monkey practices

it's been somewhat uncreative days as far as blogging is concerned. it's always on the edge of my mind, as it does make me happy to share thoughts to not-so-random-public.  and there has been much conversations with monkey surroundings, things that speak audibly and things that speak silently. but it does take a fair bit of time to adjust and assess thoughts, then put it down.  perhaps couple new small habits are getting in the way?  it is a weird thing, one can stay out from home for a long time and do many hours of 'work,'

however, being a freelancer means that one does whole bunch of different things in the day.  there are less familiarity with the days- if i was working at an office, for instance, i would have some constants: co-workers, my (rigidly confined) tasks/responsibilities, geographical logistics (path to work, home, favorite coffee spot, pick-me-up-bakeries, my working area, etc).  but often such things, taken granted and even despised once in awhile (by complacency turning into menacing monotony), do free up certain percentage of one's energy i think.

a typical day can include anything from: doing nothing ( ! ) to practice, then to rehearsal (even in couple different locations within an afternoon, with different people and changing reps), or even to recording (bit different mindset from playing) or stagework.  so once all these irregular hours are pegged down, only then i can start to locate time for things that i need on regular basis: going to ymca on opportunistic times to avoid michael phelps of slow lane, for instance, or even just doing laundry.  getting groceries (as the idea of getting ethnic groceries from ethnic shops are just way too tempting vs. overpriced, usual, ordinary, sterile north american food aisles of big chain grocery store).  sweeping the floor (it is incredible how much dust we get on 32nd floor, all that city dust being blown into the house somehow- it's literally handful everyday!).

an afternoon with two different persons is enough to do my head in, usually. i try to be attentive and make notes.  and same goes for learning the reps.  i was taught to always examine how i could physically play based on musical phrasing i see on the page (which leads to much cross hands, split-hands, thanks to my midget fingers, or even playing 4th finger over the pinky, etc etc., all kinds of general no-nos), which eliminates having to control two contrasting thoughts (musical vs. physical) when one is bit 'slow'; it is awesome when it's all worked out. however, often it takes a bit of time to work it out.  too long! haha!  so i think safely after two hours of hard-thinking, the rest of 'playing' is never at 100%, which is a bit of a pity.

and then there's that 'warm up' routine.  when i decided to play and actually care for what i play (doesnt matter what/who i am playing for; should always be at least 'attempted best'), i realized that there isnt enough time to actually learn each composition to its full depth (how i miss learning one concert program for the entire month or two!). so the best way i could do for now is to have three separate sections in 'practice': mechanical check ups and drills, learning of scores, then something for myself.

(this something for myself is so important for 'accompanist,' as it is so easy to lose the identity as a 'performer' at times; it is so tempting to just degrade into 'required sound-making machine.')

any pianist could tell you about basic piano drills: scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.  i used to pick up a selection of exercises, like section of hanon or czerny, and just go over it while i (shamefully) read the newspapers or something.  then i realized that doesnt really help anything- im bored! so i am not aware of my own damned self! and (it) does whatever's convenient.  oooeer. deadly combo.  so with inputs from bookbomber and bit of a masochistic streak, i am now trying out couple different things:

*i am sorry, non-pianists, this is turning out to be rather narrow writing but i think this may be useful to some pianists, or even just general musicians.

1. scales: in all keys, contrary/parallel motions. then in pairs of minor-major.  sometimes it's relative major-minor (c major and a minor, for instance), then switch hands.  a bit more cynical one is major-minor of same tonic (c major and c minor). attempt contrary'parallel motion if there's bit of courage.

2. broken chords: LH broken chords and RH arpeggiated chords on major/minor basic triads.  switch hands.  it'll be something like:  (c-e-g-c') vs. (c-g-e-c'). all keys. or attempt.

3. arpeggios: dim 7th arpeggios along with dominant 7th arpeggios.  parallel and contrary.

4. scales- octaves: hands in contrary/parallel motion.  try grouping in 2, 3, 5, 7, 9.  this is not so easy, i think i must be too slow.

5. mirror hands practice: a piano keyboard is symmetrical from midpoint D (black key- white- white...) when hands are actually moving parallel, the fingers are not.  this is why simple octave passages can be so hairy for pianists: ex. end of the schubert trout quintet, last mvt. sounds the same, feels not same at all! arrrgh.  but if you put your thumbs on D and see your hands 'away' from D, it is... voila, symmetrical! i find this useful to 'stretch out' my hands, playing intervals such as 9th and 10th, thumb active, hands low, fingers relaxed.

6. mirror practice with variation:  you can also mix in different groupings,
ex.  2 vs. 3:  (d-c) vs (d-e-f), which will line up every 7th
ex.  3 vs. 5: (d--c-b) vs (d-e-f-g-a), which will line up every 16th
and this, you can do all kinds, and once in awhile, im kind to myself to do both hands in sync, 7-7 or something.

so it's bit eclectic and i think it takes about good 1 to 1.5 hours.  it is a long time to put on for 'warm up,' but i do find now 'learning' scores much easier, as my hands have better idea of executing what my little brain wants to do.  i also wonder how long i would keep this up.  i wonder if it'll become eaiser?!  the most nice thing about it is that it requires most of monkey brain. i have to concentrate, no more thinking of lunches and other stuff... boo. hahaha.

and it is also a nice thing to opening up my ears to so-called 'dissonance.'  this dissonance thing is such a bugger to pianists who sticks to traditional repertoire.  anything hindemith-y, you see pianists go cross-eyed very often. haha.  dont get me wrong, i didnt really dig them either.  it's only after years and years of listening to non-classical music and getting used to the 'whacked out harmonies' (or the lack thereof) that made me willing to hear it carefully.  dim 7 and dom 7 together in arpeggios sound pretty awesome now, i have to say. and yes- because it is physically difficult, i do listen 'more.'

so a meager explanation on 'why' i havent been writing. i think i prob spend the best portion of my head on these drills now (it's new regimen this year! it's exciting! haha!) and then there's the 'playing something for self' that gets in the way. this wk, ive been trying to record one short track per day.  like a single bach prelude. then this also takes up at least an hour, i find. how crazy is that!!  but may be one day, i will have one single track that i like, from all the ones that added to it.  yesterday, between two over-an-hour rehearsals and looking for pants zippers (and impulse shopping) ( ! ), i didnt have a take that i thought was even passable, for me to watch in privacy with a key to the entire distillery. pity.

but i think it's worthwhile to find the way to enjoy one's working process. it is a great thing to play an instrument.  kinestatic, intellectual, emotional, all these wonderful things can be present and a simple thing, such as a well balanced chord can be such a joy.  and i am lucky to have friends, like the book bomber who continues to add more ideas for me to decadently enjoy myself.

what do you do to keep yourself happy at your tasks? if you can think of couple things, i bet you are already a happier being than the average.  it is a luxury to find joy in the things that one 'has to do.'  if you are a bit short on that list, take time and try something different!  as i am going to try this minor-major business once again. with much laughter at failing such 'simple' task.  life is imple, not always easy yet has the potential to be every so beautiful. love to you all.


pulverem reverteris

it's another full moon. a lenten moon.  shrove tuesday have passed and those who observe, has been marked with small reminder on forehead: ashes.  though the city has been sprinkled with green bits celebrating st. paddy's day, which turns itself into a weekend-long celebration, there is a definite scent of solemn silence.  it's a funny thing isnt it- st. patrick's day somehow became a reason to drink silly and be less-responsible.  however st. patrick was promoted largely to create pro-christian slant to the pagan irish, initially.  but supposedly in this world where there must be no co-relation of religion and society (which is impossible anyways), st. paddy may be happy enough to be recognized, even for selling another pint of guiness.

memento pulvis es, et pulverem reverteris (genesis 3:19). in one of the most important book of western civilization, the bible, we are reminded of the 'end,' that to dust, we shall return.

there has been much stories of unease: the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor malfunction, lybian nonsense, egyptian election, the list goes on and on.  and it doesnt even account personal trials- the one that each and every one of us have to face on daily basis- the life of living.  in a sense, whenever i think of this 'return to dust' idea, i am somewhat relieved at the thought of being a handful of dust.

i am hearing many different stories from others, including ones who faced 'death.'  in one of the radio interviews, one of the earthquake experiencer (the person has experienced but being a foreign national, he was promptly evacuated in best manner possible, so to call him a victim seems a bit overwhelming at this point) talks about the fact that (he) may die and at least he could die with friends.  he was afraid. like most of us would be.

but why is death such a foreign thing?  i am not being critical of him, but i am curious rather, of why this fact that we are born and we die is such a surprise.  people often get defensive: it's not about not knowing, but that it may be unexpected.

with the average age of population growing older and older, it's quite a shock to think that no one wants to die.  surely, if anything is 'fair' in this world is that we, who are alive, will die, someday, somewhere. one does not select one's parents nor birthday. and similarly, we will all leave the world, one at a time-

we will all die alone.
alone in a sense that one's own consciousness will fade all by itself.

being in proximity of another in death, does it make it better?

i cant help but to think of all circumstances- gabe died in the car and his accident was not reported until the next morning around 8am.  coroners assumed that he crashed around 1am.  everyone was expecting him to be alive. but no, a minute later his death, he ceased to exist.  in contrast, in concentration camps or racial wars of rwanda, depending on what one's label was, one would be simply added to the 'appropriate' pile.  there has been all kinds of personal communication to the world during this tsumani.  i was reading up on one japanese young man, who twitted right to his death, worrying about not being able to take care of his parents and grandparents, that he does not want to die.

we all die alone.

like the full moon, which will be totally dark again, yet the moon is a moon, bright or not.  just because one cant see it doesnt mean it cease to exist.  we are conditioned to celebrate birthdays with all kinds of artificial events and activities.  and when one is dead, often they are embalmed for the public, as if their decorated appearances- a continuation of 'living' condition, is the most appropriate choice.  often an inexperienced gardeners will pull out perennials by accident while they are being dormant.

is it impatience?  or a simple denial for the matters that are little bit more complicated/difficult?  or have we simply become so detached from the world that we think we can outlast the course of nature?

i had somewhat demanding teenage years.  i still carry bits of scars around resulting from anger, though i am no longer angry.  those years made me think through the matters quite throughly- what death may mean, how it comes and how does it manifest, etc.  and only answer i arrived to was a bit too simple: one is born and one dies. one does not get to choose how the course of life goes. there are things that happens out of one's control.  i am sure if i could go back to the past, i would do many things differently so that i wouldnt be such a moody depressed teenager, but since i didnt seem to have a choice, it's all okay. at least it wasnt a complete waste of time. haha.

and then a small yet real hope: when the time is right, then things may happen.  a cherry tree in winter will never bloom. a gardener who wants to make miracle happen not only wastes his energy, he also puts tree into a stress.  a tree will simply bloom when things are right, when it can manifest in its fullest.  but even without the bloom, it is still a cherry tree.  this is the first teaching of thich han nahn i found in his book: no death, no fear.

during the turbulent travel of minnow in shaken japan, i wasnt worried about his emotional health as much.  i was worried he wasnt sleeping enough.  however, knowing the person he is, it gave me much assurance that he also understands what death is.  and like the cherry bloom, if it was time for one to go, death will manifest. and there wont be much anyone could do.  and since we are born, it is inevitable. with such thoughts along with the human connection and love, i felt at ease- that we'll be alright.

as it's a full moon, i cant help think of my little brother.  and i cant help but to think of all who are lost. and all who will have to live with such losses.  it does hurt, yes, even when the result: death is completely inescapable.  but like anything, awareness would help one's understanding and progress through such simple yet difficult journey.  and many are forced to walk the path this wk.  perhaps it's not just this wk. just different events, may be.

may all who walks to the path to dust be blessed and may they know that they are loved.  that a human loss is never a singular incident but of a collective experience.  and let us be kind to the ones who has left and ones who are busy sending them off. after all, we are all waking the same path. much love to you all.


send in your crumbs

Hiroaki Ohno/Yomiuri Shimbun, via Associated Press

average price (in yyz, recent as possible, in canadian dollars)

pint of decent beer: 7 
a bottle of crap beer: 4
a 'good' burger: 7.5
'good' fries: 3
a fast food meal combo: 7
ttc one-way ride: 2.5-3
weed: 10 per gram
movie at big theater: 13
movie at crap theater: 5-10
condom big-pack (12): 10-15
cell phone plan (month): 60
functional meal (nothing fancy): 7
itunes song: 1-1.2
bottle of wine: 12
pack of fags: 9
money spent on 1st date: 25-50
a bottled water: 1.5
cup of coffee: 2
burrito: 9

1 canadian dollar : 80 japanese yen

it is pain to carry a sandwich or go without a cup of coffee in the afternoon. yes.  it's nice to be able to afford that second pint at your local fav brewery.  what's a burger without fries?  no one said you should go without shelter or even starve a meal.  most likely, a univ student or a full time worker is likely to skip a meal because of lack of time.  home packed lunches dont strike your fancy? well what if you get your thermos out just for the week? or just one day a week for the month?  share an order of onion rings with your friend instead of ordering two.  but do go on your condom purchase and have a great time.  drinking tap water for the week wont kill you either.  that's too cruel? well, instead of a meet at a pub, what if you substitute a coffee house meet up? i know, it aint the same.  but there's always the option of making pantry-pizza (some sort of brad base loaded with everything you can find in your refridg, then baked with smidgen of cheese) and hockey night in canada.  and you wont even have to drive or take the ttc. make your friends come to you, in name of 'good deed,' sound much better than 'i donno- dont wanna get outta house.'

it is difficult to take a simple action to share, especially when it's inconvenient.  it involves much work: click below hyperlink, put in your cred card info, press 'send.' yeah, i know, boring and pain on the ass.  and yes, everyone needs some luxury to carry off the pain of the day.  can you imagine the days when people actually sent cheques in stamped envelops! what an ancient horror!

but let's take this option of mighty inconvenience.  it took huge courage to donate a day's worth of income to japanese red cross.  i have no dependents nor have huge expenses. but still, it took quite a bit of efforts.  i will be eating in all meals this week. as if that's going to kill me eh? i may even lose a pound or two, i suspect. as many were telling back to me that canadian red cross has not been asked to help out officially. okay. well, let's use this 'internet' thing and give it to them directly.  let's be slightly inconvenienced, just for a bit.  

and what would a ten dollars do to help a crisis? i have no idea. but not having one burrito and grabbing that crusty leftover kraft mac/cheese for one night snack wont kill any of us, that i know.  let's share our crumbs.  it is easy to give some when you arent going to lose too much.  what's a bigmac?  i am sure we can all do without just one.

ive been scratching my brains out to think of the things i can do.  then i realized that i do write this blog thingy and people do read it- well my friends do, i suppose.  so why not a shout out.  when one person does it, quite weirdly, it becomes easier for the next to 'try,' then the chain continues. so here's my shout out. to my people, who i dearly respect and love.

the dead people are lost. but there are people who still have to brave weeks, months, years of suffering.  suffering that we will soon forget about, perhaps by next year, as a bystanders.  but it will live on in their lives. just like my brother who left a void that is larger than the sum of his life for all his people.  

send in that ten.
then go on and brag, or do whatever you want to do with that info! 'sell' it to your gf/bf.  announce it loudly to your family.  you deserve to feel good about yourself even without sharing. but when you do share, i know that there'll be something else that you will get to enjoy.  only when you have done 'it,' you will know.



et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis

the whole week flew by and i thought: friday, i shall finish the week and catch my sanity.  so i dragged self up early in the morning to cram mahler 1 for the class i work for. yawning, i had my eyes barely open, toothbrush stuck in my mouth, clicking through the daily emails, spams, scheduling and special online doctoral degree offers (somehow they have stopped sending me penis adverts. i wonder what caused that).  and as a proper farcebook sucker (i cant help it. i do like looking at it multiple times in a day, just to see how everyone is... or just to snoop, an honest answer), i started to eavesdrop on my friends...

then a surprise: magnitute 8.9 (max 9.1) earthquake in japan.

the farcebook was scattered with comments from friends, hoping and looking for footages or news from tokyo (where they are staying for next couple days) or yokohama (the concert venue they were on way to).  apparently the quake struck while the coach was on the suspension bridge. beside video footages of sendai (the initial quake location) and updates on fukushima nuclear plants (which seems to be in an unstable condition), there were no particular news from either places.  i thought: well, that's promising, since it meant nothing major have happened in tokyo or yokohama.  and from what have read up till now, it was 6 miles under the sea, by town of sendai, in northern end.  tsunami engulfed the coasts. another one broke in niigata.  fukushima nuclear reactors are in danger of leaking.  and fukushima is at least 300km away from tokyo and it will take time for the reactors to start leak, meaning most likely it wont happen.

it is such a weird feeling.

i remember vividly when the twin towers went ablaze in that one fall day of september. already nine years ago. but the weird atmosphere still lingers upon remembrance, like the taste of aspartame.  so many people were running around at the faculty. the air of uncertainty and tragedy soaked the quiet campus.  nyc is so close. and there are so many connections from 'here' to 'there,' as nyc is one of the musical focii of north america, many profs and students knew people closely in nyc.  despair. 

this is much larger disaster than 11/9. and it was created without any human intervention- as cliche as it may sound, it was nature who took over.  earth plate moves so slow we cant ever sense. but with such a power and pressure, once it collided, not only it changed the physical sense of the world, but of 'living' world as well. and bizarre enough, my love is currently in japan and that is the only reason how this news became personal, i suppose.  

in contrast, the christmas tsunami of 2004, which was a much larger event, with casualties over 230,000. i cant even picture that many people in my head.  but because it was far, it came and went; i put my hands together for the souls lost and lives displaced, however, it wasnt personal.  as many wished and felt for the unlucky ones, like me, we all quickly forgot unless we were personally involved. passive observation.  sadly, similar experience with haiti disaster.  im not trying to undermine the importance of this particular quake, but with numbers being counted in hundreds, rather than thousands, it is a weird feeling to acknowledge to self that this event just became such a personal thing.

with a bizarre logic of: being strike by earthquake is probably even more rare than being hit by the bird crap, i attempted communication with minnow. and text came, swiftly.  everything is alright. no one was hurt. bus was on suspension bridge on way to yokohama. concert cancelled for next two days (i assume now third one would be canned as well, as niigata was hit over later).  there's enough time for japan to get the nation together. they have hotel and insurances. they are essentially british government employees. united kingdom, being one of the wealthiest nations, would take care of its citizens, especially when it is a very tiny sliver of its population (for instance, if uk itself was hit by the quake, the resource will be distributed much thinner, as there are simply more people for the set budget).  they are staying in tokyo dome, one of signature buildings of tokyo.  of course the engineering behind tokyo dome would have taken earthquake as a variable.  

if minnow was travelling alone and belonged to the nation of lybia, i wouldve been worried.

through the gridlock, these orch musicians, i guess at least some of them (as minnow did) got out of the bus, walked back to the hotel.  being proper musician, minnow even grabbed some beer from 7/11. awesome. haha.  then we were lucky to have the time and the net connection to catch up, as the rabbits wee and tee had the chance to talk for a bit.  and finally i sent minnow off to sleep and i went on with my day.  

and now passively following the news, i think of the regrets, losses and heartaches.  somehow, it's making me think of my little brother. he was suddenly gone one day. the night before, he was warm and living. in the afternoon, just a simple one line news: your brother is dead.

though the numbers of casualties could be classified as 'small,' the actual amount of remorse and regret, sorrow and lamentation would be impossible to calculate.  i think about how things have changed in my life in a year- it would be a full year on 26 april this year since i lost my wee bro.  and every day, i grow one day further from him.  he lives in many different forms in lives of me, my family and his friends. and the people that i wont even know about.  and that's just one life.

minnow is well, which is great. i think it is almost funny that so much of his optimism has rubbed off onto me in past two years.  i am not so sure if i wouldve taken such a leisurely stance when i first heard about the quake two years ago.  with minnow, i grow a bit more open and honest, bit by bit, as he is willing and selfless towards me.  it was easy to look at the news and calmly think: he's alright. and he is.

then i think of this tsunami of tears that will come. when aftershocks are gone, the echoes will continue. in people's lives. unsaid words. unspoken things.  forgotten memos and simply, loss.  as the world will soon forget about it and move to the next crisis. lost thoughts, midair, inbetween life and 'lived.'

with the news, the tsunami arrived in my mind.  fortunately, minnow is safe and there are not much practical worry for japan.  yes, we should help, but they are well-prepared and there is wealth and support that will help clear the situations.  then like i started to grieve for myself for loss of gabe weeks after the funeral and burial, the real tearing and tsunami will take place.  in places where no one else can go, but each individuals alone.  

i wish i could do something, send a message that may matter to someone.

but i do realize there is no place for it at the moment.  first logistics. to take care of people. to organize. to pay, to deliver, to recover.  the thoughts will not necessarily have places for them yet.  or ever.  and so here i am, scribbling on electronic wall, grieving for the losses that has not come yet.  et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis.  



my ymca

as a person who loves to eat, i do understand the dire importance of ‘moving.’  well, because we are animals, moving should be the integral part of our lives- however, the motivation for comfort often sabotages the lifestyle we require (to be functional), it often becomes a huge chore- to live the way that we are built to live.  for instance, i hate going to the gym in the evening; all i want to do once the sun is down is to borrow into a hole called home and do not much. Im not a big partier nor i ever enjoyed things like pub crawl or club hopping.  gimme a good bowl of food and a book/internet, im a happy bunny, albeit a fat one.

so, instead of eating less and moving more (which would be greatly beneficial for the world), i tend to eat more and move a bit.  once in awhile, after holidays, especially, i get on the scale and get motivated to: move more.  never-ever i try to eat less, haha. some things are just too enjoyable, i suppose. 

today is fairly clear day for monkey; though i have stuff to do, they aren’t exactly time sensitive, so i have decided that i will go to the gym and do laundry.  i go to a very particular place for workout- metro ymca, downtown toronto.  it is a very curious mix here at the y. from low-income housing families to sassy single professionals making the big bucks, young itty bitty children who run towards your kneecaps as if they are some sort of skud missiles to seniors with great motivations.  now, the interesting thing is that there are two kinds of memberships at the y.  one is the normal membership: based on your income and expenditure, one is placed on sliding scale of fees, which makes a great sense.  and another is the membership plus, so they are called.  one pays more (i assume this difference fuels the subsidized memberships, along with government grants and such, which i support) for some luxury: basic things for the shower- razors, shaving form, cotton tips, basic shampoo/conditioner/soap, dry and wet sauna and a whirl pool.  and most importantly, towel service (on this, later).

i often go during the daytime, anywhere from 8am to 3pm.  the place is run amok with people from 3 on, till about 8 or 9.  but here’s the funny thing:  because i subscribe to membership plus, i always run into very particular types of people.  there are a few freelancers and non-daytime workers.  but most of them are retired affluent ladies in my membership plus area (the area has a womens-only workout area, which i often use, since it’s less crowded) and i cant help but to observe them while i am there.  and sometimes i wonder how differently they see the world- i bet they also wonder how i see the world. i don’t mean to eavesdrop into conversations, but when they are talking across the change room, i think it’s quite hard to avoid.

some things that happens/talked about in this room is quite baffling, honestly.  the other day, the bunch of ladies were complaining about instability of their pension.  mind you, the way they dress and act clearly disqualifies them from being even at the economical average of the city.  and i couldn’t help to think that it’s them who are driving the pension system to instability (by working over the retirement age).  i have nothing against working. i just think if they don’t let the younger people into works (by either turning part time or retiring), of course the pool is going to collapse.  i suppose there are greater things i must not be understanding in this equation, because year after year, it’s the same complaint from same socio-economical group. 

and then there's the television. yep. I am one of those people who watch ‘real housewives of whatever city’ and the likes while i turn my wheel. it’s oddly fascinating; rather than experiencing another case of schadenfreuden, i am often genuinely surprised about the lives and views of other people.  especially when they are so perfectly crystallized for certain roles.  however, while watching these, i am often ‘scorned’ by these ladies.  they would come in, ask loudly:

who is watching this?

then comes no answer (im not going to put my hand up!), then they grab the remote and promptly turn to: talk shows (oprah, the view, dr. oz, dr. phil: the shows that i deem as equally trashy), soap operas, food channel or the cbc news, accompanied by a comment:

can’t believe the stuff that’s on television now days.

one of these days, i think i will work on my courage and do answer one of these cases: i am watching it! and ya, before you call me uneducated common denominator, do address me as a doctor! when that happens, i will let you guys know, ha. not to mention they are the same group of ladies who reads cosmopolitan and other dumb magazines.  tis fine to like cheap culture. just no need to tell me your cheap culture is more expensive than mine...

Being surrounded by affluent ladies who can afford to spend time at the gym, another thing that often comes up is the ‘green’ issues.  they cluck their tongues and point fingers that ymca (and rest of the world) needs better recycling and use of non-plastic utensils, blah blah. the list goes on.  i think it’s a good thing to be aware of the issues. what is interesting is that they have no problem using as many towels as they can.  i understand that warm, clean, fluffy towels are one of the best things in the world.  and because one should take towel to sit on in saunas and steam room, i think using two towels are understandable (as it is quite unpleasant and character-building to dry yourself with towel you just sat on in wet steam room). but some of these ladies use up to six: one on head, one on body, one to stand on.  then when they are done with steam room/sauna, comes another set of three, hence six.  

i wonder if they remember how much energy it takes to wash/dry towels.  if they were sent to the laundry places with soap and washboard, they would never do that- i dont think. i am thinking about writing to the y to put up a small reminder to put up the actual cost of each towel for washing/drying.  but with such econo class, i bet they’ll think because of the fee difference, it should not matter.  anyways, i think it’s bit batty to talk of saving a plastic spoon when one is using six towels a day, couple times a week.

another thing that irks me are ladies who are selectively illiterate or partially blind.  see, the space is supposed to be scent-free. like all politically correct places.  they even supply non-scented body lotion and hairspray and such. but often ladies will take heavily scented lotion into the dry sauna, apply generously and lies down to soak up. lotions are mainly fat and scents.  sauna is warm.  all i can foresee is the happy well-fed and gloriously scented bacteria colonies.  shudder. it's written in english but... i think perhaps expensive lotions do massive damage to the brain- i suppose at least they are moisturized.

the list goes on and on.  i probably have too much time. but the best was the king of the slow lane, today.  ive been swimming against my own preference as my knee is being somewhat vocal since slipping around queen's park.  so at the y, they have a nicely adjusted big pool with swim lanes.  the chlorine doesnt burn my skin so badly so i thought: why  not. so it's been a few weeks that ive been dipping my feet into water.   

there are three lanes open, along with free lane(s) and open pool area: slow- intermediate- fast speed.  i exclusively do slow. im not too interested in burning calories- i am more interested in loosening my back/shoulder.  and i cant swim fast anyways. so here i am, stuck at the slow lane.  i swim proudly with grannies and grandads.  and then came this young man in speedo today.  i was having the entire lane to self, which was awesome. yay. but it's not my own place! it's fine to share. so i thought it be all alright. except he was the michael phelps of the slow lane.  with his amazing backstroke, he almost punched me in the face (by swimming right in the centre and not paying attention). with his graceful front crawl, he kindly scraped my legs with his nails, approaching from the back.  he was happy to make noise and pass by me and be the big kahuna tuna in the lane.

it's marked: slow.

i looked around and i saw the other lanes were almost empty. i wondered why he's stuck in the slow lane. i wondered why is this man beating me up with his intensive swimming workout.  i wondered if there's any sense to try to read to him: 's-l-o-w-l-a-n-e.'  but i suppose he was too busy, i mean he was furious.  all workout, all intensity.  

it is making me laugh the whole day. this king of slow lane.  i like my gym.  it incorporates less-privileged members, raises money, it's got some sense of community.  those blue haired ladies, as senile they can be, are all well-meaning (or i have to at least hope so) and do care about the community. and the king of the slow lane- well, at least he'll be fit, though the fact he cannot comprehend simple signs can be quite a challenge for his daily tasks.  and here i am, odd-hour working monkey, another day at the gym for another cookie in the belly, head full of curious oddities of the ymca.


shylocks of art world

this is the infamous audition week: all kinds of people auditioning at the music school- i overheard that there are more than 600 auditions to be fitted in the months of february and march.  it makes playing the piano look like a seasonal gig.  and yes, it certainly is. people are flying with their instruments, driving hours with their parents, little kiddies making their first trip alone, the nerves, excitement, forgetfulness that resulted in missing scores for the audition panel, mistaken times, the triumph of playing it 'right' for the first time during audition- it's a very colourful  time.

and i, piano monkey and other pianists are very busy as on top of auditions, there all kinds of recitals, recordings and projects.  usually september is so quiet you can hear the fly sing. march, you cant hear anything since everything is roaring loud. not just the music. but of transits. logistics and... ego.

five days ago, i got an email late night. someone is looking for a pianist for this sunday audition. and it's vocal rep- which means it's collection of five to six little things, which can be quite tricky as people sing so differently from one another. usually voice pianist is a bit different thing to do- they are actually called 'vocal coaches,' not just playing the piano, they also monitor other things-such as dictions and techniques, as traditionally singers employ not only teachers but vocal coaches, well beyond school years.  i am not a vocal coach, nor i pretend to be.  but at this late notice, finding someone would be difficult, all are swamped. but i thought: may be i can help. so i wrote to say if she's stuck, i could.

so after flurry of emails (and printing after printing pdfs of scores), we lock in the time today for a rehearsal, 5-6.  ive been going since early morning. i was tired and was looking forward to finish the day. except. at 6, there is no singer for me.

so i waited at the lobby. 10 min. 20 min. a half hour. 40 min. 50 min. and all i can think was that i should leave- if they can be bothered to contact me, it prob wont be an emergency, weather's been good for flying (they were spending time in nyc for juilliard audition, mom-daughter team). but i knew i would stay and wait. give them an hour. let's see. may be there's something, i donno what yet.

so at six, they show up, mom-daughter team. and she says 'hello, how are you?'
'umm, i was wondering what happened.'
'what do you mean?'
'i sent you an email for 5-6 rehearsal-'
'i am sure it was 6-7?'
(pulls lappy out and show email)
'i am sorry!'
'... doesnt matter, let's go get this done.'
(mom)' sorry for waiting. btw, how much do we owe?'
' 1 hr rehearsal, 0.5hr warm up and 0.5 audition- it'll be X dollars, and that's what i charge for all auditions. and for rush, i am adding 30 on top, so total would be X + 30 dollars.'

'we only paid 60 at juilliard-'

so she knocked it down to X dollars. and then comes the real kick in the pants:

'it doesnt matter, we are here for music.'

during the rehearsal, i was not able to concentrate or think straight. not just because i was tired, but i felt somehow violated.  so of course i played poorly.  and i know they will be gossiping this evening about how terrible i am and i am just in it for the money, unlike them, who are in it for the love of arts.  and it did take an hour. they forget that an auditionee have been working on their rep for a long time. but not us, the audition accompanist.  the work is quite stressful because they have very specific needs yet there are not enough time to learn them all.  they often expect us to know everything they do (because it's at the state of automatic execution for them). the young ones very often does not realize that a common piece may have thousand interpretation and we need to be informed.  instead, they often treat me like i dont know anything.  and i wonder why do i bother?

i didnt take this gig because i was desperate for X dollars.  i took it because it would be near impossible to find someone.  and what i was charging was about standard (i think), especially concerning the rush charge.  and they made me wait an hour of my day.

the disgrace was that they thought i was too expensive and that by simply cutting rehearsal, it would be cheaper.  they forgot to understand that i also need an hour from the singer to do my job right. im not a background track. i want to do my job well, and i care, that's why i am doing it in the first place. of course, it's not a charity but i do think i am a person who likes to take pride in her work in a sense that i try to do my very best.  and to disclaim my shylock-ness while they are in this for the arts and that my hour of waiting is just worthy of 'sorry?'

i feel rather destroyed.  my friends are saying i shouldve been charing for 3 hours now.  for one hour of my life wasted. i am dented and out of an hour of my life and quite discouraged.  working in arts is a dirty business sometime, not because arts is dirty but because ego gets in the way.  and as long as i do this level work, it'll be like this, not often but regular enough.

i wish i could tear the cheque in her face. but i am not going to. because perhaps she really was just surprised.  and there's no point of me becoming someone different, insulting another human being. not to mention money is money.  and i did work. so i should be paid and i should use that fund to do something. and by tearing, i gain nothing, no respect, i only gain the things i already have too much of- anger, ego and selfishness.

so now im off the music thing for the day. tomorrow will be another. and i shall send the two women an email later tomorrow. after the audition.  so it wont upset more people. not because i want her to understand why it is expensive but that she is misguided about her own view of the world.  whether she's for arts or not, she should be a human being, a functioning citizen, aware and caring for one another.  then may be we'll talk of arts.  and that her statement of me being expensive should be re-examined with a simple fact that they took an extra hour of my life and they dont even realize the worth of that time.  the shylock cap is on her head, not mine.

it's reassuring to know that most of people around me arent like this. and i dont think it's luck.  and i did get much thanks from two other people today for playing for them.  it's not about the praise i get from them about playing. it's not important. what matters is the fact i was respected. i respected them and i did my best. and they did the same. and now, that kind of working module makes it worthwhile to stay in arts, i believe. thank you all, you who make my world elevated from the greedy and selfish, if a bit misguided shylocks of the world.