dear music students

i have been working at music-related environment for a long time. from 1998. just about ten years now. i have been to three separate universities and sat through many classes, slugging through sleep and boredom at times. i have sat there by the piano, organ, harpsichord, celesta, by myself, with a few, with a gigantic orchestra and choir. early morning sessions to midnight recording sessions. some on one day notice, some planned for six months in advance. some as listener. some as recording engineer. a handful as an usher and green room attendant at a major concert hall. a very few as a page turner (this is the most difficult i think).

and there are things that i have been thinking recently. and i may as well write to all of you, as it could be amusing, third person or first person perspective. as an audience or a player, whatever. a random passer-by even.

a recital is a great opportunity. one worked hard, it's not a surprise gig that was dropped on one's lap (well usually not), one have planned and put time, efforts, thought and sweats. and now it's time to present: to simply say what you want to, how you would like to, at this given time. it's not about judgement (though yes, one always judges if listening critically, but that's quite a different story), about good or bad. it's about you having to learn how to speak and people coming to hear you speak. as simple as that. so enjoy it. when people thank you, dont tell them you sucked. it's not your job to tell them that they dont know what they want to say, that they werent able to understand your performance. they are simply telling you thanks for music. whatever they got out of it, it is theirs. do not attempt to tell how they shouldve seen it- oh it was better yesterday, it was bad performance, i screwed up etc etc etc. it is very tempting, i donno why, but let's not. if one is to thank you, you are to say: you're welcome. simple isnt it?

and do take care of the things beyond playing. in a sense, playing itself would be the easiest part. as you probably practiced hours and hours toward to a performance. even when you think you are underprepared, still, think about all the time that you have lived so far. all those times and activities do contribute to who you are today. so though there always seem to be shortage of time, on the day of performance, stop worrying, perhaps try enjoying? and then there are very small things that one may overlook.

and do think about different perspective. that cute knee length dress may be a bit more showy than one may thought, especially if they are looking up. if you like that, then go ahead. just to say, make informed decision, that's all. often i do see malfunction with halter or strapless gowns as well. try them out for the program duration and make adjustments as needed. and oh yeah, wear shoes. dont put them on the stage. shoes are for feet. not stage.

one thing is time. if you are scheduled to play at 515pm and was told that you could be there by 445pm, then show up at 445pm. do not think it's alright to show up at 520pm because you think you have more time than the actual length of your recital. 515 is 515. not 530. do communicate with the support staff such as your engineer (if it is recorded), house staff (if there are some, or you could even assign someone to help you to gather people to sit before start, intermission, etc). they wont be able to read your mind. if they were, they would be making lot more money somewheres different. there are times when i have to guess when one is actually starting the recital. i cant be ready at a snap to start recording, get the lighting etc by reading your mind. and this applies to other places and other staffs as well. if you make their work difficult, your recording/performance may suffer. imagine: the most beautiful opening you have played so far.. and... it was not recorded because they couldnt tell. shame.

if schedule seems unfair, deal with it before the recital. but if you are scheduled on certain day and you did not take an action, do realize you do have a boundary to work with. length of a program is also an issue. you may think this may be the last recital you will get to play (and sigh, so many of us wont be doing it as soon as we would like to, that's true), so treat it with respect. a rant is only a rant. if it specifies 80 min of music, it is 80 min of music. not 81 min of music. respect the rules that you are given. if you dont like it, challenge it with all the conviction you can muster. but meanwhile, it's there. not because it pleases people, but because it's the lowest common denominator for all.

if the hall asks you to turn off cell phones, do so. even silent communication (your phone on mute) may not be so silent on recording (frequency interference and all that physics jazz). you may not want that recording now, but someone may want it, or you may even want it for yourself later. and the last thing you want is your phone to ring up in middle of a grande pause. just hit that red button. or watch it from outside.

simple things no?

well, do realize that when you put 'student' as your 'occupation,' then you are a professional student. most of us pay to go to school. it's not free. a recital at a school or a venue has guidelines. read your guideline and pick your fight well before your recital. but when you couldnt get it changed, for everyone's sake, do follow them, you could do the absolute minimal but that's fine. let us take you seriously. when you are acting like illiterate child, no one will take you seriously. okay. may be your bf/gf, or mom and dad might. but unless you plan to be forever attached to them as a cancerous growth, do grow up and behave responsibly. because in the real world, when you mess up, there'll be another x on your name. and there are more people than jobs. unless you like bagging groceries.

do remember that you cannot be sure who notices you where and when and how and for what. being known as a good pianist is one thing. being known as a jack ass is may be not the same. unless you are illiterate and deaf. but then you wont be reading this, so let's make a friendly assumption.

happy recitals!

ooh and if you want to start whenever, serve beer and have dancing girls, there's a good solution: have a private hall rental! call me if you have an open bar.


another full one

Monkey and the Moon Reflection, Gekko Ogata (1859-1920)

on way home from work, i looked up, as i often do.

it is funny isnt it, we no longer really have to hunt for food or worry about predators- well, not in the sense that you may be eaten by a sabertooth tiger or something. there are much unlikely chance that something may fall out of sky and actually kill you, though in rough place like canada (this is for you european pansies dealing with the snowstorm earlier this year)(with affection, of course), there are people who gets killed by falling ice sleets from big building roofs. but mostly, such tragedies are limited to inconvenient bird poos and such. and living in a downtown area, one either gets really skilled at jaywalking (though this, i think the brits do it better) or follow the traffic lights (a sure way to arrive alive, most of the time). and both can be done with just a bit of side glances.

so, in concordance to the anonymity along the mass, one often looks nowhere while walking, especially on the busy street. the street preachers, the panhandlers, pesky teenagers and slow moving mobs, various embarrassing moments (people having arguments, someone walking with edge of the skirt wedged with underwear, excessive make-out sessions, the sky is the limit literally), it all adds up to walking-without-looking. the last thing you want is a confrontation i suppose- well, for me, that is a real concern. i mean- if someone is to pick up a fight on a street with me, what could i possibly do? i dont even want to think about the option (probably keep walking), so it's better to avoid the situation (by pelting the pavement with empty gaze while one is dying to see what commotion is really taking place on the sidewalk).

but see, i still cant help being totally useless at times. there are so many things one may see IF one decides to pay attention. there were series of photos i took last spring, after banff. all the pictures were taken on the normal route i take within the city. the main difference perhaps was that the pictures were taken on foot, not on bicycle. and i remember leaving the bicycle at home deliberately, so i would have to walk. when you walk, you are slower. when you are slower, it is much easier to take a glance here and there, minding all peoples' business. including your own and the very surrounding of the present.

and today was one of those days. i finished work, dropped gear@univ and started to walk home. the bay street route which i take, during the daytime, it can be quite busy, the street being the very next parallel to yonge street, the officially the longest street of the world. there are many government buildings and public services, condominiums and shortcuts. but at 10pm on weekday, it's pretty dead. as soon as you cross the last bit of the university, it's pretty much open road, black asphalt, quiet and velvety. and for some bizarre reason, i had to look up.

and there it was.

it wasnt a total randomness.

today is a full moon. and unlike past couple days where rain and fog have covered the city, it is a clear night. in fact, there are some mad kids on ryerson campus howling around like idiots, yelling, whistling and general horseplaying. the siren is definitely more frequent near/during the full moon. as we think we are so civilized and scientific, it is also apparent that we really arent all that successful at separating selves from the larger cycles such as the moon.

so there i was, on the junction of bay and wellesley. there used to be some building, which i dont remember what it is anymore- it's just a permanent construction site now. often the wooden walls get covered with posters so much that they will rip it off and put a fresh coat of paint with a sign: no posters. which must mean MORE posters. ahahaha. and some whimsical things come and go on that wall. including the 'running sneakers' that took over the downtown last summer ( it is sort of a street tag, if you arent familiar with the concept). so in the middle of tall grey modernist buildings and pink, somewhat gaudy condo buildings from early 2000s, there it is, the empty spot. much like the pink gum, open and amused, child with a missing tooth, who already spent the two dollars on the next bits of lollipop, waiting for something else (even bigger and better! supposedly) to sprout out.

and there, i looked up and saw the pale moon. so clear so round oh so mad. and just like the missing tooth i thought- self-contained, light coloured, bright and hard. and gone! no longer attached to the rest of the world.

i stood there for awhile, missing out my traffic signal for at least two cycles. well it wouldnt have mattered anyways, as i wouldve jaywalked should i needed to. but it was important. to look up. the comical, wistful lost baby tooth, against the rare gap, an empty spot in concrete jungle. though the last couple days have been quite a demanding ride, i couldnt help it but to 1. laugh out loud, 2. put on some happy beethoven (cello sonata no. 5), 3. proceed to walk home with uncanny spring in my steps. it does make me laugh-how i go totally insane over the moon. i seldom talk about the sun. daylight. i tend to talk too much about rocks and grey-blue tinged things. with moon, i go bahblahblabhaahblalbhalllahbhahahablgaspgaspgaspbreathbaah. what can i say, i am a softie. i love the moon. it's gentle enough to look up straight but convincing enough to drive people mad.

so tonight, look up. if in doubt, when in doubt, soaked in doubt, look up. when the light from the west hurts your eyes while driving, look somewheres different for a bit. love to you all, as i look up and imagine all of us, tonight, taking different times at different places, looking at the silly moon, waving by. oh btw, this moon of march is called sugar moon. how decadent.


blue tinged musing

as i try to not to shed a tear for myself,
i became mute, deaf and blind.
how is it an idea becomes
so much larger in its absence?
often one hears about the sum of the parts being larger
but we seldom express the parts being larger
once the sum have been broken
into pieces, unequal,
no longer compatible.

if one were to say that there are no reason
to be crushed by the daily churn,
then i assume that one lives
with heart of plastic.
recycle, reuse, reduce-
it is a noble idea for the planet,
however not ideal for living, breathing being.
life is messy and warm,
bloody and inconvenient.

the elation of life is not free,
never it has been freely given to one
without reason or cost.
while gliding through lucidity,
it is difficult to remember
that there will be times
to fall with all acceleration
from the very height that made it
all possible.


engineer monkey

it is funny being back at the olde alma mater. till end of the spring semester 2010, monkey is wearing engineer hat (though most damage probably will involve fingers, either paper cuts or getting it jammed along the mic stands or something), recording student recitals. classical. jazz. undergrads. grads. ensembles. solos. etc etc. ive been back so often that it seems as if i never left sometimes, except for the faces- most of them arrived to campus long after i was gone. but with various spider webbing, there are some faces that i am always happy to see- like book bomber, mad soprano sax kid and fairy-kid-paternal-unit. and there are more that i get to know.

there's something about being in the edward johnson building. some of the very familiar sights are now gone (the famous/infamous green couches that sucks your living will out of you; now it's kind of shiny brown), but mostly similar things- like the red couches on the spaceship 3rd floor student lounge. it makes me laugh sometimes, thinking about very ignorant monkey, sitting in a remedial theory class (that is right, i did fail the entrance theory exam. for my defense, i never took any theory lessons or classes ever before, so i think it is okay- i did my comprehensive DMA exam. now that i totally killed it), musicology 101 courses... and the memories of being shut out from the sonata classes ('there are no room for music ed kids; the perf kids gets priority'), forced choir classes (though my friend cheryll vividly remember the day i showed up for a concert then decided to beg for release, which miraculously worked, hence, walked out before the 5 min stage call, haha), wondering hard regarding lunch choices (china garden, macdonald's, harvey's and swiss chalet, though the latter two have disappeared by now)...

but overall, it's the hustle and bustle of place that i like. especially when i feel that monkey is getting soggy at the edges, when life gets a bit damp and monkey feels as if she's sinking through mud. sitting by the hard disk recorder, couple familiar faces dropping hellos and various greetings (which makes timely reply on various people a bit difficult), sometimes unexpected things (like clarinet-trombone duets or starting in different orders, etc), occasional surprise of good music or hilarious music along with genuinely beautiful times (recent windscape concert was really beautifully done), all these things are great fuel to pump onto dying engine. then it starts to burn again, laughter, sarcasm and slight hint of care.

recent days have been kind of sketchy at best; resulting in long runs (well, long enough for me; nothing really spectacular by any means) and increased tea consumptions, monkey's been trying to keep some unwanted perspectives and trials out of sight. not ignoring, but since the ball is not in my court at the moment, there's nothing i can actively do. but to wait. and everyone who knows me understand what it is like to watch monkey wait: wait = suffering

ahaha. i wish it wasnt so, but life, just like everyone elses', can be difficult and trying. and that's when i really appreciate being in the middle of these maelstroms of music faculty. find silly things. laugh. share. make snarly comments (which is not reserved to others only, but of myself as well, in all fairness. and because i truly believe that i must be the funniest one of all, if pathetic at the same time). and often, i head back home, feeling a bit of spring on each step i take.

it is nice to have temp jobs when one just came back to town (as i did). it is nice to have flexible and varying tasks when one hates dull things (as i do and will do). it is nice to be useful and dependable (unless someone turns my mic, which they did tonight- i still dont understand why anyone would touch my stand, but whatever...). but most importantly, it is great that working (in this particular situation) can give me something extra than a purposeful use of time and income. it does make me happy. perhaps book bomber is right. may be one day i may be a teacher. gag. till then, i will be happily doing odd things around school. when was i ever practical anyways! thanks kids!


difficult things

oooh irony. though it is amusing and life-saving at times (humour- wasnt the one of the very few things that separates us from real simians?) i say it could be somewhat inconvenient at times, like this morning, which was NOT serene by any means really. initially i was going to write about the difficulty of life: emotions. the way one feels and interacts with the world. opening up to people and communicating, sharing, being at a distance, emotionally confused or torn, that heavy stuff. but the world does not want me to think about my self-absorbed emotional sphere. instead, im hit on the head with somewhat more objective, practical humour. damned slapstick humour.

i remember talking numerous times about the 'difficulty' of playing a musical instrument. piano, having 88 keys and having one of the most complex looking scores (beside ensemble and may be organ scores) is often considered a challenge (especially if one is teaching the required 'keyboard skills' course, where all are 'taught' to obtain basic piano skills such as scales, chords, playing simple accompaniments, etc). i think actually it's not so bad, compare to things like the piccolo (fundamental and overtones, i understand them but not exactly sure if i would be able to do it. and the fact that it immediately goes out of tune as you play the first note doesnt help the cause), or any wind instruments with many keys (see, the layout of the keys AND the fundamental/overtones really jams my brain). strings are a bit better, as i can literally see where things are. i think for me, the difficult part is to trying to 'see' where the 'pitches' are. with keyboards, it's all laid out. what you see is what you play means usually what you get unless it's out of tune. then as a pianist, you cop out and call the technician. even for harpsichord, ive been acting dumb for ages so i wont have to tune my own. ahaha... but on my defense, if you one is not familiar with the given instrument, the last thing one wants to do is trying to twick it. remember: you break, you buy?

playing different things with changing partners, various locations under often sketchy circumstances (the exact reason why working at the banff centre was one of the most prized experience: high musical standard, familiar piano, great technicians and super-human admin staff, studio access etc), there has been times when i wonder in middle of performance: really?


but at this point, i think i can handle most of things, whether it be string breaking, lost instrumentalist: 'where are you? recapitulation or did you go back to the exposition?' or 'hmm i never heard you do THIS cadenza... come back home to initial tonality baby! if you step on cycle of fifth, you will somehow come back...!' and many more, including in-midst-performance nose bleed, broken nails on the first mvt of rachmaninoff piano concerto 2, where you think: hmm it's only the first movement... do i wipe the keys or..? or the times you JUST reorganized your music and you are missing... which page, you arent even sure (frequent with rushed contemporary music things, as often the pages are being printed as you and the composer dashes to the stage). of your singer all the sudden completely lost in text, but valiantly carrying on with random words (this is quite funny) and you trying to follow the new phrasing on the piano while wondering: hmm. we are on verse 2- are we stopping to cadence or are you going to try verse 3 and hope to come back?

you think it's funny. or you may think it's quite shocking. i think some things are hilarious enough and because most of the time the audience has no idea what's been going on, this particular topic may have to be expanded to a separate piece: what really happened on the stage. hahaha.

anyways. so i can understand someone asking: playing the piano the way you do it is hard? yes it is. especially if you happen to be me, whose aim usually lies in a very simple principle of: minimum work for maximum results. though i am really trying to fix this laziness. but generally, playing is okay. it's not ground-shattering difficult in general. if i have to play chopin cello sonata tomorrow, i may think differently though.

this morning, however, was difficult. it was mad. today being a saturday, i am wearing various hats: house manager and audition accompanist. the second job is easy to understand. the first job is more like being a live-door-knob. you come, open doors, get the rooms ready for whatever is required- in this morning's case, set up 90 chairs and 40 stands. so automatically one thinks: okay, easy then difficult job. you may even have a serene morning, monkey!

ah. not so. sigh.

i was here at 840am. setting up chairs shouldnt take 20 min. and the room looks like it was booked 9-12, including setup/strike time. so i thought, great, plenty of time. then came the pandemonium. the kids arrived early with their clunky cases of brass instruments. everywhere. highschoolers. they are big, awkward and being in a strange place, they are loud and not-paying attention. they all come and fill the hallway. and my keys arent working.

let me repeat:

look, the job is simple. but it is impossible when i cant do it: open door, monkey (very easy), open door with the wrong keys, monkey (impossible). so in conjunction, im calling PO at home, almost half yelling because i am frustrated, running across to another room to get help, stands, bass drum, etc etc. thank the lord, these were american kids from small place in michigan: that usually means that they are really nice. americans as individuals are really nice people, i can really vouch for it as i lived in the midwest for five years. there couldve been more difficult stereotypes, for sure (which i am not going to elaborate further...) so after a half hour of madness, they are ready to sit and honk down band tunes. phew.

i had a full workout. i was sweating, not just from worrying, but from physically moving things and running around like a maniac. now that was HARD.

in 1.5hrs, i am back on the piano bench, playing beethoven, faure and the likes, big things. grown up real music. and im laughing. as it'll be easy. relativity of the universe is a very funny thing. ooh irony, where would i be without you. probably being completely sane and boring, even sensible i suppose! i could really do with a warm bed and a cookbook or something, but nah, seriously, playing the piano will be just fine. it will be a piece of cake. until i realize i brought the wrong scores or something. better not jinx it though.

(silence for 2 seconds)
(check bag madly)


to everyman his little cross

to everyman his little cross. till he dies. and is forgotten (waiting for godot, line 154)
an old doodle done in some theory or musicology class.

days of spring is here and to top it all off, it is st. patrick's day. irish or not, we can all be a plastic paddy for the day, drink the green things and bang the floor with heels, along with some sort of jig reel coming out from a satellite radio in a bar. the colour of the day is kelly green and we all yell out: happy st. paddy's day. yay.

two years ago, i wouldve been spending my first day in glasgow, meeting up with good friends to start a hiking trip up in the scotland. st. paddy's@scotland. it was also green with plastic paddies, some sort of fiddle-related noise and attempts of jig reels. a pint of guiness@ 14'c, the room temperature of the united kingdom, not north america. (this is a funny one, the average house room temperature in north america is actually couple degrees higher, at 20'c, decadent!) a self-paid bribery to write my thesis in two weeks, just in time to hand in the rough draft and graduate within the semester. two weeks of red-eyed writing and much cursing at the scanners, trying to work with conflicting file formats and slow processors. the patience and toil of my advisors, especially NAN, going over each and every sentence with monkey who was near burned out and couldnt care less. and my brown bro, who sat with me in the lab, right across, doing his work- a bit of school stuff and keeping me sane *hug.

last year, i was in the mountains of banff, thinking about the dangers of telephone-based communication vs. text-based. looking around the grey mountains, as it started the great upward momentum toward beltane fire. i was thinking about coal fire. this year i am perched on the top of the big concrete tree, where it may host easily up to a thousand people, looking down at the bright lights of the streets and the occasional police siren (thanks, plastic paddy!), it is the first day in a long while that monkey is entirely free (i made it free. it wasnt. i canned things. I CANNED!)- so is this sunday, but i will be making a trip to the gene pools- which is always difficult, hence rather than it being a free day, it may be more of a trial day.

since the 40k statement, it has been busy. i am recording, playing, attending green room, cable winding, cooking, tutoring, writing. scheduling, organizing, laundering, grocery-shopping, booking trips. more and more things, i want the work, i can do the work and i even enjoy most of it. especially playing. and today, the day of pause. ive been short of sleep. the light seeps quietly but surely, every morning, around seven, i am up. however, when the sun goes down, the artificial lights are still bright outside. so i stay up. body is tired and head is spinning- an interesting combination. the mind wanders. just like the thoughts, disconnected thoughts all forced together in this particular episode, like making a terrine mold. layers of things, slightly varying consistency. funny enough, i dont even really like pate.as mousse textures is usually avoided by monkey. if it jiggles, i will have to think about it.

chains of things and thoughts, emotions and reactions. despite of having days of so-called productivity and a good financial result to show for, i am just tired and lost. i looked into a keepsake box, looking for a duster. i found forgotten things, such as few of my old doodles from school days. and it made me laugh. then teary. also the little monkey pictures from different places and different times, however, still holding the same expression of isolation, stoicism, even a hint of cynicism. usually by monkeyself, not much of the wide childish grin. so many events and people since then, and here are the exact same feelings, some pleasant, some difficult.

i called and heard the phone ring. ring. ring. another ring. answering machine.

i hung up, i dont have courage for ruthless things such as answering machines.

today is done and i do not have much courage. i want to laugh but there is no laughter left for st. paddy's 2010. good job st. pats, for driving the snakes away, though all researches suggests that post-glacial ireland did not have snakes. even greater achievement. to drive things that does not exist. much like thought demons. perhaps tomorrow will be different. it must be. i do not want to hear the phone ringing. that is certain.


animated love

(small monkey, with that very familiar expression: wha? paternal gene pool's fav pic of me. hopefully he'll still have a 'fav pic' of me after the impending doom/ torrent of a sort)

often it is interesting to look back to the past and find a familiar however strange reflection of a self. once was, no longer is, however realistic- in a sense one is an accumulation of all things imaginable: heterotopias, memes, collective knowledge, inherited biometrics, you name it. the past exist only because the present is in progress. progress toward the future, which no one could be sure what it may become. and future must exists as the present could never pause, it marches on its own steady beat, the thread being churn out by the three ladies of fate, ever so steadily, impersonal and disinterested in the courses of individual strands. the only unfair and fair quality among the variable human lives.

out of curiosity, i looked into last year march, trying to see what i was doing- i couldnt exactly remember. that's what records are for, i suppose. recently there was an interesting article on the new scientist, the british science aficionado magazine, about historical archiving in plastic formats, mostly electronic mediums. this did not strike me odd at first, but the more i think of it, curiouser it gets. if the mediums actually do not exist, or gets destroyed (hard disc failure sounds familiar to anyone yet?), what would survive? and how does one know that the survived images are any accurate at all? there was another article i read awhile ago regarding the accuracy of the human memories: false memory. in a nutshell, it talks about the idea of memory as a narrative, meaning it is always refreshed and reconstructed at each and every instances. and depending on the pre-context and assimilation/amalgamation of ideas, it is possible and often impossible to distinguish the exact-objective-past vs. personal-subjective-narrative of past.

well, last year about this time, i was working on busoni violin sonata. the week from hell really, as the composition is difficult and the instrumentalist was truly a world-class, technically and emotionally. learned in less than a month and put together in four days, i still believe it was one of the most demanding experiences of my life yet to date (though i do think there's something just around the corner at the moment- personal aspects). i remember getting up at 4am and practicing in my banff studio, looking at the yet-invisible-cascade mountains, still covered in slumber, with no one in sight, not even the morning creatures that used to greet monkey as she climbed morning trails by herself, as often as she could. and up to the concert day, i was skeptical and critical: once so much works have been done and one have dedicated self towards a project, it becomes impossible to be indifferent about the result. i wished i could be all very cool and not caring, however it was the opposite. i looked at the score just about 10 minutes ago- and whatever the value of my memories may be, i could remember each marking and reasons, the coaching and rehearsals- every page, every phrase. this was THE friday concert that my boss signed me up for the fall 2009 term: a reasonable success. and i was happy. my instrumentalist lifted me up in the air to give me a bear shake in green room while we went out for three bows.

i remember calling and texting, skyping and writing to various people who have been with me during that journey, to keep me safe and sane, as the process could not been easy, for both monkey and the company. i was relieved and though not euphoric, satisfied- and listening to the recording, i still am reasonably proud. recording is not memory. it is an endowment from my friends to me. all i did was a bit of practice. but to be able to practice, i needed and received the help and support, all offered freely without qualifiers and conditions. and that's how monkey survived. fed with love.

much things have changed yet so many things are the same. like the small monkey pictures i put up on my personal account recently. though very small and wearing lots of dresses and bows, the small monkey in those old pictures still hold the very same expressions. especially the ones of amusement, indifference and a bit of attitude. hahaha. what a surprise. and just like that, so many things are still the same from last year in some respect, though the actual courses of events have been often turbulent and unexpected. some of the seedlings of last winter have brought many blossoms and blessings, lasting throughout the blistering sun and fading autumnal glory, even through the harsh frost and -40'c still air of the mountains, snow-blanketed europe and somewhat hollow, lighter self, returning to familiar yet strange home@yyz.

and here i am, at displacement zero, pondering what i should be doing. there are fortunately enough things to self-occupy and feel not-so-defeated on daily basis. for instance, the fish pie i made this wknd turned out spectacular, feeding PO after a long day, well-balanced dish, thought-through to help him with his dietary goals: quality protein, high fibre, low fat/sodium and colourful veggies. there are things that i want to achieve and there are couple different paths i could choose. without regards to the gene pools, some decisions would be very easy to make. some decisions would cause a great deal of joy as well as suffering. not very light decisions however rather than taking the shortcuts, i am wishing to take the courage to make the right decisions, if heavy weight. i look into the mirror and saw the same person i saw this morning while brushing teeth in hurry: damned daylight savings. however, there a little more courage and a hint of neutral optimism, fueled not by self, but from loved ones. now comes the rest in bed, i hope i can sleep well tonight as i have been short of quality sleep ever since i came back to yyz. pleasurable sleep so that i may burn a bit brighter tomorrow, courage rather than indignant resignation.

love to my loved ones for helping and animating a small monkey. i do remember you, as i take a bit of a sweet relief from self-imposed difficulties of daily life.



this is barely the end of the first week back in canada. phew. nothing died nor burned. so i suppose things are alright. there are many emotions and feeling that will be sorted out as time will pass by. and there is nothing more to be done in such cases. like baking cake. you have to put the batter into the oven and wait. nothing more nothing less. how frustrating! well, if you are seasoned baker, you will also add the time to 'cool' the cake. so really, the actual baking is just the middle step, grunt.

it's been nicely busy, here and there. much to either surprise or expected, i have not played the piano since my uk audition. partial reason was hyper-extended right thumb. another was lack of goal. perhaps the biggest one was the drag of an emotional deflation, when things dont go well, or rather, not the way you wanted it to go. though some thinks that i tend to take a big break since 'coming back' isnt too difficult of a process- well, im just not very motivated i think.

now, i am not bragging. i am no mean a very natural player i dont think. i didnt even start to play until i was much older and did quit playing many times, either with broken arms/hands or just plain refusal to do music. but i do believe 'easing back' can be a reasonably easy process. whenever i take a big break, which i do quite frequently- either due to travel schedule or lack of practice space, whatever it may be, i say to get back up to about 80% capability, i would need about a week. and it's been consistently so for couple years now. and yes, i do go through a loose system to ease into it. but that is entirely another post just for nerdy pianists.

anyhows, so after all that travelling and bashing head against the grey clouds, along with some of the most beautiful sights and memories, last week has been 'plug-back-to-grind' week. some different kinds of works. working as audio monkey, some as piano monkey (for instance, bassoon class at the con tomorrow), occasional house-managing guard dog duty (backstage attending). unlike the coffee wench days, at least it's all somewhat related to the same thing: music. also returning back to the gym (ive been fattend up nicely over the winter. if i had to do a tunnel hike, i may die because i would have deliverately throw myself over the rock), walking a lot (i still have to collect my old bike, which i should do soon), so busy. then add ethnic shop grocery shopping, occasional concerts, brunch/catch up sessions- it's getting full(er than it was during holidays).

while running around in semi-fail pattern during the day, ive been thinking about a very particular issue and though it is too personal of an issue to openly spread on the world-wide-web (though i do love the attention at times), i have decided to focus on one main thing: money. in order to make some things possible, i have to try to get into income bracket of 40,000 for a fiscal year. now. why is this so daunting?

for average salary in toronto, apparently that equates to about 20/hr, working full time (40 hr/wk, 50 wk/year). as of 31-03-10, the minimum wage in city of toronto would be 10.25 CAD. according to the last census, along my age group, the average looks like this:

Median full-time earnings: 25- to 29-year olds (2005 dollars):
Men $43,767
Women $32,813
*Source: Statistics Canada

to make 40,000. hmmm.

i never really cared about earning as i have a very convenient life style: of travelling dirt really. since i left the city to head down south, ive been moving around so much and travelling, that last ten years has been a life changer really. and to make that happen, not only i had to arrange for resources (it helps to have supportive people and system built-in), i also had to make compromises between work and time. the old old dilemma. and when the grown-up job opportunities came, i ran the other way, and joined pimple faced sixteen-year olds at a coffee shop. then came the banff mountain sage (if i may call it) days, recently ending with a brilliant if demanding time in the old world. and this is the first time that i looked into my income as something that need to be worked out.

and honestly that number chokes me.

with my degree and etc, people have told me, no worries, you will get there (financial okay-ness, i will never be super rich, as being rich involves not only skills but of dedication and great personal interest, which i lack sorely, if for now). but i want to make 40k within a year.

i dont think it's going to happen.
how would that work? even if i take all the work i could possibly can?
i never felt so inept and felt rather crushed as i was thinking about this number.
tomorrow is another day and i will do my little jobs as arranged, but if i am to make this number, ooh i have to get out and go get them, tiger. but how?

with such big number, let me write it out: forty-thousands-and-no-cents-dollars, i felt limp today, on way back to the treetop branch. if you have suggestions please do pelt me with it. i shouldve may be grow up sooner. if i was dedicated in financial success (whether possible or not), i wouldnt have felt so- devitalized. and now, to basket, with heavy head. good night/day bid to you all. and good luck avoiding such crash- i am sure this limpness will pass, but i also find it somewhat funny that this number seems so daunting. it's just a number after all.

Read: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/05/01/censusfeature.html#ixzz0hwKqUGeP


free coffee, not!

it is 0241 am EST and im wide awake. now, i ran nearly an hour today and went to practice, rehearsal and a concert. that should be sufficient to send one to sleep- but no! so having a free cake (i recently received a free cake courtesy of debakery, a toronto-based start-up bakery farcebook web group; they promised a free cake for 100th member and that was.. me! yay!) (and this cake have been splattered to many people around me as there is no way i could keep it in the house with some sort of warped will power. i mean it's five inches deep), i was pondering why am i still up- then realized:


for a long while, ive been caffeine-free. or it seems long anyways (i think, without fags and coffee, sometimes life can be never-ending episode between unreachable pleasure). i think last time i had coffee was on 23 of february. or even earlier. and though there's a nice espresso maker in bird house on 32nd floor, in some sort of valiant effort, ive been away from it in order to 1. adjust circadian rhythm, 2. help (notice, not cure. this is like alcoholic anonymous) self from insomnia, which came back oh-so-discreetly.

then came the ultimate fail.

i had two cups of coffee.


it was free!

mcdonald canada is having their drip coffee promotion. it's right in the second week- where they have been offering free small cup of coffee between 1-14 march 2010. and this afternoon en route to the gym, i was tickled. so i had one. mmm. it was actually not bad. perhaps because it's on very fast circulation right now. brew. draw. serve. repeat. because i am not the only one who was enticed by this magic word: free, they've been brewing. so the coffee was reasonably strong and mighty hot. real hot coffee can hide lots of sin. there's a mcd right by the main intersection from the ymca. how (in)convenient?!

then i had a repeat offence. from the gym, in thinking of having a slice of free cake ( ! ) i repeatedly wandered into mcd. like firefly with burning candle. bzzzzz---- zap!

and now, couple hours later, im tired but awake.
such is the price of free coffee. it is funny but not so much.
isnt it funny- if i didnt see the gigantic sign that said: free coffee, i wouldve never gone in. but since i saw it, with conjunction of wonderful free cake, it's just turned into a nightmare (well i cant sleep and i have brunch meeting at 10am!! it takes me ages to sleep!! aaaah)

sometimes i am glad i never grew up.
sometimes i think im retarded for not growing up enough.
sometimes i like free things.
sometimes free things are not free at all!

love to you all and dont fall into the trap!
'walk away from the free coffee---!'
said bleary eyed, very silly monkey


oscar escape route

photographer marc steinmetz collects images of home-made prison-escape devices

it is the night of the oscars. it seems a bit strange as i am not so keen on the movie as an entertainment medium- as my friends would know that it takes much determination on their parts to bring me to a movie. but since i somewhat missed a gigantic amount of television (funny enough, i really wanted to watch some tv while i was over in europe, especially during the 2010 olympic ceremonies, but trying to watch non-english coverage in uk was almost impossible as all those things were heavily copyrighted), i suppose this is a good way to make up for it.

i dont even know the half of the movies on the list. though i can recall a few of them being a real entertainment, and often education as well. it made me laugh to listen to the contenders for the documentaries, as i have seen all that has been nominated (unlike the best film categories, where i feel somewhat clueless). that is what i usually rely on the movies: to convey factual information, rather than bringing in an external fantasy world. it is often frustrating for me to watch a movie and feel as if there are something that is... missing.

in a movie, so many things are possible as it can engage most senses of the masses (minus the taste and smell. one cannot touch yet, but with this 3D tech, who knows, may be it will be possible to cross-stimulate touch through visual). however, its wide-possibilities also mean that there are more rooms to be filled in. and imagination could be a very big and lonely room.

i was walking with a medievalist today (not the kind you see in renaissance fairs who is happy to dress in silly homemade garments albeit without the the scholarly knowledge) (which made me extremely happy as she is the first friend beside PO that i got to see, and that she's really amazingly warm and perceptive person), and she mentioned the expression 'the decade of too-much possibilities.' extravagance. indulgence. too much choices. the options simply becoming ensnaring vines that grounds one to stationary spot. sheer weight of the idea of comparison-process-decision-review. can be very frightening. and that's the way i feel about movie at times. often, there are moments where i feel that they have fallen short- i understand that everyone has different realm of expressions and dreams, and what one may find insufficient may be completely satisfactory for another. a director has an idea one wants to convey and one's job is not to personally please me but to merely express the presented idea to the very best possible way.

and there are only very few that i think they meet the true dream-state. avatar (which i ranted about awhile ago) was one of them. hurt locker was another. so far from my fav category of documentary (which has the goal to keep one firmly on the ground of reality, as much as possible), once done well, they can completely transcend the boundary of reality.

at a point of return to familiar but strange place, yyz, i am hoping for more of these moments where i could escape the crushing weight of uncertainty. and watching the oscar presentation makes me think that perhaps it's alright, not all things are going to be good (which is subjective), but once things are well-balanced with care and attention, it is possible to elope. to fly to the highest point. as i felt so happy walking in the sunshine with the good friend for two hours in my favorite part of the town, with no care in the world (oh lets not worry about my personal life, lack of career aspiration, blister on my right foot, unruly children crashing into other peoples' knees, just for now). i have to come back to reality, yes, but much like the alluring perceived scent of fantasy world of avatar, i couldnt help but to float on air.

and some may still call it walking, not floating. bah. love to you all. if you dont think i was floating, well, you just will have to get out for a good walk with a friend on a sunny late winter afternoon in yyz. canada's cold but it surely can be beautiful .



this picture is titled '- tea party,' funny how different it meant to the two parties. as im chewing on my peanut buttered toast, i am scribbling couple things out of interest. small but sure differences. miraculous that one can understand one another sometimes using languages. i suppose that's why sometimes we fail and people turn their backs on others/ ignore/ be unkind/ ruthless. sigh.

nutella vs. peanut butter
bitters at room temp vs. ice cold lager
cold rooms vs. 32nd floor roasting rooms
credit card with smart-chips vs. without
spotify vs. no more spotify *damn
pissed (drunk) vs. pissed (angry)
chips vs. fries
crisps vs. chips
indian vs. whatevers on toronto streets
tea vs. dinner
loo vs. bathroom
fag vs. cig
supper (wee bit snack before bed) vs. supper (dinner)
biscuit vs. cookie
chemist vs. pharmacist
dust bin vs. garbage bin
ground floor vs. first floor
sweets vs. candy
tin vs. can
rubbish vs. trash
'you alright?' vs. 'how goes?'

but i was thinking (after the initial 'publishing')- despite of all these 'finer' differences of the world, there are room for compassion, which can easily override the most stretched gaps. as rare as it is, true communication often does not depend on words but of the individuals- each thoughts and expressions being open and linked, like the poles that holds the cables to compose a beautiful suspension bridge. and without the flexibility, such bridge cannot withstand the variables of life- whether it be acute stress, weather or a BOMB (joking or not).

these small language differences actually brought many laughters and silliness. especially the last one. it would typically go something like this:

s: you alright?
c: i thought so- why? is something wrong?
s: i meant- you ok?
c: ya- hmm, should i not be?
s: no, no, things seems okay-
c: (then whats the matter?!?)
s: (damned american english)

only because i was used to the pre-context from north america: 'you alright' somehow included feeling of a concern, that something isnt exactly right. because something is NOT right, you would ask- as a rhetoric. and well, the brits thought differently: it was just a passing greeting, just to see how one is, really. took a while, that one. and it still makes me laugh.

english or not, perhaps what im missing (and miss even more as time goes on) is the possible closeness of human connection. the immediate communication and ease of expression, in person. it is difficult to foresee how some random things such as water (the good sized puddle called atlantic), or a face on a coin (the queen who refuses to grant me the right to work), along with small linguistic discrepancies (once you throw in things like french, it gets even more complicated) could have such profound effect on one's direction. a small tangent.

so in plain english, i am thinking aloud. i know that because of where everyone is, i will always be missing people wherever i am (i think it would be logistically impossible to get everyone i know together ever...), and that i should be thankful for these souls' generosities, sharing their lives and time with me (which i am).

it is hard missing people. but it is also a joy when one is with such company. cannot have just one side of the coin- arrival and departure is inevitably paired. so while i chew on this bittersweet concept, love to you all. feel free to translate it to any language you would like. including a side-eye-glances or a simple 'hello.' or a simple wag of tails, as puppies do.

180' x 2 = 360'

(lac leman/lake geneva: last wk sometime)

in terms of musing in public by form of writing, the month of february was a lean one. beginning of march have gone without a sound and here i am, back@yyz, fourth of march, in year twenty-ten. it has been very busy, for an unemployed bum monkey! every time i crossed some border, there was always this look of incomprehension - amusement: 'what do you mean, you are just travelling and nothing working? are you sure you have not been paid for playing?' (what playing? just because i said i have studied music in school?)

it is a difficult to explain it to paper pushers i suppose. or even my own self. the answers dont fit neatly into the little divided squares of official forms and the concept that im just floating around is received with a bit of apprehension, if not a hard stare. i say i have studied music (true), but have not been paid of it (no, not at the moment), nor have been playing (not much). it is so weird to think that about a year ago, i was in a much different place. i knew what my plans were (ie. head back to yyz to work at uni, then fall banff), unlike now. and being unplanned makes people nervous and anxious.

today was a long day, along with two sets of border controls and transfers. took me 5am european time start to 5pm yyz end: 19 hours of crying babies, drunk men at the back, old lady who doesnt want to sleep. the epic journey went as this:

geneva town - airport: easy, though streets are still dark
geneva airport - gatwick: mad easyjet check - in
casualty: toes (ran over by fat man)

gatwick north terminal - south: inquisition by borderguard
casualty: toes (stepped over by fat ladies)

gatwick - glasgow : lady who never shuts up
casualty: sanity

glasgow - toronto: 3 babies in vincinity of 3 seats diameter
sitting in seat no. 5 in row of 9 seats
guy who got REALLY HAPPY for apparent reasons
(duty free liquors anyone?)
casualty: petrification and hearing loss

toronto airport: guard who doesnt want to believe i have nothing to declare; sent to secondary custom inspection
explain im inbetween things and therefore: have nothing to buy from duty-free (also time was tight anyways)
casualty: financial pride

airport - home: TTC madness with rush hour traffic
casualty: last bit of humanity

but now am here again. on top of a small branch in this big concrete tree. monkey's looking down onto the world, saying hello to a best buddy, who is always there, wondering now what. it cant never always be what you want, but i cant help but to feel that i just came back in a full circle, and am lost again. sure i have things to do for a while, but then what? what about the feelings, people, places that are yet faraway again? what with these sense of great big holes in my emotions? that feeling that the world just does not like you (couple things that i need to take care of that may be really annoyingly difficult to fix while i was away, people who turn against you for no reason etc) i feel little nips of sharp fangs on my consciousness with these questions. perhaps there is no answer, now or later. may be it's time i just take whatever life throws to me and be a predictable adult of some sort. i donno.

total distance travelled does not always equal total displacement for the given duration and am now left to pick up the bits again, same bits along with new bits, as the time never waits or cares for no one. so i go. hello strange 'home.' though it seems battered, my sail needs to be up and it needs to move. but may be there would be a time, when i could move like the catamarans- impressive graceful structures within both the stillness (the boat itself) and the stream of time, in lac leman in geneva- which, still, moves inch by inch, theoretically.