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.