful and extraordinary. and to find him at this point of his life, full of vitality, beauty, ingenuity and love, and being able to be found by him, man, that's pretty awesome.
and yes, i am able to say that i also have kept myself and worked myself to become who i am. i am not a mere product of consequent events of my life. i did not always follow the most easy path. i did have struggles, like all of us the conscious beings do, and some, i won, some i lost. i may be a bit dented and impractical, but that does not matter, as minnow loves me as who i am and who i have been. and for us, it's a joyous time (if bit practically demanding), to become who we want to be.
and meanwhile, i will continue to muse about this never-ending-curious topic of love. i havent even got to sexuality and im laughing at the length of this post. if you made it this far, i say thank you. and yes, love to you, from me. from the world. one is never totally separated from the world, as people always have ways to be connected by various spidersilk threads that defies laws of physics- time, space, whatever else.
3 november 2010 post